All That Thrills My Soul is Jesus


Scripture for the day: 1 Samuel 16:7 “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'”

I have always cared about my physical appearance. My hair, my nails, my body were always important to me. I fell for all the ads about using certain products to make my hair shine, my nails grow, my body look great. It was an obsession when I was a teenager, and it consumed a lot of my time. I even remember “needing” a certain lipstick so badly that I charged a tube at the drug store where my parents had an account. I felt certain my tiny little charge would go unnoticed when my dad paid the bill at the end of the month. Wrong. I was in big trouble, and I learned a lesson. I never liked that lipstick and felt duped by the advertising. It was a first in a long line of lessons about wants vs needs.

And then along came cancer. First it started consuming my body, stealing precious nutrients to grow tumors inside of me. The tumors grew and crowded out major organs of my body. The body that had served me so well was under siege, and it was losing. In order to save my life, a skilled surgeon removed the tumors and other damaged areas of my body. In a few weeks, my body started to recover from the assault. I started to feel like me again. Almost. Then chemo was tossed into the mix of things. The person I had been: the hair, the nails, the body were simply gone. I saw a pale, sick, depressed person in the mirror that I didn’t know. I didn’t care. I didn’t want to know her. But God saw His child. He loved me, and He had a plan.

I grieved for the person I had lost. I couldn’t see that God was making a new creature. He was taking the old me and creating someone new, someone more in His image. I remember returning to my church for the first time after chemo. I didn’t wear my wig, testing out the new “me” in a safe environment. A little girl whose mom had been a real prayer warrior for me asked “Who are you?” I thought it was a very good question, and I started trying to find the answer.

Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” All through my ordeal, God had protected me, guided me, guarded me. I realized how totally dependent on Him I was for everything. And He was all I needed.

Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” I was so sick and overwhelmed by cancer and the treatment that I simply submitted. Totally. I didn’t have the energy to worry about tomorrow. I simply knew God was with me. He gave me the strength, the joy to face each new day.

God had to knock me flat to enable me see Him, trust Him for everything. And I am so glad He did.

Be You Bravely


Scripture for the day:  Isaiah 43:18-19 “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old.  Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it?  I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

I am a mentor mom for MOPS, and our theme this year is Be You Bravely.  This scripture from Isaiah is our Bible text.

Bravery is defined as courageous behavior or character.  Some synonyms are courage, valor, nerve, daring, audacity, heroism.  Fear is defined as a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, pain, evil, whether real or imagined.  To me, it is the opposite of bravery.

I read last week that the Bible says “do not be afraid”, “fear not”, etc. 365 times.  I don’t have 365 scripture references to back that up, but I know there are many in the Bible.  I like the number 365 because that means there is one reference for every day of the year, and I need to be reminded daily.

The Bible says in Psalm 111:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  To me this is a good place to start.  This requires learning about God and having a reverential awe of Him.  Ultimately, we are to exchange our attitudes and will for His.

Fear can be a real hindrance to spiritual growth.  Sometimes we are fearful because of previous mistakes, and we get stuck in the past.  We become rooted in our failures and are unable or unwilling to move forward.  It takes bravery to stop looking in the rearview mirror and start moving ahead in God’s grace.

Sometimes we are literally paralyzed by fear.  I remember one such time in my life, and it is still very vivid to me.  I was in my teens and was watching TV with my grandfather.  Suddenly, I had the feeling that someone was watching us.  I got up and went to look out the front door.  As I did so, the figure of a man streaked across the porch.  At that moment, I was paralyzed by fear.  I couldn’t speak.  I couldn’t move.  I just stood there for a few seconds before I was able to alert my family to the potential danger.

Just recently, I went out in our garage early in the morning.  I was barefoot at the time and felt something under my foot as I stepped out of the house into the garage.  I looked down and realized I was standing on a snake!  I was not paralyzed by fear!  The next thing I knew I was up in the air between the car and a table, yelling to my husband!  Two scary situations.  Two very different reactions.  I did not exhibit bravery in either situation!  But my reactions were completely normal.

I can think of a couple of times in my life when I exhibited bravery.  In 1984 I was asked to be director of Vacation Bible School at my church.  I felt totally unqualified for the job, but I said yes anyway.  The main reason I was hesitant was because I would have to speak in front of everyone on parent’s night.  Public speaking almost kept me from accepting a job that brought me so much joy and pleasure.  God called me, and He equipped me every year.  I am so grateful that I didn’t let fear override my desire to serve.

In 2008 I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  I was too sick to be fearful, and so I raised my fist in anger at the beast.  I looked cancer straight in the eye and said “bring it on”.  The fight was neither easy nor pleasant, but God was with me all the way.  Because it was His will, I survived.  I volunteer at a cancer support facility to give hope to those newly diagnosed.  I am alive.  I can smile.  I am the face of hope to those fearful beyond words.

So how can we be brave?  Scary situations, evil intentions and calamities are all around us.  For me, I embrace Isaiah 41:10-11 “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God, I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Behold, all those who were incensed against you shall be ashamed and disgraced; they shall be as nothing, and those who strive with you shall perish.”

Quite simply, God is with me.  He will uphold me, help me, strengthen me.  He will enable me to be brave.

Song for the day: “Fear Not for I Have Redeemed You”

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xn0m8z_christian-praise-worship-songs-lyrics-2011-fear-not-for-i-have-redeemed-you-isaiah-43_music

 

 

Busyness


Scripture for the day:  Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Be still.  I struggle with that command, and I always have.  I am very good at “doing”.  I excel at “overdoing”, but this verse wants me to be still.  Oh, how I struggle with that.  My mother was a doer.  She was always working.  Even if she was sitting, she was crocheting or doing something with her hands.  I don’t know whether I emulated her or whether I was born with her nature.  Either way, I, too, strive on activity.

God has worked on this for years in my life, and I have always resisted.  But age is on His side now, and so that makes His task easier.  He has also placed me in situations where  silence, inactivity were required.  When my mother was in a nursing home, I visited her almost every day.  On my way to her room, I passed a sign that said “Be still, and know that I am God”.  Every day  I read that on my way to sit with her and be still.  I might have been sitting quietly, but inside I was churning.  Nothing quiet going on inside of me!

Then along came cancer.  I was too sick to “do” anything, and so I was in bed.  I didn’t have a chance to recover from surgery before I started chemo.  With that, I experienced the kind of fatigue I had never known before.  I was too tired to fight, and so I gave in to being still.  I faced death, but God chose to save me.  In saving me, He also changed me.  I am no longer the President of Over-doers Anonymous, nor do I want to be.  I am content to let others take charge or let things go undone. Psalm 23:2 says “He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.”  Through cancer treatment and recovery He taught me to lie down and be still.  I have no desire to leave His green pastures and get back on the interstate highway.

Psalm 90:12 says “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  I am selective now in my commitments.  I try to follow His leadership in my life and take on those tasks I feel He wants me to accomplish.

His way is so much better than my way. Philippians 4:6-7 says “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  I claim this scripture today, and I am at peace.

Song for the day:  “Be Still My Soul” by Kari Jobe

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mq59iE3MhXM

 

Remembering Lorna


Scripture for the day:  Proverbs 31:30 “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”

I was an only child, but I was blessed with many cousins.  They were all a big part of my life, but some were closer than others.  I was very close to two sisters.  They lived in Kansas, so I only saw them on holidays as a rule.  Every summer, however, we met at my grandparents house and spent a week together.  I treasure those memories!  My grandmother cooked for us and played with us.  She always had a smile or a laugh, no matter what shenanigans we were up to!  The one thing that she didn’t tolerate, however, was jumping on the feather bed.  We knew this, but couldn’t resist the forbidden fruit occasionally.  I think we enjoyed getting caught as much or more than the jumping because it reinforced boundaries and her love for us.  My grandfather was a great story-teller, and he knew lots of silly songs.  We delighted in sitting around him listening to him sing and tell stories. We also learned to make a wide path around a one-pound Folger’s coffee can.  He chewed tobacco, and that coffee can was his spittoon!  We considered it gross then, and my opinion hasn’t changed over the years.

We wrote letters to each other in between visits, and we sent cartoons clipped from the paper.  Giggling and laughter were our specialties, and that is what I remember most.  We were one year apart in age, with Lorna being the oldest, me in the middle, and Linda the youngest.  They always wanted me in the middle of everything, and I loved that.  They were the closest thing I had to sisters, and I treasured both of them.

Sadly, Linda died of ovarian cancer in her 20’s.  The cancer was discovered when her son was delivered, and there was nothing doctors could do to save her.  When I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2008, it was a different scenario.  Treatment options had changed tremendously, and I am living proof of that.  Diagnosis was still difficult almost 40 years later, but survival rates had improved.

Lorna’s battle was with breast cancer, and she fought long and hard.  She called a few times when she was having a pity party, but for the most part she was a brave and beautiful warrior.  Lorna was a Proverbs 31 woman.  She loved her family, her friends, but most of all she loved Jesus.  She served Him faithfully until the end, and I know she is with Him today.

I miss Linda and Lorna terribly, but I also know I will see them again some day.  I imagine we will have our own corner in Heaven where we can laugh, giggle and remember.  That comforts me, but Heaven can wait.  I  am still here, and I have a story to tell.  Even though I tested negative for the BRCA mutation, I feel there is a genetic link.

I’m glad I had ovarian cancer!  Now my daughter and my granddaughters are aware of the beast who hides silently in the darkness.  They have partnered with me to raise awareness, but they are also alert to the possibility in their own lives.  My cancer served a purpose.  God had a plan!  My suffering was worthwhile.

I’m celebrating Lorna’s birthday in my heart today.  She would have been 71, and she would have made the day special for all those around her.  I am remembering a beautiful woman who was a part of me for so many years.  She lives on in my heart and in the hearts of her family.

Save me a place in the corner, Lorna!  Give Linda a hug!  I’ll see you again one day!  Happy birthday!

 

Survival Rates for Ovarian Cancer Compared to Other Cancers


Ovarian cancer accounts for approximately three percent of cancers in women. While the 10th most common cancer among women, ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related death among women, and is the deadliest of gynecological cancers. Mortality rates are slightly higher for Caucasian women than for African-American women.

A Woman’s Lifetime Risk:
     A woman’s lifetime risk of developing invasive ovarian cancer is 1 in 72.

A woman’s lifetime risk of dying from invasive ovarian cancer is 1 in 95.

Age:
Approximately 1.2 percent were diagnosed under age 20;

3.6 percent between 20 and 34;

7.4 percent between 35 and 44;

18.6 percent between 45 and 54;

23.4 percent between 55 and 64;

20.1 percent between 65 and 74;

17.6 percent between 75 and 84;

8.1 percent 85+ years of age.

From 2005 to 2009, the median age at diagnosis was 63. For the same period, the median age of death from ovarian cancer was 71.

Survival:

Ovarian cancer survival rates are much lower than other cancers that affect women.

• The relative five-year survival rate is 44 percent. Survival rates vary depending on the stage of diagnosis.

• Women diagnosed at an early stage have a much higher five-year survival rate than those diagnosed at a later stage.

• Approximately 15 percent of ovarian cancer patients are diagnosed early.

• Women diagnosed with breast cancer in 1975 experienced a five-year survival rate of 75.3 percent; today, the American Cancer Society estimates the rate to be 90 percent.

• Women diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1975 experienced a five-year survival rate of 69 percent; today, the American Cancer Society estimates the rate to be 69 percent.

• Women diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1975 experienced a five-year survival rate of 36 percent; today, the American Cancer Society estimates the rate to be 43 percent.

Can’t Stand? Kneel


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Scripture for the day:  Isaiah 25:4a “for you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.”

My family and I participated in a walk to raise awareness of ovarian cancer this weekend.  It was a beautiful day, and it was nice to be part of something much larger than our small story.  Some ladies were in wheelchairs, but they were there.  Some were obviously weak, struggling, but they were there.  Many were in the process of undergoing treatment, and many were in remission.  Family and friends who had been there for us when we were fighting for our lives were there to support us.  We were all there under God’s blue sky with a common goal:  to raise awareness about a disease that had almost cost us our lives.

As a survivor, I was given a “goody bag” to take home.  When I opened the bag, one thing in particular stood out to me.  It was a teal and white card that read:

When life is too much to stand . . . kneel

I think most of the ladies there yesterday have known those days.  For all of us, there were times when we wondered if we would make it.  There were days when life was too much to stand.  It was in those moments that I knelt before my God and simply gave the pain, the fear, the doubt to Him.  I found power in Him when I was too weak to stand.  He changed me.  He changed what I was feeling even though the circumstance was the same.  His love gave me peace.  He gave me hope.  I could almost feel His loving arms hold me close and help me stand.

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I will keep the sweet memory of this weekend.  I will treasure the feel of sunshine on my face;fr_1183 the gentle breeze; the love of family; being with other families who understand what a cancer diagnosis means.  But I also give yesterday to Jesus because I know it happened through His grace.  He was there for me in the pain, and so I also give Him the joy of Saturday.

He was my shelter from the storm.  When the giant waves crashed around me, threatening to take me under, He was there to keep me safe.  He is with me now  as I walk through the quiet, peaceful waters of remission.  No matter what life brings my way, Jesus is beside me.  I give Him praise, honor and glory in everything.

Song for the day:  “On My Knees” by Jaci Velasquez

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=By-8BN316mM 

Risk Factors for Ovarian Cancer


Today I want to share the risk factors for ovarian cancer and screening tests that can be performed.  This information is from the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.

Risk factors for ovarian cancer may include:

Family history of ovarian or breast cancer

Family/personal history of BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 genetic mutation

Being of Ashkenazi Jewish descent (increased risk of BRCA-1 & BRCA-2 mutation)

Never having been pregnant

Abdominal obesity

Women who began menstruating before age 12 or reached menopause after 50

Use of hormone replacement therapy

Factors that MAY reduce ovarian cancer risk:

Use of oral contraceptives

Pregnancy

Oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries)

Breast feeding

Screening:

There is no effective screening test for ovarian cancer and a Pap test does NOT detect ovarian cancer.  However, ovarian cancer abnormalities can be detected by a complete pelvic exam, a transvaginal ultrasound, and a CA-125 blood test.  These tests are most effective when used in combination with each other.  The only definitive way to diagnosis ovarian cancer is through surgery and biopsy.

Ovarian cancer is known as “The Disease that Whispers” so listen carefully!

Know your body.  Know the symptoms.  Be persistent.

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