Relish this remarkable life

Grace fills my life and surrounds me with God’s eternal love.
How can we capture the love that Christ offers us and share it with others?

Grace dice

This blog began as my diary for a journey I never intended to take, but a journey which I was chosen to take. It often can be personal and when I type I forget that others will read it, but that is when we are most honest with ourselves. I believe with all my soul that my breast cancer journey was a blessing, not a cure. Was it easy…Absolutely Not! Was it necessary…NO! But was it fruitful…YES!

This coming week I celebrate my 3 year anniversary of being cancer free. May 4, 2012 doctors took part of me, which created a roller coaster of emotions for me as I dress each day being reminded of what was taken. But on May 4, 2012 doctors also took the ugly darkness that threatened me. With the darkness gone, I focused on the LIGHT!

The tumor removed had a 50/50 chance of returning within the first 3 years! And by God’s grace I will hit that marker on Monday! Praise God! Now it drops to 30%…but I’ll look at the opposite…70% it will never return!

Although I have not blogged in a while. I am hoping this blog begins to transform into sharing grace moments in everyday life. Grace is all around us, it is within us and it forever embraces us. It is in sharing the grace moments that we strengthen each other, carry each other and inspire each other.

MIT meteorologist, Edward Lorenz, created one of the most intriguing ideas that moved from lab to pop culture: the “butterfly effect,” the concept that small events can have large, widespread consequences. In a world that can be cynical, depressing and negative; I can only effect those around me..or do does it? What would happen in a world where all our “wings” were spreading grace to others? I would give anything to see that world!

Last weekend I embraced grace is a simple meal. Okay pizza at Giordano’s may be simple, but there was nothing simple about getting 17 of us together! Kevin and I along with our son and his fiance met in Naperville with some of the Caschetta cousins. Two nieces and a nephew, their spouses and children (7 children…5 under the age of 6 years old)…what a beautiful and wonderful family. The craziness even prevented us from snapping a picture together, but the grace flowed throughout the table.

Catching up with their lives and watching the little cousins laugh was grace enough for me. As Kevin and I sat at one end of the long table, I realized the incredible family we have. As my children’s generation begin families and I sit in my empty nest with Kevin, I am able to reflect on all the amazing things God has provided for our family.

Seeing Lindsay, Nick and Britt in strong marriages, facing the challenges of raising children while balancing work and home makes me feel blessed. The fact that these extremely busy 30 somethings were able to make time for us touched my heart deeply. What a gift to spend time with family! I love all my big crazy family!!

God is a family, one in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He created us to flourish in families, even mucky families. We are able to choose our actions and reactions to whatever life throws at us. When you do it from a place of faith, God gives us wiper blades to get the musky-ness out of our line of sight. It’s not gone, there is just a clearer vision within.

Life experiences help us to also see much clearer. I honestly don’t know how I would have handled breast cancer at 25 or 35. There were so many wonderful friends, mentors, bible study members, teachers, priests and family that taught me vital lessons throughout my life…and created the person I am still working on today. Thank you.

Each step we travel, especially if we have God at our side and entwined in our lives, is a stepping stone to a grace filled life. Travel with me on this journey!

Every year, I snuggle with my daughter and husband and watch About Time. It is a beautiful story about family, love and life. In the closing moments of the movie, the main character says “we are traveling through this life together, every day of our lives, all we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable life.”

Grace embraced through lives small steps each day with people we love and people we have yet to meet and love. Our wings bring grace to so many, every day of our incredible, remarkable lives. Enjoy a grace embraced life!

“But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective.” 1 Corinthians 15:10

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Prayer

prayer-on-my-kneesPope Francis this past week told the pilgrims at World Youth Day in Rio, “learn to pray everyday: this is the way to know Jesus and invite him into your lives“.

If you did not know how to pray before, everyone learns how to when the hear the words “You have cancer.”

No matter where you are or what you are doing, you lift up your prayers to the Lord.

Some may call God by other names, but just as I have many names (Janet, Mom, wife, sister, daughter, aunt, friend, coworker), God has many names. The incredible thing about God is He loves each one of us completely and hears each one of our cries with a merciful heart, through our calling out to him.

Prayer has been a foundation in my life since childhood. I always knew I had a guardian angel watching over me and felt the presence of God with me. I had a sister that passed away at the age of two, just 16 months before I was born and I always pictured she was my guardian angel. Jesus loves the little children, so having her at the feet of Jesus enabled me to focus on goodness and truth as I grew. I was just an ordinary child, the third of six children growing up. Of course we had our share of fights, but we stuck together. My three sisters and two brothers were more important to me than anyone. We were a big gang when we vacationed (usually camping) or spent the summers at the pool, but we were placed on this earth together…to take care and watch out for each other. And we did.

But it was not until I became a mother that my prayer life kicked into the forefront of everyday life. When I discovered I was expecting I began praying daily…and have not stopped every 26 years later. I learned that the Lord guides my marriage, my children and my life. I can communicate with him, I can disagree with him, I can praise him and I can rejoice with him…but I can not control the path he has in store for me. No matter how hard I have tried in the past – and I have tried!

I enjoy experiencing all types of prayers; alone and with others. Bible studies, meditation, spontaneous, retreats, songs, poems, prayers of the church, memorized, adoration, praying with my husband and so many other forms. This foundation that was built over my the course of my life was essential to living through the past year and a half. I prayed for the medical personnel and my family and friends. I prayed that I would be healed so that I am able to show the Lord’s power and glory. I prayed that I would be able to know the grandchildren that He has planned for me (then I switched to praying that my grandchildren will know me too!) I prayed for other cancer patients and those facing life changing illnesses and in a special way for those facing these challenges without the support of family and friends.

Prayer changes everything…because it first changes you.

May you find time today to pray and be changed.

Rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer. Romans 12:12

Grace embraced through the growth that I have experienced in times of tribulations and in times of prayer.

Anniversary thoughts

Today begins the Anniversary march. You know when you experience the “firsts” of everything.1anni

One year ago today I found my lump. Although I say “my”, I never took ownership of it. It was a foreigner in my body and as soon as I felt it I wanted it out. I remember telling my husband and he said lovely “it’s probably nothing”. I know he was trying to calm my fears and comfort me. But the one thing I was not was fearful.

I was with my father on November 24, 2006 when the doctor drained the fluid from his lungs and told him the tests were stage 4 lymphoma. He looked at my mother and lovely said “we’ve had a great life”. He would fight with everything he had, but he was not fearful but calm in those first few moments.

I remember thinking immediately of my dad and how strong he was and how faith-filled he was. And I felt the same way. I was not fearful, but I was concerned. Yet, I felt a peace over me. As if the Lord was saying to me “I’ve got this”. And I believed…

“It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority” Acts 1:7

And I have always trusted in my Lord…and He has never failed me.

I trusted His plan is so much better than any plan I could imagine.
I trusted His timing is perfect and that I will not be disappointed.
I trusted His healing power to guide those ministering to me.
I trusted His joy in seeing His glory in all that I would undergo.

And He exceed any expectations I could have imagined.

I would not wish this journey on anyone and I would not choose to go through it again. But I was so blessed with each step of this journey. You have read before all those that have helped me. But spiritually nothing compares to the depth of the relationship between Jesus and me.

He hears from me daily and many times throughout the day.

And I hear from Him more than ever…
I hear his voice in the friends that have reached out to me.
I hear his voice in the family that have cared for me.
I hear his voice in the doctors as they treat me.
I hear his voice in all the support techs and nurses that have shown amazing kindness.

His grace surrounds me.

When I began this blog I named it Grace Embraced, because I knew I felt grace filled moments as I walked those first few weeks alone with my husband and children. Now I know God named this Grace Embraced because He planned on filling every moment of my life with grace, as He has always done…but my eyes are now wide open and I can clearly see the grace as it flows around me.

Grace is Love.
And
Love is God.

To all the wonderful women in my life…for me, do a self-exam this evening…be aware of your own body…don’t put off until tomorrow…I love you all too much to not remind you…

So even on this anniversary that no one wants to remember, and as I approach the first anniversary of surgery and first anniversary of chemo, etc. I remember my dad’s words “we’ve had a good life” and I’m still enjoying it! Thanks Dad for looking down on me and Praise to the Lord for his goodness endures forever and flows over me we grace! According to my medical oncologist, my chances are statistically 50/50 that I will be here for more than 5 years. But my God knows statistics don’t hold any value with Him and I will continue to embrace and follow Him!

Grace embraced through you all; and you all are embraced with all the graces I have received, because I cannot receive them without sharing them with you.

“the day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Matthew 24:36

Why is it?

Why is it that some people feel uncomfortable around me?

I was at a meeting earlier this month where for the first time I felt it. Everyone in the room was uncomfortable with me sitting among them. It was a small group of volunteers and I stopped by to pray and say hello, but I definitely felt they did not know what to say or how to react.

I was wearing a scarf and a fedora.

I was a bald woman.

I was a cancer patient.

And I looked the part.

As I was walking in I was talking to someone who was entering too and even though I have known them for three years it was apparent that either they did not know who I was or they were very uncomfortable with how I looked.

The next week I found myself splurging for a wig with long tresses to look as close to the old me as possible.

Why is it that I feel compelled to make others comfortable even if it makes me uncomfortable?

This experience really brought it home that my appearance affects others. All summer I have spent in a scarf and fedora without this reaction. But I have mostly interacted with individuals not groups. It was my mistake. I have had other group meetings where I wore my short wigs for appearances, but this was a last-minute stop and I knew it would be a small group.

I don’t want anyone, friends or strangers to be uncomfortable. I love to visit and be with family and friends and I want them to be comfortable.

This made me so sad, but I can handle this situation through my large strong support system, but this makes me so sad for others that don’t have the support or means to look as others need them to.

I pray for those that are struggling with self-image through their cancer battle, this should not ever happen.

Why is it that children are so honest, pure and comfortable enough to speak the truth?

One of my earliest blog posts I talked about little Daniel, who prayed I would not lose my hair, because everyone would certainly notice a bald woman. He was right, he knew how people would react. He wanted to protect my feelings.

Everyone knows someone who has been touched by cancer, to have this reaction in today world took me by surprise.

I smile and laugh when I think about the pure love of children. Nicolas, my two-year old grand-nephew visited over Labor Day and there were three different times that I put a wig on to go out and he said “no”.

He wanted the wig off.

He was right, it was too hot and I needed to be comfortable.

He wanted to see his Aunt Janet.

He purely saw me for me and not what the world expects me to look like.

We Skype weekly therefore he is use to my bald head as I roam around the house.

He accepts me no matter what my physical appearance.

Children are pure love.

Thank you Daniel and Nicolas for teaching these lessons and being so insightful!

Thank you to all my wonderful friends and family, that see me and love me!

I love you all!

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3

Grace embraced through the pure, total, loving acceptance of all those that surround me. God bless you!

Followup Note:  Thank you so much for all your comments and thoughts. I want to clarify that all the volunteers at the meeting are wonderful, amazing people. I respect and treasure every volunteer I work with. They are giving, loving, faith filled servants of God. I think they were just caught off guard. Maybe they did not know what to say, maybe they felt uncomfortable because they should have known I was sick but didn’t. I can’t try to understand what they were thinking…heck…maybe I am totally off and it was the long day I had that caused these feelings. But they are just my feelings, expressed honestly and raw, never judging others or thinking I was treated badly. It is what it is…

I wonder if I have ever made another feel this way, unintentionally.
I think the Lord wants me to experience this, so that I will better minister to others.
I pray He will use me for His glory throughout this battle and throughout my life.

Light in a dark desert

English: Leaving traces on soft sand dunes in ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am in a desert
thirsty with parched lips
hungry for something I can’t place
seeking answers and moreI am in a desert
looking for light amongst the reality of disease
searching for hope among doubt
reaching for faith among death

I am in a desert
surrounded by loving friends and family
but still alone
walking through doubt and fear alone

I am in a desert
I am not alone
I have hope
I have faith
I have love
I have Christ
 by Janet Caschetta

Last week a dark day hit me like a brick wall. I really had not experienced this yet through my five month ordeal. But there was a fellow survivor who lost her battle with breast cancer after two years and as I read her bio on the breastcancer.org website, I realized her diagnosis was almost identical to mine. She was Stage 3c, ER-, PR-, HER2+, mastectomy, chemo, radiation…fighting all the way. And it hit me hard.

I have been so optimistic. Have I been living with blinder covering my eyes? Can my fate be the same? I felt I have been very proactive in learning about my type of cancer and treatments. I am not afraid to ask questions and read solid medical information online. But this loss opened my eyes to the possibility of not being here to see my children find the person God has chosen for them, to see their weddings, to know my grandchildren, to continue to ministry to others, to share my faith, to survive. It was a dark desert journey.

I have not been able to write about this, because I was still working through those feelings. I wept most of that night with my husband, who so tenderly and patiently walked with me as tears flowed and comforted me through the night. I had my “Garden of Gethsemane” moment. I needed to be realistic; I needed to face the possibility. Then I needed to offer it to the Lord and trust His will to be done. My heart knew this, but my head needed reassurance.

As I drove to work the next morning, the Christian station was interviewing a man who survived so much more. His wife and he were in a horrific car accident with critical conditions for months and rehabilitation for years. Now I never put on the radio, but I had finished my Rosary and Divine Chaplet prayers and felt a pull to turn it on. God was speaking to me through the challenges others faced and I knew He was telling me I too will survive.

Then at Sunday Mass the sermon was on First Kings 19:4-8. Elijah cried out “This is enough O Lord” and the Lord sent food for Elijah’s journey and ordered him to “get up and eat, else the journey will be too long” Elijah was strengthen and continued to the mountain of God. I too was strengthened that the Lord was encouraging me to be strong in faith, that Elijah survived what God was asking him to journey through and I too will walk this journey with God. I knew that I was not alone.

Then at my chemo treatment last week, my oncologist stopped to visit and I asked the question both Kevin and I had not asked yet. “How will we measure if the cancer is gone or if it’s returned?” Her answer was immediate and confident. “The cancer is gone, we removed it all, got clear margins. But it was aggressive, so this 15 months is to make sure any tiny remnants do not have any chance to grow.” Her positive, confident, immediate answer was yet another sign, my worries were to be put aside.

Finally, on a staff retreat, we talked much about what Eucharist means to each of us. So many wonderful images and stories were shared on how Communion strengths us and nourishes us for our journey. As a reminded of Christ’s death and resurrection, I received inspiration and great hope of Christ’s presence in my life in so many ways.

Okay, okay Lord, I will share on graceembraced my deep struggle these past few weeks and my journey through that desert darkness.

Although I think I needed to finally face the possible reality of this disease, I was comforted over and over of the power of my faith.

The day after my surgery in May, Kevin stopped at Naturally Yours in Willowbrook for a camisole for me to wear home from the hospital. Yet the better gift was the beautiful matching beaded bracelet he bought for Jaclyn and I. It is a Psalm 23 bracelet with each bead representing a verse. Last night, relaxing in a bath, I focused on Verse 2  “He shall lead me”. That was the final reassurance I needed.

He will lead me. He is not walking next to me or behind me. He is leading me. He is in front of me, pushing all the brush and poison ivy out of my path. He is clearing the way to get through my journey of cancer. He is leading me to the beautiful meadow of amazing green pastures that await me. He is asking me to get up from the Garden and trust in His will. And I am happily, willingly following with a renewed outlook on the graces and blessings I am receiving along the way.

A dear friend Kathy took me to my last chemo treatment. She was the first friend to share this experience with me. I am so grateful for my daughter and son who took the first two months of treatments as well as my sisters Toni, Teri; my brother Don and niece Brook. The three to four hours of sitting in an uncomfortable chair as toxins drip through my body can’t be the first way anyone wants to spend a Thursday afternoon, but the blessing is all mine. I loved visiting and catching up with Kathy’s life and look forward to all the other friends that “signed up for the task”. Their patience and love is greatly appreciated. Three weekly Taxol/Herceptin treatments down – Nine to go…a light at the end of this tunnel! And then on to the next set of treatments.

Psalm 23 2: He leads me to quiet waters…

Grace embraced: Thank you Lord for all the reminders and messages you continue to send me through strangers, friends and family. I am truly blessed.

The Big C

I have the Big C.

What does that mean?

How has that affected my life?

Am I a different person?

Do I look and act differently?

How do people react to me?

Does the Big C define me?

Of course my life is different because of the Big C. My outlook on life has completely changed, I mean it has to. Knowing that everything in your life is now looked through a different lens, you re-evaluate everything. What was important to you before, may not be so anymore. Relationships and love is what matters. How I treat other people matters, how I connect with others and give of my time and energy to people. Everything seems to be a C word nowadays. Chemotherapy, Cancer, Communicate, Courage, Comfort, Compassion, Connect, Community, Comments, Cards, Care…

I know I physically look differently. My long brunette head of hair is gone, my eyebrows are going now too and the dark circles under my eyes are more visible, no matter how much concealer I coat on. My chest that once occupied bras is now lopsided and doesn’t even fill a tank top. Bruises and scars now occupy where drains came from my body, ports went in and a 9″ almost perfectly straight scar cuts my left chest in two halves. But my physical appearance is not what I mean.

Do I look differently to others as I reach out to them.
Can they tell a difference in my kindness, compassion and love?
I know I feel different, I hope they feel the difference through my sincerity.
I hope that the Big C in me changes others too.

Does the Big C define me?
Absolutely!

For Me, the Big C is Christ!

I am changed by Christ, I am a better person because I have the Big C.
My Big C has complete control over the little c of cancer that took residence in my body.
Christ has this covered! I chose to focus on the Big C who took residence in my body way before the little c and who embodies every cell inside me. Every since I was a child, I have known Christ. I feel His presence in my daily life. He comforts me and I trust Him completely.

It’s so funny, some people even have a hard time talking about what they call the big c, they want to avoid that I have been diagnosed with cancer, they don’t know how to react. Cancer patients need Christ-like friends and family, that’s all, it’s simple. People who reach out with love and genuine kindness. A simple call, or card shows compassion and love. So take out of our vocabulary that the big c is cancer… it’s not. There are so many other c words bigger than cancer. Fill your day with Compassion and Care and Christ will fill every cell of your being with Love. Attitude is everything, so my attitude is…

For me, there can be no bigger C than our Lord…CHRIST.

For You created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13

Grace embraced today as I begin my week of strength and healing, preparing for my 4th Chemo on July 19th, with my Big C carrying me each day. Prayers that I remain healthy and my blood count remain high enough for treatment to fight the little c’s within me.