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Friday, December 31, 2010

Back to Work in 2011

So after taking time off and enjoying our Hudson side of the family for Christmas, it's time for me to get my head back in to the breast cancer fight. Actually, I clocked a few hours yesterday, visiting my surgeon (in the midst of this horrible head cold) so she could aspirate about 60 mls of lymph fluid at my surgical site. Sounds worse than it was since that part of my body's still pretty numb. Three weeks after my axillary lymph node dissection, the drain for that fluid was removed but they figured I'd need to be aspirated after a few days. Anyway, my body should be acclimated now and hopefully I'm done with all that fluid business! My left arm is beginning to move more normally now but I wonder how long it will be before it's 100%.
In a few days, I'll have my "Power Port" installed. I'm trying to learn what I can beforehand since I only like surprises when they're in the form of a gift or a party. But you have to admit that it's got a nice ring to it...Power Port. Too bad the thought of the actual device grosses me out. If it didn't have to be one more scar on my beat-up bod, that would be nice too. At least this body is a temporary one.
Today I added to a list of questions that have come up as my research continues. Believe it or not, the docs don't guide you a whole lot once you find you have cancer. They just want you to do what they tell you and you have to know what questions to ask. I understand why that is, but there is SO much information and my family's had some "interesting" medical errors made in the past by well-meaning physicians, so...there's a lot of homework involved with something like this. But guess what? There's an app for that! Good thing my sweetheart husband gave me an iPhone 4 for Christmas! has this "Breast Cancer Guide" app that really helped me understand my pathology report and know what questions to ask about it.
I also spent hours today reading forums on that site and gleened some good information, not the least of which is a pre-chemo shopping list (pretty long list!) and tips for putting together a chemo bag to bring to treatments. Now there's a niche market! These tasks are going to be time consuming and if I could just order them, pre-packaged, how nice would that be? Hmmmm...
I also joined one of the forums because we're all starting chemo around the same time. I've never been one to participate in discussion threads online but this one will obviously be a good thing I think. Then I managed to send in for a free silk headwrap from this great non-profit (Good Wishes, an L. Erickson USA program). Nice huh? Next I have to be sure and get my teeth cleaned and a mani/pedi before the 11th since those aren't advisable during treatment (because they can introduce bacteria that can lead to infections.)
Today, however, no one was open for business. Not my doc to tell me if I need an antibiotic for this congestion, not my oncologist to advise me about my congestions and what it will/will not mean for Tues. port procedure, not the dentist to clean my teeth... Thankfully my laptop is on the job and I could get a headstart on 2011's agenda. Is it okay to admit I'm already looking forward to looking back on this next Christmas?
Okay, 2011 may not be my happiest year yet, but I'm determined to welcome it nonetheless. A wise counselor recently reminded me that Joseph probably didn't see Jesus' birth as the happiest moment of his life either. Yeah...think about that! He probably saw all his dreams for Mary and himself crumble. But he accepted and walked head on into God's purpose for his life, and with that, was instrumental in a very good thing (understatement, I know.) Maybe my unpleasant work this coming year will result in some unforeseen blessings. Sometimes I'm actually pretty hopeful it will. Other times, I'm just annoyed and discouraged. I'm assuming the blessings along the way will counteract that? Then again, considering Joseph, it will require unflinching obedience. And "obedience is better than sacrifice" (I Sam 15:22). Of course, an angel of the Lord appearing to me in dreams would be quite helpful! On the other hand, maybe it's God's mercy that prevents this. And, yes, I already know what He requires of me...Micah 6:8 "what does the Lord require of you, But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God", no excuses.
For now, 2011 fast approaches. I pray it's a good new year for us all, and may it bring unforeseen blessing surprises in abundance!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

On-the-job training: Hair

So one of the first things I did after visiting with an oncologist a couple of weeks ago is get a haircut. Parting with part of my hair seemed like it'd make the transition to _bald_ (which the doc has guaranteed) easier, especially for my daughter who fears my baldness more than anything in the world. Sad, but true. So I marched the whole family down to our local Super Cuts. Yes, that's right. My husband & daughter have no problem with Super Cuts...they're easy. But it's never been acceptable for ME to get a haircut there! My hair is complicated. My hair is important. My hair is ME for goodness sake. But I just went ahead and got my hair cut by an unknown hair cutter right there on the spot. Perhaps it was my way of rebelling against this cancer. Sort of giving it the finger if you will. That makes no sense, but I digress. Anyway, I just said, "go short and try to avoid a bob." I must say, it was liberating...having no fear of a bad haircut?! If only I lived like this always! I felt so silly for paying outrageous sums of money for haircuts in the past. So, one of the first things I've learned from my new job is...don't live in fear of a bad haircut. I mean, experts (really good hair experts) should be payed for their talent. But remember, that it's only HAIR. And it grows back. Eventually. And that $$ I didn't spend on my hair? I'm saving up for a wig.  :)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thank God for sick days

Well, the sweaty exercise regime is still in the "planning" phase, ha! But I haven't had time to be lazy either. There was a flurry of holiday-prep activity and doc appointments before I headed in for surgery 3 days ago. I managed a ton of laundry along with Christmas decor (with my sweet family's help of course.) I _think_ Santa is ready for my 7-year-old and all the little traditions we have, like the Advent calendar and the nativity boxes, are good to go! I enjoyed so much love and attention in the days prior to my surgery when I was feeling like a whiny toddler indulging in a temper tantrum. I didn't WANT to have surgery again (#9 in the past seven years by the way.) But my Abba Daddy just held on to me and by Sunday evening, I was full of peace and suddenly felt a surge of strength that would take me through my hospital experience on Tuesday. It was really amazing. 
When I had my mastectomies/reconstruct back in 2006, my hospital experience was a nightmare. From insensitive nurses in the recovery room to a shortage of pain meds to vomiting from an anesthesia hangover. I was really dreading Tuesday even though I was at a different hospital. I shared this with my surgeon too, and anyone else who'd listen (sorry to you all who had to listen!) But it was the complete opposite experience this time and exactly what I needed to get me past that paranoia I'd been carrying around. I wasn't even the slightest bit nauseated from the anesthesia and the pain meds have been very effective. Phew! When a lovely hospital chaplain came by later on Tues. asking if I'd like prayer, I asked if we could give praise instead! He stood there with me and my whole family holding hands and thanking God and it was fantastic.
The best part has been being able to come home and show my little girl that staying in the hospital for surgery is okay. That I came home and am alright. Now maybe she won't be afraid if she ever has to have surgery too.
So that part of my job is done. This recovery part is going pretty well so far too. I have the most amazing mom who totally understands since she's been through this same surgery herself 14 years ago. I have the most loving dad, sisters, husband, daughter, friends and even the snuggliest tail-wagging companion to help me while I manage the pain and the ICKY drain on my left side for the next couple of weeks. Pathology on the lymph nodes and tissue that was removed on Tuesday should be back by Friday or Monday. Then we'll see what else this job has in store. While I wait, I'm enjoying gifts and meals and drawing GREAT strength from that love. I'll get back to work, and the docs, in a couple of weeks. I am welcoming this opportunity to take some "sick days" and am just thankful for the rest!
"For no one is cast off by the Lord forever.  Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone." Lamentations 3: 31-33

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I found a job!!

No, not that job with Better Basics where I got the loudest silent treatment ever for my recent job application. No, not the job with United Way as an advocate for Healthy Kids (where at least I got an interview.) No, not with Samford University as a recruiter for their Teacher Ed. program or with UAB in their reading lab, or with First Teachers at Home or many other jobs that I applied for and ended up with zero response this past year {sigh}.
No, I got a job that will pay up for the rest of my life as long as I have one! My full-time, 24/7 job now is to fight the breast cancer that has returned, after a 4 year hiatus, and is now invasive. I feel so lucky that I didn't get another job, and don't have to have another job right now, because I really have to take this one. Matt really wants me to succeed at this job too and there are a lot of others that are counting on me and want me to take this job seriously...namely, my daughter, my parents, my sisters, my friends...
Fortunately I don't have to work alone. Sometimes I prefer to work alone but I think if I try that with this job, I will fall flat on my face. And perhaps die actually. So I am enlisting aid first from my greatest Helper, Friend, Lover of my soul, Lord of my life and source of all blessings...Jesus Christ. He knows just how to lighten my load, give me rest, and lead me to a peace that passes understanding. I'm also enlisting aid from doctors but I'm choosing them very carefully. Just a month ago (before we found the naughty lymph node under my arm) I had a doctor tell me that I should start taking estrogen. Hellooooooo! I had breast cancer 4 years ago and I'm not in menopause overdrive yet!! I decided he was wrong and never started taking the estrogen (thank God) but went back to argue with him about the estrogen AND show him this lymph node I could feel under my left arm (same side I had cancer), he tried to assure me it was foliculitis! I bit my tongue but insisted I needed at least an ultrasound and he patronized me with one. Turns out, cancer's been hiding in there. SO...he won't be helping me with my new job but I've got a team of experts instead! Then I'm enlisting aid from family, friends, and my church.
I think I'm covered! I start right away so future blogs here will be about job-related tasks.
Task #1 : start a sweaty exercise regime. Alrighty then! Off I go.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Community Church Without Walls / Food and Family
I love the focus on relationship first, teaching second. Wish I'd understood this better when I was a classroom teacher.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Off the subject of my own career crisis...last night, I enjoyed my time at our weekly Community Group more than usual. After lively discussions about Food Rules, Celebrity Rehab, Lost, 24, and The Bachelor (and a lot of laughing!), we got around to considering Tom's message last Sunday regarding Communion. And I got to ask my question. I understand the point about "remembering the poor" but how do we actually DO that? If "remembering" means "orienting our lives around" and "serving," what does that really look like? I mean really? We're not all supposed to go live in Africa, or spend our afternoons at Southtown. Sending that money to World Vision for Peace (a 6-yr-old boy in Zimbabwe) once a month just doesn't seem like "orienting my life" around this child. And whether or not I attend auxiliary meetings for a woman's shelter doesn't make a difference. It all feels like a mere token.
Anyway, we had a thought-provoking discussion last night. We talked about how relationship seems to be at the heart of this "remembering." Then I recalled a book that helped me wrestle with this in the past. And I picked it up this morning and opened it up to Chp. 11 "Servants or Friends?" After briefly breaking down the idea of Jesus having things "backward" and always "turning things upside down," (the greatest among you will be your servant, Matt. 23:10-12, etc...), the author explains how Christians have tended to get _Christ_ backwards and says, "There are bad servants as well as good servants. The critical issue may be in understanding the difference. A good servant must really have it backward. He can't use the imperatives of mission and service to dominate and control."
He goes on to say that America's GNP is now dependent on an economy of professional servers (doctors, lawyers, politicians, teachers etc...) So now, "instead of a nation of conquistadors, we are a nation of servers...the question is, whether we are a nation of good servants or lords of commercialized systems of service that attempt to exert control."
Finally, the author explains it in relation to communion...and this really spoke to me. So I've copied it here, word for word:
"At the Last Supper, Christ was telling the disciples those things of greatest importance. It was His final opportunity to communicate the central values of His faith. "No longer do I call you servants," He said, "for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father, I have made known to you" (John 15:15). Finally, Christ said you are not servants. You know the Father's heart. You know the inside story. You are friends. Perhaps beyond the revolutionary Christian mandate of service is the final revolution, the possibility of being friends. Friends are people who know each other, who care, respect, struggle and are committed through time. Christ's mandate to be friends is a revolutionary idea in our serving society. Why friends rather than servants? Perhaps it is because He knew that servants could always become lords but that friends could not. Professional servants may operate on the assumption that "you will be better because I know better," but friends believe that "we will be better because we share in each others' lives." Servants are people who know the mysteries that can control those to whom they give "help." Friends, on the other hand, are free to give and receive help from each other. Here we are, a nation of professional servers, following Christ's mandate to serve. And here He is, at the final moment, getting it backward once again. The final message is not to serve. Rather, He directs us to be friends."
from Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life; Rethinking Ministry to the Poor, by Robert Lupton. p.67
It probably makes better sense in the context of the whole book (of course) and I have no final conclusion on this. But it's given me good food for thought and a desire to share it for whatever reason. It also leaves me with a sense of gratitude, esp. to: a) Mr. Lupton for being wise enough to distill this point and write so clearly and b) the friends I'm humbled by who get this serving thing backwards in the best way (at places like Bethany Home, Better Basics, Red Mountain Church, Restoration Academy, Cornerstone School, SouthTown, Young Life...) Who knows? Maybe this will plant a seed in the garden of my career crisis. That will be my prayer for now.