Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Christmas Eve Story

Christmas Eve was here finally!  After cooking several dishes this morning, I pounced on the couch, I Pad on my stomach, reading and then napping.  But, God had something else for me to do today.  “You need to go see Jane.”  Jane has been my friend for many years, and she loves Christmas!  Physically disabled, she gets so much joy out of the Christmas season.  Her little apartment is full of Christmas.  The UPS man is her favorite person during this season, bringing her gifts that she had ordered on QVC. 

I had a little present to take to her, and so after wrapping it, I got in my car to drive the short distance to Jane’s apartment.   John opened the door.  John is Jane’s son.  He grew up in our church, an angry, petulant child who grew to be an angry young man.  ‘”How are you, John?” I asked.  His answer was a curt, “Fine, Cindy.”  John began chiding his mother that there wasn’t any food in the house.  “We should have gone shopping yesterday, Mom.  Now, it’s too late, because Dad won’t be home until after the grocery store closes since it’s Christmas Eve. “  Jane was quiet for a moment, and then she said, “I bet Ms. Cindy would take you to the store.  You can use my debit card, but don’t spend too much.”  John grumbled, and then walked over to me and said, “Well, would you take me? “   Oh great, I thought.  Not something I really wanted to do this afternoon, going out to the store on a busy Christmas Eve.  “Sure, John, come on.” 

We got in the car, making small talk.  Away from his mother, John, is a lot more pleasant.  I asked him what he was doing now, and he told me he was working for a big box store.  “I’ve been working there for about a year and a half, and I love my job!”  Surprised, I asked him some more questions.  “I have my fork-lift certification, so that might help me get an even better job someday. But, I want to stay in this job for a while because I really like it.”  Asking about me, I talked to him a little bit about how God had turned my life upside down this last year with my cancer diagnosis. 

Arriving at the busy parking lot at the store, I told John that I would just stay in the car and wait for him, not wanting to fight all those last minute shoppers.  “Sure,” he said and slammed the door. 

I spent the next 20 minutes talking to my brother on the phone.  Before long, I heard the car door open, and John began filling the back seat with groceries.  Looks like he got a little more than the $20.00 his mom told him to spend on her debit card, I thought to myself.  John climbed in the front seat, turned to me and said shaking his head, “You will never believe what just happened. The lady behind me in line just bought all my groceries!”  It seemed that when John was checking out, one particular item would not go through on his Mother’s card.  Embarrassed, he began fishing for his own wallet.  The lady behind him said, “I’ll take care of that for you!”  Thinking that she was going to just take care of the $3.00 item that wouldn’t go through, he was astounded when the cashier told him that she had paid for everything!  Thanking her over and over again, he couldn’t believe that someone would do something like that for him! 

On the drive home, we talked.  “Man, I feel so obligated to that lady!”  

“John, consider that a gift from God.”  I explained.  “Some day you can pay that forward.  I can just see you one Christmas Eve taking your children out to the store and telling them that you want to buy groceries for someone!”

“Yeah, that would be pretty cool!” He smiled.

John’s face lights up when he smiles.  The whole atmosphere inside the car had changed.  We talked about God and maybe what God is doing in his life.  We even talked about where he might go to church in the small town where he lived.

When we got back to his mom’s apartment, he walked in shouting, “Mom, you’ll never believe what happened!” 

What an amazing gift that God gave to me this afternoon.  A short trip to see a friend turned into an opportunity for me to see God bless an angry young man who really needed a special touch from God. 

Miracles still do happen at Christmas.

Friday, December 14, 2012

An Answer to My Question

It has been exactly 11 months since I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer—11  months since my life was turned upside down and inside out…..never to be the same again.  Last week, I had my five-month PET scan.  Sitting through a PET scan is not difficult, it’s just long.  You have to sit by yourself in a quiet room for an hour and a half while the drug distributes itself throughout your body.  You can’t read because for some reason, it causes more of the drug to go to your brain.  So, you sit and rest and think……

Well, I didn’t want to do a lot of thinking, so I did a lot of talking to God and listening to Him during that hour and a half.  I asked Him point blank, “Lord, why did you heal me?”  I know that we all have our own journeys of faith and healing.  God heals some on earth and some in heaven.  It breaks my heart to talk to some of the families of friends I have met through this journey who have lost their loved ones to cancer.  Why?  I honestly don’t know, but I can say that He did answer my question. 

Every morning I wake up praising Him for each new day!  Little things that used to stress me out…….they just don’t any more.  He has given me the best days of my life; and I can’t wait to see what each day might bring.  I’m back volunteering at A Woman’s Place, a pregnancy resource center in our small town. What a joy to be able to give back to God.

This picture was taken at Thanksgiving. Every year I gather all my grand kids together to take their Christmas card picture.  I had this crazy idea to take this beautiful, old love seat and plop it in the middle of my son’s lovely, green wheat field.  This was my mother-in-law’s “candy cane” couch; my kids grew up opening presents on it Christmas Eve.  She would have loved it!  I am just so grateful to God that He gave me more years to photograph these precious kids. 

My PET Scan was perfect!  Thank you, Lord.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Happy Beginning

If I could describe the perfect week-end, it would have been the last one.  My daughter, Stacey, determined that everyone in the family would join me in the Race for the Cure (along with 40,000 others).  As a surprise to me, she provided everyone with a T-shirt that said, “Cisa’s Cheerleaders”.  On the back was everyone’s name. What a great celebration to the end of chemo/surgery/and radiation!

It was a beautiful, crisp and clear October morning.  My best friends, Betty, a 20 year survivor, and Emma, joined us.  It just can’t get better than this! 

After the race, we all enjoyed a delicious brunch and had our group picture taken.

Saturday afternoon, we took a trip to the Fletcher pumpkin patch.  

On Sunday, everyone joined us for church.  My son-in-law, Chris, joined the Praise Team with his anointed trumpet.  I was privileged to give my testimony to God’s healing power.  

 Sunday afternoon was another trip to the pumpkin patch. 

This week-end was as close to heaven as I will get here on earth.   Having my family around me was just pure joy! 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

It's Time

Life has been kind of quiet here at "a quiet place."  Each day I have been driving back and forth to Little Rock to complete my healing---30 radiation treatments.  Why do I have to have radiation if there was no trace of the cancer after the surgery?  The doctor explained that it would cut my chances of recurrence from 35% to 5%.  How can I argue with those odds?  Radiation is quick and painless, just a bother to have to drive to Little Rock everyday.  

One wonderful benefit of being in treatment with CARTI is that they offer two free massages.  Ahh, my sluggish, achy body could definitely use a massage.  As I was driving into the parking lot of the cute little house called, Touche Point, my phone rang.  It was Marsha at "The Woman's Place", a pregnancy resource center in my town.  "Are you ready to come back?"  I was volunteering there last January when I was first diagnosed.  It was what I wanted to be able to help the girls not only emotionally as they went through their pregnancies, but spiritually--something that I was not allowed to do as a school counselor.  "Yes," I told her.  "Yes, it's time."  

It's time to get my life back in get my life back to normal.  I'm tired of cancer with it's chemo, surgery and radiation.  Several months ago, I asked my granddaughter, Kate, about her  friend, Tessa. Tessa's mother  had breast cancer, and I was wondering how her mother was doing.  "Cisa, she's done with that cancer!"  I laughed and said that was certainly a good way to put it.  So, I'm ready to be done with that cancer, too!"

Lord, thank you for giving me this opportunity to use my gift of life to help others.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Only Through Prayer

My neck was getting scruffy.  I can’t believe I can say that!  Actually, my hair has been gradually, slowly, coming back in over the last few months.  Now, it’s not thick and curly, but rather wispy and “sort of” wavy.  I think it looked like a little gray haired man whose hair was getting a tad bit long over his ears!  So, I asked my sweet hairdresser, Teresa, if she would give me a trim.  “Sure, I’ll call you when I’m about through with my last customer.”  The phone rang, and off I went.  As I walked into the door, she was shaving Rick’s head.  Rick had just finished his first round of chemo, a treatment for a “cancer-like” disease.  Rick’s wife was there, IPhone in hand, taking pictures to send to his twins, off away at school. 

Telly Savalas
As Rick begins his journey, mine is winding down.  “How can anyone go through something like this without a strong faith in God?” He asked me.   I shook my head.  I couldn’t even fathom what it would be like.  It is amazing how this sisterhood/brotherhood gives support and strength to each other through the Holy Spirit.  Rick smiled as he got up to leave, standing straight and tall and sporting his new “Telly Savalas” bald head.  He laughed and said that his kids wouldn’t even know who Telly Savalas was!  As he left, I promised that I would pray for him, and he said the same.  We both know that it is only through prayer that we can be healed.  

They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.  Psalm 112:17

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Letting Go

Do you remember a time when you were a child, and something scared you so badly that you ran to your father and grabbed hold as tight as you could, buried your head in his shoulder and did not let go?  Finally, after the scary thing was past, your father gently set you on the ground, and told you, “Shh, it’s OK. You’re going to be all right. It’s really, OK.”  That’s how I feel right now.  For the past seven months, I have held on tightly to the Lord, burying my head in His shoulder, afraid to look around or even breathe at times.  I felt safe and secure there. Admittedly, there were a few times when I relaxed that hold and allowed my imagination to wander. Fear would grab hold of me, and I would quickly duck my head and return to that safe place in His arms.  And now, the Lord has gently set me on the ground, and told me, “Shh, it’s OK. You’re going to be OK.”

He did it! Reading the pathology report today, it said: “Pre-Op Diagnosis—Left breast cancer.  Post-Op Diagnosis—None given.  No residual invasive carcinoma identified.”  God has used his power and the power of caring doctors and medicine to heal me. 

So, here I am, standing on my own wobbly legs, not very strong yet, but getting stronger day by day.  When God set me down, He placed me in a completely different place than I was seven months ago.  He has taught me precepts that have turned my world upside down.  I will never be the same person that I was before.  I’m still processing all of the changes, but they’re good, very good.

I still feel like that child, holding on tightly to my father’s hand, not veering very far away from him.  The truth of the matter is that I do not ever have to let go.

“Where can I go to escape Your Spirit? 
Where can I flee from Your presence? 
 If I go up to heaven, You are there; 
if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there. 
 If I live at the eastern horizon [or] settle at the western limits, even there Your hand will lead me; Your right hand will hold on to me. If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me, 
and the light around me will be night" even the darkness is not dark to You. 
The night shines like the day; 
darkness and light are alike to You.”  Psalm 139:7-12  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Humbled and Cancer Free

It was difficult to focus.  I stared at my husband, willing my brain to comprehend what he was trying to tell me.  “The doctor did not have to take out your lymph nodes.  There was no cancer there.”  I remember finally allowing the good news to sink into my brain, and I cried.  This was the answer to our prayer.  As far as I was concerned, it was a miracle.  If I could have jumped up from the recovery room table to do a happy dance, I would have!  A warm joy flooded over my body as I slipped back into the sweet oblivion. Later that day, my husband, children and I grabbed hands and gave thanks to God.

It’s been six days since my surgery.  In spite of the annoying tubes coming out of my body, I am good—so good.  God did what he promised.  I feel so humbled.  The doctor called me on Friday with the confirmation of good news. “All the evasive cancer has been melted away. You are cancer free!”  Lord! That felt so wonderful to hear this amazing news.  After these last seven months—cancer free!  I meet with my oncologist a week from Tuesday.  She will go over the results more thoroughly planning the next step in my complete recovery.

Right now, I am trying to process all of this.  God has given me a reprieve.  What do I do with it?  How do I use this gift of life to give back to Him?  The one thing I know for sure is unlike the doctor who will eventually dismiss my case; God will never leave me to be on my own.  That’s a wonderful feeling.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Thank You

You could have knocked me over with a feather.  On Thursday, my husband and I were planning on taking our granddaughters to my son’s Mexican restaurant.  When we walked in the door, I couldn’t quite process the fact that a group of my friends and family were sitting at a long table and smiling at me!  My youngest daughter, Starr,  had planned a surprise “no-mo chemo party” for me.  What a wonderful evening sitting and enjoying my precious friends and family…..a perfect ending/beginning to this journey that God has sent me on. I just wanted to hug everyone and not let go! 

How do I adequately say “thank you” to all of the people who have been and will continue to walk with me on this journey?  You have been God’s arms and legs to keep me company along the way.  The prayers, the cards, the food, the e-mails, the visits, the gifts……so many blessings.

Thank you to Christine from Women's Bible Cafe for giving me the opportunity to share my journey through the eyes of faith.  Thank you to all of the women at WBC who have written comments and prayed for me along the way.  Your own journeys have increased my faith.  What a blessing you have been to me! You will always be close to my heart.  I will continue to write about my journey here on my blog and will post updates at WBC. 

This coming Wednesday, I will have a double mastectomy to get rid of the last traces of this cancer.  It’s really, OK. Jesus still has a tight grip on my hand. 

I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you.  Philippines 1:3

Sunday, July 29, 2012

How Magnificent Is........

Monterrey Aquarium, July 2012

You made him lord over the works of Your hands; 
You put everything under his feet: 
the birds of the sky, 
and the fish of the sea 
that pass through the currents of the seas. 
Psalms 8:6,8

Monday, July 23, 2012

Soli Deo Gloria – Glory to God Alone

Cleansed, Clean, and Clear
Celebrating our 42nd Wedding Anniversary this week!

Did you hear it?  The huge sigh of relief and thanksgiving!  My PET/CT scans were clear; there were no signs of recurrence or metastasis.  The original cancer was deemed “mild” and felt to be post-surgical in etiology…and I haven’t even had the surgery yet.  The doctor was amazed.

Last Monday morning, I walked into the PET scan room with a sense of peace.  After my last chemo treatment the week before, I admit to having some anxiety.  But, as the week progressed, my anxiety was replaced with the “peace that passes all understanding”.  And so, as I lay on the narrow PET scanning bed with my hands over my head, I prayed.  The words “cleansed, clean, and clear” came into my mind.  God had already given me the word, “cleansed”.  Several months ago, I woke in the night after a difficult chemo treatment.  I sat up in bed and the word “cleansed” came to me in the dark quiet.  And now, God added the words clean and clear. 

Tuesday, the phone rang.  It was Dr. Gentry’s nurse.  “The reports came back early, and your scans look great!”  Wednesday morning Dr. Gentry went over all of the reports with us.  Preston and I couldn’t stop smiling!  We celebrated at the Purple Cow with a nice juicy hamburger.

Surgery and radiation are still ahead, but God has given us a confirmation that it will all be over soon.  And so, I wake every morning with a smile on my face and joy in my heart.  Soli Deo Gloria

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ!
1 Corinthians 15:57

Monday, July 16, 2012

Faith Is . . .

It was another one of those times. Wednesday night during praise and worship, my heart was overwhelmed with all kinds of emotions.  I had just finished my last chemo treatment.  I was through!  Standing there in church and praising God, it just flooded over me—no more treatments!  Overcome, I knelt in His presence and heard Him say, “Confess your faith.”  Did I hear Him correctly? I had no proof that God had healed me yet; my PET scan and surgery were still in front of me.  With my heart pounding, I found my way over to Pastor Derek.  “May I say something?” I asked.  “Do you want to testify?” he asked.  “Yes, I do.”
Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see.”  (Hebrews 11:1) Over the last six and a half months, I have prayed and hoped for healing. “Lord, it only takes a tiny little seed of faith to move mountains.”  I know I have that!  Honestly, though, I have to admit that there have been several times when I have prayed liked the father of the demon-possessed boy, who was thrown into the fire,

“If you can do anything, help us! Show us compassion!" Jesus said to him, "‘if you can do anything’? All things are possible for the one who has faith." At that the boy’s father cried out, "I have faith; help my lack of faith!" Mark 9:22-24
I started this journey here.  As I walk once again into the scanning lab this Monday morning, I take this picture with me.  All I know to do is to take a deep breath, pray, and believe.  That’s all the Lord requires.