Love from Colorado

Vacation is a good thing! Especially when it’s to Colorado and temperatures in Dallas have been well over 100 while you’re gone. We are at Horn Creek Family Camp in south central CO with Jamie and her family. I’ve heard her talk about this camp since I met her in 6th grade and Scott and I came last year – schlepping a 7-wk old Lincoln who slept through most of it but multiplied our joy. We couldn’t get enough of the mountains, slow pace, time together, time with Jamie and her boys, Jamie’s extended family (parents and sister and nieces), new friends from small town all over Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska so we came back. And it’s even sweeter this time around. As I write, I’ve been resting with windows open and a big aspen outside our window with mountains in the distance. God sure shows His majesty here and it has refreshed my soul.

At the end of last year, before we knew God allowed cancer as part of our 2012, I only had 2 significant events on the calendar. In January, I spoke at Watermarks women’s retreat (after a couple of years out of the teaching saddle) and we planned to return to Horn Creek at the end of July. And though cancer was a surprise to us, it wasn’t to the Lord and He has again shown His mercy in the timing. Scott and I have reflected again this week about the unexpected gift and timing of Lincoln who will likely be our only biological child unless God shows off again. But I’ve also marveled at how God situated the timing of our diagnosis and treatment so perfectly between the retreat and Horn Creek so we have been able to enjoy both. I went to the doctor for the first time on the Tuesday after the retreat and I finished chemo 2 days before we left for CO. Back in March when chemo was being scheduled I remember repeatedly counting out the 14 weeks of weekly treatment and then the 8 weeks of bi-weekly treatment and each time delighting that I would finish on the 20th so we could leave for camp on the 22nd. He sweetly ordained the first doctors appointments, insurance uncertainties, port placement and first day of chemo such that our family could rest together this week as we marvel at His creation.

It’s been especially great to be here and have extra help and lower temperatures because the chemo side effects have been harder than I’m used to. I don’t know if its the change in climate or cumulative effect of chemo but its another reason I’m glad chemo is over. My eyes are almost constantly painful and watering, my energy levels have been low, my tummy has been off, and the bottom of my feet are tender and raw. My mouth has been sore and my toe still isn’t healing well. And the other big toe looks headed for the same fate. Yesterday, Scott told me he thought it was looking a lot like the other one and told me I needed to be prepared to lose it too. Then, to seal its fate, he accidentally stepped on it last night as we watched skit night so it really doesn’t have much of a chance now. I am bald and without eyelashes, eyebrows, or big toe nails. And in some weird way the chemo is rotting my finger nails too so they’re added to the unattractive side effects list. Chemo attacks all fast growing cells so that’s why skin, nails, hair, mouth and GI cells are hardest hit along with cancer. But, again, find myself thankful that my experience is still better than most folks and I can enjoy participating in most activities with Lincoln and Scott – including daily naps for all. And, f you don’t feel too great, this is a great place to be! Scenery, weather, daily teaching and encouragement and lots of help. Jamie’s boys are precious playmates and companions for him and her 10-year-old niece, Caroline, wants to take him for walks, feed him, and play with him daily. So, though I write this laying in bed for a mid-morning nap amidst eye drops, medicine, chapstick and interrupted by tummy pain, my heart is better than my body. I’ve loved the time with Scott to pray, play, talk, and explore. I’ve loved the time with Jamie and her family to laugh, fish, play, explore, and travel. And I’ve loved the time with the Lord to refresh my soul with His love, His creation, and His Word.

We leave camp tomorrow and in the style of my free-spirited husband, we will roam Colorado without a definitive plan for the next week. This is a stretch for me – an exercise in dying to self and dying to the need for a plan. But he loves to explore and wander so we will. And I’m sure I’ll love it even if I don’t exactly know what ‘it’ is. The little I know is that we will spend more time with Jamie and her family in Buena Vista and, at some point, join some friends who are camping somewhere else in CO. I don’t even know where that is. And I’ve laid down the law that I am nowhere near motivated to camp with Lincoln but we don’t have hotel reservation either. Did I mention dying to self and the need for a plan? I admit it’s good for me even if hard for me. And admit that watching Scott’s delight in the mountains and love of exploring is good for me too.

We expect to be home next Friday or Saturday. And, the following week, I have doctors appointments Monday and Tuesday and then surgery on Wednesday. I have had to confess to Scott and the Lord the anxiety about returning to Texas heat with lower energy levels and a hard week ahead but trusting the Lord will provide the energy and help I need. He’s good like that. And y’all are great too. Thanks for caring and praying. I’d love your prayers for continued rest and refreshment, reprieve from side effects, and trust in the Lord for what awaits us when we return.

With love and thanks,
Jen

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Fun Finale

Well, as I wrote earlier, it was a pretty fun day just to celebrate the end of chemotherapy. My nurse, Ellen, who helped me today in chemo was real cute about being excited it was my last round, telling my 82-year-old chemo neighbor it was my last time, and playing ‘air confetti’ (kind of like air guitar but not really because it’s not an instrument and not so animated but she did ‘feaux throw’ confetti in the air in celebration) after she unhooked me. And, shortly thereafter, 3 very familiar faces walked in. And, not only was it a surprise to see 3 friends (there’s a one visitor rule that is actively enforced) but especially a surprise to they came bearing pink balloons and gifts. The edible kind. The cookie-cake-greatness-edible-kind. And, while they brought it for me too, it was actually even sweeter to me that it was for me to share with the nurses and staff who have loved and cared for me. So, we got to walk around giving cookie cake to receptionists, blood takers, my doctor, and nurses and hug them, introduce my friends, and share the greatness that is the cookie cake. Jenn and Kim had kids in tow – adorably accessorized in pink – so, after we did our tour of sweetness, we had our own little waiting room cookie-cake-eating time with their kids too.

And then I came home to find this greatness awaiting me…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In case you can’t read it’s cuteness, it says “So Long Chemo.” Precious! And so thoughtful. My new neighbor came over and she said it made her teary. You girls can even make strangers cry with your thoughtfulness. And, as if the precious outside wasn’t enough, another sweet friend sent flowers that awaited me on the inside.

I normally rest on chemo days but with Linc at Dede and Reco’s (my in-laws in Tyler) I went into productivity mode to get ready for our Colorado trip on Friday (more on that later this week). But, I had really wanted to rest so, late in the afternoon, I sat down to rest, read, and nap. But the reading was so sweet that I never got to nap. Ive been studying Nehemiah and the lesson was on Nehemiah 3 so I just re-read that section before looking at the questions. I’d read it the other night but it came sweetly alive today. In other time I read vs 16-32, I might have skimmed. It’s a list of names about who did what in rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem under Nehemiah’s leadership. But, the study guide author encouraged us to look at the repeated phrases “next to him” and/or “beside him” and count how many times we saw it in those 16 verses. 18 times it refers to someone working “next to him” or “beside him” and though their job was a much bigger one than the one I’m facing, I saw my story in their story. Or, better yet, His story in my story. To get the wall built it took a lot of folks working side by side. And there have been some amazing women who have walked and worked by my side. Who have done their part and, today, I couldn’t help but praise Him for those names in my story as I read the names in Nehemiah’s story. And, along those lines, I reflected on 1 Corinthians 12 and the roles within the body of Christ. Some wisdom. Some knowledge. Some faith. Some healing. And, in other passages, we see similar messages about different folks with different gifts. Some teachers. Some apostles. Some evangelists. And so on. But I really love the opening of that section which says, “4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” Indeed, it’s been true for me. There are different kinds of gifts and service and working … but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. And, God made them differently but, like for Nehemiah, I’ve needed them all:) Some cooked. Some cleaned. Some bought sweet gift cards. Some called in or picked up my medicine. Some did laundry. Some delivered Starbucks. Some made house calls. Some bought or taught me scarves. Some wrote me notes. Some kept my little man. Some brought dinner. Some brought groceries. Some mow our yard. Some even planned Lincoln’s first birthday party. Some got the blog setup. Some text me Scriptures each morning. Some brought thoughtful gifts. Some even delivered books. Some coordinated meals or notes for chemo days or babysitting or chores. Some even had cancer so they could encourage me even more sweetly. Some helped financially. Some are even driving to Tyler for me to bring Linc home. In each of them, I saw the Lord working it altogether to give us what we needed for that day. And, He gifted and equipped each person uniquely to help us. One dear friend, early in my diagnosis, confessed that she was having self-described “friend insecurity” as she heard about what other friends were doing and she brought it up again this week. The first time, she cried. Now, we laugh. But, as she admitted, she started comparing what she was doing for me to what others had done for me (cooking and cleaning) and, since comparison steals our joy, it left her discouraged and with “friend insecurity.” And she would be the first to admit that she wouldn’t be good at cooking or cleaning. So I suggested she should continue with her amazing job of delivering Starbucks (which she doesn’t even like, drink, or know how to order but knows I love so she offered and suffered through the humiliation of first-time-ordering at Starbucks) or loving on my little man. Which she does beautifully. And they bless me! And, that day began my awarness to watch for how sweetly and uniquely and perfectly God provides different gifts for different needs and different people at different times.

This isn’t intended to be your morning devotional but my time in Nehemiah continued to be sweet today so I’ll continue to share:) In earlier verses in Nehemiah chapter 2, Nehemiah has come to Jerusalem to survey the damage with some men before communicating his plan publicly. Then, when he speaks before the Jews, he says, 17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace. ” 18 I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work. As I read today, I saw my own story in His words. It seems like Scott and I went to doctor’s appointments and “surveyed the damage” and then we communicated publicly. And, in our words, that would have read: You see the trouble we are in: I have cancer and it has spread to the lymph nodes. Come, please pray and may God be glorified. I also told them about the gracious hand of God and what the doctor had said to me. And they replied, “Let us start helping.” And, from that first email I sent in February, He has begun weaving my past and my present with old and new friends and He has woven our needs with offers for help. And He has strengthened us and brought glory to Himself just like Nehemiah and His people fortified the wall and brought glory to our God. Now, I want to be careful not to over-spiritual the the connections to my life (and really am not trying to preach!) but I do know that those walls that were fortified were gonna protect the people and the rebuilt temple where God dwelt among His people. And I know that this body of mine simply houses the Spirit of the living God that dwells within me. And, as He did with Nehemiah and the Israelites, He has used His people to strengthen this body and protect my heart from discouragement, doubt, weariness, or fear. And, as a result, I get to tell others about the gracious hand of God on me.

And, after all that, as if my day wasn’t sweet enough, I got to spend the night with a bunch of the girls that have been “beside me” or “next to me” so far and played a special role using “their different kinds of service” over the last 5 months. This is what greeted me when I got there. Pure creative sweetness.

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Welcome back to my chemo-free world:) Thanks for reading as I tell of the gracious hand of God on me. It is evident in countless ways. And His mercies will be new again in the morning. Oh, wait, it’s already morning…

Goodnight. I’ll end my preachin’ and put my steroid-induced-insomnia-self to bed now.

No Mo’ Chemo!

Today is my last day of chemo!
My last Wednesday date with Scott.
My last long discussion with Dr. Osborn (on left in picture) and her nurse Christina (over my shoulder) about side effects – or, in my case, gratitude that I don’t have most of the things they ask me about and none of the worst ones like nausea, bleeding or fever.
My last interview with my research nurse, Angelique (right in picture), about the side effects of the study drug.
My last day of cold spray and numbing lotion (thanks Travis) to numb my skin.
My last heated pink blanket – the best part of chemo!
My last port needle stick.
My last notes from sweet friends who have provided encouragement for every chemo day.
And my last little chemo nap is around the corner.

At least we think and hope it’s our last chemo. Thankfully I don’t fear it, but I know it’s possible for cancer to return. For now, I’m just glad that this 22-week-season is over. I’m especially thankful for how well my body has tolerated chemotherapy. And how effective it seems to have been. It has been infinitely easier than we expected. On my body and my heart. And I continue to attribute that to Gods answer to your prayers and His kindness to me. Thanks for rejoicing with us.

Night night.

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Updates and Surgery Date

Well, I will start with my usual disclaimer that I’m sorry this is overdue. I intended to get it out last week but, quite obviously, that didn’t happen.  Not much of an excuse. Unless you count Lincoln, Texas heat, laziness, and life. Who has time for cancer?! Or blogs?! I marvel more than ever at my friends who can come up with something to say DAILY. Mel, how do you do it? And they don’t even have cancer to talk about. Even with a topic, I can’t find a way to stay current on the blog. Oh well. Thanks again for the interest and interim inquiries. I need the accountability. Thanks Audrey. And others.

My topics for today are:
– surgery date
– toe woes
– and who knew there was no cancer in Arkansas?

The most significant news is that I have a surgery date. August 8th. So glad it’s scheduled. They’ll do a lumpectomy (more details on decision between lumpectomy and mastectomy a couple posts back if you missed it) and take out my lymph nodes. Since, thanks be to God, the chemo has successfully shrunk from a walnut size to maybe a pea (not exactly scientific or medical descriptions just my personal assessment) the surgery should be straightforward and they hope to take the lymph nodes from the same incision. It’s day surgery. Crazy to think of all these months and then only 1 day and it’s gone. Again, so thankful for great advances in medicine and talented physicians. Unsure on recovery time but hopeful it’s manageable and, as always, so thankful for the friends and family who have already offered help with meals and Linc.

And guess what the funnest and craziest and sweetest part of this date is to me?! It’s exact same date as my new ‘breast friend’ Lezley (see previous post if missed introduction to Lezley) will have a mastectomy. The day after I got my date, I sent a quick text to ask her for an update and when she came back saying her surgery was scheduled for the 8th (before knowing mine was also scheduled for the 8th) I’m sure my eyes were wide as saucers. So in Gods amazing way of weaving and working things … both my story and diagnosis that began first of February and her story and diagnosis that began early July both culminate in surgery on August 8th?!  Quite surprising.  Then again, not really. As I thought about this I was reminded again that His hand has been all over my story and His timing is always trustworthy. In so many little and big ways, He’s shown that He’s known what I needed before I even conceived of the need. And “He is able to meet all of my needs according to the riches of His grace in Christ Jesus.” Whether the timing is for the gifts of Scott, Linc, Lezley, or literally the countless times that someone has offered help to meet a need even before I voiced it, I marvel. One of my favorite verses for a long time has been from Psalm 119:68: “You are good and what you do is good.” That about sums it up.

On to less spiritual and more disgusting news…
I lost my toenail on Thursday. And not only does it look terrible it will officially be logged as the most painful part of the cancer journey. How can a toe generate so much pain?! I’ve mentioned my toe woes but it wasn’t getting better (see also: continued nasty oozing and bleeding) so I went to see a podiatrist on Thursday. My oncologist thought it was fungal but podiatrist had a very different story. And as I recounted the history he honed in on a 10 second incident I mentioned about Gigi stepping on my toe. It was a total accident and how could I complain when it happened while she was changing my kids diaper?! Maybe if I was changing diaper and she weren’t such a saint I would still have a toenail:) I didn’t realize that was the fateful day for my toe and blamed chemo but sounds like it was a bad combination of brittle toenail meets Gigi’s tennis shoe and then it continued to bleed and breed infection under my nail. So the doctor gives me a shot to numb my toe.  It. is. the. worst. shot. EVER. And then he cuts off the nail. The shot made me scream AND cry. Those were firsts. I came off the table. Did I mention worst shot ever?! And of course it happened to be the one and only doctor’s appointment I’ve gone to without Scott but it was a last minute and end of the day appointment so Scott kept Linc and I headed out … flying solo and then screaming and then tears. It was a low. But at least it’s over. And though it looks horrendous, now it can heal.

As I laid in bed on Thursday night with a throbbing toe, I wondered and worried about how the next day would be and what I’d do with Linc. But Jesus did His thing again. And, by 7:15 the next morning, before I was even out of bed, my friend Jenn had texted offering to take care of Linc and was at my house within an hour to pick him up. She kept him all day! And I picked him fed and clean and happy. Have I mentioned how grateful I am for my friends?! I know some of y’all are long distance or work during the day or have your own kids to manage and can’t do short-notice-rescues but just know that, along with Jenn, so many of you (including some of you that I don’t even know well) bless us with any and every help, meal, load of laundry, babysitting, prayer, and encouragement. For the zillionth time, I told someone my cancer story today and, as I’ve said before, there’s no way to tell it without talking about how good our God has been and how amazing our friends are. Thank you.

And, lastly, who knew they didn’t have cancer in Arkansas?! I went with Gigi and her family to Lake Oauchita the weekend before last and noticed lots of longer looks and staring than normal.  Long looks or double-takes thankfully don’t bother me (at all!) but it’s comical because I still forget why someone is giving me a long look (or extra friendly smile) and there’s often a 5 second delay in my brain before I remember I’m bald. But, en route to the lake, we had stopped at a gas station and while I waited for the restroom the little girl ahead of me stared and hid behind her mom’s legs and, this time, I knew why. Can’t blame her and I know that kids can’t quite process it all. However, her mom is a different story. I went into the men’s room (long line for ladies and if people are gonna call you ‘sir’ might as well use the men’s…) and then heard the little girl ask the very understandable question: “why is she bald?” But it was her mom’s answer that made me laugh: “I guess she likes it that way.” Likes it this way?! Really? Ever heard of chemo or cancer, ma’am?! Y’all have that here in Arkansas?! The rest of the weekend I felt like I got more looks than normal and kept telling Gigi how wonderful it is that they don’t have cancer in her home state:) I admit if you’re gonna be bald, Texas summers are a pretty great time. But I’m not yet thinking that Sinead O’Conner are likeminded in actually wearing it “because I like it this way.”

Oh and that reminds me of one of best quotes from last week. Of course it’s from South Dallas. When Scott and I first ventured into South Dallas, we served meals in “the kitchen” which is Cornerstone Baptist Church’s meal ministry for mostly homeless folks.  And there was a young guy who always sat in the same corner seat by restrooms and always always always wore a hoodie. Even in summer. And he never spoke. Never ever spoke. And y’all know the same cant be said of me.  So I became challenged by wanting him to talk to me but all I ever got out of him was nods, grunts and that his name was Robert.  His given name is Robert but I’ve since learned that most folks call him Bubba. Fast forward 3-4 years and he’s been befriended by another couple that serves down there who actually helped him get an apartment (and also lovingly moved him out and back to the park when he didn’t keep up his end of the deal) and by many others as well. Scott, Kenneth (our first beloved South Dallas friend who we also met in the kitchen – picture to the right) and I even got invited to a birthday party for him a couple of years ago. And, through the love of friends, Bubba is changed! And talks! And even ‘works’ at Cornerstone Baptist Church. So last Thursday, as Gigi, Jenn and I left Bible study to drive one of the ladies back to the Bridge (homeless shelter downtown), we passed Bubba and stopped to talk and one of first things out of his mouth (again, did I mention that it’s big news that he talks?) was so cute, lovable and classic: “where’s yo hair?!” Quote of the week.

We kept talking and then, even though the conversation had moved on, the humor in what he’d said caught up with me and I laughed out loud at the simplicity and honesty of his question. Gotta love my peeps in the hood. And y’all too. Thanks for loving us.

Sweet Cancer Gifts

Well it’s just been too sweet of a week not to try to share God’s kindness with my friends and family. This weeks highlights are about friends. New and old. Big and little. Bald and not.  All sweet gifts from the Lord.

James 1 says “Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.”  I don‘t believe cancer is a good thing because it brings death and destruction which He came to overcome.  But I do believe (more and more all the time) that He is amazingly sovereign and good – so much so that He can take a bad thing like cancer and bless me through it.

The first gift is little Lily Ruth. I’ve mentioned her before because the first time she saw me without hair resulted with her, me, and her mom (Kim) all crying big tears on the floor of their entryway as she told us she didn’t want Lulu not to have hair. So, as I wrote before, I spent some time that day looking through pictures, telling her I’d be ok, that my hair would grow back, and giving her choice of whether or not I took my hat off in the pool. She was pretty big-blue-eyed-adamant that I should leave it on. And when Linc knocked it off in the pool she was big-blue-eyed-staring with lots of uncertainty and fear. And later told me she was gonna be brave and not be scared. Pretty precious. So, needless to say, Lily Ruth and I have bonded over my bald head. And, lo and behold, it’s made us pretty tight. Monday was her 3rd birthday. And of course Lulu and Lincoln were excited to celebrate with her. But even sweeter was how excited she was that we were coming. She recently told her mom (completely unsolicited) that “Lulu is my best friend” and when telling her grandparents about who was coming to her party she told them her best friend, Lulu, was coming. And, on Monday night as her dad talked with her about her 3rd birthday and Ariel party, he asked what her favorite part of the party was. You guessed it. Lulu got another shout out from Lily Ruth. Considering all the hours her mom put in to the party (with party-planning back up from Gigi, me AND a babysitter), it sounds like Kim could have saved some time and money and just invited me to swim and eat cupcakes with her. I love my little blue-eyed-BFF. I told Kim I might get the big head but I’m gonna just eat it up until I have hair again like the rest of you and lose my special guest and special friend status.

As if my new status with Lily Ruth isn’t sweet enough, I cried most of the drive to her party because of the Lords sweetness in giving me a new friend – Lezley.  I’ve known Lezley because she married a guy I know from college but even moreso because one of her oldest and best friends, Kristin, is a dear friend of mine as well. [Among other wonderful things in my life, Kristin is  responsible for the sweet family picture at the top of the page of our blog and many others of our family.] Lezley is not someone I personally told about my diagnosis but she heard through mutual friends and started reading the blog.  She was the one that connected the dots between me and my surgeon’s wife – who I knew from gym but didn’t know by name.  She also brought me an amazing dinner and introduced me to delicious and healthy quinoa.  At the time, I thought it was unexpectedly sweet that she’d even bring a meal – much less pretty pink flowers and several fun gift cards too!  And, then about 2 weeks ago I got a sweet message from Kristin saying that she had been with Lezley and they were discussing that they’d really enjoyed the blog so Kristin passed that along to encourage me.  Which it did.  So, to say the least, Lezley has become a new friend through cancer.  And little did we know how perfectly ordained and good of our God that would be.  She got a very similar diagnosis as mine last Friday.  She felt something, went in for a mammogram on Thursday that resulted in lots of questions and images, and her world did had flip flopped by Friday when biopsy results confirmed the diagnosis.  Kristin texted me on Friday and, with goosebumps, I reached out to Lezley.  She’s got a zillion friends (not to mention husband and 3 kiddos) so wasn’t presuming I’d here back right away but, then again, thankfully, most of her friends don’t have cancer so it has its advantages:)  And she wanted to get together.  So, on Monday morning, when we were texting and confirming a time to get together that afternoon, I found myself crying huge-pour-down-your-face-tears on my way to Lily Ruth’s house.  I was just blown away by our God’s goodness.  He “who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” was already allowing me to extend His grace to someone else.  And, in hindsight, what I initially thought was just sweet – Lezley’s interest in our story – has become a picture of sweet sovereignty of God because He was using our story to prepare her for her story.  So I cried.  I apologized to her that I was so selfishly excited about my new friend when I realized that she’d probably have preferred not to have the cancer connection to expedite the process.  But, she came over that day and sat on my couch for over 2 hours and we laughed more than we cried, tried to look interpret her x-rays and compared pathology reports (both still pretty clueless about what we’re reading), and just celebrated God’s goodness in both of our lives with friends, family, doctors and an overwhelming sense of peace.  Her path will be a bit different than mine with location and size of tumors (mine was one big one and hers are many small that her doctor described as ‘paint splashes’).  She will have surgery first and then they’ll decide if she needs chemotherapy.  I’m praying she doesn’t need chemo because she has a sensitive tummy and I’m afraid it might not like chemo so much!  But know God’s got that covered too. I invited her to join us at Baylor today (normally we go on Wednesdays but doctors, nurses, and patients all got a fun reprieve for the 4th) for a little tour of bloodwork area, doctor’s offices, and chemotherapy.  She got a warm welcome by the sweet ladies who take my blood and hug and love on me each week.  And then she sat with me through most of chemotherapy – turning her head when needles were involved which amused the nurses.  It’s been really fun to have a pink friend.  And we laughed that she showed up and we were both wearing white pants, woven sweaters, and very similar earrings. As I texted her later today, I really really like my new friend!  And we have a lot more in common than cancer.  I love that He is able to give me another sweet gift through it.

Here are pictures of my little BFF, Lily Ruth and my new friend, Lezley.  And the sweet ladies, Frances, Betty and Sheena, who love on me each week while they take vial after vial of my blood – and promised to love on Lezley too.  This is a pic from a couple of weeks ago when I took Linc with me for my post-chemo shots (I now go in on the day after chemo for a shot to help with white blood cells) and they made a sweet fuss over him.

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And as if that isn’t already enough sweetness from the Lord for one week, I had a long, wonderful visit on Tuesday from my English teacher my junior year.  It’s still weird to call her Pam instead of Mrs. Merryman or Miss Hollingsworth.  Sshe got married when we were in high school and she reminded me yesterday that Ricky Spruill and I were late to her wedding.  But she said it didn’t bother her and followed up with, “why would I expect any different on that day than every other day in my class?!”  She also reminded me that I talked too much to Jamie in class (she wasn’t the only teacher who said that …) and I should have been a better friend and at least let her listen if I didn’t.  We had some good laughs.  And a sweet conversation of the heart.  And I was reminded why FBA was such a special, safe, loving, and encouraging place.  She remembered so many little things about me and my class that blew me away since she’s been teaching for 27 years – that’s a lot of kiddos between now and then.  And our visit was another reminder that cancer helps align priorities.  Dishes shmishes.  Email shmemail.  People are more important than productivity during naptime.  Sadly,  that’s not true all the time – but cancer helps you make better choices.  And those better choices this week came in the form of new and old friends, little friends and big friends, and a new pink friend too.

And, then, to top off my week, I got a little more bald love today.  While going from the waiting room to give blood, a woman approached me and said, “from one bald woman to another, I must say you are beautiful.  And are radiating.  Maybe that’s God?”  In the course of my life, I’ve understood that I was moderately intelligent (I could read my report card and see good grades) and pretty athletic (but then again, I went to a small private school that was very nurturing so it wasn’t hard to excel) but I’ve never ever ever been one to think of myself as “beautiful.”  And that’s not a self-deprecating comment.  It’s an honest assessment.  I don’t think that it’s bothered me but I just think that if I’m in a room with 100 women there’s not even a slim chance that I’ll win (or be a runner up of any sort) in the (back to high school again …) “Most Beautiful” award.  And, for the most part, I’m ok with that.  God saw fit to design me otherwise and, through the years, I’ve been able to be thankful for his gifting of athletics and smarts.  I did snag the “Most Athletic” award at FBA but maybe I should mention again that it was a very small school?!  Anyways, in the course of about five minutes today, after I was giving blood and crying because of the gentleness and kindness of my bald-headed friend, 2 totally different and totally unrelated women came around the little partition where I sat filling vials of blood and told me how beautiful they thought I was without any hair.  Now, before y’all get carried away with responding to that (certainly not my intent), you should know that us cancer peeps can easily identify each other in a large room.  And having gone bald to the doctor’s office and chemotherapy for the first time ever, I think it is a reminder of how beauty truly is in the eyes of the beholder and, in our cancer community, we behold each other beautifully.  I know I smile differently to the cancer patients in the room than I do to their friends or family with them (and it’s easy to tell them apart).  But also the greatest compliment ever was that she saw my Savior in me.  Or, as I suspect from her countenance, it was His Spirit in her that allowed her to see beauty in me.  Either way, I cried so much that Frances and Betty came over to hug me in Sheena’s little cube – while Sheena kept telling them, “she’s all good, these ain’t sad tears, she’s cryin’ happy tears.”  And nothin’ like those girls loving on me to get me to go a cryin’ again.  And you know I couldn’t wait to introduce Lezley to them.  And they promised me they were gonna love her through it too.  And that they’d teach her to get used to needless:(

Love and kindness are good and sweet things.  I’ve had a heaping of both this week.  From the folks I’ve mentioned but also many others in big and small ways.  You know who you are.  And we thank you.

And, while this was a heart report, I wanted to give a quick body report too.  For the most part, it’s all still tolerable and much better than expected.  It’s the little things that aren’t so fun.  My nails are so tender that basic life tasks can cause pain and I have a wrecked big toe that looks like it’s bore all the brunt of chemo.  My skin is still dry and sensitive and hot flashes are still crazy.  The new kicker is that I’m learning how I’ve under-valued and under-appreciated my eyelashes and eyebrows for a good 40 years.  I went to my doctor’s appointment complaining of sensitive, burning, red eyes and their simple answer was that I don’t have eyelashes or eyebrows to protect them from irritants so they’re constantly irritated by sweat, lotion, sunscreen, wind, or sun.  When’s the last time I thanked God for His great design including eyelashes?!  I’m sleeping ok – not great but ok.  And thankful for Marisa who kept Linc during chemo and my mom who came over after so I could sleep it off.

Thanks for “rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep” – whether those are tears from irritated eyes or sweet new friends, children, or strangers or just the overwhelming kindness of our God.  His mercies are indeed new every morning.

I’m thankful for your continued prayers for us.  And would love your prayers for Lezley and her family too.