Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: Debt Free

Several weeks ago I told my sister, Leslie, it felt good to finally be debt free. She quickly responded, “It must be nice. I feel like I owe everybody!” I knew she thought I was speaking about my financial situation and corrected her by saying, “No, with the mounting medical bills I have I’m sure I owe just as much as you do.” That day, I was speaking about how good it felt to not feel as if I owed any person anything. And I still wasn’t talking about money.

Last night I went to bed kind of early, but found myself sitting up until about 1AM just listening to music. I reflected on what my life used to feel like. Before cancer, my entire adult life, and probably before then, I always felt like I owed someone something. I had my oldest daughter, Ashley, when I was 18. She came barreling into the world in grand fashion, with a lot of fanfare, not quite two months premature, via emergency c-section, weighing just over three pounds.

Before I had Ashley I had never even seen a premature baby before. She was by far the cutest little one I had ever laid eyes on and she was mine. I was really sick and unable to go to the neonatal unit to see her until she was three days old. But, the nurses brought me Polaroid pictures of her everyday (this was 1989 and Polaroid was a type of camera that printed instant pictures for those of you that may be reading this and are too young to know what that is. Lol).

When I was finally able to be wheeled down to see her and hold her for the very first time I did not want to let her go. This beautiful little person, that looked as if she could fit in the palm of both of my hands, had actually come out of my body. She didn’t ask to be my daughter. God chose to spare her life and mine and gave me the gift of being her mom. From that moment on I was indebted to her. I owed her the very best of me. 

By age 21, my debts grew exponentially. I was married to Ashley’s father, my high school sweetheart, and had two more daughters, also born prematurely. And so began my adventure into womanhood. During the 25 years that followed, I was a Mrs. twice, I’m still a mom, and am now the proudest nana on the planet! And throughout all of those years I felt I owed each of my husbands, my daughters, and even our dogs, the very best of me. So, I did all I could to be any and every thing I thought they needed me to be. I cooked, cleaned, listened, encouraged, chauffeured… all of the normal mom and wife responsibilities. When both of my marriages ended in divorce and my daughters as young adults spoke of the areas of dysfunction in our lives when they were younger, I rehearsed in my mind for hours at a time all the ways I missed the mark. If I had only done this or that better. 

This morning I realize I received a gift that maybe only having breast cancer could give me. When I had the stroke, my time was spent rehabbing, trying to help my two daughters who were still in college with all they needed, and I took in my “adopted” daughter and her brand new baby boy to help take care of them while she tried to finish college. Breast cancer, immobilized me immediately! I could not think of or do anything for anyone, but me. And the more I have thought about me throughout this process, I realized all of that time I was trying to give everyone else something I never had to give in the first place.

I never had the opportunity to discover who the best me is. I have stumbled around my entire adult life doing what I thought was best for others, never taking into account what was best for me. I will be the first to admit I was not the best wife, but I gave the best I had to give. I was not the best mother, but I was the best example of womanhood I knew how to be for my girls and I tried to show them how much I loved them in every way I could. I do think I was probably an exceptional dog owner. At least our dogs, who acted more like people than animals, seemed to think so. Lol.

Having all of this time on my hands and all of the places your minds goes when you have cancer, allowed me to recognize I have finally become debt free. I have forgiven and asked for forgiveness from everyone I needed to, including myself. I’ve revisited areas of my life that still “stung” when I thought about them and allowed Jesus to help me see those things through His eyes so they don’t hurt anymore. I know my marriages didn’t fail, because of something I did “wrong” or should’ve done better. And I know my daughters know I have and always will love them unconditionally.

For today, I am so grateful I understand Jesus paid my greatest debt fore me. The only debt I owe, as I continue to discover the best me, which is found in Jesus alone, is to offer my body as a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God, which is my reasonable service, my true and proper worship (Romans 12:1 NKJV & NIV).

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: Tears in a Bottle

I woke up the first time this morning around 4:30 AM. That has become the customary time I start the waking up process for the day since I started chemo. I was fully awake, with coffee in hand, by a little after 6 (some mornings I am able to drink really weak coffee – small pleasures). I started my morning humming a song called, “Nobody Greater,” by Vashawn Mitchell, talking to Jesus. I was reflecting on how down I have felt the last several days. Sunday night I cried myself to sleep at the thought of having to continue to do chemo for the rest of the summer into the Fall. But, when I heard my bird friend stirring outside my window, before he began to sing, something shifted in my heart. The heaviness began to lift. As I talked to Jesus, I was able to tell Him He still has my, ‘Yes,’ even in the midst of chemo and the ups and downs of my emotions about it.

I am growing and maturing in my relationship with Jesus in ways that may not have been possible without breast cancer. I’m growing to understand my, ‘Yes,’ to His free gift of salvation doesn’t stop at the foot of the cross or in a natural sense during the Sunday service alter call invitation or however it is that the decision to invite Him into your heart is made. Not if you are seeking a relationship. That is just the beginning. My yes encompasses the totality of our life together, similar to what the “I do” in a marriage ceremony is supposed to mean. I am in this with Him and He with me through good days, not so good days, sickness and health, financial crisis or living in the lap of luxury, tragedy or triumph…but for us, not even death can separate us! Somehow the faifulness of my bird friend, showing up every morning, singing outside my window, reminded me of God’s faithfulness toward me and my commitment to be just as faithful to Him. 

Before my daughter, Jasmine, left for work this morning I told her I decided May 2nd is the last day I will shed a tear in sorrow about having to do chemo. My 3rd chemo is on May 4th and my daughter, LiAnne’s, birthday is May 3rd. So, May 2nd seemed like a good day to be done crying about it. I don’t know that I will ever not have some days where I’m a bit overwhelmed and upset with the whole process, but I am going to get the last of my tears out by May 2nd. I have to do this 10 more times over the next 6 months. If I am going to cry tears of sorrow, it is NOT going to be about chemo. There are a whole lot of other aspects of the cancer treatment process I can cry about if I choose to. But, I’m hoping I can start to just cuddle up with Jesus and enjoy as much of the ride as I can. I have never had this much free time. Nobody expects anything from or asks me for anything. Most conversations I have with my family, friends, or the wonderful people God has placed in my path thus far start with, “Is there anything you need?” That alone is a true blessing. Not to mention the army of people willing to remember me in prayer. 

Years ago, when I cried just about every night as quietly as I could so no one would hear me, Jesus said, “I am capturing every tear you cry in sorrow and will return them to you as tears of joy.” That is a promise I am STILL cashing in on daily! For today, I am thankful I serve a promise-keeping God who is true to His Word 100% of the time! The scripture I am anchoring His promise to is Psalm 56:8 (NKJV) “You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?”

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: 2 Down 10 To Go…

It has taken me an entire week to be able to actually write out my experience at my second chemotherapy treatment. By all accounts it was a pretty great day. My youngest daughter, Jasmine and I wore bunny ears and distributed candy bags just like I planned after my first treatment. That morning my goal was just to see one person smile. My goal was met exponentially. I saw smiles from the parking lot to the building, in the waiting room, in the infusion unit, and on my way back to the car after.

While in the waiting area, I met a beautiful older woman who was waiting to have her final chemo treatment. This had been her second bout with breast cancer, 23 years after the first. She shared that she was retired now, but when she first had breast cancer she worked everyday and this time she had not been sick once. She smiled as she told me about her Easter shopping plans for her grand babies after her treatment. She absolutely loved my bunny ears. She said I thought of everything, because my ears matched my shirt. She went on to encourage me by saying, “You can do this. I know you know God’s got you. It is His load to carry. Just keep your eyes on Him. Before you know it, it will be your last day too.”

I made “special” candy bags for the staff that included a card thanking them for the care, compassion, and excellence they show in doing their jobs. The ladies in the lab, who are always very pleasant, were happy to have a pick-me-up for later in the day. With all the smiles and all they joy I felt inside I was unprepared for the sudden drop in my spirit when my name was called to go into Dr. Mendoza, my oncologist’s, office. His nurse, Lakeya, took my blood pressure and it was elevated. When he came in the room to begin my exam we talked a bit first. He was surprised by and graciously accepted the small gift and card I gave him. He was also a fan of the bunny ears.

I told him the night before when I got out of the bathtub I looked at my body and saw all of my battle scars and thought out loud, ‘My body has been through A LOT!’ I shared that at age 46 there are days I feel more like I am 86. He said, “Ms. Ransome your body has been through a lot. But, your positive attitude and optimism is an encouragement to others who have been through a lot less than you.” I appreciated his kind words. After he gave the green light, it was off to the Infusion Unit. 

The Infusion Unit had a totally different vibe that day. My Jasmine, in grand Easter Bunny fashion, went from patient to patient with our Easter “basket” (it was really an Easter gift bag from the Dollar Store. Lol), offering candy bags, which got a lot of smiles and laughter. It was wonderful. When I sat in what my friend and fellow breast cancer warrior, Wanda, calls the “big chair” the feeling that rose in Dr. Mendoza’s office resurfaced. My infusion nurse, Fini, was a real sweetheart. She agreed to continue distributing the candy bags to the patients after I left and any that remained the next day. As she began preparing the first of the medications, just before she placed the needle in my chest, I could feel the tears beginning to fill my eyes. 

I told myself, ‘Stop it! You cannot sit here and cry with bunny ears on. It goes against the whole concept!’ Still the tears began to swell, but before one drop could fall, just as the needle pierced the port in my chest, I felt a very real presence rise up inside of me and step in front of me. It’s hard to put into words. I know Jesus is real. I know Holy Spirit is real and lives on the inside of me. But that day, I could feel Him stand in front of me while I, Lisa, cried inside as He continued to smile and love on all of the people in the Infusion Unit through my body. No one in that room knew what I felt like in those moments. 

The rest of the day was wonderful. I spent time with my beautiful grand babies, which is heaven on earth to me. Though I felt pretty bad physically, I was able to make it to Sunrise Service on Easter/Resurrection Sunday. We had our family dinner at my older sister, Leslie’s, house. I wasn’t able to eat much, but being with my family made my day. We ended up watching a marathon of a show called, “Being” on Centric. It’s an autobiographical show in which different celebrities tell their story. The one we watched about Vanessa Bell Calloway stuck with me. She is a fellow breast cancer warrior.

In her story she told how she reacted when she was diagnosed. She said she was so angry when she got home she wanted to throw things, but didn’t wanted to break her nice stuff. Instead, she laid on the floor and just pounded the floor. Listening to her and her loved ones speak about how they felt struck a chord with me. I thought about the day I was diagnosed. I didn’t feel anything. Though I cried, to me it was just another thing that was happening. It didn’t warrant any massive expression of emotion. It was no different than the car accident, the stroke, the abandonment, the divorce, the childhood molestation, the every-other-thing that had happened in my life to that point. It was as if I had grown to expect the worst of things to happen.

When I got home from Leslie’s house I shared with her and my baby sister, LaShawn, how I felt watching that particular episode. Breast cancer isn’t like any other thing I have experienced in my entire life. The day of my diagnosis I knew I was in for yet another fight. Today, I’m no longer expecting the worst of things to happen in my life. I believe with my whole heart come what may, my very best days are ahead of me. Still, I told my sisters I need this to be the last hard battle for a good long while. Only time will tell… 

For today, I am so thankful that whenever I need Him, Jesus is always right there. I fell in love with Him 41 years ago and the sound of His voice still melts my heart. A touch from His hand still chases the blues away. He is still my Healer, my Deliverer, my Lord, my Love, my King, my Savior, and my closest Friend. Our relationship thus far has been a true fairytale with lots of dragons to slay, chains to break, dungeon rescues… But, my Knight In Shining Armor has always been up to the task and never let me down. As we continue writing the epistle of our relationship for all the world to read according to the way I live my life, I have no reason to believe He will not continue to be who He has always been for me, my Everything, the Man of my dreams.

(Pictured above: top left, the beautiful nurse, Lakeya; bottom left, the equally beautiful Infusion Unit nurse, Fini; top right, my oncologist with the most cheerful smile, Dr. Mendoza; bottom right, my Easter Bunny accomplice, my daughter Jasmine)

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: Look Good, Feel Better

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of participating in a program called, “Look Good Feel Better.” It is a free, non-medical program for women with cancer where they teach you about makeup, skin care, clothing options, wigs and other head coverings during cancer treatment. The beautiful ladies pictured above (from left to right) Gwen, Kelley, and Marcia were the facilitators of the two hour workshop. I registered for the workshop sometime in January or February as soon as I became aware of it and was excited to go.

Sometime in 2011, while I was still knee deep in physical and occupational therapy after having a stroke, during one of my occupational therapy sessions, I read something printed on a bag that was lying on the floor. For whatever reason I read the words out loud. When my occupational therapist heard me read, she asked me to read the words again. Then she asked me what they meant. I stumbled through reading them again and struggled with telling her their meaning. Whatever I said must have been wrong, because her response was, “I hadn’t noticed it before, because you speak so well, but I believe you need to see a speech and language therapist.” When our session ended I was so upset I stomped out of the facility and angrily said not so quietly, ‘I am so sick of this stroke mess!’ Once outside I called my now former husband, with crocodile tears streaming down my face. I cried, ‘They keep finding more stuff wrong with me! Now, I have to see a speech and language therapist too! The occupational therapist said I don’t read or understand words right!’ (Of course, that isn’t what she actually said. That was my interpretation of her words that day.) Despite his best efforts, the usual “you got this” or “you are so blessed” pep talk didn’t work. I was inconsolable. 

When I got home I recounted what happened with my oldest daughter, Ashley and was immediately brought to tears again. My daughter looked at me and asked, “Mommy, when are you going to accept you had a stroke?” Still crying, I replied, ‘I did accept it! They keep telling me stuff is wrong with me. I don’t have a choice, but to accept it!’ What Ashley said next changed the entire trajectory of my therapies. She said, “But, mommy, you haven’t accepted it. If you had you wouldn’t cry every time you go to therapy or they discover something that needs to be addressed.” I paused to take in what she said and no response, because I realize she was right. To that point I had been judging my progress based upon who I was the day before the stroke. So, each time they found something new that was “wrong” with me, I got upset because it felt like a setback. 

At my first session with Julie, my speech and language therapist, she applauded my occupational therapist for catching I needed speech and language therapy as well. I cried that day and did so many sessions after. By about the third session Julie said something that I have never forgotten. She told me to begin judging my progress not based upon the day before the stroke, but the day after. From that day forward, I accepted that I had a stroke and for the most part whoever I was before February 2, 2011 died. 

I shared that memory because, a very similar thing happened to me yesterday. I was completely unprepared for how I felt inside as soon as I arrived at the building where the workshop was held. I left the house early so I wouldn’t be late and arrived about 15 minutes early. As I waited for the workshop to begin, I scrolled through emails, trying to fight back tears. When the door opened and I sat in my seat my heart sank as we each introduced ourselves and briefly shared as much as we were comfortable sharing. A lump rose in my throat, but a smile remained on my face as I told the date of my diagnosis and how upset I was when I had to cut my hair. Those were the only things that came to mind. Gwen and Kelley walked us through putting on our makeup step by step. All of the ladies looked absolutely gorgeous when we were finished. We were each given really nice makeup bags filled with full size, good quality makeup as a gift. We left with armed with great information, looking beautiful and full of life.

When I got home I still felt a bit somber inside. I remembered my visit with the occupational therapist that lead to me seeing Julie. I thought of the wisdom Ashley and Julie shared with me. I guess in some ways I am still struggling to accept that I really am fighting breast cancer and all that has occurred really happened to me. My chemo schedule makes it relatively easy for me to forget about all of it and pretend it isn’t happening. I go once every three weeks. So between treatments, for about a week and a half, life is normal again. The weakness, exhaustion, and forgetfulness (or “chemo brain”) during that time doesn’t bother me, because all of that has become “normal” to me since the stroke. The bone pain and skin sensitivity is bothersome, but bearable. Yesterday, being in a room with other women sharing a story that sounded like mine, magnified I am yet again a part of a club I did not sign up to join. None of us did.

For today, I am thankful for the wonderful women I met yesterday both the breast cancer warriors and the facilitators who so graciously volunteered their time and expertise. It was a wonderful eye opening experience. In I Corinthians 15:31 (NLT) Paul says, “For I swear, dear brothers and sisters, that I face death daily. This is as certain as my pride in what Christ Jesus our Lord has done in you.” I have to accept that the person I was from February 3, 2011, the day after the stroke until January 8, 2017 the day before the breast cancer diagnosis has now also died. Instead of mourning the life that was lost, I will rejoice with great expectation for the new life that will spring forth, because Jesus promises in John 12:24 (NLT), “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.” He also delcares in Luke 9:24 (NLT), “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” I know healing and letting go of what was is a daily process. Today, I’m just grateful for today. 

If you know of anyone who may benefit from the Look Good Feel Better Program, please share this blog post and/or their website: http://www.lookgoodfeelbetter.org with them. It is a national program that partners with the American Cancer Society. 

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: There Is Rest For The Weary

I am amazed by they way God speaks to me any way He must in order to remind me I am never out of His sight or His reach. I am forever in His divine care.  This morning Facebook shared with me the following, much needed memory from April 7, 2015:

In a vision, I saw myself standing shoulder to shoulder on the top of a High Mountain Peak with The Lord. We stood looking over the land, which appeared to be a huge valley, below. The Lord stood with His hands behind His back. I stood with my arms at my sides wondering what we were looking at. From my limited eyesight I saw nothing with clarity. It was a bird’s eye view similar to that of looking at the earth from an airplane window. However, The Lord’s view was much clearer than mine. I could tell He could see more just by the look in His eyes as He gazed into the earth below. I didn’t ask any questions, but He offered, “Many of My people have felt as if they were alone in a chasm of despair. Theirs has been a monumental valley experience. They neglected to simply look up. Here I stand atop the Mountain Peak bidding all who are weary and heavy laden to come that I may give them the rest they so desperately seek. The valley is not a place of habitation. It is merely a pass-through. In order to ascend from the valley one must be willing to climb. When you reach the high place, the mountaintop, the things of the valley are no longer an intimate part of your existence. They can only vaguely be seen. However, the lessons learned, the skills developed, the character established remain with you always. The valley experience is never meant to destroy you, neither is the climb to the mountaintop. In all things, be it peaks or valleys, the experience is only to draw you nearer to Me. That we may stand together shoulder to shoulder as kindred, carrying out the will of the Father who sent Me, in the power of the Holy Spirit whom I left with you. Do not settle in the valley. Do not fear the climb. Come up higher that My perfect will may be established in you and through you for such a time as this.”

For today, my hope rests in the truth of God’s Word. In Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV), Jesus invites all of us who have been traveling through our valley experiences and have grown weary to, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” I’m just going to keep climbing, while I rest. 

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: The Leaning Tower of Lisa

Last night my oldest daughter, Ashley, sent me some pictures of her dad, who passed away 15 years ago. My response to her text message was: ‘WOW!! Be still my heart… I remember that young man. I was so in love with him! Well, as much as you can be in love at 14!’ Seeing the pictures of him sent my mind on a rare journey back to my high school days.

I was by no stretch of the imagination among the popular or well known girls for one reason or another in high school. I was the girl who came and went without any fanfare, mostly unnoticed. And that suit me just fine. I’ve never been a spotlight, center stage, everybody-look-at-me kind of person. I guess that is one of the reasons joining the rest of the free world on Social Media has been such a struggle for me. I always thought my desire to fade into the background as much as possible was just part of my personality. But as Jesus and I strolled back down memory lane I was able to see teenaged me differently. 

I have been a Jesus lover since I was five years old. I distinctly remember responding to the alter call that invited me to accept the free gift of salvation. I didn’t know or understand what salvation really meant. I just knew I loved Jesus and I believed He was the Son of God, born through a virgin, was crucified, died, and raised to life on the third day just like the pastor preached. If asking Him to live in my heart and being baptized meant He would not only be with me always, but one day He would come take me from this crazy place I was all in! I was also five when I began being molested. 

According to Wikipedia, Italy’s Tower of Pisa’s “tilt began during construction, caused by an inadequate foundation on ground too soft on one side to properly support the structure’s weight. The tilt increased in the decades before the structure was completed and gradually increased until the structure was stabilized (and the tilt partially corrected) by efforts in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.”

My fifth year of life began the pouring of a foundation that was inadequate and too soft on one side to properly support the weight of the abuse I was suffering. As a result I began to tilt. On the one side, I absolutely loved Jesus and tried to believe He loved me, but on the other side I just could not understand how this One that I loved so much who was powerful enough walk out of a tomb did not prevent or stop what was happening to me. As my life progressed I became a “tower” of strength for anyone who needed a shoulder to cry on, someone to talk to, someone to just listen or pray for them… anything anyone needed, just ask me. I guess I figured since Jesus wasn’t able to be who He said and I believed He was for me, I would try to be Him for anyone who needed Him as much as I did. I was just going to ride out the turmoil in my life that seemed to be never-ending until I died or Jesus returned, whichever came first. In either case, I would finally be free to LIVE!

What I have considered just “existing” most of my life really has been living all a long. Jesus and I have lived through molestation, a broken family, having three beautiful daughters by age 21, abuse, abandonment, more surgeries than I can count, and we’re steadily moving forward in our breast cancer journey. Though I haven’t been a fan of the tools He has used, the cancer hammer has helped me see how much construction Jesus has done to level out the foundation of my heart that began 41 years ago. Never did I imagine He would use the very thing that I thought compromised the foundation of who He created me to be so much that I was unrepairable, to ultimately stabilize all of the construction he has done on my heart. 

This morning I am able to see how without being molested, all of the poor choices and painful things that have occurred over the course of my living thus far, you end up with a different me. I don’t know that I would be as compassionate as I am now or love so fiercely and unconditionally. I’m not sure I would have a passion for teenage moms, women’s issues, and young people in general. Though I can’t say that my tilt is completely level just yet, I am still actively under construction. Well, probably more like deconstruction and reconstruction. In the areas where I still lean, I know Jesus is holding me up, because Proverbs 18:10 (NIV) promises, “The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run into it and are safe.”

There is a tremendous difference between being childish and child-like. For today, I am thanking Jesus that with all the work He has and continues to do on me He has helped me keep my child-like heart. Although I am excitedly looking forward to His return, I am just as excited to live out my life with Him right here on earth until he does.

(SN: Every since I typed the words “back down memory lane” in the second paragraph I have not been able to get Minnie Ripperton’s song, “Memory Lane” out of my head. I have already downloaded it and listened to it on repeat twice! If you are too young to know who she is or the song, she is Mya Rudolph’s (the actress and comedienne) mother and a fellow breast cancer warrior. She was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy in 1976, at age 28. The cancer had already spread to her lymphatic system and she was given six months to live. She died three years later. If you’ve never heard her voice. You don’t know what you are missing! She’s definitely worth checking out. You’ve probably already heard some version of her song “Lovin’ You.” It’s been sampled a lot.)

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: Same Song…

So… This started out as a Facebook post and was getting way too long. I didn’t realize I had so much to say. So, for those of you that may be reading this and have already read my crack of dawn Facebook post, you can scroll down to the 5th paragraph if you would like to finish reading the words in my heart:

Up with the birds and I mean that literally. There is a bird that shows up outside of the window closest to my bed about this time faithfully almost every morning. Sometimes it shows up with a friend or two. In either case, it sings so beautifully the same song. This morning, I woke up singing along with my faithful friend the chorus from “Same Song,” by Digital Underground. It made me think of what an amazing God I serve. 

The last six years have been among the hardest of my life. And that is saying a lot, because I have come through some really traumatic circumstances that seemingly occurred in rapid succession my entire adult life. And yet, here I sit, singing with my bird, before dawn, the same song. Unlike Digital Underground’s version, mine is the song of my heart that continually, consistently, and faithfully sings the same love song to Jesus come hell or high water, be it sickness or abuse, loss or despair, turmoil or tragedy, my heart’s song remains the same. 

Like poor Mumble from “Happy Feet,” my song is sung in ways that often make me feel like an outsider looking into the world of the “normal” people. My song makes me love Jesus so much that it spills over and makes me want to just love at all cost. And it has cost me greatly to do so. No matter how deep the pain or devastating the heartbreak, I just love. To do anything else is too hard. For me, it is a true challenge to stay angry, hold onto offenses, and remain in a constant state of despair. Love, however, seems to flow effortlessly from my heart no matter what I feel like or am facing at the time. 

I said ALL of that to say. Only my heart’s song of love for Jesus could have me sitting here, singing with my bird friend, thanking God for cancer, because it has freed me in a way I cannot really explain. I don’t feel “abnormal” anymore. I’m just me. The stroke left me with practically no filter so words just fly out of my mouth, before I have a chance to catch and assess rather or not I should say them. Thankfully, my heart doesn’t seem to have the capability to be purposefully hurtful. So, most of the things I say makes people laugh. I have my own brand of humor that can find a joke, a laugh, or at the very least a smile in most circumstances. Also due to the stroke, numbers still make my head hurt and can bring me to tears. Money is just green pieces of paper be it $2, $20, $200, $2,000, or $2,000,000, it’s all the same to me. Spending time with the people I love doing anything or nothing is a great day.

I see, hear, and feel Jesus in a way that even seems strange to me sometimes. I talk about Him constantly, because I love Him so much and He is the only man in my life right now. He enables me to see through His eyes so I see people from the inside out, not the outside in. In fact, I can meet someone and talk with them face to face for hours, but if you ask me what they look like all I can describe is what I saw and heard in their heart. I notice smiles or the absence of them, kind, loving eyes or mean, hateful ones, hearts that are beautifully humble or pridefully arrogant, jovial hearty laughs or small fake ones… all the things that reside beneath the skin. Cancer has helped me see I am who I am and who I am may work for some, but not so much for others. Either way, I really don’t care. I’m just going to keep being uniquely me, thanking God for those who are an added blessing to my life, not mad at those who choose not to be a part of it, and holding no grudges or animosity toward those I or Jesus remove.

For Today, I am not only thankful for the opportunity to experience cancer. I am thankful I had the opportunity to experience a stroke first. It prepped me well for this mountainous, tumultuous climb. Were it not for the stroke, I would be ill equipped to handle all of cancer’s blows and nuances. As I did when I had the stroke, I look for something daily that I can thank God for that wouldn’t have been without cancer. Today, I am thanking God that I am able to be unapologetically, unashamedly, openly ME!

(SN: This post would make a great introduction for me on one of those online dating apps. Were it not for the fact that the idea of dating and all that comes with relationships really creeps me out right now, I would spend the rest of the day seeing how many “fish” I could catch, how many Christians I could “mingle” with, how many “matches” I could make, or how many men could flow with my “harmony”! 😄)