A New Song for the Final Stretch

On my 35th birthday, two months before I heard “It’s Cancer”,  I sat on a bed in a Midtown NYC hotel room, bible and journal spread open in front of me.  My husband decided to go workout, and I decided to use that sliver of down time for some quiet time.

Just me and the Lord.

I wrote “Father this is the first day of my new year with You.  Every year of life with You is sweeter than the one before.  Each year is an opportunity to KNOW You more fully and therefore LOVE You more completely.  Father God, I give you this upcoming year of my life, and the days that are ahead of me.  What is ahead for this coming year?”

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Snowed in for my 35th bday

Yesterday I drove once more to Lexington Medical Center. This day as I drove, a cold icy rain was falling from the grey clouds, which reflected my mood.

My heart was heavy. The weariness of this journey is beginning to set in.

It truly does feel like a marathon.

As I made my way down I-77, to I-277, to I-20, to I-26 (yes, four interstates!)  my mind began to wander towards the similarities of the cancer journey and a marathon race.  As I’m nearing the final stretch, discouragement and weariness can easily set in.  In the running world, it’s called “hitting the wall”.

My final stretch of radiation is upcoming, and instead of looking back at the many ways God has proved faithful, I’m tempted to look ahead at this final stretch and just want to quit.  I guess this is called hitting the “cancer wall”

Really, I’m just over it.

My appointment yesterday was a “radiation planning” appointment, where they took pictures, made measurements, and made some lovely blue X markings on me).  As I scurried to my car after the appointment was over, hot tears finally escaped and mixed with the icy rain.

As I drove home, grieving all that cancer has taken from me, I had a little chat with the Lord.

“Abba Daddy, I’m just tired. I’m ready for this race to be over.  I want to stop running. And Lord, how do I know that the race really will be over soon? What if it extends beyond what I’m expecting? God this feels like a marathon I didn’t sign up for! At least marathoners get a chance to train for their long race! No one would sign up for a marathon without training for it.  I feel like you dropped me on the starting line of this cancer race, and the explosion of the gun rang in my ears as I stumbled across the starting line; looking around in this unfamiliar race.”

The fact is, no one signs up for this difficult race.  The fact is, no one would choose to run this course.

As I turned up the worship music, the Lord spoke to me in the most gentle way.

“my daughter, I did prepare you.  You’re right, you didn’t train for this marathon.  I TRAINED YOU.”

In my minds eye, I could picture myself at my dining room table early in the morning over His Word…coffee and journal nearby.  I saw the people He has put in my life to speak words of truth and sharpen me, encourage and correct me.  I saw the bible studies, and conferences, and Sunday services I attended…soaking in His truth and promises.   I could almost see my soul being strengthened as HE did the hard work of training this weak soul for the race that was to come.

I think about that with a smile…that GOD KNEW.  I look back on my journals and it’s so clear He was preparing me for the race.  Only I didn’t know that He has already signed me up for this marathon.

“What is ahead for this coming year?” I wrote as I looked ahead to my 36th year. 

I’m so thankful I didn’t know, because I would have run the other direction, like Jonah did when confronted with his difficult task (and we know how that turned out!).

As I’ve reflected on how far God has brought me, and how He has always been faithful, my sorrow cannot help but turn to joy.  I’m thankful today that He has drawn me up, once more, out of the pit of destruction (the pit that looks more at my CIRCUMSTANCES than at my GOD).  I’m thankful that His Grace Abounds – to me….as I run this race SO imperfectly.  His Grace Abounds as I stumble, and look to the left and right and envy others’ races.  His Grace Abounds as He reminds me that MY RACE MATTERS.  Its so that many would “see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 40:3)

In these weary moments, He woos me once more to where it all began – His Word – His precious promises – His steadfast love and faithfulness.  And He puts a new song in my mouth.  He removes the song of weariness, and self-pity, and discouragement, and puts a new song that only He can write.

This is a new song for the last leg of the race.

It’s a song of praise to our God!

These last few miles, it’s this song that will keep me going, though my legs grow weary.

From Psalm 40

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
    out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
    and put their trust in the Lord.

Blessed is the {WOMAN} who makes
    the Lord {HER} trust…
You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
    your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
    none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
    yet they are more than can be told.

I have told the glad news of deliverance
    in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips,
    as you know, O Lord.
10 I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;
    I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
    from the great congregation.

11 As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain
    your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will
    ever preserve me!
12 For evils have encompassed me
    beyond number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
    and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
    my heart fails me.

13 Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me!
    Lord, make haste to help me!
14 Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether
    who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonor
    who delight in my hurt!
15 Let those be appalled because of their shame
    who say to me, “Aha, Aha!”

16 But may all who seek you
    rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
    say continually, “Great is the Lord!”

 

 

 

January 2016 Update

Hi friends!

 

Thank you for continuing to pray for me.  Although there is so much on my heart to share about faith and life and hope and JESUS- tonight I feel led to simply share an update.

I have not started radiation yet.

This Tuesday, January 19th at 8am I meet with my radiation oncologist for a consultation.  This will “get the ball rolling” for my radiation treatments.  I hope to get a start date at this appointment on Tuesday, but I know that there are some things to do before I can start (get markings done for where the radiation will be, etc).  Last I heard, I will have 7 weeks of radiation, which is 35 treatments (everyday M-F). From what I hear, the radiation side effects are minimal (“a walk in the park compared to chemo” is what a nurse told me). Fatigue which is cumulative, and possible burning of the skin which can be mostly prevented with some skin cream.   Each treatment will be 15-20 minutes.

I am ready to get started so I can start checking off the treatments!  I am also praying for the people that I will encounter each day at my treatments.  Since I will likely go the same time each day for seven weeks straight, I’ll likely see the same people many times.  I pray God uses me to be an encouragement, maybe even hear some of the other patients stories and share hope, or even just a smile.

Please pray that God schedules “divine appointments” at my radiation appointments.  That is a huge prayer request because in my flesh I feel like so much of my day will be WASTED during these weeks going back and forth from Lexington Medical (in my already full life)- when I lift up my eyes to Jesus, He reminds me that NOTHING is wasted, and my fullest ministry during these weeks may not be from the church or in my home, but rather in the waiting room.  Who knows what God has planned.  I just pray I’m sensitive to His still small voice.

My hair is growing back.  I’m not quite ready for the world to see it yet! It’s SHORT but I’m thankful to have hair again.  Hopefully by summer I’ll feel ready for the world to see my new ‘do!

I continue to have herceptin treatments, and will continue until April.  These are every three weeks, and target the Her2 protein.  There are minimal side effects- usually I’m just very tired on the days surrounding my herceptin infusion.

Most days seem pretty normal these days, for which I’m so thankful.  I’m ready to put this chapter behind me,although I want to squeeze every bit of what God wants to teach me through this season.  Although I’m tempted to rush to the end of this chapter, I realize that God still has me right here for a reason.  I’m thankful for a new year and new mercies!

As I’ve turned the page into a new year, I’ve done quite a bit of reflecting.

Both 2014 and 2015 were major years in my life, in very different ways.  If I could summarize these two years of my life, it would be this:  “His grace abounds in the scary steps of faith, and His grace abounds in the painful pauses of suffering”.

I look ahead to 2016 and wonder – in what ways will I see His grace abound this year?

I look forward to watching His grace abound in 2016 and beyond.

Thank you for your prayers, and thank you for walking this journey with me!

2015 ~ A Prayer of Gratitude

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Thank You Lord, for another year of life; another year on the journey.

 

Thank you for beginning the year with my love in my favorite city, spending precious time together and getting snowed in an extra day. Thank You for that pink handbag I felt so surprisingly inclined to purchase on that trip.  It was a frivolous purchase, and pink never was my favorite color. But You knew, even in those moments that there was a cancer growing within that would forever tie me to the color pink.

Thank You for the blessing of watching my three blessings grow and thrive. Thank you for loving them more than I do, and for writing their story… Even through the hard chapters.

Thank you for big scary white machines. It was that machine that helped discover I was sick… Very sick. Thank you that we discovered the cancer before it spread to any major organs. Thank You for the gift of life, even if this new normal includes frequent scans with the scary white machine.

Thank you for the precious family photos taken by a dear friend… Photos that will help me remember I had once had long hair.  And thank You Lord that that long hair no longer defines me.

Thank You, Lord for chemo. It’s side effects were horrific, but it gave provided me the chance to watch my littles grow big, and hold hands with my hubby as we grow old together.

Thank You for Your Word; Your promises; Your Hope in scripture. It was and is my lifeline- the bedrock of my life.

Thank You for my precious Justin-for his presence at every chemo, his unwavering support. Thank you for that look of affection as our eyes met when my newly shaven hair fell to the floor. I will never forget it.

Thank You for the Body of Christ, who prayed for me, babysat my children, fed our family meals, kept me company in chemo, sent me gifts and cards for encouragement. They were Your hands and feet in my time of need. Thank You, especially, for the gift of a precious set of high school girls who walked with me and loved me so well.  They teach me so much.

Thank You for family– my immediate and extended. Thank You for ties that bind, cousins to play with and memories made.  Thank You for all the ways you provided through my family.  Thank You for another Christmas to spend together.

Mostly, Lord, I thank You for your faithfulness in ALL things. I thank You that Your plans are perfect, and You do all things well. Even a life turned topsy turvy by cancer … Nothing is wasted. Thank You for drawing me deeper into Your loving arms in 2015, and for opening my hands wider in surrender. Thank you for teaching me more about being fearless and abandoned for you, on the highest mountain, and darkest valley.

You answered my prayer – You taught me, and are teaching me, what it looks like to be an extravagant worshipper.  Worship is best learned in the wilderness, and I thank You for the dark wilderness chapters of my story, where Your light shines brightest.

Your grateful daughter,
Brooke

 

Gratitude and Update {Surgery # 2 & Pathology Results}

As I write, I am surrounded by the sounds and sights of the season; my favorite time of the year – Christmas! I pray each of you is experiencing the presence and love of Christ afresh during this very special time.

So many of you have been praying for me, and I am so grateful for prayer lifted on my behalf.  We have experienced God’s love and grace in many ways through this trial of breast cancer; not the least of which is through people like YOU.  We’ve been wrapped like a blanket in the love of our family, friends, church family, co-workers, and even friends we haven’t seen in many years.  During my chemo treatments I started making a list of everyone I wanted to send a thank you note for.  My precious Mother trained me up right! I remember her teaching me the importance of a timely, written thank you note.  I know that no one expects a thank you note, and does not do nice gestures for this reason.  But in some way I wanted to express my gratitude for the kindness I was given.

As you can imagine, that list got longer, and longer (and I got sicker, and sicker)…and so now the long list, still accumulating names, still sits in a box in my closet.  I pray that one day I am able to personally express my gratitude to each and every one of you who have prayed for me, made our family a meal, given us a gift, cared for my children, grocery shopped for me, visited me at chemo…. or even just a hug, phone call, or smile.  And every comment here on this blog and every sweet Facebook message, text, call and card lifts me up.   Each gesture is so appreciated.  I will joyfully be writing thank you notes for years because I never want to forget how wrapped in love we feel. And the best way to remember is to sit in that gratitude.

Beyond the kindness of people, I’m grateful for the kindness of God.  Again in Reach worship yesterday we sang a song “Joyfully” which has a lyric that says “Your goodness chases after me”.  Every time I sing those words, I cannot HELP but raise my hands as tears fill my eyes.  Even writing this I am moved.  Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life!  To be hemmed in by his goodness, behind and before..it’s the most amazing security in the world.

There are times I haven’t felt like I was sitting in His goodness, but it is during those times that I believe that YES, He is Good, despite my feelings.  As I have said before, “faith isn’t faith if it is always felt”.  These are the days I had to lean hard into His promises and trust that which I did not see (or feel).

Thankfully, His mercy is in full view during these sweet December days.

My second lumpectomy (called a re-excision) was on 11/24.   A second surgery was required because they did not get clear margins from the first surgery.  What in the world are “clear margins?”  Clear margins basically means they removed all of the cancer from the area surrounding the tissue.  Clear margins are very important because if there is any cancer remaining, it can grow and spread.

My surgery went well, two days before Thanksgiving.  I had virtually no pain, and even helped cook for Thanksgiving dinner.  I was so grateful.  We waited with great expectation for the pathology results to see if clear margins were achieved this time.

I got the call last week that we were waiting to hear….CLEAR MARGINS! So (as far as I can understand)- I am currently cancer free!

I will have seven weeks of radiation, likely starting in January.  It will be Monday – Friday for 7 weeks (35 treatments). I also continue to have a Herceptin infusion every three weeks till April.  After April, if everything goes as planned, I believe I will be on Tamoxifen for 5 years.  Cancer isn’t a sickness that you put behind you quickly, I’m learning.  But I’m thankful for the journey, and mostly for the One and the ones who journey with me.

I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness,
    the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.
I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—
    the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember,
    and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:

22-24 God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
    his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
    How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
    He’s all I’ve got left.

25-27 God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
    to the woman who diligently seeks.
It’s a good thing to quietly hope,
    quietly hope for help from God.
It’s a good thing when you’re young
    to stick it out through the hard times.

28-30 When life is heavy and hard to take,
    go off by yourself. Enter the silence.
Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions:
    Wait for hope to appear.
Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face.
    The “worst” is never the worst.

31-33 Why? Because the Master won’t ever
    walk out and fail to return.
If he works severely, he also works tenderly.
    His stockpiles of loyal love are immense.

Lamentations 3:19-33, The Message

It is Well {Living in Paradox}

This is a “heart check”.  I shared these words this morning with a few trusted friends, desiring for them to have a window into my soul.  I long to be transparent and real on this journey with each of you, not just my trusted friends.

So really, how have I been lately?  Like, how’s my heart?  Honestly, I write this post through tears.

The best way I can describe it, is that I feel the constant tension of living in paradox.  I often feel like a wrestling Jacob.  (Genesis 32:22-32) Only my wrestle is all in my head and my heart.

There’s a tension that all is NOT well in my soul, but at the same time IT IS WELL.

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Jesus – my faith in Him- is the ROCK which I prop my life on.  He doesn’t call us to comfort.  A very wise friend recently told me that a life of leaning on the ROCK is not comfortable.  It’s hard. It’s rough. It’s dirty.

Here are some of the uncomfortable, dirty bits of my life, living in paradox these days.

It ISN’T well: Recently my five-year old, very perceptive and “old soul” of a  daughter asked if I’m going to die.  She went on to share with me if I did die she would “cry in her pillow every night”.   Heartbreaking.

It IS well:  This conversation, and the hot tears that it brought (still brings) has granted me the opportunity to wrestle with whether I really, and I mean REALLY trust the Lord with my children and husband.

Through this wrestle, God is slowly prying open my fingers on my desire to control, manipulate, and micromanage their existence…to make it pain free and all joy. I’m releasing control to the story that GOD want’s to write in their life, with or without me.

I’m coming to grips with the fact that this God, this Heavenly Father, this Creator, this Pursuer of my heart…HE CAN ACTUALLY BE TRUSTED.  He created them too – He loves them more than I do, and He’s writing their story together for good too.   Do you see? God is shaping my heart.  He desires my heart….ALL of my heart.  He doesn’t want me to be closed handed with even that which is closest and dearest and tender.

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Selah’s prayer. My prayer too.

It ISN’T well:  I watch my precious husband pour himself out all day at work, and then pour himself out at home because I lack energy… especially in the late afternoons and evenings.

It IS well:  I get to see my husband step up and be a picture of Jesus.  I get to see firsthand how God is growing him as a man of God in the most painful and unlikely, yet the most beautiful way. I get to experience my love growing deeper than words can express. Our marriage is forever changed for the better, and thankful this happened 10 years into our marriage instead of 20, 30, 40 years in. We get to spend the rest of our lives together  – forever changed in the best possible ways.

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It ISN’T well: I fear that the cancer will come back. I have dread that I will have to go through the horrific chemo again. I plead “I cannot go through that again. Please Lord. No”. Knowing the medical stats that it’s usually the recurrence that is terminal.

It IS well:  Fear takes me to the cross. Fear fixes my eyes on Jesus as I realize I cannot control this. Fear takes me to His Word and His promises – especially the promise that “He will never leave me nor forsake me”.  Fear causes me to reflect back at all the ways He carried me through chemo the first time and my heart can rest knowing if He takes me there again He will carry me again.

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It ISN’T well: Over the summer, I had to temporarily step away from a ministry that I love with all my heart. I wrestle with feeling disconnected and that I’m not needed…. That they did fine without me.

It IS well: The Lord is continually using this to remind me that this ministry is not about me anyway!! It’s so gross to think for a minute it’s about me – so the Lord is revealing pride and then refreshing and reviving me in repentance as I am washed in His cleansing blood.  Seeing the ministry thrive without me reminds me that it’s all about HIM, not me.  I’m back (easing back in), and I’m so increcibly thankful for the amazing women God enabled through my absence.

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It ISN’T well:  I’m in a medically induced menopause (at age 35) to keep my hormones at bay… Hormones that could cause the cancer to grow and spread.  This menopause may or may not be temporary.  A menopause with all of the usual side effects! Yes I now know exactly what a hot flash feels like and if you see me fanning myself you know why!

It IS well:  In menopause, and cancer, being able to relate to women who are suffering – in trials big and small.  God is making me more empathetic, and compassionate, and I pray to minister through my suffering.

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It ISN’T well:  I’m laying down MY dreams for our family and the size of our family, that it is unlikely that I will ever carry or nurse a child again.  This is an especially tender place for me

It IS well:   These unfulfilled longings are causing me to crave Christ, the ONLY One who can completely satisfy me. I’m laying down MY desires and dreams, but getting to replace them for the story HE wants to write in our family. He is good, and His mercy will endure.  His story for me; for our family, is better than any that I could even ask or imagine! (Ephesians 3:20!)

Copyright Becky Williamson Photography WEBSITE: www.beckywilliamsonphotography.com EMAIL: beckywilliamsonphotography@gmail.com

Cancer is helping me to understand the paradox of being sorrowful yet always rejoicing in ways I would have never understood otherwise.

“Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander” has been my prayer for a couple years now.  I’ve been begging the Lord to grow me in ways only HE can do.  He’s answering my prayer – only cancer is how He is doing it.

The “it is well” testimonies above are those deeper places that my feet have now wandered.  Walking through cancer means walking through deep, deep waters.  But with the deeper hard comes the deeper beauty.  I would have never walked there myself.  No one willingly wanders to cancer. But, in this case, that’s just what it’s taking to allow for this deep, deep beauty.

It is well with my soul always wins.  It may be through tears.  It may take a time of wrestle.  Like Jacob, I may wrestle all night, but also like Jacob I will come out of the wrestle with a limp …an indescribable way of walking that is set apart and different.  This limp is a way of walking through life that’s different, and that others notice. And my limp is because of His presence and touch through the wrestle.

The limp points ME and OTHERS back to Jesus.  Limps aren’t ever pretty, but they point back to an experience from the past. That’s what this life is all about anyway isn’t it? This life of mine is just to point to HIM. It’s not to draw attention to my limp but point to the One who gave me the limp.

I’m just the vessel. My heart is His, and although I’m sorrowful, I’m rejoicing.

“It is well” always prevails.  Limp and all.

Pathology results

Dear Friends, thank you so much for covering me in prayer these past few weeks. I have felt your prayers and I have felt sustained and provided for at every turn in this journey.

I wanted to share an update with you : we received some unfortunate pathology results last Thursday 10/8. Although my lymph nodes were totally clear (praise!), there is unfortunately still a non-invasive type of cancer called DCIS present in my right breast.

Another surgery will be necessary. What type/when is TBD.  This will push the timeline back for radiation .  After some tears and much praying, I’m grateful for a peace that passes understanding!

Dr Tucker, the other surgeons and oncologists at Lexington all agree that the recommendation is a “re-excision”. That would be a similar surgery to my last one, without the lymph node involvement.    She is open to performing a mastectomy if I desire, but reminded me of the long process / risks / possible complications. There is no survival benefit or recurrence benefit to a mastectomy in my case.  She said with current research and my type of cancer there is absolutely NO benefit to doing such a radical surgery. Radiation is a critical part of my treatment and an amputated/ reconstructed breast is much more difficult to radiate because 9of the delicate skin. This is a big piece of the equation. Recurrence rate no matter what type of surgery she does is 8%.

When I first heard this, it was difficult, nearly impossible to believe. Afterall, wouldn’t a mastectomy be more proactive & successful than a lumpectomy? That was certainly my logic, but whereas an automatic mastectomy used to be the go-to course of treatment, there has been much research to support that in SOME cases (like mine), a lumpectomy plus radiation is actually the better choice.

We will meet with her again on Oct 28 to finalize plans and schedule. The surgery would be sometime in November. (I have a trip planned first weekend so definitely after that). Radiation still ahead, timing of that will depend on what type of surgery I have. Between now and Oct 28 I will be praying and some fasting to see what GOD’s plan is. I want His voice to be loudest.

I’m also researching the importance of food on our healing from the inside out.  I’ve watched countless documentaries and read many blogs and will be making some significant lifestyle changes to keep the cancer away. More on this later.

 

Thank you for journeying with me.   The journey will just be longer than expected, but I’m so thankful For how God has revealed Himself along the journey and I know He will continue to. He is good and His mercy will endure. Prayers for wisdom greatly appreciated! I love each of you dearly and I’m so thankful for how you hold my arms up in this battle and help me FIGHT with JOY! the Joy of the Lord is my strength!

James 1:5  “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

His Grace (still) Abounds!

Brooke

 

Surgery recap

Hi blog readers!

Today as I write, a cold rain is falling all over the state, flooding many areas.  Many friends of mine are in Clemson getting ready to watch them play (hopefully beat) Notre Dame.  My hubby is at a friends house watching the many football games on TV today.  My kiddos are spending the day with my parents.  And as for me…..I’ve got the house ALL to myself!  This is a rare treat, as I can play praise music as loud as I want! :) Thanks to some generous friends who gave me iTunes gift cards, I just downloaded 2 new albums.  (in case you were wondering – Christy Nockles “Let it Be Jesus”, and Passion’s “Even so Come”…both I highly recommend).   I’m enjoying this time reading, journalling, and actually writing a LONG overdue blog post.

When I log on to write a blog post, I often have this temptation to go back to the last post and try to recap everything that has happened since I last wrote.  Often that overwhelms me since I don’t write very frequently and because there is so much going on in my life and my heart.  Instead of treating this blog as a chronological history of this cancer journey, I view it more as a photo-book with snapshots from the journey.

So here’s my surgery snapshot :)

Last Thursday, October 1, I had surgery: a lumpectomy/partial mastectomy and sentinel node biopsy.  Yes, that’s a mouthful.  Everything went well and although I’m still in pain, it is not unbearable and mostly under control with pain meds  (which make me a little loopy and sleepy). So if this blog post does not make much sense you will know why :)

I do want to rewind and share about the bumpy week I had leading up to surgery, and how the surgery almost wasn’t.

Monday I got a call from the school nurse that Samuel had a fever at school. I took him to the doctor and he was diagnosed with strep throat.  Immediately I started praying (and others prayed) that I wouldn’t catch it because I knew I couldn’t get sick going into surgery.  Monday was just a crazy day all together…one of those days where it felt like everything was going wrong.  From sickness, to traffic, to computers and copy machines acting crazy.  I was preparing for a time of discipleship with my precious high school girls that was scheduled for Monday night, and God had laid something heavy on my heart to do with them in God’s Word, and I could just see the enemy trying to thwart God’s plans! But praise GOD – the discipleship meeting happened and was a sweet sweet time of growth… and GOD Prevailed and His Word went out.  I crashed late Monday night, heart full, and feeling great…still praying against the sickness spreading.

Tuesday afternoon in a very short timeframe I went from feeling well to feeling awful.  My throat started hurting terribly and I felt feverish.  Justin had to completely take care of the children Tuesday night – I felt terrible and started getting nervous about whether the surgery was going to happen. I called Dr. Tucker’s office (the surgeon), and the nurse said Dr. Tucker wanted to give it overnight and instructed me to call back Wednesday morning if I still felt poorly.   I rested, and prayed that I felt better Wednesday morning.

Wednesday I was scheduled to be at the hospital all afternoon for pre-op procedures and appointments.  I didn’t want to go through those procedures/appointments if the surgery had to be postponed. By Wednesday morning, my throat was hurting worse than ever.  Dr. Tucker got on the phone herself with me and assured me that we could go forward with the surgery if I was open to it.  At that time I didn’t have a fever so I decided to move forward with it. I really did not want to postpone the surgery.  I was thankful.

So I headed over to Lexington Medical Center for the appointments and as the day went on, I felt worse and worse.  By the end of the day, I could hardly sit up in the waiting room and was just about to ask a nurse to find me a room to lie down in and wait.  I asked the nurse to take my temp and it was 100.1, which honestly was lower than I expected.  The nurse called Dr. Tucker’s office once more to give her a heads up.  I finally finished and was so ready to drive straight home and crawl in bed.  My throat felt like I’d swallowed knives, and I could tell my fever was getting worse.

By the time i got home, my fever was up to 102.4.  I took some Tylenol and went straight to bed.  That night Dr. Tucker personally called me from her cell phone to check on me.  I thought that was so sweet.  By that time my fever had reduced, and although my throat was still very sore we both felt ok with moving forward with surgery the next morning.  After the back and forth all day in my mind, praying for wisdom about what to do and wondering what was going to happen, I was so thankful to go to bed and know that surgery would happen the next day.

I felt so well cared for on the day of surgery.  The doctors and nurses were so attentive and caring.  Pastor Ropp came and prayed with me.  Justin was right by my side in pre-op and recovery.  My parents took great care of the children.  And I had so many family and friends praying for me, texting words of encouragement and well wishes.  I don’t think it was any coincidence that my surgery was on the first day of October: breast cancer awareness month.  (it’s also my sister’s birthday month) :)  The month of October will forever be changed for me, and I will never look at a pink ribbon the same again.   881D_GL_PinkOctober_ft

Within a week we will know the pathology results, and I’m boldly praying that there is NO CANCER in the breast tissue or lymph nodes they removed!

Overall, this week has had its ups and downs -but I’m SO thankful that the surgery is behind me.  Next step: radiation!  ….. to start early to mid November.  I will have 7 weeks of radiation, each weekday  (35 sessions).  Around the beginning of 2016 I should be finished with all of my treatments! (Except the herceptin infusion I will continue to get every 3 weeks till April).  I can’t believe how far God has brought me.

Thank you for your continued prayers and love!

Psalm 62:5-8 (Message)

God, the one and only—
    I’ll wait as long as he says.
Everything I hope for comes from him,
    so why not?
He’s solid rock under my feet,
    breathing room for my soul,
An impregnable castle:
    I’m set for life.

 My help and glory are in God
    —granite-strength and safe-harbor-God—
So trust him absolutely, people;
    lay your lives on the line for him.
    God is a safe place to be.

His Grace Abounds,

Brooke

 

 

 

PRAISES!

PRAISE!  My 18 weeks of chemo is COMPLETE!!  No “mo” chemo! :)

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PRAISE! The worst of the side effects of this final round of chemo seem to be over and I’m feeling better every day.

PRAISE! The results of the MRI were remarkable.  All that appeared were the tags they had inserted during the initial biopsy.  An ultrasound confirmed there is NO SIGN OF TUMOR!!!

PRAISE! Surgery has been scheduled for Thursday, October 1 and I have a complete peace about the details of this surgery.  I will try to make another post with details.

PRAISE! God continues to use this cancer journey in a powerful way in my own life: revealing sin, refining me, and allowing me to come to a deeper heart knowledge of who God is and His character.

I am so grateful for each of you who take time to pray for me.  We have been overwhelmed by your love and support for me and our entire family.  We appreciate each expression of love, and every comment and message on Facebook, text, blog comment, and email. Please know I read every single one and God uses those words to uplift and encourage me!

Psalm 103

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
    so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;
    he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass;
    he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
    and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
    and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
    and remember to do his commandments.
19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
    and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his word,
    obeying the voice of his word!
21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
    his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,
    in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Daily life, Chemo # 5 and Prayer Requests

{All Sufficient Grace, part 2 blog post still to come!}

Hi Friends!!

Although my words have been few here on “His Grace Abounds”, I want you to know that I’m always “writing” blog posts in my head! It’s getting them from my head to my laptop that is the challenge these days.  The Lord continues to reveal so much to me about Himself through this journey through the valley of Cancer.  As I mentioned before, when I’m feeling good I want to squeeze every bit of goodness with my children and husband- taking advantage of being able to get out and make memories with my people!  During the yucky times it’s very difficult to do much more than rest.

But often, as I’m just doing life, the Lord impresses a truth to my heart that I want to share immediately! And usually I share that on social media…instagram and/or facebook.  It’s quick and easy to share a quick photo or a brief reflection through my phone instead of cracking open the ole laptop! I realized that not everyone who reads my blog follows me on IG and FB (and that’s ok! I still vacillate on my own feelings about social media!).  If you would like to follow me on either one, here are my social media names you can search for:

Instagram: brooketurnersc

Facebook: Brooke Arnold Turner

Recap of Chemo 4 cycle

I had BIG chemo #4 on July 16.  I went back to the clinic pretty much every other day for a week and a half to receive fluids, nutrients, and anti-nausea meds.  I also had home infusions during the weekend directly following chemo.  THESE CHANGES MADE ALL THE DIFFERENCE!!!!

Cycle four was BY FAR the best cycle.  I was able to eat and did not spend one full day in the bed!  I only got sick a few times.  Many people have asked “why didn’t they do this from the beginning since it made you feel so much better?”  Great question.  Every patient is completely different and respond differently to this poison they are pumping through our veins.  There is a process to figure out what works.  We tried many, many nausea (and other) meds to try to tame my side effects at home, and it took a while to see what wasn’t working.  This isn’t typical protocol to be in the clinic 3-4 hours every other day for a week and a half.  It’s very time consuming but completely worth it.  (And I get to see my sweet and spunky nurse more which is always a treat!)

Daily Life

A little bit of “daily life” and some of the fun things we enjoyed as a family while I was feeling well:  LOTS of pool time, Justin and I had a couple of amazing date nights, and I got to take Selah to her first theatre show!

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date night at Colas

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Selah and me before Mary Poppins at the Town Theatre. {Samuel wasn’t interested and Hannah was too young for that length of show!}

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We made it a “mostly” girls night with several friends (including my sister who was in town from Houston with her children!). I say “mostly” girls night because my friend BB brought her son Everett. I know he was in heaven surrounded by girls :)

I’ve mentioned before that a cancer diagnosis gives a person a new perspective in life.  Our family was big on “memory making” before, but now we are even more so.  We treasure special times of doing fun, out-of-the-ordinary things.  We also treasure our daily routine life in a whole new way.  This is one way that cancer is a gift!  And I especially cherish the days where my health allows me just to be out of bed and out of the house! I’ve had lots of these days recently and I’m so thankful.

Chemo #5

Yesterday, 8/5 was BIG chemo #5.  I cannot believe that my next one will be my LAST BIG CHEMO and I get to ring the bell to celebrate the completion of this most difficult part of my journey.  Oh, I can’t wait to ring that bell and give Myra (my nurse) the biggest hug ever!! And of course celebrate with my wonderful family and friends who have been beside me every step of the way!

Some of you may be wondering, what do I mean when I say “BIG Chemo”?   Every 3 weeks I have to go in for my BIG chemo.  I receive 4 types of chemo drugs, in addition to fluids, Benadryl, anti-nausea, etc.   The 4 types of chemo I receive (in this order, I believe) are herceptin, perjeta, taxotere and carboplatin.  That day I’m in the clinic from 8am – 3pm at least.

On the 2 Wednesdays in between the “BIG Chemo” I go to the clinic for what we call “little chemo”; I go in to receive only the herceptin (and possibly fluids, anti-nausea etc).  After my last BIG chemo on Aug 26, I’ll have no more BIG chemos, and my little herceptins will space out to every three weeks.  I will go every three weeks up until April of 2016.  Herceptin has very few side effects.

My chemo #5 went great yesterday.  I enjoyed time with several special friends!

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Justin was traveling for work yesterday so my dear friend Lori picked me up REALLY early and took me to chemo and stayed nearly the whole day!

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one of the most precious of my kindred sisters in Christ, Maria, brought Lori & me lunch and visited. She is one of the most faithful prayer warriors and encouragers I am blessed to know and the Lord has accomplished SO much through our friendship. I could write a whole blog :) I love her so much.

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It was great to catch up with my friend of almost 3 DECADES, Sarah! Life happened and we hadn’t seen each other in two years so it was great to catch up and spend time together. Sarah and I grew up together, went to school together, and even were both Zetas at Clemson.

I also visited with Marie (a cancer patient I met last time but we forgot to get a picture!)

The only “surprise” of the day was the my plasma numbers were too low; to the point that I almost was not able to get treated.  They want my plasma to be over 100 in order to give a patient chemo, and mine was 94.  Myra had to consult with Dr. Stillwell and thankfully she allowed me to get treated.  (If she had said “no”, they would wait one more weak and let my body bounce back a little more).  My red blood count and hemoglobin continue to be on the very low range and close to where I might need a blood transfusion. My magnesium and potassium continue to be very low also, no matter how much I try to eat foods rich in these nutrients.   This is where we are seeing the cumulative effect of the drugs on my body.    I am AMAZED and count it a miracle that I have felt as good physically as I have the past few weeks, amidst what is going on inside my body.

Today, Thursday 8/6 I went back to the clinic for fluids, anti-nausea, etc and my neulasta shot (white blood cell booster shot).   A friend from college, Ashlee (Carmichael) Moses and I had reconnected after TEN YEARS, and she brought me lunch and visited.  That was by far the highlight of my time at the clinic today!  I’m so excited she lives in Columbia now and we can catch up more frequnetly!  Ashlee was my “big sister” in our sorority at Clemson.

So far after chemo # 5  I’m feeling well and I pray it continues.

Thank you all for your continued prayers and support….we are so well loved by our “village!”

Praises and Prayers:

*PRAISE for how well cycle 4 went; that I felt mostly good and was able to make special memories with my family

*PRAISE that the Lord continues to use cancer to reveal Himself to me, reveal sin, prune me, and make me more like His Son…burning away the dross so more of Him can shine through

*PRAYER~ a scripture you could pray over me is Phillippians 3:8. I especially love the Amplified version:  “I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly].”  The prayer of my heart is that through every part of my life, I am able to know Christ more fully and clearly through it.  I pray through cancer I come to a deeper heart knowledge of who He is to me.

*BOLDLY PRAY~ that this 5th cycle would be as manageable as the 4th cycle!  God is good either way, but I pray for another “easy” cycle! Pray against nausea, weakness, and vomiting. Pray that I could continue to eat!

*PRAYER~ that my plasma numbers stay up enough so that I am able to have my FINAL big chemo on 8/26.  Also pray for hemoglobin and red blood count to stay at a good level.

*PRAYER~for wisdom and discernment as we begin to consider surgery options.  We want the loudest voices to be the Lord and our trusted Doctors.  Many many things to consider.  {more on this later- but some type of surgery will occur likely in October)

*PRAYER ~(unrelated to cancer!) for Samuel and Selah as they start Kindergarten at Center for Knowledge (CFK-Main Campus) on 8/19.  Pray for a seamless transition and joyful hearts!

Thank you, my faithful prayer warriors!

His grace abounds,

Brooke

All Sufficient Grace (part 1)

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  2 Corinthians 12:9

I feel led to share a significant part of this journey with you tonight. This is part 1 of 2  (or maybe 3)  :)

My words flow out of a heart that is full and overflowing with the presence and joy of the Lord.  Psalm 16:11 says “in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  His presence and joy ALWAYS co-exist!  If I’m lacking in joy, I can always attribute it to a lack of time with the Lord. When the distractions of life overtake me (whether it’s the usual stuff of life or hard circumstances) and when my eyes start focusing more on those things than Jesus, my joy shrivels! Each and every time!

I feel that’s what happened to me in the weeks surrounding my third treatment.  There were some dark days which took me to a dark valley – physically, spiritually, emotionally.  I was still reading God’s Word and praying, but it just felt dry.  I couldn’t FEEL God’s presence.  Can anyone relate? I sought comfort in the Gospel – with a true heart knowledge that I was 100% carried by our precious Lord in these times and knowing that He simply wanted me to learn what it meant to truly rest in His finished work on the cross and His all carrying arms.

God was still teaching me through these dark days. He  spoke a truth into my heart: “Faith isn’t faith if it is always FELT.”  Those “mountain top” moments are amazing, but not how God intends for us to live life every day.  Because at some point  our faith goes deeper than our feelings.  It’s in these times that the Word of God is more precious than ever because we read of the character of God, and the promises to those of us who believe.

As Pastor George Crow (our precious Pastor at Northeast Presbyterian Church)  always says “Jesus loves me this I know”…(how do I know this?)….”For the BIBLE TELLS ME SO”.  It really all comes back to this, the simplest truth: trusting in what God tells us through His Word even when we don’t FEEL it. My feelings and emotions are so fickle!

 

During this time, however,  I longed for God’s joy-filled communion as I had experienced….even in other dark valleys I had journeyed through in times past.  I wanted God to restore my faith-sight that I had at the beginning of my journey, when I had the deepest conviction in my soul that GOD WAS UP TO SOMETHING.  I cannot even express the deep confidence the Lord blessed me with in those early days surrounding my diagnosis.    That first week was a complete BLUR.  After the “It’s cancer” phone call, in the midst of my part-time ministry job, caring for my children and home, each day I found myself scheduling doctors appointments, meetings with people that we needed to share the news with face to face, etc etc.  Not to mention processing the devastating news we had just learned.  But in those days, I sensed God’s presence like few times before.

Through God’s grace (ONLY HIM!) my eyes were fixed squarely on the “story beneath the story”, which is the story of FAITH that God was writing in my life. This is the often unseen story, and really it’s the BIGGER story.  Cancer? That’s the small story of sight.  It’s not eternal.  It’s transient.  But the FAITH story is eternal!

I KNEW this cancer diagnosis wasn’t an accident.  I was so confident that although God did not cause breast cancer, that He allowed it as His grace in my life, to do a million things in my life and others lives (some we get to see – thank you Lord – some we will never see this side of eternity)!  I had JOY that the Lord had chosen me to carry this cross, and I waited expectantly to see all that God was going to do through this trial.  I knew it was no accident and felt set-apart to suffer with my Lord.   Joy, peace, hope.

These were my truest convictions during those crazy days – and that is ALL the LORD. NOT Brooke Turner :)

But in the days surrounding and after my third chemo cycle, I realized something had shifted in my heart.  I realized I had shifted my sight from my Great God to my circumstances.   I no longer felt the joy and peace of the Lord.  My heart was full of dread for the upcoming cycles and the very real, very terrible side effects!

But last week everything changed.

Last Wednesday I had the sincere joy of entering into the presence of the Lord with 200 of my closest sisters in Christ as Northeast Presbyterian Women’s Ministries presented an event called “Summer Sisterhood: Sisters set FREE!”.  I was SO excited about this event because after our Spring Women’s Retreat the Lord impressed a clear vision on my heart for what He wanted this night to be.   A night of worship, transparency and God Glorifying testimonies!  We arranged for two amazing female leaders to lead our time of worship  (check out Called Worship – Kerri & Carrie are incredible!).  Three women shared powerful testimonies of how God gave them freedom in their lives, and we even enjoyed fellowship around a delicious meal.  The night was all I could have envisioned and more, thanks to my Women’s Ministry Staff- Anne, Tara & Sharon and many volunteers, who executed the event beautifully!  It blessed my heart to see and give hugs to so many of my precious sisters in Christ who have held my arms up during this time.

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What made the difference?  Fixing my eyes BACK on Jesus, my suffering Savior, the One who knows the depth of my pain, and the One who is greater than my pain.   HOW did my eyes shift back to Jesus?  Through

1) TIME in WORSHIP  : allowing His truth and His character to wash over me as I corporately worshipped in song with my sisters in Christ

2) TIME in FELLOWSHIP with other believers:  as Romans 1:12 says:  being “mutually encouraged by each other’s faith”

3) TRUTH: of who God is through His Word (in this case through the testimony of my sisters in Christ.  Each testimony was saturated with the Word of God)

4) TRANSPARENCY: admitting that I don’t “have it all together” all the time.  This may be a scary thought to some considering I have been called to serve as the Women’s Ministry Director of a large church…but as I grow in my journey I realize the importance of being real and vulnerable.   Often one persons transparency can mean freedom for another as we exit the shadows and understand that many struggle in the same way that we do.

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The BIG IDEA – the takeaway- I in myself am SO very weak, but our God is SO very strong.  And often His strength is manifested and channeled to us as we enter into authentic community with other believers.  God could have “pulled me out of the pit” in anyway that He wanted- but He chose to use the Summer Sisterhood event at NEPC and my sweet sisters in Christ who ministered to me there.  I needed to be surrounded by my army!

Find your army, ladies!  The Lord wants us in authentic community with other women – we cannot do this life alone!  And if you don’t have an army of sisters in Christ – we’d love to have you join our sisterhood at Northeast Presbyterian Women’s Ministries! (not a shameless plug, only sharing because they are a treasure of my heart and I want the world to know the love of these women!)

Part 2 to come -where I will share the one day where I felt the very weakest in my own flesh but witnessed God show up in a mighty way!

 

Cancer update

My fourth chemo was last Thursday, 7/16. That day went well although the meds they gave me made me very drowsy and I think I was a little glazed over for most of my conversations that day!

I went in again to the clinic on Friday for fluids, anti nausea meds, etc and had a home health nurse show me how to administer the same over the weekend.  YES I actually (very carefully) gave myself meds through my port this weekend!

Today (Monday) I went back to the clinic (see a pattern here), to get more fluids, meds, etc.  and I’m praising God to report that I feel GOOD!  I even ate lunch and dinner (hallelujah!)

I will be back at the clinic on Wednesday for more of the same, plus my weekly herceptin infusion.  I’m optimistic that maybe all these trips back to get hydrated and to get anti-nausea meds through my port (which work much better than oral meds), that this may be the secret to a more manageable couple of weeks.

THANK YOU for your prayers and for journeying with me, and for allowing me to be transparent!

His grace abounds,

Brooke