Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The fat lady is still silent . . .

It's not over.  Monday was a long day; a good day; tiring; not conclusive; and not completely what we wanted to hear.  Never mind the ridiculous schedule and that we were there from 9:45 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  The great news is that the scan shows no disease and the tumor marker is consistent with the scan.  The disappointing news is that maintenance, which I fully anticipated, sounds almost as strenuous as the regimen just completed.

Honestly, by the time the doctor finally saw us, my brain had retired for the day.  It was hard to hear all he had to say and put it together in logical order.  I was to return to my Hattiesburg oncologist tomorrow and get started again with treatment, but that appointment has been changed until next Thursday instead.  The short version of the report is that I will continue with one of the two drugs I have been taking, but the administration of it will be slower:  what has been a one hour infusion will become and three hour infusion.  That is supposed to be easier on the body and help with the neuropathy in my hands and feet.  It's the same three weeks on, one week off schedule and I return to Jackson for another scan the end of January. 

I have prayed for grace and believe so completely that God is ever present and faithful that I was not afraid of the test results. I felt "high as a kite" hearing results, but hit the ground hard when learned the maintenance plan.  All the plans I had for resuming life as I had come to expect before chemo started again in May, suddenly crashed.  This past cycle has been harder than others, maybe because of the flu shot and everything in me screamed, "I'm tired and I'm tired of being tired."  Disappointment and discouragement oozed from every pore. 

Today is another day!  My quiet time this morning began with Jesus Calling that started with the words: I am with you; I am with you; I am with you, using the imagery of Jesus being our Shepherd.  Imagine being cared for by a shepherd.  When the sheep is weak, unable to care for itself, the shepherd carries it in his arms.  That image opened my closed mind.  I am the weakened sheep, Jesus is the Shepherd and He is carrying me.  Facing more treatment continues to be diaappointing, but the discouragment has been lifted.  Praise God for His constant and amazing care!

Pastor Margaret

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Finally . . .

For several months I have been counting the days until now, October 28, to be exact.  That's the day I head to Jackson for a Pet/CT Scan to evaluate my progress and learn what the next step will be.  The tumor marker remains within the normal range and I am slowly beginning to regain some energy, just in time for cooler weather.  I look forward to sitting outside with my morning coffee. 

Though there are things I have missed, I have also learned plenty (both mentioned in last week's blog).  For the first time in almost 73 years, things have slowed down and I don't feel guilty when I need to rest.  It seems that so much of my life has been spent thinking of what comes next:  when I go to college, when I graduate, when/if I marry, have children, when they grow up . . .   You know what I mean.  As I look back, many of those experiences seem as if they happened yesterday.  I remember dreading the time when our nest would be empty and then realizing how good years those were.  We anticipated retirement and the promise of travel and leisure days.  All the days of anticipation seemed to have gone by in a flash.  Now, I wonder, "How did I get to this stage of life so quickly?"  It is not at all what I anticipated or planned.  But, life is good.

Once more, I ask for your prayers for my checkup on Monday.  Pray for God's all sufficient grace.  I think "grace" covers everything: that in God's grace I might be healed; that in God's grace I will accept whatever the news.

Pastor Margaret

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

You'd think I'd know better . . .

. . . after lots of treatment over several years, what to expect.  I guess I was so excited to realize last Thursday that I was at the end of the planned treatments that I fully expected to feel like the usual me by Friday. That did not happen!  Lack of energy and extreme fatigue, beginning Monday, made me really happy that a third treatment had not been scheduled.  By today I have begun to turn the corner and can hardly wait to resume life as I know it.

Things I have missed are:
*being in worship with my church family on Sunday;
*buying my own groceries;
*getting a pedicure;
*knitting with friends on Friday mornings;
BUT, in spite of what I have missed, I am incredibly grateful for what I have gained.

 Quiet times in the mornings mean more than they ever have, maybe because I am not so caught up with what I need to be doing.  God has been teaching me through Scripture, prayer and selected readings to draw closer to Him.  I have time to reflect on what I read, to study, to consider what it truly means to "practice the presence" of God.  I don't have to reflect in order to interpret for anyone else; my study is just that, mine. I don't have to prepare to teach others. I can settle down, rest, in the knowledge that God is faithful to His promise to never leave me.  He will be with me always. 

I look forward to better days ahead and I KNOW they will be better.  I just need to be patient, dependent and accepting.  God is good all the time; all the time, God is good.

Pastor Margaret

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Just sayin' . . .

Friends and family know me to be opinionated.  I trust that, through the years, they have noticed that those opinions are tempered with a little more patience and compassion than they once were.  I can be quite dogmatic, stubborn and independent.  Sometimes that works to an advantage; sometimes not.  I would also trust that folks have witnessed a growing dependence on a faithful God and a willingness and need to share that with others.  This morning I am struck with opinions that compel me to write. 

Each morning I begin my quiet time with the daily reading from Jesus Calling.  This morning I felt absolutely terrible, maybe one of the worst  days since this leg of the journey began.  Last week's treatment shouldn't have hit me so hard; it was the first in the cycle and is usually tolerated well, but adding a flu shot to the mix delivered a double whammy.  I opened my eyes and wondered if I could make coffee, fix a bowl of cereal and get on with the day.  I felt terrible and I complained about it.  Then came the words for today written just for me:  You have been on a long, uphill journey, and your energy is almost spent. . . . I am pleased with your desire to stay close to Me.  There is one thing, however, that displeases Me:  your tendency to complain.. . . I understand better than anyone else the stresses and strains that have afflicted you. . . . Complaining to others is another matter altogether.  It opens the door to deadly sins such as self-pity and rage.  Whenever you are tempted to grumble, come to Me and talk it out.  As you open up to Me, I will put My thoughts in your mind and My song in your heart. 

I try not to complain, keep a stiff upper lip.  I may fool some of the people some of the time, but God knows my heart.  God knows my limitations and is ready to supply me with His strength.  My prayer is one of thanksgiving for pointing out my shortcomings and one of petition that I might not let the complaints rob me of God's song in my heart.

This, as you know, is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  As a survivor and as one who is keenly aware of how this particular disease has touched the lives of many of my friends and family, I am glad to see the attention paid to awareness, but the presence of all the pink offends me--not sure why, but it does.  Just like seeing women in clothing that leaves nothing to the imagination and flaunts big bosoms.  Too many carry the scars of having a breast--or two--removed; too many live with the inconvenience of a prosthesis.  Most of them will wear their bras on October 13, because going without is uncomfortable and a nuisance.  So, what can you do?

*Start by reading my daughter's blog @ where she writes about her experience with her best friend's cancer.  I particularly like her suggestion to talk about "life," not "cancer."  Her words are appropriate not just for breast cancer, but other cancers as well.
*When you contribute to breast cancer research, be sure that most of your contribution goes to actual research, not administration and publicity. 
*Inform family members of their medical history.  I learned after the diagnosis process had begun, that my maternal grandmother had had breast cancer, certainly a fact that needed to be shared. 
*Be aware and stay informed.  Treatment has come a long way since my grandmother had it over sixty years ago or even since I was diagnosed in 1981.

The other thing that has gotten to me recently is Michael J. Fox's new "comedy."  Don't get me wrong.  I applaud the work he has done to raise both money and awareness for Parkinson's Disease.  I have read his autobiography.  I know having someone of his notoriety speak out has raised millions for PD research.  Because I admire him, I tuned in to watch the new show.  Maybe the whole PD experience is still too fresh; maybe remembering the decline of the love of your life is too painful, but I was offended by what I believed to be insensitivity toward those affected by the disease.  Mr. Fox's experience is that of one man; not any two PD experiences are the same.  Some people respond and continue living productive lives; others cannot.  Needless to say, I didn't watch again.  Poking fun at disability is not comedy. 

I pray that as I seek to have a "God listening heart," I will confess my complaints to the One who already knows them and will provide; that I would be tolerant and not indignant when my opinions are in the minority; that I would make concerns about cancer, PD, all illness, a matter of prayer.

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Back again . . .

Life is full of excuses.  One of the main ones in my life lately is the problem I have with communication.  The computer continues to do as it pleases, when it pleases.  Several times I have gotten ready to post and I couldn't bring up the right page or it wouldn't take my password.  What's up with that?  Most often I do Facebook on my Kindle Fire, but last night it froze, wouldn't do anything.  In the night the battery died, but fortunately when I plugged it into charge, it worked and is happily charging away.  I still prefer phone calls and snail mail if face to face isn't possible.  Saying that reminds me of just how wide my circle of friends has grown through the years.  Seeing all of you face to face is not possible.  We remain connected by wire, mail, cyberspace and best of all the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. 

Let me tell you what's been happening.  Thursday, October 3, I saw my Hattiesburg oncologist and began the sixth cycle of treatment.  He laughed when we met and said that he wasn't even scheduling but two treatments in this cycle since I hadn't made it to the third one but once anyway. That means I have one more this coming Thursday, then go to Jackson for scans on October 28.  Words cannot express how glad I'll be to change the routine! 

Because of circumstances I missed a reunion with some friends who started to college together in 1958.  Some of us have remained in close touch, some not so much; some have seen each other, some haven't since we graduated in 1962.  A friend from South Carolina messaged me and volunteered to come by here, pick me up and take me, but I reluctantly decided that was not best.  So, when the gathering broke up on Sunday, she came to Petal and spent the night.  We had not seen each other in 19 years--had lost of catching up to do.  It was such a treat!  We stayed up entirely too late talking, but it was medicine for my soul. 

Just before Alyce, the above mentioned friend, arrived Tommy calmly walked in my door to say he  was still planning to cook supper, but he had to leave then because Elisa had just broken her arm.  His demeanor is not always so calm, but at that moment, he sounded like his dad.  Off they went to get the arm set!  Needless to say, we had leftovers to eat and he went to the grocery for me when he returned at ten.  Elisa is doing fine, doesn't complain. 

In other news . . . the racoon seems to have disappeared, though we did not trap it.  It is suspected that all the clearing in the 16th section land next to us disturbed its habitat and it left.  One of the two roosters got progressively more aggressive and mean and had to be eliminated.  Giovanni is now resting in the freezer waiting to be cooked and devoured.  Maggie, our Great Pyrenees, is amazing.  She, instinctively, herds and protects the chickens, having had no instruction from Tommy.  I have not had opportunity to witness her firsthand, but get reports a couple of times a week on her actions. 
She is doing what she was created by God to do! 

Two quiet time points to ponder:  One is not so new; I just don't practice it and it has to do with prayer for the world, our nation, community, our families.  It is easy to recite the problems, as we see them, say a prayer and move on to something else, but how often do we see ourselves as part of the problems and pray specifically for God to change us, use us?  For instance, we might pray for the people being oppressed in third world countries, but fail to recognize how we could be oppressing the people in our employment.  "Please care for the people who don't have  enough to eat or live on," while we ignore the living conditions of those next door.  We have had a ridiculous political situation right here in Hattiesburg.  At first, I stayed on the outside, looking in since we live in the county more closely associated with Petal.  The details are not necessary, but it has to do with a mayoral election and corruption surrounding it. Then there is now the stand off in our national government.  People are being adversely affected in several ways, while officials continue holding onto their opinions, whether they are right or wrong.  I fear that we pray rather flippantly for God to do something, instead of praying for the elimination of evil and corruption, for the absence of greed and for God to raise up God fearing individuals to lead.  Could it be that God might be calling one of us?

The other point is closely associated and comes from one of my Bible readings this morning.  I was reading about the reign of King Solomon and came to the place where God asked Solomon what he wanted from Him.  The Message translation in I Kings 3:9 says Solomon asked for " . . . a God listening heart. . . "  What difference would such a prayer make in our daily lives?  Today I need energy and cessation of nausea; it was on my prayer list.  But, focus on God, His provision, His promises, His grace is what has sustained me and it never ends.  The focus wavers and grows weary.  A "God listening heart" helps keep the focus.  That will head my prayer list from now on. 

Pastor Margaret