Struggles

I’m hanging on by a thread…I feel like I’m in the middle of a war and can’t help but wonder how I got here. And why did He leave me, alone and defenseless, in the midst of it? Haven’t I been good about praising His name? Isn’t this the time I should be on vacation, recovering from the worst part of the storm? Why has He allowed darkness to overtake my body so that, starting yesterday I look even uglier than before? Why must I struggle so much with the mental and physical side effects of these “life-saving” drugs? Why does my soul refuse to rest when my body aches with exhaustion? I thought I’d been to the bottom, why am I being broken even more? What is left of me to break? When will it stop?

Is this God showing me that I should not have prayed and tried to live, but should have embraced the sweet opportunity for death?

No.

I feel like I’m in a war because I AM in a war. But I am not alone. God promised to never leave or forsake me. Ephesians 6 talks about preparing for this battle, and as a family we studied that a lot over the past year. It is a call to action, and I will do my part. The key for this battle is that we are rarely offensive, the lessons are primarily defensive. But that does not make me a wimpy victim, using a fly swatter to bat uselessly at the roaring lion. I have the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, sandals of peace, shield of faith, and the sword of the spirit (Eph 6:14-17). Most importantly, God is on my side. He is for me. For us. I might not feel Him today, but that is because I have been focusing on me instead of on Him.

I will embrace this opportunity to demonstrate God’s love and speak of His goodness while my outer body wastes away. Hopefully it is only for a season, but either way I must consider these trials to be pure joy. My inner self will never fade, and that is what is important.

“For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that His life may be reveaed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” 2 Cor 4:11-12

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are acheiving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Cor 4:16-18. I don’t know everything that’s going on with me, but these words are so beautiful. Perfect. True. Amazing. The fact that those words are in the Bible for this time of my life gives me so much comfort and strength. He is not some mean, heartless God storming around, punishing everyone. He is a loving God who is allowing me to go through this so more people can eventually know Him. He considered my soul worthy of saving, then He consiered my body worthy of keeping around, and now He cares enough to refine me through trials. And to use me to ultimately reflect His son! Awesome. Awesome. Awesome.

“REJOICE in the Lord always, I will say it again, REJOICE! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Phil 4:4-6.

My Pity Party

I’ve been too busy to blog lately–I’ve been having a grand pity party with no time for such matters.
I’ve been learning a bit about “survivorship”, which I will define as the extremely difficult time we have between the hub-bub and fuss of treatment and returning to “normal” life. I have been sort of quiet about it considering how much mental anguish I’ve found myself in, but I’ve decided it’s important to talk about for the sake of others. I’m not officially done with treatment (I have 1 more week of chemo, bilateral mastectomy, 6.5 weeks of radiation, then down the road a reconstructive surgery and recovery), but I think my let downs are like the survivorship stuff because I already got the news of my healing and fully believe it is complete and permanent. Normally if that were to happen it would be at the end of treatment.
So, for anyone involved in supporting people with cancer (probably all major illnesses, but it could look different), please read about this issue. In big cities there are doctors with a heart and interest in the matter, but no one around here has mentioned it. Basically, it’s like a minor depression because everyone supporting you feels like their jobs are done and goes back to their normal lives and routine. But the patient (in this case, me) can’t go back to normal. Besides still dealing with all the side effects, I’m looking at everything differently. I am NOT the same person as before. In the past year I: 1) changed from a mom of 1 to a mom of 2, 2) went an extremely difficult issue with Yaacov that changed us both entirely, 3) got a cancer diagnosis, 4) got a death sentence, 5) got bombarded with massive love from total strangers for months, 6) got miraculously healed, death sentence revoked, 7) got left (feeling) alone with another year of treatment and am expected to just act and behave like 3-7 never happened.

So, I’m spelling out how I feel, but people in these situations all go through it, just with different details. There are biological reasons for the emotional part, because of a crash from all the previously elevated emotions that can’t be sustained any longer. Plus, there’s more time for reality to set it about everything that’s been going on.

I think I’m healing pretty quickly from this issue, but it could get worse after the surgery. I’ve decided to wait on the ovary removal until my mind is clearer, but the pain, time away from kids during the recovery, and anguish from the disfigurement of my upper body will not be good for me. Anyway, one of the issues all survivors have is a paranoia about every ache and pain. I am especially prone to this because, in the eyes of my doctors, I am not permanently healed, but just in a good place right now. However, over the past few weeks God has given me peace and removed that paranoia, so that’s good.

I’m learning so much these days. I have always taken issue with cancer people who continue to think and talk about their illness long after it’s gone. But now I get it. No matter how hard our loved ones might try to support us, they really will never know what we went through or go through. So we get this yearning to help others go through it. It sort of validates us and what we went through. Maybe gives it a purpose. And keeps us from haing to sweep that important time for us under the rug. There was a new girl at chemo yesterday and she was very young, very scared. She has stage 3 ovarian cancer and for some reason that’s one that tends to be chronic, really like stage 4. I could see the fear in her eyes from across the room. The poor thing, she just needed someone to talk to. I think I made her first treatment 100 times better than mine was. Not that hers was great, by any means, but hopefully at least better. This is the cheesiest thing I’ll say today, but maybe my being there for her first chemo ┬áis the reason God wanted me to keep up my treatments. If so, it was worth it.

I struggle with my ungrateful and depressed feelings, because while I know they are valid when explained to people in the world, I don’t compare myself to people of the world. I strive to be like Jesus, and to lean on Jesus when I can’t do it on my own. Shouldn’t that mean I can just pray when I feel bad, and let it go? The word says to “do everything without complaining or arguing”, “never grow tired of doing good”, and to “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ”. Plus, He already answered my big prayers about being healed. So, how do I dare complain now of the incomparable issues I’m having? I guess I’m pretty bold i doing so, and I really shouldn’t. But I met a therapist for the first time this week, and she reminded me that throughout the Bible, stronger and holier people than me are complaining and struggling. So, I’m in good company at least. Again, it doesn’t give me permission to keep it up, but I know it’s a common struggle.

The specific story the counselor reminded me of is in 1 Kings w 18-19 when Elijah (the awesome prophet who God used in much greater ways that any of us) was told by Jezebel that she was going to kill him. Something about that just screamed, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH” (which has been my motto for 2 weeks or so), and he gave up on life and ran off to hide until his time was up. That is exactly how I had been feeling. I wasn’t going to kill myself or anything, but sometimes something’s gotta give. As always, the answer for me was to cry out to God in submission, beg for mercy, and wait for help. So, the point that tends to relate to me is that I’m typically the thing that has to “give”. I gave up more of my desires and focused on Him more. I return I have found comfort, the way the angel in 1 Kings provided for Elijah when he was hiding.

If and when anyone else starts having these feelings, please feel free to send them to me for empathy. So far, the biggest thing that has helped is praising and thanking God aloud for the many, many blessings He has shared. It makes me more aware of and grateful for the grass on my side of the fence.

There is something so exhausting about all these emotions, and praying for and hearing about the enormous amount of sick people I have connections to. Someone included these verses in a prayer request earlier and they really hit the spot, 2 Cor 4:8-9 “We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. We do not know what do do, but we do not give up the hope of the living. We are persecuted, but God does not leave us. We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed.”

NOT Cancer

Well, Rassam was wrong. Whatever is wrong with my hip is not cancer. It’s entirely manageable, no big deal. I only asked him about it because I hoped it was a chemo side effect and wasn’t sure how to treat it.

I knew God wouldn’t allow this to be cancer, but still had moments of uneasiness. I definitely started crying with joy when I spoke to the nurse today. I need to remember that these “cancer-scares” will happen for the rest of my life, whether or not I am truly healed of cancer now (I AM, btw). Because once you’re stage 4 the doctors are just waiting for the new spots to come up so watch you more carefully, etc. He said I’ll have a PET scan every 2-3 months and then extra tests depending on pain, etc. However, in my case every time the results come out clear, there will be more credence to the idea that I am actually healed from this disgusting disease. So, I’m going to embrace these times.

Ps 116:1, “I love the Lord, for He heard my voce; He heard my cry for mercy.” That is MY God!!!!!! OUR God. If He is for us, WHO can be against us??!!?? Satan might be the prince of this world, but God is the KING of the universe. Nothing happens that He does not permit. And He does NOT permit cancer in my body. My body is the temple for the living God. No room for nonsense in here. The end!!!

NOT Waiting to Exhale

I had my 9th Taxol treatment on Thursday, and also had my monthly meeting with Dr. Rassam. I will tell you it was surprising and disappointing when I mentioned some hip pain I’ve been having and Dr. Rasssam immediately told me it must be that my hip is filled with cancer. I had an x-ray and am awaiting the results.

It has been a difficult few days and I hope the challenge from it is in trusting God while I wait, not from the actual results. I think I’ve done considerably better during this waiting game than I would have in the past. My mind raced a few times Thursday when we first disccussed it, but God comforted me and helped me stay distracted.

I really wanted to keep all this quiet because I didn’t want to give Satan and his minions the satisfaction of letting it affect me (or others). But I do feel prayer is so important in all this that I went public to ensure it was still well-covered in prayer.

I listened to a sermon last night that talked about the nature of God. He is not the one who comes to kill and destroy. He does not enjoy watching us suffer. In fact, He sent His son to suffer in the short run so we wouldn’t have to in the long run. That is the polar opposite of the enemy. Satan is the liar who tries to make us doubt God. 1 Peter 5:8-9, “Be sober-minded; Be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.”

Satan wants me to be all bent out of shape about this cancer-scare, but with God’s help I will not allow that. I will resist him and focus on remembering all the amazing things God has done for me. I will be anxious for nothing and trust in the same God who has gotten me this far. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and my faith will remain steadfast throughout.

James 4:7, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

A Better Reminder

Turns out I didn’t need to try too hard to remember God’s awesomeness, so I wanted to share and end on a better note than the semi-depressed one I left earlier. I keep a faded little note in my purse that comforts me, but it’s been there so long now I sometimes forget about it. I noticed it and remembered today though, and feel amazing now.

Soon after my diagnosis an important verse to me was Zephaniah 3:17. That was new to me, it’s not like I read a lot of minor prophets, but I recorded it in my journal. Then, right after the miraculous PET scan results, Yaacov and I went to a coffee shop and the owner gave me a rolled up “blessing”. I guess they have different scriptures on them, and I was expecting something like, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son…” (John 3:16). But what do you know? My little blessing quoted Zephaniah 3:17! The verse itself is comforting, and the way He brought that all back around and described that amazing moment was perfect. He is perfect, and His love is perfect. No matter how ridiculous and unfair the circumstances seem, they all work together for our longterm best interests. It’s just so hard to see because we have no real clue what “longterm” means when it’s involving the afterlife too.

Zeph 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.”

Zephaniah was talking about my God. Your God. Our God. He who takes GREAT DELIGHT in you. HE will REJOICE OVER YOU. It does not matter what a piece of crap you’ve been your whole life. It’s not too late. You might be unlovable to everyone you know, but not to Him. He will quiet you with His love. No one deserves this unconditional love. In fact, we all have done something specifically to be UNWORTHY of it. But He loves us in spite of what we’ve done. In spite of who we are.

Remember

This week we celebrated Naomi’s first birthday, Naomi’s first steps, Yaacov’s birthday, and Easter. It all makes me think back to the past. I can’t help myself. This time last year I was so tired from having a new baby, but there was so much promise for our future. We had all the normal goals and plans that people have. We didn’t even bother praying for our physical health because it was so far from our minds.

Now I’m consumed and preoccupied by health. Or lack thereof. I know God healed my metastases, but I don’t really know what that means. Did He leave the tumor just to make sure I could relate to other people who have to go through all the treatments? Or was it just to show me He’s listening and loves me but I’m still going to die? I will say that’s rhetorical, if I’ve learned anything through this process, it’s His answer to questions like that. If you’ve followed this blog from the beginning you can chant it with me, “Do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today brings enough troubles of its own.” Mth 6:34.

I didn’t have much time to process the BRCA1 (genetic mutation) issue that caused my cancer in the beginning. Unfortunately, I found that time recently. I’ve been trying to figure out whether I can wait a bit before having my ovaries removed, but instead I keep finding bad news about the kind of cancer I have and what my girls will be faced with. All I can do about that is pray they won’t have the gene and that treatments will return by then.

I’m meeting my radiologist Thursday, but if things go as expected I’ll have surgery in 7 weeks, then start radiation after that. I won’t be able to have the immediate reconstruction anymore. It could be up to 2 more years before the reconstruction, which I’m struggling with. Just one week ago I thought I’d be entirely done with cancer treatment in less than a month, so this is another downer. However, at the start of this no one would have promised me a reconstruction because they figured I’d be dead by then. But this is such a whirlwind these are just the things I use to convince myself to be happy. It’s a little harder than I wish.

Anyway, all this ties in to Easter (oh, right, this is one day I shouldn’t be talking about myself!), and the reminder of what I need to do. When the disciples noticed they were out of food to feed people, they started trying to figure out what to do. Didn’t occur to them to go straight to the source. Jesus said, “Why are you discussing that you do not have any bread? Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Is your heart hardened? Do you have eyes, and not see, and do you have ears, and not hear? And DO YOU NOT REMEMBER? When I broke the five loaves for the 5,000, how many baskets full of pieces of bread did you collect?” Mark 8:17-19.

I need to remember. Remember the sacrifice He made 2000 years ago. Remember the healing He did for me 2 months ago. And everything in between. He is the great I AM, who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He is unchangeable, unbreakable, slow to anger, loving, and gentle. He is the God I worship and will honor, no matter what the cost.