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Saturday, October 31, 2015

What Every Cancer Warrior Needs

A Letter from the Battlefield:
what every cancer warrior needs

I need to say 'I Have Cancer'
without everyone falling apart around me.

I need your tender reminders for appointments and meds and meals,
my mind has been somewhere else lately.

I need to laugh...
and I need to cry.
And your sweet permission to do both.

I need you to make cancer stop,
and I will love you crazy for trying so hard.

I need your touch,
and I need my space... Give it with Love.

I need someone to ask how I'm doing,
and really want to know the answer.

I need you to be my foundation strong
when the storm bears down.

 I need your forgiveness when the outbursts and anger overwhelm,
my emotions have been in a rage ever since cancer came calling.

I need you to bring those sweet desserts and savory soups,
along with your understanding when I can only sample a bite
and your compassion when my strength fades in the midst of your visit.

More than anything, I need YOU...
Your support, Your encouragement, Your Love.

I can't ever imagine walking this cancer road alone. 


It has been pure joy to share mom's heart for this 31 day series.  



While this cancer journey can be filled with fear and pain and despair, it can just as easily be  walked out with love and grace and strength of spirit.  Mom lived her convictions right out loud, even in the midst of crippling fear and pain.

This life is what we make of it.  And yes, we found, through mom's example, that you can live life well, no matter the valleys.  It's a beautiful dance when we get it right... but it's still a dance through the minefields.

I would love to close with an unconventional song, that just fits somehow.  It's called Dancing in the Minefield, by Andrew Peterson.  The song is a tribute to his marriage and a nod to the Battlefield that it can become... So much like this cancer journey.

Listen with your heart.  We are all Dancing through this Minefield, together...



"And we're dancing in the minefields,
We're sailing in the storm
This is harder than we dreamed,
But I believe that's what the promise is for.

'Cause we bear the light of the Son of Man
So there's nothing left to fear.
So I'll walk with you in the shadowlands,
Til the shadows disappear.

'Cause he promised not to leave us
And his promises are true.
So in the face of all this chaos, baby,
I can dance with you."

We didn't know that Cancer had saved the last dance for mom... but we danced it together, right through the minefields, into the shadowlands with her.  The beat still echoes powerful in our hearts.

May you find strength and courage deep when this dance pulls you out onto that Battlefield.  It is our prayer, always, that God will lead with Hope, and give you the Grace you need for each step of the way.

Always, My Love,
                       Jane

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Friday, October 30, 2015

I will not watch you die!

So, there's this movie... Sommersby.

And it's the kind that gets under your skin, and even though it was released years and years ago, it came back to me, like, yesterday, especially the cliff-hanging finale... hence the memorable, dramatic quote from the end of the movie above (my blog titles aren't usually quite so melodramatic, please excuse...)

But this movie...


It reeled me in with the mystery, the romance, the redemption... a beautiful tribute to the strength of the human spirit.  And once I was totally hooked?  The killer-twist of an ending... the pile of Kleenex at my feet was, well...



So, first of all, Spoiler Alert... I can't imagine anyone who hasn't already seen this classic, but, it could be... If that's you, then step away from your electronic device now... cause I just can't help it, we're going there.


To refresh our memories, here's the story:

Set in the aftermath of the Civil War, Jack Sommersby returns home after 6 years to find his plantation and home devastated by the ravages of war.


Jodie Foster plays his wife, Laurel.  And we find that their life together before had been a war in itself.


The Jack Sommersby she remembered was a hard man, abusive and mean.  The Jack who returned from war was a changed man.  Time away, perhaps the war had softened him and he is now a man passionate about restoring his marriage and town.  Everyone, including Laurel, are taken by his transformation... And this is the part of the movie that died-in-the-wool romantics simply love... ok, I was smitten, a hopeless romantic I am...

But then, the sinister music starts to play.  Nothing good ever happens when that music starts... 

Jack is arrested for killing a man somewhere in the past, and the local townsfolk begin to question the identity of this reformed Jack.  Could he be an imposter?  Laurel has fallen deeply in love with this man and staunchly defends his honor, but even she knows deep down that he is not the same man.

The past comes back to haunt, and the web of lies and deceit soon unravel.  Murder charges play out in court.  If this man is Jack Sommersby, he will hang.  If he is indeed an imposter, he faces the shame of his community and the loss of his land and marriage.

Love and Honor collide, forcing the heart to speak truth. 

Laurel begs him to confess and escape death.  Jack holds tightly to the love that has grown and believes that to honor that love is more important than life itself.

He refuses to confess that he is an imposter.  He is ordered to hang for his crime.

And this is where the crying began.  I just couldn't believe they would hang him... Seriously, wasn't some super hero on a white horse going to come in and rescue him at the last minute?  And then, happily ever after??

I kept waiting... the Kleenex pile growing... no white knight... no super hero...

Just a rope.  And a man.

The Judge gave Jack and Laurel one final moment together, and the agony in that conversation simply haunts...

Jack says, "...if I know you'll be there with me, I can do this thing right."

In anguish, Laurel replies, "Please don't ask that.  I can't.  I will not watch you die!"

They lead Jack off to the gallows and Laurel fades away into the crowd.

In panic, as they begin to drape a hood over his head, he calls for her.  The voice is raw.

Through tears that have swamped the last of the Kleenex, we see her turn back. Jack steadies himself with her presence...

And he is hung.

Who makes movies like that???  I was traumatized for days, well, years, really, because I just relived it all again tonight.

And yet, that movie got one thing right, well, maybe two...

There is incredible resilience and strength in the human spirit.

And Jack knew that if  "you'll be there with me, I can do this thing right."

We need each other.  During the joys of life as well as the heartaches.  And to be sure, this cancer journey is filled with more than it's share of heartache.

If you'll be there with me, I can do this thing right...

We have that promise to hold onto every step of this journey, for Grace has pledged

"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
         ~ Matthew 28:20 

We can do this thing right.  Our rescue truly arrives in time... Always.


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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Never Alone...

More than anything, I need YOU...
Your support, Your encouragement, Your Love.
I can't ever imagine walking this cancer road alone.

This cancer journey is the hardest thing a person can ever go through.  Mom shared often and passionately that she could never do it alone....

We circled her constantly.  Held her up.  Prayed her through.  Hugged her tight.

When someone you love finds themselves on the cancer battlefield, you have a choice.  Back quietly away because it's just too hard...

or

Answer the Rallying Cry and put yourself in harm's way for the sake of the one you love.

Throughout mom's cancer journey, we journaled her experiences, prayers and daily updates at our CaringBridge website.  It was an integral part of the support system that kept us going during the grueling, dark days of the cancer battle.

The uplifting notes from loved ones were an encouragement sweet to our sore hearts.  When mom's strength dwindled, and she could barely lift her head from the pillow, we would find her reading the day's comments, being cheered and inspired by words of love and solidarity that made us weep.

It was grace poured out to us at a time that our emotional tanks were parched and near empty.

When mom lost her battle to pancreatic cancer on December 4, 2011, this community of love held the line while our grief simply overcame.

Our final CaringBridge entry was posted on December 18, 2011...


We were never alone...

Thank you for following our journey on CaringBridge.
It has been an honor to share mom's story this past year.  To all of you, our gratitude knows no bounds.  We have felt the touch of your hands as you held us close in thought, in word, in deed, and in prayer.  A linking together on a journey that none of us wanted to take.  We were never alone.
I am humbled deep by the love you have expressed.  The blessings have been profound, completely beyond measure.  Never doubt the power of your ministry over us.
When mom was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer almost 13 months ago, she shared that her deepest desire was to walk this road with grace and dignity, no matter how difficult the path.
In all ways, she succeeded.
Mom's courage and strength in the face of this brutal battle has been of such inspiration to me. Perhaps that has been her greatest gift, for while teaching us how to live life well, she ultimately showed us how to face the fear of our own mortality.  To embrace both the life we know here, and the life to come, eternal and perfect.
She taught us well.  Her legacy is one of joy and love, intentional and personal, each day lived with no room for regrets.  She danced through the door to eternity with grace unparalleled.
Mom had a poem tucked away in her dresser, creased and worn.  We came upon it the other night, and I find it to be such a fitting way to close our journey together.  I can almost hear her speak these words to our very hearts, voice soft and sure, a promise in her smile:
Ascension
And if I go
while you're still here...
Know that I live on
vibrating to a different measure
behind a thin veil that you cannot see through.
You will not see me,
so you must have faith.
I wait for the time when we can soar
together again,
both aware of each other.
Until then, live your life to its fullest.
And when you need me
just whisper my name in your heart,
and I will be there.
No matter where the journey takes you in this life, my prayer is that the road brings you safely Home to fall gently into the arms of Love.
Resting Always in His Grace,  Jane
And because of Grace,
we will never, ever walk this road alone.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Too Pooped to Party

I need you to bring those sweet desserts and savory soups,
along with your understanding when I can only sample a bite
and your compassion when my strength fades in the midst of your visit.
 
Every cancer story is different...so our experiences may not be yours... but more than likely you will be able to relate to this next Battlefield Truth:
 
I adore your visits, but today I'm waving my white flag in the wind,
I can't muster up the strength to even say thank you for coming...
But I'm feeling it deep in my heart, and always will.
You are simply loved you to pieces.
 
This would be a universal theme for every sick or hurting cancer warrior.  The cancer, the treatments, the worry, the grief... it takes something out of you.  Wears you down, beats you up.
 
Leaves you in a puddle of exhaustion...flattened out, absolutely spent...
 
Mom loved her visitors.  They brightened her days so much.  Whether at home or in the hospital, friends and family put a smile on her face.  But she struggled with the balance of it all.  And in the midst of this difficult journey, we learned a thing or two about the right {and wrong} way of visiting the sick.
 



So here would be the anatomy of a perfect "sick" visit according to mom:
 
1.  Call ahead and "schedule" a visit... surprise visits sometimes lead to embarrassed visitors, because you never know when messy procedures and doctor consults or nauseous tummies and impromptu vomitings will spoil your grand entrance.  It's always smart to get a "Final Clearance" before "landing" on the patient's doorstep!
 
2.  Do bring a gift...and ya'll, this is more for you than for mom.  We found that when visitors came bearing gifts... a small box of chocolates, a hand-drawn picture from their child, a small bouquet, warm fuzzy socks in rainbow colors...it immediately broke the ice and gave momentum to the visit.  Too many times, a visitor would show up, say Hi, look around the room with desperation and struggle for words.  Bring a gift.  It puts something in your hand, gives you a springboard for conversation, allows mom the opportunity to thank you, not just for the small token, but for your visit... Win. Win.  Bring a gift! 
 
 
3.  Don't bring children.  Unless, of course, they belong to the patient. Or you've been asked to bring your own angel-babes to cheer the patient.  If neither applies, all babes, angel or otherwise, should probably remain with a fabulous sitter.  Mom loved the babies and toddlers, but her energy was spent, and their busy hands could dismantle her hospital room faster than a team of NASA scientists... just saying... babies can elevate stress levels into the stratosphere... sweet little things!
 
 
4.  Just visit like you always have... in whatever capacity you knew the patient, you still know her... is it a work partnership? Then share the latest water-cooler gossip... is it your neighborhood Bunco group? Then share the story of Sally's recent, hilarious Bunco bust... is it a deep friendship? Then share your heart, ask how she's doing, listen with your soul... You all know her, she hasn't changed, just carrying around a load of cancer right now... your visit is pure respite from the long, hard journey.
 
5.  But, please, please, don't ask the questions that make us do a Bill Engvall "Here's your Sign" head slap.  Two examples come immediately to mind... One sweet friend visited mom during her long hospital stay with complications from the cancer treatment and asked "Do they know what's causing it?" With a straight face, mom just said, "The popular opinion is it's the cancer, but I'll check with the doctor..."  Another, even sweeter friend asked mom if she had ever googled pancreatic cancer to find a better treatment.  "Ummmm... my doctor is an idiot?  I'll try your approach, yeah... no!"  Head slap, actually I wanted to slap her head, but, you know, good, old-fashioned Southern hospitality won out.  So, please, THINK before you speak, or we will use you in our next blog post ... just kidding, ya'll, but you do make us smile  ;-)
 
6.  Lastly, but most importantly... Keep it short!  She loved visits that were sweet, fun, uplifting, and SHORT ... refer to title above... Our cancer warrior needs her strength and stamina for the battle at hand.  Give her the lift she needs, a hug and a prayer then leave her to rest up... She will love you for it!

There is a beautiful quote by Maya Angelou:

"People will forget what you said,
People will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel."

And those are words of truth from this battlefield warrior.
 
Waving that white flag in the wind, your love is the sweetest win,
                                           ~ Always
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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Too Sick to Snack

I need you to bring those sweet desserts and savory soups,
along with your understanding when I can only sample a bite.
 
One of the cruelest weapons in cancer's arsenal would have to be the relentless wasting away that attacks even the most determined of cancer warriors.
 
The proper medical term is cachexia... and it accounts for almost a third of cancer deaths and affects more than half of all cancer patients.
 
Sometimes the cause of this profound weight loss and muscle wasting can be directly attributed to the brutal treatments, chemo and radiation.  But, more often than not, researchers are finding that the cancerous tumors themselves secrete a chemical that promotes the wasting syndrome, drastically impairing the quality of life, the success of treatments, and ultimately, survival chances.
 
Either way, we are left with a very ill, weakened and frail loved one. 
 
No matter how much mom ate or tried to eat, her weight slipped away from her one painful pound at a time... it was insidious and relentless.... and it made her so mad.
 
For anyone who has objected to the "Battle" terminology we've used these past 31 days, might I just say that I understand your concern.  I would love to say we walked this cancer journey upbeat and positive, letting peace be our guide...
 
But the truth is, we fought it tooth and nail.  This cancer road took mom straight into the battlefield where she used every bit of ammunition at her disposal.  In our world, it was war.
 
And because of love we battled hard.  
 
With each inch that cancer took, we skirmished for hope...and added pounds...
 
Perhaps a new recipe, or maybe her favorite Pot Roast and gravy... a Smoothie for scrumptious calories or comfort-food standbys...
 
 
 
Friends and family rallied constantly, cooking and baking their hearts out for mom... and that brings me to today's Battlefield truth...
 
She was humbled anew with each and every delicious morsel you brought her, and it pained her so when she could only eat a bite or two, please know she longed for you to understand it was the wretched cancer that rendered her incapable of eating more.
 
Your steadfast gift of love that carried the food to her door more than strengthened her for each day of this harrowing journey... Never doubt the blessing you were to her!
 
"Let us not become weary in doing good,
for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."
                       ~ Galatians 6:9

 
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Monday, October 26, 2015

Party Time

I need you to bring those sweet desserts and savory soups

Ok, the truth is obvious... pancreatic cancer is no party.  But, oh the kindness of friends and family in bringing gifts to tempt her appetite.  These angels with chef aprons brought a smile to mom's heart.




One of the hardest parts of this journey with pancreatic cancer is the constant nausea and loss of appetite.  The cancer and subsequent treatments played havoc with mom's digestive system.  Weight loss became our number one enemy and we fought it with everything we had...

And that's where our friends and family really stepped up.  Dad and I were so busy as caregivers, shuttling mom back and forth to treatments, tests and doctor appointments, as well as making her as comfortable as we could, that meals were a toss-up at best.  When friends offered to bring dinner by, we accepted with all the grace of a drowning man being tossed a life preserver!

Bringing gifts of dinner or lunch for mom made a profound impact on not only her well-being, but ours as well.  It was the sweetest blessing.

And recently I learned of two amazing websites that make coordinating meals for our loved ones a breeze.  If you are in a position to offer help in this area, the free tools found on these sites will make your day... 

Take Them a Meal was created by a small group of friends who suddenly found themselves trying to organize meals for a close friend stricken by a serious heart condition.  They knew meals would be a welcome relief for her husband and four young children, but the task of coordinating these meals was overwhelming.  And when ingenuity met inspiration, Take Them a Meal was created.

This website is an online tool for coordinating the delivery of meals to loved ones. If someone is ill, oftentimes family, friends, co-workers, or church members rally around these families to take them meals. In the past, one person would coordinate (by phone or email) the scheduling of the meals. Now, the meal coordinator can use TakeThemAMeal.com to allow the meal providers to sign up for the day or days when they will provide meals to the meal recipients.

Lotsa Helping Hands takes this concept one step further... It is also an online tool for coordinating meals, but with their Help Calendar you can request help with child care, trips to the doctor, and other needs, as well as give updates and announcements to your online group.  Lotsa Helping Hands has a beautiful tribute page entitled Stories of Hope that will lift your spirits and renew your faith in the kindess of  others.

And both sites are free... it doesn't get much better.  Go on, check them out... you and your loved one will be glad you did!

There is Beauty in the Body when we come alongside and journey together...
 
 "Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?”
                                                                            ~ Romans 15:1 (The Message)

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Battlefield Break - Hello Fall!

 
Coming home from our whirlwind trip north, we took some beautiful back roads and decided to stop at the historic Deutsch Country Days in central Missouri.
 
It was a gorgeous fall day, and the grounds were all decked out in autumn's finest... as we hiked and stretched our legs, we happened upon this incline in the path.  Just ahead of us, a fellow hiker slipped and took a hard fall.  Within seconds, those nearest her quickly lent their aid.   People she didn't even know saw her need and stopped to offer help.  She wasn't injured badly, but it reminded me of the kindnesses that we all need along this journey.
 
When we take a fall... when the path becomes steep... when we can't find our way... it is the kindness of others that often graces our lives and makes the hard things bearable somehow.
 
So, on this last Battlefield Break of our 31 Day Journey, we're celebrating the Beauty of Fall and the Kindness that touches all our lives.
 
As the leaves gild gold and summer's days grow short, might you find Kindness an unexpected and sweet companion as you journey along the way!
 
 
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Saturday, October 24, 2015

T.H.I.N.K.

Yesterday we visited with Job in the trenches of the battle...

It's a hard grace, this fight.  And sometimes our loved ones make it even harder... Job's 3 friends surely must have thought they were being helpful... but their words only served to make things worse.

When a loved one is struck with the piercing arrows of cancer, the last thing we want to do is to add to their misery. 

Here is a quick rule of thumb when trying to decide what to say to a cancer warrior...


Before you speak, T.H.I.N.K...



T - Is it true?



H - Is it Helpful and Honest?


I - Is it Inspiring?


N - Is it Necessary?


K - Is it Kind?



Letting words of Grace find a way to lift each hurting heart...
 
 
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Friday, October 23, 2015

It will be enough...

I need you to be OK with never knowing why Cancer chose me...
 and not trying to explain the reason why this happened to me...


Early on in mom's cancer journey we became just a little consumed with the Why of it all... nearly drove us insane.  But here she was... healthy, fit, rarely sick a day in her life, and then... cancer.  And not just any cancer... this was pancreatic cancer, deadly, terminal, heartbreaking.

Somewhere along the way, Mom finally made "peace" with the beast.  She drew us all near and shared this truth...It is your solidarity as you stand with me in the fight against this cancer beast that will mean the most to me... not your explanations and rationalizing the 'whys' and 'how comes' this cancer is knocking down my door.

It reminded me of Job...Old Testament...devastating journey... a book of Why's...and Not Fair's...

For those who aren't familiar with the story of Job, here's my 0-to-60 version in a nutshell:

Job was a good man. He loved God.  Disaster struck.  He wished to Die.  Yet, Refused to curse God.  But asked Why a million times.  God spoke Loud.  Job Remembered and Surrendered to God's wisdom. God Restored.  Job remained Blessed.

 Ok... that might be really condensed... like maybe there's more to the story... So, yes, here's the rest...

Job was a good man and righteous in the eyes of God.  He lived a good life, had a wonderful family, and was the best rancher in the land with lots of sheep and camels and oxen.  One day, up in the heavens, Satan argued with God that Job was only good because God had blessed him so abundantly.  His challenge was stark, give me permission to test him, saying that if Job lost all these things, he would turn and curse God...

God allows Satan to torment Job and in the course of 24 hours, he loses not only all his livestock and servants, but all ten of his precious children to horrific disasters.  Job tears his clothes and mourns in agony, but still he blesses God.

Not finished, Satan strikes Job bodily with boils and sores so that he would wish for death.  And yet, Job continues to bless God as he struggles to accept his circumstances.  From an anguished heart he speaks, "Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?" (Job 2:10)

His wife, in the pangs of grief herself, tells Job to curse God and die...the bitterness of her pain is palpable...

Job's 3 friends weren't much better, basically accusing Job of hidden sin for which he was being "punished." Their well-meaning but thoughtless advice only intensified Job's misery.

What a nightmare...Job spends much of the Book working through what's happening and asking "why".

And finally... finally... God appears.

He speaks with Job.  And His voice thunders...

God speaks of who He is and what He's done.  Job's heart and head bow in abject sincerity, acknowledging God's great might and power.

 Job has been given an answer... not the one he was expecting, but one much more important.

He claims with boldness in Job 42:2   "I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted."  Out of the storm, God has revealed Himself... Job is struck anew with the glory of His almighty presence... God is alive, He is mighty, He cares beyond a doubt, and God, surely, is capable of all things.

Then God gave back to Job twice what he had before.  And God blessed the last part of Job's life even more than the first part...

And that's the story of Job.

I have always loved that God came to Job in his misery and spoke to him... God spends so much time telling Job who He is and what He's done.  It never occurred to me until mom was journeying with cancer, and we were asking why, to see the things that God didn't tell Job...

He didn't tell Job why everything was happening to him.  We, of course, knew the "back-story" of how Satan had challenged God for permission to test him, but Job certainly didn't know that, nor did God deem it necessary to share that with Job.

Job asked why and God didn't tell him. Period.

God chose to answer Job with a magnificent description of who He is.  But not with why He allowed all these things to happen.

God chose to display His awesome power.  But not to disclose His future plans for Job.

And Job found that it was enough.

All the through the storm Job struggled.  He longed to believe God was still good.  That Jehovah was still in control.  That He was still a loving God.  The struggle was monumental.  Job continued to praise, but the questions... he agonized with God...

And God Almighty met Job with Himself... His Power...His Majesty...

Job found that it was enough.

God still meets us with Himself today.  Our struggles, the very real questions, the torment and the pain of not knowing why.

And He tells us His power is greater than our need.  Always.

Might we remember this day that we are loved completely by a good God.  And He remains steadfast and good even when we suffer unimaginable pain and grief.

He is there.  He is in control.  He is all powerful.  He loves us.  Always.

It is enough..


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Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Day in the Life


Welcoming back Cancer Owl...
   for a most appropriate cartoon entitled "Mood Swings."


Thank you, Matthew... you make me smile.  But more than that you make me think, and open the door to better understanding, and the longing to love deeper and better and stronger...
 
 
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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Spittin' Mad...

I need  your forgiveness when the outbursts and anger overwhelm,
my emotions have been in a rage ever since cancer came calling.

Years ago, and in another life, I had the undeniable pleasure of working as a veterinarian technician for a rural vet practice.
 
One of the most common surgeries we performed in the clinic were spays and neuters.  A walk in the park, most of the time.  But occasionally, the routine became more of an adventure than we expected... like the time we agreed to neuter Mr. Jones barn cat, Muffin (as in Stud-Muffin, but without the Stud...)
 
 
Sweetest tom-cat this side of the Mississippi.  He was purring up a storm as the vet got ready to give him the pre-anesthetic injection in his back leg.  I scruffed him by the neck, gently scratching his ears as the needle penetrated his muscle... and suddenly I was trying to contain the Tasmanian Devil.
 
His scream sent the hairs on my neck straight up and he shot out of my grip like a mad thing.  With no where to go in the small surgery room, he went for the cabinets and climbed nearly to the ceiling before we could blink.
 
His eyes were wide in shock and his tail puffed out twice its normal size.  As he scrambled for purchase, hanging on the old wooden cabinet door, we leapt into action and tried to grab him, which only served to enrage him all the more. 
 
His ears flattened, the tail whipped and a demonic growl grew into something that would have done the Exorcist proud...
 
With a heroic leap, he managed to clear the surgical table, scattering sterile instruments to the four corners as he dove for the window, which happened to be open... it was spring, ya'll, like beautiful weather in Texas... Who doesn't have their window wide open???  But with a screen, of course, we wouldn't be that stupid!
 
We were just not as mad as that cat... He plowed through the screen like it was nothing more than a flimsy window dressing.  I learned that's what mad can do to you...
 
And, heart be still, the story has a happy ending.  Enough sedative was injected into the Devil-Cat that he passed out in the bushes behind the clinic... We collected said sleepy cat and performed a quick - and painless- neuter and delivered him back to a happy Mr. Jones...
 
 
I think Muffin forgave us... but I'm not 100% sure :-)
 
And I wish that was how the "mad" in our cancer journey turned out.  As in, happily-ever-after.   Back to normal, looking handsome, lounging out on the farm kind of happy...
 
But Cancer Anger is a whole different breed of animal.  It's not funny, nor over by the end of a 30-minute sit-com kind of mad.  It's more like the demonic-growl kind of mad that makes you plow through windows or climb the walls hysterical... it can turn us into creatures we don't recognize, make us spit hate at the hands that only want to help and leave us spent and crushed when we can't outrun it.
 
Jay Lake shares his perspective on Cancer Anger like this:
 
"I’ve written before about hope, despair and the cult of optimism in the realm of cancer care. There’s a cultural expectation that we who are in such dire medical straits are to be positive and noble. ...
 
Understand that I don’t dispute the value of a positive attitude in people for whom it comes naturally. But insofar as I can tell, the only objective reason such an attitude is urged on patients is so that they’ll pursue their care diligently, take their medications, turn up for tests and appointments, and so on. Everything else seems to be about smoothing the path.

You can also make a quite reasonable philosophical argument about acceptance. But let me tell you, as a terminal cancer patient, my entire life is K├╝bler-Ross on fast spin. Acceptance doesn’t come naturally, and for some of us, is closely akin to surrender.

There’s a great deal of cultural pressure to accept the inevitable. To be optimistic and graceful. To suffer in quiet and noble silence.

Tell that to the cancer.

Cancer and its treatments are messy. They are painful. They are humiliating. Cancer undermines everything a patient knows about their life, their love, their place in the world. And for far too many of us, cancer steals away everything in end, ushering us into death years, decades, even generations before our time.

Why the h*** shouldn’t we be angry? Why the h*** shouldn’t I be angry? I am losing my life. I am losing my place in my daughter’s childhood and young adulthood and her future. I am losing my family, my friends and lovers, my writing. I am losing myself.

And when I say angry, I’m not talking about Dylan Thomas’ almost genteel rage against the dying of the light. I’m talking about a good, old-fashioned, trash can-kicking, screaming sh*tfit.

D*** it, of course I’m angry. Anger has kept me alive, kept me going, kept me dedicated to everything I can do to survive a little longer. I live angry, and I will die angry. Being me, I generally channel that anger constructively. I don’t actually kick trashcans or yell at people or throw tantrums.

But it keeps me going, and I cannot pretend it isn’t real, dark and fiery down to the core of my soul."
 
That's a look into the very real world of Jay's cancer journey.  And it resonates with countless cancer so-journers.  We can't pretend it is easy, nor that acceptance is the only answer.
 
Muffin would understand.  His angry reaction to that anesthetic injection was primal and real.  And that mad became his survival mechanism as he coped with the scary unknown of a life-altering journey.
 
Might we always, always remember the power of such anger.  It does not have to be negative, nor is it a positive, it just is... it is part of the journey, and no one should ever, ever feel they must "suffer in quiet and noble silence."
 
"Bitterness is like cancer.
It eats upon the host.
But anger is like fire.
It burns it all clean"
                 ~   Maya Angelou
 
 
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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Hold Me in the Storm





"There's no space that His love can't reach
There's no place where we can't find peace
There's no end to Amazing Grace
Take me in with your arms spread wide
Take me in like an orphan child
Never let go, never leave my side.
 
I am,
Holding on to You.

I am,
Holding on to You.
In the middle of the storm,
I am Holding on,
I am
 
I am,
Holding on to You.
I am,
Holding on to you.
In the middle of the storm,
I am holding on,

I am
 
Love like this, Oh my God to find!
I am overwhelmed what a joy divine!
Love like this sets our hearts on fire!
 
I am,
Holding on to You.
I am,
Holding on to You
.
In the middle of the storm,
I am Holding on,
I am
 
I am,
Holding on to You.
I am,
Holding on to you.
In the middle of the storm,

I am holding on,
I am
 
This is my Resurrection Song
This is my Hallelujah Come
This is why to You I run
This is my Resurrection Song
This is my Hallelujah Come
This is why to You I run
There's no space that His love can't reach
There's no place that we can't find peace
There's no end to Amazing Grace
 
I am,
Holding on to You.
I am, Holding on to You.
In the middle of the storm,
I am Holding on,
I am
 
I am,
Holding on to You.
I am,
Holding on to you.
In the middle of the storm,
I am holding on,
I am"
 
~ David Crowder, I AM lyrics
 
 
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Monday, October 19, 2015

Taking Deeper Roots

I need you to be my foundation strong when the storm bears down.

The cancer storm can be relentless... The winds of pain and despair can blow us off our foundation surer than the waves that pound the shore.

There's a belief out there that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger.  Dolly Parton sang it this way...

"Storms make trees take deeper roots."

I want to believe that.  And I do for the most part.  In most of life's storms we struggle, we cry, and then, somehow, someway, we rise above... We find our backbone, we grow spiritually, mentally, and emotionally from weathering the impossible hardships.

Deeper Roots, Stronger Foundation.

 Rising from the ashes of trauma and grief, we learn things about ourselves we could learn no other way.

So, yes, I believe that the storms of life make us dig deep and grow stronger.

But, then... Cancer.

The terminal pancreatic cancer that hit our family was like no other storm we had ever experienced.

It blew in out of nowhere, no warning flags, no roadmap and certainly no evacuation strategy.

This storm swept mom to her knees... and on her worst days, it threatened to take her under.

Her cry is that of every cancer patient, when the horrific winds of the disease howl and assault.

I need you to ground me, to be my roots when the storm bears down...

And this storm...I'm not sure if it can make a tree take deeper roots.  It can just break us, this storm.

On our recent trip to Alaska, we kayaked upon the most unusual thing I've ever seen.  Right out in the middle of Bailey Bay...there was this cedar tree...


It looked as if it was growing right there in the middle of the Bay... which would be really amazing, and like impossible, since the Bay was carved 800 feet deep by ancient glaciers... and yet, the tree, looked like it was growing straight up out of the water...

We kayaked in closer...


The cedar was "floating" in an eerily upright position.  We could see the branches spread out graceful under the water below us, the sodden limbs dying in the salt water... and yet, the tree stood tall, bobbing in the waves, refusing to lay down.  Even the birds flocked to her branches...


But she was dying from within.

Our guide called this tree a "dead head" and said that it had probably been growing strong and sure at the water's edge for years until the torrential spring rains and mudslides loosened the root's grip and eventually tore her from her foundation.  

Because the root ball was so heavily waterlogged, the tree floated off in it's semi-upright position, leaving us to silently wonder at this majestic sight... adrift on the waves, her roots anchored no longer to solid ground.

And I realized that sometimes storms really don't make us take deeper roots.

Sometimes the storms can tear us away from our very foundation... Pull us from all that is familiar, all that we hold dear.  

Storms can do that.   Especially a cancer storm.

And when our cancer warriors face the full brunt of the tempest, it is then they need us most...

To be their foundation strong when the storm bears down.

When we were in Alaska we saw another cedar tree...


Actually, we saw a "family" of cedar trees, growing on the rocks, surrounded by waves that beat relentlessly.

And they struggled through the storms, but found purchase for their roots together... facing the wind, the adversity united.

We can be that anchor for our loved ones... Holding them close in the storm...

Reminding them always of what we know to be true... They are loved... They are never alone...

The Foundation is Sure, it is Strong, it is built on the powerful name of Jesus Christ... 

Even though the storm bears down, we can sing our Broken Hallelujah...

for Grace has paid the price... The Battle has already been won...

The Battle has already been won.

 

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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Battlefield Break - Finding ourselves on the Battlefield Road

Sometimes the battle comes to you...
And sometimes you must move to the battle.
 
This week past, the Farmer's mother took a painful fall and found herself in the ER with a nasty concussion and broken hip.
 
We received the phone call that every one with elderly parents fears...although stable, she was in a lot of pain and doctors began talking about brain bleeds and MRI's and keeping her for observations...with our hearts tumbling we threw together a suitcase of clothes and began the drive from Texas to Illinois.
 
As dark descended, we finally gave in to the need for sleep and pulled over to the nearest hotel. 
 
It wasn't until the following morning that I realized what a good sense of humor God has... for there at the corner of the interstate and our hotel parking lot was a road sign, completely meant for me...
 
 
 
You just can't make this stuff up!  In the dark of night, we had checked in to the Quality Inn Hotel on Battlefield Road.
 
 
Seriously!
So, just a reminder, in case you've missed it these past 2 weeks,
we've been on the Battlefield Road...
 
 
Ok, enough, already...
 
More importantly, we made it safely to Millie's side and found her smiling a welcome, but bruised from head to toe, with staples in her head and an extremely painful, fractured hip...
 
 
There was hardly an inch of her not hurting...
 hugs were gentle and oh, so careful.
Our worry meters had been off the charts,
so it was such a relief to see her sweet face.
 
The week has passed quickly with doctor visits, Ct scans and MRI's,
reports and consults, pain meds and therapy,
and finally a plan to get her back "home" to the Marigold.
 
 
There she was surrounded by love of the happiest kind...
 
 
The battle is not over... it will be weeks for the hip to heal...
but the healing has begun.
 
Gratitude spilling for all the prayers and well wishes,
it is Grace to give Praise this day!
 
 
 
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Saturday, October 17, 2015

A Little Bit of Jack Nicholson for the Win...

Sometimes a picture just gets caught in your brain.  Like last night. This iconic image just popped into my head...and it wouldn't leave.  So I'm sharing it with you...you're welcome.

 
Might have been the blog post from yesterday...
 
Or it could have been the guacamole burger from Steak-n-Shake.
 
But I do know that mom really got it.  The truth thing, not the guacamole... She just never said it quite like Jack Nicholson.
 
And the truth about cancer is that it's brutal. And ugly, and more difficult than just about anything we'll ever face this side of heaven.  The truth? Truly, most people just really can't handle it. 
 
Mom understood.  And she didn't fault the friends, and family, who couldn't bear to ask her how she was doing... 
 
And that can make a cancer journey the loneliest walk on this planet.
 
No one should have to do this alone. Ever.
 
So, as the scene with Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson replayed in my mind for the umpteenth time, I realized that there could be A Few Good Men (or Women) out there... Yes?
 
The kind of men (and women) that stand up for right, who hold the line for those in battle, and who put their brave on to walk this cancer road alongside us, no matter how hard the truth is.
 
And I know that if you're reading this, you are one of the Few... True?
 
Might I encourage you this night?  If God has placed you on a path with a beloved cancer warrior, then He put you there for a reason... and He will equip you for the task at hand...your purpose is as easy as it is impossible... Love them with all your heart, no matter how brutal, or ugly or difficult the road.
 
Grace will overcome every heartache...it is the Promise.
 
You can so do this.  I know you can handle the Truth.
 
 
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