Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Will Power and God's Timing

      Prayers have been answered! I'm finally feeling like myself again and the feeling of being "normal" is such a blessing. After being threatened with a feeding tube by my doctor in Texas I began forcing myself to eat and drink the nutritional drink, Boost. I am realizing more and more the amount of will power the Lord has blessed me with lately. As the days passed I began eating and drinking so much more than usual. I saw the feeding tube as one more thing I would have to endure, and I was determined to avoid it if at all possible. My radiation oncologist had explained to mama and me (I had already figured this out) that it's harder than it sounds. Trying to drink five or six Boosts a day and/or receive the proper amount of nutrients and calories to help me recover and gain some weight is not as easy as it sounds. You're practically eating/drinking every waking hour of the day. It's like a full time job. I was glad my doctor emphasized this struggle because once again nobody understands until they are in this position. People, including myself before having cancer, think gaining weight is easy and fun, but it's just as difficult, if not more difficult, than trying to lose excess pounds. Anyway, as I started eating and drinking more my appetite began coming back as well as increasing. By the next week I felt like I was eating everything in sight and I was able to handle the Boosts without gagging. Such progress! I had finally gained a couple pounds which proved to my doctor that a feeding tube wouldn't be necessary. I am so thankful the Lord brought me to this point. It just had to be in His timing. Due to my increase in calories and nutrients my wishes in "Pray Through the Process" were granted. My energy level increased a ton. I was no longer sleeping until lunchtime and then napping all afternoon. I was up and moving around. A friend of mine even pointed out that I had walked around The Woodlands Mall instead of being pushed in a wheelchair. Such an accomplishment! Lately I'm truly realizing that it's the little things that mean so much! The Lord has held my hand every step of the way. He was by my side when my family and I picked up and moved to a strange city where we didn't know anyone. He was there with His arms around me when my first two rounds of chemo didn't work. He was constantly present when I stayed a week in the hospital and it seemed like I was never going to get better. He was there when we received bad news and good news, and He was there when we found out I was healed. He knew all along what all I would endure, the friends and relationships we would make in Texas, and how everything would turn out. After all, He is the Ultimate Healer so who else would know when I would finally be healed. All in His timing, which can be such a struggle for me. Either way I am thankful for His blessings, His promises, and His healing!

"And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you." -1 Peter 5:10

"Focus on how far you've come, not how far you have to go."

"Faith isn't hoping God can, it is knowing He will."

"I am a God who heals. I heal broken bodies, broken minds, broken hearts, broken lives, and broken relationships." -Jesus Calling

Miracle # One-Thousand & One

      After over a week of ups and downs mama and I are finally back home, and bringing good news with us! We left for Texas over two weeks ago so I could have a PET scan and a check up with my doctors at MD Anderson. I had the scan on a Tuesday morning and met with my doctors that Thursday to receive the results. On that Thursday afternoon my first doctor, the surgeon, came in and said she wanted to check my neck herself before telling me how the scan looked. Let's just say I'm not a fan of that method considering I'm anxious and am practically holding my breath until I hear the results from the scan. My surgeon felt of my neck for a few minutes, then sat down and told me the last thing I wanted to hear. Two lymph nodes in my neck had lit up on the PET scan, which means they could contain cancer cells. She explained that it may or may not be cancer still left in my body, but the only way to know for sure is to do an ultrasound biopsy. Before we had left Texas last time, in late July after I found out that my CT scan showed that the chemo and radiation regimen had been successful, my team of doctors explained how my lymph modes were calcified and were so damaged and hardened from treatment that they were difficult to see, thus the need for the PET scan. My surgeon went on to say these two lymph nodes could be removed through surgery but she would not like to have to open my neck up for a third time, but she would if necessary. Of course I was tearing up by this time and had a full fledged breakdown after my doctor left the room. Mama was being upbeat, telling me how grateful we should be that the cancer hasn't spread anywhere else in my body and how these two lymph nodes could be surgically removed, unlike another lymph node that had previously contained cancer cells and was located in a spot that surgery couldn't touch. I cried until one of my other doctors, my radiologist, entered the room. Then I attempted to pull myself together. My radiation oncologist is completely precious. I feel so comfortable with him and I know he would never lie to me or give me false hope, but he also has a way with words, unlike many doctors I've come across. He discusses my situation on my level, making it where I can understand, without using physicians terms. He made me feel a thousand times better. He said the same thing the previous doctor had said but he showed me the whole picture. He said that this wasn't good news but it wasn't bad news and for me not to consider this a setback because they knew all along that it might take another surgery to get rid of this cancer. He made it clear that these two lymph nodes are easily accessible if they need to be surgically removed, but he also warned me that surgery may be necessary even if these two lymph nodes do not contain cancer cells, only dead cells or dead tissue. As crazy as it sounds, surgery doesn't scare me anymore, I've become a pro, I just hate that a month ago I thought I was cancer free and now a different scan may prove otherwise. I just wanted all this to be over! Anyways, we left the clinic and I was feeling a little better after talking with my radiation oncologist. I wish I could just put him in my pocket and pull him out when I need some encouragement about cancer. Haha! Mama also reminded me that a friend of ours who had my type of cancer had to have surgery after treatment to remove several lymph nodes, and now he is cancer free. Hearing stories of other people who have been in my shoes and are now cancer free is such wonderful encouragement!
      The next morning, Friday, mama and I drove back to Houston to the main hospital for my ultrasound biopsy. I've had a biopsy on my neck before, but this one was nothing like the first one. I was in so much pain. My neck is extremely sore, tight, and damaged from radiation, and having a doctor and x-ray technician hold my head to one side, push on my neck, "numb" my neck with a shot and stick a needle in and pump out some cells. This biopsy was AWFUL, and I'm tough. A lot tougher than I ever thought possible. The whole time I just laid on the hospital bed, silent tears running down my face, and praying, mostly that the biopsy wouldn't reveal any cancer cells, but also for the Lord to give me strength, hold me in His arms, and help me endure this pain. After the biopsy was finished mama and I had to wait about half an hour for the preliminary results. We wouldn't receive the final results for a few days. Several minutes later the doctor came back into my room and told us that based in the preliminary results these two lymph nodes do NOT contain cancer cells, it's only dead tissue and dying cells. Even though we had to wait a few days for the final results that was such a relief to hear. You couldn't have slapped the smile off our faces. Then, on Tuesday morning my surgeon called with the cancer cells were found and no surgery is necessary. My team of doctors met and discussed my situation and for now they only want to keep an eye on me by continuing to have check ups every six weeks. God is so good and He continues to amaze me through His miracles, even just the miracles I've seen up close and personal in my own life. He has truly healed me from cancer and now I want to spend the rest of my life...looooong life....doing whatever He has planned!

"God has intention for your pain, a reason for your struggle, and a reward for your faithfulness. Don't give up!"

"The circumstances we ask God to change are often the circumstances God is using to change us." -Max Lucado

"God is doing a new thing. He is releasing healing, forgiveness, joy, peace, victory. This is your time."

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pray Through the Process

      To put it lightly, I have been a complete basket case the past month...since I found out the great news! I have been an emotional wreck! Obviously my life has been a complete whirlwind basically the past year, so of course I'm not going to be completely level headed right now. My mama also blames some of this issue on my changes in medications from treatment, which also makes sense. Anyway, point being, I've had quite a few of "those moments" lately. Moments where I feel down in the dumps, saddened that I can't go out and do the things I enjoy due to lack of energy, aggravated at my loss of appetite (YES, stillllll!) and change in tastes, etc. Don't get me wrong, I am beyond thankful the Lord chose to heal me. Nothing even compares! I remind myself of that when I'm having a little crying spirt. I'm just ready to feel like myself again...hyper, talkative, maybe annoying, on the go. I miss that, but I know if the Lord can heal me from cancer TWICE that giving me strength, energy, and an appetite will be a piece of cake. Everyone keeps saying it will all come in time. Well patience has never been my strong point so maybe this is just part of the learning experience. Thanks to all God has taught me along this journey I'm going to bounce back new and improved!
        I've also learned something else. You really never understand a person's situation until you are in their shoes. You may have had an aunt with breast cancer, a father with stomach cancer, a best friend with thyroid cancer, but until it is you, not just close to home, but actually YOU, you don't understand 100%. I've realized that even more as I've been trying to heal from radiation and chemotherapy. I know the majority of the time people mean well with their words or actions, but sometimes I'm just sensitive. People tend to hear "scans are clear" and think "Praise God! She's healed," but then forget that I still need prayer like I did before. People notice my weight loss. Yeah, I know I look bad. I don't want to be this thin, but I'm trying. I look at the number on the scale and I cry because I've just eaten a midnight snack and I've still lost more weight. I see on Facebook or hear from friend's about them going here or there and I become so jealous. I can't wait to even go to the mall again without having to be pushed in a wheelchair. I also can't wait to be able to stand up longer than a few minutes without feeling worn out. As crazy as this may sound, I miss getting ready...girl style. I used to hate the days where I would have to wake up first thing in the morning and fix my hair, put on makeup, and choose my outfit. Now I barely make time to brush my teeth, put on my wig, and slip on my yoga pants (that's basically all that fits right now), before leaving the house. All these things are silly in comparison to being healed, I am fully aware, but it doesn't stop me for longing for those days again soon! Recovering is truly a process and unless you yourself have been through it you don't understand the amount of strength, motivation, determination, courage, I could go on all day, that it takes. I don't know what dream world I was living in, but I thought I would make a complete turnaround a few weeks after completing treatments. Well treatments ended in May and I'm just now saying all this. I'm not giving up. I'll continue those midnight snacks. I also know that in time the Lord will renew my strength and I won't require twelve plus hours of sleep each night (believe me, it really does get old), and He will increase my energy, my appetite, and anything else that I could ever need. He's a God of endless resources and He wants nothing more than to take care of His children! We just have to believe it and ask!

"You don't have what you want because you don't ask God for it." -James 4:2

"But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint." -Isaiah 40:31
THIS is God's promise to me...sums it all up!

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are Mine." -Isaiah 43:1

"Though You have made me see troubles, many and bitter, You will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth You will again bring me up." -Psalm 71:20

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Best Day of My Life

      The past month has been a whirlwind. The last week of June my oncologist finally gave me the okay that I was recovering well enough from my treatments to go back home. The very next day after my doctor's appointment my family and I were on a plane headed home. We were allowed to stay home four weeks and then I would have to return to Texas to have a scan to find out how I had responded to my treatments. Our time at home wasn't exactly how I had planned. I spent half the time sick and even ended up going to Gibb's Cancer Center in Spartanburg three days in a row for fluids and going to Greenville to see my other oncologist. I finally started feeling better but we only had a little over a week left at home and by this time all I could focus on was my upcoming scan.
      My mama, my brother, one of my sisters, and I returned to Texas on Saturday, July 20th for my scan that Monday and we would see my doctors and find out the results on Thursday. I hated leaving home but I was surprisingly calm going back to Katy. That week I spent a lot of time reading my Bible, mostly scripture telling of Jesus's healing power. Those passages were such encouragement. I can honestly say that I never doubted the Lord's power to heal me. I know He can do anything. I was just worried that it wasn't His will to heal me. That healing me wasn't His plan for my life. I hate even saying that because I know the Lord's way is far better than mind, but I was scared and anxious. My family and I also did a lot of praying. We pray together daily, but this week we prayed like never before. Praying also helped calm my nerves. I knew that talking to the Lord, asking for His healing, His strength, and His peace was the only thing that could help me.
      When Thursday morning rolled around I just woke up and went through the motions. My doctor's appointment was bright and early, at 8:30, which was good because it gave me less time to think. Once we were put in a room at the clinic it took my doctor an hour to come in. By this time my nerves were shot. I was taking this hour wait as a bad sign. I just sat there holding mama's hand and praying. All week I had the same Francesca Battistelli song stuck in my head. The chorus says, "faith is all it takes and you can walk on the water too." Wow! Even though I still believe, it still amazes me what faith can do! That is the faith I strive to have. I kept thinking of these lyrics as I sat there waiting. Finally my doctor came in and from there on I remember about one sentence and the rest is just a blank. I only remember him saying, "your scan is clear." Immediately after he said those words I started tearing up and silently thanking God. Then mama reaches out, grabs both the doctor's hand and my hand, and starts praying and thanking and praising the Lord for my healing. By this time mama and I were both sobbing and when the prayer was over I'm pretty positive I saw tears in my doctor's eyes as well. Such a special moment! Earlier in the week I was talking with mama, telling her how scared I was about getting my results. She said something I will never forget: "You may end up having the best day of your life." That was exactly what happened. The Lord was behind it all. When I didn't know what was coming, the Lord had already been there. He was with me every step of the way and never let go of my hand. He is my Savior, my Healer, and I am so blessed that He has chosen to perform so many miracles in my life. I told God I would never question why I had cancer. I am just thankful for His healing and I will continue to praise Him and give Him the credit He deserves. It wasn't the chemo, the radiation, or my doctors that healed me. The Lord used those treatments and those physicians. He is the Ultimate Healer.

"...your Father knows what you need before you ask Him." -Matthew 6:8

"Then Jesus said to the centurion, 'Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.' And Hs servant was healed at that very hour."  -Matthew 8:13

"You of little faith, why do you doubt?" -Matthew 14:31

"Have faith in God," Jesus answered. "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." -Mark 11:22-24

Sunday, June 16, 2013

"That's why our air went out."

June 7, 2013

      This afternoon, in TEXAS need I remind you, our air conditioning stopped working. Are you kidding me? Helllllo heat stroke! All five of us ended up sleeping in our living room so we could put fans all over that one room and stay cool. An interesting night to say the least, but also a blessing in disguise. This evening some maintenance men from our neighborhood came over to see what the problem is. I was hiding away in my bedroom half asleep when I woke up and overheard mama talking with one of the men in the next room. Mama must have told him why we were living here temporarily, because when I woke up I heard him telling her about his church and the power of prayer and anointing with oil. Mama told him how I was anointed with oil and prayed over back at my home church. He goes on to tell her how he had once anointed and prayed over a man in his own home, how they didn't have the typical oil for anointing and just used whatever they had in the house because it isn't the oil that does the trick, it's our faith and believing in the power of prayer and God's power to heal His children. The next thing I knew mama and this maintenance man were walking into my bedroom. They asked if he could pray over me. Of course I will never turn down a prayer! He used olive oil from our kitchen and put a drop on my forehead. Then he prayed the most sincere prayer, asking for the Lord's healing. In the few minutes I spent with this man I could see his genuine love for Christ and his faith, trust, and belief in the Lord's healing power. This man was absolutely precious and such a prayer warrior. I am so thankful for this experience. I know without a doubt that the Lord had this man cross our path for a reason. Once the man left our house mama said, "That's why our air went out." She is exactly right!

“Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:” - James 5:14

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Whole World in His Hands

      For the past month or so one question has been weighing on my heart and mind. "How do people go through life's trials without having God in their life?" Thankfully, not everyone is in my situation, or ever has cancer hit close to home, but not one single person escapes a trial of some sort. Whether it's financial problems, divorce, illness, death of a lived one, addiction, etc everyone experiences struggles in their lifetime. How you choose to deal with them makes all the difference. Giving your situation to the Lord allows you an amount of peace and satisfaction that no other option could ever provide. As I continue on my journey, a trial that I never expected to face, much less in my twenties, I look back on all that I've been through and I truly believe there is no way I would have made it this far if it wasn't for my relationship with God. Life's trials are times when we should grow in our relationship with Christ, cling to Him, and rely on Him. We are so blessed to even have the ability to talk to the Creator of the universe, yet some people don't take Him up on this opportunity. During the trials I have faced I feel so thankful to be able to call upon the Lord anytime or anywhere. Not only can I talk to God but He is the ONLY One who can change my situation or help me endure it. Our friends and family may be good listeners, but they don't control the ultimate outcome, yet the Lord holds the whole world in His hands. He is the Great Physician, the ultimate Healer, the Prince of Peace, our Comforter, our Strength, and most importantly our Savior. If we reach out for the Lord He will never let go of our hands. Knowing all this and still seeing people try to face difficulties alone blows my mind. Some people try to be too prideful, too independent, to "need" God, when really He's the only thing any of us ever need.

"Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him." - Psalm 62:5

"Pray continually." - Thessalonians 5:17

"You will keep in perfect peace those whose mind is steadfast, because they trust in You." - Isaiah 26:3

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Hitting Rock Bottom

May 30, 2013

      Well, I'm blogging from my hospital bed. I was feeling so well the end of last week and then Saturday night I hit rock bottom. I've been in the hospital since Sunday afternoon and I'm more than ready to get out of here! When I was first admitted to the hospital, and a couple days after, I was the feeling terrible. I have never been so sick in my life. I was dehydrated, even though I have no clue how that happened because I've constantly had a drink in my hand ever since beginning radiation, and I was so weak I could barely stay awake or alert long enough to make conversation or answer mama's questions.  It also took a day or two for my blood pressure to get above the 70/40 range, which was a little scary. Thankfully the past couple of days have been much better. The Lord was definitely hearing everyone's prayers! After being constantly hooked up to fluids through my IV my blood pressure finally began to rise which made a huge difference in how I felt. Even though my blood pressure was picking up it seemed like every day I had a new problem that was keeping me in the hospital. One day I had a fever. One day my potassium level was very low. Each day I feel like I've been holding my breath to find out the results of my blood work. Thankfully the doctor just came in and said I can go home this afternoon. I'm so pumped! I could use a good night's sleep without someone coming in every hour and waking me up. As much as this place drove me crazy, I'm very thankful the Lord used the staff here to get me back on the path to recovery!

"O Lord my God, I called to You for help and You healed me." -Psalm 30:2