Monday, March 31, 2014

I May See the Beach on my Birthday - No Foolin'!


During my “pathway to recovery”, I decided months ago to set a goal in order to give me something to work toward. I told myself I wanted to be able to play golf on my birthday. There was a time, not too long ago, my goal seemed very ambitious. But I never gave up. That day has almost arrived. My birthday is tomorrow, Tuesday, April 1. Yes, April Fools’ Day. And yes, I’m going to attain my goal.

Not only do I intend to achieve this goal, I’m very excited I will get to play golf with my husband for the first time! That’s right . . . it will be the first time we’ve played golf together.

We met last February before he had knee surgery in March. While continuing to rehab his knee last spring, he tore his Achilles on the other leg in May, which put him off the course, track . . . everything except poolside, for the summer! And I haven’t played since my diagnosis the end of July.

Needless to say, I am VERY excited about stepping up to the tee box on number one. Plus, it’s going to be a beautiful day. But not only am I thrilled about playing golf, I am even more overjoyed about celebrating another birthday. This time last year, I never doubted I’d celebrate 44 plus many more. After July 30, 2013, I didn’t know . . .

For those of you who have been diagnosed with life threatening illnesses you know exactly where I’m coming from. Just the word “cancer” sends you into an emotional orbit, wondering what, in my case, my son and fiancé would do without me . . . it took me months to even say the “C” word . . . uuugh. It was so heart wrenching. Now I realize what a “gift” my breast cancer has truly been.

As you all know, in our household, we really do celebrate the little things. Like many of you, we too have come to realize the little things are actually the big things in our lives. But tomorrow, I have so much to rejoice about in addition to my birthday . . . God has blessed my family and me beyond measure. He has taken care of us the last several months when at times we didn’t understand His plan, but I never quit putting my trust and faith in Him.

God continues to bless me more than I could ever imagine, while He's continuing to fully restore and heal my body along our “pathway to recovery”.  I thank Him for allowing me to achieve my goal tomorrow, spending my birthday playing golf on the links with two bonuses: having Scott has my partner on an absolutely beautiful day. So, I’m not sure how many holes I’ll be able to play, but it doesn’t matter. I don’t know how many fairways I’ll see, but it doesn’t matter. Nor do I know how many times I’ll find myself on the “beach” (sand). Well, that doesn’t matter either, even if that's the only beach I see tomorrow.
 
Hmmmmmm . . .  Wonder where and what I’ll be doing to celebrate my birthday next year?

 

 

Monday, March 10, 2014

My "Pathway to Recovery" Continues yet We Choose to Celebrate!


So, I may have gotten a little excited this past week but good news is good news, right? I have beaten breast cancer but does that mean my journey is over? No . . . my “pathway to recovery” continues.

Forgive me if I thought my medical oncologist would look at me last Friday and say, “You beat it! You’re good to go!” Instead, she/they are going to closely monitor me as the highest risk for reoccurrence is within the first two years following treatment. In addition, since I carry the BRCA2 gene AND have a 1 in 10,000 mutation AND since I had breast cancer, in both breasts, I am at a slightly higher risk for melanoma. If you will remember, I had a melanoma removed in 2011, which was benign. I had two moles removed last spring, and they were benign. To that end, I have a history of melanoma, which creates even more concern.

I guess it is impossible for an oncologist to use the word “cure” since it implies, in this case, cancer would be gone forever. So, I suppose the best a doctor can do is say they can find no signs of cancer in your body at "that" time. Even though my surgeon told me he felt good he got it all, and there is no evidence, the fact remains there is always a chance some cancer cells are left in my body and survived. Even though I had chemo, there is still a chance.

I will be returning to the Cancer Treatment Center of America in Chicago sometime in May for an outpatient surgery, as well as meet with my gyno-oncologist and medical oncologist. They are trying to get a few things in check that are not in check at this time before scheduling me for my three month follow-ups.

So, when do we officially get to celebrate, popping the bubbly? Why not today! Today is a day of celebration! Yes, it is our seven month wedding anniversary, it is also a day of life, a day of hope. And when I say hope, I’m not talking about our wishy-washy maybes. In scripture, the word hope is an indication of certainty, meaning a “strong and confident expectation”. We have much to celebrate.

I praise God every day for the gift of breast cancer and how He’s by my side along our “pathway to recovery”. And for the many people, especially women, who He puts in my path every day, who bless me, I in turn desire to be a blessing to others. Even when the “waves are kicking me under”, (you guessed it! Stronger by Mandisa), I will continue to fight with all I have. I know God will continue to give me the fight within and the strength to face each day with gratitude, not fear or worry . . . making me stronger! Speaking of stronger, remember “our God is stronger, God You are higher than any other, Our God is Healer . . .” I love this song, “Our God” by Chris Tomlin. My God is healer. I have put my life in His hands and my faith and trust in Him. I desire to bring glory to God through all of my life, just not the good times, but in it all.

Before I left Friday, I asked my oncologist when do women celebrate their one year, five year, ten year, etc. survivorship? She said from the day they are diagnosed. Today is not July 30, nor was last Friday, but I don’t want to wait til then! Our "pathway to recovery" continues so let the celebration begin!

Yes, We Will Choose to Celebrate While our "Pathway to Recovery" Continues!


So, I may have gotten a little excited this past week but good news is good news, right? I have beaten breast cancer but does that mean my journey is over? No . . . my “pathway to recovery” continues.

Forgive me if I thought my medical oncologist would look at me last Friday and say, “You beat it! You’re good to go!” Instead, she/they are going to closely monitor me as the highest risk for reoccurrence is within the first two years following treatment. In addition, since I carry the BRCA2 gene AND have a 1 in 10,000 mutation AND since I had breast cancer, in both breasts, I am at a slightly higher risk for melanoma. If you will remember, I had a melanoma removed in 2011, which was benign. I had two moles removed last spring, and they were benign. To that end, I have a history of melanoma, which creates even more concern.

I guess it is impossible for an oncologist to use the word “cure” since it implies, in this case, cancer would be gone forever. So, I suppose the best a doctor can do is say they can find no signs of cancer in your body at "that" time. Even though my surgeon told me he felt good he got it all, and there is no evidence, the fact remains there is always a chance some cancer cells are left in my body and survived. Even though I had chemo, there is still a chance.

I will be returning to the Cancer Treatment Center of America in Chicago sometime in May for an outpatient surgery, as well as meet with my gyno-oncologist and medical oncologist. They are trying to get a few things in check that are not in check at this time before scheduling me for my three month follow-ups.

So, when do we officially get to celebrate, popping the bubbly? Why not today! Today is a day of celebration.!Yes, it is our ten month wedding anniversary, it is also a day of life, a day of hope. And when I say hope, I’m not talking about our wishy-washy maybes. In scripture, the word hope is an indication of certainty, meaning a “strong and confident expectation”. We have much to celebrate.

I praise God every day for the gift of breast cancer and how He’s by my side along our “pathway to recovery”. And for the many people, especially women, who He puts in my path every day, who bless me, I in turn desire to be a blessing to others. Even when the “waves are kicking me under”, (you guessed it! Stronger by Mandisa), I will continue to fight with all I have. I know God will continue to give me the fight within and the strength to face each day with gratitude, not fear or worry . . . making me stronger! Speaking of stronger, remember “our God is stronger, God You are higher than any other, Our God is Healer . . .” I love this song, “Our God” by Chris Tomlin. My God is healer. I have put my life in His hands and my faith and trust in Him. I desire to bring glory to God through all of my life, just not the good times, but in it all.

Before I left Friday, I asked my oncologist when do women celebrate their one year, five year, ten year, etc. survivorship? She said from the day they are diagnosed. Today is not July 30, nor was last Friday, but I don’t want to wait til then! Our "pathway to recovery" continues so let the celebration begin!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Is it really that Simple . . . Just flip a Switch?


Last evening, while preparing dinner, I was peeling potatoes.




All of a sudden I dropped the potato . . . down the garbage disposal. And yes, the first thing I did was stick my hand down in there in an effort to rescue the potato. It was one of the bigger ones I had elected to peel!

Austin was in the kitchen with me as he was unloading the dishwasher and yelled, “Mom, don’t stick your hand down there!” Of course, I quickly removed my hand. I didn’t feel or see the potato so I assumed it went down the drain as it was.

I proceeded to peel a few more potatoes then scraped the peelings in the garbage disposal without sticking my hand in there again. When I turned on the disposal, it made a really weird sound for a few seconds then quit.

After Austin surveyed the situation, he saw the potato! So he grabbed a knife and within a few minutes the potato was rescued but guess what happened when we turned the garbage disposal back on? Nothing. That’s right, nothing. Austin encourage me to wait a few minutes and try it again. So I did. And still  . . . nothing. Austin proceeded to explain and show me with his hands how the disposal works and why the potato was lodged. He’s so smart . . .

I continued fixing dinner and decided I’d just wait until after dinner to tell Scott. We certainly couldn’t afford a new garbage disposal right now but I lived without one for almost 43 years. I could manage without it.

As we were sitting down for dinner my charming, delightful son says, “Mom, did you tell Scott?” As I gave him “that look”, he smiled and turned his head as he said, “oops.” Then, of course, Scott wanted to know so I told him first how much I loved him then told him what had happened, and I was so sorry.

He flashed that beautiful smile back at me, opened the cabinet doors under the sink, flipped a switch, and guess what! You guessed it! The garbage disposal was back in business! I raised my arms and thanked God, and Scott of course, I didn’t burn out the motor or . . . well, do anything else to it.

As we were enjoying dinner and the reassurance the garbage disposal was once again working, I couldn’t help but think about life and how simple it would be to just open the doors and flip a switch and make it all better. Wouldn’t that be awesome? . . . or would it . . .

Would we still learn to:

Let go, forgive and enjoy life?

Take care of ourselves, physically, mentally and spiritually?

Cease new opportunities?

Appreciate the good times?

Sharpen our focus on what matters most in life?

Be as strong, confident and trusting as we are today?

Appreciate the best days of your life?

Learn some of life’s greatest lessons when you fail?

Appreciate a smile?

(one of my favorites) Learn to dance in the rain?

So  . . . the next time we wish life was as easy as flipping the switch when life gets tough remember this . . . although it was simple to flip the switch, making the disposal work again, when Austin rescued the potato from the garbage disposal, it didn’t look the same as it did when I dropped it . . . it was cut  . . . and bruised.
What are some things you'd miss if we didn't persevere through the tough times if life was as easy as flipping a switch?

Please feel free to comment. I welcome and appreciate your thoughts and comments because as we share with one another, we can only make it better together!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Update to our "Pathway to Recovery" and Reflections . . .


Beautiful . . . serene. . . tranquil . . . and relaxing are words that come to mind to describe the many inches of snow we received Wednesday and yesterday. I was bummed I could not get out and play like everyone else, but I certainly received a lot of joy watching them. They even built a "pink" snowman for me!

 
When I woke up yesterday, it was like time was actually standing still. Looking out my windows at the majestic scenery God had created, the calm of the quietness was a sight to behold.

I have really enjoyed the snow this year. One of my friends is so ready for spring. I told her I wanted one good snow . . . one where you couldn’t see the grass. Well, I think I finally got it! But now, I’m not sure if I’m ready for spring just yet. As I’ve gotten older, I relish in the fact we get to enjoy all four seasons. So, did I mention it’s supposed to snow more tonight? :)

The snow has brought back many childhood memories. My mom and I use to work puzzles when it snowed. Dad would bring up a folding table from the basement and put it in the den, right in front of the wood stove. We’d sit there for hours. And on some occasions, mom would even make some party mix for us to munch on as we were searching for our piece of the puzzle.

My “big sis” Debbie came to visit me on Wednesday morning. And guess what she brought me? Yep – a puzzle!

It’s been a week since I had my hysterectomy and reconstructive surgery at the Cancer Treatment Center of America (CTCA) in Chicago. Last week surgeries this week Valentine’s Day. And what a day it has been. My sweet husband ordered a dozen pink roses to be delivered today. Ironically, they were delivered Wednesday, his day off. They are beautiful . . .


And just now the doorbell rang, and the cutest, sweet girl was at the door with something for Austin (from Scott) and something for me  . . . yes, me . . .  pink passion petals from Scott . . . I’m so blessed God gave me such a wonderful Valentine in Scott Teague . . . I hope you too are enjoying this Valentine’s Day, but please know . . . I also know what it’s like to just wish the day away . . .
 

 Regarding my surgeries, they both went very well. I stayed two nights in the inpatient center as they had a bit of a difficult time regulating my pain medication. Last Saturday, I enjoyed looking out the window in my room, watching it snow. And this week, I’ve enjoyed watching it snow out my window on Rayley Court.

I am doing really well. I’m sore but very little pain. I’ve had two great doctors ensuring I don’t lift a figure :) Scott had to work this week and this weekend so it’s been nice Austin has been home from school.

By the way, and to no surprise, we had a delay on our flight last Wednesday. When I checked in via the kiosk at the airport, it said it was on time, 12:30 p.m. As the gentleman is putting the tag on our suitcase he says “you need to know your flight is delayed until 2 o’clock”. I told him to just hold on as my husband was parking our car, and we may decide to make other travel arrangements. Anticipating this could happen, Scott and I had a plan B. We had decided if this happened, we would rent a car from the airport and drive to Chicago then fly home.
 
Our friend Lisa, who is a flight attendant, was at the airport as she too was on this flight. She encouraged us to wait on it as she felt pretty confident it would go. So after hanging out with her for a couple of hours, sure enough, it was time to board.
 
 

Once we landed we then had to wait on the tarmac for almost an hour.
 
Apparently, there was a plane in our gate that was waiting to be de-iced. We waited so long our driver even called to see where we were. Of course, he waited on us and after getting to the gate, off the plane and retrieving our suitcase, we were taken to our hotel on site at the CTCA. All the way there, I so enjoyed seeing all the snow.

We think we have a lot of snow here, and we do, but it was amazing the amount of snow in Chicago.
 
 
We even walked Wednesday evening from our hotel to the center for dinner. Again, there was a calming as I looked across the snow . . . it was glistening in the dark . . . it was almost like glitter was casting off of the blankets of snow. Most of the snow in this area had not been interrupted with footprints . . . it was seamless. After dinner, we walked back, a little faster this time :) Nonetheless, we had the ability to enjoy the calmness of the snow that surrounded us.

As you might imagine, my level of activity is minimal at best. We will see what happens next week when Scott has his knee surgery on Tuesday :)  Please continue to remember us in prayer.

I will be returning to the CTCA in a month for my surgical follow ups and to receive my next step from my oncologist.

To conclude, I hope you are enjoying the beauty of the snow and taking a moment to reflect. We all know how overwhelming life can be. I encourage you to use reflection as a means to possibly change aspects of your life, i.e. what do you deal with every day? What are you doing right? What isn’t working in your life? How can you make improvements or adjustments? How can you continue to improve your life spiritually, physically and emotionally?



Reflection helps us learn more about ourselves so we can make better choices. Maybe we’ll determine where we’ve gone wrong and what we can do to put our life back on track. Mistakes are a valuable commodity. But unless we understand why we make mistakes, they only become counterproductive.

When we reflect on our success, we are more likely to celebrate life. If we don’t reflect, we’re more likely to focus on how much we’ve failed, rather than seeing how successful we’ve been.

So, as you are peering out your window, looking at the striking, snow covered ground, what did you perceive as you reflect?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Sun, Rain and Snow

This morning while watching the news I was anxiously awaiting the weather report because I thought they were calling for snow this evening/tomorrow. Don’t get me wrong – I am so ready for spring and summer, but I’d love to get just one more good snow this year.


Of course, as the meteorologist was giving the forecast for today he mentioned we’d have sun, with rain later turning into snow as the temperature dropped. I don’t recall him mentioning the gusts of wind I felt the moment Scott pulled in to meet me at Pal’s for lunch today. And the gusts of wind we felt when we went to Lowe’s. And the gusts of wind turning my décor flags in circles in my front yard. Nonetheless, we’re going to have sun then rain then snow . . . in say about twelve hours? What a day!

But I began to think about that . . . how often in our lives do we wake up in the morning, ready for anything that comes our way? We have had our alone time with God. We’ve prayed. We’ve put on our positivity hat. Nothing is going to bring us down. Then a few hours later? A minutes later? Bam! It hits. The clouds roll in. The wind begins to blow. The rain begins to fall. The temperature begins to drop. Then before you know it the ground and roads are covered with snow. And if not properly prepared for the likelihood of snow could make for some very treacherous traveling conditions. Then where do you find yourself? In a ditch? I hope not!

So how is life like the weather?

First, I’d say its unpredictable . . . totally unpredictable. I remember the Saturday the guys put up the Christmas lights on our house in November. It was so hot. Austin even took off his shirt! Then in no time it was freezing . . . . brrrrrrrrrr! One day you are preparing to pack for your destination wedding when later that same day you receive a phone call . . . from your doctor . . . telling you  . . . you have breast cancer. I will confess through all of the emotion and turmoil during the last six months, my faith, trust and walk with Him is so much stronger . . . and I know through my journey with God He has a divine purpose for my life as He continues to reveal bits and pieces along my pathway to recovery.

 

Secondly, not only is the weather and life unpredictable, but it changes. Sometimes within seconds! How many of us have heard someone say “if you don’t like the weather in East TN don’t leave; just wait a few minutes . . . it will change”? And how true that is! I believe the changes in our lives are simply part of God’s plan for us. Why? Maybe He doesn’t want us to get too complacent with where we are in life. If our lives didn’t change, I bet we’d take far too many things for granted (as if we don’t do enough of that now). If my life had not changed, I would not be at home today when Austin when he came barreling through the front door. I wouldn’t be at home writing my blog right now and working on finishing my books in progress. Trusting God doesn’t mean we only trust Him when the sun is shining. We trust him during the wind, the clouds, the rain and the storm. And yes, the hail too.  



Thirdly, we cannot control everything in our lives no more than we can control the weather. I’ve told many people I didn’t choose to have a stroke or lose my parents or be diagnosed with breast cancer, but I can choose how I respond to these challenging times in my life. As Charles Swindoll says, Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it”. As much as I really wanted the snow to accumulate this past Wednesday, and yes, our ground was covered, I couldn’t make it happen. I was powerless. But we all know one who is not powerless . . . our God. And as a reminder, He is involved in every facet of our lives. The sooner we realize that the sooner we will have the peace through which God speaks to our hearts no matter if it is sunny, raining, or snowing. Do you want God to begin changing your thoughts? Your dreams?  Then put your complete faith and trust in Him and realize no matter the weather it is His plan for our lives. I’m reminded of some lyrics in Michael W. Smith’s Open the Eyes of My Heart Lord:

To see You high and lifted up
Shinin' in the light of Your glory
Pour out Your power and love
As we sing holy, holy, holy


Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You
I want to see You



Finally, I believe the weather helps us appreciate the various seasons just like the hard times in life make us appreciate the good times. Now granted . . . some of us (not naming names) know there are 154 days until summer . . . for some of us we looooove summer! But there’s the beauty of fall . . . the beauty of spring. And winter? No, I don’t like the cold, but I appreciate the fact we can enjoy a season of white, which is typically mild (I hope I didn’t just jinx things!), which in turn makes me appreciate summer so much more. I love the snow, well a couple of good snows. Plus the winter sports associated with this type of year. But do we appreciate the various seasons in our lives? It’s difficult to appreciate the times that are tough, isn’t it? But how many times have we looked back on those challenging events in our lives and seen at least one good thing as a result? I have . . . Plus, I firmly believe “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”. It may bring family and friends together that otherwise would not have happened. And I’m certain, if we’ve trusted God during those difficult times, we have a much closer relationship with Him . . . my faith and trust have certainly deepened.

In closing, life is a lot like the weather as it can be unpredictable, it can change in a moment’s notice, we can’t control it, but it does create a deeper appreciation within us. So, no matter the forecast, I wish you a day full of sunshine, an umbrella when it rains “if” you can’t dance and a sleigh and some really cute pink snow bibs when it snows.
 

Friday, January 3, 2014

New Beginnings Make New Endings!


 
Last evening, Scott and I conducted our weekly, live Facebook chat. It was our first for the year and what a chat it was! Ironically, about an hour before the chat was scheduled to begin, I suddenly realized we had no internet service . . . yikes! Plus, I was not feeling great having just had chemo, (did I mention it was my last, though? Praise God!). For a little bit, I could have just cancelled it, but I was determined to forge ahead. I knew we had our IPhones! Having neuropathy in my fingers made it quite challenging, but I fared pretty well using text-to-talk :)

Our topic was about how new beginnings for the New Year can create new endings. A bit thought provoking, huh?

I began by asking paticipants to share one word to describe their lives in 2014.  They shared words like hopeful, commitment, promising, faith, trust, Christ-like, God-directed and rich . . . rich in God, love, laughter, family and hope – I liked that one :) Well, I cheated and shared a hyphenated word, as a few others did too :) Mine is: new-beginnings.

One of the participants shared “new endings really test your Faith and Trust in the Lord - you have to BELIEVE!! Sometimes you can get stuck in a rut - and feel that you’re not strong enough to climb out of it - not powerful enough to write your new ending - but that is when you have to throw your hands up and Trust the Lord”. Hebrews 11:1 tells us “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. In beginning a New Year, we really do have to have faith in the ending, don’t we? I can assure you last January 1, I had no idea what all 2013 would hold for me.

My husband, being a former athlete, shared a great analogy: “Sometimes in life, you have to call an audible. An audible is a football term that the quarterback calls, changing the play. We don't really start over; we just find a different route to get to where we want to go.” I liked that.

Going back to the one words I asked participants to use to describe their lives in 2014, how are we going to achieve those desires? Some of us may already have a plan. Some of us may not. Either way, in a few weeks or a few months, our plans may have to change in order to achieve our aspiration; but our desire does not.

To that end and after some great discussion, I challenged the participants to begin pondering their plan if they hadn’t already. We don’t want to forget our word in six weeks, six months! So, I asked them to write down their word, preferably on an index card (it’s a bit sturdier than paper), with a pen (not a pencil). Then, I asked them to put it somewhere where they’d have it with them most of the time or see often.

To expand on that, I’d also encourage them to list the specific activities required to ensure they attain their desires. And also, to share this with someone else, i.e. spouse, friend, etc. and check in with them weekly or maybe every two weeks to ensure you’re right on track! A good example might be:

I, Susan, will seek new beginnings this year. In order for me to complete this, I will first need to pray, be obedient, be open to new opportunities and be willing to accept God’s plan for my life. Plus, I plan to talk to Scott about this weekly, at least.


This particular family is working on small goals to keep them on track to reach their big goals. “We often fall short, but we recognize our point of failure and purpose to not fail that same way again, and we just keep trudging forward.”

Another participant shared “reaching our full potential is surely an on-going process taken day to day.  All any of us can do is be true to ourselves and know that we are doing all we can do in a single day to ensure we reach our goal for that day. Having a strong faith gives us the right tool to do this.”

A few other comments included: “When you put God's will first, and very purposefully listen for His guidance and then follow His lead, you will have the most wonderful ending. Even though we often walk through valleys of many kinds, when the Lord leads your life, you know that you are only changing mountaintops” and Helen Keller’s quote “optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence”.

Plus a great piece of advice, “it is important that if you do slip up - do not give up - you can reach your goals”.

This was an excellent chat that I wanted to share with others. There was a lot of idscussion centered around hope and the choices we make. Someone even shared Lamentations 3:22-23 to tie in our discussion. I hope the participants took away at least one nugget. The one nugget I took away was we can begin right where we are . . . in this very second . . . on Jan. 2 making things better in our lives . . . how we end 2014 will be determined by how we start 2014.

As always, I welcome your comments!