Thursday, 31 January 2008

On Being A Survivor

When I was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer and undergoing treatment, I longed for the day that it could be said of me that I was a cancer survivor. A woman who is a three-year ovarian cancer survivor had visited me in October of last year. She brought me a pin from Ovarian Cancer Canada that is only for survivors. I put it on the baseball cap that my sisters had made to commemorate the mini-walk they had organized to raise funds and awareness for Ovarian Cancer Canada.

What I do struggle with is being marked or labeled "A Cancer Survivor" as if that is the only thing that defines me. When I was first undergoing treatment, I was determined to not allow cancer to define me and I welcomed every opportunity that allowed me to live a normal life apart from the diagnosis. I will always have the physical reminder that I once had ovarian cancer on account of the 6 inch (15cm) vertical scar on my abdomen/pelvis.

My sisters want me to attend a special fundraising event in the spring, which is being put on by Ovarian Cancer Canada. It is a luncheon/fashion show to be held at The Royal York hotel in Toronto. Jeannie Bekker, from Fashion Television and a judge on Canada's Next Top Model, will be there taking part. It will be quite a fancy event given the venue and planned program. I have no idea yet if I will wear my wig or if my hair will be long enough to look fashionable. I do know that I will look forward to being at that event and to be identified as one of the cancer survivors.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Loss & Weariness

While I am rejoicing in the healing power of God, I still have to face the different losses I have experienced as a result of having had cancer. Some of my losses are temporary such as hair loss; it is starting to grow back! Others are more permanent such as loss of reproductive organs, loss of unmarred skin , and loss of a natural easement into menopause. I need to acknowledge these losses and the resulting feelings.

I must admit that I was a bit taken aback by the weariness that I have felt since coming through surgery and receiving such a positive answer to prayer. As I have mentioned previously I was holding onto God; basically just surviving; and trying to remain positive. I didn't allow myself to dwell on the losses as I was going through this experience since it would have defeated me. God has carried me.

Just as I have physical limitations as I recover from surgery, so too I have emotional limitations. My body needs to heal and I also need to heal from the trauma of having had cancer and all that that entails. I am still holding onto God and looking forward to when I will not only be strong physically, but emotionally as well.

"Then Jesus said, 'Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.'" Matthew 11: 28-30 (NLT)

Monday, 21 January 2008

My Two Sisters

I want to tell you about my two sisters, Gayle and Brenda. They have been there for me throughout this season of dealing with ovarian cancer. The day after finding out that I had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Gayle searched the internet for information regarding the disease; she wanted to do something. She discovered that Ovarian Cancer Canada sponsored a walk to raise funds and awareness, but it had just occurred before I was diagnosed. She had the idea to have a mini walk, in my honour, in her hometown. With only a month to plan she and Brenda contacted their friends and relatives for support. We had the idea to contact a local paper since it was a human interest story. This helped to raise awareness for the disease and strangers even joined the walk. In total around $5000.00 was raised in a month. Since that time both sisters have volunteered to be on a committee for a future fundraising event for Ovarian Cancer Canada.

My sister Brenda has on two occasions driven me to the hospital for my pre-chemo checkups. What is special about that is that she lives almost an hour drive from me and she has needed to arrange babysitting for her youngest son. When I was in Sunnybrook, after my surgery, she came to visit me one day, with her young son, just to keep me company.

I have already written about the Sunshine Basket that my sisters filled with gifts big and small that would help "bring sunshine into a dark time". Gayle and Brenda have been my encouragers and "biggest fans" of my blogs. They have prayed for me; brought lunches; given gifts; at times called daily; visited me at the hospital and at home; and been a voice to call attention to ovarian cancer. I have been blessed to have such women as sisters.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Revival & Vitality

I have spent the past several months just surviving; persevering; holding onto God in faith. I am weary. I know that the Lord can strengthen me. I need to rest in Him to be revived and re-vitalized. I decided to look up revive and vitality in the Webster's New World Dictionary.
"revive - [L. re - again + vivere - to live] 1. to return to life or consciousness 2. to return to health or vigor 3. to come or bring back into use, attention, popularity, exhibition, etc."
"vitality 1. power to live 2. power to endure 3. mental or physical vigor"

As I was writing out these definitions, my husband rushed into the living room to turn on the radio; "He Reigns" by The Newsboys was playing. That song was the one that I had danced to at a special worship service last summer right before I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I started to cry. I had my eyes closed remembering the moves. I know that I will dance again. I have held onto that dream and this was a reminder.

"Praise the Lord! Praise him in his heavenly dwelling. Praise him for his mighty works; praise his unequaled greatness! Praise him with a blast of the trumpet; praise him with the lyre and harp! Praise him with the tambourine and dancing; praise him with stringed instruments and flutes! Praise him with a clash of cymbals; praise him with loud clanging cymbals. Let everything that lives sing praises to the Lord! Praise the Lord!" Psalm 150 (NLT)

Friday, 18 January 2008

Looking To The Future

I am starting to look to the future. I will be having my last chemo treatment on February 7th, in order to completely eradicate any possible microscopic cancer cells. My hair is starting to grow again with this break from chemo so I know that it will grow again. I am doing quite well physically considering I've had major surgery.

I was recently given a book "I Saw The Lord" by Ann Graham Lotz. In it she mentions that the storms of life often hold God's message to us. I decided to read through my journal to see what God might be saying to me. I read my entries leading up to my diagnosis and then throughout this time of dealing with ovarian cancer. The main theme that stands out to me is to "trust and wait"; also that God has a plan for my life. I know that there are things that I can do once I have recovered from surgery and chemo. I need to take one day at a time and not try to plan out my whole future.

"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

I Am A Survivor!

I was listening to a song about God showing up and I thought, "He did! He healed me!" I started to cry because I realized that I had been afraid that I would die, when I was first diagnosed with cancer. It seemed like a death sentence. I even had to battle fear of dying, when I went for the surgery. I now have such a sense of gratefulness to God for preserving my life and healing me from ovarian cancer. I am a cancer survivor!

"I will not die, but live to tell what the Lord has done." Psalm 118:17 (NLT)

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Responses To Healing

The morning after surgery one of my sisters called me and said "That's great news!" And I said "What news?" I vaguely remembered Dan saying something, but I wanted her to share what she had heard. I later asked my husband what the doctor had said. I needed and wanted to hear it again.

Not everyone's response to the news was positive. An old friend of the family suggested that maybe I had been misdiagnosed; in that I never had cancer in the first place, which would be why they couldn't find any cancer.

I think that sometimes people say things to try to explain what they don't understand or can't accept.I cannot explain why God healed me and others have not been healed. I am thankful for God's mercy, grace and compassion toward me.

"Oh, what a wonderful God we have! How great are his riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his methods! For who can know what the Lord is thinking? Who knows enough to be his counselor? And who could ever give him so much that he would have to pay it back? For everything comes from him; everything exists by his power and is intended for his glory. To him be glory evermore. Amen." Romans 11: 33-36 (NLT)

Monday, 14 January 2008

The Day Of Surgery

I feel as if the theme for the hospital is "hurry up and wait". I was called to one area to prepare for surgery, by getting changed into a hospital gown. The nurse came and inserted the IV feed. She then said she would come back one hour before surgery to give me some pills. The original time for surgery was 10:00 am, but I wasn't taken until closer to 11:00 am. I then had to wait about 15 minutes in another area. I met one of the nurses who would be in the operating room. Apparently the consent form had expired and I needed to sign a new one. I was wheeled to just outside the operating room and I met the anethesist, who asked me some questions. I then resigned the same consent form with that day's date. The surgeon asked about an abdominal port for chemo and I said that Southlake didn't have the means to administer chemo that way so they crossed it off the form. I then was wheeled in to the operating room and within a few minutes I was asleep.

When I was taken to the operating room my husband went to wait in the designated waiting room. There was a screen that displayed the patients' names, operating room numbers, starting time of surgery and when surgery finished. After an hour and a quarter my operation stated "closed", which meant that the operation was over. My husband asked the volunteer about that and she said it must be a mistake, but fifteen minutes later the surgeon appeared and called Dan's name. He met with the surgeon in a small room. The surgeon said "This was quite astounding, we were not able to find any cancer." My husband replied that there have been "hundreds of people praying" for me; to which the surgeon said "I think it was the chemo".

When I came to in my hospital room I had a tube in my nostrils pumping oxygen; I was hooked up to IV; and I had a catheter. I was not allowed to drink water after my surgery. I was thirsty, but my husband was only able to wet my lips with a sponge-tipped wand that was dipped in water. I drifted in and out of consciousness and I could barely keep my eyes open. Dan shared the news about my surgery with me, but I didn't remember it. One of the doctors that was present during surgery visited me and Dan asked her more details. She said that they didn't see any tumour on the ovary.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Cleansing And Exercises

There is preparation for the surgery that I need to do, which reminds me of spiritual truths. It is both an inner and an outer cleansing. I need to be on a liquid diet the day before surgery; I need to take a powerful laxative and later an enema. I also have to shower with a special cleanser the night before surgery and the morning of surgery. I need to put on clean pj's; use clean towels each time; and sleep on clean sheets. This is to lower the risk of infection. There are also exercises that I need to do after surgery that will help my circulation and breathing. Surgery demands an active response from me. In order to have the best recovery I need to play an active role.

My surgery, the preparations, and the follow-up exercises are a picture of my walk with God. I need to cleanse myself from wrong thoughts, attitudes and beliefs; I need to cleanse myself from the influences of the world and the devil; I need to act in line with what God has done in my life. I can't be passive; I need to exercise my faith and what I believe and know. I may be limited at first in what I can do, but I can do something. I need to be on guard that I don't allow resentment or bitterness to creep in. The breathing and coughing exercises remind me of confessing and ridding myself of any wrong attitudes, and receiving God's forgiveness, peace and grace. If I am tempted to panic or fear I need to remember that God is in control and as I breathe in deeply, I will calm down.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Confidence In Uncertain Times

I have had my meeting with the surgeon and my pre-op assessments. I am heading into the home stretch of approaching surgery and then the recovery. I feel more comfortable knowing what to expect going into the surgery; but I still have some uncertainty and fear regarding the outcome of the surgery. I have committed my body and my life into God's hands. I know that God can work miracles. The doctor and the medical team don't have the final say - God does. It is because I know that God is sovereign, in control, that I can have peace. It is not that I am trying to put on a brave face. I am fearful when I worry and think of the "what ifs"; but then I have peace when I focus on God. Whatever outcome I might face God will be with me. He is already with me. Nothing surprises Him. That is why I can have confidence in uncertain times.

"When I am afraid, I will trust in you." Psalm 56:3 (NIV)

"Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation." Isaiah 12:2 (NIV)

"...God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.' So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'" Hebrews 13:5b,6 (NIV)
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