Monday, December 7, 2009

For today

For today, all I can do is be thankful that I don't have to do chemo this week...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

My Lamentation

"I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of his wrath.
He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light;

Indeed, he has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long.
He has made my skin and my flesh grow old and has broken my bones.
He has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and hardship.
He has made me dwell in darkness like those long dead.
He has walled me in so I cannot escape;
he has weighed me down with chains.
Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer.
He has barred my way with blocks of stone;
He has made my paths crooked.
Like a bear lying in wait, like a lion in hiding,
He dragged me from the path and mangled me and left me without help.
He drew his bow and made me the target for his arrows.
He pierced my heart with arrows from his quiver.
I became the laughingstock of all my people;
They mock me in song all day long.
He has filled me with bitter herbs and sated me with gall.
He has broken my teeth with gravel;
He has trampled me in the dust.
I have been deprived of peace;
I have forgotten what prosperity is.
So I say, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”
I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,

For his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
Therefore I will wait for him.”
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;
It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord."

~ Lamentations 3:1-26

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Be Strong and Courageous

I woke up this morning very much so still processing the news from my last appointment. Again, it's going to take a while...

Then I got an email from a dear friend, which ended with the exhortation, "be strong and courageous." That immediately drove me to the book of Joshua, chapter one to be exact. After Moses died, Joshua took on the responsibility of leading the Israelites into the Promised Land. It was a big task, way bigger than Joshua was feeling prepared for, I'm sure - but the Lord knew that and yet he still called him to it.

What's encouraging about this story is how many times Joshua was challenged to be strong and courageous. Four different times in his calling he was reminded to be strong and courageous. He must have really needed to hear that, don't you think? The thing that struck me upon my reading of this passage in the context of what I'm facing is the reason why God called him to be strong and courageous... because the Lord his God was going to be with him wherever he went!

That nearly drove me to tears. God encouraged Joshua with the truth that he would be with him throughout his journey, no matter how unprepared he felt... no matter how scary or difficult it might have been. He didn't have to be terrified. He didn't have to be discouraged. Whatever his calling would bring, God would be right there with him to see him through it.

As much as I'd like to opt out of the journey that's ahead of me, I know that I don't have to be terrified and I don't have to be discouraged either... because God will be with me wherever this life may take me.

So with that thought in mind, I put my feet to the floor this morning determined to face at least this set of twenty four hours with faith in the fact that God has a purpose for me in this day and with appreciation for the fact that I even have this day. It doesn't mean that my life has suddenly become all sunshine and roses. I'm still wrestling with some really tough things. I just got the reminder I needed the most this morning... God will be with me through it all!

Joshua 1:9 - "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

Friday, December 4, 2009

My Life is a Mist - An Update

I finished my second round of chemo and had another scan recently. I got the results yesterday and as always, it was a mixed bag.

Overall, my doctor is really thrilled with my progress - Let's start with that.

This scan showed that there is still no visible cancer in my abdomen. Even better, it showed that all the nodules in my lungs, with one exception, have completely disappeared! The one nodule that is there is about 8 mm and my doctor thinks that there's a chance it may not even be cancerous. We're going to wait until my next scan and see how it looks at that time. If it's grown, then it's definitely cancer and we'll absolutely have to talk about more chemo after radiation. As it stands now, we may still consider some chemo after radiation anyway. I'll just have to wait and see what my doctor decides when we get to that point.

In addition to that one nodule in my lung, a new abnormal spot showed up in my right groin. My doctor said that it doesn't make any sense that new cancer would show up in that location at this point, so he's thinking that it may not be cancer related at all. Again, we're going to wait until my next scan and see what it looks like at that time to determine if it's anything that we need to address. For now, I'm cleared to start radiation next week.

So, again, my doctor is really pleased with these latest results overall.

Now with the end of treatment becoming more and more of a possibility for me in the coming months, I had some additional questions that needed some answering. Those answers brought some sobering truths to light.

Allow me to let you in on the conversation that ensued yesterday between me and my doctor. The following are the questions I asked and a summary of the answers I received:

1) How many women diagnosed with uterine cancer are stage 4?

A very low percentage... less than 10%.

2) Of that number of women diagnosed with stage 4 uterine cancer, how many go into remission?

Almost none.

3) Early in my treatment plan, we had discussed the statistics that I'm facing with this diagnosis. I have a 15-20% chance of surviving past five years. Does that statistic change if I go into remission?

No. So few women with stage 4 uterine cancer go into remission that there simply aren't statistics out there for that... so the reality remains the same - a 15-20% five year survival rate. However, I don't like to consider statistics that much because each individual case is so unique.

4) If I go into remission and then my cancer returns, is it true that it will be even more aggressive than before?

No, that's a misnomer. When cancer returns, in time it becomes more and more resilient to treatment. That's what makes people think it's more "aggressive". It's not really that, it's just that it eventually doesn't respond to treatment as well.

5) If I go into remission and then my cancer returns, does that automatically mean more surgery for me?

No. For you, in fact, it most likely won't mean surgery unless we find a mass that is particularly resectable. In your case, you'll most likely be looking at more chemotherapy.

Then the conversation got really... let's say, interesting. My doctor began to explain something to me that I wasn't altogether prepared to hear. It seems that my cancer is so aggressive and advanced that I should expect it to return in the future. It may be ten months or it may be ten years - there's no way of knowing. That's why we'll be doing regular check-ups all the time. The reality I have to accept is that I have a chronic disease that I'll be dealing with for the rest of my life - however long that may be. He said I'll be in and out of treatment from here forward. Our goal will be to keep me out of treatment more than I'm in treatment. However, the reality is that at some point, the cancer will return and be resilient to treatment and we'll eventually have to cross that bridge when we come to it.

Sigh... I've often joked that I have to remember that there is a light at the end of this tunnel... I just hope that it's not an oncoming freight train! As I sat looking into the confident and comforting eyes of my doctor trying to absorb all this new news, I still couldn't shake the feeling that for now the light seems much more like a freight train than ever before. I mean, what a paradigm shift! It seems far too often that I have to wrap my head around a little more of the reality of just how severe my cancer is. I knew that I'd have to learn to live with the "what if" questions for the rest of my life. I just wasn't expecting to be told in so many words that I can expect to die from this disease barring some other odd thing happening.

To be honest, In some small way I'm glad to have a framework with which to face the future. In a strange way, it's easier than facing the unknowns and questions. I'm also glad that I can feel secure in my eternity! It's such a comfort to know that I'm facing something better than this life after I die. It's all the stuff in between that I've still got to sort out. For now, I'm trying to push another reality to the front of my mind. You see, as much as it's true that I can expect my cancer to come back, it's just as true that I have beaten the odds in spectacular fashion so far! I attribute that unequivocally to the prayer of God's people and the power of his hand in my life. God has done a miraculous work in my body through the wisdom of my doctor and the advances of medical technology. It is in the face of the bleakest of circumstances that God has always worked the most amazingly, so there's no reason to lose hope that he will continue to work wonders in my future.

I know that, either way, my life is merely "a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes" (James 4:14). In fact, this is true of all our lives. Each day is a gift, not a guarantee. Tomorrow is promised to none of us. It's just that we do such a good job of pushing that reality aside. For me, there can no longer be any more pushing aside. From here on in, I have to find a way to live comfortably in the reality of my mortality and the fragility of my life. Psalm 139:16 says, "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." I know God has a plan for my life, no matter how long or difficult it may be. He knows the number of my days and he has a purpose for each of them. Here's the thing, though... some days, God's truths, like this one, are a tremendous comfort to me; some days, I still have to convince myself of them. Today is definitely a convincing sort of day.

I know one thing for sure: It's going to take some time for me to process all this and shift into a new framework of thinking. For now, I'm just trying to breathe...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving Thanks

Tonight I went to a Thanksgiving service at my church where testimonies of thankfulness were shared. Here's what was on my heart and what I shared:

This has been the hardest year of my adult life… and the darkest year I’ve experienced since I believed in Jesus as my Savior. It was a year ago this very week that I began to experience what would become debilitating pelvic pain that eventually led to a diagnosis of stage 4 uterine cancer. What followed has been a near yearlong journey through chemotherapy, major surgery, and more chemotherapy with radiation soon to come.

Since last Thanksgiving, I’ve felt more sick than I’ve ever felt in my life and I’ve been more exhausted than I’ve ever been in my life. I learned that my doctor wasn’t sure I’d even make it when he saw how bad my cancer was in the beginning… and to add to that, I learned that statistically I face a mere 15-20% chance of even surviving the next 5 years. Needless to say, I’ve spent this year struggling with more questions and fears than I ever imagined I would in my lifetime… and I’ve wrestled with some very deep and dark emotions.

I certainly don’t feel like being thankful this Thanksgiving. Yet I find myself unable to deny that I still have a lot to be thankful for.

- I’m thankful that my church elders have even bothered to keep me on staff through all this.

- I’m thankful that God provided the best GYN oncologist in the northeast to care for me.

- I’m thankful that God has worked through medical advances and the prayer of his people to heal my body of cancer almost completely in less than a year.

- I’m thankful that I’ve been given the opportunity to share how I've experienced the love of God with people I never would have met if I hadn’t gotten cancer.

- I’m thankful that no matter how hard it is to face each day, God always gives me just the grace and strength I need to get through it.

- I’m thankful that I can see God using this tremendously difficult time in my life to transform me into something far different than I was before.

- But most of all, I’m thankful that I have come to see and know God in ways I never could have apart from such a long and difficult trial: He has proven his faithfulness to me over and over again… even when I’m not feeling so faithful myself. He has shown me how very deep the rivers of his comfort are when I am hurting in ways that I can’t even express. He has affirmed over and over that he has a purpose in everything that I’ve faced… and that if I woke up this morning, he has a purpose for me in this day.

- Most importantly, He has proven the promises of his Word to be a strong and true foundation to cling to. Isaiah 43:2-3, for example, has meant a lot to me over the past year - "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My Anchor

A dear friend sent me this today and it was a perfect expression of how God cares for me through the most difficult of times...

The anchor holds
though the ship is battered;
The anchor holds
though the sails are torn;
I have fallen on my knees
as I faced the raging seas;
The anchor holds
in spite of the storm.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Radiation Oncology Consultation

This has been an exceptionally difficult treatment cycle for me emotionally. Hence the radio silence... but I wanted to get at least something of an update posted before I go down from my last scheduled chemo. I'm writing from the infusion center... chemo #6 of phase 2... so let me try to update you before I'm drugged and incapable of focusing clearly.

Two weeks ago I had my radiation oncology consultation. I went into the appointment blissfully ignorant due to the fact that a number of people had told me that radiation is much easier than chemotherapy. I quickly learned that this will most likely not be the case for me. Because of the location of my radiation and the major extent of my surgery this past summer, radiation holds a very likely prospect that it will be just as difficult as chemo for me. The side effects will be a little different, though.

I won't bore you (or gross you out) with the details of the side effects. Suffice it to say - it's not going to be easy and there are some pretty daunting long term side effects, some of which are possible - pray that I don't suffer from life-long chronic lymph edema (a build up of fluid) in my legs - and some of which are definite - those I won't even mention here.

When I was receiving all this information, at first I felt like a deer caught in headlights. I was being inundated with so many details that were just so hard to accept! The longer the consultation went on, the more I felt like I had just slammed into a brick wall. It knocked me off my feet and it took me a good week or so just to shake off the shock and stand back up again. Now it's a matter of processing all that I learned. Brick by brick, I'm pulling apart that wall because there is no escape... I'm going to have to walk through it and get to the other side one way or another.

I won't have any definite answers on my schedule until the beginning of December, but for now it looks like I'll be in radiation for the better part of two to three months. I'll do external radiation every day (Monday through Friday) for about 5 1/2 to 6 weeks... maybe more. Then I'll do internal radiation once a week for about 3 weeks. I'm holding onto the good news that there's a good chance I'll be finishing treatment about a week before my mission trip to Haiti. It'll be rough, but I'm still hoping to be able to go.... We'll see!

For now, I have very mixed feelings. It is such a good thing to be so close to taking another step toward the end of my treatment. I've been unbelievably blessed since I was diagnosed last February. My cancer is so aggressive and advanced, it's a wonder (I would say a miracle) that I have responded so well to treatment. There are days when I'm amazed that I'm even looking at a realistic possibility that I'll be told I'm cancer-free someday.

Yet, I'm finding that it's almost as intimidating to face the prospect of transitioning back into "normal" life as it was to transition into treatment. On top of that, there are so many questions that swirl around my head every day. What will the next scan show? Will I stop responding to treatment so well at some point? Will the cancer begin to grow again? Will it come back after I'm in remission? How long will I live? Will I die a long and ugly death because of this disease? ...And so many more. It's difficult to live in this state of limbo all the time. Yet, in truth, nothing is guaranteed to any of us. We just fool ourselves into thinking that it's all going to be OK. We deny the reality that this life is merely a vapor (James 4:14).

I find myself being pushed into a new reality through all of this. I'm recognizing on a whole new level the pain and fragility of this life. I've gotten to a point where I'm totally burned out. I'm done. I'm done with feeling sick so often. I'm done with always feeling tired. I'm done with my body not working the way I want it to. I'm done with my hands and feet being numb. I'm done with struggling through all the many emotions that come with cancer and its treatment. I'm just done. I wish I didn't have to go any further in this life. I so long for heaven.... I long to realize the promises of no more tears, no more pain, and no more suffering. I'm done with this life! Yet, there are a few people precious to me whose eternity still hangs in the balance... they have become my motivation for hanging on still.

That said, let me be clear about one more thing, so you don't go worrying about me. God has very much so been holding me in place. Somehow by his mercy and grace, he has kept me from being completely washed away and drowned by these thoughts. He has given me a firm foundation and a keen sense of purpose in the midst of it all. I know that if I woke up today, God has a purpose for me in this day. I know that if I'm still here, there's a reason for it... and it is that truth to which I cling.

Still, my feelings are strong right now and I'm struggling in a big way... but this week I got a great reminder. I was reminded of Noah of all people! Like him, I feel as if I've been flooded and I'm floating adrift on a vast sea (Genesis 8:6-12). Noah was in need of a little hope when he released a dove from the ark and waited for it to return to him with a sign of dry land somewhere.... anywhere! He got that glimpse of hope when the dove finally returned with an olive leaf in its mouth. Like him, I'm looking out at a vast and stormy sea praying for a glimpse of hope from the Lord. I'm holding onto his promises and the faithfulness he's shown me, so that I may still have the eyes to see God through this very dark time. No matter how I happen to feel at the moment, he is still my stronghold and refuge (Psalm 18:2-6). That will never change.

If you're in your own dark time, feeling like you're on a stormy sea... let me encourage you with what encourages me, "Look to the horizon. You never know when a glimpse of hope may be coming you way!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hold My Heart

I'm sitting in the infusion center staring once again down the long hill of the upcoming week. Even with seeing God answer prayer and work in such an amazing way with a large medical bill being written off just last week, I still find myself struggling to accept the path he has laid out ahead me.

I don't want to feel drugged. I don't want to feel sick. I don't want to feel sore and worn out. I don't want to spend the next couple weeks having to deal with my body not working the way it should!

My body is starting to really feel the cumulative effects of continued treatment and it's all just getting old. I'm tired and... as much as I know my God is right here wrapping his arms around me, carrying me through, answering prayer, and giving me grace and strength to face each day... I still get enveloped by the difficulty of treatment and I end up crying out to him because I don't feel his presence through the low times.

The following is a song that mirrors how I feel during these times:

Hold My Heart
by Tenth Avenue North

How long must I pray, must I pray to you?
How long must I wait, must I wait for you?
How long 'till I see Your face, see you shining through?
I'm on my knees begging you to notice me.
I'm on my knees, Father will you turn to me?

One tear in the driving rain
One voice in a sea of pain
Could the Maker of the stars
Hear the sound of my breaking heart?
One life is all I am
Right now, I can barely stand
If you're everything you say you are,
Would you come close and hold my heart?

I've been so afraid, afraid to close my eyes
So much can slip away before I say goodbye
But if there's no other way, I'm done asking why
Cause I'm on my knees begging you to turn to me
I'm on my knees, Father will You run to me?

One tear in the driving rain
One voice in a sea of pain
Could the Maker of the stars
Hear the sound of my breaking heart?
One life is all I am
Right now, I can barely stand
If you're everything you say you are,
Would you come close and hold my heart?

So many questions without answers; Your promises remain
I can't see but I'll take my chances, to hear you call my name
To hear you call my name

One tear in the driving rain
One voice in a sea of pain
Could the Maker of the stars
Hear the sound of my breaking heart?
One life is all I am
Right now, I can barely stand
If you're everything you say you are,
Would you come close and hold my heart?

Hold my heart, could you hold my heart?
Hold my heart.

Thank you, God, that even when I don't feel it, I know you are right here with me. I know that through the clouds of doubt and difficulty, your promises remain. Thank you. They are all I have to cling to this week...

I'll post again when I'm feeling better.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My God Provides!

I just had to write to fill you in on what God has done for me...

I called St. Luke's billing department last week because I had received a bill in the mail this month saying that I owed $10,704.14 on my PET/CT scan from back in May. That amount is the final figure after both my insurance and medical assistance had made their payments. I was calling to ask some questions because I thought there might have been an error in what was covered and then I knew I was going to have to set up a payment plan for that large of an amount.

When I gave the account number I was informed that there is a zero balance on the account... St. Luke's wrote off the balance!!! Can you believe it?!?

I was so heavy-hearted about incurring this debt, but I was trying to keep a positive attitude knowing that in the big picture it's a small price to pay for my health. I knew that God would provide for me even if it meant paying it off little by little over the years, but he is so gracious and good to me beyond what I could ever imagine and definitely beyond what I deserve! I can't believe that the whole amount was just wiped clean!!!

I'm sure I'll incur more debt, so keep an ear open over the coming months - I have some wonderful friends who want to eventually hold a benefit to help me out. But for now... I'm speechless over this!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I think generally I'm a pretty sane person (relatively speaking). I've had my share of ups and downs, but overall I think I handle most things pretty well. However, going into my surgery, I wasn't so sure what to expect of my reaction afterwards. What is a young woman supposed to do when she's never been married, never had kids, and faces the prospect of a radical hysterectomy? How is she supposed to feel?

Prior to surgery, I wasn't upset about the prospect of losing my uterus. In fact, the very first day I met my oncologist, I was on a mission to make sure he knew that I was not attached to my reproductive system. I told him in no uncertain terms that he was free to remove whatever needed to be removed if it meant I'd be that much closer to becoming cancer-free. You see, I'm in my mid-thirties with no immediate prospects of getting married and even if I were looking at marriage now, I'm really not interested in having kids at this stage of my life anyway. Besides, I had always thought that if I had gotten married earlier in my life that I would've wanted to adopt anyway. So, for several valid reasons, I was not concerned in the least before surgery about retaining my ability to have children. I hoped, of course, that I wouldn't somehow wake up from surgery with a changed mind.

Even though I normally handle most things pretty logically (or at least I think I do) and I don't usually change my mind on things, I was concerned that somehow in the wake of major surgery and with the sudden onset of menopause, I'd find myself being unnaturally emotional about losing a key part of myself that, at least physically, makes me uniquely feminine. Though I told no one, I had a secret fear that I would wake up mourning over some new-found longing to bear children of my own. Would I somehow feel like less of a woman?

Well, I didn't... and today I came to the clear realization that I won't!

In my women's Bible study group, we're reading through a book called Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge. Women, if you haven't read this book, I highly recommend it. This is my second time going through it and I'm still gleaning much from it. It's had a huge impact on how I see myself (more to come on that later). Anyway, we're going through this book and today we read a chapter on Mothers, Daughters, and Sisters. My knee-jerk inclination was to groan when I read that... but as it turns out I was feeling really uplifted by the end of our time together. A portion of this chapter put in a nutshell all that's been swirling around in my mind these past months regarding motherhood. Check it out -

"All women are called to mother. And all women are called to give birth. Women give birth to ideas, to creative expressions, to ministries. We birth life in others by inviting them into deeper realms of healing, to deeper walks with God, to deeper intimacy with Jesus. A woman is not less of a woman because she is not a wife or has not physically borne a child. The heart and life of a woman is much more vast than that. All women are made in the image of God in that we bring forth life. When we enter into our world and into the lives of those we love and offer our tender and strong feminine hearts, we cannot help but mother them."

I couldn't have stated it any better myself. I don't mourn the fact that I'll never bear children of my own physically. I've just never been that girl! I look at my life and realize simply that my calling is different than that. Even though I'll never be able to do the one thing that most women long for with every fiber of their being... even though that's not even a part of the fabric of who I am, I know in my heart of hearts that I still have a similar calling... and one that's just as valuable, too! Like so many women of Scripture (Naomi, Ruth, Esther, Mary, Lois, Eunice... and so many more), I want to be a woman who brings life with her wherever she goes. I want people to feel uplifted after they've been with me... not because of me really, but because of the Life-Giver that lives within me. I want to be the kind of woman who imparts something of value into this world - a woman who changes people's lives for the better and leaves an indelible imprint of the Lord on them after she's gone.

Giving life is so much more than bearing children. Motherhood extends beyond bloodlines. I envision a day, if I'm around long enough, that I can say I have many sons and daughters... a day when I will be remembered fondly as someone who imparted life to many... in spite of the fact that I don't have a uterus! I want to be like my Savior who came saying, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10).

Friday, October 9, 2009


"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." ~ Philippians 3:7-11

As I'm studying through the book of Philippians, I've found myself standing squarely in the face of this passage. I knew it was coming. It's a passage that has somehow found its way into my reading a lot lately and I've got to be honest... I haven't been thrilled about it. It's one that at first I felt very akin to. Truly, as I have gone through the processes that naturally happen when you receive a major diagnosis like mine, I have learned to count a lot of things as loss and I have learned to desire knowing Christ all the more. At the end of the day, there's not really much more to hold onto.

Yet, I now find myself wincing at this once comforting passage. As I've said so many times before, treatment is a long and difficult process. There is no getting out of it. You just have to bear down and get through the many days of sickness, pain, and misery. I thought that having gone through these trials these past months would have made me love this passage all the more as I cling to my Savior to get me through. Not so.... Instead, as I wade through the weeks and months, I am coming to realize something about myself - about many Christians - that I'm not so fond of.

You see, often I have thrown these words around... "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings," but do I really? I'm fast coming to a place where I'm realizing that I want to know Christ, but I really don't want to know his suffering. Why would I? Sure, I want to know Jesus more and more. Sure, I want to be close to him and as much like him as I can be... but at what cost? What price am I really willing to pay to be like my Savior? I'm afraid I'm learning that my cost is a lot cheaper than I thought it was. It seems the longer I go in treatment, the less I want to go through it... even if it means that I forfeit the lessons God has planned for me to learn. I'm just tired of the struggle.

Don't get me wrong - I do want to know Jesus and be like him, but in all honesty, I'm realizing that I still want life to be easy. I don't want to face hardship or pain - not at all! There's one problem with this, though... one nagging question: Can I ever truly know him or be like him without suffering? I don't think so.

So here I sit... realizing once again that my heart is failing and my faith is weak. So often I throw around Scripture quotations and boast of my great desires to make a difference in this world for the Lord. So often, however, I'm not even thinking of what my words really mean. So often, I don't think of the cost. So often, I forget the tremendous price my Savior was willing to pay for me and I make promises to him that are no more lasting than the air on which they're breathed... promises that in the end, I may never be willing to actually keep. In the end, it's all just "Christianese." It sounds good, but it really doesn't mean a whole lot.

I think a lot of us do that. We talk big, but when we're really pressed with hardship, we crack and we fold. When things get rough, we want out. I think there are a lot of people out there just like me.... If we're really honest with ourselves, we'd have to admit that we want the blessings of the Lord, but we want things to be easy, too. What a shame! How will we see real transformation in our lives? How will we ever make a difference for the Lord if we're not willing to suffer in some way as our Messiah did for us? It seems there is no other way. The ways of the Lord are backwards to this world. Death brings life, trials bring growth, and suffering brings joy....

At least, that's what he's promised us. For those of us who go through the long nights of trials and tribulations, we are offered a tremendous hope in the Lord. It's not necessarily the hope of getting out of the difficulty immediately. It's the promise of deep joy and lasting growth for the one who perseveres (James 1:2-3; 12). I so long to be that person.... May I not fail under this long test! I don't want my promises to the Lord to be empty words. I want my life to mirror his and make a difference for him! So, I reconsider and realign my thinking (yet once again)...

Friday, October 2, 2009

Another Update

Yesterday I got the results from my latest scan. In talking to my doctor's team, they said it was all positive and they seem to feel very good about it. I, on the other hand, felt like it was a mixed bag. So here's the scoop...

There is nothing showing in my pelvic area and none of my remaining pelvic lymph nodes are swollen, which means that my doctor removed everything that needed to be removed during surgery. Great news!

When they started talking about my lungs, I was a little taken back. They said that there are nodules remaining, but they continue to shrink. They are down to 2 mm and they're not showing any signs of cancerous growth, so they do not pose any reason for concern. Good news!

I just wasn't expecting to hear anything at all about my lungs. When I got the results from my previous scan, they had said that there was no sign of cancer left in my lungs. When I asked them for more details on why these nodules were showing up now, they explained the difference between the two types of scans I get done. My previous scan was a PET scan, which measures metabolic or growth activity. On this scan, anything cancerous will "light up" - the stronger and more rapidly growing the cancer, the brighter it will appear. The scan I most recently had was a CAT scan. This type of scan only measures mass, not growth activity. My doctor would prefer to have both scans done at the same time, but unfortunately, my insurance won't cover that. At least, I've been reassured that we can still get all the information we need doing the scans separately.

So, on my previous scan, there was no cancer to be found in my lungs. However, on this scan, some small apparently non-cancerous nodules were detected. They could be treated cancer or calcified cancer and there's a chance that they could never go away and always show up on my scans for the rest of my life. There's also a chance that they could continue to shrink and totally disappear after these next three treatments. I guess only the next scan will tell...

Obviously, that leads to a prayer request -

Please pray that the nodules in my lungs continue to shrink through these next three treatments and completely disappear by my next scan.

While you're at it, please pray for strength (both physically and emotionally) to get through my next three treatments. To say the least, the cumulative effects of treatment are difficult to get through.

Finally, please pray that my treatment schedule won't hinder me from going on a much-desired mission trip to Haiti this winter. For now, my doctor is saying that I should definitely plan on going (awesome!), but I'm realizing more and more that I very well may still be in radiation treatment by the end of February, which is when the trip is planned for. One thing I know about radiation is that an expected side effect is extreme exhaustion and I so don't want that to keep me from being able to go see Jenny, Linda, and the kids at the House of Hope!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I've got a confession to make... my perspective has been pretty lousy the past couple months. Things got really difficult for me both physically and emotionally after surgery. Nothing went wrong necessarily... it just seems that the longer I go through treatment, the harder it is to stay focused on God and what he's doing through all of this. The bottom line is that it's just harder and harder to see past all the difficulty of this journey. I haven't even had the emotional energy to blog (hence the radio silence for so long... sorry about that). Needless to say, I'm ready for the train to stop, so I can get off already!

But I was recently reminded by a few good friends that maybe that's not the point. Maybe... no, most definitely... I'm not supposed to see exactly what God's doing through all of this right now. Maybe I never will. But that doesn't mean he's not working through it anyway. Isn't that the fundamental definition of faith anyway?

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" ~ Hebrews 11:1

Having faith is a matter of trusting God with what you can't see in the first place! Well, that's exactly where I am. So many people have told me that they see God working in great ways through this trial in my life... that they see him preparing me for something big that's still ahead of me. But when it comes down to it, I have the most difficult time seeing that for myself when I'm laying in bed hurting and feeling sick and miserable. Yet, I still long to be a woman of faith, trusting my God even when I can't see what he's doing through my circumstances.

Thankfully, I have a tremendous bunch of friends who love God and me and are willing to keep pointing me in the right direction even when I'm playing the broken record of my woes to them. As I was sitting in Bible Study the other week, I bore my heart and shared just how low I've been feeling. I asked my friends to pray that I would have the strength to get through all of this and the encouragement I received was something I wasn't expecting (isn't that always the way with God?). A dear friend reminded me of a story in the book of Joshua:

The Israelites were preparing to go into the land that God had promised them. They continued forward trusting a crazy promise that God would get them across the Jordan River, even though they had no boats (not even an inner tube!). When they got to the water's edge and dipped their feet in, the water stopped flowing upriver and the ground dried up in front of them! Pretty cool story, but I'm even more fascinated by what happened next: When they got to the other side, they were told to go back and get twelve stones from the middle of the river. Joshua set them up as a monument there on the other side, so that whenever their children would ask later, "What do these stones mean to you?" they could retell the story of God's great work and faithfulness in their lives (Joshua 3-4).

My friend reminded me that sometimes when we're feeling lost in the midst of difficult circumstances, it does us a lot of good to look back instead of trying to look forward. He encouraged me to focus once again on the milestones of faithfulness God has already laid throughout my life. Well, needless to say, I left that Bible Study nearly in tears, feeling overwhelmed once again that God would provide such encouragement when I was being so faithless. The next day, I set out to remember as many of my own milestones as I could. Here's part of my list:

- God saved me and freed me from my sin when I couldn't do it on my own

- He has given me a loving family that has stood by me, not only through cancer, but through all of my many mistakes (and, believe me, there have been many)

- He has given me several close friends who keep on loving me even when I'm unlovable... and who continue to help me in my walk to know and serve God better

- He has given me a couple precious mentors who have helped guide me along the way

- He has given me truth in his Word to stand on, a firm foundation to build my life upon

- He has taken my life, even my sin, and somehow worked good through it

- He has taken one of the most difficult times in my life (my parents' divorce) and used it to help others through me

- He has given me the strength to get through some of the most emotionally difficult times in my life so far and I've become a stronger person for it

- Three times, he provided me with a car at no cost when I was in need of one and had no money

- Numerous times, he has provided financially for me when I was faithful to give to him first

- He made a way for me to go on two separate mission trips, both of which have shaped a part of who I am today

- He opened up a job for me (one I wasn't qualified for in the beginning) when I desperately needed to make a change to continue moving toward ministry

- He worked out all the details and made a way for me to go back to school and complete my bachelors degree after having failed out the first time around

- He made it possible for me to get to and through surgery, which greatly increased my chances of seeing a day when I'm told I'm cancer free

- He gives me grace and strength to get through each day of treatment

- He continues to heal my body, thus giving me good reports of continued process through treatment...

The list goes on, but you get the drift. I found that just the simple act of looking back like that and seeing the milestones of God's faithfulness in my life has already started to change my perspective about my present and my future. There are still low moments and days. There's still a lot of stress to handle in my life... but once again, I find myself being carried through it all by a God who loves me and is faithful to me in ways I know I don't deserve by my own merit.

I am left speechless at how he loves me and cares for every detail of my life and what I'm going through...

What about you? What are you facing today? Has anything got you down? Are you having a tough time seeing the big picture and finding joy in the midst of your trials? Then I encourage you in the same way my friend encouraged me. Instead of trying to look forward and figure it all out, take some time to look backwards and remind yourself of how faithful and great this God is who would care for you in such real and practical ways. I trust that your milestones will begin to change your heart in the same way mine have for me.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Today, I am glad that Christ lives in me.

With the way I'm feeling and all that yesterday turned out to be, I don't have any desire to get up out of bed today...

But because Jesus is living in me, I have motivation to do just that and more. He gives me hope for today because he promises to live through me.

...And that's all the motivation I need!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

From the Pit to the Palace

This past Sunday, I wasn't able to make it to church because I was just hurting too much from surgery and chemo. So, I stayed in bed and spent my morning watching TV preachers as my pain medication had me drifting in and out of sleep. Interestingly, two of the preachers spoke on the same passage back to back... Was God trying to tell me something?

Genesis 37 and the chapters following recount the story of Joseph. Here's a guy who was betrayed by his brothers... thrown into a pit, sold into slavery, wrongfully accused and tossed in prison, and after years of unfair circumstances finally ended up second in command ruling the country. Some story, huh? If you're not familiar with it, you should go read it sometime. There were several lessons from Joseph's life that really spoke to me while I listened to those two pastors last Sunday.

First, God had promised Joseph that he would be lifted up, but before that could happen, his brothers became jealous of him and threw him into a dried up cistern. Can you imagine the questions that ran through Joseph's head while he was sitting at the bottom of that pit... what happened to the promises you made me, God? This isn't what I expected! How does this fit into the big picture? God, where are you in all of this? What's going on? ...Some of the same questions, I must admit, have crossed my mind through treatment.

Well, I was reminded that God definitely knew what he was doing when he allowed Joseph to sit there in that pit. He hadn't left him alone in the midst of his bad circumstances. In fact, God was using all of those circumstances to shape Joseph. Remember, Joseph went all the way from that pit to the palace... but God's way of getting him there was through the prison. No matter how long and difficult his circumstances were, God was hard at work through it all!

I was reminded that I don't have to dread those times of breakdown in my life. I can even thank God for the breakdown because he uses times like that so I can breakout of old shells and breakthrough to better things. The lesson is - it doesn't matter how deep your pit is because God is using it to prepare you for what he has prepared for you! God doesn't cause the bad circumstances in our lives, but he does use them to accomplish his purposes for us. What an encouragement at a very low point in my life!

It was a reminder I needed to hear. You see, when I'm feeling terrible physically, it's really difficult for me to be positive emotionally. It's like I'm lost in a forest of trees and I just can't rise up enough to see the big picture all around me. So, I was encouraged to remember that God is at work in my difficult circumstances... even though I often don't see it from my vantage point.

Second, there's a phrase that comes up several times throughout Joseph's story: "and the Lord was with Joseph...." No matter what the circumstances, good or bad, we're reminded that the Lord was with Joseph through it all. If you read Joseph's story, you'll see that God was with him, he was walking beside him, he was working for him, and he was witnessing through him every step of the way. Whatever our circumstances are, we are promised that God is always with his children and always working through their circumstances. The question is: are you under your circumstances or under the God who is over your circumstances? Are we going to respond to the circumstances that look like they're in control or to the promises of God who is in control?

Again, it was a reminder I desperately needed to hear. At this point in my life, it certainly seems like my circumstances are out of control and it's easy to come to the conclusion that nothing good is going to come from it all. Yet, God's promises remain true. Every day, I must decide what I will focus on and believe: my circumstances or God's promises.

There was one final thing that impacted me this past Sunday while I listened to those TV preachers: While everything on the outside may be all bad, everything on the inside is alright because God is with me. Going through treatment is a very difficult thing. The circumstances in which I find myself definitely aren't what I would ever ask for... but because God is with me through it, truly, I can say it is well with my soul...

Seems like God was trying to tell me something after all!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Well and the Trenches

When I was a kid, I spent almost every summer day swimming at the Towamencin township pool. It was always a flurry of activity and noise with kids running around, jumping, and laughing... splashing, diving, and playing their summer days away. Going to the pool was the highlight of my summer.

There was one place amidst all the noise that was different, though. It was in the well. The well was the deepest part of the pool - twelve whole feet. It was where the diving boards were... and where we were not allowed to swim unless it was closed off for the ever illusive fifteen minutes of "well swim." During well swim, my friends and I would play one game and one game only - "Who can get down to the bottom and stay down at the bottom the longest?"

Looking back, it was a surreal kind of experience. There would be all sorts of noise and activity above the water, but as soon as I began swimming down to the bottom all the noise disappeared. All the activity stopped. Suddenly, I found myself in a world all alone... and the pressure of the ever deepening water around me bore down on me more and more. At the bottom of the well, I had a very real sense that there was a whole world of activity going on above me, but I was distinctly not a part of it. I was twelve feet under fighting with ears popping and head throbbing, unable to take a breath. I was struggling alone to win.

...That is very much like what one round of chemo feels like. My head is not right, my body is not right, and I am distinctly aware that there is a whole world moving along outside my bedroom door. I am just completely disconnected from it - twelve feet under waiting for that moment I pop back up to take in another breath.

That's what one treatment feels like. Six treatments in a row - that's another story entirely.

Going through a series of chemo treatments feels much like what I imagine being on a battle field to be. Helmet on, I jump in the first trench and bury my face in the dirt just waiting for the barrage of bullets to stop skimming over my head. As soon as the fire stops, I jump up and run with all my might, legs pounding and heart racing, praying that I'll make it to the next trench alive. Next thing I know, I'm diving back into another trench, dirt and sweat pouring down my face as the bullets begin to fly again. Then back up again. Duck and run, duck and run... it feels like a never-ending fight to get through to the end. Again, it's as if the whole world exists apart from me. All I can do, all I can focus on is getting through from one treatment to the next.

It's exhausting - both physically and emotionally.

It may sound like I'm being overly dramatic. I'm sure in some ways I am. Yet, the reality is that I'm standing in a place where I should be able to rejoice over the awesome strides I've made so far in fighting this disease.... However, all I can think of is the fact that I'm scheduled for six more treatments, which will take me all the way through November. I looked at my calendar today and cried because I simply don't want to do it anymore. I can't believe I have four more months of chemotherapy to go through! I just know I don't have the strength to make it. I know I don't...

So, I find myself in a place of sorrow for the moment, knowing that I'll make it through the same way I did in phase one - by the grace and strength that God gives me one day at a time - but still not wanting to go through all that is before me. I'm weary and I'm only at the beginning of phase two.

Your continued prayers are much appreciated...

Monday, August 3, 2009

What Can't My God Do?

I'm posting to you from Room #613 at St. Luke's Hospital. I'm now three full days out of surgery and finally in a coherent enough frame of mind to post the results of Friday's surgery:

My doctor said that surgery went better than he had expected, meaning that once he got inside my belly, he found less disease than he thought he would. He was able to remove the primary mass in a radical hysterectomy, along with any cancerous lymph nodes he was able to see.

Finally (and this is the interesting part), there was one tumor, which had spread from the primary mass, that he expected would be small enough to remove as well. He ended up not removing it at all because when he got a closer look during surgery, he found that the tumor was gone from the last round of chemo. All that was left was scar tissue! Now, I ask you... what can't my God do?!?

I still have a very long road ahead of me - with three to six more chemo treatments planned and then radiation after that. I'm still far from being out of the woods, but this surgery was really a landmark event!

My doctor was thrilled that we had made it to this point and it wasn't until just recently that I began to really understand the gravity of his joy. He had made a comment to me in a past appointment that, had we not gotten to this point of being able to remove the primary mass in surgery, my cancer would have been much more difficult to deal with. In a recent conversation with him, I asked him to expand on that original comment. He shared with me that, in the beginning, my cancer was so bad that he was worried we would not even make it to the point where we could do surgery... and had that been the case, not only would the cancer be much harder to deal with in the present, but the chances of it recurring in the future would be that much greater. The bottom line is - we'd most likely be having conversations about the quality and length of my life going forward.

Truly, this surgery was a milestone event!

With my doctor repeatedly using phrases like "remarkable improvement" and "unbelievable progress," I know that I haven't made it to this point just as a result the medicines that I've been taking. I know that God's hand has been in this process in a very real way, giving wisdom to my doctor and making it possible for my body to respond so very well to treatment.

So... I ask you again, "What can't my God do?!?"

Zephaniah 3:17 ~ "The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."

Friday, July 17, 2009

Up the Volume

I'm normally not one to publicly promote foundations, but this is something really important to me, so I'm asking you to please take a few minutes to check out this new foundation that is very close to my heart.

Naturally, gynecologic cancers, their treatment, and cure have become important issues to me over the past several months as I've faced my own struggles with being diagnosed and treated for stage 4 uterine cancer.

Dr. Silver, my gynecologic oncologist from St. Luke's Hospital in Bethlehem, PA, has recently developed a new foundation, called Up the Volume (, to not only raise awareness about gynecologic cancers, but also to fund the kind of large-scale, non-biased clinical trials that have the greatest potential for positively impacting women suffering with these cancers. His desire is to raise the standard of care in gynecological oncology and improve the lives of women facing these terrible diseases.

Consider the following quote from the website: "We pledge to up the volume on gynecologic cancers. Our primary goal is to raise and allocate funds for major research aimed at preventing, detecting and treating these silent killers of women near to us and around the world. Additionally, public awareness about gynecologic cancers and their effects on women must be elevated. By advancing knowledge and awareness we will improve the length and quality of the lives of women afflicted with gynecologic cancers. Ultimately we will eradicate these deadly diseases. We must up the volume!"

If you have any interest at all, please check out Up the Volume at You can be of help in two ways:

1) Spread the news and share this website with anyone you think might have an interest in the foundation.

2) Consider making a tax-deductible donation to the foundation. There is a simple, downloadable PDF donation form on the website that you can fill out to make your donation by check or credit card. You can even make a donation in my honor if you wish! Every little bit will help to up the volume!

Thank you so much for taking the time to consider this very important foundation. If you have any questions or would like to talk further about these matters, please feel free to email me at

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What News!

Today was the "big day."

Actually, I didn't go into my appointment today with any great hopes or expectations. I knew that I had the potential of hearing something as great as, "there's no more cancer in your lungs" or as bad as, "the cancer's not responding to chemotherapy anymore and is spreading"... though I was pretty confident that the truth would turn out to be somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. Hence, I didn't put much stock in today being a landmark day.

Well, I was wrong... very wrong! The first thing my doctor said when he came into the exam room was, "I've got some good news to discuss with you." (That's always a great start!) He read straight from the results of my PET scan and I sat in disbelief for a moment as I heard, "The primary uterine mass is responding positively to chemotherapy and continues to shrink. The lesions in the lungs are also responding positively to treatment and have continued to shrink. There is no visible cancer in the lungs at this time."

Did you hear that? No visible cancer in the lungs! Praise God!

I have some scarring in my lungs, but that's normal. My doctor also told me that I most likely still have some microscopic cancer in my lungs that is undetectable with the PET scan, so we will still need to continue with chemotherapy in phase two of my treatment plan to make sure there's absolutely nothing left.

I thought the news about my lungs would be the only big news of the morning and yet, I was wrong again. My doctor continued to tell me that we've definitely made it to a point where we can schedule surgery. Now, this isn't new news to me. I had already been informed that surgery would probably be the next step, so there was no shock there. It was the way he told me that threw me off.

From the beginning, my doctor has been very honest with me about how serious my condition is. He has said things like, "we're really far behind the eight ball," "we have a lot of work to do," "this is very serious," and "the statistics don't lie, but we will walk with you through the whole process." He's never once said to me, "you're going to be just fine" or "you're going to get through this with no problem." He (thankfully) has never given me any false hope in my journey with stage 4 cancer.

But today, there was something just a little bit different about how he shared his thoughts. He expressed to me that in the beginning my cancer was so bad that he wasn't even sure we would ever make it to the point where he could perform surgery. He said that had I not responded so well to treatment I would be looking at a much, much, much more difficult process of trying to deal with this cancer. It would have been a very different story indeed.

That statement combined with the very serious tone in which he candidly shared his thoughts simply overwhelmed me. I sat on the couch silent for a moment (which is very uncommon for me)... until my doctor felt the need to remind me that this is all very good news.

I just wasn't expecting news of any real consequence, let alone such great news! All this time, I had taken for granted that surgery was the next logical step in the process. Yet today I found out that my doctor (who, may I remind you, deals with this stuff all day every day) is thrilled with the fact that we'll be able to go into surgery next. In his words, my progress has been "unbelievable!" At the time, I was in too much shock to even form words beyond the questions I had already written down for him... but I look forward to sharing the Source of my "unbelievable" progress with him the next time we talk!

Matthew 19:26 ~ "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible!"

Go check out the story in which Jesus makes that statement. It's in Matthew 19:16-30. Jesus is talking about what it takes to get to heaven (it all boils down to following him, you know)... but as I read that story I figure that if my God is big enough to save my soul - He's also big enough to heal my body! I can't even begin to express how thankful I am that through technology, medicine, and a wonderfully knowledgeable doctor, God is right now in the process of ridding my body of cancer. Again I say, "Praise the Lord!"

So, here's the breakdown of what's coming next in Phase Two:

~ Friday, July 31st, I'll have a radical hysterectomy and my doctor will see if he can remove the tumor that has spread in my reproductive organs from the primary mass. I'll most likely be in the hospital for three to five days and my recovery time will be somewhere in the range of four to six weeks.
~ Before I leave the hospital after surgery, I'll get the first of three more chemotherapy treatments. Since I responded so well to the chemotherapy I received in Phase One, we're going to continue with the same treatment. I'll have an overnight stay in the hospital every three weeks, which will take me into September.
~ After the third treatment, I'll go in for another PET scan. At that time, my doctor will determine whether or not I'll need more chemotherapy.
~ Once I'm done with chemotherapy, we'll move into radiation. My doctor is still saying that I'll most likely have two types of radiation done (both external and internal). It sounds like radiation treatments will take me into the winter, but that's too far out to really be able to say definitively.

What we can say is this: So far, I am well on the road to getting better...

There's one last piece of great news I received today. I asked my doctor about where he thinks I'll be by the end of February. I assumed that he would say that's too far away to be able to tell, but I had to ask anyway. You see, right at the time when all of my medical issues began this past February, I was scheduled to go on a missions trip to Haiti. I was so excited to return to an orphanage called the House of Hope to see Jenny, Linda, St. Germaine and all the kids. I was eager to help their ministry in any way I could and just love on the kids with the heart of Jesus... but at the last minute, I had to back out because I was experiencing too much pelvic pain to make the trip. Since I wasn't able to go visit them, all of those kids down in Haiti have been praying for me right along through my journey with cancer. I want so badly to be able to go see them and share all that God has done for me through this trial. They have so little in this world and yet they are so full of the joy of the Lord! I want them to be reminded that God is always with his children through any struggle we may face in this life.

Needless to say, I've been praying that I would be able to join the team planning to go to Haiti again this upcoming February... so I very tentatively asked my doctor if he thought it might be a possibility for me at that time based on how I've responded to treatment so far. Again, I was quite sure he would say that it's way too early to tell... but he didn't! He said that I should definitely begin to make plans to go! I may not even be in treatment by that time and even if I am we should be able to schedule things so I can make the trip. I nearly jumped out of my skin when he said that! It was all I could do to keep my composure enough to not hug the poor man right then and there!

What a day... what answers to prayer... what wonderful news!

Philippians 4:4 ~ "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!"

Monday, July 13, 2009

So Marks the End of Phase One

I had my third PET scan today, which marks the official end of Phase One of my treatment. (Needless to say, I'm looking forward to getting some semblance of a break before moving into Phase Two.)

I meet with my doctor this Thursday to get the results of the scan. Please pray that my lungs are clear of all cancer! That would be really wonderful news to me because the less distant cancer I've got, the less chemotherapy I'll have to do in Phase Two. I'll also find out what the plans will be for the next stage of my treatment, so I'll post those details when I get them.

By the way, thanks for your continued prayers. I've been uplifted and truly blessed to hear of so many of you praying for me. Trust me when I say that you're definitely making a difference as I wait on the Lord through this time!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Best Teacher

Well, I've made it through phase one of treatment and am feeling like I can finally look up and take stock of all that's happened in the past four months. To be honest, it feels a bit anti-climatic. I'm at a place where I feel like I'll never be done with treatment and life will never be normal again... but I'm trusting -no hoping desperately- that's not the case.

So, since the very nature of this long process has me feeling like I'm not making leaps and bounds physically, I started to consider all that I've learned through this experience... and, boy, have I learned some things so far!

I know that I'm not near the end of this journey, so I take hope in the fact that God is still working through it - even when I don't feel or see his work myself. I've come to a real appreciation of the fact that it's always harder to see the beauty of all the strokes in the big picture when you're standing right smack dab in front of the painting.

I've also learned patience in a new way. As crazy as it sounds, there's something comforting and even freeing about being able to rest in the hands of a sovereign God when you just simply can't have answers for the future. I've been told that I seem somehow resigned or less passionate about certain things. I can assure you that's certainly not the case! I've just found a new peace in knowing that no matter what comes of tomorrow... whether it's good or bad... I can trust God in it (at least I know that for today - something's telling me that's a lesson I'll be learning over and over again in the years to come).

I know that, even though I don't feel like I'm making a difference for God through this time in my life, everything I do speaks to the One in whom I've placed my trust to get me through. I've learned anew that what matters really isn't what's going on in my life; what matters is what I do with what's going on in my life. Whether I see it or not, I have faith that God is at work in it all and it's all an opportunity to be a witness for him.

I've also learned in a new way that the times in which we grow the most are always the difficult ones. It just seems to be a principle of life that we don't learn things as well when everything is going smoothly. Adversity gets our attention and tightens our focus. I've come to a belief that God divinely ordains suffering from time to time to do the work in and through us that he otherwise would not be able to. So, how can we balk at the trials in our lives? Yes, they are painful, but they are the fields in which God can stir up our hearts and grow us beyond what and who we are today. How can that be a bad thing in the end?

One more thing I've come to know is this: Through facing this adversity, I've found that I have a resource to draw on in Christ that may never have been realized quite the same way before. Certainly, he was always there... but how often in good times do many of us forget to look to the Lord? Through this deep and long valley in my life, I've learned that Jesus is there for me in a way like I cannot even explain with words. He has given me grace and strength for each day well beyond what I can conjure up on my own. I wish I could say that I feel like I have the strength to face the rest of my treatment with hope and joy, but that would be a lie. All I know is that Jesus has proven himself faithful and has given me what I needed for each day so far and I'm trusting him to continue to do that throughout the remainder of my treatment. The beautiful thing is that his grace doesn't change through good times and bad. It's always there for us to cling to!

I know that God has been growing me through all of this. That's for sure. The very fabric of who I am seems to be shifting into something else entirely. Though I'm still not quite sure what the end product is going to look like, I pray that it more closely resembles my Lord Jesus. That alone would be a lofty enough goal, but God is never one-dimensional in his work. For now, all I can say definitively is that the Potter's wheel and his furnace are still in good working order. I'm placed in them every day.

Before I go, let me be clear about one thing... the lessons I've been learning are not new perse. Rather, God has been peeling back the layers of my heart like an onion... driving me to a deeper understanding of him, myself, my faith, our relationship, and my purpose in this world. This is some crazy journey he has me on with detours I never would have expected, but I take comfort in knowing that he knows where he's going and he still has a good grip on the wheel!

"Prosperity is never a good teacher, but adversity is always an excellent teacher." ~ Dr. David Jeremiah

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Weakness and Strength

I reviewed a wonderful passage in my morning reading today:

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ~ "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Now, this is a passage that I've known and held dear for a long time... but, of course, it meant that much more to me as I read it today. I was reminded that Paul's difficulty, or "thorn", not only kept him from pride; it also was a means by which God's power was displayed... and not just to Paul himself, but to those around him, too.

Paul begged God to take his "thorn" away. Can you imagine him going before the Lord in prayer time and time again asking to be done with his difficulty? Hmm... sounds like someone else I know! Yet, God's firm and repeated answer was no. Why? You'd think that the apostle Paul of all people deserved some relief... but God had other plans. He had a purpose in Paul's trial... and if he keeps saying no to me, then he's got a purpose in my trial, too. Certainly, I would love to have my "thorn" removed (don't think I haven't asked)! However, I know that God is working through it in many ways.

There's something else I remembered when I read this passage today. God's power is made perfect in my weakness. I can't even begin to express how tired I am and I still have such a long way to go through treatment. I just don't think I have the strength to do it... no, I know I don't have the strength to do it. But I think if Jesus was sitting next to me in the flesh right now, he would say it's OK for me to not be strong enough. He would take me in his arms and say it's OK for me to feel weak because that's when I can rest fully on his strength. He will be strong for me!

So, my prayer for today is not only that I will learn what I need to learn through this time; it's also that God's power will be revealed in my weakness both to me and those around me; and that I would have enough faith to simply accept being weak and rest on him to get me through. I know he can!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Still Struggling with a Funk

I've once again found myself at the end of my emotional rope. Thank God his rope has always proven to be way longer than mine!

The past few days have unexpectedly been really difficult for me... not because of the cancer or even the treatment (though I did push myself way too far physically yesterday, which didn't help matters). A totally random thing surprisingly spun me into a funk and I'm just really having a difficult time emotionally again. Certainly, I know the perspective I should have (just read my last blog)... but yet even after that, I still find my heart breaking within my chest anyway.

It seems that going through this time of trial has kicked up some things in my mind that I think I always pushed to the background before. I'm sure it has to do with the whole priority shift that happens when you receive a major diagnosis like this. I'm sure that it's all part of the emotional roller coaster, too, just the typical ups and downs. In fact, I'm sure that it's all stuff I'll learn and grow from in time... but it's still hard to go through in the moment. I want a break. I want a rest. I want all of this to finally be done and over already!

But, for today, it's not over. For today, I'm still smack in the middle of this whole thing, so I can only assume that God still has some things for me to learn through this trial. He's just not done with me yet!

When I'm down like this, I'm glad that the Lord always seems to speak to my heart in some way. He always comes through with what I need to hear - maybe not in my desired timing, but he always comes through. Today, I found a precious invitation to find my comfort in him through a song, whose lyrics were written in a book I'm reading:

I Am
by Jill Phillips

Oh gently lay your head
Upon My chest
And I will comfort you like a Mother while you rest.
The tide can change so fast
But I will stay
The same through Past, the same in Future,
Same Today.

Oh weary, tired and worn
Let out your sighs
And drop that heavy load you hold
'Cause Mine is light.
I know you through and through
There's no need to hide.
I want to show you love that is deep and high and wide.

For I am constant.
I am near.
I am peace that shatters all your secret fears.
I am holy.
I am wise.
I'm the only One, who knows your heart's desires.

Oh gently lay your head upon My chest
And I will comfort you like a Mother
While you rest.

Thank you, God, that you know the secret pains and yearnings of my heart - those things I can't even bring myself to write down or speak out loud. Thank you that you still love me deeply. Thank you that you long to be my comfort and my healer, even when I struggle to turn to you first... and thank you for pursuing me still.

Psalm 62:5 ~ "Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him."