Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Medical Update: Pray Without Ceasing

I have found that one of the harder things in dealing with cancer is the unknowns.  There is always the worry that this cancer will come back, or that there will be side effects of my treatment.

Every three months I have a follow up appointment with my oncologist and every six months I have a follow up with my surgical oncologist. Those are my two "cancer doctors.” I recently have had very positive appointments with both of those doctors.

My oncologist has me taking a shot to control the cysts that I was having, and so far that has helped tremendously. As a negative it has caused me to have major hot flashes and can likely cause osteoporosis, but at the present it is working and things look good. They will do blood tests every three to six months as a way to make sure there is no reoccurrence. 

My follow up with my surgical oncologist was positive as well. I was informed that when my type of breast cancer spreads it usually will spread to the lungs or bones, so if I have any really bad pain that would be something to get checked out. I have had a tear in my hip joint for about a year now, being treated with cortisone injections. Because of this I have been put on bone calcium supplements so that my bones will stay strong and not encourage bad cell production. But overall my doctor was very pleased with how I am doing!

Even with getting good reports from all my doctors there is always that "what if" in the back of my mind. As I have thought through this, I have been reminded of Paul’s words in Philippians 4:6, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." The fact that Paul says "do not" indicates that being anxious isn’t just unhelpful – it is actually sinful. God commands us not to be anxious. This does not mean that I can’t be concerned about real and serious needs, but that I should not give into the temptation to worry or be anxious about those concerns.

And just like God commands us not to be anxious, he commands us to pray. And the fact that he puts those two commands together is no mistake. When I am tempted to worry or be anxious, the best way to remove that temptation is to go directly to God in prayer. My daughter has learned a verse in her Pre-K class that she recites all the time. It is 1 Thessalonians 5:17, "Pray without ceasing." She gets so excited to recite something, and having her recite this verse so often has not only engrained it in her heart, but also in mine. When I get anxious, I need to pray. And when I get anxious again, I need to pray. That is what it means to pray without ceasing. 

I would appreciate your prayers as I continue to recover from this past surgery and decide what and if there will be a follow up surgery in the coming months. Thank you!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

I'll Be Home

I was reminded of a very profound truth this past week that has given me a lot of encouragement and peace. It is from the book, "The Problem of Pain," by C.S. Lewis:

The Christian doctrine of suffering explains, I believe, a very curious fact about the world we live in. The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and merriment He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bath or football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasantness, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home…God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

As I go through daily struggles in this life it gives me such joy and encouragement to be reminded by those trials that this world is not my home. My home is in heaven. Throughout this journey of cancer I am reminded that this world is not my home. My home is in heaven. When I feel like I don't have enough energy to make it through the day I am reminded that this world is not my home. My home is in heaven. When I feel like I am running an uphill race that is never going to end I am reminded that this world is not my home. My home is in heaven.

This is not to say that God does not have me here on earth for no reason. I am here to accomplish what he wants me to and he has given me purpose in every single thing that has happened in my life. I may not even know what those purposes are, but I do know: I am here to serve him, and enjoy him and I have a wonderful home waiting for me in heaven. As Paul says, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:20)."

When I was in high school I sang a song called “I’ll Be Home” in a musical that was written by a woman from my church, Janett Sugg. A few years later, I sang that same song with my sister at my dad's funeral. The words are so simple and so true. You can read them and hear the song below.

I’ll Be Home
Music and Lyrics by Janet Sugg
When I close my eyes I dream,
Of the place that waits for me.
There is happiness like I have never known,
It’s a place that I can finally call my own.
I’ll be home.

I will leave behind the tears,
Disappointments, sorrows, fears.
For the peace within my heart will overflow,
I will never be afraid or all alone.
I’ll be home.

I’ll be home, home, home.
And the Lord will call my name,
Promise me I’ll live with him always.
And his smile will be like sunshine on my face.
I will find the love I’ve longed for in that place.
I’ll be home.

I’ll be home, home, home.
I’ll be home, home, I’ll be home.
I’ll be home.

Close your eyes and dream with me,
Hear the laughter, feel the peace.
Leave behind the cares that hold you in this life.
There is so much waiting for you, come with me.
Come with me.

We’ll be home, home, home.
We’ll be home, home, we’ll be home.
We’ll be home. We’ll be home. We’ll be home.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Kids Are Home...

The kids are home...I don't know how I'm going to do this! I think the three of them keep getting busier and busier and more and more energetic! I know I can do this because I have before. I just need to take it one day at a time.

The timing of this surgery worked out for many reasons, one of them being that my mother-in-law and father-in-law were in town for Christmas and were willing to stay with Lydia, Hudson and Samuel when I went in for surgery. They kept them here in Pooler for a couple days and then drove Lydia and Hudson to Atlanta to stay with Matt's sister, Kristin, and her family. Lydia and Hudson loved getting to drive to Atlanta with Grandma and Grandpa and they loved getting to play with their cousins Adalynn (5), Brooks (4), and Isaiah (9 months). I think they may have worn everyone out! I am thankful for the time and energy that our family was willing to give in caring for our children. What a blessing! I am also thankful for the willingness of friends around here in Pooler who were able to keep Samuel. Thank you!

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you.
Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord,
because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:58
I have mentioned before that one thing that this cancer journey has taught me is that I am not in control of my life. I have been reminded of this numerous times, especially in regards to my children. It is hard to have to give them up to different people to be taken care of. And I know it is hard on other people to have to watch them! And it is hard for me to continually be asking for help. But with each of these things God has provided. He has provided me a peaceful heart to allow them to go. He has provided servant hearted people willing and ready to serve. And he has provided contentment as I have continued to ask for help. 

I am so thankful to have my three beautiful children all back home and under one roof. I told Matt that it has been so nice and quiet here as the kids have been in Atlanta. But I have missed the voices of my sweet (and often times loud and obnoxious) little angels. 

I am continuing to recover well, but still cannot lift Samuel. I would appreciate prayers that my left arm and back would heal efficiently so that I can care for all three again soon.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Identity in Christ

I had my surgery about four days ago. When I compare how I am doing now to how I was doing four days after my previous surgery (in October), I can’t help but be thankful for how I am feeling. I still have a lot of pain in my back and on my left side, and will still have drains in for another week, but there have been no complications which I am so thankful for.   

I was so nervous going into this surgery because of what happened before. I think I made things worse for myself by not putting all of my trust in Christ. I was trying to hold on to some control of the situation and it was beginning to harden my heart. But God was gracious and brought me though this surgery so smoothly. Once again, he has opened my eyes to be reminded of where my identity is found.
It is so important for me as a Christian to be constantly reminding myself of who I am in Christ.  My identity is found in Christ and in his work for me on the cross. When I begin to get lost in the idea that the world is here for me or that my identity rests in myself – that is when despair comes. The fact that my identity is in Christ gives me hope and joy that cannot be taken away...no matter what may come in this life! As the Apostle Paul says, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20)."
Yesterday I heard a great reminder of these truths in the song, "Running to You," by Shane and Shane. It fits my situation over the last couple weeks perfectly (it even talks about being barely able to stand "on a cold night in December"). The lyrics and audio are below:

"Running to You" by Shane and Shane
It’s a cold night in December
And I can barely stand
Lord help me to remember
Who I am, oh, who I am

To You

I’m a dead man raised
A liberated slave
And I’m runnin’,
To You
My hands are raised
I’m giving everything
And I’m runnin’

My heart just started beating
And Your breath filled up my lungs
My eyes are finally seeing
What You’ve done
And who I am

To You