Thursday, July 23, 2015

Chapter Eleven

Uncharacteristically, rain is falling in the desert. Rain sounds lulls me into a comfort from somewhere in the past. The desert rain fragrance is very different from the fresh, clean smell of rain from the heartland of America. It is the musty scent of the creosote bush touched by moisture, life giving water.


From Isaiah 35 (NIV)

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
    and the mute tongue shouts for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
    and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool,
    the thirsty ground bubbling springs.

This year’s monsoon has been very productive. More rain than I recall for a number of years. Yet it will not make up for the deficit in rainfall that causes water shortages here in Arizona.

We will see our desert plants bloom and blossom in varied hues and intensities. The ocotillo (oh-koh-TEE-yoh) often appears to be dead sticks with dangerous two inch thorns. Those sticks have been used individually to construct rattlesnake proof fencing for cattle and other livestock. When the monsoon arrives it transforms into the most beautiful, blossoming plant.

Without Blossoms
With Blossoms


Reflecting upon this, I can see clearly how the storms of our life can also be transformed into something beautiful. Often, we need only to sit quietly and listen, then the revelation becomes clear.

Sitting quietly is difficult with all the other peripheral sounds that permeate our lives. We hear the hum of electrical appliances, the chirping of birds outside our window, dogs barking down an alley way, sirens... Anything and everything that will turn us away from listening for the voice of God…

On Monday, I attended a “Look Good - Feel Better” class provided by the American Cancer Society. It is a no cost course designed for woman with cancer to help us deal with the changes we are facing during our cancer treatment. Our skin changes, we may or may not lose our hair. Our skin becomes washed out and perhaps more dry, we may get dark circles and puffiness under our eyes. 

I met a number of ladies with various cancers in various stages. I met women with breast cancer, lung cancer and one soul with stage four pancreatic cancer. 

We all arrived with our "butt naked" faces and learned to apply makeup. We were given wonderful bags full of makeup, concealers, moisturizer, SPF, cleansers, etc. to keep.

We learned to clean our faces, not to dry them but then moisturize our faces and to apply at least a 50 SPF and to apply it frequently throughout the day.

The medium tone they selected for me was too dark, so I will mix it with my own to "customize" it. The eye shadow was a "sparkly" type and I won't wear that - I like flat, earth tone colors... yeah, I know!

The one instructor took blue eyeliner and used it on the top and bottom of my eye, then blended it in. I then had to do the other eye. This is NOT a technique I will use again. Perhaps if I were my granddaughter's age, but not at mine.

We were given lip liners, and rather than outline our lips, we filled them in with the liner, blotted, used the lipstick via our finger, blotted again then applied a gloss. This keeps your lipstick from "bleeding". I will probably use this technique.

We were NOT shown how to "tie one on" meaning a scarf, but I located a number of tutorials on YouTube!

The biggest thing I learned was the grace of these women around me. A number of them bald, or in various stages of hair loss. Yet here we were, tired… tired of being tired and wanting to be as attractive as we can be. I think the makeup makes a statement saying, "I choose life." Thank you, American Cancer Society for making that possible.

If you have friends with cancer diagnosis, this program is available throughout the country. It is free.

Yes… cancer is one of those storms in life and I saw beauty in the face of adversity.

~Tamara

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Chapter Ten

Thursday, the 9th was number three of four chemotherapy treatments. I am approaching the finish line. Today, Sunday, the third day post treatment is usually the worst. This has proved no different. I’ve even spiked a bit of a temperature at 99 degrees. Not to worry until it reaches 100.6 degrees.

Each successive treatment seems to be more difficult than the last. I am supposing it is due to all the chemicals / drugs being pumped into my body. Water is my best friend and I am constantly drinking it, sometimes, often times, with lemon in it.

I still cannot drink coffee and tried dark chocolate with the same effect. Perhaps I will be able to have them again when this process is finished. With all that being said, I am still having so many fewer side effects than most persons I know and observe. I am blessed and I know this to be true.

Each time now, I’ve had a different oncology nurse. The little lady I had on Thursday must have been all of fifteen years old (just kidding). Actually, she did quite well getting the IV in on the first try and no difficulties throughout the entire procedure. Bless her heart. There are usually two nurses assigned to the pod and a floater that travels around to relieve for breaks, lunch, etc.

It was a busy day in infusion. Every chair was full up. We were all women, with only one very young man who was getting his dose, then returning tomorrow for another. He was only with us for about an hour.

We arrived at 7:30 am and were there until 2:30 or so. It is always blood work and labs first, then meet with the doctor or nurse practitioner then wait for the lab results to head to infusion.

We live by our pagers, waiting for them to beckon us to the next port of call. I’ve lost the mystery of the pager alerting me to the table full of food as some chain restaurants’ do. Food has lost some (but not all) of its appeal. I do think I could put a dent in one of my Momma’s Dutch Apple Pies, however.

All the other ladies in our pod were wearing their beanies and were all very emaciated. I am not. I was the exception. After all the IVs have been inserted and started, the curtains are pulled back and depending upon how a person is feeling the talk and chatter begins. Slow at first, testing the waters, how much to share, how much to hold back… Is there hope or despondency?

One of the ladies was having a transfusion in addition to everything else. It was slow going, the viscosity being so much heavier than the chemicals and saline. She and I began a foot race to the restroom. Fortunately, we only intersected at the doorway. The more they pump into you, the more needs to be relieved. Both of our husbands’ were with us as caregivers and assisted us in these moments of private need and necessity. Illness is humbling.

Neale, the snack man came around with his standard fare of bananas, cookies, chips. Then took orders for soup for lunch. A small cup for $1 or a larger cup for $1.80. I ordered the Tomato Florentine, but didn’t care for it, so Dennis finished it for me. The crackers appealed to me more so and water with crushed ice.

I had awakened at 3:30 am, so I dozed on and off for awhile. Dennis took intermittent walks and helped me as required. I have a friend (former supervisor) who was also his wife’s caregiver. He humbly says, “It’s what we do out of love.”

One of the nurses jokingly asked, “So, what is your helper’s name?” and I quickly responded, “Oh, I just call him Stud Muffin,” to the delight of all who heard. He retorted back, “At this stage, it’s just Muffin!” Then I introduced him. One must find moments of joy and laughter. Sometimes seeking diligently after them.

Two of the ladies were going to be in the infusion pods until approximately 6 pm that evening. They had also arrived at 7:30 am that morning. What a long day for them.

When we had finished up and getting ready to go, Dennis went to the two remaining ladies and their caregivers. He introduced himself, asked their names and then asked if he could pray with them. The one lady grabbed his hand desperately and agreed. Her friend also took his hand as they formed a prayer circle that transcended the infusion pod. I was humbled by the act of this man, this, my husband. Not only does he sense my needs, but he also can sense them of others. I am blessed beyond measure.

This woman also has lung cancer. She had all her chemo last year. This year it reemerged in her liver and brain. She is not receiving chemo now. Only fluids and nutrition. In spite of all this, her spirits were remarkable. I pray we see her again.


Psalm 30:12New American Standard Bible 

That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Chapter Nine

A friend from church forwarded this to me. I felt it was worthy of sharing.

On February 24th I wrote a post about my current medical issues. I said, “One thing I know for sure, none of this, not one iota is outside the will of God. My prayer? God, make it count!” Please see this post at bronlea.com for a wonderful article on prayer.



Who is  John Piper? John Stephen Piper (born January 11, 1946) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is a Calvinist Baptist preacher and author who served as Pastor for Preaching and Vision of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota for 33 years. His books include ECPA Christian Book Award winners Spectacular Sins, What Jesus Demands from the World, Pierced by the Word, and God's Passion for His Glory, and bestsellers Don't Waste Your Life and The Passion of Jesus Christ. The evangelical organization Desiring God is named for his book Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (1986).

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Don't Waste Your Cancer

by John Piper

I write this on the eve of prostate surgery. I believe in God's power to heal—by miracle and by medicine. I believe it is right and good to pray for both kinds of healing. Cancer is not wasted when it is healed by God. He gets the glory and that is why cancer exists. So not to pray for healing may waste your cancer. But healing is not God's plan for everyone. And there are many other ways to waste your cancer. I am praying for myself and for you that we will not waste this pain.
1.     You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.
      It will not do to say that God only uses our cancer but does not design it. What God permits, he permits for a reason. And that reason is his design. If God foresees molecular developments becoming cancer, he can stop it or not. If he does not, he has a purpose. Since he is infinitely wise, it is right to call this purpose a design. Satan is real and causes many pleasures and pains. But he is not ultimate. So when he strikes Job with boils (Job 2:7), Job attributes it ultimately to God (2:10) and the inspired writer agrees: "They . . . comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him" (Job 42:11). If you don't believe your cancer is designed for you by God, you will waste it.
2.     You will waste your cancer if you believe it is a curse and not a gift.
      "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us" (Galatians 3:13). "There is no enchantment against Jacob, no divination against Israel" (Numbers23:23). "The LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly" (Psalm 84:11).
3.     You will waste your cancer if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God.
      The design of God in your cancer is not to train you in the rationalistic, human calculation of odds. The world gets comfort from their odds. Not Christians. Some count their chariots (percentages of survival) and some count their horses (side effects of treatment), but we trust in the name of the LORD our God (Psalm 20:7). God's design is clear from 2 Corinthians 1:9, "We felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead." The aim of God in your cancer (among a thousand other good things) is to knock props out from under our hearts so that we rely utterly on him.
4.     You will waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death.
      We will all die, if Jesus postpones his return. Not to think about what it will be like to leave this life and meet God is folly. Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, "It is better to go to the house of mourning [a funeral] than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart." How can you lay it to heart if you won't think about it? Psalm 90:12 says, "Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom." Numbering your days means thinking about how few there are and that they will end. How will you get a heart of wisdom if you refuse to think about this? What a waste, if we do not think about death.
5.     You will waste your cancer if you think that "beating" cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ.
      Satan's and God's designs in your cancer are not the same. Satan designs to destroy your love for Christ. God designs to deepen your love for Christ. Cancer does not win if you die. It wins if you fail to cherish Christ. God's design is to wean you off the breast of the world and feast you on the sufficiency of Christ. It is meant to help you say and feel, "I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." And to know that therefore, "To live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 3:8; 1:21).
6.     You will waste your cancer if you spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.
      It is not wrong to know about cancer. Ignorance is not a virtue. But the lure to know more and more and the lack of zeal to know God more and more is symptomatic of unbelief. Cancer is meant to waken us to the reality of God. It is meant to put feeling and force behind the command, "Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD" (Hosea 6:3). It is meant to waken us to the truth of Daniel11:32, "The people who know their God shall stand firm and take action." It is meant to make unshakable, indestructible oak trees out of us: "His delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers" (Psalm 1:2). What a waste of cancer if we read day and night about cancer and not about God.
7.     You will waste your cancer if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepen your relationships with manifest affection.
      When Epaphroditus brought the gifts to Paul sent by the Philippian church he became ill and almost died. Paul tells the Philippians, "He has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill" (Philippians 2:26-27). What an amazing response! It does not say they were distressed that he was ill, but that he was distressed because they heard he was ill. That is the kind of heart God is aiming to create with cancer: a deeply affectionate, caring heart for people. Don't waste your cancer by retreating into yourself.
8.     You will waste your cancer if you grieve as those who have no hope.
      Paul used this phrase in relation to those whose loved ones had died: "We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope" (1 Thessalonians 4:13). There is a grief at death. Even for the believer who dies, there is temporary loss—loss of body, and loss of loved ones here, and loss of earthly ministry. But the grief is different—it is permeated with hope. "We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8). Don't waste your cancer grieving as those who don't have this hope.
9.     You will waste your cancer if you treat sin as casually as before.
      Are your besetting sins as attractive as they were before you had cancer? If so you are wasting your cancer. Cancer is designed to destroy the appetite for sin. Pride, greed, lust, hatred, unforgiveness, impatience, laziness, procrastination—all these are the adversaries that cancer is meant to attack. Don't just think of battling against cancer. Also think of battling with cancer. All these things are worse enemies than cancer. Don't waste the power of cancer to crush these foes. Let the presence of eternity make the sins of time look as futile as they really are. "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?" (Luke9:25).
10.  You will waste your cancer if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.
      Christians are never anywhere by divine accident. There are reasons for why we wind up where we do. Consider what Jesus said about painful, unplanned circumstances: "They will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness" (Luke 21:12 -13). So it is with cancer. This will be an opportunity to bear witness. Christ is infinitely worthy. Here is a golden opportunity to show that he is worth more than life. Don't waste it.
Remember you are not left alone. You will have the help you need. "My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: www.desiringGod.org. Email: mail@desiringGod.org. Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700.


Recently, I had a long-time friend ask, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" I responded by saying, "How could God not allow bad things to happen to "good" people?" How could God only allow bad things to happen to unbelievers? How fair would that be? Seriously. In the face of adversity, when something bad happens to a believer is it an opportunity to "show the world" how God can be glorified in the midst of devastation or disease.  We may not have all the answers this side of heaven, but we certainly have the grace.

My friend "B" was such a person. Even though she has experienced the ultimate "Passover", her witness during her journey with pancreatic cancer was a true testimony to her faith and trust in Christ.

I still believe that “prayer is one of the deepest forms of relationship with God… and through relationship there can be healing in the absence of cure.” ~Sara Miles

Love you all,

Tamara

Chapter Twenty-Two

I began attending a weekly Cancer Support Group. I don't always make the meeting, but I am generally blessed when I do attend. I hav...

Most Viewed