Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Milestones and Loving Kids

I just drove home from church with tears running down my face.  Tonight, I got to see a little boy (sorry, Payton, anyone under 20 is little to me now!) commit his life to Christ.  I felt so honored to be able to witness that from him.  I've spent the last five years watching him grow into this incredible person and my heart nearly burst with pride for Payton and his family!  I've watched him grow from the obnoxious little boy who picked on his sister's friends into the young man who is polite, kind, loving, and a pleasure to be around.  Seeing Jason baptize his son and give him a hug when he came out of the water is an image that will live with me forever and I'm so happy and blessed that I was able to see that.

As I was leaving I asked another one of the kids at church how things were going when she admitted things weren't that great.  I cornered her again in the parking lot and she confided in me.  I tried to offer as much guidance as I could, while knowing that at her age things are so much different and the rules change minute by minute so even though I mastered that age, it's changed, and it will change again tomorrow, and then again the next day.  She's been handed a rough year, and adversity is hard at any age, but it's harder at her age. I ended by giving her a hug, telling her that we'd pray for her, and reassuring her that things may be challenging at school, but she has lots of people who love her, most of all God!

This was a significant night to me because I'm not one who loves kids.  I don't love being around kids for the sake of being around them.  Even when they're good kids, I usually prefer to let other people enjoy them.  With that said, I genuinely love and enjoy both of these kids, and their families.  I feel blessed that God has shown me these kids and shown me how much I can love these kids.  These kids have shown me how incredible they can be.  I''m in awe of what they're capable of.  They are such strong Christians and I pray that I raise my kids as well as their parents have raised them.  I wish I had had half of the fire for Christ that these kids do when I their age and I PRAY that my kids will have the same spirit!  I really can't say enough about these kids.  (I feel this way about Leah too, but she's at home with mono so I didn't get to see her tonight, in my fit of nostalgia!)  They are amazing!

Reality sunk in when we left church.  I was so blessed to see this milestone in Payton's life, but I will miss out on so many other milestones, when we move.  I truly consider these kids  part of MY family.  I love these kids, I love their parents, and I'm going to miss them.

I may miss out on a lot of milestones, but these kids will be a part of my heart forever.  If I never saw these kids again, they have changed me.  They have made such an impact and they'll probably never believe it, but they've inspired me.  (yeah, yeah, yeah, even though I'm old, I'm inspired by these kids!)  These kids are truly amazing and I hope to take what I see in them, and learn from it!

So, tonight, I pray for Payton in his walk with Christ, and I pray for the teen who is struggling in her personal life, and I pray for Leah who has mono, and I pray for all of the teens that I never bothered getting to know and have missed out on.  May God guide, protect, and bless them all, and I thank Him for letting me see how powerful they can be!




Thursday, March 14, 2013

Well, You Wanted Lightening Bolts

Trust is really hard for me. I won't go into all of my reasons why, but I struggle with it. I pray because I have complete faith in God, I know he's listening. What I don't have, is trust that he'll give me what I pray for. I know God can say no and I typically expect it. I don't trust that he is looking out for me too.

I often joke and say that I never pray for virtues because they have lessons attached to them and lessons are hard. I prefer answers to come to me the easy way. Cancer is teaching me virtues!

I've also said I don't like signs, I'm slow to pick up on signs. Just a few days prior to my cancer diagnosis I told one of my best friends that I don't want signs, I want lightening bolts! Cancer is a lightening bolt!

Anyone who read my last blog probably noticed that I was on the edge of something...a breakdown perhaps? After I wrote that blog I prayed until I was blue in the face. Okay, maybe not blue in the face, but seriously there was hard core praying going on! At the end of it, God spoke to me. I don't mean I heard a booming majestic voice from above, but the holy spirit tugged at my heart pretty intensely until I GOT it!

God told me, "you CAN trust me, I will take this cancer from you, trust that my answer is YES."

As paranoid as this sounds, cancer has always been my biggest phobia. I've never admitted that to anyone, but I used to pray that I would never get cancer because I see it as a death sentence. Even though I know many cancer survivors and my grandma, who I talk about all the time, was a cancer survivor, it was terrifying!

I know God is using this situation to show me that I can trust Him. I can fully leave my cares at the cross. I can believe that there is purpose and He is in control. When I pray about things like immunizing Kip, I can fully trust that God has it. He took cancer from my body. I was faced with my biggest fear and i begged God to take it on and He did. I know He WILL protect my babies and my decisions. I have no doubt now.

When I shared this revelation with Joy Beth, she kindly reminded me, "Well, you asked for lightening bolts!"

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Dealing With the Emotions

Tonight is one of the hard nights. The emotions are overwhelming. Im laying in bed reflecting on the last couple of weeks and I'm struggling to process everything.

People keep asking me how my faith is doing. I guess it's normal to feel abandoned by God in times like this, but I really don't. I feel angry at God and I wish I had some understanding and peace but I don't think God has left me.

I'm praying as much or more than ever and I believe that God is listening. I believe that everything happens for a reason and God uses everything for the best outcome. God never promised that our days would be easy.

Right now I pray that God can help me calm down. I'm freaking out. I look at this incision on my leg and it scares me to know that it's going to be there forever. People will see it and ask what it's from and I will have to relive the worst time of my life over and over. It's horrible looking and it's scary and it's forever.

I also can't help but think that every ache or pain is going to be a new new tumor. Despite being told that there's almost no chance of recurrence I can't help but think, there was almost no chance of this diagnosis in the first place. Odds aren't exactly working in my favor these days so they aren't bringing me much comfort.

I love Keith so much and I'm aching knowing how much I've complicated his life. Of course he hasn't complained and he's made the best of it, thats the kind of person he is, but I'm not stupid. I know he works a stressful job and now has to come home and run the house and take care of his useless, emotional wife.

I just wish we could go back to the time before this happened, when the worst thing we were dealing with was having keith's car broken into. I remember that night, I felt so bad for Keith having to deal with the headaches of that. I'd give anything to have our biggest problem to be having his work stuff stolen.

I know our lives can go on and be amazing but I'm so scared right now. I spend all day, every day for the past week in my bedroom because it hurts too much to do much else. Every time I try to do something besides lay in bed, I end up crying in pain or taking the stupid pain pills again so it doesn't hurt so much.

I have great people who try to come by and cheer me up and sometimes I pretend to be asleep because it's easier than talking and pretending everything is going to be okay. I honestly don't know if I'll ever be okay. I'm tired of crying to people and I'm even more tired of trying not to say "cancer" in front of people.

Everyone squirms when you say cancer. I try to be blatant about it and take some of the power from that horrible word. I joke about it and I am crass with it because I don't want to cringe every time I hear it for the rest of my life, I am going to be hearing it a lot and I can't crumble each time. Unfortunately every time I use it, I see my friends get visibly uncomfortable, so I have to reel it in a little.

I love my family so much and I desperately want things to go on as normal but I am struggling to figure out how to make that happen.

It's been two weeks and God hasn't left us once so I know that there will come a time when this is just a memory but I don't know how far away that time is. In the meantime I will probably have these moments of paralyzing fear and overwhelming anxiety but God will get me though these too.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

From Normal to Nothing Will Ever be the Same-Part 3

On March 5th I had a surgery to remove the cancer from my leg. I've never been so scared as the week building up to that day. Despite the positive results I kept getting, it had only been a week and that's a lot to take in within such a short time. The doctor was so confident that this would be easy and successful. I pretended I was, while freaking out and praying nonstop!

I have spent two weeks trying to pretend none of this is real. I wake up in the night confused, I wake up in the mornings surprised by my leg. I can't sleep at night but during the day, it's all I want to do. This is definitely the hardest thing I've ever gone through and I truly feel like an exposed nerve. Every emotion I have is on high intensity. I want to laugh and praise, and I want to cry hysterically, or I want to scream and hit something. I never know which emotion is going to come out of me or when. Its getting a little better each day, but I have no doubt that this will take time and prayer.

I'll write about this experience a lot in the upcoming days. I'm recovering from a big surgery and can't get out of bed and it's very cathartic for me. I'm obsessed with this right now and it consumes my days so it's only natural that I'll be sharing it as much as possible.

Even though I spend most of my days trying to forget this ever happened, I know there will come a day that I want to remember this. I'm trying I document everything. I want to make sure I can remember the emotions, the sounds, the smells, every detail. This will forever be a part of me and someday I'll want to know the details of the experience that changed my life forever.

The surgery went very well. They sent tissue to the lab to test for residual cancer cells and they talked about microcells and the possibility of radiation but God is good and everything came back clean. There is NO cancer in my body any longer. There will be no more surgeries and no need for radiation. God turned my wailing into dancing!

We went yesterday 3/10/13 for my post op appointment. It went much smoother than my last one! The doctor was actually excited to come talk to me. With the type of cancer I have, they rarely get to give good news. I read that there are 300 cases diagnosed each year and usually by the time it's caught, its too late. This type of cancer often travels to the lungs and by the time its discovered, there are multiple tumors and its often inoperable. The doctor explained this to us and excitedly told us what a miracle it was that we caught this so early. Given the time frame, the size, my health, and his mad operating skills, there is a less than 10% chance of recurrence. He said he doesn't even believe the odds are that high with me!

Where do we go from here?

Well...I spend the next week in bed and on crutches.

On March 20th (which is Keith and my 14 year anniversary) I will have the 22 staples removed from the huge incision sight.

I will continue to get scans, every 3 months, for the next five years.

We will monitor my health with a little different approach.

I will live my life with a new appreciation and understanding.

I will praise God for the good times and the bad and I'll know how bad the bad times can be.

I'll be reminded daily, by the massive scar on my left knee, that even the bad days are BLESSED days.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

From Normal to Nothing Will Ever be the Same-Part 2

On February 27th, I met with a doctor who specializes in my type of cancer.  Even now, it feels weird to type something that says "my type of cancer" I guess this is my new normal.  Anyway, despite the fact that I have a very rare type of cancer I happen to live withing 20 minutes of an truly incredible specialist.  A specialist, who I have since found out, people travel from miles and miles around to see. 

Before he would see me, he had xrays done of my knee and lungs.  It was the most scared I've ever been.  I spent the night before creating every worst case scenario possible.  By the time of my appointment, on Wednesday, I knew that the cancer had spread to my lungs (which is common with this type) and that I had no time to live.  I had already been blindsided once and I refused to have it happen again, so I was prepared for worst case scenario. 

Everyone at the ortho center was friendly and sunny, it's almost as if they didn't realize that everything had changed the day before.  There was chit chat and friendly conversation.  They asked about my kids, my life, and everyone treating as if everything was normal even though I knew nothing would ever be the same.

The waiting room seemed like every other waiting room that I'd ever been in.  Gina was texting me asking me to make cookies, people around me were talking about music and magazines, and everything seemed normal.

After the xrays, they called me back to meet the doctor.  He actually beat me to the exam room and was all smiles when I walked in.  He had the warmest, kindest smile and I remember thinking "if someone is going to tell me I'm dying, at least he has kind eyes."  He shook our hand and introduced himself and immediately said, "The xrays look great!  We didn't see anything at all on your lungs and your knee looks great too, we're going to do a CT scan of your lungs and an MRI of your knee, but I don't anticipate any surprises.  We can get in there and cut around where your tumor was and we'll get it all with no problems" 

Naturally, I started crying.  Bawling really.  Despite the fact I claim that I'm not a crier, I have spent the last 2 weeks crying and this was no exception.  The doctor, was so compassionate, and said, "I'm sorry, I know I'm throwing a lot of info at you, take a minute and I'll slow down."  I just looked at him and said, "no, no, I heard you, I just can't believe this is my life."

Even with great news, there was too much too soon.  In less than 24 hours, I'd been diagnosed with cancer, prepared myself for the worst, and been given the best possible outcome of the worst possible news. 

From there it was a rush to CT scans, MRI's, and surgery appointments.  The whole day blurs together abstractly.  Keith may be able to offer more insight on the day, but I just went where they pointed me and did what they told me.

The next day, I had an appointment to get an MRI.  While I was in the MRI room they kept reminding me that I was in control and I could stop anytime I wanted.  The noise was deafening but oddly calming because I knew we were doing something.  Abnormal was becoming my new normal.  They did an MRI without and with contrast and they told me that my surgeon had done a great job because they could barely see anything.

After the MRI, the techs and I were talking when I said, "oh, I need to sit down..." they pointed me to a chair across the room and I said, "nope, here" and passed out cold. 

When I woke up it was pure chaos.  I would have thought people would pass out in there pretty often, but based on their reactions I'm guessing it doesn't happen as much as you'd think.  I had a blood pressure cup on, my feet were in a chair, there was an ice pack under my neck and a wash cloth on my head.  I started telling them I was fine, I just needed all the people to back up a little and let me breath, then I realized I couldn't see anything and I said, "and WHERE are my glasses?"  One of the people replied, "oh, I put them over here, I didn't want them to get broken."

"Thanks, but I need them to see."  UGH!  They took my blood pressure and said it was 140/90 which is way higher than mine ever is and I said, "oh crap, am I having a stroke?"  They assured me that I wasn't.

With every test, scan, xray the results came quickly.  They don't mess around with cancer.  Now that I now they can do that, I'm going to expect it from all of my doctors!  ha!  We got the results for the MRI and they were good, just like the doctor anticipated.  My surgery was scheduled for Tuesday March 5th, I had four days to prepare.

We spent the next four days cramming in as much fun as possible.  Eating at my favorite restaurants, watching our favorite movies, reading books, playing, and snuggling!  Despite the prognosis from a great specialist, I wanted to make sure to make a memorable four days and they were great!

From Normal to Nothing Will Ever be the Same-Part 1

Two weeks ago was the scariest and worst day of my life and it began a journey that has and will change my life forever. 

I had a cyst removed from behind my knee on February 5th.  Very routine surgery, it was diagnosed as a lipoma, or basically a ball of fat.  Yuck!  I left the surgery center with a couple of steri strips and a band aid.  I took a few days off of being too active but basically it was nothing.  I was back up and doing zumba within a week!

On February 26th, I had my post op appointment.  I almost cancelled because it's such a hassle to drive over to the doctor and I had Kip with me and I really would rather shop, besides I was fine!  I decided not to cancel because I had an allergic reaction to the steri strips and I wanted to make sure that info made it into my medical records.

I sat in the waiting room and played with an adorable little two year old who insisted I play cars with him.  The kid was relentless and to keep him away from kip I caved and played cars.  When they called me back I assumed it was a rescue mission because the nurses felt bad that the boy's mom was on the phone and I was now juggling a 7 month old and a 2 year old (who wasn't mine!).  I sat in the exam room for just a couple of minutes and Kip began getting fussy.  When the physicians assistant came in, Kip and I were playing with a rattle and singing songs. 

The PA, Sherry, began talking and reading my report and I half listened and mainly played with Kip. When Sherry put her hand on my knee and said, "Lisa, are you understanding what I'm telling you?"  I replied, "oh yeah, you sent the stuff to the lab for pathology, routine stuff, I'm fine."

That's when my world changed, forever.  "No, Lisa, it's not fine.  Your path report came back abnormal." 

I sat there and listened as she read it to me and as she stumbled over her words with tears in her eyes.  She actually told me that she had to google it because it was a very rare diagnosis and she wasn't familiar with it. 

Sidebar, true or not you should NEVER tell a patient that you used google for a consult!

I sat there speechless for what seemed like hours, but I'm sure was minutes when I finally said, "I think I need you to hold Kip."  She took him from me and I asked her, "are you telling me I have CANCER?"  I could feel the shrillness of my voice.

She sat there, holding my baby, tears in her eyes, nodding her head.  I repeated, "I need you to answer me, YES OR NO, are you saying I have CANCER?"  She sat, nodding.

"ANSWER ME!"

She stuttered a one word answer that changed everything, "yes."

I stood up, told her to hand me my baby, "I'm leaving, I have to leave.  Give me Kip, or put him in his seat.  I have to get out of here."

I couldn't think of anything except to run.  I have never wanted out of a room more than I did in that minute.  She kept telling me, "I don't think it's a good idea for you to leave, please sit down, call someone and let me get you a drink."

I became belligerent.  Sherry took my baby out of the room and gave him to someone else to prevent me from leaving.  She came back and started hugging me, with tears in her eyes, insisting I take a drink, and insisting I call someone.   I called Keith, bawling, telling him to meet me and that I had cancer. 

It's all a blur, but I knew that they wouldn't bring my baby back to me until I pulled it together.  So, I sat there, drank my water and shoved all of these horrible emotions as deep as I possibly could.  I convinced them all that I was fine, I buckled Kip into his seat, and left.

I calmly walked to my car, loaded Kip and all of his stuff then got in, turned the car on and called Keith to arrange pick up for my girls who were at their homeschool co-op.  I just sat there for a minute trying to figure out what to do.  I started bawling and then I remembered that I could call Ms. Dawn.  Ms. Dawn is an incredible friend, I called her and she sprang into action.  She didn't know what was wrong, but she knew I needed her and she came. 

I sat in my car crying, uncontrollably until I heard Kip cry.  Something about him needing me was so calming.  I fixed a bottle and fed him, it was oddly soothing.  Ms. Dawn showed up we talked, cried, prayed.  I told her everything that had happened and after awhile, I assured her that I was capable of getting home safely. 

When I got home, my kids were thrilled to tell me about their day and everything was normal again.  We spent the night vegging out in the basement, eating cookies, and watching TV.  Ms. Dawn brought over Fazzolis and we were able to chat with her a little.  My neighbor, an oncology nurse, came over and read my path report and tried to offer comfort.  I was numb and barely heard anything anyone said and I really don't remember a lot of the night.

They scheduled me an appointment with a specialist for the very next morning. Keith and I cried,  prayed, and I was sick and scared.  I knew that, regardless of the outcome, on this day everthing changed. I went from normal to nothing will ever be the same.