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: LIVE! Love, Jesus

I’ve always said I haven’t cornered the market on pain and suffering. Everybody is going, has been, or will go, through SOMETHING! This morning, at 3 AM, via the words below, whispered ever so softly in my ears as I desperately tried to remain asleep, my Love reminded me ALL we go through in totality has a name: LIFE! I knew His words weren’t just for me. My prayer is all who read them receive the same boost of energy in spirit as I did when He spoke them to me. There truly is rest for the weary in His arms. But, when you finish resting, GET UP…GET OUT…and LIVE!

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭23:4‬ ‭NKJV

‬‬“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” ‭‭John‬ ‭10:10‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

“So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭55:11‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

“Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭24:30-35‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: A Life Poured Out

Last weekend I had the (dis)pleasure of spending the weekend in Buffalo, NY. It was pleasurable, because it was nice to be in a different place with new scenery as I waited for the results of my CT scan and brain MRI. It was displeasurable because it had the audacity to snow actual snow flurries while I was there! Where does THAT happen in the middle of Spring! Nevertheless, it’s always a good time when I can stay in a nice hotel for a few days and not have to make up my own bed.

While in Buffalo, I gave very little thought to the scans or what the implications of their results may be. I did, however, give a lot of thought to this breast cancer journey in totality thus far. It’s highs and lows, bumps and bruises, moments of uncontrollable laughter and inconsolable tears… It has been a life-changing ride thus far; one I am beginning to understand I may have actually signed up for.

One of the mornings in Buffalo Jesus started our daily morning conversation by asking, “Are you willing to be poured out as a drink offering for Me?” Before I could respond, knowing I did not understand what He was asking, He continued, “A drink offering is simply a choice to have ones life used in magnificent abundance by the Father unto perpetual overflow. To do this you must first be broken, restored, remolded, reshaped, remade. THEN you are stretched; so you are bendable, spendable, and sendable. It is then your life can be poured out upon the lives of others and used in a way that becomes a sweet smelling aroma in My nostrils.”

I wish I could say I immediately jumped up and down in the hotel bathroom, did a dance, and shouted, ‘Yes, Jesus! I would absolutely LOVE to be poured out as a drink offering for You!Thank You for asking!’ But the truth is as I sat on the bathroom floor, my heart tightened beneath my chest. I thought of Paul as he spoke to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:6-7 (NIV), “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” I could hear the weariness in Paul’s voice. But he knew, what I sat on the hotel bathroom floor wondering. Had I, to this point, fought the good fight? And if this particular fight was not over like I hoped could I really continue to do so? Did I really want to be poured out like that? I mean, aren’t a stroke, breast cancer, and the plethora of Lifetime-Movie-of the-week worthy events of my life enough?

Not until I quieted my soul (my own mind, will, and emotions), did I really hear and understand what Jesus said that morning. He invited me to a life of perpetual hugs, praying for people, and making them laugh, which is what I told Him I wanted to do. On the surface it looks and sounds like a lot of suffering. That is why I am getting much better at not looking at things with my eyes, but rather through the lens of purpose.

I have gained so much from this breast cancer journey. I barely even remember my B.C. (Before Cancer) days anymore. Out of something so very painful and ugly, Jesus created a beautiful masterpiece – my NEW life! He gave me a beautiful gift. The wrapping paper was just really ugly.

I had a consultation with my oncologist on Wednesday. My brain MRI was perfect and my CT scan showed no formed tumors anywhere in my body. The next step is a breast MRI of both breasts and if that comes back clear, he will just watch my tumor makers to see if they continue to elevate and go from there. The best part of the visit was when he said, “Ms. Ransome I was surprised you were so calm when I called to tell you your tumor markers were elevated.” To which I responded, ‘There was nothing to get upset about. I am not afraid of cancer or dying. I belong to Jesus. My Bible tells me this place where we live is my Father’s footstool. So, this is not the Utopia. I have my eyes fixed on Home. This is just a place I’m passing through.’ He smiled.

For today, I am so very grateful that I am able to say I do want to live a life that is fully poured out for Jesus. I want to be a completely empty vessel whenever it is time for me to go Home, having poured out, down to the very last drop, everything God deposited in me to share with others.

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: 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!

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!