Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Blessed Assurance (or Knowing That You Know)

12 years. That is how long Randy and I have been married. We just celebrated our 12 wedding anniversary Sunday. I am so very thankful to have experienced these last 12 wonderful years. My anniversary got me thinking about the day we got married. I remember being very happy and very calm that day, no jitters, no nervousness. I knew I was making the right decision and therefore the decision was easy for me. Now I am not generally a decisive person but there have been times in my life when I "just know" something, unequivocably, without a doubt is true.

Something that has been on my mind lately is the ease with which I have made most of the decisions surrounding my cancer treatment. Number 1 of course was to turn to my Savior. I could have been bitter or angry but what good would that have done? God didn't give me cancer. In fact becoming bitter would have missed the point. The OPPORTUNITY as it were to see how God was going to use this in some positive way became apparent to me early on. It didn't make the future ahead look easier but it least it gave it some meaning, some purpose, some reason.

The second decision came with whether or not to choose chemotherapy. When you are told you are a borderline stage 3, not a candidate for Her2Nu or estrogen induced cancer treatments, it's in your lymph nodes and a Dr. looks you in the face and says "If you were my wife, I would start with chemotherapy right away" that certainly makes the decision easier. What is remarkable to me is the comfort which I took from those terrible signs, as though they themselves were little Godincidences pointing the way. It led me to the cancer ward I am on. It led me to the people that I am continuing to meet who are ministering to me and "training me up" to someday help others. It has drawn me closer to a circle of friends, new sisters here, in Va, and all over the nation for a deeper and more meaningful fellowship.

To face cancer alone seems like trying to walk a huge chasm with no bridge, no net. I know that I know that I have HIM above and countless others on the other side waving me on and that makes all the difference. Most importantly I know that I have HIM and I am left to feel so sad, so broken for those who don't. How can you look at the vastness of the stars, the complexities of a single cell or the remarkable way in which our planet is positioned to sustain life and believe that everything is some sort of cosmic accident, that we are here and then we die...pointless...meaningless. What I can already testify from my short experience with breast cancer thus far is that He is HERE. He is REAL. He speaks to us in so many ways. We just have to have our ears open to listen. And when He does, YOU KNOW THAT YOU KNOW that HE is speaking to YOU. And that YOU are LOVED. That you are a daughter of the King. Lots of love,


Sunday, April 26, 2009

MS Walk!

Hello prayer warriors!

We broke out our tennis shoes and shorts! It was hot! It was fun as Brooke and I completed the 3 mile Multiple Sclerosis walk yesterday! It was such a privilege to walk with Brooke in her mother's memory. We raised some money for the cause, passed out some cards about the shirts and got lots of good information. It was so exciting to see all those people rallying around this cause and inspiring to meet some MS survivors and hear their stories. It made us think about how each person is unique with their own struggles. Each trial, each obstacle we face makes us who we are and therefore sets us up for God to use us in HIS way and in HIS time.

I can't wait for the upcoming cancer events where we can proudly wear more of our GOD IS SO MUCH BIGGER shirts!

The side effects started hitting last night, some heartburn and minor stomach trouble but nothing major. I am still doing well and plugging along toward the chemo finish line!! Thanks for the continued prayer! Lots of love,


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Another Hurdle in the Chemo Race Bites the Dust!

Dear Prayer Warriors,

Another chemo bites the dust! 5 down and 1 to go!

Needles, the dreaded weigh in, the chemo port and arm pricks, the chemical smell, that groggy feeling after "chemo sleep" when you wake up, that unsteadiness on your feet as you leave. I have to admit I was alittle more nervous about this treatment. I am still having some hormonal-driven anxiety,overwhelmed feelings, hot flashes and roller coster emotions. Another survivor told me she dreaded her last treatment so much she threw up. I have to admit I am tiring of all these things but they have, in a way, become a strange routine on the path to purifying myself of this cancer.

By the 5th treatment I have to say I am definately a "regular." There was a receptionist on vacation today who always raves about my God shirt and I missed her. There are smiles and hugs from people now that I count on..no I depend on each time I come. There's the scheduler who calls me "Sunshine," Kathy the chemo nurse who never misses a visit without a hug or laugh, the volunteers who bring you warm blankets and drinks, the doctor I know I can call at 2 am and she'll be there. What a difference this support network makes. Several commented today on how close I was to the "finish line," as though they were cheering me on in a chemo marathon. I was looking at a bulletin board today at the "chemo hut." It had a picture of several of the nurses and a thank you note that said simply "Chemo Hut Angels, thank you for taking care of my dad." I feel like I have lots of angels on earth at the cancer center (and around the nation) who are cheering me on to the chemo finish line.

I didn't run into any survivors today and it made me sad. I continue to pray I will run into the woman I saw shaking during my first visit at the cancer center. The only profound regret I have is that I never got her name and don't know what has happened to her. I feel like God led me to that cancer center for a reason. Each visit I look around for another woman shaking, another woman who was like me waiting for a PET scan result. Thus far I have not seen another one. I so very much want to help other women in that moment, that terrible, terrifying moment of uncertainty. It's not just about giving them a Tshirt & encouraging them...it's about praying with them, giving them a hug, giving them hope in God, THE ONE who can carry them through. For those of you who remember my post about being a pipe (giver) versus a pot (taker) I feel like a pipe about to burst, receiving so much...wanting to give, but still finding my way.

God has been so good though and he is providing the way in His time. He is answering prayers too. There is a Relay for Life event coming up on May 1. I have been given permission to sell some of our shirts there so we can earn more to give away at the cancer center. Obviously I can't buy lots of shirts upfront so I prayed about it, that God would provide if it was His will. Michelle from our Tshirt vendor, Lunabtees, has graciously offerred to give us dozens of girly cut shirts upfront to sell at the event. (Thank you sooo much Michelle!!!). What an answer to prayer! It feels like another Godincidence. There is another GOD IS BIGGER THAN CANCER shirt design in the works too with gold (the color for Juvenile cancer). What a joy it would be to reach more children!

Below is a verse that Laura recited at her Kindergarten graduation a couple years ago. It has new meaning for me now.

Hebrews 12:1-2 says "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

Did you hear that? "...For the JOY set before Him ENDURED the cross despising the SHAME." If He can do that, I certainly can handle one little round more of chemo! I can't wait to finish the chemo race! The finish line is in sight! Yahoooo!
Lots of love,


Monday, April 20, 2009

Introducing 2 New Shirts!

Hello dear friends and family!

Things are going well! I had a wonderful weekend spent with relatives, one of whom I feel like I've known forever but just met for the very first time. (Hey Marian!) What a joy that was to spend time with them!

I have my 5th chemo treatment this coming Thursday. After that there will be just one more to go!

Today I am proud to introduce to you two new shirts. One has the cross design with a slighly different phrase "God is so much bigger than ANYTHING." The idea for this shirt came from a dear friend at my coop named Tiffany. I love the shirt because God IS bigger than any trial, hardship or obstacle the world can throw at us!

The second shirt is the design above "God is so much bigger than Multiple Sclerosis." The idea for this shirt came from another dear friend named Brooke whose mother battled MS for many years.

A couple of us will be wearing the shirts in the MS Walk in Knoxville Saturday morning. My side effects usually start Saturday afternoon/evening, so please pray that they don't show up early. I am very excited that the shirts will be making a debut at this event!

Today I'd like to share with you an excerpt from a the book Live Like You were Dying by Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman, inspired from the song by Tim McGraw. The book was given to me by a Pep Moms friend right after I was diagnosed. I love the following passage:

We're all terminal.
Some of us are just lucky enough to know it.
Life is a spiritual journey.
And sometimes all you have to do is show up
and have a little faith that something
completely amazing is possible any day.

And every now and then,
right when you least expect it,
something amazing does happen.

And you are no more in control
than a feather is of the wind.
All you know is that the force moving you is so strong
that you just hang on in wonder.

There is nothing but the moment and the sense of dancing with angels.

I'm just "hanging on in wonder" of all God is doing in my life and in so many other precious lives I see every day.
Lots of love,


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hormones, Hormones EVERYWHERE!

Yikes!!! It looks like either my meds have messed up my hormones big time or I am undergoing chemo-induced menopause. Whatever this is it has popped up quickly. I've had hot and cold flashes. Yesterday I felt absolutely fine but cried uncontrollably all day. I have had mood swings for a few weeks now.

Thank goodness a fellow survivor happened to read my last post and emailed me saying she saw it coming. I'm not used to being unable to control my emotions. It is SCARY.

I recently joined Facebook and it asks you regularly "What's on your mind..." I think the question should come with a disclaimer that "if you have messed up hormones from chemo this does not apply to you" because I have seriously almost posted some pretty dark stuff. Last night in the midst of another crying fit all I could write were the words below. I know that this is temporary and that God will carry me through it. He always does.

I've got tears I can't explain. They just keep falling.

I got a hug from a sister survivor today when I really needed it.

I got two phone calls from family at just the right moment.

I got an email from a friend that made me smile.

I've got two little girls that just look at me and wonder.

I've got a husband who made me laugh as soon as he walked in the door.

I've got a God who sees it all and gets me through it.

I've got blessings.

Lots of love,


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

NOT Sweating the Small Stuff

Hello dear friends and family!

I am a week out from my last treatment. I didn't have any trouble with the bone pain this time which is a blessing. I've started some stomach quesiness like I had with the last round. I am hoping it will be gone within a couple of days.

Yesterday was a hard day not only because I felt worse but because I have found myself starting to sweat the small stuff again. You know, all the little things that stress us out and give us that "overwhelmed" feeling. For me there's details of the upcoming surgery, the decision of whether or not to homeschool Laura in the fall, my messy house, weight I'm putting on, a broken dishwasher,and two surprise baby guinea pigs (that need to be given away before they produce more surprises of their own)!

I find myself trying to "destress" my life but then feel guilty about it when I do. For example, we are now using paper plates, cups, and forks, but I feel guilty every time I go off to the trash dump to dispose of it all. And yesterday there was lots of tears and drama as I managed to find a home for one baby guinea pig. It broke Laura's heart and I felt like "the worst mom ever."

After a couple days of focusing on all these things it got me wondering what it is that makes me do it. What makes me get so stressed out over little things? Why do I let them get to me? Here I am in the midst of chemo with miraculous results. Tumors shrunk to next to nothing! Here I am able to live a relatively normal life in the midst of cancer and I'm stressing over guinea pigs!!! I've just come to the conclusion that "sweating the small stuff" is human and part of my fallen nature. It is me trying to be in control. It is my human nature trying to take over the reigns of my life again. In Matthew 6: 27 Jesus said to his disciples, "Can any of you add a single hour to the length of your life by worrying?"

Sweating over the small stuff hangs over your day like a cloud and I am tried of letting it "rain on my parade." God is so, so good and I'm not going to let these things burden me down spiritually.

1 Peter 5:7 says we are to "Cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you." That's what I am doing today...from the big decisions to the little agitations. I'm casting my anxieties on Him. Lots of love,


Thursday, April 2, 2009

4 Chemos Down!!

Hello dear friends and family!

Today I had my 4th chemo treatment! 4 down 2 to go!!!

Once again the "Chemo Hut" was filled with laughter. I had a wonderful conversation over chemo with a breast cancer survivor and her husband. Her name was Mildred. She had been through the whole treatment (including surgeries and chemo before) and has had a reoccurance in her lung, requiring yet another surgery and chemo. We laughed about how nice it would be if the reclining chairs you sit in at chemo had built-in heat and back massagers. One nurse kept joking about starting an IV on Mildred's husband just for fun. Those nurses really have a wonderful ministry. They truly have a gift with people. I'm still learning a few names but the ones who have worked on me alot are Kathy, Beverly, Christina and Judy. My hat (or should I say my wig):) is off to all of them. They are truly a blessing to the patients they help. Each week I will see a former patient stop by for a litte reunion with the nurses. This week it was a young woman who had exciting news...she is scheduled for kidney transplant surgery next month.

Do you remember Angie who I met during my first chemo treatment who was sitting across from me with the same "Cancer Vixen" book I had? We reconnected today in the waiting room and she told me what to prepare for with the upcoming surgery. We talked about how God is already using our cancer as a blessing and how good He is.

Twice this week I have had two people tell me stories of how God has answered their prayers in miraculous ways. One was my friend Tammy whose boyfriend had left his wallet in a cab in New York City. They prayed about it and soon after it was returned to him. It took 3 honest people (the rider in the cab, the cabbie, and the doorman of the restaurant) to get the wallet back to him. A second prayer was answered for a friend of mine whose husband is being wrongfully sued. His new insurance (taken out after the incident) has miraculously agreed to cover their legal fees! It is always such an encouragement to me to hear how God answers prayer!

I had the privilege again this week also of dropping off another batch of shirts to Julie at the radiologist's office. She was so excited to get more shirts and told me about how they brought smiles to the women's faces who were newly diagnosed. That was such a blessing to me. I also dropped off another group to the Surgical Onclogist's office at UT. These were the largest batches I've dropped off yet. It is so exciting to see the ministry growing!!

In closing today I'd like to share a poem I found off the internet that I think sums up how God can ultimately carry us through any tough situation.

His ways are so mysterious
We just can’t understand
What seems to us to be so wrong
Turns out to be His plan

He wants to work His will in us
But it brings much pain sometimes
Just like the dross from gold removed
We too must be refined

Don’t cower in fear when hardships come
Just trust in Him and know
He has a plan for each of us
We’re His, He has control

One day we’ll shine like precious jewels
Because we stood the tests
Not understanding all His ways
Yet, knowing He’d do what’s best

Copyright by Sharon Elaine Carpenter
from cutechoice.com