Hey, “What’s your story?” Has anyone ever asked you that? It’s a question that can often catch us off guard and maybe even put us on the spot for a minute. You might answer, “Well, what do you want to hear? My resume?” Or perhaps you think to yourself, “I don’t really have a story. Nothing I’ve ever done is very interesting, or important enough to share.” If you find yourself in either of these camps, I want to tell you right now that you have a story, and it’s not just regurgitating your list of past accomplishments. But even better than just knowing you have a story, being willing to share it is where the power comes in.
A big chapter in my life story thus far, has been my cancer journey. Being diagnosed with cancer and going through that physical and emotional rollercoaster has been one of the biggest trials I have ever faced. However, looking back on it now, I see how God used that time to teach me so much, and grow me as a person. He also encouraged me to share my story and to let people into that part of my life.
When I began pulling the curtain back on my struggles and started allowing my story to speak to others who were also experiencing similar trials, I watched as God took what was a huge bump in my road and turned it into a blessing.
Reflecting on that season from the day my nightmare began until now, I have seen four specific stages of this storytelling process that I want to take you through. I believe that you have a story that someone needs to hear, and my hope is that you will begin to realize what it is you have to offer.
The first stage is PAIN. One of my favorite verses is John 16:33. In the middle of that verse it says “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” We all experience pain in our lives. It may be a cancer diagnosis, divorce, addiction, abuse, depression, or anxiety. Having painful moments or seasons is just the unfortunate reality of our world. Is there a pain point that you went through that is coming to your mind right now? Maybe you’re going through it at the moment, and that’s okay! Acknowledge whatever that struggle is, or was, and hold onto that for a minute.
The next stage that I feel is very important after you’ve identified your pain point is called PROCESS. When I look back at my cancer journey, there was a period of time when I needed to do some major emotional processing of the trauma I had just gone through. This took time. When I allowed myself to reflect on all that had happened, I began to realize everything I learned from that experience now that I wasn’t knee deep in the trenches.
The third stage is what I like to call PROJECTION. When I hear that word, I get a picture in my mind of an old-fashioned movie projector. I have memories of being a kid and having movie nights in our basement. After the sheet was taped up on the wall my mom would break out the old projector and home movies. I remember the big reels of film stored in metal cases stacked on the counter ready to be played. Unless the case was labeled, we didn’t know what was on the reel until we clicked it onto the machine and turned the projector on. Once we did, the story was suddenly bright and animated on the screen for all to see.
I think the projection stage of telling our stories is probably the most exciting, but also the scariest. It’s scary because what it requires is vulnerability. It’s very easy to wrap our painful moments in pretty boxes, and bury them deep somewhere where no one will find them.
Letting someone into your life, even a little bit, and sharing your hurt can be terrifying. I totally get that! I remember finishing the first draft of my book, in which I shared some very personal moments about my cancer journey, and getting to that point of sending it to my editor. I think I hovered my finger over the “send” button on my computer for five minutes! I wasn’t sure I was ready for someone else, let alone the whole world, to have access to my heart in that way.
But I believe true power comes when we are vulnerable and authentic, and we don’t hide behind perfect Instagram filters all the time. I had to get over the worry about what people might think, and tell myself that this was not my story. It was God’s story. If they didn’t like it, they could take it up with Him.
When I released that pressure off of myself it freed me to let those insecurities go. I knew I had done my part. My new mantra became:
Here it is…praise the Lord, Period.
I had to put it out there, and then just let it go.
If you’re feeling led to share your story, don’t worry about what people think of you. Remember that no one can refute your story. Your story is uniquely yours, and you’re the one who experienced it. No one has any say over that, so don’t give them that power.
Now, remember. Being vulnerable and sharing personal moments is good, but there is a time and a place to share, or not to share. That is up to you to discern for yourselves. Make sure you have peace about what you are wanting to offer.
The last stage, and I think the best stage of this process of sharing your story is called PURPOSE. We may never understand why we had to experience the pain that we did, but I believe that telling your story will create purpose for that pain. When I was going through my fight with cancer, I felt completely and utterly out of control of my life. In some ways that was good, because I grew a lot through learning to rely on God and not my own strength.
In the end, I made the decision that cancer would not have control over me, or define my life. I wanted to write the final chapter in my story and take what I had been through and use it to help others.
This gave me PURPOSE.
So many people are struggling and are thinking, “No one could possibly understand what I’m going through.” But YOU may be the one person who can tell them that you can relate and understand.
If you are willing to be vulnerable with your pain that you have processed, and project that for someone else, you will find purpose that will bless you beyond anything you can imagine.
You don’t have to write a book to tell your story. It can be sharing it over coffee with a friend. Or maybe it’s reaching out to someone you see who is going through a hard time and simply telling them they’re not alone. Telling our stories, and coming alongside each other can be so healing not only for the person you’re sharing with, but for you as well.
That’s what I call, PURPOSE.
If you don’t think anyone would want to hear your story, or maybe you need a little push to get that story out, I want you to know….
We all have scars. I think it’s probably safe to say that all of us have experienced hurts and pain that have left their mark in some way. Some scars are physical in nature and very visible for all to see. Other scars are internal and find their home deep in our hearts. Regardless of what our scars look like, they are a part of life.
When I think about my own scars I am reminded of the nine separate markings that were left on my body after my double mastectomy and biopsies. I remember when my port-a-cath was inserted in my neck and upper chest, preparing the way for chemotherapy treatments, I actually asked the doctor as he was prepping for the procedure if the scar would be very visible. My first, very prideful, thought was about the appearance of the scar. The thought of having a very obvious “blemish” on my neck was a bit disconcerting at the time.
How naive I was. Little did I know that as time went on, I would become very proud of those scars. Proud, say what?! You’re probably thinking that even after all these years my brain hasn’t quite recovered from the anesthesia and I’m officially off my rocker. “Proud” probably sounds a bit harsh or completely unrealistic to you.
But yes, I am proud of those scars and I’ll tell you why. First, I want to share a quick story.
I recently had a text conversation with a friend that had just undergone surgery to remove a cancerous tumor, and she was in the hospital. She had sent me a photo of her scar which was extensive and in a very visible place on her body. My immediate response to the picture was, “Girlfriend, now that’s a scar you can be proud of!” But after I sent that message, I immediately felt regret and major conviction. Here is a woman going through a tremendously difficult time in her life, and I am flippantly telling her to be proud of this very visible scar.
I felt so horrible about what I had said, that I reached back out to her to apologize. The last thing I wanted was for her to take it the wrong way, or even worse, be offended. I quickly explained the meaning behind my comment, and thankfully she was neither taken back by it or offended.
The reason why I so quickly responded in the way that I did was because my mindset on scars has completely changed. Years ago my idea of a scar was something that was ugly or undesirable. Gosh, even kids are taught to fear scars. Isn’t the bad guy in the animated movie, Lion King, named Scar? But I want to challenge you to think about scars in a different light.
Scars are proof that we have gone through battle and have overcome. They are reminders that life can be hard sometimes, and we often get kicked around, knocked down, and beaten up in the process. However, those wounds that we experience eventually close up. Some are barely visible and others are screaming reminders of a very difficult time in our lives. But remember, if you have scars, that means you are still living and have persevered. Your body has healed and you are in, or entering, a new chapter of your life.
I know that emotional scars often don’t heal as easily or as quickly as physical scars, but so much can be learned by those wounds if you allow yourself to acknowledge them, learn to forgive, and work through that pain with God’s help.
I think it’s very timely that this concept has been bubbling in my heart this morning because it happens to be Easter weekend. The time that we as a family celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Here is a man who suffered a horrific death to give us life and He had the scars to prove it. He had nails driven into his hands, and feet, and a sword pierced side. On the third day He rose again and appeared to the disciples. They were afraid and initially doubted that who they were seeing was truly Jesus, so to prove His identity He showed them…..
Luke 24:37-38 says, They were startled and frightened thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself!…”
John 20:19-20 says, …. “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.”
Jesus was proud of His scars. They were not only reminders of His pain and suffering, but more importantly, proof of His victory over death. They were a part of His story and a very important part.
If you have scars, I am truly sorry for the pain you have experienced, and I feel that acknowledging that pain is an important part of the healing process. I hope that you too can be proud of your scars and show them freely. (I can’t show the majority of mine or I might be arrested. Ha!) But I will always gladly display the ones I can because of the deeper meaning they will always have for me.
My prayer is that you can look at your scars and not see a flawed human being, but instead see a beautiful and loved,
When I was hit with a cancer diagnosis, one of the first things my husband and I wanted to do was change some of our eating habits. When you feel completely out of control of your health, being able to control SOMETHING is super helpful. I wanted to make sure that I was fueling my body with as much awesome goodness as possible to help fight those pesky cancer cells and give me the energy I needed to heal.
So, my wonderful husband, who loves to do research, found some fantastic juicing recipes from our friend Cortney who is also a warrior super mom and cancer survivor. So I will take ZERO credit for these recipes, but I wanted to share them. If you haven’t checked out Cortney’s blog, anticancermom.com, do so! It’s fantastic!
If you’re interested in juicing go out and invest in a good juicer. I’ll be honest, I didn’t have the energy when we first started this to test out a bunch of them, so my sister-in-law gave us hers which was a huge blessing. It is a Breville Juice Fountain Plus. I’m sure there are a lot of great options out there, but this one has been great for us.
We have found that setting aside a day of the week, like Sunday afternoon, is great for juicing. It can be a bit of a messy and involved process, so dedicating specific time for it is helpful. We typically make two to three recipes and juice in bulk.
Make sure you have a bunch of small mason jars that you can freeze your juice in. We typically make approximately 8 ounce individual servings. Fill your jars leaving at least one inch of room at the top so there is space for the juice to expand when it freezes. You don’t want frozen juice and glass carnage all over your freezer after all that hard work! Trust me, you will cry.
If we pick two recipes and double each one it usually yields around 26 to 30, 8+oz servings.
Once you have your frozen stash of juice you can take one out each morning, place it in a bowl of water and by lunchtime it’s thawed. DO NOT PUT IT IN THE MICROWAVE! You don’t want to kill all that good nutritional gold.
And that’s it! I love my juices and still enjoy them even after recovering from because they feel like rocket fuel for my body.
So here’s the good stuff! The recipes! Again, I give all credit to anticancermom.com for these fabulous concoctions. A couple of these may require a little getting used to in the taste department as they are designed to be cancer fighting. But I have grown to really enjoy them. If you are looking for some flavor variety there are also wonderful books out there with more recipes like Crazy Sexy Juice by Kris Carr. I LOVED this book and we made a lot of juices from this resource too.
(1 cucumber, 8 carrots, 4 kale leaves)
(1 cucumber, 1 medium beet, ¼” piece of peeled ginger)
(6-10 carrots, ¼” purple cabbage, pineapple core)
(1 green apple, 4-6 carrots, 1 broccoli stalk, 1 medium beet)
Apple-Celery-Carrot-Baby Bok Choy
(1 green apple, 6-8 carrots, 1 bunch baby bok choy)
The past few weeks after my last chemo treatment have been days solely devoted to getting physically stronger. However, I decided to treat myself to a fun photoshoot with my dear friend, Dahli Durley.
I asked her if she would capture this season in my life, not out of vanity, (heck, who can be vain when they look like a bald, fuzzy, baby bird), but out of reverence for the lessons God is teaching me through this trial. And I simply don’t want to ever forget these dark days.
Dahli beautifully captured both the pain and the joy of these past few months, and they will be images I will treasure for years. I was also incredibly thankful for my friend, Brooke Weber, and her makeup expertise. She helped me feel “normal” again. She gave my thinning eyebrows and chemo-hacked eyelashes a little love. And I have to say getting my head powdered was definitely a first!
But, the next big hurdle in this “cancer beating” game plan that I needed to clear after I completed chemotherapy, was surgery. To be honest, after how difficult chemo has been, I thought that surgery would be a walk in the park. And strangely, I found myself looking forward to it. I think it was because I knew there was a possibility that it could signal the end of this very long and hard road.
So one week ago, I packed my little overnight bag and made my way to the hospital bright and early. I was scheduled to be my surgeons’ first case of the day. After approximately five hours, which thankfully felt like two minutes thanks to my amazing anesthesiologist, I was greeted by my wide-eyed husband and concerned parents in the recovery room.
I slurred through some drug induced hellos that I don’t really remember, and my family began to inform me that the doctors had given them glowing reports. They said that the surgery couldn’t have gone better, and they were both very pleased! Yahoo! Hurdle, officially cleared!
So my job this week, now that I am post-surgery, is to keep my pain under control and my upper arm movement to an absolutely minimum. So if your child is having a dinosaur themed birthday party and you need a T-Rex impersonator, I’m your girl.
I have completely mastered the, “glue your arms to your sides, bend at the elbows, and only slightly move your hands” motion. Let’s just say, I am quite a sight. But, what has been even more fun is watching my children put toothpaste on my toothbrush and button my pajama top each night. Oh, how the roles have changed!
But here is where it really gets good. Yesterday, I received the phone call that the pathology report was in from my surgery. This typically comes one week after the procedure, and is used to determine if there are still viable cancer cells present in the breast tissue that was removed.
And if so, how close those cells are to the margins of the skin. This determines if further treatment, such as radiation, is necessary. I could bore you with all of the medical fancy talk but, instead I will give you the results in my own words:
THE CANCER IS DEAD!!!
Yep, like dead, dead. Dead as a doornail dead. The tumor was toast. And just like that, this journey that started with a phone call just ended with a phone call. It is a surreal feeling to be told that you no longer have cancer after living so deep in the trenches fighting for what seems like an eternity.
You don’t know if you should laugh or cry, so you do both. And then you sit in amazement at God’s faithfulness and his unwavering fulfillment of his sweet promises.
I continue to struggle through the continued rollercoaster of physical recovery, which will still take quite awhile, but I find peace by praying Isaiah 40:31 over myself frequently.
“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint”.
For awhile, I found myself focusing more on the last part of that verse which promises renewed strength and physical vitality. Only recently, did I feel completely hit with the first part that states how this renewal comes to those who WAIT. Hmmm….yeeahhh….not one of my strengths. Patience. But, I see now how important it is to wait on God, still do your part, then wait on his perfect timing for all things in your life. Even if it’s a strong body and a clean bill of health.
Sometimes, things take time, and his timing is always better than our our own.
So there you have it. I can confidently and gratefully say with tears streaming down my face….
I am cancer free.
Thank you, Jesus.
Battling cancer is not only a physical fight, but it’s also a mental fight. Keeping my mind focused on healing, and staying positive throughout this incredibly difficult journey is one of the biggest challenges I have faced.
But, I am pleased to say that I was given a mental game changer about eleven days ago. It came in the form of five simple words spoken by my oncologist as I was sitting in her exam room.
“This is your last treatment.”
(Insert instant tear explosion and a loud, “Thank you Lord!”, from the turban, fancy earring, and hospital gown wearing patient……here.)
After collecting myself and going through a good box of rough hospital Kleenex, it started to sink in that this treatment would be my last. I could finally begin imagining what a true recovery may feel like.
Toward the end of my “drip session”, which is the lengthy act of receiving the chemotherapy drugs that is as about as exciting as watching paint dry, all of the amazing nurses in the infusion center surprised me with a celebratory song complete with maracas and bubbles. It was like being sung “Happy Birthday” at a Mexican restaurant, minus the sombrero, but WAY better! I am so grateful for all of those wonderful caregivers, and how well they took care of me during my time there.
Up until this point, I wasn’t sure if I would need four or six treatments and it was weighing on me heavily. I had fervently prayed that I would only have to endure four cycles, and had asked many times that God would give me peace during the agonizing days leading up to knowing for sure.
I knew in my heart that four cycles would be my course, and there were many signs I felt God revealed to me to offer reassurance, but I’ll be honest, there was still a slight fear that I could be wrong. I am grateful for the treatments and will forever be thankful that they are ridding my body of this horrible disease. But, the physical toll that chemotherapy has on you literally and figuratively takes your breath away.
It has been by far the hardest thing I have ever faced. But through it all, I felt God calling me to simply trust.
I needed to trust in the doctors that they have my health and best interest at heart as they use their knowledge to develop and execute a plan. Then trust in the incredible friends and family that continue to surround me with their support through meals, caring for my children, or simply praying for me.
But most importantly, trust in God. He alone holds me in the palm of His hand and will never let me go. Trusting is believing in His promises no matter what the circumstances, and one of His promises is “perfect peace”.
Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you”.
I trust that He loves me and He will heal me. I trust that His perfect will is at work in my life even if I can’t see it right now. I trust that no matter how hard this gets He will see me through to the other side.
Trust has been the most important weapon in my arsenal as I fight this battle. There have been many times lying in my bed struggling with so much pain, discomfort, and fatigue that all I can find the strength to do is whisper in my mind, “I trust you. I trust you.”
In situations like this, I believe this is all He desires of us. A simple whisper of trust, especially in those moments when we are unable to physically muster anything greater.
As each day passes I feel my strength slowly beginning to rise, and I’m finally able to say, “That was my last day 3 post treatment, that was my last day 4 etc.…”. I still have some hurdles in front of me, surgery being one of them, but my best weapon,“TRUST”, is still cocked and loaded.
So, I’m still here to tell cancer it’s time to say goodbye to it’s final days, and to watch out….
This girl is packing heat.
I never knew that those few words could be so important and yet so difficult to follow.
The past few weeks have been a ride on the familiar roller coaster I lovingly call the “Chemo Train”. I have been the typical “rider” both throwing my hands up and laughing on good days and then gripping the safety bar for dear life and screaming my lungs out on the awful days.
I checked round two off my list and settled into the reality that after two comes….three. So last Thursday I wrapped up my turban, put on some fancy earrings and made my way to the hospital. You ask, “Who wears fancy earrings to chemo infusions?” Well, this chick does.
I decided early on that I will not let cancer define me or change who I am or what I love. So, if I’m going to have toxic chemicals pumped through my body in a sterile, bland environment, I’m going to do it with some pizzazz!
This round didn’t disappoint with the side effects, and even blessed me with a couple of new ones, oh joy! But, as I currently claw my way out of the dark pit of this first week post-treatment, I have taken some time to look back on the recurring lesson I feel God has been teaching me and it is to…
Ok seriously, I had a “What you talkin’ bout Willis?!” moment when He hit me upside the head on that one. Yep, I’m dating myself with the Different Strokes reference so thank you to all of you who can relate. And yes, I got “hit on” by Gary Coleman when I lived in Los Angeles years ago. Couldn’t have been Brad Pitt, nope, Gary Coleman. Different post for a different day.
So if you know me, I like to be moving, and doing, and getting stuff DONE! So the thought of being still just isn’t in my wheelhouse. But, when your life comes to a screeching halt due to an illness or a tragedy you learn that shockingly, life continues to happen around you and without your help.
I am so guilty of getting caught up in the rat race and the call of the “To Do List” so this was a tough nut for me to crack. I’m the girl who likes checking things off lists, a…lot. I will even write ridiculous things on my list just so I can cross them off. Brush teeth, CHECK! So the thought of being still was a new one for me.
Chemo is the equivalent of running at full speed into a brick wall. You guessed it, you are physically stopped cold. Especially during my rough days I am forced to literally sit, and that is the extent of my movement.
Thankfully, the warm weather has allowed me the sheer joy of sitting outside and really absorbing God’s creation. I find that I notice birds and the beauty of their song. I now really “see” flowers and how perfect each petal is. Closing my eyes and listening to the gurgling of our water fountain in our garden is so therapeutic. And I love to soak in the gentle breeze in my hair. By “hair” I mean in the singular sense. Yep, still have a couple stubborn ones that just won’t let go! Come on! Give it up!!
If we don’t allow ourselves the grace to be still we miss out on so much. We miss out on the chance to rejuvenate our bodies, and our minds. We also miss out on the countless little miracles that happen around us on a daily basis. We miss out on the opportunity to spend time with God, and have Him speak to us and pour into our souls.
Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God…”.
It’s a direct command to stop running for a minute. Be still. I know that looks different for everyone and we all are created with specific paths for recharge, but for me it has been a routine of sitting, closing my eyes, putting away all technology, and praying.
Carving out a specific time to do this and not just on the fly when you’re running out the door or sitting in the carpool line is the key. In the past, I always “found time for God” throughout my day, but I never made the dedicated decision to be still each day. It’s amazing what God will tell you when you are quiet enough to listen.
So, as I continue to recover from this latest round I will daily try to be still. It is NOT easy, and I would be lying if I said I’ve got this thing down. It’s a discipline not just a decision. I will be working on strengthening my “be still” muscles everyday.
But, what a perfect season to start. Aren’t we supposed to be enjoying these lazy days of summer? You’re probably asking, “What is that?” Ask yourself where you can find time to be still in your day.
What is SO important that it comes before your well-being or your relationship with God?
Trust me, when you are faced with a life or death experience, your priorities change. Even fifteen minutes of quiet can be incredibly life-giving, and who doesn’t need to have their hearts poured into? We all give so much of ourselves everyday to people, jobs, and families. Allow yourself to be filled back up again, and just….
Here we go again! It was time to get my game face back on and jump into the ring for round two yesterday. I have to say, my “fighting spirit” wasn’t quite as strong as it was going into round one, primarily because I now know what I’m getting into.
That first round is shrouded with a bit of naivety which I think is a blessing. However, once you know what’s coming with the subsequent rounds you find that little spring in your step isn’t quite as present as before. But, at the same time there is a familiarity of the process that is strangely comforting.
I also got a fun little gadget this time to help with my predisposition for ending up with little to no white blood cells after treatment. It’s an on-body injector that helps boost white blood cell growth. It’s a little pack that sticks to your arm and injects a medication 27 hours after treatment.
The fun part is it blinks a green light every 10 seconds which makes it easy for my husband to track me when I get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom! My sister-in-law said that my auntie “cool factor” just went up in my nephew’s eyes because I’m now a female version of Buzz Lightyear.
This past week before this second chemo cycle was a good week and I actually had a few days of feeling relatively “normal”. I made it out to Target (whoa!) and even a couple of quick lunch dates. It was wonderful getting out again and enjoying things I did “BC” (before cancer), but I noticed that it was still hard.
I wasn’t prepared for the strange looks from people that don’t know me, and the spontaneous waterworks when someone would ask me how I was. I found I could only be out in public for a few hours before I needed to go home, crawl under my sheets and hide for the rest of the day.
I know this will get better and it already has, but those first few days of “ripping off the bandaid” of your new normal is tough. And I’m getting used to the fact that my fun new haircut isn’t so cute anymore and I’m resembling an older man struggling with male pattern baldness. Yeah…..kind of hard to prepare for that one! But again, it’s all a process and you adapt and grow with it daily.
This has also given me a brief insight into the lives of people living with disabilities or physical deformities and the struggles they face everyday. By no means do I compare this temporary season of what I’m going through to someone who lives with a permanent physical or cosmetic disability.
However, I’ve definitely experienced slight moments of what looking different compared to “social norms” is like. And it has grown my empathy and love for those people who deal with it every day of their lives. I believe times like these that give us the ability to walk in someone else’s shoes, even for a short time, are priceless.
I also have to say that I continue to be completely overwhelmed and grateful for the continuous outpouring of support from all of you. I have honestly felt guilty at times because I find I’m just too tired and worn out to pray and seek God’s face as much as I feel I should be.
Yet coincidently, or not, during those precise times I get multiple messages from friends telling me that they are lifting my hands up for me just like Aaron and Hur did for Moses in Exodus 17:11-12.
“As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up–one on one side, one on the other–so that his hands remained steady till sunset.”
It has been such a beautiful reminder for me that we don’t have to go through tough times alone, and it’s ok to let other’s hold up our hands.
Especially for someone like me who often thinks I can handle things all on my own. So thank you again, for all of your incredible encouragement. It truly helps. To say I am grateful doesn’t even come close to doing it justice. So thank you, “to infinity and beyond”! From the strange, balding woman walking down the street blinking like Buzz Lightyear.
I knew this day was coming for awhile and it’s finally here. Earlier this week I earned myself a little two night “staycation” at the local hospital. I experienced something many people being treated with chemotherapy go through which was a high fever and infection due to having a nonexistent white blood cell count.
During that time my scalp began to hurt like I’d had a ponytail in too long, and I knew what was coming.
I don’t think you can truly be prepared for this step of the process, even though I felt God preparing me for this for quite some time. My wonderful friend, and hairdresser, graciously agreed to be “on call” for me when it was time to take this step and came to my home armed with her cape, clippers, and her hundred watt smile.
Due to my time in the hospital with the absence of a brush, my hair developed a pretty big dread lock in the back that I was honestly afraid to try to brush out for fear of it all falling out in my hand. So what better “buzzing” music than Bob Marley!
We cranked up the volume on some reggae tunes outside on our patio and she did her magic. Both of my girls and Andrew got in on the fun and took turns with the clippers. My parents, A.K.A. the rockstar support team, were also there to cheer me on.
I’ve never had to imagine myself without hair, or what it would be like to wake up in the morning and look at myself in the mirror with no hair, eyebrows or eyelashes. And honestly, it’s been hard to come to grips with it.
You may be thinking, seriously, it’s just hair. And I completely agree, it is JUST hair. I have those days when I think, “I will totally rock this!” as I YouTube how to tie a turban and spend stupid amounts of money buying fun earrings online. But, then I had that day when all I could do was sob uncontrollably in the shower while holding clumps of hair in my hands. It’s still hard.
I’m still a woman who wants to feel beautiful. When you are faced with this kind of reality it forces you to dig deep within yourself and pull out things that you never realized needed to be dealt with. When I allowed myself to do a little soul excavating, what I discovered was….pride.
I realized that there is a small piece of myself that is pretty proud of the fact that I look relatively decent for my age, can still get those “O.M.G. you haven’t changed since high school!” comments, and get carded once in awhile. Ok, so maybe THAT hasn’t happened recently, but a girl can dream!
I found that at times I was putting more importance on my physical appearance than I should. Ladies, you know we all dress for each other, not for our men. Heck, our wonderful guys don’t even notice when we color our hair! Seriously…..they don’t. Now, don’t get me wrong, this girl loves everything visually beautiful and “fashiony”, and that will never change, but I feel God is shining a soft beam of light on an area of my life that needed some attention.
I think it is very easy to become prideful. We are all so blessed! Many of us can say we have wonderful jobs, or intelligent minds, great lips, fantastic kids, cool cars, or amazing talents, and there is nothing wrong with any of those things. But, often times one or more of those possessions can be tainted with a slightly unhealthy dose of pride.
Pride gets in the way of our ability to truly put other people and their needs first. It focuses too much attention inward instead of outward. Being completely humbled by this experience has shown me how all that “stuff” doesn’t matter. It can all be gone in an instant. And when that happens, what are you left with?
By no means, do I believe that me losing my hair, or having cancer for that matter, is some type of punishment or “Godly smackdown” intended to penalize me for anything I have done or any character flaw I may have. However, I do believe God will use situations in our life to gently redirect our thinking or push us back on the road if we are floundering a bit in the ditch.
Proverbs 31:30 says, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised.”
This has been a good reminder for me that so much in this world is fleeting, and when my time here is done I want to walk into heaven being praised for my fear in the Lord. And only that.
Hair grows back. (Preferably extremely thick, with no grays, and streaked with honey highlights please!!) Eyelashes grow back, and so do eyebrows. But, what I know will also grow is a truer sense of the person God intended me to be. A person that knows how much He loves me no matter what I look like, and a person that can stay humbly focused on what really matters in life. So I will take this next “cancer punch in the face” with a stiff upper lip and a softness my in my heart knowing that I am being molded into a more affective and empathetic person everyday.
And with that comes great possibilities, and even better Halloween costume ideas.
If I had to describe in one word how this first week of chemotherapy has been it would be….INDESCRIBABLE.
Unless you have experienced this yourself there is no way to fully comprehend what this treatment is like. And for those of you who have traveled this road I applaud you and empathize. I am by no means writing this for sympathy or to invite myself to my own pity party, but it’s simply a fact. This is hard.
I will spare you the details, but know that this takes you to a place of complete physical and emotional brokenness and surrender. You have moments when you question if this will ever end, and then somewhere in that darkness shines a glimmer of normalcy when you actually entertain the thought of washing a dish or two. That only lasts a second, mind you.
I have asked myself many times these past few days, why? Why is this happening to me? Why do I have to face this trial? What did I do I deserve this? Why must my children watch me suffer? Why? Why do bad things happen to good people?
Now I am not claiming to be any more “good” than anyone else in fact, I’m quite flawed, broken, goofy and in process just like the next person. However, I’d like to think I don’t have serial killer tendencies, I’m kind to animals, and I am “that girl” who will go all the way back to the Target cashier from the parking lot, once I realize that small pack of gum that slipped through my cart at checkout didn’t get rung up.
So again, why did I win the “your life is going to pretty much be crap for awhile” lottery?
Well, it’s actually pretty simple. We live in a fallen world. We live in a world that is not our home and on this earth we will experience pain. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done or not done with your life, we will experience trouble.
John 16:33 says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
It doesn’t say, your life will always be butterflies and rainbows and there will be an endless sale going on at Nordstroms! No, it says, you WILL have trouble. But, you have to remember the last and best part of that verse. The promise that God wins. You win.
I believe God has allowed this to happen to me, and it is my job to approach it with an attitude of thankfulness. Now please understand, I am not THANKFUL that I have cancer. I am not HAPPY about this one bit. And do I kick and scream and cry like a baby sometimes? ABSOLUTELY. But, I can be grateful knowing a merciful God will never leave my side, and He will see me through to victory.
I can be grateful that He is giving me an opportunity to trust Him more, to see His incredible and constant love poured out on me each and everyday, and then maybe I will be given the opportunity to use this experience to help someone else in the future.
I can also choose to see the good this will produce in my family. My children will learn about a very real life struggle and hopefully gather tools about how to deal with trouble within a safe environment while they are young. I can choose to let this be an “inconvenience” on their perfect little lives, or I can choose to allow this to make them stronger and more equipped for what they will encounter as they grow.
I can choose to take this opportunity to teach them about compassion, fortitude, faith, trust, and chipping in when the chips are down. We all have a choice when it comes to how we view tough times in our life. I’m not choosing to like it, but I am choosing to except and embrace it.
I know I will have to remind myself of this all over again when it’s time to put the gloves back on and jump in the ring for round two. Because having this mindset is hard work. It’s not a flippant, happy-go-lucky attitude you just adopt. It takes daily prayer, internal wrestling, and literally throwing your hands up to the heavens and saying, “HELP!”
And even in those moments when you just can’t wrap your head around everything that is happening, making sure you are allowing yourself to be ok with not having all the answers and finding peace with that is what becomes most important.
So my question should NOT be, “Why me?” But instead….
“Why not me?”
Thank you all for your prayers and good thoughts today. I can tell you I actually felt them. I woke up this morning feeling peaceful and ready to get this party started. I did have a few “oh crap” thoughts as we were driving to the hospital, but those were momentary and fleeting. Thank goodness.
The port placement went well, and I knew I was in good hands when the doctor came in wearing a University of Iowa surgical cap. YES! Go HAWKS! My alma mater!
After the port placement I had some lab draws and then it was time to get the good stuff. After the first bag of Benadryl, I was feeling a little loopy, and managed to close my eyes and rest a bit. Then came the chemo cocktail. Again, that went down fine with no initial allergic reaction which was another answered prayer.
I was at the hospital most of the day, so I packed some essentials that I thought would make this experience a little more tolerable.
I had a Glamour magazine, (because who doesn’t want to feel glamorous while pumping poison through their body), a wonderful list of healing scriptures that I mediated on thanks to a sweet friend, some healthy snacks (it’s all about the “sprouted” seeds), my lavender essential oil that helped to relax me (I had nurses coming in to ask what smelled so good!), my fantastic 32 ounce glass water bottle from BKR, my Beautycounter hand cream containing ZERO ingredients that are linked to causing cancer, and last but certainly not least, the cute guy in the corner who was the best “essential” all day. My amazing husband.