My first mammogram was one of the worst days of my life. To make matters worse, it was my anniversary. It was so traumatic for me that I spent the whole next year dreading the next mammogram. I did everything I could do to skip having mammograms. This is NOT a good idea. I didn’t know it at the time but I have fibromyalgia – a sensitivity syndrome that makes everything more painful than it should be. But I have learned that I have options, so now I share these with you.
Mammogram: An X-ray of the breast that is taken with a device that compresses and flattens the breast. A mammogram can help a health professional decide whether a lump in the breast is a gland, a harmless cyst, or a tumor. A mammogram can cause pressure, discomfort, and some soreness that lasts for a little while after the procedure.
That’s the medical description. Here’s my description…. they place your breast between two plates. The plates come together and squeeze your breast to take a picture of the tissue. I’m not sure this was the cause, but I am short and I think that the machine was not only squeezing my breast but also pulling it upward. It doesn’t take that long but, for me, it was way too long.
Genius™ 3D Mammography
A 3D mammogram (breast tomosynthesis) is an imaging test that combines multiple breast X-rays to create a three-dimensional picture of the breast.
A 3D mammogram is used to look for breast cancer in people who have no signs or symptoms. It can also be used to investigate the cause of breast problems, such as a breast mass, pain, and nipple discharge.
When used for breast cancer screening, 3D mammogram machines create 3D images and standard 2D mammogram images. Studies show that combining 3D mammograms with standard mammograms reduces the need for additional imaging and slightly increases the number of cancers detected during screening. But more study is needed to understand whether 3D mammograms may reduce the risk of dying of breast cancer more than a standard mammogram alone.
I have heard of these but didn’t realize that it may be a more comfortable way to get your imaging completed. Looks like something to look into. It takes a bit longer to get the image, so this would be something to consider for those of use with pain issues. How long can you deal with the pain?
Thermography is a test that uses an infrared camera to detect heat patterns and blood flow in body tissues.
Digital infrared thermal imaging (DITI) is the type of thermography that’s used to diagnose breast cancer. DITI reveals temperature differences on the surface of the breasts to diagnose breast cancer.
The idea behind this test is that, as cancer cells multiply, they need more oxygen-rich blood to grow. When blood flow to the tumor increases, the temperature around it rises.
One advantage is that thermography doesn’t give off radiation like mammography, which uses low-dose X-rays to take pictures from inside the breasts. However, thermography isn’t as effective Trusted Source as mammography at detecting breast cancer.
Not considered a good way to detect cancer. False-positive results can sometimes result because other issues could be causing the inflammation. Suggested only for women under 50 who have dense tissue. This is obviously a non-evasive procedure unlike the mammogram but the mammogram is a much better detector. You will find it difficult to get insurance to cover this procedure and probably have to drive a few hours to find a place that has the thermograph.
Since it shows changes in your breast. I’ve thought it would be good to start early in your twenties to have a base picture to look at. But again, read more at Healthline for more information.
Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves rather than radiation to produce pictures of the breast.
For the procedure, some gel will be placed on your skin. Then a small transducer will be guided over your breast. The pictures will appear on a screen.
This is a painless procedure that typically doesn’t cause side effects.
Ultrasound of the breast may be used after an abnormal mammogram or in women with dense breast tissue. It’s not usually used in routine breast cancer screening for women at average risk.
I have opted for this one the past two years. No pain to speak of. Since Fibro is an issue where pain arises from pressure, one can feel some tenderness in some parts of the breast. But this option is much better for my situation. Your insurance will probably approve the procedure but you may have a deductible or co-pay.
Check into Herscan that travels around some states doing this procedure. They have a fee which is about what your co-pay for an ultrasound would be.
You’re lying face down on a massage table, your breast encased in a water bath through an opening in the table. Tiny ports from a surrounding ring fire ultrasound waves. There are no X-rays and no pain. There is no holding still for 20 minutes or more.
Water Mammogram is a relatively new option. My PCP told me about it. I haven’t tried it yet. The above link is an article about it. It seems to be just as helpful as the traditional mammogram. I may try it next time.
Other Options for Mammogram
As I researched these options today, I saw that Mayo Clinic has an article on Molecular Breast imaging. I’ve not heard about this one before. It seems to use dye and imaging. See more info at Mayo Clinic article.
I recently had an Occipital Nerve Block done. It can be a bit scary to think about having a long needle stuck into your neck going upward toward your brain. I have had about a dozen of these and they are so helpful for me. So… I thought maybe I should explain what it is and share my experience.
Why Do I Get Occipital Nerve Blocks?
I have rheumatoid arthritis (also known as R.A.). One day I will write more about that but just a quick explanation. R.A. attacks the small joints, such as your hands and fingers, feet, and toes. But it also goes after the C1-C2 joint in your neck. Mine is deteriorating which is causing pain from the base of my head radiating upward to the top of my head. These nerve blocks have worked exceptionally for me. I get one every 6-9 months.
What is an Occipital Nerve Block?
An occipital nerve block is a safe procedure that may be performed in a doctor’s office or pain clinic. The occipital nerve block technique is relatively quick and convenient, and is done with minimal invasion (i.e. intrusion into tissues with medical equipment). For the procedure, you’ll be seated or lying down. The injection itself only takes a few minutes, and is done without full sedation.
During the procedure:
A local anesthetic may be applied to your skin above the occipital nerve to be targeted in order to avoid discomfort during the procedure.
Then, a fine needle (like a hypodermic) is inserted, until it is in an appropriate position near the nerve.
Next, steroid medications are injected. These drugs reduce inflammation and block the transmission of pain signals to the brain, thus inhibiting the sensation of headache pain.
If an occipital nerve block has been successful, you may feel that the side of your head that has been injected has gone numb. Your physician or pain specialist may request that you stay in the clinic or office for a brief period, during which the actual degree of your pain relief may become apparent. The time elapsed before you experience pain relief does vary from person to person; it may be nearly instantaneous for one individual, but take a day or more for another.
An occipital nerve block does not often interfere with normal function or routines following a procedure. The patient may not notice the full effect of the intervention until a few days after the procedure. This may last a month or more, at which point the patient may arrange for a repeat injection. However, some patients may require two injections in quick succession to elicit an optimal effect.
I am so fortunate to have Mayo Clinic as part of my medical team. This place is amazing. After about 2 years of diagnosis and care for my Central Sensitivity Syndrome and R.A., it was discovered that my C1-C2 disks were already deteriorating. I was experiencing quite a bit of pain in my head, neck, and shoulders. SoI was sent to the Pain Clinic.
One of the biggest advantages of Mayo Clinic is everything under the same roof. The doctors all work together on your health. No matter which doctor you see, they can pull up all my records and see what the other doctors are doing and thinking.
So back to the topic at hand…
This procedure is done right in the office. Mayo Clinic just remodeled this part of the clinic and the clinic now has a beautiful procedure area. First, the nurse will sit down with you and talk to you about the side effects and wound care. She will ask the level of pain you are experiencing at the moment.
Then you just “pull up” to a gurnie with a pillow and lay your head down. (If you have long hair, bring a scuncii to pull your hair up our of the way.) The injection is going in right at your hair line.
The doctor arrives by this time and he and the assistant set up the ultrasound and find the greater occipital nerve. They find precisely where they want that needle to go. Then the injection area is cleaned and prepped.
Just a quick plug for my doctor.
Dr. Mark Hurdle is amazing. So understanding and compassionate and very personable. When my daughter was getting married, I asked if we could go ahead and schedule my next injection just before the wedding so that I could (hopefully) be pain-free that day. It was no problem. We scheduled the procedure that day. And as hoped the injection did its thing and I was pain-free for the wedding. My appointment following the wedding, he came in asking how the wedding went. I share that to show that he is involved in his patients’ lives.
On the professional side, Dr. Hurdle is THE expert on this procedure. He goes all over the world teaching doctors how to do this procedure. That factalone makes me very calm about the injection.
And now the injection
An anesthetic injection is given. I noticed above that it says “A local anesthetic may be applied to your skin”. NOTE: I would ask about this because I actually get an injection for numbing. I’ve had others say that this procedure was VERY painful. Some even said they had the doctor stop. This must be why my experience has not been terribly painful.
We wait for the numbing to take over (just a couple of minutes) and then the procedure begins. It’s a long needle (so my husband says) and it is worked in along the occipital nerve using the ultrasound. Then he begins to inject the medicine. At times, I can feel the burn of it entering but it really isn’t that bad for me. Not any worse than going to the dentist.
To divert my attention, I recite scripture in my head or sing a song. Before long, it’s all done. And immediately I have lots of pain relief. I sit up and they let me wait to get my senses back. You can feel kind of woozy for a bit, but I have some balance issues anyway.
I let my hair back down and we are done. The worst effects are goo in your hair and a bandaid in your hairline that can be a challenge to get out the next day. You can take a shower that night, but don’t get in a jacuzzi or soak in a tub.
They sent me home with a page of instructions for wound care and things to watch for. This most recent injection, I woke the following morning with a flushed face. I shot off a message to the clinic and got an immediate response that this is normal and not to worry.
Two weeks later, I received a call or message to ask how my pain is doing. I recall one time that my pain had returned to some extent and again they called immediately with questions and instructions.
I totally recommend this procedure if you experience severe migraines or head and neck pain. Just be sure to find a doctor who knows what they are doing. We drive the 2 hours to Jacksonville, FL to have this done though I am certain there are doctors here in Savannah that would do it. It’s a long day trip but worth the drive. Plan to take the next day off to rest.
I’ve had this done about a dozen times. (every 6-9 months) This is a procedure that can be done indefinitely until it doesn’t work. And the alternatives (neck fusion surgery taking a good year to recover) are not desirable.
When you get to my age, you can probably expect to get doctors’ orders for a stress test. After all, we have all got to keep a check on our hearts. Heart attacks, strokes, and other issues can easily sneak up on us without even a clue. To learn more about the why of stress tests, go to this Mayo Clinic page
Two Types of Stress Tests
There are two types of stress tests, the regular treadmill test and then there is the nuclear test. Ironically, both my husband and I have had to go in for a stress test in the past month. My DH had the treadmill test. He came home saying that he wouldn’t wish that on anyone. It was a tough test. basically, they hook you up with nodes and then watch your heart while you walk the treadmill.
My mind first went to the Bill Cosby clip where he is basically dancing and playing on the treadmill, but listen … This thing starts hard and gets worse. The treadmill is elevated while you walk. You do this until your heart gets up to a certain rate. DH said that the technician indicated for those who are in “great shape”, it could take 20 minutes to get your heart rate up to where they want to see it. [It didn’t take near that long for DH]. The whole process for him was about an hour.
The Nuclear Stress Test
On the other hand, I am disabled, so I was given a nuclear test. I have had other nuclear tests where they inject “stuff” into your veins and then scan the body part of interest. I had a nuclear body scan as part of my diagnosis plan at Mayo Clinic. The nuclear stress test was very similar.
The paperwork I carried home from meeting with the cardiologist said that the whole thing would take about 4 hours. There were actually several different procedures they would be doing.
Insertion of IV port
ultrasound of the heart
actual nuclear stress test
There were waiting times between all these, so I was in and out of the waiting room. [You may want to bring a book with you.] With the COVID-19 scare. I wasn’t able to bring my husband with me. We do all our appointments together. Going without him was unnerving for me and I was a bit concerned after his stress test experience.
I knew it would be different, but it was not at all like I expected. I expected to feel my heart rate rise and have my heart pounding out of my chest. It was none of that.
So, Let’s begin at the first of the day.
I was required to fast from caffeine for a full 24 hours and a full fast with nothing but water for four hours. As it turns out, this may have been the hardest part of the test. Thankfully, I was instructed to bring a snack and juice with me so that I could eat as soon as possible. I was also instructed to wear comfortable clothes. This is especially necessary if you are doing the treadmill test. I wore my favorite LulaRoes and a thick t-shirt.
I was also informed that I would have to remove my bra for these tests. This was fine because with my fibro a bra is NOT comfortable; however, being cold natured as I am, I about froze to death. You might ask if you can bring a sweater or a lap quilt/prayer blanket. I think it would be workable, it would just be one more thing that you are carrying around all morning.
IVs and EKGs
To begin the process, I was called back to have an IV port placed in my arm and those sticky nodes for EKGs. This technician talked with me about what all would be happening. He was very kind and understanding when I shared about my fibro pain. I told him I could not have my BP measured on my left arm. He said that was fine and that I could actually have the monitor placed on my lower arm of my right arm. This was a great relief to me.
Is was straight in to have my heart ultrasound at this point. Another lady took over and I went to another room. Here I had to remove my T-shirt and bra and put on a paper gown. Then she came in and did the ultrasound. No problem here. It is the same as getting an ultrasound anywhere else.
She placed warm “gooo” on me and pressed the gadget against my chest. It was a bit tender which she said was very normal; although remember I have fibromyalgia, I am tender everywhere. This whole process took maybe ten minutes. Then it was out to the waiting room until they were ready to do the next part. This is where I got the coldest and why you should wear a thick shirt and maybe have that sweater or blanket.
After about a 30-minute wait, they called me back for the imaging. This is similar to a CT scan or MRI. You sit in a recliner type chair and the machine is brought up close to your chest. The biggest challenge was that I have a bad shoulder and I needed to raise both arms above my head to bring the machine in. I can’t raise my left arm on its own, but I was able to grab my wrist and pick up my arm. Once the machine was in place, I rested my arms on top of it. This process took about 8 minutes. Then back to the waiting room for maybe 15 minutes.
Nuclear (or Chemical) Stress Test
It was now time for more nodes and wires hooked up to me. (Like an EKG) In another corner of the same room was a treadmill and a computer and reclining chair. I sat in the recliner and they injected me with the chemical. It burned as it went in and I had an instant headache. They tell you to let them know of any symptoms because they can help that. For the headache, I was given a Coca-cola. (Remember that I still haven’t had anything to eat since the night before.) The coke helped a bit.
The paperwork I was given said that people can various side effects:
numbness and tingling
As I mentioned the headache was the only one that I noticed. I truly expected to experience nausea and chest pain. I really expected that I would feel my heart trying to jump out of my chest, but I didn’t feel any of that, only the headache. This whole process didn’t even take 30 minutes.
There was about a 30-40 minute wait, but I was now allowed to have that pack of crackers and juice I brought with me. I managed to read a couple chapters in my book and then they called me back for another echocardiogram. Same procedure, just a couple minutes shorter.
All finished but removing the sticky nodes. Ouch! and Putting yoru bra back on.
One More Thing
My doctor had also ordered a heart monitor halter to be worn for three days. So I waited again in the waiting room until someone from the doctor’s office side was ready to install the monitor. We’ll talk about that another day.
The nurse called me in a day or so with preliminary results on the stress test. But I have a three-week wait until my appointment for the treatment plan.
This month on the blog, we have been sharing journeys with grief. Today, I want to share a few resources for grief that I have found this month.
Personally, I am not on a journey with grief; however, there are many ways to suffer a loss that requires a grieving process. I (Mandy) have lost much in recent years including my health, my ministry with my husband, our home, our bank account, and our small annuity. I shared more specifically on this two years ago with my friend and fellow blogger, Nan Jones.
In searching for what to share this month, I discovered a new book just getting ready to release in November. It was on a list of books to preview and review so I picked it up.
A book release, Loss, Survive, Thrive
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Mark Twain, always a master at painting pictures with words, was left utterly speechless when attempting to express how he felt after the death of his twenty-four-year-old Susie. He wrote, “To do so would bankrupt the vocabulary of all the languages.” To this day, that is the best description of grief I have come across.
Susan Whitmore, Loss, Survive, Thrive
These stories will tear at your soul and tug at your heartstrings. They will bring tears to your eyes. But still, no words come to mind to make the journeys easier.
However, this book is not all sadness because these families also walked through the strife into thriving. Each family found a way to make sense of it all, if only slightly. They found ways to speak this child’s name for eternity; a way to remove the senseless reasons behind the grief. Of course, grief journeys will always seem senseless but if we look closely, we can find a way to keep them from being useless.
These families have found that in sharing their journeys with grief they are able to help others travel through similar sorrows. In doing so, they found that their own grief became just a tinge easier to bear because now we can all bear it together.
C.S. Lewis says, “We read to know that we are not alone.” Anyone striving through a journey of grief can read this collection of stories and maybe, just maybe it will hold them up a bit.
Susan Whitmore, Loss, Survive, Thrive
Finding Ways to Thrive
Someone once said to never let a trial be wasted. Grief works in ways that teach us to help others. When I lived far from home and would get lonely, my mother always told me to reach out and help someone else. It really does make a difference and somehow brings joy into any situation.
Some of the ways these families have found to pay something forward include establishing groups or foundations that can help support others in the same place.
If you need some grief support, maybe their actions will be the place you find peace in your sorrow. Here are a few resources for grief shared in the book.
Just writing/blogging can be therapeutic. Here is one blog from the book luminousblue5.com
Giving of Gifts to celebrate special days
Expressions through art, writing, and poetry
“In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning.”
-Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Thank you, NetGalley, Meryl Hershey Beck, & publisher, Rowman & Littlefield for giving me a copy and allowing me the opportunity to read and review this new book.
But something was missing
I found this above-mentioned book excellent for finding connection with others who have lost children. Also, it is encouraging for finding a way to thrive beyond the grief; however, for me as a Christian, I found something missing.
While some did mention God, I found it quite lacking in stories of faith. Families that leaned hard into the hope that comes only from God. So I went looking for another option for you. I remembered my author/blogger/friend, Karen Sebastian who writes about the hope she has found in the dark places of her own life.
Ride the Waves to Comfort
I realized that I already had purchased two of Karen’s books and they were waiting for me right on my Kindle:
The Power of Hope in Mourning: Ride the Waves to Comfort
Relating to our day-to-day, even moment-by-moment, journey through grief Karen will walk with you through your pain. She “rides the wave” with you as you, knowing that God is there carrying you through.
You will find her guidance towards hope neatly put together with lessons from her own journey with grief, practical advice, and spiritual guidance. This Hope that is missing from the aforementioned book review is everywhere in this book.
A thought of my own
We often hear others say that God will not allow us to go through more than we can bear. However, this statement is not Biblical. The truth is that you WILL go through much more than you can bear. But the joy in this is: GOD CAN BEAR IT! Just rest in Him and His comfort.
Rabbi Harold Kushner reminds us “We can endure much more than we think we can; all human experience testifies to that. All we need to do is learn not to be afraid of pain. Grit your teeth and let it hurt. Don’t deny it, don’t be overwhelmed by it. It will not last forever. One day, the pain will be gone and you will still be there.“
Additionally, I must add to Kushner’s thought; lean hard into God. He promises to take care of us. He promises to go through the high waters with us. And when we come out on the other end, we will be stronger, wiser, more understanding, and probably a bunch more.
Nothing could have prepared me for the events of October 28th, 1992. I dropped my son off at the babysitter and headed to the high school where I taught English and Speech. What started as a typical day ended in one of my worst nightmares.
Earlier that day I had visited my OBGYN because of some light spotting while teaching school. As I lie in the hospital bed that night, my 20-week old daughter kicking and squirming within me, I grieved. “Better safe than sorry” were the nurse’s words on the phone. So, I called my husband and we headed to the doctor.
Little did I know that I was five centimeters dilated and the amniotic sac was bulging out of my cervix! My doctor explained that emergency surgery was required in hopes of gently nudging the birth sac back inside and sewing the cervix closed. If the surgery was unsuccessful, she would be born the next day and was not expected to live. As I was prepped for surgery, I could only find the presence of mind to repeat one prayer, “Please God, don’t take my baby”. This was my incessant prayer as I was wheeled into the surgical unit. My husband’s hand tightly gripped my own until they separated us.
Where Faith and Reality Meet
I had been a follower of Christ for about fifteen years. In previous years, I had even traveled full time on an evangelistic team as a singer and team evangelist. I believed in prayer and I also believed in the sovereignty of God. If my daughter lived, it was God’s will; his good plan. And we would rejoice and be thankful. If my daughter died, it was God’s will; His good plan. We would grieve our loss on this side of heaven and look for His good plan through many tears. My prayers were answered, but not as I had hoped.
The surgery was unsuccessful. The birth sac had ruptured and our daughter would be born alive the next day; only to pass from this life shortly after. I gave birth to our precious Lacey Victoria in a quiet, dimly lit hospital room with my husband by my side. The grief that had begun the night before as I experienced her last movements inside of me, washed over me in great waves.
My faith was being tested. I believed that if God had wanted to, he could have saved my baby’s life. My only conclusion was one that I did not want to readily admit—God chose not to save her life. For reasons unexplained, He allowed her to be born and subsequently, die. This mystery would take years to unfold in my heart.
Facing the Grip of Grief
The hospital staff helped us put her footprints on a birth certificate, dress her, and place a tiny white knitted hat on her head. We asked for a minister to come and pray with us and we had a name blessing ceremony. We held her, wrapped in a receiving blanket, and we welcomed our family as they came.
My mother arrived along with our son, Danny. My husband’s parents came as well. Aunts and Uncles, brothers and sisters, we welcomed them all. It was comforting to see them, to let them see Lacey, to share our grief.
Two days later we were driving home; our precious babe in a fourteen-inch long casket set on the backseat of our car. We would deliver her ourselves to the funeral home (run by a dear friend’s parents) where she would await burial.
The days between her birth and her burial were quiet, somber, and sad. My arms physically ached to hold my baby. I felt broken, wounded, raw. I worried about placing my infant in a cold, hard plastic box into the ground. It felt so harsh.
Sewing in Love and Grief
My mom suggested we spend the next couple of days sewing a quilt in which to wrap her tiny casket. So we sewed and we talked and we cried for hours each day. We sewed our love and our grief into that quilt. It was therapeutic, to say the least. A few months later, my mom handed me an exact replica of that quilt as a memorial. I treasure it.
On November first, I stood beside an open grave clutching Lacey’s tiny casket to my chest trying to coax myself to hand it over to my husband so he could place it in the grave dug for her. She would be buried with my father who had passed just five years before.
It was a dark and dreary day with a biting, cold wind and the weather mimicked my emotions perfectly. The cold gripped my heart and refused to let go. Lacey Victoria was gone before we even had the chance to get to know her. My head told me she was now in heaven with Jesus. However, my heart ached with the knowledge that I would never have the privilege of raising this precious little girl.
There would be no little dresses and shoes, no curls to catch up in bright ribbons, no middle school crush, no high school prom, no engagement ring, no wedding, no grandchildren. I have heard it said that when an adult dies, you lose a piece of your past; but, when a child dies, you lose a piece of your future. This rang hauntingly true for me. The reality of this enormous loss weighed heavily on my heart.
I entertained an irrational fear that she would be forgotten not only by others but by even ourselves. I feared we would never hear her beautiful name again because no one would remember it. This fear, however, became the catalyst for my desire to assure that she remains a part of our family. That her name and short life was remembered.
I believed her short life had a purpose. It was clear to me already that we, as a family, had been forever changed by the birth and death of our sweet Lacey Victoria. I chose to lean into my grief and learn from it all the lessons it had to teach me; about valuing life (no matter how brief); appreciating family and loved ones; learning how this loss would teach me to trust God more. Little did I realize I had so much to learn. And it would take me my entire life to learn it!
Grieving Through the Holidays
As the holidays approached, I dreaded them. Christmas, especially, is all about a baby. The stores seemed packed with mothers with babes in arms or in strollers. Let’s face it, a lot of our Christmas traditions center around children. All of this just seemed to accentuate my loss. My baby was not here to celebrate Christmas. However, I had been blessed a little over a year before with a precious son, Danny; and I was determined that his little sister would be a part of his life, his Christmas.
To that end, we labeled Christmas presents to and from Lacey that year (which we, of course, had purchased ourselves) to give to one another– special gifts that held meaning; a special teddy bear, a figurine of a mother and child, a father/daughter snow globe. Gifts that gave us the opportunity to include her, to say her name and remember her.
I also prepared, for grandparents and aunts and uncles, a Christmas ornament engraved with her beautiful name. I wrapped them beautifully and looked forward to presenting them; knowing I would hear her name once more and she would be remembered. That Christmas was bittersweet as we celebrated together. But, our hearts were warmed in the remembering. And I felt that cold hard grip of grief weakening ever so slightly.
As with any great loss, it was a long year of firsts without our daughter. The grip of grief was difficult and as her birthday neared I desired to start a tradition that we could carry on through the years to assure our son would feel a connection to this sister that he would never know this side of heaven. Perpetuating her memory was a healing balm for my heart and I enjoyed creating new ways to remember her.
With that in mind, on her birthday, Danny and I made Funfetti cupcakes with bright pink frosting. As we baked I talked with him about his sister and how we love and miss her; that she lives in heaven now with Jesus and that we will see her again there. Once Dan returned home from work; we told him that we had cupcakes for Lacey and we needed to go to the cemetery.
So we took our cupcakes and drove to the cemetery where we placed one on her grave marker. We lit the candle, stood arm in arm and sang happy birthday to her. Tears fell and hugs shared. As we left the cemetery, I reminded Danny that Lacey would not eat the cupcake herself. But the bunnies and deer would come along and eat it for her to help celebrate her birthday. This picture always seemed to make him happy.
The rest of the day/week, we enjoyed Lacey’s cupcakes, thought about her and talked about her and repeated her beautiful name. A tradition we have carried on annually for 26 years.
The Grip of Grief Loosens
Our family has since grown to include a second daughter, Isabella, who is an answer to many years of prayer. Sometimes both of the children are not available to come to the cemetery on October 29th. But still, we go and we take a pink cupcake, light a candle, sing “Happy Birthday” and we remember.
Legacy Link-up for October is waiting for your link. What story of legacy will you share with us today? This link-up is open until the end of the month. Add your link and read some of those in front of yours. Your will be blessed. I am sure. Just click on the image on the left to go to the link-up.
Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control, the original post has been closed to public viewing. Suffice it to say that a journey through grief can leave scars that are too tender to approach.
Let this be a reminder to each of us that the loss of a child is not only a mother’s grief but the whole family grieves as well. Thankfully, most of society now sees that grief counseling is very important for everyone involved.
If you are interested in other stories of bereavement and healing. This book will be released on November 8, 2019. I will be reviewing it later this month.
Loss, Survive, Thrive
Bereaved Parents Share Their Stories of Healing and Hope
by Meryl Hershey Beck – Contributions by Rukiye Z. Abdul-Mutakillim; Alice Adams; Laura Mathes Arshonsky; Michelle Barbuto; Vickie Bodner; Heidi Bright; Robert R. Burdt; Lynda Crane; Janice Crowder-Torrez; Tim deZarn; Kelly Farley; Tamara Gabriel; Shoshana Garfield; Suzanne Giesemann; Marla Grant; Kelley Ireland; Ernie Jackson; Jo-Anne Joseph; Mary Langford; Lucia Maya; Tammy McDonnell; Sandy Peckinpah; Sharon Gabriel Rossy; Laurie Savoie; Michele Wollert and Tina Zarlenga
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month.
Today and every day, let’s remember: All the babies born sleeping. Those carried but never held. Those held that could not be taken home. Those taken home that could not stay. We remember. Always.
Let’s pray for each family we know that has taken this journey through grief. Even if many years have gone by, the pain is many times still very real. Place a family’s name (last name only) in the comments below and then pray for the name(s) in the comment above yours.
We have kept the Legacy Link-up live so feel free to participate below.
LEGACY LINK-UP TIME!
We would love to read your legacy stories, also. Share your links to your posts below. It’s doesn’t have to be about grief; how about how God has helped you through any trial. I love hearing how God triumphs in our lives.
Such a peaceful view, out my the window into my back yard. A natural remedy for peacefulness. The ducklings from the neighbors’ pond loved to waddle over into our yard with their momma. I could stand there all day watching the little guys toddle around. But suddenly,
Ah-Ah-Achoo! Achoo! Achooey!
They always seemed to come in threes. My husband was at it again. The poor little ducklings had no idea what just happened. They ran in terror in every direction but mainly back into the pond. And, I think, never to return. Our family loves telling this story… at my husband’s expense.
These sneezing attacks have arrived often for all the years I have known him. But recently they have worsened. Medications were just not solving the problem. So our doctor finally decided to send him for some allergy testing.
16 our 20 allergens ain’t bad?
Michael tested positive for 16 out of the 20 allergens: Pet dander, dust mites, grass, all kinds of trees, cockroaches. I can’t remember the whole list.
So What’s Next?
The doctor prescribed two shots a week but the problem came in the expense. According to our insurance, we should only be paying $2-$3 for the shots, but what they don’t tell you is that they are also going to charge you for an office visit. At the time that was $40 for us. There’s no way on earth that we have $120-$160 extra per month. This option was quickly thrown out.
We Tried Some All-Natural Remedies
1. Nasal Wash
It’s an aggravating routine to get into but it does work. The most recommended product is Neilmed Sinus Rinse. It’s basically a salt rinse for your nasal passages. My ENT has developed his own nasal rinse called ChitoRhino. It has an extra ingredient which seems to be a healing agent. I had a sore in my nose that kept returning but after a month of using ChitoRhino, the sore has not returned.
I say that it’s aggravating because every morning and every evening you will need an extra 15-20 minutes to do this. But I never have drainage issues anymore. No more post nasal drip and coughing.
Be sure you use distilled water in your rinse. Tap water is not safe enough. Find more detailed instructions from the FDA here. Be sure to clean your bottle or neti pot with boiled or sterile water.
2. 100% Pure All-Natural Bees Wax Candles
Actually this one, I had been doing. You see, God has placed everything we need on His green earth. Beeswax candles are amazing. Not only does it smell refreshing, but it also deionizes the air.
Regular paraffin wax candles are made from petroleum products. When burned they release toxins into the air. 100% beeswax candles actually remove toxins from the air.
Pure Beeswax Candles on the other hand burn with almost no smoke or scent and clean the air by releasing negative ions into the air. These negative ions can bind with toxins and help remove them from the air.
For our family, I would start burning the candles as soon as anyone started coughing or sneezing. Their symptoms would stop almost immediately. I’ve read about others who owned cats. They would begin burning the candle about an hour before their granddaughter arrived (She is allergic to cats). And the granddaughter would have no problems breathing while in her home.
You must be careful that the candles you purchase are 100% pure beeswax with cotton wicks. I trust these providers of beeswax candles: Pure Light Beeswax. For tapers and pillars, try Holy Nativity Convent
3. Salt Lamps
Add a salt votive to your candle and double your allergy help. They also purify the air and have the added bonus of beauty. Kind of a romantic feeling. I love them. You can find them on Amazon. Here’s my affiliate link.
4. Change Your Linens Often
I know, this is a big pain. And who likes dealing with those fitted sheets? I just wash them and put them right back on. Bedding is a haven for dust mites, thousands of which can feed, breed, and live on a single gram of dust. So wash your sheets, pillow covers, and blankets weekly with hot water.
It may also be helpful to purchase an allergy-free mattress cover and pillow covers. Some studies say that it isn’t that helpful but then there are loads of people who would swear about how much they help. They aren’t too expensive, so I say, give them a try.
5. Vacuum Regularly
One of the first things we did was purchase a new vacuum cleaner. If yours is old, it’s not working well enough. We were amazed at the difference this made and confirmed our thoughts the old one was literally throwing the dust and debris back out into the room. We spent only $70 on this fabulous bagless vacuum with washable filters. It’s lightweight, too!
6. When you vacuum, DUST… the furniture, baseboards, walls
I used to think it was futile to dust. It seems to just float around and land right back on the furniture. Until I found microfiber cloths by Norwex. These cleaning products are amazing. Learn more about Norwex here!
First of all, they use NO, that’s right, NO toxic cleaners. Just plain water. Think of all the money you will save when you no longer have to purchase all those different cleansers.
They offer everything: kitchen cloths, mops, window cloths, bathroom cleaners, dusting products. You name it, they have it. And they are all amazing. Check out this video where they clean up after raw chicken.
This was our first big purchase. We waited for our tax return for this one. I must say that it was worth the price. You can seriously feel the difference within on hour after turning it on.
We couldn’t pull off purchasing something for the whole house so we settled for the bedroom. It is actually pretty portable. So, you could take it into whatever room you are in. When you are purchasing, do be sure to know your room size. It won’t be helpful if your room is too large for the air purifier. Here’s the one we purchased.
Additionally, there was a certified refurbished one available at the Winix company website. We talked at length with them to be sure of guarantees. It saved us a few bucks and it has worked like a dream. Winix also offers an Allergy Buyers Club where you can sign up to have your filter replacements shipped automatically and at a discount. This site also sells many of the aforementioned items.
Well, these are the all-natural remedies we have implemented and found to be very helpful. Try them. I think you will like the results.
It’s time to send our children off to school. And we all know that going to school can be pretty stressful; not just due to studies, but also peer pressure and social stresses. I thought this would be a good time to talk about how to help our children deal with bullies.
These days we hear so much about bullying, so much that it seems we are majoring on the wrong-doer and maybe we are not teaching our children how to deal with bullying when it happens. I don’t mean to make light of bullying, because certainly, I have been on the receiving end of it myself, as a child and as a mother having to comfort my children.
Bullying can crush our hearts. Bullying is not an acceptable way to act and often someone needs to step in and intervene. But how can we help our children through these times? Running straight to the principal may not be your best option, at least not your first option.
What we must teach our children is that in this sinful world, bullying will always be out there. As Christians, we’re given that promise…
“If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you…. If they persecuted Me they will persecute you… for they do not know the One who sent Me.”
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
That promise is a bit harder to claim in comparison to the ones we choose to claim, isn’t it?
Along with the promise that “we will have troubles” we should remind our children that God always goes with us through whatever we may face. Talk about men and women in the Bible that face dire circumstances but God walked with them through it all. Just a few to start with are Joseph, David, Daniel, the Hebrew children, and Jesus, himself. Introduce and help them memorize verses like this one from Isaiah 43
But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. 2 When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. 3 For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
First, When Your Child is Bullied with Words, Ask This
1. Is there any truth in what the person said?
I’m reminded of an episode of Little House on the Prairie. Laura had been in an altercation with Nelly ‘again’. Upset that Nelly had called her father a smelly farmer, she finally told her father. Charles asked Laura, “Well, it is true, right?” Then he explained why he smelled like a barn and sweat. Because he worked hard and that was something to be proud of.
a. Become Better, Not Bitter
If there is truth in what was said, then we should correct what can be corrected. Use the situation as a tool to improve ourselves. Let it make you better, NOT Bitter. Just as a test shows us what we haven’t yet mastered, our trials show us areas in our life that need improving. Yes, criticism is hard to accept, but it can make us a better person if we allow it too. 1 Peter 1:6-7 instructs us …
” So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold-though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.“
In the Little House episode, Charles can’t help it that he gets smelly while he works. He can try to improve by bathing or changing clothes when he goes to town but even that may not be practical. So he needs to be proud that he has a job and that he is a hard worker.
Focus on the good stuff. Don’t dwell on the negative thoughts that were expressed. Make a list of all your good qualities. Review them over and over in your mind. Remind yourself that you are not defined by that one negative aspect in your life. This is not so that you can downgrade the bully by telling him you are better than him. This is self-talk to remind yourself that God made you
Secondly, Whether there is Truth or Not
A. Be Encouraged
If there is no truth, Be encouraged! because we know that through our struggles and weaknesses, we are strong in Christ.
For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. —2 Corinthians 12:10
B. Forgive and Forget
– Again we must forgive and forget. Think of the times that Jesus was wrongly accused, even on the cross He said: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do“. ( Luke 23:34 ) And later in Acts 7:54-60, we see that Stephen, forgave his persecutors even as they stoned him to death. So shouldn’t we do likewise? Aren’t we taught in the Bible to forgive as we are forgiven? Ephesians 4:32–5:2. Our actions show others how much Christ loves them.
C. Respond in Love
– We must respond in love. Remember that the bully probably does not yet know Christ. We need to show them the love and mercy of Christ by how we react to them. Remember, that we are the only Jesus some people will ever see. Responding in love will also, many times, dumbfound your accuser because they will be expecting you to hurl insults back at them. When we react with love and mercy, it will many times silence them.
Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
I recall a time in my life when I was first out on my own. I didn’t have laundry equipment and had to take my clothes to a laundromat. Finding a dryer with time left on it, I placed my laundry into the empty dryer.
I was later folding these clothes, a woman came into the laundromat and began accusing me of stealing her clothes from the dryer. I replied that there had been no clothes in the dryer and that she was welcome to go through my stacks of clothing to find anything that might be hers. She continued to accuse and yell, backing me up against the dryers and hitting me in the face. But when I would not retaliate, she finally, gave up and walked out.
It turned out that this situation for me became a blessing in disguise. When my church family heard the story, a lady came to me and said, “You will no longer have to go to a laundromat. Bring your dirty clothes to my house every Monday and I will wash them for you.” She not only washed them but made any repairs needed as well!
D. Pray for your Accuser / Abuser
Be a Prayer Warrior. We must Pray for our Accuser.
“But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you
There is usually a reason someone lashes out at us. They may have a bad situation at home, they may be grieving a loss, they may be jealous of you, they may be under conviction of the Holy Spirit. Look for these things and pray for them.
Then look for ways that you can reach out to them as a friend. Find out what their interests are and give a gift or strike up a conversation about their interests. Be a friend.
See if you can find out why they want to lash out. You might be amazed at the results. I’ve heard of “enemies becoming dear friends” because one of them reached out in love.
E. Remember God is With You
Be Encouraged… God is with you and God will be glorified!
Our true purpose on earth is to glorify God. There are times when our trials can bring glory to Him because of the way we react. Others will see Jesus in us when we respond as Jesus would.
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
2 Corinthians 4: 8-11
F. Endurance Brings Reward
Be Encouraged .. You will be rewarded!
We can be encouraged when insulted or persecuted because our reward in heaven will be great.
“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11″Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. 12″Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Additionally, Here Are A Few Ways to Prepare Your Children in Advance for Bullies
The temptation is to encircle our children and prevent any harm from coming to them; however, this may only make things worse. Our children need to learn to stand up for themselves and to resolve conflict on their own.
They don’t need Mommy running to their defense all the time. This makes them feel and seem helpless. It could also cause them more harm because a bully is likely to retaliate when their mischief is reported.
Rather parents should prepare their children for troubled times by discussing real-life situations and Biblical accounts that reveal how to respond when troubles come.
1. Study the Scriptures Together
1 Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD. 2 Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart. 3 They do nothing wrong; they walk in his ways.
Each morning before you send them to school, read the scriptures together. This doesn’t need to be lengthy and drawn out. Read the scripture and talk about what it means in our own lives. Just one or two verses could do the trick. Here are a few places to start.
The Proverbs – Proverbs discusses character and lends itself to discussion. Plus Proverbs has 31 chapters. Chose a verse or two for the chapter that correlates to the day of the month. Read chapter 1 on day 1
Bible Story Book – There are many storybooks available. I like Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping The Greatest Gift. While this is an Advent book, it can easily be used throughout the year. It begins with Adam and Eve and relates each lesson to the genealogy of Christ. Talk about the character of each man or woman. How did they respond to adversity? How can we relate that to our situation?
Sunday School Take-Home Papers – Some Sunday School curriculum comes with take-home papers that give scriptures to read at home during the week. This would be advantageous because it will correlate with what they are learning in Sunday School.
“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. “
I cannot emphasize enough on the importance of scripture memory. If you want to be encouraged by the Lord throughout the day, memorize scripture. It’s the only way God can bring it to mind in the middle of your trouble. Here are a few ways to help your children memorize.
Start with Sunday School Materials. That aforementioned S.S. paper has a memory verse on it. learn it together as a family. Write it out and put it on the refrigerator. Recite it aloud every time you go through the kitchen. Ask each other, “What is this week’s verse?” (NOTE: I’m not averse to giving awards for scripture memory)
Make little verse cards that fit into your pockets. Then review it all day long. It will surprise you how quickly you learn.
Memory Apps – I enjoy Scripture Typer which is available online, or on your phone or kindle. It keeps track of what you are learning, helps you review, and you can add your own scriptures in your preferred version.
As an added bonus, did you realize that the more you use your brain, the better it works? My cousin, now a surgeon, wondered how in the world he would learn and memorize all he needed while in medical school. His father told him, “Memorize Scripture”.
Forwhere two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
We never let our children set foot on the school campus before praying together. The old adage says that a family that prays together stays together. I think more than staying together, you become one. It creates a bond not easily broken. This bond is a force that reminds us that we are not alone. Our child will know that you are cheering for him and also that God is fighting for him.
Prayer has a way of helping us see things from one another’s points of view. Hearing another pray causes us to feel his pain. It also helps us celebrate big wins that might otherwise go unnoticed. It’s also training for adulthood when they may be asked to pray in public.
Cystic Fibrosis is a chronic genetic illness that affects many parts of the body. It operates like this: A defective protein caused by the cystic fibrosis mutation interrupts the flow of salt in and out of the cells, causing the mucus that’s naturally present in healthy people to become dehydrated, thick, and viscous. This sticky mucus builds up in the lungs, pancreas, and other organs, causing problems with the respiratory, digestive, reproductive endocrine, and other systems. In the lungs, the mucus creates a warm and welcoming environment for deadly bacteria like Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Burkholderia cepacia. The vicious cycle of infection, inflammation, and scarring that comes from the combination of viscous mucus and ineradicable bacteria leads to respiratory failure, the most common cause of death in cystic fibrosis patients.
It’s progressive, with no cure, which means it gets worse over time. The rate of progression varies from patient to patient and is often out of control.
Salt in My Soul: An Unfinished Life by Mallory Smith, page x
I have a cousin with CF. So when I was asked to review this diary of Mallory Smith, I was glad to read it in hopes that it would help me understand more about what Andrew deals with on a daily basis. I have a chronic illness as well and I know that most people just don’t get it when you talk of pain or not being able to do everything you desire to do.
Salt in My Soul: An Unfinished Life definitely opened my eyes to the “good, bad, and ugly” of CF. Young Mallory Smith kept a journal beginning at the age of 15 until her death at the age of 25.
What a trooper she was. She at most times had a very positive outlook on life and didn’t let her diagnosis define her.
For me, it was a hard read feeling her pain and realizing that I didn’t know the half of what my cousin faces. I could only read one or two entries at a time. But it was worth the read.
In the following paragraphs, I would like to share a few of the things that caught my attention about the life of Mallory Smith.
Staying Active is a Plus
Mallory was able to stay very active for most of her life. When a patient is able to do this it is helpful for their lungs and other organs. She loved playing volleyball and swimming. Fortunately, she lived near the ocean which made her feel alive. Her parents were able to take her to Hawaii several times in her life.
From her diary,
Ever since my parents threw me in the water at age three, the ocean has been my escape, my passion, and a powerful healing agent. I’ve always faced complications of cystic fibrosis, from malnutrition to frequent and aggressive pneumonias. For years, I’ve had the unshakeable sense that being in nature ( specifically, the ocean) somehow heals me. Clears my lungs. Prolongs my life. Maintains my sanity. Restores my soul.
My intuition was right. While I was swimming, surf, and fighting CF; researchers in Australia were discovering what I always knew; CF patients who frequent the ocean live longer- ten years longer.
Salt in My Soul: An Unfinished Life by Mallory Smith, page 101
A Positive Attitude
I have to remind myself not to envy those whose lives look normal because their mountains do exist, even if they’re less obvious than mine.
It’s given me empathy, and gratitude, and courage, and humor, and heartache, and happiness.
Salt in My Soul: An Unfinished Life by Mallory Smith, page xiv
Mallory had a very positive attitude, always appreciative of those who cared for her. At times she hated that she was dependant on them. Sometimes she felt sad or guilty that her family gave up a lot to help her live. When she thought about death she seemed more concerned about how those she would leave behind might feel.
Mallory didn’t let CF stop her. Her love of nature and how healed her caused her to want to make a difference in the environment. She attended college and did studies about saving our universe.
Risk of Opioid Addiction
Chest pain is a real issue for the Cystic Fibrosis patient. Even the treatments themselves are rather difficult. I have watched my cousin apply treatments on his son. Beating and vibrating the chest to loosen the mucus. But I’m sure the real pain comes with the infections and pneumonia. Mallory wrote one time that she never thought she would love the feeling of being on opioids.
I never thought I was at risk before. But now I realize it can happen to anyone and I need to be careful and I’m happy the doctors don’t want to send me home with oxy. They say if I have pain that severe, I should come to the ER. It’s a valid point.
Salt in My Soul: An Unfinished Life by Mallory Smith, page 142,
Scheduling at Home Treatments
Often Mallary would need to have nurses come to the house to give her treatments or change her PICC line. Scheduling these in a timely matter sometimes became a challenge. The nurse would not have the right supplies and the pharmacy would want to supply them (you know insurance issues we all have). But in her case,
As with many, chronic illnesses, one medication doesn’t continue working all through your life. Medications constantly need tweaking or changed completely.
During her college years, Mallory participated in a drug trial. She never knew if she took the real drug or the placebo but one thing she knew, she felt much better when she was on it. But then, an infection caused her to be removed from the trial. She begged her doctors to allow her to stay on the drug but it was not to be.
Cystic Fibrosis Does a Lot of Taking
Mallory missed a lot of classes and would often head to the hospital right in the middle of a project or a great stream of athletic accomplishments. This could be very frustrating. The constant changes in life, due to hospitalization, found Mallory convincing professors and coaches that she needed more leniency than the typical student.
..It’s hard to look forward when we must always be looking at the ground beneath us; we’re more lurching than walking, stumbling to stay upright.
Being frustrated and angry that something was taken from you hurts creativity, the very same creativity that could help you reinvent your possibilities and achieve your ends. understanding this trap is important-knowledge is power.
So yes, CF does do a lot of taking. It’s a complex, unpredictable, irreversible, progressive, painful, suffocating, choking weed of a disease and it’s okay to have it.
Salt in My Soul: An Unfinished Life by Mallory Smith, page xii
Mallory shared how she became friends with other CF patients. It was good on one side that they could relate to one another’s issues and encourage each other. They had a whole second family within the health community. But it was also painful to watch her friends die. Most of us don’t have that trauma in our twenties.
My Final Thoughts
It’s been a long, long time since I have read about someone’s life who did not know Jesus Christ as their Savior. While Mallory had a beautiful spirit and a zest for life, she did not believe in the existence of God. To me, this was the core thing missing in her life. Her grandfather, apparently Catholic, discussed the existence of God and faith but Mallory chose her own path. This makes me sad because while she felt free here on earth, I must wonder if she is free now.
Typically, an atheist denies the existence of God. Whether they admit it or not they feel anger toward God for allowing bad things to happen or that they feel God restricts them from their own choices.
According to the Bible and my own faith, God is a God of love. So much so that He does allow us to make our own choices. The problem with free will is that our choices not only affect our own lives but others as well. Therefore, our decisions create pain in the lives of others and vice versa.
The good part is that God warns us of the consequences of our sin and He gives us second, third, and more chances to make things right with Him. But our choice stands.
In the end, He will be a just God. If you chose to live without Him in this life He will allow you to live without Him in the next.
Need Some Convincing?
I pray that whoever reads my words have made the right choice and if not that they will study it further. I suggest reading some of C.S. Lewis’ books. His autobiography, Surprised by Joy, would be a good place to start.
Lewis called himself a reluctant convert to Christianity. Meaning that he fought against converting until there was just no denying that God existed and had a plan for his life. Alister McGrath wrote a wonderful book set up like a conversation with C.S. Lewis. McGrath, also an atheist, converted to Christianity after attending college to learn and prove the non-existence of God. Along with other books on Lewis, he wrote If I Had Lunch with C.S. Lewis. I think you would enjoy this read.
I lack the words to tell you the effect this weekend has had on me. I went to visit my dear friend, Debra at the nursing home. She is fighting Stage 4 Brain Cancer. Besides the chemotherapy and some kind of radiation cap that she had to wear all the time, Debra has had two brain surgeries to try to stop the swelling and the growth of cancer. The doctors give her less than six months to live.
I entered the nursing home at the far end of the facility. It was a long walk down to Debra’s room but it gave me a chance to see the whole facility. It all looked nice. I was comforted to see that she was in a clean facility. There were seating areas everywhere and visiting rooms and dining areas. There were wonderful helpful workers all along the way. My hat is off to the nursing staff that works with these precious people suffering from such debilitating diseases. I am thankful for every one of them.
I could give you a discourse of the next two hours but for my friend’s sake, I’ll just share a few things I have found lacking as I go through this trial with my friend. I’m just a bystander in this matter. Although, being a pastor’s wife, I have gone alongside many time.
The Greatest Need is Support For the Caregivers
My husband and I found that what is really lacking is support for the caregiver. Awareness is rising of late but we really need to become more aware of people with chronic illness, cancer or not. I would like to see churches create a team of people that make sure our sick do not fall through the cracks. Sadly, the sick become “Out of Sight: Out of Mind”. I recently read this article about How Can the Church Better Serve Chronically Ill by Shona Smith. Shona had some wonderful advice for churches. Even the sick could take this information and share it with their chur leaders.
The Caregiver is Lost and Alone
We have found that outside of caring for their loved one, they are also holding down a job, trying to keep the house/family together, dealing with financial issues, and they often are completely ignoring their own health. I recently read Sarah Beckman’s new book Hope for the Hard Places (my review here) which gives excellent step by step advice for when trouble comes our way. Many of us would do ourselves a favor to read this book and prepare our own families for the inevitable Hard Place.
My friend Anita Ojeda has experienced caregiving for her husband who had cancer and survived. There are many things she learned along the way and after the fact. She is now trying to encourage caregivers to take care of themselves. You will find her website, Blessed: But Stressed, very helpful. There is also a facebook page, Self-care for Caregivers.
What is Lacking for Cancer Patients
Core friends that stick around. We’re all guilty of this. The first month we do whatever we can for the patient and family. But somehow we tend to fall back into our routine of life and completely forget about our friends. Let’s admit it, I am guilty. You may be guilty as well. We need to be calling or dropping by frequently, doing simple household jobs, cooking a meal, etc. I have a downloadable list of ideas to get started on. The aforementioned author, Sarah Beckman has another book called, Alongside: A Practical Guide for Loving Your Neighbor in their Time of Trial. I haven’t read this one yet. But possibly, we all could learn a few things from her book.
Prayer. Real true “I see it and feel it” prayer. Facebook is a place to start where you can tell them you are thinking of them. But we need to visit them and pray over them. Call them and pray with them over the phone. I had a friend once that rose early every morning before work and walked around a friend’s home praying for them. Every day for months until her death. Now THAT is visible prayer.
Encouragement through cards, flowers. Debra’s room was not only dim but void of cards. Again, I’m guilty as I have not sent her one card. 🙁 There was one small flower arrangement and that is it. (live flowers might not be good, as some patients cannot handle the smells.) I would like to get a card shower going and have everyone I know sent her a card. If you want to get involved send me a note through our “contact us”. I’ll send you an address.
Other Great Things Lacking
Providing other needs. If you visit on a regular basis, take notice of needs like is she cold? Does she need a blanket? Drinks and snacks so they don’t need to buy them? Don’t go empty-handed when you visit. grab a bag or basket and place a few ready to eat items in it. Maybe a book to read or puzzle books. You can get many items like this at a dollar store. Speaking of blankets, I know of two churches that make quilts to send to cancer patients and others. I received one when I first was hit with chronic pain. Not only does it keep me warm, but it also encourages and reminds me that someone cares.
Lastly, and importantly, an illness like cancer is terribly expensive. Even with great insurance, the bills begin to rise beyond what a person can fathom. And just when you think you have a way to figure it out, there is another surgery or issue that arises. In Debra’s case, they are still trying to get hospice care or a way for someone to sit with her and tend to her needs. This comes with a $250/day copay. Think of it, where would you be if this were you?
Here’s my challenge
I imagine we all know of someone who is struggling with a serious illness. Donate to their cause, even if it is just $10. Maybe you can add it to your monthly budget. Just 10 bucks. Give up a cappuccino. You will brighten their day and make a difference in their lives. Imagine if everyone would give just $10. The bills would be taken care of quickly. Find their GoFundMe page and donate today.