What a week!

This week has been one of the best in many months. I have a lot to share and a bad habit of rambling so I will try to make this a comfortable length to prevent reader fatigue Ha!

A little back story, I have gone back to work. A few weeks ago I went back to my comfort zone and started doing transcription again. It wasn’t something I ever intended to go back to, but it worked for my schedule, chemo side effects, and childcare purposes. It’s been going okay, just slow at the start which is to be expected. I am only working part-time as to know get burned out again!

Then an opportunity arose that I was not expecting. I became aware of a position at our church and decided to step out of my comfort zone and show interest in the position. Taking a position that I consider a stepping stone to my dreams. I accepted a part-time position working alongside a lady I dearly love and who is easily in the “my person category”. I have no doubt that this job will be incredible as the team I get to work with is beyond good at what they do. I am blessed to be able to be a part of growing the Kingdom and pouring love and truth into the children at our church. I am officially the assistant to our children’s pastor! To the person leaving the position and giving me this opportunity, I am so sad to see you go and I pray I can do this job as well as you have for nearly a decade!

As if this wasn’t exciting enough, today was MY LAST CHEMO. When I started back at the first of October, March seemed so far away. There were times I didn’t think I would make it. I felt horrible. I got depressed. I was on a rollercoaster ride with no end in sight. But God and many people got me to today.

The day started as always, with blood work. I had been so tired from working the past two days I crashed hard last night and completely forgot to take my night before steroids. Woke up this morning late and ran out the door without taking it…realized on the way to the clinic. Thankfully I was scheduled to see my medical oncologist after my labs were drawn so I informed her and she wasn’t concerned. Whew! I hadn’t messed up to the point of having to reschedule! I was also concerned that mu extreme fatigue might indicate low blood counts…Please no! I wanted to get this treatment over with!

My lab work came back as well as can be expected after 15 total rounds of chemo. I was given the green light to proceed with the last infusion! We discussed how I was doing. The neuropathy has increased the last few weeks and I pray it resolves quickly once treatment is complete. I have been dealing with allergy issues and drainage (Who in Texas hasn’t). Out of an abundance of caution and to make sure I am healthy before radiation begins, the doctor called in a prescription to clear up the sinus issues. With that, I was wished good luck and sent to the infusion waiting area. Below is a picture of me in the doctor’s office showing off my last day of chemo outfit. The shirt was made by a friend, Nikki. Thank you! I got so many compliments. The tiara was an amazon find. Chris questioned why I needed a tiara and I said because I do. That was the end of the discussion! Ha!

Of course the shirt needed bling! Glitter is my second favorite color. (Pink is tops!)
The tiara…and hair!

There was a slight hiccup once in the infusion room. When you are using a port for treatment they like to see a slight blood return before they start infusion. This shows them the port is operating and in the vein properly. For the last few weeks my port has been giving us problems and not showing any blood return. Because I could taste the saline as it was being ran through to flush the port, we proceeded. Today, my nurse was not comfortable doing that so After trying several different positions with no luck, we had to resort to a medication they call TPA. It sits in the port for at least 30 minutes in an effort to break up any clots or blockages and to open the port up. He said sometimes it can take up to two hours. I was already planning to be there for two and a half hours. I was not looking forward to adding two more hours. If unsuccessful after two hours, my treatment would need to be postponed while images were scheduled to check the function of my port. So not cool on the day of my last treatment! Thankfully, after 30 minutes he came back to check on me and the port operated perfectly! we were ready to begin!

Before anything was started, the nurse came out with a sign to hang on my IV to show it was my last day!

Everyone who saw it commented and congratulated me. It was fun!

We then went through the normal process of a bag of fluids, two pre-meds, and the chemo. I attempted to watch Hulu during this time but the Wifi just would not cooperate. I took a nap instead.

Before I knew it, the nurse was bringing out a bell and unhooking me from the IV. I got emotional realizing it was done! 16 rounds of chemo over 6 months….DONE!

The bell and my T-Shirt (A gift from Texas Oncology)

Everyone in the room cheered. Everyone in the room knew the joy I was feeling and shared that moment with me. It was such an incredible feeling!

I gathered my things and headed out to celebrate with Chris and Eli who were outside in the car eager to pick me up. When Isaac got home from school I got a famous Isaac hug and we celebrated together. That boy sure is sweet! He may have been more excited than I was!

As if my day/week hadn’t been fantastic enough, we had dinner plans….with my brother and sister-in-law. I really hate that title. Let me fix that. We had dinner plans with my brother and sister! It has been February of 2020 since we’d seen each other and I was beyond excited to get to visit! They picked up dinner and met us at one of our favorite parks. We got lost in conversation and before we knew it the sun had set and the mosquitos were biting. It was time to say our farewells. We hugged (Sorry not sorry. I needed hugs!). And got in our cars to head spectate directions. It was then I realized I had not taken a single picture! My mother would be sad! So I jumped out and ran to their car. They agreed we had to digitally document the evening so we took a few pics. Thanks so much Jon and Gina for coming to celebrate with us today. It meant so much!!!

I will end this post with those pictures. Stay tuned for the next steps of my treatment plan and some other posts along the way.

And never forget that God >……Than Any Battle!

Pics in the headlights….sunglasses still on my face….so happy!
Why didn’t someone (Chris) tell me about the sunglasses?!?😎

A Faith Like Job

On January 1 I started a Bible Devotional that would take me through the Bible in a year. I know that there are so many of these out there and I have failed so many times to complete the entire year and entire Bible. Honestly, I think the farthest I made it in was Numbers…..Four books…FOUR. This specific devotion, Called The Bible Recap is different. In addition to daily reading, there is a podcast where the creator of the plan gives a recap of what you’ve just read. I need this, especially for the earlier books of the Bible, because I find myself confused and just reading the words, not understanding the content.

Within the first few days, I was shocked at what I had taken away from the first few chapters of Genesis. Stories we are all aware of; creation, Cain and Abel, and Noah. I was reading with new eyes and asking myself questions I had never asked myself before. It was so encouraging.

To stay in chronological order the devotional moved from within Genesis to the book of Job. I have never really read Job and for sure never studied it. But why? It didn’t take long before I began to understand why so many avoid this book. It is not a happy read. It is not an easy read. What it is, though, is relevant to every single person. Please stick with me for a brief overview of Job and a few takeaways that I learned from his story.

Job was strong in his faith. He was sure of who God was and what He was capable of doing. He walked as Godly a walk as possible. This aggravated Satan. Satan asked God for permission to test Job and God allowed it but within limits. Satan could not destroy Job.

The book tells of Job’s faith, the agreement between God and Satan, and then begins to tell the story of how Job is tested. In a very short amount of time Job goes from having it all, a wonderful family, a great home, and a job that sustained him. In a matter of moments, he lost it all. He was told his family had been killed, his farmland and animals were destroyed. He was left with nothing and was in great shock.

Three friends came to visit Job and help him through this tragedy. These friends had the best intentions but were not good at advice. Over and over again they gave Job bad advice and advised and said he must be to blame. Job, being human, questioned his faith. He asked how God could punish someone so faithful. He questioned what he did wrong. He blamed himself and didn’t understand what he had done wrong.

Finally, towards the end of the book, we hear from God. God tells Job that even in all his grief he remained faithful. He asked how could you question me? God went through and recounted the things that had been done in the book of Genesis and again said how can you question a God capable of those things.

The book of Job ends with God blessing Job with far more than he had lost including more children and vaster and more profitable land.

Grief is the main theme for this text. Job’s grief was large. Quite possibly too large for most to bear. Job went through all the proper stages of grief and for good reason questions why me? What did I do wrong? We have all had grief in our lives. To some, it’s the loss of a loved one. To others, it might be the loss of a marriage or a job. To others, like myself, it might be a cancer diagnosis.

Reading through Job’s story showed me that no matter the size of our grief, no matter how empty we feel inside, we are never alone and no battle is too large for God. The fact that he allowed Satan to test Job shows that he knew Job could handle it and that he would come out better in the ned.

God allows Satan to test you and me. He knows there will be storms in our lives, but he is also in control of just how bad that storm is. Satan was allowed to test Job, but even Satan had restrictions from God.

Storms are scary. It sometimes seems like the storm is too large and we won’t make it, but with every storm comes a rainbow. Even in the book of Genesis, there was a rainbow after the great flood. We must stay strong and know that God is in control of all our battles. We must remain focused on the end result, the blessing, the rainbow.

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I am not saying that every battle will end the way we want it because it won’t. People will lose their jobs. Marriages will end. People will die of cancer. What I am saying is that even in those horrible outcomes God has a reason. There may be a better job out there. You may find someone who needs you just as much as you need them. And if we lose someone near and dear to us we can rest assured that as long as they know our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, they are completely healed and living in Glory with our Lord!

This is a hard topic, but one that cannot be ignored. I encourage all of you to study Job and see what kind of things you can take away from his story. Leave a comment and let me know how you relate to Job.

My phrase throughout this journey has been “God > Cancer” but in reality God > EVERYTHING!

It’s Okay……To Not Be Okay

I have been rolling this blog post around in my mind for a while now trying to say what I am really feeling. For the most part, my blogs are upbeat and positive. I try to always find joy in every situation and help others see that even in the darkest of times there is light.

The last four months have been hard. There have been a lot of physical changes, from surgery to chemo and its side effects, but what I haven’t talked about is the spiritual and mental battles that come along with a potentially fatal diagnosis.

When the word cancer was first mentioned I took it very hard. I would lie awake at night thinking about all I would be missing in the years to come. How would Chris handle raising three boys? How can I make sure everyone is prepared for me to potentially not be around. My mind went to very dark places. I questioned why God would do this to me, to us. I questioned what I had done wrong in my way of living to cause the cancer. Was it something I ate? Was it the products I had used? Were my genes to blame? Would I be passing this on to my kids? There were so many questions and for weeks finding the positive was nearly impossible.

When I received the actual diagnosis of Invasive Ductal Carcinoma and was told that it was found early and a stage II, I felt relief. I remember hearing “state 2” from my surgeon and saying out loud, “It’s only stage 2”. Once the actual diagnosis came down it was easier to find hope and joy. I no longer felt I had a death sentence. I believed with all my heart I could fight and win. Looking back I wonder how I would have reacted had I heard it was stage 4 and terminal. Would I have been able to find joy? Would I have been able to remain positive and share Jesus even with a literal death sentence? I hope I would, but thankfully that is not something I have to find out.

When I write blog posts I often hear from the readers how positive I am and how much of an inspiration I am to so many. I have struggled feeling worthy of those titles. There are days I don’t feel positive. There are days I don’t think anyone would see me as an inspiration. There are days it is hard to get out of bed and put on a smile. There are times I am not okay, and everyone needs to know that it is okay to not be okay! (As a side note, I am honored by the positive responses I am getting from this blog and love your input, kind words, and encouragement to keep writing!)

We all face battles. Whether it’s in our career, our marriage, our family, or our health, we all have struggles. It is okay to be upset. It is okay to have pity parties. It is okay to question God and wonder why it is happening to you or someone you love. What is not okay is staying in that valley for too long.

Over the past 20 years, probably longer, I have battled with depression and anxiety. For years I allowed it to rule my life. I allowed it to dictate every aspect of my being, including keeping me out of the church and away from God for nearly seven years. That is the part that is not okay. If you are in that place right now, ask for help. If you know someone struggling with their battle, offer to suit up and fight with them. Provide strength and encouragement, but be brave enough to give tough love when they need it.

Having a strong support system is critical to winning a battle. I am blessed to have so many fighting alongside me right now. I am blessed to have family that has stuck by me through my darkest times and helped me find the help I needed. This journey has brought back fears of going back to those dark places, but with the help of our Lord and the people He has placed in my life, I feel confident I won’t slip, and if I do they won’t let me fall far.

I want to end with a few lyrics from a song that I have always loved, but that holds more meaning to me now. It is a song by Martina McBride, most of you have probably heard it. It’s called, I’m Going to Love You Through It. The song tells the story of a woman, the same age as I am, that gets a breast cancer diagnosis. She goes through surgery and treatments and has some bad days. Her husband says the following:

When you’re weak, I’ll be strong
When you let go, I’ll hold on
When you need to cry, I swear
That I’ll be there to dry your eyes
When you feel lost and scared to death,
Like you can’t take one more step
Just take my hand, together we can do it
I’m gonna love you through it

We all have days where we feel we can’t go on. The tears start to flow and won’t stop. And that’s okay. My prayer is that you have someone there to hold you up, wipe your tears, and love you through it all.

I also listened to this song as if God was singing it to me. Some of the lyrics don’t work, because He is not physically here to hold my hand or dry my tears, but He is there to make sure I am never alone. He is there to take my fears upon His shoulders and carry that weight for me. He is always there to love me and help me through any battle. For that I am grateful.