Don’t go looking for trouble

I saw my oncologist on Friday. It was my three month check-up since being declared cancer free (I love saying that, by the way!) It was a little surreal being back in his office after having spent so much time there in the past 10 months. He asked some questions, listened to my lungs, checked for swelling in my legs, asked some more questions, ordered a blood test, and said I didn’t need to come back again for another three months. It was rather quick and painless for an oncology appointment. I asked him what I should be looking out for or if there was anything I need to pay special attention to and he said, “Erin, don’t go looking for trouble.” While he later clarified and said if I had any unusual pain or swelling I should give him a call, his words have really resonated with me. How often do we worry needlessly, seek out problems, or fret over things that we can’t control?

God tells us, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6

Our minds can get so wrapped up in worry that we miss the blessings of the day. I am in a great club of women who have battled breast cancer and won!! We each have a choice to worry about the cancer coming back or celebrate the fact that it is gone. I want to spend every day praising God for healing me and giving me cancer free days, not anxiously wondering if it will return.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matt. 6:25-34

worrying

What does worry do for us anyway? There is no good in it. While we are to be responsible with our lives and our health, there is no need to fear. I plan to take good care of my cancer free body: eat nutritious food, exercise, actively manage stress, rest well, praise the God who saved me, spend time with family and friends, and refuse to worry!  So that’s my plan. What’s yours?

Don't worry just praise

Musical chairs

I went to a chemo infusion room today. Not for me but to visit a dear friend who started chemo this morning. It was a strange feeling walking into the familiar environment but knowing I wouldn’t be getting sick later. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I sat nervously in the chemo chair for the first time not knowing how the following months would be. Then after what seemed like an eternity I was sitting in the chair for the last time, exhausted and weak but grateful it was finally over. I remember new patients starting their chemotherapy journey that day as I was finishing mine, seeing their nervous faces and feeling an ache in my heart for them. And now it’s Patty’s turn at musical chairs, except in this game we all hurry to get out of the chair hoping never to sit down in a chemo chair again.  Tonight my heart aches for her too. As I talked with her today my eyes couldn’t help but linger at her beautiful long hair that will be gone in couple weeks… She is beautiful and strong and will bravely battle this disease, then soon will be her time to say good-bye to chemo chairs. Godspeed Patty!

musical chairs

Reflection

I have spent the last month recuperating from surgery and reflecting on life. Seven months ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer and faced a very uncertain future. I started this blog ten days after being diagnosed and I wrote in that first post,

“I do not know what the days ahead will hold for me but I do know my future…I will see God’s goodness displayed through this trial. Romans 8:28 is just as true today as it was 11 days ago.And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him and called according to his purpose.’ My hope and prayer with this blog is to encourage others with God’s grace and mercy as we all face the trials and struggles that compete for our attention. I choose instead to dwell on the good. Philippians 4:8 has been my battle cry, ‘Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent and praiseworthy—think about such things.’ It is not my choice to have breast cancer, but I can choose to walk each day by the love and light of God’s grace and mercy. I can choose to focus on all that is good in my life, to look up instead of down, to smile instead of frown, to sing even through my tears, and to have hope, always have hope.”

Since I wrote that first blog post, I have completed chemotherapy and have experienced such an outpouring of love I can’t even describe it. The nausea and headache are long gone but I hope never to lose the feeling of warmth and affection that enveloped me as so many people reached out to help me.

Last month I had a bilateral mastectomy and began the long process of reconstruction. Once again God showed His love and faithfulness to me through his people—reaching out and pitching in to help me, so much love, so much generosity, so much encouragement after my surgery and over the last seven months. Now I am cancer free!! God’s goodness has certainly been displayed during this season of struggle. “How great is God—beyond our understanding! The number of His years is past finding out.” Job 36:26

I so appreciate the many people who have prayed for me and my healing. My strength is growing with every day and I will give God the glory for His awesome power demonstrated in victory over cancer.  “He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope.”          2 Corinthians 1:10

Photo courtesy of Tainted Canvas.

Are you aware?

Fondue for the Cure!Typically I don’t write about breast cancer all that much on this blog. Instead I choose to focus on the positive, what I am learning through this battle, and the blessings I have encountered during the journey. For this post, however, I felt the need for something different. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Then again, you already knew that. Everything is dressed in pink and pink ribbons, even the White House is bathed in pink lights this month. It’s been 28 years since October became the official month for breast cancer awareness but this October is entirely different for me—I am now AWARE of breast cancer. It’s easy to get lulled to passivity by the overabundance of pink every October. Like Pepto-Bismol coating our consciousness, we can see the pink but not the need to act.  I have supported the cause in the past: I have donated, raced for the cure, bought the pink ribbon gear, and worn the apparel, but let me tell you, nothing heightens your awareness of breast cancer like a diagnosis of breast cancer!

So this month I am asking you, no, pleading with you to not only become more aware of breast cancer and the need for continued research toward a cure, but become personally aware of the risk of cancer and take action toward good breast health. By that I mean self-exams. My breast lump was discovered by me in the shower. Mammograms are an important and necessary tool, but there is an equally important process by which many women have detected a problem and begun the first steps in their battle against this disease. Ladies, if you are not in the habit of doing monthly self-exams, now would be a great time to start. Gentleman, please talk to the women in your life about this vital life-saving process. Your mother, sisters, wife, and daughters all could use a nudge and gentle reminder.

If you need a little more motivation let me share some staggering numbers with you. Approximately 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer at some point in her lifetime. That’s just fewer than 12% of all women in the U.S. In the last year, there were an estimated 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer, with an additional 57,650 new cases of non-invasive (in-situ) breast cancer in the U.S.  For more detailed and mind blowing statistics please see: www.breastcancer.org

For all the retail stores offering breast cancer awareness sales, the restaurants with special breast cancer awareness menus (the photo at the top is a group of some lovely ladies in my life out for breast cancer awareness night at the Melting Pot earlier this week), for all the races and pink ribboned fundraising events, don’t forget the important task of assessing your breast health.

Monthly self-exams save lives.

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!

How much proof do you need?

One of the most profound verses in scripture for me is one of the shortest. It’s found in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 “Be joyful always;” Such a simple verse, three little words, yet so powerful and also a bit perplexing. Always? Does God really mean always, always? How can this be? How is this even possible? The next verse (which is even shorter) gives us the answer. “pray continually;” When I am in conversation with my creator, I am joyful. Spending time chatting with my Savior is time well spent and gives rest to my soul. This I know to be true. But what about life’s big struggles? How are we to be joyful when life is dark and difficult? 1 Thessalonians 5:18 clears that up, “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Now I know that seems like more of a puzzle and less of an answer, but in reality it is the key to unlocking joy. Thanksgiving, having a grateful heart, appreciating others…all are scientifically proven to increase happiness!! Don’t you just love it when empirical studies confirm God’s Word?!?! O.K. maybe that is just the psychology geek in me, but I think it’s pretty cool when some research psychologist figures out what God has been saying all along. I am, even as I write this blog, surfing my university library’s database and seeing study after psychological study confirm that expressing thanks and showing gratitude is correlated with higher life satisfaction and happiness. How much proof do you need?

In order to be joyful always, we must also give thanks. We may have to look a little more closely during the dark times but there are always things to be thankful for. Today I am thankful for worship, the Word, and my incredible church family; Mexican food after Sunday service and air conditioning!! What are you thankful for?

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