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Monday, August 06, 2018

Big Hairy Deal

I was attending college when I first started singing the jingle to "Sun In." Remember it?

šŸŽµšŸŽµSun in and sunlight, and you'll be blonder toniiiiiight!šŸŽµšŸŽµ

The best it ever did for me was to turn my ash colored hair a bit redder. More of a strawberry blonde.

Then, when I was in my mid thirties, I noticed the dreaded stray gray hairs begin to appear. Over the counter color boosters worked just fine. But by the time I was in my mid forties, I alternated between over the counter color and paying someone to make me look "natural." Assuming "natural" is not gray, of course.

So, now I'm sporting a full blown stripe of gray down the middle of my head. There's a fairly good reason for that. I'm pragmatic. I don't like to pay for something that may have a short shelf life.

As you are aware, I had a single mastectomy on July 18. I'm not quite three weeks into recovery. The surgery went well. I only have slight aches and pains if I overdo it. And the nodes and margins were clear. Praise God!

But there's this little thing called the "oncotype score" that is a good predictor of whether cancer will return or not, based on all sorts of factors too scientific to relate here. The score ranges from zero to 100. Each number represents a percentage of "likelihood of recurrence." Depending on the score and the oncologist, there is generally a "break even" number where the benefits of chemotherapy outweigh the side effects. You've no doubt known someone who has suffered through those "benefits."

If I'm going to head into rounds of chemotherapy, losing my hair two weeks into the process, I'm sure not going to pay good money to rid myself of gray that will fall out anyway ... know what I mean? Instead, I'd need to have her buzz my hair to get ahead of the game.

My prayer warriors went to work, praying with me that the clear nodes and margins would also translate into "no radiation" and "no chemotherapy." I will be the first to admit that I don't know how prayer works. I do know that it is a conversation with my Creator ... my Savior ... my Comforter and Healer. And I know that God is sovereign. He has the right to rule, and that means that what He says goes. I know it will be for my best, because He is working in me to make me more like Jesus. God ALWAYS answers prayer. We just don't know HOW He will answer, and we may not like the answer.

At first, I thought I was going to go to my oncologist appointment this afternoon ... alone. There is something about that word. I can say "by myself" and be fine. But as soon as I say "alone" the tears start. And so I asked my dear hubby just how late he could head to work today, knowing he usually has to leave no later than 1 PM ... the exact time of my appointment.

He asked me how important I thought it was that he be there. Duh!!! If it's bad news, I'm going to need to cry on his shoulder. And if it's good news, I want him to be there to do the happy dance with me! Okay, maybe he'd just watch ME do the happy dance, but that's close enough.

Thank You, Lord. Mark went with me.

The first stop is always to get the vitals. Rats! I drank two cups of coffee, ate way more than I should have for both breakfast and lunch, and first stop was weigh in. Quick! What can I take off? Oh, well.

Then comes blood pressure. You can imagine it was on the ascending scale as I'm waiting for what could be life changing news.

Then meet with the kindly nurse, and a knock on the door from my sweet, albeit business-like, oncologist.

"Well, I have your results here, and let's just get this out before we discuss anything else..."  Blah, blah, blah ... "You are only the second person I have ever seen with this score in my 11 years of oncology." And then she handed me the results sheet.

I cried.

Yes, I prayed for a low oncotype score, as did so many of the prayer warriors out there, but ... God, You are just showing me that I need to trust You with everything!

ZERO!!! Unheard of! ZERO!!!

That is a big hairy deal. So, please excuse me while I go make a hair appointment ... praising and dancing all the way!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

I Just Might Dance!


Right now, Diane is going through my discharge papers, which tell me what kinds of activities I should be doing ... most include the word REST. But others say shoulder rolls and 90-degree arm raises. You know, the hard stuff ... ;-) Really, not supposed to do anything else until given the okay by the surgeon on Monday.

Speaking of the surgeon, I was blissfully sitting with my personal comfort dog, Pepito, when the phone rang. It was my surgeon, Dr. Klade (I think this is the first time I've named her.).

She said, "I hope I didn't disturb you. I know it's Saturday, and I'll see you on Monday, but I didn't want you to worry until then. We got your pathology report back, and ...

ALL MARGINS ARE CLEAR and ALL LYMPH NODES ARE NEGATIVE!

So, I just might do my happy dance in whatever way is permissible without damaging a stitch or two.

PRAISE GOD from Whom all blessings flow!
Praise Him all creatures here below!
Praise Him above, ye heavenly hosts!
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!

AMEN!!!

Where do I Begin?

Buckle your seatbelt, this is long.

Before the residual fog of anesthesia and time blur the memories, I need to recount (to myself, if not to you) the events of my single mastectomy on Wednesday, July 18, 2018.

I drank my required 12 ounces of Gatorade at 10 PM the night before, and again at just before 7 AM, along with 1000 mg of Tylenol ... this, they say, to just start to take the edge off of upcoming tests before surgery.

Thanks to Sue Meilleur, I packed up my tiara and pink feather boa, along with all the various and sundry things the hospital said I should bring, and headed for the hospital in Naperville just before 7 AM. Pete Tammeling, our church's care pastor, called on our way to pray with us.

Sidenote and repetition: I am SO grateful for the prayers of family and friends! My goodness, I feel like the young man whose friends lowered him through the ceiling to get to the healing power of Jesus. Just that thought makes me want to weep. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for your prayers!

All parked, winding our way through the maze of hospital hallways to the one elevator that leads us to the surgical check-in, I'm remarkably calm. This is unusual for me. I don my tiara and feather boa and walk into the office to a grinning receptionist. I swear, everyone we came in contact with was comforting and welcoming. And probably a little shocked at my appearance, but I digress.

Not long after, Ingrid walked in, also all smiles. She's one of my best cheerleaders.

From here on out, I get the royal chariot ride treatment. Wheelchairs all the way, baby! First stop, vitals and gowning. They want to make sure I know who I am and why I'm there and that I will sign away my firstborn should anything go wrong. Okay, not really, but I get no drugs until I've signed the paperwork. ;-) First the nurse applies a "desensitizing" cream to the area in question. Then I get the valium. Why? Because I've got some tests coming up that might cause a little anxiety.

Wait, wait, wait, while that starts to take effect. Family goes to the waiting room, while I get the chariot ride to radiology. I'm greeted by (see, I've already forgotten her name...). Again, so friendly. I told her that a friend of mine warned me that I might want to punch out the doctor who does this test. You see, they inject a radioactive tracer to find the nearest lymph nodes to the affected area. They tell you that it "might burn" a bit. The radiologist returned, "Yes, that's why we give you the Valium. You can't hit as hard that way ... *grin*"

But what I didn't know is that there are two different types of radioactive injections. One is the tracer that just finds the sentinel nodes, and one is the blue dye that finds all the ... well, the rest of them and their pathways. Praise God, this was the former!

So, I'm on a typical exam table. The desensitizing cream has been covered up and doing its job, and the radiologist explains the procedure to me. But wait, I'm staring at the ceiling where usually you'd see a glaring light. Instead of squares of fluorescence, there is a tree branch with diffused sunlight. Great! I can count the leaves!

Next comes that freezing spray and a "pinch" (why do they always say it will feel like a pinch?) as she injects the first tracer of four. Ditto three more times. Now she turns on some soft music, dims all the rest of the lights, and those tracers find their marks. I could almost fall asleep ... almost. And no, it didn't hurt. She asked me, on a scale of 0-5, what pain level that test was. I said, maybe a 1. Bingo! Right answer. She was happy to oblige.

Now it's time for four 5-minute pictures of where those tracers ended up. For this, I get my first experience in an open MRI, of sorts. But it's not MRI, it's gamma rays, she says. "Are you claustrophobic?" We'll see, as I glide into the machine and the "ceiling" comes within an inch of my nose. Thankfully, it's open on the sides, so I turn my head and close my eyes. No problem.

All done with that and head back up to OR holding, where my surgeon and anesthesiologist will visit just prior to wheeling me off.

At this point, Mark, Diane, and Ingrid are able to come wait with me. Ingrid had the temerity to say that she really likes me on Valium ... uhhh, just what do you mean by that?

Dr. Dude (I've given him that nickname, since the first part of his name sounds like that, and he is a really funny guy) comes in and tells me that he's going to send me to lala-land so I should pick out a dream now. Then the surgeon pokes her head in to tell me that they'll be ready for me in just a bit, how am I doing, and jokes with Dr. Dude. Mark asked her how early she starts surgery in the day, and where am I in line? She said I'm the 4th of the day, and mine is scheduled for 11. Wow!

Here we go. My transport awaits and takes me through a labyrinth of secret hallways to OR #19. They assist me from the gurney to the OR table, and introduce me to everyone in the room who will be helping for the mastectomy. No, I don't remember ANY of their names!

Somewhere behind my head, Dr. Dude appears. He asks me what dream I've picked out. I said, "A Viking Riverboat cruise!" "Where are you going?" "The Grand European tour." "Great! Bon voyage! Have a great cruise!" And that's the last thing I heard ...

Until I awoke to a nurse asking me my pain level. I'm groaning. I'm crying (not afraid to admit it). And I am shaking like a 9 on the Richter scale. At one point I was sure I was having a seizure. I could not stop quaking. "Your pain level?" "Maybe 6-7. And my face is itching!" "Okay, I'll give you something." wait...wait...wait... "How about now?" Crying ... 6-7. "Okay, morphine it is." I think I quit shaking after that, and at some point my next chariot came to transport me to an overnight room.

By the time I was coherent, the nurses informed me that I had an allergic reaction to something in the anesthesiology cocktail (thanks a lot, Dr. Dude!)...most likely the Ancef anti-biotic. Who knew? I do now.

But hey, from then on out, pain level was almost nil. The nurses and techs were incredibly helpful. Numbers stabilized. Christian inspirational music piped through my "entertainment system" and I got food! Good food, actually!

My nurse navigator and surgeon visited the day after surgery, walked me through what to expect going forward, including all the goodies that the kind folks at Blue Cross/Blue Shield and the American Cancer Society have available to survivors.

Because that's what I am. A survivor!

Monday, July 16, 2018

God is in the Details

Are you a detail person? Or are you a "just give me the big picture/bottom line" kind of person?

Call it a control issue (I know you will), but I want it all. Give me the goal, and then I want all the details that will get me there.

Some say "the devil is in the details," which is true if those details go awry. However, God is a God of order, and therefore I can trust him with the details.

Here are some details I'm dealing with right now.

  • My mastectomy surgery is on Wednesday, but I still don't know what time. I'm told that the hospital will call me on Tuesday with the time I'm to arrive. Important detail.
  • Before surgery, I will first go for sentinel node mapping. (What are the details of that, you ask.)...
  • Head to Nuclear Medicine in the hospital. I'll be wheeled there, thank you very much. Mark can follow me.
  • I'll change into "the gown." 
  • I'll be given an IV.
  • Cream will cover the surgical area (they don't want to slow blood flow during this time, so no lidocaine).
  • Hop onto the exam table.
  • More numbing from topical spray (that feels like you just jumped into a bucket of ice, apparently).
  • I will receive four injections of blue dye that may burn.
  • I'll be given a warm pack for comfort after the previous jolts.
  • Wait for 15 minutes while the dye works its way to the lymph nodes.
  • Then come four 5-minute scans.
  • I'll be wheeled to OR, where I'll chat with the anesthesiologist (yeah, right) and the surgeon. 
  • Followed by possibly waiting for one hour before surgery. 


I'm told that the surgery will take 1-1½ hours. Sounds like a good nap to me.

So, please pray that ...

  • Every one of those details runs smoothly.
  • I have a bold and trusting attitude, considerate of those who are working with me.
  • The surgeon and anesthesiologist have every one of THEIR details under control.
  • I will relax into the knowledge that God has every detail under control, and me in His loving hands.
  • The final outcome is ... all clear! "Clear" to me means no cancer remaining, no infection, and no lymphedema.


Thanks to all you detail-oriented people who can pray specifically now. And thanks to all of you bottom line people who will pray for that final outcome.

The biggest God detail I want to remember is that, because of His power, I can have peace.


Thursday, July 12, 2018

Real Notes

Things got real with the call from the surgeon's office.

"What time would you like to schedule your operation?" (You mean I actually have a choice? Well, let's get this thing going!) "What is her first availability?" "Let's see ... looks like next Wednesday, the 18th." "What time?" "We won't know what time until you get a phone call the day before."

Well, okay then. Here we go. T-minus 6 and counting.

Notes from the pre-op instructions:


  • No blood thinners from now until surgery.
  • No multi-vitamins until surgery.
  • No more coQ-10.
  • Zi-cam seems to be okay.
  • Nothing to eat after 11 PM on the 17th. But wait ...
  • Drink 12 ounces of Gatorade 12 hours before surgery.
  • Drink another 12 ounces 4 hours prior to surgery.
  • Take 1000mg (if my math serves me correctly, that would equal 1 gram) 4 hours before surgery.
  • We can park on the second floor of the south parking garage that states "reserved for surgery patients."
  • Enter in the south lobby, turn left, go to elevators at end of hallway and take them to second floor.
  • Straight ahead to check in (heart palpitations...).
  • Leave all valuables at home.
  • Take off all jewelry ... rings, piercings, etc etc.
  • Wear loose clothing that buttons up the front.
  • No pathology will be given over phone.
  • Staying overnight.


MyChart is my frenemy. Timely information, and sometimes too much or too little to suit me.

My sister, Diane, has volunteered to stay with me for the first part of my recovery. I'm so grateful. She may as well be a home health aide with as much as she's done for our parents the past few years. So now she is stepping down a generation and helping me.

As we go into this next week, my prayer list goes like this:


  • Bravery
  • Trust in the LORD
  • Peace
  • Flights at a good price and time for Diane
  • Pain management without dependence
  • No infections
  • All cancer GONE!!!
  • Ministry to those with whom I'll come in contact

I purposely didn't put a link to this blog today. If you are reading it, you have determined to be a prayer warrior, and for that I am SO grateful! Thank you.

Really

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

My Comic Relief

For Women Only! (Men, read at your own risk.)

This blog is really just an elaborate ruse to say thanks to my own private comedy company: our daughter, Ingrid. Between my husband and her, their lot in life is to make me see the bright and humorous side of everything.

And so began my day with the plastic surgeon. Ingrid agreed to accompany me to give her womanly wisdom on the subject of reconstruction.

I mean, really, should that be cause for laughter? Only when you can see that God is saving you from something far worse and, therefore, whether or not to add a stand-in for a soon-to-be-removed breast qualifies as joke fodder.

First, there's the fact that I had to weigh in ... again! Horrors. But the nurse laughed. Ingrid laughed. I removed my glasses, shoes, and anything else that I could without being indiscreet ... and laughed. At one point, I think we probably discussed how much weight I would lose by having my breast removed, but ...

I may have been raised in the 60s, but I am a bit on the reclusive, modest side. I get a tad embarrassed at the doctor's office, and this is really pushing it for me. Because next came "measurements." And I don't mean "around." Picking a focal point ("my eyes are up here!"), the reconstructive surgeon measured to the center of each breast. So no ... not twins of a gazelle. More like distant cousins. And remember when Mark had to get his eyes lifted a few weeks ago because of "ptosis"? That means "sagging to the point of falling asleep." The same term was used for those "twins."

You might guess, if you know me well, that I am risk-averse. I'm practical to a fault, usually. When I initially met with the mastectomy surgeon, she made it sound like reconstruction would be done at the same time as the mastectomy. Well, sort of. The only thing that would be done at the time of first surgery would be to install an "expander" in the space, which (much like a dental expander) would need to be tweaked each week to accommodate the next surgery for actual implant. Remember the risk-averse? Yeah. More than one surgery is not my idea of recovery.

Basically, there are three types of reconstruction open to me. Since I must have a complete mastectomy (sorry if all of this is TMI), I can either leave it as is (no reconstruction), implant a saline sack, implant one of two different types of silicone gel sacks, or opt for autologous reconstruction.

The best thing I heard all morning was when the reconstructive surgeon was discussing the autologous type of reconstruction. Frankly, it makes my knees go weak just thinking about it. Skin and underlying fatty tissue is removed from either the abdomen, buttocks, or inner thigh, and used to form the new "breast" and then inserted where an implant would go. But wait! He said I didn't have enough to work with. Hahahahaha! I guess that one  oversized love-handle wasn't enough to go on.

Then there is the saline implant. Much like implanting a water balloon. Picture that, if you will. I laugh just thinking about it. I asked him how many he did of those each year, and he said, "One." What? Well, yeah ... that mind picture. However, they are probably the more "safe" of the two types of implants, because if there is a rupture, the saline just gets reabsorbed into the body. Right after your chest deflates...

So then there is the gel implant. One is smooth, and moves around under the skin (creepy) and the other is textured and stays put. So, why wouldn't you want the one that stays put? Because all that texture tends to gather problems that the lymph system wants to war against.

Most women opt for the "gummy" type of gel. I have two friends (who will remain anonymous unless they want to out themselves) who got these gummy gel implants. One describes it as feeling like something is constantly strapped to her chest, never quite feeling natural (gee, I wonder why?). The other affectionately calls her breast "Sponge Bob Square Boob"! Go ahead and laugh ... it is hilarious. This can happen due to scar tissue build up around the implant.

Then he treated Ingrid and me to "before and after" photos, complete with tattooed nipples (why do I not like to even say that word?). This is an ingenious and excellent way for someone who has been through the reconstruction process to have a sense of normalcy.

But since when have I been entirely normal? My initial surgeon wanted to make sure I got together with the plastic surgeon to go over options. I've done that now, thank you.

To reconstruct or not is an extremely personal decision for each woman. I belong to a FB group called "Pink Sisters in Christ." All 3300 of us are somewhere in our breast cancer journey: newly diagnosed all the way to 10 years NED (No Evidence of Disease). I want to thank a friend of mine for turning me on to the group, because it is a treasure trove of encouragement, wisdom, and women praying for one another. I love it! Thank You again, Lord, for your praying people!

Every one of the women in that FB group is unique and has their own reasons for how they decided on recovery and reconstruction.
My bottom line: I'm sticking with mastectomy and no reconstruction. So now you know. Sometime in the future, if we should meet face to face, I expect you to look me in the eye, because there is nothing to see down there! Just call me "one and done." Or "One-derful" will work, too. Or, perhaps, "Padiddle" (you know ... when you see a car with one headlight out?). But whatever you do, help me keep my sense of humor.

I will keep my scar.

It will be a constant reminder of what God has saved me from. There are plenty of alternatives out there to show the outside world that I look "sort of normal." But I will never be normal again. That makes me tear-up just a bit. So ... someone tell me a joke. I would like to laugh my way through recovery.

Thanks again, Ingrid, for being my morning comic relief. I love you (and pray you never have to go through this yourself).


Tuesday, July 03, 2018

God is so Good!

If you were standing near me right now, you might hear me singing those words. Here are some things I am thankful for today:


  • Compassionate surgeon, who is thorough and has a sense of humor
  • Compassionate medical oncologist, who promises empowerment
  • Friendly medical staff
  • Reconstructive surgeon's office rearranging their schedule so I can get a consultation before their normal 30-day wait!
  • Praying friends and family
  • Culver's frozen custard ... okay, I shouldn't have eaten that, but it was delicious


I cannot imagine doing surgery or oncology for decades. Unless you have faith in the Almighty God, how do you possibly keep your empathy and patience for every single person who comes through the door with a new diagnosis? But these folks I've run into sure do. I am so grateful that God has placed them where they are.

Here's how the schedule has gone so far:

May 23 ... appointment with primary care physician. Lump was enough of a concern that she scheduled me for next available mammogram

May 31 ... mammogram immediately followed by ultrasound

First week of June ... follow up letters on My Chart give me mixed messages. First it says, "nothing to worry about." Followed by, "We have designated this as a BIRADS-5. Please schedule a biopsy." Not a happy week, for sure.

June 25 ... Stereotactic core needle biopsy guided by ultrasound. Initial response by radiology doctor was that tumor collapsed during biopsy, and she felt this was a good sign. Hopes are up that this is benign.

June 28 ... Pathology report states, "Abnormal" and I head to the report consultation with Mark at my side. The bad news/good news of cancer, but a rare form that may or may not be contained. Immediately schedule me for appointment with surgeon.

July 3 ... Met with highly recommended female surgeon at 8:30 AM. Friendly. Forthcoming. She went over all the results again with me, and all of her recommendations. From the looks of it, the lumps are far enough away from each other, even though they are in the same quadrant, that a lumpectomy would cause quite some deformity. I had already read enough that I was leaning toward complete mastectomy anyway. She agreed that would be a good choice.

But here's the thing. I erroneously thought that taking all the tissue would be a "one and done" deal, and I didn't plan on any reconstruction. No more risks for me, thanks! However, she talked me into at least speaking with the plastic surgeon for options.

Here's the other thing. I thought we would schedule surgery by the end of the appointment. But I have to meet with everyone else first, and if reconstruction is in the picture, their schedules have to line up.

And that brings me to my 3 PM appointment with the medical oncologist. If you didn't know, and I didn't, the surgeon only gets the cancer out of the location. If radiation is necessary, a radiation oncologist is called in. Not likely in my case, since it will be mastectomy rather than lumpectomy. If reconstruction is chosen, the plastic surgeon steps in, either right at the time of mastectomy, or later if there are complications.

The medical oncologist is necessary for anything that may be systemic. You know, those nasty little cancer cells that went rogue and camped out in the lymph nodes or took a ride down the bloodstream.

The medical oncologist went over my results again. Let me tell you, every time helps! She was SO encouraging! Between her and the surgeon I got the picture ... nothing is determined until pathology gets ahold of the removed tissue. BUT, her initial look (I think I'd better quit depending on those) was that unless there was a rogue cell in the sentinel lymph node, I may actually ... dare I hope it ... bypass chemotherapy! If that is the case, because my particular type of cancer feeds on estrogen, I would go on a post-menopausal estrogen blocker for five years as a protection for the non-affected side.

Please pray:


  • That the cancer is indeed contained (non-invasive)
  • That the sentinel nodes will be clear
  • That no radiation or chemotherapy would be necessary
  • That I would have peace about reconstructive surgery (the earliest they could get me in for consultation is July 10)
Praise God that everyone I've spoken to so far has assured me this is not an aggressive cancer. They want to let me know that this is a "bump in a very long road." 

Encouraging and empowering. And I know where that came from. GOD is so GOOD!

Monday, July 02, 2018

Aren't I Special?


When one takes a test, one would love to be in the top (or most unique) 1%, don't you think?

Well, then there's this ...

From Johns Hopkins:
 
Papillary Breast Cancer
Papillary Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Papillary breast cancer is a very rare type of invasive ductal breast cancer that accounts for fewer than 1% of all breast cancers.  The name comes from finger-like projections, or papules, which are seen when the cells are looked at under the microscope. 
Many papillary tumors are benign.  These are called papillomas.  Even when a biopsy is negative for cancer, the pathologist often needs to look at the whole tumor under the microscope to be sure about the diagnosis. This is why surgery to remove a papilloma is usually recommended, even if it is thought to be benign. 
Malignant papillary tumors are a form of breast cancer.  Like other types of invasive ductal cancer, papillary breast cancer begins in the milk duct of the breast. Most of the time, papillary breast cancers include both in situ cells (which have not yet spread outside of the duct) and invasive cells (which have begun to spread outside of the duct).
Papillary breast cancers are usually small, and positive for the estrogen and/or progesterone receptors (ER/PR+) and negative for the HER2 receptor (HER2-).  Compared to more common types of breast cancers, papillary breast cancers are less likely to involve the lymph nodes, are more responsive to treatment, and may have a better prognosis than more common types of invasive ductal cancer.
Papillary Breast Cancer Treatment
Local therapy is aimed at preventing the cancer from coming back in the breast. Local therapy includes surgery (lumpectomy or mastectomy), and may include radiation. 
Systemic therapy is used to prevent the disease from coming back or spreading to another part of the body.  This may include endocrine (hormone) therapy, chemotherapy, and therapy that targets the HER2 protein.  Often different types of treatment are used together to achieve the best result.
Your treatment plan will be based on the features of the tumor (type of cells, tumor grade, hormone receptor status, and HER2 status) and the stage of the disease (tumor size and node status). Your oncology team will recommend a treatment plan based on what is known about papillary breast cancer in general and tailored to your specific disease.
We know that it can be stressful to receive a diagnosis of breast cancer, and learning that you have a rare form of the disease can add to your anxiety.  We hope it will be reassuring to know that our team at the Center for Rare Breast Tumors is dedicated to latest research and treatment of papillary breast cancer, and is here to support patients and their families through diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship.


Like the radiology pathologist said: bad news and good news. 

So, I'd appreciate prayers for:

  • an oncology team that is prepared for this type of cancer
  • that I would submit to treatment with a positive attitude
  • that I would be a witness to the power of God in my life
  • that the tears that fall would be cleansing and not ... cannot think of the term ... in dismay

Sure, go ahead and tell me I'm special. And grin when you say it.

Hidden

I got the sweetest texts from one of my granddaughters the other day. She and the family had been talking about "Nana's cancer." And like most of us with limited experience (or no experience) with the topic, she immediately went to the worst case scenario.




"Ur (sic) one of the most healthy person (sic) I know." Yes, weird, isn't it?

We seem to always hear the phrase, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." But what about the fact that sometimes we cannot even see what is killing us??? Or has the potential to, anyway.

It's the hidden disease that has the most potential to harm. Disease that we don't even want to admit exists. As I've written before, "I'm an idiot!" I ignored the warning signs, attributing them to experiences with which I was more acquainted, rather than having them checked for ... breast cancer.

The same holds true for spiritual disease. We don't want to admit sin and so we ignore the warning signs. But God's Word is true and right and holy. It contains the definition of sin ... and the cure.

The Creator knows me inside and out. He knows my hidden disease, physical and spiritual. I'm trusting that the Creator is also my Healer.

Can't hide from that.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

No, Thank You

No, thank you. I'd like to decline membership.

I've just been admitted to a club I never wanted to join. As a matter of fact, Caroline (my favorite nurse so far) said, "Welcome to the club no one wants to be in." You see, she is also a member.

It's called The Breast Cancer Club. Whether you've just been diagnosed (me) or are in treatment or have been cleared for many years, you are part of the club. But I'm choosing to think that's okay. I have friends and acquaintances and friends yet to come who have wisdom and strength I don't yet possess but may be able to share with someone down the road.

This morning my loving husband went with me for the initial "results consultation." I was really hoping for, "This was all just a big misunderstanding. You can go home now." But no. The pathologist who read my biopsy results said, "I hate to be the one to relay this kind of news, but I have bad news and I have good news. Yes, you have cancer. But the good news is, it is totally treatable and you WILL get through this."

God got me through this consultation without so much as a tear drop. I'm amazed, really. My prayer warrior friends should not give up, because sometimes I really don't know how to pray.

It seems that the papillary glands (did I say that right?) are the problem. And breast feeding three kids did not prevent it. Nor did the fact that no one in my immediate family has had breast cancer. So much for "the odds."

My next step is to visit with the breast cancer surgeon, Dr. Klade, at Edward Hospital. I trust she is great, because the rest of the team has been extraordinarily empathetic and informative. Before I left the consultation, I already had an appointment with the surgeon for July 3. At that appointment, the treatment options will be ready for analysis. I have my 'druthers, but I need to hear her recommendations.

And once again, my loving husband will go with me as a second set of ears. Because, you know, anything after the word "cancer" just sounds like .... blah blah blah blah blah...

No, thank you. But thank You, Lord, for Your provision. It could have been a whole lot worse. This is a "small" cancer compared to what could have been. And, note to self, quit with the assumptions! I assumed the lumps were nothing more than the calcium deposits like my mom had and what I've had before. Bad call.

I will fight. God will have His way. But please keep praying.

Signed ~ a new member of the "No, Thank You" club

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Let the Adventure Begin

God, You have my attention. But this is an adventure I never wanted to sign up for. I have started the roller coaster of emotions and thoughts, and have to remind myself of the "EVEN IF" clause.

On Monday, the 25th of June, I arrived early for my core needle biopsy. Fairly calm, actually. The prayers of my friends were lifting me up, for sure.

The staff at Edward mammography is so good at what they do, including caring for the human who is going through some trying times.

So, gowned and ready to go, I was covered in a warm blanket by Caroline, while the ultrasound tech circled the trouble spots in purple on my skin. The doctor came in and introduced herself, keeping the conversation friendly and light. Caroline held the hand that wasn't behind my head and patted my arm at various intervals.

I think I have a natural aversion for anything that may cause me to get drowsy or resist pain, because they always have to double dose me with the numbing stuff. This was no different. And they had to numb me in two different spots because they were far away enough from each other.

Then came the core needle that the doctor affectionately compared to a sewing machine sound. Four or five times per lump, then placement of the titanium marker that allows future tests to accurately see where biopsies have already been done.

I shouldn't have done it, but I did. I clung to something the doctor said and convinced myself that everything was just normal and this was all a big misunderstanding. She said something to the effect of, "The lumps collapsed when I used the needle. That's a good sign."

Apparently not enough of a good sign.

Today, I received the couched results, complete with a nurse's empathetic reminder to bring a family member to my appointment tomorrow. MyChart gives a truncated result chart, ending with the word "ABNORMAL." And swimming somewhere on the page are all the percentages of hormone resistors, etc etc.

So, from here on out, "normal" is out of the question. Now we fight. Tomorrow I will find out a bit more how that fight will look. What kinds of weapons I'll have. The length of the fight, as best they know it. And all the resources I'll have at my disposal while I'm fighting.

But in case I forget, remind me WHO has the final word. WHO has the power and the love and the wisdom and the purpose for this fight.

Yes, God, I'm guessing You are drawing me closer because I'd been wandering. This is important. I'm listening.

Let the adventure begin.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

What if...?

These words have haunted me most of my life. Nerves and fear follow in their wake. I've turned them to my advantage, as I say it keeps me on my toes and ready for any eventuality. But those words ... what if? ... rob the joy and trust and faith that a believer in Jesus is supposed to have.

Next week holds some uncertainties. Tests that could reveal either "benign" or "life threatening." So the "what if" is haunting me once again.

God is all powerful. He is all loving. He is all wise. He is everywhere. He is all knowing. God is with me every moment. So why do I fear?

Even if ... that's what I need to focus on.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Case in Point

Right now I'm listening to my husband speak to someone on Focus on the Family about what kids remember about dads. The emotional touch points. Not big things. The everyday little things a dad does to make life special.

My dad took me on a "date" on my 18th birthday. My mom had to convince me to want to go, because by then it was too little too late.

Today I got a sympathy card from someone I knew well when I was in high school and college. This makes the point that my dad was one person to the outside world and another to us as a family. His words are quite complimentary. But they describe the man he knew, not the father I knew.

Following are his words:

Very sorry to learn yesterday the news of Dale's death. He was a gentle spirit who truly cared about people and their relationships. 

While technically he wasn't the first person I met upon arriving at R-G in 11/71 (that distinction belonged to the person staffing the front gate), Dale was my first friend–even though he outranked me by several levels. We met at the sparsely populated O Club one weekday morning as he would come there to visit with personnel over breakfast.

He introduced himself, we talked while eating, and discovered we were kindred souls theologically. Later we would play racquetball together and attend AF-sponsored religious retreats at St. Olaf College in MN–all the while crossing paths at the base chapel on Sundays and holidays. That first Thanksgiving, Dale and Joyce had several of us who were single (both enlisted and officers) to their base house for a meal.

While Dale may have been a bit shy by nature, it didn't prevent him from reaching out in order to connect with others. He was approachable and his concern for the other person genuine.

We've lost a good one ...


And then he signed it. I have mixed emotions about these tributes. I appreciate that they liked my father. But it is disturbing to know that this description is not the man I knew. God knows who Dad really was. I need God's mercy and grace and understanding.

Like the Corners of My Mind

Memories ...

This past week was full of them, as I leafed through scrapbooks, photo albums, and steamer trunks. As I was part and parcel of two memorial services: one at a national cemetery, and one at a retirement home.

It is a shame that all of our earthly life would boil down to scraps in a garage. When our children must go through our possessions, it might be just as well to hire a truck and haul it all away. Sad.

To have Father's Day on the heels of the memorials for my dad is just too poignant.

The siblings and I heard glowing remembrances from his friends at the retirement center and the church he had chosen to attend. Unfortunately, that was the persona he showed to the outside world. We knew someone totally different.

"A great listener." To us ... don't argue with him because he will not listen.

"Generous." To us ... all the money spent on strangers and his family forgotten.

"A friend to all." To us ... nebulous at best.

"Always there for you." To us ... never there for us.

Double life. Duplicitous. Those were how we knew him. So when the glowing remembrances ended with the "minister" saying, "I'll bet you kids were so proud to have a dad like that...", we admittedly looked at each other and rolled our eyes.

Now, when I say he lived a double life, I mean that in many senses of the phrase. After he had strokes, he did become more affectionate with family ... to a degree. But in all our growing up years, he was extremely guarded with any affection. Most emotional memories are stained negatively, not positively.

So, although the photos and writings may have shown the world one side of my dad, the one the family remembers is ... absence, distrust, clandestine meetings, disease, Mom's tears.

He lived such a hidden life apart from our family that he no doubt used his "religiosity" to cover it. He was always liberal theologically, but after retiring from the chaplaincy he whole-heartedly embraced any denomination (and attended several) that leaned far from biblical truth.

I've said it before, but it bears repeating, that I'm eternally grateful that Dad went into the Air Force as a chaplain. God used OTHER chaplains to speak biblical truth into our lives, as chaplains rotated preaching schedules on each base. While my father spoke from written and read notes, other chaplains spoke from a heart devoted to Jesus and God's Word. The difference became crystal clear.

Try as you might, you cannot change truth by continually believing a lie. The truth remains.

And so do the memories, even though softened by time.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Remembering Sunday

As I’m reclining and resting after a morning of pre-K Sunday school and an Outback steak, I vaguely recall what Sundays were like when I was a child.

My father was a pastor of small rural churches until I was ten years old. On most Sunday mornings, we were up early, dressed in our Sunday best, and eating “dry cereal” before piling into the family station wagon to go get a congregant who had no car.

Hymnal page numbers were posted on a wooden sign, big and bold. I sat with my mother until I was old enough to sit alone while she sang in the choir or played the piano. Then after the “children’s sermon” we were dismissed for Sunday School. Off to the church basement we went for Bible stories and songs. 

Our family was always the last to leave, of course. Dad had to talk with everyone, and so Mom would wisely pack herself a sandwich just in case her blood sugar dropped too low. Then home for the Sunday dinner, most likely with a singleton, couple, or family who needed a place to eat. We wouldn’t think of going out to eat on a Sunday.

Blue Laws. Nothing was open on Sunday, with the exception of hospitals and perhaps a gas station. Sunday afternoons were for resting, letter writing (yes, by hand!), and sometimes running down the street to find a friend to play with, although we were fully aware that many families wouldn’t let their children out to play, either. 

And then it was time to call Grandma and Grandpa, because those were the cheap rates, and they lived several states west of us. 

What happened to the simplicity? Do you recall when we were sold a bill of goods that stated we would have MORE leisure time “in the future”? Instead we’ve tried to fill every moment with something ... anything ... for self gratification. 

It’s getting more and more difficult to recall those Sunday afternoons, but I’m doing my part ... with my dog on my lap ... in my recliner ... on a quiet Sunday afternoon. 

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Remote Control

I come from a long line of control issue folks. My mom, being a Type 1 diabetic, was always super controlled about what she ate and when. My dad, on the other hand, was a food hoarder. We'd often find things hidden in the car or elsewhere.

So, you see, I have a history of food swings along with the mood swings. Sometimes I seem to have complete control over what and how much I eat ... other times, total abandon!

Long ago, before she became known as a heretic, I was a student of Gwen Shamblin. Initially, her Weigh Down Workshop methodology was all above board. I often wish I had those original VHS tapes. She interspersed physical tips with spiritual ones. The spiritual would always trump the physical, but both were absolutely necessary to stay within certain boundaries.

#1 ... Wait for stomach hunger. Some of us don't even remember what that feels or sounds like. The body is fearfully and wonderfully made. When your blood sugar drops to a certain level a signal is sent to the brain, which in turn sends a signal to the stomach to produce more gastric acid and beg for food. Cool how that works. In other words, wait for the growl. This tells you that your body does indeed need food.

#2 ... If and when you are truly stomach hungry (not just "hungry" because of the hour of the day, seeing friends eat, etc) choose what you are being called to eat. You may be drawn to something protein (which will keep you full longer) or maybe something fruity or crunchy vegetables (the need for certain vitamins and minerals).

#3 ... Keep it small. Use small plates. Small utensils. Small bites. Frequently it is the chewing sensation that is satisfying, rather than a full mouth.

#4 ... Chew slowly. Again, there is satisfaction in tasting the food and chewing it slowly helps it to last longer.

#5 ... Sip between bites. Not only does this slow you down, it gets more water into your system and aids in digestion, thereby getting the food into your bloodstream and allowing you to feel satisfied without overdoing it.

#6 ... Stop between bites. Put down your spoon or fork. This slows you down so you can enjoy what you are eating.

#7 ... Stop when you are satisfied. If hunger runs from Zero (starving!) to 10 (I can do nothing but get horizontal and groan), then you should aim to eat between about a 3 and 6/7. Practice paying attention.

But most importantly ... if hunger is not the problem, then food is not the answer! God is the answer! He has provided food when we need it, but otherwise, stop and pray and find out what is drawing you to food when you don't need it. Am I angry? Am I nervous? Am I bored? Am I being pressured?

This blog is primarily for my benefit, because my resolve comes and goes. But, God, You are good! You give me my meat in due season. I do not need to worry about what I eat. Please nudge me when I'm tempted to turn to food as my idol instead of turning to You as the one true source.

Thank You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. (For more help, I downloaded the app entitled I Deserve a Donut. It helps to set appropriate boundaries and contains numerous Bible verses as reminders.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

No Phones in Heaven

Every once in a while I am struck with an almost irresistible urge to call my mom ... or my dad. It makes me a little sad.

You know the song, "I Did It My Way"? Those lyrics that begin with, "Regrets, I've had a few ..." I've had a lot! Not the least of which is good, healthy communication with my parents.

I do not believe that my parents are looking down on me from heaven. That's not how this works. If I don't want to live eternity praising Jesus, then I'm going to be pretty disappointed with heaven.

It seems we really don't know what we've got til it's gone. All those questions left unanswered. All those squandered opportunities to say "I love you." Or to find out where a person stands with God.

I hope that SOMEONE somewhere will take the advice of those who have lost loved ones and truly make the most of every moment. We always say we will, until it's too late.

Call now, because there are no phones in heaven.

The Final Last Supper

Over the many years of my father's pastorate and chaplaincy, he collected Last Supper memorabilia: tapestries, paintings, etched glass, carved candles, china plates. And when it came time to downsize after my mother's death, Dad had to decide what to retain of these keepsakes, and what to give to family or donate.

The final Last Supper in his possession in his single room in the memory care facility was a 2x3 ½ foot tapestry of the DaVinci painting (albeit a poor reproduction).

When we "happened" to be in Grass Valley the week that my dad passed away (nothing is unplanned to God), I came home with that final Last Supper tapestry. But what to do with it? I have too much stuff as it is, and I actually have a much larger version of Dad's collection hanging in my dining room.

After attending a fundraising banquet for Wayside Cross Rescue Mission (now called Wayside Cross ministries, to cover their full spectrum of service), I determined that donating it to this worthy organization was the highest purpose for Dad's tapestry.

But the plot thickens...

My dad had a very poor upbringing, and by "poor" I mean financially, although a case could be made for other poor qualities as well. He was sickly at birth apparently, and the story goes that my grandmother placed my dad in a lined drawer instead of a crib or bassinet for many of his first months. Eventually, he became the scapegoat and brunt of his father's wrath.

When the family moved from southern California to Oregon, my father stayed behind with another family, and the storyline varies from whether it was to finish a school year or because he was too sick to move at the time (asthma and hay fever were his constant enemies). If you were to see a photo of the family move, it would have rivaled The Beverly Hillbillies, so I'm told.

Fast forward to college, and all four of the Sawyer brothers have put themselves through college (no small feat) as well as graduate school, and one even got his doctorate. Although my father wanted to go into foreign missions, my mother's Type 1 diabetes prevented it. And so he went into the denominational pastorate. Small towns. Tiny churches. And we were living on the good graces of whatever parsonage was available and whatever the congregants had canned that year.

At the age of 35–the last possible moment–Dad applied to his denomination for an Air Force chaplaincy. At least there would be a steady paycheck and he could use his seminary training.

This was truly the high life for this branch of the Sawyer family. Officer training, housing, paycheck, travel ... and yet, Dad's upbringing haunted him in more ways than one.

When he retired from the Air Force, he and my mom determined to go back to where they started: Oregon. Portland environs, to be specific. Once they moved out of their home and into a coop retirement community (a bad financial decision), Dad got more and more involved with the homeless population in downtown Portland.

That was the beginning of a downward spiral, if one could point to a defining moment. He made decisions that would eventually get him (and consequently, my mother) evicted from their retirement community without a dime to their name. He would get phone calls from his homeless "friends" saying, "If you love me, Dale, you'll send me xxxx." And Dad, being desperate for folks to like him, would send money, let men use his credit cards, buy a car for a lapsed alcoholic, and allow several homeless men to use my parents' mail box at their retirement community (so they would hang around the entrances waiting for Dad to get their mail). It was that last straw that broke the back of the "covenants and restrictions" policies, and sent my parents packing to northern California.

So, whether Dad was the patron saint of the Portland homeless population, or an easy mark, let's take the high road and say he wanted to help (assuage guilt, gain points, garner affection), even if it was to the detriment of his own family.

And that brings me back to the final Last Supper ... tapestry. I thought it appropriate that it should go to a homeless resource center of some sort. I contacted the wife of the organization's CEO and said I'd drop it off for her husband to use somewhere in their building.

When I arrived with the rolled tapestry, he was ready for me in his office. You see, like a large portion of the Christian community (myself included) he was not keen on displaying a "likeness" of Jesus or other people that could be construed as an idolized image. So, he asked me if I would be all right with them framing it and offering it for sale through their thrift store. Well ... okay ... at least the mission would get something out of it, even if it wasn't what was originally intended. My face probably gave away my disappointment.

But as I talked about my dad, the man then spied the note I had attached to the tapestry:

My dad, Dale Sawyer, was a champion of the homeless. He collected Last Supper memorabilia. Please enjoy. Donated by Rhonda Elfstrand to Wayside Cross Ministries.

"I've changed my mind," he said. "I see there is indeed more emotional investment here. I want to honor your dad. We will frame this and put it in the lounge or dining area. I'll consider it artwork."

And on my way home, I cried.


Sunday, May 13, 2018

Soapbox Warning!

Don't say I didn't warn you! You could have kept scrolling, but no ...

Do you know what today is? Yes, it is MOTHER'S DAY. See that apostrophe? That means it is a possessive noun. The day belongs to MY MOTHER.

You see, the original intent was to honor the one who birthed you (or perhaps who adopted you and raised you). It is NOT "women's day." Nor is it a day to celebrate all mothers or motherhood. That may sound strange to you, but no. The day is to honor YOUR MOTHER in whatever way is appropriate.

There are women who have lost children to disease or suicide or accident, for whom this day is painful, and it shouldn't be. I hope you take what I just said in the way it was intended. There are also women who cannot conceive or will never marry and have children. This day is also not about that.

Do you also know that there are actually women who avoid FB and church today? Because of what this day has become, rather than its original intent.

Please, every time you say "Happy Mother's Day" to someone who is not your mother, you play into the problem. If you try to add every woman on earth into this day, you play into the problem. By your very intention of inclusion you have made the childless painfully aware of their situation.

This day is not about children!!! It is about MY MOTHER. YOUR MOTHER. God gave her to you. Honor her in word and deed. But PLEASE quit making this day about having children or about being a woman.

Stepping down now ...

M is for ...

My mother has been gone for a bit more than two years now. I miss her frequently.

So, M is for missing.

Mom would love to tease about her being self-sacrificing. You know, giving up that last piece of pie. Or going without a new purse so the kids can have shoes.

So, O is for others.

No matter where we lived or where we visited, Mom was always ready with tidbits of information and fun ways to learn.

So, T is for teaching.

One of the last times I saw my mom alive, we looked at her baby book. My grandmother had traced around her tiny hand, and I asked my mother to place her 82-year-old hand next to the drawing. Those hands have held mine, shaken hands of great and lowly, and served wherever she was planted.

So, H is for her hands.

Have you ever seen a mama bear? Watch out if you cross her cubs! Even though my mom was generally soft-spoken, she had no problem standing up for us when she felt we had been wrongfully treated. She was able to feel with us because she had lived a hard life herself.

So, E is for empathy.

I've often heard the contrast between religion and Christianity. Perhaps you thought they were the same. No. Religion follows a set of rules to try and attain someone or something. But Christianity ... the attainment was done for us by Jesus. When my little brother was dying of cancer and asked my mom what it would be like to die, she answered him, "First I'll be holding your hand, and then Jesus will be holding your hand."

So, R is for relationship ... not religion.

Thank you, Mom, for your sacrificial love. Your steadfast care. Your perseverance. Your love of learning. My heart's hope is that you are holding Jesus' hand right now.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

I Can’t See

Today the sadness hits. I cannot see through the tears. Regret building and filling my eyes to overflowing.

Why am I such a coward? Why didn’t I confront him with the truth of a Biblical gospel? Was I more concerned with temporal peace than eternal peace? Lord, have mercy.

Was just told that the cremation took place today and the urns of remembrance are ready. Ashes to ashes. That’s depressing.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

I Can't Say

I can't say that I saw a relationship with Jesus in my Dad's life. I saw religion. I saw "swallowing a camel and straining at a gnat."

Rules were many and strict. But the big things called sins in the Bible seemed to be palatable, at least in the dark side of Dad's life.

Look Up

The catatonic gaze was unsettling. Pupils constricted. Stare drilled to an unseen point on the ceiling.

"What are you looking at, Dad? What do you see?"

No answer. No movement.

"I wish I could put something on the ceiling for you to look at. What would be good to look at up there?"

Nothing.

"What are you thinking, Dad? Are you thinking about Mom? About heaven?"

At this point, I began to weep. We–my two sons, my husband, a daughter-in-law, my sister, and three grandchildren–had been in the room a couple of hours earlier. We had gotten some response from Dad, including his trying to mouth words that seemed to echo our "I love you"s. But now it was just me in the room. I knew I wanted to tell him ... what?

"I love you, Dad" as I stroked his cheek. I'm told that even those in comas can sometimes hear when all other input or expressions are void. So I tried again. "Dad, you know I love you. But Jesus loves you more. You know that, right?"

I couldn't stem the tears. Because, no, I wasn't at all sure that Dad knew that Jesus loved him more than a human being ever could. Even after decades of being a minister and chaplain by vocation, his brand of Christianity was to take care of the poor (a good thing to do), and to not judge lifestyles (you'd be hard pressed to find that theology in the Bible, but I digress.).

This was Sunday, April 21, 2018. And my last words were: "I'll be back to see you on Friday, Dad, okay?"

But it wasn't okay. Dad never made it to Friday.

Wednesday morning I awoke to a voicemail from Diane, my sister who has done the heavy lifting of caring for our parents in their final years. Hi, Rhonda. They just called me and said that Dad passed this morning. Just wanted to let you know I'm gonna be taking my three days off and ... um ... making arrangements. I'll talk to you later. Bye. Short. To the point.

So now all the unwinding of 63 years of living "with Dad" in some fashion had begun. How to process all of it. Not the estate, whatever that might be. Easy come, easy go. No, I mean the processing of what it meant to be Dale Sawyer's family. All the dichotomies. All the ironies. All the half-truths and omissions.

I've learned to look up. I will lift up my eyes to the hills–where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. (Psalm 121, NIV)


And that alone is a miracle.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Choose Your Hard

This is hard. Sitting at the computer to start the memory download from decades with Dad. This afternoon I had a flow of thoughts all ready to go, but now ... I'm almost afraid to start.

Over the next several weeks, as the thoughts and feelings strike, I'll share the good, the bad, and the ugly ... along with the hopes and promises I trust in spite of the past.

It's hard to lose someone. It's hard when you just aren't quite sure where that someone is in eternity. And it's hard to share why you aren't sure.

I'm choosing my "hard." I'll share as much as God gives me.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Fill 'Er Up!

Puzzles are fun! Or they can be frustrating. Especially if you don't know the "trick" of the puzzle. When I tell you the answer for this one, you will be wise to every other puzzle of the same kind from here on out.

Hint: watch for blockages! You may THINK that liquid is flowing from glass to glass, but look carefully. Some glasses have no egress. The tube is not open, but closed, either at the top or at the bottom of the tube.

Therefore, in this particular puzzle ...

The liquid first flows into cup 1. About halfway up, it will start flowing into cup 3. Now, check the tubes "attached" to cup 3. The liquid has nowhere to go! Cup 3 is the answer!

You're welcome. ;-)