Chance encounter or Divine Intervention

When something happens do you chalk it up to chance? We say “What are the chances of that happening to me?” or “I’ve got a pretty good chance of that  happening today.”

Chance, according to Google, is “the occurrence and development of events in the absence of any obvious design.”

Maybe it’s not our “obvious design” but every occurrence is an ultimate design.

I don’t believe in luck or chance. I believe in divine intervention. Through life’s experiences I have come to believe everything happens for a reason. Even terrible tragedies and loss happen so that we can learn and grow. We are all moving through this life to reach the next life with our Lord Jesus and each step we take is His divine plan.

I was once asked by a teen at a youth ministry meeting “how can it be God’s plan when we have free will”. I reflected for a moment and then attempted to explain it as if your parent was sitting on a roof top watching you drive up. That parent can see all the different paths you can choose to get home and they can see that some of them are not safe. They see the path you are on will be a collision with another car and although they are screaming at the top of their lung for you to turn at the next street you can’t hear or you are choosing not to hear. Then someone steps into the street to cross the road and you slow and avoid two accidents, hitting the walker and the collision that was ahead. God sees all the different paths in front of us, some of the paths lead to Him, some of them do not. As we choose a path, he shifts to other paths and again places paths that lead to Him and paths that don’t. He never tires of leading us on the right path. He is the father in the prodigal son story; waiting, watching and praying for our return through all the free will choices we make.

I know God is omnipotent and omnipresent. I know He places obstacles in my path for His purpose. I have learned to trust in His movements through my life.

His presence was glaringly visible yesterday.

As I sat through a workshop at the beautiful campus of St Mary of the Lake University in Mundelein I sat with and meet six amazing women ministering in the life of the church. Each one had a story to tell of their journey listening to God’s voice in their life. The voice that led them to bible studies, RCIA, serving the poor, sheltering the homeless and the voice that led them into a new family at their parishes. They were enlightening stories of challenges and hope…and of JOY! I love sharing faith with such inspiring, strong women. The six of them sitting with me was God’s divine plan. But that is not the end of the story.

During our last break of the day, one of these women asked me a simple question about my water bottle.

You see, I carry every day a 24 oz Tervis water bottle with a pink ribbon design on it. I have two of them that were given as gifts to me during treatment so that I would always remember to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. A habit I continue everyday. I’m a pretty routine person – each night I place the water bottle without the lid in the freezer half full. In the morning, I fill up the rest of the bottle with cold water…and it keeps cold until about 2:00 pm. (I prefer drinking cold water and ice cubes melt too quickly!) Yesterday was no different. I carried my water bottle into the workshop, little did I know it would spark a connection.

I have learned to not bring up the subject that I am thriving after breast cancer…I’ve seen too many people change their demeanor when they hear that, so I just allow it to come up organically if it is meant to. And yesterday it was meant to…God’s intervention.

This beautiful, kind, gentle woman asked ever so sweetly “pink ribbon…is that you?” I said yes and she said, I need to find one of those bottle for lymphoma, and I responded “you?” as she said “yes”.

My heart fluttered…I knew why I sat at that table, God needed us to meet…what a blessing it turned into.

After the workshop ended, we picked up our conversation. She had lymphoma years ago in her neck, arm pits, chest and abdomen (almost everywhere we have lymph nodes!)…and she bravely fought it into remission. Yet two months ago she explained that it had returned in her neck. She was beginning treatment on Monday. Monday is her mother’s birthday and she is an only child. Her eyes told of her fear of this vicious disease that lies within her. She asked if I would be back at a workshop in October and I said “no, but would see her in November”. Her eyes softened as she said “I’ll be in my month hospital stay in November.” Although the words did not come out of her mouth, I heard her crying for connection. I asked if I could stay in touch with her, which softened both of our faces…there was the connection she was searching for. Maybe it was a relief of someone who understands the fear of cancer or someone to cry with. I am blessed to do both or either.

She gave me her cell and email as we hugged goodbye. I don’t know what plans God has for this relationship, but I do know that He created a connection that I am called to nuture. My thoughts throughout today have been on prayers to releave her anxieties and put her complete trust in the Lord. I texted her today the words I remember a dear friend sent to me before my first treatment: “don’t tell your God how big your mountain is…tell you mountain how big your God is”

God’s Divine Intervention…watch for it…it presents itself in many places throughout your day…see them and embrace them

Divine Intervention

Thank you Lord the the grace of a new friendship during storms in her life. Help the sun and Son to break through her darkness. If I can be a small drop of grace in her life, I am honored to do so. Thank you for the grace of divine intervention in my life and the presence to see your hand within it.

21 days of Freedom

I have gotten a taste of freedom!

Freedom from doctor’s appointment…
Freedom from physical therapy…
Freedom from blood pressure checks…
Freedom from the dreaded weight ins…
And even Freedom from wigs….I am going la natural!

The last 21 days, I have not had a medical appointment of any kind! Some people say survivors go through a depression when treatments end, they miss the attention, the check ups, the care…

But I enjoyed the freedom! The Lord has blessed me abundantly with so many people surrounding me that the care and prayers continue, so no depression here! Only JOY in the graces of Gods mercy and healing hands!

The first six months of 2013 has brought appointments with oncologists, breast surgeon, plastic surgeon, internal medicine, optometrist, gynecologist, physical therapists, radiologists, urologist, echocardiogram techs and infusion nurses. Surgeries for bladder and colonoscopy, and blood work galore! Every turn has been ALL CLEAR! Music to my ears and gratitude in my heart!

Today counts as my fourth to last chemo treatment, and as you can see I am gladly counting down. My daughter used post it notes to count down the last days of school for her students and so I adopted the ideas…my nurses are laughing at me, but think its great!

I look forward to more 21 days of freedom…then 6 months of freedom…the years of freedom! I love all the medical providers, but I love the freedom they give me when I hear them say “you’re doing great!” I give all the glory to my Lord, for he is the Comforter and Healer!

Grace embraced with the freedom God has bestowed in my life the past three weeks.
“Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.” Phil 1:7

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A scorch mark to heal

lotionHave you ever left an iron on a shirt for too long?

Was it scorched and left with the outward appearance of burnt ugliness?
Picture that spot, a big spot the shape of an iron and little dots where the steam comes from.

Yes, I may have ruined a shirt or skirt once or twice, but sometimes it was the materials fault…maybe? The fabric was too fragile or has too much silk content, or maybe the iron was just too hot for the fabric. It really does not matter the shirt is ruined beyond repair as you stand and look at the oblong pointed burn.

I decided that is what my left chest has doubled as for the last few weeks.
The redness reached its worst on New Year’s Eve. The deep reddish-brown color did not resemble my skin at all. I felt as if the medicine was not working. I was throwing a cup of water at a burning house. My attempts were pointless.

I was scorched, with an outward appearance of ugliness. I have been living in Kevin’s cotton undershirt. Everyone suggested it would be the softest against my skin and they were right. Loose enough to not interfere with the healing process but enough to keep me warm. Thank goodness Christmas break afforded me with days to hunker down at home and not have to worry about how I looked in public.

I began radiation with lathering on Radiaplex gel, trying to ward off the burning. Even though I was diligent, the radiation was stronger. Once I began to burn I switched to Silver Sulfadiazine Cream topped with a layer of Hydrogel. This worked well until the dryness came along. Once pocket areas started drying up and peeling it was on to Aquaphor. The over the counter healing ointment was so soothing, but still takes a long time to heal. Since the skin was not healing quickly, the radiation team suggested Aquaphor layered with Hydrogel on top. I added Benadryl gel to the areas that drove me crazy wanting to itch. What a cocktail without any of the joy of getting tipsy!

But it’s healing – a week and half from last radiation treatment has brought more normal looking skin. It is more centralized now in the “boost” area. The last five treatments were focused on the scar line. The scar line is where cancer cells more often reappear. So the rad tech laughed at me when I brought them all Boost to help boost their day, since they were boosting mine!

So the scar line is still open sores that had me returning to Silver Sulfadiazine Cream. But I can see the rest is moving to healing and this area will be a few weeks behind. I will be so grateful when this part is healed and free from burns.

Grace embraced through the healing power we are blessed with in medicines. God created amazing people to develop treatments that help others move into recovery and healing! Praise God!

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Isaiah 58:8

Sunshine!

My radiation team is my Sunshine!Sunshine

Each weekday morning for the past 20-some days, I have woken up. Kissed my husband goodbye as he heads into work and I head into the Radiation Department at the Cancer Care Center. Kim, Nikki, Rosie, Joann, and Melissa welcome me with smiles. They are my sunshine every day.

Sunshine provides light to others…and their smiles and warmth help survive the treatments.

Sunshine provides rays that burn the skin if over exposed…that too is unfortunately the side effects to help kill cancer cells (and boy do I have the burning, tight and peeling skin!)

Sunshine also gives you a boost of energy…and I’m now in the final days of radiation which is called the “boost”. It concentrates all the rays on the scar line, where the cancer can most commonly return.

There you have it, “sunshine”, the most amazing women, who care, laugh and smile their patients through a challenging time. They provide music and even mood lighting right before they leave to administer the rays from behind two walls and a huge metal door!

These ladies are truly sunshine! I have enjoyed getting to know them over the past six weeks and look forward to coming to visit with no treatment needed!

Iris is also a bright light each morning. Early December, Iris switched her radiation schedule and began coming right before me. Previous to her switch, radiation a pretty lonely wait. I saw no one in the changing room or waiting area.  Most days I go by myself, so Iris and I quickly took the opportunity to strike up a conversation. We soon discovered that we are on the same schedule, we will both have our last treatment on the same day. What a joy to celebrate with someone! Our hair is growing back at about the same rate, although she is braver than I and wears it for all to see (she also has less white hair). Our journeys have been similar and its been wonderful to share the experience with another survivor. Iris has been a joy to get to know and another beam of sunlight to my radiation mornings.

Grace embraced through the care and kindness of these incredible woman, showing gentle compassion to those in their care. May God bless them and their families

“A cheerful heart is good medicine” Proverbs 17:22a

A Challenging Treatment

 

Last Thursday the treatment room was filled with prayers as Wendi (my treatment angel that week) and I were watching the mayhem of getting enough blood out of me.
Now I know I have lots of blood running through my veins and my port is connected to a larger vein than my arm, so what’s the problem? The nurse, we’ll call her M, usually has trouble getting blood, it may come slowly or takes a while to get started, but always eventually a success. Not this time.

 

M could not get even a quarter vial.
She had me turn my head…sometimes the tubing is twisted.
She had me stand…then sit…then stand…trying to get blood each time.English: Santa Rita, Guam (June 16, 2005) - Bl...
She had me cough…and again…and again…no avail.

 

M decided to get another nurse to help and as she left Wendi and I prayed together…so glad I did. Upon M’s return with another nurse, M pushed against my port and ribs as the other nurse worked the syringe. Wow! That was uncomfortable, but again…praying through it helped. They were able to get enough to take to the lab.

 

Or so we thought. An hour later, which is really longer than ever before, M came back in with a different tray than normally she come in to begin chemo.
Well that was because the lab did not have enough blood to get a good platelet count. This time M was not trying the port, she’s going in to the arm.

 

But that’s why I got the port installed, to eliminate more needle sticks and continue use of the arm veins. But it had been almost 2 hours and we needed to start treatment, so into the arm she went. Plenty of blood that way!

 

After another 30 minutes we were finally able to start chemo.

 

Since we were getting such a late start, they chose to push the Taxol faster than normal. Usually Taxol takes around 90-100 minutes. They sped up the drip and finished in a record 60 minutes, the Herceptin follows Taxol, but they can’t push that any faster than 30 minutes anyway. Leaving the Cancer Care Center was harder than my normal weekly treatments…I was exhausted and a little weak. I believe it was pushed too fast, however side effects do accumulate, whatever the reason, I was not going to make the meeting I had at work that night.

 

I have been very fortunate that I have been able to work from home over the weekend and take my treatment days off. My side effects I believe are manageable because I am able to go home and rest. I thought “if all goes well at the treatment, I can at least do the opening prayer and introductions and be present at the parent meeting.” Not after that treatment day…Thank goodness my coordinator was totally fine covering the meeting…because Kevin lead me to the couch, where I remained from 6:00-9:00 pm. He keep trying to get me to go to sleep, but on treatment days, I force myself to stay awake until 9:00 since I don’t sleep well anyway, if I fell asleep at 7:00 I would be completely awake at midnight. I would much rather be awake with my husband and son and then wake up at 3:00. That’s better right?

 

What an exhausting day at Uof C!

 

On Friday I called UofC to inquire about getting my blood work done the day before. They said that would not be a problem, so I scheduled my next blood work for Wednesday afternoon. I had another parent meeting yesterday, that I really did not want to miss, since I missed a different meeting last week. Thinking getting the blood work done ahead of time would at the very least help with time, so they did not have to push the Taxol so quickly.

 

I went for Wednesday’s blood work and they asked “do you want us to draw from your arm or the port”. I was planning on no hassles and doing the arm, but since it was a different nurse, I was curious to see if she experienced the same struggles as M. So port it was!

 

As we were talking, I realized she was changing the vials already! I asked if she had any problems getting the blood and she said “no, not at all”…such a relief! Now I just am praying treatment goes smoothly on Thursday.  And it did! Kathy was my treatment angels and they did not have to push anything faster and although I was tired, I did make the meeting at work. Don’t worry, Kevin drove me…(can’t drive with the Benadryl in my system after treatment)…and was watching me the whole time to see if he needed to lovingly pull me to go home…I survived…well I slept on the way to and from…but was conscious at the meeting!

9 Taxol’s down…3 to go!

Yet, LORD my God, give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence. 2 Chronicles 6:19

Grace embraced through the power of prayer, my wonderful praying friend Wendi, praying for me to get through the blood draw and chemo with God’s presence and the completion of another treatment with God’s grace.

 

Chemo A/C #4

Four AC Chemo completed! With my support team of my daughter, Jaclyn and my niece, Brook with me!

I feel so blessed. My father did not handle chemo well. At 75 years, the medicine that was to help him fight Mantle Cell Lymphoma wretched havoc through his body. I know his “cocktail” of chemo was different from mine, but I could not help remembering his experience as I entered this cancer journey in March.

Dad had episodes where he passed out after chemo, it was really scary. The medicine finally tore through his intestines causing so much pain for him; he chose hospice and no more treatment. I will always remember that February day in the Naples Hospital, after hours and hours in the ER, when he said, “I’ve had such a wonderful life, but I can’t take the pain, chemo is not working for me.” My niece, Michelle and then my brother, Don visited to help and heard similar words. Don moved him into hospice. Dad was done with the pain; he was ready to go home. But none of us were ready to hear those words.

Reflecting on those months, I can now understand how he could make that decision, but in February 2007, all I wanted was for Dad to fight. Flashback to October 2006, Dad was a healthy, three times a week golfer, who exercised every day and was an active artist. Enthusiastically involved at the Art League, painting beautiful watercolors and easily lifting marble pieces to work on a sculpture. As my family was visiting at Thanksgiving, Dad was having trouble taking deep breaths. I took him to the urgent care clinic, which discovered fluid in the lungs. In December I flew with my parents to MD Anderson to confirm the diagnosis and a treatment plan. After a month in Texas, Dad and Mom wanted the comforts of home again, so Don flew them home to Bonita Springs.

Our family experienced many heartaches; but so many blessings during this time. My siblings and I, there are six of us, took turns visiting and helping where we could. My Dad once said how super it was to spend time individually with each of us, he had not done that for years. My Dad always saw the blessings and positive in everything. I never really thought about it, but since we all had families, visits were always as a family and the one-on-one time does get limited. I loved our talks and spending time with my Mom and Dad alone, as I am sure my siblings did also. My niece and nephew, Michelle and Jim who were the only grandchildren at the time out of college and working, even used their vacation days to take days and spend with their grandparents. It was a hard time, filled with sad and happy memories.

The true heavenly blessing came in the end. My father was first and foremost about family. His children and grandchildren was his biggest pride, then his friends, followed by his many accomplishments through the Chicagoland as an architect/builder. From February 16th to Easter, April 15th, every member of our family was able to visit Dad. He saw and said his good-bye to six children, two daughter in-laws, three son-in-laws, and thirteen grandchildren. It was a beautiful testament to the life he led that everyone within a short time was able to get to Florida. Then on April 17th God came to take him home. And he was ready.

I miss him everyday…everyday. And when I was diagnosed, I would not help but remember his journey. But his journey is not my journey and I am so blessed to have completed the hardest part of my treatment. This AC was the one that closely reminded me of Dad’s treatment.

Most importantly, I feel his presence with me, in between his heavenly golf games of course, giving me strength for the journey.

My chemo is different, thank the Lord! The AC chemo has the most side effects of my treatment plan and is the hardest on my body, but I need to get through this next week and move forward to Taxol/Herceptin, Radiation and then Herceptin only. AC is called by many the red devil because it is a toxic red medicine. But I read on a cancer blog that she thinks of it as a miracle, like how the blood of Christ cleans us and it is cleaning her body of cancer cells…that’s so much more a beautiful positive image! I chose to focus on His great sacrifice for us all!

So…the sleepless nights begin. I don’t know if it is the medicine or my mind, but the 6 days following AC chemo are sleepless nights for me. As is true for tonight, five hours and I am wide awake.

I try meditating, praying, reading, warm milk, and cool wash cloths covering my eyes to my forehead to relax me, but nothing is successful. I lay with my mind racing and nowhere to go. So I get out of bed and am totally awake. It’s 3:15 am.

Taking so many drugs for nausea, pain and high blood pressure, I find I am not a big fan of more pills…sleeping pills. I prefer to trust that the Lord will give me the rest I need. But maybe, like my episode with the pain meds in May, I need to believe that the Lord provided the medical community the ability to create sleeping pills for situations like this. J

But now I am at a crossroads, it’s 4:00 am and if I take the sleeping pills I will sleep through the morning. I don’t want to do that, Brook’s here and even though I don’t have much energy I want to enjoy her company! She’s the best, yesterday after chemo both her and Jaclyn jumped into my bed and talked and watched old Friends episodes, had some munchies (don’t tell Kevin we ate in the bed, we cleaned it up) and laughed. It was exactly what I needed as my energy was sapped. I think they have surprise crafts planned for today and tomorrow, they won’t tell me any more than we need to go to JoAnn Fabrics.

After my Neulasta shot tomorrow, they will gather their supplies and begin! I can’t wait to see what they have planned and so looking forward to the weekend with Brook!

Well, another blessing in the sleepless nights is the time I am able to spend before the house awakes; reflecting on the Mass Daily readings, completing my prayers and reading the Bread of Life.

“Not one is missing, not one forgotten. God the Father has his eye on each of you, and has determined by the work of the Spirit to keep you obedient through the sacrifice of Jesus.” 1 Peter 1:2 (MSG)

Grace embraced through the healing powers of AC, Christ love, the strength of my Dad and the love of the wonderful support of family and friends, especially Jaclyn and Brook this week!