"It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn your statutes." Psalm 119:71

Sunday, May 29, 2011


One of my role models is a woman named Tana who is the mother of a friend of mine. I haven't seen her or spoken to her in years. But she was one of my teachers in Missionettes when I was a teenager and she made such an impact on me that I think about her often when life throws me curve balls. Tana was always smiling, ready to help or offer encouragement, and she had this very peaceful attitude about her. As an unruly teenager, I looked at her and saw a very modest, Biblically wise person. But somehow, she never came off as judgemental, which, sadly, is how people who know their Bible as well as she, usually come off. Interestingly, Tana is also a cancer survivor. I don't know how far news of my recent illness has spread, so I don't know if Tana is aware of my blog or not (Are you out there, Tana?)...

But the reason I bring her up is because she said something to me many years ago, and I've been thinking about it a lot lately. It isn't going to be profound like you might expect after reading her glowing introduction. In fact, it's quite comical. Tana and I were joking about Harry Connick Jr. one night. I said I thought he was cute (still do) and Tana made a face and said that, to her, he looked like he'd fallen out of an ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down!

Now, this may be an odd thing for me to remember from 15 or more years ago. But because of Tana's serene and sweet nature, this zing at poor Harry"s expense has always been a favorite memory of mine.

I hinted in my last post that I've got some inner turmoil going on right now. I feel in the midst of a battle. And the best way for me to explain it, is to say that I'm falling off a tree and hitting every branch on the way down. It's a Tree of Pride. And God's pushing me off of it. But just one branch at a time. When I started praying for God to take my pride it was probably about three years ago. And I had no idea how far I had to go!

So here I am- falling off branches as the wind of the Holy Spirit moves, knocking my teeth on the bark, skinning my knees on the twigs, and the whole time, all I can think is, "C'mon! There's got to be a better way!" But I know there isn't. I know if God snapped his fingers and miraculously changed my heart and eliminated my pride and dependence on self, that He'd be robbing me of the lessons in the meantime. And He'd be keeping me from seeing the miracles in His methods!

The hardest part is that my enemy wants to keep me at the top of that Tree of Pride. He likes me there thinking that I'm in control; that my way's best. So, he's fighting my descent. And I feel it very acutely. I'm in the midst of a battle! Honestly, everything I touch lately has fallen apart and I've had to face down embarrassments and failures. I've been trying to do what God wants, and things haven't been working out like I'd hoped. And so I've been dealing with feelings of inferiority that I know aren't coming from a Godly place. I can see how Satan will win the battle if he gets me to pick up the reigns again. If he can get me to believe that things were going better when I was in control, then he gets his way.

But he forgot one thing. Satan forgot that my war cry is, "Here am I! Send me!" And so I will go where God wants and suffer failure in the eyes of humans, so that I can say to God that his opinion mattered more to me than my reputation!

What a high, high, humbling calling-- to know that God wants to prune you, to break you, to mold you so that in the end, you're something He can use in His Heavenly plans! When I get to the bottom of my current "tree," and I find myself lying with my back on the dirty ground, I'll sing praises to God! For then I'll truly be in a position to only look up! God, thank you in advance, for the day when my self-reliance is gone and I can be an open, empty vessel, wanting only to please You!

The wait is painful.
The fall is excruciating.
The fight is exciting! 
The glory is God's.
The challenge is for both you and me.
And the reward waits in Heaven!

John 15

The Vine and the Branches
 1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.    5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Ephesians 6

The Armor of God
 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

So, I made it through my annual scan and all the worry that comes with it! I can't remember if I wrote this on the blog or not yet, but dealing with this scan made me more frightened than I'd been even during the initial diagnosis. Hard to believe, isn't it? I think that the underlying reason is simple: Plenty of people are breast cancer survivors. Not that many are two-time survivors.

Which is exactly what I was thinking when, less than 24 hours after my "Clean and Clear" results regarding the chest MRI, my oncologist sent me off to get a back xray because of some chronic pain I've been having for three months. He said that he "gets paid to worry," and then told me that for someone my age, back pain should heal itself after so long. Which, in Oncologist speak means, "Let's rule out bone metastasis."

That was almost a week ago and I haven't heard the results of the xray yet. Which I think is good news. Although on occasion I think it means my file slipped into the trash and has long been forgotten!

Mostly, life in our house has been "too good to be true" lately. Which is both very good and very true. The way God shook up our beliefs and turned our outlook about so many things upside down has proven to be so rewarding! We still have slip-ups where we fall back into our old way of thinking, but that just makes me more grateful for those moments in the oncologists office when I feel "down and out." Those moments can be a real kick in the pants to remind me to re-gain focus.

I've been reading, Weird, by Craig Groeschel. And the chapter on "people pleasing" was both eye-opening and timely. Terry and I do look pretty weird to some people right now-- moving to a small apartment after selling a lot of our stuff, designating our money to strange, new places that we hope will further God's kingdom (which effectively tightened our budget in other areas, meaning we have to say "no" to a lot more social activities), etc. And making these weird changes has, at times, caused me to feel a little under-attack by well-meaninged people. Truth is, I've stayed up nights, racked with guilt over not looking like the "right kind of Christian" to other people. So, if you pray for me (and I hope you do!) add this to your prayer list: Sarah needs to worry less about pleasing people, so she can worry more about pleasing God!

A lot of these feelings stem from survivor's guilt. You know- God saved me from cancer for a reason-- now I have to live up to that potential. There's a tremendous amount of pressure that comes from that kind of thinking! Lately I've been feeling like I'm letting people down right and left. And maybe that's because I took too much on, too quickly.

But, I've got to point out (because I'm such a 'silver lining' type of girl) that all this pressure and judgement has made me turn to God more often and I've even started a prayer journal again. I haven't kept one since college, but these very lovely people, who read this very-unworthy blog, sent me a beautiful journal and I was inspired! Thank you so much Pauline, Estelle, Jimmy, and Peggy!

And thank you to everyone else out there-- all 3 of you readers who actually make it to the end of such long, wandering posts! There are times when I can't stand to think of writing about cancer or survivorhood. And then there are other times, like tonight, when I need to put my thoughts on paper and it's nice to imagine someone out there is listening!

Check back soon to hear my excitement over my reconstruction surgery being set! June 27th! So exciting!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Most Fun I've Ever Had Writing a Post

Scans are clear! Healthy! Cancer-free!

(details to follow, thanks for your prayers.)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Humor Me: An MRI Rant by a Future Nut Case

Have you seen the news about a 14 pound baby being born last week?

Today, during my MRI, I kept thinking of how much I'd give anything to be out of the tiny tube. I was longing to be doing something easy, like giving birth with no epidural to a 14 pound baby, while lying on a bed of nails and watching Jersey Shore.

Here is what an MRI tube looks like for a breast scan:

I really do understand that to many people, this is not a big deal. People like my husband. But if you, like me, are claustrophobic, then you can understand my disdain for this procedure.

I don't know why, but this time around was SO much worse than last year. I told two nurses that I was claustrophobic this morning, and also indicated it on the paper work I had to fill out. But, somehow, they missed that info and gave me just one Xanax and later told me that if I'd told them I was claustrophobic then I could have had more. Maybe last year's MRI wasn't so bad because I had more drugs. Ahh... drugs.

So, here's what happens during a breast MRI.You have to lie face down on top of a board that has two holes. Since this is a breast MRI, I'll let you use those Sherlock Holmes skills of yours to deduce what these holes are for.

So, once you're positioned on the board, they cover you with a sheet because these types of rooms are always cold! Then they push a button that slides you into a tiny tube and they tell you that you are not to move an inch for 45 minutes.

Now, I do know that people have MRI's done all the time with no problems. I am just not one of those people! They are just not my thing. In fact, I really thought I was going to lose my mind near the end of my 45 minutes today. The machine makes an awful banging and beating sound while it's gathering images. So, imagine lying really still, face down with your head in a hole, your chest in a hole, your arms above your head, and a panic button in your hand. Then imagine that a sink begins to drip, a toddler bangs incessantly on a pot with a spoon, a tv is left on and tuned to a snowy channel, and all of this is at a noise level that's so loud that they have to put ear plugs in your ears. That's an MRI.

The thing that sent me over the edge was an unlucky timing of a hot flash. I have gotten used to hot flashes in the months I've been taking Tamoxifen. They pass within a few minutes and I've found that the best way to get through them is to stand in front of a fan or grab a cold drink. So there I was today, just lying there, panicking and imagining that if I had to stay inside that little tube for only 3 more minutes, I would officially lose my mind and then they'd lock me up in a padded room where I'd never get out and my claustrophobia could really take over and eliminate any remaining brain cells within my already warped brain. 

Only, I couldn't throw the blanket off of me like normal, or ask Terry, "Run, turn on the fan!" I had to lie there and feel my skin melt off of me and drip down into those humiliating holes that were in my board. (Slight exaggeration. Slight.)

 I did try to distract myself. First I tried to pray but I kept hearing Pastor Larry's sermon on prayer in my head. And, I'm sorry, Pastor, but I just have a really hard time praying without saying "just!" (If you don't go to my church, you won't get that. And I'm not gonna explain it either. Hey- if you want in on the inside jokes, you'll just have to come to my church!)

So then I tried to play the movie Dirty Dancing in my head. Cause, you know, after prayer, Patrick Swayze is the next best thing (again, I exaggerate). But I couldn't get the order of the movie right and my brain kept jumping scenes (it must be time to have 'the time of my life' again!). So then I abandoned that and my brain began to turn to mush as I tried to settle on a topic...

I need to add some Boyz II Men to my IPod. Takes me back! Go to the end of the road! Ooh, you know what, let's not think about anything that has to do with 'end of the road'... Maybe Terry will take me shopping after this. Hmm... what is it about medical procedures that suddenly makes me so materialistic? Hope my boys' future wife's won't be materialistic. Well, just materialistic enough to want to go shopping with their mother-in law-sometimes. Maybe Micah and Caleb will marry Hazel and Annabel. Then I can go shopping with their mom. If I don't get out of this flippin' tube soon I'll scream! Maybe I'll just scream in my head and see if that helps. AAAAAGGGGHHHHH!! agh. AGH! Nope, didn't help at all. When will it end? I can't take it. Why am I here? Think of the boys... ok, that's better. I see big blue eyes, toothy smiles... Ok, maybe I can go one more minute...  

And just when I think I can't handle it, I've got to push my panic button, the tears are right there, bubbling below my eyelids, I hear a magical voice say, "Ok, you're all done!"

Then I got dressed and walked around with a huge red circle on my face from the compression of the padding around the hole my head was in. And that red circle stayed for over an hour. Which is nothing compared to the scarring I feel inside after that MRI.

(Ok, I'm done ranting. It's over now and I've got a whole year to go before I'll have to do it again. (And by it, I mean the MRI scan, not the rant. I make no promises about future rants!) And all joking aside, please pray for CLEAR scan results!!! Jesus, I just want to avoid recurrence!)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Puzzle Pieces

"The tortures occur. If they are unnecessary, then there is no God, or a bad one. If there is a good God, then these tortures are necessary. For no, even moderately good Being could possibly inflict or permit them if they weren't." --C.S. Lewis

Two years ago I was asking God to send something big my way so I could participate in a grand plan! These days I ask God to keep me from running and hiding under the bed. But, never-- Never, Ever-- have I doubted that my good God in Heaven had good things for me.

It's like I'm putting together one enormous jigsaw puzzle. The puzzle of my life. And I know what I would like the end result to be. And I can ask God for that when I pray, but I know that His plan will work out more splendidly than my own. But for some reason, I still keep picking up wrong pieces and trying to jam them in where they don't fit. My clumsy hands are trying to finish the puzzle quickly so that I can sit back and say, "Hey! I got it! I see the picture, now!"

In all likelihood, God hasn't even gotten all the pieces on the table yet. He's still crafting His artwork and laying the design and I'm too anxious to stop and appreciate the beauty of each piece. And here's the really interesting thing: How great would a puzzle be if it were a picture with only one color? How good is any artwork that doesn't incorporate varying shades and shadows? My puzzle won't be good without the dark pieces. In order for the whole thing to look right, there have to be dark pieces.

I can't be what He wants, or go where He wants, without those varying shades.

After I was diagnosed I used to keep a score card in my head. I'd tally how many "points" 'cancer' racked up on any given day. If, at the end of the day, 'cancer' had made it on the scoreboard, it was a bad day for me. Today my score board looks different. I keep adding up points in favor of cancer. Cancer taught me this today... Point. Cancer made me aware of that... Point. Cancer opened my eyes... Point.

My tortures, in the grand scheme of things, have not been so awful. But God allowed me to see things from a dim perspective so that I might really know how it feels to be at rock-bottom. That's wisdom I needed in order to finish my puzzle.