Tuesday, January 20, 2015

C is for Cancer

It's amazing how your life and the way you hold things can change in the matter of moments. Things that once concerned you, don't really matter anymore. And you suddenly find yourself noticing all the things that you seemed to overlook until that one moment. Well, I had once such moment a week ago today.

I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer last Tuesday morning. I have a cancerous tumor the size of my pinkie nail on the left side of my thyroid.

I will be having surgery at Borgess Hospital on Wednesday, January 28th at 8:00am to have the cancer and my thyroid removed. I have to be off of work for a week to ten days in order to heal and recover. And some time after my recovery from surgery, I will have to have a form of radiation treatment called radioactive iodine. And I will now be taking medication every day for the rest of my life to compensate for not having a thyroid.

The surgeon and all the things I have read say that if you're going to have a type of cancer, this is the kind that you want. It's treatable and it doesn't spread. So that's good. And my diagnosis has made a lot of things I've been experiencing this past year make sense. Thyroid problems can result in depression, tiredness, miscarriage, weight gain. All things that have been a part of my struggle this past year. Things that have rocked my world in huge ways. So I'm glad to now have a bit of perspective and know that I'm not crazy or weak or too emotional. I didn't cause my miscarriage. My body was just trying to tell me something was wrong.

I’m not sharing to get sympathy or pity – I may hurt you if you extend either of those toward me :) lol – just kidding (mostly). But I’m a big believer that we live in community, and we all need each other to survive and live well and be happy and whole people. We are to rejoice with each other when things are good. And we are to support/encourage each other when things are bad. We are not meant to venture through life alone. We need each other.....

It's not easy for me to admit that I need people. I'm the woman who pulls herself up by her bootstraps. I'm tough. I can do it by myself. I put my head down and power through. It's scary to admit that you need people, because what if they don't show up? What if they let me down? What if they decide they don't love me anymore? What if I'm too much for them? What if they think I'm weak?......But what I've been learning this past week is that I am blessed. I am so very loved by amazingly wonderful people. People have been angry with me. People have cried with me. Encouraged me. Shown me love through my love language (notes and cards). My friends are beautiful people with precious hearts who know how to love well. And I am so very blessed to receive their love and support.

As I have been calling and telling people the past several days they have been asking what they can do to help…..the short simple answer is nothing. And I know no one is satisfied with that answer, so here’s how you can help :)……
* Pray, however you pray or to whomever, doesn't matter to me….please pray! Pray for the surgery to go smoothly and without complication, for quick healing, for me to have peace, etc.
* As you all know, I love words. So words of affirmation, support, strength are always welcome. I love music, quotes, words with powerful meaning, etc.
*I need all the joy and laughter in my life I can get right now! So please feel free to make me laugh whenever you get the chance.

This feels like the darkest time in my life. And it's not easy. I'm still processing all of this. But with the darkest hour comes the dawn....so light is coming. I may not be able to see it right now, but it is coming.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Reflections on Peaks And Valleys

I love the way she survived. Survival looked good on her. There were no dark marks under her eyes. Maybe deep inside, but I liked the way she looked through them and laughed at life. She did it gracefully. She'd walked over glass and through fire, but still smiled. And, honestly, I'm not interested in people who haven't lived and died a few times. Who haven't yet had their hearts ripped out, or known what it feels like to lose everything. I trust those people, because they stand for something.

2014 was a year. Wow! There were some amazing peaks and some dark valleys. It really has felt like a roller coaster. I have met some amazing people this year who have changed me and the way I see the world. I grew my faith in some huge and personal ways. I struggled. I lost. I triumphed. I grieved.

- I rang in the New Year with the love of my life, having someone to kiss at midnight for the first time.
- I had a valentine to celebrate love with for the first time.
- I suffered from SAD in a big way this year. Gaining weight and losing confidence in who I was.
- I almost lost my job.
- I almost quit my job.
- I was introduced to Native American spirituality. I learned how to pray, how to connect with God, my community, and the earth in ways I never thought possible.
- I trained for and ran my third half marathon.
- I created many lasting memories with the man I gave my heart to.
- I traveled across the county and went out west for the first time.
- I participated in my first Sundance Ceremony where I was inspired, changed. I prayed more fiercely in those four days than I ever have before.
- I left my love in Texas.
- I was in a long distance relationship for the first time.
- I found out I was pregnant.
- I had a miscarriage.
- I fell into a deep depression.
- The love of my life broke my heart and told me he wasn't in love with me anymore.
- My friends and family rallied around me, hugged me, made me laugh, drank with me, fed me, sat with me, cried with me, wrote me notes of encouragement, loved me.

I'm so thankful for the new family I gained this year. Margie, Tylene, Gloria, Ismael, Kim, Dan, Josh, and the rest of my beautiful El Paso family. Barbara and John. Frank and Michelle. Kathlene and Jeff. Mark and Erica B. Ronnie. Ken. The rest of the lodge community. Erica J. You all are the best gift this girl could ever ask for. Thank you for choosing me, for loving me, for standing for me, for praying for me. You have hanged me. And I am forever grateful. 2014 is a blessing because of you.

This year rocked me to my core. I lost the two things I have waited my whole life for - the love of my life and motherhood. I had them. For a moment....I loved him so fiercely. Maybe too fiercely. And now I have scars to remind me of what risking, vulnerability, loyalty, love, and sacrifice look like. The scars run deep. But knowing what I know now, I would do it all over again. I would still choose him. Being in love with him changed me. Forever. I shared pieces of myself with him that I'd never shared with anyone ever before. Pieces I was ashamed of. Pieces I now see as beautiful and want to share with the world. I'm forever thankful for that....And I now have a little poppy watching over me and her dad. Loving us and bringing us light in the darkness.

The title of my blog is Beauty From Ashes. I thought I knew what it meant to go through the fire. I have known deep wounding, loss, betrayal, pain in my life. But nothing like this. I have been burned down to cinders and ash. And in my moments of weakness, I can't imagine how I'll ever be anything other than dust. But every once in awhile, I feel a wave of hope and peace wash over me. And I'm reminded of my giant phoenix on my thigh. Her name is Leoma, which means brave woman. And it is only from ash, cinder, and fire that something new and beautiful can be created and a new phoenix is born out of that fire to live again. And I have to have faith and believe that God will bless me. That he will use these ashes, this fire I am going through, to make something more beautiful than I could ever have hoped or imagined.

So what's next? What does 2015 look like for me? Honestly? I have no idea. But here is my hope. My hope is that this year I would be made whole again. That my wounds would be healed. That my friendships would flourish. That I would find hope, faith, joy, and peace again. That my relationship with God would be unprecedented and more intimate than ever before. And I'm still holding out for that one. The man who deserves my love and who will treat me like the precious jewel I am.

This biggest lesson I learned this year is what mercy really is and what it really means to extend it to someone else. What a sacrifice it is to be mercy to another person. Mercy is this....I love you, even though you hurt me. And I will never hurt you, even if you never love me back.

I am not a perfect person, and boy, have I made my fair share of mistakes in all of this. But, I am so proud of me. I have stayed true to my stand to love. I haven't wavered. I have loved the way I promised to - through the good, the bad, and the ugly. I now know better what I am made of. I am strong. Brave. Beautiful. Loyal, Compassionate. Grace-filled. Love.