Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Call To Worship

Last night. I made a mistake. I started digging through my mom's medical records to see exactly what kind of breast cancer she had. Then I read my records very closely and started researching "Triple negative breast cancer". By the time I was finished I was not only exhausted physically but mentally as well.
Of course when I woke up the heaviness from the night before was still there. I tried to start my morning talk with God but kept being distracted. After an hour or so of walking around in a "funk" I opened my devotional e-mail. It spoke volumes to me and so I post it below.

A Call To Worship
TGIF Today God Is First Volume 1 by Os Hillman
Friday, January 30 2009

...but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and cruel bondage. - Exodus 6:9
It is very difficult to lead when those you are leading believe they have been mistreated and have lost all hope. Such was the case when God called Moses to bring the people of Israel out of Egypt. They had lived under many years of oppression and slavery. Yet God heard their cry. He sent someone to bring them out of slavery "so that they might worship God" (see Ex. 8:1). Interesting that God didn't say, "to serve Him." Above all else, God desires our worship. A person cannot enter into true worship of God while still in slavery and bondage.
In Proverbs, the writer tells us "hope deferred makes the heart sick" (Prov. 13:12a). There is a place in life where life becomes so discouraging and hopeless that we lose all hope, and it can actually make us sick. I have been at this place; it is a scary condition. It brings you to the edge of despair.
The people would not listen to Moses. Yet God did not deliver immediately. In fact, it would be many plagues later before ultimate deliverance would take place. Why does God withhold deliverance at times? It is in order to bring greater glory from the situation. It isn't because He doesn't care. It is because His plan for mankind is resting in these events. It is a finely tuned plan that involves many people and situations - all operating at the same time. It can seem cruel at times. But God knows that His children cannot worship Him if they are in bondage and lose all hope. He won't allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear, so He has a plan of deliverance for each of us. This plan is not always the kind of deliverance we might think is best. It sometimes has pain surrounding the deliverance. When a mother gives birth, that child is delivered into this world through much pain. But with that pain comes great joy on the other side. Every mother will say the pain was worth it because of the exceeding joy that child brought in the midst of the pain.
What are you in bondage to today? What keeps you from entering true worship? Today, ask God to show you the areas of bondage that you are living in so that you may worship Him.

God showed me that this researching, reading and trying to figure things out on my own was keeping me in bondage. It was keeping me from truly worshipping Him. I immediately asked for forgiveness and thanked Him for His never ending patience with me. The rest of the day was great. I worked on gifts for all the girls having babies at work. Carl and I went out to Sea World and walked around and looked at all the beautiful flowers. (How do the theme parks get their flowers to always look like spring, when ours are a perfect picture of winter in Florida, wilted and brown?) Just another question I have :) After Sea World we enjoyed a nice dinner together and came home and fell asleep in our chairs. Are we getting old? I don't know, but I do know I wouldn't choose any other man to grow old together with.

Friday, January 30, 2009

How to Start the Day

Well, I've figured out that if you don't start out your day with prayer, it's not going to be very good until you do have prayer. When I got up I saw Robin Roberts on Good Morning America. I was really inspired by her because I know that she had breast cancer and went through chemo and beat it. So I looked up her story on the computer to see what kind of breast cancer she had. When I read that she had a lump and they got it all and it had not spread, my bubble burst. I think it was Satan's way of trying to get a head start on my day. So I had prayer and things started looking up.
It's funny how even perfectly normal days can be a blessing if you talk to God at the start. I mean I had my teeth cleaned and it was really fun! I had a new hygienist named Kristen who was awesome. Not only did she not tear up my mouth, but we played family feud and talked during the whole cleaning. Well, she obviously did more talking than I did.
Then I sent a text message to Eric to try and meet up with him and Katie for lunch. Well, I can't get the hang of this texting thing so I sent him a text saying "I am in Wap Mart" (I meant Wal Mart) Well he texted me back and said "Katie's mom is in Wap Mart too") Then I sent a text and said "How about we eat at Cholo's?" (I meant Chili's") He texted back and said "What is that some Mexican restaurant or something?" His big fingers type 10 times faster than my skinny ones. How does that work?
During lunch I told Eric that I needed an expert at shaving heads when the time came. Since he has been shaving his head for years I thought he would be the perfect one to do it. He said he would be glad to. I know that having that done will be one of the most difficult things I will have to do. But I also know that Eric will
make it not so bad.
When I got home, my friend Ann had sent me an e-mail saying that she had a strong urge to pray for me during the day and she did just that. I truly felt that her prayers helped me to fight off a nagging feeling of trying to get down. (Satan still trying to get in)
Later in the day Jayda came over and I hemmed her pants up about 7". I guess she has some of my genes. We all had Chic Filet for supper and it was a perfect way to end the day.
And at the close of this day, I will pray and give Him thanks for all that He does to bless and sustain me.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Today was a good day. I woke up thinking about the doctor's visit from the day before. I hope that before too long this stuff won't be the first thing on my mind in the morning and the last thing on my mind at night. I thought about the doctors statistics and percentage of metastasis in other organs. I still felt a peace about it though. As I began to read my morning devotional I was again overwhelmed at God's voice for here is what He had to say about numbers and statistics.

Placing Trust in our Strength
TGIF Today God Is First Volume 1 by Os Hillman
Wednesday, January 28 2009

So the Lord sent a plague on Israel, and seventy thousand men of Israel fell dead. - 1 Chronicles 21:14
When was the last time your overconfidence cost the lives of 70,000 men? That is exactly what happened to David. David made what might appear to be an innocent request of his general, Joab. But the minute Joab heard the request he cringed. He knew David was in big trouble for this one. You see to number the troops was a great sin in Israel because it was against the law. Why? Because it demonstrated that you were placing more trust in numbers than in the living God.
How does this relate to you and me as believers? Well, the minute you and I place more trust in our abilities than in God, we are guilty of numbering the troops. How does He punish us? Sometimes situations just blow up in our face. Other times, He lets us go on for a long time doing our own thing, but eventually He deals with it.
The lesson here is to learn daily and complete dependence on God. Use your gifts and abilities through the power of the Holy Spirit. Ask Him daily for direction and wisdom. His ways won't always line up with conventional wisdom. When we begin depending on our abilities only, God has a responsibility to make known to us who is the giver of the blessings.

No wonder I felt such a peace. He only desires that I put my Total trust in Him !!

After bible study we had lunch with Eric and Katy. We talked and laughed. Katie brought me a website with pictures and styles of wigs. I told them I was worried that in a strong wind the wig would blow off :). I am having the hardest time with this wig part. I can barely even say the word much less talk about it. But she was so sweet to even be thinking about that with the kids and Cooper ready to be born any day. She is just that way. Always thinking and caring about other people. I love her so much.

Then I had Jayda for the afternoon and we had Twistee Treat ice cream and went to see Hotle for Dogs at the movie theatre. What a fun day!

Funny, though how putting your mind on yourself and your pride will cause you to fall. I went to choir practice feeling good about the day and someone came up and gave me a hug and said "I'm so sorry you have to lose all the pretty red hair." Well, I guess I let my pride and vanity get the best of me. I had a hard time singing and when choir was over I had a "meltdown" in the church parking lot. (Good thing it was just Carl and I and it was dark :) He always knows the right things to say. I know that neither God nor Carl care if I have no hair because they love me. I just need to be brought back from "self" every once in awhile.

We finished up the night by having dinner with Deloris. She is such a wonderful lady. After all that she has gone through she still lets her "light shine" and just being around her is uplifting and encouraging.

Another day is over with ups, downs and lessons learned. But God is faithful and He grants me fresh new mercies every morning. (Lamentations 3:23) Where would we be without the promise of new mercies in the morning? Praise God.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Today I had my second appointment with Dr. Baidas. The results of the pathology reports and scans were back. It is a Stage 3 invasive ductal adenocarcinoma. The CT scans and bone scans came back negative so I praise God for that. I was able to ask him several questions I had prepared ahead of time. One question that had been on and off my list several times was "What is my prognosis?" I really couldn't decide if I wanted to ask him that. After listening to his statistics of the likelihood of the cancer coming back in other places, I decided then and there that I would not ask that question. I heard a quiet voice telling me that God has a plan for my life and He alone knows the final outcome. I left there with a strong sense of peace and never regretted having not asked the doctor that question.
I am scheduled to start chemo one week from today. A whole new territory. I will give myself daily injections to stimulate the bone marrow to produce more infection fighting cells. Oh, boy.
After leaving MD Andersom, we went to the NICU to see Ann. What a true blessing she is in my life. I am again overwhelmed at the friends that I work with. They are so caring and encouraging. I went into peek on Addie. They put her in a "big girl crib". She looks so tiny in that bed but she looks good.
After visiting with all of my friends at the hospital, we had lunch with Lori Nolin. Another blessing in my life. I am thankful for her friendship also.
The rest of the day was spent making gifts for all the girls at work who are expecting new babies. What a fun way to spend the afternoon.
When I opened my work e-mail today there was a devotional that Ann felt compelled to share with me. As always, God's timing was perfect and I felt like God was speaking directly through this devotional. I have posted it below.

Seeing the Works of God

"Others went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters. They saw the works of the Lord...." - Psalm 107:23-24a

When you were a child, perhaps you may have gone to the ocean for a vacation. I recall wading out until the waves began crashing on my knees. As long as I could stand firm, the waves were of no concern to me. However, as I moved farther and farther into the ocean, I had less control over my ability to stand.

Sometimes the current was so strong it moved me down the beach, and I even lost my bearings at times. But I have never gone so far into the ocean that I was not able to control the situation.

Sometimes God takes us into such deep waters that we lose control of the situation, and we have no choice but to fully trust in His care for us. This is doing business in great waters. It is in these great waters that we see the works of God.

The Scriptures tell us that the disciples testified of what they saw and heard. It was the power behind the gospel, not the words themselves, which changed the world. The power wasn't seen until circumstances got to the point that there were no alternatives but God.

Sometimes God has to take us into the deep water in order to give us the privilege to see His works. Sometimes God takes us into the deep waters of life for an extended time. Joseph was taken into deep waters of adversity for 17 years. Rejection by his brothers, enslavement to Pharaoh, and imprisonment were the deep waters for Joseph. During those deep waters, he experienced dreams, a special anointing of his gifts to administrate, and great wisdom beyond his years.

The deep water was preparation for a task that was so great he never could have imagined it. He was to see God's works more clearly than anyone in his generation. God had too much at stake for a 30-year-old to mess it up. So, God took Joseph through the deep waters of preparation to ensure that he would survive what he was about to face. Pride normally engulfs such young servants who have such access to power at such a young age.

If God chooses to take us into deep waters, it is for a reason. The greater the calling, the deeper the water. Trust in His knowledge that your deep waters are preparation to see the works of God in your life.

God is choosing to take me into deep waters. But I know that He will not let me sink. He who is able to walk on water will hold my hand and walk me through the waters as He reveals to me the work He wants to do in my life.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Today was a pretty good day. Had no appointments until 6:00 pm for a bone scan at Dr. Phillips Hospital. Carl asked if I wanted him to go and I said "No, it's just a bone scan and I don't want you to have to cancel anymore students."
So I went in and the x-ray tech was so nice. I had been with the organization for a long time and we talked alot and laughed at how many times we have changed names in the organization. He got my IV first try (YEAH) and explained that the first set of pictures would be before the contrast and then he would come back out and inject the dye. I said OK. I really felt perfectly fine at that moment. But as I lay on the table with the pictures being taken I started thinking that just 2 weeks ago, I was giving report on my babies having taken care of them all day. I thought about how much my life had changed in just 2 weeks. I then thought about my mom who had died just 6 years ago from the very same thing I had been diagnosed with. Well, by the time the poor x-ray tech came back out, I had tears streaming down my face. He said "What's wrong? Is your IV hurting?" I just shook my head and said "No, I'm fine." and continued with the tears. He probably thought at that moment that I was bi-polar and he just needed to get his pictures and get me off the table.
It's strange how I can go from upbeat to downcast with just a few thoughts. Guess I need to be careful where I let my thoughts roam.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Surgery Day! I don’t think either of us slept last night. I prayed that the surgery would go well and if it be His will that it would be benign. We had to be there at 7am for surgery at 8:00. Steve and Lori came to wait with Carl. I am so thankful for their friendship. My biggest worry for today was that the doctor would come out with bad news and Carl would not have anyone with him. I know that they will always be there for him today and any other time he needs.
My boss and moreover my dear friend, Ann, came over to be with us also. She is an incredibly busy Nurse Manager. Monday mornings in the NICU are a very busy time for her yet she came and acted as though she had nothing better to do than to be with us.
I really can’t say what went on from 8:30 until about 2:00. The doctor came out and talked to Carl and Steve and Ann. I do know that this was the first time I didn’t get sick after anesthesia. Yeah!!!
I do remember vividly Carl telling me the results. But I was more worried about how he was taking it than what that actually meant for me. He seemed fairly positive so I was also.
I just remember praying and thanking God that the surgery went well and I didn’t throw up!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

People who say they can experience God out on the golf course or in their boat haven’t had an opportunity to see what God’s idea of a church family is all about.
We went to church today. The surgery is weighing heavy on our minds. Pastor Steve asked me how I felt about him sharing what was happening with the congregation. I told him that we wanted more than anything to be able to share with them and would covet their prayers. Steve prayed for a healing, that God would work a miracle if that would be His will. All of the congregation came up and stood with Carl and I and prayed together. The Spirit of Love is so strong in our church family that it is overwhelming. I felt God’s power and love flow through the hands that were touching us. There were tears of hope, tears of love and tears of thankfulness for what God can do through his children when they are bound together in love. Thank You God for what they mean to us!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The last couple of days have been difficult. The waiting, the not knowing seems to grate on us. I have decided that though they say it’s a 95% chance that it’s malignant that somebody has to be in the 5% and I am hoping to be one of them. I find that I can drive myself crazy worrying about what might be. Assuming the worst also keeps me from being able to pray and to keep a positive attitude.
I had to tell the kids about the surgery. I know that all they have to relate to is their grandma and watching her die of cancer just 5 years ago. But I told them that until everything was back from the lab we would assume that I was in the 5% that wasn’t cancer. I hope that they wait with that in mind. I know that my attitude will go along way in influencing theirs.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Today we went to see Dr. Willard. We had prayed the night before that if she was the surgeon that God had in mind that we would receive a peace about it. Our appointment was at 2:30 and we got there at 2:00 so we walked over to see Harry Lackey who is a sweet man from our church in a nursing home across the street. We visited with him and Carl pushed his wheelchair outside so he could enjoy the sunshine.
When it was time for our appointment we waited in the waiting room for a few minutes. She has a huge dog in her waiting room. Some find that strange but it didn’t bother me. Carl had his doubts about the dog. But he was keeping an open mind until after we had seen her. I had my Gator shirt and jacket on (as usual). Soon Dr. Willard came in from the hospital wearing a red scrub top and black pants. She told us she would be right in to see us. We went back into the room and when she came in she had changed her shirt and was now wearing a gator scrub top I LIKE HER!
She went over all my history and the ultrasound reports. Through all of it she stayed positive but didn’t give us any warm fuzzies. She basically said we wouldn’t know if it was malignant until she got in there. She will do a lumpectomy and axillary node dissection. She will have some idea while I am on the table with a frozen section but wouldn’t know 100% until the pathology reports were in. She said that she would try to preserve the muscles in the arm as best as she could and try to reduce any major swelling from taking out lymph nodes. I told her I really appreciated that because I didn’t want to not be able to play my harp.
By the time we left her office, having spent an hour and 45 minutes with her we knew that she was indeed the right surgeon. She not only cared about me but about Carl also. She continually looked at and talked to both of us.
Surgery is scheduled for Monday morning. But whatever happens, I know that it is all part of His plan. I hope for the best but know that whatever the outcome He will give me His peace.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I woke up this morning, feeling the same way I went to bed. Panicked. Wednesday, is usually a good day for me. I love going to bible study. I love the children's choir and I love adult choir. But today, I wanted to crawl back into bed and sleep until the dream was over. My heart wasn't into any of it. I kept reading the report from the day before over and over again. Before I left for bible study, I checked my work e-mail as I always do in the mornings. I receive a daily devotional by Os Hilman called TGIF (Today God is First). It is a devotional designed for workplace believers but really applies to all areas of our lives. On the mornings I work, I always go into the hospital early, find a quiet computer somewhere, read my devotional and pray. Then I am ready to start my day. Most days I find the devotional relevant to my daily situation and some days it doesn't speak to me as well as others. But this day was different than any other I had ever experienced! I have posted it below.

The Purpose of the Desert
TGIF Today God Is First Volume 1 by Os Hillman
Wednesday, January 07 2009

Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. - Hosea 2:14
If you have an important message to convey to someone, what is the best means of getting the message through? Have you ever tried to talk with someone who was so busy you could not get him to hear you? Distractions prevent us from giving our undivided attention to the messenger. So too, God has His way of taking us aside to get our undivided attention. For Paul, it was Arabia for three years; for Moses, it was 40 years in the desert; for Joseph, it was 13 years in Egypt; for David, it was many years of fleeing from King Saul.
God knows the stubborn human heart. He knows that if He is to accomplish His deepest work, He must take us into the desert in order to give us the privilege to be used in His Kingdom. In the desert God changes us and removes things that hinder us. He forces us to draw deep upon His grace. The desert is only a season in our life. When He has accomplished what He wants in our lives in the desert, He will bring us out. He has given us a mission to fulfill that can only be fulfilled after we have spent adequate time in preparation in the desert. Fear not the desert, for it is here you will hear God's voice like never before. It is here you become His bride. It is here you will have the idols of your life removed. It is here you begin to experience the reality of a living God like never before. Someone once said, "God uses enlarged trials to produce enlarged saints so He can put them in enlarged places!"
He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me (2 Samuel 22:20).

As I was reading this I felt as though God Himself was standing beside me speaking. My first thought was "Oh no. This really is true. God couldn't get my attention because I was so busy with the "things of the world" that he is going to lead me into the desert and it would be called Cancer. But as I read it over and over each word told me of His plan for my life. He wants to accomplish a deep work in me. He will take me into the desert. He will change me. He will remove things in my life that are more important than Him. He will tame my stubborn heart. But I need not be afraid. It is only for a season and during this season I will hear His voice like I have never heard it before! I will journey through this desert with a real, living God!
I am no longer panic stricken. I have a peace that I didn't have an hour ago. I know that the Living God has spoken to me and I need to tell anyone who will listen!!

I went to church and was able to share with Pastor Steve how God had spoken to me. We had prayer. I went to bible study and was enlightened by the lesson. I went to children’s choir and had a wonderful time with the children. I enjoyed adult choir and singing and praying with our choir family.
The very things that I had dreaded doing this morning were the things that gave me the most pleasure at the end of the day. Oh how often we see these as obligations; prayer, devotionals, study of the Word, children, choir practice. When they are in reality God’s way of making our life more abundant .

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I went into work this morning and really didn't give much thought to the ultrasounds the day before as knew I would be seeing the surgeon the next day. I really was anxious to see if Addie had done OK through the night without her oxygen. She had a few dips but managed to stay on room air. I just put the O2 tubing in her bed to ward off evil spirits but she didn't have to have it much. She did like to quit breathing (a premature baby thing). Whenever she quit breathing I would go over and open her portholes and tell her if she didn't breathe I was going to put my "ice cold" hand on her. That was usually enough to get her started again :). I love that baby!
The day went without a hitch until 6:00 when I decided to find out my results from the ultrasounds. As I read the reports I started to panic. By the time I was done, I was crying and knew that the single most thing in life that I was terrified of was about to be a reality for me. The tests showed a category 5 (5 being the highest) of malignancy of the breast tumor and axillary mass.
I was so overwhelmed that I had to leave work. I called Carl and told him I was coming home early and that I had the report form the tests. I gave him the report and again fell apart. He said, maybe the biopsy would show differently and that this was just an ultrasound. But I knew that that a category 5 was a very probable diagnosis. I couldn't stop crying. I don't know why at that point I didn't just ask God for some peace but I didn't. I felt no peace only panic.
I went to bed thinking that when I woke up the dream would be over. But it wasn't.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Today, I went to work at the hospital. My little "Addie" is growing like a little weed. She has overcome such obstacles and her mommy and daddy are so thankful for her progress. I'm hoping we can get her off of her oxygen today. I think she's ready.
At 11:00 I walked over to MD Anderson to have my mammogram and ultrasound. I still didn't have the least bit of concern. I had just made the comment to a friend at the hospital a few days before that I "felt better than I have in years." After many pictures and then more pictures I thought "Uh-Oh. I think this is going to run a lot longer than my lunch hour." Then the ultrasounds. They spent much time going over and over the lump. I knew the lymph node was huge and could see that on the screen but didn't know what the other pictures were showing. After 20 minutes of that, the radiologist came in. We recognized each other immediately as I had taken care of his premature twin girls 4 years earlier. He took many more ultrasound pictures. We chatted about his girls and he even went to get Christmas pictures of them and gave them to me to put in my "book of babies".
When, he finished with the ultrasound, he asked me if I had ever been to see a surgeon. I said yes and told him who it was. He said "I think you should see a surgeon and have a biopsy to check further on the lump." I had slight concern with that but as we continued to talk about the course of his girls in the NICU, I quickly quit worrying about the ultrasound and started worrying about how long I had been gone from the hospital. By then it was 1:00.
When I finished tending to my babies, it was 2:00 and I called the surgeon's office to get an appointment. Thinking, I wouldn't get an appointment for a couple of weeks, I was quite surprised to find out that Dr. Gross, the radiologist, had already called Dr. Willard, the surgeon, and they had scheduled me for an appointment the next day.
That was the first time that I realized that God was working through all of this. Of all the radiologists that day, only God would have me to go to the one whom I had taken care of his babies. Only God would find a doctor who would take his time to call another doctor and get me in to see her immediately.
I would soon see that wasn't to be the last time I would realize God's active presence in this journey.

Friday, January 2, 2009

A couple of days before Christmas, I felt a large lump under my arm. It wasn't painful and since it didn't hurt and I wasn't sick, I figured it was just a swollen lymph gland and that this was my body's way of fighting off a virus or an infection. The Christmas season was busy with work, church, family and all the hustle and bustle that goes along with the holidays. I felt so blessed to have all of my family (except Brent who was still in Iraq) here for Christmas.
On January 2nd, I thought the lump under my arm seemed larger, although still not painful. While I was laying on my side and trying to decide if the large lump was something to be concerned about, I found a small lump in my breast on the same side as the one under my arm. I knew then that this was something to get checked out immediately.
Because I was up to date on my mammograms, I still felt no real cause for concern. But scheduled an appointment with my Dr. who immediately scheduled a mammogram and ultrasound.
From here, the journey began. I was a bit late in starting this blog because at first I didn't realize the magnitude of the work God was about to do in my life. As it became more and more evident that this was to be a long journey I felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to share with others how God is working through my life. The ups and the downs. I don't know how the story will end nor where I will end up at the end of the journey. I only know that my God walks with me every step of the way. He loves me when I follow Him and loves me when I fail Him. He will never leave me and through it all will give me His peace (John 14:27).