I Dare You!

A friend who sticks closer than a brother http://wp.me/p2UZoK-wc via @caregivermomMy brother could yank my chain better than just about anyone. He used to follow me around our house saying, “Come on, hit me, I dare you!” I shook my head and walked away.

He followed hot on my heels, taunting me, “Come on, hit me. Why don’t you just hit me?” He kept it up until finally out of sheer frustration I would stupidly punch him in the arm. He was older, stronger and bigger.

He punched me back, laughing that I took the dare, yet again. He couldn’t hit me first (his rules of chivalry I guess, I really have no idea). I had to throw the first punch and then it was open season.

Later he got better at daring me, “Come on up the rope ladder!” he coaxed.

“I’m scared.” I wanted help. Continue reading

Dare

I am not the me I used to be.  Now I dare to share. http://wp.me/s2UZoK-dare via @blestbutstrestThe funny thing about growing up in a conservative Christian community is that I never learned to share my faith—after all everyone I knew already believed the same things I did. I went to church with the same kids I went to school with. We had the same Bible classes from Kindergarten through 12th grade.

If someone asked me what I believed, I always happily shared, but I’ve never been the strike-up-conversations-with-strangers-about-Jesus kind of gal. Frankly, I suffered from fear. Fear of people not understanding. Fear of looking foolish. Fear of saying the wrong thing or offending someone.

It took almost losing my husband to give me confidence to share Jesus with strangers. Continue reading

Redeemed

God will lead those he redeems http://wp.me/p2UZoK-w1 via @blestbutstrestOne of the biggest challenges came out of left field a month after Pedro’s successful stem cell transplant. My goal in telling this part of our journey is not to point fingers of blame or launch accusations—I simply want other caregivers (and potential caregivers—so that’s just about everybody) to know that wise people make provisions BEFORE disaster strikes and that harboring hate isn’t part of God’s plan.

We weren’t wise people.

It all had to do with work. Sick people can’t do it. If you’ve ever negotiated the turbid waters of unemployment insurance and catastrophic illness, you’ve probably already lived my nightmare.

We had excellent insurance—about the time Pedro fought his battle against the colonizing yeast infection, some kind soul from his place of work sent me papers to fill out so we could claim long-term disability (a benefit I’d never heard of before—but oh, what a difference it made!).

I had a hard time filling the forms out, because I hadn’t done what we should have done when Pedro got sick—set it up so that I could make decisions for him and sign papers for him—I think it’s called the “power of attorney”—in case he was ever unable to fill things out on his own.

Wisdom Nugget One—settle those matters at the beginning of an illness, or even when you’re not sick. It’s not a lack of faithit’s an act of mercy for the person who might have to make tough decisions if the spouse is incapacitated. (tweet this)

Bob the Boss—Pedro’s supervisor (not his real name)—approached me about the same time. “Do you have a moment?” he asked.

“Sure.” I didn’t, I had an early morning flight to San Francisco to see Pedro and I had a list as long as Santa’s of things I needed to do before I left.

“It’s about time to start making plans for the next school year, and hum, er, well, we needed to decide what to do in case Pedro doesn’t make it.”

“Um, yeah. Do whatever you need to do, I guess,” I said as I headed out the door. The school board probably needed to make plans for a long-term sub in case Pedro wasn’t well enough to start teaching in August, I thought. Funny, though, August was nine months away. Oh, well, I don’t have time for Negative Nellies.

Fast-forward to early February and Pedro’s triumphant homecoming—a full two weeks earlier than the doctors predicted that he would be ready to return to Montana. He had been redeemed from the jaws of death.

Sure, he still looked like a walking skeleton, and we joked about his million-dollar chemo job that worked better than Botox for removing wrinkles (only on one side of his face, though). He had to carry a pillow to church to sit on, because the cushioned pews didn’t have enough cushion. We stuck close to him when he walked because his right foot didn’t work quite right.

But he gained strength every day—his speech improved daily (try talking without moving your lips to give you an idea of what he sounded like at one point) and a soft sheen of peach fuzz sprouted on his head. Yep, he looked awesome!

Less than a week after he came home for good, I ran to the house on my lunch break and Pedro greeted me with, “Bob called and asked me if I’d like to interview for my job.”

“What!?” And just like that, our biggest challenge nearly kicked our feet out from under us.

Evidently, Bob the Boss understood his hurried conversation with me months ago as a formal ‘pink-slip-kind-of-letter’ because, well, Pedro hadn’t worked for twelve weeks, and it was his right as an employer to terminate the contract. I, on the other hand, thought it was a confession on his part of his lack of faith in God.

Bob the Boss had lined up two other candidates for the job and wanted to know if Pedro would like to interview as well. Pedro had had a rough first part of the school year at his new job—and just when things seemed to settle down, he had received his initial cancer diagnosis and missed the rest of the school year.

The school board had renewed his contract for the following school year, despite his illness, and Pedro had worked over the summer to send out newsletters to parents and keep the school grounds looking good. But Pedro hadn’t made it back to start the new school year because of his relapse.

After a day or two of shell shock, and a few well-intentioned but really uncomfortable visits from ‘concerned community members,’ we still weren’t sure how to handle the situation. We prayed. Separately and together. Day and night. The question, the insult (who calls and asks someone if they’d like to ‘interview for their job?’), the board’s lack of confidence in Pedro all threatened to eat away our joy of being together again.

While the community had been incredibly supportive financially during Pedro’s illness, they didn’t seem quite sure what to do with the walking miracle they had in their midst. After a lot of prayer, Pedro accepted the invitation to interview, but when he arrived, he simply made a statement reminding them that he had never been officially unhired, therefore he didn’t feel that he needed to interview for the job, and then he left.

We both felt at peace about his decision and subsequent action, and we had already discussed that perhaps for the benefit of our family, Pedro should home school our girls the following school year and not bring more stress upon himself.

The board interviewed the other two candidates and hired one of them.

Despite his wonderful improvements, there was no way that a stranger would hire Pedro for anything other than an extra in a movie like, say, Schindler’s List.

I filled my journals with prayers for Bob the Boss and the other board members. I prayed daily for a spirit of forgiveness. I knew that God had a plan, but his plan tasted like a bitter pill at the time.

And despite my resentment against the ‘concerned community members’ who had the temerity to suggest that Pedro shouldn’t work, I eventually came to realize that God really was leading us—his redeemed. Together we decided that if we wanted to continue to live in the community, we would have to forgive and forget. It wasn’t a hill to die on and we didn’t want to live in bitterness. We would just have live in the knowledge that God was leading.

My head knew that we had made the right decision, but my heart struggled to forgive everyone involved in the decision. I spent many hours in prayer begging God to help me feel like I’d forgiven them—to treat them with love when I saw them in church or the supermarket. To smile genuinely at them when we met. God answered those prayers, but it took time (which is ok, heart changes take so much longer than head changes).

Wisdom Nugget Two—cancer (or other catastrophic illnesses or accidents) will change you. Let God lead you through those changes and don’t harbor bitterness or hurt pride or hurt feelings. It’s not part of His plan. (tweet this)

What lessons have you learned on planning ahead and letting God lead?

For more of the story, start here.

Downcast

Caregiver, are you feeling downcast? There's hope for you. http://wp.me/p2UZoK-vS via @blestbutstrestIn the interest of full disclosure, I wouldn’t want anyone to thinks that caregiving contains miracle after miracle and daily evidence of God’s intervention (although those things did happen time and time again).

Nor would I want anyone to think that caregivers live in a sheltered super-power-type world where quotidian concerns fall away while a halo slips into place.

Not at all. Continue reading

Wait

Waiting with hope.  It's not easy. http://wp.me/p2UZoK-vN via @blestbutstrest #caregiver
After Pedro’s stem cell transplant, we settled in to wait. Wait for the stem cells to race to repair all that the chemo had killed. Wait for the doctors to discharge Pedro from the hospital. Wait for the release to return home to Montana.

Unfortunately, I had to wait in Bozeman while Pedro waited at his brother’s house, a 90-minute drive from the hospital. The delay frustrated me. I wanted a family reunion and a return to normalcy.

A couple of times a week we would try to talk via the Internet (remember that Skype hadn’t been invented yet, and computers didn’t come with cameras for video conferencing).

Pedro would chat with the girls and I would writhe in frustration at the poor graphics, the frozen images, and the inability to capture the subtle nuances of how he REALLY felt (part of this had nothing to do with technology and everything to do with the slow restoration of the use of the muscles in his face).

Had he gained any weight? Did he have any aches or pains that couldn’t be explained away by everyday occurrences? Had he sniffled? Did he get enough rest? Did his eye close all the way yet? (for months he had to sleep with a plastic guard taped over his eye because his eyelid wouldn’t close fully and caused his eye to dry out).

And the underlying question that picked and poked and nibbled at me all day long—was he still in remission? But, oh, I hoped. I hoped so hard it hurt. I spoke with confidence about the miracle God had performed in our lives—after all, Pedro had circled the drain on two occasions, and even the doctors and nurses agreed that he had experienced a miraculous recovery.

I hoped this reprieve, this miracle, would ‘stick’. That God really did intend to heal Pedro completely, even though I secretly doubted that we ‘deserved’ it. And maybe that was the crux of my worries. The problem that I quailed to ponder. Why? Why a miracle in Pedro’s life while other worthy people lost their battle with cancer?

Perhaps I suffered a bit from survivor’s guilt by proxy (after all, I had certainly suffered from chemo-brain by proxy). And so I waited with hope. I tried to draw near to God and not worry about his plan.

Hope acted as the thread that tethered my scattered thoughts and fears and kept me sane during those days of waiting. I knew that if the transplant failed, God still held me in his hands. We would be ok. I have a hope that burns within my heart of a new heaven and a new earth when God will vanquish all sickness and death. Yes, I had hope for the now a hope for the future.

Have you learned to wait for God? To wait with hope. Hope now and hope for the future. He’s calling you to wait with hope(tweet this)

Find more Comfort for Caregivers here.

Hope (and the Inspire Me Mondays Link Up)

#Hope smells like rotting grapefruit. #stemcelltransplant http://wp.me/s2UZoK-hope via @blestbutstrest #cancerHope smells like rotting grapefruits.

I’d smelled it before, as Pedro and I shuffled around Elven Long on our daily exercise laps.

The first time I smelled it, I joked with him, “It stinks just like the gymnasium did when you guys sold fruit last year!”

He looked at me quizzically, with his one eyebrow raised and the other one frozen in place. Continue reading

Lavish

The most lavish gifts have nothing to do with presents-but everything to do with presence. http://wp.me/p2UZoK-vh via @blestbutstrestWe celebrated our most lavish Christmas three days early, and I can’t even remember where we were on Christmas Day.

I don’t remember what we gave as presents. But presents didn’t make our Christmas lavish. Presence did. Pedro spent ten glorious days at home with our girls—and the present of normality meant the world to all of us.

Sure, he’d looked healthier in his life, and when he smiled only half his face sort of knew what was happening. That didn’t mater. Sure, we had hospital bills waiting for payment and our credit cards had almost reached their limits (receiving treatment in a far-away city where we had to eat out and stay in hotels constituted our biggest health care expense). Those things didn’t matter either.

Our little unit of four had ten glorious days to spend in each other’s company. To reconnect and remember. To decorate a Christmas tree with the familiar ornaments and lights (which Pedro proudly put up—in keeping with a 14-year tradition). To bask in the beauty of Christmas carols, Christmas songs, the miracle of Christ’s birth. And the simple miracle of life.

From August to December, the girls had only seen Pedro three times—and two of those trips had been “You’d-better-visit-quick-it-might-be-the-last-visit-kind-of trips). We luxuriated in each other’s presence—not knowing how long it would be until we would be reunited again.

The joy of the season of birth invaded our season of grief at almost losing Pedro. We gathered around our electric fireplace in the evenings and shut out the world by turning off all but the lights on the tree and reveled in our presents. Not the ones under the tree—but the ones around it. Pedro. Laura. Sarah. Me.

It was our most lavish Christmas ever because sometimes, the most lavish gifts have nothing to do with presents–but everything to do with presence. (tweet this)

What memory of lavish comfort do you hold dear?

Find more of the story at 31 Days of Comfort for Caregivers.

I’m linking up with my friend Barbie Swihart for the Weekend Brew over at My Freshly Brewed Life, and Sandra at Still Saturday.

Long

Day 17 Long

Remission. The word conjured up hope, impatience and longing. I hoped that the remission would stick (unlike last time). I wanted the procedure to start yesterday, thank you very much. And I longed to have Pedro home again where he could recover surrounded by everyone who loved him.

The doctors uttered the sweetest word after a series of setbacks that left Pedro weak, hardly able to shuffle and with a partially paralyzed face. Remission meant the next phase of treatment could commence—stem cell harvesting.

The procedure involved another minor surgery—this time to implant a temporary port with four lines in Pedro’s neck to make harvesting easier. As soon as Pedro’s white blood cell count reached normal, he could have the surgery and then start a daily round of Nupogen shots to his stomach to encourage his bones to produce stem cells.

After three or four days of shots he would go to the hospital where they would hook the ports in his neck to a machine that would take blood out of his body, run it through a centrifuge to collect the stem cells, and return the blood via a different port.

Hospital policy based on insurance company norms dictated that stem cell harvesting could take place on an outpatient basis.

Which is fine if you live close to the hospital and have strength for the daily commute. Pedro had neither. And so we started the next crazy phase of our nomad life (unfortunately, they don’t have a Ronald McDonald House for adults). Continue reading

Troubled

Day 16After my spelling lesson from God, I arrived at the hospital to make a difficult decision with Pedro—one that it turns out we didn’t actually have to make. But a worse trouble awaited us.

After another round of chemo, Pedro contracted a fungal yeast infection in his blood. With no white blood cells to combat the infection, his life once again hung in the balance.

I coped. Or I thought I did. Mostly I used the telephone line in the room for dial-up Internet. If someone needed to get ahold of me, they could call my cell phone. I opened an eBay account. I started bidding on Longaberger baskets. Continue reading

Mourn

Mourn.  Sometimes, we have to mourn in order to receive comfort. http://wp.me/p2UZoK-uIMy cell phone rang in the middle of a team parent’s meeting at Laura’s gymnastics class. Pedro’s voice sounded worse, but I wasn’t sure if it was because of his facial paralysis or because he really was worse.

“I’m back in the hospital.”

I breathed deeply and gripped the phone. “Why?” I asked as I jumped up and hurried to the lobby. I knew he’d been feeling dizzy lately, and his back was bothering him.

“Doctor says we haven’t killed it. Dizziness from the cancer.”

“What are our choices?”

“More chemo.” Pedro’s voice sounded so discouraged. “Might not work.”

“Or?” Continue reading

Dance

Mourning and dancing and tons of comfort http://wp.me/p2UZoK-tWThe blue sky simmered overhead and a gentle breeze twisted the golden leaves in a graceful dance. Sarah and I revved our motorcycles and headed carefully up dirt road towards Bear Creek.

It was a first. The first time I’d taken the motorcycles out without Pedro. The first time Sarah had ridden on a road. The first time I’d had a ‘date’ with her since Pedro’s hospitalization back in July. Continue reading

Quick (and the Inspire Me Mondays Link Up)

#inspirememondays

Welcome to Inspire Me Mondays!

Here’s my contribution–I’m on Day 13 of the #write31days challenge issued by The Nester.

“But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27 NIV)

Tubes sprouted from Pedro like a crazy hamster maze. A team of nurses moved quietly around the room, taking vitals and preparing him for the doctor’s visit.

Pedro had ended up in ICU the day before I’d returned to San Francisco. He had been responding to the chemo, but the doctors decided he would need radiation as well. Before they could complete the process, Pedro lost his ability to swallow.

The doctors worried that he would aspirate or get pneumonia and so they intubated him and whisked him off to ICU where they induced a coma-like state. Once a day they would bring him out of the coma to check his ability to swallow.

“How long will he be in ICU?” I asked the attending physician on Pedro’s second day in ICU

“A week, maybe two.” he answered. “You have children, don’t you?”

“Yes. Why?”

“You might want to have them come down for a visit,” the doctor looked at Pedro’s chart and avoided eye contact. Continue reading

Despair

Day 10Hymn and Him

Take My hand, child
It feels so dark I cannot see
Hold out your heavenly hankie, Father
Wipe away my tears

If that’s not in your plan because I
Need to shed them, then
Comfort all my
Fears.

I cling to simple facts
Your Son died for me. He is risen and
Will come again
(Must my comfort wait ‘til then?)
Oh, Lord, be Thou my vision

Let me make it through the night
Can you fill this gaping hole
Tubes and beeps and shallow
Breaths
Be still my soul

Sobs shudder to a stop. Vitals
Sink like the Titanic. You’ll
Shelter me in the midst of the storm,
Lord. Rescue me from panic.

I wrote this poem during Pedro’s stay in ICU, several weeks after arriving in San Francisco.   I knew God had his hand in everything that happened, but I still had whimpers of doubt and despair despite my faith.

And that’s ok.  Jesus himself felt moments of despair (the Garden of Gethsemane).  Throughout our caregiving journeys, we have the assurance that Jesus suffered and knows our despair.  He will help us through.

As Paul says, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair.” (2 Corinthians 4:8, NIV)

God IS near.  He knows your every sigh of despair.  Hold on.  His hand reaches out to you. (tweet this)

Have you ever felt a moment of utter despair in your caregiving journey?  Share with us.

 

Faint

Jeremiah 8:18 http://wp.me/p2UZoK-tPThe doors of the hospital whooshed open and I nodded at Pedro’s intern who headed out as I headed in. She smiled and stopped to chat. “That was quite the experience last night, wasn’t it?”

I nodded numbly. Pedro had started convulsing just hours after receiving his first chemotherapy treatment at the new hospital, and it seemed as if the entire staff on 11 Long had rushed into his room.

“The attending physician thinks he had the seizure because of the lymphoma cells started dying off so quickly.” She grinned. “That means the chemo worked!”

Again, I nodded numbly, and offered a feeble, “I hope that never happens again!”

The intern nodded her head and bounced out the door into the fresh air while I inhaled deeply and wished I hadn’t. Hospitals smelled of fear. I hadn’t slept much that night—they had moved Pedro to an acute care unit, and had allowed me to spend the night in his room.

I had spent the entire night franticly recording everything Pedro said in an attempt to unlock clues to his condition. The seizures continued throughout the night, and he babbled senselessly between dropping off to sleep and waking up with a new seizure.

The lack of sleep and stress of the new city, new hospital, new doctors and no place to rest pressed down on me. I felt too tired to even cry. As I turned the corner to head to the elevator, I saw a small plaque on the wall that indicated that the hospital had a chapel.

I followed the signs to a small empty room with dim lights. I spotted a chair towards the back of the room and fidgeted myself into a comfortable position with my feet tucked up under me and my head resting on my arms which were perched on the back of the chair.

Waves of exhaustion rolled over me, chased by sharks of worry. I didn’t know where I’d stay that night. I didn’t know if Pedro had lost his mind. I hadn’t spoken with the girls since I left. I didn’t know whether to sleep or to cry. I mumbled half-formed prayers.

A thought popped into my head in the middle of my distress. “You’re never to big to crawl into your Father’s lap.”

I relaxed into the chair even further. It might not be my Father’s lap, but it was in his little house. I rested. When I stood up, I no longer felt as desperate and oppressed as I had before.

Dear Caregiver, God offers his lap to you as well. Crawl into it. Rest your weary head and still your racing mind. You have a Comforter. He longs to rock you gently and pat your back tenderly as you spill out your sorrows in His loving embrace. (click to tweet)

Have you ever felt faint and unable to carry on?

When Strangers Care Enough to Give

Michelle had been on duty the night we first arrived at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital with our extremely leukemic four-year-old. Her kindness, patience and caring over the first few days of our new life was comforting and reassuring in those stressful days of learning about our new life.

One day, after a few weeks of undergoing chemotherapy, Andrew’s treatment protocol called for platelets—around 11 o’clock they had told us. We waited, and waited, and waited some more.

Michelle informed us that although Andrew had been scheduled to receive them, sometimes scheduling didn’t do any good, as there were no platelets available. Michelle casually mentioned, “Yeah, that happens way too often. That’s why I’m going after work tonight to donate.”

“How do you donate platelets?” I naively asked, “Don’t they just take them out of the blood?”

“No,” Michelle launched into the technical issues regarding the harvesting of platelets, which involves a generous time commitment for donors.

“And you donate?” I asked.

“Yes, every few weeks,” she responded, “platelets are always in demand here on our ward.”

Working long shifts with childhood cancer victims. Leaving work to sit in a chair and donate platelets. Caring beyond the job description.

I think there are no words strong enough to thank the caregivers out there who help make lives better, let alone save them. (tweet this)

Care

http://wp.me/s2UZoK-careI glanced anxiously at the sky as the thunderheads built up and menaced the airspace surrounding the airport.  Pedro HAD to make it on the air ambulance flight.  If he didn’t, I feared the hospital bed awaiting him at the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco (UCSF) would go to another patient.

It had taken a miracle to get him accepted to their hematology and oncology ward, and I didn’t want to let it slip through our fingers.

Even more, I feared that if we waited just one more day we would never make it.  He looked like a skeleton or an extra from Schindler’s List. The muscles in his face no longer worked, so in order to eat he had to use his hands to manipulate his cheeks and push the food between his cheeks.

Most of what he ate didn’t stay down long enough to provide nutrition.  No wonder he weighed 130 lbs.  It seemed as if he threw up within thirty minutes of eating.  Every. Single. Time.  I worried that some other yet-to-be identified problem lurked in his body.

I’d said my goodbyes to the girls the night before, and I only need to purchase a few toiletries and a pair of shoes before heading to San Francisco.  The hospital had arranged for our flight, but they’d had to postpone it a few hours once already due to severe weather.

My list of anxieties grew.  We’d be leaving our two young daughters at home with my parents for who knew how long.  Our daughters needed us during this scary time–being a thousand miles away from them scared me and worried me and squeezed my mommy heart.

Where would I stay once I arrived at UCSF?  How much was this going to cost us?  Would they have the cure for Pedro’s cancer?  I felt the tension grabbing my shoulder blades and hunching them together over the steering wheel.  I glanced down at my speedometer and jumped my foot off the accelerator.  I didn’t need a ticket to add to my worries.

Hail started to pound as I left the mall parking lot.  Had I remembered to leave a spare set of keys with my parents so they could pick my car up from the hospital parking lot? I struggled to find a parking place and remember where I’d parked so I could tell my folks.

When I stumbled into Pedro hospital room, a cheerful nurse exclaimed, “You’re just in time!  We’re preparing him for transport and your plane leaves in a hour.”

The stress threatened to choke me.  We were really on our way to the big city.  I launched a prayer heavenward.  I felt like I’d fall apart if we left and I’d fall apart if we didn’t.  I silently dished out my list of cares and worries in short little bursts of incoherent prayer as I calmly smiled at Pedro and helped him finish his supper.  Now if only he could keep it down. He HAD to stop losing weight.

Within an hour we had arrived at the airport and met the captain and the nurse who would administer morphine during the flight.  The rain had stopped and we made it to the plane without incident.

I realized that I’d started breathing again.  God did it!  He arranged everything in his perfect time  As the plane lifted into the air, Pedro said, “Its the Zofran!”

“What?” The nurse and I looked at him quizzically.

“That’s the medicine that keeps you from throwing up, isn’t it?” I asked him.  The nurse nodded.

“It makes me barf.” Pedro insisted.  “Every time I take it, I barf 30 minutes later.”

“I’ll add that to your chart,” the nurse said with a smile.  “I never would have thought of that.” She shrugged and scribbled.

I smiled and took another deep breath as I looked out the window.  The dying sun split the clouds with golden light, and the sliver of a rainbow peeked out from behind the clouds.  I’d cast my anxieties on my Heavenly Father, and he answered with a mystery solved and a rainbow to boot. (tweet this)

How have you  cast your anxieties on God?  

Find more caregiver comfort here.

 

Miserable Comfort

Day 9bRight before my caregiving journey, I found out that a dear lady and her husband (parents of Pedro’s students) were in the midst of their own cancer journey. He had prostrate cancer—and his health and healing became a matter of daily prayer for me—even during my darkest hours. Even though I didn’t know the family well, I felt solidarity in knowing that someone else traveled at the same time I did.

Of course, I didn’t know how to do anything BUT pray for my fellow travelers—I felt uncomfortable calling them to check up on them (plus, I hate talking on the phone) because I didn’t know them THAT well. And her husband’s diagnosis wasn’t the kind of show-up-with-a-casserole-catastrophic kind. But prayer, I could do that! Continue reading

Abound

http://wp.me/p2UZoK-tkDear Caregiver,

I know how frightening and fragmented your life feels. Nothing remains the same as BC (before caregiving). Sure, you try to put on a strong front with those who ask how you’re doing—after all, the focus of prayers and petitions should be on the one you care for.

You may hesitate to ask people for prayers or even assistance because you think that God has given you this burden to bear, and you don’t want to trouble anyone else. Continue reading

Afflicted


http://wp.me/p2UZoK-t0After my experience with God’s hand on my shoulder, I returned to Pedro’s hospital room, comforted and ready to face whatever came next.

A few days later, the doctor came in to announce that the chemotherapy regimen advised by Pedro’s California oncologist, Dr. Mirda, would have to be put off for two days while the hospital waited for additional medicine (there wasn’t enough methotrexate in the state to give Pedro the prescribed amount) to arrive, we realized that as much as we loved Bozeman Deaconess Hospital, maybe Pedro needed something more. Continue reading

Inspire Me Monday


#inspirememondays

Welcome to #inspirememonday! Who doesn’t need a Monday morning pick-me-up? At Inspire Me Monday, we hope to build a community where both bloggers and readers can come for a little inspiration to start the work week.

As with all link ups, we ask that you follow a few simple guidelines to help build the community.  It’s as easy as 1-2-3!

1.  Link up your most inspirational post from the previous week (just ONE, please).

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

3.  Get the word out THREE ways!  Tweet about the link up, tweet about a post that touched you, share on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer–just do it!

I found inspiration for my Monday at #inspirememondays.  Join us! (tweet this)

So, go ahead!  Take the plunge and share your most inspiring post with us!

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Unfailing

Day6
Never Fails. Never Quits. Always works. Always there. Never Changes. Never wavers. That’s the kind of love you can rely on, dear Caregiver, as you journey through your season of caregiving.

But sometimes, it seems as if God is distant and not interested in our journey. We feel overwhelmed, stressed out, and, frankly, not very loved by God.

Even though he promises that his unfailing love will always be our comfort, sometimes, we fall into the trap of woebegone wondering if God REALLY does love us (after all, we’re on an unimaginable journey).

Don’t ever become so stuck in expecting to receive love in your preferred ‘love language’ that you miss the other ways God shows his love to you. (tweet this) Continue reading

Promise


Deer in a field with mountains in background
Dear Caregiver;

I know your confusion and despair. I’ve sat with Deep Sadness and he makes an uncomfortable companion—especially when he invites his buddy Hopeless to join us.

Everyone seems to focus on the one you selflessly care for—conversation revolves around the latest tests, remedies, prescriptions, progress and setbacks. And that’s ok. After all, the one you care for needs those prayers and concern and comfort.

But, oh, some days it’s so hard to care for someone because no one recognizes YOUR suffering. You’ve set aside YOUR dreams to care for a loved one. You shortchange your work because you’re too drained to give one hundred percent to your employer AND to the one you care for. Added to those things, you suffer mentally and emotionally for the one you care for. Continue reading

Inadequate


Psalm 71:21
Inadequate. Incredibly inadequate and unable to perform the simplest tasks. That’s how I felt after the initial adrenalin rush that carried us through Pedro’s cancer diagnosis and first few rounds of treatment.

The last quarter of school had progressed in a haze of lack of sleep, worry and multitasking. I knew I hadn’t done my best, and now an irate parent had raked me over the coals and spread rumors and opinions about me all over the state of Montana (it’s a small state, with a lot of far-flung family members).

The move to Montana at the beginning of that school year, the new jobs and new school for our daughters had provided enough stress, thank you very much, without the added health crisis. The endless list of things to do sat on the counter—with nothing marked off.

I couldn’t even remember when Pedro would return from his chemo treatments in California, much less plan scintillating lessons for restless teenagers during their last week of school.

The angry parent had it right—I was a horrible teacher. I probably wasn’t much of a parent either—especially with Pedro gone for large chunks of time while he received treatment for his non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Shoot, I couldn’t even remember what we needed when I stood in the grocery store aisles staring blankly at the food (what WAS I doing in the meat aisle? We’re vegetarians!). Continue reading

New Song


Day5In preparation for this series, I’ve spent time this last week thumbing through my journals from my season of caregiving. I thought I’d find minute details of what I did each day, and the state of Pedro’s health and outlines of what treatments he received at which hospital and at the hands of what doctor.

But I didn’t. I hoped the details would trigger memories with accurate locations and names and people who made a difference. I expected a sort of litany of who helped out and who comforted me during those dark days when Pedro’s life hung in the balance. Continue reading

Rod and Staff

Day2

Dear Caregiver,

Whether your journey leads through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, or just a deep, narrow valley of quotidian duties that never seem to change and never seem to end, God himself offers comfort.

When my season of caregiving began, I felt like a sheep—clueless and lacking direction. I hadn’t learned the language of cancer, and I had no idea what Pedro’s illness might require of me—I just knew that the way seemed dark and full of pitfalls, twists and turns.

I hate to admit it—since the Bible compares us to sheep all the time—but sheep are kind of dumb. In Montana, where temperatures can drop well below zero clear into March or April, shepherds shear the sheep right before lambing season so that the ewes will stay inside the warm barns rather than wander outside to have their babies.

You probably never considered that a rod and a staff could offer you any comfort. After all, those objects sound more like tools of discipline or weapons of war—and what comfort could they possible offer a burdened caregiver?

The rod and the staff in the hands of a shepherd provide comfort because the Shepherd uses them for the benefit of the sheep. (tweet this)

The rod, according to Phillip Keller in his book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, is an extension of a shepherd’s right arm. Its heavy knot on the end serves as a cudgel that the shepherd can throw at predators or use to hold obstacles out of the path of the sheep.

The shepherd carves his staff to serve the unique needs of the sheep. He uses it to lift wayward sheep who have fallen, or to draw a lamb close to its mother. It wouldn’t work on a cow or a duck or a donkey—or even a whole flock of sheep at once. It’s made to give comfort and succor to one sheep at a time.

And so with the heavenly rod and staff, the One who promises to comfort us will do the same (if not more) as an earthly shepherd. He’ll protect us from predators—help is a heartbeat away. He draws our weary souls close to his heart with his staff and offers comfort and strength for our journey.

Comfort—that’s what the Shepherd offers you today. Walk through your day filled with the courage and strength that comes from knowing the Shepherd stands ready to use his rod and his staff to comfort you.

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Find the rest of the series here:

31 Days of Comfort for Caregivers

Day 1-He Is

Day 3-New Song

Day 4-Inadequate

He Is


Isa 51:12
I shoved my feet into my boots and grabbed a pair of mittens before I headed out the door towards the crusty snow that formed a dirty blanket in the field across from our house.

I turned back once and saw the warm lights of our home mocking me. Cancer?! In our house? Pedro and I had great jobs that we loved and two beautiful daughters who we loved even more. And now a monster had shoved it’s way into our tight-knit family of four.

Relatives had come to help out and comfort, and the words I wanted to say to one of them had impelled me out the door before I lost my tongue. Ms. Bossy had been blithely arranging my life without my consent, and my resentment had reached critical mass.

As I lurched through the snow (it’s not easy to walk in snow that has a three inch crust with two feet of powder underneath), I cried in frustration. Why had this happened to US? What had we done to deserve a cancer diagnosis? Continue reading

31 Days of Comfort for Caregivers

31Days headerbold
Because caregivers need a daily dose of comfort. (tweet this)

That’s what I craved during my caregiving season. It didn’t matter if I found myself in the midst of a medical emergency, surrounded by frantic hospital staff, or awakened in the quiet of the night from my restless slumber on a hard hospital cot, I needed comfort.

And after the crisis passed, I still craved comfort. Comfort as I made the adjustment to my new reality and comfort that that I would be able to handle the pressures of caregiving and parenting and working full time.

Sometimes, I turned to food for comfort (which didn’t work very well), even though I knew all along that only one place offered true comfort. In order to receive the comfort, I needed to spend time with the comforter.

During the 31 days of October 2014, I’m joining up with my friends at Kate Motaung’s, the host of Five-Minute Fridays, who have accepted the double challenge of blogging about a topic for the 31 days of October (a challenge started by The Nester and now hosted at Write 31 Days) AND trying to write each post in five minutes—more or less.

And so I invite you to return each day in October for a peak at the comfort God offers to YOU—a busy caregiver. Brew a cup of coffe or a cup of tea, grab your Bible and a comfy blanket (brisk mornings come along with October—even in the high desert) and join me. Or, if you’re really stressed and busy, lock yourself into the bathroom for five minutes and use your cell phone to read about the comfort God offers.

Each day in October, return to this page to follow the link to the post of the day. Or, you can subscribe to the RSS feed or to the blog. I’ll also be posting the links on twitter and pinterest using the hash tag #write31days and #caregivercomfort. The topics for Fridays will remain unknown until Kate supplies them on Thursday nights at the weekly #fmfparty on twitter.

If you’re not a caregiver, but know someone who is, please pass along the link and the encouragement!

October 1—He is
October 2—Rod and Staff
October 3—New Song
October 4—Inadequate
October 5—Promise
October 6—Unfailing
October 7—Afflicted
October 8—Abound
October 9—Miserable Comfort
October 10—Care
October 11—Despair
October 12—Faint
October 13—Quick
October 14—Dance
October 15—Mourn
October 16—Troubled
October 17—Long
October 18—Lavish
October 19—Spoke
October 20—Hope
October 22—Wait
October 23—Downcast
October 24—FMF
October 25–Redeemed
October 26—Put
October 27—First
October 28—Regrets
October 29—Burned-out
October 30—Blessed
October 31—FMF

 

 

You are Worth the Effort

worth the effortDear Friend;

You are worth the effort. It’s not easy, struggling through each day and learning to squash the automatic thoughts that the evil one has planted in your subconscious. But you are worth the effort.

Answering endless questions posed by psychiatrists and counselors feels like an invasion of privacy (and possibly pointless.) But each person involved wants to help fit a piece of the puzzle into the masterpiece that is you. And you are worth the effort.

Sitting in group sessions or classes and listening to people who really ‘need help’ seems like an unnecessary chore—especially when from all outward appearances you look pretty normal (unlike the guy rocking back and forth in his chair with his hair askew and wild eyes). Take heart—join the community of flawed people (after all, we are ALL flawed)—and learn to share your burdens in a safe place. You are worth the effort.

Learn to remake the movies in your mind—the ones that currently star ‘Failure Girl’ and have titles like Looser, She Bombs Again, and Worthless Waif.  Remake the movies with the real YOU—the one who is infinitely precious and beautiful—and remember that her name is ‘God’s Girl.’ She stars in movies with titles like Saved Again, Walking With Jesus, and Precious Child. Mindfully edit the horror movies that predict failure and defeat. You are worth the effort. Continue reading

Spoke

Angels work in cancer wards.  Some people call them nurses. http://wp.me/p2UZoK-vt via @blestbutstrestAngels work in cancer wards. I’m sure of it.

Ok, maybe not literal angels, but certainly humans who have a close connection to their Savior. How else could they show up for work each day with a smile and word of encouragement for the desperately ill on the cancer front?

How else could they treat each patient with dignity and love? How else could they deal with family members who probably get in the way at times and sometimes act more needy than the patient?

When the specter of death hovers nearby, they drop whatever they’re doing to answer the call button, and their very presence seems to suck despair from the room. Only someone the Lord has spoken to can do that. Continue reading

Longing for Heaven

Longing for heavenMy grandma used to say how much she longed for heaven
And I would look at her with wide eyes while thinking of all the possibilities my life held
But then my neighbor and classmate died of a brain tumor in third grade
And I thought that was unfair – he was so much fun
And another friend got shot by a crazy family member
Life doesn’t get worse than that
My dad used to say how much he longed for heaven
And then he got cancer (three kinds) and so did my aunt
And much later so did my little son
All three beat the cancer but it left scars that are inside and out
And show themselves when least expected
My maid-of-honor and college roommate told me how she longed for heaven
And I looked at her with wide eyes while hugging her goodbye
knowing we would never see each other again on this earth
Because cancer gobbled up her every reserve
I miss her giggle and visit her grave before my school reunions
I’ve shared with my students how much I long for heaven
And they look at me with wide eyes while thinking of all their plans
But I’ve stood at some gravesides of students—all way too young to already be gone
Remembering their plans and their smiles
And thinking this is not the life God had planned for us
I tell my kids I long for heaven.
And they look at me with wide eyes while wondering about their possibilities
And thinking they will never be old enough to yearn in such a way
And I pray they are right
I long for heaven
So that this next generation doesn’t have to understand why.