Perspective

Have you ever reached a point where you feel like things are crashing down around you? You’re burnt out with your job, annoyed with your spouse, even fed-up with friends? Nothing’s really wrong, except that you just feel fried by life. You need a vacation!

That’s where I was recently. Nothing was really wrong. Life is good. My grandchildren are beautiful (I’m having the best time crocheting toys for them!). And my husband and I are in a good place with jobs and our marriage.

So, what’s the deal? Why do I feel like I need Calgon to take me away? (I’m may be giving away my age with that reference!).

But as I attempted to have a pity party with myself, another part of me stood up to smack me in the head. The other part of me remembered where I was 10 years ago this month. How things have changed, but how good things have been in the last decade.

You see, ten years ago, I was diagnosed with my second bout with cancer. Something we had thought we had beaten five years earlier reared its ugly head again, in a slightly different form, and tried to take over my life, or more accurately, take my life.

Facing my cancer diagnosis together

This time, I had a double mastectomy, but chose not to have chemotherapy. It was an aggressive cancer to be sure, but the reasons for chemo just weren’t there. I’ve had my share of radiation from my first time with breast cancer.

So, as I think back at that time in my life, the diagnosis coming right before my birthday (the picture was taken on my birthday, knowing the diagnosis but still not knowing what the treatment would be), and the surgery coming a month later, I realize I have NOTHING to be down about. Since that time, I’ve been blessed with my children’s marriages, and two beautiful grandchildren. Yes, there’s been tough times, including cancer battles for my mother and brother, but there’s been so much joy, too. And many, many blessings.

When I feel down, or annoyed, or fed up, it doesn’t hurt to still want a vacation. It’s good to take a break. But I need to put these feelings in perspective. I’m still here. I’m strong. I’m healthy. I’m tremendously blessed with family and friends.

No time for a pity party here. It’s time to celebrate 10-years of being cancer-free instead. That’s my kind of party!

How do you keep perspective?

The Look in Her Eyes

I recognized the look in my friend’s eyes. I could see beyond her smile and her hugs. Deep inside, I saw fear. Fear of the unknown she is facing, and the new path she’s now walking. You see, my friend was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
I could see beyond her brave face, because I’ve been down that road myself…twice.

Our small group gathered around her and her family the night before her first chemo treatment, to pray for her. She was strong, and her faith was evident, but I think only someone who’s walked in similar shoes could see that particular look in her eyes – overwhelmed, fearful, but trusting, because it’s times like these where you need to trust God more than ever.

When you’re told you have cancer, before you can even comprehend those words, you’re suddenly whisked off for a battery of consultations, tests and scheduling.

Cancer barely penetrates your mind, yet it’s looming over everything you do from that moment forward. Your world has shifted upside down, and you’ve stepped on the roller coaster. And it can be quite the ride.
25fec-beckyandvince
Here is a picture of my husband and me where I can see “that look” in my own eyes. This was taken on a Sunday, on my birthday. We were having a great day, enjoy the celebration with friends. But the Friday before, I had been diagnosed with my second bout of cancer, and the next day, a new round of tests, doctors, and mapping out treatment plans was beginning. So, as I turned another year older, I knew that year was going to be challenging, and scary, yet I had my husband right by my side and my faith to guide me. But I still had that fearful look of not knowing quite what to expect, trying to hang on to faith, while facing an unknown, frightening path.

It’s the look I saw in my friend’s eyes the night we prayed for her.

While I’ve walked in similar shoes as my friend, her journey will be different. Everyone’s is. But I will walk beside her, and pray for her and her husband and family.

That’s all I can do, and trust that God will hold her like He’s held me.

The Need for Community

This blog is entitled “Talking Among Friends” for a reason.  I want it to be a safe place to talk about friendships, relationships and life in general.  Originally, this blog started out as “Rebecca’s Journey,” where I wrote about my experience with cancer.Friends Silhouette

After a while, I didn’t want to talk about cancer any more.  Life started again, and I wanted to break away from that dreadful disease.  Relationships are what matter in this life, whether it’s your relationship with God, your family, and your spouse and kids.

Sadly, cancer is still a fact of life for friends around me.  It’s much too prevalent in this world, and I’m sure we all know someone who has had cancer or even passed away from this awful disease.

A friend of mine is recovering now, and has finished all of her treatments of chemotherapy and radiation.  She’s finding her way back.  At a recent gathering of friends, her first in a long time, she said something that struck me.  In the midst of her treatment, all she could do was sleep and focus on getting through it day-by-day. During that time, she said she couldn’t even pray.

For those of us who can’t get through the day without praying, even sending up the so-called “arrow prayers,” then we know what a dark place she was in.

As her friends, we had been rallying around her as best we could, in whatever way we could. Mostly, by prayer, emails and phone calls.

She also said something else.  She said, “Others held me up when I couldn’t.”

Talk about the power of community and friendship!  She could feel our support for her.  When I was fighting cancer, I could also feel the prayers of many.   What a comfort that was and how helpful it was in my own recovery.

Can you imagine not having friends or any type of community around you?

When life throws us curve balls, or when you’re celebrating a joyous occasion, how would it feel to celebrate alone?  Or to face the darkness alone?

We all get busy with our own families and careers, but it is so important to take the time to find that community, that fellowship and friendships in which to share your life.

We all need to make the effort, me included, to reach out more or deepen the friendships with those already in our lives.

What are you doing to take the time for friends? To find that community?

 

What now?

Obviously, since I haven’t posted in a while, I’m not sure what to do with this blog any more.  I’ve talked a lot about my cancer experiences, and hopefully shared how faith, family and friends get you through that. I had a whole list of things to discuss on this blog, and you know what? I don’t want to talk about cancer anymore!  At least not right now.

I’m tired of cancer.  It’s been too big in my life, and now that I’m past all surgeries and all treatment, I want to put cancer in the past, too. I want to go back to being normal again. 
But what is normal?  The tag-line on this blog says “Living After Cancer – the New Normal.” Well, that’s true, this is a new normal.  Cancer changed everything, whether I want to admit that or not.  But I just don’t want it to dominate my entire life.
I’m very proud to be a survivor.  I love to encourage and give hope to others who are struggling with this awful disease or who have friends or family members in the midst of it.  But I’ve never been one to go to these fundraisers or 5K runs, and wrap a pink feather boa around myself indicating that I’m a survivor.  Please don’t get me wrong.  There’s nothing wrong about survivors proudly proclaiming that we’re still here.  We should!
I just don’t want to think about this disease every single day.  It may have changed me…and changed me more than my physical appearance, but it won’t define me.  Again, I don’t want to trivialize survivorship. Believe me, every day I look in the mirror, I see that I had cancer.  And my scars are a symbol of surviving.  However, my life is much more than “I had cancer.”

I don’t want to think about it anymore.  I want other things to dominate my life. Key words: my life. (not my cancer).  That life should be focused on my wonderful husband, fantastic kids, cheering on my daughter as she goes to graduate school, preparing for my son’s spring wedding in 2012…there’s so much more going on in my life.  Cancer isn’t here anymore.  Life is here!
Now I want to be a “normal” woman, whose biggest worry is complaining about her weight!
It’s time for life.

Waiting on Life

So, here I sit, one-year later…. one year of being cancer free and adjusting to my new body. But how well have I really adjusted to my new life?

After surviving a life-threatening disease, you come out of it renewed, ready to live life to the maximum. You’re ready to fulfill your purpose. I wanted to awaken each day and fulfill what God’s plans were for me.

And I think I’m failing at that miserably…

More often than not, I’m the queen of procrastination. My main goal in life is to be a writer. I’ve started three books, but have yet to finish them. I even refer to myself as a writer, however it seems I’m doing anything but that. I am very involved in ACFW, which is American Christian Fiction Writers (www.acfw.com). Being around those other writers is inspiring and makes me feel like I truly belong. Here in DFW, we have a local ACFW chapter, which is the DFW Ready Writers (waving to you all!). It’s wonderful to be friends with other writers, as we all understand each other, and know that it’s okay to have voices in your head! (As in, our characters are usually talking to us!). I’m blessed with all of these people.

But I feel like I’m blowing my opportunities! I’m wasting the time I’ve been given, and letting all my other “jobs” get in the way. Being on the board of ACFW is just an excuse not to write. I’m doing everything in and around the writing world, except for writing! I’m very frustrated with myself.

My local writing buddies: RK, MO, JO, LG, KG, and JT are terrific and inspiring. I just hope they don’t give up on me as I work my way through this avoidance or procrastination… whatever it is that’s stopping me these days.

Oh yeah, I’m moving this weekend…But that’s just another excuse.

I said to myself I’ll write after I heal from my surgery, or when I’m finished with my term on the board of ACFW, or I’ll write after I get moved and settled, or I’ll write after our national conference in a few weeks. It’s like I’m waiting for everything to line up perfectly so I can sit down and write.

Well, life isn’t going to wait on me. So, why am I waiting on life to do what I really want to do? Especially after last year — You think I would’ve learned something. I should be living my life fully. Everyone should be…

Don’t wait on life. It’s always going to be a little messy and there will always be something that comes up and interrupts your schedule. We just need to work through that. I want to do the work that God has called me to do. So, I pray that my local writing buddies will bear with me — that they will continue to support me and even kick my backside on occasion to keep me going.

Isn’t that what friends are for?

Discouraged today… And parts of this are quite whiney, so forgive me in advance.

I’m generally a very positive person. Even after my mastectomy last summer and dealing with those wretched, awful drains, I tried to stay positive. I was happy that overall I had very little pain from the surgery, that I wouldn’t have to go through chemotherapy (Praise God!). It seemed like we got all the cancer so now was the time to just focus on recovery.

Yes, having sarcoma of the breast changed me. No doubt about that. Now, I wanted to be very purposeful and intentional with my life. I felt God’s blessings all over this entire situation. So, let’s take those blessings and run!

But then there are days like today. I don’t want to be whiney — especially when overall I have it SO good! But today I am discouraged. I’ve been trying to exercise more, take good care of myself, really make the most of things. But it seems like nothing but roadblocks are in my way. I mean, gheez, how long does it take an immune system to build back up from surgery!!!

So, I’m finally working on an exercise program I really enjoy. I’m getting into it, really trying to focus on just feeling good. In February, I got bronchitis. Both my hubby and I were down with that one. And it was the cough that lingered and lingered. It didn’t want to go away. Okay– so we work our way through that. Then I get tendonitis in my foot. I do some more stretching and get through that. THEN — I strain a muscle in my back. That was two weeks ago, and it still hurts! Damn exercise. Is this what happens when you try to get healthy?! This morning, I wake up with a sore throat and clogged sinuses. Whaa… poor me. I suppose overall, this is just life. So, we’ll get past all of these, and I PROMISE to quit whining about it all. I hate how this sounds. Time to shut up and pray!

But along with the back and sinus issue this week, I have some swelling. Here’s where the “new normal” comes in when living after cancer. Muscle strains and coughs are part of daily life. But swelling is a different story. I have swelling in my upper arm and under my arm. After a mastectomy, swelling is not good. The kicker is the swelling is on my non-cancer side! If I was swelling on the side where my sarcoma was, then we’d think lymphedema. It’s something we watch for once they take your lymph nodes under your arm to check if the cancer has spread.

This is different being in my “healthy” arm. For now, hubby and I are treating the swelling like we would with the other side. My occupational therapist showed us massage we could do to keep fluid moving. We’ve focused on my right side (cancer side) up til now — and now we’re doing both arms. And it’s helped. I’ve increased my water intake. I’m back to at least walking, even though exercise bites my back. My left arm originally looked about 2-inches larger than the right. Now, after only a few days of intense massage and water-drinking, it’s looking better, and more even with the other arm.

We have an appointment with my doctor on Tuesday. I’m sure I’ll feel silly, because the swelling will have gone down. But, I guess we have to double-check because of the swelling under my arm, near my breast area, near the surgical site.

So, onward we go… despite feeling discouraged. Thanks for reading through this anyway. Sometimes I just want to wallow in my whininess — but I know the thing to do is shut up, pray, and get busy working on something — anything — to keep moving forward.

Overall, that’s the goal — keep moving forward. Enjoy every moment of this life I’ve been given. I wish there weren’t discouraging days… but it’s going to happen — whether you’ve had cancer or not.

Onward we go…