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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Reality of Life with Cancer

"We fight a disease that terrifies everyone."
                                                     ~Kim Keller

Truer words might never have been spoken. In a poignant post, Kim peels back the layers and candidly reveals the reality of life with cancer...

This is a beautifully written, heart-wrenching and gut-punch honest piece for everyone... whether you know someone right now with cancer, or are walking the trenches yourself... Please take a moment to come alongside a cancer survivor and be encouraged by words of truth...

Originally Posted by Kim Keller:

People with cancer are supposed to be heroic.

We fight a disease that terrifies everyone.

We are strong because we endure treatments that can feel worse than the actual malignancies.

We are brave because our lab tests come back with news we don't want to hear.

The reality of life with cancer is very different from the image we try to portray.

Our fight is simply a willingness to go through treatment because, frankly, the alternative sucks.  Strength?  We endure pain and sickness for the chance to feel normal down the road.  Brave?  We build up an emotional tolerance and acceptance of things we can't change.  Faith kicks in to take care of the rest.

The truth is that if someone you love has cancer, they probably won't be completely open about what they're going through because they're trying so hard to be strong.

For you.

However, if they could be truly honest and vulnerable, they would tell you:

1.  Don't wait on me to call you if I need anything.  Please call me every once in a while and set up a date and time to come over.  I know you told me to call if I ever needed anything, but it's weird asking others to spend time with me or help me with stuff I used to be able to do on my own.  It makes me feel weak and needy, and I'm also afraid you'll say "no."

2.  Let me experience real emotions.  Even though cancer and its treatments can sometimes influence my outlook, I still have normal moods and feelings in response to life events.  If I'm angry or upset, accept that something made me mad and don't write it off as the disease.  I need to experience and express real emotions and not have them minimized or brushed off.

3.  Ask me "what's up" rather than "how do you feel."  Let's talk about life and what's been happening rather than focusing on my illness.

4.  Forgive me.  There will be times when the illness and its' treatment make me "not myself."  I may be forgetful, abrupt or hurtful.  None of this is deliberate.  Please don't take it personally, and please forgive me.

5.  Just listen.  I'm doing my very best to be brave and strong, but I have moments when I need to fall apart.  Just listen and don't offer solutions.  A good cry releases a lot of stress and pressure for me.

6.  Take pictures of us.  I may fuss about a photo, but a snapshot of us can help me through tough times.  A photo is a reminder that someone thinks I'm important and worth remembering.  Don't let me say "I don't want you to remember me like this" when treatment leaves me bald or scarred.  This is me, who I am RIGHT NOW.  Embrace the now with me.

7.  I need a little time alone.  A few points ago I was talking about how much I need to spend time with you, and now I'm telling you to go away.  I love you, but sometimes I need a little solitude.  It gives me the chance to take off the brave face I've been wearing too long, and the silence can be soothing.

8.  My family needs friends.  Parenting is hard enough when your body is healthy; it becomes even more challenging when you're managing a cancer diagnosis with the day-to-day needs of your family.  My children, who aren't mature enough to understand what I'm going through, still need to go to school, do homework, play sports, and hang out with friends.  Car-pooling and play dates are sanity-savers for me.  Take my kids.  Please.

My spouse could also benefit from a little time with friends.  Grab lunch or play a round of golf together.  I take comfort in knowing you care about the people I love.

9.  I want you to reduce your cancer risk.  I don't want you to go through this.  While some cancers strike out of the blue, many can be prevented with just a few lifestyle changes - stop smoking, lose extra weight, protect your skin from sun damage, and watch what you eat.  Please go see a doctor for regular check-ups and demand follow-up whenever pain, bleeding or unusual lumps show up.  Many people can live long and fulfilling lives if this disease is discovered in its early stages.  I want you to have a long and fulfilling life.

10.  Take nothing for granted.  Enjoy the life you have right now.  Take time to jump in puddles, hug the kids, and feel the wind on your face.  Marvel at this amazing world God created, and thank Him for bringing us together.

While we may not be thankful for my cancer, we need to be grateful for the physicians and treatments that give me the chance to fight this thing.  And if there ever comes a time when the treatments no longer work, please know that I will always be grateful for having lived my life with you in it.  I hope you feel the same about me.
Kim Helminski Keller is a Dallas-based mom, wife, teacher and journalist. She is currently receiving treatment for thyroid cancer. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A World Full of Hearts...

We but need look all around to see God's great love for us...

Courtesy:  Slow Family

Courtesy:  Jo Beall

Courtesy:  Andrew Gorman

Courtesy:  Ali Strebel

"Take my heart and let it be, ever only, all for thee."

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Light at Tunnel's End...

That light.  Some days it sure looks to be a long ways off...

Dad is still recovering from his pneumonia/copd/broken heart affliction and it looks like it might be a long, long road.

ICU rooms have been upgraded to regular hospital rooms and finally to a room in rehab.  Each step a labor of heartache and determination.

And in between all the work and therapy and breathing treatments,
a few visitors couldn't but help the healing along...

And he's making progress, truly, he is...
but it is the slow, tedious kind.
Disappointment and Frustration battle Hope
when the body fails to bounce back like it once did...

And the therapists encourage Dad to just take the next step.
To focus on the strength building for today,
and with each day, and each step, 
he gets a little bit stronger...
just take the next step.

The psalmist knew it to be true.

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."
                                                              ~Psalm 119:105

In days of old, when darkness cloaked the night, a lantern was used to light the way.  The flickering light only illuminating the path far enough for the next step... and then the next... until you found your way home.  A step at a time.  Never seeing the whole, but safely staying the course within that circle of light.

When Dad's journey began 5 weeks ago, you might remember the sorrow at missing a favored grandson's wedding... 

And in an ironic turn of events, there was another sweetly anticipated wedding this past weekend.  Another favored grandson and his well-loved girl were walking the aisle without Poppy in attendance.

Makes the heart hurt, it does.  But his all-pervasive weakness forestalled any attempts at attending the festivities.  Dad was sore with disappointment.

So.... we entered the digital age and hooked him up on Periscope, live streaming video.  He was beaming as he watched the wedding in real time.  A 16-year old granddaughter was in charge of the video taping and at the end of the wedding, the bridal party all waved their love to Poppy... happiness overload.

That was light enough for this step.  God knew.

When we can find a way to lighten another's sorrow, that is light in the dark.

Ryan and Whitney... they were Poppy's light this weekend...

Love them to pieces, we do!

And just because we love the light they shine...
here are some gorgeous wedding moments from their amazing day...

Sharing the light... a beautiful gift given...
that's Grace enough for this day!