About this blog

I was diagnosed with breast cancer on June 11, 2010. As a result of my treatment, I have lymphedema in my left arm. I draw my strength from the Lord, as well as my family's Scots-Irish heritage. Our Graham's were a tough and scrappy bunch of fighters on the Scottish/English border. They came to America and continued to fight when necessary: in the American Revolution; the Civil War; and my brother is a Captain in the U.S. Army. My ancestors settled this country against all odds. My great-grandmothers on both sides of the family were pioneer women who settled the West. Along with that heritage, and the full armor of God, I am walking the walk and fighting the good fight.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Being joyful

How am I feeling today, round 4 day 2? I'm a little tired. I can feel the "chemo fog" moving in. I have one more day on the steroid, which is giving me energy that I need to be careful not to tap too much into.  It's a fine balance, because I don't want to stop moving altogether and falling into a pit of lethargy. For me, it is important to do something physical every day. Mentally, it reminds myself that I am strong. Physically, it releases endorphins and helps with fatigue that chemo brings on.  But there is a struggle not to give into feeling sorry for myself or gloomy, waiting for the ax to fall as it were.

My activity today was to take Jean-Marc and Lucie (our dog) on a 1 hour walk in the neighborhood. There are several hills, so it was easy to break a small sweat. While walking, I was listening to a sermon from a church up in Carpenteria, CA called Reality. The topic was on overview of Phillipians. I've always loved verses from that book, so I thought why not listen to the sermon?  Some of my life verses are:
  • 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7, New King James Version)
  •  13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  
    (Philippians 4:13, New King James Version)
There are lots of other great and empowering verses in the book.  As an overview, the pastor mentioned that the book is about JOY.  Having joy in Christ. These verses from chapter 4 kind of skip over a fundamental truth that is revealed earlier in the book:  that joy and its power comes after you are in Christ.  The apostle Paul was writing this book from prison in Rome.  He wasn't living an easy life at the time-he was in bondage.  Yet he was filled with joy and expressed it in this letter to his friends. It is easy to blow off someone who sings about sunshine and lollipops when their lives are all rosy and fine. Perhaps we take a closer listen when that person is not in a place of comfort.  It gave me a lot to think about on my walk. 

About 30 minutes later, I was taking Isabelle to her horse riding lessons. We pass a small church on the way that has a little message on their marquee.  Today's message was, "Be joyful, even when it hurts." 

That is what I want to be. Joyful regardless of my relative circumstances. Even when it hurts. These circumstances I am in right now are temporary, whether they be good or bad. To many, my circumstances are grave. I suppose they are.  I'm in chemotherapy for stage III breast cancer.  But for the most part,  I am joyful throughout it.  When I am not, I realize it is because I am straying from God in the "busy-ness" of life. Everything is temporary: health; financial security (or insecurity); plans for the day/week/year; activities; the comfort offered by friends and family.  Don't get me wrong, I am joyful and thankful for so many things, I can only begin to enumerate here:
  • The medical care I've been receiving at Kaiser has been excellent. My doctors and nurses are smart and caring and I trust them.  (Even though their administrative side is screwed up right now!)
  • The concern and support from Eric. This cancer diagnosis has been hard on him too. I think it hit him harder back in June than it did me. It wasn't something that he could "fix." For me, I just had to put my head down and fight. This week he is especially stepping up since my mom is out of town. He's also going the extra mile because my birthday is next Tuesday. He has spent the last week having dents and scratches on my van repaired, plans on having it detailed (he can fix that). I am pretty sure I'll be the owner of an Amazon Kindle soon. But he's also stepping up to help with Jean-Marc so I can rest. 
  • The support I've received from my family. My mom has yet to meet her second granddaughter, Kathryn Marie,  who was born last June because she needed to be here to help me get through surgery and chemo. I know that was hard on her and my sister, but they sacrificed that time for me. The prayers I know they are offering up on my behalf daily. It brings joy to my heart and gratitude that I can't even begin to express. 
  • The support from my family in Christ. My church family, not only those in North County, but spread out around the world. I know I am on several prayer lists from friends and family in places far and wide.  It's not just prayer either. On Sundays, its comfort, laying on of hands, anointing with oil, encouragement and friendship. 
  • The support from my friends. People have helped in so many ways: bringing meals; giving my kids rides to and from activities; asking about how I am doing; and expressing a willingness to do anything I need. 
  • The opportunities this has opened for me to learn about breast cancer. To meet other survivors. To do things to raise awareness of this disease so the impact may be lessened in the future.  That was a door that God has opened for me in the past few months. 
From a relative world-point of view, I have been blessed-even in the midst of breast cancer.  I am immensely grateful for it all.  I know it all is a gift from God.  (All good things are, you know).

But there is something deeper when you talk about being "joyful." It isn't dependent on the immediate circumstances.  And that comes from knowing Christ.  He will never let me down. He has been with me every step of the way in this journey.  I remember having the biopsy back in early June. They had me topless lying on my side with a wedgie underneath my left upper back so they could get to the lymph nodes. The ultrasound tech was on my right, the radiologist on my left with a huge needle.  The doctor knew the one site was a lymph node, but had nothing but questions about the mass on my left breast.  I just closed my eyes and felt the presence of Jesus holding me in His Hand.  And he kept repeating to me "I know the plans I have for you. Plans for good and not for evil. Plans to give you a future and a hope."  Over and over. I was able to block out the big needle that was plunged into my side digging out chunks of my flesh to send to the lab.  I had a peace that passed understanding.

I have other examples that come to mind throughout the past several months.  In the midst of that pain, that is joy.  To have the comfort of God. The only one who really knows where I am at any time-not just physically, but mentally and spiritually as well.  The only one who can minister to me perfectly through His Word and presence because of that intimate knowledge of me.

The temporal things of this life may come and they may go.  People, even those closest to you, can let you down. You can't find that kind of joy in any human relationship.  But the joy from the relationship I have with Christ will last forever. To live truly is Christ and to die is gain. (Phillipians 1:21)  Yes, something will kill me. It is the same for you, too.  10 out of 10 people will die.  It may be breast cancer. Or it may be getting into an auto accident next week. Only God knows the number of our days.  That will be sad for those left here who care for me.  Thinking about that makes me want to cry.  Imagining my kids growing up without me tears my heart out. As for me, I will be face to face with Christ and still have my soul and spirit. I will know and be known to all of those in heaven.  For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.  (1 Corinthians 13:12, New King James Version)

I hope I don't come across as a Pollyanna.  Like Paul, I am in an uncomfortable place right now. But I can be joyful because of who Christ is and what He has done for me.  I urge everyone out there to be as well.  If you don't know Him, He is just waiting for you to open that door to your heart. He's been standing there knocking.

God bless you!

No comments:

Post a Comment