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
A girls’ getaway is what the dental hygienist ordered. Not my hygienist but my sister-in-law, Kym, who has been one for more than 25 years. She insisted that I accompany her and another mutual sister-in-law, Karen, and Karen’s sister, Sue, to Niagara on the Lake in Ontario for a few days of relaxation. She twisted my arm (and paid for my flight) so I went. I'm so glad that I did.
The trip occurred back in July, just 3 months after my exchange surgery to replace my tissue expander with an implant (L girl) and my mastopexy (R girl) a.k.a. lift. In case you're wondering the lift hurt more than the exchange. Humor me and imagine an eraser burn on your bare nipple after accidentally scorching it in a tanning bed. Yeah, it hurt kinda like that.
Hanging and laughing with some wonderful women while sipping fine wine in picturesque vineyards soothed my beaten-down soul. I relished time away where my responsibilities were reduced to eating, sleeping, and taking my Tamoxifen each day. Dressing was probably optional being in Canada, but I managed to put on clothes every. single. day. out of respect for my sistas...and myself...and all the tourists visiting Niagara on the Lake.
One of the most memorable stops was at Two Sisters Vineyard where we toured the grounds with our guide, Paul Newman. Not the original blue-eyed Paul Newman of Butch Cassidy or Creamy Balsamic Salad Dressing fame. Though his returning to the land of the living (did you know he died in 2008?) to haunt women as they meander through the rows of grape vines would be a fantastic plot for a horror flick or Abbot and Costello remake. No, this Paul Newman is Canadian, alive and well, and nearly as charming as the original.
Here's a picture of Two Sisters Vineyard at night that I nabbed from their website. I don't advise touring a vineyard at night because you won't see much. Was that statement too obvious?
Paul taught us so much about wine-making that I’ve forgotten half of what he said. But one aspect of growing the grapes made an indelible mark in my mind. Do you know what determines if a wine is from a good year? If it's a desirable vintage? It has to do with the climate and weather conditions. The best wines are produced from grapes grown and harvested during an extremely dry growing season. Newman explained that vineyard workers don't water the vines because the point is to stress them, so they go deep looking for water. The roots will go 20 to 30 feet deep into the earth in search of moisture, bringing up with them rich minerals and nutrients that positively flavor the grapes…and ultimately the wine.
As he continued, my spirit latched on to the connection between how dry spells perfect grapes and can strengthen our faith, if like the grapes’ roots we go in search of water…living water.
"When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
That passage continues with Jesus telling the Samaritan woman that with living water she'd never thirst again. I've always assumed that the living water was Jesus himself, but that's not quite right. On the website Got Questions, the author stresses that Jesus doesn't say that HE is the living water. To find out what living water is, you have to go further in the book of John where Jesus says to a crowd of worshipers:
“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified." ~ John 7:37-39
Living water is the Holy Spirit that lives and flows within all Christians. Like water itself, the Holy Spirit quenches, He gives life, He penetrates and permeates, He fills voids, He has no physical boundaries, and like children playing with a water hose, He brings joy.
Fighting cancer in the midst of a spiritual drought can ignite a raging wildfire where the flames of worry, anxiety, and fear burn out of control. I personally believe the most effective way to extinguish those flames is to drench ourselves with the power of the Holy Spirit...living water...by seeking Him every day.
"But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the LORD..." ~ Micah 3:8
Seems strange that we would need to seek something (or rather Someone) that resides within us, doesn't it? All I know is that my husband and I can be in the same room and yet on separate planets. Personally, I must make a concerted effort to connect with those closest to me because they're the easiest ones to take for granted. It's no different with the Holy Spirit.
A season of spiritual dryness can be distressing or a blessing, depending on our response to it. We can either wonder where God is and why we're not growing or seek the Lord's Spirit and allow Him to mature us like a fine wine. Amazingly, He can reach and teach us anywhere...even in the middle of a vineyard with dear friends and a guy named Paul.
"If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you. I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can’t take him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see him, doesn’t know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you!" ~ John 14:17 (MSG)
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.