The last couple of nights I haven't slept well, even with meds to assist me. It almost seems strange that exactly one year ago I awoke early in the morning, refreshed from a good night's sleep, ready for my mastectomy. No tossing and turning for me then. I was confident and at peace, ready to do what was necessary to tell cancer, "Buh-bye."
[PRETEND THERE'S A PICTURE OF DECATUR MORGAN HOSPITAL HERE. I'D LIKE TO INCLUDE ONE TO SHOW WHERE I HAD MY SURGERY BUT IT'S UNDER CONSTRUCTION, SO THERE ARE NO GOOD PICS]
It's amazing when I think of how much has transpired over the past year. I developed anxiety - which praise the Lord is much better!, started Tamoxifen, developed depression from the Tamoxifen - which praise the Lord is much better!, dropped 20 lbs - which praise the Lord I feel better!, had another surgery to get my breast implant, took a girls' trip, and wrote (well, actually assembled) a book. It has been an eventful 365 days.
I'm only now realizing that breast cancer will always be a part of my life story. Someone recently told me, "You had breast cancer, it doesn't define you." While true that it doesn't define me, I'm still actively fighting it and don't know when - if ever - I'll consider it as part of my past instead of my present.
I'd like to "move on" but am hindered by side effects to contend with, another cancer-related surgery to contemplate, shoulder pain which may or may not be related to past surgeries that keeps me up at night, etc...
I don't share this to complain but to help others unfamiliar with cancer know that it's not something you can easily sweep under the rug and pretend is no longer there. While the cancer itself may be gone (here's hoping so) the collateral damage remains. Doesn't mean life is no longer good, it's just different.
One benefit to having cancer that I didn't expect when I was first diagnosed and focused on myself, was how it would enable me to help others in their time of need. Just two days ago I found myself on the phone with a total stranger named Reva who was preparing for a mastectomy and scared of the unknown. I shared with her what to expect and prayed with her.
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ." ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
I also had a Comfort & Joy Pillow sent to Reva to help with her recovery. Julie McAbee, one of the women featured in Joy Is Contagious...Cancer Isn't, began a ministry creating and mailing pillows to comfort women following a mastectomy. She had sent me one before my surgery and I used it for months. Check out her ministry HERE and if you think about it, would you please pray for Reva's recovery?
There's so much I'm grateful for as I look back over the past year and so much I'm anticipating as we head into Christmas and the New Year. Even if I end up dragging some of cancer's ill effects with me into 2018, I'll do so full of hope, trusting that my tomorrows will be better than today because today is so much brighter than it was a year ago.
Even if I slept better then.
Happy St. Nicholas Day
I can't believe the last time I blogged was more than two weeks ago.
Well, considering my last couple of weeks, Oh YES...oh, yes, I can.
On the surface, this will appear to be one big whine fest, but please keep reading because my intent is for God's goodness to come shining through the dark clouds that have followed me since I last wrote.
Monday, November 6th, I was trying to complete my work for the following day because I had my annual mammogram scheduled. Mammograms don't take that long, but just in case there was a repeat of last year, requiring a follow-up ultrasound, I wanted to ensure my day was completely open.
I was plugging along when I received a call from the counselor at one of my children's school. I was told that my child (who I won't mention here by name) had written a letter indicating that she didn't want her life to continue and that I needed to come get her as soon as possible. When I got to the school and read what she wrote my heart sank...then broke a little...then sank some more. It caught me off guard because we all had experienced such a nice weekend. Here we are bike riding that Sunday.
This wasn't the first time that my child who suffers from depression had suggested this world would be better without her in it. Having a child who suffers emotionally has got to be the most painful aspect of parenting that could possibly exist and when I'm forced to deal with one of these episodes a huge chunk of my life shuts down. The pain is so great that I don't want to function beyond what is necessary and I worry about what the future may hold in store. Then I ask myself if I truly believe what I wrote in Joy Is Contagious...Cancer Isn't:
"We really can trust the One who put the stars into place and knew us before we were born with our diagnosis. And with tough decisions. And with our treatment. And with their unpleasant side effects. And with our emotions. And with our future. And with our family’s future. We can trust Him with everything, for He’s the Lord of all and is over all..." ~ Ch. 11 in Joy Is Contagious...Cancer Isn't by Kim Tisor
Do I believe that? Do I really? The answer is, I do. I may have to remind myself of those truths, but I honestly believe that God is GOOD and can't be anything other than that and that He loves my daughter and the rest of my family members more than I do.
"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them. Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite." ~ Psalm 147: 3-5
If the Lord has given names to the stars, He certainly knows my daughter by name and has the ability to heal her broken heart and mine. As a matter of fact, He's the only one that has the power to do that. Time may help. Medication may help. Counseling may help. A proper diet may help. Lots of love and understanding may help. But only God has the ability to completely heal our brokenness. I pray that He chooses to do that in my daughter's life.
That same night I had picked up my child early from school I had plans to attend a Christian women's event nearly 40 miles away. My heart was so downcast that I thought I should probably just stay home, but then I considered maybe the evening would do my heart good, so I headed out the door into the dark, drizzly night. I looked forward to meeting the speaker who was traveling from MN because she and I had conversed via email several times. Her name is Judy Hehr and she was going to be a guest on my podcast...when I had one. (I stopped recording it about a year ago when I received my breast cancer diagnosis.) Judy appears to be a bit of a firecracker, and like me, has her own radio show, so I knew we'd hit it off in person as well as we had in our email messages.
When I arrived at the church where she was to speak the church was locked up like Houdini before one of his dramatic escapes. Eventually a man exited the church and told me the event had been cancelled due to some transportation issues. Viewing the city streets' Christmas lights abated some of my disappointment as I began my drive home in silence.
Just to quickly let you know how the rest of that week unfolded, Wednesday morning my husband called me at home to let me know that a mutual friend had passed away. I didn't even know she had been ill. Then that afternoon as I drove to pick up my kids from school my car's engine overheated. An oncoming driver flashed his lights at me (I assumed there was a cop up ahead) just before my "Check Gauges" light came on. It then began to flash. Then it changed to "Engine Overheated" as warning sounds started blaring. I managed to call a friend who picked up my kids as I turned the vehicle around. The sounds got louder then my car informed me that it was powering down. I managed to coast within a couple miles of home and walked the rest of the way. That was not the day to leave my warm coat and bra at home.
The chilly air felt good to my lungs as I walked home, wanting to cry but with no tears left to shed. I decided it wasn't the time to cry anyway because I truly had a lot to be thankful for and began mentally listing my blessings. I was thankful that I had made it to the edge of my neighborhood and was no longer on a busy road. I was thankful that my friend answered her phone and could pick up my kids. I was thankful that my legs weren't hurting, because sometimes the Tamoxifen I take for cancer causes a pain deep in my left leg. I was thankful that it wasn't snowing or raining. I was extremely thankful that my car hadn't broken down along the highway the Monday night I traveled to a nearby town to hear the no-show speaker. I was thankful that my daughter seemed to be in a better place emotionally. I was thankful that I didn't have my warm coat afterall because I was starting to heat up while walking home. I still would have liked my bra, but oh well.
I'm not sure why that driver flashed his lights at me. I'm guessing he either saw smoke billowing from my hood or there were flames shooting out the front of my car. Not sure which, but he got my attention.
The following week I had an appointment with my oncologist - nothing new to share there - and my OBGYN. He asked if I had considered having my ovaries removed, since my cancer is estrogen driven. AND if we were going to remove my ovaries then may as well remove the uterus, since Tamoxifen is associated with uterine cancer. He told me to think about it and he would talk to my oncologist. Not sure why, but something about that appointment caused my anxiety to increase over the following week. Perhaps the thought of having to make another decision regarding my health and having another surgery was more than I wanted to deal with considering the previous week.
Then Saturday morning rolled around and my husband told me to get dressed, that he wasn't feeling right and he thought he needed to see a doctor, i.e. a trip to the ER, because he thought he was having a heart attack. I took his blood pressure which was elevated, so I quickly got ready and drove him to the hospital. Thankfully, the EKG indicated his heart was fine. He was told he probably had a virus that was causing his vertigo and nausea. Whew!
Three days later I ran through the drive-thru to pick up something for Randy and our son, who was home sick. As I sat in line my heart was heavy thinking of the weeks' previous events, and how just the day before my dad would have been 74 had complications from surgery not taken him from this life several years ago. My heart ached. And wouldn't you know when I pulled up to pay for my order the cashier told me that the woman in front of me had paid for my order and passed along the message for me to have a good day!? Wow. As I pulled away the tears started falling again, but this time over God's goodness. That message from the woman driving a Kia Soul was like God speaking directly to my soul, letting me know that He's aware of my pain and is with me. The sun suddenly got a little brighter.
In the midst of all this craziness, I was asked to be a regular on a syndicated radio show, was hired to do some radio imaging for a production company, and Joy Is Contagious...Cancer Isn't was released. In all honesty, it was hard to be excited about all the positives on the heels of all the difficulty. But my heart was grateful and remained full of hope.
"For this reason we never become discouraged. Even though our physical being is gradually decaying, yet our spiritual being is renewed day after day. And this small and temporary trouble we suffer will bring us a tremendous and eternal glory, much greater than the trouble. For we fix our attention, not on things that are seen, but on things that are unseen. What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what cannot be seen lasts forever." ~ 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (GNT)
I know this was long and kind of rambling, but I wanted you to know why I've been away. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and that you'll continue to count your many blessings each day.
The lector didn't get very far this morning before I completely tuned her out (no offense to her, she does a fine job). She was reading Philippians 4:6-9, but as I read along in the missal my mind stopped midway through the first verse:
"Brothers and sisters: Have no anxiety at all..."
Have no anxiety at all. If the Apostle Paul who wrote those words were here, I'd sheepishly share with him how just this morning on our way to church I consciously took slow deep breaths and exhaled hard to rid myself of anxiety that I felt slowly building inside of me. Would he be disappointed in me, that I sometimes suffer with anxiety? I found the verses as I continued reading both convicting and comforting. Convicting because I'm not to have it and still do, yet comforting because Paul knew well enough that people would struggle with it and therefore addressed it. I'm by no means alone.
Anxiety isn't something I was personally familiar with prior to having breast cancer. I've never been a worrier and am typically a happy-go-lucky kinda gal. As as matter of fact, anxiety was so foreign to me that I didn't recognize it when it entered my life and attempted to emotionally mar anything I did that was remotely out of the ordinary. Early on, a lunch date with my kids or a trip to the movie theater - normal activities which should have brought happiness - because I didn't do them regularly instilled a sense of dread. So unless I was taking the children to school, going to church or visiting the doctor's office I wanted to stay home...preferably in sweats. When forced to leave the safe confines of my house, mental games to calm my body and fight back tears became constant companions. Thankfully, my mom identified what was happening and ensured I received much needed help. Thank you, Mom!
Apparently, anxiety is a common response to a cancer diagnosis. I couldn't find statistics on it, but breastcancer.org has a page devoted to the education of patients about anxiety. It states the following:
"Anxiety is a feeling of fear or uneasiness. Mild anxiety is part of every day life. You might feel anxious before you take a test or attend an important meeting at work. This kind of anxiety can help you by making you more alert or careful. Mild anxiety goes away after you're out of the situation that caused it.
If you've been diagnosed with breast cancer, you might feel anxious, angry, and sad all at the same time. It's normal to be afraid of something that can threaten your life."
Oddly, I didn't develop anxiety upon hearing I have cancer, which threatens far too many lives. It surfaced following a scare I had with a pain medication I was prescribed after my mastectomy. I won't go into details here but suffice it to say I think I have an inkling of what it's like to OD on a drug. Horrible side effects caused me to think I may die and threw my nervous system into overdrive and kicked in anxiety that in the beginning frightened me, but it has lessened over time. Thank you, Lord.
I still don't find that I worry much, yet anxiety still manages to find it's way into my day. This morning, I honestly think the cause of it was caffeine. I took my medicine and some supplements with unsweetened iced tea (a sacrilege in the south) that contained caffeine before I headed out the door. That was a no-no for me and I should have known better.
So, if we're not to have anxiety, what are we to do? The rest of that passage in Philippians that I tuned out this morning tells us:
"...but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
I do find that when I focus more on Christ (and others) and less on me and my circumstances that I'm less anxious and have more peace. Maybe the Apostle Paul would at least be pleased with my efforts.
What helps you combat anxiety?
Funny that the title "Author" appears above this description yet I have no idea what to share about myself in this space! How about my first name is Kim. My last name is Tisor. Tisor rhymes with miser, though I try not to be one.
For more information about me, please visit the author page.