Chemo curls and chia pets

It is amazing to look back over this past year and see all that has transpired. A year ago I was in the middle of chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer. I had lost all my hair and had barely enough energy to make it through each day. My goal was to finish chemo, get through surgery and be cancer free. Praise God for his strength and seeing me through to that goal. I am now enjoying good health, have enough energy to run most days, and only have to see my oncologist every three months to get the all clear. But most important during this past year and half, my daughter met and fell in love with wonderful man and they are getting married on Saturday!! We are so blessed to have Andrew as part of the family.

When I started growing my hair back after completing chemo I remember telling a friend that I didn’t care if a chia pet grew out of the top of my head, I was just tired of being bald. Well, careful what you wish for! My hair came back so curly that it very much resembled a chia pet.  A cute and sassy chia pet, but chia nonetheless.

Chia pet

Now my goal is to find some sort of a cute hair do for my daughter’s wedding that doesn’t have everyone remembering those old “ch ch ch chia” commercials. I visited my hair stylist recently and she diligently tried to tame the beast and alas, it will not be tamed. So I have gotten used to wearing a head band and just letting those chemo curls do what they will. It still is much better than wearing a baseball cap every day and I don’t have one that would match the wedding colors! What I have learned through all of this is that hair isn’t really that important. Unlike Sampson from the bible, my strength is not in my hair. It doesn’t define me. While I like having some again and it does keep me warm (who knew being bald would make me so cold?!?) there are so many more important things in life—like love, health, family, friends, and spreading the good news of God’s grace and mercy.

In Luke 12:7 when describing God’s care and concern for us, Jesus tells us that God even knows the number of hairs on our head. That verse now makes me laugh. God had quite a job keeping track of mine this past year as it all fell out and then started growing back! Regardless of my hairstyle I will rejoice in the God who loves me and has healed me. On Saturday I will celebrate with my daughter and Andrew as they start their life together….even if I look like I have a chia pet on my head!

4-6-2013 at Blackbird

A new year—a new beginning

I love the optimism of the New Year. It’s a fresh start and anything is possible. Several years ago I began a daily Bible reading plan that would guide me to read the entire Bible in a year. I had been a Christian for many years and had studied parts of the Bible, but had never read it cover to cover. So with all the best intentions, I set out on my quest. While I struggled at times and didn’t complete the day’s reading, I would try to catch up and was determined to read even those books I had previous avoided like 1 & 2 Chronicles and Numbers. When I finished my reading that year on December 31st, it was a celebration, not of my efforts which had been sketchy, but of God’s faithfulness to meet me each time I sat down to read and to show me the great truths and joys in His Word. I follow a reading plan each year now and no matter how many times I have read through the Bible, there are always fresh revelations and hidden kernels of wisdom found in its pages.

2012 is over and it was, for many people, a difficult year. My breast cancer diagnosis, chemotherapy, and surgery will all mark the significant events of the past year for me and my family. But I can also see God’s goodness, the promises of His Word, the miracle of healing, and His faithfulness. I started a new reading plan yesterday and I am excited to learn the new lessons God will teach me as I study His Word in 2013. I especially love the first few words in the Bible, “In the beginning God…” Genesis 1:1

starsBefore anything else, there is God. He is at the center of it all and should be at the start of all we do. In every day and in every circumstance God is there. When we need encouragement, wisdom, strength, or direction, God is there and able to supply all we need. In our happiest moments and in our deepest sorrows, God is there waiting.

In the beginning God—How will you begin your new year?bible with cross

Hurdles on the Horizon

I have really enjoyed these last few weeks since finishing chemo. I am feeling stronger; I no longer have a headache; I am not such a frequent visitor to the oncology office—Ah, the good life! Yet looming on the horizon is my next hurdle in the cancer fight. I will undergo surgery on Monday and the anxiety is beginning to creep in. I feel confident in my decision. I have great assurance in my surgical team. I have a wonderful support network of family and friends to help me. But since the only surgery I have ever had was when I had my wisdom teeth removed at age 22, a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction seems like a much scarier endeavor!

But I will trust in my God and his protection over me. He has shown himself faithful throughout this cancer journey and I know he will continue to carry me as I enter this next phase. 1 john 4:18 says, Perfect love casts out fear, so I will choose to focus on God’s perfect love for me and not let fear get its grip on me in the days before surgery.

…I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope. Acts 2:25-26

Hurdles aren’t the only thing I see on the horizon—I also see hope.

hope on the horizon

The end of chemo!

I am finished with chemo! My strength is starting to come back and I am celebrating the end of this phase in the battle. God is faithful and has given me all I have needed and blessed me with more than I could have imagined. I have had wonderful support and have experienced God in deeper ways as I have walked this path.

“The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made. The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.” Psalm 145:13-14

I still have a few more weeks to regain strength before I have surgery and I plan to enjoy every minute of it!

Today I spent the afternoon with my daughter and her boyfriend at Lake Clementine. It was beautiful and relaxing. Floating on the water looking around at the gorgeous scenery, with the trees beginning to change colors, laughing and telling stories, it was just a lovely day.

He’s big—I’m small

I had the wonderful blessing of spending a couple of days with a dear friend and her daughter in Monterey last weekend. Having grown up in Southern California, I have always loved the beach. It is a special place of peace for me. Now that I live a couple of hours from the coast, I don’t get as many opportunities to dig my toes in the sand, but when I do they are always glorious.

The ocean reminds me of just how big our God is and just how small I am in comparison. The strength of my problems pale in light of the power and might of the waves. The thing that always gets me is the God of the universe, the creator of the seas, with all His glory and majesty, loves me!

“You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.” Nehemiah 9:6

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.” Psalm 24:1-2

“You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds, God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas, who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength, who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations. The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.” Psalm 65:5-8

I will remember the morning mist and the cool salt air, the laughter of good friends, and meditate on these verses today as I sit once again today in the chemo chair—and the God who created the oceans will bring me comfort.

“A friend loves at all times,
    and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Proverbs 17:17

“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32

New Challenges = New Blessings

When I wrote my last post I was about to start a new chemotherapy regimen and didn’t know what to expect. I had heard from other women who have braved this road before me that it should be easier. I can now say with much gratitude that they were correct. With this new “chemo cocktail” come new and different challenges. But more importantly I am learning that with each new challenge, God is faithful to show me new blessings.

Taxol, my new chemo drug, has the unfortunate side effect of bone pain. I have felt it most in my legs. A few days I was unable to move much from my couch and needed support just to cross the room. I say all this to highlight the difference between the first few days after chemo and the glorious blessing of God’s strength in the days that followed. While on the couch, I had the opportunity to pray more, to praise more, to dig deeply into God’s word, and seek His face. This is blessing in and of itself. Had I my normal strong legs, I may have missed this precious time. As the pain lessened and my strength grew I was happy to walk my dog and once again enjoy time outside in the warm Sacramento sunshine. 🙂

What came next was an unexpected blessing for which I will forever be thankful. My daughter and her boyfriend had signed up for a trail race in Lake Tahoe to benefit the Tahoe Cancer Center. (We all love Lake Tahoe and are avid skiers in the wintertime!) When my daughter’s boyfriend was unable to attend due to work constraints, Kate asked me to go with her to and spend the day at Squaw Valley, I could ride the tram to the top and wait for her to finish the 3 ½ mike trek from the base to high camp. It seemed like a lovely way to spend the day and I gratefully accepted the invitation. But by the morning of the race, my leg pain was gone and God had renewed my strength. So instead of sitting on the sidelines waiting for Kate, we walked the race together! 3 ½ miles straight up!! It was the most beautiful and challenging hike I have ever experienced! So thankful for time with my daughter, so thankful for God’s strength in getting me through this difficult time in my life and showing me every day that HE has I all I need, so thankful for the beauty of His creation. So thankful, just so very thankful.

The beauty of God's creation

I have chemo again today. I know what is ahead: more challenges, more blessings.

“I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.”  Psalm 18:1-2

We made it to the top!

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!!!

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