Thursday, October 27, 2011

Why not me?

Sometimes we ask the question, "Why me?" I know that I've probably allowed this question to linger in my mind much more than I am willing to admit. Sometimes we ask the question, "Why not me?" -- mostly when we something good happen to someone else. Again, this has happened more than I would like to admit.
Lately, I've asked this question. However, it is not because I'm witnessing something good happen in the life of someone else. Some of you know that I keep up with Sara Walker. Sara was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer (metastic in her liver) at the age of 33. She has endured chemo in all of its fury, but the cancer is not responding.
Sara seems to be running out of options. There are a couple of other things the doctors can try. Some of these are still in the "trial" phase. I know we serve a God of miracles. He is just as capable today as He was at the beginning of time. However, He doesn't always choose to heal in the time and manner that the human brain views as the best option.
When I think of Sara, which is often, I can't help but wonder -- why not me...
I guess you might think I'm crazy. I guess that after my miracle I should just be dancing in the street with overwhelming joy. I am thankful, but some days, my heart is just stricken with guilt. I could have easily been in Sara's shoes. (That is another miracle -- the fact that cancer had not set up all over my body.)As I read her updates, as she factors in death, I feel as if my heart is being ripped into pieces. Sara has by no means given up. She will fight as long as she is allowed to fight. God could step in and heal her earthly body, but even Sara admits that earthly healing might not be part of His plan.
Coming to a realization that death is a possiblity after you are diagnosed with cancer, realizing that you could (very soon) leave behind an amazing husband and precious little guys, that is heart breaking. Actually having to walk down that road...another story. I know that in heaven, I wouldn't be worried about earthly things. I would not want to come back for anyone. However, in this flesh I am subject to the pain and emotional part of life. Knowing that Sara thinks of these things, well, it's like having a knife rip through my chest.
I've been told that losing a child is one of the worst emotional pains one can experience. I don't know, and honestly, I hope I never know. However, I do know that losing a parent when you are young is a truly horrific experience. I don't know how it compares to losing others in your life, but I am here to tell you that it is horribly painful. I guess that's what I hate most about this whole situation...cancer is taking away the ability of a loving mother to do all the things she wants to for her children. The fact that two precious little guys are watching their mom suffer through some horrible circumstances. Now, they are witnessing an amazing woman show them how to handle tough times with grace that can only be provided by our heavenly Father.
 I hate to think that any child or teenager would have to bid an earthly goodbye to a parent. Not that losing a parent is easy at any point, but being a typical girl, there was always that gaping hole. I had a wonderful family that attempted to fill in every gap possible. However, when picking out a wedding dress, holding your child for the first time..those are all moments that you long for YOUR mom to be there. For years, Mother's Day wreaked havoc within my heart. I completely hated the entire month of May. Hearing of others participating in activities with their mom, was plain hard sometimes. I didn't dislike people for this, I just always wished that my mom was still around to do those things. In my head, I knew she was perfectly content walking the streets of gold. Knowing this in my heart took much longer -- lots of pain during that time, also. There are still days that I long for my mom. One day, we'll sit and chat again, that is if I ever get over being in the presence of my Jesus (and I'm hoping I never get over that.)
For Sara, her husband and her boys, I pray for God's healing hand to touch her body and rid it of any cancer cells. I pray that if this is not God's plan, He will hold their hearts close and provide the love and comfort that only He can provide.
If you know a mom or dad with young children, and they are battling cancer, break out the medal of honor my friend. I've met several on this journey, each are much braver than me, and fight a battle much harder than mine. These are true warriors.
To those kiddos who've lost a parent, hang on. The sun does shine again. I'm living proof of that.

I'm thankful and honored that God saw fit to leave me here. We all know I need a whole lot more work before I spend eternity in the presence of the Almighty One. I'm blessed to have witnessed a brave mom who fought with such courage. I'm eternally grateful to have witnessed some of the bravest warriors who happen to be the youngest ones - those who battle childhood cancer. There are no words to express my feelings for the 4 guys that put up with me every day. Most importantly, my Savior who saved me and keeps loving me no matter how badly I mess up.

Please pray for sweet Sara. Also, Zach Howard and Freida Oliver. Bayleigh Phillips has more courage in her little finger than I will ever have in my entire body, pray that God will continue to provide her with good days.

Much love and thank you for reading,

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I hate cancer.

Yep. I hate cancer. In fact, if there was an "I hate cancer" club, I would sooooo be the president. Eleven months ago, we heard those words that nobody wants to hear. Stephen was very awake when he heard those words. However, I was in a drug-induced fog. I remember trying to bring myself into an alert mode, but failing miserably for several hours. God has truly performed many miracles in the past months. With those miracles, have come some very hard lessons.
Frequently, my children are forced to listen to two of my favorite songs. Songs that probably wouldn't be on my iPod if we had not traveled along the cancer road. Martina McBride singing "I'm Gonna Love You Through It" and Rascal Flatts singing "I Won't Let Go" are my go-to songs when I'm thinking about my cancer friends.
Now, disclaimer here, there was a lot of good that came from this experience. God can bring good out of anything.
One of the blessings of my journey was that God helped me focus on the positive moments of each day. There were many times that I didn't realize exactly how sick I really was. Over the past couple of months, I've spent a lot of time reflecting. Reflecting has reminded me of God's faithfulness and blessings. It also reminds me of how ugly cancer is.
Cancer is just that. Ugly. There's nothing pretty or pleasant about it. Here are just a few of the things I learned.
One of the lessons I've learned as a cancer patient/survivor, is that from the second they utter that dreaded phrase, "You have cancer," there is no going back. You are no longer the same. A series of events unfolds that will change you forever. Some change is good. Some change is bad. Some change is just...change, neither good or bad. People pray for cancer patients. Family and friends show support and express encouragement. However, I feel different and sometimes struggle to see where I "fit." My thinking is different and often doesn't match up with anyone around me. I struggle to find someone who understands and often am moved to tears when I read a caring bridge entry or e-mail authored by a fellow cancer warrior. The tears don't come necessarily because of grief or sadness, but from a sense of relief. It is comforting that somebody else is out there having the same thoughts and feelings I've had. At least if I'm crazy, then I have company.
Guilt. There is guilt that comes from surviving. Oh, I am so grateful to have each day as a mom, wife, daughter, sister, aunt...but some very dark moments come. Those moments flood my soul with guilt as I think of the others who fought so much more bravely than me, yet cancer stole their life. Those precious young husbands with young children who lost their courageous wife. I know God has a plan. His plan is perfect. My belief in that does not stop the attacks from satan. This is just one attack that he knows will get to me. The children that I came to know and love along this journey. Watching as they fight and the very life slips from their earthly body...I guess that's been one of the hardest things. I'm a grown up. I expect to battle sickness and tragedy. Kids just shouldn't. Again, I know His plan is perfect. This is just what happens in my head. It's a roller coaster of emotions that I didn't experience in my pre-cancer life.
Missing those cancer friendships. I don't miss chemo. I don't miss radiation. I do miss being around those people who know what it's like. I miss the nurses and other medical staff who cared for me. The only thing I can figure it's close to is when a soldier returns from combat and has no one around who can understand what he went through. I'm sure my journey is nowhere close to combat, but it is comforting to be near those who know what it's like. The other patients, the nurses - they just.....know. 
I have a need for constant reassurance. I almost want to see the doctor each week and have bloodwork done, just to hear that I'm still clear. Although the odds look pretty good for me, they are still just that - odds. Nothing is for sure when it comes to cancer. No guarantees. I mean, good grief, colon cancer at the age of 34, with no family history, no genetic markers?!?! That doesn't happen often. I'm already in the 1% of cancer patients. I don't sit and worry about it all the time, but the possibility does hang out in the back of my mind.

Even though I am glad the chemo and radiation treatments are behind me, I still miss those individuals who were on the battlefield with me. The nurses, doctors, and other patients provided encouragement, support, and many times the entertainment I needed to make it through.

October is breast cancer awareness month. It's highly likely that you know and love someone who has been touched by this. Please continue to remember a special lady who is beginning her radiation treatments in a few days. If you know a survivor, wear pink for her!
I must include my prayer requests.
Sara Walker received a report from her CT scan. The chemo did not even hold the cancer stable this time. They will be trying a new treatment that is not chemo, but will hopefully stop the cancer growth. Please pray for Sara, her husband and two boys. They are such a precious family with a mighty God.

Zach Howard has had some rough days. Please continue to remember him along with his precious family  (mom, dad and sweet Kelsie.)
Please pray the Spradley and Steltenpohl families will experience the healing and comfort that only our sweet Jesus can provide.

Thank you for reading.
Much love,