Tag Archives: prayer

Courage

28 Aug

alex

This has been one of the toughest weeks in the hospital with my son. As you know from my last blog, my 16 year old suffered a stroke on August 2nd. Since then he went from the ICU to a step down unit, to in patient rehab. He has made TONS of progress in terms of speech and his right side gaining movement, but all of this progress was leading up to 2 procedures to ‘fix’ the AVM in his brain; one to stop the blood flow in that area, followed by brain surgery to fix the actual malformation. What went from deepest sorrow, to joy from getting better, returned to grief and fear this past week for these next two steps. Everyday since last Friday, grief, fear, and joy lived simultaneously in his hospital room. During the day we would experience the joy of something gaining motion but at night, the fear of the upcoming procedures and what changes may happen would steal the joy. Then there were the questions amidst tears in the quiet before bed each night; Why did this happen to me? Why can’t I just be a normal teen? Why me? I didn’t know this momma’s heart could break even more, but watching your child in pain and struggling with these unanswerable questions broke the remainder of what I had left.

How do you answer these questions when you don’t have the answers? How do you remain courageous when you yourself have fear? All I could do was hug him, cry with him and tell him that it was ok to cry, be afraid, and ask questions but in the morning he needed to fight back and to push forward. I told him to ask God to strengthen and sustain him and to give him peace. For a kid (and even for an adult), that sounds so generic and blasé’, but it’s what I have to hang on to so I’m going to hang on to it. I also told him when he’s older, he can tell his kids and grandkids about the scar on his head and how he overcame the biggest challenge of his life when he was just a kid. Ann Voskamp speaks of grief and loss as a type of empty or negative space in our hearts which gives our lives definition; its constant presence in our thoughts and actions. She then says that God uses this space to give us permission to pause, help us reevaluate and draw our attention to what is positive-God Himself and the hope we have.

I am exhausted, mentally and physically. On top of this, we had 3 kids recently go off to college and another is starting her senior year of high school. Life moves forward. I thought that a Stage 4 diagnosis would do me in, but watching and caring for your child through such a major health crisis goes beyond human capability. I understand the being strong and fighting part when it comes to me and my fight, but for my child? It’s the next level. Children believe you when they see in your eyes that you believe, and it has taken every inch of my being, with HEAVY reliance on my faith to be strong and courageous for both of us. Love gives courage. We talk about life in seasons, ‘this is just a good or bad season,’ etc, but I heard Shauna Niequist on a podcast and she referred to life as more of a railroad track, the good and bad happen simultaneously side by side. I agree because I’ve seen it every day we’ve been here and even through my own cancer journey. In this hell, there has been light. On the worst of days, there have been glimmers of hope. There may have been tears but there has been laughter as well; always good and bad side by side.

The love we have experienced from friends, family, nurses, even strangers have meant so much and has lifted us up. I cannot thank you all enough for all the cards, texts, gifts, and prayers. As a Christian, I have always known the story of God and Jesus but now I understand even more the incredible sacrifice; a Father watching his son suffer real human suffering to give us all hope. That is love. Love gives courage.

Do not fear for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you…I will uphold you.’~Isaiah 41:10

 

Is God Still Good

16 Aug

img_4179About a month ago I was scrolling through social media and one of the cancer survivor/fighters I follow had her first scan one year after being told she was cancer free, and it was still clean. This of course is reason to celebrate and her comment was ‘God is so good.’ I hate to say it, but in my mind I thought, What if the scan results did not turn out that way…would she have still said, ‘God is so good’?

I have had a beyond crazy couple of weeks. About 2 weeks ago I was part of a celebration called Brushes With img_4060Cancer. I was matched with an artist (singer) and we collaborated together to create a piece of music with spoken word. There were several other artist/cancer thriver collaborations and the night was beautiful. At the end of the night I was presented a painting from an artist who told me he was inspired by my story and the painting he had been working on that evening was meant for me. Cue the tears of joy, gratitude, awe, etc. I left on a high. God is good. The very next day my 16 year old son suffered a stroke. The very. next. day.

Two weeks ago today, my son suffered a stroke due to AVM, an undetected malformation in the brain from birth. The tears of joy the night before turned into tears of the greatest sorrow and desperation I have ever had. I have never felt such depths of grief until I saw my baby, right side paralyzed, unable to speak that first week, with so much fear in his eyes. Was God still good? I obviously have had my fair share of bad stuff, but that first week (last week) felt like I was in an alternate reality. The words, ‘God only gives you what you can handle,’ meant (means) nothing to me because this, I couldn’t handle. Then there’s, ‘Things happen for a reason,’…what reason? Why do I have Stage 4 cancer and why would my youngest have a stroke? Here’s what I think (and excuse my language), shit happens. It just does. We were not promised heaven on earth or some euphoric life. I live in Michigan, we have long, gray winters, Michigan is not heaven. This is real life.

When Jesus was on earth, He experienced real life too. God doesn’t give us what we can handle, what kind of God would punish us to see what we could handle? I have felt completely helpless in this situation and I can’t handle this on my own, so on the contrary, I believe God helps us handle what we’re given. Ann Voskamp writes, ‘The Writer of the story has written Himself into the hardest places of yours and is softening the edges of everything with redeeming grace.’ I like that, He is softening the edges of this nightmare.

God is still good. In the case of a Christian life instead of ‘seeing is believing’, we have to live by ‘believing is seeing’. Romans 8:25 says, ‘But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.’ This situation sucks. Me having cancer sucks. I know for sure though, that believing in God offers me the hope I need to push forward. This hope is the release needed to say, ‘I have no control over the situation and I hand it to You.’ Erwin McManus says, ‘Our ability to endure, persevere, to overcome is fueled by this one seemingly innocuous ingredient called hope.’  So, having metastatic cancer but still stable after 2 years? God is good. Alex progressing and getting better slowly every day? God is good. The hundreds if not thousands of people who have prayed for us over the past couple of weeks? God is good. Jesus living on this earth and suffering real, human, pain to give us hope? God is good. We will all have some adversity and some, even major tragedies which will be 100% awful and make us question everything. For me, the bits of peace and even the smallest rays of hope come from my faith in a big God, no matter the outcome. I am not alone. Small steps, big God. God is good.

Insecure

13 Apr

beach

The more she looks back at her life, the more she is slowly beginning to find: not everything went according to plan, but she certainly learned from it all. She grew in ways she never imagined she would grow and no one can take that away from her.’ ~Morgan Harper Nichols

Last night I got to sing at one of my most favorite events of the year. Every year, one of my doctors holds a concert to celebrate World Voice Day; patients, staff, and even my doctor sings during the concert and it’s basically great fun and great music. The patients that sing all have had something affect their voice from polyps to paralysis, so listening to them sing and being part of the event as a singer is inspirational. Last year, I pretty much cried my whole song (first year with metastatic diagnosis), this year I felt stronger, more resilient, and a little less nervous. I almost cried at the end of my song because the lyrics really hit my heart, ‘Sometimes I wonder, where I’ve been…I may not win, but I can’t be thrown out here on my own.’ The lyrics took my breath away for a minute but I didn’t break. Catch the performance here(https://youtu.be/fuv-Z_1WfQ0)

I have to confess something. Ever since my metastatic diagnosis over a year ago I have felt kind of funky. I felt as if I have aged at a rapid pace, I’ve struggled with sadness, maybe depression at times, and lots of insecurity. I can’t exactly pinpoint what the feeling is, all I know is that it infiltrated my space. I went from being a fairly confident person to someone whose body betrayed her once again, but this time in a big way. It was a big enough shock to the system that for the first time I thought the cancer would finally win, and I was losing my voice, not literally, but having no say anymore. Consequently, things that came easier for me took more out of me. I was insecure about how I did my job, I was a wreck speaking in public, and everyday when I looked in the mirror all I could see was a girl who was exhausted from fighting her body. I didn’t even like having my picture taken because again, I saw a girl that was tired. Having cancer and what it does to your psyche really sucks.

About a month or 2 ago I felt something change. I started gaining my confidence, or maybe it’s just peace and joy, but I can feel it. I think it mostly stemmed from the fact that my last scan was still stable making it ‘stable disease’ for almost 2 years. Or maybe I was just tired of being tired. Whatever it was that changed my mojo, I have felt it and last night was an example. Yes I was nervous but deep down I felt confident that I could do it and make it through without crushing nerves and a shaky voice. Then again, even with a shaky voice, I was so ready. I guess I’ve hit the valley after learning about the diagnosis and am swinging back up to fight and live, it took awhile. I trust God, I know He’s got me. I know I will have seasons of doubt and fear again. I mean, my next scan is only about 7 weeks away so there’s that cycle again but I’m good. ‘Faith and Fear make poor bedfellows. Where one is found, the other cannot exist.’~Napoleon Hill  

The opening quote was written specifically for me by the talented poet Morgan Harper Nichols. She has made it her business to write words for people after knowing some of their story. With all the opportunities I’ve had to share my story lately, I have been able to look back at my life and see how much has transpired. It definitely has not gone as planned but I have grown and learned…and I AM STILL HERE. So much strength can be drawn from our stories. Thank you for following along with mine.

Today I wear The Lipstick Journey lipstick in Playful. I have been wearing this color a lot lately. It’s a bright plum, probably the brightest color I created. It’s exactly how I’ve been feeling lately, bright, joyful, and playful! Cheers!

Strength and Story

23 Mar

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Yesterday I had the chance to tell my story for a podcast that will be broadcast in a few weeks. I have to admit I was nervous for a few reasons; I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t receive any questions ahead of time to prepare answers for, and I’m a little insecure about my voice because it is weak and ‘breath-y’ and a podcast is all voice. When Lauryn first called to get ready to record I asked what part of my story she wanted to hear, the cancer part, the lipstick part, how the cancer opened up the lipstick business, etc. She said, ‘Your whole story, beginning to end, everything you want to tell me, just keep talking.’ Woah. That’s a lot. I started with, ‘ I was born…’ I’m sure that freaked her out a little but I quickly jumped to my passions growing up then to the first time I had cancer. I described everything from finding out, to the procedures, work, kids, people, emotions, home life, etc. I described those things for every single time I was diagnosed until now. I spoke about being a mother to young kids the first time I was diagnosed and what that meant, then now being a mom to older teens/young adults and what being diagnosed with Stage 4 means to me and to them. And of course, I spoke about lipstick and the part it has played in my messy journey.

I talked for over an hour without interruption describing every nuance. I realized that this was the first time, if ever, I have shared all of those details out loud. Not just all of the times I was diagnosed, the when, and what happened, but all the emotions and most of my thoughts surrounding those times. Yes my voice shook, yes we both cried at times, but there was also laughter. I was literally exhausted for the rest of the day. The thing is, I let myself be super vulnerable and was able to open up, and after hearing myself speak about all that I had gone through up to this point, I felt strong. I have always thought that throughout my journey I did what I had to do to just keep going for me and my family and that was not strength, it was just will, and just because. After the interview I felt REALLY strong and realized that ‘the story’ was not really the big moments, it was every piece, fragment, emotion, in between. It was the filler in the pages between chapters and that is where the strength was really necessary. ‘You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror, I can take the next thing that comes along.’~Eleanor Roosevelt.

At the end of my hour of babbling on the podcast, Lauryn had one question, ‘After everything, has your belief or faith in God changed?’ Good question. I have to say after the first 3 times with cancer I never asked God why. I just figured God had a plan and was generally at peace with whatever outcome. Total trust. This last diagnosis of metastatic cancer I finally asked God the why question. Not, ‘why me’, but more ‘why can’t my life just be good for awhile. Why can’t I just rest?’ I don’t know the answers but I still have peace with whatever. I absolutely still believe in God and if anything my faith has gotten even stronger. I told her that in the darkest of moments for me and with all the unknown, God was/is my only solid and that’s enough. ‘Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.’ -Corrie ten Boom 

I started my day yesterday seeing this quote on Lauryn’s Instagram and it was perfect,’Tell the story of the mountain you climbed. Your words could become a page in someone else’s survival guide.’~Morgan Harper Nichols. Amen and amen.

Today I’m wearing The Lipstick Journey lipstick in Playful which is a bright plum/berry. It’s the brightest color I created and it’s actually not super bright (meaning still wearable every day, not neon). I chose Playful because it’s spring and I’m feeling funky. Cheers!

 

Scan Day

3 Mar

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Here it is again. Tomorrow is scan day for me. Living with ‘stable’ metastatic cancer is so weird. First let me explain stable; stable disease means that although my cancer has spread to other parts of my body (namely my lungs), the tumors are either not growing or not shrinking, there are no new tumors, and the cancer has not spread to any new regions of the body. Bottom line, with a diagnosis of Stage 4 metastatic cancer with tumors in my lungs? Stable is an awesome thing. I have been stable for over a year so at the one year mark my doctor decided to stretch my scans from every 3 months to every 6 months. Well, it’s been 6 months. In a blog I wrote over a year ago I quoted author Bruce Feiler who referred to his scans as his ‘regular date with digital destiny’ to show whether his lung nodules had grown. He goes on to say, ‘Scans are like revolving doors, emotional roulette wheels that spin us around a few days and spit us out the other side.’ Yes, yes, and all yes, I’m going on a date tomorrow with my digital destiny.

I have to say I think the spread to every 6 months has been beneficial to my well-being. It has given me enough time to recover from the scan, infuse a little hope, resume normal life, and on occasion, forget the cancer exists. The problem is, internally this weekend or even this whole past week leading up to the scan I’ve been a wreck. Of course nothing visible to the public but anxiety I can feel in my stomach, heart, and mind. This past week I haven’t slept that well and have had a harder time breathing. This weekend I’ve been pretty emotional. Giving my son a morning hug and a nice note from one of the sponsors of my launch party this morning has brought tears to my eyes. I want to both crawl into bed and not get up but also jump out of my skin and run like the wind (even though I can’t really run anymore because of my breathing).

I will make it through. Just another day and another step in this crazy beautiful life. Ultimately, having scans on a consistent basis has also served as a reminder that life is short and that it’s precious. It’s a reminder to stop and be truly grateful for everything and everyone you’ve been blessed with. I think that’s why I get so emotional, not because of fear, but because my date with the scan forces me to stop and really think about my life and all the people. Dang, I love living so much surrounded by people I love. Monday is just another day and by Tuesday or Wednesday, whenever I get the results and whatever  they may be, I will be a little stronger than today.

I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection.’~ Leonardo da Vinci

Today I wear The Lipstick Journey lipstick in Promise which is beautiful, soft, shimmery pink. On the website I described wearing this color to remind yourself that tomorrow is a new day, a color full of hope and promise and a ‘pinky promise’ to yourself to be gentle to you. For today (and tomorrow) I pray for peace. Cheers!

 

Winter

23 Feb

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In the winter I am writing about, there was much darkness. Darkness of nature, darkness of event, darkness of spirit. The sprawling darkness of not knowing. We speak of the light of reason. I would speak here of the darkness of the world, and the light of ______. But I don’t know what to call it. Maybe hope. Maybe faith, but not a shaped faith-only, say, a gesture, or a continuum of gestures. But probably it is closer to hope, that is more active, and far messier than faith must be. Faith, as I imagine it, is tensile, and cool, and has no need of words. Hope, I know, is a fighter and a screamer.’ ~Mary Oliver

It’s pretty much the middle of winter in Michigan so yes, it’s pretty much dark and gray most of the time. I never thought I was the one affected by continual gray days but I find when the sun decides to show up my mood is incredibly lighter. That last line of the poem really spoke to me, hope is a fighter and a screamer.

This week I had an official launch party for my lipstick company. As I was preparing for the party, nerves and stress were getting the best of me. I had lots of help and direction so the stress mainly came from me having to speak, and also having people there I did not know very well specifically coming to see me and meet my new baby, the lipstick…tough being an introvert. The party went unbelievably well and I now find myself being that fighting and screaming hope-filled person. It’s a really crazy place to be mentally because on the one hand, I’m filled with gratitude, excitement and ‘future’ while on the other, I’m still filled with gratitude but have questions about ‘future’. One day celebrating the birth of a dream while a little over a week from now, a scan to see if those dumb tumors are growing… fighting and screaming hope.

I am also a woman of great faith and I get what Mary Oliver was saying, ‘faith is tensile and cool.’ Faith stretches when I’m feeling at my bottom and it is the undergirding of my being. Without my faith in God and a bigger master plan, my hope would be dwindling in my circumstances. Winter in Michigan is long and gray and dark but we need the dark as much as we need the light. In the dark we rest and renew our bodies for the next day. In the dark we get to see the infinite possibilities of the stars in the sky. It has been in my darkest moments that my trust in God and faith have grown. As Barbara Brown Taylor says, ‘new life starts in the dark.

Today I’m fighting and screaming hope because I know there are still adventures to be had and maybe more dreams opening up. Spring still comes after winter. ‘For awhile you have a lifetime. Fiercely wanting what we all do, JUST A LITTLE MORE OF LIFE.’~ Mary Oliver

Today I wear The Lipstick Journey lipstick in Fierce (which is on sale this month to celebrate Galentines). A beautiful red that looks great on everyone. Don’t be afraid to wear red! Cheers!

Nothing and Everything

6 Oct

img_4451The weather here in Michigan is changing. It’s my favorite time of year as the nights get cooler and the leaves change colors. I love fall. Over the past two weeks I’ve been in a little funk because with the changeover to fall my allergies start picking up and along with that and cancer, breathing becomes a little more difficult. I have had trouble breathing here and there since I got cancer the first time 10 years ago because of a paralyzed vocal cord from the first surgery. Now that my cancer is metastatic to my lungs, difficulty breathing is a little more urgent in the doctors’ eyes. Apparently even though my cancer is technically stable, since I have multiple lung nodules, there are possibilities of other things happening simply because my lungs are now compromised. Ugh. Over the past month I have been to the ER because of my breathing issues (all turned out normal besides still having cancer-still stable), and more recently my doctor thought I should go ahead and get a pulmonary function test which was not a party. That turned out pretty much as expected.

I am not in the mood to see doctors right now but because of breathing issues (which again are not new) I’ve had no choice, and again a reminder of cancer. Something I realized about myself over these past few weeks is that I’m really bad at resting and being still. I was never like that before. I mean, I was never someone who took naps but I’m pretty sure I could sit on the couch for hours staring at nothing. Now, not so much. My mind won’t stop spinning. I have a deep urgency about everything, being everywhere, doing everything I’ve wanted to do, not missing anything in regards to kid stuff and life in general. It’s so hard to be on the line between dreams, responsibility, possibility, and sadness-hard to describe. It all boils down to time. How do we spend it and who do we spend it with? Close your eyes for a minute and think about your life today; your family, your friends, your job, your home, now take a deep breath and imagine yourself  in an exam room with a doctor telling you that you have Stage 4 cancer, or you need a heart procedure, or you have MS, or whatever it may be. In a blink of an eye your life has changed it’s course to something you had not planned. Now open your eyes and exhale because you’ve been holding your breath. What would you do differently? From that point on what would your life look like? What if some things couldn’t change because of responsibility, what would you do today? In the late Paul Kalanithi’s book When Breath Becomes Air he says, ‘I began to realize that coming in such close contact with my own mortality had changed both nothing and everything. Before my cancer was diagnosed, I knew that someday I would die, but didn’t know when. After the diagnosis, I knew that someday I would die, but didn’t know when. But I knew it acutely. The problem wasn’t really a scientific one. The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live.’ Get it? Nothing changes yet everything changes so how are you going to spend your time?

img_4450-1I’ve been sad lately because there’s so much I want to do but I understand the facts of responsibility. I’m a wife and mom, I’m an employee, we have medical bills (obviously) and college bills so I can’t just tour the world or start a non-profit and help people. I get it but what can I change? What else can I do? This is why I’m restless. This is why my mind won’t stop. It’s kind of a lonely place to be, even lonelier when you try to pretend all is normal and the same as it always is or was because it’s not. I’m still grateful and I’m still forging ahead like there will be a thousand tomorrows because there could be. Today though, I’m seeking out the color amongst the gray because my heart’s been troubled and I know there’s so much beautiful color. I will soak in this encouragement from Ann Voskamp, ‘I have a Messiah who meets me in it, won’t leave me in it, and will carry me through it! We never cry alone. Go slow. Be God-struck. Grant grace. Live truth. Give thanks. Love well.’

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Photo cred: E. Petersen

Today I wear Bite Beauty Amuse Bouche Lipstick in Liquorice which is a deep dark red. This lipstick has lots of color and is fairly moisturizing. I chose this color because it’s dark like my mood but has that bit of red that reminds me that there’s still fire deep inside. Cheers!

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