Thursday, June 13, 2013

Brother William

Today is my brother's birthday. I've written about him before. He is older than I am by 3+ years. We were tight in the early days. We grew apart as teenagers and adults. As an adult, his friends call him Bill. I still call him William.

We've reconnected over the past several years and while we are different and things have changed, we still share much in common. He is an artist. He has a couple of blogs. (One of the things we have in common).

[Psst. William. If you're reading this, you need to write more].

I don't have anything new to share, but I thought I'd share a few pictures of us.




Happy Birthday, William! I hope your day is filled with sunshine, love and lots of cake.

If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Of Healing and Hope

I never wanted to be an inspiration. It was never my intent. However, I shared this post on Facebook because it struck me that I do want to be an inspiration. (Just not in the hero-worship kind of way). I want to share my story with others because it is one of healing and hope.

In October 2007 it seemed that my career was just beginning. I was in a position as Acting Director and was confident that this was where God wanted me. I was finishing law school and facing the February 2008 bar exam. I had no doubt that I would pass on my first attempt. Things were coming together and life was just beginning.
On October 11, 2007 I was told that my employment contract was not being renewed. My VP wanted to give me enough time to think about what I wanted to do between now and the end of the calendar year. I had the option of resigning and she would fully support that decision. Or I could continue to work through the end of the year and help the department with the transition.
That same afternoon I had my annual physical. It was then that my PCP told me she felt a lump that she did not like and recommended an ultrasound. I was going on vacation the following week and asked if it could be scheduled for the Monday I was back. That was not a problem. At the time I dismissed her words because there was no history of cancer in my family. And my own mother had had a benign tumor removed when she was my age. It was simply that I was following in my mother’s footsteps.
However, deep inside I think I knew my world was falling apart. And it did. When I returned from vacation I faced a series of doctors’ appointments that ultimately confirmed that I had breast cancer. I held onto the idea that God knew what was best. The truth is, I don’t believe in a God that “did this” to me or “allowed this to happen” to me. Rather, I believe in a God who knew what path my journey was about to take and arranged things so that I would remain on the correct path for my life journey. You see, if I had kept my job and was made permanent (no longer “acting”) when I was diagnosed with cancer I would not have taken the bar exam. God knew I was facing cancer and treatment so He made it easy for me to make the right decision; which wasn’t even mine.
With two weeks left for classes I underwent surgery. (It feels as if I spent the month of November at the hospital). December was more appointments and a final pathology report that would determine my treatment plan. I was told I needed chemotherapy and should start as soon as possible. I asked if I’d be allowed to take the bar exam. My doctors seemed a little puzzled by my determination but assured me that it was alright to fly to California and take the exam if I felt up to it. It never occurred to me to not take the exam or miss my graduation ceremony. (My law school holds a graduation ceremony the Saturday after the bar exam). So I went. I took the exam.
I started my chemotherapy treatments on December 26, 2007. During January and February I studied for the bar exam. As the weeks progressed I found it more difficult to concentrate. What would have taken me an hour or two now took a whole afternoon. However, I allowed myself to not finish bar prep. assignments, to nap, and I did not beat myself up when I scored poorly on practice exams. After all, I was “sick.” Throughout the months of study, the exam, chemotherapy treatments, and waiting for exam results I held fast to the conviction that I was doing the right thing. It was important for me to take the exam. It was important for me to show up for my graduation.
I did not pass the February exam. But I didn’t have a job and I was finished with treatments by the end of May. So I decided to take the time I had until the July 2008 exam to study and start my recovery. One of my closest friends from law school wasn’t successful on the February attempt either. Originally she thought she’d wait until the following February to take the exam again. I told her of my plans to charge ahead and take it again in July. After all, I had nothing to do but study. A few days later she emailed me to say she had signed up for the same test site in July. We decided to study together. I’m glad to report that we were both successful on that attempt.
A happy ending to my years of law school and bar exam studies is only part of my story. The other part is the gift of healing that I received. Or maybe it is better described as preemptive healing. You see, the more I learn about triple-negative breast cancer
the more I realize that my diagnosis should have been a lot worse.

Instead, I was diagnosed at Stage I, with no lymph node involvement. I had surgery, followed by chemotherapy and radiation. I feel I was cancer-free as soon as I’d had my surgery. The other two phases of treatment were merely preventative medicine. I am graced with good health and believe I was given the gift of healing. As I wrote in my post Psalm 46:10 I felt God’s comfort right from the beginning. I believe, and continue to believe, that there is a reason for my experience. There is a purpose to my story. I will continue to share my life and let the doors open when and where they are meant to open. I received healing, but I also experienced hope.

And I want others to know this same hope.
I am not here to tell you that you, too, will be healed. That may not be your story. It may not be part of your journey. I know people who have died from cancer. I know people who are currently dying from cancer. Cancer is ugly. Cancer sucks. And cancer kills. Let’s face it, life is a terminal illness. And if it’s not cancer, something else will “take” us in the end. It might be disease, an accident, or simply old age. However, I don’t want anyone to give up.

If you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, don’t give up. Don’t stop loving. Don’t give up on your family. They need you for as long as you can be here for them. Don’t give up on your friends. We need you for as long as you can have us in your life. But most of all, don’t give up on seeking grace. It’s there for the taking. All you have to do is ask.

So yes, I want to inspire people. I want them to say “Because of you I didn’t give up.”

If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

When Two Worlds Collide

In my professional life I work as a Compliance Specialist. It combines my years of experience in higher education with my law degree. I love my job, my co-workers, and this part of my life. Let’s face it; I get to “do” financial aid and the law! What woman wouldn’t love her job with a combination like that? Plus it helps pay the bills.

My other life is this. Writing. It has grown out of my experience with breast cancer. I spend my time writing about my experience, what I’ve learned, and what I now know. (I also write about other things that are on my heart). And I read. I read other blogs, medical sites, and news articles. I try to share informed opinions. I also maintain my Facebook page. I use “maintain” loosely because about all I do is try to post something once a day. Sometimes it’s just a picture of a cow. You are probably thinking “Why a cow?” Well, it’s because my sister loves cows and I love my sister. It’s as simple as that.
I often wonder how these two worlds fit together. I have been granted the greatest gift of being able to do the two things I love. But how do they fit together. And more importantly, are they ever going to fit together?
Yesterday, at my paying job, the Professional Judgment Committee approached me about a student who is undergoing cancer treatment. Their question: is there anything we (the institution) can do for this student? Members of the committee know my personal story, and they know I am a stickler for “following the rules” when it comes to Title IV compliance. They wanted to help this student; they wanted to make sure the student was not discriminated against because of the cancer diagnosis. What a wonderful place to work!

And suddenly, my two worlds collide.

If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

National Cancer Survivors Day

Today is National Cancer Survivors Day here in the U.S. It was started 26 years ago and is now international. NCSD Around the World. Today I am celebrating all the survivors in my life. Whether you are living with cancer or are living in the Land of NED, I celebrate you in my life.


If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor.