Archive for the ‘cancer’ Category

pink torrent

September 22, 2012

Today I’m going to volunteer my time in a local mall sitting at a table for two hours. (Westroads Mall – my shift is from 2-4 if anyone wants to come by!) The Komen people are hosting some kind of event there and have allowed our group, the Community Breast Health Navigator and Cancer Support Program to have a table to introduce ourselves and our services to people. The event will be held from 10am til 7pm I believe, but we’ve only got three of us to cover three two-hour shifts today. We’ll be there from 10-4.
I’m hoping that women and men will stop by and ask questions or share their stories. I’m hoping that I can be living proof that there is hope for people diagnosed with breast cancer. I’m hoping that our name will become well known so that when a woman finds a lump in her breast, she’ll call us for help before going to see a surgeon!

I’m hoping that this one small act on my part will become a droplet which helps form a flooding torrential movement that rescues women from unnecessary fear-based surgeries.

You see, most women when they find a lump, if they get the proper kind of needle biopsy, will find that they don’t have cancer, but a cyst of some sort. If they do find it is cancer, most surgeons won’t tell them that having chemotherapy first to shrink the tumor will allow for a relatively simple outpatient lumpectomy, saving the patient physical trauma, expensive hospital care and their breast.
Having chemo first will allow for two important things to occur. First, it will show the doctor and the patient if the chemo is effective. If the tumor shrinks, they’ll know that it’s working! Then, if the tumor shrinks, that means that the breast won’t be completely disfigured and she can save herself all the discomfort of a mastectomy and subsequent reconstructive surgeries, (not to mention time and money and her own body part!)

Yah, yah, I know, nobody wants chemotherapy. Believe me, I get it. I’ve had it twice! I’ve been bald twice and have lived through both times and now have long lovely hair. What I don’t have is my breasts. Hmmmmm, hair or breasts. Hair that grows back or breasts that don’t.

Let me tell you also, that despite what you may think, reconstructed breasts, no matter how close to the real thing they might get are still not the real thing. They have scars bisecting them. They don’t have the same feeling/sensation ability. They look pretty good under clothes, but that’s about as good as it gets. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that it’ll be the same. It isn’t.

Well, I got off track a bit. There I go again, getting passionate and running with it!

Hope to see you at the mall!

Kris

September Sorrow

September 11, 2012

Yesterday, 9/11/12, was a day of remembrance for our nation. Eleven years ago our country experienced our most egregious attack and thousands of people mourned the loss of loved ones, stolen from their lives forever. Our losses and their effects have forever changed our lives.

September is annually a time of grief for me for another reason. It was 19 years ago this month that my mother was taken from me, my family, my children and our lives, forever. The cost of this loss of her precious life is incalculable, and try though I may, I will never get beyond the heartache of life lived without her.

Monday night, I attended a class of a group of women who have met together monthly for a year, learning and preparing to help navigate women through the maze of information and procedures involved with breast health and breast cancer treatment. The program is the Community Breast Health Navigator and Cancer Support Program.

We were sharing stories of women we’ve spoken with, advocated, navigated, and encouraged. Sadly, nine times out of 10 it seems, regardless of the information given them, these women opt for a mastectomy even though in most cases the much less invasive lumpectomy would take care of things. We were discussing two causes for their poor decisions: Fear and Ignorance. Ignorance not only on their part, but quite often on the part of the doctors these women choose.

These are topics for future discussion, but what struck me last night was the heart ache that we all carry, but seldom reveal.

I was chatting with a friend I was sitting next to, I’ll call her Sue, and casually asked her about her mother. Sue shared how her mother had fought and won a battle with esophageal cancer. Stupefyingly, in the myriad of doctors appointments this woman had, no doctor ever checked to see if she’d had a mammogram. So at the age of 69, sixty-nine, she got her first mammogram. And wouldn’t you know it, there was a lump which later she learned was breast cancer. In less than a year, Sue’s mother had died. This is a tragedy of negligence in medical care – slipping between the cracks. A hero who fights and wins an impossible nearly incurable disease, falls prey to a very curable one afterwards. It was September when she died.

I asked my friend if she feels the grief every September. She said she didn’t think so, but that every time she heard the National Anthem sung, she’d lose it. Her mother had a beautiful singing voice, and was always the one asked to sing the anthem at various events. As my friend told me this, her eyes welled up with tears and she said maybe it effects her more than she realized. September is a difficult month for her, and hearing a song sung that used to bring her delight, now brings only sorrow and the reminder of her loss. Untimely, wrong, death by oversight.

Another friend was standing across the table from us. She said September is a very difficult month for her, and it showed in her face. She told us that her mother had died of breast cancer at the age of 39. Unbelievable. That’d mean my friend, let’s call her Jill, was probably in middle school. There were 4 sisters, all left without a mother. Sadly, that’s not the whole story. These girls grew up motherless, yes, then one died of cancer, young. This prompted Jill to find an excellent doctor who encouraged her to get genetic testing. All the sisters were tested. Jill was the only one who tested negative for the gene. Unfortunately, Jill’s sister didn’t have as good a doctor. He wasn’t as aggressive or quick to respond. Her sister listened to his advice and died of breast cancer within the year.

Jill told us how she’d teach Monday through Friday then catch a plane to spend each weekend in September caring for her dying sister; her eyes welled with tears, but she held them in check. This is the second September since the death of that sister and she grieves her colossal loss. She’s angry, and rightly so. She’s angry at the disease, and she’s angry at the lackadaisical ineptitude of some doctors, particularly the one treating her sister. With hardened face and red-rimmed eyes she swore under her breath as she walked away from us. “Damn waste.”

My mother died at the age of sixty. She’d gone to the doctor several times over the course of a year complaining of a ‘fullness’ in her abdomen. Her doctor told her to lose some weight. He told her she was imagining it. He finally relented and ordered a test – by that time the tumor on her ovary was the size of a grapefruit. During surgery, they accidentally broke it open, spilling the toxic waste throughout her entire abdomen. They ‘did their best to get it out’ and sewed her up. Rounds of chemo and hours of pleading with God for her life, she made it through – for almost five years. Another situation with that doctor finally motivated my mother to find another doctor who mis-interpreted her scan results. She picked them up and took them to a third doctor who gave her the news she’d suspected. Yes the cancer was back, and it was bad. Too little, too late and a husband and five children and 8 grandchildren were left without the warmth and love of the only wife, mother and that special one-of-a-kind grandmother they’d ever have.

My son had just turned 5 and my daughter 1 when we attended my mother’s funeral.

I think about the twinkle in her eye they’ll never see again and the warmth of her soft skin that they’ll never feel and I ache.

If all the stories of bad medical care were recounted, we’d have a murderous mob rioting at hospitals around the country. But most of us suffer our sorrows silently, doing nothing to promote change.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m extremely thankful for medical professionals. I’m indebted to a great many myself. If only every doctor was like the excellent ones I’ve found throughout my own cancer journey. Kind, compassionate, extremely intelligent, full of integrity. It isn’t these doctors I have a problem with. It’s the ones who are proud, ‘comfortable’ underachievers, willing to continue practicing using an outdated formulaic approach. The status quo is their friend.

I have met three doctors in my 50 years that I would nominate as “Best” doctors. Dr. Edibaldo Silva, Dr. Nagi Ayoub, and Dr. Jimmy Khandalavala. They don’t have an attitude of arrogance or complacency. They are learners. (To be a learner, one must be humble, because wanting to learn automatically expresses the acknowledgment that they know they don’t know everything there is to know. I’ve met some who actually believe they do know it all and I should feel lucky to be in their presence!) Best doctors are always reading, studying, keeping current on the latest studies and procedures, pioneering new methods and treatments. That’s the reason they get amazing results. These doctors are continually striving to improve, to hone their skills, perfect their practice and challenge the status quo. If only all doctors could be so excellent.

That’s why the medical profession is called a practice. It’s a place where they are learning and growing and practice is supposed to lead us toward perfection. Sadly, many doctors, once they get their credentials rest on their laurels. The women who go to them for treatment don’t receive the best care and consequently don’t experience the best outcomes either.

That’s why my friend ‘Jill’ is angry. That’s why Sue is sorrowful. That’s why we are a part of this fledgling group trying to advocate for women and bring about positive change.

We want to educate women before they find a lump. Before they’ve made up their minds (because of fear) to ‘just get them cut off and be done with it’. Our country has a campaign encouraging women to regularly examine their breasts and get a mammogram, but what is a woman to do once she finds a lump? Subject herself to an unknowledgeable or unscrupulous surgeon who will be happy to remove those problem breasts?

There are new procedures. New options! Mastectomies aren’t even necessary most of the time any more!!

I have said it before, and I will say it until I have no more breath. THE RIGHT INFORMATION + THE RIGHT DOCTORS = THE BEST OUTCOME!

Please, tell the women you love, think before you cut. Become informed, ask questions, challenge your doctor, and get a second opinion, or a third if necessary! It’s their life at stake. And it’s your future, spent enjoying the women in your life, or grieving their loss.

And stay tuned in here as we will bring articles and information that will empower you and those you know to make the best decisions and receive the best care possible.

Smoothies

July 23, 2012

I’ve been making smoothies a lot this summer! I kind of got into the habit when I was working out with a trainer who always urged me to eat some protein right away after each killer session. Once it got so hot, I started going to a nearby smoothie place and ordering a fruity drink with protein added.

Well, that gets expensive, and they really weren’t all that healthy for me. I mean, compared to a Snickers Blizzard, they were amazing, but as I’ve been becoming more health conscious, I couldn’t justify the sherbet and yogurt. (I mean, is it frozen yogurt? Is it non-fat or full fat? How do I really know what’s in them to make them so yummy?) I’ve been trying to do less dairy and more organic, especially with berries. So, I decided it was time to buy a blender and start making my own. I got online and started researching blenders.

I really wanted a powerful blender because I’ve thrown away my fair share of junky ones over the years. I read about the VitaMix and decided that was the one I was going to buy. There were testimonials! People’s lives were changed when they bought a VitaMix! How had I lived all these years without one?! I had to get one now! Then I checked out the price! Yikes! I could by my own smoothy franchise for what one of those costs! (okay, a slight exaggeration!)

So, back to the smoothy place I went. But I launched out and started getting the yummy chocolate and peanut butter drink. OHMYGOODNESS was it ever delicious! How could I ever go back to plain old fruit now?! Besides, peanut butter had lots of protein, and I was even adding extra protein. This had to be waaaay better than a fruit smoothy anyway!

It doesn’t take long to start chubbing out when you get a giant choco-peanut smoothy after every workout! This was an expensive habit in more ways than one!

I decided it was time to give up the VitaMix dream and just go get a blender already! I bought a gorgeous charcoal colored KitchenAid blender at Target, took it home and made my first smoothy – of course with yogurt, peanut butter powder and Hershey’s chocolate syrup! Thankfully it tasted awful and I vowed to never do that again!

My first few attempts at smoothies were pretty dismal. I was relieved to not have spent the big bucks on a VitaMix. I didn’t know how I’d justify owning the Bentley of blenders as I watched it collect dust on the counter!

I looked up smoothy recipes on Pinterest and found one that sounded good. The “Superfood Smoothy” by Heather Kneisler. I’ve made some adjustments to it, and I’m satisfied that I’ve made the switch from expensive fast-food smoothies to homemade, delicious, nutritious ones! Now I’m getting more fruits and vegetables and cutting back on the sugar and extra calories I really don’t need! I mean, I never ate veggies in the morning! I feel healthier each sip I take!   smoothy recipe

Oh, and I found some protein powder that I really like. I don’t do soy protein powder (which is in nearly everything!) because I’m a breast-cancer survivor (estrogen-driven type) and soy mimics estrogen in the body. Whey is supposed to be a good alternative, but it’s a by-product of cheese production and I’m trying to do less dairy . . . so when I came across this at Whole Foods the other day, I had to read the label and make sure it wasn’t too good to be true! It’s incredible! This protein powder is made from sprouts – and they are all organic! Brown rice, amaranth, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, garbanzo bean, lentil, flax, and so on.

Protein Powder

protein powder

It wasn’t cheap, but no protein powder I’ve seen is. It also has live probiotics and enzymes, no fillers or synthetic nutrients and the best part is that it doesn’t make my smoothy taste funky. And, let’s be real here, if it doesn’t taste good, it doesn’t matter how nutritious it is, I’m not going to eat it more than once!

Here’s the recipe:

Superfood Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 2 handfuls spinach
  • 1/2-3/4 c. orange juice
  • 10-12 baby carrots
  • 1/2 ripe banana
  • 1/2 c. plain non-fat greek yogurt (I use goat’s milk greek yogurt from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 c. frozen blueberries or mixed berries
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • 1/2 T. raw honey
  • 1 cup crushed ice

Method:

  1. In a reliable blender, puree spinach and orange juice until only small flecks of green remain.
  2. Add carrots and chop, then puree until tiny flecks of orange remain.
  3. Add all other ingredients. Blend until smooth.

Drink and enjoy feeding your body the nutrients it craves!

i’ve lost a friend

August 4, 2011

When I started this blog 19 months ago, I didn’t know Nick Ryan. But as I began my quest for fitness and health, he became my trainer and eventually my friend.

Two and a half weeks ago he and some friends were hiking up in Montana. As their yearly trips went, this was not even dangerous, yet his amazing life was cut short from a fall.

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around this. It’s one of those inexplicable tragedies in life that seem so absolutely wrong.

Over the last few days, my husband and I have been watching Shark Week on Discovery Channel. The people in these shows are risking life and limb, literally, to film, and yet aren’t killed by their serious risk-taking choices. Nick, on the other hand, was just out with his friends hiking one minute and gone the next.

I’ve wrestled with God and asked questions about the seeming lack of fairness of it all, yet have to quiet my heart, and say, “You are God and hold our lives and times in your hands.” My heart aches, not only for my loss, but for Nick’s wife and two little girls who have lost a terrific man, husband and father.

I wasn’t able to attend Nick’s funeral, so wrote a brief tribute to honor him and his impact on my life. Here it is:

A Tribute to Nick

I first met Nick in January of 2010.

A friend of mine had begun working out at Fitness Together in October 2009, and I saw such changes in her that it gave me my first glimmer of hope in nearly six years.

I’m a two time breast cancer survivor. The second cancer experience left me physically very weak with a serious lack of balance, in addition to 50 extra pounds due to many drugs and lack of activity. I didn’t look like myself to me and I didn’t feel like myself either. I had become so discouraged with my situation, I thought, “I fought off cancer twice to live in a body that was hi-jacked by cancer and now doesn’t even look like the me I remember before cancer?!”

Dieting and exercise didn’t effect much change for me and I lost hope that my body could ever become strong and active. My heart was damaged by the chemotherapy and my lungs were damaged from the pneumonia. My balance was off for 7 long months from some unexplained inner ear malady that left me unable to drive or look at any movement without feeling severe nausea.

My upper body lacked physical strength from lack of use, but also from my chest muscles being “messed with” due to my radical bilateral mastectomy. I was in terrible shape and I felt old and worn out and weary.

That’s the Kris Beauchamp that walked into Fitness Together seeking help in January 2010. Although looking back, I was hoping for a miracle but Nick wasn’t going to promise me one! I was hoping I could get in and outta there in 2 or 3 months. He was gracious not to laugh or roll his eyes, but he told me realistically that it was going to be a longer commitment than that.

I remember feeling embarrassed and ashamed of my fat body and horrified that he had to weigh and measure me. If it hadn’t been for my friend’s success I might never have gone back after those numbers were written down!

I’d go in, very quietly and do whatever was asked, thinking I was going to pass out from oxygen deprivation or hyperventilation, but he always pressed me just to the point I thought I couldn’t achieve and right before I’d pass out he’d let me stop! Nick got me to do more than I thought I could; more than I would have ever done on my own.

Nick was positive and encouraging. Always ready with a bright, friendly smile.

He took me where I was – didn’t make me feel ashamed for letting my body get in the situation it was in and looked at the facts and asked me where I wanted to be in 6 months or 12 or 24!

Initially I wanted to be able to enjoy life with my family. I wanted to lose some weight to feel comfortable again. I wanted to be alive for my future grandkids and be able to get down on the floor to play with them and be able to get back up again afterward too! Seriously. Once down on the floor, I couldn’t get up again by myself! That’s how weak I was!

I progressed ever so gradually, but Nick was always ready with praise for even the smallest increase of strength. I’d downplay it because of embarrassment and he’d remind me how far I’d actually come. No progress was too small to celebrate.

I’ve gone back and reread several of my blog posts about working out at Fitness Together and was reminded of just how monumental my progress actually was.

I remember telling Nick that I was out walking with my husband up a hill and I could feel a shift. All of a sudden I could breathe deeply, all the way in. I could fill my lungs and it was the best feeling ever! It was the first time in 3 or 4 years that I could completely fill my lungs with air!

I’m not sure, but I think I may be the only person who would ever leave a workout with Nick by thanking him. But I did. Yes, I paid him to work with me and it wasn’t cheap, but I still thanked him for making me a better, stronger, healthier, happier me. He’d tell me I was the one doing the work, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it without him.

At my last workout with Nick, I told him that I’d lost three pounds since my last weigh in (which amounted to a measly half pound a week in my mind). He turned sideways and looking over his left shoulder at me from across the room he grinned, saying with exuberant conviction, “Kris! You are doing it! If you keep doing what you’re doing now, you will reach your goals!”

Nick and I would discuss things I’d blog about relating to weight loss, fitness or nutrition. He’d challenge my thinking and press me to see a different perspective.

One day I wrote about a quote by Horace Mann:

“Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.”

I know I’m just me, not a great person in the whole scheme of things, but I’m sure if you asked others, they’d feel the same way: Nick was a person who won a victory for me. He helped me conquer the ravaging effects of cancer in my body to become stronger, healthier and happier. His death is untimely for sure, but there is no shame in it. Nick won a huge victory for me by helping me find my way back to myself, back to even a better place of health and wellness than I ever thought I could.

Nick, I’ll do my best to carry on your legacy of winning some victory for humanity in my world. I’ll miss you, but I’ll do you proud.

Kris

happy heart feasting

June 18, 2011

I was flipping through my journal and this bit caught my eye: “For the despondent, every day brings trouble; for the happy heart, life is a continual feast.” Proverbs 15:15

When our children were small, my husband and I would remind them to choose a happy heart. It was so easy for them to become frustrated and grumpy if something didn’t go their way.

The first several times I read that verse, I focused on the word ‘despondent’ and thought about what brought a person to the place of despondency. But over time, as I’ve pondered this, I’ve realized that any person has the capacity to become despondent or happy and hopeful. It is a matter of focus and choice. Not in the “let’s live in la-la land denial” sort of way, but in a very real acknowledging reality and choosing anyway sort of way.

I used to work with a woman who was a constant stream of complaints and grumbles. She whined and grumbled and complained so often that in my mind she became a grumble. No matter how I tried to point out positive things or show her the silver lining, she persisted to cling to her negative victim mindset.

These days I see this verse with new eyes. It’s as though it says: “For the person who chooses to be a victim and see life as always being against them, every day brings them trouble; but for the person who sees life as a gift from God full of surprises and challenges and new opportunities, life is a continual feast.”

The longer I live, I realize that life is hard! It is brimming with challenges and sorrows and joys and pain and loss and laughter alike. It is not life that makes us despondent. It is our mindset or perspective that influences our response to our situation and experiences.

What makes a happy heart? My perspective. My decision.

I was working out with a new trainer the other day and she asked me what I do and one thing led to another and I explained that I felt like I’d spent the better part of the last dozen years fighting or recovering from cancer.

Toward the end of our conversation she mentioned that I had a positive outlook on life which really blessed me. Her words were a gift!

With the experiences I’ve had these last 12 years, I could have easily become a grumble, but chose a happy heart. It wasn’t easy but it was the right thing to do. Consequently, I see each new day is a gracious gift from God, making every day a continual feast of beauty and joy in the midst of the speed bumps and pot holes of life!

There’s no need to be despondent and hopeless. I mean, if you want to be you can, but why would anyone want to be despondent when they can have a happy heart and a continual feast of delighting in the goodness of God?!

exciting news!

February 15, 2011

I know it’s been a verrrrrrry long time since you’ve heard from me! I apologize! I’ve got some exciting news to share with you!

I’ve started a new blog! Check it out! It’s called “The Breast Blog Ever” and it’s one I’m working on together with my oncologist, Dr. Silva. I’ll still be posting on my ‘yourfriendkris’ blog, but this has been in the works for some time and I’m finally getting around to making it happen!

Gotta go!
Thanks for checking it out!
=) Kris

life metaphor

November 13, 2010

Yesterday I posted about the red maple in my yard. I mentioned how I can relate to it as a cancer survivor. As I reread my entry, I realized just how similar to my life its story is! Two different storms, losing two limbs. Pardon the TMI, but having cancer twice, two different types, and finally enduring a radical bilateral mastectomy was traumatic. And, like my persevering red maple dropping its leaves, losing my hair twice caused me to feel as though all my splendor had vanished for good. Fortunately, leaves and hair both grow back!

Interestingly, a few days ago, I wrote a poem about the changing trees. It wasn’t until I’d finished it that I thought, “This is a metaphor for my life.” I thank God that the storms have made me stronger. My spiritual and emotional roots have forced their way deeper, and daily I’m experiencing gratitude and  joy like I never did before!

November

raw chill

absent thrill

rising sun drags in the dawn

illuminating battered, tattered leaves

survivors of brutal whipping winds

beautifully radiant in a painfully apologetic way

~

resigned

trees will soon be bare

cold and dark

stark

splendor blown away

stately stature’s glory gone

~

spring will come, will reappear

it always does, I needn’t fear

splendor restored

warms the chill and eases pains

a new day comes, fresh and full of hope

November survivor

November 12, 2010

November, despite it’s chilly gray days, is one of my favorite months. This probably has something to do with the fact that it’s my birthday month. Regardless, it happens to be the middle of November right now. It’s nearly freezing outside and gray and wet and a perfect day to remind myself that I love November!

I wrote this entry in my journal November 7th:

‘A slight breeze rattles the few remaining leaves. These last 4 or 5 days have been brutally and wearily windy. The trees put up a good fight but lost most of their color. Their glory blew away, but they remain, steadfast. The wind won the skirmishes but the trees have won over all.

The red maple took two major hits this summer – losing two large branches – each in a different storm. It now looks awkward, disproportioned – but it seems to have developed an attitude. It’s growing new limbs that have outreached the others in an attempt to regain balance. As lopsided as it looks, it’s a survivor, and I can appreciate that!

I have to be honest. That red maple hasn’t been one of my favorite trees in the yard. It’s not in a good spot and it’s kind of gangly and in the way. But knowing it survived some powerful storms, I’ve gained respect for it. I feel a kinship of sorts. I’ve decided I’d like it to stay. It’s earned a place because it’s a survivor, just like me.’

acedia

August 25, 2010

I’ve been reading a small book I came across while browsing on Amazon.com. (I love browsing books there even more than at a bookstore, because I get instant feedback from others who have already read and reviewed them!)

The book is entitled, The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and “Women’s Work” , by Kathleen Norris. (Paulist Press, 1998) It’s the type of book you read slowly and ponder. I haven’t finished it yet because I don’t want it to be over, so I’m slowing it down and savoring it bit by bit.

In it, Kathleen talks about acedia. I’d never heard that word before and thankfully, she gives the definition as found in the American Heritage Dictionary: acedia – spiritual torpor or apathy; ennui.

Don’t you just love it when the definition of a word you are trying to understand uses more words you don’t understand to explain it?! So, I pulled up the dictionary on my trusty battered iPhone (Dictionary.com, Random House, Inc. 2010) and looked up the words torpor and ennui.

Torpor means sluggish inactivity or inertia, lethargic indifference, dormancy. It comes from a Latin word that mean numbness, as if to be stiff or numb.

Ennui means a feeling of utter weariness and discontent resulting from satiety (being full) or lack of interest, boredom.

In this amazing little book, the author is showing the connection between boring, daily, mindless tasks (hence the name ‘quotidian’- see my post on January 11) and our spirituality.

We often think of spirituality in terms of ‘mountain-top experiences’ like retreats, conferences and deep or profound revelations, when in reality, true spirituality is how we live and love God in the every-day-ness of life, doing those things we do on a regular basis because we should, because we need to.

Acedia can slip in and mess with our minds (which then affects our behavior.) Kathleen asks the question if acedia could be the cause of depression and even suicide today. You see, the dailiness of life, the sometimes tedious repetition, can wear a person down. The thought of going to bed and waking up to the same day all over again, can be overwhelming. We can go to bed wishing we wouldn’t wake up in the morning.

For anyone who hasn’t felt that way, be sure to thank God, because it is a horrendous and loathsome way to feel.

When (during my second battle through cancer), I’d endured four months of chemotherapy and had a radical bilateral mastectomy a month later, and dealing with pneumonia, life became more of a drudgery than I’d ever imagined possible. I was so appallingly miserable every moment from weakness, inactivity, and months of dizziness. The person I was seeing in the mirror seemed like someone else – someone I didn’t know – someone I didn’t want to get to know.  I’d go to bed at night despising my life. I couldn’t see it ever improving; my body ever feeling better, or anything ever changing. Every day had become like the one before and I couldn’t bear the thought of waking up to the same day again over and over and over. . . .

I remember feeling a little bit like this after I had my first baby. My life was turned upside-down; the postpartum depression, the baby crying and projectile vomiting; the feeding and changing and crying and feeding and cleaning and cooking and feeding and changing and on it went. Tedium. Worthlessness crept in. It seemed as if everyone else was accomplishing meaningful things and I was changing diapers ad nauseam.

A certain ‘acedia of mothering’ can set in and cause one to think, why pick up the house today? It’ll just get messed up again. Why make the bed? I’ll just be getting back in it tonight. Although acedia is defined as spiritual torpor, isn’t mothering a spiritual behavior, a God-given task that, to perform well, causes us to grow spiritually?

Acedia also means ‘lack of care’ or the indifference to one’s welfare. (p. 40) It means getting to the point where we don’t bother to take care of others or ourselves any more, we’re just too weary of it all. We give up. We stop trying. We stop caring.

Kathleen says in her book that care isn’t passive. The word care actually comes from an Indo-European word which means “‘to cry out’ as in a lament.” (p. 41)

I’m quoting her at the risk of being sued, and just hope she’ll be so glad I’m giving her publicity that she’ll extend grace!  She says: “Care asserts that as difficult and painful as life can be, it is worth something to be in the present, alive, doing one’s daily bit. It addresses and acts on the daily needs that acedia would have us suppress and deny.” (p. 41)

Though we don’t often enjoy the common, everyday bits of life, somehow repetition is still very important. It’s the air we breathe in and out continuously, the heart that beats without our acknowledgment or will, and it is the food we eat, daily, day in and day out. (“Give us this day our daily bread . . . .”) God values repetition. He planned it into our lives. He gives us weeks each starting with a sabbath, he planned the sunrise and sunset, the rotating, repeating seasons, the birth to death progression and so many other repetitious acts that compile our earthly lives. Those common practices, whether doing chores or flossing our teeth, are the stuff of life. Real life is the compilation of little ordinary, repetitive things. Real living is noticing and acknowledging God in the everyday. It isn’t wishing now away for later, for something better.

There is holiness, set-apart-ness, even in the everyday mundane tasks we do. Kathleen phrases it as “the sanctity of the everyday.” (p. 71) We can live holy (uncommon) lives even in the midst of commonplace life. Wow! That’s encouraging!

Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, “God is so great that all things give him glory if you mean that they should.”

There is much more to be said about acedia and it’s effect on our lives, and if you get and read Kathleen’s book you’ll realize I’m barely skimming the surface of her deep well. But she’s got me thinking.

I’ve realized how over the last five years or so, facing cancer and recovering from numerous surgeries; facing difficult issues and difficult people, these have all poked holes in my ‘hope bucket.’ Hopefulness drained out and acedia was happy to slip in and take residence.

Weariness and grief can be discouraging, overwhelming and incapacitating. Even being a neat-freak, living in real-time dealing with piles of the paper kind and the dog kind, can make a person want to give up! Piles, unfinished tasks, low energy, never enough time, we all face these challenges, daily!

After reading a portion of Kathleen’s book, this is what I wrote in my journal: “I’m learning about acedia and realizing I’m affected by it in my own life. Please give me insight into myself here – I don’t want to fall prey to it. I want to live above it – not be pulled down and made ineffective by it. Lord, would you breathe on me? Would you blow away the acedia that has clung to me? Would you invigorate me with hope and life and vitality?”

And then, to poke my finger in acedia’s eye, I went upstairs and made the bed!

waiting

July 21, 2010

Recently I was talking with a friend of mine about life and her dreams and desires that have yet to be fulfilled. I was reminded how agonizing waiting can be.

Waiting slows life down to a crawl. It drags our emotions through the dust. It pushes us to frustration and despondency. It causes us to believe that God has forgotten us or that he doesn’t care or that he’s checked out of our lives and moved on.

Waiting for years and years for a longing to be fulfilled can cause us to become bitter and angry and cynical and caustic.

It can also move us to make choices and get things rolling in our own effort, in our own way, often with disastrous results.

I’m reminded of people I know who have married someone they knew wasn’t a good match, but in their desperation to escape singleness, went ahead with it – only to be heart-broken and devastated, emotionally and financially bankrupt.

We read about movie stars who want to be pregnant and have children but don’t want to be married, so they are inseminated by some male’s donated sperm and they selfishly get what they want, without ever thinking what’s in the best interest of that new life. The child is a commodity, like a purse or pair of shoes.

As a person who believes that Christ is the way to life and the world’s only hope, the One who forgives my sins and gives me a clean start and a reason for living, I also believe in his words, (the Bible), and choose to obey them, to live by them. I’ve learned about waiting, both by reading the Bible and by my own life experience.

Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” Waiting takes stamina. It takes strength. Waiting is not a passive activity. You need to keep your focus, encourage yourself and be emotionally strong. Waiting is work, hard work.

Part of waiting is taking heart. That means to encourage and strengthen your resolve by reminding yourself of why you are waiting, and who you are waiting on. It helps to know the life stories of others who have waited well and have finally seen their longing fulfilled. Often, it doesn’t look like they expected, but amazingly, it’s even better than they could have imagined.

“I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.” Psalm 40:1

“I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.” Psalm 130:5

There are people who see God as a cosmic kill-joy. They see him craning his neck, peering over the edge of heaven, watching every move so that he can zap any fun out of their lives and destroy their plans. That just isn’t God’s nature.

Isaiah 30:18 tells us, “Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him.”

There is waiting involved in just about everything in life. A farmer plants seeds. There is a long time of waiting for the plants to grow and bear fruit. Investors wait and hope that they will see dividends, but there are many ups and downs in the waiting process. A husband and wife wait for the miracle of pregnancy and spend the better part of 9 months dreaming and anticipating and longing for their baby to come. We wait for the mail, we wait for the cake to bake, we wait in line at the grocery and for lengthy periods of time in the doctor’s office! We wait for a loan to come through and for weekends to come. Waiting is just a part of life. Why do we behave as though it is unexpected, unnecessary, unwelcome?

Some people are better at waiting than others. Some people are action-oriented and see waiting as unacceptable. There are times for action and for finding another route. But there are times when there is absolutely nothing we can do but wait.

During those times, it is helpful to quiet our heart and choose to listen for the whisper, the nearly imperceptible voice of God.

I love reading the Psalms. I am encouraged that the writer poured out his true feelings to God. He didn’t over- spiritualize his emotions. He didn’t pretend that everything was ‘Wonderful, Praise God!’ He was raw and authentic and desperate for God to take action. He was ecstatic at times and at others he was cursing his enemies and lamenting his woes.

Psalm 142:1-7 says,”I cry out to the LORD; I plead for the LORD’s mercy. I pour out my complaints before him and tell him all my troubles. When I am overwhelmed you alone know the way I should turn. Wherever I go, my enemies have set traps for me. I look for someone to come and help me, but no one gives me a passing thought! No one will help me; no one cares a bit what happens to me. Then I pray to you, O LORD. I say, ‘You are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life. Hear my cry, for I am very low . . . .'”

You are all I really want in life. Wow. How many people say that?

When I was in the midst of chemotherapy, and sick and dizzy and miserable and despondent, I got to that place. I remember listening to a song, the words of which expressed that thought: “All I want is you, Lord, is you, Lord, all I want is you . . .”

Sometimes waiting is the best thing for us. It forces us to look at life with a new perspective and alter our expectations and values. When we are desperate for God to move on our behalf, we come to understand that all we really need is God. When we are at a place that medicine has done all it can do and it’s still not enough, we need God to intervene. We are right where we need to be. For the first time all the clutter of life and action and thought gets shaken down and we are left with the stark reality that all we have and all we need is God. If he chooses to rescue us, that’s ideal, but if not, we’re finished. Our earthly life is over. Every breath is from him. Every heart beat.

I can remember saying to God, “You are my only hope. You are my life-giver. You hold me in your hand. Please rescue me.”

Life is so much easier when we’re in control, otherwise we feel vulnerable and helpless. But feeling like we are in control of our lives is really an illusion. We really are dependent on God for every breath and every heart beat, whether we know it or not! So getting to a place of vulnerability and helplessness is actually not a bad thing. It feels awful sometimes, (okay, most of the time!) But it’s a good thing! When we feel helpless, we are prompted to think about God more. Then we cry out to God in earnest, and that’s often when he moves.  It’s too bad that it takes a tragedy or disease to open our eyes to the reality that we live in vulnerability every day. We are so very fragile, every one of us.

God knows we ‘are but dust,’ yet he “longs to be gracious to [us]; he rises to show [us] compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him.” (Isa. 30:18)  Wow, we are blessed because we actively wait for him!

Be encouraged, my friend, knowing that you aren’t the first to wait on God, and you won’t be the last. We don’t understand his timetable, but we know that he is faithful and gracious.

It’s difficult to wait and to be patient. Take heart. Be strong. Don’t give up. Tell God you’re waiting on him and that you know you are completely dependent on him. Breathe out your stress and anxiety that comes from fear and trying to make things happen, and slowly breathe in his peace that comes as we trust him.

God is our source, our answer, our provider, not the president, nor the economy nor our employer, not the doctor or our our medicine or anything else other than the Maker and Sustainer of Life.

Like King David, let’s say to ourselves, “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again – my Savior and my God!” (Psalm 42:11)