Nine years. The month of March marks nine years since my initial cancer diagnosis. Nine months. Nine months since I wrote my last blog post. Thanks to those of you asking for updates. It has continued to be a long rough season, and yet God has revealed Himself to me in many ways. I have been fretting about the fact that I have not written a blog, nor have I worked on my book, and my dear friend Molly said to me, "Lower the Bar." True that. I don't write to have perfect prose. I write to share my authentic journey of faith in the midst of long suffering. I write to heal--for myself and for others. I write so that others know that whatever struggle they are facing, there is a God who cares, who is our refuge and our shelter, and promises us that we are not alone.
Since my last post was in June 2021, obviously much has happened. I took my six month sabbatical from my church role, and spent a lot of time in God's Word, and a lot of time simply resting. I tried not to "should" on myself. I gave myself grace that having purpose doesn't mean production or performance. This was hard, but so important to process. (Work in progress for sure). I continued with chemotherapy through the summer. A scan showed what they thought was a tumor on my lower spine, but it was misdiagnosed--I had broken my tailbone! I was in massive pain for at least three months--unable to do my spin bike work out or walk and hike. A "butt break" is hard to heal and takes time. Another test to endure for someone who loves being active. I finished the three months of chemo in October and my cancer markers were at an all time low! So, I took a break from chemo. I went to Colorado to celebrate my baby boy's 21st birthday. I went to Scottsdale for Lauren Hart's celebration of life and spent time with my mom, sister, and childhood friends. I went to Palm Springs for the wedding of the beautiful power couple--Ilse Levine and Riley Hawkins. Some joy, some sadness, --and re-energized because I was on a break from chemo. My body was rebuilding its strength.
In December, I had a check up scan. It wasn't great news. The tumor in my pelvic bone had spread to my femur. It is a small tumor, but now I have two tumors in the bone. My doctors decided against radiation since I have been eradiated in that bone area before and they feared it would cause my bones to be more fragile and brittle. So--in January 2022-- I started chemo infusion yet again. My fear and anxiety peaked--I would have to return to these treatments that beat up my body. I had just come off sabbatical and was ready to jump into work with my church family--a community that brings me life giving joy. But my infusion sessions were brutal. The first one took me out a solid two weeks so that I was unable to go to the second session. I waited an extra week and my doctor reduced the dosage. My friend Kathy came out from Iowa to help us. My church and friend community had planned meals and grocery deliveries and dog walkers--as well as lots of prayer and love. The second session I was fatigued, and the hard side effects didn't start until five days into recovery, so I was battered again. At this point my doctor changed the chemo cocktail again to take out the harsher medication. This made for a much more manageable reaction to the drugs, but I was still constantly exhausted. My boys flew out from Colorado, and my sister came to help us and this was a huge boost to my spirit. I had enough energy to play games and eat a few home cooked meals. I went to the beach with Noah and walked the dogs with my boys and my sister. I was getting out a bit. But then I realized I had overdone it and the fatigue blasted me again. I was too exhausted and anxious to go to my fourth infusion even though the dosage was going to be lower again. And, despite the infusions, my cancer markers were going up, not down.
This brings us to the present. I am scheduled for a scan in April. I have called off chemotherapy until the scan, so I can build up strength to visit my boys in Colorado. Once we see the results of my scan, the doctors and I will decide which direction to go. I have options--more chemo, or possibly a pill form that stops blood flow from going to the tumors. Or, who knows? It could be a miracle scan, right? I still pray for a miracle that all my tumors would be gone, but mainly I thank God for the miracles of each day He has given me for nine years. Miracles of time with my boys, Greg, my friends, and my family. Miracles of being surrounded with a praying community who show me the hands of Jesus in their love and care for me. I have said from the beginning to not waste time in this short life. I have encouraged you all to spend time with family, to say those " I love you's" every day, to give up long term grudges and practice forgiveness. To be kind and patient. To serve others with joy. For two years Covid woke many of us up to the brevity of life, but it also disconnected people. Many of us are disheartened and depressed and we feel the heaviness of what is going on in the world. People get easily anxious and fearful and agitated. It is all overwhelming. When I get overwhelmed and want to give up, I remind myself of what one of my idols--Mister Rogers--said. He said, "When tragedy strikes, look for the helpers--there are always the helpers." The news doesn't show us enough of that. It doesn't show enough of those who serve and sacrifice, those who seek to help in our shared humanity. And who is our greatest Helper--the one who promises that we are never alone? The Jesus who tells us that He is our rock, our fortress, our sanctuary, our refuge. Our circumstances may not change, but our Helper is a God who changes hearts and transforms minds. He is a God who sees and knows and while His answers aren't always what we want, He continues to help and guide us in this broken world. I may or may not be healed physically this side of heaven, but Jesus, my Helper, has shown me so much beauty in the broken. He is constantly in the process of healing my heart and my mind, so that despite cancer, I can love, encourage, and support others. You can too. Others can learn from your trials and struggles. Allow God to use you as a helper. For it is when we look past ourselves to help a hurting humanity, that we begin to see changes in our hearts and priorities. It is when we help that we will see the sparks of love and the true beginning of change.