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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Update May 24, 2017

Most of my health status remains unchanged and my energy is slowly and seemingly continually, improving. My vision is stable, slightly wonky but unchanged as long as I get adequate rest and nutrition.  I tolerated my last round of chemo the best yet with only mild fatigue.  I only have 2 more rounds of chemo!!!!  Slowly (and sporadically), my physical activity is increasing and I am becoming used to the cyclic nature of energy ups and downs related to chemo.  See below for more health specifics.

Praise God for:

- My sick leave benefits
- Stefanie, our nanny, and her continued lovely presence in our home 4 days a week
- (that sick leave benefits allow finances to pay Stefanie!)
- Physical activity re-entering my life and our weekends transitioning from crazy, chaos awfulness to soul-filling (still tiring ;) family activities like time at the splash park and a nature walk at Flood Falls by Hope this past weekend.
- A steadiness of my heart
- Our community of support


Pray for:

- Healing! (See last post)
- Sustained energy to enjoy my family
- Marriage strength – Our marriage is strong, but the pressures on it with our family and health demands are apparent
- Good report (no tumor growth) on my MRI early June
- Energy for increasing physical activity, which I so love to participate in
- Wisdom in pursuing new passionate ideas ever brewing in my head: to be wise to follow my heart in these areas, but to be patient and also wise in allocating my energy.
- Helpful tips from the dietician next week to have health-filled as well as practical advice in order to “fuel” my body well
- Summer holidays!!! We will be away from home for over 3 weeks --- Heading to the Shuswaps for a week with friends, visiting in Saskatchewan, then spending a week at family at Camp Oshkidee.  Lots of kilometers and different sleeping arrangements.  I’m trusting that the craziness would be well out-weighed by the sweet family, friends, nature, and God time!  Pray for the preparations and for a calm spirit preparing for and embarking on this adventure. 




I love you and I depend on you, my supporters.  Thank you.  


A Call to Prayer

The first few months after my diagnosis I didn’t quite know how to deal with the idea of requesting prayer for healing and what to do with faith, this elusive faith-thing, if healing did not occur.  I still always welcomed healing prayer, absolutely; but there was always a feeling like perhaps I wasn’t “all in” just in case.  It’s a tough place to be when you want to believe; but you don’t want what little faith you have to be dashed. 

I am no theologian, nor have I been reading books on prayer or on faith healing; but I have come to a place where I am now compelled to pray passionately for my own healing – and invite those of you who pray to do the same (and I graciously welcome healing vibes from those of you who send your support that way).  You may ask, as I did myself, “How can I ask you to pray fervently for healing for me when we know so well how awful cancer can be and brain cancer is one of the ‘bad ones’?”  Psalm 112 begins to answer this for me:

A righteous person will always be remembered.
She is not afraid of bad news.
Her heart remains secure, full of confidence in Yahweh.
Her heart is steady, and she is not afraid.

Then hear these words just a bit further into Psalms (Psalm 116):

I love God because He listened to me….
What can I give back to God for the blessings he’s poured out on me?
I’ll lift high the cup of salvation ----
A toast to God!


I realize that these verses do not provide a full answer to the unanswerable question of healing prayer.  But through God’s peace these words and concepts are enough and truly, I am not afraid.  No, rather than being afraid, I celebrate in a toast to God the blessings he saturates my life with.  My God will go with me wherever I go, wherever cancer takes me.  With this steady heart join me, I graciously ask, to echo my heart’s prayer:


I plead to God to add days to my life; but truly I praise God for the transformation of my soul and for adding LIFE to my days*.  In this spirit of thanksgiving I petition God: keep the cancer away – destroy it, anniliate it, cut it off from even starting to grow, starve it! Heal my brain.  May my scan in 2 weeks be spectacular as I trust in Your power God.  Your mighty, amazing, healing power!  Paul in the bible tells us that the same power that raised Christ from the dead lives within his followers! In this same power of the Holy Spirit I pray this all-in petition, God! Heal this diseased body and give me years upon years upon years in my life.  Grant me my desire to grow old with my husband that we may look back on how far God has led us.  Continue to give me the great blessing to raise our 3 precious children and the wisdom and patience, oh boy the wisdom and patience, that I need to do so. I ask to be privileged to parent them into adulthood and then to continue the joys and struggles of parenting as I become grandmother to their children.  Oh God, give me these desires of my heart!!!   Along the way use my words ready to proclaim your goodness, use my hands open to receive God’s blessings to overflowing that they would flow out of my life and into those lives around me.  

Oh God, we praise you for the power of your salvation!!!! It is unparalleled. Humbly, I thank you, God.

Amen       


And thank you to all of you who join me in this prayer. Thank you.

*Philip Yancey quotes Dr. Bob Moorehead's The Paradox of Our Time in Vanishing Grace (p. 153-154)  This quote inspired this sentence: "We've learned how to make a living, but not a life; we've added years to life, not life to years." 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Art of Rejoicing

I have this verse hung beside my bed, “This is the day that the LORD has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”*  I put it there before the twins were born, because I knew their arrival would bring struggles to rejoice.  Those days I did not find much to rejoice in.  In fact, I started to question the validity of that verse altogether.  Do we have seasons where we can rejoice and others where we have to simply plod along?  Only when I entered the enlightment of cancer survivorship did the answer start to be apparent.

I will NEVER be one to discount the difficulty of motherhood.  However, can joy be found daily even in such trying circumstances?  I proclaim, “Yes!”.  Ann Voskamp has written the book One Thousand Gifts.  I read this a few years ago.  Her prose is choppy but poetic and in this book she seeks out the little gifts of joy through out her day.  Where do these joy moments or gifts come from?  From finding the beauty in the ordinary. 

The value of beauty and art has been brushed aside in my life for a few years now.  I am university-educated in sciences which followed with a career as a Pharmacist.  The current model of medical practice is “evidence-based practice”.  In lay man terms: make medical decisions based on what good medical studies have proven.  This is good, but it does have a propensity to turn people into numbers, if you let it.

As I processed my diagnosis I began to see the very usefulness and power of beauty in one’s life.  Furthermore, I realized how little I had given pause in the most recent years to ponder, to create a gap in the incessant busyness that bombards life.  People most certainly are not numbers.  They are beautiful creatures created in God’s image, each one of them!

Indeed, as Voskamp highlights, there is much beauty and value in the rote tasks of the day.  In the mundane.  Say, for example, in the days of changing diaper after diaper after diaper.  Also remember the beauty in the people themselves whom we are surrounded by.  Be it our kids as stay at home moms, be it our care-aid for the shut-in senior, be it our friends, be it the cashier at the grocery store.  It may seem cliché, but I speak this truth to my daughter regularly: at the core of all hearts is a sparkling diamond.       

As I explore how to leave a positive and beautiful mark on my sphere of influence, I find myself praying “God, bring out the beautiful from within my soul and give it words.”  Honestly, I long to know how I can also follow my words with action.  Yet, I have been reminded by Philip Yancey that there can be great purpose in art and that it can “suspend the relentless passage of time.”**  Is that not the breath of fresh air we need in the busy, busy rushing?  Art creates space.  When I took time to contemplate at my cancer diagnosis I saw the need for beauty; but, oh how we need space to pause. 

In light of Ann Voskamp, can I assert that art extends beyond the written word, the artist’s paint stroke, the filmmaker’s performance?  Is not art present also in the mundane rote tasks of life?  Is there not living art in a parent coming up with a creative solution, in the cashier serving respect and a compliment to the customer who belittles and criticizes him, in the daughter in law who holds her mother in law as she breathes her last breaths? 

Art and beauty are often overlooked.  This is certainly to our detriment.  For, I have come to see that in order to rejoice in the impossible places where life takes us it is necessary to embrace the artful beauty that abounds in our lives***.        

 
*Psalm 118:24
**Vanishing Grace, chapter 7, p. 147.
*** This comes alongside the art of graciously asking for and accepting help so as to truly live in community. 


Friday, May 12, 2017

Love You Better

This is the Song my amazing husband wrote for me when I was first diagnosed with Glioblastoma and just shared with me ON THE RADIO (through an interview with CKNW 980 today) as the best mother's day gift ever! I love you Ryan.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

On Mothering

“Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do, but someone you raise.”  Andy Stanley


With Mother’s Day approaching I want to share revelations about mothering that I have uncovered recently.  However, it is necessary to step back and first tell you about my “cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12) who I have firsthand learned from.

I think on mothering and I praise God for the heritage He has given me and the heritage which I know will extend beyond me as I commit my whole heart and all my desires in mothering to God.  I am blessed to have met my maternal lineage three generations back.  What a gift to have spent time with my great grandmother in my childhood.  My memories of great grandma Krahn consist mainly of visiting her in the nursing home at Herbert, Sask. ( a half hour drive from Swift Current) where we would eat Wagon Wheels with her.  She serves as more of an icon in my memory; but oh what an important one.  Her daughter, my Grandma Krahn, passed away when I was fourteen years old.  In those 14 years I learned much from her about being a godly woman of character.  Shortly before she passed away Grandma attended my cousin and mine’s baptism.  When the congregation was given opportunity to encourage the baptismal candidates she stood and loudly proclaimed to Lindsay and I that we ought never to forget Hebrews 13:5 “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake thee.” Grandma Krahn’s daughter is my mom, Alice.  My mother’s life speaks in so many ways that cannot be fully captured in words.  However, in striving to honor the incredible godly heritage I have, I attempt to capture her importance in one word: a saint.

Many verses refer to saints in the bible, I particularly like Psalm 30:4 (ESV), “Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name”
 I capture the picture of a saint as brought to my attention through Philip Yancey** “What is a saint?...: someone who, however flawed, ‘leads us by example, almost never by words, to imagine the hardest thing of all: the seamless love of God for all creation, including ourselves.’”

Why do we think that at some point we ought to be able to coast in life?  My mother has done nothing of the coasting sort.  My mom grew up in a godly, loving family which nourished her mind, body, and soul.  She attended University and became a social worker, empowered to make a difference in people’s lives.  The difference she could make in the parameters of her job were more meager than she had hoped.  She stopped working for pay outside the home for sometime when she had my sister, Carmen, 3 years my elder.  But, I recall her never stopping work: her volunteer spirit in our church and in our community was thriving.  When I was 5 years old, my Dad was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor.  Over the years he had numerous surgeries and appointments, always a 2 hour drive from home.  My mom previously did not highway drive.  My Dad went back to work 6 weeks after brain surgery expected to resume his normal duties, all the while maxed out with fatigue and hence laden with depression.  My Dad attends acquired brain injury support because truly all these operations have left Dad with numerous struggles.  My mom was mom and wife and a stronghold during these years. 

Fast-forward and at 60 years old (as I’m having my first child and feel like I need my mom) my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and required a mastectomy.  Mom was cured of the cancer but the physical evidence of her disease plummeted Dad into depression again.  It was a somber time and I know it was hard for mom, and yet I really do not know.  Two years later intense backpain entered mom’s life.  I live 2 provinces away from her and did not realize how bad it was.  I noticed that she wasn’t calling anymore, but that was the extent of my selfish realization.  It became apparent that there was more going on and her back was badly broken and cancer was on table.  I froze in fear, even moreso than with my own diagnosis.  I needed my mom!  Her response was, “it will be okay.”  I return to this over and over.  The moment she first uttered those words to me is burned in my memory.  I have written about it elsewhere, but, it comes afresh these days with my own diagnosis.  My then 2 year old daughter played oblivious to us in the kitchen in these early morning moments and I started to cry.  Mom hugged me and stated those words: “It will be okay.”  This is my mom.  Rooted in God’s graces to know that no matter what, God is with us so it will be okay.  My mom has had to battle her own disease of multiple myeloma, now in remission, only to learn that her daughter has a brain tumor subsequently diagnosed as Stage 4 Glioblastoma.  My mom has to keep on mothering both her sick daughter and her needy wee-little grandkids.  And she does so without complaints (I know when I was initially recovering from surgery that I just wanted to be the patient, not worry about my mothering duties; but, mothering duties never stop.  My mom can attest to this.) This is my mom’s life through out which she has demonstrated a commitment to her family, to her faith community, to her prayer life and scripture reading.  My mom is a saint who I am so privileged to continue to learn from.     


With this heritage as my backdrop I have a good starting place to learn about mothering.  However, I uncover, I have more to learn than I thought.  Thank God, that He is with me and will never leave me because this mothering thing is a hard gig.  Join me to listen to how God is encouraging me in mothering.

I make a huge difference in the lives of my children.
This is an enormous truth, often overlooked in the busyness, in the chaos, in the difficulty and tediousness of it all.   Mothering: it is hard and beautiful and exhausting and ugly and rewarding all wrapped into our heartstrings. 

I am writing letters to my children, one for each year until adulthood, to be presented to them on their birthdays. The intention is that my words will continue to speak on into their lives even if I am no longer present to physically speak the words.  It is indeed a big task to write this stack of letters -  letters of the most heartfelt, heart-wrenching, vital nature, all with prayerful hope that I myself will speak these words to my kids.  When I sat down to write my first letter, the magnitude of this task became apparent, and I’ll admit, felt quite daunting (especially with the intermittent looming fear of disease returning and the foggy-headed fatigue my treatments gave me).  These letters however, have become a beautiful task uncovering hopes and dreams, past and present, which enrich my daily living.  Furthermore, in writing these letters I am certain that my children will know my love for them and this provides deep comfort.

Let me step back.  A couple weeks ago I felt the heaviness of mothering.  My eldest was deep in a 5 year old disobedience phase and my 1 year olds frustratingly are still learning what obedience even means.  So I was writing letters of love to my children (as I do each week) and feeling the love for my kids and yet not.  The living of love for my kids was arduous.  I was annoyed with my kids.  I was burnt out from my kids and couldn’t wait for time away.  I was experiencing motherhood as motherhood is.  This is the reality!  I’ll be honest, I never realized how hard mothering would be.  I never intended to have more than 2 kids because I knew it was difficult --  but even despite this, oh boy it is hard in ways not mentioned.  Mothering demands so much- physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually – all of me!!!! 

I am supposed to be grateful for every moment with my children, right? Especially because I have terminal illness, right? When my twin one year olds are crying hard because who knows why and my 5 year old begins to whine and cry even harder than them because of something so small I can’t even remember it.  And it is chaos and noisy and in my post-brain-surgery brain the noise feels like jack-hammering.  I’m supposed to cherish all of these moments, right?  NOPE.  Flat out, NOPE.  For almost a week I wanted to be FAR away from my children.  I am a human and I am a mother and I fail big time.  Thank God, for His grace.

Because only by God’s grace can I love my children and then love them lavishly. Listen to what God’s grace did within my mom-heart this week.  I will share excerpts of my journal:

“What a great privilege to be used as a parent for God and His purpose.  Oh God give me wisdom to parent well – give Ryan vision to parent well and create a vision for our family.  Oh LORD you have given more children than we asked for – bless them richly, seal their hearts for Your purpose.  Use them for your glory as I pray the same for myself.

Oh give me supernatural energy to parent well.  For wisdom. For vision. For tenacity. 

Bless these children.  Rayna, Allison, and Garrett.  And bless their children.

The importance of my role as a mother to my children ought not to be overlooked.  It is HUGE and it is powerful.  What God will do through me as a mother if I fully open myself up in faith and love, is profound.  There is great purpose for me in being a mom and in being stretched in being a mom of 3 small children.

So I trust You and I invite you into our home and our family to get cozy, God, to make us uncomfortable to get moving for you.  God place a barricade of spiritual, physical, mental protection around our family starting with mine and Ryan’s marriage. Guard it, embolden it, breathe life, rich life into it.” 

To my children:
Oh I am a proud mother! My children I’ll tell you a secret, mothering is a very hard job.  It is harder than I ever imagined.  But the fruit of my hard work, with God as my strength and the Holy Spirit my Helper, is oh so sweet. And this is only the beginning!!! I am blessed. I am blessed to overflowing! How rich I am. To call you daughters and son is a blessed gift.  My sweet children, you are so very cherished. I love you.


To my Mother:   
Thank you for the gift of teaching me how to be a good and godly mom.  This gift extends for generations before you and beyond you: your elders and children yet to come. How grateful I am to share this lineage with you.  In you I see that mothering is never a completed task.  Life keeps journeying up and down.  Thank you for journeying with me as I face my own celebrations and my own hard paths.  You have taught me firsthand to live out that “It will be okay.” I love you.


While on the topic of mothering indulge me to share what I uncovered about motherhood when I was first diagnosed with a brain tumor; it was startling to me.  I had been trying and struggling to Mother my children myself (read my blog posts from the twins’ first year).  Only when I started getting help because of my brain surgery and subsequent cancer diagnosis and treatment did I realize the amount of help I had been really lacking to actually be a healthy mom (My twin mom friend was there one day and she took note of all the people caring for my kids and said, “Do you see how many people it is taking to do the job you did all by yourself?” I was proud in that moment for all I had been doing BY MYSELF. Yet looking back I realize how unhelpful pride can truly be.)  We need to be mothering in community and realize that our society’s presentation of motherhood only sets us up for disappointment and mental (and physical for that matter) health struggles. 
We need to break down the lies society is telling us about mothering.  We don’t need pinterest to mother well.  Heck we don’t even need to brush our kids’ teeth everyday! (Not that I’m really advocating for this and I can hear Rayna right now in my head asking why we only brush her teeth once a day – and well, the answer is because when the twins were born it just wasn’t worth losing our sanity to brush her teeth in the morning and we simply haven’t since resumed the routine – oh well.)  I don’t brush my kids’ hair much.  Sometimes I only shower once a week! (Twin moming pushed me to every 2-3 days or so and then cancer just shoved personal hygiene way on down in priority --- and, amazingly, I am sharing this with you, but its okay!)  What I need to mother well is prayer and a village.  I need my village moms to mom with me and to pray with me.  That is the only way we can make it in this society that tells us we need to mother on our own in our own perfect house with an excessive schedule of extracurricular activities for our kids, which they better start early so they get an edge on the competition.  Tear down the fences! Share the load! Let’s mother in community.  Let’s share our dirty laundry.  Let’s encourage one another instead of compare against one another.  Let’s ask for help when we need it. Let’s give help to other moms when we see their needs.  (I thank all you women who have so graciously exemplified this way of life to me in the months since my diagnosis.)  Let’s applaud the beauty in one another. Let’s celebrate women!  Mothers you are beautiful!  Barren women you are beautiful!  And may I add, Mom, Alice, you are the most beautiful of them all.   

Happy Mother’s Day to all you beautiful women who have taken time to read this post.  
You are loved. 
You are cherished.
You are delighted upon.

XOXO
Cheryl

 


**p. 71 Vanishing Grace, Philip Yancey quoting Reynolds Price

Thursday, May 4, 2017

May 4, 2017


I really enjoy Philip Yancey, and these insights from his book Vanishing Grace are no exception.  (from the section on being “grace dispensers”, p 112)

….Many questions that we throw at God return to us like a boomerang.  Consider for example the excellent question, “Why doesn’t God do something about global hunger?” The angels’ words after Jesus’ ascension echo through the centuries: “Why do you stand here looking into the sky?”  We, Jesus’ followers are the agents assigned to carry out God’s will on earth.  Too easily we expect God to do something for us when instead God wants to do it through us.

--------------

My question to God following reading this was, “God, what do you want to do through me?”

The reply, “That is why I am teaching you to rest ---  so I can stir your passions and so you can actually hear me when I speak.”


Point taken, God.




A reminder for women (Zephaniah 3)

A reminder to women, all women, because all of us need this reminder:

Zephaniah 3:16-17 (ESV/NIV spliced)

“Cheer up, Zion! Don’t be afraid! For the LORD your God has arrived to live among you.  He is the Mighty Warrior who saves.  He will take great delight in you.  With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will exult over you by singing a happy song.”

God delights in you.
You are cherished.
You are loved.
You are protected.