N is for nasty and nerves

N When I first got this small bowel obstruction I ended up in the hospital for a week. Mainly to get used to the new phrase “you don’t eat anything any more”. One thing they did to help empty my stomach of the build-up of stomach juices was insert an NG tube. That was the worst 24 hours of my life. It hurt, my throat hurt, I quit talking, I quit thinking, I withdrew into my shell and tried to shut everything out. When the doctor said it wasn’t in right and he could fix it or remove it I told him to remove it. I would rather vomit multiple times than have that tube down my nose/throat.

When I’m struggling to vomit, I am still grateful that I don’t have an NG tube. Anthony knows that I better be unconscious and dying before anyone tries that again. I will grab my IV pole and run through the halls with my rear showing before I’ll consent to another NG tube. I know it is a helpful thing and does good things for some people. And the two nurses who inserted mine were very nice and tried to help me. But that didn’t change the overall result and experience for me.

My other N term is neuropathy. Chemo brings many side effects as we discussed back with the letter C and one of them is neuropathy. It’s a numbness mostly, but not completely. My feet and shins are numb, but I still get foot and calf cramps, and my toes can hurt and need to be massaged to stop aching. My hands are numb and I can’t feel with my finger tips to pick things up. But my fingers tingle and my palms get hot. I know it could be worse. I’ve read of people needing to crawl to the bathroom their neuropathy was so bad. I am still mobile and can still write (mostly legibly) and type (slowly) among other things. But it is a real part of the new normal.

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M As I was reading a commentary on Job a few months ago, the author tried to distinguish between a reason and a purpose. His logic was that there may not be an actual reason we are going through something, but we can always trust that God has a purpose. The closest I can figure this out using a dictionary is reason seems more about why something started and purpose is about the end goal. It still isn’t a really clear distinction to my mind.

But what he was trying to address is an important topic. We want to know why we have to suffer this way (whatever “this way” is for us at the time). There is the high level sanctification, make me more like Jesus, purpose. Sometimes that is enough but some days, when the pain is too much or the outcome seems so fuzzy or undesirable, we want more. We want to know why. Not even necessarily “why me” as if we don’t deserve to suffer. But at least a “why” do I have to suffer “this”.

We know that need to understand why. Which is why people at funerals and people comforting friends facing cancer can say some of the dumbest things. 🙂

We mean well! We know the person is hurting and asking “why?”, maybe even “why me?”. And we want to help, give some comfort. But I will tell you, the time to find comfort that God is sovereign and in control is long before disaster hits or some time after the pain has eased up. It is not comforting in the moment of great pain if you haven’t been resting in that truth for a long time already. In fact, it can make you quite angry and drive you further away from God if you keep hearing He is in control and you think he really should do something to remove you from this painful circumstance.

Sometimes, it is much better to just give the person a big hug, hold their hand, and stay silent, express grief maybe, but don’t try to have all the answers. In many ways, there is no answer that will satisfy. Don’t do more harm by throwing out something inferior in your desperate attempt to “say something”.

One more warning (or admonishment). You may see a friend many weeks into a struggle who still is whining and complaining when you know in their walk with Christ they should be submitting. It is still probably not your place to correct them. Only a really really close friend may have an opportunity to say something. Instead, pray that God will help them get over the anger and bitterness and find the joy in their salvation that is theirs as they lean hard on Him during this time.

As for yourself, study God’s word, pray with God, and learn the comfort of God’s sovereignty and His faithful love now, so that when the time comes that it is needed you will be ready to hurl His love into the face of whatever disaster or struggle comes your way. And remember the two go together. He is all powerful, and He is all love. He (likely) isn’t punishing you, He is changing you, and He is with you every step of the way!

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Long Term Disability

L If your employer offers LTD, buy it. It is usually only a few dollars per paycheck, even for the 2/3 option (which I recommend) and it is worth every penny.

I always thought LTD would cover one of us if we had an accident and an injury. It never occurred to me one of us would get cancer. But when my Short Term Disability ran out, LTD started right up. And it has been a life saver. Anthony has been busy as my caregiver, and I’ve been unable to work. And the money still comes in to cover our living expenses.

When I filled out the application to be approved for LTD benefits, I was also required to apply for Social Security Disability. The rumors were all over about SSD.

They always reject the first application.
They always approve stage 4 cancer applications.

Well, I got rejected. The rejection letter was kind of funny. It stated I was not eligible since my condition was not likely to last 12 months or end in death. I wanted whatever diagnosis they had come up with, instead of the terminal cancer with a median life expectancy of 4 years after diagnosis that my doctors had come up with.

I contacted the Advocacy Group that is engaged by the LTD Insurance Company and they filed the SSD appeal for me.

See, this is how it works. I get a set amount of benefits from the LTD and SSD combined. I don’t have a preference where the money comes from, of course. But MetLife would prefer it come from SSD, so they want me to get approved so their obligation to me is reduced by the amount of SSD I receive. That’s why it is worth it to them to hire an advocacy group to go to bat for me with Social Security. I still do not have approval from SSD, they haven’t responded to the appeal yet. But the advocate who completed the appeal for me said I should have gotten compassion benefits with stage IV cancer. 🙂

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Keep Smiling

K I read a great post yesterday about how often people hide behind smiles, not letting others in to share their pain and vulnerability. She made some good points that we often pretend to have it all together and give a false view of what life is really like. We all have done this and we all know people who are doing this.

Of course, I pondered that for awhile yesterday. While I am open about what I am going through and my posts over on Caring Bridge include specific areas where I need prayer, I am mostly cheerful and upbeat in my interactions with people. Am I acting? Am I hiding things that I should be sharing? I believe a little introspection is always good to check on things.

I decided that I am really honest with a few close friends, and I am upfront honest with everyone else. No one thinks I’m enjoying this journey. But everyone knows that I get up and get through every day thanks to the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. That is the honest truth and I have tried hard to be clear that none of this is done in my own strength.

I found another post today that showed the other side to looking at someone with a smile on their face. It included a quote from Oswald Chambers that talks about the joy of the Christian. Sometimes the smile is genuine, and so is the burden behind it. Because so is the God who is always faithful!

My Utmost for His Highest (April 14) :

“…the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Where do the saints get their joy? If we did not know some Christians well, we might think from just observing them that they have no burdens at all to bear. But we must lift the veil from our eyes. The fact that the peace, light, and joy of God is in them is proof that a burden is there as well. The burden that God places on us squeezes the grapes in our lives and produces the wine, but most of us see only the wine and not the burden. No power on earth or in hell can conquer the Spirit of God living within the human spirit; it creates an inner invincibility.

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Just Fix Me!

J Before cancer, I was afraid. And I often prayed God would just fix me, already. Why does Sanctification have to take so long and move so slowly? I’ve been a Christian all my life, with some periods where I lived out my faith better than others. But alway I was a sinner who failed to live as if I really believed God was faithful.

I easily got angry and frustrated with interruptions at work, I was afraid of getting hurt, I was afraid of losing my job, I was short with people who asked silly questions. I was a mess. But I wanted to be better. I listened to sermons, read the Bible, tried to have quiet times, and ask God to help me change. He did in many ways, but I didn’t change in so many other ways. I despaired of ever changing here in this lifetime.

I wondered how I would hold up if something big hit, since I couldn’t handle the day to day mundane things of life. I watched a friend battle breast cancer and saw her faith deepen. Would mine deepen or would I struggle through the whole thing? I didn’t want to struggle. I wanted to just believe and know He is faithful and trustworthy.

One term I found helpful was non-sufficiency. I knew that my struggle was that I was very self-sufficient. And many people describe needing God because we realize we are insufficient. But truly, we are worse off than that. We don’t just fail to bring what we need to the table, we bring deficits that handicap us. We are non-sufficient and need God to even breathe, must less overcome our sin to even start to be and do right.

But I was so self-sufficient, I would try to get through the day alone, without God. Even though I know it doesn’t work that way.

Then cancer. Terminal cancer. The only thing that may have been bigger for me would have been a bodily injury that handicapped me or Anthony. And maybe it would be harder if it were Anthony, not me. But this is big enough, thank you.

The amazing thing is there wasn’t a time when I sat down and said “God, you need to help me through this.” I was non-sufficient from the get go and never struggled against it. Life just flowed and I felt this peace and comfort every step of the way. People see me and talk about how inspiring I am or how strong I am. I always tell them it isn’t me, it’s the Holy Spirit within me. I can’t do anything on my own. And I truly believe that now. It’s actually much easier to live as I should these days.

I still sin. I still get angry with people, and I still get afraid of the unknown future and frustrated with the pain of the present at times. But it only takes a minute or two before I’m back in prayer and finding ways to praise and thank God for what I do have.

I was reminded recently that Corrie Ten Boom wrote about this in one of her books. Another blogger wrote:

Corrie evidently had extraordinarily faithful parents, and she wondered how she would measure up under life’s trials. One day she asked her father how he consistently remained unwavering in faith and pondered whether she would be capable of the same. Lovingly, he asked Corrie when he provided her with the necessary bus fare for her to travel to school/town. “Just before getting on the bus,” was Corrie’s response. Her father then comforted Corrie by assuring her that the same applies to our heavenly Father. At just the right moment in time, not a second before or a second too late, He provides us with exactly the proportion of strength and faith to endure any trial that we may face.

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I Last week Bible study was on Romans chapter 8. Some good discussion trying to figure out what Paul is saying. In the first half of the chapter I see two messages. First, by being indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we finally CAN choose obedience to God and reject sin. Before God began His work in us, we were incapable of choosing God. We can call it “free will” but the will ain’t free when it is not even able to choose something other than sin.

But once God has begun that work and the Holy Spirit has changed our heart, we are now able to obey God, to love God, to want to do God’s will. We still have the old sin nature to contend with, and lots of ingrained habits of sin to break and replace with good habits. But we are at least able to entertain the choice to obey.

The second point Paul is making is that we must be intentional about living in obedience. We can’t just “let go, and let God”. It doesn’t work that way. Our old habits and our sinful nature will steer us wrong just about every time if we just go with the flow. We must choose God’s way. We must pray for God to increase our desire for Him, and then we must read the Bible to get to know God better and think on Him the way we think on anything or anyone we want to know better and love more.

And we need to have a plan. That’s why I like having a Bible study to attend, and a Bible reading plan for the year, and take notes if necessary to make sure I’m paying attention during the sermon, and carefully choose what blogs or authors I read. (Not saying I’m perfect, but giving examples of ways to be intentional.)

We want to avoid being legalists, so we seek to avoid “rules” but we can miss out if we don’t have any discipline at all around our faith. We aren’t saved by our efforts, but we are expected to make efforts to increase our faith and knowledge of God and build new habits. That’s called fruit, evidence that we are saved and want more of God.

The more we do this intentional living of our faith, the more spontaneous expressions of our faith we’ll find. Doxology praise singing after receiving a blessing, crying out to God first thing when we find we need Him, sacrificial service for others. We become a better witness and a better child of God.

Be intentional today. Look for ways to pursue God, pursue holiness, live the grace you’ve been given!

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Home healthcare

H I have a new respect for home healthcare. First for my mom when she got out of rehab, and then for me as I started TPN and got a PICC line.

Mom had Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy. It was so much more aggressive and useful here at home than what they were willing to risk at the rehab center. They had her walking and using her arm and doing daily exercises and really encouraged her to get mobile and self sufficient again.

Then for me, they change my dressings on the port and PICC, they take blood for lab work, and just make sure I’m really doing ok here at home. Plus they ship my TPN and fluids and supplies right to the house every week. The week we traveled to Florida, they worked with me to get the right amount of supplies ready and had a shipment waiting for me here at home until we got back on the usual schedule. When things become more complicated, it is so nice to have people willing to work with me to make it successful.

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God is sovereign

G God is in control. The concept of free will is not exactly what we think, since before God changes our heart we are not capable of choosing Him (that isn’t exactly being free, is it) and after He changes our heart our sin nature still tries to get us to rebel (still not really free).

But we are free to make decisions and choices in life and there is a bit of mystery about how God’s sovereignty and our will work together. I suspect it has to do with God being way bigger and way more powerful than we can imagine which is why we can’t see how it works. Plenty of good books out there that talk about this so I won’t rehash.

I’m here to talk about God’s sovereignty and why that should encourage us to trust Him and stop worrying about things we can’t control. Because He is in control and He can control everything.

Ah, another argument with God’s sovereignty. Bad things happen to people. So, either He isn’t able to control everything or He isn’t good. Bah. He can and does control everything and He is good. But His end goal is not the same as ours. We want a life of ease and comfort to prove God loves us. God wants us to be changed into the image of His Son as proof that He loves us. That means we have to give up this idea of self-sufficiency, recognize our complete and utter need for Him for every breath we take, and turn to Him in all things, most importantly as our savior and redeemer. We, being stiff-necked and stubborn, take a lot of work to get there. And we learn better in tough circumstances than in easy ones.

I believe God is involved in the tiniest details. The parable about the sparrows and the # of hairs on our head and other phrases in the Bible encourage me to see it this way. God, again, is bigger and more mighty than we can imagine, so He can handle all the details of all the lives here on earth. I have to struggle to keep from putting God in a box with limits.

That means, that while God is not the author of sin, and many terrible things happen because the world is a fallen place since the sin of Adam, God still uses those sins and terrible things to work for our good. And remember, our good to God is not the same thing as our thought of a good, easy, comfortable life. He isn’t interested in our being too comfortable here. He wants us to long for a place and time where we will not sin and we will know Him and know that we are completely known, and have eternal life. When we long for that and strive for as much of that as we can have on this side of the veil, then we are in line with His will.

That’s what I want – to be home with Him.

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Fluids are good

F When I first started chemo, they told me treatment on Monday and worst day of side effects on Thursday and then I’d get better. I did not get better. We finally called Monday, and Mary said to get down to their office immediately. She pumped 2 liters of fluids in me and I practically skipped out of the office. We quickly learned that fluids are a very good thing and scheduled 3 appointments a week of 1 or 2 liters. If I can afford the time to do a liter right after chemo, that even helps.

Now that I’m not eating or drinking I do fluids at home 7 days a week. I don’t think I’d still be here without it.

I usually nap (or read a book) while hooked up to the gravity drip. Last night was rough, so I was very ready for a nap today and slept right through my husband unhooking the fluids line when it was done. Dehydration is no good, make sure you get your fluids. And pedialite isn’t only for children, if you need something to help. You should see veterans come out when a new patient asks about fluids. We all say “get fluids” and find something you can drink – hot or cold, flavored or not, whatever works!

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E As you may have picked up by now, death is a very important topic for me now. We all “know” we could die at any time, but I’ve been given a limit, and it isn’t sometime 20 or 30 years from now. It may even be this year. I’m thinking about it differently. I claim to be a Christian, which is a religion that sees death as a doorway to going to our final home, a final rest not meaning we quit doing anything, but that we quit striving in vain. This kind of diagnosis makes you stop and find out if you really believe what you say you believe.

Is there a heaven and eternal life for believers? Is there a God? Am I saved? All of these need to be answered. If the answer is no, and death is just ceasing to exist, so be it, but at least grasp that is what you believe.

I have found my faith strengthened since the diagnosis in April, 2015. By reading the Word and other books, by encouragement from fellow believers, by searching my thoughts and seeing if logical conclusions are still logical. My prayer life is more rich than it has ever been. I also see my dependence on God more clearly. I find it easy to see my blessings and be grateful for so many ways God has and is providing for me.

I do believe in the resurrection of the dead and that Christ was the first fruits. I will live eternally in Christ’s presence, and I will be pain free, defect free, sin free. I will be the pinnacle of what God created me to be physically, emotionally, spiritually. God is good, and He is calling me home.

Other thoughts

Resurrection bodies

Death is God’s enemy

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