Tuesday, May 27, 2014

May 27, 2014

Today is the five year anniversary of my stage 3 rectal cancer diagnosis.  I have always wondered how this day would feel.  I've given a lot of thought to how I should celebrate.  A giant dance party with DJ?  An amazing trip?  Or having all my family gathered together?  Should I invite the church?  Invite my friends?  Invite my doctors?  How would I feel?  What should I do? 

Today is the day - 5 years - that magical milestone that every oncologist is working toward, every cancer treatment's goal, and every cancer patient's dream.  The dream of survival.  Five years is  the marker that says, "You are healed.  Your chance of being diagnosed with cancer in the future is now the same as the rest of the population on planet Earth.  Go live your life!"

So how will I celebrate?  It's 6:00 AM.  The rain is falling, birds are singing.  Praise music plays in my head again:

"Now death where is your sting?  Our resurrected King has rendered you defeated!"  (Kari Jobe)

Mark is gone to jury duty.  My family is scattered across the country and the globe.  It's just me and God today.  A quiet morning together.  And somehow that seems like the perfect celebration.  Just like so many private moments together on the couch during my treatment - private tears and anguish shared; heart poured out; hope beyond hope that everything I believed was real.  And He was there, in all his glory.  And He is here with me today.  

My heart is so full it feels like it will burst.  I am so grateful that the only way to express it is with tears and the quiet deep longings of my heart - crying out for more of you.  I understand why "angels prostrate fall".  There is no other way, no other response to a God so magnificent and Holy, so good and kind, so loving and gracious and giving.  My words fail.

I remember today my sweet friends, so many who have gone on before me - Stacey, Melissa, Tony, John T., John D., Brandon, Dr. Keller - and sweet Roosevelt who cautioned me not to follow in his footsteps!  I try to imagine the joy they experienced as they stepped into Your presence - again, I am left mute.

God, I love you, I praise you, I bless you, and I thank you.  May I live every day conscious of your presence in my life.  I am yours, body and soul.

"For the Mighty One has done great things for me - Holy is his name."  Luke 1:49

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Most Wonderful Words...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012. I sat in Dr. Campos' office in a white paper gown, seated on the exam table. Mark sat in the chair, head back, eyes closed.  Dr. Campos finally walked into the room with my six-inch thick chart, trailed by Dr. Z. and some new medical student who quietly leaned against the wall, listening, watching, and learning.  

And then he spoke the most wonderful words ever:

"You are completely normal!  Your PET scan was clear, all your blood work is normal. 
No Colonoscopy for three years."  

The most amazing joy started deep inside me, filled me and spilled onto my face. For the first time I honestly feel that I've been healed, that this is over. I feel free. I feel alive. I have a future. Anything is possible! I feel like laughing and running, and dancing!  

Instead, I thank Dr. Campos. We all agree that it was God at work through him.  He tells me to come see him in six months then leaves the room, encouraged with a broad smile, and heads into the next exam room.  

Alone, Mark and I look at each other with wide eyes and crazy grins.  We give each other double high fives across the room.  We leave his office, still in wonder at the goodness of God toward us. What a lot we have to celebrate and be thankful for!  I text the kids, my family and friends on the way.  Congratulatory text messages flood my phone - joy spreads!  

Thank you, Jesus, for healing, for grace, for walking with me, for your joy overflowing!  Please let me live every moment to bring praise and honor to you.  Please show me how. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Get Your Rear in Gear November 2012

After participating in the Get Your Rear in Gear 5K in Tulsa in March, I decided that I would actually train and RUN the Houston GYRIG 5K in November.  My sweet friend Kristy was my constant encouragement.  Several friends joined in the fun and came out to support my efforts as we raised money and awareness for colorectal cancer research, including Aimee who is pregnant with twins!  I have such amazing friends! 

It was a beautiful clear morning.  With each step I was reminded that I am healthy and strong, that God is faithful and that my future is full of His goodness. 

The following weekend, my California family participated in the Get Your Rear in Gear in Orange County in my honor.  I wish I could have been there with them. 

I love these people!

Me and Kristy

Praying before the race


I did it!

California GYRIG Team

I love you all! Thank you for your constant love, encouragement, and support!  And thank you for your help in finding a cure for colorectal cancer.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Love is in the Air!

Sunday, August 12, 2012, Mark and I had the joy of celebrating Ashley's engagement to Mr. Adam Love!  Yes, his name really is Love!  And we are thrilled for both of them!  

The Happy Couple

The proposal journal

Celebrating with family

Sweet friends praying for Ashley and Adam


The Loves

Let the wedding planning begin!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Dear Body

This letter is written in response to the invitation by She Loves Magazine, Stories of Sisterhood to write a letter to my body. To read more letters, written by women around the world, click here:  www.shelovesmagazine.com  or visit shelovesmagazine on Facebook.

Dear Body,

We’ve spent forty-nine good years together.  We’ve traveled the world and had the joy of laughing with friends across the globe.   We’ve always had a good relationship.  I have always been grateful that you seemed to maintain your health and your form without any effort on my part.  I have depended you and found you to be faithful.

That is until May 27, 2009.  Imagine my shock when I was told that you had stage 3 rectal cancer.  The doctors told me that I had a 50/50 chance of maintaining my relationship with you for five more years.  I had always known that my days with you were numbered, but it was stunning to hear that number may be much smaller than I had imagined. 

I immediately felt betrayed!  How could you let this happen? You had no history of this disease!  You are never sick!  And so began my personal battle to prolong your life.  We partnered together, garnered all our strength, and stepped into the war. 

And you were phenomenal!  You took everything that came your way with amazing strength and dignity.  You stood up to repeated radiation, the burning of your cells,; and diligently discarded the refuse. You miraculously rebuilt damaged tissues even as you cried out for rest and relief from the onslaught.  You even gave birth to brand new cells in spite of the biological warfare of chemotherapy.  You endured multiple surgeries, each time producing beautiful scar tissue to remind me of your victories.  You fought through diarrhea, dehydration, exhaustion, electrolyte imbalance, secondary infections, constant nausea, emotional upheaval, pain, grief, fear, and despair.  You endured countless medical procedures, and torturous medical exams. You persevered through it all.

After endless months in the fray, you rang the bell, signaling your personal victory. You are amazing! You are strong! You are “beautifully and wonderfully made.”  I have never been more proud to call you mine!  Thank you for fighting for me!  I can’t live without you!


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Open My Eyes

Have you ever had one of those moments when your own sinfulness reared its ugly head, and for a brief instant you saw things clearly - the way God does - the total depravity of the human condition; and of MY condition without the grace of God?

Maybe a moment when the ugliness of pride showed its true colors in you...
Or a moment when a lack of compassion was all that was reflected...
Maybe the heat of judgement poured out on someone you love...
Or angry words spewed before you had the wisdom to silence your mouth...

That happened to me this week.

Sneak Peak:  I was walking into the office the other day at the same time that a woman got out of her car and headed into the building. I didn't recognize her. She looked a little haggard. I assumed that maybe she was a part of the cleaning crew that works at the church.  I didn't say hello to her. I barely even looked at her. I walked inside without even smiling. Wow. Who was that person?  Not her, but ME!!??  Why so impersonal and cold?  Was I really so busy that I couldn't be kind, or even polite?

Her Story:  Kristy and Mark had conversations with this woman and discovered that she was in need of help.  She came to Houston from Michigan to bury her ex-husband, the father of her 10 year old son, who had been found in Buffalo Bayou.  She didn't have enough money to get to the bus station to catch her bus home. She just needed a little help; she was willing to work for the day. I know we are all cynical about these types of stories and requests, but her need seemed genuine.  Mark bought a tank of gas so her friend could drive her to the bus station.

Full Disclosure:  Then Mark called me and said, "Let's go to Wallmart and buy them a gift card so they can have food to eat on the bus. It's a two day trip."  And I replied, "You go ahead. I don't want to ride in the car with them, they don't smell good."

Immediately I am convicted and ashamed. Appalled at my lack of love. Did I just say that?  Did I really have that thought?  Seriously? That's going to be the determining factor in whether I demonstrate Christ's love to someone or not?  I am sickened by my sin.

Redemption:  As it turned out, God gave me the opportunity to go with Mark to Wallmart to purchase the gift card anyway. Thank you, God, that in this moment when all I had to offer you was the stench of selfishness that you didn't respond in kind.  I am humbled by your mercy and grateful for your patience. Thank you for opening my eyes today.  Please continue your work of transformation in my life!  I obviously desperately need you...

Friday, June 29, 2012

"I like your scar"

One of the souvenirs I have from cancer is scars. I have six scars that are related to my cancer surgeries and treatment. Five on my abdomen and one on my chest. When my surgeon first discussed my treatment with me, he was concerned about how I would feel about having scars. Honestly, at that point, scars were the least of my worries! I hadn't worn a bikini since I was in college and all I wanted was to be healthy, no matter what it took to get there. As I walked through cancer treatment, I found that I really liked my scars. Like I've said here before, they are signs of life for me. My scars remind me of where I've been and what I learned, and they say to the world that I am a survivor. They are very personal to me and I am proud to have them. 

Recently, I was even more proud to wear them!  When I was shopping for a dress for Sarah's wedding, I was looking for something that would cover the scar on my chest. It just seemed like the right thing to do. And I was  looking for something to cover my upper arms, which also seemed like the right thing to do! No one wants to see jiggly mother arms at a wedding!  However, if you've seen the pictures of the wedding, you know that is not the kind of dress I ended up buying.  Sarah and I found a beautiful caribbean blue strapless gown that we both agreed was the perfect dress.  Several days before Sarah's wedding I tried on my "Mother-of-the-Bride" dress after having it altered, and Sarah said to me, 'I like your scar, mom."  For her, it signified that her mom fought hard to be here with her. My scars became even more special to me after seeing them through her eyes.

The day of Sarah's wedding, Sarah, the bridesmaids, Tyler's mother, Julie, and I were all together getting ready for the big event. Our sweet friend, Patricia, was on hand to expertly fix everyone's hair. Lily, a professional make-up artist, was also in the room, making sure every girl's beauty was perfectly on display. When it came my turn, I hopped up in the make-up chair and Lily worked her magic. She then asked if I would like make-up on my chest.  I knew immediately, that her real question was, "Do you want me to cover your scar?"  I proudly let her know that the scar was an important part of who I am and did not need to be covered.  

As the sun set, and the music began to fill the chapel, I happily walked down the aisle on the arm of my son, David, and watched my sweet daughter marry the man of her dreams. The scars were there, representing God's goodness and faithfulness toward me and Sarah.

Thank you, Sarah, for seeing the beauty in scars!