From why to what and how…

It has been three months since I heard the doctor say, “You have breast cancer.” I think for most people when faced with a difficult diagnosis, major life struggle, or big disappointment the “why” questions come pretty quickly. “Why is this happening to me?” “Why now when life was going well?” “Why GOD are you allowing this?” “Why do some people get healed miraculously but not others?” “Why do people who put their trust in God, still die early deaths?” “Why is there so much suffering?” But as the days turned into weeks, I found the why questions just left me frustrated and in a negative mood.

A helpful shift for me was to start asking “what” questions. “What can I do during this time to encourage others as they face struggles?” “What are the hidden blessings in the midst of all this?” “What is GOD’S purpose for me in this?” “What lessons can I learn now that I wouldn’t have access to otherwise?” This shift in thinking has given me resolve and determination. Now I am energized instead of frustrated. Living in the what has been so much better than living in the why!

Another shift for me has been to the “how” questions. “How is God going to fulfill His promises to me?” “How is God going to be glorified in this time of struggle?” “How can I make the most of this time?” “How will I be different when this is all over?” I think the how questions are the most exciting. Instead of frustrated, I am expectant and hopeful.

I am not an expert theologian, but as I read God’s Word I think the Lord is eager for conversations with us. He longs for us to spend to time with Him and chat like we would with a good friend. I also think it is fair to ask God questions and even complain about our circumstances. I love the Psalms for that! But if the questions we ask lead us to a negative and bitter place, perhaps we need to ask different questions.

“This is what the Lord says–the Holy One of Israel, and its maker; Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands? It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled the starry hosts.”  Isaiah 45:11

I have for many years said to my students and my clients, “We are not in heaven yet, we can’t expect it to be perfect.” We are all part of the brokenness of humanity and will suffer many kinds of struggles in our lives. I think Peter said it best, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” 1 Peter 4:12

I have chemo this afternoon and because it is a new drug, I don’t know how my body will react. I had lots of questions for my doctor about this. But this morning I will spend time questioning God and I know He has all the answers.

What questions are you asking today? 

Good news, great news, and greater news

So the good news is I was able to have chemo last Thursday. Funny how being denied chemo for a day while the dermatologist checked on my skin issues was so infuriating and then being allowed to have the infusion with all the nausea, headache, and exhaustion is now good news!! But in this fight I don’t want to back down! So with that last infusion, I am now finished  with half of my chemotherapy. It’s always nice in a race when you pass the half-way point.

The great news is the biopsy from my blistered hand revealed it was just a reaction to the drugs and not one of the very scary diagnoses the doctors were worried about. My hands are much better, the stitches from the biopsy will be come out next week, and I am thanking God for his protection of my body as I submit it to the rigors of chemotherapy.

“Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, Be strong, do not fear, your God will come, He will come with a vengeance; with divine retribution He will come to save you.” Isaiah 35:3-4

Now for the even greater news—I had an ultrasound today to check on the effects of chemo killing the cancer and the tumor has shrunk by almost half!! Praise God for his faithfulness!!

Since I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in late April I have held on to God’s promises in His Word. Specifically Isaiah 53:5, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” One of the things I love about this verse, especially as someone battling cancer, is the verb choice and tense—are healed. Not may be, now could be, not someday possibly, but we ARE healed.

For the past eight weeks during chemo I was thanking God for healing me without seeing any healing. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

The ultrasound today was a nice visual of what God is up to.   🙂

Another twist and turn on the chemo ride…

Sitting in the chemotherapy room today, passed my blood test, got hooked up to my IV, premeds are flowing to aid with the nausea and other side effects, but then got pulled in to see the doctor to check out the rash and blisters on my hands. After much discussion he decided I should see a dermatologist before continuing chemo. Just a precaution but he didn’t want to flood my body with those toxic drugs if I am having a serious reaction. Some quick calls to my dermatologist for an emergency appointment tomorrow, the IV was removed, and I was sent on my way.

Feeling disappointed because I thought I would have passed the half-way point today. Praying for a good resolution at the dermatologist office so I can have chemo tomorrow (feels kind of strange that I want chemo especially since I was trying to talk my mom into taking me to the zoo down the street from my oncologist today instead of to my chemo appointment!)

But it also reminded me of my reading this morning in God’s Word. I raise the war cry and say to cancer, “Prepare for battle, and be shattered! Prepare for battle and be shattered! Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted; propose your plan but it will not stand, for God is with us.” Isaiah 8:10

I am eager for the battle because I know I don’t fight it alone. “You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.” 2 Samuel 22:29,30

I can trust in God to get me through this. “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle.” 2 Samuel 22:33-35

I will not back down because God is giving me strength. “I pursued my enemies and crushed them; I did not turn back till they were destroyed. I crushed them completely, and they could not rise; they fell beneath my feet. You armed me with strength for the battle; you made my adversaries bow at my feet.” 2 Samuel 22:38-40

Cancer’s goin’ down!!!

The Ups and Downs of the Chemo Rollercoaster

Okay, so there are more downs on this ride than I would prefer but there are some ups too. Losing my hair has been an adjustment but I also no longer need to shave my legs! Showers are incredibly quick! In the heat of the Sacramento summer I stay incredibly cool: no pesky hair to trap in the heat!

Each chemotherapy infusion has its own challenges but each week off has its own blessings. My third chemo brought with it the unfortunate side effect of an ugly rash and blisters on my hands. It itches and burns. My fingers are swollen and my knuckles look deformed. I was showing a good friend and colleague my hands today at work and telling her that although it is painful I am thankful that I have a job that allows me to sit with my hands discreetly in my lap while I see clients. I actually don’t need my hands much for my daily duties at work. What a blessing I’m not a seamstress!

This past week I was able to run a 5k race with my kids on the Fourth of July! What a joy and surprise blessing in the middle of this trial. I love to run and when I found out I would be having chemo one of the things I grieved was my daily run. Running is my all-time favorite hobby. I turn on some worship music, head out on the bike trail along the river, rejoice in God’s creation all around me, and feel most connected to my Lord and myself. Knowing I would be giving this up for 4 months was depressing. I am so glad that I have been able to run a little during my week off from chemo. I haven’t ventured out to my favorite spots and usually just hit the treadmill where I know I can step off it if I get too tired or weak, but when I saw the local Fourth of July race would be in the middle of my good week, I was overjoyed! God continues to amaze me with His faithfulness and mercy as I move through this. He gives me strength and courage for each challenge and has tucked in some wonderful blessings at just the right time!

July 4th 5k

“The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom.”     2 Tim. 4:18

Tomorrow will be my fourth chemotherapy session and I will be officially half-way finished with chemo! Praise God for His goodness and mercy.

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