Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"The Restoration of Unity"

I prayed for friends who would walk by our side
And we, beside them, as Father would guide.
To strengthen and encourage, His Word to share
To lighten the burden as we offer up prayer.
Casting upon the Lord every weight and each care
Helpers through life equipped and prepared.
Through the challenges we face well able to stand
For we hold to each other as we hold the Lord’s hand.
Traveling the path before us He’s paved
Unfettered and free to walk in His ways.
With His love in our hearts, His truth to speak
Our vision made clear, His harvest to reap.
How good and how pleasant when brethren abide
The blessings of heaven opening wide.
Agreeing together to loose and to bind
Secure in Christ Jesus, our hearts to Him tied.
Sticking together through thick and through thin
Watching out for each other, protected from sin.
For we are one body and each has their part
Possessing God’s gifts, diverse, yet His heart.
Made one by His Spirit in the bond of His peace
Full grown, in love and in Jesus complete.
For Jesus is coming and so I pray our lamps, full
That we’d be wise virgins not found as the fool.
Awakened and ready, the Bridegroom to meet
On fire for Him, not those who sleep.
As iron sharpens iron we’d remain sharp
For the light of His face cuts through the dark.
And shows the way in hard places, awakening dreams
The visions of God realized as we would lean
Into Him who has promised and cannot lie
His ingrafted branches joined to the Vine.
Producing much fruit, His joy to remain
Loving one another, His truth to sustain.
I pray release of God’s counsel, establish Your plans
God utters His voice, we heed His commands.
We are firm, we are stable and shall not be moved
But declare that our lives show the praise He is due.
And so we tear down the walls that keep us apart
Releasing true unity, the kind of Your heart.
Bring about communication and the friendships You’ve formed
Forgive us jealousy and competition, where we’ve divided, we mourn.
Fill us with psalms, and hymns and sweet songs
Together making melody all the day long.
Giving thanks unto You, my God, for all things
Submitted to one another in Christ as we cling
To our Father who loves us and calls us to the same
To be imitators of Him, as the dear children He’s named.
Heal the brokenness we’ve suffered, Lord, touch Your church
Bring Your restoration, pour Your balm on each hurt.
We speak reconciliation, the resolve of disputes
Every entanglement pulled up by the root.
Come bring release from the plots, schemes and snares
From every trap that’s been laid, no longer impaired.
In humility and love, forgiveness we extend
Moving on, filled with peace, for You set right and mend.
Where there’s been a separation, You close the gap
Repairing the breach that there’d be no lack.
Thank You, You’ve called Your people to come and break bread
Continuing daily in one accord, just as You’ve said.
So where misunderstandings have stood in the way
I call forth Your clarity and Your community to pray.
Through eyes You have given to see our Reward
No disconnect but made a strong cord.
Demolishing strongholds we conquer new ground
As we march to the beat of the “oneness” that sounds.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 - Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Psalm 133:1-3 - Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the LORD commanded the blessing— Life forevermore.
Ephesians 5:1-2 - Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

(Additional Scripture for study - Mat. 18:18-20, Gal. 6:1-2, 1 Cor. 12:12, 
1 Cor. 12:25-26,Eph. 4:1-6, Eph. 4:15-16, Mat. 25:1-13, Pro. 27:17,
Jhn. 15:5-17, Pro. 11:14, 
Pro. 15:22, Eph. 5:19-21, Act 2:44-47,
Mat. 5:21-26)

Click on the YouTube link I've posted below to view this video. It's precious and I believe you'll be greatly blessed. It ties in so nicely and I was so excited to have come across it just as I had finished writing this devotional. I knew I had to include it. Perfect timing once again from our faithful Father in Heaven.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QK9Xj7eY0UU

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"Making Sense of the Difficult Days"

"Don't know why there's no sun up in the sky, stormy weather". This is a line probably most of us know from an old 1933 song entitled, "Stormy Weather". The song popped into my head several months ago as I was praying. It made me laugh but it was truly no laughing matter.

Before I had my breast biopsy or knew I had breast cancer, I found myself meditating on more than a couple dozen Bible passages as Scripture flooded my mind. Looking back, I know the Lord was preparing me for the storm that was about to come.

Sometimes when difficult times come and we're in a storm all we can see is the rain and the clouds, the doom and the gloom. It seems we've lost our compass and don't know if we'll live to see the day; we're sinking fast, or so we think.
But the "Son" is right behind those clouds. He's there, the Lord Jesus Christ, navigating us through those tempestuous waters, speaking peace to the storm and seeing us safely to shore. He invites us to step out of that topsy-turvy boat that can no longer contain or sustain us and meet Him on what seems to be an impossible surface to stand on, let alone walk on.

When the Lord beckoned Peter to step out of the boat, he was doing fine walking on water until he took his eyes off Jesus and stopped to look around at the blowing winds and monstrous waves about to swallow him up. Hey, I give the guy credit though. At least he got out of the boat, but the Lord wanted to bring Him farther to pursue the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. In order for this to happen a change has to take place in us that we may be able to contain the “new wine” that the Lord is desiring to pour into us.

(Phi. 3:12-14, Mat. 9:16-17)

The Lord teaches us obedience and brings us to a place of complete dependence upon Him, maturing and perfecting us even in the difficult places, through the storms of life, to weather them together as we are focused on Him and His truths. I thank Him that as I look to His Word He promises to transform me more into His image and renew my mind. He changes us from glory to glory, giving us understanding of the will of the Lord, enabling us to walk holy and acceptable before God and in our service to Him. 

(Heb. 5:8-9, Rom. 12:1-2, 2 Cor. 3:18)

Though at times it may seem that chaos, confusion and trouble abound, our God is a God of peace and comes reassuring us that no weapon formed against us will prosper but is only forged for our profit that we may become partakers of His holiness, yielding the peaceable fruits of His righteousness. 

(Isa. 54:16-17, Rom. 5:3-5, Heb. 12:1-11)

There are places where we have been marred, hurt, wounded, or perhaps we have allowed weeds to crop up. But the Lord has named us a new creation and has come to make us whole in Christ Jesus. He is pruning us to form us into new vessels as we hear His call to come and abide and surrender entirely to His lordship. Each of us is being fashioned by God, His workmanship, designed for His specific purpose that the fruit we bear may be abundant.
(Jer. 18:1-6, Jhn. 15:1-2, 2 Cor. 5:17, Eph. 2:10)

The Lord comes filling with joy and equipping with faith, enabling us to stand steadfast and resolute in our commitment and devotion to Him, even if for a time we suffer, rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God made manifest in our mortal bodies by the power of His Holy Spirit. For we have this treasure in earthen vessels and so we die to the things of the flesh; we partake of His sufferings that His Kingdom may come even through His chosen ones to the glory of God. 

(Jas. 1:2-4, 1 Pet. 1:6-7, 2 Cor. 4:7-11, Phi. 3:7-11)

We humble and submit ourselves under the mighty hand of God understanding that in all points Jesus was tempted as we, yet remained sinless. We resist every temptation, coming to the everlasting God, full of mercy and grace to help in our time of need, who has made a way of escape through the blood covenant of the Lord Jesus Christ. He’s been where we are and fully knows our hearts.  (1 Pet. 5:6-11, 
1 Cor. 10:13, Heb. 4:14-16)

And so, we remain alert and watchful, not as those who sleep, that we may be wise as serpents and gentle as doves, resisting, renouncing and casting down every enemy of our souls, walking in the Spirit, assured of God's promises, made firm, stable and unmovable in Him no matter the gale force winds, for we are settled in Christ.  
(2 Cor. 10:3-6, Gal. 5:16-18)

Oh, but you say, "I'm in the pit", but God sees and delivers you and would use you to save many people alive. Trust in the sovereign plans and purposes of God. Oh, but you say, "I'm at the brink of disaster, so much has been lost, so much is destroyed." But God would say, "I would increase and multiply for all your loss and restore more than at the first." Oh, but you say, "Daily I die and thirst in a barren land." But God would say, "My grace is sufficient, My strength made perfect in your weakness and I shall provide pools in the desert places, setting you on the road that I have carved out in the wilderness leading to My glory and My kingdom established in you."
(2 Cor. 12:7-10, Isa. 43:18-19)

I'm reminded of Paul who went through so many hardships. He did not turn aside from his faithful devotion to the Lord though he was warned of the perils that awaited him. Even when he was unjustly accused, beaten and thrown into prison, he found occasion to sing praise to God. He looked for and found opportunity after opportunity to continue in the ministry God had given him to proclaim His truth. None of his circumstances deterred or caused him to lose his focus. He was content in plenty or in want, affliction or health, hungry or full; he was satisfied in the Lord.
(Acts 16:22-34, 2 Cor. 11:22-28, Phi. 4:11-13,
Acts 21:10-13)

Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers and later unjustly accused and sent to prison as well, but even there God prospered Him. Throughout it all God continued to develop his character, delivered him from chains and raised him up at just the precise time in history to be over all of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh, that many would be saved from what would have otherwise been sure destruction. 

(Gen., chapters, 37, 39-50)

I think of Job and his devastating losses. He lost all his livestock and all ten of his children in one day; he lost his health. Scripture tells us how Job responded - 'Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped.' And he said: “ Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong. 

(Job, chapters, 1, 2 & 42)

Do you ever feel like enemies are all around you and everything is coming at you at once? Well, I know I have! There have been times when I've been overwhelmed by the vast enemy army surrounding me. Then, even as the eyes of Elisha’s servant were opened, the Lord allows me to see His heavenly angels who far outnumber my foes, protecting and fighting on my behalf. 

(2 Kgs. 6:8-18)

Today, months after I first began this study, I'm still meditating on these Scriptures, trusting the Lord to faithfully guide me through one of the most challenging times of my life. He continues to speak to my innermost being through His Word that brings healing and makes me whole - mind, body, soul and spirit.

So I'll let the songs arise, knowing my victory is assured, continuing to ask for eyes to see, grateful to my Lord and King for the opportunities He arranges for the glory of the Lord to be released in power, in what we may consider to be some of the most unlikeliest of places and circumstances. May we be formed His vessels of honor.

Matthew 14:28-31 - And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Matthew 8:23-26 - Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.

(Though there are numerous other Scriptures throughout this devotional, I encourage you to open up to each one and let this become an in-depth study, allowing the Holy Spirit to unfold the mysteries of God more fully to you, that you may “walk on the water” with Him, victoriously coming through every test and trial and storm.)

Monday, May 31, 2010

“Momenti de Felicit√†”

“Momenti de Felicit√†”, translated, "Moments of Happiness".

I posted this picture that hangs in my house on my Facebook page the other day. I felt like I needed to stop for a, "moment of happiness".

Sometimes the things of life can just bog you down and you need to shift gears. I'm tired of thinking and talking about having had breast cancer, weekly expansion, ongoing appointments and treatment with possible side effects, reconstruction, blah, blah, blah.

I love bright and cheery colors and whimsical things that make me smile. I enjoy being surrounded by them. Lately, this part of my personality has been hiding a bit but she needs to emerge.

There emanates a joy and childlikeness from this painting that makes me feel free, light and safe, and warm under the rays of the sun. There's nothing complex here, only pure contentment and simplicity in this seemingly perfect feline world.

Unfortunately, we live in anything but a perfect world and so regularly I need to redirect my focus to see beyond the things that can bring me down. So, I hold on to my faith through the Lord Jesus Christ and ask to truly see from His perspective through the Son who brings me light each day and gives me His joy as I look to Him.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 - Be happy in your faith and rejoice and be glad-hearted continually; be unceasing in prayer; thank God in everything no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks, for this is the will of God for you who are in Christ Jesus.
Colossians 3:1 - If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
Psalm 118:24 - This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Friday, May 28, 2010

"Chock-full of Doctors!"

Wow, what a day I had on Tuesday! It went from about 11:30 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. with doctors, with a little break time in between. I started out at the cosmetic surgeon's office for my continuing weekly expansion. I was so proud of myself last week being able to allow a fill of 100 cc's and figured, of course, this is what we'd do this week. Even though this is no fun, every time I have an expansion I know I'm that much closer to finishing this unpleasant process and I try to bear up under the pain.

However, this time the pain was getting bad at 60 cc's and unbelievable by the time we reached 85 cc's. I had to ask the doctor to stop when I thought my chest would explode and tears started coming to my eyes. The pain was so intense that each breath hurt and it was difficult to talk, as I seemed to get jabbed again and again. Muscles were spasming and nerves were being set off, shooting pain across my chest, through to my back and half way down my arm like I never felt before. I was back on pain medication that night just to try to get comfortable and to be able to sleep. Thankfully, the medicine helped for a while.

Strangely, the next day I actually felt pretty good, that is, until evening hit and more pain kicked in again. The week so far has left me quite uncomfortable and I can't seem to find relief. I took pain medication for two nights but it didn't help the second night and then I only felt more wiped out from drugs. So for now I'm continuing to shift this way and that in an attempt to try and find a bearable position but to no avail. Boy, I hope next week is a better week! It starts to really wear you out but I know this won't last forever and I'm still better than I was a few weeks ago. (Keep reminding yourself, Terry.)

Nobody tells you what expansion is really like before you start but I suppose no one could actually explain what you might go through. From what I understand there are those who have it worse than I do though and others that have very little problem at all. I hope I'll be able to have my expansion next week but I may need to take a break. I'm afraid to have it done now. I'll just have to see how I feel then. Lord, have mercy and HELP!!!

A couple hours later Jeff and I were off to my first visit with the oncologist to go over all my tests results in detail and to help us choose the best course regarding my ongoing treatment. After about and hour and forty minutes my head was spinning with an overload of information.

Though chemotherapy is an option, in my situation it still stands to give me only perhaps a 2% decrease of cancer recurrence. Going on hormone therapy with Tamoxifen is a given and on that alone, places me at an 11% risk of recurrence. It was also suggested because the cancer I had was a hormone receptor positive cancer, I would also be well advised to receive ovarian suppressing injections over the next five years along with the Tamoxifen. This will shut down my ovaries and the production of hormones and immediately throw me into menopause...YIKES! Obviously I'm praying the Lord would spare me the possible ill effects that can accompany menopause.

No definite decision was made Tuesday, though I felt myself leaning toward Tamoxifen plus ovarian suppression. Given all the data, chemotherapy appears to be an unnecessary evil with all of its possible and probable short and long term side effects, again offering perhaps only a 2% advantage when Tamoxifen, coupled with injections may help me achieve a risk rate a few points under 11%.

From there we went upstairs to see my breast surgeon, Dr. Schultz, to discuss what we went over with the oncologist. When I shared which treatment option I was most inclined to choose, he agreed that this was the very best course of action for all the same reasons that I had concluded given my type of cancer and the "low risk" range in which I fall and the one that he would recommend. I have the utmost confidence in Dr. Schultz and so this was very reassuring. I'll go six months until I have another visit with Dr. Schultz. I'll actually miss seeing him. He's such a superb doctor and just a wonderful man!

So, I believe after talking at tremendous length with my doctors, the place I have peace is the direction I will go although I'm sitting on it and continuing to pray for a few days. I'll make a follow-up appointment to see my oncologist in 2-3 weeks to let her know the direction we've chosen and then set up a schedule to begin this next process.

Even after all my bellyaching I know I'm coming along and making progress one step at a time and have to be patient. I have so much to be grateful for and I'm ecstatic it doesn't look like I'll need to go the chemotherapy route. What a blessing! And I get to keep my hair! Now, if I could only find someone to fix it for me every day so I wouldn't have to! Honestly though, I couldn't be happier that I have my own hair to take care of and the ability to do it, not to mention I won't have to puke and go through all the other fun stuff that can go along with chemo. Thank You, Lord.

Have a very safe and Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"Oncotype DX Test Results"

I experienced a particularly difficult day this week. At Dr. Lickstein's office I found myself teary-eyed and overwhelmed at this whole process both emotionally and physically. Reconstruction has been a very uncomfortable ordeal for me and expansion adds to my discomfort each week. I just start to feel a little bit better for a day or two and then it's time to do it again.

This past weekend, out of the blue came hot, searing, shooting pains across my chest and a good, solid night's sleep still eludes me. I toss and turn attempting to find a comfortable position free from pain and it's just not happening right now and I'm tired. Hey, but at least for the past ten days or so I've been able to get into bed and lay down rather than sleeping in my recliner. This is good!

I guess there are days like this when you've had cancer and go through all that you do. I know the whole "chemo" thing has been weighing heavily on my mind too as I have been awaiting the results. Traveling this journey is not always an easy one and on this day everything looked dark and I was weary. The pouring down rain and winds blowing outside didn't help either and I just wanted to stay in bed.

But Dr. Lickstein and one of his precious nurses, Jessica, were there with a listening ear and reassuring that it's okay to cry and normal but that all is going well, I'm making progress and that it will get better. I have such phenomenal doctors and caregivers!

I have to remind myself, albeit perhaps not at my pace, I am improving each week and try to remain upbeat, positive and grateful for all the blessings throughout it all. And there most definitely have been many blessings!

So, I'm continuing my weekly chest expansion and this week bravely agreed to increase the saline amount from 75 to 100 cc's to speed up this process a bit and just get through it. I still probably have several more saline injections to go so I'm trying to keep focused on the end result and to keep on moving forward. And, the sun did come out the next day and God is still on the throne and His grace sufficient. Thank You, Lord, for seeing me through the difficult days and the good!

Regarding the Oncotype DX test, Dr. Schultz called me last night to let me know that the tumor results were finally in.

I am in the “low risk” category for breast cancer recurrence with my score measured at 17. I am at the high end of low, with the low risk category ranging between 0-18. Oncotype DX testing overall ranges are from 0-100. So, at this point I have an 83% chance of cancer not recurring but there are certainly no guarantees made.

He said that the decision to have chemotherapy or not is more of a philosophical decision rather than a medical one and one which I would need to grapple with on my own to come to a decision since it would only slightly benefit me, if at all when combined with hormone therapy with Tamoxifen.

Dr. Schultz said there are those who want to have chemotherapy if they think it may decrease the likelihood of recurrence at all and who might beat themselves up later if they didn’t do it and wonder if their decision is the reason cancer returned. But there is only a possibility of a 1-2% advantage to having chemotherapy in my situation. So, rather than a 17% chance of recurrence, my recurrence rate may drop to between 15-16%...not significant and at least in my mind and Jeff's, not a valid reason to undergo something as radical as chemotherapy.

With a strong possibility of not having to undergo chemotherapy, this morning I literally felt like I could take a breath for the first time since diagnosis and then I broke down and cried in gratitude for having been brought through thus far in one piece by the hand of God and through those He has used to help hold me upright. Though I know I'm far from done and the decision is not absolute the findings were definitely pretty good news, thank God! You are the source of my strength!

Jeff and I are meeting with Oncologist, Dr. Rima Couzi on Tuesday, May 25th to go over the findings in more detail and are relying on her expertise and continuing to pray for the Lord's wisdom and guidance to help us make the final decision to have chemo or not. If chemotherapy was chosen I would probably begin within a month. I'll let you all know one way or the other.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"Fill er Up With High Test"

I just got back a little while ago from
Dr. Lickstein's office for a 75 cc saline
injection to grow, what we will now call, "my ever-expanding new boob". He said everything looks good and reassured me all is well though I'm still having pain. Thankfully though, I've been off of the narcotics for pain and only on Ibuprofen for the past week...YEAH!!! So far I've had no additional pain since the injection and hopefully that will stick and I'll just keep making progress.

Since I've never been through this before I've really not known exactly what to expect. I suppose I've been overly optimistic and thought I'd be further along. Dr. Lickstein reminded me I'm just two weeks post surgery tomorrow and it takes time to heal after such a major surgery w/tissue expander and all the muscles involved and that each week will bring improvement. Thank you Dr. Lickstein. Patience has never been my strong suit.

He and his staff are really wonderful and give such great care and I feel better already. (And I'm not just saying that because I know you'll read this, Dr. Lickstein. I'm quite sincere and appreciate your compassion and expertise. Hey, by the way, I'm still waiting on a two for one offer...LOL!) I looked up your twin brother, David; you're both so adorable!

So, this was my big outing and adventure of the day (other than a big, iced caramel macchiato on the way home...YUM, I hadn't had one in two weeks and was going through withdrawal!) I'll go back to Dr. Lickstein in a week for another "fill-up" and continue the process until the size is right.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

"Post Surgery Update"

Here I am, eleven days post surgery, doing better than a week ago, though still wiped out and dealing with pain, both physical and emotional.

I find myself quite impatient and irritable with this long process already and its restrictions. I'm unable to lay down flat in our bed yet and I'm really tired and uncomfortable trying to sleep in the recliner and looking forward to my comfy bed...I hope, soon!

I'm waiting on the tumor results as to what type of cancer I had, rate of recurrence, when I'll begin hormone therapy and if I'll need to undergo chemotherapy. Hopefully I'll have those answers in a couple of weeks and will hear good news.

We're so grateful that my lymph nodes turned out to be clear and that I was spared the ordeal of having a bunch of them removed along with the associated pain and after effects.

I had my drain removed only one week after surgery, which is pretty quick and I'm so happy that's out! I'll see Dr. Lickstein, the plastic surgeon, on Tuesday for my second saline fill since surgery day to continue expansion for final breast reconstruction when we're ready to insert the permanent implant down the road. I'm a little apprehensive about my visit considering the amount of swelling and pain I still have and I'm not looking forward to adding to my discomfort with more expansion and it's effects. I'll have to talk to the doctor about all this.

Jeff's back to work tomorrow and I think he's ready though I'm not sure I am. I'm so glad he was able to be with me up until now. He's been a great help and has given me good care as well as taking care of household chores and tending to our "zoo".

Thanks for all the cards, flowers, calls, and most of all, prayers. Please keep them going up. 

That's all for now, folks. Got to keep it relatively short. I can't sit here too long.

Psalm 27:13-14 - I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD!  (My hope and help are in You, Lord.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"Surgery Time Change"

Late this morning I talked to my surgeon's office and got the last minute news that times were changing for tomorrow. Gee, what a surprise! I don't think I had a nice tone to my voice when they told me and I had to apologize for my shortness. Unfortunately, there have been times since my diagnosis I've just been stressed and irritable. Oh, Lord, forgive me and help!

So anyway, Now they're telling me to be at the hospital 8:30ish. The sentinel node injection is around 9:30 and surgery is "supposed" to be between 11:00-11:30. Surgery will take about three hours as long as there's no lymph node involvement.

Okay, regroup, refocus, deep breath, everything's going to be alright, turn on the worship music - quiet, soft and sweet...aah.

(By the way, everything I needed to do got done...yeah!!!)

Monday, April 19, 2010

"Sitting at His Feet"

Here I am winding down to the last two days before surgery and I'm feeling like it's crunch time. I was doing alright until I spent over 1 1/2 hours on the phone with two separate customer service people and never did get one of my issues resolved. I had to get off the phone before I lost it. They were so incompetent and this wasn't the first time. Where's integrity anymore? SCREAM!  This has really eaten up a big chunk of my day and you know, I had my plans. I still have things to do...laundry, clean bathroom, bathe dog, da, da, da, da, da. I just want to get a big, iced caramel macchiato and sit down, turn on my worship music and be still.

So, you know what I did? I stopped, got in my car and headed to Starbucks. Everything else is on hold and I'm about to put on my worship music and bask in the presence of the Lord at His feet. I have to find my focus and peace, and it's only found in Him. I'm feeling better already.

I don't know if the dog will get bathed tonight or not. I'm sure Jeff will help me with some of the other stuff but for now I'm "choosing what is better."

Luke 10:38-42 - As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

(A page from my inspirational scrapbook)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

"He Enlightens My Darkness"

"Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously! 
The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea! 
Exodus 15:21

The waves were rising
but I saw His face
He took my hand
I stood by grace.
On an unstable surface
I seemed to stand
On the water I was buoyed
"Peace be still", was His command.
Tumultuous waters were all around me
but within there was a calm
The sea before me settled
He held me in His palm.
He looked at me so sweetly
Upon the Lord I fixed my gaze
His eyes were filled with love
the night revealed the day.
Made known, His truth and promise
even through the storm
I saw the sea dividing
and there I was transformed.
With Jesus I crossed over
my feet on solid ground
I heard the voice of singing
each enemy was drowned.
A dance of celebration
erupted all around
For the faithfulness of Father
and His mercy that abounds.
Steadfast is my commitment
and devotion unto Christ
Who meets me in my weakness
and conveys to me His might.
He holds me together
though fallen is each foe
Firm in my position
though mighty winds would blow.
His plans for me are perfect
though I may not always know
Or understand His purpose
but where He leads I'll go.
For by day His cloud's before me
His presence leads the way
His fire lights the darkness
and I am not afraid.

The title inspiration came from one of my favorite Psalms reminding me of my sure victory in Christ. Listed below are a few passages from that Psalm and one from the Book of Isaiah.

Psalm 18:1-3 - I will love You, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies.
Psalm 18:16-19 - He sent from above, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the LORD was my support. He also brought me out into a broad place; He delivered me because He delighted in me.
Psalm 18:28-30 - For You will light my lamp; the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness. For by You I can run against a troop, by my God I can leap over a wall. As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.
Isaiah 43:1-3 - “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior."

Rita Springer: "If You Say So" - This song so wonderfully ties in...beautiful! http://youtu.be/fvDMzQyydZM

Saturday, April 17, 2010

"Four Days Until Surgery :0"

I had another appointment with the plastic surgeon this past Thursday to answer any final questions I had before surgery on the 21st and to pick up post-op prescriptions. I also had to read and initial about 30 pages of surgery consent forms and instructions. I'm not kidding, it was ridiculous!

I really like Dr. Lickstein but I guess the proof will be in the pudding when reconstruction is fully complete some months down the road and I see the end result but I expect it to look great! As I've previously mentioned, he certainly comes highly recommended by my breast surgeon and several others I've talked to and I feel confident in my choices for both my plastic and breast surgeons. I know I'm in the good and most capable hands of the Lord and these doctors.

I have to go back to Dr. Lickstein on Tuesday, the night before surgery at 6:15 p.m. for him to place markings on my breast. Can you believe, a 6:15 appointment?! Then I'm up early and off to surgery the next day. So please, no calls on Tuesday night. I have to try and wind down and then get to bed early and get some sleep so I'm ready for the "Big Day".

Hopefully, I'll be home the day after surgery but they'll have to see how I'm doing the next day and decide if I'm ready to be discharged or not. Besides, I can't be away from my precious critters too long. I hate leaving them even overnight. I know, I'm a sap but these are my "babies".

I've made a lot of progress towards the ten zillion things on my "to do" list before my surgery and I'm feeling a bit better about that but I'm tired. I hate it when I have to pack so many things into a short time but it will all get done. (Heavy sigh) I love it when everything is organized and clean. Order is a wonderful thing.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

"Do You Believe in Miracles?"

As I was somewhere between awake and asleep yesterday morning I sensed the Lord dropping Scripture in my heart. It was out of the Old Testament, 2 Kings 5:1-14.

The story tells of Naaman, a commander of the Syrian army who was afflicted with leprosy. Their servant girl tells Naaman's wife, “If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.”

So, Naaman went over to the prophet, Elisha's house expecting to meet up with the prophet himself. Instead he got a servant relaying Elisha's message of, "Go and wash in the Jordan seven times (indicating to me a process to perfection), and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean."

This really set Naaman off and he went stomping off indignantly and quite miffed to say the least. He had his own preconceived ideas of how his healing was to take place and fully expected the prophet to come and personally greet him, lay hands on him and pray, and that would be that, end of story, healed and off on his merry way.

In his mind it made no sense to do things this way. And why dip in that dirty ole Jordan river for pete's sake? Some of the best water could be found in no less than three other rivers, which he gladly pointed out to the messenger. So, in his pride he went away in a rage.

Luckily, Naaman's servants got the guts up to confront him saying, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”

Thankfully, he came to his senses, humbled himself and heeded the command of Elisha. Scripture says, 'So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.'

Since being diagnosed with breast cancer I too had wished that an instantaneous miracle would occur in my life. But honestly I knew through so many other Scriptures the Lord had spoken into my heart weeks ago, even before a breast biopsy or a "cancer" diagnosis that He had begun to prepare me. He had determined the way He would heal me and the road He would lead me on when the time came.

As we seek Him He truly does prepare us, directing us in the way He'd have us go for His purpose and plans. I can't say I have a full understanding of why I have to go through this but I read throughout Scripture of the faithfulness of God. He transforms and raises us up sometimes out of the darkest places, revealing things to our hearts that apart from these experiences we could never know.

The Lord is performing miracles around us and in us more than we may recognize. I was most recently impressed this morning as I thought of the awesome compassion and healing the Lord works through others as He fills them with such great wisdom and skill to help bring us back to restored health and strength. There have certainly been times in my life as well where I have experienced a touch from God and been made well instantly. My husband, Jeff, has too. So much of my life has been a miracle.

God cannot be placed in a box. His ways are so multifaceted and we cannot fathom the depths of Him. I'm reminded of a passage from, Isaiah 55:8-9 - " For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. " For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts."

I shared with Jeff tonight, I believe I (we) am here for a reason and it's God's reason; He has me properly positioned. There are lessons to be learned that I couldn't learn anywhere else. Sometimes there are connections to be made. Surely my life's path has changed but I can take comfort that He is sovereignly and lovingly guiding my every step and watching over my life for good.

Step by step He leads me and I will follow in all of His ways. Praise His name!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

"4:30 a.m.?!"

Sorry, Sue, I just had to borrow this wonderful picture from your blog. This is the image of this mornings event as I was awakened by my old cat, Pooca, just before 4:30 a.m. as she began wretching by my bedside. Thanks to my Honey, Jeff, for getting out of bed and taking care of the awful mess.

Pooca's been suffering from inflammatory bowel disease for several years and if puking is going on it's usually her. I can only imagine the amount of money we've invested in "Resolve" carpet cleaner over the years. Despite the fact she's on regular medication for this affliction, sometimes there just seems to be a run on throw up. In the past 24 hours this is the third time she's lost it. Of course, now she wants to eat. Well, she's going to have to wait on that and then just a tad of food will be offered and we'll pray she keeps that down.

So, I never did get back to sleep but laid there tossing, turning, praying and pondering the recent turn of events in my life with this recent diagnosis of breast cancer. Still, it doesn't seem as if it applies to me and I wonder if the time it really sinks in will be the day of surgery or as I look upon my concave chest for the first time.

I've gone through quite a range of emotions, going from level headedness and faith, to anger and breaking out into tears unexpectedly. I've also experienced such great hope and encouragement from others, most recently from, "Survivors Offering Support" (SOS), a volunteer group of ladies who have walked in my shoes.

A very special lady, Janet, has become my mentor to offer support through perhaps the most challenging time of my life. We share a common bond through breast cancer but even more importantly, a faith and trust in God through the Lord Jesus Christ. This has most certainly been an answer to prayer, to connect with another whose been there and of like spirit, together to look to the One Who will see us both through. Thank you, Janet, for reaching out with the love of the Lord.

Yesterday I received a confirmation on the time of surgery. The date remains the same as I indicated on my last entry and is on April 21st. We'll need to be there at 7:30 a.m.. At 8:00 they'll take me back for the sentinel node injections to see if there's lymph node involvement and surgery is scheduled for 10:00. My surgeon has promised me he's always on time.

Well, that's it for now. It's time to go and get ready for a busy day of errands and chores.

Love and appreciate you all.

Isaiah 43:1-3 - ...Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers,they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Thank You, Lord for Your Word to ponder which brings me life.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

"The Results Are In"

Various doctors met at the Multi-Disciplinary Conference to review my case yesterday. After going over all the findings they made their recommendations and we received some pretty good news. We met with my breast surgeon later to go over everything and to make the decision as to how to proceed.

Happily, the PET and CT scans as well as the MRI came back clean, indicating no cancer anywhere else in my body other than what we already knew existed in the left breast, revealing the size of the tumor to be 3.7 cm. The lymph nodes appear clear, which if still holds true at the time of surgery when the biopsy is done, will put me at a stage IIA breast cancer. If cancer has spread to the lymph nodes (which again, we don't expect), that would put me at a stage IIB breast cancer and definitely require radiation. Let's believe the Lord together for no lymph node involvement.

Two hours before my scheduled surgery several injections will be given in my left breast releasing dye which will then travel to lymph nodes where cancer would most likely travel were it there, to give them a better picture of what to look at upon surgery and to biopsy.

At surgery when my breast is removed, a sample of the tumor will be taken and sent to a California lab to be assessed through a test known as, "Oncotype DX" for recurrence risk and to also determine if chemotherapy will be required and to devise a treatment plan tailored to my individual cancer type. It will take about two weeks for the results to come back.

If chemotherapy is required that usually begins four to six weeks post surgery. Please be praying that the report would come back with the good news of, "no chemo necessary." A large percentage generally need it but I'm hoping I'm not in that group. Several years of hormone therapy with Tamoxifen will begin as soon as we determine what the chemotherapy plan is. Also be praying that insurance will cover the test since it's over $3,400.00...ouch! We're still seeking the Lord for provision for all the co-pays and coverage throughout this whole process, still unsure of the changes that are to take place since the company where Jeff works has just been bought out.

As we already knew from the beginning, a mastectomy of the left breast will be done with surgery scheduled for April 21st. The time of day is yet to be determined. Though I do present a marker that puts me at risk for bilateral disease, the board of doctors concluded it to be an extremely low risk. So the right breast which was shown to be completely clean will be left intact.

As I mentioned in a previous entry, reconstruction of the left breast will begin right after the mastectomy is complete and barring any unforeseen complications, I'll be at the desired breast size in about six to eight weeks. The permanent implant will go in two to three months later unless I have to have chemotherapy which will delay permanent implants anywhere from five to seven months.

I've scheduled my pre-op exam for April 12th and will have a pre-op appointment with my plastic surgeon at a time yet to be determined, probably next week to finalize everything. We will be discussing reconstruction of the left breast and breast lift and augmentation to my right breast to balance everything out so hopefully I'll have a nice matched pair.

After all is said and done, yearly I will have a chest MRI and mammogram on the right, healthy breast, alternating tests on six month intervals.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

"Hospital Hair"

Oh my gosh, I look like a little boy or a pin head! When I went for my hair appointment on Friday, I decided to go really short in preparation of my upcoming surgery and the fact that I won't be able to take care of it for awhile. I guess if I lose all of my hair as anticipated later, I'll wish I had at least this much.

I was so blessed to have a good deal of time to talk to both my hairdresser and another hairdresser in the shop who have both been through breast cancer. They helped tremendously, honestly answering many of my questions and were a great encouragement. They have offered ongoing support and even gave me some "wig" advice for the future if needed.

Another blessing came later that day in the form of a sales clerk at Macy's as I was checking out. She was a precious little old lady, no less than 80 years old who was asking if my purchases were in preparation of going away. When I told her, 'No, but I'm having surgery and need some comfy clothes', she boldly asked me what kind of surgery. When I told her a mastectomy, her eyes widened as she pulled back the sweater she wore over her blouse to reveal her flat chest. She replied, "Thirty two years." She had her breasts removed thirty two years ago, never having breast reconstruction since then it was not covered by insurance. She was like a gray-haired angel sent especially to me that day offering soothing words of life and hope.

She shared with me how for many years after her mastectomy she visited women in hospitals who had just gone through the same to help encourage them. The Lord knows how I especially love and am drawn to the old ones, so to me this was a double blessing as we continued to talk. Now, I can't remember ever giving my name and telephone number to a complete stranger, but when she asked me to give it to her so that she could check in with me later to see how I was getting along, I found myself readily offering it to her. You never know how the Lord might work through another to speak to you. I was so grateful and amazed how the Lord touched me and revealed His love for me in this unlikely place through a sweet sales lady named, Arlene.

So sorry I really couldn't blog over the past few days. I was too busy, exhausted and mad! Last week was a long, busy and difficult week physically and emotionally as I entered an "angry" stage. I was overwhelmed with doctors appointments, PET and CT Scans, and MRI. Then it was running to the mall, Petsmart, Walmart, and drug store, that as much as possible things would be in order so that Jeff and me and the pets would be all set for a month or so. I still need to get the house cleaned. Anybody who knows me knows I'm a planner and like to have things organized.

Then to kind of top things off Jeff's windshield got hit with a big rock as he was driving home from work and has a big crack in it. Thank God he wasn't hurt and it will be replaced on Wednesday. Bummer is, there's a $100.00 deductible...just when we don't have it. Then there's all kinds of diagnostic, doctor and hospital deductibles. All of this is a pricey proposition. We are certainly praying and trusting the Lord's provision for all.

I also had to leave my car at the shop on Friday afternoon when it went bonkers on me after I came out of the mall. When I started my car the front windshield wipers went on by themselves and I couldn't get them to stop. The windshield washer didn't work and the back wipers, radio and turn signals were dead as well. So here I was on a beautiful, dry, sunny day traveling from Whitemarsh Mall to the Jeep dealership, windshield wipers going all the way, sure that everyone was staring at me and laughing at the crazy, ditsy red-head who didn't realize it wasn't raining. It was like a comedy skit!

Originally, I was headed toward the Goodyear shop where we normally take our cars for maintenance when I'm telling you, a voice came into my head that said, "Under warranty, go to Heritage Jeep." And you know what?, it's covered! Thank you Lord, for helping me to go in the right direction. Unfortunately, a rental car isn't covered and I don't know how long they'll have my car. It depends on the problem and if they have to order parts or not. I haven't rented a car yet, since that's about $35.00 a day, though I may have to if I don't get it back right away so I can get to my appointments this week. They're not even going to be able to look at my car until Monday. Please pray it's not too serious and that I get it back pronto.

I wish I understood sometimes why so much is happening all at once. I find myself going throughout my days just crying out to God, "Help me, Lord!" He's the only One who can see us through, no matter what's going on in our lives.

This coming Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. we have a follow-up appointment with my surgeon to go over all the diagnostic findings and recommendations on exactly how to proceed. I'm guessing I may receive a surgery date then but I'm not sure.

Please pray that cancer is found no where else and for all the right decisions to be made. This is a very stressful and scary time for Jeff and I as I'm sure you can imagine and at times quite challenging to remain focused and upbeat. I'm leaning hard into God's everlasting loving arms to know His strength and support.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"Not Bright-Eyed and Bushy-tailed"

I got up early this morning but not bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

I arrived at American Radiology in Timonium about 7:20 a.m. and they promptly began at 7:30. The technician took me back into my own tiny, private getaway, a room equipped with a comfortable recliner, and a little table and lamp and another chair for a guest. There was a television in the corner and remote control close at hand as well as a heater beside me that was set to go off at regular intervals to keep me warm. Of course there was the standard colorful, doctor's office print on the wall to finish off the lovely decor. Really though, it was quite comfy.

The technician handed me my Berry, Berry smoothie (believe me it's not a smoothie - can't fool me), contrasting drink so I could get started sucking that down while she inserted an I.V. in my arm to inject the goobly gop (I think this is the medical term but I'm not sure I spelled it correctly - ha, ha!) into my vein to prepare me for the PET Scan later. As she began to step out, she dimmed the lights and said she'd return in about an hour.

For that hour as the radioactive material is traveling throughout your body, you can't get up and need to be relatively still. So, I propped my feet up, turned on my new iPod, generously donated by my brother and pal, Steve. Thanks Steve, it's great and what a lifesaver! I found myself going away in the spirit as I listened to some of my favorite worship music. That part was actually a very relaxing and peaceful time. I was almost sorry when the technician came back in disturbing my quiet time.

Then they had me get up, drink some more of the smoothie concoction and set me up on the ole scanning machine. They really make you pretty comfortable, with a nice foam wedge under your knees and cover you up warmly with a blanket and you're off for the 21 minute ride as they slowly snap shots head to calf. The worst part of it was having my hands way over my head which only got a bit uncomfortable the last 10 minutes.

Once that was complete they ushered me into the CT scanning room and shot me up with some more radioactive material. This I could feel. It wasn't bad though. It just gives you a very warm feeling throughout your body and it sort of makes you feel like, as they put it, "You're peeing your pants", but you're not, thankfully. The CT was only about five minutes and then I was on my way.

My breast surgeon should have these test results as well as tomorrow's MRI in hand by Friday afternoon. So, lift your glasses of Berry, Berry and have a toast with me and (seriously), pray to our heavenly Father above that this cancer has no traveling feet...now or ever!

I have to say, I've now been to three different American Radilogy locations around town in the past couple of weeks and have found everyone to be wonderful. They've always been kind, attentive and efficient. This has meant a lot to me for, "I've always depended upon the kindness of strangers." 

First one who can tell me what movie that line comes from wins a prize. Not really, but guess anyway. Don't forget to put the southern twang to it when you say the line...very important!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Test, Tests and More Tests"

What did I tell you in my last entry about everything moving along so quickly? Well, maybe now it's a bit too quickly.

I just got another call to set up my PET and CT Scan. They want me to be there at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow. I gotta tell you, this is way too early for me but I thought I'd better take the appointment and get it over with. I'm not allowed to eat or drink (except water) four hours before testing.

Drag of it is, my surgeon wants the tests performed differently than any other doctor generally does it. Normally the two tests are combined but not this time. First they'll do the PET Scan, then they'll have me drink some awful contrasting liquid, have me sit around for another one and half hours and then perform the CT Scan.

All told, they said the two tests will have me there about five and a half hours.

My anxiety level is on the rise, then on Thursday MRI.

Lord, help me!

"All About Reconstruction"

My breast surgeon referred me to cosmetic surgeon, Dr. Larry Lickstein, to discuss breast reconstruction after my mastectomy.

I gave the cosmetic surgeon's office a ring first thing Monday morning to schedule an appointment, thinking of course it would be awhile before I'd actually get in. As it turned out, there had been a surgery cancellation and he had an afternoon appointment just for me. What are the odds? I'll tell you, thus far I've been so blessed regarding how well all of this is progressing and so quickly.

Jeff and I spent quite a long time with Dr. Lickstein discussing options, the process of rebuilding, recovery, possible complications, aftercare, etc. He was wonderful and thankfully, once again, a doctor who was patient and willing to address all of our questions and concerns to help bring understanding so we can make the best decision.

After my mastectomy,while still in surgery, immediate breast reconstruction will begin. He'll insert expanders under the breast muscle, insert a port and inject a small amount of saline to begin expansion of the skin. Then every week to ten days for about eight weeks I'll visit him in his office to continue with the saline injections until the desired breast size is achieved.

Then there's about a two to three month wait to let everything "settle", as he put it and then I'll go back into the hospital as an outpatient to have the expanders and port removed and have the permanent silicone implants put in place.

About two months after that he'll do nipple reconstruction and a couple after that tattooing of a new areola will be done. It's quite the process and hopefully it will turn out looking good, although it's never like your own.

Monday, March 29, 2010

"Time to Travel a New Path"

As I stood in the courtyard on October 30, 2009 and took this picture I heard in my heart, "You are about to travel along a new path". I had no idea where it may lead.

It was my last day as Program Director in a beautiful assisted living community in Baltimore County. I had submitted my 30-day resignation letter a month earlier due to the rigorous and oftentimes overwhelming demands that only continued to increase, leaving me no room to breathe or to have any kind of a personal life; I was completely exhausted. All that said, it was still one of the hardest decisions of my life to make, yet I knew it was time for me to leave. My heart was so tied to the residents and tears seemed to flow without end as I said my good-byes to the friends I had made and grown to love so much, who had become my family.

I had visited the community periodically with my Pets on Wheels therapy dog, Gideon, for a couple of years prior to employment here and had gotten to know some of the residents. But I never could have imagined the sweetness and depth of relationship that would grow with these precious souls once I was hired on and interacting with them on a daily basis. Gideon began to accompany me everyday to work and quickly became the community mascot. Oh, the joy and smiles he brought to faces each day was such a blessing to watch.

Well, here I am, now looking down this new path which initially has led me to the road of battling breast cancer. I felt like I was getting myself together a bit after recovering from the grueling workload of my previous job and was just about ready to venture out into new territory to see what might await me...then I got the "news" and was stopped dead in my tracks. Honestly, it felt as if I'd been punched in the stomach and I couldn't catch my breath.

It's only been six days since I've been diagnosed and I'm trying to teach myself to breathe and to maintain my focus, keeping my eyes fixed on my sweet Savior and not on the storm that rages all around me. For He truly is the One who speaks peace to the wind and the waves and settles our souls even in the midst of such life altering events.

I get the sense that all along this path will be things for me to lay down and those things to pick up, but also most certainly, a place to continue to learn and grow in God's great grace. Life certainly is a journey. Although I'm sure I wouldn't have chosen this direction, I trust in the sovereignty and goodness of God to lead me and continually guide me into His chosen destiny for my life, all the while undergirding me with His strength and holding me upright.

I don't know all that awaits, though for now suffering surely has been dealt to me. I pray I may recognize and take every opportunity the Lord might place before me and learn from every lesson presented. I ask Him for the wisdom, courage and faith to continue to move forward in His direction, close to Him, remaining in His will, allowing His transforming power to draw me ever deeper into the knowledge and ways of the Lord.

Scripture reminds me I've been bought with a price through the blood of Jesus Christ and I am no longer my own but my life is hidden with Him in God. So with His help I rest in the arms of my everlasting Father, focused on the prize of the upward call that is found through the Lord Jesus Christ, running to Him that I may obtain His mercy and grace to help in my time of need.

Isaiah 43:18-19 - Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

"March 27, 2011 Update"

I can't believe it's been a week since my breast biopsy on March 22nd. It's been quite a whirlwind so far. The pathology report came back two days later conclusively for invasive ductal carcinoma. The other thing that's going on is lobular carcinoma in Situ, which is contained and in fact not cancer at this point but is a marker for potential bilateral disease and puts me at a higher risk for recurrence. It may mean it will show up in the right breast as well at some point or it may already be there and light up upon MRI. We'll see, but either way we may need to make some additional decisions.

Smaller sites were detected in other areas of the breast as well that look questionable. So, all this together confirmed what the radiologist performing the biopsy already suspected, that the results would come back indicating a stage II cancer. She was right on and I appreciated her candor and preparation ahead of time of what I'd be facing.

I saw a breast surgeon Friday, March 26th at St. Joseph's Hospital. His name is Dr. Michael Schultz who helped build the St. Joseph's Cancer Institute and heads up the cancer/breast cancer center. We LOVED him and saw no need to consult another breast surgeon. Jeff and I have total trust in him and have never felt so wonderful about any doctor!

The 25th was the first time I'd called his office and his Administrative Assistant unexpectedly called early the very next morning saying the surgeon wanted to get me in as soon as possible. Goodness, I was just diagnosed Wednesday and Friday afternoon he's seeing me...Wow! He really wasn't supposed to be there that day but he stayed late to see me after doing surgery. Dr. Schultz's policy is to especially see just diagnosed breast cancer patients ASAP, understanding all of the fear and emotions that are involved throughout this journey. I was so impressed.

He's expert in his field, focusing completely on the breast and comes with a ton of experience... 30+ years. He comes very highly regarded. He's thoughtful, compassionate, funny and as sharp as they come. He patiently took the time we needed, thoroughly covering all we needed to know for now, addressing all of our questions and concerns. We just really hit it off...whew, what a relief! I felt so comfortable with him and KNEW he was the one. He makes himself available to you pretty much 24/7, enabling his patients to contact him personally either by phone or email anytime.

In fact, the entire staff was phenomenal and treated us like family. Each one I talked to couldn't say enough about their boss, emphasizing how wonderful he is and how they wouldn't work anywhere else. They all seem so genuinely happy to work here with Dr. Schultz in the St. Joseph's setting. I was more than assured I'd be in good hands. 

He gave me an examination and did another breast ultrasound indicating the tumor to be quite a bit larger than originally anticipated on the other two ultrasounds taken from American Radiology but may still keep me at a stage II cancer. They won't know for certain until surgery. Let's pray. He also biopsied one of the lymph nodes under my arm that he said looked a bit "plump". He'll let me know if anything unusual comes back on that, although biopsying of the lymph nodes will be done at the time of surgery to conclusively determine if cancer has spread there and needs to come out. Prior to that though, my upcoming MRI will give us a pretty darn good idea.

His staff is going to schedule a PET Scan/CT for me and get back to me with that date to see if cancer is detected anywhere else in my body. My MRI is scheduled for 

April 1.

As expected, a mastectomy of my left breast has to be done. We'll of course have to wait until after the MRI to see if anything is going on in the right breast as well. If so, another type of biopsy may be done and then we'll see what that shows.

As soon as all the results are in, a Multi-Disciplinary Conference is called to give a power point presentation of my case to include, Dr. Schultz, oncologists, plastic surgeons, radiologists, pathologists, anesthesiologists, a board of breast cancer survivors, Jeff, me, and honestly I don't remember who else (there are a total of 12 people involved), to meet together to go over all the finding, each giving recommendations to help guide us to our decision.

It's pretty much certain I'll have to go through chemotherapy after surgery. Radiation therapy isn't always necessary after mastectomy but can't be definitively determined until surgery when lymph nodes will be biopsied and tumor size is sure. Since I have tested positive as having a "hormone receptive" breast cancer, for several years following surgery I'll also be placed on some type of hormone therapy medication such as Tamoxifen. Tamoxifen works by blocking estrogen from attaching to estrogen receptors on these cells. By blocking the estrogen receptors, it is believed that the growth of the breast cancer cells will be halted, hence a lesser chance of recurrence.

Someone from the St. Joseph's group, "Survivors Offering Support", will contact me in a day or so to help connect me with an individual, a breast cancer survivor, who will also help me through the process. I'm sure that will be invaluable to me and a tremendous blessing.

I've also been given Susan, who is my "nurse navigator" who helps me through this entire process and whom I was told would be my best friend. I'm sure I'll get a better handle on the role she'll play throughout all this as things unfold, but she seems great!

Seems to me like I'm going to be surrounded by a bunch of fantastic, caring compassionate and expert people to help me through. Thank you, Lord! We prayed He would guide us to the right place and people and He has been faithful to do just that. He's so good and I praise Him for who He is and all He does. My eyes are on Him and His joy truly is my strength.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"His Love Remains the Same"

My appointment has been scheduled for my breast biopsy on Monday, March 22nd. I have to be there at 1:30 and the procedure is supposed to start at 2:00.

A very pleasant and kind woman, Donna, called me this morning, listened to my questions and concerns and then took them back to the Dr. for some answers before scheduling my appointment.

Good news is, the type of ultrasound guided needle biopsy that they are performing allows me to lay on my back and not my stomach, with my boob in a vice as I had anticipated and originally been told. This relieves some of my anxiety, that is, until after it's done and the waiting for the results begins. Bad news is, she said it takes about an hour and it's not so much the calcifications they are looking at as it is the mass they discovered encompassing these calcifications.

The Dr. who initially read my mammogram and ultrasound last Friday never said anything about a mass but I was informed by Donna today, and that's why I was referred for a biopsy. Oftentimes she said it's nothing and other times it's cancer, hence, the biopsy to confirm one way or the other.

I was feeling so much better after our first conversation this morning but once I heard the word, "mass", this afternoon, fear rose up in me once again. Good news is, it's a woman Dr. who will be performing the biopsy and that makes me feel better.

As always, I so desperately need the help and strength and amazing grace of the Lord to see me through. Oh, how life can just turn on a dime! Seems like there's been a lot of change thrown at me lately and they're turning up tails! Nothing is certain but the never changing love and tender care of our heavenly Father toward His children. Now, that's Good News! So, I look to and put my trust in Him as we travel this journey together, wherever it may lead. Hold me together, Lord!!!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Debbi Lang Hampton, My Dear Sister and Friend

Deborah Lang Hampton
March 3, 1952-March 6, 2010

I left the radiologist's office in a fog after my mammogram and breast ultrasound, feeling like I'd just been punched in the gut. It was Friday, March 12, 2010.

My sister-in-law, Debbi, had just been buried on Monday after losing her 15 1/2 year battle with metastatic breast cancer on Saturday, March 6, 2010. My heart was filled with overwhelming grief but also awe for the manner in which Debbi faced her struggles and endured more than most ever could with such amazing grace, despite the length of her illness and all she suffered and lost.

Debbi's focus however, was not so much on her losses due to the ravages of this horrific disease and what it seemed to steal but on all she believed she learned and gained. Her pursuit was in being a blessing, how she might encourage and help others through life's challenges and in living a life that counts. Beyond a doubt, Debbi has left quite a legacy, touching the hearts of all she came in contact with, causing us to face the testing and trials of life, and even death with hope, joy, strength and dignity, helping us see from a different perspective.

Always the optimist, with a quick wit and a will as tough as nails, Debbi embraced life and never sat back just waiting for it to happen; she made it happen and lived everyday. She accepted what was dealt her, sought and found meaning, asking how it was she might be used to fulfill her destiny and to walk beside others to help them shape and fulfill their own.

She reminded me in some ways of her mother, my precious and dearly loved mother-in-law, who never complained, and in fact, even in her worst moments, when asked how she was doing, would usually put a positive spin on things, not wanting to burden others. It wasn't until the last few days of Debbi's life that we even knew she was so near the end.

I met Debbi when her brother, Jeff and I began dating in 1972 and from almost that point on had a special connection and counted her my sister. I treasured the times we had together especially as I got a little older. Though Debbi moved to Tennessee in 1978, we always seemed to pick up where we left off when she visited Baltimore or when we went down there. Our relationship was comfortable and rich as sisters and friends.

We oftentimes shared late into the evening and early morning hours the depths of our hearts, our love for the Lord and absolute trust and dependence upon Him in all things. These were some of my favorite times spent with Debbi and some of the most important and meaningful times in my life that I will never forget and for which I will always be grateful.

I can hear Debbi's pure and beautiful voice still, singing my request of, "Amazing Grace" or "Song of Bernadette", which she dubbed, "our song". She said it always made her think of me; very special, indeed, bringing tears to my eyes today, even as it has each time I've heard it over the years and remembered my friend. Please click the link to listen. http://youtu.be/bR6lx7Q0pYo

Debbi has left behind the love of her life, husband, Steve, who so lovingly cared for her, often putting his own health at risk for the sake of his beloved. What a friendship and love they shared and such a beautiful picture of marriage they painted; unconditional and never-ending love. May God bless him for all the joy and laughter he brought into her life, his selflessness and all he gave to help see Debbi through. He helped preserve as much normalcy to life as was possible, as they relished all the good times and weathered together every storm with hope, all the while remaining steadfast in their commitment to one another and to family.

To Debbi's daughter, Hollin and all of Debbi's extended family and friends who helped and supported her in ways I may never know, I pray blessing, strength and a special nearness to the living God. May you be held close in His comforting and loving arms, lifted up and filled with all hope and joy in Him as you trust and continue to walk in His most perfect will, remembering sweet Debbi and the gift of God that was given us, if only for a brief moment in time.

In these days of grief, Jeff and I are comforted as we remember Debbi and the life and love we were so privileged to share and in the knowledge that she was surrounded and uplifted by so many who loved her as she departed this life. Though oftentimes separated by so many miles, distance could never separate our hearts nor fade the memories we made, which we hold so near and dear.

I now await the doctor's call to schedule my appointment for a breast biopsy and its outcome, recalling Debbi's courage and faith, all the while leaning confidently in the arms of my heavenly Father, finding solace in Him whose intention for each one of us is only good no matter the picture of our circumstances. My hope is in Him through the Lord Jesus Christ, who loves me and gave Himself for me.

The storms of life, especially of late for Jeff and I have seemed to come in like a flood but our eyes are focused heavenward to our Source and Strength, our life and breath and to the One who is our glory and the lifter of our heads.

Psalm 3 -
Lord, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. Many are they who say of me, "There is no help for him in God." But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory and the One who lifts up my head. I cried to the Lord with my voice, and He heard me from His holy hill. I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God! For You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone; You have broken the teeth of the ungodly. Salvation belongs to the Lord. Your blessing is upon Your people.

Thank you, Debbi, for your friendship, love and for sharing your life with us humbly and honestly and freely giving so much. Not all is learned to the fullest extent during the lifetime of those we have known and loved but echoes within even after their passing. I take pleasure in the knowledge that Debbi's life will continue to speak and teach us some of life's most valuable lessons as we join in the melodies she sang, so sweet to the soul. You will live in my heart forever, my dear sister and friend.To visit Debbi's Blog : http://www.slappedawake.com/