Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Nothing Seems Strange Anymore

I ask that you forgive me for the long delay between my blog posts.  Not that you’ve been on the edge of your seat, chomping at the bit to read my story.  But if you have, thank you because that means that my story has touched you in some way, and for that I am so thankful.   2 Corinthians 1:3-4  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  This is my hope, that whatever trials or tribulations any one of you may be going through, that I can in some way be of comfort to you through this blog and you realize that nothing is strange when it comes to the Lord’s plan for you.

OK, now I have a slight confession to make (no priest required).  The truth must come out.  In my effort to fully rest so that my body could heal properly, I became obsessed with something…maybe even addicted.  I don’t have an addictive personality, except maybe where chocolate is concerned.  But I have control over it J  But now, chocolate has become my gateway…to candy…Candy Crush!  Yes, I admit it.  Many hours have been spent with my pad playing this game that I said I wouldn’t play.  I’m slightly irritated at the moment that I cannot pass level 39 without boosters.  But I refuse to pay the $.99 to get them.  So, between the need to fully rest, and my new strange addiction (think I could get on that TV show…LOL), I have neglected my blog.  For weeks I have been storing away ideas, but I haven’t taken the time to sit down and write.  So now, I vow to you that I will no longer let Candy Crush Saga interfere with my blog! 

It’s true to me that nothing seems strange anymore.  All the ‘coincidences’ and the weird circumstances surrounding my cancer diagnosis and treatment, no longer seem strange to me.  If you look at the whole of my story, it is evident that God has been involved in every step.  So it should not seem strange to you, or weird, when I tell you the next part of my story.  One wonderful thing about MD Anderson is that they coordinate your appointments and schedules between departments.  They make your appointments for you at the time they are needed.  So, when I looked at my appointment schedule to see when my follow up scans were scheduled I had two initial reactions.  First, I noticed that my MRI and PET CT were scheduled for October 2nd, approximately 10 weeks from the end of my treatment.  I immediately thought, “Oh no, my dad’s 70th birthday!”  Thoughts immediately went to not being able to celebrate with him on his big day.  Then my thoughts went elsewhere…to that ‘strange’ coincidence place…to that ‘God has a plan’ place.  Maybe you will recall from one of my initial blogs that the road to my diagnosis began on my mom’s 70th birthday on April 18th when I had that initial “attack” that made me immediately call our friend Bert to get me to a neurologist.  So when I read that my follow up scans were on my dad’s 70th birthday, I immediately thought, “That is so strange.”  Then I immediately thought, “Nothing seems strange anymore.”  God in His intricate planning somehow destined that those two dates be pivotal in my story.  Maybe He remembered that I was never good at remembering datesJ  Anyways, it’s kind of a full circle…a beginning (4/18) and hopefully a glorious end (10/2) when they read those scans and tell me that I kicked cancer’s A$$.  That is my prayer anyways, and if I’ve learned anything it is that God answers prayers according to His will.  That is a big lesson to be learned.  When I was lying on that table getting my first MRI, I prayed that whatever God’s will was that He give me the strength to get through whatever it was that I would be facing.  By the way, that was the hardest prayer for me to ever say.  When I looked outside of my will and prayed according to His will, He has answered my prayers in so many ways.  Today I received this verse on a daily “Prayer for Today” email from my friend Jerry H.  It is so appropriate to what I’m saying here.  1 John 5:14-15 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know the He hears us – whatever we ask- we know that we have what we asked of Him.

So, with regards to answered prayers, I must give you an update on my vision.  I probably should have used some suspense, or a cliffhanger to keep you wondering.  But the news is just too good for that.  There were several things that were surprises to me going through this process.  The first one was when my Radiation Oncologist, the amazing Dr. Frank, informed me that I would lose the vision in my right eye.  I immediately remembered a conversation I had with my youngest daughter, Molly.   There is a precious little girl at Molly’s school who has been battling cancer since she was 8 months old.  Every so often Molly would give me updates on her condition, or would be excited when she saw her back at school after being away at treatments.  On one of those occasions she told me that Torrence lost the vision in her eye and she was very upset about that.  I told Molly that my cancer was very different from hers and I wasn’t going to lose my vision.  Then, POW!@#, right in the kisser (well, actually right in the eye, but whatever), I am told I was going to lose my vision.  I didn’t cry. I didn’t even flinch. I wasn’t scared.  I knew I could survive with vision in one eye.  That was not going to destroy me.   My only thought was that I had promised Molly I wasn’t going to lose my sight.  How, then, would I now tell her I was?  Well, like any good parent, I just never mentioned it again.  I asked you all to pray about it.  I asked that God show us a miracle.  And HE has!  You see, my tumor was pushed up against my optic nerve.  And even as precise as the Proton Radiation is, there was no getting around the fact that radiation would hit that optic nerve.  The amount of radiation required to kill the tumor was more than the optic nerve can take.  Therefore, it was a sound scientific conclusion that I would lose my sight.  But guess what?  That first week, my vision did deteriorate.  Then, the prayers were all lifted and my vision is now clear as can be.  So there is no doubt.  It is not strange.  It is the hand of God once again.  Please continue praying that it stays that way!

It should be strange, but it isn’t, that I received a package in our mailbox a few weeks back from a friend.  There was a card and a gift.  When I looked at the card, it was written on the back, “Ladybugs = Luck”.  I thought this was strange, because my family loves ladybugs, and I was sure she didn’t know this.  Then, I proceeded to open up two darling kitchen towels with ladybugs on them.   Without sounding crazy, my Grandpa Hall sends us messages via ladybugs.  OK, that does sound crazy doesn’t it???  Well, it’s true.  At my college graduation, he called a ladybug a “vicious little creature.”  He passed away almost 14 years ago, but without fail, at almost every single Conley event or special occasion, a ladybug has found its way to us.  Whether it was on the 10th story of a hotel in Kansas City in October, or in a house at a family reunion, or on the boat before I started cancer treatments, a ladybug (that vicious little creature) comes to say hello.  There is no doubt in any of our minds that it is my Grandpa letting us know he is still with us.  That may sound strange to you, but nothing seems strange to me anymore.  So when I got Ladybug kitchen towels from a friend who didn’t know this story…well, you know.

Kitchen towels bring me neatly to my next point.  I am a failure in the kitchen.  Well, I never really thought so until it was made abundantly clear by the well doings of some dear friends.  My family was blessed when friends put together a care calendar for us.  On weekends when we were home from Houston we would get meals delivered.  What a blessing it was!  One particular weekend, my dear friend Stacy made us a pot roast on Thursday then made chicken pot pie and a pasta casserole that we could freeze for the rest of the weekend.  My kids and husband were so distraught when the care calendar came to a conclusion.  Meghan, my 14 year old, commented that she didn’t want it to end because she loves the variety.  Then as they sat and ate these wonderful meals that Stacy prepared for us (and I looked on with my Boost in hand)  I had to endure the “oohs” and “aahs” that came unknowingly from them.  It’s not their fault.  I forgive them.  It was then I decided that I’d better step up my game and get some new recipes.  Who am I kidding…just get SOME recipes.  Clearly, all of Stacy’s creations are needed to keep my family happy.   Heck, I even got up this morning and had a pot roast and fixin’s in the crock pot by 9:45.  I had to shoo Will away from it as he tried to doctor it up.  I wanted to do it on my own.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.  I’m sure it won’t be as good as Stacy’s J 

On a different note, have you ever seen that commercial with the little toddlers that have just woken up and they have completely crazy, wild hair?  The music playing in the background goes, “I feel pretty, oh so pretty.”  I absolutely love this commercial.  It is so cute.  I can relate to the crazy morning hair, especially now with my big bald spot.  Most people would never see my bald spot, luckily, because I have such thick hair and it parts over that side.  But when I wake up in the morning, my hair is sticking straight up and the bald spot just glares back at me in the mirror.  But this morning I looked at my face, which no longer shows the signs of burns and scabs from the radiation, and saw that it was beaming.  Yesterday the final parts sloughed off, and now my face looks like nothing ever happened.  It looks maybe a little red and slightly dry, but no worse than a day in the sun.  On the flip side of that good news is that my eyebrows have almost disappeared.  My right eyebrow is so thin that you can hardly see it and my left eyebrow is slightly patchy now.  So, I have become that person that HAS to paint on her eyebrows (if I start wearing loads of blue eyeshadow and hot pink lipstick too, please step in and help!). People look strange without eyebrows.  It’s true.  So this morning as I looked in the mirror, after rolling out of bed with crazy hair and bald spots, newly painted on eyebrows, and clear, beautiful skin, I thought of the song from that commercial for some reason.  I felt pretty.  “I feel pretty, oh so pretty.”  I’ve learned to appreciate real beauty, and we all have it even in the midst of bald spots and missing eyebrows!

I continue to get both physically and mentally stronger every day.  Two weeks ago I couldn’t have imagined doing my comeback race event in October that I talked about in a previous blog.  My enthusiasm for my recovery may have been greater than my common sense at the time.  But now, two weeks later and four weeks beyond my final treatment, I feel like I possibly could do it!  My strength and stamina are improving every day, and I feel almost ‘normal’ (whatever that is).  I clearly haven’t been working out yet, but just shuttling the kids around and shopping for school clothes and supplies has prepared me for the next task of training for this event.  I am cautiously optimistic that a comeback race is in my future (hopefully October), and I’ll let you all know as we get closer if I think my body will be ready.  But you know me…once I decide I’m going to do it, you can’t stop me.

The only possible thing hindering my quest for athletic greatness once again (OK, that’s a stretch, I know) is the fact that I still can’t eat solid food.  The sores in my mouth and the nerve damage to my tongue from the radiation make it near impossible to chew.  Even the liquids can cause pain to my tongue.  So it’s been a battle to get the nutrition I need in liquid form.  So, I’m like the old folks who can’t eat and are relying on Boost or some other nutritional drink.  With each day, however, I think it gets just ever so slightly better, but I really want to sink my teeth into some solid food.  Why I crave pizza is beyond me, but it sounds amazing!  And, Terry sent me a crumb cake from Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken (Cake Boss, anyone?).  I froze it until I can eat it…and I may not even share ;)  Anyways, because of the nerve pain I have to use straight viscous lidocaine as a rinse to numb it so I can get the drink down.  Not the best scenario, but it works.  I don’t know if I should be frightened or laugh that Meghan thinks it would be fun to borrow my lidocaine and numb her mouth.  She thinks it’s funny when your mouth is all swollen from being numb and you talk funny…oh teenagers (she is definitely her father’s daughter!!!).  Talk about strange ;)  

I hope that somewhere in the midst of all this rambling, you see that the things in life that seem strange or coincidental or even painful, are somehow part of God’s perfect plan for your life.  Embrace the strange, embrace the change, but most importantly, embrace the Lord Jesus Christ!

No comments:

Post a Comment