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Showing posts from 2018

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…

After Thirty Days — What Matters Most?

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One month since my surgery. What is at the top of my priority list? Comfort.

Oh, to feel comfortable again.

My swim in the waters of continuous pain these last thirty days have given me a whole new appreciation for the pain free days of the past and empathy for those dealing with chronic pain. However, I am fortunate. My discomfort is easing every day and should end once my mastectomy reconstruction is completed (in five or six months).

With restricted activities, I evaluate everything according to my doctors’ guidelines and what my body deems comfortable.

Patience is my current mantra. It’s not as hard as it used to be. My body lets me know how much I can do with loud, insistent messages I can’t ignore.

Expert say it takes thirty days to change habits. Will my priorities remain the same after my full recovery, or will I revert to old ways?

I may slip now and then, but my scars and other body changes will be constant reminders of what matters most — life and my relationship with God and ot…

A Pause

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Jesus often admonished His disciples for their lack of faith after witnessing so many miracles.  “How do you not yet understand about the lilies of the field, or feeding the five thousand with a few fish and loaves of bread?”
How do we not understand? Because we are weak and frail. The devil uses our weaknesses, stirring up doubts, telling us we are unworthy of God’s good gifts.  We are unworthy, but God still grants them because of His infinite love.  
Streams in the Desert: “Difficulties are sent to reveal what God can do in answer to faith that prays and works.”
Sometimes God sends difficulties not only to strengthen our faith, but also to encourage us to spend more time with Him in prayer for ourselves and for others. Prayer, with God’s intervention, can accomplish more than years of physical struggle. He asks us to pause in our headlong rush to accomplish to sit at His feet and learn.
“Your faith can level forests.” Streams in the Desert.
My upcoming surgery and recuperation …

My Gethsemane

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I knew with the same certainty of other premonitions that my mammogram would not be normal. I prayed, like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, asking that this cup pass from me. In response, I received a vision and a promise. I saw myself lying on the couch, smothered in blankets, recovering from treatments, assured I would be healed.  
Even with numerous scriptural and other assurances, I still begged for this trial pass from me.
God answered.
Sometimes small things interfered with my church attendance, devotions, and prayer time. God knew I could do better. This was my Jonah, calling me back to a deeper relationship, asking me to realign my priorities. Nothing like a crisis to drop you to your knees. This time, I vowed to stay there and not allow the cares of this world to distract me from what I knew I should do.
Also, our faith through severe trials can lead others to God. For example, my husband, who is standoffish with prayer and faith, confessed he has been praying. Who knows…

This Moment

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We spend so much time being afraid and anxious despite repeated vows not to. We are exhausted before a crisis even strikes. 
I know all the platitudes. I know all the scriptures, but my mind still wants to race toward the worst scenario. This time around, I fought against the panic, the anxiety, and the fear. I prayed, read my bible, attended church, vowing no more complacencies in my spiritual life.
The answer is simple, and yet so very, very difficult. Surrender. Let go. Don’t thrash and struggle. Yet, I’d rather tread water than just lie there and float. If I am struggling, I think I am in control. I know better, but I can't convince myself to remain still.
Tomorrow I will hear the results of the biopsy. I have it in my mind that my world will change, turn upside down, maybe even spin out of control. It might, but it already has changed. I’ve changed. I see the world and my spiritual life differently. My priorities are different, more focused. During my devotions, I realized wha…

A Bump in the Road

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We’ve all experienced them, those unexpected bumps that jar our otherwise smooth journey. Some just jostle us a little. Others knock us out of our seats, spin us around several times, and dump us upside down.

We sit stunned, dazed, and uncertain what to do. Are we still in the driver’s seat, or only a passenger? Are we even in the vehicle?

A jostle reminds us to pay attention and not become complacent of this gift of life. Major upsets force us to relinquish control, pause, and reflect. Do we wring our hands and cry? Or do we choose another reaction?

We have a light. It might be small at first, but as we hold it up and blow on the flame, it grows brighter and brighter. Its light might not show us the exact path we are to take, but it will be enough to see the next step, and the next.

Faith. We aren’t supposed to hide it under the bed, or in our pockets, only bringing it out when we are frightened. It is the light we should hold high as a guide for ourselves and those who follow.

I …

What Will This Day Bring?

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Will it bring good news or bad?
Will it be fruitful or wasted?
Will it strengthen my faith or my doubts?
Will it bring peace or unrest?
Will it give me opportunities to be compassionate or angry and demanding?
Will it encourage me to forgive or judge and condemn?
Will it open my heart to God’s goodness or will it make me turn away in despair?


This day will provide choices. My responses will decide the rest.

Come and See

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And God said to me, “Come, and you will see.” John 1:39

Come and see how to forgive when forgiveness seems impossible.
Come and see how to trust when there appears to be no hope.
Come and see how to believe regardless of the scorn from unbelievers.
Come and see how the hard things in life are made softer through faith.
Come and see how beautiful I have made this world and all My creation.
Come and see how often I will carry you, hold you, and kiss your tears.
Come and see, My beloved child, how much I love you.


A New Year's Prayer

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Lord, lead me to toward a healthier lifestyle with diet and exercise.
Lord, lead me to write the books you inspire.
Lord, lead me in prayer for our world, our country, for all in desperate need of your help, and especially for those with whom I disagree.
Lord, lead me to acts of kindness toward all your creation without pausing to judge who is worthy and who is not.
Lord, lead me closer to you.
Amen.