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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Crack Pots

     Here I am in 2015! Nearly 4 years since my last treatment for breast cancer and so grateful to be here. The shadow of cancer never leaves though and each ache & pain that comes revives the fear since, if it comes back, it will have the scary "metastatic" word next to it. Turns out the the back pain I worried about in my last post, last fall, was not bone "mets" (yay!) but was secondary to a bad hip that showed up on an MRI (boo!) By Oct. I couldn't walk without limping and by Nov. I had a total hip replacement (left side, of course). Rehab wasn't perfect but I'm finally walking without a cane so I can finally see some sunlight through that cloud! I'm getting excited about long walks & hikes again.

     But wait. What's this? Why does it hurt like the devil when I barely press on my lower rib cage? What the...?  Initial layman prognosis was gallbladder - ok - so I ran to a doc. He said uh-uh, but your oncologist will probably want a CT scan. Um, WHY??? He played it cool but I figured it out - bcancer likes to go to the ribs. Damn!

     A sonogram of my abdomen was necessary anyway but it showed healthy organs, woo! Now CT is scheduled for Wed and I'm not sure I want to know. I have a bad feeling, but that doesn't mean much.  It's just your average, generic brand of terror that comes from knowing that IF its bad, it's the deadly bad kind of bad. But _years_ of it. Not the "get your affairs in order because it could be any day" kind of bad. But the "we can treat this and hope for a cure while we run your body through the ringer for several if not maybe 10 years before you finally die" kind of bad. I'm sorry if that's morbid or cynical - but if you've tried on these shoes I'm wearing then you know what I mean.

     So then there's the bright side that IF the CT shows healthy ribs, I only have costochondritis. And here's what The Mayo Clinic says about it: 

"It can be frustrating to know that there's little your doctor can do to treat your costochondritis. But you can take self-care measures to make yourself more comfortable, which can give you a greater sense of control over your condition. Try the following:
  • Over-the-counter painrelievers. Costochondritis symptoms can often be controlled with acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) or naproxen (Aleve).
  • Heat or ice. Try placing hot compresses or a heating pad to the painful area several times a day. Keep the heat on a low setting. Ice also may be helpful.
  • Rest. Avoid activities that make your pain worse.
     Through all this, I've been complaining about how tired I am of being a patient. How I just want a break from docs & hospitals & surgeries & "conditions"! I even had a minor breakthrough recently with my lymphedema "condition" and ordered a fancy compression sleeve that looks like I have flower tattoos up & down that arm. My OT was right, it doesn't control the swelling perfectly, but it makes me feel better so I just do extra heavy arm wraps at night to make up for it. But now there's this new rib pain that isn't getting any better no matter what I try. So the fear keeps pullin' me back in! (Al Pacino's got nothing on me.)

      Which leads me to my signature close - a lil Scripture.  I do this because that's the cycle, my cycle anyway. I have Hope, then a new problem, then an old fear, then a new Hope. So here's my newest encouragement. I am a cracked pot. We all are, true. Clay vessels with various flaws, or cracks. My body (aka vessel) has been physically flawed over & over & over going on 10 years now from uterine fibroids to double mastectomies to a titanium hip and the scars & swollen arm & cancer treatment damage in between, so the cracks in my vessel feel huge, and overwhelming at times. Then comes a reminder from Scripture to let my lil' light shine. Show Jesus' power, light, working in my life. And it makes me thankful that I have soooooo many cracks to let the light shine through. That sounds crazy but, if you know Him, you understand that nothing brings more joy than proclaiming His Glory (source: pastor J.Haefs....and The Bible).  If I can remember that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverence produces character, and character produces hope, (Romans 5:3) then I'll be okay.
     So while I wait to find out how large this next crack will be, and while I pray a friend through a whole different kind of cancer nightmare, I hold on to Jesus and His unfailing care for me, for us. I groan and mutter "your will be done" but I mean it just the same. He is the captain of my ship, my vessel, and I trust Him. Because I believe He IS who He says He is! (Have you read His book?!) His Word is my lamp, my lighthouse, and my prayer will always be that it shines through each and every crack of my clay pot.
   "But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies."
To Him be the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Oily Labor

I'm a bad blogger. But not long after my last post, I got a full time job as assistant to a school librarian so I took it! I was also still taking grad school classes for my MLIS at that time. Finally I slowed down enough this summer to enjoy my friends and family and didn't take any classes. Turns out I quite like it that way so I'm still not taking any classes. I have my full-time job and I'm thankful, but balancing wife/mom/friend/employee is tricky when you work 40hrs/week outside the home, right ladies? I shouldn't complain though, because all I ever wanted was to have a job I'm good at that didn't interfere with me being a FT mom, and I have that! Of course, if I can be THE librarian at a school someday, my pay will more than double. But it could also double my stress and add many extra hours to my work week. Life is full of dilemmas. Which road should I navigate? I have more degrees and certificates than necessary for my assistant job and haven't had a paycheck this small since I worked for 15 hours a week. But after battling breast cancer and spine issues, I have an abiding appreciation for life in the low-stress lane. I am plagued by the question of how my husband and I will ever get back to saving and have a secure retirement though. We're already well into middle age! I can't consider that question without remembering the "gift" of cancer. It tried to teach me that nothing is more important than today. And there are certain things, a lot of things, outside of my control. My health feels like one of them sometimes.

Which brings me to last night, when a beautiful lady was one of several people who prayed for me after I explained how my back pain's been a huge thorn in my side lately and how discouraged (dare I say depressed?) I've felt about it. In the midst of that, without any discussion of my career/paycheck concerns, she described seeing my feet as having fragrant oil on them, leaving oily footprints as I walked through my work assisting in the library. BOOM! I just got encouraged - I'm making/leaving a mark despite my worry that I should do more, or be more, or make more - and it's a good mark (because the oil smells good)! I got encouraged about other stuff I hadn't mentioned either. It floored me, and blessed me. It left me void of anxiety and full of trust, that if my footprints are needed elsewhere, I'll know. Right now, I'm where I should be and I can trust that all will be well even if that changes. I don't have to worry so much about the future because I'm busy leaving oily footprints right now. I bet you are too. I bet there are oily footprints all over the place!

Our pastor preached an especially good sermon yesterday about eternal life. In it, he took a quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes and turned it on it's head! I guess it's the heart of this lil' blog post because you can take this to the bank... sort of like a paycheck. Well, it won't pay for the groceries but - dang it's good. He said,
The only way to be of any earthly good is to be heavenly minded.
So keep your eyes lifted up, remembering to stop and smell the oily footprints along the way.
Happy Labor Day!

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs without fear of the future. Proverbs 31:25