Finding Comfort from the Inside Out

starfish

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.

—Epicurus

The distinct smell of newly fresh cut grass is exquisite to me and triggers an early childhood memory – something so nostalgic it gives me goose bumps.  Turkey dinner with all the “fixings” or even homemade mac & cheese (especially my Grammie’s) are favorite comfort foods for me.  Even hearing old “Journey” songs brings peace and comfort—Steve Perry’s voice soothing to the soul (don’t judge me).  Gulls . . . as annoying as they may be . . . the screeching sound of them soaring high above the sea, coupled with the smell of the ocean, gives me an amazing, amazing high.

I honestly believe I’m not alone.  Each of us has a bit of Epicurean in us . . . the Greek philosopher’s devoted pursuit of sensual pleasure, things that bring comfort to the senses.   Though perhaps different in nature, we each carry with us distinct lists of gratifying moments, those unique memories that arouse the senses and bring comfort to our souls—all the “go-to” things that help ease anxiety and stress.

Thursday was a LONG day and physically speaking . . .”fairly” comfortable.  The drains were finally removed at the plastic surgeon’s office.  Yes, a combined 3 feet of tubing was removed from my body . . . seriously–3 ft.  It was like exhaling a giant EWWW and WOW all at once.  It was indeed a very odd sensation, but nonetheless I felt a bit of relief having them removed.

Results.  The oncology team met me to go over the pathology results, the very thing I’ve been all-consumed by since rolling into the OR on the 14th . . . or honestly actually since beginning chemo in January.   I guess I felt since I’ve been on a fast track doing what I need to do, as aggressively as possible—those results will be the very comfort I’ve been seeking for the last 6 months.  They sat and explained that typically neoadjuvant chemo does one of two things when it works:   melts tumors like ice cream in the hot sun, or explodes tumors like atoms.  My treatment did the latter and exploded most of the tumor beds into fragments.  Of the many fragments left they found a small amount of invasive carcinoma left.  After removing everything, they are confident they got clear margins, no chest wall or intravascular invasion revealed.  They also removed 13 lymph nodes.  They considered the lymph nodes a macrometastases.  One particular node that clearly showed the goopy evidence of chemo at work, though cancer was still present—was most prominent.  Unfortunately, it was difficult to determine how many of the 13 nodes were positive for cancer pre-chemo . . . but for now we know for certain chemo did a pretty good job and my prayer is that my radical surgery helped a bit too.

So all in all the results were “good” . . . not crystal-ball, magical moment of “You’re cured for good, no further treatment necessary, all cancer forever gone”  good . . . but good.   Isn’t if funny that even with cancer we seek the best answer that will bring “comfort” to our minds.

My next stop on this exhausting journey is 7 straight weeks of radiation, 35 sessions.  That should start in a few weeks and based on my age and the aggressiveness of the cancer, my oncologist plans to then start me on daily Tamoxifen, an anti-estrogen therapy for 10 years—God willing He’s got at least another 10 year plan for me here.

I love to preface everything with the cliché “in a nutshell”, but you all know that my mind (even in chemo-crisis fog mode) is constantly moving and active and it’s rarely possible to find a nutshell big enough to wrap up my thoughts.

Comfort and contentment always come with uncertainties and all too often bring results we can’t predict.  All our feel-good moments are simply sought and fed by the desire to momentarily free oneself from pain, constraint or even fear.

I can’t help but think of my Grammie’s house.  Her tiny house in Maine has always been a source of mostly fond memories during childhood.  I always remember playing in the backyard, my secret little special “fort” far in the wooded area of the yard.  I laugh hysterically now, because honestly the memories of the yard when I was young were memories of this HUGE piece of land.  Now,  I don’t exactly recall the age when I visited the house after being away for a while, but I’ll never forget getting that nostalgic feeling pulling up to the house, eagerly running out into the backyard, my “comfort zone” of childhood.  There I stood—my heart sank.   Where was it?  It was unfathomable that this postage stamp of land was actually the same enchanting romping ground I enjoyed playing as a child.  For a quick moment … that nostalgic “comforting” memory shattered before me.  One would call it:  the Epic letdown moment.

Can it be that those “comfort” memories of the senses, can often disappear by our own shallow expectations of what we remember and how we wish to freeze such memories to permanently make us feel good.  I had the pleasure of talking to my dear friend, Jean this afternoon, and she said it perfectly:  “We need to find our contentment on the inside and not worry about the temporary comfort measures that come from our senses.”

While Epicurus did believe that pleasure alone should be humankind’s pursuit, in actuality, Jesus is the only true source of comfort, when He sent us the Holy Spirit.  Though I learned perhaps later in life than some, I now know that the same God that gave us our intellect and senses is also the only true source of comfort.  He is our ever-present help in need, the only guarantee that never shrinks like Grammie’s yard in my mind.

Though I know this truth in my heart . . . I realize how often I’m still so self-reliant on my own sources of comfort to bring me through this rocky journey.  I pray for strength and courage to continue to press me into the only source of comfort that will keep me going . . . and ultimately keep me sane.

Please continue to hold me up in your prayers.

I love you all so much!

Nicole

For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.  If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.  And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.   

2 Corinthians 1:5-7

Swinger of Birches

birches

. . . So was I once myself a swinger of birches.  And so I dream of going back to be. It’s when I’m weary of considerations, and life is too much like a pathless wood where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs broken across it, and one eye is weeping from a twig’s having lashed across it open. I’d like to get away from earth awhile and then come back to it and begin over.  May no fate willfully misunderstand me and half grant what I wish and snatch me away not to return. Earth’s the right place for love …

–Robert Frost

I love birch trees … I always have.   The beautiful bark and graceful branches and shape have long been sought after landscape choices for many seeking beauty and exquisite charm in a simple, artistic way.

Some months back I remember traveling and as the passenger looking dreamily out the window, I saw what seemed to be a good mile of nothing but clusters of birch trees.  I was mesmerized by the beauty and remember commenting to John how I’d love to be lost there in the woods amidst the birches.  Fortunately, John’s known me long enough to know how “unique” my imagination is . . . but also how crazy I am; therefore sped up a bit, most likely afraid I would ask him to pull over and drop me off—me all too eager to be lost in the “forest of birches”.

Surgery happened.

My surgical oncologist is a rock star and knowing a bit about my music interests and the frame of mind I was in, I let her choose what music would be played in the OR.  So after praying and being wheeled down the hall, I entered the bright OR with the very unique and melodious Dido—calming my nerves incredibly.  My surgeon and anesthesiologist held my hands until I slipped away to Dido’s beautiful voice, remaining in never-never land for the next 7 hours.

I don’t actually recall awakening per se, but I do remember in my dreamy, morphine fog, seeing John for a moment, next my mom, and then my sister.  My eyes couldn’t stay open for long, but what I later realized was that I had to be alone that night, which killed me.  My family was told they were only allowed about two minutes to see me as we learned the hospital was over-capacity, meaning  there were no rooms to send me to—so I would be spending at least one night alone in the PACU, no visitors allowed. The pre/post anesthesia care unit (PACU), consisted of a lovely 2×4 curtained-space where I was surrounded by sick people going in or coming out of surgery.   Not to whine, but I honestly felt helpless and alone, knowing that my ONE expectation and comfort pre-surgery was that I would have my family around me when I awoke.  In my mind, I needed this more than ever, because though this necessary “thing” needed to happen, this surgery (that I still don’t vocalize all that much), the thing that was vainly and intensely dreaded—yet eagerly anxious to get over with, hoping to remove this thing called cancer out of my body (with the goal:  for good)—I felt more vulnerable and weary than ever and desperately needed people who loved me around me when I awoke.

Now let’s face it— typically, any type of amputation is a day surgery these days with insurance or at best an overnight stay.  Staying 4 nights was over the top for my little “Angie Jolie” procedure.   The result of my surgery was apparently “beautiful” …. odd choice of wording, but okay, whatever.   By the middle of day two in PACU-ville (still no room available) I was told I would have a private room by dinner time.  Yay.  What I didn’t know was that in all the unseemly unfairness in my “lonely Nicole land”, the staff, some very special angels in my midst who really understood my emotional struggle really hooked me up—BIGTIME.  My room was in the “celebrity hotel quarters” of the hospital, or the place where those who choose to spend a month’s salary per night out of pocket after insurance go to heal—private chef and all.  Honestly, God is good, because this is NOTHING I would ever choose even if I were celebrity-status, but after my disenchantment post-surgery, it was indeed a lavish treat, though not exactly one of my “bucket list” return spots of interest.

In and out of sleep the last two weeks, I’ve thought and dreamt about birch trees … I don’t know why, but they’ve visited me in my dreams.   What does the birch tree symbolize?  I guess from what I’ve gathered, the birch tree symbolizes a fresh start and can bring courage and determination especially to those of us who are treading the path of spiritual growth and weariness.   Although the birch does appear fragile, in all its “romantic” carving ability . . . (y’know , the way lovers can permanently make a mark on its writeable bark), instead, the birch tree is extremely hardy—teaching us that in apparent weakness there is often to be found great strength.

Worldwide, birches also promise new life and love, and are great symbols of purification and renewal, helping to focus our attention on our potential for change and on the consideration of new directions and goals to be experienced in our lives.

When I think of Robert Frost’s masterpiece—“Birches” I’m reminded of the swinging motion—the substance of the poem and the deep force that comes with such a motion.  My life is filled with the contrary pulls of truth and imagination.  Tangible and spiritual.  Control and abandon. Flight and return.   The upward “swinging” substance of the poem brings me to imagination and escape—away from the ultra-heavy truth of cancer and all the changes and uncertainties it has brought to my life and those I love.  The downward “swing” and truth of Frost’s brilliance, brings me back to earth, to face the challenges set before me and to look with fresh eyes at the many areas of my life that need clearer focus, new direction, deeper love.

I’ll be honest—Truth with a capital T for me is that I often desire to get away from the earth awhile these days, becoming a swinger of birches.  The thought and attraction of climbing a beautiful birch, leaving the difficulties and weariness of this journey behind is in many ways a no brainer.  Who wouldn’t want to escape?  Life is so much like the “pathless wood” Frost speaks of.  One easy way to navigate would be to climb a tree, high above every obstacle below.

God, however is Love and has intricately put each of us here for a plan and purpose bigger than ourselves.  When I think of that, it motivates me to pursue all He has planned for me regardless of how much time that may mean here on Earth.  I love how Frost says in his poem:  “Earth’s the right place for love.”   For now, he couldn’t be more right.  In my deeply imperfect state, constantly craving escape, I must return from my upward swing and come back again … to keep going where He wants me.   I’ll always want to push toward Heaven, where difficulties and heartache don’t exist, but as His plans have me here, I need to know the limits and limitless abilities my Father has chosen for me, and pursue them now with passion.

Yes . . . I love birch trees.  They are the perfect vehicle.  A thrill to climb, yet firmly rooted in the ground—never allowing one to sever the ties God has with His plans for us here on Earth.  Swinging down takes experience, skill and courage . . . leaving that higher place.  It means that you take risks and you explore the mysteries of life. Being a swinger of birches means I can look back on life and be proud of the accomplishments and challenges.

I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree, and climb black branches up a snow-white trunk toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more, but dipped its top and set me down again.  That would be good both going and coming back.  One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.     

Tomorrow’s a new day, and actually the day I will learn of my pathology results and hopefully have these dreaded drains removed … (for all you who’ve had them, you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about).  I will keep you updated on the news of my results.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.      

2 Corinthians 4:16

Nicole

 

 

You Just Can’t Overstay Hope’s Welcome

spring

Hope (hōp)

Verb:   to cherish a desire with anticipation

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.

~Epicurus

Hope brings significance to each and every moment we encounter.   Without it . . .  there’s no meaning to anything under the sun.

I know it has been a while since my last post.  Truthfully, this month has been a challenge—physically, mentally and spiritually.  Early in the month, I started my new chemo regimen:  dose-dense AC infusions—every other week.   I didn’t realize how emotionally bankrupt I would soon become.  I guess as my blood counts drop, zapping my energy level  like a nuclear missile—my spirit seems to wither too, much like the beautiful,  luxurious flower arrangement my nieces sent my way recently, one I’ve been desperate to keep alive.

Spring.  It’s funny the little things a girl thinks about as Spring emerges:   manis, pedis, new open-toed sassy stilettos  . . . perhaps a new outfit or two.  I covet my yearnings for these things that are simply not to be for me this year.  As I try desperately to hide my hideous nails in public, each one purple and black, lifting from chemo-related blood and infection . . . and my equally hideous, neuropathy-plagued feet, no longer acceptable for open-toed sassy shoes or pedis­­—I indeed feel deprived and sad.  Today, Lance, my 7-year old, in all his sweet honesty, pointed out the other sad fact that my eyebrows are disappearing, the final hair follicles to die.  The simple fact is:  it’s hard for me to have a Spring in my step or outlook these days.

Regardless of my thoughts filled with vain minutiae, Spring continues to unfold and as the crocuses begin to blossom in my yard, it’s impossible not to hear the heralding trumpet of new life spring forth.  With it comes a glimmer of excitement—a hope that day by day the season will continue to blossom, inspiring beauty in its warm welcome.

These days, my life is filled with urgent intention.  In fact, I find myself anxious and depressed when I’m too fatigued to move because I’m afraid I’m going to miss a moment, a great memory I can’t afford to lose . . . a picture that can never be recaptured.  Reflection has become part of my season of change.  Like Spring’s weather, this season of my life is a gentle reminder that I need to be cognizant of the rebirth taking place all around me—those  blossoms that not only take shape in my yard, but in my relationships . . . in my children, in myself.  Just as I need Faith to hold me together, I need hope to push me forward.

Making it a mission to treat hope as a verb, I choose to actively cherish my desires for the future with anticipation.  Spring is here.  It’s the start—a rebirth from seeds of hope.  I must cherish this moment.  This place.  This time.  It knows no bounds . . . you can never overstay Hope’s welcome.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.  ~Romans 12:12 

What’s My Message?

Message in a bottle

“All of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea — whether it is to sail or to watch it … we are going back from whence we came.”  

—John F. Kennedy

I’ve always been drawn to the sea.  In fact, in many ways I feel my body came equipped with a little internal homing device that guides me to the ocean—much like a bird flying south for the winter.

Those who have known me for some time and even those who may have stumbled upon this blog have most likely gleaned that my fascination with the ocean is in many ways, tied to the intimate relationship we share with it.  An earlier post even revealed my love for sea glass, describing how though I find each piece remarkable in beauty, what really intrigues me most is the story behind each gem—the intimacy attached to the moment it started its journey in the sea.

Going through my emails, texts and letters this week, I started thinking a lot about messages.  It seems, the best messages received in our lives come from passion . . . deliberate passion.

Although no one knows for sure when the first message in a bottle was released, the earliest records  show that Theophrastus, an ancient Greek philosopher was the first known person to release such a message in a bottle in an effort to prove that the Mediterranean Sea was formed from the inflowing Atlantic Ocean.  History also reveals many shipwrecked people who resorted to sending messages in bottles.  Often these messages weren’t discovered for 100 years or more.  Unfortunately, their cries for help were futile—most certainly dying long before the message in the bottle was ever found.

To even contemplate the feeling I’d have finding a message in a bottle makes my heart skip a beat.  The romantic in me would love to think all messages tucked away in a bottle would be those of a great love story.  That thought alone got my mind thinking.  What would my message be, were I to send a bottle adrift at sea?  Would it be that of a passionate cry for help, or instead a message filled with a rich love story, a Hope that can weather any storm.

Thursday started my new cycle of chemo—A/C.  Though I anticipated feeling very invigorated Friday with all the steroids onboard, instead by mid-afternoon, I felt rather ill.  I started the Neulasta injection that night, taken to help boost my immune system.  Though I was initially nervous giving myself a “shot,” it was really quite easy and painless.  Yesterday proved to be a different animal altogether.  I just didn’t feel like me in the least.  My movement was only to use the bathroom.  I just felt like junk.  There’s nothing more daunting than feeling helpless.  Helplessness carries with it a true sense of defeat.  Had my bottle been thrown out at sea yesterday, the message filled with earnest passion in the face of defeat would have certainly been  written as an S.O.S. — an urgent appeal for help.

Glass bottles, though fragile do very well at sea . . . seemingly bobbing endlessly through the sea with no damage.  I’ve read stories of sunken ship wreckage with bottles discovered in perfect condition well after 250 years under water.   It’s no wonder that bottles were often the chosen vessel during a crisis, as a means of reaching someone—their very durability having the potential to last forever.

Our messages in life need to be deliberate, and safely delivered with passion.  In our weakest moments—unable to fathom anything other than shuffling one foot in front of the other, it’s imperative to reach for victory.  Though difficult to look up when you feel helpless, it is at times like these, that God’s word reverberates in my soul:    “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”  ~Ephesians 2:8

Through faith, God has thrown the life vest.  Not of our own strength, but instead His gift of salvation, the lasting message of Hope.

You never know where a message in a bottle will end up or even how long it will take to get there.  What we do know is that the messages we send forth in life through the shipwrecks or heartaches we face can have a lasting impact.  As I just begin this voyage on a rough sea, I know that there will be many times when I will feel weary and lost and in desperate need to send out a cry for help in my message in a bottle.

My hope is that my message will always be that of the ultimate love story—a message of victory, not defeat.

 

The View from Below

Santorini

“One sees great things from the valley, only small things from the peak.”

― G.K. Chesterton

Pent house suites, mountaintop lodges, castles atop grand cliffs . . . the allure of high places is something we all crave to experience at one point or another.   Top level retreats seem to indeed be sought out destinations of choice—the very essence of luxury.

When traveling to Santorini, Greece—John and I chose the breathtaking town of Oia to call home for the duration of our stay.  The idea of staying in a traditional cave house carved inside volcanic earth was in and of itself—thrilling to the core.  Add the fact that it’s panoramically set 1000 feet above the Aegean Sea—well, let’s say the feeling was nothing short of Utopia on steroids.  The views coupled with the meandering narrow paths along the steep cliffs proved that though Oia is certainly not for the faint of heart, it is most definitely the choice destination for anyone seeking ultimate beauty . . . on high.

Recently, I’ve hit a low point on this pilgrimage called cancer, a point where time seems skewed, warped in fact.  One moment everything appears to be moving in slow motion, then BOOM—time seems to be running full speed ahead.  As if by magical “clockwork,” my emotions follow suit, stuck in vacillation-mode.  One minute, I’m eager to have chemo in the rear view mirror, while a split second later I become crippled with anxiety about moving beyond chemo onto the next phase of treatment—desperate to stop time in its tracks.

Just hours from now, I’ll be infused with my final dose of Taxol, followed by 4 rounds of dose-dense A/C every other week— that lovely chemo cocktail better known as the “Red Devil.”  How pleasant.  Not exactly a happy hour beverage of choice.  It would seem anything with the word devil tied into its nickname . . .  can’t be good.  As appealing as a free Brazilian wax may seem, if it means having someone gown up to stick a syringe of bright red poison into your vein . . . well, I guess I would have to say hair isn’t such a hardship.  All joking aside, as eager as I am to be done with chemo, the thought of what awaits me on the other side is almost too unbearable to embrace just yet.  Don’t get me wrong, I yearn for the fatigue, pain, neuropathy, malaise, and hairless head to be in my rearview mirror, but it’s hard to fathom the idea of surgery . . . that which will permanently change me.  Forever.

I recall the goose bumps I got over those surreal cliffs in Santorini.  Truthfully, those goose bumps never came while looking down at the “tiny” wonders more than thee football field lengths away at the bottom.  Instead, they came when we were at the bottom—looking up.

The view from below always took my breath away.

Right now I stand somewhere at the base of my cliff in this cancer journey, longing for that destination on high.  Why aren’t I looking up?  Only here can I really see the hope and future blessing stretched out before me, the surreal beauty that might even take my breath away . . . if I let it.

Who hopes for what they already have?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.  (Romans 8:25)

Love,

Nicole

xoxo

Castaway

dingy

We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival.

~Winston Churchill

I’ve missed you all.  I’ve had “behind the keyboard withdrawals.” I find this wonderful forum or as I like to call it:  my c-blog therapy sessions behind the computer, help to keep my spirit soaring as I express my heart.  I won’t get into too many details about my computer drama causing my longer than normal absence, but let’s just say when the hard drive goes unexpectedly on your computer and you lose all your files and pictures because they weren’t properly backed up . . .big girls do, in fact, cry.  Actually, they bawl.

As many of you can guess by now, I’m about as right-brained as one can get.  As such, my scattered mind makes me more of a creative thinker than other, perhaps more organized folk.  I’m wired by feeling and intuition as opposed to sequence and logic when gathering information.  I tend to visualize the whole picture first then work my way backwards to fit the pieces together that create that whole picture.

Over the weekend, the boys wanted to rent a movie—one that in all honesty, I’ve had no interest seeing, despite all the acclaim it has received.   Life of Pi was the chosen feature presentation and all I can say is that my initial “non-interest” turned to—WOW!  I was truly blown away by every aspect of the film.  Sadly, I’ve never read the book, a New York Timesbestseller that the movie is based on.  Perhaps if I had known how incredibly rich in symbolism and full of deep truths this gem was, I would have read the book ages ago and been more than eager to see the movie.  Actually, I’m usually not fond of endorsing movies based on novels, because often the film doesn’t live up to the book.  However, book or no book—the movie was wonderful and moved me to tears.

Pi, the film’s protagonist, is a shipwrecked castaway that spent over 220 days at sea.  This boy, in the face of unimaginable tragedy and inconceivable adversity, brings the viewer into a truly magical journey—weaving a fantastic story in the face of a cruel reality— the story, becoming his life vest of survival.

Do you ever notice that during times of great suffering and tribulation come unexpected, powerful moments that give meaning and purpose to life?  Often these moments become the very necessary tools for survival.  Pi’s storytelling became his means of survival.   In fact, the Bengal Tiger in the life boat with Pi, is the symbolic side of him that though he wishes to escape from, he instead embraces, learning how to live in both opposition and partnership with it.

Though I refuse to be defined by it, breast cancer is unfortunately in my life boat whether I like it or not.  Though I’m also opposed to embracing its hold on my life, the truth is . . . it’s real and I need to be in partnership with its place in my life, so I can positively bring hope and light to others who may be a castaway in the face of darkness.

My appointment on Friday was semi-optimistic and difficult all at once.  The oncologist confirmed that what I’ve been feeling on my skull is real, discovering that in addition to the lymph node at the base of my skull, the bone above that area feels different because there is another lymph node on top of the actual bone.  She honestly felt these areas were “normal” and not to worry about them because the size of the lymph nodes are not at a worrisome size.  Meanwhile, the pathology report I’ve never actually held in my possession finally was printed . . . and honestly, that was more difficult to look at than I had thought.  Though I have hope and trust in the plan laid out before me, the truth is the staging is a bit scary to look at in black and white.

The same earnest hope in the face of a cancer diagnosis still comes with the reality that there’s a bad side of breast cancer—not all “pretty in pink” as the awareness ads dangled in front of us make us believe.   In fact, the reality is that in the U.S. alone, breast cancer death rates among women are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer.

Reality can indeed sometimes scare us . . .  but it’s okay to acknowledge it and even talk about it, as long as it exists in partnership with God’s promises.  Like Pi, I’m but a castaway on the open sea, ready to use this moment to produce an inspirational story of hope and survival that blesses many.

My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.   

~Psalm 119:50

Riding the Wave

girl-surfer

(transferred from my CaringBridge site created on 3/9/13)

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.”

~ Helen Keller

It seems like “chemo-Thursdays” always falls on a birthday or holiday.  This past Thursday was my birthday and it was wonderful to have some ultra-special people with me:  my mom and my sister in addition to my three little princes.  As per normal, we livened and lightened up the infusion floor . . . birthday presents and all!

Tired of the cold and feeling a touch of Spring fever (even during the lovely chemo-induced fatigue and allover malaise), I’ve been busy thinking about warmer thoughts . . . like surfing.  I love watching surfers being challenged by huge waves.  To the ordinary swimmer, like myself, being in the midst of such a wave would frighten me to the core.  To the seasoned surfer, however, that same wave is precisely what produces their tremendous thrill.  Many of you may remember “soul surfer,” Bethany Hamilton, who in 2003 at only 13 years old, while relaxing on her surfboard waiting to catch a good wave—in a split second, lost her arm from a great white shark attack.  Amazingly, this talented, faith-filled girl got right back in the water, surfing with one arm—less than a month after the attack!

Thrill-seeking has always been the subject of much speculation, from Sigmund Freud’s “innate death drive” philosophy to some modern psychologists’ view that dangerous activities make us feel more alive.  In reality, though, thrill-seeking behavior can mean different things to different people.

Though I still have a bit of a risk-taking drive in me, I’ve grown more conservative over the years—especially as a mom . . . in a way hoping that my boys will not completely follow in some of my crazy footsteps.  John will laugh while attesting to some of my craziness, like on the slopes.  From the moment we started skiing together, even as a beginner, I would hit the slopes—racing to the finish, often times on trails I had no business being on.  For me, it’s all about the thrill and challenge, and ultimately the whole experience in the moment.  I guess most people will both seek and avoid risk at different points in their lives.

Now if my slope were instead replaced with that ultimate wave, a surfer’s dream . . . I’ll be honest, I’d be running for the hills.  Cancer, in many ways . . . has become my wave.  I would love to run far away from it . . . or simply remain in the still waters.  Some people will say of one going through a cancer trial as “brave.”  I laugh when people say that to me because the truth is bravery is about the furthest from the truth in my reality.  A firefighter running into a burning building is what I envision as brave.  I would do anything to run far away from this, not toward it.

Though Bethany describes that tragic morning on her surfboard as her Tsunami moment, infringing on her pro-surfer dreams, she also realized that bad things happen to everyone.  “But for me, knowing that God loves me and that he has a plan for my life—that no shark can take away and no contest result can shake, is like having solid rock underneath me.”  Wow . . . what an amazing young woman.

I desperately seek to apply the same thrill-seeking behavior I’ve often sought in life to meet me on this latest adventure—the very wave I would love to avoid and fight against.  The truth is, tribulation, suffering, and persecution—are the very things that produce abundant joy in us.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  James 1:2–4

God tells us that trials produce perseverance . . . perseverance produces character; and character brings hope, which never disappoints.

I’m on the board, ready to put my sights on the wave before me.

Thank you my friends for your constant prayers.  My regular chemo-Thursday will be changed to Friday this coming week as I meet with my oncologist to further examine the lymph node at the base of my skull.  Please continue to pray that this is nothing.

I in turn will:  Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and be constant in prayer. (Romans 12:12)