Faith from the Edges

Faith and life from the perspective of me.

One Year: Or what the hell happened there?

These four pictures essentially outline my last year – from hair to no hair, chemo 6 times over, to now growing in curly hair. What a year it has been!

I woke up in the early evening of June 2, 2015 to realize with a shock that my surgery that was supposed to only take a couple of hours had gone at least an hour longer. Then to realize that I was being admitted to the hospital – it was only supposed to be day surgery. Then hearing my dear one’s voice asking me how I was doing and saying that my doctor would be in soon. She came in and told me that I had ovarian cancer, stage 2 and that I would be needing chemotherapy to make sure that we had got it all. Yep, that was a day!

Then came the summer and fall from hell. Well, not really hell, but really, really uncomfortable. I had blood taken, oh so much blood taken, was hooked up to an IV for at least 4 hours every 3 weeks, lost all my hair, lost my energy and then neuropathy in my feet happened. I have to admit, I have never felt such pain and never want to again, as I did in my feet.

Then recovery, the slow, slow recovery. I had imagined that once chemo was over, that everything would go back to normal. Silly, silly me. Here I am, 6 months post-chemo and I am still recovering. My hair is growing back, my energy is returning, but there have been and continue to be bumps along this road. I am still dealing with neuropathy in my feet and it is likely that will continue for at least the next year. I have a situational depression which is being dealt with in all the right ways.

Here are some things I have learned and wished I had known when this all started:

  1. How cold my head got with no hair – thank God for my little knitted cap which made all the difference in the world.
  2. That you need to tell your medical folks right away if you are dealing with an out of control pain incident. Took us all awhile to find what I needed to make it better.
  3. That sleep in whatever form it comes is needed. Daily naps are such a blessing.
  4. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength. You don’t need to do this alone.
  5. Eating good food helps, but sometimes ice cream is all you want to eat – so why not??
  6. A good therapist/counselor makes such a difference in so many ways.
  7. Having an integrated medical team is essential – thank goodness I had/have that.
  8. Losing my hair was the least obnoxious of the side effects – hair grows back!
  9. Grieving for what has been lost takes it own sweet time – don’t think I’m done with that yet.
  10. Best friends you can text whenever and about whatever are so important!! So thankful I had mine.

If you are going through cancer treatment, please surround yourself with all the love and support you can. If you know someone who is going through treatment, reach out to them, they will be so thankful you did. If your partner is going through cancer treatment, be as strong as you are able, ask for help when you need it.

Lastly I want to publicly thank my dear one. He stood by me, rocked me when I wept, sat beside me during all of my treatments, brought me flowers, let me sleep, fed me good, good food, showered me with so much love and grace. I don’t know what I would have done without him. Love you dearest. Always and forever.

 

World Ovarian Cancer Day

wocd-newsToday is World Ovarian Cancer Day it also happens to be Mother’s Day, which is kind of weird if you think about it. Many of you know that I was diagnosed with Stage 2 ovarian cancer in June 2015. I have been through surgery and chemo and am hoping that it is well and thoroughly gone!

Here’s the weird part, the thing that made me a mother was ovaries that worked well and did their job. The thing that made me sick was my ovaries that went rogue on me. They have been both my greatest blessing and also my greatest hardship. I must admit to feeling quite torn about them.

Most people think that there is a simple test to find out if you have cancer. A blood test that will show tumor markers. My blood work never, ever showed those markers and yet I had a tumor that was almost 10 centimeters in diameter by the time of my surgery. I know that some cancers have such tests & yay that they do, but ovarian cancer does not. Also this cancer is slippery. The symptoms could almost be symptoms for anything – bloating, fatigue, back ache, trouble going to the bathroom – try taking those to your doctor and having them go – I know what that is, you have ovarian cancer. Ovarian Cancer Canada has great resources that can help and also has been my go to place during this journey.

I will say this if you have a great doctor who listens and sends you for the appropriate tests and gets you to the right specialist – you will get amazing care. Which is what happened to me and I couldn’t be more grateful. We all know that my story could have been so different and the outcomes wouldn’t have been as good as they are so far.

A shout out to all the girls and women who have gone through ovarian cancer, especially to those thousands in Canada who die each year because of this disease. Here’s to the survivors and the advocates, who keep sharing the stories. Here’s to the partners, families and friends who make it possible to continue when you just don’t think you can.

This World Ovarian Cancer Day I am so grateful that I get to be here and celebrate this Mother’s Day. I know now that this could have been so different. I know now that we need more research. I am so grateful that there are so many who get out there to raise money and awareness.

Today I will be grateful. Grateful that I have three wonderful adult children, grateful that the dear one and I are still making this work, grateful for my amazing medical team, grateful for the science and research that made it possible for me to be here. I will continue to honour World Ovarian Cancer Day and hopefully make others aware. I will also continue to celebrate Mother’s Day because my goodness I’m glad to be a mum and to have had a wonderful mum.

Counting the Steps

cys2You all know about those pedometer thingys – the ones that count each step you take – there to help you get into better shape and monitor your activity. Well I have never had one, at least not until I got my newest smart phone.

For fun, I decided to look at it and see how I was doing. Well to be honest it was atrocious!! I have never really liked exercise, but I have always liked to walk and I thought I was going to be up there you know. Well I am not!

At the moment I am averaging about 3500 steps per day and on a good day about 4000. That is no where close to what they say you are supposed to do to be healthy, which is about 10,000 steps. I have a long way to go before I get there that is for sure.

Remember how I had chemotherapy last year to deal with that nasty ole cancer thing. One of the side effects of chemo is that you lose muscle mass. They tell you to keep being as active as you can, but seriously when you are so wiped out from the chemo, that getting from the bedroom to the kitchen to make a cup of tea is a heroic act, how are you supposed to be active!

So muscle mass I have lost. What this means is that my legs hurt after I go for a 15 minute walk. They hurt like I walked for several hours. I mean they really hurt. I hope you are getting the picture now. It has kept me from walking even when I knew that I needed to go for that walk.

I am telling you all of this because I need to go public with some goals, otherwise they won’t happen. You all know about that right?

  • Goal #1 – to take at least a 15 minute daily walk for the rest of April
  • Goal #2 – to up that to 30 minutes by the end of May
  • Goal #3 – to up that to 45 minutes by the end of June

There we go, simple attainable goals, which might include the counting of steps, if I remember to take my phone with me, or might not.

Who wants to go walking with me?

 

Our Words Matter – Thoughts on Neighbourly Reconciliation

Let’s see, oh right, it is time to update my Facebook status. Right I want to express how I want to keep warm and that I wish this cold of mine would go away. Here we go then – Tasks today to stay warm and beat this cold into submission. Hang on a moment, ‘beat into submission’, this could cause my sister and others to be triggered. Let me think of another way to say this. Now I have it – Tasks today to stay warm and throw this cold off. That my friends is the thought process I had recently and it got me thinking about the words we use and how they affect others.

My sister, who has given me permission to share this, is a domestic violence survivor. She and her children went through a lot and they are now working on their healing journey. It is by being in a close relationship with her that I have discovered that using words like beat, throw down, hit, and others can be emotional triggers for her and other survivors. Triggers that put them back into the place of the abuse and leave them feeling vulnerable and afraid again. I never want her and other survivors to feel that way again.

Our Words Matter

Our words matter. They do, they can be healing or they can be scarring. We have a choice as Christians to make as we speak about our neighbours, whether they be like us or be different from us. Even with those words I have set up a distance between myself and others. Our words do matter.

St. Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus and said this, “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29) It seems to me that St. Paul is reminding us that our words do matter. How we say them, what we say and who we say them about.

Working on neighbourly reconciliation is like that. When I speak about First Nations neighbours what words do I use? Do I use native, Indians, savages? I hope that most of you shook your heads when you read that last word in particular. No I use the words that I have been asked to use, First Nations, First Peoples, Indigenous. I use words like community rather than reserve. I use words like friend and elder to describe the people that I work with and live beside.

The next time you find yourself talking about the First Nation community down the road or Indigenous people who live in your community ask yourself what are you going to say. Are you going to use words that build up and give grace or are you going to use words that tear down and give grief? Our words matter because they reflect what is in hearts.

Working for neighbourly reconciliation is hard work and it means changing our own attitudes first. That can start by choosing our words carefully and thoughtfully, because our words do matter.

 

This was first published in The Messenger the diocesan paper for the Diocese of Edmonton.

#40Acts #DoLentGenerously

I know I have been away for a while, and that deserves a post all of its own, for today I want to talk about how I will be observing Lent this year. I am following the 40 Acts of doing Lent generously. Each day I get an email that tells me what the action for that day is. I must admit I really like this as I am not great at giving things up but do like an extra discipline during Lent. In fact, this year doesn’t really feel like a year for giving up things considering all that I have been through.

Today’s act was about circles. The circles of connection with the other people that I know and care about, circles of connection even with those that I don’t know that well. The task was to draw, doodle, sketch your circles and then if you had time to pray for them. That’s what I did this morning. I put on some quiet Canadian folk music and went at it with my water colour pencils.

#40Acts #Circles #DoLentGenerously If you look closely – you will see the dear one and I in the centre of the circle and then it moves on from there. Circles interacting, showing community and connection in all parts of my life. When I finished I took a few moments and prayed for each circle of connection – each community that I am fortunate to be a part of and know that many have prayed for me.

I told the dear one later that morning that the focus felt good and important. It felt like I was able to connect in a way that I hadn’t been able to lately.

My plan this Lent is to post blogs about this experience of doing Lent generously as the Spirit moves me, to be guided by the connections that I will make. May you all have a holy and generous Lent.

#AdventWord #Surprise

#AdventWord #Surprise

Yesterday I was gratefully surprised when the federal government here in Canada announced an inquiry into the Murdered & Missing Indigenous Women & Girls of our country  that has been at a crisis point for a number of years. This is something that I and many others of different faith traditions have been praying and lobbying for, for a number of years. The church I worship in, the church I work for, is actively engaged in reconciliation work. This work is hard, necessary and God driven. It is about repairing relationships between indigenous and settler peoples who share this land.

So I am grateful for this surprise, for our federal government following up on one of its promises made recently. I am grateful that prayer has been answered. I am grateful that they are going to listen to the families of the women and girls. I hope that this will mark a real shift in this country about how we deal with indigenous women and their struggle for equality. I am looking forward to more surprises.

P.S. Sorry about the crappy photo – taken with my iPhone of my computer screen while watching the news conference yesterday.

 

#AdventWord #Be

#AdventWord #Be

There are few places in my home where I can just sit and be. On the couch near this fireplace is one of them, in the summer it is on our deck sitting in the shade on a warm day. Both are places that I can just sit, sip a drink, have a quiet moment with the dear one, just be present and not think about what needs to happen next. There are not many places in my life that can happen at the moment. I am grateful for them, for they calm me down, and remind me that being present helps to settle my heart and open me to God’s presence in my life.

During Advent it can be hard to find those moments and just be. There is always something that needs doing, something that needs attending to, something that needs to be planned. Taking those moments, slowing the heart down, being present to those around me, are for me what is really important about Advent. It is about making space in my life for the Spirit to speak to me and help me see the coming of God’s kingdom. Now it’s time for a cup of tea and a moment to just be.

#AdventWord #Care

#AdventWord #Care

I am a little behind on this, so you may be getting a few blog posts from me today on Advent Word. The word for December 6th was care. To care for each other, for those we know well, for those who are our family is easy most of the time. To care for those we don’t know as well, that is harder, especially if it means stretching us beyond our normal comfort zones. The gospel, the good news of Jesus, calls those of us who follow his way to make that happen. We are called as disciples to love our neighbours as we have been loved by God our creator. That means all of our neighbours in this messy, painful, often violent world, all of them. We are called to care for the least of these most of all.

The dear one, as many of you know, is the rector of Immanuel, Wetaskiwin here in central Alberta. This past Sunday we remembered St. Nicholas – the bishop of Myra who cared for three young women who didn’t have enough. He made their lives bearable. Our parish has done some of that as well. We brought in gifts for children who wouldn’t likely get gifts this Christmas in our community, we brought in gifts of food for our local food bank to make sure that people in our community will have enough to eat. In other words we cared. We continue to care and hopefully share the love of God with those who are our neighbours, both near and far.

 

#AdventWord #Believe

#AdventWord #Believe

I believe, you believe, we believe. But what is belief? What does it mean? Before I got really sick, the dear one preached a sermon explaining the word believe. That to believe is to trust. Trust in God, trust that Jesus is walking with you, to trust your community – to believe in all of that. When I was sickest from the chemo because of my cancer, I hung on to that. I had to I had little else to hang on to at that moment. I had to believe, to trust, have faith that I was going to get through all of it and come out the other side.

It was trusting that the light would return, that God’s grace would be enough, that my community would continue to pray for me, that the medical people knew what they were doing. Trusting that I would get through it all.

Today’s Advent Word, believe struck such a nerve today because I realized how much I had hung on to that trust.  I trusted that others would pray for me when I couldn’t pray.  I trusted that even when the pain in my feet from the neuropathy was so bad I was crying that Jesus was holding me tight. I trusted that I would get through this horrible thing called cancer. I believed. I believe that the light will return. I believe that I will get my life back. I believe.

#AdventWord #Worship

#AdventWord #Worship Each night through Advent the dear one and I, as long as we are home,  light the candles of this little Advent wreath. We then pray the Advent collect together. When our children lived at home we would also sing a verse from an Advent hymn. All this before we say grace at meals. Family worship has been and continues to be an important part of our life together.

As the weeks of Advent go by we light more and more candles and the light grows. We worship at home because our faith is important to us. It is a way of keeping us grounded. It is knowing that God is part of all we do. During Advent in particular it is about waiting for the one to come, while worshipping the one already with us.

These little acts of worship through the day, through each week, have given me hope when it seemed hope wasn’t possible. They have given me a connection to that which is greater than me. They have reminded that others do this as well and we are all connected through the web of worship. Worship is what makes sure I don’t get off track in my faith life. Worship for me, is life.

Post Navigation

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,150 other followers