Monday, September 27, 2010

Living Life??

So, this morning, I was pondering on my last two posts and thinking some more about the living life question.  Before I share some thoughts, I want to clarify (in case you don't know me well)--I tend to be a bit of an overachiever and set my standards pretty high on most things.  Take for example the other day.  It was my turn to bring goodies to our women's lifeserve group.  I was craving caramel apples.  Since I worked all day and limited on time, I could have purchased prepared caramel dip and sliced apples....but, no, I went home and made homemade caramel dip and sliced the apples.  (Yes, I think the homemade tastes better, but really-- I could have saved some time and stress.)(Plus, I burned the first batch, so I had to make a second batch.)

Today, I found myself asking the this moment enough?  Can going to work, making supper, cleaning up the house, taking a walk with my husband, driving my daughter to dance and writing on my blog, be enough?  Do we always have to be pushing for something more?  This could be a critical question for those of us who may be experiencing survivor's guilt.  We think--God saved our lives, now I must do something or be something to make my life worthwhile.  But, maybe, just maybe...we are doing what is required of us?  Maybe just being kind to our loved ones, coworkers, people on the street is enough?...Maybe just getting up in the morning and attempting to put a smile on our face is enough? Maybe this is what Paul meant when he said in his letter to the Philippians "I am content in all things."

So, tonight finds me still striving and dreaming, yet at the same time...with contentment and peace--knowing that I am right where I am supposed to be!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I am not afraid of dying, I am afraid I have never lived!

I think I am probable breaking "blogger" rules by reposting on yesterday's topic.  I can't help it.  It is on my mind and I feel a need to share.  The statement "I am not afraid of dying, I am afraid I have never lived!" is definitely impacting me.  It has haunted me since I heard it spoken at the symposium I attended yesterday.  What is really interesting that on Friday, I had lunch with my brother and the "death" topic came into our discussion.  His philosophy is that you start dying the day you were born and that he isn't afraid of death.  He stated, "Of course, I have not face the reality of death like you have, but that is my thoughts."  I shared with him that I thought he was blessed as I think one of the reasons many people are afraid of death is because they aren't living the life they desire. 
There seems to be a recurrent theme to my weekend, with two thoughts tugging at my heart.
1.  Am I living life?  For the most part, I believe I am living life and yes, like many cancer survivors, I have cancer to thank for my wake up call.  Instead of putting my dreams and desires on the back burner, they have moved up the front burner with the temperature turned up higher.  My biggest goal is to live a life honoring God and sharing His love with others.  As of now, the path seems to be leading to possible working with other survivors, along with possible some speaking/writing.  (Right now I can't say I have a clear direction, just taking the steps when prompted and continuing to pray for God's guidance and direction.)
2.  What can I do to help others LIVE?  As I look around my circle of friends, coworkers, and family, I see so many who are doing life, but not LIVING life.  Is there anything I can do to help encourage them to take the risk to explore their hidden dreams? 

Dear Lord,
Thank you for bringing an awareness to my life about LIVING!  Thank you for blessing me with a  brother who can share his heart and ask the tough questions. Thank you for tugging at my heart.  Now, I pray and ask for direction.  How can I use the words you have shared to help and encourage others, knowing that YOU desire for us all to develop the talents you have given us?  Thank you, Father, for the gift of life!

Q.  How about you, are living  today?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I am not afraid of dying, I am afraid I have never lived!

The above phrase was said by Linda, a pancreatic cancer patient, when she was attending a class on resiliency.  Today, I, along with local health care providers and cancer survivors/caregivers, had the opportunity to attend Avera Oncology Symposium.  This years focus was on survivorship.  Before today, I never really thought too much about being a survivor, just knew that I was one!  (And to think I almost didn't go and only went on the prompting that this was something I needed to do!)

The speakers were wonderful and inspirational, the topics were educational, and it was a great day! 

Since I have done much research on my cancer treatments, I was surprised to learn of the many long term side effects to cancer treatment (sometimes showing up 10, 15, 20 years.) We, as survivors, need to become aware of any potential for long term health consequences.  This new awareness has caused me to be even more vigilant about implementing good health practices to protect my heart, lungs and bones.  My treatment saved my life, but with it comes an  increased risk of coronary artery disease, heart attacks, pulmonary issues, osteoporosis, etc.  We have a  long way to go in educating survivors and their primary care physicians in follow up of cancer treatment. 

An interesting session this afternoon was on "Building Resilience--the Skills of Survivors."

Here were a few things that I walked away from this session:
  • Resilience is....
                  "it is about bouncing back from problems and stuff with more power and more smarts"
                                                           --(Sean, a 15 year old inner city student)

  • Research has found that in many ways resilient patients will be more self assured, focused and happier because of their journey with cancer.

  • "Physicians shouldn't talk about patients going back to normal after treatment.  We want to help people find the best 'new normal'."--Dr. Catherine Alfano

An interesting exercise the speaker, Deb Carlson, challenged us to participate in was the Resiliency t-test.
Draw a "T" on a piece of paper.  Across the top write your name (or someone else's name).  On the left of the line write down all the problems you see in your environment (or the person's who's name you wrote down.)  On the right side of the line, write down all the strengths in yourself (other person) and in your (his/her) environment....talents, potential talents, personality qualities. Typically it is much easier to write down things on the left side.  It seems as if our brains are programmed for the negative.  We tend to focus on what is wrong and sometimes have a difficult time seeing what is right.  Research shows that we focus 90% of our energy on the left side, with only 10% focusing on the right. (We also tend to do that with people in our lives).  We all need to focus our shift to the right, allowing our strengths to grow in power and influence.  If we want something to grow we must nurture it and reinforce it!"
If we think we are fragile and broken, we will live a fragile, broken life.  I f we believe we are strong and wise, we will live with enthusiasm and courage.  The way we name ourselves colors the way we live.  Who we are is in our eyes.  We must be careful how we name ourselves."--Wayne Muller, 1996

Create YOUR best life!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sparkling in South Dakota

This past week, one of my blogger friends, Journey Beyond Breast Cancer shared an insightful post on survivor's guilt.  One of my most favorite (and encouraging) paragraphs from this post was:
In his book, Travelling Light (The Columba Press) Daniel J. O’Leary quotes Bearwatcher, an Apache medicine man. “In the Apache language there is no word for ‘guilt.’ Our lives are like diamonds. When we are born we are pure and uncut. Each thing that happens to us in our lives teaches us how to reflect the light in the world; each experience gives us a new cut, a new facet in our diamond. How brilliantly do those diamonds sparkle whose facets are many, to whom life has given many cuts!”
Simply Sparkling in South Dakota!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Simply Sunday

My ponderings lately are on this video that was posted on  Peace for the Journey.  The Cancer Crusade are the words to the movie:

I have cancer but cancer does not have me.
Cancer is not who I am.
It is only a bend in the road that is my life’s journey…
An unexpected detour on my path.
It is a lesson in the cosmic school room that is human existence.
So I will pause to rest…..and heal…and study the lesson…
Before I move on to my life beyond cancer.
I will not give into fear.
And I will not be discouraged by setbacks.
Setbacks are only opportunities to review the lessons.
I will not be ashamed of my scars
My scars are the brushstrokes in the masterpiece that is my life.
I will be thankful for the many blessings that cancer has brought into my life:
People I would have never known.
Love that I have never been still or quiet enough to witness.
Humility I needed.
Strength I thought I had lost,
Courage I never knew I had.
I will remember I can still have fun.
And that its okay—even healthy! to be silly.
I will remember that to find joy in rainbows…
I must endure the rain.
And I will remember always that…
While I may have cancer…
Cancer does not have me!

This poem was such a beautiful encouragement today as I am once again "couch bound" due to the cyclic back pain.  Instead of getting frustrated and discouraged, I am using this setback as a time to review the lessons of my cancer journey.  To reflect and meditate on the plans that God has for me.  Some days I wish God would hand me the map with the directions clearly marked.  I am good at following the directions, it is just interrupting them that trips me up. 
When doing some reading this morning in Lysa Terkeurst's book, Becoming More Than A Good Bible Study Girl and Lysa states "I have finally landed.  That's the way I feel since I stopped that intense search for what I am supposed to become in life.  I still have goals and hopes for my future, but they no longer send me into a striving frenzy. But I must continue to pursue truth that keeps me grounded and God's love that keeps me filled."
So, today finds me pursuing truth...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Walkin' with my little buddy!

Over the Labor Day weekend, my family and I took a quick trip to Montana to see our daughter, son in law and grandson. (Quick, like in 13 hour drive, 4 days, quick!)  We were blessed with many precious memories.  I thought I'd  share with you one of these special memories and how I had an "ah, ha" God moment in an unexpected event.

I would like to introduce you to my little buddy, Apollo. 

After a nice supper at the local coop, I suggested that Apollo and I walk home. My daughter, the wise mommy she is said, "Are you sure about that?  He likes to dawdle and gets side tracked real easy."  I quickly reassured her, after all, how hard could it be to walk with a 15 month old?  Besides, their home was only four blocks away.  Well, let's say, those four blocks will be forever engraved in my heart.

My first clue should have been when we had taken only a few steps and Apollo sat down on the sidewalk to pick a blue  flower.  After a few minutes of picking the petals off, I gentle took his hand and coaxed him up.  We walked a few more steps.  Oh, but than his eyes spied a yellow flower.  Again, he sat down to explore (and destroy) this new flower.  He grabs my hand and again, we proceed on our journey.  Oh, no, Apollo sees his mom and dad drive by in their car, which you would think since he started fussing when he saw them, that he would have wanted to run after them. But no, not this kiddo.  He turned around and ran the other way.  We are now back at the Coop--our starting point.  I thought to myself, okay, we are not getting anywhere little guy.  I  offered my hand and he proceeded to make his feet stick to the ground, look at me, plopped his bottom down (with a big grin on his face) and proceed to lay down on his back to watch the  sky.  After a few minutes, I bent down and picked up my 30 lb buddy and carried him about 1/2 a block.  Since my mastectomy, I haven't really carried that much weight, so a 1/2 block was all this grandma could muster.  I lowered him to the ground and we walked hand in hand...oh, for about 3 steps.  Apollo spotted a water puddle.  Yup, you guessed it!  He had to splash in the puddle.  When he finished splashing, he spotted a rock.  Now, this child loves rocks almost as much as he loves his mommy and daddy.  We stopped and played with some rocks and I once again, picked Apollo up and carried him another 1/2 block.  We crossed the street and I gave him my hand so we could proceed to home.  Well,  after a few steps Apollo decided he didn't like the direction I was going, he turned around and ran back to the corner.  Once he got there, he plopped his bottom down, proceeding to lay down and watch the clouds. (With a big grin on his face.)

By now, I am thinking...Hey little guy, I love taking the time to explore with you, but if you just hang on to my hand I will get you home.  Apollo, buddy, the road home doesn't have to be this difficult.   It was right then I felt the "God" tug.  That tug where you know a lessons-a-coming!  I could almost hear God say to me--"Kim, don't you see the parallel?  Like you trying to guide your grandson, I try and guide you.  I am holding out my hand, wanting to guide you to the destination I have planned for you.  Instead of holding my hand and listening to my voice, you get side tracked, stomp your feet, plop on your bottom and run the other way.    Also, like you have carried Apollo, I have carried  you." An amazement to me is like I patiently waited for Apollo, God is standing there waiting for me.   Just waiting for me to hold His hand and let Him guide me on my journey!!

Apollo and I did make it home that day after this grandma did a few more 1/2 block carries.

Q  Where have you learned a lesson in an unexpected place?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Happy Dance!

Ok, so I wasn't too worried about the scans, but when your world has been rocked by cancer once, it is hard to not be a bit concerned.  Thankfully scans and labs were good!  My oncologist was a bit puzzled on my continued back pain, presumed endometriosis, etc...but after much discussion, it looks like a hysterectomy is still in the plan...unless, of course, God shows me another option.  Thanks for your prayers!  Doing the Happy Dance in South Dakota!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The journey up the mountain!

When I was done with cancer treatment, I thought I had reached the top of the mountain and the challenge was to find my way down.  One year later post treatment, I find that I climbing a new mountain that has a few meandering paths that appear to be taking me off my path. 
As I have shared with you all, the last month or so, has been challenging for me health wise.  Last week, I emailed the breast navigator for my oncology clinic, asking her when do I need to be concerned about certain symptoms or when can I just chalk it up to post treatment side effects.  Well, apparently I have enough variables showing up that I have raised some eyebrows and I am scheduled for a PET/CT scan this Thursday.  At first I wasn't too worried, but as the day gets closer, I am finding scanxiety creeping in.  It is so frustrating as my heart and mind know that God is in control and He is walking beside me...but to be honest it is hard not to have a bit of fear.  Thankfully, I have the scan at noon and appt with oncologists at 430, so I don't have to wait long for results.  The Lord is in control.  and I trust He knows my heart and how much I want to serve Him with my life.  (After all my mind feels like a gerbil on his wheel with how many ideas I want to explore (and hopefully implement) for providing support and encouragement to others who find themselves walking the cancer mountain.)

Ps.  I also have some really awesome blog topics that I can't wait to have some time to finalize and share with you all. 

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Chai from the Sky

This past Tuesday I had an appt with the obgyn's office which led to some procedures.  Good news--ultrasound appeared negative for any cancer (I guess once you have cancer this is something that is always going to be a concern.)  Bad news--horrible back pain continued for most of the week.  The gyn MD had offered surgery, I politely explained to them that I had a trip planned for Montana over the weekend and surgery wasn't an option at this time.  I did agree to return for an appt on Thursday if pain continued.
After my appointment, on my way to work I had called my  husband in tears:  partly from pain, partly from fear and partly from being sick and tired of being sick and tired!  As usual, Ferlin asked me if there was something that he could do for me.  I quickly told him PRAY!  He asked, "what should I pray for?"  I replied, "Two things:  One for some definitive answers and second, for a chai to fall from the sky!" (Chai tea is one of my most favorite comfort drinks.)  Well, imagine my surprise when I got to work and my coworker had picked me up a chai tea on her way to work (about 1 1/2 hours before my prayer request.)  We all enjoyed the moment of a simple prayer requested being answered.
On Thursday, the pain continued so I once again found myself at the obgyn's office.  We had the talk (amidst my tears).  Unless a miracle occurs, I will be having a complete hysterectomy mid October.  My gyn thinks that my pain is coming from ovarian cysts and endometrosis.  To my best understanding (from the limited research I have found)...when a woman goes through chemotherapy it can affect the ovaries.  Since I never really had any female issues prior to breast cancer, I am thinking my ovaries have gone "crazy".  It does make me a bit angry that I have to have another surgery, that I will be in "instant menopause", but it is what it is.... 

Mood wise this has been a much better week--thank goodness!