Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Call to Ministry - 3rd Year

In our denomination, there is an interview each year to renew your diatrict license. This happens every year until you’ve been ordained. The purpose is to check in with you, see how you are coming along in your ministry life, personal life and education life as well. It’s also a time of encouragement and guidance. I am so thankful that our denomination takes this process seriously and helps to affirm and make sure new pastors are as equipped as possible for life in ministry. 

This past week was my 3rd year interview. I had hoped this year would be a year where I was able to take a lot of classes but.... then cancer happened. This process is taking longer than I hoped haha, but I do believe there is something to be said for not rushing through and I am learning a lot outside of the school setting as well. 

The interview was great. The affirmation of my call to ministry and their belief in me as a leader truly is humbling and encouraging. 

I left the interview in tears. Happy tears. Thankful tears.  At the beginning they prayed for me. They prayed healing over my body and they prayed for my family. At the end they had feedback for me (and here’s the part that really made the waterworks roll after I left the room) They told me to take time to heal. They encouraged me not to rush into schooling or other things when my treatment ended. They acknowledged the trauma my family has been through and encouraged my whole family to just heal and take my time. 
I can’t tell you how encouraging that was. To have a team of amazing pastors encouraging you in your call to ministry but also really caring about your health, both physically and mentally meant so much.

No church is perfect. You won’t find one. But I am so grateful to be a part of New Life and the Nazarene denomination, especially on this Oregon district. 

Round 9

Whew. We made it. It honestly felt like it had been a month since my last infusion. These last treatments are D R A G G I N G. 

My platelets were *just* high enough to have treatment today. I’m hoping they hold steady for the last three so there aren’t anymore delays... but if it happens it happens.

I had a moment of “how is this my life?” today while I was hooked up. It is still surreal. 

I am hearing a lot about life after treatment and how hard it is, or can be. I’ve already begun to have anxiety around it. I mean right now I’m getting labs every other week and chemo. So I know someone is monitoring everything. After I’m done I will get a colonoscopy and then I will wait six months before my first scan. Which will bring “scaniety” with it. It’s just a lot to think about. I’m planning on resuming therapy and hopefully getting my husband and boys into some counseling to help process the trauma our family has been through. Usually there are groups our boys could participate in, but with COVID there’s nothing happening right now which is a real bummer

On another note- I’m planning celebrations galore. I already bought a blue feather boa to wear to my last day of infusion. I’ve already told people I want a giant sign and balloons and a cake and whatever else we can do. We are going to celebrate every milestone no matter how small. That’s just how we do it!

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Never The Same

I remember coming home after my diagnosis and falling apart. I remember telling Trevor very specifically that I could not and would not be able to endure radiation and oral chemotherapy and then 6 months of chemotherapy infusions. I literally could not do it. I would not be able to endure it. I’d watched my Mom and others and there was no way I could do what they did. 100% no way. 

I cried so hard I couldn’t breathe. For days and days. On one hand I was afraid of dying and leaving my boys motherless before they were even teenagers and on the other hand I was afraid of living through what the next months were going to hold. I felt utterly hopeless. 

The weeks between my diagnosis and meeting with my oncologist were brutal. Filled with unwise Google searches, crippling anxiety, massive trauma from my surgery, waking up every single morning with an indescribable panic attack, unable to leave my bed, feeling utterly abandoned by God and ultimately alone because of Covid quarantine. Every day I woke up it was the worst day of my life. I didn’t want to wake up because it hurt too much, being awake was too painful. To say those were the worst days of my life would not be an understatement.

Meeting with my oncologist was scary but once there was a plan in place it felt like I could breathe. Plans are important and critical to being able to move forward, having a treatment plan gave me something to grasp. The saying about not needing to know where you’re going but who is with you is great and all, until you actually really do need a plan and you do need to know where you’re going. So yadda yadda to that. 

The thing is, it’s not like I had the option of opting out- I had to do this whether or not I thought I could. I did not choose this, I’m just doing what I have to do to live. I’m no superhero, strong person. You’d be doing the same thing if it were you. 

I was sure I couldn’t do it and yet here I am with 4 more brutal rounds to go and I am feeling weary. I am beginning to talk with my doctor about life after these treatments and it’s daunting. It’s overwhelming and scary and the emotional toll that this has taken and will continue to take is something most people can’t grasp. Heck, I couldn’t until I was faced with it. I am looking at the calendar beginning to plan my life for “after” but realizing I will never be the same. After is not the same as before. Covid itself has changed that for everyone- but I’ve literally been walking through two crisis at the same exact time starting literally weeks apart from one another and my life is forever altered and I am not the same person I was before cancer. In many ways I don’t recognize myself in pictures. Sure my hair is drastically different, but there’s more there. I wonder if some parts of me will return or if all of me has changed. I wonder about my future and my calling and my purpose and whether or not any of that has changed. 

I’m assuming at some point I will look back and feel something other than what I’m feeling now. I will be able to  see the ways God worked and how things happened that couldn’t have otherwise happened. I will count many things as gifts and find gratitude whereas right now I just write them down as a habit, someday they will feel real.
Maybe it’s a bit like foster care. I couldn’t see any good for a long time and it felt like it was not worth what our family went through (although we dearly loved our girl, it’s the system I’m referring to). Even now I’m not sure 100% of the time how I feel, those wounds are still tender, but I can say *she*[ was worth it and that whatever we did for her and however we loved her made a difference. Maybe with some distance I can say the same for cancer but right now I’m weary of the journey. My bones literally ache (thank you Neulasta) and so does my soul. 

This season will end and a new one will come but cancer will always be a part of my life and reconciling that isn’t easy for anyone I don’t think, let alone a 37 year old Mom of three young kids.

I did not feel in a fighting mood until I chopped off my hair and had the side of my head shaved. That moment gave me the fire I needed to face what lie ahead. Funny how something so seemingly simple can make an impact. Maybe I need another change to get me through this next part, some more fire to keep the flame burning.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Round 8

Yesterday my numbers looked great and so hallelujah chemo was a go for today!

My Doctor said these last rounds will be the hardest and it will be a slow drag or “slog” as he called it, to the finish line. I figured this was the case but hearing it from him really validated how I felt after round 7 and knowing what’s to come. 

I really like my Hematlogy Oncologist and I loved my Radiation Oncologist. I feel extremely blessed to be in their care. Which is a good thing since I will see them regularly for the next 5 years HA!

After I get this pumped removed and a liter of hydration on Thursday I can say 4 MORE TO GO!
The hope is for March 2nd to be my last chemo but that will depend on my blood counts (mostly my platelets as I’m now getting the bone marrow shot that produces extra WBC‘a every time). 

As I lie here in bed I am thinking about the man to my left today who was finishing his last treatment. He rang the infamous bell. It was the first time I heard it and I got chills. Soon I get to do that. I am also thinking about the lady on my right. It was just her second treatment today and she has little kids. I’m pretty sure she’s my age or younger which would be the first sighting of a younger person since I started. I wanted to go sit next to her and just talk. I’m also thinking about what’s next. How is God going to use me after this is done, who will I get to be an encouragement to or an advocate for? After Covid, who will I come sit with at infusions and offer to drive to an appt and sit with them and just listen? 

In every season of difficulty the situation that I walked through was awful brought about some sort of good. I don’t believe God causes these things to happen, we just live in a broken world and things happen. But I do believe if we allow ourselves to find a way to use these things we walk through to be an opportunity to bring hope, peace and the love of Jesus to others- God will be faithful in it.


Preparing for 2021

I’m not trying to be the bad guy, but 2021 isn’t going to magically change our current situation. 

We can say we are done with 2020, but we need to prepare our hearts and minds to continue on steadfastly in the journey we are all on. If we aren’t careful our last ends will fray away, weary as we are. In 2021 we will still be in a global pandemic, we will still be wrestling with systemic racism and the complacency of our country within that reality. In 2021 Christian nationalism will continue to infiltrate the church, and the gaps between socioeconomic groups will widen and I will still be fighting cancer.

 So, the question is, what am I going to do to prepare my heart, my soul, and my body to continue to align myself with Jesus? What rhythms will I put in place to be able to walk in the tension on this earth? The hope I have and the reality of what is - is often uncomfortable, but I believe growth can happen there. What habits can I form that will continue to form me to God’s likeness?

 I don’t set goals, and if 2020 taught me anything it was that it’s definitely okay to not set goals because who really knows what will come our way. But I do desire rhythms, consistency and habit forming rituals that bring my whole self to surrender to a way that is higher than my own. And so, with a new Bible, a new journal and a daily scripture plan I feel...not prepared, but eager to step into a new year where I will again learn how to rely solely on God for all things. 

What about you? https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1_H-Q_dZo1ycMiUZ80pN_cRJr9b2xQSlP