Waves of Mercy

According to Mercy Ships, five billion people lack access to safe surgery. Children, teens, and adults suffer and die every day from treatable causes, and one child in eight will die before age 5.

In 1978 Don and Deyon Stephens founded Mercy Ships in Switzerland. Don says that “A devastating hurricane, meeting Mother Teresa and the birth of his special needs son drove an idea that would bring hope and healing to the world’s poorest people.”

First idea for a ship that would travel to countries without medical faculties and help came to Don at 19. His youth group saw a hurricane that came through the Bahamas when they were there. He heard someone praying for a ship that could come in and provide the care needed after such a tragedy. Later when he and his wife had a son born with special needs, he was reminded of that prayer and how many with such problems had no way to go for help. Finally, visitng with Mother Teresa she encouraged him to follow the dream God had first planted when he was a teenager.

The first Mercy Ship was a Italian cruise liner built in 1953 and called the Victoria. Converted into a mobile hospital it was renamed Anastasis. The Stephens lived on the first ship with their family for the first ten years of operation. The ship was retired in 2007 and replaced by Africa Mercy.

According to Mercy Ships “It is estimated 16.9 million people die globally each year from conditions requiring surgical care. 32% of all global deaths are a result of the lack of access to safe, affordable, and timely surgery.”

Mercy Ships until this year had one ship to reach out to the poorer nations with medical care. However, they have added a second ship, Global Mercy. Building the ship began in 2017 and was just completed last year. The ship passed all the testing to prove it sea worthy and will officially began serving the needy in March of this year. This ship has six operating rooms, 200 beds, a laboratory, general outpatient clinics and eye and dental clinics.

These ships not only provide needed medial care, but they also work to train local nurses and doctors to continue the care when they are gone. Since over 50% of the world’s population live nears a coast, the ships are the perfect way to bring this much needed health care.

The doctors and nurses who serve on Mercy Ships do so without any compensation.

Since its founding in 1978 Mercy Ships “has worked in more than 70 countries providing services valued at more than $1 billion, treating more than 2.5 million direct beneficiaries. Each year Mercy Ships has more than 1,600 volunteers from more than 40 nations. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, healthcare trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills to the effort. Mercy Ships seeks to transform individuals and serve nations one at a time.”

There are many amazing stories of lives that have been changed because of the work of Mercy Ships.

To read some of these stories – and see more of the work of Mercy Ships, visit their website:

Thank God I Have the Flu

I never thought I would love to hear the doctor say I tested positive for the flu.

It started one evening with a very sore throat and a dry cough..

The next morning I woke up with a temp of 102, body aches, congestion and I felt terrible. Our state of Michigan has one of the highest rates of Covid-19. Needless to say I was very scared as I went for a test.

Three hours later the doctor called to say I was negative for Covid-19 but positive for the flu.

Who is thankful for the flu? I am.

But I have had a few miserable days. I am slowly recovering. Fever is gone, coughing spells are fewer and the body aches are gone. But I am exhausted. Doctor said it might take two to three weeks before my strength returns.

Talking to friends who have had Covid-19 I realize my days of misery were so short compared to theirs. Although I may be tired for a while I am not experiencing many of the after effects they are.

So – I’m grateful for the flu.

Stay safe dear readers. Take care of yourself.

I Have Hair!!!

Those who follow my blog know that I lost my hair 19 years ago after 16 treatments with three powerful chemo drugs following surgery for breast cancer. Although the doctor assured my hair would come back for years I did not. It was only a few years ago that we found out that one of the drugs I was given could cause permanent hair loss.

I was okay with that – I just wore a wig. No one ever knew it was a wig and were surprised when they found out.

Lately, however, I became tired of the wig. Old age I guess. I also was showing some hair growth – not much – very thin – but hair.

My two daughters encouraged me to take the wig off and see if my hair might grow back. They wondered if the wig might be preventing hair growth

I was scared – but I decided to take the plunge and do it.

My approach to difficulties of life has always been:

with a strong faith in God and a good sense of humor I can handle this.

So – I wrote a couple of blogs trying to make fun of my baldness.

Now – after about three months without the wig – I HAVE HAIR!!!!

It’s pretty thin – but it’s my hair!!!!

As it grew back it was a sloppy unkempt mess. I had to let it get some length before I could get it styled so for a few weeks I was so embarrased to go out in public – but I just remembered my prayer “Give me hair!” and was thankful that God was answering that prayer.

Finally a couple of weeks ago I was able to go to a beauty salon and get it styled. The stylist kept asking me if I wanted to use a curling iron or a blow dryer and how I wanted it styled. . Since it had been 19 years since I had any hair to comb or style, 19 years since I had been to a beauty salon, I put myself in her hands and trusted her to guide me through this.

So once again I have hair. It is not thick – it is not red – but it is my hair! I am getting used to the white/grey and actually beginning to like it.

I am so happy and grateful – I HAVE HAIR!!!

Memories and Potato Soup

October is a month that brings back so many memories to me. It was in this month nineteen years ago that I was diagnosed with a very advanced and aggressive cancer. So it’s natural that I have memories of that time every October – and especially since October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Some of those memories are not pleasant. The surgery – the chemo – the radiation – the very hard effort to stare death in the face.

But I also have so many good memories and today brought back one of those memories.

It is raining and chilly here in Michigan today – a perfect fall day. It is also a good day to just stay inside and watch the rain from my easy chair. My husband declared that this was a day for homemade potato soup.

I love homemade potato soup. My mother often made that when I had a cold or was not feeling good. It is my comfort food. My husband makes great potato soup so I was glad to hear his offer to make some for us today.

Watching him prepare the soup and enjoying the good smells coming from the kitchen brought back a very special memory of that time battling cancer.

I continued to work through my chemotherapy and was active but with the first two drugs I was given, I would basically lose a week of life as I felt energy and life drain from my body. I would spend several days in bed too weak to do anything but get up and walk to the restroom. My husband would fix my meals and bring them to me on a tray. If there was any meat, he would even have to cut it up for me because I had energy only enough to lift my fork.

He was so good – so kind – so patient and did all he could to help me through those weeks. One day as I lay in bed I thought how much I would love to have some potato soup. Because he was doing all the shopping, house work as well as cooking and taking care of me I did not want to make any special requests. Not knowing what he had planned to fix, I did not want to impose on him so I said nothing.

I drifted back off to sleep and some time later he woke me up to tell me he was bringing me my lunch. When he brought the tray to my bed, I was so happy. He had fixed potato soup. You may think that was just a coincidence, but I believe God knew my heart’s desire and led my husband to fix that soup.

As we ate the soup today we remembered that special time and we thanked God for how much He cares about us.

And, the soup was delicious – as my husband’s soup always is.

No More “Huh” or “What”

For some time I have been denying that I am having trouble hearing. Watching a movie or listening to my pastor on Sunday there are times when I will miss a complete sentence or two because I just cannot hear well. When listening to friends I find myself asking them “what” “huh” or just trying to guess what they said from the part of the sentence I did hear.

This is not good for meaningful conversation. Trying to “fill in the blanks” when you do not hear everything someone said can lead to real miscommunication.

My husband, who has worn a hearing aid for several years now, has pleaded with me to get a hearing test. I found myself turning the TV up louder and louder until he insists we must turn it down.

While I recognized I was not hearing well, I hated the thought of needing a hearing aid. Hearing aids to me were for old people and I did not want to accept that title for myself.

Still, I knew I could not deny my hearing loss much longer. Some days my husband would not put in his hearing aid because we were just staying at home and he did not want to bother with them. However, before much time passed I would insist he put them on because he kept denying he was not having trouble hearing – but I just needed to speak up.

When we began having that same conversation – but this time it was me who was insisting he was mumbling, I found it hard to deny I needed help in hearing.

The straw that broke the camel’s back so to speak came on Easter Sunday. My youngest daughter and her family joined us for lunch. After lunch we took communion as a family. When my husband finished leading us through the sacraments, I thought he said he was going to pray. Bowing my head I kept waiting to hear him pray.

When several seconds had passed and no sound was coming, I looked up to see my family all looking at me. My daughter said in that exasperating tone that told me I needed to listen, “Mother, he asked you to pray.”

I quickly prayed and I knew I was going to be in trouble when I finished.

Again in that very exasperated tone my daughter declared, “Mother, you have to get a hearing test.”

I agreed. So – I scheduled an appointment.

No surprise – I failed the test. So now there’s the cost to consider. Good hearing aids are not cheap. I checked out different models. This one was the cheapest, but probably not the best.

Now that my husband and I both have hearing aids, buying Christmas presents for each other will be easier.

Only one thing wrong with having hearing aids. Now I can’t excuse myself from not listening to others by saying I just did not hear.

Get Out of Dodge

With recent health issues, I have been spending way too much time at home.  Experiencing a lot of severe pain, I am faced with two choices.

Take pain medications and then feel too sleepy or zombie-like to do anything.

Don’t take pain medications and hurt too bad to do anything.

I have missed church, given up volunteering at the local art gallery and at the local assisted living facilities where I play music for the residents.

Today I could take it no more.  I told my husband I had to “get out of Dodge.”

Being Gunsmoke fans, we often use that phrase when we are tired of the daily routine and need a change of pace.  I shared my love of the show in this post.

Anyone Remember Gunsmoke?

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Although it was cold today, the sun was shining and it was a perfect day for a ride.  A walk through an antique mall and Chinese food for lunch made for a great day.

I have to be patient as I deal with this current difficulty, but when I’ve had enough my husband is there to help me “get of Dodge” if only for a few hours.  In the meantime, I’m looking at the map and making plans for longer road trips this summer.

Do you have those times when you feel like you have to “get out of Dodge?”

What do you do/where do you go to “get out of Dodge?”

 

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!!!!

 

 

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?