How was your weekend?

Leave a comment

My intention on Saturday morning was to leave the house a little earlier than I needed so I could get cash at the bank and then get gas. My car usually has at least a half a tank of gasoline in it. Mostly because whenever I drive to or through NJ I fill up the tank. Fuel in NJ is cheaper than NY and “they” pump it which is a major selling point for me. I hadn’t driven to or through NJ in the last few days so my gas gauge was registering at less than a quarter tank. I definitely didn’t want to purchase gas in my little hometown. It is too expensive typically gas is at least 50 cents a gallon more than anywhere else. Anyway I left the house a little later than planned and my gas tank was a little emptier than original thought but I realized I had $40 in cash so I could get “some” gas. The part you need to know is unless I get gas in town there won’t be another gas station for at least 10 miles in any direction. Nervously watching the gas gauge and hoping the “you need fuel” idiot light won’t blink on I headed out. No worries, it will be fine! Please, please may that be true. I pulled into the first station in NJ I came upon on my journey. I said “$40 cash, fill it regular.” I hadn’t looked how much it was a gallon so I glanced at the sign and was pleasantly surprised to see it was $2.95/gallon. Wow, I hadn’t seen that price in a long time. Guess what? at that price my tank was filled. The funny thing as I drove rest of the way to my destination and then home every other station’s prices were over $3.03. It was like a secret little Saturday morning surprise for me. ūüôā

On Sunday I posted it on Facebook ”

“Apple picking, pumpkin picking and fall foliage bring many people to my area this time of year. Plus the first Sunday in October in Warwick, NY is Applefest. If you don’t know what Applefest is, think Time Square meets lovely quaint village for just one day as the Thanksgiving Day Parade is also happening. I am at the iPray/iThrist booth this morning.”

Applefest is a craft fair, farmer’s market, art show, music event that brings lots and lots of people to Warwick, NY. It is a little difficult to be excited about Applefest due to traffic being horrific mostly because the roads are not equipped to handle the volume of traffic that descent on the area. Actually the streets are wide enough for the number of people walking around. My local church sponsors a booth that has a two-fold purpose. It is called iPray where we take prayer requests and/or prayer with you and we also have iThrist where we sell bottled water for $1 to raise money for building clean water wells around the world. I volunteered to help set up and “man” the booth for a few hours. My goal was get in and out before it got too crazy in Warwick but really two people I met were worth all the traffic and all the crazy.

As a woman was writing her prayer request I asked “is there something I could pray for right now?” She responded “yes” and proceeded to tell me her request and then she said “the only reason I come to Applefest is you are here to take my prayer requests and pray with me.” Wow!! A little later another woman came over and wrote her request and I asked if I could pray with her. She has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. I briefly shared with her my breast cancer story and in further conversation realized we have the same doctor. We hugged as she left and I will be praying for her. All that said to say I helped at Applefest yesterday and missed church or did I?

How was your weekend? Mine was good! ūüôā

let’s do lunch

1 Comment

If you had peeked through the kitchen window, it would have looked like three women having lunch. And you would have been right but you would have missed all the other layers. There were three of us – myself, my neighbor and my sister-in-law. We were having a delicious lunch which was so generously supplied by my neighbor and served at my weekend house aka the Barn. But the luncheon was so much more than just lunch. It was a time for my sister-in-law, my neighbor and I to share our breast cancer stories. For my sister-in-law to encourage my neighbor who isn’t as far down the road as she is. It was a time for us to voice victories and concerns. A time to say “we hate all that pink stuff”. A time to remember how far we have come and how far some people still have to go. We laughed. We listened. We loved.

And I was reminded that God doesn’t waste anything. All that you or I have experienced and learned along the way can help or encourage that person who is one step behind or across the street. Having lunch or maybe just holding the door open for that person who is one step behind is all that is needed. The bonus is you are encouraged, too. So who do you need to do lunch with? ūüôā

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

A gentle tap on my shoulder

2 Comments

It wasn’t actually a physical tap on my shoulder. You know the kind that says “excuse me” or “don’t forget” or “I am here”. None the less it was a tap on my shoulder. Let me explain. I was sitting in the doctor’s office with my daughter. Her doctor was looking over my pathology reports from five years ago. Not to worry all is well with me and my daughter. We were making sure her doctor knew the family history. Anyway, her doctor is reading my reports and states “your doctor must have been very pleased with the results.” I mention again I am 5 years cancer free and he continues with the task at hand of examining my daughter. As we are getting ready to leave he summarizes the visit for my daughter and then looks at me and says something like “wow, you had 3 negatives and here you sit.” And that is when I felt the tap on my shoulder “it was a bigger miracle than you realized. I have a plan. I always have.”

I never doubted that God, prayer, chemo, radiation, good doctors, great friends played a part in my cancer recovery. But sometimes I need a gentle tap on my shoulder to remind me of how far I have come. I am grateful and so very blessed.

I have a feeling we all need to pause sometimes and see how far we have come and be grateful. I like a tap on the shoulder better than getting hit head on the head with a 2×4. Just saying…

Five years ago…

2 Comments

Today marks the fifth anniversary of my first chemo treatment. I am cancer free and I am 5 years since diagnosis. Thank you, Lord!!¬†¬† I thought the most difficult conversation I would ever have with my daughters was on Sept 19, 2001 when I asked them “where do you think Daddy is right now?” Actually the most difficult conversation I would have with them would be right before Christmas 2007.¬†when I had ¬†to tell my daughters that I had breast cancer. I had decided not to tell my daughters or most of my friends anything about the lump in my breast until I had a diagnosis. I knew that everyone would worry and it was Christmas and maybe this lump was nothing. The cancer journey would start in November of 2007. Very few people were privy to the situation. It was my way of believing it would be okay.

On December 13, my good friend, JK¬†would drive me to Middletown for the needle biopsy. I remember¬† having to keep my left arm up over my head and the nurse holding my left hand through the whole procedure.¬† I was so thankful for her compassion. JK¬†and I¬†would come out to a snow storm and lots of voice messages on my cell phone. Which seemed strange as the person who left them knew I was having the needle biopsy. My partner in crime and best¬†friend, CM¬†would leave messages apologizing for calling but she needed to speak with me. As I was having the needle biopsy a car had driven into our dancing studio. Thankfully there were no classes going on. An elderly woman was going to get her hair done at the hair salon next to our dancing school and had “jumped the curb and crashed¬†into the studio.”¬† She took out the front window and door. She would be uninjured and since she was already there she had her hair done.¬†Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up. Thankfully the snow caused classes to be canceled and after the initial shock, dealing with the accident became a good distraction.

On December 17, I would be in the Dollar Store ( strange the things you remember) and my cell phone would ring. It would be my doctor’s office¬†calling to say that he had the results and did I want to come in that day to hear them. The original plan¬†had been for my sister¬†to go with me later in the week for the results but they had the results¬†now so I went right then. My sister and the two friends who knew would be annoyed that I went alone but I have found that there are some things that you have to do alone.¬† As I drove home, I stopped to buy gas at the Sunoco¬†Station in Chester, NY¬† and I called to tell my best friend that I had breast cancer. Well, actually I didn’t tell her because I couldn’t say those words to her. Thankfully her husband answered the phone and I told him and asked him to tell her. I said it quickly and hung up and she called back immediately. Every time I pass that gas station I think of that conversation and how blessed I am to have such good friends.

The conversation with my daughters was spoken around¬†our kitchen table a few days later.¬†¬†My younger daughter and her boyfriend¬†had gone to the airport to pick up my older daughter and her husband. While they were gone, I thought, pondered and prayed about how to tell them. There was no great line to ease into it, no perfect scripture verse to quote. My daughters will tell you that I am worst person when it comes to telling bad news – I just say it. I remember sitting at the table and saying something about I had some bad news. My older daughter reached over and grabbed her husband’s hand. I didn’t make eye contact with anyone. I don’t know what I said. I know my younger daughter jumped up and said “no”. And I took her in my arms and said “this is not September¬†11. I am right here. I am not going anywhere. This is not a death sentence. I am right here.” I explained a little of what the treatment would be. I informed them “that¬†E was going back to WA with her husband. And M was going to Ghana for J term.” After more questions and discussion, M said “Mom, I am sorry but I can’t shave my head to make you feel better.” Laughter, the best medicine.

I would read and learn about breast cancer so I could become the CEO of my treatment. Scott Hamilton has a great site about chemo drugs and their side effects. JK’s brother-in-law, who had lost his wife to breast cancer, would spend over an hour¬†explaining so much to me about treatment and things to ask.¬†¬†I had wonderful doctors and nurses but I can tell you that medicine is an art not a science. I had people praying for me, people doing my grocery shopping, people cleaning my house,¬†people sending me cards. One friend send me a card, article¬†or¬†cartoon every day for the 40 days of Lent. ¬†I was fortunate that I was home alone because the only person I had to worry about was me. I may have been in my house alone but I had friends who had a schedule of calling me – breakfast, lunch and dinner. Someone always went with me for the chemo treatments – 8 treatments over 16 weeks. I had a little calendar which I wrote how I felt – good, bad, really bad. there was only one day that said really bad.¬†My chemo treatments were on Fridays. I would have a treatment then be at home until the following Thursday when JK would drive me to the studio to “teach”. We would go out for dinner. I would have a turkey club not sure why but turkey was the food of choice. The following week I would usually feel well enough to drive myself to teach on Tuesday and Thursdays. CM picked up¬†the slack on my off Tuesdays and one of my alumni, KH, who just happened to be available was my substitute and legs for the other classes.

I can tell you that it is easier to pray “your will be done” when you are praying for someone else. But I can also tell you that God is faithful.¬†Life is meant to be lived one day at a time and sometimes life is meant to be lived 10 minutes at a time because that is all you can do and God is okay with being there for this 10 minutes and then the next 10 minutes.

Five years ago I had 8 rounds of chemo over 16 weeks, one year of herciptin, a lumpectomy¬†that wasn’t a lumpectomy¬†because the lump was gone, 32 rounds of radiation which is a whole different¬†beast that chemo.¬† And because God doesn’t waste anything I have been able to shed a little light¬†into other people’s¬†cancer journey.¬†And it isn’t fun but it is doable. Five years ago,¬†I lost my hair which was okay because I never liked my hair and for a while¬†I got good hair. And to be honest it is just as well you have no hair because really you don’t have the energy to take care of it. Maybe your body¬†or someone knows that and that is why you lose it. ūüôā

a special friendship

Leave a comment

On Saturday morning,¬†I drove to the¬†Bronx for the¬†Metro New York District¬†Church of the Nazarene Children’s Bible Quiz.¬†I knew that quizzers, their parents and children’s ministries volunteers from 5 different churches would attend. ¬†I had spent the last few weeks coordinating the details – trophies, treat bags, score sheets, questions and award ribbons.¬†I was looking forward to a great¬†quiz and a bonus would be¬†seeing my friend Diane.¬†When¬†I arrived I¬†went looking for¬†Diane,¬†and found her in the church kitchen¬†getting food items ready for the light breakfast the church was so graciously supplying for the attendees. After a big hug Diane¬†introduced¬†me to a young woman¬†as “This is Miss Ann, my sister¬†by another mother”.¬† That really made me chuckle. When we refer to each other we say Sister Diane or Sister Ann.¬†Part of¬†that is a cultural thing but part of it is a real sisterhood.¬†¬†I have known Diane for many years.¬† Her children used to be quizzers.¬† She¬†is a children’s ministries volunteer¬†in her local church.¬†She doesn’t¬†put up with any¬†nonsense, she has rules¬†and she loves those kids. She is a shorter, darker version of me.

About a¬†year ago, Diane asked me if I remembered the first time we met.¬† To be honest, I didn’t remember but Diane did.¬† She told a story that I had a vague memory of.¬†¬†Years ago at a District¬†Quiz,¬†I had more quizzers than treat bags. You should know that¬†the treat bags aren’t¬†award show quality “goody bags”.¬† It is a snack size Ziploc bag with a some kind of¬†kid trinket and a few pieces of candy.¬† I had apologized for not having enough treat bags¬†and¬†asked if anyone would volunteer to forgo getting a treat bag and I promised¬†to mail them a treat.¬† Diane’s son volunteered¬†and I got his address and mailed¬†him a note and a few candy bars.¬† And I guess that made an impression¬†because a friendship was born.

Diane called me one day to ask if I was going to M7?¬†(M# is a conference the Church of the Nazarene holds every four years between General Assemblies) “Yes, I am. Are you going?” Diane responded “Yes, there is something I want to tell you before you go to M7” And Diane proceeded to tell me that she had been invited to share¬†the story of God’s grace in her life and it had been filmed and would be shown at M7. And she wanted me to know that the film would reveal that she is HIV+. I don’t remember what I said. I was sad for my friend.¬†I felt humbled that she wanted me to know before I saw the film. In the brief film, Diane sings and tells her story and gives glory to God for all He has done in her life. After the film was shown at M7, I found Diane and gave her a big hug. She said “so…” I said “well, I learned one thing. You sing more beautifully that I thought you could.”

In early 2008 when I was diagnosed with cancer, I called Diane and told her because¬†I knew she would pray and I needed her prayers and strength.¬† I see Diane a few times a year at District events.¬†When we talk those phone calls¬†would have been precipitated¬†because of some children’s ministries event. Our conversation will always end with us “catching up on family”.¬† She will say “how are the girls or should I say ladies?” and I will tell her. And then I will ask “how¬†is your son and daughter”. ¬†And she will fill me in on their lives. ¬†Her son¬†has been serving in the military¬†in Afghanistan and will be home in June. ¬†Yes, we are sisters¬†by different mothers¬†but¬†we have the same Heavenly Father. I am so grateful for that.

It sucks and isn’t fun but you can do it

1 Comment

Recently I have said or written those words¬†to two people who I care about very deeply.¬† You may wonder what occasion would cause me to say “It sucks and isn’t fun¬†but you can do it”.¬† The occasion would be the announcement that they have cancer. I have been there, done that.¬† And it isn’t fun but it can be done. I remember a nurse saying to me “well¬†now you won’t have to worry about getting cancer because you have it”.¬† Really I never worried about it, no one in my family has had cancer so it wasn’t something that was on my radar.¬† One of the hardest things about having cancer was telling people¬†that¬†I had cancer.¬†Actually I made my sister tell my mom.¬† I knew I couldn’t tell her.¬†In the beginning I told very few people because until I had a definite diagnosis I didn’t want everyone worrying.¬† It was December 2007 and just before Christmas I had a diagnosis of breast cancer.¬† I didn’t tell my daughters until they were home for Christmas.¬† I wanted to tell them face to face and when we were all together.¬† It was the hardest thing I ever had to do.¬† I remember¬†that my youngest daughter and her boyfriend¬†went to pick up my eldest daughter and her husband¬†at Newark Airport.¬† And while they were gone I prayed and paced¬†trying to find the right words.¬† Searching the Bible for the perfect verse, the perfect words but the reality is there is no easy way to say it, no way to ease it into the conversation.¬† So I trusted that God would give me the strength and the words.¬† I remember that when everyone arrived there were hugs and small talk and cups of tea.¬† We were all setting at the kitchen table and finally I knew I had to tell them something that I never thought I would tell them.¬† I think I said “I have to tell you some bad news”.¬† I remember my eldest daughter reaching for¬†her husband’s¬†hand and I remember not making eye contact with my youngest daughter. And then I just said it – no sugar-coating or easing into it, I just said I have breast cancer.¬† During my breast cancer journey I had a calendar that I wrote “good” day or “bad” day on.¬† During that journey of 8 chemo treatments over 16 weeks I only wrote “really bad day” once.¬† It is a journey that forces you to become the CEO of your own healthcare.¬†Through my journey I learned that medicine is not science it is art.¬† If you or someone you love is on that journey ask lots of questions.¬† Do not assume anything. Take control of what you can control.¬† Cut your hair short before it falls out.¬† Buy new makeup.¬†Buy a new toothbrush.¬†Purchase Biotene toothpaste and mouthwash¬†to protect your teeth. Sleep on a satin pillowcase and wear a sleep cap.¬† Let people help you. Do one day at a time and sometimes do 10 minutes at a time and then do the next 10 minutes.¬†Remember no one comes with an expiration date stamped¬†on their foot.¬† No one can tell you how long you have to live. Pray – I believe it helps but¬†bottom line it can’t hurt.¬† Don’t listen to other people’s stories about their cousin’s boss’s mother.¬† Talk to people who have had what you have.¬† Or talk to their family members.¬†The greatest gift I received¬†as I started¬†my journey was speaking to my friend’s brother whose wife had died of breast cancer – it was a blessing because he had been there, done that.¬†He shared wonderful tidbits and thoughts with me.¬† And as we ended our conversation he gave me a hug and¬†told me I could do this.¬† And¬†on a Thursday morning in December of 2008 as¬†the sun was just coming up, there was a rainbow across the sky.¬† At first I didn’t realize it was a rainbow.¬†It seemed to be random streaks of color. And then¬†I could see a perfectly arched rainbow going across the sky as I drove to my last radiation treatment.¬† A rainbow¬†a sign of hope and promise. The journey through treatment “sucks and it isn’t fun¬†but you can do¬†it”