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.
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.