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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.)