The Garden that Love Built

It’s Breast Cancer Month – and every year at this time I remember my own story of the battle with breast cancer. It was in October of 2002 that I discovered a lump in my breast that led to a battle that thankfully, with God’s help, I won. People may get tired of hearing my story, but I will never get tired of being grateful to be alive – now celebrating 18 years cancer free. And a reminder to all my female readers: do a monthly breast exam.

Grandma's Ramblings

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In November 2001 my husband and I moved into our new home.  It had no trees or flowers anywhere on the property. In the backyard, a deck opened onto an above ground swimming pool.  The backyard was ugly and hot with lots of concrete and rock around the pool.  Two metal sheds sat on large slabs of concrete.  My husband, who loves flowers and trees wanted to get rid of the pool.  But I wanted to try to learn to swim so I convinced him to keep the pool for our first summer in the house.

The next summer I was only in the pool three or four times because every evening when I came home from work all I wanted to do was just lie down.  I was constantly exhausted.

In November 2002 we discovered why I was feeling so badly.  After a visit to the doctor and then…

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66 Years of Grace

Listening to music this morning, this song brought tears – tears of joy – to my eyes.  It has been 66 years since I started this race with Jesus Christ.  There have been mountain tops of great joy, great excitement (to mention only a few – marriage, birth of children and grandchildren) and valleys of sorrow and pain (to mention only a few – death of first husband, oldest son and grandchildren, cancer).  But one thing has remained true through it all – He has proved to be that “friend that sticks closer than a brother.”

Thank God for His grace.  This song says it all!

I was just six years old.  Too young many would say to know what I was really doing.  But I knew.

Growing up in a family that attended church every Sunday and where my parents practiced what they preached on Monday through Saturday also, I understood that Jesus loved everyone – even “sinners.”

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I wasn’t totally sure what all being a sinner included, but I knew I was not one.

Until one evening at church, I recognized I was.

I was coloring during the sermon on a Sunday night when I heard the speaker say

We put sins into a “big” and a “small” category.  But sin is sin regardless of how big or how small it seems.

 

He then mentioned what we call “small” sin – like lying or disobeying our parents.  Now he had my attention.  Just that week I had disobeyed my mother – and then lied to keep from getting in trouble.

I was a sinner!

Now many may laugh at this or even say how terrible to make a six-year-old feel she was a sinner.

But for me, it was one of the most important times in my life.  Because I knew that Jesus loved sinners – and that He loved me.  I also knew what I needed to do.

So – I went back to coloring and waited until the end of the sermon.  When the message was over, I put my colors and my coloring book aside and walked to the front of the church where I asked Jesus not only to forgive me, but I also committed my life to His service.

Yes, I was only six, but yes I knew what I was doing.

Shortly after that I was baptized as an outward sign of what had taken place in my life.  Our church did not have a baptismal so we went to a farm pond where I, with several others, was baptized.

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Since I am scared of water and do not even like having water in my face in the shower, it was a BIG step of faith to walk out into that pond.

But what a wonderful experience it was.

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Just turning 72 this year, I have been following Jesus for 66 years.

It has been a great walk with a great friend!!!

 

The Battle is Not Mine!

Life is good for me.  Retired with time to do what I want to do.  Good husband who is my best friend.  Children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren to love.

Still, like all of us, difficult times do come.

Right now I am facing health issues.  I see the doctor tomorrow to review MRI results and I do not know for sure but it appears surgery may be in my future.

The first thing that often happens when faced with difficult circumstances is to start worrying.  Stressing out – trying to figure what is the best thing to do.

Thankfully, God’s Word has always been a source of strength to me and today is no different.

Reading in 2 Chronicles 20 I was reminded of the story of King Jehoshaphat.

Messengers came to him with the news that a vast army of multiple nations was marching against Jerusalem, the capital city.  The scripture says that Jehoshaphat was “terrified” by the news.

But I love what he did.

First, he turned to God and asked for guidance.

Second, he called for the people to begin fasting and seeking God.

Last, he led the people assembled at the Temple in Jerusalem in this amazing prayer of faith.

“O LORD God of our ancestors, you alone are the God who is in heaven….You are powerful and mighty….We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us.  We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.”

He then turned to the people and gave them this message.

“Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”

What is really mind-blowing is his next action.

He appointed singers to march before the army that went out to battle.  They were to sing praises to God as they led the soldiers.

Can you imagine anything so silly?  Can you imagine our president appointing a choir to march into battle before our airplanes, drones and soldiers?

Yet as I have often discovered in my own life, praising God in the middle of problems has often given me victory over my fear, over my despair.

I share that story in this post:  The Day I Let My Pain Go!

So as I head into tomorrow and my doctor’s appointment I go realizing I do not know what to do.  All I have to do is look back at my battle with cancer and remember that God is with me no matter what.  Ultimately, the battle is His.  As He was with me then, He is with me now.

My story of His presence in the middle of radiation is shared here:  Coincidence or An Act of God?

My prayer today is:

God, I don’t know if this only means physical therapy or if I am facing surgery with weeks/months of recovery.  I don’t know if the pain will soon be gone, get better, get worse or last for weeks/months.  But this I do know, as You have always been with me, You are with me in this.  The battle is yours.  I give it to You.  All I ask is that You help me to keep my eyes on You.

 

 

 

 

 

My Cancer Buddy

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer 17 years ago my oldest daughter bought me a small porcelain doll – a little clown.  All through my treatment the little doll sat on my desk at work smiling at me and encouraging me that I was going to make it through this tough time.

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As I lost my hair during the treatment and it began to come back in grey I really liked that underneath that hat my buddy had grey hair too.

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Although my hair did come back – it never came back thick as it had been before the treatment.  In fact, it is so thin that I have continued to wear a wig because I am almost bald.

At first the idea of having little hair was depressing, but I decided to not dwell on the negative, but find the positive.

Wearing a wig meant no bad hair day.  Think of the hours I save not sitting in a beauty shop.  Financially I was also ahead of the game.  Granted wigs are not cheap – but they are still a better deal than all the money spent on hair cuts.

As I adjusted to the “almost bald” head, one day I accidentally bumped the doll and it fell on its side.  As it did so, the hat came off and I found that my cancer buddy had also gone bald.

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Just like me she had a small amount of hair toward the back of her head but basically she was bald.  Laughing, I discovered the hair had come off in her hat.

Now that I am retired, the doll sits on the desk in my home office.  I keep her hat on so she won’t be embarrassed by her bald head.  But every and now then I take it off and have a good laugh.

 

 

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

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You will see lots of pink ribbons this month as October has been designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

In 1979 wife of one of the prisoners held by Iran in the hostage crisis decided to use a yellow ribbon to show support for her husband.  Soon there were hundreds of yellow ribbons displayed around the country to show support for our brave men being held captive.  The history of a yellow ribbon goes back hundred of years.  It is believed that the Puritans brought the story in a song of a women who wears a yellow ribbon to remember her love who has gone away to war.

‘Round her neck she wears a yeller ribbon She wears it in the winter and the summer so they say If you ask her, “Why the decoration?” She’ll say, “It’s fur my lover who is fur, fur away”

Since then many groups have used a colored ribbon to bring awareness to their own cause.

  • Red ribbon – AIDS awareness and for heart disease
  • Orange ribbon – leukemia awareness
  • Green ribbon – mental illness awareness
  • Purple ribbon – Alzheimer’s awareness

And the list goes on and on.

Breast cancer is something all women should be aware of.  Men can also get this disease but they count for only a small percentage of all cancer cases.

As a cancer survivor I encourage all women to do all they can to prevent this disease.  Some important things to consider:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Stay physically active
  • Eat fruits and vegetables
  • Do not smoke
  • Limit alcohol consumption

I also strongly recommend a monthly self-exam.  John Hopkins Medical Center states:

“Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important.”

This is how I discovered my cancer.

If you discover a lump or are told you have breast cancer, please do not panic.  If discovered in the early stages, survival rates are usually 100%.  Even in later stages, treatment keeps advancing and survival rates keep going up.

For me my diagnosis was not good.  I was told without any further treatment after surgery, I had only a 15% chance of being alive in ten years.  With a vigorous treatment of chemotherapy and radiation, my survival rate went up to 25%.  But here I am 17 years later cancer free.

As my husband said when we received the terrible diagnosis:

“It is not over until God says it is over.”

Another cancer survivor whose diagnosis was worse than mine but who survived for years told me:

Don’t worry about the statistics.  That is all they are – numbers.  Make your own statistic.

But do your self-exam monthly!!!!

 

 

Thank God for Mondays!

We often complain about Mondays.  Back to work, back to school.

Since I am now retired Mondays are different I must admit.  I can sit with a second cup of coffee and just relax while many have to hurry off to a job that may be stressful, to a school they do not like.

Still, this morning when someone asked me on social media how I felt about Mondays, I could not help but reply as a cancer survivor Mondays mean that God has given me another week of life.

I pray today for those struggling with difficult job or school situations.  But I hope in the midst of those difficulties, they can see something to encourage them.

As for me, given another week of life I say:

 

I Can Only Imagine!

In the fall of 2002 I was diagnosed with an advanced and very aggressive cancer.  Hearing my doctors words, “The odds are not in your favor,” I realized I was heading into the battle of my life.

Would I live or would I die?

Facing your own mortality changes the way you look at the world.  Some things that seemed so important no longer matter.

  • What difference does it make if I do not get that promotion I wanted.
  • Who cares if the windows need washed?

Other things take on a new importance.

  • Reading a book to my granddaughter.
  • Taking a walk with my husband.

During that long year as I lost my hair and my strength became less and less, I thought about the very real possibility that I would never see another birthday.

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We took a picture of me with my Dad and we laughed at how much I looked like him with my bald head.

Throughout it all I had a deep assurance that whatever the end result, it would be fine.  When I first heard those terrible words from my doctor, I immediately thought of the scripture that says:

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me.

Feeling at that moment God had given me that scripture for this battle, I did not know if it meant I would walk through the valley and come out on the other side alive and well.  Or, did it mean I would walk through the valley into death?

For me, it did not matter which it meant.  What comforted me was the assurance no matter what the outcome, God would be with me.

As the treatment continued and my strength got less and less, I began to think perhaps it meant I was walking through the valley into death.  Thoughts of exactly what that would mean kept running through my head.

Then, I heard a song that had been released just the year before.  It had become the most played Christian single in 2002 and you could not listen to any Christian radio station without hearing it.  In fact, it became a main stream hit in 2003 hitting the top 40, adult top 40 and country radio lists.

In the song the writer talks about trying to imagine what he would do when he stands before God in heaven.  He questions:

  • Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still?
  • Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall?
  • Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all?

Listening to that song over and over, I tried to imagine what I would do when I stood before Jesus?  Slowly in my mind a picture began to take place.  I saw myself standing with my hands raised in the air and dancing round and round the throne of God.

Wanting to live for my family, yet there were moments I wanted to see that vision fulfilled and to dance for Jesus.

I did not share this thought with my family.  For them, I continued to maintain a strong belief that I would live.

When all my treatment was finally over, my youngest daughter took me to lunch to celebrate.  She arrived with a gift for me.  It was a Willow Tree angel.

When I saw it, I almost cried with joy.  The angel she gave me was the exact vision I had of me with hands raised dancing around the throne of God.

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So grateful that I survived that battle and God has given me many years beyond what the doctor said I would have.  Still, as I age I know before many more years pass, I will be facing my eternal destiny.  I have no idea what I will do on that day when I see Jesus, but I hope I can dance for Him.

A movie has been made about the life of the young man who wrote this song.  If you have not seen the movie, I highly recommend it.  It is an inspiring story of what God can do to change a monster into a good father.  The move has the same title as the song, “I Can Only Imagine.”

What do you imagine you will do when you stand before the throne of God?

 

 

From a Fiery Redhead to a Silver Fox

Growing up I loved being a red-head.  Not really confident in my looks, I felt my red hair made me special.  There are not that many red-heads around.  One of my sisters was a brunette and the other a dark blonde.  When we met people I would be the one they would notice first because of my red hair.

My grandmother had been a red-head and as she aged, she began to lose her eyesight.  When we would go to visit she would have me stand in the door where the sunlight would shine through and she could see my red hair.  Again, that made me feel special.

On Saturday nights my mother would roll my hair into banana curls (just like Shirley Temple) and come Sunday morning I would feel so special.

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For many years I kept that red hair.

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Then cancer came and chemo and I lost all that thick red hair.

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The doctor told me not to worry, after treatment my hair would come back even thicker.  But it did not.  It slowly came back but it was very, very thin and it was grey.  They did tests trying to figure out what was wrong because my hair should have come back much thicker that it did.

Only a few years ago we found one of the drugs used caused permanent hair loss.  But not to worry.  There are always red wigs.

I began wearing a wig during my cancer treatment so afterwards I just continued to wear a wig.

Long after my natural hair was grey I remained a red-head.  I told my husband that I would remain “red until dead.”

The last few years as all my friends turned grey I have debated with myself if I should start wearing a grey wig.  I hated losing that special feeling of being a red-head.

But this April I will turn 71 so I decided to make the change.

I used to tease my husband and said I was a fiery red-head.  Putting on my new grey wig, he pronounced that I am now a silver fox.

It’s taking a little time to get used to the new look – but I think being a silver fox will be just as much fun as a fiery red-head.

 

 

 

Is It Spring Yet?

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After a record-setting week of cold temps – it is great to be above freezing once again – even into the 40’s.

Last Sunday I came home from church and did not go out again until this past Saturday.  My husband took me to Applebee’s for lunch.

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I have been to Applebees many times to eat.  It is always good food and I enjoy it.  But somehow the food seemed to taste better than normal.  My drink was more refreshing.  As I sat and enjoyed just talking with my husband and savoring being out and about again, I realized it was somehow better because of the days spent cooped inside.

Life I think can be like that.  We go along just taking things for granted until we hit a rough spot.  While going through a difficult time is not easy or something we would willingly choose, maybe those difficult times help us appreciate the good times we have.

I know after my battle with cancer I cherish just being alive – seeing the sunset, the leaves turn colors in the fall, hearing the laughter of my grandchildren, or my husband say “I love you.”

After spending time as a missionary I appreciate running, clean hot water, refrigeration for my food and electricity 24/7.

After a couple of days of warm weather it appears we will return to winter temps.  But I have hope.  Spring is only 26 days away.

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And God’s Word has promised us:

“As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter,
day and night will never cease.”

If you are in a tough time right now, I want to encourge you to hang in there – spring will come.

If life is going great for you right now, don’t take it for granted.  Take time to just stop, look around and be thankful.

 

 

 

 

 

He is With Me

Tomorrow I will have an angiogram.  After several weeks of chest pain, shortness of breath and extreme fatigue, my doctor did a stress test last week.  The test indicates there may be some blockage in the lower part of my heart.

Maybe – maybe not.

So tomorrow I go in and if there is blockage they will insert a stent and keep me overnight in the hospital.  If there is not, I will be back home in time for lunch.

Part of me hopes there is no blockage.  Part of me hopes there is a small blockage that they can repair because I really do want to feel better.

Last week after being injected with radioactive material, I laid down in a recliner and a machine came down close to my heart and took pictures.  As I laid there watching the machine hover over and move around my chest in the area of my heart, memories flooded back of the day I first had radiation for breast cancer.

Nervous about what they might find in the pictures of my heart and what that might lead to, I suddenly remembered that first day of radiation.  And how God showed me He was there.

I felt again His sweet presence and the thought came to me

He was with me then….He will be with me now.

So – here is my story of that day almost 18 years ago when God showed up in a radiation treatment room.  And I go in tomorrow in peace knowing that

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.


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 Some would call it a coincidence. But the odds for it happening as it did are pretty great.

I call it an act of God.

I have recently written a couple of articles about my battle with breast cancer 12 years ago which I hope you will take time to read.

I’m Still Beautiful!!!

Life — What a Wonderful Gift!

During that battle, I experienced a wonderful moment when God’s presence and love were very real.

Stage 3C – Aggressive and advanced

Because my cancer was very aggressive and very advanced, they had to radiate four different areas; my chest, my underarm, the back of my shoulder and the area in front around my collar-bone and lower neck. We had to stop the treatment at one point because I was badly burned. The doctor had told me that this might happen since I am a redhead and have very fair skin.

Although chemotherapy was harder on me physically than radiation, I found the radiation treatments more difficult emotionally and mentally. Chemotherapy was given to me in a pleasant room with windows looking out at a small lake with ducks and flowers. I was able to sit in a comfortable recliner with my husband by my side. There were others in the room also taking treatment and if it were not for the IV’s attached to us, it could have been a row of people on vacation taking in the view on a cruise ship.

Radiation!

Radiation treatment, however, was lonely. My husband could not go into the room with me. After the technicians placed me in the proper position for the treatment, they quickly left the room and went into another room where they could view me though a window safe from the radiation. What was really frightening was the sign on the outside of the room. It said:

“Danger! High Radiation!”

The act of God came in the first treatment. After placing me in the exact position I had to be in so that the radiation would reach only those places where cancer cells might still be hidden and yet not reach my heart or my lungs, the technicians walked out of the room. I heard the heavy door slam shut. Tears began to run down my face and my heart began beating very fast as I realized that I was alone in the room with a machine about to emit dangerous x-rays into my body.

Never in all my life had I felt so all alone. As I have always done in times of trouble, I cried out to the Lord and said, “Help me! I’m all alone and I’m scared.” Immediately as that cry went out, a song began playing over the speakers. It was a song from my childhood:

“Yes, Jesus Loves Me.”

How comforting it was to me to remember that I was not alone, but my friend who had promised to walk with me through the valley of the shadow of death was there with me.

After the treatment I thanked the technicians for being so thoughtful to play that song at that particular moment. They told me they had nothing to do with the music that was played during the treatments. It was all programmed months before and they just turned on the music without any control over what was being played.

Coincidence?

I know many will say it was just a coincidence – that particular song playing at the very moment I cried out for help.

Act of God!

But I say it was an act of God. Between my treatments and the days it took to set up my treatment plan and adjust it, I was in that room for over 40 times. During those times they always played elevator music. Except for that one moment, there was never any music that could be counted as Christian music.

I’m so thankful I have survived and I’m so thankful that I know it is true that

Jesus loves me.