Follow by Email

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Update Feb 16/17

There is so much I want to share and so much I want to say and so much I want to make sure is on paper and it makes me scramble to know where to start.  So I will just plunge right in and what comes rambling out is what you get to read.  

Phil 4:13 “ I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” 
Boy, has the necessity of this verse taken on new and full meaning for me!

Let me give you a brief glimpse of what it’s been like to be Cheryl Rostek this past week or 2.  Excitement rolled in with a big wave as trip plans come together.  Vacationing is big for our family.  Ryan and I like to have fun and like to make trip plans whenever possible.  It has been more challenging to find the time and energy to make these plans; but let me share what’s in the works!  We are off to California next week with Ryan’s Mom and with his Brother’s family.  We are also shaping up our summer plans, and we will be going to the Shuswaps with a group of friends for a week and from there journey to Sask. to hit up Camp Oshkidee again, this time with my family along (trying to avoid the twin gongshow that was last year!).  All these things bring great excitement.  BUT then last week my vision started to get even “funnier” than it has been most recently (it went back to almost normal post-op, then slowly through treatment started getting screwy again)  it is manageable but makes me nervous about what’s going on in my brain.  This change started Wed.  and I started my round of chemo last Thursday (5 days on, 23 days off). I since have become more tired and a touch dizzy (any dizziness alarms me because it was one of the first symptoms I had before diagnosis). 

Nervous. On edge. That is how these physical changes make me feel and how they are managing to occupy too much space in my mind.  Now these could be due to post-radiation swelling that happens in 50% of people, or some could be attributed to the higher chemo dose I received, or my thoughts have been plaguing me with the idea that ….. is the cancer coming back already….. how much time do I have before I can’t write anymore…..I have so many letters to write to my kids yet, so many things to document…will I be able to actually go on these vacations I’m excited about? And I’m gripped.

That state is not real living.
I
am
living. 
As long as I have breath I am living. And I plan to do just that: LIVE. (not wallow or freeze in fear)

I have been overcome lately with the beauty that surrounds me.  Life is so very beautiful if we open our eyes. And the beauty of humanity and of the human experience is pinnacle in viewing a world of beauty.  Human life is sacred.  Every stage of human life.  I’m reminded of my Grandma Elias and watching her live and watching her struggle with the vice of dementia.  Visiting her, feeding her, holding her hands.  Seeing how hard that was for my Dad to watch: his mother disappearing before she left this world.  But the beauty of being able to be present in my grandmother’s life in all those days is profound for me.  She never ceased to be my grandma.  She never ceased to be beautiful.  She never ceased to be loved.

And isn’t that what it’s about?  LOVE. 1 Cor 13 was brought afresh to me this week: “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”  Life is not easy for Ryan and I.  It is so hard.  We are both maxed out and the demands of life, both physical and emotional, press on us.   But love endures.  How? The only way for a human to obtain such enduring love is to receive the crazy, incredible, indescribable love of Jesus Christ.  It is only when we open ourselves up to be in Christ’s love that we are able to love in every circumstance.  And here the beauty of humanity becomes spectacular as God pours out the power of his love through us.  It’s truly brilliant! And thank God for it.  Because I can’t do this. I can’t do this cancer battle.  It’s SO hard.  Here I pause to cry because I am emotional this week and because life is always on the verge of breaking. And it’s just so hard.
 

Thankfully I have a heavenly Father to hold me together.  Because like I said, as long as I have breath I intend to live.  As long as I have breath, I am alive.  As long as I have breath I hold so much beauty within and before me. 


So now I ask you.  Please pray for me. Please pray for my family.  Pray for the God-given strength to keep going and more than to keep going, to THRIVE.  Pray for these symptoms to stabilize, or better yet, disappear.  Pray for my marriage to be blessed richly. For my children’s hearts to be sealed for God and guarded from harm.  I am not sorry my children have to go through this experience in that it will allow them, I believe, to see the beautiful in life much more readily; but, they are so tender, they need to be guarded from the war that wages on thoughts and emotions, so please pray for them for today and for the tomorrows to come.  Pray also that I would have wisdom for words to pen to my children.  And pray that I would have spaces (time) to put these words on paper.  Pray that our holidays would go smooth and be lovely and enriching times.  I will be traveling to the states next week.  I am not insured for any cancer-related issues.  This was a calculated decision, but I still ask for prayer while away that medical care isn’t even a glimpse of a thought while away.  Pray for our nanny, Stefanie. She has been sick so frequently, and she doesn’t usually get sick. Pray for her health to be restored both for her sake as well as for the benefit of our family. 

And praise God for you!!! I am blessed to know I am surrounded. (ps. My freezer is overflowing with soup!!!) Thank you for your prayers.  I pray blessings on your families as well.  Rich, rich blessings to those who journey with me.

 Much love to you all,

Cheryl          

  Romans 8:
 31  If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”[o]) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[p] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Prince of peace

https://g.co/kgs/yikBdU

https://www.youtube.com/shared?ci=HixQnA3wvBA

My tech savvyness has a bit to be desired.  Hope you're able to follow this link to this great song!


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Update - Jan 26, 2017


I am tired.  I feel like over the last few months I have come to know so many different types of tired.  Right now, I feel like I am so very tired, but at least it is more of a ‘normal’ tired.  I feel the need to get fully away from my responsibilities to relax.  To get away from my 6 AM (or earlier) crying wake up call.  I am worn out of being Mom while trying to take care of myself well, too.  It has been a long haul.

Our nanny normally comes a part day Tuesday, then full days Wednesday through Friday.  Last week our nanny went home sick Wed at lunch for the rest of the week.  It was a very hard week. It felt pretty much “impossible”.  Our counselor mentioned in one of our sessions that we are living an impossible situation.  Then the pastor 2 Sundays ago spoke that God is in the business of doing the impossible.  I feel like we are pushed to our max and the max gets pushed even further.  Many days, particularly last week, felt impossible and I just kept thinking about Peter walking on water.  Walking on water is impossible, but Jesus called Peter to step out of the boat.  Peter started to sink when he took his eyes off Jesus.  Last week I felt like I was near drowning in our impossible situation.  I had to just keep my eyes on Jesus.  It was still (and continues to be) so hard; but I know at least if I keep my eyes on Jesus I will not sink, I will not drown.

Friday night Garrett was up a lot with his cold so I got poor sleep.  Thankfully, Saturday Ryan’s mom came to help but I was still tired since I can’t seem to sleep during the day, and my emotions were high.  I suppressed them until I could sleep.  Sunday I awoke after a great sleep and the emotions were still there.  Discouragement and an overwhelm of the impossible.  Tired in a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual way.  So when I entered church and they started the service with one-on-one prayer at the front for anyone, I didn’t hesitate (much) to go forward.  Prayer, I need prayer to live the impossible.  Then Tuesday we met with a new Christian small group our close friends have connected us with.  These people are amazing, living real life out in the open, giving of themselves sacrificially for us, and battling spiritually with and for us.  On Tuesday they took time to pray specifically for me and for healing.  I am overwhelmed and its not with fatigue!

Monday I awoke and felt different.  I felt like I was back in action and starting to feel like myself again.  The mental fatigue has subsided.  With great spiritual support, the spiritual and emotional fatigue has subsided.  I am learning, however, that I still have physical fatigue.  It feels a bit unusual since in my mind I feel so good and ready to tackle life; but, then the energy behind my thoughts does not translate into physical energy.  I feel like when I was a child and my mom would make me sit and count to 10 if I got too over-excited or hyper (I am learning that I am more prone to catching the excitement vibe than I realized).  I have to calm my excitement until my body is ready to catch up.  It still needs to rest very much.      

 Blessings and points of thanksgiving:


-       I have started taking Rayna on dates on Tuesdays.  This is special time as I feel like I haven’t had good chances to connect with her since the twins were born.  This girl is amazing and starting to really step into a big sister/helping to mother role.  I am thankful for an eldest daughter with such a cheerfully helpful personality, it is such a blessing these days. 

-       We are so thankful for the spiritual support we are receiving.

-       Lately, I have been particularly thankful for my mom.  She is in remission from cancer herself and only 2.5 years ago life seemed pretty dire for her (indeed, my mom’s cousin who is her close friend, said that in those days she didn’t think my mom would live to meet her next grandchild who my sister was pregnant with at the time. But now she has that grandchild plus 3 more new ones-the twins, plus my sister’s 5th child!!!!) Thankful for my mom’s help with the kids when my parents come out and also having her to talk to and ask advice from.  Please pray for continued remission and health for my mom, Alice.

Points for prayer

-       pray for healing for me.  Pray that this cancer is eradicated from my body, it has no home there and does not belong.

-       Also right now I have caught the kids’ cold.  Pray for energy since I feel tired on top of tired (but praise that at least it is only physical fatigue). Pray that the physical fatigue alongside the ever-present demands of our children won’t push me into emotional fatigue. 

-       Pray for us and determining next steps required for a future home for us.  We are doing fine living in our condo (our neighbors probably don’t view this so positively, though) but this is not a long-term home for our family.  We keep pushing the matter aside because it’s not an easy decision and so far life has more pressing issues.  That said, it is a subject that needs to eventually get sorted out.  Please pray for much wisdom, discernment, guidance, and peace about this subject.  Pray that when we start exploring options that a clear choice would be made super clear to us.

-       Pray for marriage-building, particularly as Ryan and I plan to go away for a night next week. 

Cards of Thanks

-Thank you for your continued embrace of support through gifts, messages, cleaning, help with the kids, and food.  I am blown away by our circle of support.  It is hard for me that my etiquette is tossed out the window and I haven’t properly thanked each one of you.  Thank you ever so much!

            - Thank you for your prayers and thank you for taking the time to follow my story

and in doing so, becoming part of my story. 

Practical needs

-       I have received one message from someone willing to provide respite to us on Thursdays in the event our nanny is sick again.  Just knowing that we have this option is so huge to us.  We have Ryan’s mom who we can call, but the twins are hard for her to care for too as she is awaiting a hip replacement and she already helps us every Monday and Tuesday.  Also, the reality is that our peers/close friends are quite maxed out on life of their own these days with small families.  If daytime childcare is something within your scope of abilities and in your heart, we would be so grateful for a couple more contacts we could put on our respite list to have in case our regular nanny is unable.

-       The vegetable soups I have received have warmed my body and my soul.  I am so thankful for them.  My stock is now running very low.  I thought maybe I could start making some myself, but the reality is that I just won’t get to it.  If anyone is wanting a way to help me out, replenishing my vegetable soup supply would be so appreciated. 



I feel honored to have been present with you here in this (virtual) space.  And it seems appropriate that in benediction I share the words my childhood pastor often shared when closing a service (Ephesians 3):

 20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.



Thursday, January 19, 2017

Eagles


Today is supposed to be my retreat day.  But, our nanny is sick.  Garrett is particularly cranky today, and chose to start the day at 5:20.  So, I quickly formulated a coping plan this morning, a plan that is my “go-to” for cranky kids: we need to get outside.  It’s exhausting simply preparing to leave the house, particularly with a whiny little boy crying sadly at my legs.  But I press on with my plan because fresh air solves many problems. 

 Surprisingly, the twins were mostly content in the stroller as I pushed them during my walk (and very much enjoyed playing in the rain at the end).  But, it was the eagles which spoke to me today.  I was feeling angry that my disease and it's treatment limit my energy level.  I was on edge because I am tired and my whining kids can push me to places I don’t like to be.  Today was to be a day of peace; but, caring for two 1 year olds is anything but peaceful.  I set out on my walk to my usual destination: the river.  I was greeted at the trailhead by a majestic eagle regally perched.  And my heart paused.  My God is present with me always.  In the peace and in the crazy.  And I was reminded of Isaiah 40:

 Look up into the heavens.
    Who created all the stars?
He brings them out like an army, one after another,
    calling each by its name.
Because of his great power and incomparable strength,
    not a single one is missing.
27 O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles?
    O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
28 Have you never heard?
    Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
    No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
29 He gives power to the weak
    and strength to the powerless.
30 Even youths will become weak and tired,
    and young men will fall in exhaustion.
31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint.



My mother cross-stitched part of this passage and hung it on our family’s wall where it still is today.  I am but a youth of an adult who is tired, diseased and so often near exhaustion.  These days, with the reminder of the eagles along the river trail, these verses are dear to my heart.




Thursday, January 12, 2017

Update Jan 12, 2017


What’s new? Well I’m feeling pretty good….if I go to bed shortly after the kids.  The twins just seem to have rounded somewhat of a corner…hopefully!  Over the holidays and the past few weeks they have simply been cranky and exhausting.  This is trying.  This is the reality of parenting twin toddlers (they’re both walking now!).  But at least it seems I can handle full days if they are reprieved of children’s cries!  On that note, we’ve been having our nanny come full days 4 days a week.  This is a lovely, but temporary, arrangement.  Pray for us in figuring out childcare going into the future – both for determining what our needs will be and who we can get to meet our needs!


Please pray for Ryan as it is challenging to balance work, home, and my extra needs…. while trying to actually determine what a healthy balance even looks like.   


My radiation treatment is complete.  I have a one month break and then 6 rounds of chemo (1 week on, 3 weeks off). 

Fear


Fear.  Paralyzing fear. Because that is what fear does best: paralyze.  This fear felt new as it bullied it’s ugly way into our family this past week.  Instead of gladness for my radiation treatments wrapping up, came fear of when is this cancer going to come back?  I messaged my close friend asking for her support.  She gave me Matthew 6:34 from the Message version: “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow.  God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”  Huh!  I read these verses, which I had never read in the message version before, and realized I had learned these things about fear 2 years ago when my mom was healing from her stem cell transplant to treat her cancer (multiple myeloma).  Her treatment was not a cure and the fear of her cancer’s return gripped me.  In the days that followed I heard a broadcast on the Christian radio station on my way home from work.  On it was a woman, Karen Tippetts, sharing about her story inclusive of incurable cancer.  This is what I journalled after listening to her:

 When we portray ourselves into the future we tend to not think of the element of God and His grace being with us in those moments ahead that we wish were not coming- we have to remember that God will show up in those moments.

 She shared Proverbs 1:33 (emphasis mine) “ But those who listen to me will live in peace and safety, without dread of destruction.”

 I couldn’t believe how quickly I had forgotten what God spoke to me just 2 years ago. 

 The fear became attenuated. However, in the dark and quiet of my bed, fear was still there.  Like “a thief breaking into my heart, [trying] to steal all my fire and shut me down before I even start” (Jason Gray, “Learning”). 

 Much happened in my heart yesterday as I met with a spiritual counselor.  I voiced the ugly I’ve been experiencing and she reminded me that God’s grace is present in the ugly, just as much as in the beautiful.  Further, God takes the ugly and makes it beautiful.  I am reminded of an experience I had at summer camp when I was around 13 years old.  Before our eyes, an artist created a beautiful chalk artwork: pastels and beautiful pinks and oranges created a sunset framed by nature.  Then he took black chalk and intentionally and with deliberate forcefulness placed a large mar across the page.  It was compelling and uncomfortable.  From that black mar on the page he created the shadowed outline of a beautiful tree creating a strikingly beautiful image.  God takes the ugly and makes it beautiful.

 My friend recommended lighting a candle and watching it burn as a tool to combat fear by enabling being present in the here and now.  My spiritual counselor lit a candle as we met to symbolize God’s presence as we invite Him present.  Though God transcends time, we can only be present right here and now.  This is where God meets us.  I am instructed in scripture to not worry.  God carries my worries for me.  I can lay them down at His feet and He will scoop me into His arms and hold me. And how blessed I am that the place where I meet God is sacred ground.  Gotquestions.org says this of “Holy ground” referencing Exodus 3 and Acts 7:

 “It was not that the actual ground on which Moses stood was holy; rather it was the presence of the holy God that made it holy.

 The holy ground was rendered sacred by the presence of God, who is the very essence of holiness. …Solemn awe and deep seriousness are appropriate for coming into the place set apart for the worship of God, for wherever the Lord is constitutes holy ground.”


How blessed I am to be present today. How blessed I am to be invited to tread on Holy ground.
This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24, emphasis mine)

My heart is well.  Oh, how my heart is well.



Thursday, January 5, 2017

The "bad and the ugly" of my diagnosis


I have come to a space where there is quiet.  True quiet.  I have not had the luxury of quiet in my life.  It brings me to tears.  Out rushes all the disappointment, all the sadness, and though it’s a much less dominant feeling, all the tension and anger related to where life has taken me.  Where ‘terminal cancer’ has forced me to tread.  I share these things, not because I am not coping well and not because I don’t have hope and a faith secure; I share these things because sharing in these very human and very visceral emotions is what I am coming to see “becoming human” is all about.  I think on this term, “becoming human” regularly these days.  John Vanier penned a book I read as recommended by my high school English teacher, called “Becoming Human.”  His book discusses different ideas than I present here; but, I like his title and the notion it holds.  To me, becoming human is about sharing life in a very real, authentic, genuine and open fashion.  I feel like in the religious circles I’ve spent time in over the past few years, these are ideas talked about, but not so well lived out.  It is my goal to live out “becoming human”.  I want to share what this journey is fully about.  I’ve given you glimpses of the Hope I have.  I hope I’ve shouted out loud and clear the promises of Christ.  I spend much time in those places and always circle back to them.  However, there are other places and spaces and emotions which comprise the “bad and ugly” of my diagnosis.  My professional counsel has advised me to visit these places regularly, for if I don’t they will rear their heads at the most inopportune moments.  It is becoming apparent that my need to visit these places occurs approximately every 2 weeks.  From brief time in these spaces and places I can then move forward to keep living full of hope, joy, peace and love.

 I keep on traipsing on in my life.  I live by words of encouragement I find in scripture. I cry out to God passionately as I have never before.  I hold dear the “regular” moments with close friends as well as the “special” moments.  I make plans for this year, for trips, for more time with Ryan, for writing etc.  I even prepare to write legacy pieces for my kids, which by now doesn’t even always elicit in me a sobbing response.  And then I think about it: this year could be it.  That could be all.  And I cry because I want to see my kids grow up.  I want to be there to see what careers they choose.  I want to return to my career as I should be doing right now.  I want to help them fumble through preteen years.  I want to be there to teach them to make good choices so that I will be so pleased with the spouses they choose.  I want to make sure my son treats women with the utmost respect.  I want to help my girls plan their weddings. I want to travel and adventure with my husband and see how sweet our marriage can become as we chart through the struggles of raising a family.  I want to help my kids when they have kids.  I want to be there in the difficulty of helping our parents as they age and eventually lose a spouse.  I want to reap the rewards of how demanding parenting young kids is. I want to waterski, I want to play soccer, I want to think clearly and concisely and keep writing. 

Deep breath.  And I rest in God’s arms for awhile so I can keep on keeping on.  And I keep reading the Psalms and keep praying like David. Then I start listening to Toby Mac, “move” and Mandesa “overcomer” and I’m ready to face my days again, I’m ready to not let cancer define me, though it certainly shapes me.  I ready to not let God waste this experience. (My mom shared that this is her friend’s mantra).  I’m ready to keep loving and parenting our twins which keeps us close to craziness (but will surely have sweet rewards).  I’m ready to love on my almost 5 year old as I see the young woman in her already who needs to be nurtured so she can blossom as beautifully as I foresee.  I’m ready to look for opportunities where I may be able to give in a season where I am receiving vastly.  I’m ready to push myself further into my own “humanity” and stretch myself to further and more intimately explore what “becoming human” means in my life.  I’m ready to smile into my husband’s eyes thankful I have him as partner in this life and I’m ready to roll my eyes at the things he will always do that simply make me roll my eyes. 

God’s love lived out isn’t tidy.  No, life is very messy.  And I think it is only when we are willing to trudge through the mire in full view of others that we become truly free to embrace the “more and better life” (John 10:10) that God has for us.  It is hard to find others willing to do the same.  When you find them, treasure them.  Oh how blessed I am that my husband championed transparency long before I opened up.  And how blessed I am that I have parents who loved, and continue to love, me so well (this is a blog piece of itself) that I was prepared to navigate this world with wise choices and a mindset headed in the right direction.  How blessed I am to have special friends, both ‘newer’ and ‘older’.  I feel like I should close with a meaningful scripture, and yet, as I stare into the snow-laden landscape, I lean into the blessing of the presence of God and the promise that He is with me always*.



*so in actuality I am closing in scripture, this is the verse and a backstory about it:  Hebrew 13:5 “[God] will never leave you nor forsake you.”  My Mom’s mom had a loud voice.  In contrast to her husband, she was outspoken.  On my baptism day, that grandmother stood in the congregation and proclaimed this verse to me.  It is my hope that my words of encouragement would also continue into my grandchildren’s generation.