Thursday, May 30, 2024

Emotional health + triggers

 I've been thinking today about many things. One of which is how very diverse the reactions and responses are to a situation like our family finds itself in right now. People are complex.  Life is complex.  Every day as I interact with different souls I have no way of knowing what little landmines or triggers I might accidentally run into, either in them or in myself. The difficult and time consuming work of becoming an emotionally healthy human is a commitment.  It doesn't happen overnight and it's often painful and uncomfortable. Addressing each trigger as it comes is a lot of work!! Since I can only speak for myself and the multifaceted and LONG journey I have been on for the last 7 years very specifically, this work is ongoing.  I'm not 100% sure I will ever check the done box! That said, I definitely try to have the bandwidth and grace for every soul I meet knowing the layers of complexity that exist in every single person. I'm not succeeding at this perfectly, but I am trying.

The truth is that just the word cancer alone can be very triggering. There aren't a lot of lives out there that haven't been touched in one way or another by cancer.  There are a LOT of opinions, ideas, beliefs, feelings, heartache, trauma, experiences...and the list goes on...around cancer.  I wish I could cut the wires to this explosive word.  Deactivate it and kick it into the junk pile, but I can't.  What I can do (to the best of my ability) is actively release the fear that builds up around the heart when this word is spoken.  Like a pressure valve, release the fear and take on Presence. Breathe in the clean air of God's truth and exhale the worry, anxiety, and the toxicity. I'm getting a boat load of practice. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024


 In the interest of putting both facts, thoughts and a bit of processing all in one place, I’m writing this blog post. It’s Wednesday, one week after Alex’s surgery to remove a cancerous lymph node to be biopsied and one day after he met with the blood cancer specialist. Unfortunately yesterday did not reveal any new information to speak of. The biopsy results are not available yet due to some mix up/trouble the lab is having and the specialist, Dr. Mountjoy, didn’t really have much to tell Alex except that the next step in the Hodgkin’s Lymphoma flow chart is salvage chemo followed by a stem cell transplant.  Oh, and the good news that his odds of survival are 30%, not the measly 20% he was told originally.  So, you know, pretty awesome really.  I mean, who doesn’t jump up and down for joy over the prognosis of extreme suffering and a 70% chance of death?  

Forgive me if I don’t put up the balloons and streamers.

I feel that it’s necessary to clarify here that Alex is a 23 year old adult man.  He’s not a child under our care, we are not making the decisions for him.  He’s a very capable human, I would say more so than most honestly.  He is rational, grounded, clear eyed, faith filled and strong.  He’s young, but he’s actually gone through and done a lot of hard things already. He went through the last 6 months of chemotherapy like a champ and believe me that was not fun. When he got the results of the most recent PET scan almost 3 weeks ago he hit a pretty hard wall.  He took some time to lament, feel the pain and look the reality of his situation in the eye and then he went to work. 

8 months ago when Alex originally got the diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma stage 2 unfavorable, he just did the next thing the oncologist told him, which was 6 months of chemotherapy that had an 85% success rate. He went back to studying philosophy (his passion in life) and endured the treatments and made plans for his future.  I mean, an 85% chance!  Those seem like some really decent odds.  So he didn’t dig into researching cancer cause why would he?  85%...the chances of not beating this were minimal.  Enter PET scan from 3 weeks ago and the script has flipped.  Now his Philosophy books sit in a stack off to the side of his computer and the books about cancer are accumulating.  Honestly?  The minute he told me he was going to dig in on cancer research, I breathed out.  I have a lot of confidence that he will discover a way through this.  And if that’s not the outcome, if this road does end horribly, he will have given his survival every ounce of his strength, focus and energy.

So that’s where we stand.  Daniel and I are obviously committed 100% to supporting him and helping him however we can as he navigates the days and road ahead.  To those of you who have been praying, please don’t stop!  In many ways I feel like the journey is just beginning, like the last 8 months were just the slight incline to the trailhead and now we’ve rounded a bend into completely uncharted territory.  By the grace of God alone we will one day find ourselves on the other side of this journey, but that is not today.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

I would like to decline.

If you're here at my blog because you're wondering what's going on with Alex and cancer, then you are not alone, so are we. His PET scan last Friday revealed that the main biggest tumor is still there and hasn't really shrunk since his PET scan in January that looked really good.  His oncologist has referred him to a specialist and he will need to get a biopsy of the big tumor so that they have more information.

Based on how he was doing at the midway mark through the last 6 months of chemo all signs had pointed to success, but that is not where Friday left us.  I was trying my best to hold space for this, but in all honesty... I didn't think this was going to be the outcome.  (Daniel was in Peru when we got the news so he came back a few days earlier than planned just because being so far away when hard news comes is tough). What can I say? Now we wait for the biopsy. Now we wait for the evaluation of the specialist. Now we wait.

What I mostly said to God on Friday was, "NO!"  An emphatic, with all my being "NO!"  If I could by any means possible hit some kind of big red DECLINE button, I would.  But I can't.  There is only one way forward and that is through. And I'm gonna be honest, I don't want to go THROUGH. I don't want Alex to have to go THROUGH... I want an off ramp, a way OUT.  I don't want God to tell me "I will be with you in your pain."  I want him to say, "I'm going to heal Alex and get you out of this."  And before you start thinking, "Wow. What a lack of faith!"  I refer to Jesus:

"Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  

Matt 26:39

So at least I'm in good company.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Just show up.

The things I'm learning as I go

First, let me start here by saying that traditionally I am not great at walking with people through difficult times. I am a very internal processor.  I think I have learned, somewhat, how to listen, how to just be present and when to hold my tongue (definitely a work in progress).  But I'm not the strongest "jump into action" person. I'm much more likely to feel the pain of someone I love going through the fire, but not act.  

One thing I think I'll take away from this experience of walking through cancer with Alex is: just show up.  If you know the person who is in the midst of the hard pretty well, just show up.  Hard things, as it turns out, can be very isolating.  People don't want to intrude (myself included), they don't know how the individual is handling things, they don't want to be a bother. But sometimes in the middle of hard days you just need company, a kind word and to know someone cares.

{This is mostly a note to my future self who will probably still struggle with this}.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Whistling in the dark

Hey.  How's it going in your neck of the woods? I'm just over here whistling in the dark. Trying to remain brave in the midst of unknowns.  
(Of course I'm most immediately referring to not knowing the status of where Alex's cancer is at.  Is it completely gone? Will the PET scan reveal good news or bad?)
But as I've been sitting in this space for a few weeks now, I'm realizing just how much this feels like a theme of life.  This moment feels particularly heavy and fraught with unknowns, but isn't that just how life is?  I'm concluding that this is the human condition. And it kinda stinks.

That said, while I definitely feel keenly this moment of limbo, I also feel keenly that God sits with me.  He's not leaving me in the dark, it's not a punishment or exile or's just that I can't see the future.  I can't see what the outcome of the PET scan a week from now will be, I can't see the outcome of pretty much anything!  I am working with now.  The present.  And an assurance that absolutely NOTHING can separate me from God's presence. He's with me now, he'll be there tomorrow and the next day and the day after that, no matter what path I find my feet on or what circumstance is swirling.

"So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us."      Romans 8:31-39   (the message)

Friday, February 16, 2024

Breath work

When the day dawns grey and heavy, I find myself at work practicing breathing.  

Breathe in God's goodness, breathe out disappointment.
Breathe in God's mercy, breathe out despair.
Breathe in God's kindness, breathe out anxiety.
Breathe in God's truth, breathe out the lies.
Breathe in God's lovingkindness, breathe out resentment.

Is this what apprenticeship under Jesus involves?  How do I practice walking in the way of Jesus?  I know for certain he is using/will use these hard and heavy things I'm facing to train my arms for battle... but what does that daily training look like?  This is not book work.  These are not hypotheticals.  This is life.  My life.

About 2 miles from me a nurse is beginning to inject poison into the body of my oldest son.  I can't be there physically, but I'm there in spirit and I'm practicing breathing.

Breathe in God's perfect shalom, breathe out pain.
Breathe in God's faithfulness, breathe out all the brokenness.
Breathe in God's love, breathe out death.
Breathe in God's redemption, breathe out bitterness.
Breathe in God's hope, breathe out rejection.

On a day when every breath is a conscious choice, I have to be aware of every single one.  This is how the mind is renewed, one breath at a time, one choice at a time.  I have no idea how well I'm doing at this.  Just that I'm trying.

"Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out."  Ephesians 6:13-18

Friday, February 9, 2024

Say the word...

Growing up in the Catholic faith every Sunday after communion we would collectively give this response: 

"Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed."

This is in reference to Mathew 8:8: 

"The centurion replied, "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.  But just say the word, and my servant will be healed."'

I've been thinking of late about how this has been/is kinda my beef with God oftentimes.  "Good grief!" I'm thinking, "God, just say the word!!" (Aside from the very obvious situation at hand that I desperately want him to say the word over, there is a LONG list of others).  Knowing that the God of the universe loves me and has the power to utter one. single. word. and all things will be made right feels like a pent up scream. 

But if I take a moment to contemplate I realize, God has already said the word, and the word is Jesus. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."     John 1:1-5  

This is so intensely profound and also in my very humanness not what I want to hear. When everything is going sideways in my life I struggle with this.  I'm just like the Jews of old who missed Jesus cause he's not showing up in the ways I want him to.  I want him to say a single word and fix ________! It's one of the area's in my faith where I have to keep pressing into this truth: God has never promised, in this life, to fix all the things, he's promised himself, his presence with me... and he is enough.  

It's definitely a hard truth for me to digest (and I am continually learning it btw).  I traversed many years not understanding this pretty much at all. Railing at God in dark days that he couldn't possibly actually love me if I was being asked to walk through _______. Early on I totally took the bait hook, line and sinker that as a believer in Jesus I would be insulated from pain. God is for me, who can be against me?  My translation: "I mean, if the God of the universe is in my corner I'm gonna come out on top! God is going to get behind all my causes and all my asks. He's for me!"  

You know that famous CS Lewis quote: "We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us, we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be."  Yeah.

All that to say, I try to hold the hard differently these days. (Try being the operating word). What I realize now is that I have no idea what God might be up to when hard things come to my door. I can only pray through the following:

If the hard thing is something I think the enemy of my soul is testing me with, I resist his lies and stand, held tight in Jesus.  If the hard thing is something I've brought upon myself via sin, I turn, repent and surrender held tight in Jesus.  If the hard thing is something 100% out of left field that is probably just a by-product of living as a human on planet earth, I lean into God, held tight in Jesus.  God alone knows.  He might speak a single word that changes everything in this temporal existence, but I know he has already spoken the Word that changed everything for eternity.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

being sick, mourning loss and all things January

Today I'm emerging from the foggy haze of being sick for the last little while where all my days mushed together in a muddy soup. Yesterday as I aimlessly shuffled about the house, kleenex in hand, like a disheveled lost soul, I was ruminating on my mom and how when a person feels sick or low in life they just want their mother.  Yesterday marked 9 years without mine.  

In these days of standing alongside Alex as he does everything he can to beat cancer and we do everything we can to beat fear, I have quite often wished my mom was still here.  She was a tower of strength and truly a unique woman.  She knew how to do hard things and how to pray.  Mom wasn't one to sit on her hands, if she knew of a need that she thought she could meet she did everything in her power to do so. And what she couldn't do practically, she prayed for God's intervention in. She would have been all hands on deck to help any way she could during this stretch of road for us.

So, very selfishly, I wish she were still here... lending extra strength, cheering me on, helping to pick up the slack, knowing that no matter what, she's rock solidly in my corner.  But I guess it's my turn to be as much like her as I can. In which case I'm gonna fix my eyes on God, do what's in my hand to do, plant my feet and pray.

"Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out."   

Eph 6:13  The Message 

Friday, January 5, 2024

Breathing out...

On Wednesday, after weeks of waiting, Alex was finally able to get a PET scan! Mid afternoon he got the results that showed the chemo is working and his tumors are greatly reduced! He sent that amazing and encouraging report out to his community and within minutes an impromptu celebration had assembled.  People cancelled plans, came from miles away and gathered around Alex to rejoice with him.  It honestly touched my heart so deep.  People who show up are truly just amazing.  We all hopped into vehicles and drove to Cheyenne to the newly discovered Sanfords to feast and laugh and just be happy on Alex's behalf.  It was great.  

Today marks the half way point in his treatment.  He's done 6 chemo sessions and he has 6 to go (God willing and everything keeping the trajectory he's on).  We've done a lot of breathing out and giving of thanks to God over the past couple of days.  It's not the end of this journey yet, but it's a positive inflection point of joy and we are super grateful for this moment.