Planning

We experienced our first frost last night. It is not unusual here, tucked in so close to the foothills of the Rockies as we are, to experience frost in early September. Winter is coming! We Albertans coined that phrase long before Game of Thrones ever did! The leaves are starting to turn into their vibrant colours of fall, and as much as I love and will long for summer again, Autumn in Alberta is so glorious!

Today I’m not as focused on my cancer journey, or all the woes associated with it. The lingering effects still remind me the battle is not yet won, but I’m more immersed in making long-range plans. When I battled cancer in 2001, I never thought about the “what next?” aspect of the journey. I had been so consumed with the battle itself, and I will admit, I didn’t know if I’d survive it, that when the battle was over, I had no idea what to do next. I had made no real future plans because I didn’t know if I had a future. I had come to terms with my mortality, and I was ready to go to my heavenly home if God chose to take me. It came as a bit of a surprise to me that there really was life after cancer and I was totally unprepared for it!

For many weeks after my last treatment, when my hair started to sprout again, I debated what I was to do next. I prayed for direction and God answered.  My life had been on hold during the treatments, so I slowly re-entered the routines that had been established before my diagnosis. I re-engaged with caring primarily for my young children again, especially luxuriating in having the energy to play and participate in their activities. When my church asked me to help with the youth group, I eagerly jumped in and planned a “Fear Factor” games night for their Christmas social. (I love looking back at pictures from that night; most of those wonderful youth, including my daughter, are married with their own little ones now.  Seeing them as precocious teens, and engaged in their lives then brings back so many memories for me. I am blessed to have many of them interact with me regularly on social media still.)

For years, I continued to work with the youth, until I was asked to serve as Children’s Minister at my church. I served in that capacity several years until I felt the Call from God to go to seminary to get my Master’s degree in Religious Education. In the midst of that, I planned my oldest daughter’s wedding in 2005.  After finishing my studies, I finished writing my first book, which led to two more books to complete the “Wounded Trilogy” series. God directed me each step of the way, opening or closing doors, growing my character in the process. I hadn’t expected or planned for “life after cancer”, but I embraced it wholeheartedly! I told people I was a “thriver” not merely a “survivor ” of cancer.

It should not come as a shock to anyone who knows me, that I fully intend to re-engage in and embrace life once again when I’m done with this unexpected detour with cancer this time too.

But why wait?

In a little over six weeks, I will have finished my treatments. We are hopeful I will get the all-clear from the doctors. We have certainly prayed towards that end so I am going to remain optimistic about that outcome. As far as I know right now, my last chemo treatment will be October 7th, and I’m already planning a party for November 1st to celebrate with family and friends who have prayed and supported me through these many months. We intend to PAR-TAY!!!

I know I’ve been a bit of a recluse through treatments to ensure my immunity levels are not compromised by being exposed to viruses and the like, but I have welcomed visits from family and friends during my recovery days whenever possible. This past week I spent a laughter-filled day with a precious friend. For over thirty-five years I have relied on her in a variety of different ways as a mentor, a confidante, and an always faithful friend. She has cried with me through two miscarriages, and rejoiced with me when my rainbow babies were born. She has fed me, laughed with me, and commiserated with me through all of life’s challenges including supporting me through my two bouts with cancer. I honestly don’t know what I would do without her in my life. Thanks, Shirley, as always, for your practical wisdom and devoted friendship. ❤️

Although I know I won’t be in full wedding-planning mode until the New Year, I have already started to catch the excitement, and I find myself more and more on the wedding sites finding decor and ideas for my youngest daughter’s big day. Yesterday, the groom’s mother, Sue and I shared a picnic lunch she had prepared as a surprise for me.  As we shared a meal together we talked of wedding things and how blessed we are to be able to join our two families together next year. How awesome is that? (My big prayer request is to have sprouted a full head of hair by July 2020. 😁)

I know I have two more treatments, but whenever I have a window of opportunity to spend time with my grandbabies, or go for long drives, or even take in a few days of camping before the first snow flies, I intend to take full advantage of it!  I will revel in spending quality time with family and friends and enjoy the next few weeks taking in the splendour of the Autumn colours. My goal is to think as little as possible on the two battlegrounds still ahead of me, but instead dream and plan for the days, months, and years after the battle is over. Of course I know God determines my next steps regardless of what plans I might make. My life verse, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9), indicates my submission to His direction in my life. I don’t know how many days, months or years He has numbered for me to live out, but I don’t intend to waste the ones left I’ve been given.

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Believed Through Prayer

I scarce know how to take it in. I’m still not sure if I should be expecting a setback, or a delayed response in the days to come. Oh, me of little faith! It was almost too easy! Yet, here I am now in recovery mode after last week’s fourth round of chemo and this past weekend of “chemo thunder” was little more than a brief inconvenience with minimal discomfort!

Why am I surprised?

And yet I am!

I suppose when I expected the same nasty side effects as the first three rounds, I was somewhat unprepared that this round would be…well…easy compared to the other rounds!

Why is that?

Why am I surprised when prayers are answered? Why do I expect the worst, and then question when the best happens instead?

God is teaching me soooooo many lessons during this “detour”, as my Pastor calls unexpected challenges in life, it will take me a very long time to process all the life lessons I’ve learned over these many months. A friend posted on Facebook a “sermon note” from a message given by her husband at their church on Sunday and I thought this sums up one valuable lesson I’ve learned from this last go-round and one I’ve experienced profoundly throughout this entire journey with cancer: “What’s impossible by might is possible by faith when believed through prayer.” (Thanks Kim and Quentin ❤️)

People have asked me repeatedly how they can “help” me while I do battle with cancer. I am so blessed by acts of service and kindness, from cleaning my house (thanks Carmelle❤️), to making meals for us (the list is too long to share all their names here, but know that we appreciate all of you who have cooked, baked or dropped off groceries for us). My house is filled with fragrant bouquets of flowers from family and friends; I’ve received cards and gift cards, as well as daily texts from family and friends just “checking up” on me. So many people daily leave either a comment or share scripture, or leave words of affirmation on social media to uplift my spirit. Truly I am blessed by all the acts of kindness, but the most important, the most impactful upon my life, have been the countless prayers lifted up to The Father on my behalf.

When people ask what they can do to support me, I immediately say, “Please pray for me,” and they have! Prayer Warriors have awakened in the middle of the night, prompted by the Holy Spirit, to pray. Some have texted me to say that God has laid me on their hearts to pray and many have phoned or dropped in on me in person to pray one-on-one with me. Many others, who don’t understand the concept of prayer yet, say they are sending me “good vibes” or “happy thoughts” my way. I will take them too, but I always direct them to pray because I believe in the power of prayer!

I am praising God for hearing all our prayers and allowing me to get through this last chemo cycle with relative ease. In fact, regardless of what happens over the next two rounds, this fourth round respite has energized me, and given me a renewed resolve to sprint forward. The finish line is around the corner!

Keep praying, dear ones!

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Wait In Peace

It is no coincidence that I just happen to be immersed in the book of Job at this time.  I am following a reading plan in a Bible I gave to my father years ago and when he passed, I inherited it.  Each day of the year is marked out with a reading from the Old Testament, the New Testament, and then a Psalm reading and a verse from Proverbs.  I have read through the Bible several times following this pattern.  I also have a devotional I follow with daily words of encouragement, last year it was Oswald Chambers, “My Utmost for His Highest” and this year, “Discovering God’s Daily Agenda” written by Henry and Richard Blackaby.  I am blessed to call Richard and Henry friends and they have been faithfully praying for me through this health challenge.  Today, my daughter also shared with me a wonderful song from Mercy Me entitled “Even If”.  I will include the video at the end of this post.

My Pastor, in one of his recent sermons that I have been listening to online, says that as Christians we should not have in our vocabulary these words: fate, luck, or coincidence because our lives are not directed by fate, luck or coincidence, our lives are directed by God and nothing is left to chance with Him.  It was not a coincidence that all my readings today were centred around the one theme of faithfully waiting on God, and trusting Him even if I don’t understand why I am going down a hard road at this time.  I know He could heal me instantly if He wanted to.  He is a God of miracles after all, but I must trust Him even if He chooses not to.  God is teaching me to wait in peace.  He is in control.

Last week, at my last doctor’s appointment, I faced temptation.  After hearing about all the challenges I had gone through with the first three rounds of chemotherapy, the doctor shook her head and said, “We have three choices.  Stop your treatments…”  I hardly heard the next two options, because the idea of stopping the chemo nearly overwhelmed me.  To be done, to not have to endure three more rounds, to start to recover, no more side effects, no more weekends of “chemo thunder” as I’ve come to describe the days of battling nausea, pain, and fatigue.  I nearly jumped up and said, “Yay!  I’ll take it!”  Then, that inner voice buzzed in my head, “Wait.  Listen.”

“The other choice is to decrease the dosage of the Paclitaxel, the chemo drug that you seem to be having the most difficult side effects with or lastly, stay the course and I’ll prescribe a new pain pill and see how you do this next round.”

I was still in the throes of embracing temptation with stopping the treatments entirely, when my husband looked at me and shook his head.  He knew my thoughts.  Over the last few months I have put these drugs purposefully into my body to combat the cancer and to combat the side effects caused by those drugs, and each pill comes with its own side effects: Carboplatin, Paclitaxel, Dexamethasone, Metoclopramide, Tramadol-Acetaminophen, Codeine Phosphate, Rantidine, Diphenhydramine, Netupitant/Palonosetron Hydrochloride, and Tinzaparin (blood thinner for my DVT after round 2).  Don’t click on the links if you are prone to squeamishness.  All I know is that mosquitoes refuse to bite me now.  My blood is toxic to the little blood-suckers.  Haha!

The temptation to quit chemo AND stop taking all those drugs was almost overwhelming, but I knew it wasn’t the right choice to make.  As much as I was sorely tempted, I knew I had to stay the course.  I am doing everything humanly possible to combat endometrial cancer, the rest is up to the Great Physician.  I pray for complete healing and to quit treatments now wouldn’t be a prudent move.  Also to decrease a chemo drug lessens its overall effectiveness, so I couldn’t choose that option either.  It wasn’t an easy decision, especially when it took three nurses and five attempts to get an IV into my uncooperative veins yesterday for my fourth round of chemotherapy.  I wondered if I had made the right choice to stay the course.  My poor bruised arm!

This morning, I spent a concerted amount of time with the Lord, crying on His Shoulder, reading His Word, taking comfort in His Presence, and abiding in His Love.  I’ll be okay.  Fractions are my friend!  I’m 2/3 rds the way through treatments!  Can I get a Hallelujah?!

Keep praying for me, dear readers.  Know that I pray for you too, thankful for your encouragement and comments.

 

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