“What are you going to do with yourself now?” (umm… errr.. uuhhhh)

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On a regular basis, now that my youngest is in school three days a week,  and it seems to many that my cancer journey is behind me, what seems to come to most people’s mind to ask is,

“What are you going to do with yourself now?” (Normally asked with witty banter, winks and pats on my back before, during, and after, while I take a deep breath and reply….)

“EVERYTHING! All the things I haven’t done in the past 13 years of parenting.  I have a lot of laundry. ” (Insert more witty banter and laughter before I saunter off thinking of all the other things that are included on that list of my still HAVE TOs like monthly infusions, monthly injections, weekly blood draws and the never ending doc appointments (sometimes same docs, sometimes new specialists…),  normal mom-stuff like grocery shopping, cooking, and laundry… laundry… LAUNDRY, and seeking and carrying out new adventures in health and work opportunities to quench my thirst for taking care of my family.  My mind REELS with all of the things I want to do right now and all of the things that I haven’t done in so long as this is my first time in a long time that I haven’t been pregnant, nursing, have a toddler at home every day, or at WEEKLY chemo appointments vs. my current monthly maintenance infusion plan.    So many thoughts that sometimes,  I get nowhere.  And honestly,  I don’t know where to start first.  So, much like the image up top…. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING… just yet, but

I’VE NEVER FELT SO INSPIRED IN MY LIFE TO LIVE MY LIFE TO ITS FULLEST, TAKE MY LIFE EACH DAY BY STORM, AND LIVE, LOVE, AND LAUGH AS MUCH AS I CAN EACH DAY.

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It occurred to me these past few months that I’ve been in some major grieving and mourning over my old life.  My old body.  My old hair.  My old schedule.  My old routines.  My old NON-MEDICATED, NON-DOC APPOINTMENT NEEDING (although, if I have to go to doc appointments, I happen to have the BEST EVER!!) , NON-SCAN NEEDING, NON-SCAN NEEDING, NON-DAILY HANDING ANY FEARS OF FUTURE RECURRENCES OF CANCER COMING BACK TO ME OR POPPING UP TO MY FAMILY OVER TO GOD EVERY. SINGLE.  MORNING.   ….,   MY OLD ACTIVE SELF THAT COULD DO SO MUCH SO EASILY AND NOT NEED TO FIGHT FOR EVERYTHING.

Honestly,  I’ve been having a pity party and didn’t even realize it.  It’s ok.  I think I’ve needed it.  I’ve been quite the gung-ho positive cheerleader for me, my family, and every one else in the world throughout most of my life, especially the past three years.  I’ve still been waking up each day and actively choosing to fight for every moment and opportunity to seize every day with my family, dance and laugh … and travel with friends and loved ones.  I make the most of everything, no matter how I feel.  Why?  Because… well… to answer the next question on most people’s minds (after the previously mentioned one above):

“You look like you’re sure feeling good.  Do you feel as great as you seem?!”  (asked with big smile and hopeful nodding for a thoroughly positive answer)

Sigh.  Another loaded question that I’ve tossed and turned many of my insomnia-filled nights to answer.  Seems simple.  And yes,  I’m boppin’ around with my kids at the pool, the beach, road tripping’ across the country,  at every school function,  dancing like a fool  and makin’ goofy videos just to lighten everybody’s mood on Facebook and with my husband on Staycations in NOLA.  But after a few very needed conversations this summer with new and old friends who are also “lifers” (a new term I heard for those of us with the indefinite schedule of maintenance infusions or what have you for a life-long disease),  it finally really sunk in.  I ‘ve said it before, but it really hit me.   I don’t have to FEEL GOOD to look and act joyful and seize my day.  Just because you see me on a dance floor or on a beach with a big fat smile on my face, it’s not necessarily because I FEEL oh so good.  Rather, it’s because that activity MAKES me happy.  Being there, doing whatever the crazy thing is that I’m doing, or being with the people I’m with MAKES me FEEL GOOD.

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I could sit on my couch all day and assess all the parts of my body that don’t feel the same anymore, and may never feel quite the same again.  I will surely do EVERYTHING IN MY POWER to find my healthiest self again and to stay active.  However,  no matter how I feel,  I have to look at each day like I did with each part of my treatment and ask myself a few questions:

  • What’s my treatment plan for ME today?
  • What do I want more than anything today?
  • What do I want to fight for today?
  • Is that going to be worth it at the end of the day to have gotten out there and seized it?

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The truth is, I have NO DESIRE to every have to go through all the aggressive chemo treatments, radiation, and surgeries again,  but when I was… I had a plan.  It was like I had been drafted for a war to be soldier when I’d never asked to be in it.   But, it turned out that I was a damn good fighter.  I happen to be the soldier you’d want on the front lines.   It’s odd for me to say something so confidently about myself.  But,  when I’m fighting like that,  I found a strength inside me that I had never known before.  I found a confidence, a freedom, and a trust in GOD that I had never been able to surrender to before.  I felt unstoppable.  When I was sent home from my war to my current battlefield with my “maintenance plan” that now currently keeps a busy schedule but doesn’t have nearly the same daunting fighting needs as before… I have felt a little lost.  I’m like a soldier, but not really.  I’m doing boot camp over and over again on an army base but not at war, even though I’ve been to war twice, and although I hate being there…. it’s all I really know how to do now.  It’s what I feel best at.  So weird.

When they slapped that big “FOREVER” stamp on my file and said I’d never get remission,  but told me that it’s ok.  I gotta be so grateful because this allows me to live my normal life, just with “invisible cancer” (such a weird phrase) that we keep at bay with my monthly infusions and injections to help prevent my high possibility of another recurrence after having stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.  Ummmmm… that doesn’t sound normal?

Thus began my pity party.   But as I’ve been so surrounded and immersed in this cancer world,  I see how grateful I am to have this life long plan.  I am a LIFER.  Key word being LIFE.  They’ve given me an option to stay in my fight.  And now an opportunity to take back my life as I’ve come to know it now and seek new adventures in health, work, my new schedule with no kids at home a few days a week, and all the things I  haven’t done in so long.

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So, I may not know exactly what my TREATMENT plan is for my whole life.  They  say forever, but that’s really all relative.  Because they don’t know about the dude that I’m praying for.  I keep my HOPE high in imagining a dorky little guy that is crazy smart, lives in his mom’s basement, and has his very own laboratory down there.  While he eats his mom’s meatloaf,  He works hard on my FOREVER cure that WILL GIVE ME TOTAL REMISSION.  They have told me it own’t happen.  But I say,  that NO ONE KNOWS THE FUTURE.  We can only live in the present.  We can only know about today.  And today,  no matter how I’m feeling… I’m fighting to LIVE MY LIFE AS BEST AS I CAN.

Ya know what, just as we came into this world,  we all must leave this world one day, too.  It’s no big secret.  And when I do.  I hope I leave this world LAUGHING.  (And if I could add surrounded by my fave people and family on a dance floor, that’d be reeeeeally awesome, too! )

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When we cast our cares upon the LORD, as I often bring up in PHILIPPIANS 4:6-7,  I feel the Marley song come on, “Every little thing’s gonna be alright.”  Why?  Not because I think everything is owed to me that I planned.   My life is not going as I planned.  I had to get over that, in fact, I ask you all to pray for me as I daily hand it over to God and work on getting OVER IT.   Whether we live out lives exactly as we thought,  or if our lives are taken away from us in one way or another.  If we hand it all to the BIG GUY,  it really will BE ALRIGHT.  He sees and knows waaaaayyy more than we do.  Thank God!  (pun intended!)

Although I may not know what in the world I’m doing,  HE DOES.  I’m so glad the buck doesn’t stop with me.  Or else me, and my 5 kiddos sure wouldn’t be here.  Heck,  I have a hard time making a decision at a restaurant with a big menu.  I need help.  And He’s never let me down, even when I don’t stop to notice he’s there.

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I’ll leave ya with this one… it  was in a reading at church recently.  I’ll summarize in my best BUNA style.

Elijah went out to the mount tops and stepped out to ask for God to show him a sign that He was there.  To speak to him.  He listened for a crash of thunder, a flash of lighting,  some major sign… but after a while,  all he heard was a soft whisper of wind from inside his cave.  That’s when he realized that God was in the whisper.  

It was explained to me that we can only hear a whisper from someone who is very near.  If we quiet all of our pity parties, stop searching for the HUGE signs/wonders/miracles,  we can see/hear/feel God in the every day whispers right near us.    I may have had to go through cancer twice.  I may not get a full remission.  I may have to do this for a long time.  But,  God has taken care of me and my family all along the way.  EVERY LITTLE THING HAS BEEN ALRIGHT.  It hasn’t been the miracle that we looked for.  But the love that we’ve felt, the doctors that we’ve found,  the community that has supported us has been out of this world.  It’s as if someone bigger (out of this world) has been whispering in our ears all along.  He’s with us.  And although my current treatment can feel monotonous and confusing… He hasn’t stopped working and doing big things in us.  I can see now that He’s giving me opportunities now to seize the day even more than I could before and is BLESSING me with a maintenance plan that allows me to fight for the life that I so desperately want to live.  I pray to dance on the dance floors of my children’s wedding receptions (it’s a long way off, but I WANT that… I BEG Him for that every day), But in the meantime, I enjoy the little things and soak up all that I can TODAY.

God is whispering in my ear to live for TODAY.  Take today by storm.  Hug my loved ones and thank HIM that I woke up to another gorgeous day.  I am allowed to grieve, I am allowed to fuss,  but even when I’m upset,  I can even thank HIM that I’m here to make the fuss!  Ha!  That’s a tough one.

Y’all I took all my own notes from earlier this summer and took the trips, ATE THE ICE CREAM, and kicked off my shoes.  So much so that my pants don’t fit!  Yikes!  (Add that to my list of things I gotta do!  Fit in the pants.  Working on it)

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It was all so worth it.  I made memories this summer.  I didn’t have to travel to do it, but I did.  I can make memories right here, and that what I’m doing now.  This is my FIGHT BLOG… and (cheesy, I know) but I’m taking back my life.

Enjoy yours.  Live TODAY.

And thank you for keeping me and my family always in your prayers.  It’s a two-way street,  you pray for me… I pray for you.  Deal?

God bless you all!

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Someone’s Listening: Hearing God in the Quiet of My Thoughts, Prayers, and Writing…

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As much as I like to jibber-jabber, my deepest thoughts and ramblings always seem to come together best when I write it down.  Much of my writing is personal, between me and God.  Every now and then, I share what I write beyond my little bond with the Big Guy upstairs.

Lately, I’ve had a major case of writer’s block.

I’m not just talking about my posts here on my blog.  I mean a contagious case of writer’s block that spilled over into my prayer and journal time, too.  Quite honestly, my thoughts have been so scattered that I just haven’t known what to say.

So even I, a girl with a pretty big mouth, have been oddly quiet.  Each morning, I sneak down stairs (creeping to just the right spot on every other step to avoid the noisy steps that wake whole house) to read a morning devotional or two and follow it up with a good long silence, listening for God.

Now, there’s a difference between hearing and listening.  At least, this is the way I used to explain it when I taught elementary school.  When you hear, your voice is quiet, your ears are open and you can repeat back the sounds in the air.  But, when you listen…  not only is your mouth quiet and your ears open, but your mind is focused on what you’re hearing.  You’re actively engaged to the voices and sounds around you.

That’s the thing.  I’ve been praying an awful lot.  I’ve been talking less and wanting to hear  God; yet, I haven’t been engaged in what He really had to say.  My thoughts were still wandering into what could be, should be, and might be… and frankly, it’s kept me 100% distracted and deaf to anything He’s had to really tell me.

As many of you know, I’m an incredibly positive person, always looking for the silver lining and hoping to the joy and laughter to my kiddos and anyone else I meet.  I can turn into the Stewart Smalley (SNL character) of life.  I like it that way.

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Yet even Stewart Smalley has bad days.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that lately, I’ve been so scattered in my thoughts that I’ve morphed in and out of a schizophrenic hodge podge of SNL personalities.   Mostly on account of my being just plain TIRED.

I’ve been exhausted from the current chemo that I’m on (just completed round 4) and all of its side effects, generally wiped from still recovering physically from the last time I went through all of this, and emotionally wiped from the ups and downs of tests and scans and holding my breath, waiting for good reports.  Every time I seem to get a handle on combatting one physical challenge, it seems like a new side effect seems to be lurking around the corner in the next round.

(insert next SNL character change…)

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With each round, I’ve been putting all of my physical strength and focus in to staying involved with my kids,  throwing everything I’ve got into having fun with my family in all of our holiday traditions and celebrating,  being present to my friends who need a listening ear or friend to be there in support and prayers, and rally anyone and everyone to help in spreading HOPE, JOY, LOVE, & LAUGHTER through our non-profit: BUNA’S HOPE (Which I can’t wait to update you on.  It’s been incredible to watch the community rally, see over 100 “Buna Boxes” packed and sent out to families in need, and raise funds for further blessings!).

But this gal has been flip floppin’ back and forth, in my mind, through all the possibilities of what could be if maybe my treatment wasn’t working quite as well as we’d hoped for.  I’ve been bracing myself to handle any results from the next PET scan.

Frankly,  it’s left me feeling heavy hearted.  That usual “pep in my step” has only been around for my friends and family. For me, on my own,  I’ve been dragging my feet in my prayers like a real “Debbie Downer.”

(cue next of my sketch comedy personality switches)

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What a drag!

Even I’ve been rolling my eyes at my own inner voice.

So finally, as Advent began just recently,  I told my voice to “can it” as best as I could and remembered the difference between hearing  and  listening.   I’ve gotten pretty sick of hearing my Debbie Downer what if’s and was ready to engage in listening  to God’s voice instead.  And I’m pretty darn sure that God was relieved.   I haven’t exactly been a party!

It’s been time to put away the shoulda, woulda, coulda’s and engage in active, unceasing, prayer.   If I do say so myself,  I’m pretty good at battling all the physical stuff, putting my best foot forward and keeping my spirits up to enjoy my family and friends… but my spiritual battle techniques have needed a little work.  But whatever I’ve had to give, I’ve recently asked God to take (for what it’s worth) in an offering for whatever way He could bless me in return, however He wanted to do it.  It was time to live in the moment in prayer.

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The most reassuring part of it all, has been that I have had no doubt in my mind that I’ve not been alone in my prayers.

So we’ve prayed.

And we’ve listened.  

And we’ve prayed some more.

Well guess what!

SOMEONE’S BEEN LISTENING.

That same SOMEONE has been answering prayers, and just this week, it was time for me to  hear his answer.

On Monday morning I had a PET scan to see where we were with treatment.  Just a few weeks prior, I’d had a CT scan that showed some improvement  in my lungs and chest wall, but nothing yet in my liver.  Now, while in the middle of what has felt like my toughest round, physically and emotionally, I was scanned again.  So much has been riding on this scan for me.

Yesterday, on Tuesday, I got a text from my fave pirate oncologist and friend (Dr.Jay Saux) saying that there was “DRAMATIC POSITIVE CHANGE!!!”  

What?!?!  Are you kidding me?!  Not just a little change, but DRAMATIC!  This whole chemo thing isn’t just throwing a rock in the ocean.  We’re making waves!  We’re on the right path.  It’s making a difference.

I received the text while at a red light and stopped in shock, horns a blain’ behind me to start driving again.  I put the phone down and quickly found a parking lot to pull over and process what I just read.

He went on to say how incredibly happy he was for us and that this was clearly evidence of the power of our “midnight prayers around the Christmas tree! So don’t stop now.”  

No worries, Doc!  No way we’re stopping now.  Never!

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So there you have it.  After an forever long case of writer’s block, I’m back to pray, write , and ramble again.  in fact, my hubbie even gave me an early Christmas present of a brand spankin’ new laptop to keep my blog-journaling alive.  Even if I keep some of my rambling posts unpublished between me and God,  I’m sorting out my thoughts again.

Yet now, I’m pausing between monologues to actively listen and engage with God, giving every last paragraph, sentence and word to Him to sort out and edit.  I don’t think I really realized that He actually followed my blog.  He’s been reading and He’s been listening.  He’s actively engaged in my life and He knows every one of my deepest desires, concerns, and random jumbled plans to counter attack the what if scenarios in my brain.

He knows the physical and spiritual battle at hand and He’s already on top of it.

God’s sooooooo got this.

Sometimes I just need to be reminded when He sings those Marley songs in my ears… “Every little thing is gonna be alright.”   He means it.

No matter how many battles I have to fight, no matter how much longer our fight goes on, I have faith that we will WIN THE WAR.    I know it’s not even close to being over yet, but I just heard the pep talk that I needed to get back out on the battle field and

KICK THE HELL OUT OF CANCER’S BUTT! 

Cancer, you’ve gone and messed with the wrong girl.

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And just as we won our last war, we’re reinforcing that armor now.  Just as I gear up with healthy foods, medicines, oils, etc. as my armor and shield,

I’ll never put prayer down as my sword.

God bless you all and thank you for praying UNCEASINGLY with me.   Someone is listening.  Someone is answering. Someone is asking that we DON’T STOP NOW.

I can never THANK YOU enough.

#ForeverGrateful

#GodsGotThis

#IWillRise

#TakeThatCancer

#EveryLittleThingsGonnaBeAlright

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