Laugh at Yourself

At my fourth chemo, my blood counts were great.  The nurse told me to keep on doing what I’d been doing.  At first I wondered — be horribly sick?  That works?

Then I remembered.  After the third chemo I took medicine that lasts three weeks.  It was still working.  I laughed at my first thoughts — and with relief!

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Emotions that are Physical

I know some of the emotions I felt during chemo were physical.  I call those “fake” emotions.  When I recognized an imposter, I would choose to concentrate on what I KNEW.  I knew I was doing the right thing, I knew God was with me, I knew God was leading me and guiding me.

I was reading in the Psalms and poor David was complaining that everyone had forsaken him.  Even in my pity party, I rejoiced as I thought of how I was not forsaken, but surrounded by help and love and laughter and friendship.  I was richly blessed!

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Discipline: A new understanding

**This post was written on Tuesday, May 27, 2008 and originally published on a blog site that is now closed.**

Tomorrow is Chemo 4.  Chemo 1 was tentative – what would it be like?  Chemo 2 was “okay.”  I knew what to expect, it “wasn’t so bad” and I was able to plan for the “good” week and accomplish a few things.  My expectations were low, and I met them.

Chemo 3, however, was a little rougher.  Medical staff was not surprised, but I was disheartened.  During the first two rounds, even during the worst days I had “breezes” of feeling a little better.  Round 3, no breezes.  Just yuck for longer than I expected.

Now tomorrow is round 4.  Yesterday Pastor spoke on Hebrews 12, so I went there for my devotions this morning.  As I read, I saw something new.  Perhaps it was Pastor’s great illustrations yesterday.  He talked about “encumbrances” and “the sin that entangles.”  “Encumbrances,” he explained, are not sin, just normal stuff, like piano recitals and basketball games, that consume our time.

This morning as I read this chapter again, the word “discipline” hit me in a new way.  You see, I don’t believe my cancer is a result of my sin.  I do believe there is sin in my life, and I do believe cancer is a result of the “original sin.”  But I don’t believe I did something specifically to deserve cancer.

So, as I read about discipline, my first thought was “this doesn’t apply to me, because I don’t believe I’m being disciplined (as in punished) for something I did wrong.”  Then God showed me something really incredible.  Notice how close the word “discipline” is to the word “disciple.”  Oh my!  Does Jesus only “discipline” his “disciples” when they do wrong?  Of course not!

Then I read about earthly fathers in verse 10:  “For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness.”  I thought how my husband and I “discipline” our children “as seemed best” and I realized that sometimes we proactively “teach discipline” as in requiring the girls to practice the piano or pick up their room or set the table.  These are “discipline.”  While it is true we intend to teach life skills, we also want them to learn to play the piano, which will be a gift to them for the rest of their lives.  Now, with this broader understanding of the triggers for and means of “discipline,” I claim these promises for myself as I face chemo 4:

Hebrews 12:3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart.

Perfect Jesus had evil men actively seeking His death.  I have medical professionals actively seeking my good.  Don’t give up now, Marla.  Keep your hope high and do this.  It’s still the best right thing.  Remind yourself that God has asked you to do it.

Hebrews 12:7  It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline.

This is not only “correction” discipline, but also “skill development” discipline.  God is teaching me spiritual life skills.  Learn, baby, learn.  I don’t want to repeat this test!

Hebrews 12:10  For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. 

I want to share His holiness.  As the chemo kills the cancer in my body, I pray that this discipline will mold me to be more like Christ.

Hebrews 12:11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

I’m there – this does not seem joyful in the moment!  But I can trust that God will train me and allow a crop of righteousness in my life through this trial.  As I have thought about this further, I realize that I’m already “harvesting” some of this crop from earlier “discipline.”  That’s how I knew to take my dread of tomorrow’s chemo to God’s word, fully expecting that God would, has He has in the past, show me Himself, and equip me to better face this test.  That’s some of the “peaceful fruit of righteousness” that people have been seeing in me during this cancer.  It is a gift of God:  my ability to play the piano learned in previous lessons.  Maybe it’s more like riding a bike, only I have to remember to get on!

I looked back to Hebrews 12 and found two more verses that are very exciting for me:

Hebrews 12:12-13  Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

Let me share what I heard in my heart when I read these verses.  I heard God calling my church and family and friends and neighbors and co-workers to gather around me and support me during this time, and make this path as easy for me as possible, and that through this loving care He would heal me.  I’m crying from joy because that is exactly what you all have been doing.  When my hands have been weak, you have come alongside.  You are making this path of mine as straight and easy as possible.  Praise God and thank all of you!

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Living in a Comic Strip

A friend sent a Maxine Cooks line that was totally appropriate to the day:

“I read recipes the same way I read science fiction — I get to the end and think ‘Well, that’s not gonna happen'”

It was especially funny as an extremely simple recipe was beyond me, all that day.  Thanks to God’s timing, I was able to laugh and say “It’s not gonna happen!  Who knew cooking would turn into science fiction?”

If your friend going through cancer has requested jokes, please send them.  You never know which joke might be exactly the laugh your friend needs to get through something hard.

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Careful, or King James Careful?

Philippians 4:6
Be careful for nothing, but in everything
by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known unto God.

I find it harder to trust God with my job than with my life. Getting through cancer was not about my performance. There was nothing I could do but trust and pray. So I did.

My job is about my performance. It is much harder to trust God for the outcome of my actions, especially when, at least in hindsight, I can see they were wrong.

The Bible says our righteousness is like filthy rags. God is teaching me that the difference between Him using my success and Him using my failures is – not much!

This understanding is not a reason to do less than my best – or skip being “careful” (in the quality of work as opposed to full of anxiety definition). It is, for me, a reason to cast my fear on God and focus on doing my best. Fear causes me to make bad choices, especially at work. I need to work with the knowledge that God has my back.

I’m so thankful that God has chosen me, and not rejected me. Isaiah 41:9&10

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Buy Yourself A Toy

I bought myself one of those toy whirly-gigs, wooden and intended to be stuck in your garden.  I put it in the back yard where I could see it frequently during the day.  It made me laugh, all colorful and spinning.  Why not?

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Tease Your Doctor

Before I lost my hair, I found a wig that was so close in color and style to my own hair, my husband and children didn’t notice the difference.  When I lost my hair, I wore the wig to my oncologist office visit.  She asked me how I had managed to keep my hair.  Then she jumped when I popped off my wig.  HA!  That was great.

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Turn Frustration into Laughter

At one point during chemo, mouth sores were threatening.  My breast care coodinator warned me to be proactive, as she had seen people in the hospital on a morphine drip from the pain of mouth sores!  I called my doctor and discussed it, and we decided I didn’t have “sores” at that point, just “anomolies.”  My doctor encouraged me to get gentle mouthwash and rinse every hour.

Now, seriously, gargle every hour?  That night, I lay in bed thinking about what I was going to write in my blog.  I started praying, and God turned my self-pity into laughter.  He gave me a picture of the previous Friday, when I was so weak and a friend came over to help me.  My friend would come over and say “You need to drink something, Marla.”  Suddenly I had a picture of her as a cheerleader, cheering me on by saying “Sip, Marla, Sip.  Spit, Marla, Spit.”  I fell asleep laughing at the picture.

By the next morning, the laughter had nudged me over my frustration and I had a better attitude.  I accepted gargling as a task, and did my best.

At one point I was prescribed “magic mouthwash,” which contained a pain killer.  My mouth was so numb I bit my tongue.  I found out one of the ingredients was Mylanta, so I gargled with that.  There is a tiny line inside our mouths that normally feels smooth.  If that line ever felt rough, I would gargle every hour I was awake until the line was smooth again.

I’m grateful for helpful professionals and medicines.  I’m grateful I don’t have to gargle every hour any more!

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Sing About It

During the crazy rush of evaluation, testing and scheduling leading up to the start of my cancer treatments, I made up a little song.

I don’t know
I don’t know
There’s so very many things that
I don’t know

My job, as a Project Manager, is planning.  My 10-year-old suggested that not being able to plan was the worst.  It wasn’t quite the worst, but it certainly got my attention.  Singing about it made me laugh — and reminded me that while I did not know, God did!

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Family Funnies During Cancer, Part 3

We were explaining to the girls that I wouldn’t be having surgery.  Instead, I would be having some really strong medicine that would make me tired.  Daddy was going to need help from the girls.  My six year old piped up:  “We can help, Daddy.  We’ll wake up Mommy.”

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