Am I the storm?

Fate whispers to the warrior,
“you cannot withstand the storm.”
The warrior whispers back,
“I am the storm.”

~Unknown

When I came across this quote, it really struck me as a powerful way to combat the fear, doubt, worry, anxiety and sheet exhaustion that goes along with the battle with cancer. While I’m not the one with the horrid disease, when cancer strikes, it affects the entire family. So to read this quote seem like it would be empowering, right? We look fate square in the eye, lean in close and, with an antagonistic smirk, declare we are the storm.

I don’t know about you, but left to my own capabilities, I am anything but the storm. In fact, left on my own, I tend to struggle to stay afloat in the pity puddle created through worry, fear and anxiety. And closely related to those are the ugly cousins of resentment, irritation and impatience.

Left on my own, this is more what I tend to do.
I would hasten to my place of refuge from the stormy wind and tempest. ~Psalm 55:8

No, as much as I would like to identify as a warrior who can confidently take on what may be considered the lies of Fate (or the Devil in some quote variations), I cannot do it alone. I am wonderful at talking the talk, but sometimes walking the walk is a completely different story.

I need the rest of the army….and let’s throw in some marines, navy seals and air force fighter pilots as well. And let’s make sure the commander is one worthy of taking on the brewing storm.

Your right hand, O LORD, is majestic in power, Your right hand, O LORD, shatters the enemy. ~Exodus 15:6

That ideal Commander-in-Chief would be the one who not only has the power to create the storm, but the one who also is sovereign over the storm.

And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. ~Matthew 8:24-26

And that army of warriors? Those would be everyone who has come to our aid in prayer. And, we have awesome prayer warriors…from here in our church to across the country…and jumping across the pond as well. Without these intercessions, I assure you we would be feeling more overwhelmed and lost than we already feel now.

Some days I feel strong and fearless in the eye of the storm. But then there are the days when I feel like a single drop just might drown me. Lately, some complications have arisen that are testing both our patience and resolve. And, I can confidently say I’m somewhat terrified. And, there are many nights after he’s asleep where I find myself feeling overwhelmingly sad that there’s a chance all the plans we’ve made for the future just might never happen.

So, am I the storm? Not hardly. But when I’m aligned with the one who created and has the power to calm the storm…and with those who know how to use the powerful weapon of prayer…and the mere mortals in whose hands we put our health care….

…we can become the perfect reciprocal storm.

Playing along with others over at Peabea’s Pictorial Tuesday.

A little glimpse of Joy

April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.
~William Shakespeare

I think I came across my first Joy encounter last week. Of course, there’s been some moments of happiness, but like we discussed earlier this year, Happy is not necessarily the same feeling as Joy.

This Joy encounter came from an unexpected source….the cancer radiation treatment center. Yes, you heard correctly.

Entrepreneur was scheduled for three radiation treatments last week. We drove to the hospital entrance for radiation patients with more than a little anxiety building about how these procedures could end up. Radiating the brain….the stuff of which anxiety is made.

It was a dreary, chilly, spring day with on and off rain showers. Much like our frame of mind. But as we drove into the private parking area for radiation patients, this is what greeted us.

A sea of yellow daffodils planted between the reserved parking spaces and entrance.

I felt my heart lift as soon as I saw them. Of course, they didn’t negate the harsh reality of what was about to happen inside, but for a brief moment, I was caught up in the beauty of the moment. I thought of all the hours it must have taken to plant these bulbs last Autumn. I thought what a wonderful gift to those experiencing the challenging darkness of cancer.

And, I noticed some of these splendid blossoms had been mercilessly beat down onto the ground, unable to hold up against the spring storms. What a shame, I thought. So, I rescued them to live in vases in my home. There is some poetic justice in this, right? 🙂

Joy. It can surprise us in the strangest of places.

For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair.
~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Might have been bad timing….or not?

Can you believe I chose “Joy” as my One Word for 2017?

Joy. Really?

When I picked this word back in January, my crystal ball was evidently malfunctioning. For who in their right mind would choose Joy knowing their husband would be facing brain surgery in a month and a half? How in the world is one to be able to pay attention to Joy in the middle of crisis and chaos?

I had good intentions choosing Joy for my word this year. Yep, those good intentions were to try to see moments of Joy around me. But it’s oh so much easier to notice Joy when life is beautifully smooth, isn’t it?

Joy seems more elusive when we’re weary with one challenge after another. It’s hard to see the Joy in life when we’re up to our eyeballs in worry and anxiety. Choose Joy is a phrase batted around by those trying to offer help for people facing hopelessness, despair and uncertainty. Like “choosing” joy is as easy as choosing which pair of shoes to wear…or choosing what to order for dinner.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. ~Matthew 6:34

Isn’t that the truth.

Back in January, it was so easy to write that Joy doesn’t come from a worry-free, prosperity-filled life. In a more self-reflective moment, I wrote this:

I believe Joy is something felt deep in the soul. Something apart from the temporary warm fuzzies of pleasure and happiness. It’s something intangible that grounds the mind, despite the circumstance. Joy settles deep in the heart and soul, creating peace and a strength that makes a person feel they can endure the worst life will throw.

Very profound if I do say so myself. I just don’t know how well I’m doing in this department while in the middle of these “circumstances,” which are hard and more than little overwhelming at times. Left on my own, I don’t feel anything has settled in my heart except mental exhaustion, much less peace and strength.

But there I go again, confusing Joy with Happiness.

I have discovered my hindsight is working fairly well. In hindsight, I’m thankful for the flu. Yes, you heard correctly. I got the flu the Sunday before we were to leave on vacay. By Thursday, Entrepreneur was showing the first signs of it. A flu headache, coupled with the headache he already was experiencing is was drove us to the ER…and to the discovery of the cancer mass.

As terrifying as this event has been, in hindsight, I see it did provide opportunities to repair some family rifts, and opened up heartfelt conversations that otherwise might not have happened. I suppose there are things to be thankful for in the middle of chaos. Focusing on being grateful can result in experiencing Joy.

So, even though 2017 has not started the way I’d hoped, I am going to try and feel those moments of Joy in the middle of chaos and confusion by focusing on being thankful and grateful.

february-rose-72

For better or for worse

For better or for worse…

It’s been five days since my post on Entrepreneur’s unexpected brain surgery. Definitely a low point in our 36 years of marriage.

For richer, for poorer…

Emergency Room visit, five-hour surgery, recovery, and in-house rehabilitation; not to mention more CT scans, MRIs and other tests too numerous to count; and we’re not even to the part that involves treatment for any remaining cancer cells…let’s just say I’m feeling the “poorer” part of the vow. We met our deductible in…oh, about the first minute.

In sickness and in health…

In less than a week’s time, my over-achieving, fiercely independent, take-no-prisoners husband…the man who has come back from countless athletic injuries, a hematoma under a shoulder blade, rotator cuff surgery, knee surgery and, most recently, a kidney removal from cancer…has been humbled beyond belief by the need for a walker and help with the most mundane daily living tasks.

Because the cancer mass in his right temple measured 4.7cm and went deep into the brain, this necessitated the neurosurgeon cut around inside his head. And when people cut around inside your head, there’s trauma, swelling, bleeding and other damage that results in diminished physical abilities, capabilities and strength, And that’s in addition to the psychological, emotional and spiritual trauma that occurs when your body and thought processes don’t want to play well with what your brain want them to do.

But I signed on for the long haul. And a long haul is exactly what we’re facing now. Unless someone has faced this type of humbling disability, I’m not sure it’s possible to convey the feeling of sheer terror and helplessness that accompanies stepping into these unchartered waters.

It’s hard to remember that today’s “reality” will not be the reality of a month from now…or two months from now….or six months from now…or a year from now. Success will not be measured by the calendar days but rather, by accomplishments…however long they take.

Our lives are forever changed by this event. I’m not sure I can even comprehend what our family will go through over the coming weeks, months and years. All I know is I will be beside him every step of the way. I will celebrate the small victories as well as the major milestones. I will cry. I will curse the fates. I will pray.

“I will hold you by your right hand—
I, the LORD your God.
And I say to you,
‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.”
~Isaiah 41:13

But I know we are not facing this challenge unarmed. We are not climbing this mountain alone. The outpouring of prayers and support is literally spanning coast to coast…as well as a few across the pond (a shout-out to my international Facebook/Bloggy friends). We are connected to an amazing support system and unbelievable prayer warriors. Earthly angels sent to minister to our family. No, we are far from facing this alone.

Strengthen the feeble hands,
    steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
    “Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
    he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
    he will come to save you.”
~Isaiah 35:3-4

And I need to remember this when the days seem overwhelming, when the nights are filled with fear, when the odds look like they are not in our favor.

entrepreneur-surgery

The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.
~CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (1942)

But, I’m sure it’s going to feel more like this…

We’re not doubting that God will do the best for us; we’re wondering how painful the best will turn out to be. 
~Letters of C. S. Lewis (1966)

Thirty-six hours

Thirty-six hours.

That’s all that stood between us and our family vacation to Mexico. Luggage is packed. House sitter scheduled. Last minute cleaning in progress. We were leaving for the airport about 2am Saturday for a 6am flight….on the beach in a short 48 hours.

And then this happens.

Entrepreneur decides he needs to go to the ER. A nagging headache that had been previously dismissed as due to stress, sinus or seasonal changes took a massive turn for the worse. Coupled with nausea and the belief his head would explode, we head to the ER. Oh, and he’s got the flu.

And then this happens.

With a four hour wait ahead of us in the ER, docs send him for a CT scan to try and narrow down the cause of his headache pain. I head to teach my class at the university, thinking I’ll come back to take him home with some meds for his headache. We’ll resume the Tamiflu regimen and be good to go later on Friday.

And then this happens.

He texts me and says it’s not good and is being admitted to the hospital. “We see what looks like blood and a mass in the right temple area of the brain.” I hear phrases like aneurism and brain tumor. I hear the words I never wanted to hear again…..renal cell cancer met. I hear these words, yet they don’t really fully register.

I’m numb and my brain is in a fog. Somewhere in the cloud the word surgery is spoken.

Surgery. Brain surgery. This coming Tuesday. Valentine’s Day.

So not how I’d planned to spend that day. In four hours, we’ve gone from eagerly anticipating a relaxing tropical family vacay….to surgery for a hematoma or possible brain cancer.

All foreseeable plans cancelled. He’s admitted and taken to his room. MRIs and more scans are scheduled for the morning. But those are only to help determine how to proceed with the surgery. He’s in severe pain as we settle him in for the night. The next day will be filled with neurologists, neurosurgeons, oncologists and other medical personnel. He settles into the bed, a nurse finds him some food. Pain meds follow.

I retreat home and begin sending updates to family and friends. No sleep ensues.

So, now, it appears we’re going down this path again. A path I knew might be a possibility but never thought it would ever be this soon,,,,or in this form. Odd how two words can shake me to my core….brain surgery.

Thirty-six hours.

quotography-thankful 72

Feeding faith and starving fears

spider mum center72

I don’t know whether to be thrilled or terrified.

Inconclusive.

Entrepreneur’s biopsies of his lungs and thyroid are inconclusive for cancer cells. A biopsy confirmed the cells in the removed kidney were, indeed, renal cell cancer. But the spots on his lungs and thyroid….which the physicians were 99.9% certain were metastasized renal cell cancer….cannot now be definitively identified as such.

And without a definitive diagnosis on those areas, the future is unclear. Do we go ahead with the IL-2 treatments and put him through the hellish side effects and risks? Do we wait and biopsy again in a few months and hope they don’t spread further?

More questions. Less answers.

Inconclusive.

How does that happen? What determines inconclusive? What does it mean when cells are in limbo?

To be sure, there are many prayers being offered up for him and our family. Prayers of comfort, healing and guidance. Deep down I’m hoping and praying that inconclusive is another word for transforming….cells being healed and cancer being removed.

And life goes on as usual. Work is super busy and it’s looking like March is going to be relentless, so I’m secretly hoping he’s not out of commission for most of the month in treatment. My class will be approaching high gear on their projects in March, which will require hours of grading and availability for student questions. The Investigator’s schedule shows no signs of letting up either…which translates to the same for the home schedule. The amount of attention each of these areas will need from me is daunting.

So, for now, I’m remembering my word for 2015 going to stick with feeling thrilled at inconclusive….and keep the mindset that there just might be something going on behind the scenes we can’t see. This year, we’ll celebrate a quiet Valentine’s Day together and be thankful for the memories that are being made in this house.

Some see a hopeless end, while others see an endless hope. ~Author Unknown

Linking up with LTTL and Friday Finds
Life thru the lens fridayfindsbutton2

Putting everything in perspective

Christmas 2014
Texture by Kim Klassen; wonderful magic scripted
100% screen, 100% soft light, selective masking

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more.
If you concentrate on what you don’t have,
you will never, ever have enough.
~Oprah Winfrey

It’s been a helluva month.

1. The university, in its infinite wisdom, decided if an instructor hasn’t taught in 26 weeks, they need to go through the entire hiring process again. Since my adjunct gig is only from January until May, all my access was suspended until I could be re-hired. Criminal background check…check; application complete…check; present identification in person at the HR office….

2.  ….present identification in person. Who puts an HR department office in a parking garage? Almost impossible to find. Then, I can’t get out of the garage in any efficient manner. And it is past nap time for Twix.

3. The top strand of Christmas lights on my tree is out. Not the entire strand…just the last half of the last stringer. The top of the tree is dark. Not cool.

4. Entrepreneur is diagnosed with kidney cancer…metastasized to other organs.

Number four…making the first three null and void on any scale of importance.

Oh my. Cancer. I can barely say the word. We received the diagnosis shortly after Thanksgiving. Surgery needed to remove the kidney. We’re talking about aggressive treatment options for the other areas.

I’m numb. I’m terrified. And in complete shock. My emotions are reeling. My head is swimming in what ifs. This isn’t happening.

But it is.

My faith will now be tested beyond anything I’ve experienced so far in life.

I look at him….my husband of 34 years….the epitome of good health…on the outside. And I realize that, while there are volumes of things he does that irritate and infuriate me, there is absolutely nothing he has done or will do that I cannot forgive. The thought of living without him isn’t even on my radar. I realize how unappreciative I’ve been in the past. Woulda, coulda, shoulda. Memories fly past my eyes and the preciousness of time weighs heavily on my heart.

For better or for worse…in sickness and in health……My priorities have been shifted into perfect vision. And as my head swims, photos are taken, and unmentionable details are finalized…just in case.

As I sat in the surgical waiting room last Friday waiting for news, I’m surrounded by Entrepreneur’s parents, my mom and her husband, JW. And I find it amazing what gifts presents themselves in a crisis. Meals are provided. Dear friends of great faith surround me…physically and in spirit; he’s on prayer chains from coast to coast. The outpouring of care and concern has moved my heart.

Stories of hope are shared.

One diagnosed with cancer that invaded lymph glands. Multiple physicians concur twelve to eighteen months to live. That was 12 years ago.

Another of an unexplained regression of Parkinson’s symptoms.

Two of many stories of hope that have been shared.

Stories of miracles.

I hope and pray we are the recipient of one.

He sends forth His word and heals them
and rescues them from the pit and destruction. ~Psalm 107:20

Linking up with Texture Tuesday and Texture Twist
Texture Tuesday texture-twist