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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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Blah

13 Sep
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photo cred: Leanna Vite Photography

 

It’s been awhile since I last posted and like everything else, the less you do something the further away you get from it. So many things I’ve wanted to write about have entered my brain and have exited just as quickly before hitting the page. Since my last post my daughter left for college and I’ve been feeling a little off. It’s so strange but I have to say again, there’s something about a girl. She was my sit on the couch and watch America’s Got Talent girl, my shopping partner (even though neither of us likes to shop too much), my Barnes and Noble girl, my foodie/loved to eat out girl, etc. I’m adjusting and so is she. Something not talked about too often is the sibling(s) left behind. The day we dropped her off I asked my youngest son how he felt now that his two blood siblings are gone and he replied, ‘lonely’. Yes, he has the fairly new addition of 2 step sisters but he grew up most of his life with just the other two. So, just when you’re thinking they annoy each other and want to stay away from each other and this may be a welcome change in home atmosphere you realize maybe the opposite is true for the sibling left behind. Sigh.

I’ve taken quite a bit of time during my 3 week writing hiatus to process my thoughts and feelings after saying good bye to my daughter and the change in home dynamics. It’s been bittersweet. I’ve finally been able to finish a couple books that have really got me thinking and grappling with different things faith related that I will write about soon and I’ve been doing decent on my commitment to take 5-10 minutes sitting in silence and meditating; focusing on a bible verse or a positive empowering quote. I have to admit, 10 minutes of focusing and not letting my mind wander is HARD STUFF!! All this and unfortunately I still have cancer on my mind (and in my lungs). It’s so weird but as long as my cancer is stable I am just viewing it as a chronic disease for now and forging ahead with my days. I watched a great clip of an interview with Karen Walrond who is a Leadership Consultant. Every morning she asks herself 3 powerful questions: 1) ‘How can I feel connected today?’ Meaning what one action today can connect me better with a friend, my kids, my spouse, etc. 2) ‘How can I feel healthy during the day?’ Drink more water, go to the gym, say no to the potato chips, etc. and 3) ‘How can I feel purposeful today?‘ Read the bible, clean out the closet, read another chapter, write a blog, etc. Just one action you can take during your day to answer each question, super powerful. I’ve been trying this and honestly on the days I have done this exercise my attitude at the end of the day is so much better. Try it and maybe write down your answers and look at them several times that day as a reminder.

I guess I’ve been feeling kinda blah since my daughter left. Yes I miss her but I think it has more to do with the changes and pace of life. My youngest will have his drivers license soon and when that happens I know I’ll see him less. Is it strange to already miss him before he’s actually gone? Bonus: the sun is always behind the clouds pushing it’s way through and img_1949because I’m a person of faith I know the Son is always there carrying me through. In my melancholy state earlier I ran through a list in my head everything I miss whether it be from cancer or just the normal progression of life; I miss all my kids being under one roof, I miss having younger kids who didn’t talk back, I miss singing-a lot right now (for a long time it was my passion and how I was most comfortable expressing myself but cancer took away function in a vocal cord), I miss playing the piano well (hard to do with a left hand I can barely feel because of nerve damage from radiation and surgery), I miss being able to do physical activity without trouble breathing, I miss the blind optimism of living forever (although still optimistic I have lots of time left, cancer just took away the forever part in the previous phrase), I miss eating whatever I want and not gaining weight, sometimes I miss silence yet sometimes I miss chaos. Told you it’s a weird time for me. I know I’m blessed. I have an amazing family and loving husband, awesome friends, I’m generally healthy, I have a great job, and a dream that is closing in on becoming reality…but sometimes…just trying to stay real here. Thanks for journeying with me 🙂

Today I wear Bite Beauty Amuse Bouche Lipstick in Chai which is a Mauve Brown. These lipsticks are soft and moisturizing. I chose this color because it’s a great color for fall and I because I also love chai tea lattes and it’s called Chai. Cheers!

Life is Not Short

22 Jul

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It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. When it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. Life is long if you know how to use it.’~Seneca

What a change in mindset. I read this a couple of times…we are forced with the realization of death that life has passed before we knew it was passing, how true is that?

Since my last blog my daughter arrived safely home from serving in Haiti (and shortly after the Haitian government fell), and now she is preparing to say img_3425good bye again and leave for college. Raising kids is basically a life long series of good-byes, oh my heart but a blog for another day. Back to the quote at the top. I don’t think there is any other event in life that opens your eyes to the realization of life passing then facing your mortality. I have been fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to have been diagnosed with the ‘c’ word 4 times over the past 10 years so it has been a constant reminder that life is passing by and to live intentionally. I love the last line of the quote which says, ‘life is long if you know how to use it.’ My interpretation of that is instead of saying ‘life is short, do what you want,’ he means if you spend more time doing things you love with people you love, serving others, living with intention, your state of content and well-being will add richness to your life~making whatever time you have on earth worthwhile or in short, a long life well lived.

Last weekend I got to see a couple women I’ve known more than half my life. We met years ago and eventually moved to different areas of the midwest

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Trying to follow directions off our phones..so lost

so last weekend was a reunion for us. We’ve been able to meet up in Chicago a few times over the past few years and we can always pick right up where we left off,  great friendships and time well spent. We talked a lot about life, our current joys and struggles, and just a bit little about my cancer which was perfect. We were lost a lot, we laughed a lot and I cherished every moment.

Over the past several years since my first cancer diagnosis I have learned so much about myself and the biggest lesson has been that I am enough. God made me to be exactly who I am and life is too hard to try to be something else. This has been a hard change since I am a people pleaser by nature but ‘adjusting’ or ignoring your needs to please someone else or make them happy can be detrimental to your spirit and it’s just plain exhausting. Cancer has shown me what I’ve made of; strong, courageous, and smart. I am surrounded and loved by a sprinkling of amazing family and friends (both old and new)  that have given my life that extra sparkle. With eyes wide open to the possibilities I have said ‘yes’ more and ‘no’ more, have done things I haven’t thought of, and have tried to stay away from toxic people. It’s a work in progress but again, it’s about being more intentional. I am hyper aware that life is passing. This past year of having metastatic cancer but stable disease has been a difficult time of crushing heartbreak with the thought of leaving my family sooner than later, but also a strangely beautiful time of completely trusting God with my life, learning more about myself, and truly ‘resting’ in each moment. Yes, life is long if you know how to use it. You are enough.

Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.’~ Benjamin Franklin

Today I wear Fenty Beauty Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer in Fenty Glow which is a beautiful rose gold. I wrote about this before but it truly is an amazing gloss that is great on all skintones. You can wear it on top of lipsdtick or even alone. I chose it because it’s perfect for summer and because everyone needs the reminder that you have that inner glow and you are enough! Cheers

Amazing and Awful

27 Jun

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‘Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.’~L.R. Knost

Isn’t that the truth? Last Friday I took my daughter to her college orientation. Leaving her at the dorm the night before was awful (for me) and as I sat there in the silence of my hotel room I got teary-eyed thinking about all of my time with her leading up to this point. The orientation itself went well and it was pretty great seeing her be independent, meeting people, socializing, asking questions, I was so proud of the person she has become and is becoming. We ended the day by driving to northern Michigan to spend a few days at the lake; awful to amazing in less than 24 hours with some ordinary time to relax and exhale in between.

Last week I had my 3 month CT scan and as much as this has become a routine for me I was still anxious. I mean, I guess there are some things to be anxious about. I have formed a love/hate relationship with this because as much as I want to know if my cancer is stable, growing, (or gone), I also don’t want to know. I got the results over patient portal a few days ago and met with my doctor today. Right now ALL NECK AND

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They made me wear this today because I’m coughing

LUNG NODULES ARE STILL STABLE!!  Whew! So, awful last week, amazing today, and really awful (having cancer) and amazing (having stable disease) at the same time. There’s my current struggle. How do I act, process, make decisions and have lots of amazing moments but still have the awful undercurrent of cancer all.the.time.? Do I ignore it? Do I pretend I don’t have cancer and go about my merry way? Having cancer is not in my face all the time but it’s always looking at me through my rear view mirror, you know what I mean? It’s just always there so when prepping for my daughters prom, graduation, college orientation, it’s joyful and exciting but then in my ‘rear view mirror’ I’m reminded cancer follows and I start hoping I’m around for my son to do the same in a few years. Right now I’m 60/40; 60% looking forward , 40% distracted by cancer but I want to get to 90/10. How awesome would it be to have cancer thoughts only pop up 10% of the time. How awesome would it be to not have longer term visions and decisions be tinged with ‘but wait, I have cancer’; thoughts of retirement, grandkids, travel, etc. intertwined with I have cancer that’s really waiting to party in my body. It’s weird. I know I can’t ignore it or control it and I also know I don’t want it to consume me and influence every decision I make. Hmmmm . I was reading about courage again and read, ‘Alone of all creeds, Christianity has added courage to the virtues of the Creator. For the only courage worth calling courage must necessarily mean that the soul passes a breaking point and does not break.’~unknown

Here’s the good news. I don’t feel broken yet so maybe I’m brave. Maybe I have courage. My doctor told me today that since I’ve been consistently stable for the past year, we are going to stretch my CT scans to 6 months unless something changes in how I feel. I don’t want to hold my breath for 6 months. Maybe I’m feeling funky because it’s scan week. All I know is I want to live this ‘..heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life.’ I’ll take the awful, ordinary, mundane, and routine and be more intentional seeking out the amazing!

Today I wear Chantecaille Lip Chic lipstick in Nocturne. I LOVE these lipsticks. They have great color and are super moisturizing. I chose this color because it’s a bright berry which is perfect for summer or when your allergies make you look blah and you want just one pop of color! Cheers!

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!

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!

Trusting Through the Storm

11 Apr

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I’m ready, sort of. I am now in prep mode to start my radiation testing/possible treatment in a couple weeks; no meds, strict diet, I’m tired and it’s only day 3. I shouldn’t be tired yet but I am going through major caffeine withdrawal. Since I can’t have cream with my coffee, no cream=no coffee, oh well. I’m a little foggy right now because, hello, no caffeine and eating like a rabbit so I’m just going to ramble. I just came back from a beautiful vacation and it gave me new resolve. Prior to leaving I was unsure I wanted to do the radiation testing and treatment because of the risks involved but coming home after being away, spending time thinking and praying, I’m ready. It boiled down to me trusting the doctors’ expertise and ultimately trusting God and releasing control.img_9233

Our church is doing a series called ‘Riding the Storm’ and here I am, almost EXACTLY 10 years after being diagnosed and treated for thyroid cancer the first time, back in an even bigger storm because of metastasis. Life is full of storms and at times it can be a lonely place because no one is in the exact same circumstances and their lives along with everything around you is still going on as ‘normal’. It’s like moving in slow motion while everyone else is going about their business (feels like I’m in The Matrix) . Also no matter how hard you try to describe everything you’re feeling sometimes the heart bears no words. Every morning on vacation I trekked out to the beach pretty early and each day was different; there were sunny, blue sky, peaceful mornings but a couple days started img_1948darker with a storm that changed the waves, the temperature, and obviously the sky. The one constant I knew was that the sun was behind each cloud and eventually it would break through the clouds and light up the sky. Similar to the storms of life, the Son is the constant and despite the clouds, I know He’s there. Ten years ago I did a video for my church during my first cancer diagnosis (you can catch it here~ https://vimeo.com/52232853). So much has changed since that video including more life storms like divorce and obviously cancer’s return a few times (including now), career changes but also rainbow moments like finding and marrying an awesome man who is caring for and supporting me through this storm. The predominant message from my video has sustained me through it all…trust. I’m not going to lie, I’ve had a couple panic attacks leading up to this upcoming procedure but I’ve been able to breath through telling myself that God is with me and He is control. Trust. Today I will continue body surfingimg_1935 those big waves of this storm and trust God.

Today I wear Honest Beauty Truly Kissable Lip Color in Strawberry Kiss. I own this lipstick in a couple colors. They’re moisturizing, lightweight, and only use ‘clean’ products. They are kind of between a lipstick and a gloss and not super long lasting but nice. I chose this color because it’s red and I’m ready to fight. Oh and stay tuned…big things planned for my future journey!! Cheers!

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