Category Archives: cancer volume 3

on strengthening my bandwidth…

Two things I know for certain as I begin this week:

1. My emotions and the feelings attached to them aren’t reliable; they are ever-changing.

2. God and his Word are reliable; they never change.

In regards to number one, I’m in menopause … an induced menopause due to my ovaries being removed. Forget the 5-6 years of perimenopause experienced by most women prior to the full onset of menopause. There’s been nothing gradual or measured about my introduction to this new phase of life. Eight rounds of chemo forced my body into a medical menopause; the oopherectomy (ovary removal) following the chemo sealed the deal.

What does that mean? The estrogen/progesterone that my body once produced because of the ovaries have now been eliminated. In addition, the adjuvant course of treatment I’ve been prescribed, Armidex, works to prevent the remaining estrogen in my body (mostly produced by the adrenal glands) from growing. Confused? Maybe this will help. According to EMedTV:

“Arimidex is part of a group of medications called aromatase inhibitors. Aromatase is an enzyme found in various places in the body. These enzymes help produce estrogens (in particular, a certain estrogen called estradiol). In postmenopausal women, most of the estrogen in the body is made by aromatase. By blocking these enzymes, Arimidex helps to decrease the amount of estrogen in the body.

Many breast cancers are sensitive to the estrogen hormone, meaning that the tumor grows with the help of estrogen. When a tumor is sensitive to estrogen, it has receptors on the outer surface of its cells. Estrogen fits into these receptors like a key opening a lock. When this connection is made, the cancer grows.”

So … I think it’s fair to say that my emotions and the feelings attached to them aren’t reliable in this season. My body is constantly playing tricks on me, and my reactions are often either “off the charts unreasonable” or “completely unavailable.” There seems to be little middle ground between these extremes as I recently wrote about in this post. My precious friend, Judith, tells me that (as cancer survivors) “We don’t have the bandwidth that we used to have, Elaine.” She’s right. I don’t currently have the range of frequency with which my body can operate effectively, nor the transmission capacity I once had.

For example… a precious lady approached me in church recently, obviously upset as indicated by the tears pouring down her face. She was in deep, emotional pain and desired to share that pain with me. I was mostly with her up until the point that I needed to “feel” for her. I knew what my reaction should be, but my empathy had a difficult time catching up with my should. When this happens, my compassion becomes functional, not felt. For some folks, this is a typical way of handling the issue of another’s pain. For me, this a huge departure from the way I’ve always operated. And friends, I don’t mind telling you that this is a tragic loss for me. Perhaps one of the most costly surrenders I’ve had to make in this journey through cancer.

I don’t tell you this to garner your sympathy. I tell you this solely for educational purposes, so that if you’re someone who is going through the same thing or you know someone who is going through a forceful, immediate menopause, you might better have an idea as to the “goings on” behind the scenes.

All this being said (and I realize it’s a lot to digest), all is not lost. Which brings me to number two—my second certainty regarding my upcoming week (really regarding my life). God and his Word are reliable. They never change. They are the consistent underpinning of my heart and life, my walkabout in faith. Regardless of how my emotions are or are not presenting themselves on a daily basis, God is presenting himself as he has always presented himself.

Truthful. Reliable. Strong. Steady. Certain. Fixed. Constant. Unchanged.

Who God IS and everything that he has said about himself in his holy Word is, in fact, reality. The same God who cradled Eden’s soil in his hands and fashioned Adam in his image, is the same God who cradles us, shapes us, and breathes over us his holy validation. The same Jesus who cut through choppy waters and walked his peace on top of those waters to a boatload of fearful disciples, is the same Jesus who walks to us in the middle of our darkest nights to extend his hand of kingdom courage as ministry to our doubting souls.

Creator God, Savior Jesus, Companion Holy Spirit, cannot be anything other than what he has always been. Others have tried to make him less—tried to box him in and call him by another name—but their attempts at renaming him are futile attempts at control. And really, when personal control becomes an issue, then truth becomes relative—easily shifted by the changing winds and temperament of the individual involved.

Still and yet, God does not change, and it is this one reality, this one certainty that keeps me moving forward in my faith. Keeps me digging into the treasure of Scripture to take hold of truth, even though my feelings lag behind my obedience. God’s Word is my anchor, my hope, my “go to” resource as I navigate these strange waters of this new season. In its entirety, it doesn’t feel like it should, but it’s my reality.

The temporal reality of menopause. The eternal reality of God.

In the end, it’s the number two certainty of my season that will trump all others. God doesn’t ask me to ignore the other realities that are present and pressing … just to temper them with the greater reality of his presence. In doing so, my bandwidth increases, and I am better able to engage with the life that he has entrusted to my care.

Whatever temporal reality is staring you in the face today, I pray it tempered by the truth and witness of our living Lord. Spend as much time with him examining eternal truth as you are spending looking into the mirror examining temporal truth. In doing so, your bandwidth will increase and your perspective will regain proper focus.

Lose yourself within the truthful, reliable, strong, steady, certain, fixed, constant, and unchanging God who created you. The Jesus who saved you. The Holy Spirit who sustains you. The Truth that renames you…


As always, peace for the journey!

practicing my faith…

Lumps and bumps. I’ve been feeling them for awhile now. One in particular along my scar line. Left side. Hard and pronounced. Enough to warrant my concern. Accordingly, another trip to Cape “Hope” today where the oncologist pronounced me as “fine.”As quickly as he entered the room, he exited. Abrupt is the word that comes to mind … almost as if my being there was unnecessary. Apparently my concerns weren’t concerning enough, or so it seemed.

He moved on, and I held my tears until his departure. And then I wept. It’s that “noticing” thing again. Feeling overlooked and feeling insecure about my body. My emotions. My standing in this life. My place in this world. My “next.” Feeling my pain, my husband took me to the Bordeaux lunch counter, where I doused my woes with egg salad and sweet tea.

Apparently, I’ll live to see another day, and while I should be rejoicing … all I’m feeling is deep sadness. It doesn’t make sense to most of you. I get that. It really doesn’t make much sense to me, this rallying between emotional extremes. I’ve never lived with these edges before—the swing between highs and lows. It doesn’t feel safe to me. Just wildly out of control with no foreseeable end in sight.

It’s hard to manage the peaks and valleys. I’m not doing a very good job of it; probably even a poorer job of explaining it to those I love—those who need to know, who want to know, who have a vested interest in my health and my being able to move forward. Most days, I mask it in an attempt to keep from having to define it. It’s just easier that way. Truth is, most folks seem to prefer it that way. Pain is a hard handling, and all of us seem to have our fair share without taking on the pain of others.

So I contend with it. Take hold of it. Refuse to bury it, and instead allow it room enough and words enough to work its witness in my heart. I may fool others, but I cannot fool myself. I can only walk it through with the tender love and willingness of God who always notices me. Who understands my heart and who knows my every word before one of them lands on my tongue. He tells me to keep doing what I’ve been doing for most of my life.

Practice your faith, Faith Elaine. Practice your faith.

Practice means praying some strong prayers and rehearsing some strong words. God’s words. His promises to me.

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance.
From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind;
From his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth—he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.
No king is saved by the size of his army;
No warrior escapes by his great strength.
A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
Despite all its great strength it cannot save.


The eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
To deliver them from death
And keep them alive in famine.” (Psalm 33:12-19)

God’s eyes on me, noticing me. Not removing me from my season of famine, but instead sustaining me through it. Keeping me alive. Making sure that I am watered and fed by the truth from his heart as I swing from one emotional edge to another. Only God can manage these peaks and valleys of mine, for only God has the vantage point from which to see it all. And while my painful extremes are a hard handling for me, they have become the willing handling of God.

No army will save me. No warrior. No horse. No oncologist. No one person. All vain attempts at hope.

Only God and the Hope that springs forth from Calvary’s tree.

Today, I’m practicing my faith, friends. Praying my faith. Writing my faith. Speaking my faith. It’s all I know to do in this, my lean season. It will be enough to walk me through to peace. Peace for my journey—Jesus Christ, the great stabilizer in the midst of edges.

Thanks for listening.

a Word for all seasons…

I remember the day he broke my heart. After a week long vacation of exploring his neck of the woods and getting to know his family, he told me we were “over.” The next morning he drove me to the airport and put me on a plane headed north, back to my parents. I was devastated. Nothing… no words, no Kleenex, not even the kind nun sitting next to me could absorb my grief.
Some pains need some time to work themselves out of a heart. Perhaps you understand.
This particular pain would be no different. I spent the rest of my summer licking my wounds, even having thoughts of transferring to another college. My parents were wonderfully supportive. I don’t think they’d ever seen their baby girl cry so many tears. They loved me back to functioning health, and when September rolled around I made the one mile trek back to college (a hometown school) with a stiff upper lip and a gaping wound.
Asbury College was and still is a relatively small campus. Everybody knew everybody, and everybody knew—almost before returning to the fall semester—that I was suffering with a broken heart. There was a huge “elephant in the room” walking through the campus grounds that semester; everywhere I turned, he was there… not the elephant, but the boy that I loved. He quickly moved on to loving someone else. My heart’s pace walked a bit more slowly. And I never thought my tears would end.
But they did, and now some twenty-seven years down the road, I reflect on that season of my first heartbreak and just exactly where the turnaround began.
It began with the Word of God.
I’ve been a church girl all of my life… loved Jesus, known Jesus from the cradle. I’ve heard his stories, sung his songs, claimed his love, and walked some faith from the earliest of articulations. Along the way, there have been strong moments of clarity regarding my commitment to Christ, and my sophomore year in college would prove to be one of them.
As a teenager I began to lightly study the Bible. My youth pastor and his wife beautifully depicted for me what it meant to walk in discipleship with Christ; as a youth, I memorized a lot of Scripture as a requirement for participation in various missions’ trips. But rigorous Bible study wouldn’t happen for me until my late thirties. Up until that time, it was a gradual “heating up” of my heart and my developing a rich appreciation for what God’s Word could do for me.
In the fall of 1984, God turned up the heat a notch, and I found a scripture (perhaps it found me) that would become my saving grace for that painful season. I don’t know how I happened upon it, but as I did, I was sure that God had penned it into holy writ as a postscript just for me. I didn’t know what to call it then—“it” being when the Word (Logos) of God becomes a personal, spoken word (Rhema) to my heart. Thankfully, my lack of understanding didn’t get in the way of my receiving. Instead, I let it wrap its blanketing warmth around my heart. I quoted it over and over again until it became my certainty, and today (ever time I think on it or hear it quoted by another), I cannot help but attach a memory or two from that season alongside it.
It was the anchor that held me…
“Therefore, we do not lose heart; though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. Therefore, we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:16-18)
Twenty-seven years ago, my heart was in trouble. At eighteen years of age, that break-up was the largest “momentary trouble” I’d ever faced. I’m so glad that God doesn’t weigh out our needs before giving us his Scripture… as if some verses are reserved for those more sorely troubled. We’re blessed to receive the entirety of God’s Word as a personal anchor for all seasons, whether the heartache is perceived to be big or small.
My heart has moved on from the summer of 1984. My light and momentary troubles have changed over the years. There were more heart “aches” to follow that initial one, and as they arrived, even more of God’s Word to comfort and anchor my weary soul. But I’ve never forgotten that beginning “word” that helped me through that rough patch, and friends, I don’t suppose I’ll ever forget the current “word” that has helped me through this recent rough one.
It “found” me in much the same way as 2 Cor. 4:16-18 did in 1984… almost as if God had penned a postscript into Scripture just for me. Even though I had read it before, I’d never read it through the eyes of personal suffering. It gripped me seven months ago. It grips me still. It has been and will continue to be the anchor that holds me in the days to come…
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:10-11).
God himself… restoring me. God using the best of what man has to offer me, but in the end, God himself… restoring me. Renewing me. Making me strong and firm in my footing and steadfast in my faith. Father God laying brick upon brick between mortar mixed by his own hands, making sure that the broken walls before him are restored to a beauty not yet seen. A loveliness not yet imagined.
Many doctors, nurses, friends, family members, and even strangers have held my hands in recent days, speeding me on toward my recovery. But only One has held my heart, making me his priority and making sure that I arrive safely there. Only God is capable of such healing. Only God knows when enough is enough. Only God holds the words, writes the words, and speaks the words that can truly tether a soul to eternity.
Perhaps today you need a word from God as well. Perhaps you’ve already claimed one as your personal postscript from his hand. Perhaps you’d like to use one of mine. God’s Word is a foothold for all seasons, including all manner of heartbreaks, heart “aches.” If your heart is filled with ample tears in this moment, then God’s Word is you answer. It’s filled with truth; it breathes everlasting. Dig in and take hold.
To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Peace for the journey,
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PS: A special thanks to Sheri for starting a scholarship fund for my attendance at She Speaks this year; I am humbled by her kindness.

thinking back…

Do any of you ever go back and read some of your old blog posts? If you’ve been blogging for a season or two or ten, then I imagine you’ve collected a few hundred by now. I don’t often re-visit my own. I’ve printed them off and organized them in three-ring binders over the years, but rare are the occasions when I peruse their contents. But today I did. Today I reached back over time to a year ago today, March 8th, to see if anything flowed from my pen on that occasion.
I wanted to know what was going on in my mind and heart in that season. To see how things have changed for me… where I was back then, where I am today in relation to my back then. I was delighted to discover that on March 8, 2010, I was in the middle of writing my Breakfast on the Beach with Jesus series; in particular Part Five: Eating What We’re Served. It’s one of my favorite series of posts that I’ve written. One of my favorite “talks” to give when asked to speak at a corporate gathering. Why?
Because, even as the conversation was intimate for Peter and Jesus some 2000 years ago, it’s one of the most intimate talks I’ve ever had with God as well. In Part Five, I write about some of excuses we offer the Lord for missing out on our morning meals with him.
1. Too intimate; a heart is often exposed when dining with the Master.
2. Too picky in regards to what’s being served; menu is often confrontational when receiving from the Master.
3. Too busy; schedule is often postponed when sitting with the Master.
And I am struck by my own reminder. When I wrote those words a year ago, I wasn’t struggling with my morning breakfasts with Jesus. In fact, there weren’t many days back then when I would willingly break from the fire to tend to other things. Even when I did, I carried the fire with me. I was all about Jesus and more than willing to eat whatever he was serving.
Today I weep with remembrance. Today I think upon that season… how rich and full and expectant I was and how, now, I long for nothing more than to return to those moments. To feel like I felt. To be fed by his hands. To know the warmth of a fire that nearly scorched me because of my close proximity to its flames. It was a beautiful season for me, even though my family was in the midst of an impending move. Even though we were undergoing a test of our faith in regards to church life. Even though change was imminent, requiring our strong willingness and obedience to acquiesce to God’s requirements. Despite the swirling chaos around me, God’s fire was burning brightly within me, and the Red Sea in front of me was nothing more than a hop, skip, and a jump to my “next.”
That was then, and this is now, and I wonder about that fire. That intimacy. That breakfast, and that Jesus. I want to go back there and know now what I knew back then. It’s not that the intimacy, the breakfast, the flames, and the Jesus aren’t the same, aren’t available and were only reserved for that moment in time. My mind and heart know differently, believe differently. I know that my Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. That what he had for me back then is what he has for me right now.
But my feelings aren’t there; not today. Not in the same way they were back then. Certainly I know what it is to be in relationship with Jesus; my faith has held, despite the recent assaults to my flesh. But those assaults have taken their toll, friends; they’ve robbed me of some of my passion. They’ve dulled my senses, broken my stride, and forced me to look at life through clouded lenses. It’s not what I’ve asked for; it’s simply what I’ve been given, and today I weep for a former season that didn’t hold so much loss.
Today I remember March 8, 2010. I remember those dining room windows and HWY 581 that served as my backdrop for my writing. I remember the urgent delight I felt when sending the kids off to school knowing that my time with Jesus was soon to arrive, and then out of that time, the overflow of a few words would make their way to print. I remember sensing that all was well with my soul and that I was firmly, resolutely walking smack dab in the middle of God’s will. I remember saying to my husband that no matter the road blocks ahead, this is what we must do, this is how we must live. That we were on the right path. That…
God’s plans for our lives have never felt so good… so right… so much of a “faith” thing.
And so we stepped out in faith. And now here we are, still anchored in faith, but in a different place; a different season; a different backdrop; a different test; a further trust.
Life doesn’t feel as good as it did a year ago. Faith doesn’t as well. But it is what I must do. Faith is how I must live. It’s what I’ve been named, Faith Elaine. God’s plans for my life feel jumbled… off kilter… a more difficult abiding than in previous seasons. We’re still having breakfast on the beach, Jesus and me, because my memory serves me well. And my memory tells me that an early morning fire with food from the Master’s hand is a good start for my everyday. But it’s been a long time since I’ve known the fullness of that last time… the “sure and certain” of my year ago.
Thank God for a record of remembrance… for a few years’ worth of written testimony to the reality of seasons and the ebbing and flowing of emotion therein. They buoy me along, speaking of a history that I am prone to forgetting, reminding me that faith is the anchor that holds me despite all the changes that come my way. I don’t know what I’ll be writing about a year from now, March 8, 2012. I don’t know what twists and turns, mountains and valleys await my up and coming year. But I hope that when I arrive there, that I’ll have a year’s worth of penned remembrances to look back upon that recall the steady faithfulness of my God. I hope to still be pulling my boat on shore and running to the fire to receive breakfast from his hands.
It’s what I plan to do. It’s all I know to do. It’s simply the best I can do. Accordingly, I’ll keep doing.
Doing breakfast.
Doing faith.
Doing Jesus…
believing that with all of the doing, my feelings will catch up with my year ago to become a rich stone of remembrance for the seasons to come.
You are a good people to “do” faith with, friends. In a season when so much else around me is changing, it’s a comfort to have the consistency of your presence in my life. I pray for you many intimate times with Jesus by the fire in coming days. Don’t forsake your breakfast moments with him. He has come to do life with us, impart life to us, live as life within us. To know that kind of life is to receive from his hands each day. Don’t wait for your feelings to urge you toward the shoreline. Go in obedience. He stokes the fire in anticipation of your arrival. As always…
Peace for the journey,
Update on Elaine…

Update on Elaine…

 (snuggling with her Snuggie tonight)
To all of you friends and family that have been in prayer for Elaine, I want to let you know that the news of the day has all been good. After an early morning surgery to have her ovaries removed and a couple of hours in recovery, my wifeforthejourney is back home where she belongs.
The surgeon’s news was encouraging with words like “uncomplicated, clear, and good.” The nursing staff was all very kind and attentive – we have been blessed with quality care every step of the way. Now that Elaine has had this last surgery to remove her ovaries we have used every option available to us to get rid of her cancer and keep it from coming back. Apart from some long-term prescription meds (estrogen blockers) to take, Elaine is going to be concentrating on the slow path to recovery.
Knowing you share my love for Elaine, I ask that you continue in your prayers for her healing. Even though we are now six weeks and counting since her last chemotherapy treatment, she continues to endure the effects of “neuropathy” (painful damage to her nerve endings caused by her last cycle of chemo) in her legs and feet. Elaine has been such a beacon through her cancer, but she is well beyond weary with the whole experience. We have so much to be grateful for and our friends and family are right at the top of our list! I’ll write more when I have the proper time for reflection. Right now, the patient is calling.
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