Friday, March 27, 2009

The Real Enemy

I have discovered that the mental battle against this disease is just as hard (if not harder) than the physical battle. I know what the physical symptoms are and can for the most part treat them with a medication of some sort. But the mental battle deals with the unknown. There is not a quick pill for that.

Today someone that I knew died of liver cancer. He was such a kind man and I really cared for him. He was only diagnosed a short time ago. He went peacefully with a smile on his face and for that I am thankful.
When I heard about his death, I was on the way home from Jacksonville to Orlando and was at that moment stopped in a 3 mile back up of traffic. My mind started reeling. The questions and doubts began again. I thought about how my chemotherapy has not made me as sick as some people I have read about. "Does that mean it's not working?" I asked myself. I once again thought about the staggering statistics of metastasis with my type of cancer. "Is it spreading as I sit here?" Is the bone pain I have from the chemotherapy or has the cancer spread to my bones?" "How do I know I am even beating this?" By the time I got to Orlando, I was mentally exhausted.

Carl and I went to Cheesecake factory for dinner. I stared at the menu. Why did making a choice on the menu like such an overwhelming task? When we finished eating, we were going to walk around the mall but we didn't because Carl thought I was too tired. I wasn't tired! My mind was tired. I wanted to walk around the mall and think about nothing as I looked in the store windows. But, we went home.
I asked Carl what he might like to do for his birthday. Did he want us to do something together, or have a get-together at the house with a bunch of friends or invite friends to go out to eat together. He said "whatever you would like". I know that he wants to make it easy on me. But I thought I might scream. I can't seem to make choices about anything today. I don't want to decide anything! I knew this was unfair to him and I was disappointed in myself for not planning anything.

I went out to the swing and sat looking at the night sky. The moon illuminated the cloudy sky with a soft hue. Where are the stars tonight? Why do I look up and see only clouds? Have I cluttered my mind so much that I can't see clearly?
"Lord," I prayed, "I know this is not how you want me to feel. Please speak to me."

In the quiet of the night I thought about my mom. She had always taught us that if we really wanted God to speak to us, we could open the bible to any page and ask God to reveal Himself to us through the words we were about to read. So I went in and got my bible and opened it. It opened to the Book of Psalms. I started at the top of the page. Psalms 13. "Oh Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with this anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand? Turn and answer me, O Lord, my God! Restore the light to my eyes or I will die. Don't let my enemies gloat, saying "We have defeated him!" Don't let them rejoice at my downfall. But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord because He has been so good to me!"

My mom was right. God had just supplied my prayer and my answer! David was a man of God. But he too struggled with anguish and questions. He spoke in his psalm of the enemy. I now realize that the enemy in my life is NOT the cancer but the doubt, and I will not let it rejoice at my downfall!
Lamentations 3:23 reminds me again that He gives us new mercies fresh every morning. When I wake to the new morning, I will "sing to the Lord because He has been so good to me and I will trust in His unfailing love!"

Monday, March 23, 2009

Transforming Our Pain

I had to go to the wig shop the other day. The wig
that I had was fitted for me while I still had hair. Now
that I had lost all of my hair it was too big. It was the
first time I had been there since the day I had my
head shaved. How vividly I remembered that day.
I went to the shop and the door was locked.
Since it was during regular business hours, I
called the shop number and Sarah, the owner,
answered the phone. I said Sarah, "I'm outside and
wanted to have my wig fitted but the door is locked."
She said "Could you just come back at 4:00 because I
have a private customer in here and need to close the
store while she is here." I said, "No problem, I'll just
come back at 4:00.
When I got back to the shop at 4:00 I was curious. I
asked Sarah why she had to close the shop for one
patron. Sarah said "The customer has cancer and was
in to have her head shaved and was overwhelmed and
crying. She didn't want to be seen by anyone. I had to
close the shop for her." My heart immediately went
out to her. I so wished that I had known so I could
have come and given her a hug when she was
finished. I knew exactly what she was going through.
I felt her pain because I had experienced it myself. I
wanted more than anything to tell her "It would be
OK." I wanted her to know that it wasn't the end of
her life as she must be feeling right now.

I was saddened by the fact that I didn't get the
chance to be there for this lady, but it really made me
think about our role in comforting others when they
are in need.
I believe that blessings can come out of every sadness
that we endure in our life if we choose to let it be a
blessing to someone else.

I remember the overwhelming sadness I felt in the
loss of my mother. I couldn't understand why God
would take her away so quickly. I thought my heart
would never heal from the wound of losing her. I
certainly didn't see her death as any "blessing". But in
time, I discovered that God had brought people into
my path who were experiencing the very same
feelings as I had. And we had an instant bond! A
connection shared by having gone through the same
experience. And I also discovered that through my
being able to offer comfort to them, I in turn
experienced a healing. Offering comfort to someone
who was hurting in turn brought comfort to me.

I believe that God can take our hurts and transform
that pain into encouragement for the people around
us. His grace can take our trials and deserts
and turn it into a blessing in the life of someone
around us. Our task is to be open to those who need

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Desert Will Burst in Bloom!

Just when I think I have this chemo day figured out, I learned I don't have it after all. What a crazy day.
We arrived at 8:30am for my appointment with the oncologist at 9:00. I was able to ask some questions that had been weighing on my mind and he answered them honestly and openly which I appreciate so much.
Armed with my Gator bag and my quilt, we headed to the 5th floor for chemo. They start by drawing blood from the port and sending it down to the lab to make sure all of the values meet the criteria for receiving the chemo. I was praying they would be OK after the pneumonia and the low hemoglobin, as I didn't want delay any treatment.
However, when she put the needle in to draw from the port, nothing would draw back. She tried several times and no blood return. I wasn't immediately concerned because I knew they could try some heparin (a medication to thin the blood and help remove clots). Maggie, my nurse was very patient and calm. I like that also. She said I'll just get some heparin and we'll have this thing working in no time.
After about 2 hours and 3 different doses of heparin, it still wasn't drawing. So Maggie, still trying to downplay the problem, said she would call pharmacy for some TPA ( a very strong anticoagulant). While waiting for the TPA we had a wonderful visit with a man named Dave who was also having chemo in the room we were in. While we were visiting an older man who was a volunteer came around and offered box lunches. Only the patients are allowed the lunches so they didn't ask Carl (although if they knew he was diabetic they probably would have offered). When they asked Dave what kind of sandwich he wanted he said "I'm finished here in a couple of minutes and I'd rather eat at home, just give my lunch to Carl." The older gentleman said he wasn't allowed to serve it to visitors and Dave said OK and I just said Carl and I would share mine. When the volunteer came back with the lunches, he waved the Dave's box lunch over Dave and then handed it to Carl. It brought a laugh to all us, including the volunteer.
We waited about an hour and a half for the TPA to work and no luck. About this time I started to pray (my stress relief) because I am a difficult stick and did not want to lose my port. I also knew that this chemo could not be given in an ordinary IV and I didn't want to delay the treatment even by one day.
Maggie ordered another dose of TPA and we tried for the next hour and a half with no success. By this time it was after 2:00 and Carl had to leave to teach. After Carl left, Maggie came back in and said she would try one more TPA and then call the oncologist. In the meantime she would just try to stick me for the labs so we could at least get them sent off. Oh boy, here we go a human pin cushion :)
When Maggie pushed the 3rd dose of TPA she explained that if we could get it to infuse a little she would ask the Dr. if we could go ahead and infuse the chemo and watch it closely and then deal with fixing the port afterwards. The 3rd dose of TPA gave just a little pink tinged return but it was better than we had seen so far. After a call to the Dr. she started the chemo.
She explained to me that after the chemo I would go to radiology for a portogram (pictures of the port to see if it had a fibrin sheath or a large clot). The fix was to go to the cardiac cath lab and guide a wire up through the femoral artery to the tip of the port and try to remove the clot or fibrin sheath. Maggie knew I was a nurse and she didn't have to tell me the risks as that was the first thing I thought of when she was explaining the procedure. Again I prayed that God would intervene and all fear of any risks disappeared. Thank you Lord.
After the chemo, I went to radiology. It was cold on the table in a gown and I wrapped up in my quilt.
Have you ever taken your child to the Dr. or the ER because they were so sick that they couldn't move; only to have them jump around and act like perfectly normal little creatures when the doctor walks in? Well, that's what happened in radiology. After chatting with the radiologist about how the NICU was, he started the test. As soon as he drew back on the port it flowed freely with blood return!! He looked at me and said "What exactly was the problem?" I couldn't believe what I was seeing! I said "Well either the TPA finally took effect or my prayers were just answered. I prefer to think it was my prayers." He smiled and spent the rest of his time reading my quilt and matching up names of nurses he might have known :).
By this time it was about 6:30pm. I still had the needle and tubes that go into the port hanging out. I walked over to MD Anderson Cancer center to get them removed and they were closed. Not a soul in sight.
So I left with the apparatus hanging out and went to the NICU to put up a thank you letter for my quilt and was able to visit with all my friends while waiting for Carl to pick me up. What a great way to end a long day.
When we got home at 8:30pm I was reflecting on the day. I thought about how stressful and irritating it could have been without prayer and the peace that God gives. As I opened a card that came in the mail today there was one that was so appropriate for this day that I wanted to I share it with you. It had a picture of a desert cactus on the front and it said:
"Life can seem a little prickly sometimes..... just before it blooms!"
"The desert and the parched land will be glad... it will burst into bloom: it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. " ISAIAH 35:1,2

That is the promise I stand on as I walk through this desert, it will burst into bloom and I will shout for joy!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thank You to My NICU Friends

Today I learned that wonderful things can happen even when you are walking through a desert. So much so, that you can even forget about the desert for a time.

This morning I was excited to be able to go into the hospital to work. It had been two weeks since the last chemo treatment and I was feeling well. I love my profession and find such a sense of fulfillment in being "God's Hands" as I care for His tiny babies and their families.
As I began to take report from the night shift nurse, I heard someone call my name. I turned around and I saw about 20 of my co-workers from both night shift and day shift standing there. When I walked over, Ann, our manager presented me with the most touching gift I have ever received.
It was a hand made quilt, nearly the size of a full sized bed. The quilt was made up of many, many squares. Each square was hand written with a different inscription and signed by my friends in the NICU. Each saying was different, but they all had one common thread that said "We Love you, We care about you and We are praying for you." The back of the quilt was made of a warm, soft fleece (perfect for the cold chemotherapy sessions) with a heart in the center also filled with hand written squares. The center of the quilt was made up of pink squares and in the center square was my favorite scripture verse "Lamentations 3:23".
What a wonderful gift!! I was so humbled I couldn't speak. The hours of time spent in stitching it together, the incredibly kind words written by each of my friends touched my heart. I kept thinking about how God just keeps blessing me so abundantly with good things. Not only does He bless me with a profession that I love but He gives me people to work with whom I can truly call my friends.
I wanted to share an e-mail I received just tonight. It is an example of just one of the many, many cards and e-mails I have received from my NICU friends:
"Dear Roxanne, If the sheer will, thoughts and prayers can help to cure you, then you've got it all "sewn up." They say you are judged by the company you keep.....wrap yourself in that company. The NICU family is remarkable. we love you and miss your "company".
XOXO, Karla.

Yes, God sometimes asks us to journey through a desert. But NEVER does He leave us to journey alone. He gives us good friends. He provides us with all that we need to make the journey. And some days life will be so good you forget you are even in the desert.

Monday, March 9, 2009

When God Restores What The Locusts Eat

This morning, I opened my e-mail and this devotional was there. It spoke directly to my heart and I felt the need to share it with you, because we all have valleys, deserts and locusts in our lives. It takes on various forms and names but they are still times of famine. I pray these words will bring you comfort and hope just as it did me.

When God Restores What the Locusts Eat
TGIF Today God Is First Volume 1 by Os Hillman
Tuesday, March 10 2009

"I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten - the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm - My great army that I sent among you." - Joel 2:25
There are seasons in our lives that involve times of famine and times of restoration. Solomon tells us that He has made everything beautiful in its time and that there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under Heaven. (See Ecclesiastes 3:1,11.)
God brings about both the good and the bad. The seasons of famine have a divine purpose in our lives. They accomplish things that only these hard places can accomplish. But there is a time when those hard places have accomplished their purpose and He begins to restore. God did this with the nation of Israel after a season of famine and devastation.
Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for He has given you the autumn rains in righteousness. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil. "I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten - the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm - My great army that I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will My people be shamed. Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will My people be shamed" (Joel 2:23-27).
God wants each of us to know that there is a time when He will restore in order to demonstrate His gracious hand in our lives. He is a loving Father who tenderly guides His children through the difficult places. If God has taken you through a time of leanness, know that He is the restorer of that which the locusts have eaten. Wait patiently for Him to bring this about in your life. He will do it.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

If It Costs Nothing, It Accomplishes Nothing

I love Sundays. I love being able to worship with other believers. I love to sing the hymns. I love the children's time. I love to sing the choir anthems. I love the sharing of praises and petitions and the quiet time spent in prayer. I love listening to the sermon in eager anticipation for what God wants me to hear. But mostly I love belonging to a church where we are family.
This morning Brent and his family came to church. As Pastor Steve called him up I was filled with gratitude. Our church family prayed for him when he left for Iraq. Not many Sundays went by that he wasn't lifted up in prayer for protection. Many people sent him cards and letters. And today this very same church family welcomed him home with a prayer of thanksgiving for his safe return. I believe that each of those prayers surrounded him while he was there and brought him home safely, a grateful young man. I am thankful for that.
There always seems to be one line in the sermon that speaks directly to me. Today it was "A ministry that costs nothing, accomplishes nothing." As I thought about what that meant for my life, I realized that God sometimes gives us circumstances in our life that cost us a great deal. This battle that I am fighting has, and will continue to, cost both Carl and I in many ways. But how can He be glorified in this journey if there is no cost involved?
I know that nothing happens by accident and I pray that at the end of this journey God will have accomplished His purpose no matter the cost.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Simple Things

"Every day is a good day. Just some days are better
than others," as my dear friend Deloris says.
Today was a better than others day. I started off the
morning by taking our Young Believers to the park
for a picnic. It was a beautiful day. The children's
laughter filled the playground. Their eyes were wide
as they fed the ducks. Their little fingers were yellow
from eating cheez puffs. They picked flowers and gave
them to me. They got dirty and sweaty and still
smelled like only little children can smell. They gave
hugs that surrounded you as if you were being hugged
by a giant. Children are indeed one of God's greatest
After the picnic, I came home to a house full of my
family. Eric, Holly, Brent and their families were all
getting ready to go to Disney for the day. What a joy
to walk in the door and be greeted by grandchildren
running up to hug you. What a joy it was to see all of
my grown children and their wives and children
spending the day together.
Sometimes it's the simple things in life that bring us
the most joy.
Thank you Lord for the simple things in my life that
make it so abundant!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

God's Circle of Love

The phone rang at 8:15 this morning and it was my Doctor. She said that my CT scan showed only pneumonia but all else was good!! I think I have never been so happy to be diagnosed with pneumonia. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the good news. Carl and I are still walking on air.
I believe with all my heart that God hears and answers the prayers of His people. Though I may not know who everyone is, I know that many, many people were praying for good results on this scan. I know that God heard those prayers and answered them. How can I possibly express my thankfulness? I say simply and humbly "Thank You".
As I went on my knees praising God for His mercy this morning, I asked Him to allow me to be a prayer warrior for someone in need so that I might be able, in some small way to give back.
And God's circle of love continues on and on!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

That's No Coincidence!

I feel like an excited child who can't wait to get home and show her parents that she made straight "A's" on her report card. Well, though there's no report card today I am so excited to share about this day. Yesterday I shared that I was too ill to ask for prayer from friends and just went to sleep leaving it all to God. I woke up feeling like a new person. No nausea whatsoever. But the really exciting thing is that I had 5 different email messages today from people that said in one way or another "I felt the need to pray for you and so I lifted you up in prayer." Five people!! That is no coincidence! God knew that even when I didn't have the words, He would lay it on the hearts of His people to lift me up. What a mighty God we serve!
The rest of the day was just as good. I went for the CT scan but didn't feel the burden of worry as I did yesterday. It only took one stick for the IV! Yea! Us NICU nurses are not fond of more than one stick whether it be us or our babies. During the scan I spent some wonderful time in prayer speaking to Him as though he were standing next to me.
Then my dear friend Ann called to check on me. She lovingly holds me accountable when my faith shakes or the doubt slips out.
Now we are getting ready to go to dinner with our friend Deloris, another spiritual example in my life, and then off to choir. I will sing as loud as I can without being obnoxious because I have a song in my heart!
I have shared so often my favorite scripture, Lamentations 3:23 because it speaks to me time and time again. " Great is thy faithfulness. His mercies begin afresh each day."

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

When We Don't Have The Words

Today the road along the journey has been rough. I went to the Dr. yesterday after running a fever for the weekend. She took a chest x-ray and drew lab work and said I had pneumonia. Not a big deal. But then she said she saw a spot on the x-ray that was questionable and wanted me to have a CT scan. For anyone facing a triple negative breast cancer a "spot" on the lung is a big deal. CT scan was scheduled for Wednesday.
Today I went to the Dr. with Carl for his appointment. It took all the energy I had to go with him. We came back home and I went to sleep. Soon our family from New Orleans came by for a visit and lunch. After lunch I started becoming nauseous and ever since the N&V has been unrelentless. (I thought this was just supposed to be for the few days after chemo?)
As I sit here in bed waiting for the next spell, my spirits are down. I think how unfair this is for Carl not to have the energetic, happy person he married. Though I know that God does not want me to worry about the CT scan thoughts creep in anyway. If I had the energy, I would call some of my praying friends and ask for prayer. But sometimes there are times when God is all you have and you find that He is all you need. Though I don't even know what words to pray at this moment, He does. I don't have to speak a word for He knows my heart and he'll take the burden for me. Thank You, Lord.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Through The Eyes Of A Child

Today we woke to cold weather. Well, cold for us Floridians. After a day near 80 degrees yesterday, it was quite a change. But it was Sunday, and no amount of cold outside replaces the warmth of a Sunday morning in worship. I went to church feeling a bit "dragged out." Some days fatigue seems to be quite an obstacle. Fighting off laryngitis and not able to sing, I asked our good friend Jim to lead worship and he willingly stepped in and took over.
When it came time for the children's message I sat down with the children thinking for a second that my bones felt like that of our 102 year old Aunt Margaret.
But then something magical happened! As I began to talk with the children one of the little girls, about 4 years old looked into my eyes, and I saw a light, a spark, a child like joy that said "here I am" ready to listen. Her expression moved my very soul. I was immediately reminded of Jesus telling us that we should become "like a child". He also said that "a little child shall lead them". He knew that the trust, innocence and simplicity of a child would be a good example for all of our lives.
Later in the service, as I was helping to serve communion, a young kindergartner in our church family named Joanna, knelt, head bowed, hands folded, innocently at the altar waiting for her turn for communion. Again, I was moved by the power of this small child.
All throughout the day, I found myself looking at children, watching their actions, their smiles, their innocence and I was thankful that God reminded me in such a powerful way , that the eyes of a child can be a light for our soul if we take a moment to notice.