Some encouragement from the Bible

So this month, I have shared how those of us with chronic illness seem to have been born without a comfort zone and how that has actually strengthened us both spiritually and mentally. I shared how our strength can be an inspiration and lesson to those who haven’t yet developed such strength. Then, I shared one of the most loved of my articles that spoke of the blessings of pain.

Now, I’d like to turn it over to the Lord. Here are some of the most inspiring scriptures from the Bible:

Philippians 4:13
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Isaiah 41:10
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.

Isaiah 40:31
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Exodus 15:2
The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.”

Ephesians 6:10
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”

Deuteronomy 20:4
“For the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.”

2 Corinthians 12:9-10
“But he said to me, “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. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Joshua 1:9
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

I pray this has inspired and strengthened you…

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The Blessings of Pain- Revisited

I wrote this article several years ago now. It’s one of the articles I refer people to who are just starting or who are growing wearing in their chronic illness journey because it’s so uplifting to think of your trials, your struggles in this manner.

If you’ve read it before, take another few minutes to read it through again. I promise it will help you put things in a more positive light and a better perspective.

The Blessings of Pain

Okay. JoJo’s gone off the deep end!  Brain fog has taken over and she’s completely out of her mind!  I hear ya out there.  You’ve stuck with me through some of my other unusual posts, but this one’s gone too far.  Stick a fork in ‘er, she’s done!  As someone who is in a fair amount of physical pain as I’m typing this, I understand your horror at this title, but give me a few minutes of your time and I think you’ll see my sanity returning and you’ll be blessed.

This idea started as a debate topic.  You see, (those of you who may not have known me long) in a former life I was an author and speaker on communication skills at www.ArtofEloquence.com.  I used to teach speech, debate and communication classes both online and off. Nowadays, I’m too tired, overwhelmed and in pain to run my business much less teach so I only do that on rare occasions.  This month was one such occasion.  I am teaching a homeschool co-op class on debate.  One of the topics I picked was Pain is Good.  I figured it was something with which most teens would be unfamiliar and would be a good life lesson as well as a great debate topic.  Pain keeps us from more harm.  Even babies would remove their hand from the fire, right?

As I began putting my week’s lesson plan together, it occurred to me that, while I am not a fan of pain (emotional or physical) itself, enduring it can bring some blessings that I’d never have had the opportunity to experience had I been healthy. There are some lessons you only learn from pain.  There are some lessons life cannot teach without it.  There are some blessings you will never notice unless you’ve been through a day where you felt your head would explode or years when you thought if you woke up without pain one day, you would HAVE to be in heaven.

Pain itself is bad, but enduring pain can be a good thing and bring blessings you’d never have known-but you have look for them.  They can’t always be seen by the naked eye or heard above the white noise of the TV.  But as soon as I reveal to you how pain can bring blessings, you’ll never look at it the same way again. There are several ways in which pain can bring blessings into your life and the lives of those you touch.

1. Pain makes you compassionate.

The people who have suffered the most, tend to be the most compassionate.  The more struggles a person goes through, the more they have compassion for others who are going through difficult times.  I’ve known some amazingly compassionate people who consistently take time to support, uplift and help others.  I almost always find that they have suffered a great deal in their own lives and have a calling to be of help to others. There is a saying,…

To read the rest of the article, click here!

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The Comfort Zoneless Advantage

Last week, I talked about how we, who have endured difficult health issues, have been blessed to be born without a comfort zone. I shared how I feel it has strengthened me both mentally and spiritually. This week, I’d like to share why that’s especially important these days and especially during Covid Times.

Have you noticed how even though society has so many “modern conveniences,” people complain that life isn’t easy? People seem to be offended by everything. They can’t seem to cope well with things the older generations thought were just part of life. I believe most marriages end in divorce because the younger generations no longer view relationships as something requiring work. They lost that loving feeling and so they simply move on.

Success in anything takes work whether it’s a business, a relationship, or an education. Unfortunately, fewer people these days will put forth the energy required to do so.

When I first began writing this blog post, I was doing it from my iPad because my laptop hard drive was failing and I was backing up all my work. I was typing with a stylus because my fingers shake due to Essential Tremors if I use my fingers directly. I was working on changes to my site on paper even though I had a massive headache. Why? You just do what you can with what you have.

It’s how you look at things. If you look for the bad, you’ll see it. If you look for the good, you’ll see that too! You’re not entitled to an easy life. A lot of American young people think so but it’s not true. The founding fathers knew this. We with chronic illness know this all too well.

If I go back a generation in my family, I see a much stronger work ethic than I see today. My great grandparents and my grandfather came to this country from what was then Russian to start over with nothing. My grandfather didn’t speak the language, but he worked hard and eventually was Vice President of a large Union in N.Y. He provided very nicely for my father and his brother.

My husband and his family came from Mexico with nothing not speaking the language. They worked hard. Made a life. They came for the American dream, but that dream was an opportunity, not an entitlement.

A job is hard work. A business is hard work. Marriage is hard work. Life is hard work. I think most people many years ago used to understand this. I think the younger generation can learn a lot from our ancestors. I also think they can learn a lot from those of us with chronic illness who don’t have a comfort zone. But I also think we should stop and think once in a while to learn from ourselves.

No, life with chronic illness isn’t easy. But life never promised it would be. And sometimes, if we focus on the strength it takes to get through a day with chronic illness, we can be proud of what we accomplished!

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Are you swimming upstream or letting the Lord guide you?

I was thinking about perspective one day and I created this meme:

I noticed that if you look at the side of the mountain with your head tilted, it looks like just a moderate walk to the top. God often has us look at things differently and do things differently such that it doesn’t feel like an insurmountable task to climb what we thought was a huge mountain.

Sometimes it feels like we’re swimming upstream trying to get things done with a body that doesn’t want to cooperate. Then, suddenly, we hear clearly how the Lord wants us to do it and things seem like we’re just riding the current. So…

Are you swimming upstream or are you letting the Lord lead you? This is part one of a four part series on how we can choose to live our lives joyously in spite of chronic illness or any other difficulties. Life is difficult at best and a mess most of the time. But it’s a wonderful mess that we can stop trying to control and just trust our Lord to take us where He wants us to go.

If you’ve ever been in a river, you know that it’s so much harder to try to swim against the current than to allow it to take you away. Well, that place He’s taking us may not look good, but if we trust Him, it will be a wonderful experience. OR the road there, which at first seems treacherous, may actually be EASY if we stop fighting against it and allow God to guide us.



Example 1: My son.
We were heartbroken when we lost several babies to miscarriage after my daughter was born. We went over NINE YEARS without hope because we thought God didn’t want us to have another child. We didn’t trust the Lord to handle the situation as much as we were disappointed that He didn’t give us another child. At first, we were devastated each time we found I wasn’t pregnant. All our energy was focused on that next child until one day we stopped trying and just allowed the Lord to do what He wanted.

Our miracle baby was born 9.5 years after my first. We had wanted two children, a boy and a girl who were about 2-3 years apart. That was our plan. BUT…If I had another child a few years after my daughter was born, I’d never have my incredible son and we would have been empty nesters a LONG time ago!

God knew what He was doing! He gave us what we needed when we needed it. Just as He always does!



Example 2: My cancer journey.
I thought it was the most awful thing that could happen to us. My husband was fired with no way to prove it was racially motivated. No job, no income, no insurance. BUT God…

But God had a plan and because of that plan I’m still alive! My husband and I spent hours and hours worrying, planning and doing things that would allow us to make a living until he got another job. Now, the doing WAS needed, but the worrying was NOT! It took so much of my energy of which so little remained as Fibro had hold of it.

After a while the company insurance ran out. It wasn’t that great anyway, but now we had none. We found that the state offered it to those who were in this kind of situation. When the doctor wanted to send me to a specialist and then for testing for a fibroid tumor (which we both knew was almost certainly gone now that I was nearing menopause), I only agreed because she was insistent and it didn’t cost me anything out of pocket.

If my husband still had that job and insurance, I would never have agreed to pay for tests and specialists to find something that was most certainly gone by now. They never would have found a cyst on my ovary that required surgery and they NEVER would have found a rare and very aggressive cancer that almost always takes the woman’s life because it is found too late to cure! I would have been dead long before and you wouldn’t be reading this blog! So, what looked like a disaster to us turned out to save my life!

Since only God can see ahead, we have no idea what He has in store for us that might be better than what we could have even hoped for. We only see the edge of the waterfall. As we are going over Niagra Falls in that barrel, we can only see and feel fear…unless we trust God to take us through. On the other side, we can sometimes look back to see how far He was willing to go to save us or give us what He wanted.

Next week, I’ll be back with some more on how we can find the good in a bad situation.

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My Thanksgiving Story

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I saw this video on Facebook one day and it brought to me feelings of thankfulness in a way I had not yet expressed here on the Life Beyond Surviving blog, but there have been several miraculous things that have happened to each of my immediate family members that have made me thankful for my life, their lives, and many other seemingly ordinary things. First, here’s the video:

I began thanking God for every day things after He has spared me from cancer several years ago, but my family’s miracles began long before that.

About twenty years ago, my daughter was a very active figure skater competing in USFSA. One day she complained that it hurt when she breathed. We initially thought it was just very cold in the rink, but took her in to see a heart specialist who did some tests. My heart sank when he, personally, called me in the middle of the day to ask where she was. He told me to call the school and have them keep her off the playground and away from any physical activity because her ventricle was enlarged and any activity could result in a fatal heart attack.

We immediately began praying. I called everyone I knew and posted on social media for prayers for her. We were told that it was possible that she was born that way and would always have this issue or that it could have been the result of a virus from a cold she had two weeks prior. Even if it were the latter, it would be several months before she could skate or do any physical activity. A month later, she was miraculously healed!

In between my daughter’s and son’s birth, I had several miscarriages. One was very difficult due to the circumstances that I won’t share here. However, about 9 years after my daughter’s birth, I found myself pregnant with my son. In the first trimester, I began having the same issues as I did when I lost that previous child. I was terrified and on bedrest. One day I was looking in the mirror at my face which had two “birthmarks” (brown spots from when I was pregnant before that were supposed to disappear after pregnancy.) One was on the right side of my face from when my daughter was born and one on the left side from the last pregnancy. I noticed that the birthmark on the right side was getting bigger. I felt God assuring me that this was the right side. That this child would be ok because it was on the right side instead of the wrong side.

My son’s birth was a series of miracles, any of which, could have ended in his death or a life of being sickly. I won’t go into all the details as it’s a long story, but suffice it to say that God saved my second child too!

Many years later, my husband was promoted and required to move across the country to Indiana. My daughter was away at college, but my husband, son, and I all went to Indiana to find a home. On the way back to the airport, we had my husband’s uncle pick us up and take us to his house to visit before heading back home to prepare for the move. It was snowing and not too far from his house. The car slid a long way, became airborne over a tree that had fallen, and eventually flipped over leaving all four of us hanging upside down from our seatbelts.

My uncle-in-law had a cut on his face/head. I broke my hand in three places, and my husband broke his back. All four of us walked out of that car much to the amazement of the bystanders and the ambulance and police who were called. The doctor told my husband that if the break had been a hair off, either way, he would have been paralyzed. God saved my husband that day!

About three years ago, my doctor insisted that I undergo a procedure to determine if a large fibroid tumor was still there even though I was near enough to menopause that it was all but certainly gone. I would never have agreed to do it but since the insurance covered it, I said yes. They didn’t find the fibroid tumor, but they did find a solid cyst on my ovary. Since they can become cancerous, the surgeon said it and my ovary had to be removed.

While she was in there, she felt it prudent to remove my fallopian tube as well because “cancer likes to hide.” I received a call about my biopsy from the surgeon herself saying that they found precancerous cells in my fallopian tube. This rare and quite aggressive cancer is normally not discovered until it’s much too late for the woman to be cured. They scheduled a radical hysterectomy to make sure there was no more cancer hiding in there, but I was cancer-free before anyone ever even thought I might have cancer.

I’m thankful that God orchestrated things in such a way that all four of us are still here and walking around. I’m thankful for waking up. I’m thankful each of my family members wake up each day and for so much more!

Happy Thanksgiving! What are you thankful for? Any miracles of your own to report?

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When I’m down, I look up to my Creator

About a month ago, my husband was working a ten-day streak at a temp job 82 miles from home. Our son was visiting and it was Sunday morning. We only have one key for the car I drive and though my husband left the car for us, he forgot to leave the key so, we weren’t able to go to church or to the store to buy groceries.  It was my last day with our son before he had to go back to college and I was in more pain and fatigue than usual due to a Fibro flare.

Sitting at my computer working for my clients’ social media accounts, I “penned” the following because it suddenly occurred to me that the things I was praying ABOUT were the very things I was praying FOR not too long before.  It received so many responses from people who said they needed to hear it that I decided to share it here so folks could always find it if they needed it.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

When I am worried about my husband having to drive 82 miles one way to work, working ten days straight, leaving at 5:30 am and not getting home til 9 pm, I am reminded of when I prayed to the Lord because he was out of work for months.

When I am sad that my son is leaving again to go back to college, I remember how I prayed that God would keep him safe in utero and how the Lord performed several miracles during his birth.

When I’m lonely because my daughter lives in another state, I think back on the time when the Lord healed her completely after a virus had caused an enlarged heart valve.

When I’m frustrated with how tired I am and the pain I feel, I’m reminded that my God had given my surgeon the idea to take out my fallopian tube during a routine surgery for a simple cyst and found cancer in its infancy that is almost always found too late.

When I’m down, I look up to my Creator and marvel at His blessings for me.

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Do You Scar Easily…on the INSIDE?

We interrupt the 18 Steps to Getting Out of Survival Mode to bring you this important message.

I’ve had a lot of surgeries, especially recently, so when I was looking at one of my scars the other day, I remembered my poor surgeon who was visibly uncomfortable that, for all the care she took to keep my parathyroid scar from looking like someone slit my throat, it looks like someone slit my throat. LOL  They usually turn dark purple (not a bad color mind you!), thicken, and rise to a nice mountain ridge.

I’ve always been that way.  You’ll never believe where/when I got this one.  It was when I was a teenager and I was having my first cyst removed from my left wrist.  In those days, they tested you to see how long it took you to stop bleeding before the surgery was done.  They did it with a tape that had two tacks on it.  It just lightly poked through the skin.  Well, almost 40 yrs later, I still have the scar!  Crazy, huh?

As I was in the shower the other day (That’s where I do my best thinking.  I think the hot water stimulates the brain cells.), it occurred to me that, while I do scar very easily on the outside, I don’t scar very easily on the inside.  Here’s what I mean.

When I encounter someone who hurts my feelings, I usually give them the benefit of the doubt.  I figure they didn’t mean to be hurtful or they didn’t realize they were being rude or they are going through something that is clouding their thoughts…so I cut them some slack and decide not to be offended.  Even if I know the person meant to be mean or cruel, I usually look for the reasons behind why they might be this way.  When my husband was fired without cause, I could see how the owner of the company might be paranoid and harsh due to his difficult family situation…so I chose to forgive and move on.

It struck me that I might be stuck with the scars on the outside of my body all the rest of my days, but I can choose to move past any scars on the inside of my soul.  I think this is something society has forgotten in recent years.  Everyone, these days, seems to be offended by everything!  It’s getting so you can’t say hello anymore without someone taking offense.

If you’re going through hard times, trials, difficulties, dark days, you have enough to deal with.  You don’t need to pile more on top like whipped cream and a cherry.  Yes, I’ve had people think I’m making a mountain out of a difficult molehill.  Yes, I’ve had people say unkind things to me because they don’t understand.  No, I don’t think we should necessarily frequent their company while we are still deep in trial and in need of support or comfort.  But, yes, I do think we can still find it in us to let things slide, pick our battles, choose to forgive, and/or just move on.  While it might very well save a friendship, it will save you added difficulties!

 

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Living on BONUS Time

It’s my birthday today!  I’m 55.  On the one hand, it seems too soon for me to feel 55, but on the other hand, I could have been denied the opportunity.  If you’ve read my Miracle Story, you know that it’s entirely possible that I would have never made it to see my 55th birthday.  No matter what chronic health issues or other issues I face now, I can look to that and feel blessed that I had the extra time to feel however I feel about that issue.  It got me thinking…

You know that old saying, “I’m living on borrowed time?”  I was thinking the other day that I’m living on Bonus Time.  There comes a time in some people’s lives when they are keenly aware of being given extra time here on this earth.  You may not be aware that God saved you from being killed in a car wreck by diverting your traffic to a different street.  You may not be aware that you narrowly missed a gun fight at the OK Morale, but you are keenly aware of the bonus time God has given to you when you hear several of your doctors all in awe of the fact that they found a rare and aggressive cancer in its infancy when most women die because it’s found too late to help them.

Living on Borrowed Time means to me that you have a short time left, but Living on Bonus Time means I have no idea how long I have on this earth just like anyone else.  But it does make me more likely to want to do more with whatever time I have left than most people might.

For all of you who have escaped a death sentence, you know how blessed you are and I’m willing to bet that you don’t want to waste the time you’ve been granted.  But for all the rest of you out there, I’m going to challenge you.  Like me, you have no idea how much time you have left.  You could live another 50 years or you could step off a curb tomorrow into oncoming traffic and it’s all over.

What are you doing to do with whatever time YOU have left?

 

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My Cancer Survival Story

ribbon-1101997_1280I tell this story because it is the most bizarre tale of God’s divine grace!  It is with enormous thankfulness that I share how I became a cancer survivor before even my doctors knew I even HAD cancer!

So a few years ago, I was told that I had a HUGE fibroid tumor that took up my entire uterus.  My doctor said it wasn’t anything to be concerned about because they are never cancerous and would go away as soon as my hormone levels dropped enough to put me close to full menopause.  I was so close to menopause and I didn’t have any issues with it so I went along my merry way.

When I moved down to the Indy area, I got new doctors and my OBGYN insisted I go in for an ultrasound to confirm that the fibroid was no longer there.  We were all fairly certain it was gone or very nearly so I was a bit unclear why she wanted to search for it with all the modern technology at her disposal, but as luck would have it, the procedure was covered at my age so I went in and let them have a look around at my interior.  They seemed to be focusing in on my left side for an inordinate amount of time, but I just thought they were admiring my vintage upholstery.

The doctor called me in to go over my results. I was fully expecting her to say that it was gone and we could then move on to finding solutions to my several chronic issues where fatigue and pain had become a full-time job.  However, what she said was that the results revealed a rather sizable solid cyst on my left ovary.   She said it was the kind of cyst that could become cancerous so it needed to be removed as soon as possible.  Since I was 53 years young, I was no longer really using my ovaries so she said it was easier to remove the entire ovary and that she might want to take the Fallopian Tube as well just in case because “cancer likes to hide.”

Turns out she called an audible during the surgery and did remove the tube and sent everything to biopsy.  The surgery was much easier than I thought it would be and I was in very little pain that it didn’t necessitate ANY pain pills including Tylenol or Ibuprofen.  I was ecstatic thinking it was over and I got away just about scott free.

The doctor herself called me with the biopsy results.  That’s never a good sign. It’s usually some nurse or office gal who tells you everything is normal.  So when she used the word cancer, my brain kind of went tilt.  I had a hard time wrapping my head around that.  After all, there was no reason to believe I had cancer.  My blood work indicated levels of cancer antibodies below the limit indicating cancer was present.  Nothing they saw indicated any signs of a tumor or cyst or lump or anything they felt was something to worry about.  But the fact remained that I did have cancer cells in my tube and, since this type of cancer is aggressive, I was referred to a Gynecological Oncologist.

After the initial shock wore off (about two hours), I wasn’t really concerned.  I was told that he would probably want to remove my other ovary, tube, and lymph nodes just to make sure there was no more cancer in my reproductive system which was now laying dormant having retired some time ago.  I went into the appointment feeling pretty confident and actually kind of looking forward to having an end to my 17+ years of Peri!

When he first walked into the room, he asked me why I thought I was there.  He wanted to know just how much I understood.  I told him it really was a miracle.  They went in looking for a huge fibroid tumor that wasn’t there, found a solid ovarian cyst, and only found the microscopic cancer cells in my Fallopian Tube under the microscope after the biopsy.  My OBGYN said that it saved my life and he agreed with her.  They both said that the cancer would never have been found that early.  This type of cancer has no symptoms until it is too late and, since it’s an aggressive cancer, doctors wouldn’t have known it was there until it was too late and I would most likely have died.  So I’m a cancer survivor and I was a cancer survivor long before anyone (including the doctors) knew I even had cancer!

So what’s next?  Well, the Gynecological Oncologist has me scheduled for a total hysterectomy in October.  He wants to remove EVERYTHING reproductive, not just my other ovary and tube and lymph nodes…because they already found cancer and “cancer likes to hide.”  This is a much more involved surgery requiring a 2-3 day hospital stay.  If the biopsy finds no further cancer cells, I’m done!  Both with peri and with cancer.  If they do find more cancer, they’ll probably want to do chemotherapy. But he doesn’t think there is any reason to believe that they will find more cancer. So I’m hanging my hat on that for now.

UPDATE: Got my biopsy back and there is NO MORE CANCER or any other abnormalities anywhere.  I’m CANCER FREE!  

 

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