Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Peace That Surpasses Understanding...

Honestly, I don't think it is a secret that I'm sappy.  But, I really get overwhelmed sometimes with how many messages and texts and emails I've been getting these last few months.  I mean, truly, there is gratitude that I am not sure conveys when I tell people, "Thank you for thinking of me."

I mean it, though.  I am very thankful for so much kindness and support.  So much so that I also feel a level of guilt because there is such an outpouring of concern for me...and I don't feel that I'm necessarily in as much need.

Really.  I feel great.  (Ha ha, amazing what medicine can do, isn't it?)

I do.  I am FINALLY feeling more back to normal health...sometimes you just don't even realize how poorly you felt until you feel better and look back.  I think that's been a big factor in just having this cloud hang over my head this year.  When you feel sick, everything seems more dreary.

Which is not to say that we've not had our challenges lately.  We have.

I have.

And there have been times where I just kept begging for a break.  A breather.  Just something to be easy.

I hate that in that begging, what IS easy gets buried.
There is so much easy in my life.

Just mine for the taking if I just remember to realize it.  All the time.

I purposely have NOT been googling much about all this cancer/cyst/estrogen reactive/genetic risk factors/mastectomy situation stuff because the decisions I need to make are too big for me to have water muddied by Dr. Google.

I choose health care so that I can trust my providers.  If you can't trust your providers, you need to find new ones.  I am thankful that I have access to excellent care.  And, I'm thankful that I have had multiple opinions with various bits of information and perspective.

I had the MRI yesterday.  Perhaps I should have googled that a bit more.  I had no idea what to expect. I just figured it was kind of like a CT scan, and I have had lots of those.

Sorta.  It was sorta like a CT scan.

I didn't realize there'd be need for an IV for contrast ( I don't love IVs) and I didn't realize it would be so tight.

I'm a smidgen claustrophobic.  Plus, I had to lay on my stomach, and I (much like Luke) sort of choke when my neck is strained just so.

Like it was yesterday.

The nurse told me that they had a fabulous high-tech machine, but the downfall of it was that it was loud.  (I'm still thinking that whirring, engine sound like in CT scans, but louder.)  The tech asked me if I wanted music (couldn't be too loud if you could hear music, right?) and I said, "Sure."  She asked me what kind I liked to listen to and I answered, "Ummmm...Christian?  Or Motown?  Whatever you've got."

And I climbed on.  Got positioned.  Started freaking a little bit, but kept my cool.  Got the headphones on and heard Hillsong United singing Oceans (Where Feet May Fail).  Thought, "Ok.  I can do this...don't love it, but I can do it.  Keep swallowing."

Then I went in.  I lifted my head and realized I couldn't lift my head.  Freaked out a bit more.  Started to tear up, but the tech said I was doing great and the first scan would start....

Enter, in my head, the LOUDEST alarm-like sound I've heard in a long time.  It scared the mess out of me.  It's not this whirring noise...it's this horrible, loud, crazy scary alarm-like thing and I freaked out.  It lasted about a minute (or eight hours, hard to tell) and then I was asked how I was.

I said, "Um, is it going to be like that the whole time?"

You can guess the answer.

So, while they kept saying they could take their time, and maybe I could get a xanax, I just said, "No.  I need to get home.  I'm tough.  I'll do this."

I closed my eyes and just started praying.  Prayed for God to take the fear.  Prayed for God to give me peace.  Prayed to stop shaking and crying.

Then it started again.  This time, the volume of the music was louder, and I could hear the song.

"One Thing Remains" by Jesus Culture started.  This song came out right before Matthew's 1st  birthday.  I was about 32 weeks with Luke, and remember feeling the lyrics in my soul:

"Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant through the trial and the change
One thing… Remains..."

I started crying.  What were the odds that a song that was over several years old and so special to me would be played at the very minute I'm crying because I am afraid?
Instantly, I felt less afraid and started singing.

"On and on and on and on it goes
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never, ever, have to be afraid
One thing remains"

Then...as if that wasn't big enough for me, the next song came on: "That's What Faith Can Do" by Kutless.

Y'all.  I wrote about this song and what it meant to me a little over a month after Matthew died.  Wrote how I was begging God to help me because I was desperately trying to survive my broken heart and glorify God and couldn't He just help me out some?  I just reread that post.  Sometimes I just have no words for the awe.

"I’ve seen dreams that move the mountains
Hope that doesn’t ever end
Even when the sky is falling
And I’ve seen miracles just happen
Silent prayers get answered
Broken hearts become brand new
That’s what faith can do."

I spent the next 15 minutes or so crying.  In gratitude.


I know we have a lot going on.  I know there are lots of unknowns and circumstances that aren't ideal and things I wish I had more certainty in.

But I am at such peace about everything.

Houses are rented.  We'll find somewhere to live.  I do not believe for one second that MRI or any blood work is going to come up with anything that says cancer, and I have no reservations, whatsoever, about holding off on a mastectomy and watching for a bit longer.  We have food in crazy amounts, so much water that Luke plays in it all the time, and though I complain about the size of this house—it's ginormous in world standards.

It may seem like there'd be a lot of turmoil in my mind (and there has been, make no mistakes), but there isn't.

Not one bit.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Gratitude In The Storm...

I'm sure many are familiar with "Praise You In This Storm" by Casting Crowns, and if you are not, it essentially is the heart's cry of many—

"And though my heart is torn...I will praise You in this storm."

Lots of people who have lost children and then gone on to have subsequent children call those children "Rainbow" babies because they are like the rainbow of Promise and Healing and Redemption after a turbulent storm.

Without question, Luke is all of those things in the aftermath of losing our Matthew.

And, I did go right back to church after Matthew died.  Less than two weeks after he died, I sat in Sunday School and participated in the current study we were doing:  Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People?  I tried to keep it together while the room was really, really heavy with grief and awkward glances at us; people wondering how in the world we were even functioning, much less able to talk about how bad things could happen to 'good' people.  Answering questions like, "Has anything ever happened that you begged God could be different?"

Yeah.  Ummmmmmmm.......

But I should be honest.  I don't think I was doing much praising.  I was sure as heck in a storm; of that, there was no doubt.  And, I went to church.  I smiled when people told me they could see God working in us and through us, and I listened to NOTHING but Christian music around the clock.

I didn't praise, though.

I mean, I praised God for Matthew.  For a perfect process from IVF consultation to the last minute before John told me he'd gone.  I'd spent nearly ten months of bliss and I was finally a mother, and my son was beautiful and I *did* praise God for that.  I praised Him for the support we had.  I praised Him for the medical care I had.  I praised Him for those things.

I didn't praise for the situation, though.  I did not praise Him for Matthew's death.  I did not praise for a lot of things, and I vowed I never, ever would.

This mother's heart could not possibly be expected to praise God for a coffin.

I don't know that I will ever be able to do that.  If I do, I can guarantee, it will not be of my own doing.  My heart is a very different heart, but it is still the heart of a Mama.

How abundantly blessed I am has been so much at the forefront of every thought I've had lately.  I'm doing a new Bible study by Jen Hatmaker (Interrupted) and I love it.  Did you know that if you make $50k or more a year, you are in the top ONE PERCENT of the WORLD's wealthiest people????
Truly, I am so blessed.  If you are reading this, using Internet, my guess is that you are so blessed too.

I used to hope my gravestone said, "She had impeccable manners and adored good grammar!" and now?  Just one word.


"She was so grateful."

These last few months have been crazy.  We've had a HORRIBLE experience with tenants that has been a major stress on our finances, but more on my heart.  To be taken advantage of—and I'm talking REALLY taken advantage of—hurts, and in lots of ways.  Me, John, Luke....our family.  It's been awful.

My sinus surgery recovery didn't go so fabulously. In the healing, I ended up with a sinus infection, double-ear infection AND walking pneumonia!!!  For the last month, I've really just felt MISERABLE. (Which is par for the course in March, because I can't think of a birthday in the last few years that hasn't been riddled with some sort of icky.)

We are looking at a move in a little over two months and there is no forwarding address yet, and that is driving.me.nuts!!!!!  The rental area in West Palm Beach is hot, and we won't get anything until right before we head down in June.  Not to mention people are more concerned about John having a pick-up truck than they are dogs!  Crazy, right?

My appointment at Duke earlier this month really didn't give me anything new but perspective.  They agreed with all that's been done before, but before they recommended mastectomy, they felt I should do some more genetic testing and have an MRI.  That's scheduled for tomorrow.

Unless the genetic testing comes up with something new, I've pretty much decided that I'm going to just continue to be really watchful in the next few months and year.  It's very easy to say I'd "get rid of them" before faced with the reality of doing just that...and as much as well-intentioned people say "Hey, now you can get a perfect set!" it's just not that easy.

Reconstructive surgery is a lot, lot, lot more than I thought it was.  And, very different than augmentation.

In any event, what I've prayed for in all of this was peace.  A clear, decisive answer of what I should do.  No doctor has given me that yet, but still—I have peace.  I feel 100% comfortable with waiting and watching some.  I'm not ruling out a mastectomy if things change or come up, but for now?  I'm completely, completely confident in that decision and so is the specialist I am seeing at Duke.  In her words, "You've had a lot of things happen in your life that would make you expect the worst because the worst happens.  I understand if you feel you need to do this.  But, I want you to feel secure in knowing that it's not always the worst, either."

I believe that.  It's not always the worst.

It's not.

So, people have been so kind—emails and texts and messages and calls—just checking in and telling me, "Man, you totally need a break!"

I want to say, "Right????? I mean, seriously!  I'm getting a bit tired of all of this!"

But I can't.  Because as tired as I am....I am just grateful  There are so many things for which I am grateful.

While I definitely feel like it's been somewhat storming for a while lately—there is gratitude.

And gratitude makes an amazing, amazing umbrella.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Normal and Anonymous...


As I cried to a precious friend about just wanting to be "Normal and Anonymous," she said:

"Lori.  You are never going to be normal and anonymous because it is not who you are.  You are fabulous and fantastic.  People look at you and think you are strong and amazing."

This humbles me more than I can express...even more so because I am doing a pretty great Bible study and the other day, the focus was on realizing that God made me to be exactly.who.I.am.  We always think about our personality and character traits as gifts given, but we rarely see who God made us to be physically as strong gifts as well.

I mean, let's be real.  4'11", crazy frizzy hair and humongous mouth...strong gifts?  A broken body that looks fabulously fertile (again, even more amazement at this since I'm almost 41) but has lost more children than it has kept? Purposed?

Yes.  Even me.

My ovaries and endometrium look great.  No masses, no cancer, no nothing.  I was sort of disappointed because I was hoping to hear, "You need a hysterectomy," and then would not need to keep thinking about a mastectomy.  I know that sounds horrible, but in my mind, taking ovaries out is kin to taking tonsils out, while taking breasts off?  A big difference. (And please...obviously I know it's more than taking tonsils out.  I am STILL recovering from that blasted sinus surgery I had nearly a MONTH ago!)

I did not realize, however, that though removing my ovaries would take my estrogen away and lower my breast cancer risk, doing so would also increase (significantly, because of family history) my risk of heart disease, and that's the number one cause of death for women in America.  According to my doctor, there's less physical trauma to the body with an ovariectomy than mastectomy, but an added inherent health risk (heart disease) that does not exist with removing breasts.

He essentially said my risks are significant and I get to pick which I want to deal with.  Breast cancer or heart disease?

Isn't there an option C?

As I told this to my friend, she mentioned how this day and age offers so.much.support for women—so many women who have gone through mastectomies and so many support groups for women as they face all that comes with them.

I agreed.

I am just tired.

I am tired of reaching out.  I am tired of needing support. (But please, please, please don't confuse that with not being grateful for it.  I am so grateful.)

I just want to be normal and anonymous.

But since I'm not, and apparently made that way, I press on.

I go for a third opinion on Monday.  It's at Duke and then I guess I'll make some decisions.  I'm not likely to hear anything different; risk assessments are pretty formulated.  I'm hoping that this doctor will be the one who just tells me what to do instead of tells me I need to do something.

I know I need to do something.  I recognize that I cannot spend every month wondering if this time, the lump(s) is cancer.

I also know that 'chopping' them off is not as easy as it sounds, and 'getting a new, improved set' is a LOT more of a process than people think.  More than I ever thought.

Either way...'normal' just isn't in the cards, is it?

You'd think I'd totally learned that by now....