Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: What If?

Last Thursday I got a phone call from my oncologist for which I wasn’t at all prepared. I had my routine check up with him on Aprill 11th. During that visit, I mentioned I had been experiencing more frequent than usual migraines and with them came vertigo, which I had never experienced before. The migraines where excruciating and the vertigo lasted for a few weeks. He didn’t seem overly concerned, but thought it would be a good idea to order a brain MRI just as a precaution. Though I wasn’t at all happy about the idea of having a brain MRI (it makes me feel like I am in a coffin), I couldn’t help but smile when he said, “I don’t expect to find anything. I know you are well!” It was his way of repeating what I have been saying since I first got my breast cancer diagnosis, ‘I AM HEALED!’

When I go to the oncologist they always do blood work. They explained at length early on they watch my “tumor markers” in particular to try to gauge if the cancer it trying to come back. If the levels elevate or “spike” it gives them a reason to investigate further. To this point, I have always gotten rave reviews about how “wonderful” or “great” my numbers are, until last week. My oncologist called on Thursday to let me know my tumor markers are elevated and along with the brain MRI, I now needed to have some scans to see if there is a reoccurrence of the cancer. His words momentarily took my breath away.

When I got off the phone, I sent my family members a message in our family Group Chat and asked them to pray. I also sent up the smoke signal to my four friends who are true prayer warriors. The last on my list of battle buddies to inform was my mom. Once everyone was aware, I went to Jesus and said, ‘ARE YOU SERIOUS RIGHT NOW! I’m not saying they’re going to see anything on the scans, Lord. But, I JUST got my cancer-free mammogram in January! Couldn’t I just ride the wave of that for awhile before I get a phone call like THAT!’ Needless to say, there was no response from my Love, to my rant. I spent the rest of the evening frustrated, angry, and in knots inside. Finally, when I couldn’t stand myself any longer, I went to bed only to toss and turn most of the night.

I woke up Friday morning to Jesus asking me a barrage of questions one after the other, “Lisa, if you have to do it all again will you still love Me the same? If you have to do it all again will you do it with joy and light? If you have to do it all again will you do all you can to minister love to those who need to see Me in the midst of their hurt, sickness, pain, and despair? If you have to do it all again, are you still healed? Or is your healing dependent upon what a test says? Or what a doctor says? If you have to do it all again, what does that change between you and Me?”

I went about the rest of my day, Friday, doing some retail therapy, hearing the Lord’s questions echoing loudly in my ears all day long. Macy’s was on my list of stops. Little did I know, God set an appointment for me in front of the store with a very dear friend of my mom’s. I just happened to “bump” into Ms. Diane as I was going into the store and she was leaving. I told her of the phone call I received. In all my years of knowing her I did not know that she too had, had breast cancer in her left breast and had, had a mastectomy and reconstruction many years ago. Oh how she encouraged me! She gave me the biggest, warmest hug that I have received in a really long time. That, alone, was worth the appointment with her. But then, as she held onto me she prayed. As she prayed, I cried. All I could manage to say is, ‘Ms. Diane, I am so tired now.’ She held onto me even tighter and said something I will never forget. She said, “Lisa, God is not mad at or disappointed in you. Your light is just too bright. It’s been one thing after another and you are tired. Sometimes I tell the Lord when the devil mentions my name and asks permission to try me, pleassse say no this time!” I laughed out loud!

It took all day, but when I got home Friday afternoon I was finally able to answer Jesus’ questions from that morning. If I have to do it all again I will absolutely, positively, unequivocally, with my whole heart, soul, mind, and very essence of being love Him the same. If I have to do it all again I will do it with all the joy I can muster for it is His joy that is my strength and I will pray that His light in me is so bright it is BLINDING! If I have to do it all again I will continue to love all over my fellow warriors, their families, and the staff until it is infectious! And I AM HEALED, not because of what a test or a doctor says, but because of what JESUS DID. I will not be moved from that TRUTH. I believe what Isaiah 53:5 says (“…And by His stripes we are healed”). I truly believe Jesus took my cancer with Him to the cross. There, it was defeated. So, if I have to do it all again absolutely NOTHING changes between Him and me. He’s still mine; I’m still His, forever and ever. Amen.

For today, I am so very thankful for my relationship with my loving, comforting, all-knowing, all-sufficient Savior, Lord, and Friend. It really doesn’t matter what the results of the scans are. I’m not worried, anxious, or concerned. Jesus knows all the details. His grace is truly sufficient for me (2 Corinthians 12:9). Come what may, all is well.

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: Storms

“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 3:11 NIV; “Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.” Hebrews 3:3-4 NIV

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: I Do!

“…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 NIV; “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” John 15:9 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: Unconditional…

I woke up this morning thinking about something Chris Rock said during his Netflix comedy special, “Tamborine.” He said, “Only women, children, and dogs are loved unconditionally. A man is only loved under the condition that he provide something.” Now, I am not that person who finds some “deep” meaning in everything or can’t take a joke for what it is, laugh hysterically, and move on. In fact, I can generally find humor in most things. Thank God, I have spent more time laughing than crying throughout my breast cancer journey. But, I am a person who often sees beneath the skin to the heart of a matter and hears between the words or often the silence, the unspoken things. Chris Rock’s statement, spoken in jest and truth, was one such occasion.

As I pondered his words this morning, I immediately thought of my relationship with Jesus. He, unlike anyone I, and possibly, Chris Rock, have ever known loves unconditionally regardless of gender or what you are able to provide. I thought of how all I have ever been able to give to Him is all of my mess and He not only loves me the same, but by some miraculous exchange He takes my mess and gives me His beauty in its place. Simply amazing…

I believe we all at times, men and women, tend to love people based upon what they can provide for us. Be it financially, emotionally, physically…wherever there is a void the person we “love” can fill or provide whatever piece of ourselves we deem to be “missing.” After surviving two failed marriages that left me devastated and broken in ways that I am still discovering, I struggle to not laugh out loud when I hear people say things like, “He (she) is the center of my world” or the famous “He (she) completes me.”

In the heat of battle, during the hardest part of my cancer fight, was the loneliest time of my life thus far. I was surrounded by people who loved me, but still longed for that one person that was mine and I was his. The one that I knew no matter how things turned out, no matter what my body looked like on the other side of all of this, he would still be mine, I would be his and he would love me the same until death do us part.

This morning when Chris Rock’s statement came to my mind it made me examine my own heart. I have painfully discovered if your spouse/significant other is the center of your world, your world is subject to collapse. Your center, your core has to be strong enough to handle the weight of your life. It’s unfair to expect a person to handle all of your stuff. If you can’t and you know your mess intimately, how can they? My center is Jesus. No person can “complete” you. They can and should complement who you are as a person, but you are complete in the One for whom you were created (again, Jesus).

When I am found by the man that is willing to ride out this life with me until we are parted by death, I want to be able to love him from a place of wholeness in every way. Only then will I be able to love Him with the unconditional, agape love with which Jesus love me. That is the only love that lasts until death and beyond.

For today, I’m looking forward to seeing the exquisite, jaw-dropping masterpiece Jesus creates out of all the fragmented pieces of my life that look like a bunch of disjointed, misplaced, puzzle pieces to me right now.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:4-8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: Silver & Gold I Do Not Have, But…

It’s been over two months since I’ve written a blog post! The long hiatus has not been intentional. I began the New Year with an upper respiratory infection and bronchitis. Since then I have had numerous colds and as I sit here typing I have a terrible sinus infection. It seems my immune system has yet to receive the memo that I am DONE with breast cancer! Lol.

Yesterday, I went to my oncologist’s office to have my port flushed (I’m hoping to have that wonderful piece of equipment removed soon!). It was wonderful to see my family, as usual. One of my favorite nurses did the honor of stabbing me in my chest to make sure the port is still working properly, which it is. The visit was all of 15 minutes. As I was leaving, standing behind a woman and a man waiting for the elevator, I heard the woman say, “Thank You, God!” Before I could catch myself, I said, ‘I don’t know what you are thanking Him for, but it sure sounds good and I want to thank Him with you!’ She turned to me, smiled, and said, “I just finished my second round of chemo.”

We talked on the elevator and I shared with her my journey thus far. She has to do six months of chemo and seven weeks of radiation just as I did last year. When we arrived at the parking lot we both laughed when we realized we were parked next to each other. Before we parted ways she asked my name. I asked hers. We gave each other a big, warm hug. I didn’t want to let her go. She strengthened me in that moment. I hoped I had done the same for her.

As I was driving home the Scripture Acts 3:6-7 (NKJV) came to my mind, “Then Peter said, ‘Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.’ And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.”

I had been feeling so discouraged and just tired of being sick. Throughout the year last year, during the hardest part of the breast cancer journey, in the heat of battle, the Lord would ask me, “What do you want to do next?” Some days it would infuriate me! I’d be thinking, ‘NEXT! Don’t You see what I am doing NOW?’ But, most days I was so battle weary the best I could come up with is, ‘Lord, I just want to give people hugs, pray for them, and make them laugh.’ Yesterday, as my fellow warrior and I embraced one another, my discouragement changed to joy and I believe hers changed to strength.

For me, I remembered all the Lord has already done for me, how far we have already traveled on this breast cancer journey, how nervous and broken I was on my second day of chemo… A respiratory infection, bronchitis, a few colds, and a sinus infection are NOT breast cancer! For her, I believe in me she saw her expected end. She saw the finish line! And it gave her hope and strength!

For today, I may never have millions of dollars to give as I would like, but my prayer is that my heart always freely gives what I do have!

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!