de laatste keer

Well folks the time has come…number 6. I have my last heavy duty chemo infusion in my treatment plan tomorrow. It has managed to come fast and slow at the same time and, to be honest, I have mixed feelings about it. Don’t get me wrong I am SO excited to not have poison pumped through my body every three weeks. I am ready to de fog my brain and re grow my hair :-). But it is odd to get to the end and wonder if I accomplished anything with this challenging process. Emotionally and spiritually I have grown in profound ways but I will never know if the chemo actually did anything. I just get to the end, walk out the door and wait…hopefully wait years without any sign of the cancer returning.

When I started on this cancer journey it seemed like running a half marathon/marathon was a good metaphor for the process. I would be tested physically and mentally and would have to rely on mental fortitude to push to the finish. There are many similarities but where the comparison breaks down for me is at the “finish”. Tomorrow I will be done (minus the side effects) with the tough chemo but my journey with cancer will continue in a different capacity. There is not an “I made it” moment and now I get to leave this all behind me. I get to leave this particular physical challenge behind me but the race is not done. I am now thinking a better metaphor is a long distance hike and I have just crested a summit but the trail continues before me. There will be times that are more physically demanding and others I get to stroll along enjoying the scenery. However, I am now on a cancer path and it will forever influence me.

But, that wont stop me from having one heck of a celebration after cresting this “chemo peak”. After all this I’ve learned you have to party whenever you have an excuse. 🙂

Blessings,

Lynnea

Thought fragments

I have sat down to try and write a blog post a few times this week but my thoughts are all over the map and nothing coherent came out. So now I am embracing the fragments and putting them out in bullet form:

    • Side effects from the 5th infusion are still rolling along…they are heavier each time but still thankfully not the worst case they could be. Again the IV on the first time! 🙂 I realize now that it’s a bit out dated but here are the “vlaggetjes” that the nurses in the chemo ward hung up for our anniversary.
    • My body has now fully succumbed to “chemo-pause” and will be with me for the next few years. I love my mother dearly but never imagined we would be able to commiserate about menopause symptoms. Hot flashes are no joke! I never thought I’d say this but the one life saver is being bald! A cold, wet towel feels AMAZING.
    • My heart has been heavy with stories of recurrence and women who are facing extremely difficult battles. This disease sucks and takes so many things it shouldn’t.
    • I had an emotional break this week. I had just learned that my dear chemo-cise friend was now officially facing an aggressive recurrence and I couldn’t shut out the hurricane of emotional noise in my life right now. I have often prayed on my knees but this was the first time I felt like I physically couldn’t stand up and was forced down – Completely overwhelmed by the unknown path laid out in front of me. I feel alone in so many ways right now but God met me in that cathartic space.

Source: google.com via Emily on Pinterest

 

  • After my meltdown 🙂 I spent an hour dreaming about running away. Where could I fly to tomorrow and leave all this behind…beaches, mountains, cities. It was fun to dream for a bit and get my mind off things. But I know that running away is not a solution. And while I want to fucking kick the crap out of cancer, I know that I can’t leave it behind. It’s part of my story now and I am being transformed by it.

I know this seems heavy, but I’ve had some good light hearted moments also…I’m feeling a bit bi-polar. Let’s blame the chemo-pausal mood swings. 🙂
Blessings,

Lynnea

With this ring

This was a very happy day

This Thursday July 12th 2012 happens to be the date of my 5th chemo infusion…it also happens to be Jonathan and my 4th wedding anniversary. It’s crazy to sit where we are now and look back on our wedding day. We had no idea what was in store for us…but nobody does. 🙂 Most of our close friends seemed to be buying houses and building families (and we also wanted those things) so it seemed likely that we would follow the trend. I never anticipated that the next 4 years would consist of: Losing jobs, quitting jobs, moving 3 countries and 2 continents, new jobs, keeping in contact with family and dear friends over thousands of miles, amazing new international friends, and now cancer. We’ve crammed a lot into 4 years and it has most definitely had its highs and lows…but that is the journey we like to call marriage.

I have received some funny reactions when I’ve told people here that I’m married: “But you’re so young!” “Interesting, marriage is so old fashioned.” “Good for you, personally I don’t see the need for marriage.” This is a sweeping generalization but from conversations I’ve had here a theme tends to be that marriage is an institution created by the church and is no longer relevant in relationships. Folks here (generally) believe that choosing to be together is enough they don’t need an outside contract to maintain the relationship…plus a wedding can be freaking expensive. In an era of skyrocketing divorce rates I can see the points they are making. A wedding itself does not equal a lasting commitment.

I can’t judge that perspective but I can say the reasons why we chose to. When we got married, it was important for us to celebrate our commitment to each other in front of God, our family and friends. These are the people who will help us to hold on to our

Our White Sapphire rings…diamonds are not this girl’s best friend 🙂

marriage when things get difficult…it wasn’t a commitment taken lightly (to wear a white dress and throw a party) and it has been tested significantly. We had the principles we wanted to build our marriage on engraved into the rings we exchanged. One of Jonathan’s good friends, Rick, created his own symbolic language called water tongue (Click the hyperlink to be taken to the website) Side note: I know at this point you want your own friend who has created a language, it’s OK you can borrow mine. He’s crazy talented 🙂…and in this symbolic language we have the following words etched into our rings:

  • Jonathan-commitment-Lynnea
  • Faith-Hope-Love
  • Grace-Heal-Laughter
  • Freedom-Friend-Trust

They have all played a substantial role in our marriage and I wanted to include a sentence about how we are currently experiencing each one:

  • Commitment: choosing the relationship even when life is difficult and unexpected
  • Faith: believing that God is who he says he is and can work miracles
  • Hope: Knowing in our hearts that life wont always be like this…hoping for a better tomorrow
  • Love: As an action where we both make choices to show and extend love to each other and the people around us. Things fall apart when we rely on love as a feeling.
  • Grace: Struggling to fully internalize the grace God has given us and to offer the same grace to each other in ways that we have failed
  • Heal: A very practical one right now…in fully healing my body
  • Laughter: To claim every opportunity we can to laugh and enjoy the blessings in life and not be bogged down by everything heavy right now
  • Freedom: Attempting every day to live in the freedom God has given us and not be consumed with anxiety or fear
  • Friend: Surrounding ourselves with good friends and family…and being a friend to each other
  • Trust: Right now trust and faith are interlinked…we trust also that God is who he says he is and is at work in this situation

Happy Anniversary Amor…4 years down and many more to go.

Lynnea

P.S. but since this is also about a chemo infusion…please continue to pray that the IV goes in on the first time. 🙂 This has been one of the biggest blessings during this process.

P.P.S. This has been a fun day to look back on and remember.

Right after Mike said…you may now kiss the bride…and Jonathan’s comment was AMEN!

Smile 🙂

Dancing the night away…

Chemo Denial

Well…it appears to be that time again. I’m never quite ready for it. I actually almost missed my blood draw this morning because my brain hasn’t quite accepted the fact that I get my 4th chemo infusion tomorrow. This cycle has gone by extremely fast and I was beginning to feel fully like myself. It’s hard to face the fact that my body will get kicked again and I then get to wait and see how it will rebound over the next few weeks. But it’s the 4th infusion out of 6 so after tomorrow only 2 more to go!! 🙂

Bacharach, Germany

We were very fortunate to have some visitors last week. If you follow the blog you saw theurgent appeal for my uncle’s bag. It hasn’t shown up yet but we are still praying for a miracle…it’s a lot to lose. But outside the unfortunate beginning to their trip we really had a wonderful time and it was great to see them. On top of their visit my good friend Miciah booked a last minute trip to see us also. She and I took a quick jaunt down to the Rhine valley in Germany for a couple days. We wandered through quaint German villages and were overwhelmed by the number of castles in this region. The weather was decent enough

Jen and Miciah in Utrecht

 

and it was so good for my spirit to hang out with her and get out of town. On our way home we stopped by Utrecht and stayed with another good friend, Jen, in Amsterdam. It was an excellent weekend. I felt strong and like myself again…I think that’s why it’s especially hard to go in for the next infusion tomorrow. But this will pass.

 

 

 

Also, in case you’re interested my chemo menu for tomorrow (Thanks Casey Evans for the Facebook inspiration 🙂 ):

Avocado Egg Salad wraps and homemade strawberry rhubarb crumble

Click here for the: Avocado Egg Salad recipe

Low Sugar Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble recipe

I modified the egg salad a little bit with some lemon juice and paprika but it is excellent. I’ll put it in a whole wheat wrap for a healthy chemo treat.

Blessings,

Lynnea

 

Ladies Run Groningen

I’ve had many people use the word inspiration in relation to me and this process. I guess the thing I should say is thank you, but it’s still an adjective that I have a hard time accepting for myself. Stubborn, yep that one works. Strong, that one is also a bit easier for me to see. Fighter…absolutely. But inspiration is still a funny one. I suppose I’ll work on it. 🙂

I’ve talked about this before, but the hardest thing for me about this cancer thing and the treatment process is feeling like your life is no longer in your control. I have a mile long list of medicine and appointments. I am stuck crossing my fingers after a chemo infusion wondering which side effects are going to roll through my body. I can’t make plans very far in advance because I never know how I’m going to feel. It seems like everything right now is just happening to me and I fight to maintain who I am as a person through it all. This is where the stubborn-ness comes in quite handy because I won’t give up.

I am a runner but I haven’t really done any running since I started chemo. Obviously. I have my chemo-exercise program to help maintain my fitness level but for the last 3 months I’d only run once…1.5 weeks ago right before my last infusion. I made a decision that (as much as I am able) I am going to keep running during chemo. It’s what I like to do. So…inspired by all my family and friends supporting me in various “Race for the Cures”, I signed up for the Ladies Run Groningen. This is an event that supports the Pink Ribbon Foundation for breast cancer resources and research. Perfect. It was a beautiful day and I had 2 lovely friends join me for a 5k jog around the city. I ran slow, but I ran the whole way and finished strong. I was pretty happy after not running for a few months, but hopefully I will be able to make it a more regular event. I really think that exercise and keeping my body strong helps to minimize the side effects of chemo. Even if it doesn’t it helps keep me from going crazy which is always a positive. Here’s some photos from the event thanks to my wonderful husband Jonathan:

Blessings,

Lynnea

The life lesson I am learning from my kindle

Welp the 3rd infusion is done and behind me, got the IV on the first go…Yes!…now comes the role of the side effects dice. Fingers crossed for a big winner. 🙂 This is a post I was working on for a bit and thought it was as good a time as any to send it out to the internet.

Have you ever heard the quote… “It’s about the journey, not the destination?” I understand the idea but honestly I really hate it because it flies against my natural mode of operation. I don’t love the journey for the sake of being on a journey.  Just dancing through life soaking up the beautiful moments, I am focused on the goal. What am I working towards? And will I like it when I get there? I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment and checking something off the list. I can remember being on a hike in the beautiful cascade mountains and stopping myself ½ way up amazed at what I was focused on for the first 1.5 hours.  My thoughts shifted between… “How far have I gone?”… “How far do I have left to go?” … “How are my legs/knees doing?” … “Do I think they’ll make it?”… I was focused on where I put my feet but never looked up from the trail long enough to enjoy the reason why I was hiking in the first place. These are the moments when I know that I need to make more of an effort to be present in the journey because I don’t want to miss it, but it doesn’t happen naturally for me. I have to choose.

I know that part of the reason why I can’t just abandon myself to the process is a fear that it won’t turn out the way I want. Again, I can feel this most often when I am watching a sporting match or reading a book.  I have friends that will religiously avoid Facebook or the internet if they’ve missed a match or TV show so they don’t run the risk of “spoilers”. Those little bits of information that give away the ending and ruin the surprise. I will actively seek them so I know whether it is worth starting the journey in the first place. Jonathan laughs at me when I read because if there are characters I am invested in and the story is intense I will flip to the end and skim the pages for the names I want to make it. I don’t actually want to know what the ending is but I want to know that the characters I care about will make it. Confession: I totally did this with Harry Potter. I want to know that I am free to enjoy their story because in the end it all works out.

Now enter the kindle… I really enjoy the kindle. I wasn’t sure if I would miss holding a real book but it’s been great. The e-ink. The fact that I can carry 1400 books everywhere (not that I do…but I can). I can purchase and download a book in seconds, which is nice in a country where it can be difficult to get the books you want in English. Really, I am a huge promoter of this little device. But the one thing it has changed for me…I can’t skip to the end. It’s a pain in the butt on this digital wonder to get to the end of the book and back to the same spot.  So, I’m forced to either 1. Not read anymore or 2. Open myself up for the journey and risk the end not being what I want.  I have chosen to keep reading.

Of course this is all a big metaphor for my life right now. I want the last few pages. I want to know that this life I have turns out the way I want. I want to know how cancer plays itself out in the future. I want to know whether relationships are worth the investment. But these pages are not there to know and I am focusing on trying to embrace the journey.

Blessings,

Lynnea

I will remember

Well I survived receiving another chemo infusion. They got the IV started on the first time again…yippee! I’m going to keep asking for that because it is a tangible answered prayer for me. And I decided that I was going to skip the dry Dutch bread and cheese that they give you for lunch here and bring my own fabulous baked sweet potato fries. It was entertaining to watch people try to figure out what I was eating, because of course I had a little ketchup with them being an American. And once someone finally had enough curiosity to ask they just couldn’t get their minds around it for a few reasons…it wasn’t a sandwich for lunch…there wasn’t mayo for the fries…and who eats ketchup? I had a quick conversation with them about how sweet potatoes are SO much better for you than normal white potatoes and they seemed interested but who knows if it stuck. All I know is that I was very happy with my lunch and that’s all that really matters. Today I feel pretty good, no nausea, and I’m now in the balance of trying to never get too hungry or too full…and hydrate! At any given moment I have no less than 5 cups scattered around the house with various levels of water, juice, tea, and coffee.

My spirit was down going into this round because we received some extremely bad news that is probably worse than hearing you have cancer. The details of this are not for public blogging but it’s enough to say we’ve got some other stuff to deal with. So I must have a great excavator in my life that just doubled the pit I am now sitting in but here’s hoping we have hit bedrock.

In the midst of all of this I have been slowly reading through a book given to me by my new pastor and his wife at Vineyard Groningen, The Blessing Book by Linda Dillow. The 2nd chapter of this book has been especially relevant to me. The one I want to share with you today is called “I will remember” and it’s based around Psalm 77.

Psalm 77
For the director of music. For Jeduthun. Of Asaph. A psalm.
1 I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
2 When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands,
and I would not be comforted.
3 I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.[b]
4 You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.
5 I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;
6 I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart meditated and my spirit asked:
7 “Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion? ”
10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.

11 I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

12 I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
13 Your ways, God, are holy.
What god is as great as our God?
14 You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.
15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
16 The waters saw you, God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
17 The clouds poured down water,
the heavens resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.
18 Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
19 Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.
20 You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

At this particular moment I feel like I am living in the first half of this psalm (vs 1-10). Where my spirit is grieving and weary. It is difficult to be comforted or to find the strength to carry on. Sleep is hard to come by and it is impossible to know what to do. Except remember. I will choose to remember the ways God has worked in my life and the power/miracles he has displayed throughout time. This is not overly spiritualized my heart is still heavy…but I know my God. I know he is the giver of life and redemption. I know he can move mountains and pray fervently for transformation and provision.  And with this remembrance comes the peace of knowing it will not always be this way.

Psalm 77 by Kristin Serafini

Blessings,

Lynnea