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Tag Archives: friends

Pain and Church

16 Sep

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I saw a friend the other day that I haven’t seen in years. After the initial surface questions and conversation she broke down in tears. She shared about the many difficulties her daughter has had from a lifelong illness and also shared recent difficulties in her marriage. She expressed her exhaustion, her sadness and her hopelessness; she is at the end of her rope. As she was asking me how I was dealing with having cancer again my heart was breaking for her because she looked so defeated. What was more heartbreaking was after sharing her pain she said one of the last places she wanted to go was church; she’s angry with God, she didn’t want to be judged, and she didn’t want to hear any ‘Christian-ese’ talk. Knowing some of my past struggles and now cancer again she looked me straight in the eyes and asked, ‘How can you still have faith in God? How can you not be angry?’ Tough stuff. When did church become ‘unsafe’ for the heartbroken, hopeless, and weary? Why do we sometimes feel like we have to put on our ‘best face’ to go to church? These are just a few of the questions I’ve been asking myself for awhile.img_4188

I have a confession. When I first found out my cancer was back a year ago July, I also didn’t feel like going to church for awhile. Sometimes even now, over a year later, I still feel the same way. ‘With so much effort being poured into church growth, so much press being given to the benefits of faith, and so much flexing of religious muscle in the public square, the poor in spirit have no one but Jesus to call them blessed anymore.’~ Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church. I go to an awesome Christian church with great leaders and great people. I’ve been attending for over 20 years, have volunteered here, was on the worship team, and have gone on mission trips. I love it yet I wanted not to go after I got the news of cancer’s 4th return. Why? I can only speak for myself when I say that I didn’t want to put my happy, ‘God’s got this’ face on at a time when I felt raw, sad, and disappointed. I didn’t want to hear ‘Everything happens for a reason,’ or ‘God only gives you what you can handle.’  Phrases I’ve probably used before. Do we really think about things before we say them? I listened to a great interview with Dr. Caroline Leaf, a cognitive neuroscientist who spoke about this exact thing, watch it here. She says that Christians are so used to these words and phrases (‘Christianese’) that we have stopped thinking, have we? Maybe. These phrases, words, and easy responses sometimes take away from us listening, thinking and loving the people who are hurting. Words have power and when you’re hurting you hear every single word so when you are on the receiving end of these patent phrases that we use all.the.time. you can’t help but want to roll your eyes and think, ‘You have no idea.’ I’m sure it’s all well meaning.

So what was my response to my friend? I hugged her and stayed silent awhile. Then I told her I was so sorry she was in such pain and that I truly had no words. I told her to be gentle with herself, and that it’s ok not to smile. I look back at some of my pictures from the first few months post diagnosis and I’m smiling but my eyes are not. I told her I’m not mad at God and even though I don’t want to go to church sometimes I know that I still have God and more importantly He has me. I told her churches are filled with hurting people regardless of the shine of the facade but vulnerability and authenticity can only happen if we’re willing. I shared my pain and told her that illness and in her case, serious adversity can be lonely because most people can’t know exactly how you’re feeling. I told her that for me, that is the reason I can’t let go of my faith in God. At the end of the day if I don’t have faith that God is real, if I don’t have God to talk to and if I didn’t believe He loved me I would have nothing to hope for after this life and there would be no possibility of joy in crappy circumstances. How do you convince a broken person that God loves her? You start showing God’s love by listening and loving. ‘Tell the story of the mountain you climbed. img_4187Your words could become a page in someone else’s survival guide.’ I LOVE that quote from Morgan Harper Nichols. In my low moments I don’t remember many conversations but I do remember the encouraging notes, those who sit and pray with me, and the many hugs with no words…love. Can we think on our own and not defer to a Christian-ese phrase as a response to someone’s pain? ‘No one leads people to Jesus; He leads people to Himself. All the pressure’s off; just go love everybody without agenda.’~Bob Goff

Today I’m feeling the red lipstick just because. I chose Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Love Drunk which is a deep red. Love the name, love the color. Cheers!

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Sick

13 Jun
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Me and my baby brother recently 

I have heard more times than not that I don’t look sick. Believe me, it’s a great compliment. Over the past week or two there have been some significant events happen with people who don’t look sick. The shocking suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, and the sudden unexpected passing of my dental hygienist who was a young, 39 year old mom of 2. My kids and I had known and been going to ‘S’ as our hygienist for probably 10 years so the news came as quite a shock for all of us. She and I went to the same gym so I saw her every so often and what looked like a healthy young woman was suddenly gone. She didn’t look sick.

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2010, week 6 of radiation. Minus 30 pounds, burnt inside. Do I look sick?

I would venture to say that 99.99% of everyone has some type of ‘ailment’ they struggle with on the inside whether it’s anxiety, insecurities, mental health, or actual physical health that the world doesn’t see from the outside (or social media) appearance. I spoke to a coworker whose husband has suffered from cancer awhile and doesn’t always ‘look’ ill and told her the biggest thing to remember in terms of being a caregiver for someone with a chronic illness is that we generally function under 100% all the time. Meaning, our 100% is your 85% so I told her if he’s complaining that he’s not feeling well to have compassion because he’s really not feeling well and has actually fallen below that 85% which is his norm.  For me, I have compromised breathing…all.the.time., I can never run a marathon let alone run 5 minutes straight on a treadmill because I simply can’t breathe and it takes a while to catch my breath, my left arm and hand have been numb (and getting worse) for the past few years which means I can’t play the piano anymore or confidently hold a cup of coffee with my left hand, or go through a drive thru without reaching over with my right hand because I’m not confident with my left, and when I say I’m tired, I’m exhausted and of course there are other things I struggle with regularly. Oh and I have massive amounts of hair falling out from my radiation experiment from last April. So my feeling 100% good is really about equivalent to everyone else’s 85%. I keep a full time job, try to be at all my kids’ activities, and try to keep a smile on my face. It’s how I live and you can’t see that I’m at 85%.

What does that mean for all of us? We need to be more gentle with each other. We need to see each other with compassionate eyes and know that beyond the exterior smiles, Facebook posts, beautiful instagram pics, etc there are stories of pain, illness, suffering, insecurities, and internal struggles that plague all of us. ‘The more beauty we find in someone else’s journey, the less we’ll want to compare it then to our own.’~Bob Goff. We need to love more and frankly as a Christian I am sick of the Christians acting like judge and jury (that’s a whole other blog). Jesus came to show us how to love and show grace and mercy and the world needs plenty more of that. Love God, love others no matter what.

I have another scan coming up in a week and I’m a little scared. I read this quote today, ‘Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying I will try again tomorrow.’~Mary Anne Radmacher. Despite my apprehension I have trust in the One who carries my burdens on His shoulders so in my quiet voice I say thank you for another day. I’ll be ok. I hope I never really look sick but let’s all be aware that every single person is dealing with something we don’t see. Be kind. Be aware. Be loving.

She made broken look beautiful and strong look invincible. She walked with the universe on her shoulders and made it look like a pair of wings.’~Ariana Dancu

Today I wear Tom Ford lipstick in Violet Fatale. This may be the most expensive lipstick I own. These lipsticks are pretty amazing. I didn’t like them at first becuause I thought they were a little dry but recently I’ve come to appreciate the semi-moisturizing but long wearing power of these lipsticks. I chose this color because it’s  bright but not too crazy and fun for summer! Cheers!

Superhero

30 Apr

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What a long week. To recap, I was given a tracer dose of radiation to see if any of my metastatic nodules would show uptake because if they did then another dose of RAI May work. Nothing showed up after the tracer dose. At that point my doctor told me that she would like to try a challenge therapeutic dose because the tracer is so small and my nodules were small and since I had distant metastasis, a higher dose may be necessary. After talking about possible downside to more radiation, which she assured me was minimal in my case, she said that there was a 20% chance it could work to get rid of my cancer. I took the 20% then sat in isolation in my room for 5 days.

I was deemed safe to the public by Saturday and of course the first thing my kids wanted to do was see the new Avengers movie (don’t worry, no spoilers and I waited until Sunday to be extra safe). I had shared with a good friend that after drinking the radiation I sort of felt like a superhero. My 4th time battling cancer and here I was, radioactive; sweating radiation, crying radiation, etc…in a strange way I felt (and still feel) invincible like a superhero, so at the very least I wanted to take my kids to watch my partners fight in the Avengers movie.

Well, after a long week/month I’m recovering and like the superheroes at the end of every hero movie, feel a little beat up but fought my hardest. I found out a little earlier that unfortunately I will not be part of the 20% that was cured and after the initial shock of disappointment I’m ok. I am exactly where I was a month ago. Stable. A month ago I didn’t even have the 20% probability option so yes, I’m totally ok. Here’s what else…I love and trust God and His plan even more. At church Sunday our pastor said, ‘In our storms img_2258God provides people.’ I saw, felt, received the love from so many people and truly felt God’s peace through all the prayers. I have a husband who took the week off and never left my side; has been at every appointment and was by my bedroom door all the time while I was in isolation with food, smiles, conversation, or whatever else I needed. I could not be more grateful for the life I have and the people in it and I’M STILL HERE! God is so amazingly good! From Nichole Nordeman’s song Sound of Surviving : This is sound of surviving, this is my farewell to fear. This is my whole heart deciding I’m still here and I’m not not done fighting. This is the sound of surviving.

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My gorgeous Superhero ring along with my Lipstick Strong bracelet my son had made!

Saturday I got to meet a jewelry designer who had a pop up shop at a local boutique. I had purchased a couple pieces from her collection before and LOVE her stuff so I went to meet her. She was fantastic and kind and showed me a ring I had to have. In my superhero mode this ring reminded me of Wonder Woman who she said was the actual inspiration for the design! I bought it and LOVE it and it’s designer as well. Check her and her jewelry out at anujatolia.com.

Thank you for your support and walking with me in my lipstick journey. Today I still wear red lipstick. Today it’s Aveda Nourish-mint smoothing lip color in Cherrybud which just seems appropriate for Michigan spring. Cheers!

The Wall

22 Apr

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I hit my wall this week. After being on my special diet and off my medication almost 2 weeks my body is done wanting to move around. I basically feel like I’m walking around with the flu; achy, uncomfortable, slow moving, add to that an excruciating migraine last Wednesday, menopausal type hot flashes, and a consistent low grade headache that wakes me up every morning and stays there all day, well, I’m tired but so ready to get this week started. Here’s the lowdown on what’s happening this week. Basically I take a tracer dose of radiation on Monday and they take some measurements, measure/scan on Tuesday, measure/scan on Wednesday, then if my body shows any uptake and if my measurements match with what I need to kill the tumors, I get that dose of radiation to drink, yes drink, then I’m in isolation awhile. This is the typical treatment for thyroid cancer. What makes this a little complicated for me is that I’ve had this treatment before with a high dose the first time I got cancer, radiation, then external beam radiation the 3rd time I got cancer, more radiation, and this time my cancer is now in my lungs. FYI, every human body can only tolerate so much radiation in a lifetime before it causes some other bad things to happen so, the calculation has to be correct. Also, my body has to show uptake in the testing phase or this type of therapy will not even work for me and we’re back to watch and wait which honestly is not a terrible place to be.

For the only courage worth calling courage must necessarily mean that the soul passes a breaking point and does not break.’~ G.K. Chesterton

Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?’ That is the only time a man can be brave,’ his father told him.’~George RR Martin

The first quote I heard from church this morning and it really hit home~ past the breaking point but not breaking. I love that. Here’s the thing, in my current exhausted and highly emotional state I am so grateful. One thing about being sick is you get to see the best of people first hand. A couple days ago a friend of mine researched every ingredient I could and could not have right now (which is quite extensive) and made me a ‘key lime’ pie among other things. It required so much research on her part and it was incredible. I have been on the receiving end of many prayers, texts and messages of encouragement, and just about every kindness out there, some even shocking but ALL appreciated. Last weekend I got to visit my son and his friends who campaigned and raised money in honor of me at their college Relay for Life. He had bracelets made and they all signed a giant card. img_2201img_2202There are so many great people. Another thing about having to slow down is you get to really observe and feel every single thing you’re surrounded by in your life; the people, your home, the plants, the sun, the rain, (the snow).I’ve been in this place before but sometimes life gets crazy and rushed again and you forget. Always take time to slow down and stop to literally smell the roses. I am so grateful for my life and everyone in it even all of you! Last week I got an amazing award by Feedspot, see the article here (or paste to your browser~ https://blog.feedspot.com/thyroid_cancer_blogs/). They ranked me in the top 15 websites/blogs for 2018 to follow on the web for thyroid cancer. I’m stunned, amazed, and again grateful. Thank you to all my readers!facetune_22-04-2018-17-18-39

This week I will be wearing Almay Smart Shade Butter Kiss Lipstick in Red-Medium. I LOVE this moisturizing, buttery lipstick. It’s a cross between a lip balm and a lipstick and does feel great on your lips. I chose this color because it’s red and I’m ready to tackle this week! Cheers!

And other thoughts…

11 Feb

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You are a better Christian if you go to church every Sunday…and other statements that I ponder. I’m not sure which I have more on a moment to moment basis, thoughts or emotions. I can run from joy and happiness to depressed and anxious and back to joy in less than 30 seconds and the same goes with the various topics that pop into my mind in that amount of time. I can go from my cancer and what dreams and goals I still have, to the kids’ schedule for the week, to ‘I need a piece of candy’ in no time flat. Anyhow, I mentioned church because ever since I got the news that my cancer was back last July I haven’t really felt like going to church. People have asked if I am angry at God or have just assumed I’m maybe running away from my faith for now. No and no. In fact, I have never felt closer to God and felt more loved by Him. I’m not avoiding church, I still go, but sometimes I just don’t really feel like it. I believe there are seasons to our faith; seasons of discovery but also seasons when solitude is necessary and maybe that is where I am. I think also during this time when I’m trying to navigate my feelings of living with cancer I’m not sure I can handle that much ‘religious cheerleading’ (poor description and probably offensive but I can’t really describe it any other way). Bottom line, my faith has to do with me and God and we talk all the time. I know I couldn’t do cancer without Him and I see evidence of His love and grace daily from the words I read in the bible to the kindness and love I receive from friends and even strangers whether that’s in a church building or not. He gives me the peace to move forward and trust that everything and everyone will be ok.

img_1326Thought 2. I have heard many many times that I don’t look sick. It’s true. My cancer’s stable so in the meantime I work, go out with friends, go to the kids’ sporting activities and events, ‘normal’ life, and I look no different with Stage 4 cancer now than I did July 6, 2017 (the day before I found out my cancer was back). I don’t ever take offense to the comment, I’m truly grateful because who wants to look sick? Part of my thought process though is that none of us look sick but most of us are. The Facebook and Instagram pictures are great but don’t show sadness, depression, arguments, adversity, bullying, cruelty, or any of the things normal people struggle with every single day. REAL. LIFE. All of us are living, breathing novels with incredible stories and beautiful covers but we don’t see each others’ ripped and tear-stained pages, highlights, the worn out corners, etc…none of us really look sick.

Last thought for today…contrary to social media and what’s most highlighted on the news, people are really great. I am so blown away by the beauty and kindness and generosity of people. In fact, during this time it’s people and my interactions that have been magical and have given me a sense of wonder. I believe we all want the same thing, to know we’re loved and to know we matter. If we can give that much to another person the return is crazy. Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, img_7380while loving someone deeply gives you courage. ~Lao Tzu  Courage and strength, all of us need both. I read this quote from an unknown author and I really loved it, ‘Sometimes when you’re in a dark place, you think you’ve been buried; but actually you’ve been planted.’ HOW AWESOME IS THAT? Planted for rebirth, planted for new, planted for breakthrough. I love it.

Today I wear NYX Butter Gloss in Red Velvet. I own several colors of this gloss for a few reasons; moisturizing, great color, cheap. If you’re afraid to dive in and wear a bold red lip color you can start with this. This gloss gives just enough color without being scary and it feels great too. I chose this color because it’s red and I do love a good Red Velvet cake! Cheers!

Still Waiting…

21 Jan

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I am still waiting. Yup, that’s right…I go from scanxiety to results-anxiety and it isn’t fun. I have to say that in my whole, almost 10 year history of PET scans and CT scans this is the longest I have waited for results. Typically I have gotten the results by the end of the next day, even if the next day was a Saturday but now it’s been 3 LONG days. The mind is a funny thing, it has the ability to take you down a bad path and your body actually feels it. In the past 3 days my thoughts have run the gamut from best case scenario to the worst and the longer I wait the more my mind and thoughts rollercoaster. It’s nuts. I have desperately been trying to occupy my mind on other things but it always comes back to the silence and the wondering. This weekend I have learned how to play the ukelele, have looked up different recipes in an attempt to meal plan for the week, I’ve read half of a book I just started, we went out with friends, I’ve been to the gym, and here I sit, tired from not sleeping well and staring at my phone with hopes that my doctor will call. I know, I know, I have no control over when those results will be done. Yeesh.

This past week I listened to Rob Bell (I know he’s controversial but he’s still interesting and makes you think) being interviewed on a podcast. He spoke about the time he had a concussion and could not process anything except the ‘now’. He said in that state of mind everything ‘now’ was beautiful, to the point that when his kids entered the room he would cry. That is mostly how I feel. Historically I’ve never really been a person who looks too far ahead; I never bought sale clothes at the end of the season for the following year, or clearance Christmas decor for the following year, etc. My reason would always be that I didn’t know where I’d be the following year, or what I’d be doing, or regarding clothes, what size I’d be the following year. Welp, cancer has magnified this trait of mine…everything is NOW. When I look at my kids or sometimes even think about them I cry. When there’s a beautiful sky, I tear up. Shoot, I can look at my dog and burst into tears at how beautiful and loving he is. I was speaking img_1191to a coworker a little about my grief and anxiety (which I really hadn’t felt to this extreme before) and he asked what made this time so different than the last few rounds with cancer. Outside the obvious ‘this time it’s stage 4’ I realized that I’m more anxious because right now my life is great; I have an amazing husband that brings me so much joy and laughter, my kids are great, I have great friends, I work with amazing people at a great company, everything is good and fun and peaceful and all I want is more time to rest in this good. I just want to rest here awhile…in the good. So I wait here in the good and (semi)patiently continue to trust in God’s plan.

‘I believe that a trusting attitude and a patient attitude go hand in hand. You see, when you let go and learn to trust God, it releases joy in your life. And when you trust God, you’re able to be more patient. Patience is not just about waiting for something… it’s about how you wait, or your attitude while waiting.’~Joyce Meyer

Today I wear Sephora Collection Lipstick in Yum Yum. I wanted to try one of these lipsticks by Sephora because of the packaging, it helps that they’re fairly inexpensive. This is a good color for everyday and I love the name..yum yum (plus it has chocolate chip cookies on the package). Cheers!

Blessings and Battles

7 Jan

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Rick Warren says that he used to think that the Christian life was a succession of battles and blessings but now he thinks of life as being on two tracks. At any given time there are usually blessings, but also battles to face (from bibleinoneyear.org).

There’s a lot of grief to process when you have cancer. I honestly don’t remember the feelings I had when I had cancer the first, second, or third times…I guess it’s like giving birth; you don’t really remember the pain until it’s happening again. All I can speak to is now and now my cancer is Stage 4. Ever since I declared joy as my word for 2018 I’ve been processing and working through all of the grief and sadness I’m feeling, mostly if not all, revolving around lost time. This past week I grieved my voice again. I have not over the years post cancer really thought too much about the fact that my voice was altered from a paralyzed vocal cord after my first cancer surgery, but the fact that I no longer do something I was able to do so well and was so passionate about for most of my life is sad; church, weddings, radio jingles, guest appearances, and even a Broadway stage one time…gone. Imagine something you feel was your special gift, your love and your passion, but you really can’t do it anymore, it’s a little heartbreaking. Then there’s the years of trying to please different people that in the end could never be pleased, the years of trying to be something for someone while giving up pieces of yourself, time wasted. Then there’s all this time looking at my life wondering if there was/is more I could do for my kids, my social circles, for humanity in general. I grieve and I fear that I have wasted so much time. I guess I’m a little angry too because I feel like I’m always battling my body. Maybe it’s normal. ‘Grief does not change you,… It reveals you.~ John Greenannabeach

I read what Rick Warren said about life being a series of battles and blessings, or I should say blessings with battles interspersed, and it really resonated with me. I also met with an incredibly wise woman who told me to be gentle with myself and to sit and think about all of the blessings that have come along despite the trials. I do know that my past has made me stronger and wiser and cancer has given me hyper-awareness of time and being intentional with time and relationships. I am still sad about lost time but it’s ok because we bend and grow through our experiences. I am a ‘feeler’ according to Myers-Briggs personality type and with cancer, my ‘feeler’ personality is magnified. Hurt is doubled, pain is doubled, but so is joy and happiness. When one of my kids says something hurtful it’s hard to bounce back because my hurt is magnified, I know my daughter is graduating soon and leaving for college and I think in normal circumstances I’d be sad, but now that sadness is magnified. It’s so strange. Blessings? Too many to count but with any health issue the battle part is always in your face. This week I shed a lot of tears but I still found that joy. I decided grief and tears are ok.

‘There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love’~Washington Irving

‘Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them.’~Leo Tolstoy

Today I wear Urban Decay Vice lipstick in Backdoor which is a really cool metallic brown. There are a ton of colors and finishes available in this lipstick line and most are pretty moisturizing. I chose this color because I felt like I needed a little sparkle! Cheers!

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