Life Lessons that Cancer Taught Me

One year ago today, I was having my second surgery to create bigger margins around where the surgeon removed the cancerous tumor from my breast and to remove some lymph nodes to examine as well.life lessons

It has me thinking … when you’re facing a potentially life-threatening disease, you can’t help but think about life differently. It just happens. All of a sudden, what seems so important doesn’t seem to matter as much anymore … and the truly important things come to the surface. Tragedy and challenges have a way of helping us decipher what really matters in life and what doesn’t. Many of these lessons I knew in my head before cancer, but after cancer, I know them more fully in my heart — they’re more real.

So as crazy as it sounds, I’m thankful for the life lessons that cancer has taught me:

  1. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, so don’t take a single day for granted.
  2. Live each moment to the fullest.
  3. Hug a little longer; cling a little tighter.
  4. Don’t put off what you need to say to someone; say it.
  5. Laugh more often.
  6. People matter way more than things do.
  7. Deeply appreciate your family & friends.
  8. Invest in the lives of others; put down the phone, turn off the TV, and enjoy family & friends.
  9. Be thankful for every morning that you wake up because it’s another day to make a difference on the planet and to enjoy the people in your life.
  10. Make the most of every opportunity that comes your way.
  11. Honor yourself by not saying “yes” to everything.
  12. Be OK with letting others down if it means taking care of you.
  13. Be at peace with your decisions, even if others disagree.
  14. Make decisions out of peace and faith, not fear.
  15. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of others. (I’m not talking about being selfish, of course.)
  16. Your daily choices matter to your health, your relationships, and your future.
  17. The past has passed, so let go of it and be present.
  18. Your mindset and self-talk affect everything, so aim for Philippians 4:8.
  19. Reject anxiety and worry; talk to God instead and receive His peace (Philippians 4:6-7).
  20. Let go of anger, bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness; life is too short and it takes a lot of negative energy to hold onto these negative emotions. Set people free and free yourself in the process.
  21. Don’t watch the news; it’s too negative and depressing.
  22. Never give up hope.
  23. Just because I’m going through something bad doesn’t mean that God has abandoned me; in fact, He’s closer than ever.
  24. Surround yourself with positive, faith-filled people (and distance yourself from those who are not).
  25. Nothing is impossible with God. Nothing!
  26. Time is one of our most valuable resources, so we need to use it wisely.

I’m sure there are more … and maybe I’ll expand on these in the future … but I wanted to share these to encourage you to not wait for a tragedy to make you realize some of these truths.

Advertisements

The Testing of our Faith

So I was reading the story of God telling Abraham to sacrifice his son, Issac, in Genesis 22. It’s a fascinating story for sure, and I had so many questions come up as I was reading, and many things I hadn’t noticed before:

abraham

Things I noticed/Questions:

  1. Verse 1 grabbed me: “Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith” (emphasis mine). Yep. This “crazy” command that God was about to give Abraham was to test Abraham’s faith.
  2. Abraham must have had a very good relationship with God because he knew God’s voice. He knew that it was God telling him to sacrifice Issac as a burnt offering (v. 2). I don’t know about you, but I probably would have questioned, “God, am I hearing you right?” (And who knows? Maybe Abraham did question that to some extent.)
  3. The VERY NEXT MORNING, Abraham obeyed God. I’m SURE Abraham didn’t really want to do this, but he didn’t delay in obeying God’s command.
  4. Even though Abraham surely didn’t want to go through with killing his son, he spoke in faith, “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back” (v. 5, emphasis mine). Abraham was hopeful that no matter what, his son would live, and he lined up his words with that belief. (NOTE: Hebrews 11:19 says, “Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.” It’s clear that Abraham understood God’s limitless power!)
  5. It’s no secret that this whole story is a foreshadowing of how God would give His only Son Jesus as a sacrifice for us and our sins. We see this in verse 6 where Issac carries the wood on his shoulders similarly to how Jesus carried the cross on His shoulders.
  6. Issac knew God’s ways because Abraham had taught him. In verse 7, Issac asked his father about the sheep for the offering. Issac knew the proper way to sacrifice to the Lord; a sheep or other animal was needed. Abraham responded again in faith saying that God would provide a sheep (verse 8).
  7. Verses 9-10 describe how Abraham tied up his son and place him on the altar. Sources say that Issac must have been between 18-36 years old at this time (which makes sense; a small boy couldn’t carry a large load of wood on his back). What did Abraham tell Issac? What was their conversation like? Issac must have WILLINGLY allowed Abraham (who was over 100 years old) to tie him up and then WILLINGLY climbed up on that altar. What TRUST there must have been between this father and son! And this beautifully foreshadows Jesus’ willingness to obey His Father and lay down His life for us.
  8. With Issac lying on the altar and the knife clenched in Abraham’s hand, the angel of the Lord said, “Abraham, don’t lay a hand on the boy” in verses 11-12. Do you think that Issac also heard this voice?

If you don’t know how the story ends, God provides a ram caught in a thicket for the burnt offering. Just like Abraham spoke in faith, he and Issac worshiped the Lord together and then returned together.

I wonder … Issac was no doubt the most important thing in Abraham’s life. Issac was the answer to Abraham and Sarah’s many prayers for a son from their own “dead” bodies and the fulfillment of God’s promise to make Abraham the father of many nations (Genesis 17:1-8). But God still asked him to give up Issac. And in verse 12, just before Abraham was going to kill his son, God says, “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son” (emphasis mine).

Notice, Issac WASN’T Abraham’s only son … remember Ishmael? Remember the plan Abraham and Sarah concocted (Genesis 16) to “help God along” in fulfilling His promise to them? (Because of course, God needs our help to fulfill His promises, right? Oh boy …) But God calls Issac Abraham’s “only son” because Issac was the son of the promise, not conceived in the natural way but the supernatural way (just like Jesus was).

But I digress. Back to verse 12. When we obey God, even when it’s incredibly difficult and doesn’t make sense to our human brains, we demonstrate that we fear God (which is another way of showing that we respect and honor Him). So it makes me think … when we DON’T obey God and give Him what He asks or do what He asks us to do, we are demonstrating that we DON’T fear Him. (Lord, have mercy.) I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to fear anyone or anything but God.

Have you ever thought what would have happened if Abraham DIDN’T obey God? How would the story have ended? What would have happened? We’ll never know for sure, but we do know this: Abraham never would have come to know God as Yahweh-Yireh (“the Lord will provide” – verse 14) if he had not stepped out in faith and obeyed and trusted God.

How many times have we missed coming to know God more deeply because we didn’t follow through in faith? James 2:23 says, “And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: ‘Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.’ He was even called the friend of God.” WOW! Do you see that? We are “right” when we believe and obey God in faith, and our relationship with God grows deeper too.

Bottom Line: Realize that God tests our faith from time to time, so don’t be surprised when He tells you to do something that doesn’t make sense to your human understanding. Decide right now to show your love and respect for God by saying YES to Him, no matter what! You’ll find that your relationship with God deepens and that you know Him in ways you never did before.

Things I’ve Changed to Fight Cancer

IMG_7358

Football moms appreciation night!

One year ago today, I received the horrible news that the lump removed from my breast was cancerous. I was only 43 years old when I received this news.

I remember exactly where I was at 2:15pm on October 28, 2016. I was teaching Spanish 2 when I noticed my doctor’s office calling. I slipped into the hallway for some privacy, and there, next to the cold, brick wall, I heard the words, “The tumor we removed is cancerous.”

I’m not sure how I remained standing because it felt like the blood was draining from my body. The surgeon explained that I would need to come in to discuss the details and talk about a second surgery to check lymph nodes and treatment.

Treatment? Huh?

So today, 10/28/17, is not my favorite day. But I’m going to redeem the day by dedicating it to sharing with you, my readers, the things I’ve done to reduce my chances of developing cancer again.

So here goes!!!

#1 Cut sugar — even natural sugar (like in fruits). I’m super careful with this and stay away from added sugar especially. I use stevia or xylitol to sweeten things now. This has been VERY difficult, but when your life depends on it, you do what you gotta do.

#2 Exercise 150 minutes/week (30 minutes, 5 days) — I still hate exercising, but research shows that this reduces your chances of cancer AND many other diseases. Plus, it helps us manage stress … which brings me to #3.

#3 Manage/Reduce stress — I’ve had to make some difficult decisions in this area concerning jobs & relationships. I made changes to reduce stress, and it’s been worth it.

#4 Essential oils — I’ve added some specific essential oils to my daily routine, rubbing them directly on my breasts, including frankincense, myrrh, lavender, and sandalwood. I also use Thieves oil regularly for immune support.

#5 Supplements — Per my doctor’s orders, I’ve added some supplements to balance my hormones and neurotransmitters and support my liver and digestion.

#6 Foods & Beverages — My doctor wants me only eating and drinking warm things, so that means no raw foods — everything is cooked. This is to hopefully help my body not make lumps & bumps (this is based on Chinese medicine), and so far, I think it’s working! I also eat as much organic produce as I can afford.

#7 Water — I drink only distilled water (with minerals added) now which is free from fluoride and other toxins found in our water supply. My next goal is to get a filter for my shower so that I’m not bathing in toxic water either (got my fingers crossed for Christmas!!!).

#8 Put myself first — As a mom and wife, this one can be hard, but I have to take time to take care of myself or I won’t be around to take care of anyone else. My sleep matters, my nutrition matters, and I’m worth investing in. This means saying “no” sometimes when I want to say “yes.” I’m still growing in this area.

#9 Down time — This is related to #8, and I’m still working on this one too, but making time to RELAX is super important. We were not meant to work & go 24/7, but naturally, I’m kind of that not-sit-still, always-gotta-be-doing-something gal. This isn’t healthy. So I’ve had to force myself to relax and have downtime without multitasking … again … I’m still working on this. Habits die hard! 😦 Balance is key.

#10 Mindset — I’ve had to learn how to emotionally just let some things go. Emotionally holding onto things that I cannot change, worrying about things, wishing things were different — these are not healthy mindsets. I’m examining my self-talk and my thoughts to make sure they are positive and full of hope. I’m choosing to enjoy my life no matter what’s going on, no matter what I’m facing. Again, this is a process, but I’m trying.

#11 — Spiritually strong — Finally, last but certainly not least, I’ve dug into the Bible, prayer, and connecting with spiritual friends more over the past year than ever before. It’s been wonderful, and I continue to do this. These things continue to be a huge source of strength, hope and peace for me.

So, as you can see, fighting cancer is multifaceted: it’s physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. My best advice: don’t wait until you get a diagnosis to make the lifestyle changes you need to make. Make them now. You’ll be glad you did.

I’m thrilled to announce that my cancer numbers continue to decline and are almost in the “negative” category. God has been SO good through it all. I’m SO thankful, and I’m looking forward to a long, full life!

 

Celebrating 1 Year Being Caner-free!!!

One year ago today, I had surgery to remove a suspicious lump from my breast. Honestly, I wasn’t too worried as both my mother and grandmother had had benign lumps removed themselves when they were my age. I honestly thought it would be no big deal; I would have it removed and get on with my life. After all, my surgeon said that only 20% of lumps they remove end up being cancer. No problem ….

But 2 days later when the surgeon told me that the lump was cancer, my world stopped.

Stopped.

Unless you’ve had the “C” word spoken over you personally, you cannot begin to imagine what that does to you emotionally and mentally.

I was in shock.

How could *I* have cancer? I was young and healthy. I ate pretty well, didn’t drink soda, gave up gluten a long time ago. What was going on???

THIS WAS A WAKE UP CALL.

I began to question everything I ate, drank, breathed, and put on my skin. I began devouring books, articles and webinars. I had to learn what I could do to prevent this from happening ever again.

At the same time, I began to wonder about chemo, radiation, losing my hair, blood tests, medications … I was suffering from information overload for sure.

But through it all, my FAITH IN GOD is what kept me strong, confident, and secure. My husband was my rock, comforting me when I needed it and supporting my treatment decisions. My immediate family stood by me continually. My church family relentlessly fought for me.

If I said I didn’t fight fear, I’d be lying. But I can tell you this: I didn’t fear death. It was the strangest, most wonderful thing. Of course, I didn’t WANT to die, but I resolved within myself that if I ended up dying from this, I would be OK; I would be with Jesus in heaven, and I’d be free from cancer.

BUT … there was NO way I was going down without a fight!

I decided to do my part (changing my diet & lifestyle), and I would trust God to do His part — no matter how things turned out, I would trust Him, love Him and continue to serve Him. I figured, “if the devil thinks he can get me to deny Jesus or renounce my loyalty to Him because of cancer, then he is sorely mistaken!!!”

So, I celebrate today — the day that cancer was removed from my body — and I’m SOOOOOOOOOOO thankful for LIFE. I’m incredibly grateful to the Lord for His goodness and faithfulness to me and my family. God is good ALL the time!!! And He ONLY has good for us.

PS — If you’re not sure where you would go when you die, or you fear death, I’d love to encourage you and share my experience with you. Shoot me a message!

PSS — On Saturday, exactly 1 year since I was told the lump was cancer, I’m going to share tons of anti-cancer info that I’ve learned — things that I’ve changed to greatly improve my health and reduce my chance for another diagnosis. This is my way to FIGHT BACK and “redeem” that horrible day in my life. So stay tuned …

This is my BEAUTIFUL family that I’m SO thankful for and blessed with!

Experiencing God’s Peace

So I get emails each day with the “verse of the day.” Today was this one:download

“Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 NLT)

So … I read this and thought, there is NO way you can read this verse and NOT read the verse before it! After all, this verse starts out, “THEN …..” You can’t have what’s in the “then verse” without DOING what’s in the verse before it.

So here’s the verse before it:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6 NLT)

NOTHING is supposed to cause anxiety in us. But if we are experiencing anxiety instead of God’s peace, then that’s our signal that we need to PRAY and ASK (supplicate) God for help and answers while maintaining a thankful attitude. Now, we aren’t thankful for the difficulties or trouble, of course, but we choose to think about what we’re grateful for instead of focusing on the anxiety-causing issues.

I think about my kids. If they need something, I want to get it for them. But if they come to me with worry or doubt or ingratitude for everything else I’ve done for them and given them so far, I’m not likely going to hear what their current needs are nor will I be feeling overly generous toward them. But if they come with humility, thankfully acknowledging all that I’ve done for them so far, I’ll be very open to trying to meet their current needs and helping them.

Finally, since we looked at the verse before verse 7, let’s look at the verse following it too:

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8 NLT)

Keeping our thoughts on track will defeat anxiety and definitely help us have a more peaceful mind. We have the responsibility to CHOOSE our thoughts; no one can do this for us. We must be careful who and what we listen to, from music and other media to friends and family members. Instead, flooding our minds with God’s word and uplifting music and spending time with encouraging, life-giving friends will help us maintain our peace.

Peace and anxiety cannot coexist; you either have God’s peace or your anxiety. Reject anxiety. Pray and put your requests before God, be thankful for His faithfulness, and keep your thoughts focused on positive things. And soon you’ll find that you’re experiencing God’s peace, guarding your heart and mind, no matter what’s happening around you.

What are you thirsting for?

Water … it’s vital for life. In fact, most experts say you can’t live for more than 3 days without it, though some have survived miraculously for 8-10 days without it. Water makes up roughly half of our body, so we can’t discount its importance.

water-life-crop

So here’s the question: If you were in a desert, what would you be thirsting for? … DUH, WATER, of course, right?

Well, I was reading Psalm 63, and in verse 1, David says,

“O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.”

So … what struck me here is this: David is in a “parched and weary land.” The description in my Bible just before verse 1 says A psalm of David, regarding a time when David was in the wilderness of Judah. David is in a wilderness, but instead of thirsting for water, he’s thirsting for GOD! In fact, his WHOLE BODY is thristing for God!

I’m sorry, but I’m not there yet. I want to be there, but I’m not there yet. If I picture myself in a wilderness, I see myself thirsting for water, not God. (And I’d probably be hungry for food too!) My immediate bodily need for water would probably overwhelm any spiritual need. I’m just being honest; is anyone with me?

But, oh, how I LONG to be like David here … putting aside my physical needs and desiring God more than anything. … What do you need? More money? Physical healing? Improved relationships? … What if instead of desiring those things we desired God? I understand that those are immediate needs, but David’s urgent need was water, yet he still desired God over water.

Holy Spirit grabbed my heart with this verse. I have some immediate, pressing, real needs that I’ve been petitioning God about. I know that He has only good for me and my family, but He’s challenging me to long for HIM, not for what I physically need. … This is tough; this isn’t natural. In the natural, we have needs that we want taken care of, and I’m not minimizing those needs. But I wonder if we truly longed for GOD instead of our natural needs, what would happen? What if we got our focus off our immediate needs and longed for God with our whole being? My prediction is this: God would absolutely take care of our needs.

I don’t think it’s by accident that Jesus said in Luke 4:10, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.” Perhaps He was referring to Psalm 63:1 as He spoke to the woman at the well. He could see her thirsting for the wrong things; He knew that He alone could satisfiy her thirst.

shutterstock_199262555-waterglass-1000x636Are you in a parched and weary land? Are you tired of striving and trying to make ends meet, restore relationships, or find true joy and peace? Maybe like the woman at the well, you’re thirsting for the wrong things. Try putting those needs aside. Put your need for “water” aside and stir up your thirst for Jesus who will quench your thirst with His living water.

Defeating with my Testimony!

As I was exercising and listening to scriptures this evening, one of them in particular jumped out at me:
“And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony.”
This scripture is about how believers in Jesus defeated the devil (“him”). THEY defeated the devil — God didn’t defeat him — the believers did!
And how did they do it?
1. With the blood of Jesus (the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world … John 1:29)
I believe that by the blood of Jesus and the wounds He took on His body, I WAS healed (Isaiah 53:5). I declare on a regular basis that HIS holy blood is pumping through my body bringing supernatural life and wholeness and eradicating EVERY trace of cancer and disease.
2. With the word of THEIR testimony
And then it struck me! I need to get my updated testimony out there! My testimony is a powerful weapon against the enemy. Not only will it defeat Satan; it will also bring glory to God!
So … here’s the latest …
If you’ve been following my blogs at all, then you know that in October 2016 I had a cancerous lump removed from my breast (God showed me this very small tumor and spared my life in revealing it). It ended up being Stage 1 Invasive DCIS. It was the biggest shock of my life. And the biggest wake up call too.
I had it surgically removed, then had another surgery to clean up the margins a bit more and remove lymph nodes.
Chemo was never recommended (thankfully), but radiation and hormone therapy was. I didn’t have peace about either option for many reasons. So I considered a radical route: a double mastectomy. I went to the doctor’s appointments and even had it scheduled, but just a few days beforehand, I didn’t have peace about it.
My naturopath left it up to me and said that if I chose not to do conventional treatment that we would follow me very closely. She’s recommended some targeted supplements, and I’ve changed my lifestyle like crazy (diet, sleep, exercise, dealing with stress, etc.)
images
Long story short, I did a special urine test to check a certain level that would tell us the status of cancer in my body. I just got the results back, and they are GOOD! Praise God!
My number is 54 — and anything between 50-400 is in the “faintly positive” range (numbers can go all the way over 10000!). 1-49 is “doubtful” range, and I’m super close to that!
This is considered my baseline, so please pray that when I do this test again in a couple months that the number will be EVEN LOWER!!! I want to be in the DOUBTFUL range and then ZERO/negative range!
So that’s my testimony — God is GOOD and God is FAITHFUL! His healing power is manifesting in my body and disease cannot exist in me because the Kingdom of God reigns in me. Cancer and the Kingdom CANNOT coexist!
Thanks for your continued prayers and for fighting alongside me!