Friday, December 26, 2014

On the 1st Day of Christmas....

....It was time to get in shape. What?  Are we really going to talk about fitness and health on the Lord's birthday?


If there is one thing I know about, it's getting back into shape after a hiatus for health reasons. As I've written about in my book "Christ Walk" sometimes fitness and health are where you are in your life at that moment. It may not always be in the fighting shape you want, but we can still have goals and we can still get back to our fitness levels when we are able to so so again. Fitness is not a static moment in time.  Fitness is not a status quo moment. Fitness comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and skills at varying points in your life. 

But for me this Christmas, I've decided to take a very literal view of Jesus' birth and look at my own body and life that need to be transformed as I head into this season of waiting. 

I could wait on my butt and feel sorry for myself as we wait to see what the cancer does, or I can look at Christmas as the beginning of a new me and a new chapter of my life. Now that we are settled (mostly) and my body has healed from the surgeries (mostly) and life is returning to some sort of norm (sort of), I'm ready to focus on getting back into shape and making this body a lean, mean, cancer-fighting machine. In cancer-ville, they call this the "wait and watch" treatment. Well, "wait and watch" and see what I can do with me and my body over the next couple of months. It's watch and see me transform time. 

That means daily walks with God, goals of 10K steps or more, healing fruits and vegetables from God's earth, building back my push up strength one push up at a time.  It's learning to run again. It's learning to do burpees again and it's learning to zen again.   It's a time of rebuilding and this does not happen over night. 

It's a slow and often frustrating journey to look at what you need to do in your life to be healthy again, but it's worth it. It's often frustrating to look back and see where I was versus where I am now. But my goal and your goal should be to be in the now on the path you are on. Look ahead to where you can be in the future and not living in the past. Being stuck in where you were in the past really keeps you from moving forward in your journey. Physically turn yourself around and look to a new direction of where you want to be and take that step towards it. 

For Christmas, give yourself the gift of health one step at a time. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Day 70: You Will NEVER Believe What I Have Chosen

God works in mysterious ways.  Without a doubt, both my husband and I believe that God wanted us to be back on the East Coast and in the DC area (despite all the freakishness that happened [and continues to happen] with this move).  We are here for a reason.  And part of that reason was to create a waiting place between Kansas and DC.

God placed me in the waiting place for a good reason.  And I have chosen (believe it or not) to stay in the waiting place.  I dread the waiting place. I loathe the waiting place.  There isn't nearly enough activity in the waiting place.  But the waiting place has become my friend. Upon arrival in DC, we immediately set upon meeting my new oncologist (who is a rock star that looks just like a blond version of my sister in law) :)....we both had questions regarding some of my test results and so we decided to rescan my body and take a closer look at my tumors.  While we waited for the results, I also had an appointment with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) up in Bethesda, MD.  Let me tell you, that place is amazing.  While it is an ALL DAY event to go into the clinics, it was worth EVERY penny of my time to spend with incredible researchers, doctors, nurses and other staff that walked you through the entire protocol process.  Remember last week where I wrote about the top ten things every hospital should do (you can read about it here)?  Well, NIH knocked these out the park (and yes, they had Starbuck's coffee too).

Following additional testing, exams, and a review of my history, my doctor at NIH looked me in the eye and said, "Anna, I'm 39 years old too.  I have a wife, kids, a job.  If I were you, I would not seek treatment for your cancer.  It's not extensive enough.  The staging is not correct.  Your "good cells" in your tumor far out number the "bad cells" in the tumor and you are young.  This needs to be your decision and if you feel you cannot wait for treatment, then we have treatment for you.  But if you can watch and wait, you slow down entering the treatment cycle."  With my kind of cancer, once you enter the treatment cycle, you begin a cycle of remission, relapse, treatment, and over again.  This is very hard on the body and exposes the body to a lot of toxicities.  I'm young.  My tumors are not causing me to be symptomatic at this time, it behooves me to watch and wait.  My NIH doctor shared hope for me.  He wants me to be a part of a natural history study to explore WHY I have this cancer.  And he explained that when the time is right, they will have treatment for me.  It could be a multitude of different things, but when you have the opportunity to wait, you also have the opportunity for new research to be released for public protocols and each year, better and better treatment becomes available.  One day, there will be a CURE for my kind of cancer.  The waiting place gives me a chance to be a part of that "one day."

My local oncologist concurred with my NIH doctor that the repeat scan found only a small, 2.3 cm tumor cluster in my neck.  Nothing was seen in my chest or abdomen.  My blood work is beautiful and both doctors concurred that my shoulder pain was a physical ailment versus as tumor ailment (in fact, my scans DID show arthritis of by C7-C9 vertebrae, so we DO have conclusive evidence I am getting older--HA!).

Which leads me to the dreaded waiting place.  I have never liked the dreaded waiting place.  As a do-er, the waiting place blows.  But I am amazingly at peace about this decision to watch and wait.

The waiting place allows me to grow closer to God.  I am putting my trust in God that the waiting place is right for me.  The waiting place allows me to physically hand over my cancer and my care to God and trust in the Lord God with ALL my heart and ALL my body.  This gives me joy.  I still have worry and anxiety.  I still wonder if I am doing the right thing, but in this waiting place, it allows me to PRACTICE TRUST that God has a greater plan in store for me than anything I can possibly understand.  God has led me to this place, to these doctors, and to this plan.  The waiting place has allowed my tumors to either get smaller or disappear, or whatever might have happened.  Without the waiting place, I would be starting treatments that I might not be ready to use.  In this waiting place, we have the chance (albeit small, 8% chance) of spontaneous remission.  In the waiting place, there is hope, there is peace, and there is a chair with God by my side.  In the waiting place, I can hang up my coat of worry and busyness and rest a little.  In the waiting place, there are all sorts of levels of healing.

Some might say my story is a story of mis-diagnosis.  One can say that.  I would rather think of this part of my story as a testimony to prayer.  I have simply THOUSANDS of people praying for me all over the world; of all types of faith and belief, and of all sorts of denominations.  God has heard everyone of those prayers.  A friend described it "storming heaven" with prayers.  Y'all keep storming heaven for me.  This isn't over.  This isn't a sprint.  This is a long haul of the rest of my life and prayer makes a HUGE difference.

This has been a wonderful example of the power of social media.  We have a prayer chain without end when we share our lives over the Internet and ask each other to pray for each other.  YOUR prayers matter.  They have made an amazing difference in my life and I cannot express my gratitude enough.

Does this mean I will be in the waiting place forever?  No.  I am okay with this.  I will probably have treatment at some point in my life.  But today is not that day.  Does this mean my cancer will not grow?  Probably not.  But today is not that day.  Could things still go terribly wrong?  Possibly.  But today is not that day.  Could things possibly get even better?  Maybe, but today is not that day.

Today, is a waiting day.  Today, I am okay with the waiting place.

God is there.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sally the Comet

Friends!  Between moving and doctors, I've been hard at work with my friend and illustrator, Karen Deming, to bring you a children's book I wrote many years ago for my son.  This is a story of space, adventure, making friends and learning, "to make friends, you have to be a friend first!"  Check out "Sally the Comet" now on Amazon: Sally the Comet

This will make a great Christmas gift for your little ones!


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

TEN bits of Advice to the Healthcare industry

Between my personal health and my professional resume, I have been around the healthcare field for a long time. I've noticed things come and go over the years but I have a running list of thoughts that would improve anyone's experience. Here are some of these suggestions:

1. Be a patient for a day. You have no clue what the other side is like until you've traversed it yourself. And gotten lost in corridors. Or had a technician get mad at you for a provider putting in orders wrong. Being a patient can be one of the most dehumanizing experiences. It's not always but it is something we should always remember when working in the healthcare field. And don't presume to know my body better than me after five minutes with me. This is a partnership, not a dictatorship. 

2. Don't put flavor in contrast fluid. It does nothing to help the experience of sucking down bottles of that crap for over two hours. A straw would be nice too. 

3. ALWAYS. ALWAYS. ALWAYS serve good coffee. Life is too short for the patients, doctors, or nurses to be served terrible coffee. Everyone will be happier. Happier people = happier organization. This will always start with good coffee. 

4. If you have to make a patient wait in a clinic for two hours for a procedure, consider decorating with recliners instead of hard chairs. I can Squeeze a nap in while I wait or put my feet up when I'm hurting. Your patients will appreciate the comfort when they are stuck in the dreaded waiting place. 

5. For God's sake--I know healthcare is expensive, but don't try to save a few pennies by turning off the heat. Or at least tell us to bring gloves and a blanket. These places are like waiting in an icebox. Turn on the heat in winter and the AC in summer. Add it to my bill. 

6. Serve good food. People go to hospitals to get well. If we are serving terrible, fake food, that's never going to happen. You can make yummy food that doesn't look like cardboard. And then people will be spending more of their money on your food instead of fast food thereby reducing waste at the cafeteria. 

7. Make everyone in the hospital take a customer service class. And I mean everyone. YOUR attitude makes a huge difference in how I am handling my health. 

8. Provide integrative medicine. And teach your providers that thugs like acupuncture, massage, chiropractic are not all "woo-woo" techniques. They work. And they can make me a better patient if they are included as a part of my care plan. 

9. I'm all for patients that are proactive and engaged and informed in their treatment--but that's not a pass for patients to do a providers job. It's YOUR job to make a patients healthcare experience a good one. And it's your job to make it run smoothly from referral to diagnostics to treatment. Don't twle I'm responsible for doing your job. 

10. Finally, it's okay if patients cry. You don't have to send them off to mental health or chalk up every symptom to their emotional state. Dealing with your health is scary. Think how you would feel in their shoes and act accordingly. Compassion goes a long way in this business and we will remember you far longer for your smile and understanding than we will for your credentials or education. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Day ???? (I'll figure it out later): Where is My breaking point?

Do you ever wonder where your breaking point lies?  I've been flirting with mine on and off lately as you've seen from my posts. I'm in a rough patch. I'm old enough to know that eventually it will pass, but young enough that it still entangles me; consumes me; grabs me by the throat and tries to rule me. My rough patch and me are like the devil and drama dancing the tango.  

The last two weeks of my life fit this hashtag: #youcannotmakethisstuffup. I'm living my own personal soap opera and even I am left stunned by the crap that stalks me. 

There are various reasons why. Number one: I DON'T LIKE TO RELENQUISH CONTROL. Number 2: I think I walked under too many ladders or crosses too many black cats or something. Lately stuff is just stupid. 

When you have cancer (or any other kind of tragedy, disease, problem) you instantly lose control over your life. Consequently, you try to retain tighter control over those things in life that you can. For an inherent control freak (I.e. ME), this presents problems. 

I'm sorry, but the whole "Let go and Let God" approach is like Mount Everest to me. It's my sin, I know it and I try to tackle it daily but when I lack control, I find myself slipping closer to my personal breaking point.  Plus, stupid things can make me a little crazier than normal as well. 

This week has been our move. I'm used to moving. My son and I counted up 15 moves in my 39 years this week as we talked about our newest adventure. I'm an old salt. A vagabond at heart. This life suits me, so don't think I'm complaining about my lot. But it doesn't make it easy. The process of moving is inherently exhausting mind, body and spirit. 

And my body is tired. It feels old and fails to respond with the vigor I know. In my heart, I know my cancer slows me down. And I resent it immensely. I have no place in which to focus my fury. No outlet for my angst. I am stuck in this short period of time that is called my move. I am trying to focus my energy on my children who are also struggling with yet another move. This will be the fifth in six and a half years. During all this, my husband is wrapping up school--all so we can leave earlier than planned for me to try and get the right treatment. It's the perfect storm.

And the storm began brewing when we decided to stick with our plans to go to SC for thanksgiving.  I over did it as usual and then to cap the cake with more frosting, we misses our connection by five minutes (it was still on the Tarmac waiting when we arrived) but they wouldn't let us on the plane. This les to a six hour layover and arriving home about 1 am the day our move started. On top of that, I came down with some nasty virus. 

At the prodding (well, really demanding, forcing, cajoling) of friends and family, I did what I truly HATE to do and have asked for help this week. I couldn't do it on my own. It was more than I could handle. I set up friends for dinner, coffee runs, companionship, and child care. And I asked our transportation/moving coordinator for ONE thing:

I played the cancer card--not in jest-- we simply said, "I have lymphoma. We need a smooth move to DC with as quick of a delivery of our household goods as can be so I can see my doctors and get treatment". (Treatment is the only thing on my mind these days--I want this crap out of my body fiercely).   The only thing I asked of them was to send me a good team, make it as stress free as possible, do a good job, and get my stuff to DC. 

Well, this is how it played out:
Day 1:  "Ma'am:  we will be there between 9-10 am". Ok. Good. This will work. Hour after hour passes.  Finally, at 1345, they show up with three people and work for 3.5 hours. Maybe 1/4 of my house is complete. No worries, they tell me that they will come back the next day between 9-10. 
Day 2: 10 am passes by...and then another hour and then another.  Finally, they show up at 1230. With two guys. Evidently, the third has been banned from entering a military installation. All day the lead packer is calling around looking for help. He wants this job done today. There is no way with two guys.  Around 2:30 pm, four more guys show up. Things pick up, but still not enough to finish packing. At one point, they are telling me how they aren't getting paid enough to come help "me" out on this extra job. It's everything I can do not to tell them that I've had to take two days of leave without pay to wait for them to come of the job they were contracted to do. They want to stay until 10 pm to try and finish the job. I am exhausted. My body hurts. My kid is falling a part. We tell them to come back the next day. You don't get to stay all night when you can't show up at the time agreed upon. 
Day 3:  they actually show up at 0940. I'm elated. But there are only two guys and the second guy has the flu. I give him medicine. Fluids. He goes to work. I keep being told they will be done by 1. This from the same guy that told me they would be done by 6 the previous day. No time management skills. When you show up for work four hours late two days in a row, there is no getting done early. I think we all hated each other at this point. Hours roll by. They finally finish packing around 1815. A lot of things were left undone. 
Day 4:  loading van day--"ma'am, we will be there before 9 am". Time passes. At 1040 the van shows up. It's 2/3rds full of other peoples stuff.  There is no room for all of my household goods. Plus, they spent a good hour taking things off and rearranging other peoples stuff that was just thrown in the truck. At 1100, I officially lose it. I spent half the morning yelling at people on the phone that said they would take care of this and make this an easy move because of my cancer. It's been the worst move ever (and remember, I've done this 7 times as an adult). They fill the first van. My stuff is scattered across my lawn in boxes and pieces. It's like looking at your life like a broken puzzle strewn across the ground. At 1630, a second van finally shows up to get the rest of my house. So instead of one move with one delivery date, I will now have two delivery dates and two unpack dates all around three huge doc appointments that wait for me at our destination. The sad thing was that our loading team was great. If they had a van that had fit our stuff, then they actually would have been done on time. Both our loading team and my family got screwed today. 

To the man that said he'd "take care of this and make sure I had nothing to worry about". Thanks. You did a bang up job.

Then our driving adventure ensued. Because the moving fiasco was not enough, I am driving one car and my husband is driving the truck pulling the boat we cannot get rid of.  I loath, LOATH driving. Three days, 20 hours were ahead of us. It was totally a bear down and get through it deal for me. So. I'm trucking a long on my end of the trip with the plan to meet my hubby at our first stop. 

He is four hours late...WTHEck????  The boat trailer broke. I kid you not. The wheel fell off the dang thing?  YGTBKM!!! Thankfully, my husband had the great wisdom not to informs of this until we were reunited. I don't handle that sort is this well. (Control remember?)

Then upon our arrival to DC, we are greated with a traffic jam. The number one reason I've resisted DC to date is the traffic. #countrygirl

This lengthened our 8 hour trip to 10. And I'm already pooped. Grumpy car has nothing on me at this point. 

And I hate these moments. They bring out the worst in me. I can't find my Christian charity. I can't find my patience. I can't find my kindness nor understanding. I'm tired. I'm sad. My family Is sad. We both love and hate to move. On the one hand a great adventure awaits, new friends are around the corner...on the other, we leave dear people that were and have been a lifeline not only during these last weeks of finding out about my cancer, but also during this move. I simply cannot thank them enough. And as we arrived at our new home, it was ready for us. Friends had left gifts and welcome notes and beer!:). And the house itself was everything the Tully family had promised

(I'd like to end the post here, but I'm still irritated at my moving coordination so I will close with the below and say several prayers is forgiveness tonight.)

For the dude that promised to help, and then turned this into hell-- well the sinful side of me hopes you have a move just like this one in your future, and I'll hope and pray you have people by your side because today was awful, and the only thing that kept my toe from crossing the breaking point were the peeps I had by my side. 


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Day 47: Wearing yourself thin: What Not to do

Because life was not complicated enough, we flew home for Thanksgiving to see family. In our defense, we bought the tickets long before we knew about my cancer or our move schedule. We will fly home today and tomorrow the movers come. We have been packing for two trips, taking pictures of the walls, cleaning basements and garages and ensuring the house is ready for inspection. To say there are a lot of moving parts is a bit of an understatement. 

But With coming home, I got to hug my mama. Even though I'm 39 years old, I still want and need and love my mama. Her hugs make it worth it. 

And we got to go back to my alma mater #Clemson University to attend our rival football game. It's been over 2 years since I've been back and I was astounded by the changes and additions to campus--it still feels like home. When the Army is done with us, Clemson is one of those places I could call my forever home.....there is something in the hills. My happy factor was bursting. 

I got to see some surprise friends I did not expect to see and I got to cry all over my old roommate and get hugs from so many wonderful people. We got to visit with many who have supported me from a far the last several weeks. And I guess I still don't look like I have cancer cause everyone still says I look good :D

I got to see my Tigers win their football game. It was great to see those around us whom we have sat with over the last 16 years (on and off) and now their kids are grown and in high school or college. I still look 21--I'm confused that everyone else is looking older!  Ha!

And I had to fall asleep during half time. I'm sure everyone thought I was a terrible fan but that's what my body does now. And by evening my back was a knotted mass of pain. There were times I had to walk off the tears. I dislike (yes, still do) the interference of my disease on my plans. I've managed to get a cold, I'm pooped and my back will take at least a week to get back to manageable but to hug my friends, shed tears with those I love and see "where the blue ridge yawns it's greatness" was a weekend of thanksgiving for me. 

The real world returns tomorrow but my heart is full (even if my body aches).

Sometimes you over-do it and push your body to its limits for a chance you might not have for a long time. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

On this day of Thanksgiving, I remind myself I am blessed.  In the midst of everything going on, we are still blessed by God, our families, our friends and the love we have.  Remember the sick, the hungry, the lonely, the oppressed, those who are a far and those who continue to work on this day.  Remember our soldiers, our sailors, our marines, our airmen, our nurses, doctors, police officers and firemen.  Remeber the young, the old and those we may have forgotten.  God Bless us all.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!  And don't forget your Christ Walk today!  You need to burn off that slice of pie!:)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Day 49: God Advertises in NEON SIGNS

Let me just put this out there if you haven't realized it yet:  I believe in God.  I believe that God is all around us, and I believe that God walks with us every step we take.

I've been going through a lot lately.  Digesting a cancer diagnosis is not quite as palatal as digesting a piece of chocolate cake.  But we still need to digest it and work through whatever has been thrown at us to conquer.  I've known theologically through all of this that God was with me.  I've known it in my heart, but at times my heart was so hurt and so angry and so disillusioned that all that negativity was keeping me from feeling the love of God during this time.

I think this is normal.  I think God understands that.  I think God knows that we are so fragile, so sensitive to our emotions that we need time to process and digest before we can realize that adversity can result in cheesecake even when it feels like a fallen souffle' (I may have food on the brain going into Thanksgiving)......I digress....

With that said, we are fragile and because we experience life through our senses, we need to feel, touch, hear, smell, taste and see God to sometimes believe that God is with us on our journey.  Sometimes it takes a looooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnngggggggggggggggggg time for us to see those neon signs in front of our faces, but they are there.  Sometimes the hardest thing about faith is believe in God and knowing God is with us without those experiential senses tied to it.  Just because we cannot feel, touch, smell, taste or see God sometimes, doesn't mean that God is not there.  But then there are times, our sense are overwhelmed with God right there, right with us and the moment we need it most.  God comes to us through Grace.

I've said it once, I'll say it again:  I am far too flawed to understand the WHY THINGS HAPPEN in the world, but I believe in Grace.  Grace WILL prevail at sometime.  Grace Happens through People.  And I can show you an example of where I got to feel, touch, see, hear and taste Grace in action in my life.  God came to me through Grace.

Grace happened to me last week.  Grace showed up in my life like a big neon sign for a cupcake bakery.  Grace came to me frosted, with pink roses and sunshine and smiles and promises THAT EVERYTHING WAS GOING TO BE OK.

Grace rocks, people.

Grace came to me in the form of a letter.  You see, my husband and I are moving from Kansas to Virginia with the Army.  We've been holding off on my treatment (with the approval of my doctors) until we get to our new duty station.  We knew about this move before my cancer diagnosis.  In fact, we had put down the contract and earnest money on our new home the week before we found out the news.  In my gut, I knew (remember grace!  listen to your gut!) that we should move anyway and we would figure out how to do that around the cancer.

But the move was an added complication to an already complicated mess and it didn't help with the struggles with anxiety I continued to have.

But then this letter came.  This beautiful letter that had grace coming from it out of every sentence.  You see, the executors of the estate that we were buying the house from had found my blog.  And they had reached out to me from my blog email address ( to send me a message.  You see, the previous owners of the house were a lot like me and Treb.  He was a retired military man--a WWII decorated veteran and his wife was a nurse like me.  They were a strong Christian family with deep ties to the area we are moving....and Gail told me in this letter that this house was meant to be ours.  SHE SAID MY CANCER WOULD BE HEALED BY THE LOVE IN THAT HOUSE (Ok, so that wasn't what she wrote, but the message I received!  God's grace sends messages!).  Gail has told me I can share the letter with you all so you too can see that GRACE HAPPENS.  Grace comes like an advertisement in Neon when you need it and I desperately needed this message from God that everything was going to be ok:

Hi Anna:                            

                              I understand you are the new owner of my late uncle's home, as our family fondly refers to the house on P Lane.  My cousin Don the executor of my Uncle John's estate, shared your Face Book page with me.  Wanting to know more I went to your blog page. I am touched deeply.                             

                              Since I have not met you I was not comfortable posting on the blog but I feel compelled to reach out to you.  I want you to know about the tremendous love and blessings and celebrations that were shared in your new home.  The home where you will rest your head, where you will return after your treatments for the cancer which has invaded your body, where you will recuperate and God willing, beat this beast, where you will raise your children, where you will nurture and strengthen your marriage, where you will seek and find the peace of Christ.                              

                              My dear Uncle John and Aunt Wini, my mom's only sister, showed me the true essence of Sacramental Marriage. Never have I witnessed a couple more devoted to one another or more in love.  Nothing was more important to either of them than their love for the Lord, their love for each other and the love they had for their children.  Their doors were always open to our large extended family as well as the hundreds of friends my cousins had.  Not only was their door open but their hearts as well.  Their love was so great that it could not be contained within their home but spilled over into the community and beyond, in service to the poor and the homeless, in the establishment of prayer groups to bring others closer to the heart of Jesus Christ, in ministry to the sick and home bound.  The list is long.                                    

                              I believe with all my heart and soul that God has a plan for each of us and that His plan is perfect.  Many times we can't comprehend this or see His light because of the darkness that we allow to overwhelm us.   But I am certain that it is no coincidence that my beloved Uncle John was called home a few months ago and that his family home was available just when you needed it.                             

                              So, Anna, know of my prayers for you and for your family.  May you find comfort knowing you now reside in a home that has been blessed in so many ways.  May you continue the legacy of love for the Lord, for your spouse, for your children and for the Kingdom which began so many years ago by John and Wini Tracy.    May God bless you and give you strength.     Paix, Gail.                                   

                              Mwen te tande yon nonm di "Mwen ba ou kè mwen."  Men maten an mwen santi ke mwen pa kapab ba ou sèlman kè m'.  Mwen ba ou tèt mwen tout antyè.

                              Lord, I heard a man say "I give you my heart."  But this morning I feel I cannot give only my heart.  I offer my whole self.
Even as I re-read my post, I am brought to tears.  God sent me a sign through another person that I desperately needed in the middle of this chaos and I (and my husband) were touched beyond measure.  God does send signs.  Yes, some are bigger and bolder than others, but I know if we open our hearts to these signs, we will see them and we will be comforted and brought peace. God never promised me a rose garden in my life, but he did say he would be there with me through it all.  When we love one another, we are sending God-signs to each other. And when I got this God-sign from Gail, my anxiety and fear abated.
I cannot thank her enough.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Day 42: Crazy Things that happen when you have Cancer (or other diagnosis)

So this is what I call my "kick cancer's a$$ tea." It's not bad, but I don't really like it. I'm a coffee drinker at heart. But just about everything you read about Green tea talks about it's butt kicking anti-cancer properties. So each afternoon I sit down with a cup of my tea and imagine it kicking my cancer's a$$.  This is only one of the many crazy things I've started to do in this journey of healing and faith.   I've discovered that when you feel out of control with your life, that controlling the small things is quite empowering. Drinking my tea, whether or not it works, makes me feel like I'm doing something other than sitting here waiting. 

I also decided one day that my Keurig coffee maker was a culprit in my cancer diagnosis. It up and got itself sold. No more coffee dripped through cancer causing plastic for me!  When I told the lady that I sold it to that I was worried it was causing my cancer, I thought she would throw the thing back at me. She was very gracious with my crazy cancer thoughts, but I learned some of your crazy, you keep to yourself. 

Along with the Keurig, all the plastic in my house turned evil overnight. The plastic storage containers went into the garbage, I tossed my BPA-free water bottle and opted for a glass one. I've begun looking at my water faucet through squinty eyes--there might be cancer chemicals in my water. We might just need a water filter in the future. 

I've started taking a organic whole foods multi-vitamin and digestive enzymes. Those suckers are supposed to eat up all the junk in your gut that might cause cancer. Bring on the probiotics!

The next to go was any deodorant in the house. No more aluminum deposits for me!  No siree--I promptly purchased an all organic deodorant that leaves me smelling great but doesn't do a whole lot for sweating. 

In a moment of possession, I tossed my mascara too. I've got a nice organic tube of mascara now as well. Organic brown. It works great and now I won't get eye cancer. I will neither confirm, not deny, whether my other beauty products will take a hit in the future.  I am eying all products the same way I look at my water: with suspicion.  

I have determined I will embrace my grey and forego any chemical treatment of my hair. It's just one of those things I can control. 

We already eat very organic and I'm not huge on processed foods to begin with, so our journey down the real foods approach to living started long ago. We really have an overall healthy house. In fact my son recently said to me: "mommy, there's something I don't understand. You are the healthiest of all of us, why did you get the cancer?"

It's a question I ask myself a lot. Things just happen. A lot of things in life happen that we cannot control. A lot of things happen that we will never understand. A lot of things we have to just have faith in God that a greater purpose is in store for us than we can ever fathom. 

In the mean time, with those things I don't understand, nor can control, I will continue with the sort of things I can control. They may not work and they may look like crazy cancer girl thoughts/actions/craziness to you, but to me, they are things that make me feel like I am doing something to beat the beast. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Day 39: "So, How are you?"

If there were three words more loaded with conflicting answers, I am not sure what they would be:

"How are you?"  

There should be a guidebook on how to answer this one. "The Dummies Guidebook to answering socially appropriate questions."  They need a special chapter for those of us with something going on. I feel like a deer in headlights when approached with it. Is it someone that really wants to know?  Is it someone that can handle full kahuna?  Is it someone that will understand "how I am" changes with moment to moment?  Or is it someone that need to reassure that everything is going to be ok?  I often wonder if it's socially acceptable to really answer "how I am" in an honest manner--do people really want to know? Some  days I am not really sure how I am because I'm still in the dreaded waiting place. How I am and how I want to be are two different questions. 

"I'm okay" covers a lot of ground with anyone going through something. It's also the lottery ticket out of a conversation if you don't want to answer the question straight up. There are some people you just don't want to get into how you are and then there are other people you need to buy them a new shirt because you've just blubbered everything out on their shoulder. 

So how am I?

I am beyond blessed. God sent me a freaking neon signage saying "It's going to be okay" that I will blog about at a later date, but it has put me in a calm waiting place rather than an anxious one. For any of you doubters out there.....there is a God, he does care, and I am confident in his plan..even when I don't get it. 

I am tired.  Frequently just tired. Mentally and physically tired. I love going out and being social, but it makes me tired. I am much more selective about what I do and whom I do it with because I am tired.  I often take a nap in the middle of the afternoon before my kids get home so I have energy for them. Because they remain my priority. If I don't take a nap, I don't make it past nine most days. I'm learning to manage my energy levels so I can do what want to do.  My body controls my life right now. I'm learning to surrender to its needs. 

I still hurt. It's manageable, but it is still there. My tumors sit on top of a nerve I think. After a day of working at the computer, my shoulder is a tortured mess of tangled fibers. I swear by acupuncture, massage and yoga stretches. And Advil. We cannot forget the Advil.  But I am rarely unaware of the parasite that sits on top of my clavicle. It reminds me daily that yes, it's still there and yes, I have to wait to get rid of it. 

I still get anxious, but each day it's better. I am not going off the deep end, even when I have a bad day and let it all out for everyone to see. If you want to know how I am, don't freak out if I tell you the truth!  :D  It can be a loaded question!  Ha!  I still swear by my walks and talks with God. The best advice by far I've been given is to pray for others during this time when my anxiety is overwhelming. It works. And I practice this. Life is more than just about me. Praying for others takes me outside myself. 

I am weak. While I am coming out of the toxicity of anesthesia, and my body heals from all the surgeries, I'm working on my fitness level, or rather what remains of my fitness level.  I ran about 500 ft for the first time. My first push up was an utter failure, but I am learning to modify and listen to what my body can do. This is especially hard for me. I just ran a 1/2 marathon in May and spent the entire summer doing a 100-day burpee challenge. I'm used to being strong, not weak. It's humbling. I wrote a chapter on this in @ChristWalk--Christ walk for where you are now. And that's what I am trying to do. No, my fitness level is NOT where I would want it to be, but I am plugging away with it daily. It's a journey, not a sprint. 

I am still waiting.  Waiting, waiting, waiting. I don't wait well. And because our life is not complicated enough, we are moving in three weeks to a new home and we are in the throes of managing movers, cleaning, and getting rid of things. We are registering kids for new schools, closing on a house, and still waiting to find out what they will do with me.  I still have far more questions than answers which makes "how are you very difficult" to answer.  There are so many moving parts in the waiting place right now. 

I evidently look good because people tell me this all the time. Like, "wow, you don't look like you have cancer."  I'm not really sure how to answer that are cancer people supposed to look?  I jokingly tell my doc that I don't look bad because a) makeup is amazing and b) I still (STILL) question that I have cancer. If I hadn't read the path reports, I'm not sure that I would believe it cause I felt fine until they started messing with me.   But yeah, I look good. They haven't done anything to me yet, so when I look like a cancer patient, I guess I'll let you know. But this is a great lesson, we have no idea what people are going through solely by the way they look.  Makeup and clothes make for great armor around whatever you are carrying in your heart. 

I have a sick sense of humor. Gallows humor puts cancer in its place. I won't apologize for cracking jokes about my cancer even if it makes someone uncomfortable. When I can make jokes about death, dying, and cancer it allows me to face the cancer and tame the beast. It's a "take that" response. So if I drop my cancer into a conversation like a bomb, don't cringe. Let's beat that beast back together. I've learned my friends are scared just as much as I am. We aren't going to tiptoe around this crap. We are going to slap it down and own it. 

I have amazing friends and family. I'm certainly hoping I haven't hurt any of their feelings about the "how are you question" because EVERYONE asks this out of a sense of concern and love. I don't get upset when questions come from a place of love, even when I'm really not sure how to answer it.  People mean the best when they ask you how you are even if it makes you a little crazy to answer it. Some days you want to answer it with a four letter word or two, even when it's not polite to answer that way. It is what it is. When you have no control over your life, it's a roller coaster of responses. 

"How am I?" Is a complicated question. I am a lot of things. And it depends. It depends how I am at any given moment. It depends on what is going on around me and it really depends on how much you really want to know. 

That's how I am today. How are you?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The New Edition of Christ Walk: A 40 Day Spiritual Fitness Program

Is now available!  Hot off the press at Church Publishing Inc, you can get your copy now!  It will make a great Christmas present and get you ready for a new year of faith and fitness!  I'll be walking it every step of my new journey with cancer and I hope you try it too!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Day 32: Making Bad Good

Today I had the opportunity to go back and serve at an outreach opportunity that I have been involved at my church. Once a month, we host a free community meal. I have been understandably absent the last two months and I have missed my kitchen peeps. Cooking in the kitchen for this meal is truly one of the highlights of my service to God. It is a physical expression of everything I believe. It was so good to be back in the kitchen. 

And my kitchen peeps told me they missed me. My salty humor and all. And I missed them. It was a bittersweet day because a) I didn't have the energy to stay there all day and b) it was my last time serving before we move. 

I've found that in the midst of the chaos of my life; the grief, the anger, and the pain, there are two things that make me feel real and normal again: 

1) Serving others. Everyone has sorrow going on in their lives. Yeah--I've got a doozy of crap on my shoulders right now, but looking outside of myself keeps me from wallowing in self pity. I'm human people--I can make this all about me with the best of them. Serving others reminds me that I am not the only person in pain, with tragedy or with frustrations. We are all in this human condition together. 

2) Exercise. Physically--after cooking all morning--I had to come home and take a nap. I've found my cancer makes me tired. I either take a nap or go to bed really early. It is what it is. Today I got a nap and a second wind and headed out for a walk. I miss running and weight lifting, but this is my Christ Walk now. And I know when I have not been able to walk. My mood is down. I feel physically drained and I don't cope as well with my anxiety and fear. My walk keeps me off my personal roller coaster. And it makes me feel normal and alive. As long as I walk, my cancer may be my personal parasite, but it's not owning me. I own it. And when I walk, I am able to pray. I am able to pray in some really deep ways that I am unable to do alone in my room or as I lay down for bed at night. I am able to cry behind my sunglasses and tell God how much I would really like to just put my head on his shoulder and rest. I am able to say that I really just don't want to die. I know I'll have my place in heaven, but I have so much more to do here. I am comforted on my walks that God is with me and I am free to be me. Tears, anger, frustrations and fears and all. And I always come back feeling better. 

So I think the two things I've learned to cope with this, no matter how things progress is that to continue to serve others and to walk with God and pray and cry will get me through my bad days. 

Cause as everyone asks "How are you?" My honest answer is there are bad days and good days and I think that continue no matter what. 

For today, I give thanks because
Today was a good day. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Multiple Days: The Number One "No-No"

Information can be hugely helpful in any disease process.  Information can also make you crazy.  I have a VERY hard time with doing research on my cancer on the internet.  The data and information available makes me anxious, fills me with fear and leaves me feeling defeated. There is so much information out there and you have to figure out what is good information and what is not good information.  I really recommend you let your cancer posse do this for you.  I know I cannot do it on my own without ending up in a very bad place in my mind and heart.

For me, the number one no-no is to get on the internet and start googling lymphoma.  It scares the hell out of me.  I can take only short bursts of information before panic takes over.  It's the sure-fire way to beat down my warrior attitude.

But every so often, I start to think I am strong enough to handle the information and I go searching.  And invariably, something comes up that scares the hell out of me and it makes me fall apart.  And as a former oncology nurse--the knowledge I have from oncology 15 years old does more harm than good.  The specialty has come so far from when I worked in oncology practice. But my memories and knowledge were far more of sick people that were fighting for their life than those we helped.  And I remember selfishly at that time wondering why any one would put themselves through this treatment. Prior   to my children, I remember telling my husband that I would rather die than go through any of the cancer treatement I saw during those years of practice.

I want to apologize to every one of my patients for that thought.  I have kids now.  I have more experience and friends and goals to accomplish.  I understand you will do ANYTHING to have more years with those you love.  It's a fierce desire.  I will fight unfailingly for time with my family.  It's not that I am afraid to die, or afraid of God.  It's just that I love my kids and husband that much.  We have so much more we want to do together.

You see, my disease is considered incurable.  Yes, I will get remission, but this is my life now.  And scientists quote numbers of 5 to 10 to 20 years.  But this isn't good enough for me.  My children will be 29 and 27 with 20 years...I want more.  More, more, more.  And I pray about this insanely.  I want to see my kids grow up and my grandkids and enjoy retirement with my husband.  I hold on to this want fiercely because it is based in love.  I cannot think that God will not understand this becasue I love my family so fiercely that I cannot and will not let them go yet.  God commanded us to love one another. It is this fierce love that calls me to fight. This cannot be wrong. 

But this love is also the center of my fear. I  am not ready to go. I am not ready to consider my mortality but when you are diagnosed with cancer and begin to ready the various websites--that fear creeps in because all you love is threatened. 

And all the research on the internet feeds this fear. When you feed a fear, it becomes larger than it really is. You build a monster in your mind that feeds the cancer and gives you one more thing to fight in this battle. 

When my fear gets so great, I cry. I'm not the strong warrior people see. I'm a mess. I curl on the couch. I may have kicked the couch on occasion and I rale at my situation. Fear is of the devil. It's not pretty. It's red noses, boogers, slobber, many tears, hot flashes and cold streaks. Fear takes your breath and freezes your mind. Your voice is raw from crying and screaming and your body aches from the grief. Fest is so much bigger than it really is. I MUST remind myself that MY GOD is bigger than MY FEAR. 

If the internet feeds your fear, get off of it. Give your fear to God. God is asking us to trust him through these times. I am being called to put my faith in something I cannot see or feel. And I am reading over and over in the Bible how God assures us that we will be delivered. God will be my strong rock and a castle to keep me safe and lift me up in his time and deliver me from my fear and comfort me when I am down and heal me if I put my trust in The Lord. 

I just need to stay off the internet in the interim. Don't feed the fears. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Day 30: One month In

It's day 30 on this Journey with Cancer.  My life has turned into an ongoing roller coaster ride.  It's one high after a low after a high after a low kind of ride.  It's exhausting.  There are good days and there are bad days.  I have to remind people that even when I have a bad day, it doesn't mean that I am not fighting, or that I don't believe I can't beat this, it's just that some days you have a bad day and it sucks the life out of you.

We are in waiting mode.  I hate waiting.  As Dr. Suess would say, "And then you come to the dreaded waiting place."  Waiting for an answer.  Waiting for a treatment day.  Waiting for a treatment plan.  Waiting for information.  Waiting for a doctor.  Waiting for results.  Waiting for news. Waiting to heal.  Waiting for a moving date.  Waiting.  Waiting. Waiting.

Right now, we have to wait for our move.  My doctor here won't start me on treatment in the middle of the move, and my doctor in the new place won't make a decision until I get there on what that treatment will be.  We have gone from "you must get there by the beginning of December to start treatment--you can't wait!" to "We'll make a decision about your treatment when you get here.  Just let us know."  To say this is conflicting messaging is an understatement.

I have two very different doctors with two different opinions on what to do and neither of them gives me any sort of peace.  So, I am pulling on God for patience, because God knows I have none of my own. And I sit in this waiting place, where one doctor seems very comfortable with waiting and watching for me to become symptomatic and all I want to do is kick this parasite out of my body as fast as I can.  If I could claw it out of my chest I would. Watching and waiting doesn't resonate with me for a number of reasons. And I disagree with them completely when they say I am assymptomatic.

One doctor would start treatment in 2-4 weeks.  She would treat me if I was not moving--but moving gets me closer to family and help and good schools and a good job for my husband.  And since my cancer is so slow growing and indolent, the move doesn't seem impossible.  But then I wait some more.  And wait and hear things like "this cancer isn't curable."  "We'll get you in remission but you'll relapse."  And my mind gets spun up on "this is my life now," and, "this is not how it's supposed to be."

And then there is the other doctor.  The one I haven't met yet.  The one I am putting my faith, and trust, and life in her hands that I have not seen.  I am putting my faith in a woman from 2000 miles away and hoping that she will see me as a person and not a patient.  I am clinging to this belief that she will fight for me as hard as I am fighting to live a life with my family without cancer.  I have to hope and pray that I am not just another clinical trial to her. I have to hope and pray that she will have my best interest at heart and that she will become one with my cancer posse.  I have to pray that God has this all under control because I have NONE of it under control.

I'm in a roller coaster in my mind, my heart, my spirit, my soul and my body.  I am either high or low and I struggle to find the equilibrium.  And each day I walk.  I walk to get myself off of that high or out of that low.  And I walk to pray and I pray to continue to be able to walk. And I wonder, wonder wonder what my life will be like.  This waiting place makes you feel like you are in a stuck place.

And I still just want it to go away.  People, I have plans, and cancer wasn't in any of them.  And it

still isn't.  I want this crap out of my body now. And this makes waiting a tortuous place.

So the questions you are asking:  "What's the plan?" "What's next?" "What are you going to do?" I don't have answers. Because no one can seem to tell me what the plan will be. We will move and then we will hopefully find out what it next.  And so I wait, and I pray.  Maybe in this interim of waiting, God will make my cancer go away. Maybe God has bigger plans for me than I can understand.  I still pray for the cancer to go away.  I know God hears me.  I am learning to wait and see what those answers will be.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Day 23: David and Goliath

I received great news today. My bone marrow biopsy shows no signs of malignancy. Take that cancer!  It was a total fist pump moment. My thoughts and prayers are with my brothers and sisters who also have received news that buoys them and also with those that received news that didn't pump them up. 

News can go either way. 

My thoughts these days have been a lot about the mind-body-spirit connection of my disease. I've been engrossed with the injustice that my body would do this to me when I have spent the last five years altering our environment, food, lifestyle so that we are all healthier and cleaner eaters. I have been so wrapped up in the negativity and injustice of it all. And I've been secretly fearful that the diagnosis would discredit me and my approach to a healthy, Christ-centered lifestyle. Who takes health tips from a cancer patient?

You will, that's who--because there is far more to a healthy life than a diagnosis. This is a blip in time. But when good news comes, we need to celebrate these small victories because they lift us up through the long haul. The better your attitude, the more successful you will be with anything. 

What I have come to learn--a light bulb moment if you will--about this diagnosis is to turn my thinking around about it and my health practices. Instead of thinking that I got cancer even though I practice all these healthy behaviors--how about thinking how strong my body is to defeat this disease. My blood work is amazing. I show no signs of the disease except in my tumors and scans. I have my fitness and my mental strength, great vitals and an amazing can-do attitude (when I haven't buried it under self-pity). Yes, my history of auto-immune disease makes me more susceptible to lymphoma, but this is not anything I can control outside of what I do. It's been insanely frustrating to read all these books about getting away from the Standard American Diet and avoiding processed food, eating clean and organic and avoiding chemicals and pesticides...Etc, etc, etc. Well, I do all this and this still happened.  It can still happen to me or to anyone else In this same position. I'm learning to think of it in terms of how healthy I have made my body to defeat this disease. Over and over again if need be. You see, I am starting from the top of the mountain in facing this disease, not the bottom of this hill. 

Sometimes when we change our mindset about the situations we are in, we can move from feeling defeated to feeling a warrior. Attitude completely determines perception of events. My attitude is bigger than my cancer. Sometimes a positive attitude makes you David over Goliath. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Day 21: Three Weeks. I Want My Mama

I don't care how big you get in life, there are days that all you want is your mama.  Yesterday was that day for me.  If you've been following my blog, you know I've been having pain since my surgeries.  I really try not to talk about it much because I know all the talk is just plain wearing on both me and my friends.  Who likes the doom and gloomy friend?  So, I keep it in check, or I blog about it.  :)

But regardless, I've been in pain for about two weeks now and I haven't been able to get the pain under control with just Tylenol and ibuprofen.  It's been a vicious cycle.  So I finally gave in on Monday night and upped the ante to Percocet.  I HATE drugs (which, I'm very aware I need to get over in the coming months, but hey--this is an honest blog, I'll never lie to you about what I think and feel).  I took the Percocet as prescribed every four hours by my doc.  And yep, the pain went away.  BUT, it brought with it dizziness, vertigo and hours and hours of being violently ill.  For the life of me, I cannot figure out how people get addicted to Percocet (I know we all have our vices, but....), this crap makes me feel VILE.

Like curl up in a little ball and whimper for your mommy kind of vile.

Which I did.

And I called her and told her I just wanted to hear her voice.  And I think I made her feel bad because she's a mom just like me and she doesn't like her baby hurting anymore than I like having my kids hurt.  We were pitiful together.  She told me how people were amazed at how strong I was.  And I laughed.  I told her, I don't think people would think I'm all that strong if they saw me now.  A pale, shaking, barfing, stooped, shadow of myself.   There was no strong in this picture....a lot of pitiful.  A good bit of whining and a lot of feeling like a little kid that just wants mama to take it all away.

If you've read my book (if not, go buy it here!) you'll know that my mama was one of the greatest formative forces in not only my faith but me as a person.  I love my mama and I'm not afraid to say it.  :)  And when I'm pitiful and not remotely strong, she's the person I call to get a good dose of sympathy or a swift kick in the rear.

I worry a little bit (OK, A LOT), about how I will tolerate the chemo.  I'm a puker (my son gets it from me) and it is sincerely the one side effect that I would choose to avoid at all costs.  It takes like 3 anti-nausea meds to keep me from puking from surgery and that doesn't always work.  I hate to throw up. Because once it doesn't stop for at least 24 hours.  And I worry that if the Percocet would do this to me, it will be infinitely worse when my system is hit up with something far stronger. 

It is what it is and I won't know till I know...but I'm pretty sure that if it's bad, the first thing I'll want is my mama.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Day 20: you've got your good days and you've for your bad days

I just returned from a pavement pounding, fierce walk. 

Ten days post-op, some steps hurt more than others. However, I've yet to find any drug they've given me more effective in reducing pain, managing my mood, calming my anxiety, opening myself to prayer and releasing tension than exercise. I am thankful that while I cannot run, today's Christ Walk was a good walk. 

My mood has calmed. Not so much before I left. I was an irritable, anxious, pain filled mess that was frustrated right, left and center. 

Cancer is killing one of my friends. Cancer killed a friend of a friend. Cancer was making people miserable. Cancer makes my hands shake and my body ache. The information on the internet was trying to leach my resolve to be a warrior and remember I said I was still in pain. I never see things clearly when I am in pain and we are having a hard time managing my tumor pain. Ironic since two weeks ago, I didn't feel much of anything. The surgeon  thinks the surgery might have stirred things up. Yet another thing to discuss with my hematology-oncology (hemoc) doc. The list is getting long. 

But all the information on the internet was overwhelming me and scaring me. It's hard to find resolve when you see so
much negativity. So I decided to follow the advice of @kriscarr and start a cancer posse. These are the gals I can unload on and these are the gals that will do my research for me. I've told them I need to hear that I will survive and I've got a much better chance than 10 years. I need 30 or 40 years. That's not asking too much is it?

Also weighing on my mind are the results from my bone marrow biopsy.  Waiting has never been my forte. It seems God continues to try and teach me patience.  I fear I am a hopeless cause. Waiting, wondering and being unable to make plans drives me insane. 

Hence my irritability. I'm not depressed, I'm pissed. But at least when you are pissed, you feel really alive. Being angry is a very tangible thing to deal with. Being angry helped me attack my walk and made me feel almost normal. In spite of the pain, the frustration and anxiety, I walked almost four miles. 

It felt good. I might not be running any races any time soon, but I've got a goal to try and make it 10K steps per day. These steps will make me stronger and better ready to take on the chemo. And maybe next year, there will be a race to conquer. It will be nothing compared to cancer. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Day 18: We Are Groot

My son's godmother wrote me this week and said, "Girlfriend, it is time to stop feeling guilty."

She is right. 

Guilt, when there is no transgression, is a wasted emotion. I may never know the why of my cancer. I may never understand this season and I may question God's plan for me during this time, but there is nothing to feel guilty about. 

The guilt was weighing down my fighter spirit. And I am a fighter. 

You see, even though I still cry; even though I have pain; even though I have my moments of distress and anxiety, this time has shown me that I have so many amazing people to fight for. My beautiful children, my amazing husband, my awesome family and my phenomenal friends. I have been infused with the spirit of all these amazing people. I do not believe my time here is done--for whatever reason, I have been challenged again by my body and again I will make it healthy to do God's work in the world. I would not have this attitude if I did not have all these amazing people in my life telling me I can. 

My buddy Louie calls this, "we are Groot."  Together, we are growing into a new tree. We will do this together. There is no "I" in this battle. I am not in this fight against cancer alone.  This is not just about me. This is about we and what we will do together. 

This togetherness is what I think God means by a community of believers. We have a bigger "church" going on than a brick building when together we are lifting each other up in love. 

I once wrote a blog post about the greatest gift you can give someone with an illness like cancer is to tell them "I believe you can conquer this. I believe in you."  It's true. We do far more together and are able to accomplish so much more as a community than we can ever do alone.  When we believe in each other and the power of the Holy Spirit to work through each of us, we are building something so much stronger than cancer or any other illness. 

So, while the future will have it's ups and downs for me, and I will still question: Why?  When?  How?  And I'm sure I will have days where I cry and gnash my teeth, I have hope. I can't say that I don't feel guilty--it comes and goes--but I have hope, because of you all. 

We are Groot. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Day 15: Goonies Never Say Die

It's 3 in the morning again and I cannot sleep.  I'm beginning to hate three in the morning  Anyone who knows me well will know how irritating this is to me.  I like my sleep and I rarely have issues with sleeping.  Not so much lately.

Yesterday was the two week "anniversary" of my cancer diagnosis.  It still seems a little unreal to me.  It's not like we will be celebrating this "anniversary" with cake and champagne. Heck, most days I still ask myself, "did they really call and tell me I had cancer?"  It's real alright, but it doesn't feel real.  It doesn't feel like it could possibly be right.  I still have far more questions than I have answers.  I still don't understand why God has put me in this journey--I'm still 100% sure I don't like it.  I'm still 100% sure that somewhere, someday, somehow, I will understand, but today is not that day. Yesterday wasn't either and I'm pretty sure tomorrow I will have will have many of the same questions.

I'm still racked by guilt/anger/confusion/frustration/shame/shock (I don't know--pick one of those perplexing feelings and fill in the blank) how I am supposed to lead people to a healthy life (Hey, BUY Christ Walk HERE:  It's coming in December and it rocks big time) when I'm obviously broken in some way.  I feel a little betrayed by my health practices.  I wax high and low between wanting to go full on granola with my approach to my cancer treatment and thinking screw it, I got sick anyway.  I'm pretty sure the balance is sort of somewhere in between, but I haven't quite gotten there yet.  I look around my house and wonder if the plastic caused this.  Is it because I use a cell phone?  Is my Keurig dripping carcinogens into my coffee?  Is my food really organic, or just another gimmick with more pesticides? Is my shampoo giving me cancer?  Where did this crap come from??? And WHY, when I've worked SO HARD for my health, would this would happen??????  I want answers.  WHO is responsible for doing this to my body. WHAT is causing this? HOW did this happen? WHERE was I negligent?  I really want the answer to "WHY ME?!?!?!?!?"

I have no answers. I may never have answers.  That, right there, is what you call, "embracing the suck."  It's a favorite military line and it is so apropos.


And while I am fighting this reality internally, my body hurts.  I'm sorry, maybe that's just too much information. But I do.  My body just hurts.  It's probably one of the reasons I am up so early.  In someways I'm bouncing back from the surgeries wonderfully.  In other ways, I am so aware that my body is just not right.  I can lay flat on a hard surface and everything feels out of whack.  My left arm and shoulder constantly ache since they took my lymph nodes out.  I cannot get comfortable.  And.  I.  Simply.  Hate.  Pain.  Medicine.  My guts feel rearranged. My mind feels fuzzy and my hands shake.  My body, mind and soul feel completely at odds with each other.  I need a serious realignment.  Where is God's chiropractor?

I know the things I can and need to do.  I'm sharing with you my thoughts and feelings.  If I put these things aside, I am an intelligent person, and I know the health care field well.  I know what I can do and things that will help.  I'm just not thinking very clinically right now.  I know that I can go to the chiropractor, or the massage therapist, or the acupuncturist.  I can try essential oils and yoga and relaxation breathing and prayer (all of which I do, do some of the time and in some sort of way), but honestly, sometimes it is hard to find the time to do any of this when you are fielding phone calls from case managers, nurses, surgeons, movers, oncologists, work and then there is laundry to be done, or naps to take, and sometimes just getting out of bed.  My body needs many more hours to heal and I am impatient with that process.  Clinically, I know what I need.  I know this is a matter of time, but at my heart, in my inner core: I Don't Have Time for This!  And there lies my inner struggle. 

I have yet to give in, or embrace my new reality.  I am still fighting it tooth and nail.  I want to wake up tomorrow (not at 3 am though) and it to be gone.  And I mourn that it will not just go away.  I feel like I have a big, fat label on my forehead. 

Folks, in the psychological realm of things, I am somewhere between denial and grieving.  It's a stage.  A season.  It will pass and there will be a new season.  One of acceptance.  The new season will be for the warrior.  I know it's in me.  She's just very tired right now.  A little sore and a little beat up. It will come.  Just not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but soon.

And as 3 am turns into 6 (it takes awhile to write these days) am, and I pour my coffee into one of my favorite cups, I'm buoyed by its message, "Goonies, never say die."

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Day 13: humor. 10/19/2014

Everytime I look at my husband, I want to apologize for this mess we are in together. When I start apologizing and falling into the "I am so sorry" and weeping mode, he gets sincerely annoyed with me. 

First off, it's probably a little demeaning when I apologize for something I cannot control. It's also probably a little insulting since he takes his marriage vows very seriously. Sure, I bet he would like to take this from me, but he has vowed "in sickness and in health" and has not wavered. My husband is my rock. I know I am never alone with him by my side. In some ways, his journey is more difficult than mine. As my priest reminded me, Treb now has to pick up the pieces of what I physically cannot do and often remains steadfast when I am too emotionally drained to deal with more. He has had to take on my household chores, the kids, taking telephone calls and answering multiple emails and going to the grocery store. All of these things are things he hates to do, especially talking on the phone and going to the grocery store!  Not that we keep count but the dude will have so many kitchen passes by the time this is through he will be able to trade them in for a boat that he so desperately wants. :)

All of this leads to a litany of "I am so sorry" in my brain. The first time I said it, he swatted me with the kitchen towel as he was doing dishes. The second time I said it, he gave me the eye ball. And the third time I said it, he told me every time I said I was sorry he was going to go out and buy himself a new x-wing miniatures figure. 

You see, my husband loves to play tactical board games. His newest favorite is the Star Wars X-wing miniatures game. He may be a little obsessed and before all this started, I was getting seriously annoyed with the frequent packages from amazon with a new ship for his collection. 

So I really need to be careful with my "sorry" comments. In one way or another, they may come back to bite me. :)  or at least if I am weak, he will be getting something good out of my moment of self-pity. 

The force is strong with that one. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

What pain will do to you.

I feel terrible. Pain is such a discouraging sensation. When you don't feel well, it's hard to see greener grass nI've found that I can be trucking along with all the upbeat positve vibes in the world and my usual "can do" attitude and then the fear takes my breath away along with the pain. 

It's a very physical sensation. My lungs don't feel as though they can fully expand. It hitches in the back of my throat. My heart squeezes tight and I am overwhelmed with the wrong type of thoughts. My eyes bead with tears and negativity overwhelms me. 

The creeping fear that I won't beat this sinks into my mind. My whole self feels covered in a black malaise. A cloak of everything that is not me feels like it takes over. And I worry that I will kiss my children good bye on a death bed. I do not want this.  I am at a constant battle with myself of placing all my trust in God and trying to control the outcome of this season. It is an impossible battle that rages in my heart. 

I can also tell you that pain is a conduit to this fear. When I am hurting it's far more easy for the bleak thoughts to take over. At these times I reread the notes that I have been sent to lift me up and remember that I am stronger than all this. I have angels watching over me. I know God knows the petitions of my heart (I have been a broken record about them). I know I must be brave. 

But some nights, it's really hard. 

Endorsements for the Christ Walk program

In the midst of all this craziness, I am still excited about the book "Christ Walk" being published this December. It's my first journey with health and fitness. Christ Walk 2 will be about my new journey with cancer and fitness. My beliefs on health and the body have not changed because of cancer. I will continue to Christ Walk. Read more endorsements below:

“Don't just read this book--do this book. There is no better book available to inspire and assist both individuals and congregations to start a walking program. Follow the plan outlined in this book, one step at a time, and you will strengthen not just your physical wellness, but also your spiritual and emotional wellness.”

––The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner, creator of “Living Compass Faith & Wellness Ministry and author, Your Living Compass: Living Well in Though, Word, and Deed


This book offers so much more than a walking program for individuals and faith community groups! It is a very thorough, comprehensive, and current look at the interconnections of spiritual, mental, and physical health. In the format of forty days of meditations, exercise, and nutrition information with suggestions for journaling, this book lends itself well to a Lenten health ministry opportunity. In writing about her own challenges with hearing loss and an autoimmune disease, Courie brings hope for living with infirmities, and she does this very personally, in a comforting, supportive, and affirming style.I have done several walking programs in our congregation, but I am excited to pursue the many new ideas and perspectives in this one!

––Ginny Wagenseller, RN, FCN, parish nurse at Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Westport, Connecticut and Province One representative for Episcopal Health Ministries


“For those of you who are looking for a comprehensive approach to walking, fitness, spirituality, and prayer walking, Christ Walk is for you. This disciplined forty day program will make a fine Lenten or anytime approach to getting your body, mind, and spirit healthy.”

––Sara Lee Macdonald, blogger of Walk With Me on Our Journey


As a priest and endurance athlete, I’ve been keeping a training log and journal for years but have long sought a comprehensive and cohesive way to reflect on mind, body,spirit and athletic pursuits. Christ Walk is the book I’ve been waiting for. Whether you are taking the first steps to wellness or have a full race calendar, those seeking to integrate faith and fitness will find Fitch Courie’s book to be a wonderful resource.

––The Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, co-captain of the SteepleChasers relay team for the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, half-marathoner, and sometime triathlete. 


Anna Fitch Courie has taken what she discovered in part on her spiritual journey through Education for Ministry and put it into action. Christ Walk is a book that teaches you to see God acting in your life and how you can act in return. Anna’s work on the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit and an agent of change in the world will help you change your daily life. Take a walk with Anna (and with Jesus!) on her journey and learn how to follow Christ’s example of walking your way into wholeness. Anna knows that life is one big pilgrimage.

––Carrie Graves, Canon for Communications, Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina and former president of the Episcopal Booksellers Association