The Prom-Mom's Perspectives and Ramblings...

Friday, November 21, 2014

Growing pains...

If you've read any of my past month's blog entries you're probably noticing TWO things:
1. Words and thoughts are once again flowing out of me faster than I can type!
2. My mind and my heart are going through quite the battle.
I suppose the good part about #2 is the fact that Christ dwells deeply in my heart, so I know, no matter how brutal and how lengthy this battle, His PROMISE to overcome it is just that. A PROMISE.

Today, as Aaron and I were on our way home from Portland, we listened to a podcast from our old church. On top of making me greatly miss being there...the message we listened to was absolutely an answer to prayer. I'm not sure if Aaron chose it, specifically, or if God planted it in time...but what I DO know is it spoke Truth to me that I've been needing to hear for a while now. While I don't want to take credit for the pastor's spirit-filled words, I want to do my best to share some of the profound epiphanies I had while listening.


Since the day I was diagnosed, people have said to me... 'I don't get it.. Why YOU? You seem like such a good person. Why does it seem like the good people are always the ones to suffer?' I've had many days lately where I've fallen prey to that thought--found myself, left, WROUGHT with sheer and storming anger. 'Yeah! They're right!! WHY ME?!?! Why, Lord??? Unless........unless you just WANT to see me suffer. You WANT to cut me to the core!' I've sat, listening to my heart and mind scream back and forth, one to the other. Kinda like the dramatization of good angel-devil angel sitting on one's shoulder. My heart feels such GUILT to even hear my mind say such things to the Lord. To be doubting Him this way. I find myself feeling like the coach in a dirty wrestling match--standing on the sidelines, spouting off about how BOTH parties need to just STOP and take a time-out from one another.

Then, as I'm listening to the message in the car today, I am reminded once again of the battle and what the battle really is. This is not Satan in devil angel form attacking me. It is ME, fighting God. AGAIN. And the pain is mostly... GROWING PAINS.

When a kid is born of tall parents, his genetics add up to inevitable height, also. This is absolutely the case with our two young sons. If I remember correctly, they were measured at around 3 yrs of age to become 6'3 and 6'5 foot adults. *Surprise, surprise*. ;) As two experienced 'growers', Aaron and I have not yet forgotten the physical pain of fast-stretching ligaments, so when one or both of our boys complains of this, we have immediate empathy. The go-to remedy? Pain-reducing medication, lots of kisses and, above all else perhaps, is performed leg-rubs accompanied by favorite 'songing' selections.
This is ESPECIALLY important to our 'snuggle-bugger' of a Lincoln-bear. His words: 'Rub it please, mama... and sing to me while you rub it.' *Yep, he's a heart-melter, that one.*
So what does this have to do with my ongoing, personal 'good cop/bad cop' routine?

As the pastor put it, doubt causes a sense of spiritual vertigo where the ground beneath you is shifting--and as of late, my ground has been shifting in ways I'm not ready or even wanting to anticipate. It is causing me far more intense growing pains than I've ever felt before. Sometimes I think if only the pain could just be physical, again. Maybe then, I wouldn't be left fighting with my brain so much.

But, I realized today, *perhaps for the 100th time* that I'm missing the point.
The doubts are my SELF-response to the pain of LOSING this important spiritual battle.
Losing SELF. IS. PAINFUL.
So so so so so painful.
But dwelling on those doubts..in my SELF just prolongs the relief...the 'rubbing' and 'soothing' that has  ALREADY BEEN MADE AVAILABLE TO ME. As the pastor said, we must put doubt and self into it's proper perspective and place--realizing how SMALL *we* and they both are in comparison of the victor...realizing the GRANDEUR of Christ's Life! We must put into perspective that our fate without God IS doubt...but our fate with FAITH IN GOD has been PROMISED AND PROVEN!

It is time for me, once again, to stand up to the doubts I've had in the Lord and His plan for me.. my family.. my future......knowing that HE KNOWS MY HEART and that if I will just get down on my knees and INJEST Him and His LOVE AND COMPASSION FOR ME, THAT will form the 'trajectory of my life' that means everything while everything else, is worth nothing.

As the pastor said, 'When we wrestle with God and the love of Christ--we have but one choice. To LOOK upon the Cross. See how He died..and bled..and suffered.. on OUR behalf!

It is time for me to realize, once again, that MY victory is His victory and HIS was and is, mine. And in His victory lies His promise! So why on earth would I EVER. DOUBT. THAT.

Christ-like compassion...

Looking around at all the different faces in the waiting room today...most of them wrought with worry and sadness...the feelings they wear in their body-language revive memories of my own from two years ago that I've wished, at times, to be rid of.
It's hard not to wonder what their scenarios are. Are they waiting here, stewing over a loved-one who is just at the starting line of a journey like mine? Or perhaps waiting for their OWN name to be called? No matter......it's impossible for me to not feel some of their pain.
Aaron and I were just discussing this on the drive up--how compassion is deeply implanted in us when we've BEEN through a significant life-trauma. Whether or not you want to feel it, it's part of the heart-transplant this journey leaves you with.
I look around and actually feel ENTRUSTED with the responsibility to lift these people in this waiting-room up to the Lord. Soft phrases spoken as they send their loved ones off, saying...'I'll be right here when you are done.' Though I might not speak it to them, I find myself worried for their loved one perhaps just as much as they are...a complete stranger is deeply concerning to my heart.

But isn't this a Godly result come from such a dark tribulation?
Feeling a true, unkempt love for people around you--a love that comes from a source far beyond yourself. Isn't THIS how God loves His Church? Isn't this how a parent loves his/her child? It's a ROOTED love and compassion. This is a GIFT of Christ-like compassion...and one POSITIVE result of cancer that I will happily embrace~





Pre-op Thoughts from this morning...

This morning, we travel north for the removal of the device that kicked this journey off, 2 years and one month ago. The second week of October, just a week after my 33rd birthday, I underwent my very first, (ever) surgery. I remember going into it, telling everyone, ‘I’ve not so much as had a broken bone my entire life…let alone had a surgery.’ Lord knows I’m a far cry from that circumstance, now, ha! Funny what time does. How FAST things can change. 
I went from surgery-virgin to human-pin-cushion/infusion-expert/pro-drug-popper and yes, in the process MORE than lost my surgery-virginity, too.

Some people are surprised to hear that I haven’t had my port out until now. Then again, some people forgot that I even received one. I certainly can’t blame either party, as it’s not their body… their life… or personal experience. But I do find myself processing those comments like I do most cancer-related things. Yes, it’s there still. Why? 
A: I had to finish Herceptin infusions before it could come out. 
B: I had to get the ok from my oncologist in Chicago at this last visit, in October. 
C: I had to find a surgeon that would/could do it…as my plastic surgeon went and had a baby and never returned. The search for a new plastic surgeon, that is currently underway, will be another blog entry. But for now—no, I’m not going to take a steak knife and remove it myself, folks—so I am somewhat relieved that I have someone back at OHSU whose willing to do it. 

I have been asked: ‘Are you excited to get it out?’ I gotta be honest, I’m at a bit of a loss to know just exactly how to respond to that question, as the feelings are mixed. Am I going to be happy to not have an occasionally itchy foreign device that my youngest smacks with his beautiful but bulbous head against too often, laying under my upper-chest area skin? MOST DEFINITELY! Am I ‘excited’ for another surgery—albeit a fast one? NOT EVEN SLIGHTLY. 
I don’t like needles. I don’t like knives. I don’t even like hospitals. Unfortunately, NONE of these fears bode well with cancer-treatment/management scenarios. Needles, knives and hospitals, in general, become a regular thing once you’ve had cancer. But regardless, this particular needle/knife/hospital scenario is still a symbol. It’s a symbol of time, passed. The last time I was in the Multnomah building on the 4th floor standing at the surgical check-in desk, life was concretely fragile…and my head—my thoughts—were fighting with my heart. A head FILLED TO THE BRIM with fear-driven thoughts. A heart FILLED TO THE BRIM with God-driven love and support. Tomorrow, while the fearful thoughts and the Godly heart conversations are swarming around and bickering with one another, I anticipate less fear—knowing that 
A: This surgery, compared to my double-mastectomy, is NOTHING. 
B: My awesome hubby is able to be at my side this time! 
C: This scenario, while I still do and will always hate being in it—is less unknown. The familiarity of dressing-down, sterilization procedures, etc, is there. And that is oddly comforting.

Perhaps above all else, however, is the fact that tomorrow is a symbol of health. I get to have my port OUT because—Lord willing—threatening-cancer is behind me. Even if just for a while. No, my life is not rid of cancer. That will NEVER be the case. But perhaps it’s time that I start looking at the POSITIVE marks that cancer has left on my life, versus being so blinded by all the negative that it is responsible for. 

If my life were rid of cancer completely, I will not lie, many things would be better—and less difficult. But with less challenge comes naivety and stagnancy. As I was just telling a student yesterday about the importance of a challenging piece in growth as a pianist, I too need to begin seeing that this challenge is my growth as a person and a Christ-child! 
So while I’m not ‘excited’ to get this port out, I am ready..and GRATEFUL for the current health I possess that makes it even a possibility. 


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Not Alone...

I've been feeling guilty lately to be typing so many 'negative' posts. Not being 'inspirational'... not having any interest in sharing anything but the struggles I'm experiencing right now.
But as I am reminded after venting, this blog is not meant for anyone more than myself. It is my safe place to speak words and thoughts that will otherwise stay bottled up and tear my insides apart.

Even still, right before I press 'publish'..everytime.. I face that moment of hesitance. The fear that I need to just 'buck up' and someone else who reads this will tell me to do so. And that's ok. Sometimes I think in our greatest strife and deepest grief we need someone to point out what we should be grateful for. Spread some light on our perspective.

But interestingly, after my last few posts--after preparing myself for such a response--I have received some of the most heartfelt and tender...supportive...and LOVING responses, to date.


The saying 'misery loves company' is one I know we've all heard. I, like many, have always believed it to be a negative--even criticizing--phrase. Misery wants/needs more misery to surround it.
But in this past month or so, I have come to find it's meaning is something quite different..at least for me. I don't want to be the 'negative nelly'.. I'm certainly not trying to be. I'm just raw. VERY. RAW. And there is no other way for me to be right now.
Although I don't really know what I want/need people to do or say right now, what I have learned is that just being surrounded in love, is enough.

Does it take everything away? Of course not.
But.. it EASES the struggle.

After spending the last couple of days deeply and prayerfully begging God to lift some of this from me, He IS. He is using my friends, family, students and student's families--even strangers--to ENGULF ME with His love. And if that's not enough... as I climbed into my car tonight from my last lesson time with yet another sweet and supportive family... I started my car right as this song came on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7YKHRb59a4

And just like that, God's Hand presses so intensely on my heart something I should've known all along. I AM NOT ALONE.

I never was.
And I NEVER will be.



Lord... YOU'VE gone before ALL OF THIS. YOU fight my EVERY BATTLE. I WILL NOT FEAR.
I will press against you. NOW. In this moment. This breath. And my next, if it comes.

YOU'VE RECEIVED ME. And CALLED ME... as your own.


YOU are my strength.
YOU are my refuge in THIS and all other storms.
You've ALWAYS been faithful. And you've NEVER broken a promise.

Forgive me for doubting this.
Forgive me for temporarily pushing you away.
Forgive me for forgetting that...

I.
AM.
NOT.

ALONE.




Monday, November 17, 2014

Cancer-Clean

I find myself nearly BEGGING God these days to take away the hurt.
It's so literally opposite of who I am and what I know of myself.

I am aware that some of the extreme and out-of-control swings of sadness are drug-related.

Yay.
Drugs.

What I wouldn't do to not have to take them, anymore.
Maybe I could finally lose this irritating 10 extra pounds I gained during chemo that insists on hanging around. Maybe the spider-veins that are beginning to pop up all over my legs would cease and the random numbness in my limbs from thick flowing blood would back off.
And maybe, just maybe, I'd be familiar with my emotions, again.
But the irony is that those very drugs are increasing my chances of a tomorrow.
AKA: Not optional.

As I said in a previous post, I am learning to grieve. I'm accepting that cancer caused a TON of loss and that it's ok to grieve that loss.
But just like that--maybe due largely in part to how un-emotional I know myself to be in the 'b.c' days--I am SO SICK OF IT.

I am so sick of feeling fine...Joy-filled...and then I blink, face some sort of 'trigger' and bam! My whole day is spent holding back tears. Seriously. I feel like I am a stranger to myself. My body is not mine, my emotions are not mine. After a while I find myself thinking... WHO THE HECK AM I, anyway?!!

Aaron is reading a book written by one of our former pastors on facing depressive tendencies and restoring Hope in your life. One of the things the author talks about is taking your thoughts captive. Thoughts that Satan wants nothing MORE than to consume you--your heart and mind--with and rip that Joy from you.
I pray this daily, anymore. Like I pray for my young sons by their request, every night ('Lord we bind the nightmares'), I am asking the Lord to BIND THE AWFUL THOUGHTS AND TRIGGERS for me.

I don't want to feel the way I do. I don't want to THINK the way I do, these days.
I'm just so sick of feeling like life is all. about. cancer.


It's funny, you go through this unfathomable journey, praying you'll someday hear the words 'Cancer Free' out of your doctor's mouth. Then that day comes. They look at you and say it. At first, you cry tears of relief and joy. You text everyone closest to you before proceeding to proclaim it from the mountain-tops on social media and anywhere you go in town! You spread the good news.. you believe and cling to it.

Those words: Cancer Free.

But there's a sad irony to those words. That second one in particular.
Free.
Ha!

One day you wake up with a symptom. A symptom from 'cancer management' drugs and procedures. Then another. And another. It doesn't take long before you lose count. And it takes even less time for you to really grasp how ridiculous that second word is.

Free.

Free of what?
Sure. You're free of (that 'they' know of, anyway) detected abnormal cells that are directly threatening your next breath. But, as I said during treatment, we ALL should be more aware of the fragility that is life. Human existence life, on this earth, anyway.
But free? Honestly, I've decided this is a very misleading terminology---particularly for onlookers who've never been here.
There is NO SUCH THING as cancer-free.
A) Cancer is anything BUT free (fiscally I mean!) to face and deal with. The fiscal repercussions never end. Truly. NEVER.
B) Being 'free' of cancer would mean that my memory of the last two years of physical, emotional, mental and sociological wrath could be wiped. While part of me is grateful this is not possible--there will always be a separate part of me that would give anything for it.

Being 'free' of cancer would mean:

I am comfortable looking at my scarred, unrecognizable chest in a mirror.
I am once again capable of talking about our beautiful children with my husband without wanting to burst into tears.
I accept my drug-induced, fast-aging body.
I can watch a movie that brings cancer into it's story-line and not want to rip the DVD out of the player and smash it to pieces.
I am able to talk out-loud about my cancer as openly as I once could.
I see God's Good in this, again, and rejoice in His plan instead of feel resentful of this journey and all that it's done to our me...and us.

While I know that none of these are possible without God, I do believe that He can BIND this, too. I have to be reminded, once again, that He is BIGGER than cancer.

Today, I pray that He FREES me... truly... of these things. I NEED this freedom.


Meantime, I am still renaming the clinical term. 
When people ask me... as far as we know, I am cancer-clean.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

35...

Since turning 35 (half way through my 30's to 40!!! ...ugh) at the beginning of this month, I've noticed a pattern of uncontrollable 'sad days.' At first I thought it was just hormonal stuff--and I'm not just talking about monthly female stuff--I'm talking about the drugs I'm on daily that set things into all sorts of whack! But it dawned on me tonight, after scrolling my fb feed to see so many friends, around my age, having the last of their babies, that my new 'number' has been an extra big reminder of our circumstances. Not that it's not on my mind all the time, anyway, but 35 really is a door reached that's been on my biological and mental radar my entire adult life.

Certainly, I more than anyone, know *now* that plans and our human tendency to MAKE plans for everything are really, in some regard, a silly waste of time. GOD'S plan is the end-all regardless of what we think 'we know best.' But like most people--women in particular--I once had a plan. My plan (in conjunction with my spouse's approval, of course) was to have 3 or 4 kids, each a couple to a few years apart from one another and 'be done' by the time I turned 35. I'll never forget going to our ultrasound to find out if Linc was a boy or girl and as we were pulling up in our car, Aaron making me promise that even if he was a girl, we wouldn't be done. I remember how relieved it made me feel that my husband and father of my children still wanted 3 or 4, too.

As most of us know, 35 is not just some random number I chose. Research and medical-findings were my biggest reasonings. The fact that you begin drastically losing your fertility every year after 35 and the fact that the pregnancy complication/abnormality rates go way up after 35 were certainly my biggest drive. But also, just thinking about carrying a child, BIRTHING a child and HAVING ENERGY FOR a newborn and multiplied children after that age *errr...MY NOW AGE* was NOT what I wanted for myself. Us. Our kids.

Aaron seems to think I'm letting go of faith in the matter to rule out--assuming my health is still in good standing--adding to our family and having 'second generation' children, "someday." But honestly, it just seems so distant and it feels as though everything about cancer has been a 'waiting game' even though I've been soooooo ready for so MANY things to change, for so long. It makes me feel, sometimes, like we're never gonna live in any other house or town or ever 'progress' into something DIFFERENT. I even have the morbid thought, on occasion, that my cancer will come back and kill me and it will be in these very same walls that I will leave this world.
Sorry to be depressing. Just being honest.

I know it's horrible for me to even say out loud, but every time I see a post about someone expecting their third or forth baby...or even meet a mom who has three or more kids...I actually bellow up inside with some amount of hate for them.
Like I said. Horrible.
But I'm so angry that they got to have that--they got to meet that desire of a third or forth--and I didn't. The clincher is seeing families with two boys, trying for--and sometimes succeeding at getting that girl. OR seeing families have that 'perfect family' of two boys and two girls. Definitely gives me an inkling of a glimpse of how childless mothers-at-heart feel when seeing mom's with kids. I KNOW in my heart that I should be happy for them, but it's hard.

Anytime I post an entry directly or indirectly addressing this bleeding mama's heart of mine, I get two kinds of sweet-intentioned private messages: Friends and family who feel they must remind me of the 'two boys that I am blessed with' and friends and family who want to 'introduce' me to the idea of adopting--as though I wouldn't be happy adding to our family that way. But on the contrary, I would be so game for that route.. if it were even possible for us.
What many people don't realize is how hard it is to have a recent history of cancer and even get approved as a candidate. Sure, I know God moves mountains...I am aware that many out there have 'impossible' adoption stories...but it's just not our time. Not according to approval needs OR other.
Even just our current house size would hold us back. One of the reasons that when Linc was 2 1/2 and I was practically begging to have another, Aaron just didn't feel like we could. And these are outside of Aaron's reasonable argument of fear for adding another child to our family that could, someday be his and his ALONE to raise, too--given the worst case scenario happened with my health.

With Linc now being 5 and growing up so fast, the baby-stage is becoming a further and further distant past. Some days I think I wouldn't want to go back to diapers and highchairs and midnight feedings--even if I HAD the choice. Once you get so far removed from that... how could you?!


It's funny.
Out of all the wrath and toll that cancer has taken on me--on my heart--this is perhaps the deepest I feel God could allow me to be cut---outside of having one of my loved ones go through it instead of me, that is. If you'd of told me in my 20's that I'd have cancer at the age of 32, I might of had an extra blazing fire lit under me to make babies and make 'em fast, ha! But, I know that's just one of the reasons why we DON'T receive such head's up about life's challenges. If I'd of known, I'd of done everything in my power to 'soften the blow' on myself. Yet I do--deep down, past all the tears and throat clenching moments--understand, that the blow HAS to be hard if God is to implement in me the extreme change He is working on now.

I just wish it didn't hurt so darned bad...

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Learning to grieve...

I think most people who have experienced something big and life-altering can agree that things are never the same, again--hence the term 'life-altering.'
Sure, it's easy for onlookers to see you back in your 'groove' and assume from what they see that you just climbed right back up onto the saddle and nothing's changed.
Don't I wish...EVERY MOMENT OF EVERY DAY... that that were the case.
What I wouldn't give to get a redo. Even just to get one day of my mid-twenties, early in our marriage, with my body INTACT.. where kids were an OPTION and our sex-life didn't remind me constantly that they aren't.. where looking at myself in the mirror didn't stare back a scarred mess.. where conversations of nursing and/or women's boobs didn't make me want to burst into tears. Just one day. To EMBRACE what I had way more than I did when I had the chance to.

You hear parents who've lost children say to others 'Embrace your children tighter tonight. Spend more time with them...as though it's your last opportunity to do so.'

In my case it's no different. Maybe it's a bit more awkward to say 'women, go caress yourselves--or better yet, let your hubby do so, and count your sensation-filled booby-blessings' but I say it, nonetheless.
Moms, as you nurse...especially if it's your third or forth or fifth child.......think about how you would feel if suddenly that weren't even an option. Or for that matter, as you stare into that precious little face while doing so, ponder how gut-wrenched you'd be if that baby wouldn't of happened...weren't made an option when you decided to conceive him or her. If that baby was never allowed to be born into your life.


Until recently, I never really considered these thoughts as anything but a negative and damaging focus that I 'shouldn't' have... but I have been blessed with a counselor recently who said something profound that I have tried to embrace: there are no 'shouldn'ts'...only 'do's.'
Maybe I 'shouldn't' feel saddened at the fact that my husband pretty much avoids my chest area because he knows I feel nothing. But I DO. Maybe I 'shouldn't' feel ripped apart after listening to hours and hours of nursing conversation had by family with small babies. But I DO. Maybe I 'shouldn't' mourn the loss of the future children I so DESPERATELY wanted to create with Aaron. But I DO.


You see, cancer creates losses. BIG ones.
And whenever we experience a loss, grief must ensue.

I've never been a super emotional person--exuberant and expressive, most definitely--but drama and/or lots of crying and, well, grief, just never really 'fit' my personality.
But as my counselor and I were just talking about recently, even my very person has been altered. Sure I still smile a lot, but there is so much hurt--along with gained wisdom and priceless hindsight--but lots of grief existent where there was none, before.
I can't change it. Believe me, I've tried. But the funny thing about grief is that it can't be controlled or caged and, in fact, when you try to do so with it, it only morphs and grows into areas of you that are deeper and even more fragile.
Nope. Embracing.


EMBRACING the need to scream at the mirror.
EMBRACING the need to cry at the sight of sweet little girls with their mommies.
EMBRACING the need to tell the Lord how ANGRY this all makes me feel.
EMBRACING writing on here, again.

My mom used to tell me as a young child that 'our tears are the window-washers of our soul.' You'd think having heard that most of my life that I would just EMBRACE my emotions, but instead, I do whatever I can to combat them and barrel through. I think that's some of the McGee hard-headedness in me. ;)

But as the days pass, I am realizing, the more I ALLOW myself to just FEEL WHAT AND HOW I FEEL..that grief is ok and in fact it's part of the process that leaves me in a much better place.

Yes. Slowly, but surely... I am learning.. to grieve.




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