Mike M. was just 19 years old on 9/11/01. His life too would be forever changed. He is the brother of one of my oldest and dearest friends, Laura. He and his twin brother both entered the Marines and served tours of duty in Afghanistan against the war on terror. Mike was injured by an IED on November 3rd, 2010 while in Afghanistan and had a very difficult recovery. I wasn’t sure what I could do, but to pray. Then I realized that the Tough Mudder race I was planning on doing supported the Wounded Warrior project which has helped Mike and many other brave heroes. Part of the entry fee goes to the Wounded Warriors, but I felt like I needed to do more. They gave you the option of fundraising too, so I did the fundraising and race in honor of a personal friend (Mike) and war hero. I tell you all of this, not because I am looking for praise for doing this, but because I had the most wonderful surprise on September 11th of this year, just a few days ago. I received in the mail a card, postmarked from the middle east (for security purposes I won’t say what country), with the word “FREE” written where the stamp would have been. Then I saw the return address from Sgt. Michael M., CF3, Fast Company, Central Command. I was very surprised not having talked to Mike since we moved, but keeping up on tidbits of his life through Facebook as they appeared. He sent me a sweet card, signed by his entire platoon, thanking me for my support of him when he was injured in battle, and offering me their support during my battle with cancer. “Now not only myself, but my entire platoon will stand by your side and fight this battle with you.” I was brought to tears as I thought of the Marines of Charlie 3 Fast taking time to wish me luck and offer their support. I was brought to tears that this card happened to arrive on September 11th…I don’t think this was a coincidence, but part of God’s perfect timing. I was brought to tears because I had no idea how much my small gesture (in comparison with his big troubles) would mean to him even years later. And I was brought to tears by the word “FREE” on the envelope, meaning merely that he didn’t have to pay postage. But I saw it as symbolizing our Freedom, being kept alive by brave men and women like those in Charlie 3 Fast. Thank you, Sgt. Michael M. for being part of the Good in the battle versus Evil. But ultimately I saw it as meaning that we are truly free when we have faith in Jesus Christ. “I will walk about in Freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.” Psalm 119:45
The world is full of evil and bad, of that there is no doubt. During this week where we remember the tragedies of 9/11, we should also remember the good that came from it. People came together like never before. People flocked to church in hopes of finding understanding and truth and hope. And for me, this week, my life was really good and full of hope! So I choose to focus on that. I was offered continued support from friends…thank you Terry for the sweet card and Charlie 3 Fast for your support. I also received the best surprise when I got a dozen cupcakes from DC Cupcakes in Georgetown (anyone seen the show on TLC?)! OK, so I actually knew they were coming, but that’s beside the point. My cousin, Bridget, wanted to send them to me earlier but I wasn’t able to eat. So, this week I happened to mention that I thought I would definitely be ready to sink my teeth into some sweet cupcake goodness. She ordered up a mixed dozen with some of my favorite flavors (chocolate peanut butter, red velvet, carrot cake, etc.), and they were worth the wait! Although keeping them from my kids continues to be the challenge!
My energy level is definitely good too! I have been walking a pretty tough 4 mile, hilly course, at least 3-4 days a week. For some of my old workout friends (and new ones) that might not seem like a big deal. I’m used to running, not walking. I’m used to riding my bike long distances. I’m used to tennis, kayaking and yoga, and some P90X style tough workouts. But I am not disappointed with a 4 mile walk. After what I’ve been through this is a victory. “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” Psalm 28:7. I won’t allow self doubt and disappointment to hinder my progress. I am making excellent progress considering I had radiation and chemotherapy for 7 weeks. I had radiation on the entire right side of my head, with even a beam even going through my brain. I am going to symbolically claim victory over this cancer by completing the Gladiator Race on November 9th in San Antonio, TX with anyone and everyone who wants to be a part of this special day. Do it with us, or just come cheer us on. You may remember that someone described my tumor originally as the size of a large plum. Well, after much deliberation and thought, I came up with the t-shirt design for our team…on the front it will say, “Cancer Plum Sucks” with a big plum surrounded by a circle with a line through it. I thought this says it all!
Yes, my week was good...very good by the standards of the last 3 months. I had my first dinner out with my family. Again, this may not sound like much, but when you haven’t been eating out or ‘eating’ at all it’s a big deal! We went to a new restaurant in town, The Grove, which opened while I was in Houston getting treatment. It is always packed, but we went with the blue hairs right around 6pm. I ordered a grilled chicken and goat cheese Panini that definitely titillated my desperate taste buds! It was AMAZING! Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite wrap my mouth around it (my jaw still not able to open any more than before the treatment due to scar tissue from the radiation), so I had to try to cut it into smaller pieces. The knife wouldn’t cut all the way through the bread, so you can only imagine the look I got when I asked for a steak knife for my Panini!
I had my first haircut and color since getting home 7 weeks ago (boy did I need it too!). It’s funny too, because my hairdresser moved before I finished treatment and my hair hadn’t been my priority. But all of a sudden, when you are feeling like your old self, you also want to look like your old self…like NOW. Not in 2 or 3 weeks when some of my friends’ hairdressers could get me in. But NOW. A little voice in my head kept telling me to call Salon Belleza, and I’m not sure why. No one had ever recommended it. I had never been in it. It wasn’t the best deal by ANY stretch of the imagination. But I just felt like that was where I needed to go. I can’t explain it. Luckily, they were able to get me in on Friday, which was very good news. So far so good. But the interesting part is that the girl who did my hair was a faithful Christian. I had to tell her about my cancer because of the big bald spot she had to work around. We started talking and she mentioned her friend who was just diagnosed with breast cancer. I wrote down my blog in the hopes that it would give her friend some hope…sounds corny doesn’t it? I just find it amazing when you listen, God will lead you to where you are supposed to go…even for your hair J
My eyebrows and eyelashes are already growing in, after only being completely gone for a week. That’s a VERY good thing too, because my eyebrow drawing skills equated to a 3 year old trying to draw inside the lines. Actually, that gives me a thought…do they make eyebrow templates? I seriously could’ve used one! My face is healing nicely, and the skin on the right side is as smooth as a babies butt. Who knew radiation would serve as my own personal laser facial peel? And I didn’t even have to pay for it. OK, now that I think about it that’s not true…I paid a big price(both financially and physically). But lucky for you and me Jesus paid the bigger price. And remembering that is what got me through this entire thing with what I hope is, and continues to be, grace and dignity, along with humor.
When the world feels like it has stopped turning, for whatever reason, try to find the good in simple things like haircuts and cupcakes, cards and eyebrows, family and friends. But remember that sacrifice is a huge part of life. We all have our own battles to fight. Some people fight battles with terrorists, like Mike M. fought and sacrificed for his country. Others fight terrible battles with cancer. They too have made huge sacrifices along with their families. The scars of those sacrifices are like badges of honor when you realize how much you have to gain from trusting the Lord during those times…at least they are for me. I wouldn’t take them back. So, I hope you will take the time to remember those who have sacrificed. And, until you experience some sacrifice of your own, it may be hard to imagine and understand the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. But when you do, you will realize that with Jesus, good will always beat evil. With Jesus we win.