Friday, October 16, 2009

Under Construction...Inside and Out

This whole experience has been such a trip. I realized today just how much has changed in the last couple of months. When you really take a look at it, it's so much! I think everyone around me realizes that. But the funny thing is that on any given normal day, I don't really feel any different and none of it seems like a lot. I look different, and I am but still feel the same. It doesn't seem possible, but it's none the less true. It's comical really. When you add up all of the stuff, no wonder people look at me weird when I tell them everything is great! How can that be? Let's go through the list...

Well for starters, I happen to be as bald as a cue ball at the moment. I still have a few hanger-on hairs, but basically they've all fallen out. I was so worried about how traumatizing that was going to be. But, here I am in the middle of it and it just isn't. That seems really hard for me to believe. My ex told me last night that I looked like Uncle Fester from the Adam's family when he stopped by to see Brayden. I had just taken a shower and forgot to use my eye makeup remover when I got out so here I am, no hair, and I had giant black circles of eye make up all around my eyes. You know what? I did look like him! Today he told me he didn't mean that. It was more like Darth Vader when they removed his mask. I laughed at that, too. If I had trauma from this, I'd probably be on the news having killed him in a terribly violent manner. But, I laughed instead of doing 30 years near Huntsville.

Ok, number 2. I had my breasts removed! Really?? Really. Chopped those puppies right off. That definitely should have traumatized me. I thought it would, but it just didn't. I can't explain it. We're rebuilding though, Texas style.

I say Texas style because that's what we do here in The Great State of Texas. In other parts of the country there's a ton of historical things. Not in Texas. When it gets old, the shine wears off, we just rip it down and build something new. The "new" is usually better and always bigger than what stood there before. Now, I'm not saying that's necessarily a good thing. It just is what it is. And as of today and my last appointment with the plastic surgeon until my surgery next November, we're tracking for the same on my reconstruction. I hate to admit it, but I just wasn't paying attention when we started with the saline yesterday morning. I wasn't fully awake and was too busy looking at my doctor (reads: eye candy). Next thing I know...Well let's just say, I don't own a bra that will fit me. The good news is that I don't need one for a little while longer because gravity has no effect at the moment. Woo Hoo!! Hey, it's one small perk to having cancer. Still not worth it to go through the whole ordeal, so don't get any ideas. But, a reward of some kind all the same.

I could go on, but isn't that enough to drive home the point? There's really only one explanation for all of this. It's JOY, real, genuine JOY! I've learned the difference in joy and happiness in the last couple years. And what a difference there is! There's also not a single passage in the Bible where it says God wants us to be happy. If you find one, let me know. But you won't because, it just isn't there. It DOES, however, talk about rejoicing in the JOY of the Lord. You see, happiness is dependent on your circumstances, and it is fleeting. It is a thing of this world. No matter how happy you get, it's going to go away either in a few minutes or maybe days or weeks. It wears off, or something about the circumstances change and poof! It's gone.

Joy is SO different. It comes from God, and He alone can supply it. It doesn't go away and isn't fleeting as long as we are focused on living in His will, bringing everything to Him, and trusting only Him to get us through. Our circumstances change, things go wrong, but yet we can still be full of joy. (Even when we aren't happy about what's going on.) This is a really hard thing to understand. That is of course, until you experience it. When I first heard it, I thought that it sounded great, but couldn't see how it was actually going to be possible. For this I am so thankful for our Singles pastor at Fellowship Church Grapevine. Josh taught a class (what I believe to be about 3 years ago) on the study of James. The first thing he had us do was begin to memorize James 1:2-4. Here's what it says:

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

At the time, I really liked the "mature, complete, not lacking anything" part but was really confused about what it would take to find the joy in trials. I mean, who thinks that sounds good or is even possible?? On the other hand, the mature and complete thing sounds great, right? So, I wrote it down on a post-it and put it up in my desk right in my line of sight. (In fact, even though the ink is fading that same post-it is still there.) I did memorize it and since that day I refer to it (in writing and from memory) anytime I feel challenged. Still, I wasn't sure if it was working on me or not and hadn't made the connection until I was at our retreat this past weekend.

Josh opened up his talk this time with the same verse. I was thrilled about that because over the last 3 years it has become really important to me and an integral part of my prayer life. He told us something different this time though. He said that joy as defined in the Greek means "overqualified for your trials". WOW! How powerful is that? In all of those prayers that I have sent up over the last few years asking for joy in times of what has turned out to be much smaller trials, God was preparing me for this one, the biggest of my life. He knew what was coming Even though I didn't. Now, I am prepared and as it turns out actually overqualified. This round of breast cancer hasn't and will not steal my joy. It can't, you see, because God has given it to me and it is not linked to my circumstances.

With that joy comes something else, too. Philippians 4:6-7 makes us a promise when we turn things over to Him completely, with thanks, and prayer. It is this:

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

There's no promise there that everything will turn out the way we want. It simply says that thankfully and prayerfully we turn it over, in this case that's a trial. By doing that I have found peace that surpasses understanding in the midst of my biggest storm to date, and He has given me joy in the process. I still have no hair. I still have 1/2 constructed boobs, and I still have more than a year of this treatment and more surgery ahead of me. But, so what??? I also have joy and peace, two things that I've never had before. It already has been worth it, every yucky little step. I wouldn't trade it for the world because breast cancer has allowed me to finally find them.

So as I sit here in the chemo chair again today, I am overflowing with peace, joy and thankfulness. That’s not to say that I am never challenged with things. That would be a lie. Even yesterday I was anxious about today and how this treatment was going to go. But, I turned it over and back came the peace and the joy. The enemy has lost another round because he and his thoughts cannot dwell where the Holy Spirit resides. Thank you, Jesus for continuing to bless me so far beyond anything I could have imagined, much less deserved. You have made me unbelievably overqualified for this trial, and I am certain that I could never do it without you. That would be completely inconceivable.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Camping, Shedding, and Giving Thanks

I'm home from our wonderful weekend retreat at Allaso Ranch and back to work. What a great weekend of teaching and fellowship! I had a wonderful time and met some great people. It's funny how things turn out. I spent quite a bit of time worrying about how it would be going to camp with a shaved head and what it would be like "wearing hair" around a bunch of other people.

You know what? It was wasted time. Everything went fine. No one treated me weird at all, and I wasn't uncomfortable in the least. I'm sure it was strange for some of them. I mean there's a bald lady putting her hair on in the bathroom and she's wearing different hair than she was yesterday. I would think that was strange if I were them.

Of course that was nothing compared to the lady I talked to during breakfast on Saturday morning. She and I had a great talk. After breakfast, I went back to the cabin to change hair. I didn't really think anything of it. It was raining and I wanted to wear my lower maintenance, shorter "Terry Bradshaw" hair with one of my hats. (I packed 5 for the 2 day trip.) It's straight and better suited for camp because the long curls don't fare as well in the weather. Well, I ran into her later that day, and she was extremely confused. She kept staring at me trying to figure it out. It was pretty funny. There were several people I confused with that. But, it all worked out. In fact, my hair didn't really start coming out in an obvious way until I got home from camp. So the timing could not have been better.

I made the decision to shave my head prematurely (meaning before it started coming out) based on what I thought to be the bad timing of my retreat. Now, I am so thankful for that timing! I say this because it made me go ahead and shave instead of waiting for it to come out on it's own. One of the things that I most wanted to avoid is waking up in a bed full of all my curls. I didn't have to because, the timing of the retreat ensured that I wouldn't. I couldn't go off in the woods and have it come out there, so I had to deal with it before.

I hope that no one reading this has to deal with cancer and chemo in the future. But if for any reason you do, think seriously about shaving before it starts to fall out. My doctor was spot on with the prediction of when it would go. It started on the 14th day and came out in masses on the 17th. That's exactly what he said would happen! Knowing this and getting shaved a week beforehand, I had the opportunity to get used to my wigs and get comfortable before the shedding began. Now, it's not traumatic at all. Not for me anyway, I just can't wait for it to be over.

It has been traumatic for others in my family though, especially my mom. See, right now, there's still some left but it's not really attached. So if you grab it, it will come right out in your hand with no pulling. Well, I can't keep my hands off of it once I get out of work and get the hair off. It just seems so weird to me. So, I can't help but demonstrate this over and over. So far, I think I've grossed out everyone that I've shown, which is just about everybody. Although, no one has taken it like my mom. She can't handle it at all. So, of course, I can't stop doing it and showing her. I guess in some ways, we never grow up. I still think it's funny even though she's not laughing. Now I know where Brayden gets this behavior. All this time I've been blaming it on his dad...

I guess none of this has been as traumatic as I thought, and for that I am so grateful. Yes, unbelievably so, even the hair...Isn't it funny how that works out? I worry. I imagine things as I think they will unfold. And it just never seems to work out that way. Nothing ever seems to live up to my horrid imagination. Camp was great, wearing hair isn't as bad as I thought, and shedding like a cat hasn't bothered me a bit. So why in the world was I worried?

©2009 80% Sporadic | by TNB