Tag Archives: Health

The Interloper’s Demise ~ Redux

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If you’re new to the blog, this story began last year. You may want to read the earlier parts to catch up with the rest of us. You can find it here … Part OnePart TwoPart Three … Go ahead, we’ll wait.

 

Caution TapeIt was a cold day in February, even for Florida, when the Mastermind ended his onslaught on my house. He put away his tools and took my special bed. He’d done all he could. Was it enough? We’d have to wait three months before we could find out. His photon torpedoes made my house swell obscuring the ability to get an accurate picture of what was inside.

I’d been through this before. I laid in bed every night praying to my Creator that the Intruder was gone for good. Wanting to prove the cutter wrong when he said, “You may have to live with him for the rest of your life.”

Three months later we tested my house and I met with the cutter. The Interloper was still there. To get away from the photons, the trespasser had broken into separate pieces and he was now scattered across the upper floor of my house. But the cutter’s eyes twinkled. “I want you to meet with the Brazilian,” he said. “We think we may have found another course of action.”

Motivated to rid myself of this evil presence, I ran head-long to the Brazilian’s office. I liked him and wondered if he was still eating his daily turkey sandwich. Inside he informed me that there might be another way. Medicines that I would feed my house twice daily. The treatment was working with a woman who had the same Trespasser as I did and he wanted to try it with me. I readily agreed.

Three months downing two types of medication in a specific order. I waited with fingers crossed and prayers sent to my Guardian for the outcome of testing. Had the pills done anything to eradicate the Intruder? Gleefully, the Brazilian brought good news. One spot was gone and the rest of the spots were shrinking or stable. I looked heavenward and praised my God. After so many years chasing this Interloper, I could handle “shrinking or stable.” We decided to continue the treatment for another three months.

Those three months came to a close this past Monday. I’d completed all my testing last week. Anxiously, I waited with my mother in the Brazilian’s office for news. The Brazilian strolled in shaking our hands and chatting pleasantries. I watched his face for any signs. He sat down at his desk and poked on his computer.

“You’re clear.” He stated matter-of-factly as if he was talking about the sky or a background check.

I paused. Not really sure I heard him right but knowing I did. “I’m clear?” I asked. “What do you mean I’m clear?”

“Your chest is clear.” He said as he broke out into a wide smile.

“Clear?” I asked again, not able to comprehend the results. “Completely clear?”

“Clear.” He waited for the news to sink in.

I turned to my mother whose eyes were shining. She had a large smile on her face.

“Look at the CT report,” he said, turning the monitor toward me. “No evidence of cancer.”

I shook my head unable to speak. In shock, I suppose.

“Continue the course of medication for now and in another three months we’ll get a CT Chest and Abdomen to make sure.”

“Am I cancer free?” He looked up at me without saying anything. “In remission?” I offered, wanting to put words to this condition. The Brazilian stopped short of claiming either outcome.

Even though I still have a hard time believing where we are right now and that the Intruder is actually gone. I praise my God. Singing the Doxology with a whisper of hope in my heart.

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.

Praise Him, all creatures here below.

Praise Him above, ye Heavenly Host.

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Jesus had always told me that I would be fine. But in our Christian economy, fine could be healthy and living or living with Him in Heaven. I had been prepared for either conclusion for two long years.

So for now the Interloper seems to have been beaten back. Dead again. And me? I’m still stunned. Not really sure how to cope without the beast who’s been intertwined within me for so long; but ready to try!

It’s Not Goodbye

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Bob and Paula

Bob and Paula Nilsen

It’s hard to cry for departed Christian friends because I know where they are and am confident I’ll see them again. It’s much easier to weep for those they left behind. We must all await our time to enter the realm of God.

My friend Paula left us last month. Paula is a vivacious, generous, and gentle soul who God pulled into my life and became my friend just before I was diagnosed with cancer in 2015. (If you missed it, here are easy links to part one and part two.)

I originally assumed God had brought us together for me to help her with her cancer diagnosis; but in a short matter of time we could see that we were meant to lean on each other through the suffering of this disease. Two Christian women fighting shoulder to shoulder with the big C.

God’s plan in our friendship really became evident when Paula’s disease metastasized to bone and brain and her faith began to falter. (You can read that here with links to part one and part two.) It scared me because she was one of the most solid women I knew. If her faith could crumble so easily … could mine?

What I didn’t know until later was that her doctors had told her she was incurable from day one.

Incurable.

It’s a hideous word that should not have found its way into our lexicon. I wondered how having that word spoken over you could damage your psyche. Now I could really appreciate just how tough and resilient she was. She’d lasted almost two years with that label slapped on her and her faith had just now had begun to slip. I counted my blessings that no doctor has ever used that word or, the alternate, “terminal” with me. Of course we are all terminal in one way or another.

Determined to restore her faith, we embarked on a 28-day bible study by Kay and David Arthur called Lord, I Need Answers. I’m not sure if it was the weekly camaraderie or God working through the study itself (or both!), but we were equally refreshed and stronger by the time we completed that study. I cheered as Paula was able to say with confidence the ultimate statement, “I know I’m going to Heaven when I die.” Faith reestablished! Hallelujah!

It wasn’t long though before Paula’s body began to ignore her directives. Since the disease had begun ravishing her body, she slipped into hospice care and friend after friend came by to sit with her, offering their love and support, and praying over her and with her.

It was very tough to witness this vital, faithful, loving woman fade away and I was with her on what was to become her last day. That afternoon I prayed a couple of Psalms over her (something she liked me to do when I’d come over) but found it very difficult to get through Psalm 91, one of our favorites. I dissolved into tears as I prayed God’s undying love over her. I couldn’t be sure she had heard me at all but had her hand in mine and as I was saying goodbye with a promise of returning the next day, she squeezed. I reported it to her nurse as I burst into a fresh round of tears.

Her husband, Bob, let us all know that she passed into Jesus’ arms at about 10pm that evening. I can’t say enough about Bob. He’s a good, godly man and a verifiable rock. There’s no wonder that God brought Bob into Paula’s life for a time such as this. It’s never easy for a man to lose his wife, but really God? They just celebrated their third wedding anniversary in March.

I’m beyond grateful that God brought Paula and I together two years ago. I’m overjoyed that He was able to use her in my life and me in hers right until the end. I’m thankful she heard a few chapters of my book and never once laughed!

Farewell, my friend, I love you.

Three Amigos 2

Me, Paula, and another friend at church.

Three Amigos 1

Three Amigos

“Don’t be dismayed at good-byes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.”

~ Richard Bach (Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah)

On Writing a Memoir

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On Writing a Memoir

The hardest thing about writing a memoir is discovering things about yourself that you’d really rather not know.  Case in point:  Back in the day (almost 20 years ago now) I had an umbilical hernia that was strangulating my colon.  I didn’t know it at first.  I figured I had a severe case of food poisoning.  I’d just started a new job and one Monday the whole office had gone out to eat at Red Robin.  By that afternoon I felt so sick that I headed home early to crawl into bed and proceeded to throw everything up from the day.

The next day I felt no better.  I called in sick and continued to lay in bed.  At some point in the afternoon I tried a cup of tea and dry toast.  Nope.  That quickly came up.  I spent the rest of the day in bed sipping water for sustenance.  The third day I was still ill and didn’t even attempt to eat.  I spent more time worrying if my new job was in jeopardy due this ill-timed outage.  The fourth day dawned and once I began to throw up the water I was sipping,  I knew I was in trouble.  I called my office and told the admin that I was going to drag myself to the hospital.  Luckily, she offered to come get me.

Upon arriving at my door, her face told me I didn’t look very good.  Reaching the ER they discovered the hernia, scheduled emergency surgery, and set me up on a saline drip due to the severe dehydration.  Before she left, my admin asked me if I wanted her to call my parents.  I thought briefly – they were in Florida, I was in Denver – I was in a state-of-the-art hospital, and the doctor had already explained the procedure.  (My biggest fear was that the hernia had caused some of my colon to die and I’d wake up with a bag that I’d have to wear the rest of my life.)  I told her that I didn’t want them called.

Even though she did call them and by the time I was out of surgery they were on their way; I wondered for years afterward why didn’t I want them called?  I mean.  Who does that?  Who goes through major surgery and doesn’t contact the only people in their life who truly love them?

I’ve thought about this for years without really coming to an answer.

Until now.

God brought me into my parent’s home a few years before I was diagnosed with cancer.  My parents have been absolute troopers throughout the diagnosis, surgery, and treatments and there is absolutely no way I could have gotten through it all without them.  But I’ve also witnessed the emotional stress they’re under.  It occurred to me the other day.  The reason I didn’t call them 20 years ago and the reason I wish they didn’t have to go through this now.

I’m a burden.

I don’t know how much of that is actually true, but for some reason it is how I feel.  I didn’t want to burden them back in Denver and I hate that I’m burdening them now.  They are retired and should be living days that are wild and carefree.  But I see the stress on their faces.  I hear their fighting over nothing at all.  And I know I’m to blame.  Not me, really, but my situation.  Without me however, my situation wouldn’t exist.  So where do I end and my situation begin?  And how can I ever get over this feeling?

This probably won’t make the book unless I hear from God on the matter.  Writing the memoir shines a light onto my psyche and in most cases I can illustrate an encouraging message that has developed from my past.  Otherwise, what’s the point of writing it at all?

PS:  My admin apologized later for calling my parents against my wishes but when she’d picked me up, she said she was so scared because I was gray.  I don’t hold it against her.  Anyone in the right mind would have wanted their parents called.  Maybe they’re right (whoever they are) – writers are crazy.

Sorrow

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Sorrow

It’s dreary here without Paula.

Her two greyhounds stare at me as if because I’m here, their female human should be too.  Chrissy and Scooby.  I don’t have the heart to tell them she won’t be home just yet.  They’ve already been missing her something fierce, I’m sure.

A sound outside makes me get up from behind the laptop and move to the front window. The dogs are excited.  Perhaps I’ll give them a treat, they think.  Or even better, a walk.

I see the neighbor across the street poking around in his garden.  He wears a lumbar brace, smeared with dirt and stained with sweat.  His belly protrudes over the belt.

I try to imagine what it smells like and my nose wrinkles in perceived disgust.

A UPS truck in the street slows but then inches forward stopping at the house next door.  I sigh and absentmindedly scratch the pooch that stands next to me.  I look down.  Scooby.  I take his long head into my hands and rub his ears playfully kissing the top of his nose.

No sooner does UPS pull away when another truck, larger and white, pulls up directly in front of the house.  I squint to try and read the small blue lettering on the cab.

Hospice.

This is what I’m waiting for.  But I wish I wasn’t.

You see.  Paula is not doing well at all.

The cancer has gripped her body and is causing a host of other issues.

But Paula, whom God put directly into my path so that I could love on her through her struggle, ended up loving on me so much more when I was diagnosed.

She saw me through the breast biopsy (which was negative) and then the heart issue (which required a stent) and then the surgery and then the chemo and then the radiation therapy.  All along being supportive and encouraging and ever so prayerful.

I won’t lie.  It was tough to tell her when I went into remission.

Because she wasn’t.

And I wanted her to be free with me.  I wanted us to celebrate together.

While she was finding cancer in more and more places I’d been diagnosed, treated, and relieved of the disease.

Why?

That awful question which has no answer this side of Heaven.  But I ask anyway knowing my words fall deafly into a void.

Why do I get to hear the words “cancer free” and she doesn’t?

Instead, I watch forlornly as Hospice moves in the bed and the tray table and the oxygen tanks and my eyes fill with tears.

It doesn’t matter that I know we’ll all meet again in Heaven.  I want time with her here – now.  We’re just getting to know each other apart from our shared medical journeys.

I sign the paperwork of receipt and plop down in the chair behind my laptop, exhausted.  I put my head in my hands and pray.

Pray for healing.  Pray for Heaven.  Pray for her husband.

It’s all I can do now.

Hold her hand, love her, and pray.

And pray.

The Peace of God

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The Peace of God

I was just remarking to my mother the other day that it seems to me as though more and more people are getting dreadful diseases.  I began noticing this trend about six to nine months ago and had originally chalked it up to the fact that I’d been diagnosed with cancer assuming I was just hearing about so many other people with cancer because I as moving in that circle.  But I’m not so sure that’s the case anymore.  Every day someone else I know is diagnosed with cancer or some other disease like Parkinson’s, and we’re all fairly young (between 40 and 60).

A couple of weeks ago I heard from another of my OCFG’s (Outrageously Christ-Filled Girlfriends).  She had a routine mammography that had originally gone well but the doctor had called her back for additional pictures.  Having not had that ever happen, she was a little alarmed.  We (women) each handle this information in our own way.  Women grow up with their breasts taking an odd significance in their life – mainly because they are the only sexual organ that is so obviously prominent on one’s body.  For some women breasts become a sort of status symbol, for some they become part of our identity, for others they are the life-blood for rearing children, and for all of us they are simply part of our figure.  Men, would you like a useful finger or two lopped off?  I don’t think so.  But when a doctor gives you that look or calls you back for more pictures, your mind starts whirring with possibilities that could follow. If you’re not careful, it doesn’t take long to fall down the rabbit hole of worry and I can just imagine Satan’s demons hopping aboard the fear train and stoking the fires.  Breast cancer.  It’s not diagnosis you want to hear.

However, getting additional pictures isn’t an unusual step for women as they age.  There is always something weird popping into view somewhere!  And as any good Christian friend would do, I prayed that the doctor wouldn’t find anything of importance.

I didn’t hear anything for a week or so until she let me know that they were now calling her back for an Ultrasound (US).  And that’s ample reason for the bravest of us to grow even more concerned.  Half the problem is the doctor.  They never seem to say anything that truly calms us because they’re trying so hard to not upset us.  It’s a no-win situation.

I’d recently driven down routine mammy-extra views-ultrasound street and took a left turn at biopsy lane so I told my friend about the entire process I’d gone through so she’d know what to expect.  As I’ve written recently, I’d given my burden to God to handle because with everything that was going wrong in my body at that time I just couldn’t worry about one more frightful thing.  Then we prayed again, bringing her fear and anxiety to the foot of Jesus’ cross and laying it there. Not only did my friend not have to bear this burden alone – she didn’t have to bear it at all.  She knew that, but it’s always nice for a friend to come alongside and agree.

I love chatting with this particular OCFG because we throw Scripture at each other all the time and that’s not a bad thing!  We always seem to be bouncing God’s word or Christian-living views and questions off each other … what do we think … what do we know … how do we know it.  We talk it out and usually come to some sort of agreement.  It’s quite enlightening to discuss Scripture with someone who is studiously in the Word.  We should all have people in our lives who are at all ends of the spectrum.  The really knowledgeable, the semi-knowledgeable, and the maybe not so knowledgeable.

A little while later I’d checked in with my friend and she gave me the date of the US.  But this time she sounded different.  She shared right away that she was enjoying God’s peace and that she’d received a word of knowledge … Job 23:10 which reads in the Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)

10 But He knows the way that I take [He has concern for it, appreciates, and pays attention to it]. When He has tried me, I shall come forth as refined gold [pure and luminous].

How lovely is that promise?  He knows the way I have taken … God is so intimate that He knows everything.  We can be confident in His testing because we really can’t fail.

My friend continued her thoughts in a text, she said (and I could feel her joy), “So I know that no matter what happens, I will be refined as pure gold! How gracious of Our Lord to comfort me with that truth!”

How gracious indeed.  How can we not love and worship a God who provides this kind of peace and protection when we need?

I’m so ready to worship Him forever!

** Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC) Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation courtesy of BibleGateway.com

Receiving His Grace

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This is part four in an ongoing series about some health trials I’ve been walking through, thanks for joining us!  If you’d like to get caught up, here are links to parts One, Two, and Three.


It occurs to me that I’ve left you dangling.  Rope in hand, sunlit tree in the distance.  Course by now you realize I survived the Cardiac Cath.  My ghost isn’t typing these words.

I’ll be honest with you.  In the beginning I was only prepared for one piece of bad news.  You know the woman in the Bible who had the 12-year bleeding problem (found in Matthew 9, Mark 5, and Luke 8)?  I was experiencing the same issue, albeit, for not nearly as long.  But having been there, it gives me insight to her longing … her need … to touch Jesus.  The faith that she had that if only …

If He were walking by me I would have done the same thing.  Wouldn’t you?

Of course I’m not able to have the Master just happen by my town; but in my way I did the same thing.  I ran to Jesus for healing – for coping – for solace – for peace.

I was prepared to have my standard mammography.  I wasn’t prepared to find something suspicious in my breast.  I was prepared that doctors would discover that I needed surgery to correct my bleeding issue.  I wasn’t prepared for cancer to be the whispered, yet unconfirmed, diagnosis.  But when pre-op work started and doctors zeroed in on my heart, having never experienced any symptoms, I wasn’t at all prepared for them to find an abnormality.

What my cardiologist originally called a “slight” blockage became, with the help of the ‘eyes’ of the Cath, a 100% blockage in the artery they call “The Widowmaker”.  One. Hundred. Percent.  I shudder to think what might have happened.  What becomes wholly amazing from this experience is how fantastic God’s creation really is.  I most likely didn’t experience any symptoms because my body had been making a network of veins to circumvent the blockage.

In any event – the doctor was able to tunnel his way through the obstruction and insert a stent.  Post op drugs now delay my surgery for at least a month.

So I wait.  Experiencing more pain, it seems, with each passing day.  I have no one to lean on but God.  I have no mercy to ask for but from Jesus.  No relief but pop two tabs of Tylenol when the pain strikes.  I kid.  My relief comes from fully knowing that He is still with me, watching over me.  That He is in control and His plans for me haven’t changed.  How do I know that?

Because He told me.

I’ve told you before about a time of particularly deep prayer that occurred about six years ago when God laid out my future.  It was desperately needed at the time.  I was coming out of a swift, but severe, bout of depression and had rediscovered Him.  When all had crashed down around me and I was utterly bankrupt in all facets of life, I needed to know that I had a future.  That there was purpose and design to my life.  Our God, who is so faithful, graciously showed me mine.

The future that God initially laid out for me then is complete except for the last thing (writing the book), which is in progress.  So a little thread of worry did invade my consciousness just before the Cath.  Was I a ticking time bomb?  Would I die on the table?  I was kicking myself for not writing faster, for completing the book that God said I would write.  Actually, he said books – plural – and about a year ago revealed more of my future.  But everything I was experiencing was enough to conjure a small trickle of doubt that could easily have been ridden by Satan if Jesus hadn’t been so quick to comfort me.

God stopped the hamster wheel that sometimes is my brain and quickly, unquestionably, gave me this verse:

God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind.

Does He speak and then not act?  Does He promise and not fulfill?  ~ Numbers 23:19 (ESV)     

My breath catches in my throat.  The last six words bring tears to my eyes.  “Does He promise and not fulfill?”

No.  No, He doesn’t.

God doesn’t lie.  He doesn’t change His mind.  He is steadfast.  He is faithful to keep His promises.

Once again I am driven to my knees in gratitude as the veil between Earth and Heaven is peeled back and I get a glimmer of understanding of just how much God loves me.  So much that He would shut a door the devil might walk through, seek to remove my worry, quiet any discontent that might make its way into my heart, mind, or soul over this situation.

He reminds me that He is in control.  He is on the throne.  He is faithful.

All the glory to Abba Father.  I am overwhelmed by His grace.

There’s more to come … see you next time!