Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: #iWill

Early on in this breast cancer journey I decided my doctor appointments would be “date” days with my Love (Jesus). It was the only way I could motivate myself to get out of bed on doctor appointment days and look the best that I possibly could despite how I felt. Often I would have to get up at least three hours before an appointment to be able to shower, get dressed, put on a full face of makeup (you cannot go on a date without putting your best face forward. Lol), and get out the door. It doesn’t take me quite as long now, but doctor appointment day is still tough. Physically, I just haven’t recovered from my breast cancer world tour (surgery, chemo, radiation) yet. So, many days are hard to get out of bed at all.

Of late, doctor appointment dates with my Love have been challenging, because I have been so confused by what is actually happening. At my last visit with my oncologists he discovered a lump in my left breast (the site of the original cancer) that was not there at my last visit in April. I noticed the lump a few weeks ago and it has been increasingly painful. I wasn’t concerned, because after my MRI and ultrasound last month the powers that be seemed convinced what they were seeing was merely scar tissue. I don’t know that I was as convinced as they were, but I figured I’d go with it, because mentally I could not handle having even one more test or procedure. I was spent. That was before the lump.

Today was another doctor appointment date day for my Love and me. Today we saw my favorite of my team of doctors, my PCP, whom I am convinced is the BEST doctor on the planet! He has been my doctor for over ten years. We have gone through my stroke, my divorce, and now my breast cancer together. I trust him. He listens and doesn’t talk over me. And he is beyond thorough, leaving no stone unturned when faced with a medical issue. Still, I woke up nervous and apprehensive about the appointment.

As I pulled into the parking garage a song called, “#iWill by G. Mayes played that ignited a fire in me that I cannot explain. The song simply declares I WILL… praise…. worship… submit my life to the Lord… Suddenly, it was as if the darkness is my soul was annihilated by my singing those declarations at the top of my lungs. By the time I got out of the car I was ready to face whatever comes next. It was suddenly amazingly simple. No matter what happens on this side of life, I have my Home in view. And I WILL praise my God for loving me so much that He gave me Jesus to live out my time on this side of Heaven with.

My doctor felt the lump in my breast and said he was somewhat hopeful it may not be cancer, because it felt flat to him, not like a gulf ball. He said it could be just as they have speculated to this point that it is inflammation and scar tissue that has progressed since my last scan. I am scheduled to have another breast MRI next week.

For today, I’m not concerned. I’m still in pain. I still feel sick. But, rather in this body or outside of it I know I am HEALED. So, each day that my Love, graces me with breath in my body on this side of Heaven I WILL praise Him and get on with the business of enjoying this life for however long I am here!

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: The Midnight Hour

In my last blog post “A Place for You and Me” I explained I was waiting to have an ultrasound-guided biopsy on my left breast. The same breast cancer originally reared its ugly head in my body last year.

I had the ultrasound on June 17, 2018 and it was determined the area of concern may just be scar tissue. So, they did not do a biopsy and instead suggested I have a repeat MRI and ultrasound in six months. I was in total agreement and relieved that what they saw actually may be something other than a reoccurrence of the cancer.

Last week at an appointment with my oncologist he discovered a lump in my left breast that was not there at my last visit in May. I am amazed by how quickly things can “pop up” in your body. I am speaking at a phenomenal Women’s Retreat August 24-26, 2018. So, I agreed to follow up with my oncologist and deal with the lump on August 29th, after the retreat.

As I type these words I am still numb inside about what may lie ahead for me. Since my visit with my oncologist, I’ve me asking my Love (Jesus), if all of this fighting to stay on this side of life is really worth it. I fought with all I had in me to recover from the stroke I had in 2011. I suited up in my battle gear and fought harder than I ever have in my life last year to make it through my “Cancer World Tour (surgery, chemo, and radiation).” Today I found myself wondering if I have any fight left in me. I’m just not sure.

However unsure I may be, my Love is always certain. No matter what my life’s circumstance Jesus is always faithful to talk to me and remind me He’s still right here in the fight with me. And in Him victory is not only assured, it’s already done! His words to me in the image I created below really blessed me today. I hope they bless you as well.

“But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.” Acts 16:25-26 NKJV; “…Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.” Psalms 30:5 NKJV

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: The Very Best is Yet to Come!

In my April 26, 2018 blog post titled: What if? I explained that I got a call from my oncologist in which he advised me one of my tumor markers were elevated. That phone call set in motion the “test & see” hamster wheel that any fellow warriors who happen to read this post are very familiar with. On that day (April 26th), I had a CT scan of my chest & abdominal cavity, as well as a brain MRI, because I had been experiencing severe migraines and vertigo. Both scans came back clear, with no evidence of any formed tumors (thank God!). Still, of late, I have been experiencing severe pain in my left breast, which has extended to include my right breast.

After talking at length with my oncologist about how I’ve been feeling (it was more like a total emotional break down in his office), he softly explained that a CT scan cannot detect cancer “cells.” It only picks up tumors once they are formed, which requires MILLIONS of cancer cells gathered together. He went on to say he ordered the CT scan, not expecting to see anything in my breasts, but to rule out a tumor in my lungs, because the tumor marker that is elevated (there are 3) is the one you would expect to see elevated in patients who have or have had lung cancer or are smokers. None of those things apply to me. He told me all of my other blood work looked excellent! As a measure of extra precaution, based on how I feel, he ordered an MRI of both of my breasts. He said the MRI may come back clear as well, but it is our best chance of picking up anything that may be the root cause of the pain and overall sickness (nausea, loss of appetite, no energy, insomnia…) I have been experiencing.

I pondered my oncologist’s words for over a week before I was able to actually schedule the MRI. He’d said it would detect anything that may be the root cause of how I’ve been feeling. What if the “anything” is the cancer trying to reoccur? From the day of my initial diagnosis on January 9, 2017, I have said I am HEALED. Knowing and standing on that TRUTH got me through the lumpectomy on January 30, 2017, the six months of chemo and seven weeks of radiation that ultimately followed. I fought with all I had in me from January 9th to November 20th (the date of my last radiation treatment), knowing I am HEALED. I began this New Year, 2018, with what I believed to be confirmation of what I spoke all throughout 2017, I AM HEALED. On January 5th I had my first mammogram since my diagnosis. The results declared I was cancer-free! I finally had a piece of paper in my hand with words written in black and white that were in agreement with what I DECLARED from the beginning!

Now, according to what my BODY is saying, coupled with a clearer understanding of the nature and personality of cancer, I had to actually entertain the possibility that my journey toward total, complete healing may not be as close to finished as I hoped. I have never considered myself to be in “remission.” For me, I’m either healed or I’m not. Declaring myself to be in “remission,” would leave a door open in my mind that MUST remain closed in order for me to live any kind of life worth living. “Remission” leaves open the possibility of traveling back down the long road I have already conquered. My God doesn’t do anything halfway. He does EVERYTHING to completion. I do not say that denying the possibility that the breast cancer may be trying to reoccur. I say that FULLY aware of the possibility, KNOWING even if it tries to resurface it is already defeated, because I AM HEALED.

On Thursday, May 17th I had the MRI of both of my breasts. Because my left breast is already painfully sensitive, the MRI felt like an all out assault on my already “wounded warrior.” On Friday I woke up still in pain and just overall not feeling well. Much to my disappointment, I was feeling so badly that I wasn’t able to attend the surprise family dinner where one of our Princesses became engaged to her Prince Charming. This morning I woke up still in pain, frustrated, and just not in a “chipper” mood.

As I talked to my Love (Jesus) about how I was feeling, I told Him at this point I don’t care if the cancer if trying to reoccur or not. If I know nothing else I can handle cancer, because I KNOW I am healed. I just have to walk out God’s preordained process toward my TOTAL, COMPLETE healing. I’m ONLY concerned about my quality of life! I am sick, of being sick! My Love’s response to my rant (the words in the image I created below) had me dancing around my bedroom singing.

For today, I am a firm believer that when Jesus speaks, His words are far-reaching, and intended to be heard by all who need to hear them. I shared what He said to me, praying His words reach every person, every heart, that needs to hear them!

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:9 NIV).”; “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you (Psalm 84:11-12 NIV).”

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: In Spirit and in Truth…

I spent the day Monday at an Urgent Care facility. Last week I was prescribed a strong antibiotic for a pretty bad sinus infection. My PCP’s description of it was, “Both of your nasal cavities are completely swollen, there is puss in the left nasal cavity (🤢🤮), and your throat looks awful.” I was to take the industrial strength antibiotic twice a day for seven days. He was certain I would be feeling better within a few days. By the end of the week not only did I not feel better, I felt much worse. I was in bed all weekend and by Monday was so miserable as soon as I got out of bed I got myself together and headed to Urgent Care. There, it was determined not only did the antibiotic fail to clear up the sinus infection, but I also had acute bronchitis. An examination, chest x-ray, breathing treatment, and a few tears later, I was headed home.

On my way home I tried to do the “good Christian” thing and talk myself off of the emotional ledge I was about to jump off of head first into an ocean of hysterical, ‘I AM SICK OF BEING SICK, GOD!’ tears, with snot running down my face, screaming at the top of my lungs. Instead, I told myself, ‘Well Lisa, it’s not breast cancer. This too shall pass.” As I waited at CVS for my prescriptions to be filled two scriptures came to my mind: Psalm 96:9 (NIV) “Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness…” and John 4:24 (NIV) “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” As those words filled my mind my heart sank thinking I had disappointed God with my response to yet another illness. Since January I have had an upper respiratory infection, bronchitis, a sinus infection, and several colds. On top of trying regain my energy, appetite, and strength from all of the cancer treatments last year.

When I got home despite my best efforts not to all I could do is cry. My sisters came over for a visit, which was a welcomed interruption to what I’m sure would’ve turned into a ticket-selling worthy pity party. After they left, I took the pharmacy of medicine I take at night, unable to articulate how I felt I just cried until I fell asleep. I woke some time during the night only able to say, ‘Jesus, I just don’t want to be sick anymore. I’m so tired now.’

As I lay in bed looking at the ceiling, still feeling really frustrated and upset, without warning peace and calmness flooded my soul. I again thought of Psalm 96:9 and John 4:24. Admitting to Jesus verbally, out loud, how I felt, I was worshipping Him in Spirit and in truth. I wasn’t pretending. I was worshipping Him as Savior by being honest and knowing He would love me anyway. I was worshipping Him as Healer knowing He has the ability to heal me. I was worshipping His as Lord knowing as tired as I am His strength is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). The words I could not speak He heard and fully understood through my tears and silence. It was His all-consuming Presence that pierced through the darkness of my soul, my emotions and ushered me into worship with the words: ‘Jesus, I just don’t want to be sick anymore. I’m so tired now.’

When I woke up Tuesday morning I was still sick of being sick. I still didn’t feel well, but in the midst of all of my crabby, sick, funky mood, ugliness, I was able to get lost in the splendor of Jesus and His holiness. I realized He’s not expecting me to be a perfect ray of sunshine all the time. Sometimes it is RAINING and it is raining HARD! All He’s asking me to do is try to look toward the Rainbow and when I see it sing about it! Shout about it! Dance about! WORSHIP… in Spirit and in TRUTH… in the splendor of HIS holiness… not my own.

For today, I have a lot to sing, shout, dance, and WORSHIP about…despite how I feel!

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: Beauty-FULL

I use a wonderful journaling app called Day One, that notifies me on the days I have a journal entry from the same calendar day in the previous year. On Tuesday, January 9th I got an alert that I had a journal entry on January 9, 2017. The date, embedded in my mind, made me nervously curious to revisit what I was truly thinking and feeling the morning of the biopsy on my left breast. When I opened the entry I found only the picture above on the left with these words: “Headed to the biopsy, not nervous, in perfect peace!” The picture on the right was taken on January 9th this year as I headed to an appointment with the nurse practitioner at my oncologist’s office.

I had a good visit with the nurse practitioner. She explained over the next five years, they will monitor my “tumor markers,” among other things, in an effort to get ahead of any reoccurrence attempt. She talked at length about my specific cancer, the affects treatment has had on my body, and encouraged me to be patient in allowing my body to recover from all it has been through. She called me and my fellow warriors, “Superheroes!” During the five years I am taking the cancer hormone medication, they consider me in “remission.” At the end of five years, should there be no reoccurrence or high spikes in my tumor markers I will then be considered a “cancer survivor.” She is new to the practice and it was my first time meeting her. So, she was not aware of my perspective. I told her I am glad I know I am HEALED so I don’t have to worry about any of that! She just smiled.

When I got home I again looked at the pictures posted above. I could see how a year later cancer has aged me a bit. As I visually dissected every inch of my face, I recalled the morning in the summer I was preparing to go somewhere and as I was putting on my makeup attempting to tame my left eyebrow, a portion of it brushed completely off of my face. I remember seeing the face looking back at me thinking how sick I looked with half an eyebrow on one side, a very thin one on the other, huge dark circles that were getting harder and harder to hide under both eyes, patchy, dry skin all over my face… What I saw looking back at me that day looked everything, but, beautiful to me.

My breast cancer journey really challenged my perspective on beauty. I always believed true beauty resonates from the inside out, not the outside in. At least that’s what I thought I believed. Breast cancer forced me to examine myself, my body and all of its parts at a depth and level of honesty that I don’t know I ever would have otherwise. Like many women, deep on the inside, I found I wanted to be counted among those considered “sexy” or “beautiful” according to whatever the current standard of beauty is, which is always based on body size, type, shape, look, or parts in some form or fashion; everything on the outside.

For the past few days this notion of beauty has been swirling around in my mind. I have been processing my thoughts through the lens of Isaiah 53:2 (NIV) which says, speaking of Jesus, “…He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” When I read that verse I got into an argument with Isaiah in my spirit like, ‘How can you say that! He is the most beautiful person I’ve ever met!’ Just as I was about to get real indignant with Isaiah about his physical description of Jesus the Lord whispered to me, “Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. What he saw at a distance you see from close proximity. What he saw from the outside. You see from the inside. What he saw as a foreshadowing. You see as a manifestation. He knew Me personally. You know Me intimately.”

That one scripture profoundly changed my desire and perspective as it pertains to beauty. When you read the accounts of Jesus’ life in the Gospels He couldn’t go anywhere without attracting a crowd. Even those who didn’t subscribe to His teachings were still curious and lurking about. He had to teach from mountains and boats just to put some space between Himself and all of the people that were constantly swarming Him! According to Isaiah, the women weren’t flocking to Him to see the hot new Rabbi in town. The guys weren’t coming to see the buffed guy, decked out in royal garb to see if maybe they could get the “in” with Him. His beauty surpassed all of that surface level, superficial stuff that we put so much emphasis on. He was simply irresistible!

A year ago the thought of losing my left breast was absolutely devastating to me. I couldn’t imagine what my body would look like without it. What man would find that “sexy” or attractive? For that matter, I didn’t think I would ever be able to look in the mirror and see a beautiful woman anymore. A year later… I didn’t lose my left breast. The scars from surgery have healed nicely (last year, after surgery I cried, because I said my breast looked deformed). “Sexiness” or “beauty” according to the general standard is no longer my goal. Now, I want to be unforgettable, irresistible, and magnetic like the Spirit of Jesus that lives inside of me. Not based on my physical appearance, but rather His love, His Mercy, and His grace that fills me…HE is what makes me beauty-FULL!

I may never fit into the ever changing standard of what we call “beauty.” But, for today, I thank God for allowing me to see that I am forever beauty-FULL! That is a gift breast cancer gave me!

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: A Christmas Story…

I’ve been spending a lot of time preparing for the New Year. Mostly, I’ve just been doing some mental housecleaning and actual housecleaning in my bedroom. While cleaning the other day, I came across a gold mine of poems, journals, and all kinds of writings I have written over the years. Many of them, like the poem below, were written prior to the stroke I had in 2011. It was amazing to read the words written by my former self. It was like discovering a new author for the very first time! I think I kind of like her 😊. Anyway, the poem below, “A Christmas Story,” was written almost 10 years ago. I don’t believe anything happens by “coincidence” or by “chance.” I believe I stumbled upon this particular poem at this time quite purposefully, according to God’s timing. So, I thought I would share it with you!

A Christmas Story
‘Twas the night before Christmas and heaven was stirring. The angels were preparing, each one yearning. Could this be the night? Could it possibly be? The night predestined for all to see. There had been no night like this before. They each waited for direction from the Lord.

The Father spoke softly to the Son, “Tonight is the night. It must be done.”

The Son responded with a solemn heart, “Father, this shall be the most difficult part. For they are not ready for My arrival. They still do not see I Am the source of their survival.” (John 8:12)

“My Son, We have done all there is to do. I gave them the best of Me when I gave them You. You have interceded on their behalf. You laid down Your life. You did all that I asked. Tonight is the night You must return.” (John 17)

“But, Father, there are too many lessons they haven’t learned. Still they are filled with hate, lust, and greed. Still, they have no compassion for those in need. Still, they disobey and ignore My Word. They refuse to listen and haven’t heard.” (John 13:34)

Suddenly, there was silence as Gabriel entered in. The Son conceded, “I shall return, again.”

The sights were much different in the earth below. Carolers were caroling, many wishing for snow. Shoppers made their final trips to the mall. Most were wrapping packages, big and small. Others were resting after a long day of work. Some were preparing to rise for church. Many made calls to ones they love. Some gave out kisses. Others gave hugs. Some were in a bar or a hotel room. None were aware the hour was soon.

Though it had been spoken many times before, very few were awaiting the arrival of our Lord. Children were looking for reindeer in the sky, convinced that Santa would soon be passing by. Just before midnight, there came an awesome sound. People came running from all around. All stood in wonder of the sight they saw. Many were in disbelief of it all.

The sky opened effortlessly at its seam. This cannot be real. It must be a dream! And then He appeared, in all of His glory – the beginning of the end of the Greatest Story. In the blink of an eye it was complete. The dead in Christ arose from their sleep. Those still alive were caught up with Him, never to see the earth again. The sky grew dark when they were out of sight. The earth was now void of its magnificent light. (I Corinthians 15:50-54)

The heavens rejoiced when the Son returned. Still He wondered had they learned. Those left behind were still in His heart. He said to the Father, “Now it will start. The end is near. Judgment shall reign. I wonder if they know I still love them the same?” (Revelation 19:11-16)

The Father sighed as He listened to His plight, “Merry Christmas, My Son. And to You a good night.”

Though this was just a little Christmas tale, I hope you know Jesus well. For there is a day He will return. I pray your lessons have been learned. The land of man will soon be out of sight. Until then, Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight!

©2008 by Lisa R. Ransome

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: And the Journey Continues…

As of today it has been a month since I completed my last radiation treatment. Since that wonderful day, November 20th, I have celebrated Thanksgiving with many of the people I love most and on December 3rd I stepped over the threshold of my 47th year of living. In fact, I have spent most of the past month doing all I could to simply celebrate finally being finished!

This morning I was thinking about how different “finished” actually looks and feels, compared to my idealized version of it a month ago. I started taking a medication called, Anastrozole, which I will take for five years. Just as my oncologist warned it has been causing me muscle and joint pain, along with heightened menopausal-type symptoms. I’ve yet to regain my pre-radiation energy level or pre-chemo appetite. I still take what amounts to a series of 20-30 minute “cat naps” throughout the night. And most days I can count on waking up in some level pain and ending my day completely spent no matter how much or how little I have done throughout.

Somehow, in my own mind, completing the most rigorous part of the breast cancer treatment meant I was finished. I was “me” again. I could get back to my life. Well, trying to build one. I wasn’t at all prepared for the journey of FULL recovery that still lie in wait for me. This new revelation had not reached my full awareness on Thanksgiving. It had only been three days since I completed my last radiation treatment. So, it was okay that I didn’t feel great. I ate like a bird and just enjoyed my family.

By my birthday, I fully understood there was still quite a bit of road left to travel on this journey. And since then, my mood has been a little less than overjoyed. I told God I am tired of being sick. My daughters kept trying to get me excited about my birthday asking me what I wanted to do and what I wanted for a gift. But, I couldn’t come up with anything. I spent the morning before my birthday at the MVA renewing my driver’s license (I felt super accomplished when I aced the vision test without my glasses! 🤓). While standing in line, I glanced at my Facebook page on my phone and “Memory” from December 2, 2010 popped up. My status that day in 2010 read: “Woke up thinking about how fragile life is and really thankful for mine. Not sure if it’s turning 40 tomorrow or just another moment to stop and say, ‘Thank You, Jesus!’”

I could never have imagined exactly two months later I would have a stroke that would forever change my life.

As I stood in line thinking about the past seven years since I wrote those words, I was suddenly able to take all of the overwhelming pain, sicknesses, losses, and more devastation and disappointments than I can list here, and instead of viewing them as individual events they just looked like one long season. It wasn’t a thyroidectomy, because of tumors on my thyroid gland, a stroke, rehabbing for a year just to be able to be someone I’m still learning, not being able to return to my job, my husband divorcing me, losing practically everything I owned, having breast cancer… They weren’t individual events. It was just a season. And as with every season, when it is time, one season ends and another begins.

That day, standing in line at the MVA, I finally knew what I wanted for my 47th birthday. I told God I wanted to take the year off! I have not worked at a job where I have received a paycheck in the last seven years, but I have worked harder than I ever have in my entire life just to stay alive and stay sane! I am tired now. While standing in line, I was talking to a very nice woman in front of me about my battle with breast cancer. When my birthday request jumped into my spirit I said it out loud. She turned and said to me, “You know what you should do?” I responded, ‘What?’ She said, “Whatever you want! Travel! If you can’t travel far, travel wherever you can!”

I believe with my whole heart God not only heard, but responded to my birthday request with a resounding “YES!” I announced to my family that I am off for my entire 47th year! “Have to” is not a part of my vocabulary this year. I will only do things I WANT to do. At the top of my “want to” list is I WANT to be WELL! So, I decided I am taking the year off from being sick. I just have to convince my body to do the same! 😁 To help it along I have connected with a wonderful woman I met at a friend’s “Pretty In Pink” event in October who is in phenomenal health and shape, a real sweetheart, who truly inspired me! She has given me tips on how to get started with exercise and resistance/weight training, which the oncologist said will go a long way to counter the affects of the medication I have to take. I have also found a nutritionist who I hope will be able to help me ease back into a healthy diet that my digestive system can handle. Right now my goals for 2018 are to become an avid hiker and to go horseback riding! I may even try some mountain climbing (why not aim high?)!

So far, during the three weeks of my 47th year, I have attended a wonderful holiday party where I got to get dressed up and wear sparkly heels I was able to keep on all night and had enough energy to do one line dance, which was a MAJOR victory! I’m going on a road trip for a few days after Christmas. But, the highlight of finishing out 2017 for me is taking Christmas stockings filled with some small gifts and candy to my fellow warriors still in the heat of battle at the Infusion Unit where I did chemo and the Radiation Oncologist where I did radiation. My two sisters, my five year old granddaughter, and I are taking them tomorrow. I hope we’re able to make them smile!

For today, though there is still more road to travel on this breast cancer journey, I’m going to keep my eyes focused on the atmosphere instead of how I feel. I’m looking for signs that the season is about to change! In 2018 I’m looking for nothing, but rainbows and sunshine! Anything else is just scattered showers or isolated thunderstorms. But they will pass. You need the rain for the rainbows to appear!