Thursday, July 7, 2016

5 Year Benchmark

I can remember the day like it was yesterday.  I knew the words before the doc even said them.  I knew in my heart what I needed to do.  I knew in my soul that God was with me from the start and even before the diagnosis.  Breast cancer it was and never will be again.  To wade through the past five years has been good and a positive thing to do.  My mere description of all the things that happened to me, for me and through me with others and God is not sufficient.  I have written them out in full on my blog and only captured some quotes here on this post.  

"And even though it is gone forever from my body the weight of  cancer lingers heavy in my mind trying to work its way into my soul any chance it has, trying not to let it creep in."

Many of the things people, doctors and friends would share with me were all true and helpful.  Processing and filtering through all of it, judging what would work best for me and what to consider, was a daily challenge.  So I am here.  Five years after discovery.  Living my new normal. Choosing more and opting in for much more of what this life is offering.  I did things in the past five years I have wanted to do, but was afraid or never took the time to do.  I did things that were bold, stupid, scary, uncomfortable, courageous, justified, and lots of fun.  Why, you ask, does it take a life changing experience for us to wake up and decide to do things differently, think differently and live a different life?  I don't know why.  I do know I see things differently. I know I hear things clearer.  I know I understand more deeply.  I know I trust more freely.   Many times I tell people cancer saved my life.    It saved me from my other life before cancer.

The life in me I ignored.

The experience of cancer can only change people one way or the other.  People said to me over and over, "well you have a great attitude about it, not sure I would be the same".  My response to them would be, "Having a bad attitude accomplishes nothing for self or God, and who wants to be around someone with a bad attitude?"  I could not bare the thought of being alone or without my support people.  Having those people in your life during a time like this in your life is vital for recovery.  I am grateful for those that came along side and walked with me.

If you go back through to July 2011 in my archives you can read in full some of my blog posts, videos etc that I posted all during treatments and those early days where writing about it seemed to help even if nobody read the words, getting them out felt better.

Here are some excerpts from my favorites........

July 2011
 "That is just how I have felt for the past two weeks.  FROZEN.  Not knowing many things about my prognosis, treatment and outcome of my diagnosis just seems to freeze my steps. "

"For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb.  I will praise You , for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works,  And that my soul knows very well.Ps 139: 13-14  
I feel His covering, His weaving the lining and fabric to this story, this journey, this incredible opportunity to praise Him and see His glorious works manifesting all around me.  Who wouldn't want that, I mean really?  More Lord, I desire more of You every day as prayer shawl wraps itself around every prayer spoken and knitted into each thread. "

"Whenever anyone gets the news of cancer their world seems to STOP.  That was my world two weeks ago today. Breast cancer. STOP. Surgery. STOP. Mastectomy. STOP. Chemo. STOP. Radiation. STOP.  Suddenly I was forced to STOP.  Taking the news pretty well, trying to be brave and strong knowing what I had to do, I pressed on into the dark unknown, trusting God, seeing God all around as decisions had to be made, but still feeling out of control on the inside.  Stinking thinking thoughts came into my head like, what if I die, o gosh people will come to my house and its not clean, maybe people will read my journals, I want to be a grandmother, I don't have time for this, I have a wedding to plan, is this really me they are talking about, this is gonna hurt, how will I keep up with my old life, I am racked with fear, and I feel so out of control.  Round and round and round it went in my head like a bad record that has a scratch and it kept skipping and skipping. Til finally I was able to let it go. "

August 2011

"So began the process.  How do I marry this feeling of wanting to do what I can to help my body with what I knew I had to do...... chemo.  I was still trying to make it about me and not giving all of it to God.  It felt like I had jumped into a fast moving stream and there was nothing to grab onto.  It was a scary.  I decided to walk with God through all the doors He opened....."

September 2011
"Well in a way my life will never be the same again and it is sort of the end of an era as I have known it, but it is all for the better.  Being diagnosed with breast cancer sort of stops most things in their tracks, but it has not stopped life from moving down the tracks. "

"From the beginning of this entire adventure as you may have read, God has been faithful with me even when I have been afraid, even when I wanted to bolt, even when I have said no, even when I did not lean on Him.  He waited so patiently for me, teaching me through circumstances, crossing people in my path to reassure me, and just was for me not against me.  It was I who was going against the grain until I realized He is always right.  What was I thinking?  It was a host of other obstacles trying to think for me t keeping me out of His peace and in fear.  Don't get me wrong I am stilling bouncing around figuring it out as I go, but I know I am not alone.  James 4: 6-8 "But He gives more grace.  Therefore He says; "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble"  Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you."

October 2011
A video I posted of a synopsis of a 31 Day Walk to Wellness Challenge.  I was able to post 27 posts out of the 31 days......lots of good info there.  Look at archive Oct. 2011. 


November 2011
" I had chemo today, drove myself there, came home, had a bowl of muesli and hemp milk and a cup of green tea and cried.  Not because of the alone part but because of all God is revealing to me through all of this.  I am looking out my window and see a Wisteria tree that has grown big and strong but not strong enough to do without the tall oaks that stand beside it, that carry it, that hold up its branches that spritz us with perfume in early spring.  Today was the last treatment of this sort, the worst of the worst and I cried.  I cried when they plugged me in, I cried when I left and I am crying now.   I feel like the vine and God is carrying me through all of this and His presence sometimes is so overwhelming the only place for it to come out is my eyes. "

"It never fails when I am needing Him the most He provides a call, a text, a letter, a hug, a meal, a ray, a sprinkle, a pressing in from all sides carrying my branches like the strong oaks. A hand up not a hand out. "

December 2011
"When you think you are in charge.....thank God and think again!"

January 2012
"Thank you God for lingering still in my hearts desires."

February 2012
"Love love love. It is everywhere. It is in each one of us. We are meant to meet and greet and love one another networking through our stories every day. "

"Why is it we get these opportunities to explore what God had intended for us all along? 
 To understand the meaningness of connection and how that all works to glroify Him."

"Why do I go into the worthless feelings instead of worthy prayer when I get like that? Pitiful if you ask me, but hoping the lesson sticks this time. Even in my prideful anguish my God does not hesitate or resist an opportunity to help me see how He is waiting for me to cry out to Him"

"Another lesson in waiting.  I am finding that waiting is closely linked to control.  When you are really at the mercy of God, the doctors, the chemo, the process, and your body my willingness to yield is challenged.  I still have that little mole try and rear its head trying to convince me that I need to be in control.  A very humbling experience and one that I obviously need to learn again and again.  I want that submission to Him to be automatic, always.
His Word never fails me, always corrects me and gives me peace.
Psalm 27:14  "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."
The Word describes it as a gift.  We are waiting for a gift.  The Gift."

"Living intentionally for God everyday is where I have to go each day. "

"Chemo and fear dance closely next to one another. I am learning and insisting I learn the difference so that God can have His way in me."

"Everything He has done for me has only been for me to draw nearer to Him.  Our lives are so filled the fullness almost makes us too blind to see.  Open your eyes to the wonders of God and all His Creativity."

"I got through it and it was the worst of the worst as far as meds I thought, "wow I really can do this". 

 "I don't believe this is the end for me and that God wants to use me still for His purpose beyond even what I can see now. "

March 2012
"He is putting love, His Love first in the forefront of my mind.  Right in front of my eyes.  Reassuring me He is with me every step of my walk, every step of my journey, every step of my story.  His glory story. "

May 2012 : Radiation
Here is another video of me and my rabbit fur hair.....

"Hallelujah! For the place where I am staying, like a palace, to the people I encounter at MD Anderson, to now the car I am driving, God is good all the time. Such a spoiled brat thing......I have been spoiled all my life not only by my family, but by God. How thankful I am that my eyes can be opened, the scales lifted and the veil torn just for me. Opening not only my eyes but also my heart to more and more of what He desires for me. What a blessing to be loved, saved and spoiled by God. "

June 2012: Ringing the Bell

Ringing the Bell

"This bell song is for all of you who supported me, kept my circle from being unbroken, girded me up for a battle accomplished and fought.  Thank you for all the cards, comments, text messages, letters, gifts, facebook messages, Tweets and love you showered me with this past year.  I AM DONE!  Just a few more follow up things to tie up this entire does take a village.  I have had to enlarge my tent from the generosity shown to me, blessed forever by the kindest words and expressions I have ever encountered in my life.  This bell is for you.  I am ringing my bell for me yes......but for you too!"

August 2012: Rap Up

September 2012
I became a grandmother. 

I will end with this picture because it sort of sums up the epiphany of all that I went through, we all went through,  to be blessed with new life in our family on many levels.  Yes it's been five years since I started this new mantra, and I am so much happier because of it.  Thankful is not enough of a word to express how I feel for so many.  

Yesterday, at camp,  I heard a song by Jill Phillips and her husband Andy Gullahorn called The Otherside.  Here is the video of that song.

Thank you Jesus for 5 years past my ground zero!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Self Care : Getting off Gravity

I heard something yesterday, I think on the radio, that hit home with me.  Reading too from others who don't manage this well in their daily lives.  The announcer was talking about self care and the lack of it in our lives.  They described people in life who talk about how tired they are all the time or complain about this and that or wish for more of everything, 
anytime you talk to them.  

No matter how much you encourage them, suggest or lift them up they remain, stuck.....  

When really all you want to say to them is "Go take a nap then".  

It would do you a world of good.  Just a nap.  Not a long winters nap, just 20-30 minutes is all.   

Why is self care so difficult for us? 

It is the one thing we do have control over that can determine our overall outcome for each day, month and even years.  When faced with a life threatening disease or illness or circumstance, self care moves to the top of the list.  Why is that?  Why are we not putting this at the top of our list each day? 

How will I take care of myself today?  

Even if in some small minuscule way, we should do something to afford us a time out.  Not where we neglect or become irresponsible, but just a simple self care that is off our beaten path..... I call it getting off gravity....and I am not saying going to Starbucks every morning for your latte is self care......because its the norm.....for me its doing something out of the norm that makes it feel more like self care.  Does that make sense?

There are many ways to self care.....and it doesn't even have to be things we do for ourselves.  

Self care can be things we do for others that brings us great joy and satisfaction.  

Stepping out of our normal box and doing something, one little thing that makes us brighter, healed, complete, or satisfied within is the kind of self care I hope for each day.

I encourage you each day to find a way to meet that need in you to self care.  Especially for moms who are busy taking care of everyone else, all the time.  Those going through life changing events, take a moment and figure out how to fit self care into your day.  

Raising the standard within will reflect excellence to others.  

I am please to announce that much of my "self care" during cancer treatments is paying off now.  In my reports back from oncologists, internal medical docs and cardiologists the numbers look good.  My exercise, eating habits, time well spent, fellowship and quiet time have served me well.  

My report this time from MD Anderson was really great and I am thankful.  My heart ejection fraction is the biggest news and is now at 60%.  At its lowest point I was at 44%.  I had to go on heart meds to rebuild and remodel my heart.  I remember telling the doctor, "I thought only God could remodel my heart?".  They laughed and said, "Yes, but we are just putting up new wallpaper".  I also remember thinking, how can I be in the 3% of people whose heart gets damaged during chemo?  I am one of the special ones.  

God is still my general contractor.  He's not finished with me yet.

This July it will be five years since my diagnosis.  WOW.  Can't believe it. 
Another report is that all my cancer markers have remained clear.    
Grateful for this report for another year. 
Grateful for all my doctors both in Houston and in Kerrville.  
Grateful even for my doctor, accused and convicted of poisoning her boyfriend, now serving time in prison.  Huffington Post says," this". 

Yes, that would be my doctor and she is THAT doctor on the cover of People magazine and on NBC Nightly News. Glad I was through most of my treatments by then and I didn't accept any coffee from her......sorry just some cancer humor there.  All kidding aside, she helped me get through and is a brilliant research doctor for cancer.  I wish her peace.  I even named my chicken, Maria, after her cause she and the chicken are Columbian.  

I sent her this picture after I finished treatments, and rang the bell to thank her for helping me beat breast cancer. Don't know if she ever got it.  Never talked to her again. 

There are many of you who helped me beat it.

The one report I was hoping to reverse, but sort of expected was my bone loss.  It came down in numbers more, which means I go on Fosomax for a couple years.  I know I might have been able to help this number more if my self care had been more consistent and if I had taken it more seriously.  I am a slacker in self care sometimes, so not surprised at this number.  I will be on oral chemo for about another year and a half and that is what causes the bone loss.  This medication stays in your body forever, so I am glad I only have to be on it for couple years.

Then I will go off all meds except probably heart meds.  Letting go of these meds is also a trust factor for me.  

This is like letting go of a security blanket and stepping out into the unknown unclothed....

At that point, self care will need to be at its all time high and on point to maintain a certain level of healthy living.  No more relying on the meds to do all the work......I have to be, get and remain involved.  Luckily I have already started so the learning curve will not be too great.  Just the obedience part.  

I am relieved and overjoyed with this report. Thankful to my Creator for always being by my side.  Thanks to you reading this,  for your love, prayers and constant friendship through this process and journey.  What a ride it has been.

Get involved with your own self care journey. Never give up.   
Lets keep each other accountable and lift each other up in our thoughts and prayers. 

Live this life, you have been given, together, taking pleasure in that gift each day.  

Here's to another year!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Love, God

It's been awhile.  Sorry y'all.
So about 10 years ago, maybe not that long,  I met a sweet friend who shared with me and everyone this idea of Valentines From God, in her book.  I was a photography major in college, so it sparked my interest.  Her photos were about finding hearts in nature, or places unexpected and seeing them as love messages from God. Then I started seeing them everywhere.  I started photographing them also finding new ways with lighting, filters and text to capture the hearts.  I was finding them in streets, plants, clouds, dirt, rocks, cactus, water, leaves and then some unexpected places like peoples hair, a bandaid, freckles and even deer poop.  So I began to focus on the message.

Doing a collection of photographs about a particular subject that won't let go of you is like an impostor, I had no choice, they wouldn't let go of my heart.  I was compelled to photograph them.  It was like I couldn't pass one up or leave it there unnoticed when in fact I had noticed it.  So thus the quest began.  When I submitted to its yearning to notice and find, then it was all I saw.

HEARTS were popping up EVERYWHERE.  So I thought more about their message, my message, a message, The Message and what God was opening my eyes to.  His Love surrounds us, daily. That's what I felt like God was speaking to me.  Especially through cancer treatments.  He was showing me, assuring me, blessing me, walking with me every step of the way by showing me these hearts everywhere.  And I mean everywhere.  And they always seem to cross my path at a pivotal time when I needed to see them.  Like a cheering squad almost.  So I kept photographing them.  I created a little booklet through Apple and showed it to my friend who wrote the original VFG, weeping with excitement.  She got big tears in her eyes and Praised God for showing His Love to me.  I knew I could not name my book the same, so I began to pray about the title or name for the collection.  Knowing the value now with branding, social media etc I presented it in prayer.  I began to ponder the thought of what if I were to get a love message from God.  It made me think how does someone sign a love message to another?  They usually sign it Love, and then their name..........and since I was so convicted and sure that these hearts definitely were from God with divine placement and timing the right thing to do was to name them Love, God Photos.
Again like a love message from God saying,
"Here you go Barbara, I love you! 
Love, God."

I actually can see two maybe even three.  Can you?
Today my neighbor captured two photographs of me and my grand-daughter walking around the limestone rock circle at our home.  I joined her on her walk.  It was a nice day as you can see and good to be outside.  So,  I followed her around, and around, then she followed me or I would circle around and meet her and we would laugh.  She jumped off the big rocks and climbed up onto them as if it was nothing.  It was everything God designed and had given me in my heart, soul, and mind of what I thought it would be like to have grandchildren playing in my backyard.  As I walked my yard as part of my treatment therapy, picking up mostly rocks and sticks, lifting them over my head when I could, doing gardening and light yard chores, all the while I was visualizing each space.  In those basic acts of necessity, play and daily living God gave me pictures in my head of what the backyard was or could look like with what we already had on the property.  An old tree house is in the back left corner and a shed sits in the back right.  So, I saw this circle around this group of trees that was sort of separated from the batch of trees we have closer to the house.  Living in Colorado for ten years I knew how much fun our girls had and other kids who came to visit climbing on big rocks.
I wanted my grandkids to experience the same.
My sweet neighbor came over to the fence and as we were talking she took our picture as we were walking round and round.  The lighting is amazing and revealed to me what I call an accidental Love, God.  You can see it in the shadows of the trees, on the ground and upside-down.  The beams of light all around us are pretty spectacular too.  

Do you see what I see? 

She later sent me the photos and thanked me for letting her son come over to play with my grand daughter.
Here is the text conversation we had about it.........

Like I said, I feel blessed.  Flat blessed.  His Love is all encompassing, all knowing and all forgiving. He opened the eyes of my heart and continues to do so everyday with these hearts.  Now I have a gazillion photographs and have made some other booklets.  I made some small books by SocialPS or Social Print Studio and I love them.

I've thought about chronicling them by year.  The little magnetic books are great little gifts just as a reminder to look up, thank God, and be blessed.  
So wandering my backyard I began to think about the children who might come and play there.  Thanks to my neighbor who helped this vision come to fruition. It really was a vision from the Lord.  There's not other word for it.  I knew God had something special in the photos I was taking, so I started a Facebook page called Love, God Photos,  so I could post some of the pictures with captions and whatnot, get some feedback and let others began seeing them and sending them or tagging the photos.  I don't know how long this journey of photographing them will go on, but I hope forever.  I love finding them. I love that they find me.   I would love to see them on canvas, big or published more.  More so that others can start seeing His Love all around them.  I am so grateful for these photos.  I will cherish them always and hope you will too.
So there you have it.  Love, God beginnings, current status and future plans.