Wednesday, March 30, 2011

So How's It Going?

Feeling better with each day, soreness continues to some extent, but considering I still have some traces of bruising on my chest, I guess it's not unusual. Blood pressure started creeping up again, not scary high, just "what the heck is going on" high. Husband and I were thinking it might be diet related, after all, Gatorade is my new favorite drink....were the salts causing my blood pressure to go up?....was I going to have to go back to the doctor, yet again, and have my medications readjusted?  After about the second day of watching it go up, it occurred to me to check to see if my catapress patch was still on (one of the medications I take for my blood pressure).... it was gone. Don't know when it fell off or where it went but it was obvious it had been gone a few days (I put a new one on weekly) The last time I changed it I had applied the patch to the back of my arm so I would not have to look at it all the time....mistake! I immediately put another one on, this time in a place I could see and I put the big ugly white adhesive patch over that, to ensure no more slippage. Checked my blood pressure  few hours later, and what do you know, it was perfect.

I have been able to meet most of the goals I set last week. I am getting dressed before noon, and today I was able to go from getting a shower to getting dressed without a 30 minute respite in between... we are talking progress here. The daily walks have been hit or miss, weather has not been that cooperative. The little preview of spring we got a couple of weeks ago has retreated and it's now back to 40 degree temps with quite a bit of rain and gloom mixed in.

I have been getting out a little each day, running errands, gradually building up endurance. Plan for today is to pick up my "Fit for Duty" papers from surgeon and then head over to Occupational Health  to get cleared for work, it's rainy and dreary but I would like to get this item off my plate. Though  my activities are increasing, I still feel the need for a nap or "chillin session" most afternoons. I am praying daily for wisdom and enlisting the prayers of others, regarding the choices I make during this recovery period, tendency is still to do too much too soon.

"if anyone lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him"  James 1:5

The plan is to return to work on the 4th, I am a little apprehensive, there will be added pressures, and I am concerned about the fatigue. (both physically and mentally) I am planning to ease back into the routine.....going in for just a couple of hours a day, for the first week...then will re-evaluate and see if I need to continue part days for another week....again praying for wisdom....and contentment.

I have been in a cocoon of sorts since my surgery.... I haven't really had to be engaged with the "real world"...it's hard to take that step back into reality again.(especially the reality of the working world)

We have plans for the weekend, one of the reasons I have been trying to walk each day and build up my endurance.... and you thought it was just for work....we shall see how it goes...again the Lord reminding me to hold my plans loosely.

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you"
Psalm 32:3

Lovely Catapress patch

Monday, March 28, 2011

Storms of Life

I went to church yesterday, it was the first time I had been since my surgery so I was looking forward to it, my outings have been limited and I was anxious to see some of my friends. What I wasn't prepared for was how difficult it would be, remember emotions spilling over easily. Praise and worship sweet, but the truth of what we were singing brought me to tears and there was nothing I could do to stop them. (and never, ever do I have a tissue when I need one) I wanted to walk out several times and compose myself but resisted and let the spirit do his work in my heart.

The series our church is doing on the book of Jonah continued, with the theme of Sunday's message, "Our Pursuing God"

I did well through most of the sermon until the last 10 minutes when the tears spilled over again as God's truth hit me squarely in the face. Point that hit me so hard..."God's storms equal God's compassion not his punishment. His storms are his compassionate way of getting our attention, of bringing us to the end of ourselves, to help us see what we are really putting our trust in" "To show us our desperate need for him and him alone" We were to repeat this sentence "God's storms in my life are meant to accomplish his saving purposes every time" I couldn't say it, I just sat there with tears streaming down my face, not because I didn't believe what the pastor wanted us to say but because I knew it was true. What I was hearing, mirrored what God had been showing me, another fresh reminder.

I know this is a hard concept to accept, it as been for me, but you need to keep an eternal perspective. We have never been promised our best life here. This is a fallen world filled with broken people... pain... storms... are part of this life. My "cancer storm" may be beginning to calm now but I know there are other storms on my horizon, I see the clouds gathering. My prayer is that I will continue to see the storms in my life as God's compassion, that I will continue to look to him...depend on him...trust in him.

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, The Lord is my portion, therefore I will wait for him. The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him"  Lamentations 3:22-25

The flowers from Bradford Pear Tree look like snow on the ground

Friday, March 25, 2011

The New Me?

I have been exceptionally emotional lately, starting shortly before my last surgery. I have had more "moments" or "melt downs" in the last two weeks than I have had since my diagnosis, they come without warning, triggered by seemingly everyday occurrences or mundane conversations. I am the type of person who will get misty eyed watching a Hallmark commercial, so tears not unusual for me but this is getting ridiculous, makes me wonder ..."who is this person and how long is she planning to stay"?

Looking at  pictures will make me misty eyed, talking about certain things will make me weepy, and my lastest "meltdown"...that came when I went into the lingerie department, all the poor sales lady did was ask if she could help me.

My husband, has been such a blessing, he encourages, he validates my feelings, he listens to me. I feel bad for him, he has been such a wonderful support through all of this, but I know it has been hard for him too. Make no mistake cancer doesn't just effect the person diagnosised, but all who love that person.

The last several months I have been in crisis mode. My focus had been on just getting through each day. Get through one surgery, deal with side effects from meds and mastectomy, stay well enough to get to reconstruction. Now that the last surgery is over the emotional impact of everything that has happened has hit....hard! I guess I should have expected it but I didn't....not sure how long it will last...but I think it is part of the process.

I know I am blessed, that is not even in question, even thinking about how the Lord has met us during the last several months brings me to tears. Overwhelmed by God's faithfulness and the many people he put in our lives. 

Family and friends beware, emotions spilling over without warning...it's nothing you said or did...really!

"Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll, are they not in your record"  Psalm56:8 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Thinking Clearly

I had to make some decisions today about work. I have gotten several emails from my boss asking when I would be coming back. I tried to keep her updated without really committing but it was no longer working. She has been more than supportive, and I understood, decision made, my goal is to try to go back April 5th. This time, unlike last, I will start off with partial days. I did not anticipate the fatigue last time, lesson learned. One more decision, I would not work at home prior to coming back. I had said I would earlier....because.... why?? The more I started thinking about it the more I realized that it was not in my best interest. What was I trying to prove? I have enough sick time to cover me for six more weeks if needed, so it wasn't a financially based decision. I had said yes because I wanted to be seen as a team player, someone who could be counted on. OK, I am not saying helping out is a bad thing... but... doing work at home, is not going to be helpful to me, I don't need the extra pessure that would be involved with that. After cancer, work was supposed to be down on the priority list...remember? I may be late to the party but at least I finally started thinking clearly.

I have about 12 days to get moving. First thing on the list, try to get dressed before noon....I ditched the sweats yesterday so at least I am in "real" clothes again. Next thing would be to try to walk each day. Walked a couple of blocks yesterday, turned around when I got tired, problem was..still had a couple of blocks till I got home...next time...turn back before you get tired. I did take a drive today to the post office...you would have thought I could have done something a little more fun but it was a necessary errand. My endurance is bad but thankfully all the stomach issues are behind me. Hopefully each day will be better and I can continue to do more.

Goal is set, we shall see what happens, willing to take each day as it comes, willing to hold my plans loosely.

"Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight"  Proverbs  3: 5-6

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I had another appointment with my plastic surgeon today and the last of the sutures have been removed. Why this is such a big deal, it's hard for me to even understand, maybe because it means that surgeries are finally behind me. I have to continue with lifting/pushing /pulling restrictions for another three weeks, nothing heavier than a gallon of milk, but surprisingly I am allowed to drive as long as I don't take any pain meds! Doc said driving actually good exercise, helps stretch out the muscles. Last week I could have cared less, but since I have started to feel a little better the idea of a little excursion is pretty appealing. We will see, maybe I should start with a walk down the block first!

After my appointment, I  walked around my yard, I took a good look at how my garden survived the winter. This was an unusually cold winter for us, hard on a lot of my plants and yard. There are some bright spots, daffodils blooming, hostas peeking up through the ground, lots of perenials greening up under the dead leaves but I've lost a lot as well. Many of my shrubs have dead and broken limbs, there are sunken areas in the yard, empty places where plants once were. I will replant this spring and it will be beautiful again, but different, it won't be the same.

While walking the garden it just struck me how my own life was similiar to my garden. Cancer is hard, it has taken it's toil on me. Just as my garden has changed after a hard winter, I am changed because of my cancer. I have a body that carries the scars of multiple surgeries, responds in ways that can be difficult to deal with, brain doesn't always think clearly, and emotions that spill over too easily. I feel like I have aged 10 years in the last 8 months. This is not who I imagined I would be.... wife, mother, grandmother yes, but "cancer survivor"?! (don't get me wrong I am glad I am a survivor, that's not what I am saying) My bright spots in all of this...one would be the anniversary trip I had with my husband.(wonderful celebration) and the many friends who have rallied around and cared for us so well.

When you are diagnosised with cancer, you don't just wake up one morning and say, "wow, glad this is over" I wish it were that easy. Cancer, now becomes part of who you are. I will continue to see my oncologist and surgeon, though not as frequently. They will look for evidences of cancer's return (my surgeon told me I would be following up with him till he retired..umm he's a lot younger than me, does that mean forever?) Not my focus right now, I just want to enjoy each day and live it with no regrets.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


It's official.....today is the first day of Spring. Feeling better than I have in days. Decided to hang out at the house instead of going to church with husband. Energy level is still pretty low, not worth pushing it. I am at the point where I am content with where God has me right now, it is not one of running and doing but of resting and listening. IPod and bible in hand, I made good use of my morning.

Still receiving quite a bit of help from ladies in my church, and that can be hard at times, but a friend reminded me today that we all have different "giftings" Some people have the "gift" of "helps", those with this "gift" find joy in lightening the burdens and meeting the needs of others. What does this look like in my life? Meals being brought over, laundry being done. A call to see how I am doing, then stopping at the store to pick up some saltines when I was too sick to keep anything down and  driving me to appointments. I would much rather be the one helping instead of receiving, my natural response is to resist any more help....I am fine.... really!(of course still have lifting restrictions, can't drive and even showering can be a major event, that requires a nap) she reminded me that by resisting help I am not allowing people to use their gifts,  (thanks friend, I needed that reminder). More letting go....this is a season, I do not believe it will last forever, and there has been so much gained.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Making Progress

Continue to recover from the "bug" I had picked up this week.  My doctor did eventually convince me to get into her office. Confirmed with blood work what I already knew, I had something viral going on. Gave me another shot of phenergan and I was on my way, oh and one other minor detail, I also have thrush....lovely! I knew my mouth felt kind of weird but never even considered thrush, never bothered looking inside my mouth!! Did I mention I was a nurse, I should know about these things!
I am eating again, light stuff like eggs, toast, crackers and apples, so am getting back to normal.

Beautiful day outside, unusually warm for this time of year. Felt well enough to do some indoor gardening. I had seeds on my kitchen table that were just waiting to be planted. Just the activity I felt up to. Dug out some peat pellets from the garage, moistened them with water and planted some herbs. This is the second batch I have planted, the first seeds are starting to sprout. Love that I can start thinking of other things besides breast cancer and which doctor appointment I have next!

Starting a new series on the book of Jonah at our church soon, we have been encouraged to read "Surprised by Grace" by Tullian Tchividjian in preparation for the series. Some books can take time to read, not that they are long but they are full of truths that need to be considered before you move on. This is going to be one of those books. I came across an excerpt today that had a lot of truth in it, something I had to think about.

"Submitting self to God is the only real freedom, because the deepest slavery is self-dependence, self-reliance. When you live your life believing that everything (family, finances, relationships, career) depends primarily on you, you're enslaved to your strengths and weaknesses. You're trying to be your own savior. Freedom comes when we start trusting in God's abilities and wisdom instead of our own. Real life begins when we transfer our trust from our own efforts to the efforts of Christ"

Now I will say I believe God is in control of my life, I am just along for the ride, but my responses betray me. Breast cancer has really brought this issue I have with control into the light of day. How many times in the last several months have I had to remind myself, he is the potter I am the clay, he is God I am not. Lord continues to do a work in my heart, cancer, vehicle God using to change me.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways declares the Lord"  Isaiah 55:8

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Looks Familiar

Been going down a strangely familiar road the last couple of days. My post-op recovery seems to be mirroring my last recovery. Immune system so suppressed that I  pick up anything that I get exposed to. Last couple of days have been rough, impossible to keep anything down, a poorly timed stomach virus? Thankful that I have a physician who was willing to help me get through it without having to make the trek into the office.

Since my appetite had not been good last several days, I knew I needed to call my doc when  I was unable to even tolerate liquids....did not want to end up in the E.R. The office nurse quite helpful, made some suggestions asked me to call them back in an hour with update...My physician followed up again with another call and a call to my pharmacy for phenergan.....finally relief! Another suggestion from her office was to make some lemonade and add a little salt, I was to start drinking it as soon as the medication kicked in. After husband made it, realized it was a little like Gatorade. Note to self...from now on keep saltines and Gatorade in the house for sick days.

Yesterday was a lost day but for the most part I have been using my down time. I started reading a couple of books..I always have a couple in progress..short attention span. Looking through gardening magazines, hoping to get inspired. Seeds continue to come in the mail and indoor seed trays are sprouting. My daffodils are blooming and tulips poking through the ground. I remember when I planted them, it was right before my mastectomy. I didn't really know what was ahead of me at the time but I felt sure things would get better by Spring....it looks like I may have been right....thankful for God's sustaining grace.

Monday, March 14, 2011

All That I Need

" Our Lord finds our desires not too strong but too weak. We are half hearted creatures fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered us. We are like ignorant children who want to go on making mud pies in a slum because we cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far to easily pleased"                C.S. Lewis 

Pondering this quote all day and how it applies in my own life. What is it that I desire more than anything right now, well that's pretty easy. I want to be healthy, I don't ever want to have to deal with cancer again, I want to feel like I did before I ever received a cancer diagnosis. That would satisfy me, that would make me happy. That is not a bad desire, don't get me wrong, but at best "good health" will be a temporary thing. We may stay healthy until the day we are called home, but more often than not health wanes as we age.

God convicting me a fresh all day, "what do you value most". Do I value a knowledge of the living God more than I value being healthy? Do I believe I need Christ more than anything else in this world. Not just say I believe it, but live my life as if I really believed it. Do I value a closer walk with Christ,  more than I desire to be healthy. As I was writing down my thoughts on this I felt the tears streaming down my face, I knew the answer was no. I am a work in progress, thankful that God continues to work in my heart, looking into every hidden crevice, pulling down strongholds, molding me, refining me. My husband has been out of town the last 24 hours, so there were no distractions today, God was able to get my undivided attention. His plans and purposes continue because of my cancer diagnosis

Saturday, March 12, 2011

I Want it Now

When I let my little dog out this morning I couldn't resist the temptation to explore outside. Walked around looking for signs of  life when I realized my pajamas and slippers were not adequate for the 30 degree temperatures. Once inside the nausea that has been plaguing  me all week returned. I am on the mend, did not take any pain medicine yesterday, and the various shades of yellow and blue which cover my chest and abdomen indicate that healing is taking place. Had hoped by now I would have felt better. I have a recovery time table in mind and things are not meeting up to my expectations.  Received a little plant the other day with Psalm 46:10 written on the pot, it caught my eye just as I started to feel discouraged. The scripture was oh so familiar, and the Lord had directed me to it many times these last several months, "Be still and know that I am God", it was as if he was speaking to me in that moment. Reminder to self..he is God I am not...he knows the plans and purposes for my life.. I do not... I am where he wants me to be, physical limitations and all. Looks like "recliner time" continues! I need to change my perspective, this time of recovery is a blessing not a curse. 
God continues to provide well, I have a husband who has been willing to do anything, ladies with children, jobs, school and full schedules who are willing to serve with meals and even take care of my laundry needs. I am overwhelmed when I think of people being willing to do that...very humbling.  Hard for me to be still.. to wait.. to remember God is in perfect control of my life and his ways are not my ways. This is refining time.

Perfect way to spend "recliner time"

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Food For The Soul

I got this little IPod a couple of years ago for my birthday and have been attached to it ever since. A little daunting at first,  I had to figure out how to use it, how to use iTunes, load programs on to the IPod,  ridiculous I know but I can be technically challenged when it comes to things like that. My son would patiently walk me through the process, again and again until I was finally able to do it on my own. Browsing through iTunes was enjoyable, I knew you could download music but really had no idea that there were podcasts available to download... and they were free. I found some of my favorite teachers/pastors. I could listen to sermons, teaching series on books of the bible, daily devotionals or current event programs that report from a christian perspective. (and yes I did end up putting some music on it as well) I use it when I walk, work out, travel or as I  get chores done around the house. The last several months this little device has been invaluable and such a blessing. There have been many a sleepless night spent listening to Charles Stanley, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Chuck Swindoll etc. The time recovering from surgery or in waiting rooms, these were all times I would use to feed my soul listening to my IPod. I have more podcasts loaded on my IPod than I will ever listen to, and some update every day, it's quite a table to feast at. I don't have any set listening plan but more times than not I will hear something that will minister to my soul, at just the right time, God's timing always perfect. Newest find..Coral Ridge Presbyterian, with Tullian Tchividjian. Recommended by a friend and it has become my new favorite. I listened to a series on "Thirsting for God"(a study on Psalm 63)  Again just what I needed to hear at just the right time.

"On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I will sing to you in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me" Psalm 63:6-8

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


I am on the other side of surgery and am thankful it is done. I had a peace filled weekend and slept fairly well the night before. My biggest problem, my check in was 11am. Long morning, tried to quiet my spirit by reading the Word but had a hard time concentrating, was distracted. My mind racing, seeing all the little things that I "needed" to do before surgery, I ended up jumping up and down, picking up this, cleaning that, trying to get everything perfect before I had to leave. Felt like I was spiraling downward, knew I was on the wrong track, husband also noticed, sat down with me and prayed. Prayed again for peace and thanked the Lord for how he had sustained us. Left for the hospital, check in went smoothly, but when they called me back and took my vitals, it was obvious the morning had taken it's toll because my blood pressure was up to 170/100.  I got a little emotional at that point, fearful they wouldn't do the surgery because pressure so high, nurse asked me what was making me so anxious and I recanted all that had happened with the anesthesia last time I had surgery. The nurses and anesthesiologist were so kind and reassuring, never minimizing my concern. Realized I was more fearful of the anesthesia than I  was of surgery. When my surgeon came in, asked him if the pressure would be a problem and he said no. Did not want to focus in on it too much prior to going into to surgery because he felt anxiety driven. Checking it too frequently would start a vicious cycle, felt I would be anxious about pressure being high when taken and that anxiety would actually keep it high. They would be checking my blood pressure while I was under anesthesia and could address it then if needed, but the surgeon told my husband once I was under, my pressure was fine.  Recovery went better, I actually remembered it this time, nurses again wonderful. Since home I have been less sick and groggy than I was after my mastectomy, I am grateful for that, movement much easier. I do have an incision in my navel, and a sore abdomen, they did some fat transfer, better that I didn't remember there was a possibility that was going to happen. Lord provided for us so well again, I still battled with fear and trust. Continued to attempt to lean on my own strength and understanding, instead of trusting God.  I know that God is sovereign and that no circumstance can frustrate his purpose for my life, really I know that, do I always respond like I really believe it? No, but God's not finished with me yet and he is faithful to finish the work he has begun in me

"The Lord will fullfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever, do not abandon the works of your hands"  Psalm 138:8

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Recounting Our Many Blessings

Surgery is tomorrow and I am ready. Lots of folks praying. We had a full weekend, busy with friends, they are all gone now. I napped with my little grand daughter on my lap this afternoon, we slept together in the recliner. Evening has been low key, decided to have some sushi for dinner, one of my favorite meals. Thinking back over the last several months, remembering all the Lord has done, the circumstances in which my cancer was found, how he protected me during the last surgery, how he brought just the right people into our lives, people that have been walking along side encouraging, praying. The Lord has been so faithful, in so many ways, too many to list. I have been thinking of all of this tonight, feeling very blessed and very thankful. My heart is at rest tonight, it is at peace and I am ready for tomorrow.

"You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal"  Isaiah 26:3-4

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Gift of Distraction

We are Empty Nester's and our home is usually pretty quiet, but because of various circumstances we will have a full house this weekend. This was just the motivation we needed to get some household chores done, things we needed to do before surgery. Last weekend friends had asked if they could stay with us because they had a family event to attend in town. Always enjoy their visits, no problem We knew at the time our youngest son would also be coming home for  couple of weeks for some work opportunities. We then received a call from a young man who had lived with us while he was in grad school, seems a friend of his is getting baptized at our church this weekend. He was coming down, could he possibly stay with us? We had to smile when the last call came in, we knew God was orchestrating all of this, the timing could not have been more perfect. I have been so busy preparing for every ones arrival today I haven't even  thought about the surgery. Our weekend is well taken care of, we have a house full of family and friends..and did I mention three dogs! Great fun! Lots of time to encourage each other, share some meals together, play some games and just enjoy being together. What a wonderful gift the Lord has given us....and again the timing couldn't have been more perfect!

"The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing"  Zephaniah 4:17

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I am getting things ready for surgery next week. Yesterday was my last day of work for awhile and could not have been a busier week. Found out yesterday I was not eligible for FMLA this time because I did not work the required hours last year, had a little something to do with the fact that I was off seven weeks last fall.....no problem, my supervisor approved a non-FMLA medical leave of absence and I am done. No paperwork to file or followup on, really a blessing in disguise. The big question has been, so how long will you be out? I really did not have an answer. This has been my dilema for the past couple of weeks. I want to know how long this recovery is going to be. I asked my plastic surgeon last week and all he was able to tell me was, it won't be as bad of recovery as the mastectomy and you won't have drains. Well in my need to control my life this answer was not adequate, sorry, I wanted to know exactly, give me a time frame. My next step, the internet, I figured I would just "google" "recovery from exchange surgery" and see what would come up. This was a big mistake, I found everything from quick recoveries no problems, to horror stories, and of course, everything in between. Now I am not saying don't be informed but, I was "camping out" there and all it was doing was sowing seeds of anxiety. Then I listened to a podcast the other day, and to be honest I don't remember who was speaking, but the topic was on responding to "life events" and how our response to these events can depend on "what trough you are feeding from" The trough I had been feeding from the last several days was the internet, in an effort to know what to expect after surgery. My need to know the details wasn't helping me one bit, in fact I was worse than when I started. I felt the Lord just telling me to trust him, reminding me that he is in control, I am not, nor do I need to be. Can you imagine if we really knew all the details of everything ahead of us, I would probably be a basket case. No, we have a loving Father who gives us what we need when we need it, not going to give us more than we can bear and he is always by our side. Control and trust..you would think that I've been around this mountain enough times that they would no longer be issues but they are. I am still learning, the Lord still shaping and refining me, thankfully still changing me.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit"  Romans 15:13