“This is the day that the Lord has made. I will REJOICE and be glad in it.” Do you wake up each day and FIRST thing say, “Thank you God—I have THIS day!”? Despite your circumstances or your suffering, do you rejoice in the day you have? I DO!
March 1, 2019 was the anniversary of my first cancer diagnosis. It has been SIX years! I am still battling—2018 brought a lot of pain, misdiagnosis, blood draws, scans, and ultimately another cancer tumor found in my pelvic region. 2019 began with daily radiation and chemotherapy pills for six weeks and then a procedure to put a stent in my ureter so my kidney could filtrate since the tumor was pushing on my kidney. My digestion and elimination system have been whacked out for years, but this radiation and chemo session ramped it up and it has been quite interesting (I will spare you the details).
I want you all to know that I am not being fake here. I have always said that I would be real and raw in my blog. But this is true: God has given me a supernatural strength through all this. I tolerated the radiation and chemo very well and was able to keep to my schedule of spinning, hiking, and walking the dogs, as well as working, being a mom of a senior who has tons going on, and maintaining my precious time with dear friends. God gave me that strength! It is only from Him. I know with my whole heart and being that I did not get through this on my own strength.
After the radiation and chemo treatments, I had an ultrasound on my kidney and the doctor was thrilled that the stent had worked and my kidney was not swollen or stressed. He was prepared to move onto the surgery to remove the tumor. Then I had a scan of my whole body and had appointments with my oncologist and the colon surgeon. Everything was looking good to have a surgery in early April. My doctor had approved for me to take a getaway vacation before the surgery. Greg and I had flights booked to stay at our place in Puerto Vallarta. And then….
The scan did not show the results any of us anticipated. It showed three small spots in my lungs. Despite the chemo and radiation, the cancer had spread. The doctor said that they are miniscule….two spots on my right lung and one on my left. Despite being small, they are spots and they are suspicious, so the doctors met and decided that they would postpone surgery and I will continue with infusion chemotherapy for the next two months and then scan again.
Two days after this news Greg and I headed to Puerto Vallarta and spent time resting, relaxing, reading, and not checking emails or phone calls related to my cancer. It was precious, beautiful time. The beach, the mountains, the sunsets, the food, the time alone with Greg—I was able to bask in God’s glorious creation and be reminded how extremely blessed I am.
I know that millions of people in the world battle disease and don’t have the opportunities I have. I want to acknowledge that clearly. I have healthcare and insurance. I have the money to pay for it. I have the best team of doctors all working together to provide treatment. I am able to go away on a vacation. I have a warm and comfortable home. I have a flexible schedule and a job at my church that brings me joy and purpose. I get to live out my passions. I have a community of friends who love and support me with words, actions, and prayers. My husband and my boys are my joy. They are strong in their faith and they have worked through this battle with me every step of the way. I never want to take for granted the comfortable life I have lived. I am humbled by the people I meet who are battling cancer and disease and who do not have the options and choices that I have. I want to continually acknowledge that and encourage each of you who are reading this today to truly look at what you have—your options, your choices, your opportunities…..and choose to be grateful. And then, I want myself and each of you to decide how you are going to make movement to use those privileges to help others and give the glory to God.
When we built our home in the hills of Poway in 2003, our vision and purpose was to have a home that would be inclusive and would be used for people and ministry. We were blessed with a plot of land that is nestled in the hills. A stream flows in our backyard. The wildflowers are in super bloom in the exuberant green that surrounds our home. It is a place of community and a place of refuge.
Two weeks before I heard the news that there was more cancer, Noah’s Young Life Director from Colorado called us and said that their lodging fell through for their spring break trip to Southern California. Noah had suggested that if I was feeling strong and healthy, that maybe they could all camp in our backyard for the trip. Greg and I said that they could absolutely come, and use the whole house and backyard. A home. A home that is bumped and bruised from thousands of people who have trooped and stomped through for years. Young Life club. Bible Studies. Discipleship groups. Marriage counseling. Pool parties. Birthdays. Barbecues. Baptisms. Sunset happy hours. Community groups. Leadership meetings. Food. Wine. Fellowship.
Last Saturday, when we arrived home from our trip to Puerto Vallarta, 17 young men from Colorado State Fort Collins occupied every square inch of space in our upstairs area and in our backyard and cabana. Air mattresses, sleeping bags, pillows and blankets….coffee makers and a coffee station up on the cabana….wet suits and towels hanging on every fence rail….food lined up across our laundry room and in the outside refrigerator. Young men who woke up each morning to two hours of individual quiet time with the Lord, and then two hours of sharing God’s Word and learning with each other. Men who packed lunches and headed out to the beaches of San Diego, (rain or shine)…..many of them who had never surfed before and many who have rarely seen or been to beaches. Young men who came home each evening and sat in the Jacuzzi and shared and grew in community. All these men are not only college students, but they are Young Life leaders in the middle schools and high schools of Fort Collins. They are pouring into young kids who are anxious and afraid and overwhelmed by the world. They love these kids exactly where they are.
This. This. This is what life is. It is community. It is love. It is grace and faith. It is struggling through it together. Together. Together. This. This. This is what a home is for. Gathering. Meeting. Breaking bread together. Laughter. Games. Deep conversations. Opening the Word. Encouraging. Working through the hard times. These young men who my son has chosen to walk with through life—these young men give me hope. They love Jesus. They love each other. Then they pour out love as they serve others.
Yes, I have cancer. My news is not good. But that is not what I am focusing on because God is showing me so much more. He continues to direct me to what is good and beautiful and important. He continues to give me strength and power that only comes from Christ in me. Once again, I am upended with news that wasn’t in MY plan. But I move on, in faith, and in His strength. I rejoice in the beauty of each new day. In pain, in darkness, in struggle, I rejoice. I look out now into my backyard. There are towels and wet suits blowing in the wind upon the fence rails. 17 young men are gathered on my cabana studying God’s word, drinking coffee, and sharing their lives with each other. Yes, I live with cancer, but God says to me…..”Look at what surrounds you…This. This is what you focus on.” Community. Love. Friendship. Joy.
This is the day the Lord has made. I will be glad and rejoice in it.