Coffee Grinds, Rosary Beads… And Chemo

 

bird and rosaryAlarm goes off at 5:45 am. Head pops off the pillow…  the military bugle is sounding, soldier!  Time to rally the troops, get the 4 school kids up, uniforms on, breakfast made, lunches packed, find their shoes, put the dog out, let the dog in, get the baby out of the crib (& changed and fed), brush everyone’s hair (…and pull it up with hair spray because, well, “A spray a day, keeps the lice away!”), write the little notes on their napkins for their lunches :), Blah, Blah, Blah,  (Deep breath – check pulse)… Aaaand it’s only now just 7am and time to hurry in to the car for morning carpool.  But, oh, wait, MOM’s still not dressed!  Oh well, sunglasses can cover that, no one has to see the p.j. pants, right? Hoodie sweatshirt on, and… GO!  (Thank God, my husband spoils me by helping out with morning drop off as much as possible on his way to work, so his wife can avoid public embarrassment of holey, mismatched pajamas and ridiculous under eye circles disguised by celebrity style super-fly sunglasses!)  Anywho, at 7am, that’s just the first hour of a mom’s morning.  Especially, a mom of 5 kiddos under the age of 10.  Just an hour or so later, (after I’ve made it home to throw some yoga pants on and workout top to motivate me to grab a workout at some point, if I don’t just count all my errands and laundry up and down my 2 story as my “gym”), I head to the grocery with the baby and am constantly asked, How do I do it?  Funny question, really.  How do any of us moms do it?  My response lies in the title of an article I recently had published in our local New Orleans Catholic newspaper.

The Clarion Herald: Coffee Grinds & Rosary Beads

Although, this year, it needs a little update.  As of this July, after a full summer of swimming, puppy training, and playing, playing, playing with my full house of crazies, I was diagnosed with an aggressive and complicated form of breast cancer, STAGE 3A HER2+, PR+, E+, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma with Tumors in the Lymph nodes. It came as quite a blast to my family;however, somehow I just knew.  God had been preparing my heart for quite sometime for this.  I felt it in my gut and just didn’t know when, and didn’t know how. I can’t explain it.  But now I know, and have peace in having an answer.  What’s more, I have the best team of doctors on the planet!

So now, everyone’s question of “How do I do it?”, seems far more legitimate.  How will I take care of my kids?  Who will take care of my kids?  Who knows about all the little things that I do?  Who really realizes ALL of the LITTLE things that a mother really does to make the world go around?  At least, that’s the question that kept pounding, and always has pounded through my head when I’ve felt overwhelmed, tired, unappreciated or even prideful about how much I do All. DAY. LONG.  Let’s face it,  a mother’s job is 24-7, right?  I gave up sleep 10 years ago!  (Hence the coffee grinds!)

Funny how these questions far outweighed any questions that I had about my diagnosis.  Because frankly, as I’ve heard so many other mammas when facing a life challenge, “We ain’t got time for dat!”  So My husband and I drove straight to the adoration chapel from the Women’s Pavillion (where I received my diagnosis just minutes before) and went to talk to the Big Guy about it all.  I first started with all my kid-questions.  Jotted every one of them down on the little slips of paper used for prayer intentions, planning to tuck them into the big urn where we ritually put our concerns, offering them up to the Heavens.  Then it hit me.  God’s got this!  He already thought of all my questions.  Why?  Because these 5 kids that I “juggled” all summer, that I feed and clothe and prepare for school each morning, etc., etc, etc., aren’t mine at all.  They are on loan to me from HIM.  God has given me the honor of entrusting them to me while they are here, but they were HIS first!  Don’t ya think, He knows more than I do and that He’s looking out for them.  And He actually loves them more than me.  I can barely even say that, because my heart could explode with how much I love my family.  Really, they’re ridiculously cute and amazingly unique.  Aren’t all of our kids amazing?  But seriously, mine are the best!  Ha ha ha! 😉  Who am I to think that I’m the only one who can take care of these guys?  I mean, don’t get me wrong,  there’s certain things that will always feel the best to them when they see that their mommy did it, but I’m not the only one that is capable.  It’s a tough pill to swallow.  But it’s true.  I had to let go.  I had to crumble that paper of all of my questions for God, as if I needed to micro-manage the Lord, and throw it away.  Instead, what He needed me to do (what I needed to do) was to write on that little slip of paper these words:

“I give you my body,  I give you my family, I GIVE YOU MY CHILDREN.  I surrender it ALL to you.  Your will be done.”

I think I may need to write that each and every day.  It’s a doozy, but It’s the real deal.  My life, my children’s life, aren’t mine at all.  I’m sooo not in charge.  Thank God.  I’m so not afraid to admit that I’m a total spaz and a horrible decision maker!  I’m so glad that the buck doesn’t stop with me!  When people ask me tips on child rearing, as if I’m some kind of Yoda, I’m like, “Oh, don’t ask me.  I have no idea what I’m doing!  Thankfully, God does and He knows I’m a spaz.  So it’s all coffee grinds and rosary beads for me!  Ha ha!”  It’s true!  Motherhood has been the best marine training for my new battle with cancer.  People act like I’m being so brave or some kind of a positive hero.  But, I assure you that you mammas out there would act the same.  When our kids all get the flu and we are just as sick, we press on cleaning up after them, kissing their feverish foreheads and throwing an icepack on ours at the end if we can maybe get a wink of sleep after everyone else has crashed (that is, before the next round of sickies wake up during the night for you to rally and go be the all night nurse again!). We don’t have time for little things like cancer.  In the grand scheme, it’s just a little thing!

As I said in my email to my children’s teachers,  God’s been singin’ to me and comforting me with Bob Marley. Yup, weird, I know, but apparently God is cooler than cool and sings rasta!  “DON’T WORRY, ABOUT A ‘TING, ‘CUZ EVERY LITTLE ‘TING IS GONNA BE ALRIGHT!”  And it is.  As a mom,  I’ve become a warrior, but behind the scenes.  It may not be glamorous, but the whole “changing the world one diaper at a time” kinda thing has been a big part of my life.  We’ve had a lot of diapers.  Still do.  But I gotta keep praising God in the little things.  It’s that or I’ll lose my mind at times (which I do… and hey, a little glass of wine or two here and there never hurt anybody. Jesus did turn water into wine for his first miracle, right? And his mama told him to do it! ) I digress…  Soooo on the other hand, on the day to day, I strive to be more like St.Therese of Lisieux. Like her,  I can evangelize the world in my little ways.    St.Therese of Lisieux was little, but she believed in a God that was BIG and He did great things through her in all of the little things and her little prayers. Her little, but her constant prayers.

I can’t be afraid of the BIG diagnosis and the BIG long journey of my battle ahead.  God lives not in the future, but in the present.  So I will live in today and what the docs have asked of me today.  Don’t look forward, don’t look back. One step at a time.  Each day is a new day, and each day I have the opportunity to take this as just that.   This cancer is an opportunity for a HUGE blessing.  It’s an opportunity that each and every one of my friends, family, and any one that might read this blog could start to pray.  If everyone just said one prayer, then that’s the miracle.  That’s the healing.  I know in my heart of hearts that I’ll be healed at the end of all this through a full treatment of chemotherapy, mastectomy, radiation, and reconstruction.  But the miracle that everyone keeps praying for has already occurred and will continue if each person that hears my story says at least one prayer.  That will make my whole “situation” be worth every moment.  I welcome it, I thank God for it.  Truly.  I thank God for all of you.

Until then,  I’ll be continuing with my same old “coffee grinds and rosary beads” approach (Although coffee tastes yucky since treatment, sooooo, maybe chamomile and rosary beads??? ).  I just will add some chemo on the side.  No big whoop.  Oh! And, of course, I’ll be playin’ my Marley in the background, morning, noon, and night.

“This is my message to you-u-u..” – Bob Marley

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36 thoughts on “Coffee Grinds, Rosary Beads… And Chemo

  1. Elise I am proud to call you family. You are amazing and strong through this journey. I can’t wait to see the other side for you. Keep the chin up and know we got your back.

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  2. Way to go, girlie! You did it! Your first blog post on your new “online home” where you can share your journey with us. And you know what I read? I read a conversation with Elise, through and through. You wrote just like you talk and I love that. Thank you! I love you, Buna! Love, SMAM 😉

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  3. You are right, Elise! Our children are on loan to us and belong to Him. I just loved reading your blog! But, I would disagree when you say you aren’t a hero. You are so hero material. The Lord is using you to build up the faith of so many people, helping us all remember who is really in charge. Through this trying time you are still trying to encourage other Moms too. That’s awesome! Hmmm…patron saint of the yoga pant wearing modern mom in the making?! Could be! Love you Elise and so enjoyed sharing pool space with you and your cutie pies at Franco’s over the summer!

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    • not so sure I’m saint worthy, but we’re all striving right? we could all use the intercessions of a yoga pant wearing mom though. so that one’s not taken? i say we all take on the challenge for that saintly prize. yoga pants in heaven for all! 🙂

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  5. Go you! Thanks for celebrating all that mamas do. You are one awesome example and you will kick cancer’s butt for sure!
    Your family’s all behind you… Go team!

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  6. Your heart is unbelievable. From the bottom of mine, THANK YOU for sharing your thoughts, your fears, your trust, with us. Thank you for sharing these things with ME. I feel humbled and honored to follow you on this journey. Thank you for being such a beautiful example of truly “walking the walk” and living in the image of our mother and Her Son. You inspire me. Thank you for being great! 🙂 I will be praying for you.

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  7. Beautiful. Many heartfelt prayers for you. I am struggling with one of my children now, and I truly needed the reminder that God loves him more than I do. The Big Guy Upstairs has this! You surely evangelized to me this morning in St. Therese’s little way. God bless, and I look forward to reading your blog.

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  8. In the summer of 2007 I was leaving a friends house, Mirjana the visionary of Medjugorje. She has often told me that God does not have privileged children, just children. I was the mother of three relatively young children 16, 14 and 9, and the wife of the biggest kid. I knew in my heart that I was leaving to carry a heavy cross and I was accepting. I just didn’t know what that cross would be. Well we left Medjugorje and met up with some family in Rome. I had left dinner early with my youngest and headed back because we were both tired. It was a different kind of tired, one I am sure you know. While in the shower in Rome I found the lump. I dutifully reminded God that my cross could not be Breast Cancer as I had never had a questionable mammogram and I had always had them. There was no history of Breast Cancer in my family. I was thin and healthy. My most recent mammogram was only six months old. So really? But in my heart of hearts, I knew. I knew that this is what was going to be my cross but it ended up being the easiest cross of all. I returned to NO to be diagnosed with Stage 2 Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma. I was telling the friend of mine doing the mammogram, its there, find it and lets move. She had tears in her eyes as she handed my my films and sent me on my way. I am a 7 year survivor now! In that same year, my daughter got diagnosed with epilepsy, my 9 year old got diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis-something not often seen in children, even our dog got sick. I remember Doctor’s calling us the Katrina affect. As I look back, my family grew and healed through love and prayer. I know that your family will too. I don’t know you but I know a little about your fight. You and your family will remain in my prayers. I am leading another pilgrimage this October to Medjugorje. I will carry you all in my heart and prayers. God is bigger than all things in this world, including cancer! May you feel the blessings of many.
    Terri

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    • praise God for the way He has moved in you and your family. You spit right in cancer’s face and never let it win. Way to go, You. Way to go, God. Thanks for cheering me on and being part of my team too. I just know God will bless my family through all of this, too. Thank you for sharing

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  9. Elise, I am so glad to get to your blog through my new Facebook friend ,Christine. I have had a few small updates from Nila, but Charlie and I kept thinking that we would run into you or your Mom, since we heard the news. Just know that we ARE
    praying as you request. In all things, love, Jane

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  10. Elise,
    Hi, I am Joan Boyer. We taught at Christ Episcopal long ago. You are a beautiful person of God, and I am so thankful for your journal entry. It reminds me me to continue to surrender daily, surrender my will to our faithful God’s Will. Like your family, our Lord change our lives through a journey with cancer. I did not or do not have cancer, but our son, Spencer, was diagnosed with cancer during our evacuation of Katrina nine years ago. I too felt in my heart for a long time before his diagnosis that God was preparing me for something like this. I did not know what or who, but I knew in my heart someone and something big. When Spencer was first diagnosed, I had to move with him several states away for treatment and my husband, Ray, had to move to Lafayette to work because their local office was damaged from the hurricane. Right away we both had surrendered to God all of our children, Spencer to God’s healing, and Hannah and John Paul to the care of others. Well, God did NOT fail! He placed Spencer with a fantastic team of doctors and nurses that l believed their hands and minds were led by God and care takers that rotated care for Hannah and John Paul until Ray could get back home to take care of them. For three months, family and friends took care of them during the week so they could stay in school and Ray would pick them up to on the weekends to join Spencer and I. On one of the first days of arriving to St. Jude, I read a poem on the door of the triage office door. It was titled, GUIDANCE. The poem’s whole meaning led to G-God, U-You and I DANCE with You leading the dance. It led me to the lesson of surrendering to His Will. Daily. The cancer journey, as you know, is very up and down as well as unpredictable for us. But, for God it is very steady and predictable. It is a lesson our family had to revisit and learn often. One day I would say God has this, and days later found myself trying to control it all again through my fears and anxiety. And…..through God and His plan I feel in my heart that was all part of His plan too. He wants us to wake up daily and pray for surrender to Him. He wants to bless us through our surrender. He wants to be His clay to mold. On the day He took Spencer Home to Heaven, I instantly realized that God’s healing for Spencer was quite different than my plans for his healing, but I immediately felt a euphoric peace for Spencer that God’s Plan for Spencer and our family was being fulfilled. It was being laid out right in front of my eyes. The peace I feel is only through God and there are some that don’t understand it. The cross you are facing and the crosses your family is facing are very blessed crosses. In Spencer’s suffering, God laid a message on Ray’s heart that he shares often. The message was “Through your son’s cross, My Son’s cross, and through My Son’s suffering, your son’s suffering. The cross is bitter sweet, but there is such BEAUTY in the cross. Jesus is really carrying the cross and allowing us to be a part of Him. What beauty through Him. Getting back to surrendering, I recently read a quote from blessed Mother Theresa, and I hope I repeat it with justices, “I was not called by God to be successful. I was called by God to be faithful.” You and your family are an inspiration to all of us to be faithful. Please remember that when times get hard on this journey that it is God’s plan and He will always use the pain for good through our surrendering to Him.
    If you all need ANYTHING, please let our family help!!!! We would love to open our hearts to you and your family on this new and blessed journey.

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    • Joan,
      I’m sooo glad that you found my blog and connected with me again. I remember hearing all about the battle your family was facing during that time and stormed Heaven for you all every moment. Sr.Briege McKenna is a spiritual warrior and known for many prayers of healing all over the world. She never asks God for Him to heal anyone. She simply prays for God’s will. God clearly has given you that “peace and grace that transcends human understanding”(Phillippians 4:6-7). I’m so very sorry for your loss in Spencer. He had a smile to light up a room with a twinkle in his eye that I wont’ forget. No one will. But we all gained one powerful little intercessor up there in him. If you don’t mind, I will be giving a shout out to him daily. I’m pretty sure he has some connections with the Big Guy upstairs.
      I pray that my family can continue to cherish that beauty in the cross that we are faced with, as you mentioned. When my husband and I give talks on our marriage retreats that we hold, I mention the beauty of the cross. If we only see the pain and suffering, we lose its purpose. Christ’s purpose here was the resurrection. That’s the glory of the cross. I know we will resurrect from this a stronger family, however that may look in God’s plan. Thank you for confirming that for me and for sharing with me.
      Please tell Hannah hello for me and please, please, keep the prayers flowing. For my whole family. We’ll take every one we can get.

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  11. We have so wanted to let you know that we are praying for you and all your family. I know our local prayer warriors have you and family in daily prayer requests and I have asked all of my family to “pester” God on your behalf. I KNOW how strong your faith is and I know that God is in control. I have been told that the best way to keep up with your progres is through Facebook so we will all be following you on your journey. Our Blessed Mother will be hearing from me daily also. All of our love and prayers for strength as you continue on this journey. My love to your mom and all of you. Fonddly, JudyGreene

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  12. I work with Amanda Fraisse & the entire staff at Northlake Christian School are praying for you & your precious family. You’re right, Gods’ got this!!!! He remains faithful no matter the outcome. Praying that you feel Him carrying you daily as you walk this walk.

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  13. Thank you for sharing your story with all of us. Will see Sr. Dulce on Tuesday at Magnificat and ask for prayers for you and your family. You and Jason are two beautiful people. My husband and I had the privilege of being on a retreat at the Abbey with both of you with Fr. Thomas (he is missed). Will remember you, Jason, and your beautiful children in my daily prayers.

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    • Thank you for adding us to your prayers. Please, remember to pray for my whole family, not just me. My husband and my children are going through this as well. I’m so very grateful. Thank you again, from the bottom of my mommy heart!

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  14. Wow dude your strength, spirit and outlook are amazing! I stumbled upon your blog my accident? Or did I…… Anyway nothing is coincidental in life and I will pray for your healing❤️ I needed some perspective and you gave me some so I wanted to say thank you!

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    • There are no accidents w this stuff. Hope it can serve you well or you can pass it along. Gives purpose to it all. God is at work, like it or not. I believe that. Thx for reading, if only for this once. Peace

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  15. Pingback: Fighting the Fight…My Journey | Team Buna

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