The Light that Will Shine Forever

Hello everyone! For starters I should quickly explain that I am not Julie. I am her son, Alex, and I wanted to give an update on her blog. I also apologize for the length, a lot to share!

I asked her awhile ago why she has not posted anything in a long time and she responded by telling me she is too tired, but God is still giving her guidance and she has drafted posts. I could understand why she would not want to dedicate a lot of effort to her blog, giving the treatments she was undergoing and just battling cancer itself. Her posts clearly depict the battle with cancer she faces. Her posts, however, do not give an overall view of my mother. I believe there are so many other battles she fought besides cancer and depression.

She fought a major battle with borderline tendencies. I am so grateful she won that battle, as suicide is common with borderline.

Mom also battled poor relationships. Significant others were just the surface of the many relationships my mom battled through, but she won each one of them. Repairing broken relationships, and forgiving all.

She battled being virtually a single parent. (Side bit, in no way is my father a bad father, he is an amazing father and I treasure our relationship as much as mine and mom’s, but that does not mean that he is without faults)

She always had her focus on me. I will never forget the day she told me she was depressed and contemplated suicide a few years ago. I had come home from college and she explained it to me. I shared with her the depression I felt around the same time. My step-father had a bunch of knives upstairs in our home. I remember one night after a particularly miserable day, I sat at the top of the stairs with one of the knives that had seemed to be calling to me for the past few days. I remember holding against neck, and then a thought came:”What is mom going to do to when she sees her only child dead, laying upstairs?” I quickly put the knife away and went to bed, happy to live on knowing mom is with me.

She saved my life that night, and I told her this. She told me how I saved her from suicide by being her focus and when she would get depressed she would think of me. We made a pact that night, neither one of us was allowed to commit suicide or the other would too. I remember the feeling of finally having something to live for, that being mom. She was now MY focus. I promised myself I would keep my mom alive forever, regardless of the obstacle. Unfortunately, I was naïve and that promise was eventually broken.

Mom passed away early yesterday morning around 4 a.m. and lost her one and only battle, cancer.

I am thankful beyond words to be her son, and to have such a wonderful, courageous, strong, and amazing person to raise me. She will always be with me, in my heart, in my soul, and in my thoughts. I know she touched each one of her readers at least once with a post.

There was nothing I physically wanted from my mom. I did not want money, or her jewelry or anything like that, I wanted something else, something more memorable to me, something I can build and share her legacy. I wanted a way to share her story, her battles, and her amazing victories. I wanted this blog.

Although I am nowhere near as prolific writer as mom (She disagreed and said I’d be a great writer, she always encouraged me), I plan on keeping this blog alive in memory of her and will continue to publish her stories and battles, and some of my own observations of her and those battles. I hope one day the world will know what a truly amazing person my mother was. This is my way of keeping that broken promise, by keeping my mother alive forever through this blog.

I love you mom, and I know you are with God in the heaven you envisioned smiling down upon us all and you will forever and ever be remembered. I love you mom, and you’ll always be my snuggle bug. 

John 11:23-26- Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?

Hello, 2017

January is almost over. This past New Year’s Eve, I thought that just maybe, all the bad things in the world will go away because a new year is starting. I know that’s not likely, but you can’t fault a girl for dreaming.

So far this month, the following things have happened: a friend of mine lost his father, another friend (a single mom) lost her job, there have been politically charged riots, extreme weather, police shootings, and the Cowboys (who should have gone to the Super Bowl) lost their playoff game. And, my old nemesis cancer, continues to be an annoyance as I found out that it is now in my lungs.

Sigh. 2017 seems to be continuing exactly where 2016 left off.

I like the old adage, plan for the worst and hope for the best. For a long time, I lived only half of this adage; plan for the worst. Throughout the years of my depression, I never hoped for the best. I was convinced that the worst would always happen to me. My defenses were always on alert, always ready for my world to turn upside down. I knew that each day, a new hardship would fall into my world. There would be something new for me to manage while I was using all my energy to keep my mind from breaking into a thousand pieces.  It was a dark time in my life.

Today I know I don’t want to live on edge, waiting for bad things to happen. Over the past few weeks, I’ve thought about how to prepare myself for the rest of the year and all that it could bring. I thought about what I would tell myself at difficult times. All I could think of are words that God would say to me.

I am right here with you, you are not alone.

I love you more than you can comprehend.

I am in control, put your trust in Me.

Be strong and courageous.

Keep your eyes on Me.

I know bad things are going to happen. I’m not thrilled about the status of my health. But, I will not spend my days worrying about what may happen. I will not spend my days anxious about is happening.  I will not spend my days being sad about what has happened. The bad things will not control me. I will not allow them to take away the joy God has given me.

Except for the Cowboys, I am still mourning their loss.

Psalm 27:1 – The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom will I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom will I be afraid?

I Am Thankful For…..


wind-3I am thankful for the feeling of wind blowing through my hair.

Last winter, I went through some heavy-duty chemo treatments. There was a chance I would lose my hair. This news was bothersome. I’ve always had long hair, I mean always. Long hair was my thing. Hair dressers always complimented it. Friends envied it. I loved it and I definitely did not want to lose it. It seemed like a cruel joke, as if feeling bad wasn’t enough.

It’s hard to prepare for losing your hair. I’d like to say I was brave and stoic about it, but there were times I was not. About two months into the chemo treatments, it began to fall out. When I looked in the mirror, I started to see more and more of my scalp. When I washed it, long strands stuck to my hands in big clumps. It was difficult to remember that it was only hair and that it would grow back as I watched it going down the drain.

After finishing the chemo treatments, it did start to grow back. There was a problem, though, with that post-chemo hair style. I did not lose all of it. I had new hair growing in amongst the long hair I did not lose. Try to picture it, a buzz cut with random sections of long hair all over my head. Not pretty. It was time to get it all one length.

When I had it cut, I didn’t get upset. I had grown a little less vain and was comfortable with the idea that long hair wasn’t going to be my thing anymore.  After the cutting, I looked in the mirror. I saw someone who looked completely different. I saw someone who was completely different.  Since losing my hair, I’ve allowed God to shine through me. I’ve allowed myself to trust Him and He gives me joy in return. I have gone through a transformation on the inside and it was showing on the outside.

Now that my hair is growing longer, I can feel it on my neck. It’s naturally wavy and I have to admit that it’s kind of cute. One day I was walking my dog and we turned a corner and headed straight into the wind. The feeling of the wind in my hair was odd, foreign and wonderful.  It felt like a victory. The past year has been rough with the surgeries and chemo. But, here I am, rebounding and stronger than I could have imagined.

One more thing to add to the list of things that God and I conquered together.

Jesus, teach me that anything can be taken away except for You. My life can change, my body can change, the people around me can change. But the one constant is You and Your love for me.

Fifty-Five Gifts

girl braveI haven’t had a chemo treatment since August 16th. Earlier this week, I found out that a few of my lymph nodes have started to increase in size again. I will start back with chemo next week. During my chemo vacation, my blood counts have been great and my CEA number has dropped. I was growing more and more optimistic and hoped for a longer break. I am disappointed.

Since my last chemo treatment, God gave me 55 gifts. Fifty-five days of feeling free. I let myself imagine life without cancer and I truly lived. I felt the sun on my face and I walked in the rain. I watched beautiful sunrises and sunsets. I stopped and looked people in the eye and really listened to them. I spent time with friends and family. I laughed, a lot.

The status of my physical health moved to the back burner. People around me stopped asking how I felt or telling me not to overdo it. I enjoyed not thinking about how I was going to feel the next day because I knew I would feel good. I grew stronger, my brain was quicker and I began to feel like me again. The old Julie with the dry, sarcastic sense of humor was welcomed back.

The news of more chemo has made me sad. I want to be free from the chains that come with cancer treatment.  I feel like I was let out to play, but now I have to go back inside. I’m a little shaken and I have cried a few times these past few days. But, I feel God all around me. He whispers to me that He is near and will never leave me.  

I’m thankful for the 55 gifts. I lovingly embraced each one. There are no promises that life will be easy and I accept that this is the path I’m on. There is no point in asking why because God is in control. He knows I can handle it. And, He’s given me another opportunity to share my faith. I will let His light shine through me and I will continue to tell my story

I will take up this battle again. He will give me the strength, tenacity, courage or whatever I need. God is bigger than cancer and I have Him on my side. I win regardless of what happens. 

I am not afraid, I have nothing to be afraid of.

Isaiah 41:10 – Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

My Heaven

heaven-mountainI have envisioned my heaven. I live in a valley between soaring mountains. The sky is a perfect deep blue and there is always a gentle breeze. All the dogs I’ve had through my life run around me and play.  They are so happy, their wagging tails making me smile. I feel the sun on my face, the breeze in my hair. I am strong and full of peace. I sit on a blanket under huge trees and breathe in the beauty. I see Jesus walking towards me. He sits down beside me. We talk quietly about how happy I am, how thankful I am for what He’s done for me.

Since my cancer diagnosis, I think a lot about death. My thoughts now are very different from those I had when I was struggling with depression. At that time I could not imagine a heaven. No beautiful, happy place was waiting for me. My soul was dark and empty. There was no room in my mind for ideas that were full of light and hope. I believed that death was my only option to escape from the pain.

During this struggle, one of my dogs became very sick and he was suffering. I decided it was best to put him to sleep. In the exam room at the vet’s office, blankets were brought in to make him comfortable. I got down on the floor beside him and held him. The drugs were administered and he quietly slipped away. I cried because I was sad to lose him. I cried because I desperately wanted to go with him. I didn’t want to ever step outside that exam room. I didn’t care what happened after death. I wanted to cease to exist and become nothing.

Now, death doesn’t mean an end or an escape. It means a transition to all the amazing things God has waiting for me. Through my fight with cancer, I have found joy and purpose. I know who I am and why I’m here. I can die knowing I found the courage to listen to the small voice that kept telling me to share my story.  I can die knowing I conquered my biggest fears and I now shout out the secrets I hid from the world.  I can die with the knowledge that those secrets were loving examples of God’s hand in my life.

Today is another page in the story of my wonderful life here on earth. I know this story will end but having a cancer diagnosis doesn’t mean I’m going to die sooner than anyone else. Cancer only serves as a constant reminder that there is a timer running.

James 4:14 – How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog–it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.

Human Gifts

giftA few weeks ago, my husband and I had a huge garage sale. We probably had enough stuff for two huge garage sales. We made a decent amount of money from the sale, but the most valuable rewards we received were all the people who came to the sale.

I had help from family members. They traveled a long way to be here. They worked and sweated (and sweated). They cooked meals, did laundry and went to the grocery store. They helped price and organize all the things we had to get rid of. They hauled out furniture and climbed in attics. They did these things cheerfully and always asking, “what else can we do?”.

I had help from two dear friends. Both have very busy lives, but they made time on a hot, August Saturday to help us. They are marketing geniuses and used these skills to sell many more things than I could have ever sold on my own. They were genuinely happy to help me with this unpleasant job. I hope that if the roles were reversed, I would be as giving as they were.

Neighbors came over, some of them we had never met before. Many knew about my health struggles. I received a lot of hugs, good wishes and prayers (and they bought things too!). I never would have thought that a garage sale could be used as an example of the kindness of people. People are quick to give love, they only need to have the opportunity.

One person, her name is Teresa, came to the sale. She spent a lot of time talking with my husband. During their conversation, he told her about my battle with cancer. After she paid him for the items she wanted, she drove away. Five minutes later, she came back. She pointed at me and asked to speak with me. She spoke in such a serious tone, I thought she was angry. She said as she was driving away, God urged her to come back and pray with me.  Teresa looked into my eyes and she knew what my fears about cancer were. She told me to stop being afraid and then prayed with me. It was a surreal. All the people around me were bringing items out to sell, talking about prices and chatting with each other. Yet Teresa and I stood in the presence of God. I knew that even in the normality of a garage sale, God found me and reminded me He is in control.

The garage sale was something I dreaded for months. But through it, I saw the many priceless human gifts I have in my life. Once again I have learned that whether I’m fighting cancer, dealing with depression or having a garage sale, God can turn any situation or obstacle into a lesson on how awesome He is.

Jesus, teach me that nothing is more important or valuable than the people in my life. Teach me to love and cherish them the way you love and cherish me.

 

The Cancer Cringe

cringe manThe reactions I receive when I tell people about my cancer diagnosis are almost always kind and hopeful. I especially love the hugs and prayers people offer to me. I make a point to study the different reactions. I know cancer has such a scary stigma. Sometimes just saying “cancer” makes people cringe.

When I was getting radiation therapy, my oncologist recommended I use pure aloe vera on the skin that was getting directly hit with the death rays. I went to a grocery store that sold all kinds of natural products. As I stood in the aisle trying to figure out which bottle of goo was pure aloe vera, a chatty woman came and stood beside me. She started talking about all the many, many uses of aloe vera. She then asked me what I was going to use it for. I smiled and explained to her my plans for the aloe vera. Then as if on cue, she gave me that cringe.

During my chemo treatments, I carried a chemo pump for 4 days each week. I was given a horrid bag/fanny pack to carry it in. If I had to carry poison around with me, at least I was going to carry it in something pretty. I decided to go shopping for a purse. In one store, an associate eyed me curiously as I stood, trying to figure out which purse the pump fit in the best (and was appropriately cute). She walked up to me and asked if I needed help. I explained to her I needed a purse for my chemo pump. She looked at me blankly, then realization set in and then the cringe.

The cringe is humorous to me. It’s like I have a magic power that can strike fear in innocent people. I understand why people are afraid of cancer, Not too long ago, I was one of those people. Now that I’ve been on the other side, I’m not afraid of cancer at all. Cancer is just a bunch of confused cells and my body doesn’t know how to get rid of them correctly. My body may be challenged by the disease, but my mind and spirit are steady and strong.

Depression taught me that my brain can get sick. When my brain was sick, my spirit weakened. Without the strength of my mind and spirit, I wanted to die. Cancer is not allowed to affect my mind and I don’t have cancer of the spirit. Depression robbed me of hope and the will to fight. Cancer weakens my body, but it can’t break my will. I laugh at cancer and its attempts to bring me down. I have the power of God on my side and He is much bigger than any cancer.

Ephesians 3:16 – I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.

 

Cancer Pain vs. Mental Pain

It’s been a rough few days. I’m not bouncing back as quickly as I’d like after the chemo treatment last week. Yet, each day is a little better than the one before and I can live with that. When I’m feeling the most pain, I ask myself which is easier to handle: this physical pain or mental pain from depression. Without a doubt, the physical pain. I’ll take a clear head with physical pain over depression with no physical pain anytime.

In the infusion room last week, a woman came in and sat in the chair across from me. While in the waiting room she had broken down into tears and was very upset. She was tired of hurting and wanted to quit. Anyone who has fought cancer can relate to how she felt. During the next few hours while I was getting my infusion, I watched her improve. She wasn’t given any medicine to make her feel better, she only received her usual chemo meds. But, her doctor sat with her and encouraged her. Her nurse came by and prayed with her. The infusion nurses regularly checked on her and cheered her on. A friend visited her and reminded her how strong and brave she was. When she left, she probably felt worse physically. I’m certain she felt mentally much better and would continue to fight.

I wish people suffering with depression could rally support around them like this. During the times I was close to suicide and wanted to quit, I struggled to find a thought or anything to hang on to that would stop me from following through. I can picture myself, alone, with a gun in my hand. If I had the same support I do today while fighting cancer, I can imagine my therapist visiting me and reminding me that I’m stronger than I think I am. Then a friend would hold my hand and let me know I’m not alone. Then a family member would hug me and pray with me. I can see them loving me and accepting me and my struggle. I can see me, allowing myself to feel hope.

lone swan

Depression is lonely, cancer is not. People struggling with depression need just as much support as someone fighting cancer. Don’t dismiss depression as a minor illness that easily goes away. Depression can be as deadly as cancer.

Jesus, teach me that people with mental illness are in desperate need of my support. Help me to see them and reach out to them. Let the hope that can only come from You shine through me.

Strong and Vulnerable

The other day, I received a comment saying, “You are very strong to let yourself be so vulnerable.” It struck me as odd. Am I strong and vulnerable at the same time? It doesn’t seem possible to me. I looked up the definition of vulnerable: capable or susceptible to being wounded or hurt; open to moral attack, criticism, etc.

strong chain

I thought about the definition and whether it applied to me. Am I capable or susceptible to being wounded or hurt? No way.  I can’t imagine anything that could physically wound me from this blog.  I’m accustomed to feeling pain. I like to stare down pain that comes from cancer, surgery or treatments. Really, cancer? Is that all you’ve got? I dare it to hurt me more. If it does and I can’t stare it down anymore, I have access to good drugs. It’s a win, win for me.

For a split second, I do feel susceptible to emotional pain. Wounds have healed, but sometimes they come close to the surface again and frighten me with their power. Emotional pain can threaten who I am and who I want to be. There are no drugs to get immediate relief.  I’m afraid to stare emotional pain down. So, I release the fear and let my Father take care of it.

Am I open to moral attack or criticism? Yes, I am. Am I worried that someone may say something hurtful? No, I am not. I’ve spent too much time not knowing what I believe in and not believing in myself. I’ve come too far to back down now. God and I have talked about everything I write about. If He and I are good, nothing else matters.

I decided that yes, I am strong and I am vulnerable. Some people may not like what I write or disagree with me. When I speak from my heart and what I say is a testament of what God has done, He will use it for good. That is more important than any fear I have.

2 Corinthians 12: 9-10: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I Have Cancer and I’ve Never Been Happier

A few weeks ago I was in the den learning how to build a blog. My husband walked in and he sadly dropped into a chair. This particular day was after I learned that I needed chemo again and a few days before my first treatment. He had been in a funk and I wasn’t sure what was causing his down mood. I asked him if it was the miserable Texas heat or did he feel sick or was it me getting chemo again? It was me getting chemo again.

joy fire burst dark sky

I looked at him and knew he was sad, angry and worried. My response to him was, “I’ve never been happier.” Cancer is having a good go at my body and I’m not thrilled about chemo. I don’t like feeling physically tired and sick, but my soul and the heart of who I am are full of joy.

After many years of thinking I was forgotten and had no purpose, I am at peace. Instead of letting all the bad things in my life keep me locked down and stuck, I’ve let them go and set myself free. I have taken those bad things, turned them around and pushed them away from me. They are now stories of hope and how God can and will release anyone from any burden they carry. What had once caused pain now brings peace.

It took many years to get the courage to start this blog. In my mind, I kept the idea to share my story in a small box and stored it away as impossible. I slowly let the impossible become a dream come true.  The day I published my first post, the second after I pushed enter, God whispered to me, “well done”. Since I was very young I’ve pursued approval, love, acceptance, purpose, happiness. And in that second, I had it all.

Today my body hurts. As I relive that moment after my first post, joy overtakes the hurt. Cancer can’t touch joy that comes heaven. Cancer doesn’t stand a chance.

Romans 15:13 – Now may God, the source of hope, fill you with all joy and peace as you believe, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.