In Sickness and in Health

Battling cancer with love, medicine, and the Giver of both.

Memory and gratitude

jeanworking

A year ago she was languishing in a sterile hospital. Today she was playing in the sun, breathing true air, and rooting around in the dirt. Life is awesome.

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April 2

Today is my transplant birthday.

I am one year old.

Glory!…

Glory!…

and more Glory to the One who holds life and death.

 

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Hello…anybody home?

It’s been awhile.

We are home…

Although for all you know we’ve been visiting the moon.

Ever since yesterday afternoon, I’ve been longing to write this.  Earlier this week on Tuesday, I drug myself out of bed and headed off to do another routine PET Scan.  Just yesterday we heard from my doctor who reviewed it and said the scan is completely normal.

Completely normal.  Two incredible words!  They produced a string of “awesome’s” from my husband right there on the phone with the nurse.  I was in the neighboring room and felt a wave of relief wash over me.

We are thanking Jesus up and down.

I suppose I will always feel a nervous tension every time I do a scan, but it IS getting easier.  Thankfully!

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One Year Ago…

Our hope lay in shards.

This is the one-year anniversary of my second diagnosis.  We thought I was gonna die.  And here I sit, typing at my computer.

God, You are our help!  Our times are in Your hands.

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Pig Chasing

Over the last two years I’ve written about what I’ve done ‘in sickness.’  So in case you’re wondering what I’m doing ‘in health.’ …

You’ll never guess.

Pig chasing you say?  How did you know?  Oh… the title.

Yes, pig chasing.  Monster pigs.

You see, we live in a small apartment on our landlord’s property which is adjacent to our neighbors (duh) who live with three pigs and some chickens.  Only, the pigs and the chickens seem to like our land better.  Grass is always greener right?  The pigs are penned up.  But the chickens…well, let’s just say if they ever sell them, they can truly label them as ‘free-range chickens.’  Really, I’m used to them coming over so much that I hardly think about it anymore.  I did have an urge to rush them the other day, so I followed the instinct and the stupid rooster stood up to me.  Amazing!  Uh… I admit I was leery.  I had this nagging sense that he just might fly in my face if I crossed his boundaries.  So I let him be.

Now, as for the pigs.  Yes, they are penned up.  But, being pigs they root around and apparently find great pleasure in wiggling their way out.  Several days ago I was in our entryway and glanced out at a huge dog on our porch.  Uh…wait.  On second glance my eyes bulged as they beheld a large brown… PIG??  I raced for my camera and rushed out to document this trespassing creature.  I succeeded in chasing him back to the pasture that separates us from our neighbors (our landlord’s longhorn cows inhabit this bit of land).  And from there he trotted on home.  Unfortunately, in all of this scramble he found a bucket of chicken feed in the garage which seemed to delight his piggy desires.  In the meantime, our landlord let our neighbors know their pigs were out.  Needless to say, a rather chaotic scene ensued.  Our neighbors own a business right on their property.  So…about three men, a child, and a woman were running after these pigs like maniacs with rakes and sticks and what-have-you.  HILARIOUS!

After much difficulty, the pigs were again behind wire.  I thought, “Hmmm…that big piggy knows exactly where to find some tasty, free chicken feed…”

A day or two later, I had my good friend over for coffee.  She has three little boys who love to give bread to our landlord’s chickens.  We coaxed them out the door but decided to go with them as they were begging for our presence.  We grabbed our cameras and out we went.  I was getting close to the boys when I heard a sound from the garage, and upon turning to investigate, was horrified to see not just the former convicted brown piggy, but his partners in crime.  This included another brown one, about the same size, as well as a black one with a white stripe around his middle.  I thought the brown ones were big, but this black one was a monster.  I honestly was scared of him.  And here they were, munching down on the prized chicken feed.  It was a huge mistake to even start talking.  As soon as they perceived our presence, they started coming out.  I began chasing the brown ones.  They’re ‘chickens,’ but the black one… hmmm.  He came trotting out of the garage, straight for the three boys.  Now, you have to understand… this pig was big enough for ME to be scared of him, let alone the boys who weren’t even half his size.  But the pig trotted right over to them as they clawed up their mother’s arms and legs, shrieking all the way.  I decided this beast wasn’t going to daunt me, but even with my advances, he managed to snatch the bread out of the terrorized boys’ hands.  Unbelievable!!!  I realized this guy was going to be intimidated by none, which made me furious.  My friend succeeded in getting the boys into the house.  In the meantime, I chased the brute all over.  Only it wasn’t really chasing, because he only ran when he wanted to and if he saw a piece of bread he gobbled it up.  He was completely nonplussed by my presence.  In fact, he acted as if I wasn’t even there.  Offensive, to say the least.

After getting the boys in the house, my friend joined me in the pursuit.  We grabbed brooms.  By this time, I meant extreme business.  Not that I was responsible for chasing him back, but I had a personal score to settle with him. This pig was not going to dominate!  My friend stood in the garden literally pushing against him with a broom.  Unmovable.  And when he did move, he came my way.  A knock on the nose hardly phased him.  I pushed the bristles into his snout and after several whacks, he finally turned around.  One more swat on the butt got him into the pasture and trotting off.

The three pigs hung around until our faithful male longhorn, Bambi, took over.  He’s not very aggressive for a longhorn which is probably good or the pigs would have been bacon.  But he did let them know he meant business and soon they were trotting on back.

And again, the neighbor was notified.  What followed would be funny, were it not that our neighbor is a very angry man, by all appearances.  I don’t think those pigs have any ears left.  Mine are still tingling.  I pray for his soul.  Maybe I’ll take him a loaf of bread someday.

In the meantime, I have a very forgiving friend who stoops low enough to chase pigs with me.

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Rest

I am unbelievably amazed at what that four-letter word will do for a body.

After a much needed nap, I feel nigh to wholeness again.

Exhaustion is a torturous thing.  At its ‘best’, it forces you to stop and rest.  At its worst, it paralyzes you so you cannot rest.  In the last two years I have indeed discovered these two different kinds.  I thought exhaustion was exhaustion.  Nope… There is a sleepy exhaustion that is quickly remedied by a good night of sleep or a sound nap.  And there is a frenzied exhaustion that demands a reprieve, but it follows you to your bed and refuses to let you go.  Yes, exhaustion can be a torturous beast.

I’m still regaining my endurance and I’m often toying with the line between low energy and exhaustion.  I like to flirt with that line and see how much I can get by with.  Yes, me being me, I tend toward living in extremes with middle-ground crying out for attention.  Not really a great habit.  I realized recently that uh…maybe it doesn’t have to be how much I can “get by with.”  How about living with a little energy left over?

I can’t always predict when I’ll come to that line, which makes life very difficult to commit to.  Conserving energy is an art.  But thankfully, it is getting easier.

I’ll be humming along…flirting, squeezing out the last ounces of energy like a toothpaste tube that’s already dry.  And…oops!…all of a sudden I’m over that line.  Yikes!  In those times, I feel like a puzzle with pieces strewn all over.  And if I’m pushed too far in that state, it comes nigh to panic.  As if the pieces are contemplating fleeing the scene without a hint of return.  Then it quickly becomes the exhaustion that won’t let you go.

Forgive me for all the metaphors, but they’re coming to me like gnats in droves and they really do fit like a glove.  Ok, now I’m over the top.  Sorry.

Back to the exhaustion, or rather the title of the post, rest makes me feel all settled and whole inside.  Like the pieces decided to stick around after all.  Ahhhh…

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A Tribute to a Mother

She carried her daughter full term and then gave birth.

Then she did all the things that mothers do–all the long lists of things that are contained in that one short word…
…nurture.

She fed. She burped.  She bathed.

She changed the 585th diaper.

She held. She rocked. She patted.

She lost lots of sleep.

She comforted. She kissed. She cuddled. She calmed.

She soothed all the pain away.

And then, that daughter grew.

But the mother was still her mother. Just not a “ bottle-feeding, diaper-changing” mother. The daughter became an independent, feisty thing.

And so…the mother spanked and trained and loved and formed.

Then the daughter grew some more.  She grew so old that she could take care of herself…mostly.

But the mother was still her mother. Just not a “read-you-bedtime-stories” mother.

And then, the daughter grew some more and got married and moved away.

But the mother was still her mother. Just not an “under the same roof” mother.

And then time moved on.  But the daughter didn’t grow; She got sick.

So the daughter’s father bought the daughter’s mother a car so she could travel many miles to help her daughter…often. She cooked. She cleaned. She laundered. She pampered. She brought hope.

But the daughter didn’t get better. She got really sick. She got so sick she couldn’t take care of herself anymore.

And then…that mother did a very brave thing. She walked with that daughter very close to the door of Death.

And it looked something like this:

She rubbed her feet.

She rubbed her back.

She fed her watermelon when nothing else would stay down.

She smiled many smiles of love and encouragement when the daughter was very, very discouraged.

She gave her hope.

She told her daughter she would live.

She helped her daughter to the bathroom when she was too weak to stand on her own.

She read Scripture to her.

She told jokes and made her daughter smile.

She left her suite late one night to go buy rice and sesame sauce so her daughter could gain some much needed calories.

She prayed.

She calmed fears.

She was very, very strong.

And then, God healed that daughter and she was well once again.

But the mother was still her mother.

Because you see, the mother would always be her mother.

The End.

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“What is a sacrifice?”

An excerpt from Michael D. O’Brien’s novel A Cry of Stone…  (Rose is a little Indian girl of seven or eight and the setting is a church service, hence the whispering.)

“Rose tugged on Grandma’s sleeve and asked, ‘What is a sacrifice?’

‘A sacrifice,’ Oldmary whispered, ‘is when you take a heavy load on your back, like a hurt or a not-fairness.  You give it to God and he puts it on the Cross of Jesus, the Big Sacrifice [...].  Then you have a part in it.’

‘What kind of part?’ Rose whispered.

‘Part of mending.’

‘Like sewing?’

‘Yes.  Sewing the ripped hide.  Sewing the cut flesh.  Stopping the blood that is pouring out too fast.’

‘That is sacrifice?’

‘That is sacrifice.’

‘Does it hurt?’

‘Yes.’

‘Oh.’”

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Lay me Low

I discovered a new song this past week.

It’s called Lay me Low.

If you can, listen to it by the Dale Warland Singers on their Harvest Home recording.  Gorgeous!

If you can’t listen to them, I’ve attached a link from YouTube.

The longing in this song is deep and rich.  The longing is not for suffering, as the phrase lay me low may seem to indicate.  The longing is for the One we find through suffering.  If you are a human being, you have suffered.  If you have suffered, Christ has sought to find you, hold you, and bless you.

This song calls me to surrender.  Surrender not to suffering, but to the One who is sovereign over it, knowing that His ways go infinitely beyond my understanding.  I cannot explain my journey with cancer–the reasons for it; the causes of it.  But I continually entrust myself to the One who finds me through it.

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I’m a six month old baby

…and I couldn’t help comparing myself to a real baby as I went in to get my first shots today.  They told me I could have them in my arm or Gluteus Maximus.  Well, how’s a baby supposed to know?  Poor things.  I thought about wailing to add to the six-month-old-baby-effect, but I decided to refrain and stick with the 29-year-old maturity effect.  Good choice.

The arms it was.  I sat flanked by two nurses, each poking their respective needles into me at the same time.  And each muttering their typical, “Ok, One, Two, Three…” and “Sorry, Honey…” with every jab.  Basically a painless procedure.  But my arm is sore already.  I pity the man my nurse told me about.  He insisted on having 8 immunizations all at one time and just in his arms.  I asked her if he was sore later.  “Well, he’s a man.  He wouldn’t tell me even if he was hurting.”

I only had four injections today.  I found out that I retained my immunity for Polio and Diphtheria.  Hmmm….nice!  (They ran tests on the blood work I did a week ago).  I still haven’t heard an explanation as to why some immunizations are retained and others are not.

Like I mentioned, last week we did routine blood work plus blood to run these immunization tests.  However, this time it was with my former, local oncologist, Dr. Ali.  We are reestablished with him, though we will periodically go back to see my oncologist at UVA.

I really am feeling good!  Either I really improved in the last couple of weeks or it’s just starting to sink in how much better I feel.  I notice that I can go to town and not come home utterly exhausted.  I can dare to plan more than one event in a day.  I can handle stress at least slightly better.  All these seem like huge milestones.  Sometimes I get all ‘glory-filled’ when I realize what a gift was given back to me!  Oh Thank-you Jesus!

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