Cancer and Survivor’s Guilt

Ten years. Cancer free. It almost seems unbelievable, how fast it’s all gone. I’ve been thinking about this anniversary, and as usual, I seem to be stuffing my inner most feelings. I’m afraid to go that deep. I should have some words of wisdom or some deep reflection about this anniversary, but my emotions seem to be all over the place, so I’m stuffing them.

I don’t talk about my cancer journey often, but when I do, it’s only with the hope of encouraging someone else. Everyone’s cancer journey is different, so I can’t presume to know what another is feeling. But as I reflect on my ten years of being a survivor (or 15, if you count the first time I had cancer), I’m feeling emotions that I haven’t seen much written or talked about.

I think I have survivor’s guilt.

Don’t get me wrong. Today needs to be a day of celebration and gratitude from the deepest parts of my soul. Gratitude to God for providing the right doctors at the right time. For our second opinion doctor about post-surgery treatment, for my husband, children and family  for their continuing love and support. I feel all of that.

But deep down, the emotions are startling to me. If I let reality in, the reality that I could’ve died, the reality that I survived when I know of so many others who have lost their cancer battles, then that will make me crumble.

I want to acknowledge this day, this moment, instead of crumbling. Life is good right now, there are so many blessings of family, friends and grandchildren!  But with all of that comes the question of how can I live up to being a cancer survivor?

I was spared when others weren’t.

This is why my emotions are all over the place. I never thought of survivor’s guilt with cancer. I think I’ve felt this way for a long time. Every time someone lost their cancer battle, I felt guilty for “winning” mine. I know God has a purpose for it all, but it doesn’t make it easy to understand.

So, how do I resolve this?

Instead of putting enormous pressure on myself to do something monumental, perhaps I need to just look at my purpose day-to-day. Maybe an act of kindness every day is monumental. Taking a friend to lunch. Heck, having a nice warm dinner ready for my husband after his long commute home from work on cold, wet roads. Is that enough? Being a good Grammy and loving on my precious grandchildren, is that monumental enough? Is it “fulfilling my purpose?” I say yes to all of the above. Perhaps my big purpose in life may be how well I live my life day-to-day.

For today, while inwardly, I may struggle with the emotions of being a survivor, outwardly, I celebrate. I thank God for giving me these ten years and I pray I’ll have many more. I pray I find a way to live up to being one of the survivors of this horrible disease.

And maybe it’s all that any of us can do. Most of us won’t influence the entire world, but we can influence those around us.

I may never be world-famous or change the world, but I can serve a purpose with the world around me.

 

Do You Have Four Minutes?

Right now seems to be a season of flux for me. It looks like some changes are coming. For one, I’m taking a break right now from working on any novels. I am still writing daily using a writing prompt, and I hope to work on this blog a little more. But I will need to make some decisions about what direction I want to go with my career soon.

As a Christian, I want to follow God’s path for my life. I want to  use the gifts He’s given me for His good, not mine. Most of the time, I feel like I just need to get out of the way and quit overthinking everything.  There are some very simple mantras that stick in my head, like “Do the Work.” Or “Take Action.” Both of those are great and exactly what I need to do. But when you’re lost on which direction to go, it’s easy to just stop. And that doesn’t feel right either.

hourglass-1703330_1280Sometimes, though, it’s okay to stop. Take a break. Just breathe for a moment. And that’s where the title of this blog comes in: Do you have four minutes?

Recently at church, one of our teaching pastors, Ryan Leak (@ryanleak), talked about our prayer life. In this fast-paced world, we’re not always stopping to pray, and most certainly aren’t taking time out for quiet time with the Lord. We all know the passage in Psalm 46 that says “Be Still and know that I am God.” Yet most of us aren’t still. So, Ryan suggested an experiment. For four minutes, you sit still. Set a timer (because yes, it feels strange at first). But quiet yourself. You can start out praying, but God knows our hearts. He hears from us enough, but do we take time to hear from Him? So be still, for four minutes. And absorb the silence.

Now, you may not hear the booming voice of God. You may not hear anything. The answers may not come, but for four minutes, you focus on God. You quiet your heart. Maybe you find peace.

As I’m struggling in this season where I’m purposely taking a break, I’m going to try to be still for four minutes a day. Will I find the answers I need? Will my path suddenly appear before me? I don’t know. But I do know that for four minutes a day, I will revel in the quiet. I will settle my racing thoughts. I will have a peaceful moment. Maybe the answers will come, maybe they won’t. But I do know they certainly won’t come unless I stop long enough to listen. I’m setting aside four minutes a day to listen.

What about you? Do you have four minutes?

Scoring For the Other Team

This past weekend, the Senior Pastor at my church delivered a message called “Know Your Enemy.” Our enemy is Satan, a fallen angel. This enemy can have us turn on each other. He can have us do things that take us further from our walk with Christ.

Our pastor gave a good analogy of how sometimes we think we are doing good and doing the right thing, but maybe we’re not. Like a hockey player who has the puck but he is going the wrong way down the ice towards the opponent’s goal, and ends up scoring for the other team.

How often have I scored for the other team by my actions or attitude? Am I doing what I want or want Christ wants?

I’m also studying Romans 8 right now, via Dineen Miller’s “You Are Loved” book. In Roman’s 8:1, it states: “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” (NLT)

Dineen also states that the enemy’s mission is to condemn us and destroy our faith. If we have no condemnation as Christ followers, then how can the enemy do this to us? Easy – he is a deceiver. And if we’re not paying attention, then we’re scoring for the other team.

We need to remember how Jesus treated others. Are we so busy judging everyone else that we forget to take a look at ourselves? Are we so self-focused that we don’t care what anyone else is doing? Do we say, “I have to get there faster, I have to take care of my own stuff, I’ll ignore that because it has nothing to do with me.”

If we are no longer condemned as Christ followers, then what gives us any right to condemn others? If we are forgiven and set free, why can’t we forgive others? If someone lives a lifestyle different than mine, am I treating them with kindness or am I condemning them? Judging them? Spitting in their face because they’re different than me?

Or are we so busy trying to shine our light for Jesus that we end up with a strobe light in someone’s face instead? How can they see the light of Christ when we’re blinding them? Blinding with our attitudes and judgment.

It’s a dark world, but we know who has the ultimate victory. So, this week, as I think through all of this, I have to ask myself, “Is my light shining brighter in kindness, or in condemnation?”

In other words, I don’t want to keep scoring for the other side.

 

 

When you get Stung…

Last month, I posted about falling in the grocery store. Now, I’m beginning to wonder if I should just quit shopping. Or if I need to go to a different store.

Last week, while I wasn’t at the same store, I was at the same chain of that particular store. It was a quick stop as I only needed a few items.

I’m inside the store, towards the back, and feel something on my neck. Usually, it’s my hair flying around everywhere. But as I felt my neck to move my hair away, I realized something was moving on my neck and it wasn’t my hair. I swatted at my neck, trying not to freak out in the middle of the grocery store. As I swiped at my neck, a bee fell and while it disappeared quickly behind some shelves, I felt the pain at my neck. Crap, that bee stung me! OUCH.
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Once again, I’m in a grocery store, faced with indecision – do I grab my last few items and check out or drop everything and run home?

It’s amazing how a little sting (okay, not so little) can throw you off you groove and have your mind reeling a thousand different directions.

I continued with my shopping (again, only a handful of items), and had the presence of mind to run to the pharmacy area and pick up a bee sting remedy. I went through the self-checkout line and left as quickly as I could. I didn’t want to talk with anybody, didn’t want to attract attention, so I proceeded with business as usual.

Thankfully, my husband was home, having taken a half day off work. He got the stinger out, doctored me up and told me to take a break. Yep, adrenaline was spiking and I knew I would crash eventually. Adrenalin is a weird thing!

So, is there a point to this blog? Some deep, hidden meaning? Or am I just a klutz going splat one time, and unlucky this time by getting stung?

Should I just give up grocery shopping?

Weird things are going to happen in life. But what do you do? You do the only thing you can: Keep going, keep fighting, get up the next day and be determined. I’m determined to go back to that grocery store, just to prove I can.

What do you think? Are you determined when life gets funky?

Weird things may happen – but I’ll keep going.

However, maybe it’s time to start shopping somewhere else.

The Last Normal Day, Part 2

I had written a post back in 2013 called “The Last Normal Day.”  Recent events in my world having me pondering this again.  Everything changed for my family about 10 days ago. Changes that have us on quite the roller coaster ride. The good news is that we should have a positive outcome — but our world has changed. There is no doubt.

It’s time to revisit the post from 2013. The question at the bottom is an important one: What will you do with today? Here’s the original post:

What if today was the last “normal” day of your life? What if everything changed tomorrow?

It happened earlier this year with the devastating tornadoes in Moore and Shawnee, Oklahoma.

It could happen to me when it’s time for my annual cancer screening (MRI, Mammogram, Sonogram day). What if I don’t get the “all clear” words that I’m praying for? What if there’s a recurrence?

Any recurrence would be scarier than the one before. Because cancer comes back. It really needs to just leave me alone!

Back to today — how am I going to spend today?

It really is true that time, friends, family are all so precious. Even after having cancer twice, I still take so much for granted, although I try to hang on the special moments.

It’s too easy to get back into the groove and grind of daily life.

But we all need to take a moment and ask, “what if this is the last normal day? What if everything changes tomorrow?”

What will you do with today?

A New Perspective on “One Word” for the Year

If you’re like me, you know several people who choose “one word” for the year and try to live by that word. I’ve done it myself. Many are talking about it now as we’re preparing to go into the new year.
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This has got me thinking (always a dangerous thing! :)) There’s a song out now that keeps echoing in my head:

“When you don’t know what to say, just say Jesus. There’s power in the name….”

Last year, my word was “shine.” I wanted to shine Christ through me and shine in all I did, I wanted to make sure my focus was on Him.

And every time I felt like I was failing, or when I was having a bad day, I would pray. And the first word out of my mouth was “Jesus.”

I had already picked out my word for 2015, which was “time.” You know, time for God, time for others, better time management at work. You get the idea. The thing is, none of that can be accomplished without Jesus first.

While it’s great to ponder whatever word is on your heart for the new year, or if you don’t utilize “one word”, let’s not forget to name the most important: Jesus. Nothing we want to accomplish in the new year can be done without Him.

So perhaps, every year, every month, every day, we already know what our “one word” should be: Jesus.

Wishing you many blessings for 2015.

Stay focused on the one who saved us.

Being Positive, Even on a Bad Day

I’m feeling like a bit of a louse recently. Whether I can cite the excuse of the holidays, or how busy work is, or whatever, those reasons don’t excuse poor behavior.

I was unintentionally sharp with someone, who didn’t deserve my attitude, and who happened to be on the receiving end of a bad day.

We’re all guilty of snapping at someone who was just in the way of our bad mood. But because we all may understand that doesn’t make it right, and now I feel like a heel.

I’ve done what I can to rectify the situation. But that impression of me and my actions are still out there and still affected this person.

No matter how nice I will be going forward, does this person I treated poorly have a long memory or will my actions always be part of how they treat me going forward?

I can’t take it back.

What lessons can be learned?

First – the golden rule still applies: Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. In other words, treat others with kindness. In fact, I love the phrase “kill them with kindness.” If someone is being rude and having a bad day, the best way to diffuse the situation is to stay calm and treat them with kindness.

I’ve found the yelling or matching their level of rudeness only escalates the situation.

Second – the other lesson I’ve learned is to be forgiving. It is true that if you hold a grudge against someone, even if they are in the wrong, you’re the only one who continues to be hurt. You’re not hurting them by holding that grudge and by remaining angry.

We all need to “Let Go and Let God.”

God needs to work through me to make me aware of my actions and how those actions affect others. My thoughts, actions and words can have a positive influence or a negative influence.

When I had that bad day recently and exhibited poor behavior to someone else, I may have hurt them, but I’ve also hurt myself.

The whole conversation would’ve turned out different had I been able to hold my tongue, answered their questions and moved on, instead of lashing out at them.

Taking a deep breath, not having a snap response, especially when it’s not a good day, can make all the difference…not just to someone else, but to myself as well.

To the person to whom I snapped, I hope they forgive me. And I hope I show that same spirit of forgiveness the next time someone else has a bad day and snaps at me.

How do you handle your bad days? What do you say when you do have a bad day and have hurt others?

How do you show a spirit of forgiveness?

I’d love to hear from you so maybe we can all help each other be a positive influence.

Being There

As I write this, the world is talking about the shocking passing of Robin Williams. As the TV talking heads are going through his television and movie credits, I realize how many of his movies I’ve seen… and loved.  It is incredibly sad to lose such a great talent.

But through all of this discussion, this man who is being heralded as a comic legend, who entertained millions, has suddenly become very human.  Yes, we tend to put celebrities on a pedestal, forgetting that along with their immense talent, they are human beings, going through this life of ups and downs, marriage, children and everything else.

Obviously, Robin Williams was battling more.  He was always open about substance abuse, but did many of us realize he struggled with depression?  Severe depression.

It’s almost inconceivable that someone who was so loved and admired was in such a dark and lonely place where he was driven to take his own life.  He brought such laughter to everyone else, but couldn’t find the joy for himself. It’s tragic.

I’m almost embarrassed with my last post, when I talk about “wallowing” in my own sadness of recent events in my life.  Thankfully, I haven’t been to the darkest place where I’ve thought of a “permanent solution to a temporary problem.”  I always knew I’d pull out of this and things would get better.

But I didn’t share with many how sad I was feeling.  I don’t always share, because I don’t want to burden others, I don’t want to come across as a whiner, and I don’t want to be considered a negative person.

Was that mindset preventing me from getting the support and encouragement I needed at the time?  How do you balance reaching out without being a whiner?  How do you invite people in without pushing them away?

Hopefully, more discussion will come from this awful passing of Robin Williams about depression, about how to help others.  One thing I heard this morning was just be there. You may not be able to solve the problem, but you can come along beside someone and just remind them that they mean something to you, that their life has value.

Maybe this is a reminder to all of us to hug your family and friends and say “I love you.”  I hate that we have to be reminded, and that we’re usually reminded when someone else has died. We need make this part of our daily lives.

Life is short.  Reach out to someone.  Touch base.  Just be with someone today and hold their hand, give them a hug…. heck, just smile at someone and wish them a wonderful day.

What a difference we could make if we all did that every day.

Swimming Upstream

Are there times when you feel like you’re going against the tide? Or that your beliefs are counter to the world’s beliefs?

These days as a Christian, I feel like I’m swimming upstream.

I long for a time when people knew it was okay to “agree to disagree.” Everyone is different, we are created different, so we’re all not going to think alike or act alike or be alike. And by not being alike, well, that keeps life interesting!

But if I happen not to agree with someone, I’m somehow called “intolerant.”salmon-swimming-upstream-1

That’s so not true!

You don’t have to believe as I do. But I ask that you respect my views, even if you don’t understand them or think they’re outdated or ridiculous. I may not understand your views, lifestyles or beliefs, but you’re a fellow human being. Because I don’t agree, doesn’t make me intolerant. It just means I don’t agree. Feel free to live your life as you choose.

But please do me the same courtesy. Allow me to have my beliefs. We can discuss what each other believes and why, but we may not come to a meeting of the minds. Does that make us enemies? No. It means we’re citizens of this world with opposing viewpoints. Respect mine and I’ll respect yours.

This day in age though, if I disagree with someone, I’m intolerant, hypocritical or worse. All of that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I love people. I may not love what you do or how you live… and in turn, you may not love what I do or how I choose to live, but don’t call me names for it. Let’s just agree to disagree.

Maybe that way, none of us will feel like we’re swimming upstream.

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?