“Why I am Thankful”

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This past week-end, we celebrated Thanksgiving here in Canada, and did we ever celebrate! It was a terrific weekend, with delicious turkey dinner made by generous friends, a beautiful hike, and good times! We have so much to be thankful for, don’t we!

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Our minister asked me to speak for a few minutes at church on “Why I am Thankful”. I was grateful for the opportunity, and glad to do it! I don’t have the exact words, but here is a draft version in case you’re interested.

I’m not a naturally thankful person. When I was a kid, I didn’t argue much with my Mom, but I remember many disagreements about thank you notes. I never wanted to write them. I didn’t see the point. Saying thank you never came naturally to me, and I guess that’s not surprising because by nature I’m a pretty proud and selfish person.

When I was in High School, I met a few people who were different. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was something about them that set them apart from other classmates. One day, during an assembly, they were up on stage inviting us all to the Christian club. I was intrigued. I wanted to know more about Christianity.

I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. I tried going to church a bunch of times with friends, but I never really understood what Christianity or church was about.

Those Christians at my High School got me curious. I started reading the Bible. I started in the gospel of John. Jesus amazed me! He was like no one I’d ever imagined, and I wanted to know more.

I learned that God loved me unconditionally. There’s a verse in Hebrews 13 that jumped off the page at me. God promises to never ever leave us, nor never ever forsake us. That’s powerful presence, powerful love.

I knew I could never be good enough to deserve that kind of love, but the amazing thing was that God didn’t want me to fix myself before I became a Christian. Good thing, because all my efforts at that were obviously futile.

God had a much better plan. Jesus died and rose from the dead, inviting us into abundant life in relationship with God.

When I became a follower of Jesus, my heart began to change and some really good things started growing in me. Like thankfulness.

God commands us to give thanks, so it must be good for us, but sometimes that’s a very hard thing to do. Living on this planet can be … challenging. Sad things happen. We encounter horrible things. It can be easy to fall into the downward spiral of looking at the difficult experiences and not the good gifts. But life is a good gift. Each day is a good gift. If we pay attention, there are many good gifts to give thanks for every day, and giving thanks makes my life a whole lot better.

We need to train ourselves to note and appreciate the good gifts, and to close the loop by giving thanks to the Living God who is the Giver of all Good Gifts. Fortunately, we’re not alone: The Holy Spirit is right with us, teaching us, reminding us, helping us, encouraging us, and cheering us on!

In short, I am thankful because the Living God has changed me, and because He regularly draws my attention to good gifts and helps me to thank Him for them.

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We celebrated Jono’s 49th with a few friends from our street. We are blessed!

I am grateful for you, dear readers, and the ways you encourage us, pray for us, and cheer us on. Thank you!

 

 

 

Thankful for Little Things

Two little updates today, for which I’m giving thanks!

First, my feet have been mostly numb since my IV chemo back in 2013-14, but recently I’ve started occasionally having more feelings in my toes! The other day I could feel sensations between my toes and sometimes I feel under my toes. Yesterday I could feel the coolness of the floor on my baby toes. This might not seem like much, but I’m very grateful. It helps me to balance better, and may help to prevent injury. Plus, I don’t really like feeling like I simply have big blobs at the end of my legs. It’s nice to feel more like I have feet again. Woo hoo!

Second, my CT Scan pre-medication protocol is on holiday this week! To make a long story short, I just learned that I have permission to NOT take prednisone in preparation for my CT Scan tomorrow. This is a little bit risky, since I may be allergic to the contrast dye they give me during my scans. But it looks more likely that I’m not allergic and if that is the case then it would be so good to not have to take huge doses of strong medications unnecessarily. I hate being a whiner, but it is exhausting, and I’m thrilled that I don’t have to go through the whole process of setting my alarm twice tonight to take the meds. Having said that, allergic reactions to this contrast dye can be serious and I’m feeling a bit nervous about that possibility. So, if you’re a praying person, please pray! The allergist and radiologist and I all think it’s worth the very small risk. So I hope it’s a wise choice and that everything will go well tomorrow! If so, I may not have to take prednisone before CT Scans again!

In other news, I may be speaking and/or singing at a couple of fundraising and awareness-raising events about Lung Cancer in November. As always, I’m trying to figure out how much energy I have and where is best to invest it. But November is Lung Cancer Awareness month, so this is definitely worth considering. I’ll let you know more later!

Hope you are all well, and giving thanks for good gifts both big and small!

 

Marathon Weekend

Like many weekends for most of us, this past weekend was a marathon for our family … but what made it different was that my husband actually ran the marathon, and the kids and I volunteered at it!

Jono has run a few marathons before, but this time he ran to raise funds for the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation. Thanks to the generosity of a cheering crowd of supporters, not only did he run a personal best 3:25:29 but he also raised $1725 (so far)! We are happy with his achievements, and so glad that he is recovering well from the run.

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No pressure, but if you want to give, there’s still time: http://ottawacancer.kintera.org/ottawaraceweekend/jono

Speaking of recovery, at the end of each race is the “recovery” area where volunteers give food and drink to the runners. The kids and I volunteered there on Sunday, setting up and handing out yogurt, chocolate milk and bananas. It was a privilege to be part of the team who served 47,000 runners this weekend. So many of the runners expressed gratitude for the volunteers who served in a variety of ways. We were there for about 4 hours, and I am thrilled to report that I was able to complete my shift! I was exhausted afterwards and very stiff, but I also recovered well from my volunteering “marathon”.

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A quick photo with our friend who coordinates volunteers and generously welcomed us to her team. (My daughter was the youngest there.)

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Calm before the storm! It was a privilege to be part of the team who served 47,000 runners this weekend with a smile! Very well organized effort!

The past few months I’ve been deliberately pushing myself harder and harder to try to increase my endurance. Life is a marathon! I’m noticing my stamina has improved and also my ability to bounce back after exerting myself. I’m still not well enough to take on a job, but if this trend continues, I’m very hopeful!

Also on the weekend the kids and I put on a lemonade stand fundraiser for the Cancer Foundation. We surpassed our fundraising goal and raised $225.25! Thank you to all who encouraged our kids and donated!

We’ve been fundraising because I have the energy to, and because we are grateful for the ways the Cancer Foundation has helped our family and many others, through clinical trials, workshops, coaching, classes, etc. I have recommended their cancer coaching to two people this week alone!  The Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation supports people who have been diagnosed with cancer and their families and friends. For more information: http://www.ottawacancer.ca

Now it’s time for a break from fundraising, time to focus on the next chapter, the next segment of our race. I don’t know what’s next, but I’m looking forward to it!

How’s your marathon going? Is it time to take a break from something? Time to dive into a new challenge? Time to keep on keeping on in some rough terrain? Are you running a good race? Looking forward to what’s coming next? I hope you are, and I hope you are surrounded by teammates who cheer for you and support you!

Thank you for cheering us on in our marathon … we all do better with encouragement and support, don’t we!

 

Connecting

We were made for community, for connecting. The people in our community have made a huge difference for us, and not just through the challenges of the past couple of years. We all need people who love us, who are for us, who will help and support us … and to really flourish, we need to love and support others as well!

I’m no longer regularly relying on the generosity of others to help cook meals for our family. Most days I enjoy the opportunity to create something nutritious and delicious! We’ve been eating lots of soups and curries lately! We share great conversation and laughter around the table, and also in the preparation time. My 12yo especially loves to cook with me, and that is one of the great joys of my life! Anytime I get to hang out with my kids, teach them, listen to them, learn with them, laugh, read and pray with them … is a good gift!

The cold weather keeps me inside sometimes, since it can be hard to breathe, but I still get out a bit.

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9yo creating a snow sculpture with a friend 

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Night skating on our backyard rink

 

I continue to wonder what the terrain will be like on the other side of this valley. I am not the same person I used to be, and I’m trying to figure out what my strengths are now, and what I have to offer. Cancer slammed some doors shut on me, but it can’t shut them all, nor can it keep them all closed. I’m glad I’m not travelling this journey alone.

A weekly highlight is our “Women of the Word” group which has been together for six years. We study Scripture, share our lives and pray together. Not only have I learned loads as we’ve journeyed (at a snail’s pace) through Luke, Acts, Micah, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, and Galatians (as well as a number of other passages), but I’ve received more than I could imagine as our hearts have been knit together in love and trust. These women are tremendous, and I am blessed beyond words that we are part of each others’ lives. We could write a book about our experiences together, and another one about the prayers we’ve seen answered.

This past September I started a Bible study for my boys and a couple of their friends. We call it bob sos. I can’t remember exactly what that stands for, but it’s something about the Bible and ice cream sundaes. This group can be challenging: these youth do not have much experience participating in group discussions and I sometimes feel like I’m herding cats! I love it though! These youth ask amazing questions – some of the best I’ve ever heard – and their faces light up many times during each study. What a gift that I get to participate with them and my encouraging co-leader!  My 14yo said, “bob sos is really fun: we get to talk about the Bible with our friends and eat sundaes!” I guess that sums it up!

I continue to live a much more isolated life than I ever had previously. This can be hard for me, social extrovert that I am, but I don’t have the energy to spend as much time with people as I used to. I have been given more opportunities to pray for people, and to grow in learning to pray. This is a privilege, and a responsibility. It is also very encouraging to see prayer answered!

My voice continues to improve … but a long way to go still. Recently I was helping to lead singing at a local church where we know quite a few people, and many came over to tell me they are praying for me. How encouraging! I am so grateful!

Who are “your people”?  In what ways do you live interconnected lives? How intentional are you about growing deeper in community? Who are the people who encourage you, who speak truth in love and help you to grow? How are you encouraging, speaking truth in love and helping others to grow?

Have you tried connecting with God in prayer? How has it been going? Luke 11 tells us that Jesus’ followers asked him to teach them to pray. And he did. Years ago, I read “With Christ in the School of Prayer”. I’m grateful to still be a learner in that good school! Prayer is talking with God. There’s no magic formula, no special language or invitation needed. We are all welcome! Praise God!

It’s not all super-nutritious around here: above is proof of that! Some of this month’s treats are pictured, including happy hot chocolate! (Do you see the smiley face the marshmallows and spoon make in the mug?) We enjoyed crepes with yogurt and fruit for dinner tonight. Happy leap year day!

 

 

From Hill to Hill

When friends near and far are asking how I’m doing and why I haven’t updated the blog, I know it’s time! 🙂 The short summary is: I’m quite well, praise God! Life has been full in many good ways the past couple of months, and computer challenges made it difficult to update the blog. We are so thankful for the generous friend who gave us a new  computer which I have sufficiently figured out and am thrilled to be able to use! (Apparently you can teach an “old dog” new tricks! haha!)

Time and time again I am blown away by the generosity of people! There are so many stories I could tell from the past couple of months, and I hope to at some point. Let me simply say we feel very blessed on many fronts!

The numbers are good!

The numbers are good!

Here’s the health summary:

The clinical trial drug seems to be working very well! I have better days and worse days, but overall I feel better than I have in many months. The side effects are mostly manageable and overall seem to continue to decrease. I am always looking for the patterns, wondering if I change my eating habits will the GI effects diminish, for example, … but so far there is no discernible consistency. One day I’ll be mostly fine, and the next I’ll be napping all afternoon / evening. Fatigue hits hard and startles me, like running into a wall. But I’m learning to adjust my expectations and try to do things when I can.

One day in the summer I wanted to walk through a long and hilly, sandy path to the lake. I’d heard the waves were gorgeous and I really wanted to see them and play in them. My 8yo was with me and I said, How about we try walking to the top of the next hill and see what we can see. I really didn’t think I could make it all the way there, but wanted to try a little. Each time we got to the top of a hill I asked her if we could try for the next one. We kept reaching for these little goals then re-evaluating, and amazingly we made it all the way through from hill to hill to the lake. The colours were beautiful, and the scenery spectacular! I wished I could have brought my camera! We played in the waves which were huge for a lake and reminiscent of the ocean. My daughter was thrilled that I could play and climb with her! I didn’t stay long, but thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity, then turned around and headed back. I felt exhilarated and exhausted, but mostly spent the walk back praising God and thanking Him for giving me the strength and courage to make the trek, and for the joy of the whole experience.

This past week was tiring, with all the usual routine tests and appointments that happen every 3 weeks, plus the CT scan which I have every 6 weeks. I have to take meds before the CT scan to help prevent allergic reactions, and that means setting my alarm to take them once or twice during the night. I am grateful for the meds and the care, and the good people with whom I interact, but having things on three days in a row and missing out on sleep takes so much more energy than one might expect. I was very tired going into this week, but yesterday was feeling amazingly well. Sometimes these gifts of energy and ability come as beautiful surprises!

There have been so many beautiful gifts and surprises this summer, and I would love to tell you about them all … but today I have groceries to buy! The summary is that we’ve had many joyous visits with friends, the kids all seem to be settling into their new school rhythms well so far, and we are feeling very loved and blessed. I hope to fill you in on more details in the coming weeks.

Thank you for your love, prayers and support. We cannot find words to tell you how grateful we are!

Beautiful blooms!

Beautiful blooms!

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Setting up for the usual tests

Setting up for the usual tests

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An Extraordinary Week

I’m resting on the couch with my feet up, reflecting with thankfulness on how good and how strange this week of testing was. I am so glad I made it through! I’m coughing a lot, and looking forward to starting new meds on Monday. (Hoping they work really well!) There are so many stories I could tell and too many thoughts to mention, but let me give you a taste …

Tuesday was blood tests and EKG. As I’m driving to the hospital, the huge dump truck beside me starts moving into my lane! I stayed calm and reacted the way they taught me to in driving school. All was well and I made it safely to the hospital, praise God.

I was rather shaken and physically shaking when I arrived at the chemotherapy unit and checked in. In the waiting room, a man verbally attacked me for no rational reason, but it hit me hard. I’m guessing he was probably feeling frightened and dealing with his own stuff in an inappropriate manner. I was feeling extra vulnerable due to the truck incident. I walked away, then burst into tears. I am thankful for the caring staff at the hospital who comforted and protected me. I made it home without any further incidents!

Wednesday was the bone scan, and my husband Jono asked people to pray that I wouldn’t cough much. I typically cough almost constantly when lying on my back, and that’s how this test is performed … but you have to stay still to get results.

I lay down on the machine and coughed almost immediately, but – and this is hard to believe – that was the only time during the course of the test that I coughed! Wow! Praise God! Thank you for asking for prayer, Jono. Thank you all who prayed.

Thursday was the CT scan – also on my back. Let me say that it went really well. No problems. No coughing. No allergic reactions. Praise God! Thank you for praying.

Now let me tell you what was challenging …

Last CT scan, a friend’s appointment was scheduled right after mine so I greatly enjoyed spending time with him and his wife. This time a different story: a prisoner in an orange jumpsuit with handcuffs and leg cuffs was scheduled right before me, so I shared the inner waiting room with this man and two security guards. I was feeling a bit scared before I got to the hospital, and my apprehension increased. Then there was an emergency situation with the person ahead of us, so we ended up waiting together for a very long time  – over an hour! I thank God for keeping me calm and helping me to see this man as a person rather than simply a prisoner. I am thankful for freedom! I am also thankful for the opportunity to be in an uncomfortable situation that was safe. I spent a fair bit of time praying while I was there! I am thankful for the friends who were praying for me.

So this has been an eventful week on several levels, with new situations and many emotions to process. I am thankful for the love of God which surrounded me, even in the presence of the yelling man and the prisoner. I am thankful for the peace of God which filled me, even in this variety of stressful situations. I am thankful for the gift of prayer and the way God’s peace pushed away anxiety and fear when I prayed. I am thankful for God’s protection in the midst of danger. I am thankful for the mercy of significant chunks of time on my back without a cough. I am thankful for the kindness of strangers, and the beauty of Spring erupting all around me. I am thankful for the love and generosity of friends and family. I thank the Lord who made me.

I thank you.

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6.7)

P.S. –  If I could ask for one more thing … Thursday morning a woman bumped into my arm. It was a fairly hard bump from something she was carrying as she rushed past me. She apologized, and I didn’t think much of it at the time. I figured I’d have a bruise, but it seems to have triggered severe pain and muscular spasms in my rib cage. I’m tired and sore, but the week-end is coming and I want to be present with my kids. If you’re the praying type, I would appreciate your prayers for energy and healing! Thank you!

Freedom!

I feel so much better! The side effects of this chemo continue to be difficult, but I’m alive and I can breathe pretty well. There are times when I even forget about the cancer … something I previously hadn’t been able to do since every breath was a reminder.

I used to cough constantly – especially if I was talking. I couldn’t sing, shout, or even talk much since my voice wasn’t working. Walking – even part of a short block – at a brisk pace not only gave me shortness of breath, but started off coughing that wouldn’t stop for up to half an hour. Some evenings I wondered if I could make it up the stairs to my bedroom.

Right now I feel so free! I typically go the whole day without coughing. I can sing a little bit, and shout to my kids if I need to. I still suffer from shortness of breath, but not nearly like it was before: there’s a spring in my step!

free!

Yesterday I took our kids and some of their friends to the park. I cycled there, and together we formed quite the procession on bikes, scooters, a skateboard and roller blades! The kids had a blast at the park and I thoroughly enjoyed watching them and taking photo’s.

Even my chest x-ray last month showed improvement, and chest x-rays don’t show small changes! I am so very thankful for this new chemo and for the greatly improved health I’m enjoying!trying new things!

I have another chest x-ray and an appointment with my oncologist next week, and I am hoping we’ll be able to slightly reduce the meds I’m on and thus hopefully reduce the side effects.

I am so grateful for this freedom and energy, and I want to make the most of it!

I hope that you know deep freedom, and are living life to the full!

PS: Guess who we keep finding at the park … a gift that brings us joy!

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