About me...

Pop the lid on my Mason Jar and meet my family. Jim {Jimma} and I have four kids, Creston (Ashley), Jami (Matt), Brandon and Chance. Our grandkids, Cade, Kirby, Eisley, Beck and Reed bring us more joy than any Mason Jar could ever hold. I am counting my blessings over and over and thanking God for His amazing love and grace.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Little Hope, Encouragement and Faith

On December 22, I will be a 14 year breast cancer survivor and on January 31, 2010 Jim will be a five year colon cancer survivor. Having been both the one fighting the monster called “cancer” and the one watching their spouse fight the disease, I’d like to share some things that helped me, as well as some encouragement to someone taking this path.

Unless you go through a cancer diagnosis, you can’t imagine how emotional it can be. It is a difficult journey to say the least, a road of constant uncertainty. The best way to describe it is that you’re on an emotional roller coaster. You get good news, bad news. You feel like you’re coping, than feel like you’re not coping at all. You wonder if you’ll ever look and feel normal again. Even on a day when you’re feeling better, you look sick, which makes you feel sick. You want definite answers, but rarely get them. It seems that cancer occupies your every thought, and there is no escaping those thoughts. You wonder if the time will ever come when you won't be invaded with those thoughts. I will never forget the initial fears I had, wondering if I would be all right. Going through chemotherapy, all the side effects, and endless doctor appointments, was exhausting, mentally and physically. There were times when I questioned God, and wondered where He was. Looking back, I can see that God was with me every moment, and sent me encouragement and help just when I needed it the most. He never left me. He was, and always will be, the only constant we have in life.

When I was going through my diagnosis and chemotherapy, Jim often said he felt like it was harder to be in his shoes, than it was mine. I was the one fighting for my life, while he had to stand by helplessly watching me. I didn’t fully understand the truth of his words, until he was diagnosed with colon cancer. Yes, he could make me comfortable and try to cheer me on, but other than that, the battle was between me and the disease.

I must say I learned from the best when it comes to being a supportive spouse. Jim’s love, support and encouragement made a huge difference during this difficult time of my life. Jim called me every chance he could when he was away from home and stopped by every time he was in the area. There were several times I wanted to throw in the towel, but Jim refused to let me quit. He spent endless hours at the hospital and doctor’s appointments, and never once complained, nor did he criticize me for my feelings and emotions. He tried every way he possibly could to be understanding and supportive. The physical changes that came with breast cancer and chemotherapy, losing my breast and my hair, were such a struggle for me. Jim made it so much better than I ever could have imagined. It was as though he couldn’t see those changes, he looked right past them. I began to appreciate Jim more than I ever had, and we grew closer together than we had ever been.

There were some things that helped with my recovery and instilled in me that I was winning the battle with cancer. I believed that every negative aspect I could turn around, was a victory for me, and a defeat for cancer. Shortly after I was diagnosed, I decided to quit claiming cancer with the word, “my” and begin to refer to it as “the” cancer. I reminded myself on numerous occasions that a doctor’s prognosis was not always the same as what God had planned for my life. Only God sees the big picture. I refused to let the doctors, or other people’s experiences be the gauge that I measured my outcome by.

While going through treatments, and during recovery, I put myself in relaxing and calm environments as often as possible. Countless hours were spent in a swing listening to wind chimes, sometimes reading “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books. I only watched pleasant shows on television, no horror or suspense movies for me. Not only did I journal about my experience, I studied the book of Job and journaled about the passages I read. I put as much positive influence into life as I could, believing this was one more way of beating the diseases.

I printed Bible verses and words of encouragement and put them all over the house. I made a wish list and titled it “Molly’s Wish List.” It was a list of simple things I wanted, or wanted to do and I posted it on the refrigerator for everybody to read. Some were simple wishes, some were wishes that wouldn’t happen for a very long time, such as my wish for grandkids. It was a way to think positive, to believe that I was going to beat cancer, and be here to see my wishes happen. My family loved my list and really enjoyed making my wishes come true. I’ll always remember Chance, coming to me one afternoon with a frozen turkey. He wanted to know how to cook it, so he and Brandon could fix dinner that night, and make a wish come true.

Creston and Jami were grown and married, but Chance and Brandon were still at home. They figured out that colored pencils dipped in water made cool tattoos. We had a fun afternoon letting them tattoo my bald head, and we took pictures. This was a way I could turn something very unpleasant into something fun. Even more than a memory, I like to think this was a life lesson for them, making something negative become something positive. From soccer, to school functions, to church, I did everything in my power to keep our lives as normal as I possibly could. Not only was this important for Chance and Brandon, it was important for me. I didn’t want cancer to rob me of one precious moment in life.

Chemotherapy robbed me of my energy, so I had to learn to accept help! It was so hard for me to let people come over and clean my house, do my laundry or bring us dinner. I came to realize this was one way that friends could contribute to my recovery and help us through this time. Their help made my days so much better, letting me save my energy to do things with my family. Even when Jim was going through chemotherapy, friends came over and did stuff to help out. They helped with things I could have done, but their help lightened my load and gave me more time to spend with him.

A cancer diagnosis, treatments and recovery are a tough time for kids. Pay close attention to the way they are responding and acting. Even if they seem to be doing great with all of this, you never know the thoughts and fears they have. We ended up seeking some counseling from a wonderful Christian counselor, to give the boys someone to open up to, and help them through everything. You can’t begin to know how hard this is for your family members. After my diagnosis, it seemed that every time I called my mom, she would start crying. One day I told her she had to get a grip on things, I was coping and she had to cope. She asked me how I would feel if it were my daughter going through this. It was then that I understood her tears, and why she was struggling so much. I realized that I needed to find ways to encourage her and help her cope. It seems unfair, but sometimes you have to be the one to pull everybody else up. The better you handle all of this, the better all those around you will.

My most important advice is the advice the doctors gave me on my first visit, and also told Jim on his. Listen to your body! If you feel tired, rest. Don’t push yourself like you did before treatment. Chemotherapy is hard physically, the diagnosis is hard mentally. Rest and let your body heal. If you don’t have the energy to do something, don’t do it. Rest instead. This will be a key factor in how fast you recover. Don’t get discouraged if recovery isn’t happening as fast as you want it to. Use the slow times to reflect on the many blessings you have. Soak up every moment.

The day Jim finished his last chemotherapy in September, 2005, I had some tests come back that presented some serious health concerns. After more tests and a DNC, I had a hysterectomy in November. From the first procedure until after the hysterectomy, I was in a constant period of waiting on tests and pathology reports. I had some fears and concerns to say the least. One day I was stressed and voiced my concerns to Jim. He put it all in perspective for me when he asked, “Knowing I couldn’t change anything, did I want to waste precious moments in worry while waiting for the test results? Or did I want to live with no regrets, savoring every moment life gave me?” This was a huge turning point in my life. No matter how difficult it gets, you can’t change any of it by worrying. So try and live for the moment, and trust God for the future.

Take the “what if’s “ out of your thinking. They lend themselves to fear. God wants you to trust Him, and let go of the fears you have. Your feelings will take you places you shouldn’t go, your beliefs will keep you where you should be, grounded and focused on God. Keep reminding yourself that God did not create us to walk by feelings, he created us to walk by faith. It’s so easy to be positive and upbeat when things are going good. But to do so during our trials is a true testimony to God’s power in our life. Two weeks after Jim’s surgery for colon cancer, he was back in surgery with an infected wound, and came home from the hospital with a wound vac. Being a diabetic and on chemotherapy, he had a slow healing time, and numerous medical problems. I became more aware than ever, how important it was for people to see me trusting God, and to be a testimony for the difference God can make in one’s life. I wanted them to look at me and say, “Wow, look at all she’s going through. What gives her the ability to cope with it all?” What we went through was extremely difficult, to say the least. It was painful, miserable, and downright aggravating at times. Looking back if I could change anything, I would
have trusted God more, and worried less. Had I done that, things would have been so much better.

Jim and I can see so many blessings that came from our journey with cancer. We learned not to stress over the little things. And the big things? All the worry in the world won’t change them. We learned that in the midst all the lab results, biopsies, and numerous doctors’ appointments, there is only one constant in our life and that is God. He never wavers. We learned to look for the silver lining in the ominous dark clouds. We learned that everyone has problems, some of them much bigger than ours. Many people would gladly trade places with us. Instead of looking at what we didn’t have or how bad it was, we tried to focus on what we did have, and what Gold had blessed us with. We learned that no matter what is going on in our life, there is always something to be grateful for. No matter how hard it is right now, try and appreciate life, savor each moment and count your blessings. Most importantly, know that there are blessings in everything you go through in life. Some of those blessings you won’t even realize until you reflect back on what you went through. Then you’ll really be in awe of God and how He takes care of every little detail in your life.

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