Butterfly Sparks Designs

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Please make that appointment and show up!

Over the past couple of weeks a few women have said something to me about going ahead and scheduling their mammogram because of me. They are “thanking me” for prompting them to do this thing they knew they needed to do, but had not yet done. I’m praying that if there is any hesitation in you, that what I am about to share will also move you to action.

In 2005 I had a mammogram. It came back with some suspicious looking areas. I had to return for additional scans. Fortunately, the surgeon felt that my suspicious areas were simply calcifications and nothing to worry about. I left his office greatly relieved and with his direction ringing in my ears, “Be sure to get your annual exam.”

Over the next four years I scheduled a mammogram on three separate occasions and cancelled every single time. I even made it to my regular doctor for an annual check up and my ob/gyn for one annual appointment. Everything looked great. All my blood work was lovely. "Don’t forget to get your mammogram…"

Most women in their mid years are dealing with a lot of life transitions. Jobs, homes, parents, kids – it’s just part of the season we must learn to cope with. But one of the side effects of the season for me is that I failed to prioritize some basic maintenance in my life. I knew I needed to stop and get a mammogram. but I reasoned away my appointments. Yes, I was busy, but there were some other things going on inside my head that deceived me into behaving in an apathetic way.

Here’s a few of the major ones…

I was afraid. I knew the face of breast cancer pretty well and frankly, I didn't want to deal with it. What I have found is that breast cancer knew me before I knew it. No amount of my fear kept it away. As a matter of fact, if I had faced my fear and it had been a bad report – that report would have been much less devastating than the one I finally got.

Sickness is weakness. All my life I’ve had a bad attitude about illness. I’m not very compassionate and I pretty much want you and me to be well. If I feel bad, I rest as little as possible and as soon as I can, I’m up and going. Anything more than that and in my mind I'm giving into weakness. Oh my! I have been so arrogant. My heart was both ignorant and judgmental. No exertion of my will, lack of compassion, or inner strength kept illness away.

I am well. I thought I was well because I had been well. I’ve been blessed with a lifetime of health. I don’t expect a bad report and I don’t look for symptoms in every little situation. During the first week of my diagnosis as I was answering health history quizzes – one after another – I’d check all the other boxes with a no and say to the technician, I am well. There’s a fine line between believing for divine health and walking in ignorance. I was ignorant.

I can’t deal with it right now. For about a year before my diagnosis, I’ve been having some strange physical issues. I’ve had a lot of trouble sleeping. I had a strange rash that no doctor could figure out! I would wake up in the middle of the night with intense itching. I remember saying to my sister in law not too long before all this started, “After xyz, I’m going to have to stop and check this out. I can’t do it right now because I’m afraid it could lead to something extensive and I just can’t manage it.” I visited the doctor a few times. They’d test my blood, talk to me about managing stress, give me around of steroids and back I’d go. Even when in my gut I felt like something might be going on, I didn’t suspect breast cancer, but I suspected it might require more of me, at the very least tests and time, and I just didn’t feel I could stop.

It’s too expensive and I don’t have a doctor. For years, Mark and I only had a major expense insurance policy that had huge deductible and big co-pay. We were in the insurance business for years and we know how important proper insurance can be and that you do not want to do anything that will make you uninsurable. I knew that any amount of diagnostic testing was going to be expensive and potentially change my insurability. (I was right about that!) In addition, we moved to a new city and I didn’t have a doctor. I kept putting it off until it was more financially feasible. I thought I was doing appropriate risk management.

I assure you that in the moment each of those “excuses” seemed legitimate. But as I look at them now, they seem ridiculous. By delaying attending to basic preventative procedures, I have allowed the disease to be much more advanced. As a consequence, every impact in my life is multiplied.

What I was afraid of, I am now forced to face and fight. It could have been a little fight, but now it’s a big one. I find that the sickness I despised, I must now learn to operate with on a daily basis. There is no putting off until after this or that to receive treatment or visit the doctor. My calendar is now based around treatment. The few minutes it would have costs me for the mammogram have become months of doctor visits, scans, procedures, treatments and tests. Cancer came into my "right now" and demanded my attention. Illness is expensive – there’s no doubt about and no way around it. However, I have added substantially to the length and breadth of the treatment I will require. I have made the financial impact more devastating for our family, not less.

Now finally – here’s the real costs! It’s the costs to my husband, my children, my family, my co-workers and my friends. I thought I was prioritizing all those people when I was taking care of everybody and everything except for me. But the truth is, my lack of self care has costs them the most. They will never be the same. Illness is not something you experience in isolation. It reverberates through every relationship and responsibility and has an impact on every other person in your life. Of all the consequences of my disobedience, this makes me most sad.

Obviously, I failed to do what I knew to do – and the consequences are pretty substantial. I know this sounds heavy – but I believe there’s grace for me. I trust Him in this season, but my trust is now mixed with a new level of obedience. God is redeeming my mistakes and turning them into something wonderful. I’d be honored if one of the wonderful things came in the package of a comment from you that said “thanks for reminding me to take care of myself.”

Please stop and make that appointment. Then go one step further and show up! Even if the results are less than what you hope they will be – it will be better for you and the ones you love than waiting until your body demands your attention. You are the only you your loved ones have and nobody can take your place or carry your load.

Please take care of yourself first! Make that appointment! Then show up!

With love,


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Chemo Round #5

Hi friends,

Just posting a quick update to let you know how Treatment Round #5 went today. I arrived at the office at 8:30 and left at 4:00. Everything went great. The day was long becuase all my drugs rotated to be due on the same day. I received 3 chemo drugs, a bone strengthener, an antibiotic, and avastin - the one that impacts the blood to the tumors,plus all my pre- chemo drugs. It just took forever.

You may not know but I've been to the doctor's office a lot in the last three weeks. They determined that the urinary tract infection was resistant to my oral antibiotics so after three rounds of those - they put me on a ten day regimen of rosefin(sp) which is given by iv. So I've been driving to the doctor's office every single day since last Tuesday. I've not had a lot of side effects except I do feel more tired.

My doctor finally gave me some hint as to his plan for the next season. First of all they are scheduling a pet scan for October 7th. Bottom line is no firm decisions about timing of future treatment will be decided until that tests is complete. I asked him about chemo and he said he is planning 8 sessions. That means my last session would be on November 18th, I think. If the pet scan reveals my hip is doing well - then we'll stop avastin for the month of December and probably plan surgery for January. If my hip is not responding as well as the tumor in my breast - we'll make changes in the treatment plan, but delay surgery. I learned today that you can only take so much of the "blood of Jesus" so I'll be finishing that particular drug at 7 or 8 sessions. So I know a little more about what's going on in my doctor's head, but in the end no decisions will be made without further testing.

So bottom line, I'm hoping for an easy weekend and a quick recovery! I'm working the Pink Boomer Luncheon tomorrow morning and really looking forward to it! After that I'm home for awhile.

Prayer needs:

1) Two of my boys have been sick with cold like symptoms this week. They each missed some school. Please pray they are well before the weekend so I won't be totally confined to my room.

2) My mother in law Molly has been having a bad stretch again. So weak and so tired.

3) Please pray for Mark. He is an independent storm adjuster for a company that represents State Farm. He's been working from home for 19 months. He's currently working the tail end of busy storm season in the metroplex, but the work is thinning out. He could be released from his assignments at any time. This means he'd be home waiting on another storm and could be sent anywhere in the US. It's been a miracle that he's worked out of the Dallas offices for 19 months - never heard of that before. We need the miracle to continue!

4) Do you mind praying for Ashley? She turned 19 this week - wow! The prayer request is for her studies. Next week she has four tests in a row plus her work. She needs an excellent GPA this semester. We still haven't heard about her financial aid requests either. Praying for favor in this area as well.

Thanks for being such a good friend! I hope to return the favor to you!


Friday, September 11, 2009

Transition feels like this to me.

I’m on a path and I can see a destination in front of me. Everything in me is passionate to touch that destination. I am running and working with it in mind. I think the best and shortest path to that destination is a straight line. As I’m furiously pursuing the destination, suddenly I am sucked into a black hole. It’s as if I fell off the path into a place I can’t identify and I am free falling.

This place is so scary. It’s hard to navigate. I have no control. I can’t see and danger lurks everywhere. My arms and legs are out of control, I'm grasping for something to hold on to. No relief comes. I experience disorientation, disappointment, disillusionment and a sense of abandonment.

Many voices are speaking – not only the enemy, but even my own flesh. My ears grow more sensitive as my other senses are dulled. God’s voice is hard to hear. I catch a whisper here and there. My own self determination is slowly destroyed and I experience tremendous grief. I cry over the loss of my expectations to arrive at a destination I thought was in my grasp.

I accept the transition. Once I cease resisting, I begin to relax. Slowly I silence the enemy’s voice. Now I work on silencing my own flesh. I pray for understanding and breakthrough. I rest in the free fall. The hole is still dark, the grief is still real, but acceptance of the situation begins to come. In this position, I hear more clearly and I wait.

The black hole remains for an undetermined amount of time and holds many perils. When the testing is finally complete, God brings me out on the other side. I experience light and a sense of gravity. An uprightness returns to your body, soul and spirit. More disorientation, but now a sense of relief.

I am released to a new place, a new path. It is a path that I could not see before nor reach through any natural effort of my own. Now I begin again.

2 Corinthians 1:8-11 MSG

We don't want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn't think we were going to make it. We felt like we'd been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he's the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he'll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing. You and your prayers are part of the rescue operation—I don't want you in the dark about that either. I can see your faces even now, lifted in praise for God's deliverance of us, a rescue in which your prayers played such a crucial part.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

True Confessions

A great big hug and a huge thank you for your prayers, encouraging comments and thoughts! Since my last blog, many of you have stepped in and given me a hand up. I have improved physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Last week my strength finally returned on Thursday. While visiting with my doctor on Wednesday (when I was feeling really bad), he made a comment about possibly having to cut back on my chemo. At that moment, that sounded like a plan to me! But as my strength began to return and I began to think with a little more clarity, I felt certain that I do not want to slow down. When we spoke on Friday I told him – “let’s don’t back off! Help me through the side effects, but let’s press on!” As I was talking with him I realized my apathy had been broken off.

I had a couple of divine appointments in the past week that really blessed me as well. Deana and her girls came by and brought some delicious dinner - and a beautiful basket of blessed water! (Picture to follow soon!) Another friend with a gift for healing, Junnine, set aside some time to pray with me. Thank you, friend. Healing manifesting! Progress made. Then another friend, Stacy brought food to my home and shared a vision she saw while praying for me. That vision is resonating inside me – confirming a new and deeper peace than I have previously known.

Then another friend asked me how I was today and out of my mouth came “Once I confessed, I began to feel better.”

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
James 5:16

Sharing with you my struggle was really a form of confession. Once my struggle was revealed, prayer began to stir and the dark place that I was struggling with began to lift. My circumstances did not immediately change, but everything in my perspective did.

By the way… I do believe my circumstance is shifting. I believe my healing is manifesting and I am making progress.

It’s like rock climbing a high cliff. I had to overcome my fear, apathy and fatigue to reach up with all my might and get a new grip in order to pull myself up. Reaching out was overcoming. Gripping was confessing. The pulling up was easy – all my friends lifted me with prayer.

Truly this is a journey. Each day the sun comes up and I begin again. Each morning is a new opportunity - an opportunity to persevere, to believe, to share, to confess. I am so glad I told you, so glad you listened, so glad to be surrounded by amazing friends who hold me accountable and cheer me on. I’m contending from a new place tonight – more humble, more restful, and hopefully wiser.

If you find yourself in need of confession, then please, be quicker than me! Stop right now and confess to your Father and then with wisdom find a friend to tell. When you shine the light on the dark places you begin to receive your healing. I’m praying that God will provide the perfect friend, small group or safe place for you.

Thanks for sharing the journey with me.

Much love,

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Standing in the need of prayer...

Hi friends,

Do you know this song? It's me, it's me, it's me Oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer...

I have been in bed for five days - and I'm still weary. I had a relatively easy weekend following chemo. I rested well and managed the pain much more effectively. I really expected to feel good on Monday and return to work on Tuesday - like I've done for the past two rounds of chemo.

However, on Monday I was still exceedingly tired and I slept almost all day. I got up Tuesday morning and went to a breakfast meeting at work. I was really weak, but determined to press through. During breakfast I got really ill and thought I might pass out. My co-worker had to drive me back home - where I spent the rest of the day in bed again.

Today I went to the doctor, expecting to receive another dose of Avastin, my weekly check up and then head into work. Instead I learned that my white counts are low (the reason for my extreme fatigue) and as a result didn't receive treatment - but was sent home to bed again. I did get a booster shot this morning and I'm hopeful that by tomorrow morning my counts will be sufficient to resume both my work schedule and my treatment plan.

I did get some good news today! The MRI of my breast revealed that the tumor is 1/2 of it's original size - which was already small. Obviously, this is good news and means that the "cocktail" of drugs is effective and is making progress. However, it wasn't the report I had hoped for, leaving me with a strange sense of disappointment. The CT of my hip isn't as definitive as the MRI. He is confident the cancer is being killed - but the CT revealed that my hip bone is still very porous and now has a small crack in it. This is the reason for the return of the pain. He cautioned me again about being careful not to break the bone and put me back on some restrictions - like no lifting etc. He says I am responding well and that I'm to trust him. I do.

For the past few weeks I've been really struggling emotionally. Between the returning hip pain, recurring urinary tract infections, and general apathy, I find I am in need of some additional prayer support. I get easily discouraged by the length of the process. I really like to determine the problem, spend a day or so thinking about what to do about it, then do it! Then move on!

The problem with this cancer thing is that it just does not move on! When you feel good, you feel like you are making progress and you can easily believe that you are the victor. But when your body feels bad and your mind is tired and your emotions are flat, its much easier to listen to every whisper of the enemy. I'm trying to turn his voice away, but he is merciless - bringing fear and hopelessness and anxiety at every turn.

I realized again tonight that I've not been calling on my friends and family for the support I so desperately need. I've been drawing further and further away - rather than announcing at the top of my lungs that I'm struggling! I am reminded that one of the strategies of the enemy is to keep me isolated and my needs hidden. When I feel discouraged, I tend to close up - be quiet - wait for it to pass. I think that's a failing strategy in this moment. So friends, would you pray for me again? I am in need of healing - yes - and so much more.

Mary Jo asked me recently who's report was I going to believe. I believe the report of the Lord - that I will not die but live and declare His works!