Cancer and a Healthier Lifestyle

One thing is for certain, attempts to modify daily habits while in the midst of quite possibly the hardest life battle proved to be futile in my case. But never say never with God! Where there’s His Will, there’s definitely a way…

To be honest, I leaned on what I knew so well to be my comfort of choice…food – for others, it might be shopping or a host of other things. I’ve always known food could be my arch nemesis, but it wasn’t until this past year that I began to see my poor choices in a different light.

God is so incredibly patient with me – no matter how often I choose other things before Him – He’s always right there waiting to show me the better way. My ‘intro course’ was an online group study of a book called Wellness Revelation – yes, it’s about weight loss…. but not just the pounds type. It’s about losing whatever is weighing you down.

I had a gut hunch (aka God promptings) that before I embarked on changing the foods I consumed, I needed to have an understanding of the “whys” for my choices. So for nine weeks, God and I spent a lot time together during the weekly lessons to shed light on my whys. I learned a lot, but primarily the revelation that I wasn’t allowing God to be my comforter and that I was mindlessly choosing food to fill a void only He can fill.

Following the study, God then showed me the Whole30 program – a dramatic shift to eliminate processed foods and sugars. But here’s the key: I had to surrender my efforts first because I knew I couldn’t make real change alone. The 30 days passed before I knew it! I was 10 pounds lighter and feeling better than I had in years. My primary goal was to have more energy and that goal was achieved! But then it was like, “now what, Lord?” Whole30 is not intended for long term, but I knew I needed more practice… and then there it was, a 21-day sugar fast – not terribly different, but a reinforcement plan of sorts with daily scripture and encouragement to cheer me on.

Here I am four months later… celebrating 5 years as a cancer thriver, down 20 pounds and still incorporating healthier choices. Like all things, there’s no magic pill… it’s not a ‘one and done’…. it’s a daily walk with the Lord leading the way.

I’m a Thriver!

It’s been a month filled with celebrations! It’s not lost on me just how blessed I am that my body has responded so well to cancer treatment when so.many.don’t. and this side of Heaven, I won’t have those answers… what I do know is that I can make the most of this time to praise God with all that I have!

As I approached 5 years since my diagnosis of stage IV breast cancer, a lot has happened….a lot of life has happened… I survived a bunch of medical stuff…intense chemo, palliative radiation, shingles, blood clots, pulmonary embolism, and lung complications from meds… all my hair came out and it came back curly as ever!

but there has been far more good….. my heart practically burst with joy as my daughter walked down the aisle to embark on the adventure of marriage. I discovered a love of FaithArt and a greater love to share art with others…from bookmarks to a Bible study to an Etsy store… God has continued to grow me by leaps and bounds!

This past year I’ve been pursuing better lifestyle choices – that started with a study called The Wellness Revelation, which led me to Whole30, another fast, and finally a more mindful approach to food as fuel vs comfort.

The timing is perfect to build on my appreciation for how far God has brought me with Ann Voskamp’s 1000 Gifts study starting Nov 18th. My prayer is that I truly commit mind and spirit to this study – although I’m already pretty darn appreciative of daily blessings, I know God has even more He wants to teach me and I’m eager to learn.

What will the next year bring? That’s a great question! I’m perfectly content to take it one day at a time ☺️

Celebrate!

five years….FIVE years….60 months….260 weeks…1,820 days ago….I heard the words no one wants to hear…. “Ms Carr, You have cancer and it’s stage IV”

honestly, that feels like a lifetime ago and yet sometimes it’s at the forefront of my attention….

those close to me have heard me say more than once how cancer has been a blessing… crazy, right? how can there be ANYTHING good about cancer??????

oh, but there is! I am a living testimony that God will truly take every single situation…even the really sucky situations….use it all for good and I’m blessed to be a witness to His goodness.

don’t get me wrong, if I’d had a choice, I doubt I would’ve said, “sure! I’ll take on cancer!” but the choice wasn’t mine and here’s just some of the good:

  • I am confident God will deliver me!
  • grow my relationship with God deeper than I ever could’ve imagined
  • the medical community has advanced to target and treat my specific cancer
  • retired at age 55 vs 65 or 70
  • discovered a love for faith art and grew to share it with others
  • be available to take regular trips to see ‘my girl’ and extended family
  • write and share a Bible study

yeah….so I’m an optimist….I choose not to focus on the hard parts of cancer… and that’s not always heathy or easy… I also discovered its a huge part of being authentic…. it’s just as important to share the hard parts…

  • cancer is hard – really hard
  • cancer is painful….almost every.single.day.
  • cancer causes physical limitations you never dreamed of
  • cancer is relentless and certainly doesn’t care about your hopes and dreams
  • cancer is just.plain.mean

BUT GOD….

  • God provides a WAY when there seems no way!
  • God provides PEACE in a seemingly never ending storm…..
  • God provides COMFORT when the pain feels unbearable
  • God provides WISDOM and DISCERNMENT when you’re on information overload
  • God provides STRENGTH …spiritual – emotional – physical when you are tapped out
  • God provides HOPE and assurance of VICTORY that He will deliver me

bottom line? there are no guarantees in life…except one…to know and accept the salvation offered by my loving unchanging LORD and Savior 💖

A Brave Thing

So I did a thing today.  For me, a very brave thing indeed!  As I was scrolling thru the Netflix guide, my eyes landed on ‘The Long Goodbye’ – the documented story of Kara Tippitts.  A seemingly average woman, who wasn’t the least bit average.  A young mother’s story of love and grace in the midst of the enemy – cancer.  You can read more on her restored blog, Mundane Faithfulness.

I don’t generally watch cancer movies – I know how the story ends.  I don’t want to see my life in someone else’s and measure where I’m “at”  But today was different…. and I watched…. and of course, the tears flowed like rain.  But they weren’t tears of fear – they were cleansing tears as God pressed on my heart, “I see you, My sweet girl. It’s okay to let others see you too.”

You see, I love to write. I love to share… but I absolutely cannot authentically write without being vulnerable. And with vulnerability, comes pain exposure.  It’s hard to share the hard stuff…. and what I admired in Kara’s story was her ability to be so lovingly real and graciously raw.

God’s been pressing on me for a while and yes, I’ve been dodging Him (as if that’s a real possibility!)  It’s so much easier to be lazy, but there’s no value in a wasted life.  Watching the movie today reminded me of a group on Facebook that’s led by a friend –  Fight Dirty by Loving Big. She always ends with “go forth and conquer – that means I love you”  And no, I don’t usually actively participate – that requires more authenticity than I’ve been brave enough to muster.

You see, in many ways, I’m the proverbial duck… calm on the surface and paddling like mad underneath.  Folks…..when they see the girl….. they get to see the girl who loves Jesus and talks about the gifts of cancer.  She doesn’t talk about the hard parts – why? She doesn’t want to make people sad or feel sorry for her.  BUT she’s been slowly exiting far left…. for fear of showing pain or showing fear itself…. hiding from the day to day….all the while not realizing what she’s doing.

And here’s the real beauty in writing…. God shows me what I’m really doing…. or not doing, as the case may be!

A few weeks ago, I started a group study called The Wellness Revelation being hosted by Stephanie Ackerman  – it’s a God first study focused on losing what’s weighing you down – and yes, physical weight is a big part… but for me, I knew it was something much deeper – I just didn’t know what.  And to be quite frank, if I’d had a clue where God was leading me, I obviously would’ve run the other way!  But I suppose God usually has to work that way with me – at least when He’s trying to get my undivided attention.

f.e.a.r.    who’da thunk????? But that’s how fear works, isn’t it?  Well, thank ya Jesus!  Now that it’s been identified, it’s up to me to let God do His thing and work it out of my life.  I’m not afraid of death – I know to whom I belong.  I’m not afraid of cancer… at least I don’t think so (time will surely tell!)….could I be afraid of living?  That sounds pretty weird to me, but again…. time will tell….but where I landed today was realizing and acknowledging that fear has been dictating the extent to which I’m living and loving.

And selective living and loving isn’t really living at all, is it?  Where is God going to take this? No idea.  But I’m committed letting Him do a work in and through me and to being real – raw – and open.  Intentionally open to my inner circle, outer circle, and whoever is out in cyberland that God chooses to touch with His message of love, hope and redemption.

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Pure Joy

It’s difficult to describe just how good it feels to celebrate God’s faithfulness every.single.day. so I thought I’d just show it instead! God is really moving! Over the past two weeks, I’ve shared a devotional & words of encouragement faith art (below) at a local pregnancy center, I’ve been asked to lead a faith art session at an upcoming women’s retreat, AND I’ve been asked to create faith art coloring pages for a children’s ministry!

Isn’t God grand? Gosh….even the word grand doesn’t begin to describe God! The latter part of 2017 and early part of 2018 were more challenging as the trickle-down effects of cancer and its treatments wreaked havoc on my lungs, but God still has work for me to do! Thankfully, I’m feeling much, much better these days and pleased to report current scans & markers show the cancer remains stable! 🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻

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The thing is, God has a plan that far exceeds anything I could dream up for myself…. the desire to create faith are came as a byproduct of cancer, and the  opportunities to share God’s love through art came before I received results of my latest scans… I didn’t hesitate to accept because…

I know God’s got this!

This past year, I’ve learned to live like I am always HIS and not just after He proves I’m His in a particular situation…. does that make any sense? In other words, I don’t wait until I see proof of His faithfulness to step forward….

Today I attended a Bible Journaling Group: H.I.S. (Houston’s Illustrating Sisterhood) and we discussed the perils of spiritual amnesia – God is ALWAYS at work and ALWAYS working for the best in our lives…especially when it may not “feel” that way!

Living in gratitude is a choice and testifying to the daily miracles of faithfulness He is working in our lives is a must!

 

Joy in the Journey!

More often than not, folks will say,

“how do you do it? how do you stay so positive? how do you always seem to be so happy?”

The answer is truly simple and yet seemed so elusive most of my adult life….God worked very diligently to prepare me for a cancer journey!

In 2013,

  • my daughter endured two debilitating bouts of meningitis
  • I moved my dad to assisted living as Alzheimer’s was taking its devastating toll
  • my job went from crazy stress, to off the charts insane stress
  • I experienced the brink of physical and emotional collapse

Being soooooooo close to that edge, I knew something had to change….and that’s where God took my trust in Him to the “liberating place.” A place where I set aside my overly analytical mind. A place where He was my sole focus. A place where I confidently said goodbye to the corporate world where I was dying. A place where miracles happen.

It was a time when I had NO IDEA as to what was next and a time where I wasn’t scrambling to come up with a “plan” of my own. It was a time of the most wonderful peace I’d ever experienced.

Don’t get me wrong, the crazies were still present in 2014 – they just weren’t dictating my steps! It was a time when my feet didn’t move without God’s influence.

  • It was a time when I began experiencing serious pain with no idea as to the cause.
  • It was a time when I enjoyed visits with my dad and eventually said goodbye.
  • It was a time when my mom & stepdad came for a visit that resulted in them staying.
  • It was a time when my relationship with my oldest sister went to a new level as we spent countless hours together helping my other sister transition her life as we packed up my parents life in California.

With God as my focus and sole compass, I began seeing each day, each challenge, so differently. Anxiety diminished and peace reigned. I began to more fully receive God’s no matter what precious love!

So later that year, when the doctor said, “you have stage IV cancer that has spread extensively through your bones,” I didn’t panic. I knew God was still with me & prepared me for the battle ahead.

Have there been really tough days? Definitely. But God is faithful. He’s my go-to guy and gets me through every single challenge – every single day.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

This past weekend I experienced a first – I attended a Bible Journalers group! I was like a kid in a candy shop for the first time – all these like-minded women in one place – at the same time – with more art goodies than I could ever imagine!

As we were about an hour in, the coordinator stopped by my table and asked what I was planning…. you would’ve thought she’d asked me to explain some vast scientific thoughts on the universe….of which I haven’t a clue!

I soon discovered that I’m really challenged to focus with so much external stimulation… granted I was probably a BIG distraction to others….I chatted incessantly…a combination of nerves and excitement…. but somehow God settled me long enough to create this page, which I now “see” as the preface to a Bible study by Lisa Harper on Job that I started this past Sunday – isn’t God grand??????

Sunday’s message is still filtering through to my heart…

Last night I started reading through Job – I may have read a verse or two before and knew the 50,000ft view (sort of)…. and as I read, it seemed as if Job certainly was affected by initial losses, but not dissuaded in his faith. Then in chapter in chapter 3, after the boils, loss & pain started taking it toll…

Pain & Circumstances….it’s something we’re all familiar with… when my focus is narrowed through my imperfect lens, I can’t focus to see what God is doing IN the circumstance.

For example,

– I have an aggressive type of cancer. check.

– I experience physical pain every single day. check.

Sure, I can get bogged down in the muck – I’m human! I have to nurture my Holy Habits – to KNOW and EXERCISE God’s promises…most importantly? BELIEVE His promises. God has promised my healing.period.

If my focus is constantly on ‘when’ or ‘how’ God’s healing will come, then I’m at risk to miss out on everything in between!

It’s the “in-between” where God shows Himself & is glorified

it’s the “in-between” where my relationships are enriched

it’s the “in-between” where I get to be extraordinarily grateful for sunrises & promises of a new day

it’s the “in-between” where I get to share His love in the midst of life’s storms

it’s the “in-between” where my love for Him grows with each breath…

Oh, precious readers…my prayer is that each of you experience and treasure the liberating place!

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It’s a “dang…not so fast” kinda day

My one word this year is FOCUS! Something I often need desperately… my mind has a tendency to flit from one thing to the next… and most often, I totally forget the thing I started out doing…. sound familiar?

This morning was no exception… often the week post-injections is kinda iffy; the medication designed to help strengthen my bones increases bone pain, and the meds focused on starving cancer cells leaves me feeling achy and just plain yucky… it’s like a see-saw – one day I think, “woohoo! I’m over the hump!” and the next day is “dang…not so fast…”  Today is a “dang…not so fast” kinda day… unfortunate, because I REALLY wanted to go to church, but knowing if I push myself, then my body rebels in a not so nice way… so here I am… in bed… fighting away resentment…

Oh yeah… back to the focus (or lack thereof!)… my NUMBER ONE task – objective – goal…call it what you will… is to ensure the bible study is ready to start at the end of this month… and I am overwhelmed at times with the “what were you thinking????” thoughts.  So what do I do? ANYTHING but focus on the task at hand!

bible tabs.jpgExample?  Well, other than writing this post?  Oh…the thing that prompted to me write this post??? Bible tabs.  Yeah…innocent enough, right?  I bought a new interleaved Bible for art journaling this year and it needed tabs… as in yesterday…. never mind I’m not ready to start working in the new Bible… it was tab-less…  sure, I could buy tabs… but no, I must make them… with cute paper and my tab punch and handwrite each of the sixty-six books… which led me down another rabbit hole… I have sooooooo much to learn!!!!

A seemingly simple task churned up more insecurities…. I know so little about God’s Word!!! My thoughts immediately jumped to planning out a better reading plan…and maybe I need to do a certain study….. and….. and…. and….

And I started writing a post, which has brought me to this:  FOCUS!!!  But I can’t truly focus on the job God assigned to me until I surrender everything else to HIM…. yeah… that thing – surrender…. you see God most often speaks to and through me with writing…. I rarely know where I’m going until finally He says…”see????” and my heart smiles wider than the Grand Canyon!

What is God trying to tell you today????  You aren’t where you are at this very moment by accident… just like for me, today started as a “dang…not so fast” day and it wasn’t so much about what I didn’t get to do, but definitely about what He needed to teach me.  He’s got a plan for every.single.minute. and it’s incredible!

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