Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: Beauty-FULL

I use a wonderful journaling app called Day One, that notifies me on the days I have a journal entry from the same calendar day in the previous year. On Tuesday, January 9th I got an alert that I had a journal entry on January 9, 2017. The date, embedded in my mind, made me nervously curious to revisit what I was truly thinking and feeling the morning of the biopsy on my left breast. When I opened the entry I found only the picture above on the left with these words: “Headed to the biopsy, not nervous, in perfect peace!” The picture on the right was taken on January 9th this year as I headed to an appointment with the nurse practitioner at my oncologist’s office.

I had a good visit with the nurse practitioner. She explained over the next five years, they will monitor my “tumor markers,” among other things, in an effort to get ahead of any reoccurrence attempt. She talked at length about my specific cancer, the affects treatment has had on my body, and encouraged me to be patient in allowing my body to recover from all it has been through. She called me and my fellow warriors, “Superheroes!” During the five years I am taking the cancer hormone medication, they consider me in “remission.” At the end of five years, should there be no reoccurrence or high spikes in my tumor markers I will then be considered a “cancer survivor.” She is new to the practice and it was my first time meeting her. So, she was not aware of my perspective. I told her I am glad I know I am HEALED so I don’t have to worry about any of that! She just smiled.

When I got home I again looked at the pictures posted above. I could see how a year later cancer has aged me a bit. As I visually dissected every inch of my face, I recalled the morning in the summer I was preparing to go somewhere and as I was putting on my makeup attempting to tame my left eyebrow, a portion of it brushed completely off of my face. I remember seeing the face looking back at me thinking how sick I looked with half an eyebrow on one side, a very thin one on the other, huge dark circles that were getting harder and harder to hide under both eyes, patchy, dry skin all over my face… What I saw looking back at me that day looked everything, but, beautiful to me.

My breast cancer journey really challenged my perspective on beauty. I always believed true beauty resonates from the inside out, not the outside in. At least that’s what I thought I believed. Breast cancer forced me to examine myself, my body and all of its parts at a depth and level of honesty that I don’t know I ever would have otherwise. Like many women, deep on the inside, I found I wanted to be counted among those considered “sexy” or “beautiful” according to whatever the current standard of beauty is, which is always based on body size, type, shape, look, or parts in some form or fashion; everything on the outside.

For the past few days this notion of beauty has been swirling around in my mind. I have been processing my thoughts through the lens of Isaiah 53:2 (NIV) which says, speaking of Jesus, “…He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” When I read that verse I got into an argument with Isaiah in my spirit like, ‘How can you say that! He is the most beautiful person I’ve ever met!’ Just as I was about to get real indignant with Isaiah about his physical description of Jesus the Lord whispered to me, “Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. What he saw at a distance you see from close proximity. What he saw from the outside. You see from the inside. What he saw as a foreshadowing. You see as a manifestation. He knew Me personally. You know Me intimately.”

That one scripture profoundly changed my desire and perspective as it pertains to beauty. When you read the accounts of Jesus’ life in the Gospels He couldn’t go anywhere without attracting a crowd. Even those who didn’t subscribe to His teachings were still curious and lurking about. He had to teach from mountains and boats just to put some space between Himself and all of the people that were constantly swarming Him! According to Isaiah, the women weren’t flocking to Him to see the hot new Rabbi in town. The guys weren’t coming to see the buffed guy, decked out in royal garb to see if maybe they could get the “in” with Him. His beauty surpassed all of that surface level, superficial stuff that we put so much emphasis on. He was simply irresistible!

A year ago the thought of losing my left breast was absolutely devastating to me. I couldn’t imagine what my body would look like without it. What man would find that “sexy” or attractive? For that matter, I didn’t think I would ever be able to look in the mirror and see a beautiful woman anymore. A year later… I didn’t lose my left breast. The scars from surgery have healed nicely (last year, after surgery I cried, because I said my breast looked deformed). “Sexiness” or “beauty” according to the general standard is no longer my goal. Now, I want to be unforgettable, irresistible, and magnetic like the Spirit of Jesus that lives inside of me. Not based on my physical appearance, but rather His love, His Mercy, and His grace that fills me…HE is what makes me beauty-FULL!

I may never fit into the ever changing standard of what we call “beauty.” But, for today, I thank God for allowing me to see that I am forever beauty-FULL! That is a gift breast cancer gave me!


Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: A Christmas Story…

I’ve been spending a lot of time preparing for the New Year. Mostly, I’ve just been doing some mental housecleaning and actual housecleaning in my bedroom. While cleaning the other day, I came across a gold mine of poems, journals, and all kinds of writings I have written over the years. Many of them, like the poem below, were written prior to the stroke I had in 2011. It was amazing to read the words written by my former self. It was like discovering a new author for the very first time! I think I kind of like her 😊. Anyway, the poem below, “A Christmas Story,” was written almost 10 years ago. I don’t believe anything happens by “coincidence” or by “chance.” I believe I stumbled upon this particular poem at this time quite purposefully, according to God’s timing. So, I thought I would share it with you!

A Christmas Story
‘Twas the night before Christmas and heaven was stirring. The angels were preparing, each one yearning. Could this be the night? Could it possibly be? The night predestined for all to see. There had been no night like this before. They each waited for direction from the Lord.

The Father spoke softly to the Son, “Tonight is the night. It must be done.”

The Son responded with a solemn heart, “Father, this shall be the most difficult part. For they are not ready for My arrival. They still do not see I Am the source of their survival.” (John 8:12)

“My Son, We have done all there is to do. I gave them the best of Me when I gave them You. You have interceded on their behalf. You laid down Your life. You did all that I asked. Tonight is the night You must return.” (John 17)

“But, Father, there are too many lessons they haven’t learned. Still they are filled with hate, lust, and greed. Still, they have no compassion for those in need. Still, they disobey and ignore My Word. They refuse to listen and haven’t heard.” (John 13:34)

Suddenly, there was silence as Gabriel entered in. The Son conceded, “I shall return, again.”

The sights were much different in the earth below. Carolers were caroling, many wishing for snow. Shoppers made their final trips to the mall. Most were wrapping packages, big and small. Others were resting after a long day of work. Some were preparing to rise for church. Many made calls to ones they love. Some gave out kisses. Others gave hugs. Some were in a bar or a hotel room. None were aware the hour was soon.

Though it had been spoken many times before, very few were awaiting the arrival of our Lord. Children were looking for reindeer in the sky, convinced that Santa would soon be passing by. Just before midnight, there came an awesome sound. People came running from all around. All stood in wonder of the sight they saw. Many were in disbelief of it all.

The sky opened effortlessly at its seam. This cannot be real. It must be a dream! And then He appeared, in all of His glory – the beginning of the end of the Greatest Story. In the blink of an eye it was complete. The dead in Christ arose from their sleep. Those still alive were caught up with Him, never to see the earth again. The sky grew dark when they were out of sight. The earth was now void of its magnificent light. (I Corinthians 15:50-54)

The heavens rejoiced when the Son returned. Still He wondered had they learned. Those left behind were still in His heart. He said to the Father, “Now it will start. The end is near. Judgment shall reign. I wonder if they know I still love them the same?” (Revelation 19:11-16)

The Father sighed as He listened to His plight, “Merry Christmas, My Son. And to You a good night.”

Though this was just a little Christmas tale, I hope you know Jesus well. For there is a day He will return. I pray your lessons have been learned. The land of man will soon be out of sight. Until then, Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight!

©2008 by Lisa R. Ransome

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: The Silence of Suffering

A lot can be said during moments of silence. Since I was diagnosed I have been shocked by how many women I know personally, friends of my mother’s, or friends of friends, that I have discovered either have or have had breast cancer. I think what boggled my mind, especially with the women I know personally, is that I never knew. I honestly don’t believe I would be talking so much and so candidly about my fight if Jesus didn’t ask me to. I’m sure I would’ve written about it eventually, but long after the dust had settled and it was a distant memory. A nice feel-good, won’t He do it, testimony. Never would it have entered my thoughts to write and talk about it publicly while I am still in the trenches. I even said to Jesus, ‘I’ll do it. But, I really think You may be sorry You asked, because I may embarrass You.’

I can only imagine how many torrential rainstorms of tears have been cried, deafening screams of despair, and profanity laced conversations have occurred during the moments silence of my fellow breast cancer warriors (survivor just doesn’t adequately describe the journey) unable to find the words to express how they feel inside. I get it. I know all cancer is horrible. But, speaking purely from the perspective of a breast cancer warrior, as a woman it blatantly and unapologetically attacks your womanhood. You suddenly have to address things like hair loss, body image issues, having to buy new clothes to fit your new body….and it wreaks havoc on your emotions! Not to mention how many times you have to silently listen to well-meaning friends, loved ones, or medical professionals tell you things like, “It’s just hair. It will grow back” or, “You can just get implants.” While those things are true, for a breast cancer warrior, with all that comes with the disease and its treatment, it isn’t “just” hair to us. And although for us over 40 warriors breast implants may make the “girls” look more perky, I’m sure most of us would prefer to keep our own.

Last week was a tough week for me emotionally. It seemed I could not get through a day without crying. I felt pretty bad physically too, but having the stroke 6 years ago helped me learn how to determine if I felt bad or weak enough that I couldn’t do anything or if I could press past how I felt and try to do something. Compared to trying to walk unassisted, be able to use my right hand to do basic things like brush my teeth, and rehab my brain to try to process and comprehend words, getting out of bed to do SOMETHING everyday while doing treatments for breast cancer really isn’t much of a challenge. 

What has been most challenging for me is the helplessness I often feel. I woke up this morning, at what has become my usual time, 4 AM, listening to a song called, “Let Go,” by Dwayne Woods. It’s a beautiful song about letting go and letting God. In my quiet moments with Jesus sometimes as much as I try not to I still feel a pull inside like a tug of war between Him and me. I am so tired and want this battle to be done now. He says, “Just rest in Me.” I want to know what is waiting for me on the other side of this. He says, “Just take one breath, one step, one moment, one day, at a time.” I want to know why me? Why couldn’t the stroke be enough? He says, “Why not you? You made it through that. Why would this be any different?”

Last week I gave myself a deadline for crying tears of sorrow over having to do 12 rounds of chemo. If I didn’t give myself a specific date to tell my emotions they were no longer allowed to signal my brain to open the floodgates from my eyes every time I thought about having to sit in that chair with a needle in my chest while poison is being pumped into my body, I would be crying all summer into the Fall. The deadline was yesterday. I made it with an hour and a half to spare, drying my last tear at 10:30 PM. I have my 3rd chemo treatment tomorrow. Should I feel the urge to cry from this day forward, they will be tears of joy that I am one day closer to the expected end of all of this!

Usually the day before chemo is like what athletes must do before a big game, race, fight, etc. They get pumped up and prepare themselves mentally and physically to face their opponent. I try to stay busy and not dwell on what I am going to feel like after chemo and tell myself I am not going to get worked up when I get there or right before the put the needle in my chest to start the treatment. But, I won’t be doing any of that today. Instead, I have decided to do exactly what Jesus said. I am going to rest in Him. He’s got this! Though stroke and cancer are two different names, the name above all names is the same (Philippians 2:8-11). Just as Jesus walked with me until I could walk again unassisted, put His hand over my hand until I could brush my teeth by myself, and continues to allow me to use His mind when mine struggles to process words correctly, He will sit with me, calm my spirit, and hold my hand when they put the needle in my chest tomorrow.

For today, I am going to focus on celebrating my middle daughter, LiAnne’s 27th birthday! She is my miracle baby. She was a preemie, born weighing a little over two pounds. She stayed in the hospital NICU for three months before they finally kicked her out, because she was such a fighter. She would pull her IVs out and disturb the other babies with her screams for attention. She came home on oxygen and a heart monitor. I had to be trained in CPR and how to take care of her overall. I still remember how frustrated one of the doctors was when she told me all of the things my baby would probably never be able to do, and I responded, “I don’t receive that about her.” Not only can she do all the things the doctor said she would not, she is the healthiest, most physically fit member of our family. She’s a University of Maryland graduate and the manager of the fitness center for a government agency. I am a very blessed and proud mom! 1 Peter 5:10 (NLT) says, “In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.” I am determined to walk sure footedly  on this promise from heaven for the rest of this journey. 

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: Countdown to Surgery Day…

It has taken me almost an entire week to really process all the information I was given during my doctor appointments with the breast surgeon and oncologist last Thursday. My sisters and my mom went with me to the appointments. I woke up that morning thinking about when I joked with Hassan, the PET scan technician, two days prior, as he did the injection of the radioactive substance into my vein. I joked that I was going to light up like a Christmas tree when I left. That thought led me into prayer. I prayed that God would illuminate Himself in me in such a way that Jesus could be seen in me as bright as the star that led the Magi to Him after His birth. 

After I prayed I started getting ready for another long “date” with Jesus.That day I decided to do it up the best I could (pictured above). In order to accomplish that it took much longer than it would have any other day. I felt like I was moving in slow motion. I put on my headphones, hit shuffle on my Gospel playlist, and listened as I was doing my hair and make up. The first three songs that played were “My Worship” by John P. Kee, “Balm In Gilead” by Karen Clark-Sheard, and “Worth” by Anthony Brown & Group Therapy. I left the house that morning with my mind fixed on Jesus, determined not to be moved one way or another by anything that was said to me. In my mind, I knew all I needed to know. Jesus told me on December 29, 2016, before I even had the biopsy that, “This affliction is not unto death (John 11:4 NKJV).” And, “I will live and not die and declare the works of the Lord (Psalm 118:17 NKJV).” That was enough for me. 

My first appointment was with Dr. Hampton, the breast surgeon. My sister, Leslie, went in the exam room with me so she could be my “ears” and catch all the things my brain did not during the conversation. This was strictly a results and plan of action appointment. As soon as we got in the room Leslie had the ingenious idea to record a voice memo of the appointment on her iPhone. It never occurred to me to do that. Yesterday, as I listened to the recording for the first time, I began to remember (which for me is actually seeing random images that look like snapshots or small movie clips of something that happened in a non sequential order), both of my doctor appointments from last week. The way God compensates for what was injured in my left brain is simply amazing to me. He takes the random images in my mind and one by one He “assigns” or attaches words to them. Then as I type the words, He helps me move them around until they make sense. That is how, even with aphasia, I am able to write this blog and wrote and published my first book, “Conversations with the Master: Revelation Genesis” in 2012. But, when I wrote the book it was truly all Him. I was just His stenographer.

As I am sitting here trying to attach the right words to what I remember it is really difficult. It’s almost as if I type out the things they told me and what I know is to come, it makes all of this more real to me. I don’t know if that makes sense or not, but that’s what I feel like inside while I am writing this.

Dr. Hampton went over the details of my tumor, the full results of the biopsy, and my treatment options. My tumor is considered small because it is a little less than 2 cm, which right now classifies it as some variation of Stage 1 invasive breast cancer. She explained that invasive cancer has the ability to spread, but does not do so always. She went over a lot of specifics regarding the tumor itself and said she was hopeful that the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes, because they didn’t appear to be effected on the PET scan. She then went on to say the only way to be certain is to remove a few of my lymph nodes and biopsy them. From all of the information she had available, she said my two options were a lumpectomy and a unilateral mastectomy (removal of the entire breast). 

If I chose the lumpectomy she explained that she would remove the tumor, a margin of the breast tissue surrounding the tumor, as well as a few of the lymph nodes under my left arm. About a month after the lumpectomy I would begin radiation treatments everyday, Monday – Friday, for seven weeks. She said she could not definitely say chemotherapy would not be a part of my treatment plan until they received the pathology report from all that was removed. If I chose the mastectomy she said they would essentially remove all of the breast tissue from my left breast, similar to the way you gut out a pumpkin. I would then have my left breast reconstructed and that would be it. I would not require radiation, or chemotherapy. In my mind, it was a one and done procedure that I truly considered. There just seemed to be too many unknowns with the lumpectomy. The only thing she could tell me with certainty is that I would have to do radiation treatments. And in both cases I would have to take some kind of hormone pill for five years. As she continued talking, and my sister asked her some questions, I no longer heard anything they were saying. Instead, I was hearing what Jesus said to me on December 29, 2016 after He told me I wasn’t going to die. 

He said, “As for all else concerning this affliction all I ask is that you trust ME and ME alone with the details. You needn’t stress your mind or be nervous over the results of man’s report or man’s prescription for healing. I and I alone am your Healer. I am the Great Physician. I created the body in which you now dwell, every inch of it. I created every cell, every blood vessel, every microscopic entity that even man has not yet discovered. There is no sickness, no disease, no ailment, no affliction greater than Me! This is MY load to carry not yours! I carried it with Me to the cross and it was defeated that day. So why then would I place this sickness upon your back to carry? So, My beautiful one….just remember I NEVER make a promise I cannot keep. And My promise to you this day is that I shall keep you in perfect peace, with your eyes on Me and Me alone, and you shall believe ONLY My report no matter what is seen or said in the eyes of man. MINE is the final say in all things.”

When I rejoined the conversation Dr. Hampton and my sister were having I did so knowing Jesus was asking me not to choose what sounded to me at the time like the lesser of two evils, the mastectomy. With that, there were no unknowns to contend with and no drawn out treatment process, just recovery from the surgery and a pill to take for five years. I told Dr. Hampton that I would do the lumpectomy and repeated to her what I understood the process would be. The surgery is scheduled for Monday, January 30th and I should be able to come home the same day.

I finished my appointment with Dr. Hampton 15 minutes before my scheduled appointment time with the oncologist, Dr. Mendoza, whose office is in the same building. This appointment was just for me to be reacquainted with Dr. Mendoza, who is also the hematologist, I saw six years ago when I had the stroke. He was just as pleasant as I remembered. It was strange to go over all of the changes that occurred in my life the last six years. Until that time, I don’t know that I really realized how many life-changing events had occurred. He was glad to see the significant progress I had made since the stroke and equally disappointed that I was seeing him again now for breast cancer. He basically reiterated the things Dr. Hampton told me. He, however, after looking at the pictures and reports from the mammograms, the ultrasound, the MRI, and the biopsy, did not agree with Dr. Hampton’s timeline of starting radiation a month after the lumpectomy. He said he was not comfortable doing nothing for that amount of time. So, he told me to schedule an appointment with him for two weeks after the surgery. He believes all of the pathology reports needed to begin a treatment plan should be back by then. 

After the appointment, I relayed the information my to mom and sisters, who all waited in the waiting area this time. We then decided to go to Friday’s for lunch. As we all sat at the table deciding what we were going to order, talking about random things, all of their voices, including my nephew who joined us and was seated next to me, began to sound like a bunch of inaudible loud noise. In my own mind I was trying to force my brain to do what it just wasn’t ready to do, which was put all of the seemingly millions of pieces of information I had just received together in a way that was clearer and not so overwhelming. So, I sat at the table and began to cry. All I could say was, “This is a lot. It is too much.” Everyone at the table immediately tried to console me as I continued to cry and tell them they just did not understand what I was trying to say. Finally, I dried my tears, ordered my food, which my baby sister, LaShawn paid for. So, I joked, “If crying at the table gets me a free meal, I will have to do it more often.”

When I got home I immediately went to my bedroom, cried some more, and told Jesus I really needed His mind (1Corinthians 2:16 NKJV) going forward to be able to process what was happening. When I finished crying, I put my headphones on, got in my bed, and listened to music. Later in the evening I played my Bruno Mars Playlist (which now includes all of his CDs). As I listened, I realized though I really do believe “24K Magic” is a good CD, when I listen to it it’s a welcomed escape from information overload, crying, cancer, battle weariness…all of it. Listening that night I had absolutely no thoughts my mind, I just lay in my bed listening to Bruno’s voice (I really didn’t hear any of the words – just his voice layered over some really good instrument sounds).

I’m still not afraid. I still KNOW I am not going to die. I still KNOW I am already healed. And I KNOW all of those things as absolute truth, because God spoke it. Despite all that I know to be true, in my humanness, I still have a dull ache in my heart as I prepare myself for surgery day. For today, I am just so very thankful I made the decision to accept Jesus as my personal Savior when I was five years old. Our relationship has matured greatly since then. When I journal our conversations I almost always end them with, ‘I love You, Jesus. My Lord, My Love, My King, and very best Friend.’ I cannot imagine trying to travel this journey without Him. 

As I’ve been writing this post I have been listening to, on repeat, a beautiful song called, “Because of You,” by Tamia, who has multiple sclerosis. The song so beautifully describes how she has only made it because of the Lord and puts words and music to how I feel today. Check it out if you get a chance. 

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: Feels So Good To Be Alive…

I clearly remember a day a few years ago when I was still recovering from the stroke, I was in my bedroom really upset, crying, and praying. No one was home, but me. The more I cried the louder the volume of my “prayer” grew (it was really me having a temper tantrum, letting God know how totally displeased I was with how He was handling my life). That day I was so angry with God. I just did not understand what He was doing or why He had permitted so much pain and suffering in my life. Admittedly, some of the heartbreak and heartache I had suffered to that point was the byproduct of my own poor choices. But, the things that hurt the most that turned my life upside down I didn’t choose. I didn’t choose childhood molestation for myself, I didn’t choose to witness the things I saw in my parents’ dysfunctional marriage and ultimate divorce, I didn’t choose abuse and abandonment, I didn’t choose divorce in my 15-year marriage, and I certainly didn’t choose to have a stroke at age 40. At one point in my prayer/tantrum I remember screaming at the top of my lungs, ‘Why didn’t You just let me die!’ Of course there was no response from heaven at that moment, which exasperated me even more. So, I REALLY started crying then. I mean the uncontrollable, inconsolable kind of crying where snot is all over your face, your shirt is soaked in the front, and when you are finished you have a headache and are so tired all you can do is go to sleep. 

When I woke up the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that, with no response, I finally accepted God was not the least bit moved by my temper tantrum and to drive the point home He kept waking me up day after day with no response to my inquiry about my sufferings. At least not in a way that I recognized back then. So, I did what I have always done when any kind of pain or adversity came my way, I just kept going. 

My dad gave me a wonderful gift in that I can smile, laugh, and joke my way through just about anything no matter what I feel like on the inside. But, as it is with most gifts, used improperly it can be just as much a curse as it is a gift. For me, to keep going meant continuing on with my life as if whatever traumatic event or heartbreak that occurred never happened. I was going, but I wasn’t moving forward or backward for that matter. I was just aimlessly going, hurting, grumbling, and complaining on the inside, much like the children of Israel did on their 40-year journey toward the Promised Land. At some point I think I just decided, it is what it is. I truly loved Jesus with my whole heart and if this was a part of carrying my cross to follow Him (Matt. 16:24-25), so be it.

Another gift I seem to have is the gift of silence. My sisters call me a “vault,” meaning if you tell me something in private you can trust that it will not be repeated. I introduced you to my family in yesterday’s post. NOTHING in my family remains private for longer than a day or two, before whatever has been said or occurred, good or bad, makes its way through the appropriate channels to ensure the whole family is aware. So, to have gained the level of trust among my sisters to be called a vault is a true honor. To my knowledge, there is only one other family vault (Yes, I am talking about you CB). 

For most of my adult life my vault-likeness worked both ways. Not only did I guard and not repeat what was told to me, I also very successfully never told anyone anything about me or my life, beyond the regular surface level things. I was considered to be a “private” person. Even so, people (not just my family members) have always seemed to be very comfortable talking to me about the most intimate details of their lives, even when I didn’t reciprocate and share anything about mine.

On January 14th I woke up feeling like I had been running a very long race. I felt tired and winded like I was trying to catch my breath so I could keep going. As I got up to try to push myself to keep going Jesus said to me, “But, can’t you see, Lisa? I took your breath away so you can stop and BREATHE!” That morning, I thanked God that He permitted cancer to trespass in my left breast for a time. It meant I could finally stop for awhile and just breathe; taking one breath, one step, one moment, one day, at a time like He told me after the stroke six years ago.

My granddaughter, Chloe and I have a very special relationship. She was born about a year and a half after the stroke. I was still struggling quite a bit with the aphasia and comprehension. At that time I had to talk myself through the most common tasks like brushing my teeth. I would stand at the sink and say out loud, ‘Ok, I take that thing (my toothbrush), put some of that stuff (toothpaste) on it, turn the knob that has the ‘c’ on it….’ When Chloe was a baby, she and her mom (my oldest daughter Ashley) lived with me for awhile. Where I lived at the time had a huge walk-in closet in my bedroom that became my secret place for just Jesus and me. I went in that closet for hours at a time just talking to Jesus. In there, I read Psalm 27 everyday. It was the only thing I could read that I understood. Once Chloe was born, the Lord told me to have her be my prayer partner in the mornings. So, every morning, Chloe and I either went into our secret place or sat on my bed and prayed. 

Chloe is four now and loves to pray, sing worship songs, hear Bible stories over and over again and then retell them to you. She also has this ability to watch the same movie or show umpteen times and enjoy it each time like she is seeing it for the first time. One of those movies is, “The Peanuts Movie.” I have had the privilege of watching that movie with her at least ten times (and I am not exaggerating). After about the third time we watched it together, I let it continue to play through the credits rolling. As the credits rolled a song called, “Good To Be Alive,” by Meghan Trainor began to play. As it played, Chloe and I danced around the living room singing the chorus that says “oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, oh it feels so good to be alive.” I downloaded the song from Apple Music so it could always be a part of the rotation of songs for the Chloe and Nana dance parties that often take place.

I woke up this morning singing the Meghan Trainor song from “The Peanuts Movie Soundtrack”, until I finally had to put my headphones on and play it. As Meghan and I were singing, I thought about Chloe and could see us dancing and singing around the living room the day we first heard the song. As I was thinking and Meghan was now singing without me, Jesus whispered so softly in my ear, “SHE, among many other reasons, is why I did not let you die.” 

As I sit here with tears streaming down my face, for today, all I can say is, ‘It feels so good to be alive!’ If you’ve never heard the song it’s definitely worth hearing. I think you will like it.

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: Introducing…My Team

Yesterday was a long and tiring day. I had back to back appointments with the breast surgeon and oncologist. Way too much information to process in one day. I need a day or two before I can talk about those appointments. I have another doctor appointment today with my primary care physician. So, I thought today would be a good day to introduce you to my “Team.” My medical team pictured above are: on the left is Dr. Jose Mendoza, Oncologist/Hematologist, the beautiful woman standing next to me in the top picture on the right is Dr. Regina Hampton, my breast surgeon, and last, but surely not least, on the bottom right is Dr. Waseem Hussain, my Primary Care Physician. I cannot say enough about this team of medical professionals God hand-picked to care for me during this journey. I cannot say enough about their superior bed-side manner, knowledge, and ability to explain things in “plain” language that I can understand.

My visits with Dr. Hampton are more like sit-down conversations with one of your best girlfriends and the subject of the day just happens to be breast cancer and the surgical options available. She is compassionate, encouraging, supportive, and has a laugh that makes you laugh with her.

Dr. Mendoza and I are old friends so to speak. Since he specializes in both oncology and hematology I saw him several times six years ago when I had the stroke. At that time his job was to try to figure out if I had a blood disorder that may have caused or contributed to the stroke. I remember how thorough he was, because he refused to believe that at age 40 the stroke I had was just some strange anomaly that occurred for no reason. So, I was already very familiar with his determination to leave no stone unturned until he is satisfied with what he discovers. He shows genuine concern and kindness, talks to me not at me and just overall has a very comforting spirit. When I saw him yesterday for the first time since the stroke he said, “It is so nice to see you again, but I was really hoping I would never see you again. And especially not for this.”

I don’t think I have the words to adequately describe Dr. Hussain. He has been my primary care physician for almost ten years. He is by far the BEST doctor I have ever seen. He is knowledgeable about everything imaginable, he is personable, thorough and when you are in his office he spends as much time as you need with him. He is soft spoken and his voice alone is comforting. He has been my primary caregiver through sicknesses, surgeries, the stroke, and I am so thankful he is still on my team during this breast cancer journey. When I saw him in his office the day he got the biopsy results he came in the room, sat down, and said, “Well, we received the results we didn’t want to get.” He thoroughly explained what the next steps would be, held my hand, gave me a tissue, and said, “Everything is going to be ok, Lisa. You can and will beat this. The road may be pretty rough, but you will recover, live a long life, and be here to see even more grandchildren born.” THAT’s the kind of doctor he is! I absolutely love him!

I am blessed to be a part of a BIG, loud, loving, supportive family. My family loves HARD and STRONG. If I had to try to describe the kind of family we are all I could come up with is a black (or African American if that is the better way to say black) version of the family depicted in the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” We are them to the tenth power! My family is a family full of what I call “people collectors”. Meaning, once you have come to a family function, have dated, been married to or divorced from anyone in my family you are a lifetime family member and can expect to still be invited to family functions and remain informed of all the news that travels through the family grapevine. Technology being what it is, my wonderful nephew/son started a family group chat on Group Me that many of us are a part of. There are days that if I do not look at the family group chat for just an hour I return to see 50 messages to be read. I think the all time high I missed in one day was 72. That is who we are. I said all of that to say, in my family if I have breast cancer then EVERYBODY has breast cancer! So, collectively they make up the largest part of my team.

There are a few family members I want to mention by name and face: Pictured below from top to bottom on the left: My mom, Rev. Susie Taylor (holding my grandson, Logan), my older sister, Leslie, my younger sister, LaShawn (also holding Logan – he’s 13 months now). From top to bottom on the right my gorgeous daughters: my oldest, Ashley, in the middle (like me, and she looks the most like me) LiAnne, and my “baby,” Jasmine. This core group of ladies, along with four prayer warrior friends God has blessed me with, are the ones who see or hear from me on my good days, not so good days, and all the days in between. They pray for and with me, they listen to me vent, they comfort and encourage me. But, I must say more than anyone else I can’t say enough about my beautiful daughters. They journeyed with me day in and day out during the stroke recovery years and they have jumped on the breast cancer train with me with such grace, love, and compassionate care. They are exceptional young women. My Ashley has decided she is going to ask to be put under general anesthesia with me on surgery day so she can be wheeled in with me and hold my hand during the procedure (that is just how she is). LiAnne is in the fitness and wellness field. She is in excellent shape and very disciplined. She will be the one to help me stay on track with my physical fitness. Jasmine is in the science field and has an extraordinary ability to explain the most complex scientific information or math in a way anyone could understand. She is definitely my ace in the hole with all of the medical stuff. And if you are reading and intend to follow this blog then you are a part of my team too. You are family. I have already been so blessed by the many words of encouragement and prayers. I do not take prayer lightly and am truly grateful for each person that remembers me when they call out to God in prayer. So, for today I’m just thankful for my team, and that Jesus is the Captain! Because of Him, I know as a team we have already won, because our opponent was defeated over 2,000 years ago. My body just has to catch up to what I already know to be truth!

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: My Date With Bruno Mars

February 2nd will be the 6th anniversary of the stroke I had in 2011, two months after my 40th birthday. Many of you are aware of my stroke story, but for the benefit of those who may be reading this that do not know me personally I figured I would bring you up to speed. The stroke occurred on the left side of my brain, which effected the right side of my body. For a time the weakness on my right side was so prominent I was unable to walk without a cane and could not write or do very much with my right hand. I had very little feeling on the right side of my face and a lopsided smile. I did physical, occupational, and speech and language therapy for almost a year. I still have weakness and less feeling on my right side than my left. I still can’t write very long with my right hand, but I no longer need a cane to walk. I still see a crooked smile when I look in the mirror, but I have more feeling on the right side of my face than I did initially. In fact, most people tell me to look at me they would never know I had a stroke. But, because a stroke is a brain injury, an area people can’t see, they don’t know the lasting affects that still remain.

I was left with something called aphasia, which makes it challenging for me at times to process what people are saying to me and to find the words I want to say to respond. Often times when people are talking to me it sounds like the teacher’s voice in the Charlie Brown cartoons. It’s just a bunch of noise. Sometime later I am often able to really process what was said. The words just pop up in my brain. It actually comes in handy when someone is talking to me and I really don’t want to hear what they are saying anyway. I am able to just smile and nod my head and catch up later. Before the stroke I was more of a left-brain person. They told me the left brain is responsible for things like: logic, sequencing, math, language, facts, and thinking in words. Since the injury was in the left brain, the right brain did exactly what it was supposed to do and kicked into high gear. The right brain is responsible for things like: creativity, imagination, visualization, feelings, and intuition. Math and numbers make my head hurt now. I am a visual learner now. I think in pictures or images. I cannot multi-task. I have true tunnel vision and can only see and do what needs to be done one piece at a time. And I absolutely love bright colors and all things creative.

I gave all of that background because when my daughters and I were in a pretty bad car accident on December 4, 2016 I suffered a concussion that made me feel like I felt right after the stroke. I couldn’t think clearly, didn’t understand words, was very irritable and emotional. The doctor later told me that was all completely normal for a concussion and I would have to have some time of brain rest: no TV, no computer, no reading, nothing that would require too much thinking. He also told me it may take me a little longer than normal to completely recover from the concussion, because I had a former brain injury. But, he did say I could listen to music, which I still do quite a bit, with my headphones on, lights off, in my bed.

One day my youngest daughter, who also suffered a concussion in the accident, and I were talking and she mentioned she really liked the new Bruno Mars CD. At the time I didn’t even know he had a new CD out. I asked her to play it for me. After hearing the first few lines of the first song, “24K Magic” I immediately said, ‘Nope, don’t like it. You can turn it off.’ Later that week as I was having a few moments of illegal iPad time I stumbled across a clip from Bruno Mars’ interview on 60 Minutes. As I watched and listened I saw a young man with kind eyes, a pleasant smile, and a seemingly humble heart. So, I decided I would give his new CD a fair try. I downloaded it from Apple Music that night and listened with an open mind. I listened to “24K Magic” thinking, ‘Come on Bruno you told us ladies in “Just the Way You Are” if perfect was what we were looking for just stay the same. You called us a “Treasure.” You made our hearts break with your lyrics on “When I Was Your Man”…now, we are pretty girls that are waking up the rocket and bad b*#@hes with ugly a$$ friends. What is THAT about?’ Still, I listened. That was night one.

I didn’t know it had been four years since he put out a CD. So, I figured now, at age 31, this is “grown man” Bruno I was hearing. Night two I listened again and was suddenly hooked on the old school feel of the CD. Despite some of the words that I still can’t get with on “24K Magic”, it is one of my favorite songs on the CD, along with “Versace on the Floor.” In the right setting, (with a husband since I don’t believe in premarital sex or “casual” sex, whatever that means), “Versace on the Floor” is the kind of song I want to hear playing in the background. I’m not married so I listen to it sparingly. But, I have promised my adult daughters that if I ever do remarry they will most definitely come to our home one day or night and hear that song playing behind a closed bedroom door. My middle daughter said knowing this, if I ever remarry she will never again come to my home. I will have to go to her house to see her. LOL! I guess that’s a moot point, though, because right now after being divorced five years, the idea of having to share my space with a man that I would have to see everyday, compromise with and all the other responsibilities that come with being a wife, really creeps me out!

Anyway, my concussed brain has now decided the Bruno Mars “24K Magic” CD is the best! Very often I put on my headphones and escape to the dance floor of my bedroom listening to it. With the aphasia I hear more of the music than I do the words, but I do know every word of “Versace on the Floor” LOL. I was told he performed at the new MGM at National Harbor last month, which made me check his touring schedule to see if he was coming here again. And wouldn’t you know it, he will be here at the Verizon Center on September 29th & 30th. I convinced my older sister to get a ticket to go with me.

Since the cancer diagnosis I have been forcing myself to make plans to do all kinds of things. As I keep my eyes on Jesus, I keep seeing beyond the cancer journey and all that it entails. I still remember six years ago lying in a bed in the Stroke Unit of University of Maryland Hospital crying and praying softly, ‘Jesus, what am I supposed to do now?’ He responded just as softly, “You are going to take one breath, one step, one moment, one day at a time, holding on tightly to My hand, with you on My right and Me on your left.”

For today, I have reminded cancer that it is just a name. The name above all names, Jesus (Philippians 2:9-11), already conquered it on my behalf when He was crucified, died, and raised to life from a borrowed tomb three days later (Matt. 27, Matt. 28:1-7). It is by His stripes I am completely healed of ALL manner of sickness and disease (Isaiah 53:5). So, despite what the cancer that is currently trespassing in my body tries to imply, I say in JESUS NAME, I will be well, strong, and cancer-free by September 30th (and yes, I did say it out loud directly to my left breast), because I have a date with Bruno Mars at 8PM at the Verizon Center that I WILL NOT miss. And I intend to dance a hole in the floor! I already feel sorry for the poor people who will have the misfortune of being seated near me! LOL!