Maggie’s Blog

I’m back!

It’s been almost two years since I posted, since Jason, our son-in-law got sick. Going through cancer with him took me off-line with my blogging, and in some ways, with my heart. There was so much to do, so many feelings, I didn’t blog.

And with his passing, I had reasons to delay:

  • We’re still grieving.
  • I got trapped in patterns while care-giving Jason; I’m not sure I want to give them up.
  • I’m trying to catch up on life I’ve missed!
  • I’ve wanted to re-design the website.
  • I’ve wanted to complete a book I started. Bottom line: What are my priorities?

I still don’t have answers, but today I decided to start posting again. After all, I have to begin somewhere. It’s not that I haven’t written. I’ve been going through Psalms, rich in emotion and meaning, writing observations.

So what’s my hang-up? It’s my desire to do things “perfectly.” It’s the “expectations” I put on myself. They say you need to post 2-3 times weekly, so I wonder, will I be faithful? Did anyone miss me? Can I still communicate well, to the heart?

I need encouragement. I’ve gotten a little from family and friends, but nothing made me push the button. But today, I realized I write not because of family and friends. I write because I’m suppose to write. I cannot not write.

When I first started blogging, I didn’t tell anyone my blog address. I wanted my thoughts to be between me and God, not others. I also wanted to develop faithfulness. By blogging, I felt it was “out there” but still private.

Along the way, I realized my thoughts could be helpful to others. In fact, I began to feel it was wrong to not put things in cyberspace so that others could learn or be encouraged by whatever I am going through.

Today, my thoughts are no different. What I write is between me and God. But I’m also aware that others are listening, and it’s a good thing.

So—I’m re-launching my blog. Right now it’s on our ministry site. Later I hope to develop my own site. But this is good enough, even if it’s not “perfect!”

Maggie

 

 



Medical Update

DSC_0378We saw the doctor last Friday. I’ve continued to have issues with the chemo crashing my WBC count at the end of the 3 week sessions. Because of that and some other side effects, he is lowering my dose to try to keep it and the platelet counts from going so low. It is holding my cancer number steady, so I hope reducing it doesn’t change that. I go back in 4 weeks.

I keep getting the question of when will I be through with the chemo. The answer is that I won’t. I have to remember that my kind of cancer is not something chemo kills/cures. It can knock it back, but does not irradiate it like other cancers. Eventuality, this form of chemo will quit working and we’ll try another one or a transplant. The good news is that they are discovering new drugs for multiple myeloma, increasing my chances of dying from old age. 🙂 In the meantime, I’m enjoying life, volunteering back to Cru and loving’ on my family.

Passing it on: Relationships

2011-5-22 Great WallI read a good article in May 2014 Real Simple: Mother-in-Law & Order and realized it explained some things in my own life about relationships in general (even though the focus is on mother-in-laws). Some observations and thoughts from the article:

1 – When did it get started?  “Mother-in-law issues go back to Year One (or a few decades later), when the Roman satirist Juvenal wrote, ‘Give up all hope of peace so long as your mothering-in-law is alive.'” I wonder if some feelings are affected by the assumption we will not get along?

2 – Why Mother-in-law? Why does it not cross gender lines? “Women spend more time than men analyzing and worrying about relationships.” Good point. “In contrast, men don’t often ruminate, and when conflict arises, they tend to shrug it off rather than address it.” I think I need to learn from the men in my life.

3 – Differing expectations? Expectations of female bonding can create conflict. My mother-in-law called frequently when I first got married and had no idea I hated talking on the phone. We finally figured it out. We also have “superwoman” expectations we put on ourselves and others. When you get married, there is the clash of two cultures (unconscious ways of doing life).

4 – Different dynamics? Mother-in-law relationships catch husbands in the middle. Or, could it be that husbands help create issues by encouraging wives or mothers to meet expectations? I’ve seen situations where the husband hides behind a skirt (“My wife doesn’t want to…”) instead of manning-up to his own feelings.

5 – Humor or Hate? Culture has a huge effect on how we view relationships. I HATE mother-in-law jokes! They are not funny and are discrimination. If you think your mother-in-law will be a problem, she probably will. But if you are determined to believe the best and accept unconditionally, it works much better.

6 – Borders? Comments can feel intrusive and critical (Why do you brown your meat first?). If we’re defensive, we’ll accept comments from that angle. On the other hand, I know I’ve asked my daughter questions about how she does things because I sincerely want to learn from her. Ask a question back to explore your differences. If a question feels prying, a response like, “It’s a personal choice” usually gives a signal to back off.

7 – Tattling? Tattling to someone (usually a husband or family member) so that they will take your side is not good. Talking to others to get insight and perspective can be good. There is a fine line between the two, so check motives and be sensitive about how it will affect the person caught in the middle.

8 – Commitments? I remember when my mother asked me to call her every Sunday night and I just bristled. It felt as if personal freedom was being taken away rather than given, and if I failed, I would be judged (my over-active sense of responsibility). Commitments, just like expectations, need to be negotiated so that they understood and work for everyone.

I’ve been fortunate in my mother-in-law relationships, and the article helped me normalize and understand where some of my feelings (even prejudice) comes from. I’d love to learn from you if you want to leave a comment.

When “Stable” Is Exciting

walkIn the past, “stable” has been a boring word to me. I’m such an action person. In fact, according to the Strength Finder’s assessment, two of my top strengths are “Activator” and “Achiever.” Can you see why “stable” feels like no progress at all? Stable is almost a bad as “maintenance.”

But when it comes to my kind of cancer, “stable” is a close runner-up to “remission.” “Cure” is a word I know I will never hear unless there is an incredible medical breakthrough. And I know there are plenty of negative words I have and could hear. So when the doctor said “stable” last week, it was a good thing.

I’m on my 9th round of chemo since last fall. Initially we knocked the cancer back, killing it faster than it was growing. But that’s tough on the body. Now I’m’m at a lower dose of chemo which basically holds it even — we’re killing it at the same rate it is growing. It still compromises my immune system so I have to be careful, but I can still get around.

So “stable” is a good thing. It means I can go on vacation with my family. It means I can make plans with the awareness that they might have to be changed. It means that I get to have lunch with friends and volunteer for projects within the ministry. It means what I dread is coming, but is still a ways away.

I know others who are not in exciting periods in their lives. Their marriage isn’t exciting right now, but stable. Their job isn’t highly motivational, but stable. When do we accept stablity as a good thing and hope (and trust) for things to get better over time? When is faithfulness in less than exciting circumstances what God wants? I’m glad my doctor has a good handle on when to just wait and enjoy life and when to take aggressive action, even it means pain. I pray the same in the lives of others that they will know.

So I’m excited about being “stable.” Right now, i’m rocking on the porch of a cabin in the mountains, listening to gentle drops of rain on tree leaves nearby. That’s something I wouldn’t be doing if I wasn’t stable. Roger and I had devotions together this morning. That’s something I wouldn’t be doing if I wasn’t stable. Kids and grandkids are coming to see us the next few days for fun and frolic, something I wouldn’t be doing if I wasn’t stable. I’m excited to be alive and have opportunity to share “life” with others.

Stable is exciting!

 

Reading Articles or Working Out?

DSC_0378Cancer has done a number on my weight. Between the broken leg, chemo and steroids, sitting on the couch and a few higher carb indulgences, I’ve seen a steady increase in my weight. I’ve gotten the weight gain under control, but haven’t been successful with weight loss.

That’s why I read articles with the hope they will encourage me. Jonna Weppler wrote in Woman’s Day, “How I Finally Learned to Stop Dieting.” These are the major points she learned at the Biggest Loser Resort Niagara.

1 – Wake Up, Drink Up – a trainer suggested she drink a big glassful of water before doing anything else in the morning. Actually, I do this one! I saw a TV beauty spot that drinking water hydrates your skin, especially important in the morning. So, before I am really awake and know what I am doing, I drink 24 oz of water! Check off one for me!

2 – Get Serious about Exercise – don’t procrastinate until “everything at home is squared away.” How did they know about me? I’m actually writing this with my gym clothes on, with good intentions to go earlier but getting some things “squared away.” Guilty as charged!

3 – Crunch the numbers – healthy eating is 30/30/40 split (protein, fat and carbs). Again, guilty. When I have done well, it’s because of an app called “My Fitness Pal.” It has made recording much easier and has fast food nutritional counts.

4 – Hit the Hay Sooner – “The later I putter, the likelier I am to end up in the pantry.” This was true before I struggled with fatigue, but now it takes energy to get off the couch to get to the pantry! The principle is to get good, deep rest which is also recommended fighting cancer. I’ve had to process the difference between laziness and rest and give myself permission to take a nap, go to bed earlier or take a natural sleep aid.

5 – Train for less $$$ – find training buddies and split the cost of a trainer. Roger and James have been doing this lately and it has really been effective! As for me and cancer, I’m just glad I get there and know I could do some serious damage if I over do it. Just moving is victory!

6 – Short-Circuit a Sugar Rush – a little sugar reminds a sweet tooth how much you like it (just like a little sin leads to a bigger one?) They suggested a protein/carb combo (turkey on wholewheat). Really??? In my head I know it’ll work, but emotionally…?

7 – Look Past the Scale – encourage yourself when your clothes get looser or can do more reps. I’m pretty good at this, although it’s hard when the scale says the opposite of what I feel! Which is true?

8 – Wear a Tracker – Roger, Becky and Amanda all have trackers and love them. I’m afraid of what it would say and have chosen to turn my head. It’s a tricky thing trying to balance rest and exercise; faithfulness and guilt.

9 – Resist “Magic Monday” Syndrome – Any day is a good day to get back on track. I’d take it one step further, any moment is a good time to get back on track, starting now!

So – I’m off to the gym. I do light cardio as well as strength (muscles support bones so that they as not as stressed) and stretches (I’ve never really recovered from some of the surgeries).  Pray I’m faithful!

Do you struggle with your weight or something else? What works for you? I’d love to hear your comments!

Round 8 – New Normal

IMG_1050I haven’t posted since the end of February – what happened to March and April? I’m just about ready to begin round 8 of chemo…and this is beginning to look as if this is my life…for now.

Rounds 4 and 5 were hard as my immune system crashed both times. I never had to be hospitalized, for which I am grateful. Since earlier rounds had done their job in knocking the cancer back, the doctor reduced the dosage to 10 mmg (from 25) to see if we could just hold it low without crashing my blood counts. And so far it has worked.

An added benefit is that I feel better without as much chemo in my system. The shakes are not as severe, my energy is better and I’m driving again! We were able to travel to Illinois and spend time with Roger’s family and supporting churches. We helped Jessica move houses (still in Ft. Lauderdale area). I did a “Relay for Life” with family (picture) and am volunteering again at Cru. Life seems to be getting back to a “new normal.”

I know it’s just a season but it feels good. If things remain the same, there won’t be as many urgent posts. In fact, I’ve thought about starting a new blog of a more spiritual nature and leave this one to focus mainly on health. Let me know what you think…

What’s your “new normal?” (please feel free to leave comments)

Chemo Round 5 – Week 2 Shalom Shattered

IMG_0959 copyI’m back in the chemo regime after recovering from the fever. Being off of it for two weeks, I’m a little more aware of side-effects which includes shakiness. At the same time, I’m grateful that I can continue with daily activities. In fact, I was able to go on a short cruise last weekend with two of my daughters, an opportunity to make memories together. It was delightful.

One of my weekly activities is a group that meets on Fridays based on the book, To Be Told, by Dan Allender. It’s an encouragement to write our “stories” and to read them to the group each week. It’s as if God is writing a story through us and we listen to what he is saying.

This week we wrote on “Shalom Shattered.” There are times of relative peace in our lives when something abruptly shatters that peace. There were several things I thought about writing on, but the obvious one seemed to be cancer. But as I was writing, I realized cancer didn’t “shatter” my life in the way we usually think. Instead, “I remembered a day in our house in the mountains in Crestline, CA, when a tempered glass door shattered. There was the “boom” of glass exploding, but all the glass stayed in the frame, with spider webs of brokenness running through it. It was frightening, and yet, beautiful as the light filtered through the brokenness. I feel as if I have lived life through the brokenness of the fear of cancer, and then cancer, in a similar way. Instead of focusing on the tragedy that will in some way, in all of us, enter our lives, I’ve taken a step back to look at it in it’s beauty.”

We all have had things that have shattered our peace, or our hope of peace. Sometimes it is a mess of glass on the floor that cuts us and leaves us bleeding, and for those for which it is true, my heart goes out to you. But sometimes, I think I have made things worse, taking glass and cutting myself rather than stepping back into peace. Whatever has shattered your peace, I challenge you to embrace it as you choose your response.

If you are interested in reading my story of “Shalom Shattered”, let me know in the comments and I’ll be glad to email it to you. What has shattered your “Shalom?”

Round 5 – “No News Is Good News?”

SAM_0587 copyI’ve always assumed when I don’t hear from someone that “no news is good news” meaning that they are healthy and busy and haven’t had time to write. At least, I wanted that to be the grace given to me when I didn’t write.

But it’s been weeks since I posted. Most of the time was the “good news” of being happy and busy, but last week..

No news was bad news.

I had a fever that just would not leave. Just a fever,. No other symptoms. We took tests, cultures and X-rays. Finally they started me on a general antibiotic that seems to kicking it out.

But I learned several things:

  1.  I need a back up plan to post when I am sick. I’m sure I could have used some extra thoughts and prayers last week, but was just to “out of it.”  I’m not sure what the plan would be, but I need to figure it out.
  2. Remembering numbers when I’m sick doesn’t work, especially when Roger says, “What was your fever last time?” I don’t have a clue! But we started this system of me texting him every time I took my temperature. That gave me a record as well as let him know how high it was and if he should come home from work.
  3. I’m not always nice when I’m sick. I guess I get on survival mode. My head hurts and I just want to be left alone (but not too much alone!). I’m not easy to figure out and I appreciate the grace Roger and others give me. But I also learned that being sick is not an excuse to not be nice, and I need to communicate with others what I am feeling and want before I got irritated.

So…if you don’t hear from me, don’t assume everything is well. Prod us a little to communicate, good or bad. And pray I figure out the communication piece.

Oh, and the chemo. It’s on hold until the fever is gone, probably at the end of the week. Good news is that M-proteins were down again to .3!

 

Balance – Round 4 – Week 2

IMG_0502 copyI haven’t posted for a couple of weeks, which is a good thing. I enjoyed my week of rest which included tests and doctor’s appointments. The number that had gone down from 1.2 to .5 remained at .5 after this last round. I was disappointed but the doctor assured me that it does plateau and if that is the case, we will go on a lower dose of the chemo after this round. But for now, I’m on the full dose. What I was most happy about is that he did not put me back on the drug that has so many side effects.

It’s a good thing, also, because I have been “out and about.” Even though my immune system is compromised, I’ve figured out ways to be in public and minimize risk. I’ve felt good and have been with friends and family. I even went on a ministry trip with Roger to visit one of his resource ministries (International School Project).

Balance is the key. I rested in the afternoons. I was really proud of myself when, on the last day, I found myself really tired in the morning thinking, “If I were at home right now and felt this way, what would I do?” I knew I would rest, so I excused myself from the meeting and did just that. Yeah for me!

One of the most fun parts of the conference was when I surprised the ladies with scarves I had knitted last winter while laid up with the broken leg. I had made over 40 of them and had given them to everyone I knew here in Orlando, so I took what was left to the conference. It was so much fun to see them “oh and awe” over the colors as they picked their favorite. There is certainly joy in giving.

I think balance will be a theme for the next few weeks. There are activities and people who have been waiting for me to feel better. My inclination is to run to them before the energy gives out. But if I balance my energy, I might not run out so quickly. Pray with me towards that end.

Rest – Round 3 Week 4

2011-5-22 Great WallThis is my week of “rest” when I don’t take drugs. I really don’t feel any different, but those who develop the drug must know that too much of it can be a bad thing.

I can’t help but think of life. We do need to pace ourselves. To much of anything can be a bad thing, including activity. It’s good to take a step back, remove yourself from routine, and feel a different pace.

I had lunch yesterday with someone who is taking a sabbatical from their job. It took them several days to just break the routine of checking (and responding) to emails. But the break is good, and she’s beginning to step back and look at her life differently. The break is giving her time to exercise and eat better, basics of “rest.”

A “Sabbath” is foundational in scripture. God modeled it in creation, not that he was tired, but that the world needed rest. There are times of growth and then there are times to be outwardly dormant while inwardly gaining strength.

So that’s my prayer for this week, that I would be inwardly gaining strength to fight the cancer. Chemo drugs kill good as well as bad cells. This is an opportunity for the good ones to come back before the bad ones gain on them.

And it’s my prayer for you this week also, that you would take some time to “rest” and inwardly gain strength. We never know what is around the corner…

How can I be praying for you? (comments)

Blogging – Round 3 week 3

2013-12-24 Christmas pancake jess momWhen is not blogging a good thing? When you are feeling so good that you are too busy to blog!

It’s been a really full holiday season. Taking me off the one drug could not have come at a better time. I felt as if I was fully conscious when I was with others and able to interact, leaving all of us with good memories (in contrast to how “out of it” I was at Thanksgiving). I love my kids and grandkids and it was great to be with them, hear their laughter and play games at night. I still went to bed early and took some naps, but what was in-between was much more satisfying.

Next week is more medical tests, to make sure that coming off that one drug did not hurt the treatment for the cancer. If so, I’ll have to go back on it. I’ve been feeling so good, I’ve thought about volunteering again at Cru. Pray that I will have wisdom as we go into the month and a more normal schedule, and that I will know what to give my time and energy towards. I hate making commitments and then needing to cancel them.

I hope those who read this have had a great holiday season. I heard a line from a song, “Live like you are going to die” and could help but think how appropriate it is for all of us. I know there are things we cannot change, the result of the choices of others, but for ourselves, it’s a great way to think and make choices.

How can I be praying for you this coming year? (add your comments)

(picture is with my daughter Jessica who lives in Ft. Lauderdale at a rustic pancake house Christmas Eve morning)