Saturday, May 26, 2012

Better Than a Bargain...

You know how you make plans and then God changes them around?  That used to irritate me a bit, but now I love it!  

So my sister came out on Wednesday to go with me to chemo on Thursday.  Well, what do sisters do the day before treatment?  They hit a few thrift stores, of course.
 (And by the way, all went well during my first new treatment.  I didn't have an allergic reaction to the new drug and though my hands and feet were numb from ice, I survived).  

So we were planning on her coming out to my house on Wednesday morning after she babysat her grandkids and then we would run to a few thrift stores.  But she got delayed and it didn't happen.  So instead, I was able to spend the morning with a friend also living with cancer -- and boy did she tell me another great story I will share with you one day.  She's the missionary mom I blogged about a few months ago whose doctor told her she was unable to have kids and then 17 years later, she was blessed with three of them.  Her other story also falls into the "I know that I know that God is real" category again.  It's a doozy.

So while I was at her house, my sister called to tell me she was running late.  So instead of meeting my sister, I left my friend's house and went to the mall.  One of my nurses suggested that I shouldn't wear anything tight on my body three days after treatment --  no belt, no bra -- so considering my daily "uniform" is jeans and a t-shirt,  I went to the mall to buy some floral button down shirts that would camaflouge the fact that I'm going braless (don't be jealous ladies-- another perk of cancer!)

So while standing in line at JC Penney (yes, I love shopping there!) I realized the woman standing next to me had a scarf and a hat on her head.  So I tapped her on the arm and asked her if she was going through chemo.  She said she had just finished up and was starting radiation next week.  So I reached into my purse and handed her one of my necklaces.  She said she was a Christian and we gave each other a hug.   

Well, I received an email from her last night and I wanted to share it with you --

Hi Ruthie,
My name is Claire, and we met in JC Penney's on Wednesday, you gave me a necklace at the checkout counter :)  I can't begin to tell you what a blessing it was, and what perfect timing God has.  I needed encouragement and there you were!  And then for the woman in line behind me to tell me she is a 24 year survivor was exactly the reassurance I needed.  God is so good!  I cried when I got outside, full of joy in the knowledge of God's love for us, and His mercy and grace.  Through this journey with cancer I have returned to my first love, my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and the blessings he has rained down on me have been incredible.  And now you are another blessing in my life, as God used you to remind me that He is always with me and always caring for my needs.  I went to your blog and read your story, and will be praying for you daily!!
God bless you!! 
Claire :)

So much better than a bargain, huh?

I wanted to share her email with you to again revel in the fact that God will meet us in the most unsuspecting places (JC Penneys!) to reassure us of His love and care for us.  Her email just sums up what God has done for me, and so many of my friends, while He carries us through this thing called cancer.

He just blows me away.  

I just re-ordered all of my supplies last week so my Mom and I can make more necklaces.  And as I hand them out, I'm not always sure how they're received.  
But my job is just to hand them out.  
God will do the rest.

And in case you're wondering, my sister and I did hit a few thrift stores after my treatment.  (A little chemo can't stop that!)  I scored a blue cashmere sweater for $2, a black Ann Taylor sweater for $3, a set of old bread tins for $4, an old set of measuring spoons for $2 and a pile of great books for a quarter each!  

But I'll take Claire's email over a $2 cashmere sweater anyday!


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

All Because of Birds...

This week has been a difficult one.  Not so much because the cancer is still there and I start treatment again next week, but because I long to be obedient to God's will.   And that's a tough one when you feel you have lost sight of it or feel as if you need to be reminded of it again.  And let's face it -- I've got chemo brain -- and I'm in need of a good reminder.  

But let me back track a bit.  For those of you who have read this blog for awhile, you may know that food has played an integral role in my new life with cancer.  After I was initially diagnosed, I learned that cancer thrived on sugar.  So I quit sugar cold turkey.  Good-bye chocolate almond ice cream, Chips Ahoy and Costco's chocolate muffins.  Hello blueberries.

Then after my first recurrence, I learned of a Christian guy who abhorred chemo and felt that eating a raw diet was the cure to cancer.  As I spent hours reading his blog, he also mentioned that one should pray about such a decision before foregoing chemo and juicing all day.   But I found myself juicing all day.

Soon after, I found my way to a center in Chicago that believed in an integrative approach to cancer.  A plant-based diet, supplements, exercise, low stress -- all the stuff we know to do, but don't -- is what they advocated.  And I did it.  Until chemo began.  And then because I had that icky taste in my mouth, I couldn't stomach taking 50 supplements a day and eating salads for breakfast.  I remember telling my Dad after my second treatment, "Grab your car keys, get in your car and go get me some bagels and cream cheese."  I basically put a gun to the guy's head.  When he returned, I ate three of them in five minutes.  No lie.

So when I learned that my cancer had grown after not following a strict raw or vegan diet, I thought I had been disobedient to God.  That also made me think, Maybe I shouldn't have done chemo either.  I began second guessing myself as to what I've felt God's will has been for me while on this journey.  And I felt as if I was back to square one.  And, trust me, that's a horrible place to be.  And I've been there all week.  And my fervent prayer has been for God to clearly illuminate my path.

So after reading this, you're probably wondering why I titled this post, "All Because of Birds."  You are probably thinking that a bird dropped a note out of its beak while I was reading my Bible that read, "Eat Raw!"  Nope.  I received something better.  But again, I must back track a bit.

So a few months back, as I was sitting in my backyard, I decided that I wanted to make a sign and hang it near my bird feeder.   I thought it would be nice to write the verse that referenced God and his care of the birds.  But given my extremely limited knowledge of scripture, I had to ask my friend and her husband if they knew of the scripture I was thinking of and where it was found in the Bible.  Looking back, (again, chemo brain) I think they both said, "Matthew", but they weren't exactly sure of the verse.  

OK, so that leads me back to today.  So after having a week from hell without the heat, I decided that I would just rest today.  My plan was to get Rachel off to school, run just a couple of errands, watch a movie (Secretariat) and read magazines.  Basically, just veg.  But when you're desperately seeking God's will, you can't just veg.  

So I grabbed my Bible and again headed to the backyard.  (I find such peace back there, I tell ya.)  As I sat down, my tears began to flow.  And didn't stop.  I began by thanking God because I KNEW He would direct my path.  I knew it.  Whether it was today or next year, I know that He does not ignore those who depend on Him.   And I told Him that I was sorry for my tears.  Because my tears represented frustration, not lack of faith.  And I was desperate to be obedient to His will.

Through my tears, I began to turn to the Psalms.  I again read Psalms 20 and 21, the scriptures in which I believe God promised me healing on September 11, 2011.  
I can't read those enough.

I then found my way to Matthew, remembering about the sign I had wanted to make and hearing several birds chirping just a few feet away from me.   I thought it was highly unlikely that I would find that scripture, though my eyes initially scanned for the word "birds."  I then stumbled upon a section in my Bible that I had circled three years ago that read, "Seven Reasons Not to Worry."  Well, of course this caught my attention as that's all I've done this week.  

And that section directed me to 
Matthew 6:26 --

"Look at the birds.  They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them.  And aren't you far more valuable to him than they are?  Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?"

And then to Matthew 6:31 --

"So don't worry about these things saying, "What will we eat?  What will we drink? What will we wear?  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows your needs.  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need."

My heart just melted.  My tears dried up.  And I sat in utter amazement that the God of this universe just answered the cries of this Mom in her backyard.  Because this Mom has been freaking out over cancer and her diet -- big time.  

Does this mean I will do something stupid like eat chocolate almond ice cream for breakfast and dinner despite the fact that I know cancer loves sugar?  Absolutely not.  What this means to me is that I will take care of the body that God has given me.  To the best of my ability.  I will eat as healthy as I can but will not obsess over the foods I eat or the type of shampoo I use.  For they won't be responsible for my healing.  

God will.

If you are reading this and have cancer, I urge you to pray for God's will regarding your treatment.   Those living with cancer get so bombarded with so many well intentioned people saying, "Try this herb!" "See this doctor!" "Eat this food!" -- it's utterly overwhelming.   I believe God heals in many different ways.  As a result, seek His face.  Run to Him.  Seek his will for YOUR life and don't stop until your heavenly Father answers you.

And if you are reading this and know of someone who has cancer, please pray for guidance for the many decisions that lie ahead of them.  As the necklace says, 
 "can't do cancer without God."

I know this was a very long post.  But I pray that it helps many who read it.  Whether you have cancer or not.

Again, one of my favorite verses --

"Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you."
James 4.8

So grab your Bible and head for the backyard.  
He just might be waiting for you.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Time in the Shade...

Well, apparently this girl has a "chronic disorder" as my oncologists like to call it.   Chronic meaning "persisting for a long time or constantly recurring."
Apparently my cancer is persisting.  And chemo begins again next week.

Now before you gasp, know that I did not. 
As my doctor told Ed and I the news this morning, I again had peace. 
 And truth be told, I live really well with cancer.  I really do.  
It brings me an intimacy with God that I cherish.  And as we all know, when life returns to normal, the busy-ness of life creeps back in.  
And I hate the busy-ness of life. 
 But I love the intimacy of God.

So the deal is this:

The last 12 rounds of chemo did a good job, but not a great job, as there is still cancer that is now resistent to the first two types of treatment I received.  
So I will be given a new one.
And this one sounds better than the last one.  

I will keep my ever-so beautiful hair (so kidding, as you know I have a love-hate relationship with it), I will have treatments once a month for six months or more (not every two weeks like before) and I will continue seeing my doctor in Westlake, so very close to home.  
The icky taste in my mouth will be gone (hip, hip, hooray) and the side effects should be quite tolerable.  

The one thing I will need to do while on this regimen is limit
 my time in the sun. 
  I guess hanging out at the beach all summer is out.  Dang-it!
Can you hear my toes rejoicing right now?  
(In case you don't know, I CAN'T STAND the feeling of sand on my feet!) 

At first, I thought, Oh, no -- I just l-o-v-e being out in my garden, sitting in my chair, spending time with God, reading a good book, basking in the flowers, watching the colorful birds, using ol' Tucker as an ottoman while he watches the colorful birds.  And then I realized that as of yesterday morning, Gregg (you know Gregg!) created a new shade covering to place over our pergola in the backyard.  It's made of drop cloths (so are the curtains)
 that are all the rage right now. 
 And I just love how it all turned out.
So this girl with a "chronic disorder" gets to continue spending time in her cozy garden while safely sitting out of the sun's rays.  
God's timing is good. 

So that is my update.  
I thought I would be writing it -- oh say -- several years from now.  But I'm learning to trust God and His timing.

Again, I look forward to continuing to write about this ongoing journey.  And to think I thought I might be out of material soon.  
I guess not!

As always, thanks for continuing to read my words.  And above all else, thanks for lifting us up in prayer. 
 You guys are the absolute best!