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On the Other Side of Pain

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I’ve come a long way from my first surgery, and I can’t say I relish the next one. Giving up my current flexibility and comfort isn’t easy, but I am looking beyond that to a full recovery and a healthy, cancer free life.

In my devotion, Living Faith, Kristin Armstrong wrote: “‘What you focus on expands.’ When we focus on our suffering, misery grows. When we focus on abundance, on faith, on God’s ability to heal and redeem, hope grows. We can change our vision to include the parameters of what is unseen and remember that suffering always produces something valuable on the other side of pain.”

Suffering is never for nothing. It changes us, deepens our faith and trust, teaches us a depth of compassion for others we would not have otherwise. There is always something beautiful on the other side of pain.

“For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen: for what is seen is transitory…

The Broken Record

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Our minds are wired to repeat the same messages, usually negative ones, like the cliched broken record. 

When I retired, I was sure that little things would not bother me. After all the years of stress over a job, life would be easier. However, thanks to that broken record with its tired old messages, the small stuff takes on more importance.

How can I circumvent this repetition? Richard Rohr suggests contemplative prayer. His books and devotional studies supply step-by-step models. (See: Center for Action and Contemplation). He stresses the need to be open-minded, non-judgmental, accepting people and circumstances for what they are.
In other words, what is, is. I can’t change anything or anyone with my will alone no matter how much I fret, wring my hands, or pray desperate Please-God-Change-Them Prayer. God can, but that is up to Him.

If I let God pick my battles, I’ll always be on the right side, expending my energies for creativity, like writing and art.
With prayer and practice, I ca…

Vapor

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In my last post, I mentioned how fast life can change. The theme continues in my devotions with this scripture. “For what is your life? It is a vapor which appeareth for a little while, and afterwards shall vanish away. For that you should say, ‘If the Lord will, and if we shall live, we will do this or that.’” St. James 4:15

This doesn’t mean God intends that I live in fear of death, but rather to live in the present, making tentative plans for the future and trusting Him to take care of my needs.

In my devotion, Good Morning, Lord, Father Joseph T. Sullivan offered a prayer about fear, not being afraid of trying moments as all things can work together for good. Fear disappears with renewed trust in God and I should thank Him for my beneficial trials.

I can’t say it is easy to think of a cancer diagnosis, or my other horrific trials as beneficial, but with further reflection, they were. They helped me to develop a deeper faith and trust in God I would not have otherwise.

This goes beyond…

Month Three—Almost There

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No wonder my surgeon waits two months from the last saline fill before performing the next surgery. It’s day five, and I’m still tender from the muscle spasms, and the rock on my chest has grown to a boulder. My surgeon assures me this will subside as my muscles and tissues expand.

I take hope and strength knowing I am almost done. Only the surgery to remove the expander and place the prosthetic is left, besides the last six weeks of recovery.

This experience has broadened my view on many things. The number of other women I have encountered who have, or had, breast cancer and undergone mastectomies and reconstruction is much larger than I comprehended. According to my oncologist, one out of eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. No wonder I know so many, including myself.

Even without dealing with cancer in one of its many forms, few of us escape this life unscarred or unscathed in some way. How well we adapt depends on many factors. For me, faith is at the top…

Pain Is Gain

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Stretching. Aerobics. Resistance training. Yard work. I did not realize how much those activities would hurt or how much I’d gain afterward.

The first day of a new, or increased activity, the pain is almost intolerable. Sleeping is difficult. No position is comfortable despite the Tylenol I load up on before going to bed.

However…

The next morning, the pain is gone. I notice more flexibility, range of motion, and strength. The difference is astounding from one day to the next.

I am also lucky, no sign of lymphedema. As my surgeon said, if I haven’t gotten it by now, I probably won’t.

Everything worth having in this life will cost us something, and the harder or more painful the task, the more valuable the reward.

My devotions repeatedly mentioned how suffering and sorrow lead to a stronger faith and deeper compassion for others. I understand that better now since my diagnosis and surgery. I no longer see pain as the enemy.

This perception has changed everything. I worry less about su…

The Simple Things

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Unless something, like a surgery, upsets our daily routine, we don’t realize how many things we take for granted, like reaching for a shelf above our heads, bending down to pick something up from the floor, or pushing a grocery cart.
Exercise has improved my mobility, but the expander complicates some movements. It’s rigid and I can feel it move against my chest muscle despite the sutures stabilizing it. This is not painful per se, but not comfortable either.
The good news, the prosthetic will replace it in about two months. (Two more saline fills and a six month wait period before that surgery.) The implant will allow a more natural movement, but it will never be the same as biological tissue. I still prefer it to a flat space and a large scar.

Even if movement isn’t always comfortable, there are many who would trade places, restricted movement better than none. Something I need to remember whenever I’m frustrated. It could be so much worse.

I often think of St. Paul and the suff…

Eight Weeks — New Challenges and Blessings

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In my last post I talked about priorities and how mine changed after surgery. Comfort has been at the top of that list, and now that I have healed from the surgery, my surgeon has given me the green light to begin normal activities. Not as easy as it sounds.

Most of the discomfort at this stage of recuperation is from tightened and shortened muscles. Unused muscles are painful. Trust me on that one.

The American Cancer Website for mastectomy patients has a list of exercises to regain flexibility, specialized exercises designed to help regain a full range of motion and prevent permanent muscle damage. I can't say I was looking forward to moving that much. I have to, and I will, but at this stage showering and dressing are still painful activities.

However, an article I read recently gave me additional motivation. A study found a link between the lack of muscle mass and high body fat with a higher risk of death in breast cancer survivors. That announcement gives me increased motiv…