Crutches for a Caregiver

Use those crutches - they help us keep moving!

Caregivers have to survive along with the patient.

Pudding.  Dora the Explorer.  Juice. Bambi.  Burritos.  Blankets.  Chemo backpacks. The Lion King. Ice Cream.

Crutches for a caregiver.

Crutches I thought I would never use!  But I used them for sure.  I used them often. Did that make me a bad mother?

I had always been a careful mother.  I oversaw every aspect of my children’s food, activities – everything.  As an educator I was careful with their screen-time, diet and bed-time.  I invited children to our yard to play, because I could keep my eye on my own kids better that way. I didn’t succumb to the temptation of using TV or screen-time as a baby-sitter.  Ice cream was rare.  Juice and pudding were treats.  Dora the Explorer?  I’d never seen it. We didn’t watch TV.

Having a four-year-old too weak to play, too lethargic to care, and too sick to eat spun my mothering ideals into a tail-spin.

Andrew’s medication tasted awful.  He was four so I ground it up and we got it down with pudding.  He was tired, but looked forward to Dora the Explorer during blood-draws.  Playing was out of the question, but a good dose of Bambi occupied him long enough for me to actually take a shower.

Burritos was the one food that trumped all other options and let’s be honest, I could hide one of his medications in that burrito.  I’d read that little ones drinking juice was a bad idea for their teeth, but water tasted pretty bad to my little guy and we worked to keep him hydrated.

Andrew had more blankets than anyone I’ve ever met in my life.  We used every single one.  He was extra cold, threw up often and we traveled to hospitals and clinics a lot – blankets made those trips bearable.  The chemo-backpack was started by my friend and added to often by other friends.  Toys abounded.  They had to be sanitized and switched out often in order to be of use.

Lion King was the funny movie Andrew wanted when he felt well.  And ice cream?  That was for those days when the medication was overwhelming and too much and the tears and the refusals had to be felt.  Ice cream was the reward for that nasty medicine going down all three times that day.  Ugh.

Where did my careful mothering go?  And did I do the right thing?

My mothering-style?  It went to survival mode.  Us mothers?  We have to survive.  Our most important job is to help our kids and our families survive.  Did I do the right thing to change the format of our lives?  Absolutely and I’d do it again in a second.

There is no “perfect” in caregiving.  There is no absolute “right” in mothering.  I hate all the stuff I see online – – the judgmental everyone-should-tolerate-each-other-as-long-as-they-do-it-my-way stuff that’s out there on social media.

Caregivers have to operate the best they can with what they are handed each day.  We have to use the tools at hand.  The patient needs to be comfortable, loved and taken care of the best way we know how.  But don’t forget this important part.

Caregivers have to survive this medical emergency too – it’s not just about the patient.

So do what you need to do to survive.  Use any and all crutches you can find,

And I’m just going to say this – my biggest, best and most stable crutch was not actually a crutch, but a foundation:

Jesus.  He’s the One that will get us through the difficulties.  I know I’m biased – but He is why I can sit here, on a Sunday, while my recovered Leukemia patient is outside shooting hoops!

Praise God for crutches.

A caregiver should use all the crutches available - and do NOT feel guilty! #caregiver #caregiving Click To Tweet

 

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

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1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

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Caregiver Loneliness Can Delay YOUR Recovery

Five Tips for Avoiding Isolation

loneliness

Take a Peek at Caregiver Loneliness

ICU minutes stretch like bubblegum—at some point, I know they’ll burst and slap more messiness into my life. I wait, lonely in the busiest place on the planet, for the nurses to allow me back into Pedro’s room. The tubes cascade out of his mouth, bringing life and hope that I won’t have to face the future alone.

***

Hospital minutes twang with anxiety—Pedro’s not in ICU any more, but nurses rush in on quiet feet each time I press the call button. Days have passed since he knew that I sit next to him, counting each breath and movement—hoping that this crisis will pass. The beeps of his vitals accompany my prayers. The loneliness presses in—squeezing hope into the corners.

 ***

I am on a highway, looking towards a bright future, yet time whizzes past me in a blur. I tend to Pedro’s needs during my lunch break, than hurry back to work. The four of us (Pedro, Laura, Sarah and I) relish his recovery, and long for time to regain its measured pace. Normalcy dances within reach, yet I feel lonelier than when minutes stretched like bubblegum.

The bills, the burdens, the new normal, all build an invisible wall between me and everyone else. No one understands the sheer panic a sneeze or a sniffle produces in my mind. No one understands the confusion of no longer living in panic mode.

I blindly hang on to the one constant from my journey. I know I have never been alone. Never been forsaken. But MY road to recovery is a lonely one. #caregiver Click To Tweet

Lessons Learned in Retrospect

Fifteen years have passed since Pedro’s stem-cell transplant saved his life. For him, recovery lasted about a year. For me? A lot longer. Cancer and other catastropic illnesses can act as blinders for the caregiver. We hyper-focus on the tasks at hand: taking care of our loved one, finding answers, and willing them to live. We forget that the world continues while we fight an isolated battle.

In retrospect, I would have done things a bit differently.

1). I would have found a support group for cancer caregivers.

I don’t know if they didn’t exist at the time of Pedro’s illness, or if I just didn’t see signs offering help. A few years after his recovery, I went to the same hospital and noticed posters all over the place for caregiver support groups. It would have been helpful to know that I wasn’t the only one having all the feelings that accompany caregiving.loneliness

2). I would have taken more interest in my friends.

Pedro’s illness took place before the advent Facebook and Instagram, so keeping in touch with friends meant phoning or writing letters. Nowadays, constant communication takes very little time and effort. You can take an interest in other people’s lives while you wait.

3) Make an effort to keep in touch with friends and family on a regular basis about non-caregiver related things.

This seems counterintuitive, because your world seems consumed by caregiving matters. But if you come out of the bubble, you’ll find connection with others that will help you when the crisis has ended and you return to normal life.

4) Don’t be afraid to ask for prayer for yourself.

I had no problems asking for prayer for Pedro and his specific needs. I had no idea that I could ask for prayer for myself. You can ask to join our Blessed (but Stressed) group of caregivers on Facebook. We pray for each other every Wednesday.

5) Acknowledge that YOU need time to recover, too.

Hopefully, if you take care of yourself during your journey (I didn’t), you’ll find that recovery takes less time. By staying connected with friends and family about non-caregiver related things, you won’t feel so isolated when your caregiving duties have ended. You’ll find it easier to resume activities that feel ‘normal’ to you, thus decreasing your sense of isolation and loneliness.

Know a Caregiver?

Do you know a caregiver?  Have you wondered if he or she might might suffer from caregiver loneliness?  What can YOU do to help? Don’t feel rejected if your caregiver friend seems distant and unresponsive. Keep reaching out! Caregivers suffer from loneliness but often don’t know how to express their feelings. They need YOU!

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com


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Join the Club – Three Easy Tips for Caregivers

Carol

No matter how hard it feels to do – look for the perks of belonging to the caregiver club

It’s not an elite club.
It’s not a desirable club.
It comes with a very high membership fee.
No one ever requests to join.
But once you’ve been inducted into the club of Cancer Caregivers, you might as well participate fully. Even though it takes awhile for your head to stop spinning from the shock of the diagnosis, it’s important to jump into the caregiving role. No matter how busy you are at your full-time job of caregiving, plus your regular employment, plus your responsibilities as parent, spouse, outside of the caregiving role, our advice to you is Join the Club!

 

 

1. Make it a priority to participate.

Children’s hospital facilities often organize parent suppers or get-togethers to form a sort of parent-support group. Sometimes I felt that I did not have time to go, but when I went it was so nice to be with a group of people that were sharing my journey…who knew what questions NOT to ask, who knew what subjects were OK (it’s only in this group that it’s OK to talk about bodily fluids), and who might have more experience than you do at what you’re doing.

2. Take advantage of offers.

Sometimes, charitable groups offer benefits to cancer patients and their families. Candlelighters, a helper group for families of children with cancer, offered our family the chance to take a jet-boat river cruise for a day outing with other children-with-cancer families. They had offered other things over the years of fighting cancer, but often we could not participate because of travel distances or work commitments. This day on the river was a joy – and it was so touching to watch other cancer-kids in different phases of treatment, living their lives as “normal as possible” under the circumstances…choosing to live with joy for a day. It was good for my boy to recognize that other kids were in different stages, some bald, some healed, some still struggling—he felt like he was in a group where he belonged!

3. Be brave and share.

I remember standing outside the entryway to the children’s cancer ward, staring out the window, feeling very alone and overwhelmed. A lady stood down a ways and after awhile I noticed she had the same blank stare out at the beautiful scenery that I had. I felt a little shy, but she looked like she was hurting. I tried the line, “You come here often?” She smiled and told me of her son, back for his umpteenth hospital visit in a long fight with brain tumors. I told her of my son’s fourth hospital visit in a new fight against leukemia. We didn’t really offer any advice, we didn’t hug or make a lifetime friendship, but for just a moment, our burden was lightened because we were not walking alone.
What ‘club benefits’ have you found most helpful?

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com


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Why You Should Forget About New Year’s Resolutions

Brainstorm Solutions, Instead

ResolutionKiss Resolutions Goodbye!

For years I made New Year’s resolutions: lose weight, start an exercise program, have better health, give up chocolate, and myriad other impossible proclamations.  While my husband recovered from his stem-cell transplant, I spent all of my spare time in bed. I felt grumpy and depressed and weighed fifty pounds more than I should. All of my resolutions clustered around me, tying me to my perpetual inaction.

And then I learned a secret.  ‘Resolution’ simply means to decide on a course of action—there’s nothing to ensure that I stay on course.  Lofty plans sound great on December 31, but without action they fall by the wayside quicker than couch potatoes running a 5K.

‘Solution,’ on the other hand, means ‘the act of solving a problem’ or ‘the state of being solved.’  Action equals motion.  This year, decide on solutions to problems and ditch the resolutions. Start with a list of things you’d like to accomplish, and then brainstorm ways to make those things happen. Don’t focus on your goal, though. You might end up feeling overwhelmed.

Focus on the little changes that you can make each day that add up to big changes over a long period of time. Those daily choices add up. Give yourself grace during your journey to forming new habits.

Resolutions

 

Changes Don’t Happen Overnight

Since saying ‘Adios!’ to New Year’s Resolutions, and acting to solve problems I saw in my life, I’ve lost those fifty extra pounds, lowered my cholesterol and learned that chocolate isn’t the enemy. I have more solutions to work out in my life, but I’m not the grumpy, frumpy middle-aged lump I used to be.

You can find out more about learning to really nurture yourself over at my other blog. On my journey, I’ve discovered lots of solutions to adding extra movement into my life and finding healthier ways to deal with stress.

Whether you’re a busy mom or a stressed-out caregiver, remember to give yourself grace for your journey. Change takes time (more than the month of January) in order to remain permanent. If you’d like to find a grace-filled support group, check out Faithful Finish Lines and their two-week FREE Grace Camp (affiliate link).

True change takes time! Give yourself grace, and don't try to accomplish everything in the just one month! #newyearsresolutions #solutions Click To Tweet

You can also download the printable graphic right here:





 

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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It’s Not About the Wise Men – It’s Just a Simple Gift

- from shared wisdom gleaned from experience

It’s not about being wise – it’s just about sharing the journey

It’s not about the wise men, this Christmas.

Our gift to you comes from two ladies who consider ourselves anything but wise.  In fact, our story started with the words, “Don’t you wish you would have known…?” and continued with a resounding, “Oh, wow…yes!  I wish someone could have prepared me for…!”

Because there is no way to know what you’re going to need when a loved one’s life hangs in the balance.  There is no preparation you can do for administering dangerous chemicals to your child.  No studying prepares you to learn to let go of your loved one while at the same time fighting harder than your own life to help them with theirs (and that phrase makes sense if you’ve been there).  Nothing takes your breath away like hearing those diagnostic words declaring the battle plans you didn’t even know existed.

When your loved one is diagnosed, your life changes as much as theirs.

But the treatments are for them.  The medicine is for the patient.  The financial help is for the recipient.  Support staff, books, hospital rooms – everything is geared toward helping your loved one survive that catastrophic, life-changing illness.  Just like you want it to be!

Anita and I have said to each other, repeatedly, there isn’t much we’d change, looking back over the treatment for her husband and my boy.  We’d still fight the battles, maintain the home, fight for the rights of our patient.

There’s not much we’d change in the care we gave…

But boy could we have treated ourselves better in the process!

Maybe we could have understood, a little better, what the nurses said when they sympathetically clucked, “Now, you must take care of yourself too.”  What if we had accepted more offers of help?  Maybe we should not have buried our worries, fought the insurance companies all by ourselves or eaten whatever we could grab in between treatments?

What if we could have known?

Our gift, we pray, is that others can learn what our life-of-care-giving has taught us.  One step at a time.

Our gift, this Christmas, is a free book for you.  It’s not gold, frankincense or myrrh from the Wise Men – it’s just some stories and advice from two ladies who’ve been there.

Subcribe below or beside (depending upon your browser) and receive a free book pictured on this page!

Merry Christmas!

Our gift, this #Christmas, is a free book for you. It's not gold, frankincense or myrrh from the Wise Men - it's just some stories and advice from two #caregivers who've been there. Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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We All Learn in Different Ways

(And We'd Like to Help You Out!)

differentDifferent Ways to Learn

The professor of educational psychology class at a university intoned, “We only learn by practicing—by actually doing something.” I shook my head in disbelief.

differentI raised my hand (I can’t keep my opinions to myself, sometimes). “So, you’re telling me that if I drove down the road, and see the vehicle in front of me bottom out in a pothole, I don’t have a different choice? I will have to go through the same pothole in order to learn that going through potholes could damage my car?”

“Hrrrum,” the professor replied. “What would you do in this situation?”

“Something different!” I exclaimed. “As a rational, thinking, relatively observant human being, I would swerve to avoid the pothole.”

“Um, yes,” he replied. “Good choice for your car. But we’re talking about the psychology of learning.”

“Agreed. But if I observe someone else making a mistake, and make a different choice with a better result, did learning take place?” Obviously, the professor (a young man in graduate school), had no siblings. Every second or third child understands the benefit of learning from the oldest sibling’s mistakes!

Our Gift to You

Carol Bovee and I have had some crazy experiences during our different cancer caregiving journeys. We’ve gone through some potholes along the way that damaged us because we didn’t take time to care for ourselves.

We’ve prepared a free book for you to help you negotiate your own caregiver journey (or tell a caregiver friend about the book!). Learn from our mistakes, without having to make them. We want you to experience a different journey—one where you come out the other end with fewer bumps and dings.

You can find the link to the free book up there in the right-hand corner. You’ll receive a free PDF of Cancer Caregiving 101: How to Survive and Thrive on Your Caregiver Journey. You’ll also receive a short series of emails that let you know about other aspects of our caregiving community.

Even if you don’t care for someone with cancer, you might find the stories inspirational and helpful in your own caregiving journey. Remember, if you know a caregiver, please pass this information along. We’d love to help others learn from our mistakes!

Get your FREE copy of Cancer Caregiving 101: How to Survive and Thrive During Your #Caregiving Journey. #selfhelp #cancer Click To Tweet

Get the FREE book!





Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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A Near Truth is Really a Lie

Give the Gift of Honesty (and a Helping Hand)

nearGoing to Church, but Avoiding the Members

The exhaust from our 4Runner billowed like clouds in the sub-zero temperatures. Snow squeaked under my feet as I went outside to check the temperature in the vehicle. I felt chagrinned that we would drive less than a block before parking. Church was so near, but Pedro couldn’t risk a fall on the ice, nor prolonged contact with the cold. He wanted to go to church, but didn’t want to see church members.

near

Pedro and the girls in front of the tree that transplant Christmas.

“Don’t want to see anyone,” he had told me. “Tired of everyone telling me how good I look. I don’t.”

And he didn’t. When people he knew saw him, I could see the quickly veiled shock and the scarcely masked struggle for a response. They usually blurted out, “You look great!” A near lie, if by that they meant he looked good. A near truth if they meant he looked like an extra for a movie about the Holocaust.

After assuring myself that Pedro wouldn’t freeze, I went back inside to help him bundle up for the short drive. I could give him the gift of church without people.

“Drive up the sidewalk,” Pedro instructed.

I blanched. Pedro must have noticed, because he assured me, “They drive a pickup on it all the time to clear the snow. It won’t hurt anything.”

“Ok,” I breathed, before backing out of the drive way and heading to the sidewalk. I needed to let go of my compulsive rule-following and concern over what others thought of me. I pulled up near the front steps and helped Pedro inside before dashing outside to get the car off the sidewalk.

When I ran inside, Pedro had made it across the lobby and up one of the steps leading to the mother’s room.

Nothing but the Truth

He looked so frail—more like a 90-year-old than a 34-year-old. After battling cancer for eight months, he looked like he’d walked off the set of Schindler’s List—emaciated, expressionless, and practically immobile.

Many church friends hadn’t seen him since the summer, when he looked near-healthy; just a young man dealing with a bout of cancer. The battle had turned ugly in late July, and he had experienced several near-death experiences in the interim. No wonder he wanted to avoid them.

We labored up the stairs together, and sank into a comfortable couch in the darkened room. The annual Christmas program came through the speakers, filled with songs and readings of hope. After the program, I went back down to the 4Runner to get it warming, and then went back inside to visit with a few people and wait for the crowds to clear.

The lobby emptied out, so I went upstairs to help Pedro. As we neared the bottom of the stairs, a voice called out, “Pedro! It’s good to see you!”

Pedro and I both looked up and saw one of our friends rushing across the lobby to greet us. As he neared, I saw the shock and horror. I braced myself for the usual near lie. I had worked so hard to give Pedro the gift of a morning at church without having to hear the hated sentence.

Instead, our friend blurted out, “Man, you look awful!” He clapped his hand over his mouth and froze, stunned by what he had said.

Pedro burst out laughing—but considering his weakened vocal chords and his frozen face, our friend couldn’t read Pedro’s reaction.

When Pedro finally caught his breath, he held out his hand, “Thanks! I needed to hear that today. The truth.”

How to Avoid Near Lies

Give the gift of truth this Christmas. If someone looks haggard and worn out, don’t lie and say they look great. Go deeper and ask them how they are doing. Invite them out for a cup of coffee. If they say they can’t get out because they can’t get away, offer to bring the coffee to them. Caregivers don’t have a lot of spare time, but they always appreciate help!

Those who struggle with illness, whether physical or mental, don’t feel better when we, the healthy, tell them near truths (lies). They would prefer the truth. Or, if you fear offending, an honest offer of help.

To say that someone looks great when they obviously don’t, diminishes their struggle. #mentalhealth #Christmas #caregivers Click To Tweet

In this busiest of seasons, make a vow to spend less time on decorations and fleeting gifts of things, and more time looking for friends in need. To this day, Pedro has fond memories of our friend’s blurted truth—the perfect gift in a season of darkness.

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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Celebrate Ten Years in Remission!

Ten Years Since the last Day of Chemo

Celebrate!

Ten years since the last day of chemotherapy. Celebrate!

Today is big!  Huge!  Today we celebrate one of those milestones you never expect to even think about with your children.  Once thought of, however, the prayer that you’ll ‘make it’ is a never-ending process-type prayer!  That prayer for remission and the end of chemotherapy!

Ten years ago, my seven-year-old had his last day of chemotherapy.  It was not the last day of dealing with cancer, by any stretch, but it was the end of three and a half years of at least one chemo appointment every week, the setting aside of lengthy hospital stays and the termination of inserting horrific drugs into a little body.  Hair grew back, skin returned to healthy pink, stomach aches receded and this mom began the process of adjusting to a new normal.  My son began the process of learning to deal with the things the physicians call the “price of survival” from a catastrophic illness.

I will never forget that day.  Our whole family went to the last day of chemo.  We sat through the last drip and flushed the port for the last time  (port removal was later in the month, but we never had to access it again).

I wanted to celebrate.

We needed a huge, knock-out party.  Our family should do something fabulous.  A plane toting a giant banner.  A fireworks display.  A party with huge balloons and lots of happy shouts and singing.  A prayer-of-thanks-meeting in our church. But that takes energy – and mine had all been sucked up in the fight for life.

Instead, our battered family sat quietly together in the hospital, while Andrew cried because he wouldn’t be coming back the next week for his time with those wonderful nurses.  We watched Dora the Explorer with him, as usual, and we all ate the breakfast burrito that usually followed his early morning chemotherapy sessions.  Andrew made his round of the nurses with a very small token of our appreciation and we waved our way out the locked door of the hospital.

The longest, most painful process of our lives was over.

There was no parking lot party.  The world went about their day much as they had the day that Andrew was diagnosed with leukemia.  I wanted to shout at the passing cars, “Hey!  Don’t you see this is a big day here?”

Big.  Huge. Gigantic.

Our God got us through chemotherapy.  Cancer lost.  Sure, the doctors reminded us that the remission might or might not hold.  Of course, my boy faces a lifetime of cancer checks.   It’s a given that physical therapy for abused muscles and coordination followed.

But, for that day, the battle was won!  God carried us through.

Praise God for the end of #chemotherapy! Praise Him in the Storm! #cancercaregiving #childhoodcancer Click To Tweet

Celebrate.

We walked to our car, each quietly contemplating, in our own ways, the grandiose and loud thing that was so quietly happening.

Randy unlocked the car door and the girls climbed into the back.  Andrew stood there, looking at the playground outside the hospital.  “I wanna play on the slide,” he announced.

We all began to laugh and the girls popped back out of the car with relief.

Celebrate!

No germ phobias any more!  If Andrew wanted to be outside, he could be!  We didn’t have to wear masks!  Ever single one of us climbed up the playground equipment and went down the slide.  We played hot-lava-monster and raced around, kicking up frozen bark chips with our joyous steps.  The cold air pinkened our cheeks and the foggy air bounced our laughter back at us.  I ran to the car and took out my camera.  My gang piled up on the slide for a picture.

Andrew was done with leukemia.  Andrew was done with cancer.

Praise God!

So today I repeat: Praise God.  It has been ten years since that day our family celebrated all alone in that cold playground.  Ten years since God handed us a miracle and waited to see what we would do with that gift.

My boy is a senior in high school.

Ten years of remission.

120 months to recover from three tough years.

520 weeks without chemotherapy.

3,650 days without cancer.

From then to now – 10 years to celebrate!

Praise God and Celebrate!  His love endures forever!

Celebrating 10 years since chemotherapy! #leukemia #cancer #chemotherapy Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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The Difference Hair Can Make

When the beauty of love shines through the ugly of cancer

The difference that hair can make…

A bright red ponytail and flying blond hair edged around the corner of room number 11 in the Children’s Cancer ward.  Wide-eyes greeted me as my two precious little girls tip-toed over to where I perched on the parent chair/bed/sofa/storage unit.  I hadn’t seen them for over a week: the same week we all adjusted to our youngest having Leukemia.  The first week I’d ever spent apart from both girls.  I expected questions about Andrew – his diagnosis, his prognosis or the tubes running into his body while he slept heavily.  They stared at him in silence and cuddled deeper into my sides.

“Mommy,” whispered one, “we walked past rooms…”

The other added, “Mom – the children were bald!  All of them.  Will Andrew be bald?”

I nodded.

Bald wasn’t my major concern – life and death took precedence.

Later in the evening, after piling onto Andrew’s bed and reading stories, pulling him around the cancer ward in the sanitized red wagon and getting a lesson on the “pokes” that had become Andrew’s routine, both girls again asked questions.

They asked about blood, pokes, the masks we’d have to wear and tests.  Then they asked if Andrew was going to get well.

Then the girls returned to the subject of all the bald children they’d seen throughout the afternoon.  My girls had such thick, long hair –  one was bright red hair and the other with blond streaks.  They kept fiddling with with their hair as they recalled the little bald girl next door.  Larissa whispered, “Mommy.  No one should have to be bald…if they don’t want to be.”

That thought stuck in my oldest child’s head and somehow, by the time Andrew and I were able to come home from the hospital a month later, both girls had determined to grow their hair out as long as possible.  They had heard of something called Locks of Love” and were determined to donate.  I explained that those wigs were not necessarily for children with cancer, but for children who couldn’t grow hair long-term.  Both girls could care less WHY the children were without hair – they just wanted to help them.

A favorite picture of mine: Larissa’s hair donation #2 and Karina #1.

Having fun and messing around with that long red hair, before cutting it off!

This thanksgiving my “girls” came home from college.  The oldest is a senior pre-med student in the mid-west and the middle “child” is a sophomore engineering major in the northwest.  They both have long, beautiful hair – despite three hair donations over the years.    Friday, before heading back to school, Larissa insisted on a hair cut  – a short one (relatively).  I suggested not cutting it so drastically, as she’s had long hair for years.

“Go big or go home!” Larissa declared, “As long as I’m donating, let’s donate a lot!”

15 inches.

That brings Larissa’s total hair donation to well over 35 inches of hair over the years.

I told her she could sell this batch – after all, she’s a struggling college student.  Rolled eyes and a shrug reminded me that she didn’t do this just for the shock of a dramatic change in looks (although she’s having a blast with that too).

Long ago, in a children’s hospital, Larissa’s heart was changed by challenges strangers faced.  She saw a need and did what she could.  I’ve often wondered if that’s also where her desire to be a doctor has come from – helping strangers face challenges.

Cancer is ugly.  Horrible. Awful.  It changes people’s lives.

Every once in a while, those changes are for good.  I’m so thankful for the beauty from God that shines through the ugly of sin.

When the beauty of love shines through the ugly of #cancer #locksoflove #childhoodcancer Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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Asbestos: The Deadly Threat to DIYers

What You Don't Know CAN Kill You

asbestos

Today Rachel Lynch from the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance will share with us about a deadly fiber that most people don’t know enough about.

What DIYers don’t know about asbestos just might kill them. Tiny particles of asbestos, a naturally occurring fibrous material used in construction in the 1970s, can enter a person’s lungs and cause Mesothelioma. This rare form of cancer only comes from contact with asbestos.

Shockingly, although we’ve known for years that asbestos causes cancer, other countries import this toxin into our country on a regular basis.

What is Asbestos?

At first, no one knew about the side effects of asbestos. Its cheap and strong qualities seemed to provide the perfect tool for myriad construction applications. After all, it has the ability to resist heat, fire and electricity.

The material can be found in wallpaper, cement, insulation, floor/ceiling tiles, pipes, furnaces, and broilers among other building materials. In addition, the toxin was used frequently in the military and ship building. Unfortunately, when inhaled, it can cause cancer.

What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. There are four different types of mesothelioma—pleural, peritoneal, pericardial and testicular. Pleural mesothelioma occurs in the lungs and is the most common form of the disease. Pleural mesothelioma accounts for 70 to 80 percent of all diagnosed mesothelioma cases.

asbestosEach type of the disease presents itself with varying symptoms. Due to the variation, it is extremely difficult for patients to get an accurate and timely diagnosis. Unfortunately, all too often patients receive an accurate mesothelioma diagnosis only after the cancer has progressed into the third or fourth stage. Most patients are first misdiagnosed with a more common respiratory illness such as the flu or pneumonia. To make matters worse, mesothelioma has a long latency period—it typically does not manifest until 20 to 40 years after asbestos exposure occurs.

Most often those diagnosed with mesothelioma have only 12 to 21 months to live. Prognosis can improve with early diagnosis. As previously stated, though, most cases are not confirmed until the third or fourth stage when it is too late for treatment. At that point, palliative care is the only option.

How Does Asbestos Exposure Occur?

Three distinct waves of asbestos exposure have occurred in the United States. The first wave of exposure impacted those handling asbestos in their occupations—mainly men working in mining, military personnel, and tradesmen. The second wave of exposure impacted the workers’ families. Those who worked with asbestos brought home the asbestos fibers on their clothing—unknowingly exposing their families when particles fell all their clothing and family members inhaled them.

The third—and current wave—of asbestos exposure has a close connection to the DIY craze. Many homes and schools have asbestos in them. The material is relatively harmless when left alone. However, when Do-it-Yourselfers dig into a project, they often disturb the material and release asbestos dust into the air. Anyone nearby could inhale the fibers and end up with mesothelioma

If you have an older home, consult an asbestos professional to have your home inspected before beginning any remodeling projects.asbestos

International Use of Asbestos

While asbestos use in the United States has tapered off, there are parts of the world where the asbestos trade thrives.

Although the last asbestos mine in the United States shut down in 2002, manufacturers in the United States still wanted to use the cheap and resistant material. With the United States no longer mining and manufacturing our own asbestos and asbestos products, the nation’s imports provide a major driving force in the growth in the international asbestos trade.

Other countries have imported more than 8 million pounds of asbestos into the United States since 2006. The majority of that—more than 7.6 million pounds of asbestos—arrived at the ports of New Orleans and Houston. Other ports receiving shipments of asbestos and asbestos products include Newark, Long Beach and Los Angeles. From those ports the toxic material travels out to 29 different states by either truck or rail. So, while the ban on mining asbestos protects U.S. miners from occupational asbestos exposure, the toxin still makes its way to all corners of the country and continues to put Americans in great danger.

Why is Asbestos still legal?

After reading all this you might be wondering—If we know that asbestos contains a cancer-causing toxin why do we still use it? I can assure you it’s not for lack of trying.

Beginning in the 1970s, when researchers discovered that asbestos causes cancer, the Environmental Protection Agency began attempting to ban the carcinogenic material. Unfortunately, they didn’t find success.

Almost 40 years later, the Senate unanimously passed the Ban Asbestos in America Act. Unfortunately, the House of Representatives squashed the bill and it never made it to the President.

“It’s reprehensible that Congress has allowed the man-made asbestos crisis to continue,” says Linda Reinstein, president of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), which represents asbestos victims. “Each year, up to 15,000 Americans die from preventable mesothelioma and other asbestos-caused diseases and imports still continue.“

What Now?

Until researchers discover a cure for Mesothelioma, prevention and raising awareness provide the best recourses for early treatment. If you or a loved one believe they have experienced asbestos exposure, visit a medical professional.

By raising awareness of Mesothelioma, people may realize they have been exposed to it and seek help before symptoms arise. A simple mention that you may have been exposed to asbestos could enable early detection, significantly increasing your chances of survival.

asbestosRachel Lynch is the Press and Media Coordinator for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, a leading authority in providing information about asbestos exposure and its link to mesothelioma.

 

 

 

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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