Expiration Dates

It’s been a long time since I clicked away at the keyboard to write an entry. There have been so many blog posts forming in my mind over the last few months, but for one reason or another, I haven’t taken action on them.

But when I opened my refrigerator door yesterday and began reshuffling the food in my fridge to make room for the massive tray of lasagna I had prepared, I was faced with one item in particular that had a story to tell—it was a leftover package of my Neupogen pre-filled syringes from December 2011.

Neupogen shot package

Neupogen is the drug used to help raise the white blood counts of chemo patients following the strong doses of chemo that all but obliterate the immune system.  I have had a number of practitioners become very concerned about the extent and duration of my low “WBC”, and the delayed response to the booster that Neupogen is supposed to provide. So, needless to say, the package of vials in themselves tell a story.

So, what is so significant about this? It’s been 2 years. Two years since I was told to “hang on to them because you might need them later.” (At $500 a shot and the rising cost of medicine, I listened) Well, after two years, these things expire! It looks like I’ve outlived the expiration date. At my next appointment in January I will be able to return these to my doctor for disposal.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

 

 

Living Life

I have started this blog a few times, but it seems I have been more distracted these days with just living life. I feel so good, that it just doesn’t seem right to sit and blog about it!

Over the course of the this last year and a half, I have decided to “create” and to invest in life in a new way.

Back in August of 2011,  I knew chemo was going to knock me out for awhile, so I decided to make projects along the way to at least feel I had accomplished something. I have stitched and quilted so many things now, I’ve lost track, but I’ve got things to point to that reminded me over and over again that I could choose what I wanted to focus on.  I’ve intentionally stretched myself with learning new things to keep those neurons firing. And as a P.S. to this section, I thank God for restoring my vision which was getting awfully blurry during chemo.

When I discovered that my doc was stopping chemo in early 2012, I began thinking of what I could do in my daily life to invest in people, and I just had this intense desire to be around LIFE. I regained my strength by summer, and started volunteering at a pro-life crisis pregnancy center nearby. It is a mystery, but God does use helping others as a way to get our minds off of ourselves. People who walk into the clinic are often alone or without moral support, and they appreciate the time we give them. We get through the issue they came for quite quickly actually, but it is the time and space we provide for conversations that leave them with hope that just isn’t that easy to find any place else.

The clinic offers free pregnancy counseling and ultrasounds, referrals to agencies and organizations that help them through the course of the pregnancy, as well as other services that encourage women to grow in living a healthy lifestyle. We provide free diapers and formula as the need arises, give them homemade baby afghans from women in local churches, and a small gift bag to bless them as they move into this phase of their lives. Being around these young women, and helping them give someone else a chance at life has made this phase of my faith walk so satisfying.

One additional thing this clinic offers is a non-judgmental environment. We do have women who walk away who cannot deal with the thought of carrying a baby to term (we do not do abortions or give referrals for abortions), but the director tells us to focus on the woman herself in hopes that the door will be open to her if she needs help later on. And,  in the thirty years this clinic has been in operation, women have returned because they sensed that people cared.

As a point of information, I am still on cancer fighting drugs that don’t tire me out and are keeping me in the fight. The tumor marker has ticked up a bit, but my doctor is not concerned as of yet.  I know the greater power is in the prayers you offer, and as someone recently prayed, “ a permanent remission this time.” The boldness in elderly woman’s voice bolstered my spirit and reminded me of the gracious miracles I’ve already seen. Faith IS the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Heb. 11:1.

This song captures the joy and purpose I have found through this season. It is fun, yet full of Scripture. My thanks to my sweet Charity for giving me this recording way back at the beginning of all of this. I hope you listen and enjoy. Copy and paste into browser window, because I’m not sure if I can successfully create a link!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0RETfAqNT0c

 

This is the sign of Christianity

This is the sign of Christianity. However much man should do and how many justifying works he should perform, he should feel that he has accomplished nothing. And when he fasts, he should say, “I have not fasted.” When he prays, let him think, “I have not prayed.” Persevering in prayer he should say, “I have not persevered. I have only begun to practice asceticism and to labor.” And even if he is righteous before God he should say, “I am not righteous. I am not working, but begin each day.” He ought every day to have the hope and joy and confidence in the future kingdom and in redemption and say, “If today I have not been delivered, tomorrow I will be.”

St. Macarius the Great points to the sign of Christianity, i.e., humility.

Life on a Short Leash

Back in May when I heard that the cancer had reared its ugly head once again, my friend’s comment was “He wants to keep you close.” I liked that. It was a loving reminder that my Heavenly Father so wants me to fulfill His plan that He is going to help me out a little more. I probably have spiritual A.D.D. and this will keep me focused.

I’ve decided to call it “life on a short leash.” It is so liberating to be on a short leash!

Decisions are so much easier now. Prioritizing what is important seems to be as simple as 1, 2, 3! It’s all about spending time in prayer each day, being thankful for all that God does for me, working on primary relationships, and letting the distractions just fly right by as I move through different activities. I honestly don’t know if it has ever been this easy to make those “fork in the road” decisions. I don’t want to miss an opportunity to do what I should be doing for one of those drive-by distractions that I am so prone to.

I hope this plays out well for me in getting some more of my projects finished this year. The pile just never seems to disappear. To make room for all of the ones that are in the proverbial  queue, I cleaned out a sewing cupboard today. Can you believe? I have fabric from 30 years ago. I realized it when I remembered that the fabric was used to make a dress for Charity when she was around age 3. My, my.  The punch line: I decided to save it because it would be great to use in a quilt someday! Great colors! So, you can imagine, the fabric I gave up really needed to go…

Despite the “collection” of goods, I’ve got to get shopping for Frank’s quilt backing. I refuse to admit how long I’ve had the fabric for the quilt top. Absolutely refuse. His quilt is a major priority, then the grandbaby gifts for Christmas, and maybe I’ll also get the little Christmas coverlet that I’ve been working on for 5 years (or is it 6/7?) intermittently  finally finished. True confessions here. I refuse to call myself a hoarder though.That will be for another day…

I’ve got some other things on the burner these days and hope to write about them as they unfold. I’m stepping out to see where God wants me to be outside the bounds of my home.Knowing I’m on the short leash has made these steps very easy and simple. I’m finding peace and comfort in these limited bounds.

Thanks for your prayers. I think it is evident that God is working in visible ways, which gives me hope for the unseen.

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

 

What Remains

As I woke this morning the thought of my 35th wedding anniversary captured my thoughts. It’s today.

35 years.

My goodness…all that has happened in 35 years.

My body has taken a physical pelting, not once, but twice. I just pondered the state of things right now.  From my unnaturally naturally curly hair to the battle scars of cancer.

But Love remains. It not only remains, it is as rich as I ever hoped love could be. And then I realize, even more so.

35 years, 3 grown adult children. I almost can’t take that in. So much of life over the last 35 years is inextricably intertwined with Frank and me living life with Tim, Charity, and David. T-ball, ballet, soccer, running, tennis, broken noses, broken hearts, broken bones, saw accidents (!), rich friendships, Sunday School, field trips, classroom presentations, grandparents, aunts, uncles, graduations, camps;  cross-country vacations, Kentucky, Montana, DC/New York/Virginia—what memories!

Frank and I love spending time with them whenever we can.

The groundwork for the next generation started in 2008 with Tim and Debra; it was further laid when David married Sara last year. Tim and Debra gave us delightful Mia just a few weeks before.  Now we are enjoying our newest addition in the second generation—David and wife Sara’s little girl, Anna, born just last Wednesday.

Then I pause and consider our history as a married couple: College, career, Frank building our home with his own hands. We have  a “history” in places we never could have imagined—Kalispell, Yucca Valley, and now Orange.

This post does not do justice to the richness of what God has wrought over the last 35 years. I wonder if in Heaven,  is it going to be one movie after another of all that God has done in the Saints over time, and that is what we are all praising God for? Us, just watching one life after another transformed from the kingdom of darkness and brought into His marvelous light (Eph 5:8, Col. 1:13.), being renewed day to day by His Spirit. That could take Eternity, and how fun it would be to be rejoicing with one another as we see God’s overcoming power at work in our lives. And then another thought: is that what the “cloud of witnesses” in Hebrews are watching right now? Us?

By God’s grace, Frank’s and my love remains, and it is now a tree with branches and little sprouts. I hope that the love poured into that tree will help carry the following generations through the toughest of times, and when they face the inevitable storms, they will draw nourishment from the Roots of their family tree.

Grandpa waiting to see his new “baby girl”

 

 

A Good Report

Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression,
But a good word makes it glad.  Proverbs 12:25

The Proverbs are so full of wisdom and give us understanding in the very basics of life. I was reminded of the impact of “a good word” this last week.

I have been blessed with phone calls and other acts of kindness, and I can’t quite describe the value this has to a person in my situation. Frank sees my reaction many times. I usually can’t finish the sentence without tearing up. Some friends recently toured Italy, and when they told me they visited all of the churches there and took time to pray for ME in each one I was overwhelmed! I can’t imagine someone taking time out of their vacation to pray for me, to have my situation be so present with them when they were so far away—that they would PRAY for me!  That is a good report. That makes my heart glad. The Scriptures tell us what their report brought to me was healing to my bones. I can’t thank them enough.

In August, 2011, when arriving at the doctor’s office to find out what course of treatment I would need for my diagnosis of cancer in the bones and marrow. I had prepared myself for the worst. But before that, I had come across a similar verse:  The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, And a good report makes the bones healthy. (Prov. 15:30)  I remembered going in to the appointment thinking that a good report would be nice. I wanted healthy bones! To be quite frank, I think the doctor was a little surprised at my reaction when he told me that they no longer do bone marrow transplants for breast cancer patients; chemotherapy has proven to be just as effective.  For me, that was a good report. I told him so.

Instead of walking out of his office downcast about the return of breast cancer, I walked out with a little relief in my heart and a lightness in my step. As Proverbs 12:25 states, a good word had made my heart glad. I had prepared myself for the worst possible course of treatment, and I had had a good report. My prayer was that would then be healing to my bones as well.

Most recently, my MRI results showed nothing going on in my ear (which still remains clogged.) It’s not any fun having a clogged ear, but the results were another good report. I had just started realizing how the uncertainty of this was keeping me from moving forward with some volunteer work that I wanted to pursue. I didn’t want to commit to something when things were still up in the air on this. The good report was a relief to me, and I noticed that my sleep immediately improved. This had weighed more heavily on my mind than I had even realized.

I know it sounds kind of odd to take this Scripture so literally, but I’ve begun to see that some of the stuff we used to think as symbolic, has actually been proven out in modern medicine. One’s state of mind is brought up time and again in reports of success rates. The ancient manuscripts of the Bible were ahead of the game on this one too.

I want to praise the Lord for my growing strength, despite the recent setback (May) of a new diagnosis. I am back to walking my old route in my neighborhood, at Balboa/Newport pier, and Downtown Disney. I thank God for this energy, for this renewed strength.  Your prayers and acts of kindness are helping. Thanks!

Study in 2 Corinthians

17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-19

I’ve been doing an overview study of the New Testament, and have been especially blessed with some truths in 2 Corinthians.  The apostle Paul talks a lot about his trials and persecutions, and has put some great thoughts on paper for me to contemplate.

He gives some reasons for suffering in chapter 1. I have always looked to one verse in particular, that states we go through sufferings so we can comfort others with the comfort we ourselves have received from God (v. 4).  Another reason is so we can trust in God—who raises the dead—rather than ourselves (v. 9). This goes to the root of why we even bother to hope—it is because we can pray to God Who does raise the dead!

Yet another reason that has come out is the benefit that all the believers get when they walk through the trial with you.  Allowing others to participate in your season of trial not only lightens the load during the trial (my benefit, indeed;) but  they also  get to praise God right alongside you when He gets you through the affliction. So our trials are not only for our sake, they are for the sake of the body of believers. This is Paul’s point in verse 11. I know I am not going through this affliction by myself. I have people praying for me, and it is the only reason I can be at peace.

I also like this section of Scripture, though being persecuted for my faith to the degree that Paul and many believers go through is not in my experience, I believe it does qualify for my present trial. God gives us the strength despite setbacks, not to despair.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed… 2 Cor. 4:7-9

In closing, I like the following illustration on suffering that was shared  from this study  in 2 Corinthians.  Credit to M.R. De Haan, from his book Broken Things.
A little piece of wood once complained bitterly because its owner kept whittling away at it, cutting it and filling it with holes. But the one doing the cutting paid no attention to its complaining. He was making a flute out of the piece of ebony, and he was too wise to desist from doing so, even though the wood complained bitterly. He seemed to say, “Little piece of wood, without these holes, and all this cutting, you would be a black stick forever – just a useless piece of ebony. What I am doing now may make you think that I am destroying you, but, instead, I will change you into a flute, and your sweet music will charm the souls of men and comfort many a sorrowing heart. My cutting you is the making of you, for only thus can you be a blessing in the world.”

Wow!

 

 

 

How I’m Doing

People keep asking me how I am doing, and I have to say fine; not because it’s the polite thing to say, but because the only difference in how I have felt physically (and overall spiritually) since the test results on my marrow has been the test results themselves.

Soon after the results, thoughts began to creep in about the uncertainty of it all. But then, God in His grace, brought the very truth to mind that the only thing that changed between Thursday and Saturday, were the test results on Friday. Was I going to let the news determine how I felt mentally, when up until that point I had felt fine physically? And, the fact that I still feel physically fine?

I also caught myself saying something in my prayers one morning that really made me chuckle: I thanked God for my health! I have made a habit of saying many prayers for my loved ones and asking for blessing on the day, etc before I get out of bed (one of my unemployment benefits!) It was so weird, because I was earnestly thanking God for my health–and then I caught myself and said, oh, I guess I’m not healthy anymore, am I Lord? But just as I stated that, I also said, Well, I thank you for the health that I do have, because I feel fine. Thanks for my mobility, my vision being good again so I can do my sewing, for no pain! So, in a nutshell, that is a lot of what I am processing. I’m thanking Him for the good.

Then, I am reminded of so many Scriptures that talk about  our mindset. The one that is most prominent is: Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things [emphasis mine.]  (Phil. 4:8) The beauty of it is that it is right in the context of Paul exhorting us to be anxious for nothing, but to pray with thanksgiving (Phil. 4:6)

Praying with thanksgiving has become such a prayer habit that I almost can’t pray without it. It just eeks out. I notice it is a natural part of seasoned believers as well. I can remember faltering at this when I first learned of this Scripture, making an effort to find something to be thankful for in the circumstances. I still hear that “practice” part coming out in the lives of new believers, as they are trying to exercise what they are learning about prayer. All these years later, it’s just there for me. I thank God that cancer has happened at this point in my life rather than earlier, because I think this has to play in to my obvious mental health.

Most certainly, I know my mind has to be set on things above as well. It keeps me out of the doldrums. When I feel it sneaking up, I’ve had to make a habit of putting on my praise and worship music. That helps significantly, because sometimes I get weary, and the words just play out for me. Then, before I know it, I’m singing again (and many times dancing.) I thank God that I have the strength for that too!

Please don’t stop praying. I am confident that this battle is being carried a lot by you all. How else could I possibly get through it? And yes, I do pray  (and ask for your support in this as well) for a complete restoration of my health, regardless of setbacks.

Phillippians 4:6-8

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

 

 

He Was Waiting

A wonderful assurance that God is helping me through this, ready and waiting with all that I need has come to my attention the last few days.

When I went to see my oncologist on Friday morning, we were told that we needed pre-approval on the new drug before they could administer it, and since it was Friday, maybe they could get an answer by the following Tuesday—at best. They would then call and set up an appointment for later in the week. So we were hoping I could start the new drug by late this week, if things fell into place.

At 5:30 late Friday afternoon, I received a phone call from the doctor’s nurse practitioner, and she was floored—the approval came back the same day. Not only that, it took maybe 10 minutes or so! She was flabbergasted, and said that just never happens.

It just made me think of Jesus words about the Father, that He knows  what we need before we even ask (Matt 6:8.)  On Friday, it was almost like He was at the other end of that FAX machine, approval in hand—waiting—we just needed to get the request to Him!

Thank You, Lord, for this sweet affirmation of Your presence and provision.

Yesterday I had my first dose of the new drug. Tuesday. Pray for it to be effective without negative side effects. Thanks.

from Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 6

And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.

“Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.

 

Biopsy Report

As my doctor once said, “I’ve got some good news and some bad news.” I would say that sums up my latest visit, though he didn’t use those words. Results from the biopsy indicated that the cancer in my bone marrow has returned (the bad news.) The good news is this does not mean I have to return to chemo right away. I will be taking a stronger hormone blocker (which also kills cancer cells) instead.

I do have so many “gracelets”, as my pastor calls them, to report. First, I don’t have any pain. Second, I wouldn’t know I had cancer unless someone told me. Third, I won’t lose hair from this treatment. Lastly, I have been saturated in God’s word and various teaching during this “recovery period,” which I’m sure will benefit me in the road ahead.

I have no doubt that God is still on the throne. He is Almighty God, the same one that with a word spoke the heavens and earth into existence (Gen 1.) He designed and made these bodies we are in, and he knows what my needs are. With a whisper, He can heal me. He is not intimidated by cancer. So, I continue to pray in faith, ask expectantly, and ask often for His mercies and touch on this body of mine.

For all of you who are joining with me in prayer, thanks! We can be confident that He hears.

Some references that comfort, encourage, and reassure:

Psalms 34 and 139

James 5:14-15

Gospel of John 14:12-14

Blessings to you,

Eileen