Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Life after cancer and how God was there through it all

It's been 2 months since I finished my intensive chemotherapy, and its been one month since I have been declared CANCER FREE!  I can't even express the feeling of relief I had when the doctor literally ran into the the room to give me the good news. He said he rarely gets to give good news when someone is diagnosed with stage IV cancer, but he has full hope that in 5 years I can use the word REMISSION. If I can be honest with you all, I was ready to receive the news that the cancer was still in my body, and that I wouldn't be able to get any more treatment due to where the cancer was. So, I wasn't even sure how to react when I was given a clean bill of health. But the overwhelming messages and love I got that day, made me realized I am truly blessed. You might wonder what life post cancer looks for me now. Well, for starters my 11 medications I had to take is now down to 1 1/2 pills every night, and then the anti-nausea as needed. I only have to get blood work done once a week and visits with my doctor every 3 months, with annual scans.

I'm finally starting to get my life back. I mean my life isn't 100% normal, as I'm currently writing this while sitting next to my special vomit bucket, but slowly and surely I am getting my life back. I have refused to let cancer control the rest of my life. People have told me, I've read in other blogs and talked to former cancer survivors and they have all told me that the year after chemotherapy is still super rough. They told me I won't want to work, I wont want to get out of bed, and I wont really have the energy to do anything. Well, after having the most aggressive form of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, and a super potent chemotherapy, I hopefully have been cleared and "fit for duty" again. I'm finally able to commit to my church, attend every week, and even start serving there! Yes, there are some days I don't want to get out of bed, and there are some days I feel like a pile a crap, but i get out of bed, and push through the day. I refuse to be effected from cancer any longer. It took away my independence for the last 6 months, and now I say, NO MORE cancer. No more taking my freedom, this is my life, and I am going to live it to the fullest.

Someone made an interesting comment a few weeks ago at church, and I'm taking it a bit outta context, but he pretty much said "God was there in your worst times, He was in the room with you." As I look back at my life these past 6 months, I see how God was indeed with me the entire time. He was there in the people that surrounded me these last 6 months.

From crying in the ED with my friends and coworkers when we found out I had a tumor, to the amazing squad ride that my partners gave me, and an amazing coworker holding my hand the entire time. Then, my best friends were able to be with me for the first 2 weeks I was in the hospital, sitting at my side getting the good news and the not so good news with me, even had a friend sit next to my bed holding my hand til I fell asleep.God was there, in people form, to help me through some of the hardest weeks I have ever experienced.

I see how God was there when i pulled out clumps of hair in the shower, and as I said in my first post, my aunt was able to show up at 10pm to shave my head. And as I sat there crying and eating my ice cream, God was there with me. He was in the form of my mother, aunt and my brother (who was being as supportive as he could.) I spent about 50 days in the hospital, and God showed up in the form of my awesome nurses, nursing assistant, nursing students, and doctors, some of those nights, as I said before, were super rough and I only got through the night with the help of the amazing medical staff.

Another way God was with me, and blessed me sooooo greatly, was letting my best friend and twin, who lives over 2,000 miles away be with me 1/2 of the summer. She was there through some of the roughest spots of this chapter in my life. She was there the night I was moved to the cancer floor and sobbed like a baby when i saw the word "chemo" on the wall. She took late night trips to the ER with me after only having 2 hours of sleep the night before. She was there "holding my hair" during the vomiting, and laying next to me in that dreadful hospital bed whenever she could be. She never left my side.

 Being able to look back on how God showed up, blesses me greatly. Makes me see how He never once left me in the hardest and darkest times. He was there during those nights I was so scared to fall asleep in fear that I wouldn't wake up. He was there on every night I spent alone in the hospitals. He was there in every scan, every surgery, and He sat in the room, with the biggest smile on his face when I received the news that I had no trace of cancer in my body. He is indeed, a good, good father.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Thankful for cancer

I am so thankful for this journey and walk I've had with this ugly word called cancer. You might this I'm crazy for saying that or you might be thinking "how can she be THANKFUL for cancer." But honestly, regardless of the long scary nights, the many tears and pain, I wouldn't trade these last 5 months. I have grown in ways I never thought was possible. I have seen the Lord move and work in my life countless times.

About a month before I was diagnosed I prayed that God would take anything out of my life that was hindering me from following him. Little did I know he was going to take the biggest idol in my life, my job. I never thought God would take something I worked so hard for, something that isn't "bad' but it had become something that I replaced God with. He took my health, and allowed me to walk through this. He took my security and my independence, but He hasn't left my side through this all.

I have realized that I CANNOT do this on my own, I now know that my strength does not come from myself but it comes from Him! He has made me rely and trust him to wake up every morning. And I know His future for me is good. My faith in Christ's total healing has increased. I know for certain, without a shadow of a doubt that He WILL heal me, whether it's here on earth or when He calls me to heaven. I know my worth is not in things of the earth, it's not in my job and it's not in my relationship status. My worth and identity is in Christ, and He is enough for me.

I'm still learning to be thankful for somethings, cancer has a way a leaving nasty reminders behind. I have these cute scars on my body from biopsies, PICC lines, and from my lovely mediport. But instead of hating these scars, I embrace them as reminders that I am still alive and that God is not done with me. I have cavities between every single tooth, but I am thankful that I still have reasons to smile. I lost my beautiful long hair, my eyebrows and eye lashes, but God still says I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

I may never understand  fully why God took so many things from me. But as it says in Job, He gives and He takes away. And what He has given me outweighs what He has took. He has given me a joyful heart, He has given me LIFE, and I will forever be thankful for that. He gave me the faith that I had been praying for, and He put a new song inside me, and I want everyone to see His glory and His might through this.

So, a quick update. I have finished chemotherapy!!!! (hoping and crossing fingers) I can't believe I got through it. The Lord for sure carried me through that, because there was nothing in me that wanted to continue. The night before I finished I just laid in my hospital bed sobbing, I just wanted to be finished, I'm not sure if it just all hit me way too hard, or I was just sick of being stuck in that terrible hospital room, but my mom sang me hymns until I fell asleep, and I got thru the last day of chemo with a lot of support from my lovely nurses.

So whats next? I'm not 100% sure what the future looks like, I have a doctors appointment in a couple weeks, and I've scheduled my PET scan to see if the cancer is completely gone, and I'm declaring in JESUS' name that I will be cancer free, but if not; He is still good and faithful to complete what He started in my life.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

And if not...He is still good

My sister wrote a post this week about the bible story of Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego, and how they were placed in front of a fiery furnace and how their faith did not waver. They still said, "even if God does not spare our life, He is the God we chose to serve." That made me think about my journey I'm taking right now. I feel like I've been placed in front of a pretty hot furnace, and I am expecting in full faith for my God to heal me, but right now, in the waiting, do I still say He is good, and do I still say He is the one I worship?

There are so many time I don't feel like saying that. I have to be completely honest and say the last month has been filled with me laying on my bed crying and feeling depressed for myself. God is still good though. Sometimes I feel like I'm doing everything wrong, because I still feel depressed. I mean, I'm reading my bible daily, praying constantly, listening to worship music, but maybe that's where I have it wrong. Maybe there isn't some magic formula to make me not feel depressed during this season of life. Maybe its my outlook, and if I'm still willing to say "God, you are good."

I've decided I have to be at peace with that, with this season right now. Because when I'm not, I lose focus of WHO my main focus should be. What my eyes should be set on. My eyes shouldn't be set on "finishing chemo" (even tho that is an awesome thing to have ahead of me) But it should be set on how good God is and what His plan for me is right now, whatever it is. Every morning my first thought is how can God use me. What is His plan for me today. You never know what tomorrow holds. You could get cancer and die, and you might never have the chance to let God use you. I don't want that to be me. But why have an attitude of helplessness when I have a GOOD God. A God who has yet to let me down during this journey, He is the same God who raised people to life after death, and He's my God.

So, here I am saying, that next month even if my scan comes back and still shows cancer, or even if it takes years to grow my hair back, or even now feeling fat, ugly and hairless, God is still good, and He is the one I choose to serve.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Even on my weakest days, I get a little bit stronger.

Hello 4 am sleepless nights in the hospital. The lovely beeping of my chemo pump is keeping me awake, so why not blog. Now my intent of the post is NOT to complain about my condition, (which is surprisingly very easy to do lol) but to show what God is teaching me thru all this and the lessons He is showing me, and how He is sovereign through it all. So lets start with what was spoken over my when I first started this lovely posion called EPOCH chemotherapy.
"You'll be nauseous," "you'll be tired," "it will get worse before it gets better," "you're gonna lose all that hair of yours." These were some of the words spoken to me right as I started chemotherapy, and as I started my new "chapter in life." I thought I was prepared. I was very much mistaken, I want to share the part of chemo I don't really talk about, but thought I'd share the lessons I'm learning through all this.
Lets start with the nausea. My first round of chemotherapy, they had my nausea pretty much under control, and I was out of it and drugged up for most of it anyways. My second round, barely any nausea. I thought "man this is pretty simple." Then my 3rd hospital visit following my passing out incident, I ended up camping out in the bathroom one morning with an awesome nurse due to the vomiting. I went home later that week and had a few incidents of nausea, but nothing my medications couldn't handle.Then my third round of chemo came and went, and that is when the nausea hit me, and the medications weren't taking even the edge off of the nausea. Falling asleep with barf buckets,  falling asleep on the bathroom floor, and sitting in the bathroom holding the toilet bowling crying to my mom telling her no one should ever have to go through this. I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy. This stupid nausea has ruined meal outings, and nights where I'm out enjoying life. Now I'm in the middle of round four, and the nausea has so far been the worst. I've fallen asleep holding onto that barf bucket, and taking medications every few hours. BUT, I am choosing joy, because it could be worse. I'm only dealing with extreme nausea. I've only vomited once through out this whole process, and lets be real, I'll choose nausea over vomiting any day. So the Lord has been good, and the prayers of the mighty have not gone unanswered. (My mom sends out text messages to her prayer warriors when I have bad nights of extreme nausea.)
Another lovely symptom I thought I could handle is the tiredness. Holy crap, EVERYTHING makes me tired. I can't walk around Walmart with my mom without looking for a glorious bench to sit down on. Going to the mall, the one thing that makes me feel normal, tires me out. So glad they have couches right in the middle of the mall. I've had to learn  to go shopping WITH people so they can drive my car if need be. Its so humbling to look at someone and ask them to drive you somewhere because you are unable to. Last week I went shopping to "feel normal" (we only went shopping for maybe 4 hours) and the second I got home I crashed on the couch and didn't wake up til my mom woke me up for my evening medications, This has been a huge hurdle for me to get through since I was always the one with the energy, working nights and pulling crazy hours. Now...I'm falling asleep whenever I lie down.. The Lord has taught me the term "resting in His arms" so much and I'm embrace that and allowing myself to rest in His arms when I can not carry on.
This kinda ties into the weakness. How humbling is it to need help to walk up steps, to have to ask someone to carry your laundry basket, groceries or your purse. I use to hate asking people for help, (I still do) but I'm learning I can't do everything on my own, and God has placed my family and friends to help carry that burden whether physically or emotionally. Wheelchairs have been a Godsend in the hospital, which is another humbling and scary thing to have my mom push me around the hospital because sometimes my legs just cant do what I want them to do. But I'm holding onto the promise in 1 Corinthians that says "When I am weak, then You are strong."
Now I know I've talked a bit on losing my hair, and its been an emotional roller coaster. I haven't cried over the bald head, but I miss my hair every day. I've learned on the hair days when I don't want to be "cancer bald" that scarves work amazingly. Makes me feel like I somewhat have hair, and they don't look too shabby. I refuse to wear my wig since I look like the 14 year old version of Jacqueline Kennedy. So I'll pass on that and wear my scarves that so many people have blessed me with.
"It gets worse before it gets better."Some of my hurdles and symptoms I've talked about, yes they suck. But I wont let them steal my joy, My mom has been a huge prayer warrior along with so many people when I feel crappy (like I mentioned before) I feel so much at peace during my "hugging the toilet bowl" nights
SO the title of my blog says "on my weakest days I get stronger." and that's only through the strength the Lord gives me, not my own.  I'd give up so quickly but there are so many promises I can hold onto. I KNOW that by His stripes I am the healed of the Lord. I know I can do ALL THINGS through Christ who gives me strength. I know weeping may come for the night but His everlasting joy comes in the morning. I know He is in the midst of me and I WON"T BE MOVED. He is still fighting for me and fighting off the nausea and weakness for me. And He does all this because He LOVES me with His everlasting and precious love. I can't be more thankful and blessed that I have a God who is over an entire universe and still chooses to love me and HEAL my body.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

I've got peace like a river

This past week has had its ups and downs. The up, my twin flew in from California and I got to have much needed twin time with her. The down, I got admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. Sometimes I swear I can not catch a break, and sometimes I think, "really God, is this necessary?" I don't know the answer, but I do know God allowed me to be sick, even tho it sucks, a lot. But I know He is good and He is sovereign over all. But, you know what, I can't even complain. The Lord has been sustaining me and HEALING me, not only from this pneumonia but from cancer! Yesterday I had a doctors appointment, and I usually dread these appointments because they are literally 8 hours long. But yesterday was different. Yesterday the doctor  came in the room and told me that the mass that was the size of a small cantaloupe is no longer detectable on a CT scan!!!! Like happy dance initiated now. How can I complain about pneumonia when the Lord has been so faithful and good.
So with all this going on I have this peace, knowing God is in control. Amidst the chaos, and thru the storm, there is this peace that resonates inside of me. I know everything will be alright. At first, the diagnosis was scary, and sometimes now when I lay in bed fearing the unknown, I remind myself who is in charge, who the Prince of Peace is, and I rest in it. I've been holding tight to the verse in Isaiah which says, "Behold I will extend peace to her like a river."
I can't believe how much God is teaching me thru this situation. I look back to last year, I JUST became a medic, I was so excited, I had worked so hard at getting that card stating I was a paramedic. Fast forward 6 months, I told someone I wouldn't give up being a paramedic for anything. Then, the beginning of May, I told the Lord I was willing to sacrifice everything for Him, and He took away my job, even if its for a short while, and I've had to learn to rely on Him. I no longer have an income, and I'm relying on my parents for my means of income. But there is a verse that comes to mind when I get upset about not having money, or not being able to support myself.
Philippians 4:19 "And my God will supply all my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus."
Isn't that awesome to know. So many people have blessed me with donations and gift cards, it's amazing how the Lord provides, even in the smallest ways. (5 dollar gift cards to Starbucks have made my day so many times)
Please keep me in prayer the rest of the week. The doctor wants my symptoms of pneumonia to go away before I start my 4th round of chemo. (Scheduled for this upcoming Friday) But if I still have the pesky annoying cough my chemo gets pushed back to next week, and I really don't want that to happen.
Much love to all of you. Thank you so much for the love and support.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Finding Joy Amidst Chemo

Round 3 of chemotherapy started, 3 more left to go. Who would've thought 3 months ago that I'd be laying in a hospital bed bald, nauseous and smiling. Its so encouraging to walk onto the hospital floor and everyone giving me high-5's and telling me they love having me as their patient. It makes the hospital stay so much better. Even though I for sure didn't plan for my life to look like this, I still want people to see the joy and peace that I have. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't scared. In all honesty there are some nights I lay awake and cry, but I have to remember the promises that God gives me. He tells me He is fighting for me and with me (Exodus 14:14) He tells me that He is for me, not against me (Romans 8:31) I also know that it says, "weeping may endure the night but His joy comes in the morning." (Psalms 30:5) I keep these verses, and many others close to me during this time. I say them aloud at night when all I can think about is death, because death is not an option for me. I was talking to a friend earlier today and telling them I can't wait to see how God uses this for his glory. Its sometimes hard to see how God will use this 21 year old with stage 4 cancer for His glory, but I'm holding onto that.
So a little update, I went to my oncologist on Wednesday, I got some answers to why I am not getting radiation, what my life expectancy is, and I got a CT scan to see if the tumor is shrinking. Hopefully the results will be in on Monday. We are praying that God is shrinking this tumor and I am believing in complete healing!! I'm a fighter and I know God is fighting with me, who can be against that?!
The chemo is hitting me pretty hard this round. I'm having a lot of nausea, but the nurses have been great, feeding me anti-nausea like candy. Tonight the nurses and I are watching fireworks together, gives me a little something to look forward to, and make this hospital stay not so crummy. Hopefully only a few more days here and I'll be home free!
The Lord has just been blessing me this week. He has brought some amazing people into my life, and He has shown me who my true friends are. I've also been showered with gifts and cards filled with words of encouragement, which has been so amazing. The love is so overwhelming, I can't even explain it. The continuous support from my co-workers, church family, and my family has been enough to keep me fighting. I refuse to let cancer win.
So this past week has been pretty rough, been fighting depression, and not wanting to do much with my life. But, the Lord has showed me that I have to have joy amidst this suffering. Because, lets be real, this has been a journey of suffering, I wont lie there. This week I was at a doctors appointment every day, getting blood drawn, scans, echos, more blood draws, and I don't want to sit her and complain, but in all honesty, cancer has sucked this week. Luckily, The Lord, as I said earlier, has brought people into my life this week to encourage me, and come along side of me. I had complete strangers come up to me this week and tell me I was beautiful, give me hugs, and just encourage me. The Lord has a strange way of brightening my day like that.
This won't be a very long post, I haven't had my normal energy, but I wanted to take this time to update and encourage anyone who is struggling to find joy during their suffering. Everyone has their own suffering, it looks differently in everyone's life, but remember, the Lord gives us joy, and peace, and healing in all sorts of ways. He is continually healing me physically, emotionally, and mentally, and I know He will and can do the same for you. It is his promise, and His promises are yes and amen. We must hold onto that. So I want to leave you with these lyrics that have encouraged me so many times this week. When sometimes I don't see past the "stage 4" part of my cancer. I hold onto the promise that He IS faithful, He is able, and he will heal me in his perfect time, whether here on earth or His perfect healing in heaven. I know everything will work out to His glory.

"I will look back and see that you are faithful, I look ahead, believing you are able...Prince of Peace, Perfect Healer." -I will look up, by Elevation Worship.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

I am conquering lymphoma

Cancer is an ugly word. Six weeks ago this ugly word was introduced into my life, and six weeks ago is when I decided I was going to fight this ugly word. This fight started as I was laying in a hospital bed, in the emergency room and the doctor told me the news. I remember looking at a coworker and saying, "I'll get thru this, I'll fight this" and that's exactly what I've been doing.

I wanted to write this blog to share what my fight looks like. So I'll just begin on how I began in this fight.
May 14th, the night my partner at work took me to the ED with terrible chest pain was the night I found out the news. They first thought my chest pain was caused from a collapsed part of my lung, or a blood clot, but then the CT scan came back with different results. I had a huge mass in my chest and I would need to be transferred downtown to the main hospital where further tests would be done, and a more clear prognosis given.

For the next week I endured multiple tests including blood draws, a PET scan, chest biopsy, a bone marrow biopsy, more blood draws, and a lot of waiting. I was in a lot of pain, and was on heavy pain medications and luckily don't remember alot of the waiting, but the results came back. I had the large mass in my chest along with a spot in my lung and a spot on my spine. I was officially diagnosed with stage 4, Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma on May 21st, and started aggressive chemotherapy that night.
Everything changed after that. I began to realize that my life for the next few months would involve being in the hospital every 2 weeks to get my chemo. I realized I would have to move back home so someone would be able to take care of me on my sick days, and face the reality that I would have to get sicker in order to get better. I made it through my first round of chemo with a lot of support, love and sleep, and after 16 days of being cooped up in a hospital, I was discharged home to begin my journey not only as a fighter but as a cancer survivor.

The next battle I faced was losing mt hair. Originally, one of the doctors told me I wouldn't lose my hair, but my oncologist looked me straight in the eyes and said, "You won't have your hair for the next round of chemo." That shook me. I loved my hair. I didn't want all of my long hair to fall out. So that night, I went and got it cut. The very next day small clumps began to fall out. Within 5 days handfuls were falling out with just me touching my head. After crying to my mom we called my aunt and I decided it would be way easier to shave it off, so that's exactly what I did. I decided cancer would not take my hair, I would.

One week later I went back for my second round of chemo, which went very smoothly. I got my port to receive chemo through this past week while I was at the hospital waiting for answers as to why I passed out after coming home from my second round. I have a lot of appointments coming up this week, and hopefully those will reveal more answers to all my obnoxious symptoms. But as for now, I am trusting that God has this all planned out and the doctors will be able to help subside these issues.

 I have spent 30 out of the last 40 days in the hospital since the ugly word cancer came into my life. The battle and fight are rough, but I know I have a God that works all things out for the good, a God who finishes the good work that He started, and a God who is fighting along side with me. I also have amazing friends and family who have constantly supported and loved on me during this time. I am beyond blessed and overwhelmed with all the love, time and energy given by so many people. So some people might say that this is the beginning of my story, but its not. My story started 22 years ago when God first ordained the moments of my life, and I am excited to see that how God uses this for His glory and His plan.