Cancer is a lonely disease. Even though I was surrounded with friends and family everywhere the feeling of being alone was very real. I’ve read other people describe having this same feeling when going through this illness. I felt scared and alone. This is something only another cancer patient can understand. It may be the fear of death and maybe it’s simply the feeling of being the only one at that moment of illness knowing the pain and not knowing one’s own fate.
I lost most of my memory while I was sick but the feeling of lonliness never eludes me. I live with chronic pain. This means from day to day I never know how I am going to feel. I have eliminated most of my stress and my pain level has gone from a nine most days to a four most days. On the days I experience more pain (usually weather or stress related) the more isolate I feel. I have discovered a way to cope with these feelings.
Thank God I am a believer and follower of Jesus Christ because that is the one thing that keeps that feeling from overcoming me. Most days I am upbeat and thankful to be alive. I praise God for the gift of life. This is the first and most important way of coping with the solitary feelings that linger after cancer. I listen to praise music, meditate on God’s word, and give Him praise for being alive. There is something to be cherished in a life that is appreciated.
Painting is my second love next to God. A hobby is the best way to deal with those days of inadequacy. If you don’t have a hobby find something you enjoy doing. It is most important in keeping stress levels down.
Friends are another great way to keep these solitary feelings at bay. Surround yourself with a good support group and network of family and friends. It is proven people live longer who have more friends. Enjoy and laugh with your friends. Laughter lowers stress and boosts the immune system. I have found it helps lessen my pain level, feelings of being alone, and beat depression to hang out with a positive friend once a week. Laughter is a key element! Make sure your friend is upbeat and positive. Negativity will bring you down. There is nothing worse than leaving a friend and feeling worse than when you came to see her.
Even though cancer is a lonely disease there are a few ways to fight these desolate feelings. Turn it around and live. You deserve to live. Live and enjoy the life you have been given.
I recently found my care pages online from when I was sick. I wanted to share some of the unexpected things that I wish someone would have told me to look for when I was sick. I will share more later but for now I will share the worst part of the whole cancer experience. Don’t think it is all bad though. I remained positive throughout the cancer experience and leaned on my faith and that is the reason I am still here. I stay positive today and this is how I will stay healthy (well along with a good diet and regular exercise.)
The worst part was the unexpected; the things the doctors didn’t tell me about. The least expected of the whole head and neck cancer experience was the deterioration of my throat. I remember what the doctors called secretions coming from my throat. Secretions are what I call flesh, blood, and deterioration of the tissues in the throat that came out in long strands. Sometimes after minutes of pulling these disgusting strands from my throat I would vomit and pull more strands. This happened weeks into my radiation treatments and continued for months after treatments were over. Radiation burned my throat from the inside out. I still have scaring on the outside of my throat. Just a warning for those about to endure radiation; it burns the radiated area inside and out. It’s like putting meat in the microwave. It burns. However, keep in mind there are things in life we have to endure. If you want to live endure the treatments with a smile and it will be over soon! Hang in there. It is worth it to have a second chance at life.
There were other unexpected things that happened as well. Flu like symptoms and the constant pain that were side effects of the chemo treatments were something I didn’t fully expect. Vomiting and nausea yes, but every part of my body ached. I went from feelings of extreme cold to hot flashes. There wasn’t a time when I felt comfortable. I was hot and cold at the same time. It was summer and I couldn’t go outside because it was too hot. I couldn’t handle the air conditioner on too cold because I got cold and achy. My caretakers and family couldn’t handle the heat so we kept the air on and I kept myself bundled in a blanket with my feet sticking out. This seemed to work for me. Remember, endure with a smile. Think about things that make you happy and things you are going to do when you feel better. Look to the positive and fight fight fight! You can do it! I’ll write more later.
I have found it very difficult to forgive myself for things Ive done wrong. We have all sinned and we all fall short of the glory of God. Admittedly, if I were perfect Jesus wouldn’t have had to die on the cross for my sins. After cancer my life was out of control due to PTSD. The body goes through so much pain and suffering. So does the human mind. I have been in a much better place for the last year but only because I press into God.
I felt better this week after praying and doing my daily bible study. I read today about this that Paul wrote; “I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from gentiles: in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. (2 Corinthians 11:26)
This verse helped me remember that even though I have endured so much after cancer that Paul faced hardships and we as Christains will too face hardships. Just because I am a Christian doesnt mean I am promised a perfect life or have a get out of jail free card. I have found to walk with Christ I have more strength when I endure those hardships. I have more power and can persevere in those trials.
If I walk with Christ (meaning dig into my bible study, pray, and listen for Him) I have peace and joy that surpasses all understanding in trials and hardships.
I’m a southern girl at heart. I spent the last fifteen years in the south and moved to the north last year. I am undergoing my first real winter with snow. I love the people here but the snow is overwhelming. It surely gives a girl cabin fever.
I plan to work on many afghans, paint and do other arts and crafts. These things all help defeat that overwhelming cabin fever. However, getting there is the difficult part. I remember more cool days minus snow in the south. I ran outside nearly all year round down there. Ive found there is no running outside with snow and cold temps here. I suffer chronic pain and it is definitely worse in the cold weather.
I guess I wonder what do people in the north do in the winter? Hibernate in the bars? There are bars on each corner like there are churches in the south. Do they gather in each others homes and hang out? Please tell me because this seems to be the longest winter.
I feel bad because I haven’t had anything to blog about. I feel kind of bla sitting inside for days with this weather. It is pretty but the winter in the north is by far my least favorite season. I need some motivation. I should have an open house and show my paintings, jewelry, crochet blankets, and other homemade crafts. Does anyone do this? Maybe a new concept.
I know God can take away cancer but sometimes He doesn’t. We have to understand there is a purpose for everything in our lives that happens. Good or bad, God is there. He carries us through the times we are too weak to walk this walk. I prayed for God to take away my cancer. You know those people who go to the dr. and are told they have cancer and return for another appointment and the cancer is gone. Yeah, I wanted that to be me! I prayed and asked God to please take it away. He is a God of miracles. He didn’t take mine away.
Was it because I lacked faith? Did I use up all my good prayers on other things that didn’t matter as much? Did God leave me? All these questions went through my head. No was the answer to all these. I had faith or I wouldn’t be seeking Him for help. God tells us to pray for everything. He didn’t leave me. I experienced Him throughout the illness and I still do. Some things happen because God has a greater purpose for us. I feel strongly I endured this so many will find salvation through Jesus Christ by my testimony. I have so many to share. When one prayer isnt answered it’s because God has a greater plan for us in the future. We don’t know what His plan is because we live in time. God is eternal.
When I started to recover I prayed and asked God to use me. I told Him I know the plans He has for me are great. I was still weak but strong-willed and wanted God to show me what I endured wasnt for vein. Within ten minutes of that prayer I received a phone call and my pastor wanted me to share my testimony in front of the church. This was a church of over 3,000 people. I couldn’t speak well because I had three-fourths of my tongue removed from cancer. I was so excited God answered my prayer so fast. That is a huge faith builder when God does this. All I had to do was make myself available and He used me.
My pastor contacted me the day after I gave my testimony. He said there was a man who visited our church that day. He didn’t go to church or believe in God. He wore leather, had long hair, had tattoos all over, and was a big tough guy. I’m not trying to stereotype because I know everybody needs jesus and there are plenty of people who go to church with tattoos. The man went to lunch with my pastor after church and told my pastor if I could go in front of the church and share my story fearlessly he wanted to know our God. He also told my pastor he was happy to see the love the church had for me.
Throughout the time I was sick God gave me so much. He was there when I needed Him the most. In this time He was sending people to me who needed to know Him. Because I had strong faith during this time I was and still am a living testimony of His love. I believe if one person came to know Christ through my illness it wasnt for vein. God used this time to grow my faith, bring others to know Him and make good changes in may people’s lives.
I have decided to blog about my personal experience with cancer. Since it is the one thing that has turned my life upside down. Five years ago I was touched by cancer and it rocked my world. I was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck. The drs. didn’t give me a good prognosis and told me it would be a miracle if I survived. My immediate response was, “You don’t know my Jesus and I don’t have an expiration date stamped on the bottom of my foot.” And so I chose to believe I would survive. I did and I am here to spread hope to all other people who endure cancer and other life challenges.
I am an artist and a visual person. Pictures make a story more real. I am sharing the following pictures not for you sympathy but so you can see how real cancer is and how far I have come becasue of my faith in God. These pictures are my during and after cancer pictures.
I would like to share about a particular story that was a serious turning point in my battle with cancer. I had chemo and a fifteen hour surgery to remove three fourths of my tongue and a muscle graft from my leg to my throat. (Then, radiation and more chemo to follow up the chemo and surgery.) I was in a lot of pain and couldn’t speak. Cancer is a lonely disease anyway but my inability to speak made me feel lost inside myself. My ex-husband (husband at the time) lacked compassion for me when I needed it most. So as he was impatient with my lack of speech I felt scared and began to wonder if I would ever speak again. I had a two hour trip to Nashville for a follow up after my surgery. I spent that two hour trip in tears and praying for God to give me a special message. I wanted him to answer me thorough a Dr or a person and tell me everything would be okay. I wanted to know I would speak again. The drs. told me that was a possibility, that I wouldn’t speak again. This was heavy on my heart. And so I asked God for a special message or for him to speak to me in a way I knew it was from him.
I made it to Vanderbilt in Nashville. The two hour trip felt like twelve. I cried and prayed the whole two hours there. After finding the ortolaryngology clinic I sat in the waiting room and prayed and cried some more. A woman across the room kept staring at me. I was used to this at this point. People stare when they see a cancer patient. Maybe the lack of hair, the scarf over my head or the NG tube hanging out my nose (used to feed me after my surgery.) I didn’t mind it at this point. She got up and slowly walked across the room to me. I had a notebook and pen in my lap. She asked to see it and began to write. This was unusual because most people just spoke to me but she wrote in my notebook. She said she was one of my Dr’s first patients and she told me I would be okay. She told me she felt compelled by God to tell me I would speak again one day. She was one of Dr. Burkeys first patients fifteen years ago. She reassured me of everything I asked God to reveal to me on the way there. She also confirmed she felt God tell her to get up, walk across the room, and deliver this message to me. God is great all the time. He revealed things like this to me throughout my illness. I will share more of these things in ‘Me and my journey.’
No matter how strong you are there are times in your life when you wont be strong enough to carry yourself through that moment. In those moments I leaned on God and found I made it. I couldn’t have done it on my own. Trust Him and lean into Him when you feel helpless. He will endure for you.