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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

The Garden that Love Built

 

 

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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 a biopsy, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. A very aggressive cancer and my doctor told me the chances of my living ten more years were only 25 percent.

I have shared that story in other blogs:

Cancer Survivor

Coincidence or An Act of God?

I’m Still Beautiful!!!

That spring my husband took down the pool and began planting.  It was therapy for him and something he could do to be close to me for the days/weeks I was too weak to move from my bed.  He put a chair next to the patio doors and I would sit and watch him plant beautiful flowers and trees.  He said for every tree he planted, I would get another year of life.  Our property now has 34 trees!

My children teased me that they are going to come over and cut down some trees because he now has me up to almost 90 years of life.

oh no

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The yard has remained a work in progress.  Each year we said we have enough plants and each year we add more.

This is not only a beautiful garden – an oasis in our backyard, but it is a garden made with love.

 

 

 

Five Years and Counting!

November  4, 2002 – Call from doctor – biopsy shows I have cancer.

November 14, 2002 – Surgeon tells me after surgery that the cancer was very advanced and I will definitely need chemo and radiation.

November 27, 2002 – Doctor tells me the odds are not in my favor.  He says chances are slim I will still be alive in ten years.

No, I’m only 54 years old.  It’s eight more years until I can retire.  That means if I even live to reach early retirement, I will only have two years to enjoy with my husband.  For most of my marriage my husband has been an evangelist, missionary or pastor.  I have worked right alongside him, providing music for services, training Sunday School and youth leaders, teaching Bible classes and overseeing ministries for women.  Being a pastor is a 24/7 job (at least for those like my husband who have a shepherd’s heart).  I cannot count the times our own plans have been put on hold because someone in the church had a need.  My own job required us to be at home Monday through Friday – and weekends were filled with church obligations so vacation times were few and far between.  I was so looking forward to the day we could retire and have some time for just the two of us.

Lord, please let me live to retire and give me two years – just two years of retirement with Paul.

April 8, 2010 – I turn 62 today.  I had thought I would take early retirement now.  If I did, that would give me those two years with Paul in retirement.  However, looking at our finances I realize it would be better both now and in the future if I work until I’m 65.  My doctor has now told me it appears I have beat old man cancer and may very well live much longer than first expected.  Still, that clock is ticking.  If I wait to retire at 65 I will be past the ten years.  How many years of retirement will I have?

Lord, let me make it until 2013 and then give me two years in retirement with my husband.

January 4, 2013 – retirement is here!  I have retired about three months before 65 but it’s close enough and I’m ready to begin a new life.  I have reached that ten-year survival mark.

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Lord, please give me two years of retirement to enjoy with my husband.

January 4, 2018 – God has not only allowed me to reach retirement age, not only given me those two years of retirement I prayed for – but today I begin my sixth year of retirement.

Thank you Lord for every day, every week, every month, every year you give me to enjoy time with my husband.