Thursday, June 19, 2014

It's A God Thing

Lately I’ve been struck by the number of times that my life has been orchestrated in such a way that I am available outside of my routine at just the right moments. Back in November, my calendar was free on Tuesday and Thursday so that I could help Linda with transportation to her radiation treatments. When she started chemotherapy treatments at the end of January we thought her appointments would be on Monday, but the nurse and doctor’s schedule worked better for Thursday. And Thursday is my day off from work. Convenient?

In more recent weeks Linda had a difficult doctor’s appointment scheduled for a Monday. We didn’t know it was “difficult” at the time. However, for some reason my work schedule was different that week and I was not working on Monday. I was able to go with her and Tina to face the truth about her prognosis. This was followed by a Thursday (oh, that’s right, it’s my day off) appointment with the social worker, followed by one of two MRIs to determine the extent of the cancer progression.
And now we get to last week. I had originally put in for a day off on Friday, thinking I would go visit my mother. The need for four new tires on my vehicle changed those plans so I canceled my personal day. Thursday afternoon I received a phone call asking if I could take Linda into Boston for a treatment. It was my supervisor (yes, my boss) who suggested that I might be available since I was supposed to take the day off anyway.
As I shared this latest saga with my mother she laughed and said, “It’s a God thing.”
Yes. Yes, it is.

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

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Pause In Time

A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to make an impromptu visit to some lifelong friends. I was driving to Connecticut to visit with my mother and wondered what I would do with my evening alone. So I sent Seth a text asking if he and Kathy would be around later in the day. What started off as me stopping by to see the gardens and meet the rabbits turned into “Why don’t you come inside and have a drink?” (I had a lovely grapefruit flavored sparkling water). That turned into, “Why don’t you stay for dinner?” And only ended when it got late enough into the evening that I needed to leave in order to be back at my mother’s house at a reasonable time.

Seth and I have known each other for over 30 years. I met him and his brother Scott at a Church Youth Group in 1978. I have written about both of them in this blog. Seth was an “older brother” back then, and is still an older brother in my heart. As we sat in the living room catching up on the years in between, I looked at him and was struck by the deep friendship that I saw reflected in his face. I don’t know if I was smiling on the outside, but my soul was certainly smiling on the inside.
I rediscovered the friend I had so long ago. I was delighted to find that he had grown from a teenager with faith to a man of God, with some of the same opinions and insights that I hold. We talked about God’s timing vs. our timing. (We had tried to get together in April). How this time, this unexpected request, turned into a reunion that defied coincidence. I felt at home; I was with family.
At one point we started talking about the past, trying to figure out when exactly it was that we last saw each other. Our lives and families had been intertwined due to Youth Group and my friendship with his brother. As the conversation turned to those days in the late 70’s and early 80’s I was afraid I might be uncomfortable with the memories that surfaced. Instead, I found contentment and a recognition of the deep bond that childhood friendships create. Seth compared that bond to a rubber band that is stretched, but does not break.
For me, those years in between are merely a pause in time.

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

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

National Cancer Survivors Month

June is National Cancer Survivors month here in the U.S. I celebrated National Cancer Survivors Day (June 1) by walking in Day 2 of the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Chicago. Today, I was looking through some journal entries and emails from my first year, and I thought I’d share two entries with you.

Has your breast cancer experience changed your life?

I was asked this question within the first year after my diagnosis. Here is what I shared. (Edited)

I am told that women who are survivors find that their life does change; some more dramatically than others. My life was forced into change after December 2007 through circumstances (other than the cancer) beyond my control. I chose to embrace these changes, accept what is and rely on God to bring me through it. Part of the journey has been painful but I know that I am right where I am supposed to be right now. I do not believe that God “did this” to me. Nor do I believe that God “let it happen.” Rather, I believe that God knew what was (and is) on my horizon and orchestrated my life so that I could best deal with the challenges. I decided that after March 5, 2008 (my final chemotherapy treatment) I would take care of myself through healthy eating, exercise and reading. I decided not to look for a full time job until after the bar exam results came out so that if I was unsuccessful I would have the summer to study. This was a wise decision.

As some of you know, I was unsuccessful on my first attempt at the bar exam. I missed “passing” by 17 points or 7 multiple choice questions. While this news was initially devastating, once I received my grades in the mail I became quite motivated by how well I had done despite being in a chemo fog. In retrospect I really felt lousy during the exam, but I did what I had set out to do and that was take the exam. Also, as some know, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of that April. However, having a simplified life made reviewing for the bar exam and helping my mother easier.

We started eating organic. Though I have not become obsessed with it; I still eat out in restaurants and enjoy the occasional pizza or Chinese food. I am trying to get back to eating healthy. Too many lunches of grilled cheese and French fries in the cafeteria certainly could not have been good for me. I stopped eating beef and pork for a while, but now enjoy the occasional steak or roast. I try to eat low fat and avoid fried foods. Of course, the pizza and Chinese food is a contradiction. Whoever said I was consistent? I now walk at least one mile three times a week. The first time I took a walk after finishing chemotherapy really hurt. Intellectually I knew that treatment had taken away my strength but somehow I thought I could just jump right back into exercising. My doctors had advised taking it slow by walking twenty minutes three times a week to get started. They sure were right! I find that each walk is a bit easier than the last.

So I’m not really sure how my life changed, if at all, other than trying to embrace a slower pace, focus on one event at a time, and listen to God. I don’t believe my outlook on work, family or faith has changed.

On November 29, 2008

One year ago, on November 29, I had surgery for breast cancer. I celebrate today as my one year anniversary of being cancer free. I know I faced other challenges with chemotherapy and radiation afterwards, but I count those as preventative medicine. I truly believe that I was cancer free as of my surgery. I owe each and every one of my friends and extended family a huge debt of gratitude for your love, prayers and support. I learned that you can get through anything with the love of your friends. I also believe that I received the gift of healing between the time of my diagnosis on November 2, 2007 and my surgery. Even my doctors were amazed at my various test results. I know that came from the faith that each one of you carries.

While the past year was filled with challenges and losses, it was also filled with grace, love and many gifts. I am thankful for so many things: my health, passing the bar exam, and my new kitten to name a few. However, love, hope and grace remain the greatest gifts I received.

And today
What I wrote then is true today. The love of family and friends will get you through challenges. God will give you a second chance. And the greatest gifts are love, hope and grace.

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