Friday, January 10, 2020

What Defines Us?

We came in the front door of Hope Lodge last Monday night close to nine.  My treatment had not gone so well.......the X-ray machine in Treatment room 4 was on the blink.  I lay on the hard metal table for a very long time, face mask in place, body in position, half covered by a heated blanket but still chilled.... I waited and waited as people came in and out of the room working hard to fix the machine.  Finally it was ready to go, and the treatment could begin.  At the end, while I was getting off the table I cut my finger on something sharp.  Frustration rose in me.  I was definitely ready to go back to our second home after a challenging night.

As we walked down the main hall of the Lodge  to the elevator I heard the most beautiful violin music.  At first I thought it was coming from the TV room but it sounded so clear.  Sure enough in the large dining area a woman was holding audience with a group of around 25 people.  Everyone was captivated by this young woman (who's lack of hair identified her as a member of our club), while she played the most beautiful notes on her violin.  She was sharing her talent with others, while fighting her own personal battle with cancer.  The music was literally soothing to my soul, and by the looks on the faces of others, they too were being blessed by one woman who was not letting cancer totally define who she was.

I could not help but think about how cancer is so big, and it can be so consuming with treatments, surgeries, and more, that it seems to be all that defines us.  And that is a lie.  It is comforting to sit at a table with a group of people who speak the jargon that has come to be so familiar to us on this journey.  It is comforting to talk with people who get it~ to hear their stories with cancer.........but they are more than that.  Cancer does not get to define who they are or Whose they are.

Yesterday Joel and I went to a class at Mayo on releasing stress.  We were the only two there so the leader could adjust the session to our needs.  As we talked about what stresses us out she shared ideas on how to manage our emotions and shift our thinking.  She brought up declarations to speak over ourselves and mentioned, among other things, stating daily, "I am a child of God".  Yes, this is what defines us!  Being a child of God is first and foremost who we are, and Whose we are.   There are times in life where we are focused on the battle before us, and that is as it should be, but we can never forget that we do not fight the battle alone.  God walks with us.

I don't remember the number of times God has brought to me Exodus 14:14 through Scriptures, devotionals, Facebook and Instagram.  I hold to it tightly as I remember to define myself not by the battle I fight but by my God who fights for me.  I am a child of God!

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Saturday's Scribbles

Good Saturday to you from snowy Iowa where the bare ground is now covered with a few inches of the white stuff.  Temperatures are mild for January, and that works for us!  We made it back home yesterday before the snow started, so the roads were easy to drive on.  It felt good to settle in to our own beds last night, and we are enjoying not only the winter view, but the Christmas tree that still graces the corner of our living room.  Neither one of us is ready to take it down so we will just keep enjoying it as long as we want to. 

Some of our family came last weekend for our family gathering.  We had such a good time!  We were blessed to have two of our daughters take over all the prepping and preparing of meals, and the guys did clean up.  Our oldest did the grocery shopping, our son Mark brought supplies, and our two girls brought more Christmas goodies than we could eat! It was nice not to worry about anything......  There wre games of cribbage and yahtzee, lots of visiting, laughter and hugs.  Such fun.  So blessed.

At this time, 9 treatments are over with 16 to go.  This week one of the CT staff noticed indentations on my face from the mask and she trimmed it just enough that the pressure/pain feelings went down 75%.  Yay!  My appointments next week all require us to be at the clinic by 6:45 am.  Can I just say, that is difficult for both of us spoiled people who like a 7 am wake up, not 5:30 am..   I am doing well with the treatments, with today being the first time I have felt "off" .  There are daily treatments, doctor appointments, weekly CT scans, and other appointments added in to the schedule that keep me/us pretty busy. 

We moved in to Hope Lodge on Dec. 27th.  We have met some nice people there, all with their own stories related to cancer, the one common denominator.  It is a nice place, with large rooms.  We have chuckled over the tall toilets ~ my feet don't touch the floor!  What is challenging for us are the sleep number beds that are uncomfortable for me and too hot for Joel.  And we confess, we miss having a TV with cable.  We can play DVDs though, and we can watch TV in designated TV rooms and the kitchen/dining areas.  There are several Hope Lodges around the country, and the volunteers do a great job making them a comfortable and good place to be. 

And they are.  A good place.  Adjustments are many with being out of your own home, community, and often state or country,  Living among strangers who become friends with one focus.  Adjustments to treatments that are affecting us, body, soul and spirit.  But, through it all, as I have said before, we see God at work.  Every where we turn we see God at work.  We are blessed.

Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, January 2, 2020

"We Have The Beam!"

I was laying on the narrow hard metal table in a large radiation room.  I was half listening to contemporary Christian music while deep breathing to relax.  It is always an adjustment to get strapped into the facial mask that keeps my chin out of "the line of fire" and my head immobile. Suddenly, through the loud speaker I heard, "We have the beam!"  I felt myself jump and had to laugh........

There are 4 treatment rooms that wait their turn for the radiation beam to do what it has to do to travel the length of a football field to get to your room.  To come into my body.  The treatment itself lasts only 5 minutes in each of two positions for me, but the daily xrays, positioning, and waiting for my turn  can take up to 45 minutes.  Usually someone lets you know....."you are third in line.....second in then "You have the beam!" 

"You have the beam!"  I could not help but think about Jesus as our Beam!  He is our light!  He comes into our lives and changes everything.  He lives in us!  When we receive Christ, we have THE BEAM!  And there is no better beam that Jesus, The Light of the World.

As I lay on the table one day and thought about this idea, I decided to ask Jesus to be present IN the radiation beam.  To take His beam and inhabit the radiation beam with healing power.  HIS healing power. To guide the beam so my organs would be protected and any unwelcome cells would be destroyed.  He works through doctors, and He can work through a proton radiation beam.  It is comforting to know that.

Speaking of comfort, we are staying at Hope Lodge run by the American Cancer Society and on New Year's Eve someone brought their therapy dog to visit.  It was so nice to have an animal to pet and enjoy.  This morning yet another therapy dog, this one a large poodle came to the waiting area at the clinic.  He works through animals, too, doesn't it.

We have definitely seen Him working through people ~doctors, techs, nurses, volunteers and more.  We have dealt with so many kind and compassionate people at Mayo no matter where we go.  I heard they are required to take a monthly class to stay updated on how to deal with patients who come from around the world.  They also provide classes 4 days a week for patients on nutrition, meditation, relaxation, coping with cancer and life after cancer.  It is all good and I see God at work.  It is God at work to walk into the Jacobson Building desk area and have the woman behind the desk say, "Hi Renee, I'll check you in!"  They see so many people and they make an effort to know their first names.  It is God at work to tell the doctor when I had an eye migraine due to the bright bright lights for the radiation treatment and have him pick up the phone immediately and talk to the staff who were waiting with sunglasses that fit over the mask when I arrived for the next treatment. These treatments start at 5:30 am and go on until 11pm at night!  Two shifts of staff continually working with patients in need of healing.   It is God at work when you walk in the treatment room and have a staff person ask me how our family gathering when last weekend.....So personable and caring.  I think it is part of their resume....."MUST be kind, compassionate, caring, and take interest in each patient.  God at work.  HIS beam spreading His love and healing power in the medical world. 

So, 8 treatments down and 17 to go.  We are grateful for the proton beam and especially for His beam that brings healing power into our lives and into our bodies.  We are blessed to be able to say, "We have the beam!"

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Saturday's Scribbles

Good Saturday to you from our corner of the world where mild weather has been welcomed by those of us in the upper Midwest.  Today we are supposed to hit the mid 40's!  So unusual for this time of year, with Christmas just 4 days away.

Speaking of Christmas, we are looking forward to seeing most of our family the weekend after when they gather at our home.  It will be wonderful to hug on them all!  Christmas will be as usual, the two of us, but thanks to an adjustment in my treatment schedule at Mayo we will get to be home for both days instead of in a hotel.  Yay!

Speaking of Mayo yesterday was filled with appointments before my first treatment at 4 pm.  I was so anxious about the face mask, but it is less tight after they removed the shims that were placed behind my head orginally when they were shaping it to me.  I listened to contemporary Christian music during the time I laid in wait for the beam to reach our treatment room.  The treatment does not take long, it is the waiting, 30 to 45 minutes, as one machine is used for 4 treatment rooms.  This machine is three stories high and the beam goes the length of a football field.  Proton radiation.....look it up.

As we traveled to Rochester yesterday morning I asked God to send us moments that would brighten our day and remind us of His Presence.  He did not disappoint.  We first entered one desk area just in time to see a man "graduate" from his treatments by ringing a loud bell.  His wife and children were there and cheered him on!  It was touching.  Then the woman we saw about a research study was so nice and helpful, even walking us to our next appointment. They often go above and beyond at Mayo.  Later I had 6 tubes of blood drawn, and the nurse was again so nice and chatty.  When we were waiting for my appointment to see another nurse who would apply a thin special film on my skin to help protect it for treatment, we watched as another woman was cheered by her family as she went in for her last radiation treatment.  Joel said later (when I was in treatment) she also rang the bell and around 10 people surrounded her cheering her on.  Brings tears to write about it!  While we waited for my treatment, a volunteer offered to give me a hand massage.  I did not think it would relax me but it really did!  Then there was Oscar, one of the proton radiation techs who came for me, walked me through the first treatment and helped during the treatment.  This young man was gentle, kind, and relaxed which relaxed me.  And I can't forget the young woman in her early twenties with her bald head, waiting with me to go to her own proton treatment.  So young to be going through so much.....but with a smile on her face!  ALL of these moments provided by God  to remind us that He is in the midst of each and every person's journey.  That He is always with us.  It helped make our day better!!

This coming week is a roller coaster ride with treatment times from 7am the earliest and 9pm the latest, Christmas arriving, lots of traveling for us, and then our family coming.  We are in hotels or at home until we get a spot at Hope Lodge in Rochester.  It is established by the Ameriacan Cancer Society.  We are learning that we need to be flexible when it comes to this journey at Mayo.  Things change.  Alot.  Still, we find them very efficient, caring, and helpful wherever you go.

Something that does not change is our Lord and His faithfulness.  About a week ago I was talking to God and told Him I wanted to be obedient and follow Him where He led me...........I immediately saw in my mind Jesus take my hand and to my surprise walk me into the radiation room and have me lay on the table.  He stood by my left side and put is hand on my shoulder.  I knew he was telling me to follow Him through radiation and that He would always be there with me.  Then the night before we left for Mayo my sister Jan texted me and said that Jesus would be sitting right beside me through the treatment!  She knew nothing of my vision......I know her words were a reminder from God that Jesus was there in the room and all would be well.  "The Lord is fighting for you, you need only to be calm."

So, for all of us let us remember to be calm, and to be aware of the moments God provides for us no matter our circumstances.  Yes, let us be still and look around us, because especially this year, as Max Lucado said in a powerful message he wrote, "We need Some Christmas this Christmas".  That needs to be our focus.  Christmas and the Christ Child.

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Joy In The Waiting

So this week the Advent candle represents joy.  There is a favorite Bible verse for Joel that speaks of joy.  It is found in Nehemiah 8:10. 

Joy.  Joy runs deeper than happiness.  Happiness is fleeting, momentary.  Joy comes from deep within and is a choice.  In the midst of any circumstances we can still lock our eyes on Jesus and muster up joy.  Joy in knowing what we know.  That Jesus is our Savior, our Healer, our Protector, our Strength.  When we choose joy that comes from our Lord, we receive his strength.  During this season of waiting we choose joy.  Knowing what we know, believing what we believe.  Receiving what we receive from our to the world the Lord has come!

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Saturday's Scribbles

Good Saturday to you from our corner of the world here in Iowa.  It has been a mild week weather wise, although the temperatures have been on their own roller coaster......December has it's own way of doing things.

Speaking of December, it has been a quiet week medically, except for a few phone calls, physical therapy sessions, and one trip to the doctor for yet another infection.  We got the list of times for my radiation treatments and were pretty happy that night time treatments were few and far between, and then they called and told me they are tentative times!  We do know for sure the 20th will be the first along with a few other appointments.  One day at a time, right?

Our son Matt came up yesterday for another visit.  To my delight he set up Britbox on our smart TV for a year.  My Christmas present from him and the family.  Yay!  I have been eying that channel for awhile.  We do enjoy British TV and we definnitely enjoy having our son come to visit!

We decorated the tree early this week and Joel and I made a triple batch of pumpkin bread on Wednesday.  It freezes nicely and it is a tradition to make it and send it home with our kids after our family gathering.  One year it is on Thanksgiving and the next the first weekend after Christmas.  As the years go by it is harder to get all of us together at one time, but we stay hopeful.  We don't plan on too much baking this year, but I plan to bake one of my husband's favorites.....cinnamon logs made mostly with butter and sugar.  Delish!

Thanks to the creation of gift cards and online shopping, we managed to get most of our Christmas shopping done in a couple of hours on Thursday.  There are times I miss looking for those special gifts for each person, but energy and time are limited this year for sure.  And speaking of limited, Joel and I cannot come up with a Christmas list for or from each other.  We like opening gifts on Christmas morning but when you don't have a list of wants or needs that can be purchased?  I expect it is partly due to age and partly do to circumstances.

Once again another week has passed with little reading getting done on my part.  I did get out around 90 Christmas cards/newsletters and could mark that task off the to do list.  I have always enjoyed writing letters and cards.  We enjoy hearing from others and look forward to the mail arriving during the month of December.

We hope your month of December is going well.  Whether you are dealing with a packed schedule or wondering how to fill your lonely days, I pray you find God's peace within, and deep joy in expressing gratitude.  I am so grateful this week for time with Matt, texting with kids, a decorated tree, laughter with Joel, devotions that resonate, Christmas music, and catching up with friends and family through the mail.