I Am Cancer Free!!!!!

The Cancer Center Doctor called the night before last to deliver the pathology report from my recent oophorectomy, just eight weeks since my hysterectomy.  Her phone call was a bit surreal.  She said everything came back negative for cancer!!!!!

I was laying down when she called as I’m recovering from my surgery last week but I was jumping up and down on the inside!!!  My heart could hardly believe this most excellent news!  It was much like having a 2 ton boulder removed from one’s shoulders!  I hung up and delivered the wonderful news to my husband who was laying beside me.  We hugged and cried.  Oh, how I cried tears of relief, tears of pure joy from the depths of my soul!  My life was handed back to me and I am forever grateful to God for this second chance!

Allow me to back up and give a brief background to this euphoric news!…

In January 2016 I went to the ER with abdominal pain.  Thinking it may be my appendix, I decided to get it checked out late one night.  They did a CT scan, which showed a number of issues – two of the most pressing were my gallbladder and a large, uterine fibroid.  After undergoing a Hida scan, it was confirmed my gallbladder was only functioning at 35% and would need to be removed.  That surgery was in February 2016.

After consulting with a GYN surgeon, I decided to move forward with a hysterectomy as it would resolve many other symptoms I had but was unaware of the source until now.  Surgery was scheduled for the end of June, however, I had to reschedule it due to spending nearly five months out of state tending to my sick father…  Once again, surgery was scheduled…this time for November 29, 2016.

The three hour hysterectomy went well. I had some awful reactions to pain meds, one of which required a trip via ambulance to the ER.  It was while I was laying on the ER bed one week post-op that my GYN surgeon stopped by the hospital to deliver the mind numbing news that my pathology had come back that I had a rare, aggressive cancer.  She said it all seemed to be contained within the fibroid but she was referring me to an oncologist GYN at a cancer hospital.  My husband sat beside my bed, asking many questions and cried.  Mercifully, I was on paid meds and a little insulated from the initial shock.  This was December 6, 2016.

We met with the oncologist GYN on December 20, 2016 and set yet another surgery date for February 1, 2017 to remove my ovaries (which posed an added risk of generating more cancer as it is hormone driven) and select lymph nodes for testing.  They would also do some exploratory work to make sure no other areas had been affected by this rare, aggressive cancer called leiomyosarcoma.  It represents only 1% of all uterine cancers and there is no lab test for it, which is why it is normally only discovered after the patient dies (much like ovarian cancer).  It is by the grace of God mine was found “incidentally”, but I know better.  God ordained this and He allowed my life to be extended by His great mercy.

This would be my third major surgery in less than a year!  I was very concerned that the utter fatigue from the hysterectomy would be further compounded by another surgery, so soon.  I was just beginning to get my energy back as my next surgery was quickly approaching…

The February 1st surgery was a consequential surgery, for it would tell us the “staging” of the cancer and how best to proceed from here.

The surgery went very well and, again, lasted three hours.  I stayed overnight at the cancer hospital and was released the next day.

Fortunately for me, physically, this recovery, while painful, was not nearly as severe as the hysterectomy.  This time around in order to avoid the awful pain medicine side effects, I limped along with Toradol, and now just Advil and Tylenol.  I’ll take the pain, however, if it keeps me out of the ER.  I digress…

The oncologist GYN surgeon said to give them two weeks for pathology to come back, which is standard procedure.  So, to receive a phone call at 7:30p.m. from the Dr. the other evening, just one week post-op, was unexpected to say the least and overwhelmingly euphoric!  NO CANCER!  At this point, I’ll have a follow up appointment from the surgery in five weeks and they want to “follow me” every three months for observation.  So, I’ll go in every three months for a check up and to discuss any changes in symptoms.

If you’ve read some of my other blogs, you know I have kids at home still – 19 and 17, along with an aging father.  I also have a grown son, 28, who lives nearby.  This has squarely been the hardest battle we’ve ever faced.  It was painful to consider they may be faced with losing their mother to cancer at such a young age, just as I was at age 23.  Of course, it was scary to consider having to endure chemotherapy and radiation and the prospect that they may not be enough to stave off this dreadful disease.

Throughout this entire two month journey, I delved into the Word of God, finding comfort daily for my restless soul.  I wrestled with the idea of having to walk such a painful road but trusted that the same God who has brought me through countless difficulties and heartaches, would be the same God who would mercifully see me through even this painful path.  It’s interesting…the day prior to the Dr. calling to deliver the amazing news, my prayer to God had overwhelmingly been focused on the word “Surrender”!  I told God that I completely surrendered to His will, His plan and what He was doing in my life.  If that involved chemo, then I surrendered.  If that involved Him bringing me home to Glory, then I surrendered.  If that involved dreary days of feeling half dead due to the treatments, then I surrendered.  I reached the place that no matter what, I decided that God could either be trusted or He could not.  I decided emphatically HE CAN BE TRUSTED!

I made up my mind!  So, if I say that I trust Him, then my faith needs to follow that declaration.  I surrendered all.

And then we received the phone call.  Maybe that’s what God was after all along.  Surrender.  He already had my heart long ago.  But did He have all of my faith – 100%?  I don’t know.  One thing I have wrestled with for many years is that it seems easy to believe God for other people.  I have such compassion for others and their struggles and heartaches.  But, do I firmly believe that God will do it for me?

That is where I have struggled.  I struggle no more!  God has done it!  And I am eternally grateful.  I do believe that all things are possible to those who believe!  I believe in a God who can do anything but fail!  I believe that my BEST days are still ahead.

And I believe I will go dance in the streets to declare the faithfulness and mercy of the loving God I serve! …

Just as soon as I can get out of bed!

 

Before Goliath, A Lion & A Bear

David conquered a lion and a bear before he ever faced the greatest challenge of his lifetime – Goliath.

And prior to governing all of Egypt, Joseph ran Potiphar’s household.

Have you ever considered that previous battles in your own life were preceded by similar ones?  Battles that we survived and ones that we developed stronger faith through.

Life has a way of revolving in cycles, doesn’t it?  If you live long enough, cycles repeat themselves and you glean important lessons and wisdom.

I am thankful for the lessons of faith, courage, patience and compassion that I have learned over the years.  When we are facing the storms of life, it is very unpleasant and we tend to look for the nearest exit.  But, if we keep our eyes focused on the God who calms the seas, our faith will grow and we will be stronger because of it.

When we were rear ended by a drunk driver almost two years ago, I determined very early on that I would focus on the positives.  I was keenly aware that my children were watching my responses to the situation and that by highlighting the pain and negativity, it would only serve to prolong our healing process.

Sometimes we need to reframe a situation, to step back and focus on the unchanging truth of the Bible and God’s promises to be with us.

During difficult times, it is helpful to keep a thankfulness journal.  It is hard to remain discouraged when we keep our sights on God’s blessings.

Each of us have much to be thankful for.  Sometimes it’s a matter of perspective.  We need to realize while we may have needs and wants, most of us are more wealthy than a large percentage of the world.

Often, the feeling of being out of control is a seed of discouragement.  To counteract this, concentrate on what you can do to improve the situation.

Yes, you can’t change your spouse, but you can work on you.

Yes, you may not be able to avoid surgery, but you can occupy your mind with positive things in the meantime.

I’m not suggesting mind over matter.  I’m suggesting changing your focus in order to change your reality and ultimately your future.  Life’s realities often begin in the mind.

I am reminded of a story I heard a while back:

A lady who happened to be blind was being relocated to a new room in a retirement home. A nurse asked her how she felt about this change as she was about to be taken to her new living quarters.  The blind lady replied, “Oh, I absolutely love it!”  The nurse was astounded.  How could you love it already?  The blind lady said, “I already made up my mind that it’s going to be wonderful.”

Her situation hadn’t changed.  She remained blind.  But she was not blind to the fact that she should have a positive mindset in order to be happy.  I think that’s where many of us flub up.  When bad things happen, instead, we tend to focus on all the negative things and lose sight of the possibilities of a positive outcome.

So, if you find yourself in a raging battle today, friend, remember that, “This too shall pass.”

I think that’s another fallacy we often believe.  Life is ever changing.  Bad things come and go.  Good things come and go.  Ebbs and flows.

We will be in a better position to face today’s battle if we remember, like the Israelites did in the Old Testament, all of the previous battles along with their lessons.  They would build monuments in the desert where God performed miracles in previous battles.  We, too, should do the same.  Remind ourselves that the same God who delivered before, will again, deliver us!

“Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses.”!   ~ Psalm 107:6

A New Look at Psalm 23

Psalm 23 has long been a favorite passage of mine.  It calms my restless soul and brings me peace.  As I was reading it this morning, the Lord dropped this question in my spirit, “Is it possible to lie down in green pastures and be led by the still waters while walking through the valley of the shadow of death?”

I’ve read this chapter a million times or so it would seem, but I’ve always distinguished these being two separate seasons in life.  Sometimes we are at peace and God is restoring our very souls and leading us in the right paths; and others, we are suffering through a dark valley.

This question from the Lord challenged my theology, though.  What if it were possible to experience deep peace despite being in the valley of the shadow of death?  Is it?

As the chapter moves on, it says:

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

The entire chapter of Psalm 23 speaks of God’s presence being with us throughout our lives and the hope of heaven we have as Christians.

I don’t believe that the storms of life are indicative of God’s presence being lifted somehow from our lives.  And if He remains with us throughout the seasons of life, it stands to reason that His peace, which is a fruit of the Spirit, is also with us.

So, back to the question at hand…

Is it possible to lie down in green pastures, be led by the still waters and our very souls to be restored concurrently while we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death?

I believe the answer is a resounding yes.  Even in our darkest hours when it would appear all hope is gone, there is a peace, which comes from God Almighty, that can undergird our souls.

Lying down in these green pastures sounds so lush and refreshing, doesn’t it?  I can just picture these pastures by a huge lake on a spring day with butterflies flying around and the sun shining so brightly as it beams off the beautiful, blue water.   A slight breeze is in the air making it neither too hot nor too cold.  A perfect day.

Being led by the still waters speaks to nothing causing our souls to grieve, no anxiety.  Just stillness.  A supernatural calm.  How many of us could use some still waters today?

This peace, this stillness is available to all of us through Jesus Christ.  If we draw close to God, He promises to draw close to us.  He is as close as the mere mention of His Great Name.  We can experience this peace as we study God’s Word and spend time in prayer.

I do believe our souls can find rest even when the storms of life rage and threaten to capsize our vessel.  Jesus is our anchor.

Psalm 23 begins: “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.”

In Him lies everything we need.  May we all find peace for our restless souls and hope for the journey in God.  And may we receive restoration and comfort as we are being led in paths of righteousness.

I encourage you to read this short chapter today and see how God speaks to you.  The Bible is unlike any other book; it is a living book.  It is one with God and it is how God speaks to us.  To truly know the heart of God, we must study it and apply it to our own lives.  

Blessings, my friend!

~Amber

Count it All Joy

James 1:2-4 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worth patience.  But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

Why on earth would we be happy about being in a temptation or trial, as Christians?  How is this even possible?  Isn’t it a terrible thing when we find ourselves in less than perfect situations?  After all, as believers, aren’t our lives supposed to be beds of roses?

I love studying God’s Word because it lends a broader perspective than our present circumstances ever could.  We learn to look beyond ourselves and see the bigger picture.

No one is naturally happy about trials and tests of our faith.  However, when we see through God’s lens of eternity, one day we will be able to look back and realize how all the puzzle pieces fit together to form God’s plan in our lives.  It’s about trusting God’s plan and moving beyond what we see in front of us.

James talks about letting patience have her perfect work because some tests and trials (okay, probably most!) last longer than we would like.  If we can stop fighting God in the midst of our trials, we might actually learn something that would build our character and serve a greater purpose in bringing glory to God.

We have been led to believe that we should never encounter difficult times but such is life. Life is full of ups and downs and both require trusting God to continually work all things together for our good and ultimately His glory.  It’s just that it’s easier to trust God in the good times.  Somehow in the bad times, we feel as if He’s forgotten where we live.  He hasn’t forgotten.  He knows your name and mine.  He sees all.  Nothing is being wasted as you go through tests and trials.  I read this a long time ago: “God doesn’t waste pain, tears or scars.  He uses them all for His glory.”  I absolutely believe that!

Everything we go through in this life serves a greater purpose than we often see at the moment.  If we can see through eyes of faith, a time in the future where we’ve moved beyond the present circumstances, perhaps we can get a glimpse of the good that it will bring.  If we will be patient and learn to be still, we will eventually see that God’s hand was, in fact, with us during our darkest days.

“Be still and know that I am God.”  ~ Psalm 46:10a

“But let patience have her perfect work that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”  ~ James 1:4

So, at the end of your tests and trials, the goal is that we would be mature and complete, wanting nothing.  The word perfect here does not refer to our English word perfect, but more of a complete faith, a maturing in the Lord.

If we only fed our children sugar, what kind of adults would they become?  As Christians, we cannot only experience the good things in life.  For there would not be an appreciation for them if that was our sole reality.  A balanced life causes us to fully appreciate the red letter days and times of our lives.

The challenges in life also serve to magnify our desperate need to trust God more fully.  We can say that we trust God, but when the rubber meets the road, do we really?  When you lose your job?  What about then?  When the doctor’s report comes back bad?  Still trust Him?

In my nearly 42 years of walking with God, one thing I have learned … and that is, that the Word of God is my true source of strength for whatever situation life hands me.

When I don’t know what to do, it is my compass.  When my heart is distraught, it is my comfort.  When I am wrong, it is my correction.  And when I am down, it is my courage.

The Word of God truly is:

My Compass

My Comfort

My Correction

My Courage

Praying that as we enter 2017, it will be for you also!  Blessings, my friend!

~Amber

As we close out another year…

There’s something a little sentimental about closing out the year, isn’t there?  On the one hand, we ask ourselves, ‘Did we accomplish all we had hoped to?’.  On the other, it’s an ending, a closure of sorts, and maybe that’s a good thing.

The ending of a year reminds us of how quickly time escapes us and that our days are truly numbered.  It also urges us to make the most of the time given us.

Yes, this time of year is cause for pause.  Did we spend our time wisely in 2016?  Was it invested in things that genuinely matter?

Time, unlike money, is a commodity that we cannot retrieve once it is gone.

And so, we will soon say good-bye to another year.  For some, the new year cannot come soon enough; for, with it, comes renewed hope for a better one.  Perhaps regret is what comes readily to mind when reflecting on the past year.  And for others, maybe 2016 was one of your best to date.  And still others, maybe your present situation finds you neither pondering the past nor filled with faith in the future.

Complacency is a terrible trap for it is desperately deceitful.  It assumes things will always remain the same when nothing could be further from the truth.  Life is rapidly changing.  So, if life seems less than stellar at the moment – no worries.  It won’t always be this way.  And if you’re living on life’s mountain top right now, enjoy the ride!  Sadly, mountain top experiences don’t last forever.  No, life is about ebbs and flows, highs and lows, ups and downs.  Inhale, exhale.

Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life so that we may grow in wisdom.”

Psalm 103:13-17:

“The Lord is like a father to his children,
    tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
   For he knows how weak we are;
    he remembers we are only dust.
   Our days on earth are like grass;
    like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
   The wind blows, and we are gone—
    as though we had never been here.
  But the love of the Lord remains forever.”    

As we close out 2016 and gaze into the horizons of 2017, may we apply our hearts unto wisdom and make each day count.  Beginnings offer such hope, don’t they?  There’s something about taking an imaginary eraser and wiping the board clean, isn’t there?

Here’s wishing you and yours a clean slate where anything is possible and a place where miracles can happen if we simply look for them.

I’m often struck with amazement how a change in perspective can altar everything!  If you want to find fault with people and life in general, you will never run out of material.  Conversely, if you want to spread joy and happiness, investing in those around you, you will find fulfillment on so many levels.  Our circumstances may never change but we can control our attitude and how we respond to them.

Praying that 2017 is a year filled with possibilities, hope and miracles!  They are all around us…if we dare to look, if we dare to make a difference.

May God grant us all the faith and courage to spread His love to those around us.

We have but one life to live.  May we make it count for eternity.

The Lost Chapter

Luke 15 is often referred to as “The Lost Chapter” because it contains parables concerning “the lost coin”, “the lost sheep”,  and “the lost son” or the “prodigal son”.

As I was contemplating something lost earlier today, the Lord reminded me that there are no “lost causes”, no situations or scenarios beyond His reach.  Sometimes we can get in our heads that certain things are hopeless or just things of the past when that isn’t exactly true.

The prodigal son has long been a favorite parable of mine.  I love it for its rich symbolism to us as God’s children.  Once we were afar off from God, separated by sin, eating in the troughs of rubbish until the day we came to our senses.  We heard God’s voice beckoning us to come and dine at His table.  And then, our Heavenly Father, who saw us coming in the distance just as this dear father did in Luke 15, began to run toward his wayward son, wrapped us in His loving arms and welcomed us back into the family.  What love!  What redemption!  All was not lost.  Not anymore.

Then we have the parable of the lost sheep.  One might think that the shepherd would not waste his time looking for that one who had gone astray.  He has 99; that’s good enough, isn’t it?  99% isn’t bad, right?  This parable once again demonstrates the vast and unending love our Heavenly Father has for us.  He is thrilled to have the 99 sheep, but His truest desire is that none should perish but that all will come into the fold of His love.  According to this parable, you and I are worth the search, worth the effort.

Have you ever lost something highly valuable?  I have.

As I contemplated this thought today, the Lord reminded me that He remains in the restoration business.  He is the Redeemer of our soul and is able to heal us in every way.

Psalm 23:3

“He restores my soul.”

I am comforted by the thought that God orchestrates my paths and ordains all of my days.  If I trust Him, He will lead me in paths of righteousness.  Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all of my days.

He can be trusted, friends.  No matter what you may have lost.  Your reputation, your job, your home, a relationship.  Regardless of your circumstances, there are no lost causes with God.  He is the God of the second chance.  And the third and fourth …. and ninety-ninth.  You are not beyond His reach of redemption.  There is hope.

 Luke 15:20-24,32:

“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’

But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’