If You Knew I Had Cancer – 1

Introduction:

As I start to publish pieces of a special book, If You Knew I Had Cancer, it is important for the reader to know that this journey has been long and a journey travelled solely with my Great Physician. These are accounts of the deepest journey of faith I have travelled in my lifetime. This is the documentation of cancer trying to exist and grow in my body and finding it very difficult because the Great Physician and I were teaming against it.  No one knew. I told no one that I had breast cancer; I did not tell my family, not my doctor, not my friends, not my church family, not anyone. It is important to know that I viewed cancer not as a victim, but as someone having an unwanted travelling partner. I would not let cancer control my life nor would I have others spending time asking me about the big “C.”

These writings, diary entries, are an effort to help with choices women have who live with cancer. I am not advocating for any specific choice; I just want to tell my story of faith as medicine.  I am quite certain that the incredible career that I have had over these many decades with the unwanted travelling companion could not have existed in the same way if people were aware that I had cancer.

Part of the reason for my choice grew from not only my belief in my Great Physician, but from my knowledge and professional career involved in the study of the brain, learning and the power of our thoughts. It grew also from my belief that I was given at my birth everything that I needed to become all that I was created to be.

All of these ideas are contrary to the way cancer is viewed in our culture. The minute persons are diagnosed with cancer they become victims to that culture. I refuse to live like a victim. Once my cancer was known to my family and my physicians, medical options were introduced as treatment. Faith still remained dominant.

The excerpts that follow are personal accounts from my unpublished book, If You Knew I Had Cancer: My Personal Journey with Faith.

Gold Threads of Faith – 14

Featured

June 4, 2016

It seems that some days are uneventful, but I know that no day given to you as a gift from your Creator is meant to be uneventful. Within the twenty-four hours, things happen–sometimes more noticeable than others.  Perhaps that’s the essence. The plan is working perfectly. In the Midwest we used to say, “the skids are greased.”  Mother used to say, “smooth as silk.” There are so many expressions that portray those good days, those times when “you don’t have anything to write home about.”

But I submit that those days are more about a lack of gratitude, a lack of appreciation for what you are not seeing, feeling, or experiencing.

yes, IT IS ONE OF THOSE DAYS, SO I’M GOING FOR A WALK….

The California sun is warm this morning; if the weather reports are correct, it is supposed to be a hot one. The sky is blue; not a hint of a cloud. It was pretty quiet when I was taking  my walk, I guess the birds had already done most of their harmonizing earlier in the morning. A few darted across the sky; perhaps they know more about the weather than we do. The palm fronds are barely moving at the upper levels. They are waiting for the breezes that always come a little later. What a day.

I realized that the difficulty I’ve been having writing about Living With Cancer is because I have lived for so long without writing about it. I wrote about it. I seldom thought about it; there was nothing to think about. It did not bother me. I was busy living my life with it, not consumed by it. What you think, you become, is the axiom. I spend my time thinking about what I wanted, not what I didn’t want. I was consumed by the incredible things around me. The beauty of life, the joy of family and friends, and the amazing tapestry we can weave with the gold threads of faith.

So you’ll have to excuse me for not trying to report to you each day or week, or whatever, about my cancer. I will try for the sake of science, medicine, and faith to report things that add relevance to my uninvited guest in my body. I will seek the boundaries of my faith to help anyone who cares to understand the actions of the Great Physician.

Which Way Today, Lord? – 15

Featured

Sunday July 24, 2016

If cancer thrives on stress, my cancer has had lots of company lately. Somehow, the breast cancer appears to be diminishing. I stopped the XGeva shots a couple of months ago to get some dental work done. It is possible, apparently, that any major dental work could be a problem in the jaw bone area. My doctors have never seen this condition in the jaw bone area, but know that it exists. It’s difficult to get real information. Apparently any deep work might have difficulty healing. Still trying to get my teeth cleaned and get back to the shots to protect, or help protect, my bones from the potential leeching from another drug.

My experience rings so true; if you take one drug, there is generally a companion to counteract it. In this case, the hormone blocker stops the estrogen from feeding the cancer, but has the potential of weakening the bones. Hence, the XGeva.

My energy is low; that is annoying to me. My life has been one of high expectations implemented with high energy and opportunities. My faith keeps my prayers pretty simple. Which way today, Lord? I am amazed at what I can still do. Everything gets a little harder or I find new ways to accomplish things. Writing is getting more difficult; the macular degeneration is progressing. I can magnify things, but the magnification helps only to some extent. The difficulty lies in not seeing every letter of a word, missing the tail on the “h,” having some spots of obscurity, etc. I continue to try to do the things that keep my mind busy. Writing and reading are mainstays; what to write continues to be easy.

Editing is the most difficult part; I hate mistakes. Cancer is not the only challenge. Life goes on whether or not cancer is living with you. I am so fortunate to have the gift of each day. I think of the last time that I saw my primary physician a year and a half ago; he wanted to put me in hospice and told me my time was short and very painful. As I told him then and I need to tell him now, the Great Physician sees it differently. I can’t know what tomorrow will bring.

I have many of the arthritic discomforts that I have had for years, I am more fatigued, my organs are functioning extremely well for being in use for 95 years, I can still care for my physical needs, and I am trying to live as independently as possible. I will admit when I am chopping onions or washing the dishes, I wish I could just sit down and have someone bring me my food and clean up the dishes. I wish I could have someone by my side to edit my writing, and being able to get in my car and do what I need to do would be wonderful.

But if I dwell on those things, I would be sitting in the corner feeling sorry for myself. Sounds like a recipe for depression and despair. It is not the cancer that is restricting me; it is the macular degeneration that has caused more challenges; thanks to the Blind Center, there too, I have learned to keep the joy of engagement in my life. I am thankful that my life has forced me to be a problem solver. Life now, as always, is a series of problem solving activities.

I Wish You Enough – Universal Balances – 16

Featured

December 17, 2016

Yesterday was such an incredible day. I felt physically, mentally, and spiritually so well.  My body was so free of aches or pain with only a little stiffness here and there. And, of course, parts that have been working steadily 24/7 for over 95 years have a right to complain a little. My energy level was high; because that has been typical for most of my life, it really felt wonderful. I was able to blog, to write my cancer diary, and do some special reading about the Journey of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus.

I just kept smiling at the great gift of such a special day. Every day is a gift in my book, but the day was so full and a reminder of what a grateful attitude, faith, and my Creator can do to make a difference. You know I talk often about the rainbows on my ceiling. There were none today because we had another special gift of rain. It was a gray day outside in color, but bright day with the blessing of the rain. The storm brought its heavy showers and considerable wind that kept the palms straining to keep up with the strength of the wind. But they always do and I know tomorrow they will be tall and erect as if the sun had been shining on them all day

You may be wondering what all this weather stuff and wellness has to do with the topic of the writing.

To me, it has everything to do with it. I get up every morning and have a choice about how I deal with whatever the day brings. I can be grateful  that I had sun yesterday and rain today, or I can complain about both. I can be thankful and grateful that I feel so  great, or I can be wondering when the pain and aches will start. I can be thankful and grateful  for the gift of the day  or fret about the fact that I can’t return the gift for something else.

“I wish you enough” is an expression that my granddaughter and I often exchange. It represents our prayers, hopes and dreams for each other. We hope that each of us will  have enough joy in our lives to understand the sorrow, enough happiness to pass through the darkness of grief, and an understanding of the balance of day and night, light and dark. We wish for each other enough rain to appreciate the sun.

It is in essence a wish that each of us has enough of each of the many universal balances in our life to appreciate both sides. We can just look around. God provided us night and day and sun and rain. We even have been provided seasons in our year; with each comes the blessings of the next.

I wish you enough…….

Refusing to Let Cancer be the Answer – 17

Featured

January 22, 2017

Life goes on. I have had a couple of school board meetings, a few more appointments, church services, and a lot of weather. As the world knows, California has had a lot of rain, and of course, a lot of snow on the higher elevations. Amazingly, the reservoirs that were dangerously empty are now resplendent with the shine of the surface at the top.

I miss the rainbows on my ceilings when the sun doesn’t shine, but the rain is such a gift. I know I will have large smiles when I open my water bills. I talk and write much about the rainbows being a measure of God’s promise of newness and faith. But the rain is equally promising. It is such a bilateral promise; one is just the other side of its mate. I wish you enough.

Some of the rainy days can be very contemplative. They can also be barometers of how my joints feel. There is something about the barometric pressure that causes my joints to be very painful at times. If I’m not careful, I can attribute those aches and pains to my life with cancer. I know metastatic breast cancer affects the bones. And I can’t tell you for sure that they’re not. The bones have definitely been affected by it–so the tests say. I suppose the fact that my breast is not the only area where cancer lives with me. This may have had something to do with my decision about radiation.

Why would I want to add treatment that would make my life less pleasant and cause me perhaps to be unable to do some things, like doing this journal and my blogs. It’s all a part of why I chose not to have breast surgery so many years ago. I know that with the help of my Great Physician, I continue to get up each day with enough of what I need to live the day with gratitude for all I can do.

Filling the Spiritual Tank: An Important Ordinary Day – 18

Featured

Sunday May 3, 2015

For so many years Sunday has been spent in much the same manner. From the time I was a child, Sunday was reserved as a day spent with your Lord. It usually embraced Sunday school and church and youth group in the evening. For the last thirty plus years I have been a member of the Fallbrook United Methodist Church and Sundays have been reserved for church and family activities.  For some time I have risen early enough to watch Dr. David Jeremiah on television. For the Sundays I was unable to attend my church, I was blessed to listen to Dr. Jeremiah.

Now it is off to my church. It’s different now because I can no longer sing in the choir or do some of the other activities which I did for so many years. But it is always great to see my friends and to be with my church family.  This is a community of people who come together to worship and to be renewed spiritually.  It has been a big part of my health to have this spiritual renewal.  It has been a big part of my health to express my gratefulness to my Creator for the many gifts I have had and will continue to experience. Sunday is a process of feeding the soul and filling the spiritual tank in readiness for the week coming. Sunday has been and is a time when the interactions with those present, the music that touches you deeply and the messages which often seem to be meant just for you. That is the nature of the Bible and its messengers. They often seem to be meant just for you.

It would be a special day in another way. My grandson, Colin, called and said he would be able to come from Palm Desert to spend the day with me. He said he would be able to get here in time for church. This would be very special because it is the church where he began his journey of faith.  After church Colin, Lynn, and I went to a local gathering place, a place with good food and a place where you always have to wait to be seated. It is the Z Cafe in Bonsall. While we were eating breakfast, the man who was the pastor that day came into the cafe. Colin and his former pastor had a good conversation.

Then it is on to another activity that Colin and I have done together since he came back to California after graduating from college to pursue a golf career.

I have orange trees in my backyard that are a joy to me all year. Colin picks enough oranges to make fresh orange juice. It is a ritual that we have carried on for several years and it is an activity that we enjoy doing together.  When the bottles are filled with delicious juice we toast each other.  The juice is as fresh as any juice can get. It’s more wonderful and delicious then anyone expects. Anyone who tastes juice this fresh is spoiled forever.  You cannot order juice in a restaurant or buy juice in the store anymore. The entire kitchen is a wash in the fragrance that emanates from the activity.

Then it is on to another special family activity.  We have been invited to my son’s home, who lives next door, for dinner.  We are treated to a wonderful dinner of barbequed salmon and the trimmings.  The family conversation is always interesting, and the presence of Colin always adds to the mix. Next week, Hailey will be finished with her first year at the University of Southern California. She will be with us for our family dinners and always adds to the family conversations.

These seemingly ordinary activities of my family have been going on for many years. They have been the same and have produced the same kinds of interactions, whether or not I have had cancer. We are trying to keep them the same now that family knows I am living with cancer. I think everybody is doing a good job. No cancer talk.

 

The Great Physician is at Work – 24

Featured

February 27, 2017

The days are flying by. It is difficult to get all the things done that I am accustomed to doing in a day. Everything takes so long, particularly the reading and writing; these I have been used to doing easily and quickly. This is due to the macular degeneration going on in my eyes. The only involvement the cancer might have in these processes would be less energy. My life has been one of early rising, shower, eat, and go to work with very little time consumed. Not the case now. Of course, all the equipment that I am using, my body, may be less efficient than earlier in my life. Nothing that I know about can be used for 95 years and function with the same efficacy the whole time.

I really wanted to write yesterday, but somehow the day slipped away. I felt so much like my younger years, it was like I had just taken a ride back into younger days. I woke up only once in the night, and slept soundly until 5:30 a.m. My body and mind felt rested, as they have for so many years. It was early, but I had no desire to go back to sleep. I did not have aching joints; they all moved freely and easily when I got out of bed. My walking felt straight and normal. The energy was abundant. It was Sunday and I had an opportunity to get to church. Why would I think about the cancer when everything feels so normal? It was not only a gift of the day, but it was like waking up on Christmas morning as a child. Wow! It truly was amazing.

Showering was easier; dressing was easier; breakfast was easier, and walking felt so much easier that I wanted to try without my walker, but I didn’t. I did not want my new found energy and enthusiasm to get me to do something foolish.

It was great to have people ask me how I was. Usually that question with my church family is answered with positive words, but yesterday the response carried the weight of all of the fruit of the Spirit. It truly was “the day of the Lord,” and I could rejoice and be glad in it.

Today is another beautiful day. No, the California sun is not shining. It is raining and the gray sky is a welcome sight. It is a beautiful, soft rain that will nourish the earth rather than run off to the ocean. I feel for those in Northern California who are getting too much of the liquid sunshine; for us in the South, it is a distinct and welcome blessing.

Oh yes, the cancer. I’m not certain what is happening in the breast lesion area. It acts pretty much like any other part of the body that forms a scab and bleeds if the scab is removed. Usually it just stays there; The area did bleed once last week. When the cancer was at its height, the area was surrounded with the angry, red cancerous skin. The last couple of weeks it seems to change color. Perhaps it is my eyes, but I don’t think so. I think it is sometimes cancer red and sometimes less so—more of a peachy color that looks like it is striving to reach the normal skin color.

The rest of life goes on. Hailey is adjusting to her semester in New Zealand; Cassidy is finished with basketball and starting lacrosse; Bob and Kim are busy and Kim just had a birthday. Britt is tired of the rain, snow, sleet, ice, and mixtures of the above in Portland; Diane is busy at work and with her father; Colin and Molly are desert rats, and I haven’t heard from them in some time; Kera loves Boulder, Colorado and calls to fill me in periodically. Another school board meeting this week and one next should be interesting since we have some “stuff” going on. My church and church family are great.

How normal can this get. I ask you, “Would it be any different if I didn’t have cancer?”

 

I Don’t Spell Cancer with a Big “C” – 25

Featured

March 29, 2017

It has been a while, again, since I have updated “My Life With Cancer.” It seems that it is so normal at times that the day slips by and I don’t think about it. Sometimes I think about writing, but it seems that other activities take over. I believe that is why I have been able to live with the intruder. I have not occupied most of my neurons thinking about the negative things that could happen. I know what they are; I am reminded of them by my doctors and encouraged to take some kinds of treatments by my family. It would be the same with my friends if they knew.

What we think, we become. Is that a truism with metastatic breast cancer? I don’t know, but I do know enough about learning and the brain that neurons (as far as I know) are not multiple use little items. But they don’t need to be because we have so many. I do believe that when one is occupied with negative thoughts of cancer, it cannot be occupied with healing thoughts.

The rainbows dance on my living room ceiling and I smile. I watch them shift as the sun shifts in the sky; they stay awhile and move to help others retain their hope and promise in their lives. I hope they have a crystal in their east window to catch the rays and reflect the promise in their presence.

Being so very grateful for what I can do makes it easier to document what is going on in my “life.”

Yes, there is ongoing treatment. I have been on a new drug to inhibit the production of estrogen in my body; the oncologist believes that estrogen is the food that metastatic breast cancer needs. I don’t know yet whether the Exemestane is working better than the former medicine, Letrazole, or not. The new nodules that the oncologist is worried about have increased in size over the last month. But I believe they are static at this point.

The doctor takes measurement of the nodules, but I must admit I believe they are less than scientifically accurate. The very nature of the growth prohibits that accuracy. But he believes that I should do radiation therapy pronto. My son accompanies me during the general conversation about my status. He is not privy to the conversation during the examination. He, of course, agrees with the doctor that I should start the treatment. My sons know me well enough that they don’t pester me about the treatment. They speak their piece and occasionally remind me that the daily trips for radiation can be worked out. I’m not so sure that the daily trip for radiation for two or three weeks would be so welcome.

I also worry that the increased dosage to reduce the time involved in the radiation could be a problem. It kills cells; more concentrated doses would surely kill more cells. Fatigue is one of the outcomes of radiation. The quality of life for me is a large, large, factor. The medicines I currently take already play into a fatigue factor. There are days when it is difficult to go to the computer and write.

Of course, the macular degeneration progression probably has more causation to the fatigue than the cancer, but either could become my culprit if I allowed it to be so.

I want to share my story of cancer. It is important to tell you how much I value, more each day, an attitude of gratitude. To be grateful allows movement forward. It allows the promises of the rainbows to bring a smile; it causes me to remember what my Creator gave me and continues to give me what I need. To “Accentuate the Positive” is a tune that can play in my head all day long.  I can walk to the end of my driveway and see the beauty, hear the sounds, and feel my good fortune to be able to walk, see even if not clearly, hear, and thank the Lord for all that I have.

Cancer has a Hard Time Without Your Support – 26

April 29, 2017

I have been trying to keep an eye on the little nodules that have developed on the edge of where the old cancer lesion has almost disappeared. A couple of new little lumps have merged into a larger lump. I don’t really know whether or not it is much larger. The entire lesion still remains what I call cancer red–an angry, wine color. It does not hurt; I feel a twinge occasionally so I know it is there. It remains open in a spot that is lower than the new lumps. It scabs over but does not bleed or weep openly. I bathe the area with colloidal silver and can place a little cotton in the valley. The breast itches similar to wounds when they are healing.

Most of the time I don’t think about it. I am busy living my life. I spend a lot of time doing work on issues that confront me as a trustee of our school district. I keep in touch with my friends. I help as much as I can with church activities. I still do programs for my United Methodist Women’s Group. Since I have the macular degeneration issue, I work together with a friend on putting the programs together. It is quite interesting to see how much you can do as a visually-impaired person that you would have thought impossible when you were fully-sighted. Every day is filled with intensive problem solving to learn  things in new ways.

Yes, writing this is difficult. I hate errors in my writing so I strain assiduously to find them. But, you know what–I can still see enough to do it. For that I am extremely grateful.

So except for the times in the day that I spend concentrating on sending all of the healing powers possible in my body, I live purposely with the healing hands of the Great Physician. Cancer is an interloper, an unwanted guest. I spend my time every day being grateful for the beautiful blue California dome that graces my sky, the wetness of the wonderful rains that have blessed our drought-stricken California land, and the rainbows on my ceiling when the sun hits the amazing crystal cross in my east window.

I watch the sunrises and the sunsets. It’s the time of year when I marvel at my orange trees. I walk by and the fragrance is such an old friend. In a few weeks the gorgeous blossoms will turn to those little green nubbins that will keep transforming themselves until they become the round gems we call oranges. There they are. An orange tree is a beauty to behold. The  intense orange against the green foliage is always a marvelous beauty of nature. But it is just one of many that allows me to spend my time living with cancer and not allow it to take strength from my body to support it.

 

Cancer, The Great Physician, My Doctor and Me – 22

Featured

October 17, 2016

Today I had my monthly appointment with my oncologist. Each month I get blood work done at the Lab Corp office in Fallbrook a few days before my appointment with the oncologist. The blood work is done to make certain that the various components of my blood remain in normal ranges while I am taking the XGeva shot which happens during the monthly appointment. The blood work also has a tumor marker component to the analysis and it keeps tabs on kidney function.

The lesion on my breast had changed a little bit  and for months, the dark, angry, red color had become lighter and could best be described as a coral color; the angry, dark, wine color was gone. Also, the weeping stopped as the color had subsided. Everything was working as desired.

But now there is a nodule that has resumed the dark, angry, red color, and the lesion has been weeping for a couple of weeks.

It is not sore nor painful. There are a few little spots that are sensitive to touch, but I certainly cannot say that it is painful. It continues to get smaller all the time. The lesion is one of bumps and valleys. The oncologist keeps measurements on the lesion and surrounding area each time I see him.

Today he spent some time talking about alternatives to the Letrazole–two additional drugs that interfere with the growth of cancer cells. We also talked about radiating the spot on the old lesion that appeared to be active–the small nodule that had returned to its angry color. He also said that radiation would smooth out the hills and valleys of the affected area. We had an amazing discussion of alternatives and every suggestion was introduced with, “If you would consider…” We are a team taking a look at concerns, alternatives, and potential treatment.

I really have been getting along well. Today he, too, said that I was doing amazingly well. We talked again about the parry my GP, my Lord, the Great Physician plays every day in my health and well-being. He agreed that he was an instrument to do what he could in the process. I know that my faith and trust in my Creator is the one who gives me the gift of life each day.

It is amazing that I can get up two or three times during the night–sometimes to go to the bathroom and others to walk a bit to ease cramps–and get up in the morning feeling refreshed. I am given the energy to walk the path set before me. There are lessons of faith that I learn each day.

Usually I get up to rainbows on my ceiling as the sun comes through my east windows. This morning it was thinking about raining, and the ceiling was gray. But I know the promise in all those rainbows that I see on the sunny days is still there. The gift of the day is wrapped in the promise of rain for the thirsty plants. The gift of the day lies in the learning available to me as I open my heart to God’s plan for this day.