Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My New Years Resolution

I heard this song the other day on a commercial and for the first time I listened closely to its message. I couldn't have found a better way to explain how I feel about my future and how I want to live the rest of my life. This is my New Years life resolution.

I Hope You Dance
by Lee Ann Womack

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat
But always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small
When you stand by the ocean
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances
But they're worth taking
Lovin' might be a mistake
But it's worth making
Don't let some hell bent heart
Leave you bitter
When you come close to selling out
Give the heavens above
More than just a passing glance

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
(Time is a wheel in constant motion always)
I hope you dance
(Rolling us along)
I hope you dance
(Tell me who)
I hope you dance
(Wants to look back on their youth and wonder)
(Where those years have gone)

I hope you still feel small
When you stand by the ocean
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance
(Time is a wheel in constant motion, always)
I hope you dance
(Rolling us along)
I hope you dance
(Tell me who)
(Wants to look back on their youth and wonder)
I hope you dance
(Where those years have gone)

(Tell me who)
I hope you dance
(Wants to look back on their youth and wonder)
(Where those years have gone)

Happy New Years everyone. I am hoping for a much better year and counting all of the blessings that 2009 did bring despite this battle with cancer. May you all learn to dance in 2010!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Big Picture

I am starting to see the big picture. I am starting see why the events in my past have taken place. Including decisions that were made years ago as well as friends that were made in my youth. Everything has happened for a reason. God has gone before me and prepared the necessary steps that needed to happen for me to take this journey and ultimately be healed. It is amazing to see it all unfold and be revealed before my eyes....

There was a reason why the Pathologist in my first biopsy made the mistake reading the results. Had he not, my surgeon would not have felt obligated to do a second biopsy and I would have been left with cancer cells in my sinuses.

There was a reason I decided to join Facebook before I was diagnosed. It allowed me to reconnect with a special friend from high school. This friend happens to be a Maxofacial Surgeon. He specializes in cases like mine. Yesterday, I was able to have a long conversation with him about the surgery. He was able to calm a lot of my fears, answer a lot of questions and confirm that surgery is the BEST option to get rid of the cancer once and for all. He also was able to go into detail the options I will have for reconstruction of my teeth as well as my eye if it were to be removed during surgery. Reconnecting with him and becoming friends with him years ago was no coincidence.

There was a reason why we chose the location to build our home in Chaska almost 6 years ago. We were the 5th house built so we had no idea what the neighbors would be like. Little did we know what a tremendous support system these neighbors would become 6 years later on during my battle with cancer. They have become some of our dearest friends and they have gone out of their way to show us love and support. They have supplied us with meals when I was feeling down and out.

There is a reason why God has chosen to not complete the healing process yet. It hasn't been until recently that I have started to truly experience the power of God's love. I am also the most vulnerable I have ever been throughout this journey forcing me to finally give it all to God. There is nothing I can do or control at this point. The rest is left up to him.

There are so many more reasons yet to be discovered and I am excited for them to continue to be revealed. But one thing I know for sure, the way things have happened, especially in this past month, needed to happen in order for me to be healed.

Today, I received a gift left on my doorstep. It was a book titled "If I could be sick for you for Just One Day" written by Kathy Cramer. It was another demonstration of love from our friends in the neighborhood. Each page was signed with a written of message of love, hope and encouragement. I wanted to share it with you. It has a very special message that someone battling an illness needs to hear. The book reads,

I wish I could be sick for you for just one day. I would let you go outside and run and play!
I would swallow the pills that don't want to stay down. You could stick your head out the window and ride all over town.
I would shake and chill the way you do. You could go sail on a sailboat - be a part of the crew!
I would feel the pain you endure. You could go out for a big dinner..order dessert for sure.
I would dream the dreams that can be scary and dark. You could fish on a lake and walk through the park.
I would do your wishing to feel better soon. You could stay up late and sleep until noon.
I would look through the cards that were sent by friends. You could eat popcorn and candy until a movie begins.
I would walk your path with heavy tired steps. You could drink lemonade and sit out on the deck.
I would feel the faith that you hold in your heart. You could walk through the market, smell the flowers on a cart.
I would eat the food that doesn't taste right. You could ride a rollercoaster and squeal with delight.
I would look out your window and wonder why. You could visit all your friends just to say "Hi!"
I would hold your anger that comes and goes. You could walk barefoot in new grass and wiggle your toes.
I would do your wondering of what is to be. You could read a book under a big shady tree.
I would listen to the footsteps and come and go. You could sit by the fire or play in the snow.
I would lie in your bed for that day and night. You could sit and watch a sunset, blazing and bright.
I wish I could sick for you for just one day. But since I can' your side I will stay.

I am signing off for awhile so that I can focus on spending time with my family during Christmas. I want to enjoy the time I have with them without thinking about the surgery. I need a break from it all. So look for an update next week.

I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas. During this holiday season, my prayer is that you will feel the love of God and enjoy the time you have with your family and friends. I feel blessed to have you in my life.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Surgery Details

Surgery will take place either on January 13th or 14th. The following are the details...

Surgery will be long and hard. It will take 12+ hours and involve two surgeons. I will be in the hospital for up to 10 days. An incision will be made under my eye and down my nose to my upper lip. The bone under my eye and above the maxilliary sinus will be removed. They will then remove all of the cancer cells that are left. They will biopsy under my eye to determine if there is cancer there. If the biopsy is positive, they will then remove my eye. I will also lose all of the teeth on the upper right side of my mouth. The surgery will cut off blood flow to these teeth causing them to die. To repair my face, the fibula bone in one of my legs will be used and/or tissue from my abdomen or upper leg. If they repair my mouth with bone, I will be able to have teeth implants put back in down the road. If they repair it with tissue, I will no longer have teeth there. If they remove my eye, I will be able to have a prosthetic eye put in the future. I will also require a tracheotomy to help with breathing due to the fact that my mouth and face will be extremely swollen. I will be breathing through the trach throughout my hospital stay. The hope will be that it gets removed before I leave the hospital. I will also have a feeding tube inserted into my nose to keep me fed for up to 3 weeks. After healing is done, I will need to meet with some Speech Pathologists to get my speech, swallowing and eating back. Overall, recovery will take up to 4 weeks after I leave the hospital.

My surgeon anticipates I am curable at this point. I will not require any further treatment. The only thing that may throw a wrench into this is if they find more cancer deeper into the tissue or muscle. But, the surgeon said they have yet to see this on the scans. He also said that most of his patients have said that recovery is much easier than chemo and radiation. And since I am young and healthy, he is confident I will handle the surgery well.

How do I feel? I AM SCARED OUT OF MY MIND!!!! I am not happy about getting a tracheotomy and loosing my teeth. I am very anxious about the possibility of waking up and realizing my eye is gone and having no family members around me to process the loss. I am afraid about how I am going to look. No teeth? No eye? Scars on face. Scars on my neck. Scars on my legs. All of this just for a few cancer cells. But if I want to be cured, I have no choice but to have the surgery. Oh what it would be like to have choices again.

Where is God in all of this? Why is he subjecting me to such an ordeal? I don't know why. Sometimes this all feels like a dream. Throughout this past year up until now, there were many times that I asked God to show himself to me his love. And the other day, it finally hit me...he has been using my friends and family to show me his love. He has been there all of this time. Just in a different way than I expected. In past blogs, I have written countless examples of how people have demonstrated how much they care for me and are supporting me. From an anonymous group of women who sent me a variety of hats to wear on my bald head to cards sent in the mail with words of encouragement. But these past few days, I have never before felt so loved by those around me and I am feeling Gods arms around me because of it. It is because of this I feel somewhat at peace and have the strength to get through this.

Tonight, we were visited by a group of our friends in the neighborhood to sing us Christmas carols by candlelight. Our house was their only stop. I know it was because they wanted us to feel the spirit of Christmas despite what we are going through. And to show us love, God's love. It was so special for us and it brought tears to our eyes.

I have also been receiving anonymous gifts left at our door. The other day, I received a necklace with the word "survivor" on it. It is beautiful. And the card it was in said, Sue, you are a survivor. Not only are we receiving a plethora of Christmas cards, but cards sent to us from friends and family reminding us that we are still in their prayers. I have been told numerous stories of cancer survivors that went through the same surgery I am about to undergo. They are now living a normal and healthy life.

Thank you God for showing me your love this past week. As I look back, I see you have been there the entire time. Thank you for blessing me with so many wonderful friends, family and strangers that have gone out of their way to show me love.

Please continue to pray: for wisdom for the doctors, for peace before and after the surgery, for protection of my eye, for pain control, for a speedy recovery and for the cancer to stay contained until the surgery. And especially to be healed!

Thank you all!


Friday, December 18, 2009

Believe, Expect, Hope

These past few days I have been spending a lot of time in the word, reading many messages of encouragement and support from family and friends and listening to powerful messages from some of my favorite speakers. I am learning a lot about myself and my faith. But mostly I am learning a lot about how I handle difficult circumstances. I tend to face them with a negative attitude and hopelessness. And I lose faith. The following is a list of verses and quotes that I have received these past few days that I am holding close to my heart:

- Isaiah 40:31 (The Message) "Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, or, whine, Israel, saying "God has lost track of me. He doesn't care what happens to me?" Don't you know anything? Haven't you been listening? God doesn't come and go. God lasts. He's creator of what you can't see or imagine. He doesn't get tired out, doesn't pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. But those who WAIT upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles. They run and don't get tired, they walk and don't lag behind."

- Waiting upon the Lord means to EXPECT, look for and hope on the Lord.

- We should live like a child with confident expectancy. We should EXPECT God to do great things in our lives.

- If God didn't give me what I wanted, he has something better planned.

- John 10:10 "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the fullest."

- John 9:3 "neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life."

- Make your mind up on what your going to believe what God is going to do and don't get off of it. Be consistent in your believing - this is the key to victory.

- Hope deferred makes the heart sick.

- The promise God gave me WILL manifest itself.

- Negative attitudes don't mix with faith, only hope does.

- Before my life is going to change, my attitude has got to change.

- God is NOT limited. God wants to do more for you than you can imagine.

- Something good is going to happen.

- Psalms 103:3-4 "God forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, God redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion."

- 2 Corinthians 4:7-13 "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. It is written: "I believed, therefore I have spoken." With that same spirit of faith we also BELIEVE and therefore speak."

- Am I agreeing with Satan by being hopeless or am I agreeing with God by being hopeful?

- You don't always see God coming, but you know when he has been there.

- Exodus 14:13-14 "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord with bring you today...The Lord will fight for you you need only to be still."

The messages these quotes and scriptures have given me is to BELIEVE God will heal me, EXPECT God to do good things and never give up HOPE. It is a battle for me, but I am working really hard to focus on these three things. Like the character on Saturday Night Live, Stuart Smalley, who repeats to himself while looking in the mirror, "I am good enough, I am smart enough, and doggone it, people like me" I need to repeat to myself over and over again these quotes and verses to get it in my head that something good is going to happen! That God came to give me life, not to condemn me! And doggone it, God loves me!

With my new attitude, I am working hard to keep the spirit of Christmas alive in our home. Yes, I will not be as joyful as I could be, but I refuse to let this news put a damper on our celebrations. I will value the time I will get to spend with my family and the time I have before things get hard again.

I anticipate my appointment on Monday with my surgeon will calm some of the anxiety I am having about the surgery. I will learn more about what to expect during and after the surgery. The one thing I want to hear from him, more than anything, is that this will be the last step towards my recovery. That I will be cured and no more treatment will be necessary.

Please continue to pray for wisdom for the doctors, peace before and after the surgery, for healing and for protection of my eye.

With much love and thanks and many blessings to all of you during this holiday season,


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Only Believe

We started a tradition in our family a few years ago called Elf on the Shelf. Many of you may have seen the cute boxes in stores containing a little elf and a book with a story about the elf on the shelf. Our elf, named Buttons, visits our house every December. He magically appears somewhere in the house and becomes Santa's eyes and ears until Christmas time. Every night he flies home to Santa to give his report and then reappears again in the morning in a new location in the house. Mackenzie and Kendall are so excited every morning to discover where Buttons is hiding next. They talk to him and tell him what they want for Christmas. The fun part about it all is that they believe. They believe this elf is real. They believe Santa is real. Their belief never waivers. I think their belief in Buttons and Santa has transferred into believing that God is real. There is no doubt in their mind that either one exists.

I often wish my belief and faith were like Mackenzie and Kendall's faith. Never waivering, never doubting. I especially wish I had their faith right now. Mine has been shaken beyond belief. I have been begging God to help me believe that this will end. That I will be healed. I am trying so hard but it just isn't coming to me. Instead, I am filled with fear that this will never end. That the rest of my life, however long it may be, will be spent battling cancer. I am afraid the more time that passes between now and the surgery will give the cancer the ability to move into my eye and grow to other places in my body. I am afraid of the surgery...that I will not survive it. I am afraid of the pain. I am afraid of waking up and realizing my eye is gone and having no one to help me process the loss.

Last night, I was sitting in bed. I had finished reading my Bible and devotional book and Kendall came into the room. She saw that I had my Bible in hand so she immediately ran into her room to grab her Bible. She came sprinting back into the room and plopped in bed with me. She grabbed my book and turned to a page that immediately caught my attention. The title of the page was "Only Believe". I grabbed the book and started reading. It was based on this verse: Matthew 9:28 "Jesus asked, Do you believe that I am able to do this?" That verse made my jaw drop. It was like God was asking me if I believe he can cure me....if he can get me through this. I wanted to find out the context of the verse and to whom God was asking this question. So I turned to Matthew 9:27 and read the following: "As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, "Have mercy on us Son of David!" When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him and he asked them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" "Yes Lord, they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, "According to your faith will it be done to you"; and their sight was restored." My jaw dropped again...this verse was perfect for me and how ironic it had to do with healing and eye sight. I want to have a faith like these blind men.

I have been walking around the house like a zombie. I break down crying not only because of the biopsy results, but because I feel like the joy of Christmas has been stripped away. Oh how I was looking forward to celebrating the holidays cancer free. But it will be different this year. Unfortunately not a lot of celebrating will be happening. Vacations will need to be postponed and we will have to decline attending several upcoming parties. When will life resume for us again?

Please continue to pray....especially for the protection of my eye and the upcoming surgery. I am looking to God, family and friends for strength right now because I feel like I don't have any. It already has been a long year. So I cling to each and every encouraging message you leave on this blog. Please let me know you are here. It means more to me than you will ever know and gives me the strength I am looking for. I have never before been so desperate for any word of encouragement or hope. I feel that God is using all of you to give me the hope and strength I need to get through this.

With much love and thanks,

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cancer not gone

Well, the results were not what we were hoping for. The cancer is still there. Next They will remove the cancer from my sinuses. It will be a long and hard surgery requiring my face to be reconstructed. They cannot guarantee if they will be able to save my eye. It all depends on whether or not the cancer has entered into the fatty area of the eye or not. The eye will be removed if it has. I will be meeting with my doctor and a plastic surgeon who will be in on the surgery in the next couple of weeks. Surgery dates has yet to be determined.

I am so devastated and cannot contain my emotions right now. I feel very let down and that the hope the first biopsy gave me has been completely stripped away. I am beginning to wonder if this is every going to end. Am I going to survive this?

Please pray. Pray for wisdom for the doctors. Pray for protection of my eye. Pray that I will be able to find strength to get through this. Pray that this will be the last and final step towards a cure.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

No Results Yet

Biopsy went well. Very sore and puffy today. Thank goodness for pain meds. No results yet. Hopefully will know by tomorrow or Monday. I will let you all know as soon as I know.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Second Biopsy Tomorrow

I woke up this morning in a panic as I started to think about the biopsy tomorrow. It came way too fast. What happened to these last four weeks? I am not sure how I feel about it. I sometimes feel that everything is going to be OK. But then the "what ifs" start to enter into my mind and I get scared at the possibility that they may find that the cancer is still there. Oh how I wish it was simple to let go and let God. This is NOT easy.

I spent some time reading my Bible this morning. Immediately I turned to the verse in Psalms that God gave to me when I was first diagnosed. In this Psalms, David was remembering the miracles of long ago that God performed in his life bringing him hope as he faced his current struggles. When I was diagnosed, it was a reminder of how God miraculously saved Mackenzie's life. Remembering the power God demonstrated during her birth and time spent in the NICU gave me hope. How ironic that I happened to turn directly to this Psalms again as I am approaching the end of my treatment. Then, I turned directly to a verse in Leviticus. It is a verse that talks about God's compassion as never failing and how it is new every morning. Another encouragement that God will again show his compassion to me tomorrow morning while I go through the biopsy. I am doing the best I can today to cling to this encouragement God gave me this morning. I am trying not to second guess it, which can be easy to do. Was it a mere coincidence that I happened to turn directly to these passages?

My biopsy is scheduled for 7:40 am. The first surgery of the day. Please pray for peace before surgery, wisdom for my doctor and a speedy recovery. And most of all pray for a negative biopsy!!! I am assuming my doctor will have a Pathologist in the operating room with him once again so we should get quick results. Let's hope the Pathologist doesn't make a mistake this time. I will update all of you as soon as I can.