Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: Pretty In Pink

Before breast cancer my favorite color was shades of blue. I still like my blues, but I have fallen in love with pink! This month being breast cancer awareness month, I have enjoyed seeing shades of pink everywhere. At times it is almost surreal for me when I walk into a store and see a breast cancer awareness display and realize I am counted among the sisterhood of women battling the disease.

Last weekend I went to a luncheon a fellow warrior and friend held at her home for breast cancer warriors, supporters, family members and friends. My daughters, sisters, and mother went with me. It was an amazing time! I was the only one in attendance that is currently in treatment. It was so encouraging to talk to and see all of the beautiful women LIVING beyond where I am right now. As encouraging as it was it was also a bit overwhelming for me. When I got home that evening I found myself wondering what’s next?

As I lay in bed that night I wondered what my life will look like on the other side of breast cancer. On the other side of this I still have an entire life to rebuild. I’m not who I was before I had a stroke in 2011. I’m definitely not who I was before I was diagnosed with breast cancer in January. I have yet to discover what it is I am skilled at now that my right brain is more dominant than my left. I am still adjusting to being a mom to three adult daughters and not three little girls. And although after being divorced for six years I have finally mastered sleeping in my entire bed, I still haven’t mastered being single. All of these thoughts swirling in my mind brought me to tears.

Just as He always does Jesus mopped up my tears by saying, “I have given you a tremendous gift. I have redeemed the time you thought you lost. This is the clean slate day you have longed for. Your brand new beginning. Do not look at what is no more as something that has been lost or taken from you. See it for what it is. You are not meant to remain stationary. You have transitioned beyond what was to what is and shall continue on to what will be. I have a good plan for you. One that exceeds your greatest expectations. You need only trust Me. I know you don’t always understand or necessarily like my methods, but you can always trust My motives.” With that, I was at peace.

I started radiation on October 2nd. My kickoff to radiation was making it to my date with Bruno Mars on September 30th! The morning of the concert I had no words for how I felt. It had been eight long months, a week after I was diagnosed, since I purchased the tickets. I remember telling Jesus I had to be here and well on September 30th, because I had a date with Bruno Mars that I HAD to keep! He promised I would be. For eight months when I got upset I listened to my Bruno Mars Playlist and danced in my bedroom. During chemo I took the nausea medicine and forced myself to eat rather I was hungry or not, because I didn’t want to lose too much weight. I wanted to look healthy for my date. Every day that I could I went walking, my mom and I did Aqua Zumba twice a week. I wanted to be strong enough to dance all night on my date. After my final chemo on September 7th I felt so sick I was in bed for 10 days, but Jesus kept His promise. I was here and well enough to make it to my date. Not only did I make it, but I danced all night! For everyone else it was just a concert. For me, it was so much more. It was a night I will never forget!

As of today I have completed 13 of the 35 radiation treatments I have to do. I’m still adjusting to having to go every day, Monday through Friday. The treatments are quick and painless, but draining and my breast has become super sensitive and sore. For today, I’m holding on to Jesus as tightly as I can trusting that He really does have a plan for me, looking forward to the adventure!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

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Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: Hidden In Plain Sight

I am blessed to be surrounded by a family of loving, supportive, intelligent, accomplished, beautiful women (the guys are great too!). Last weekend, a handful of them gathered together at my baby sister’s house for a brunch to celebrate my completion of my last round of chemo. The picture above is my favorite of the ones we took that day. Their love, laughs, hugs, and encouragement gave me the jump start I needed as I begin my next leg of this journey, radiation.

My last chemo really took a toll on me. So, I haven’t been able to do much and most days have been spent in the bed for the past few weeks. But, today, after a month long hiatus, I was able to return to my favorite place to go for a walk, a big, beautiful lake near my home. Over the summer most days I was able to push myself out of bed and get there to walk. Twice around is about three miles.

No matter how bad I felt, inside I knew if I could just get to the lake, those two trips around would be worth it. For me, the lake is where Jesus and I have some of our best, most intimate moments together. It’s our “meet up” spot. Lol. At the lake, there is no cancer or cancer treatments, no sick body, just Jesus and me, walking, talking, singing, dancing, sometimes laughing, sometimes crying…us just doing us. So, today I was so excited when I finally felt well enough to return.

When I arrived at the lake everything was just as it was when I left it last. Every tree that lines the path to the lake was still in its proper place, only now the leaves have changed colors and are falling. The lake itself is still just as beautiful, peaceful, and pristine. I saw the usual array of beautiful birds, butterflies, and the occasional turtle as I walked along my customary route listening to my “Jesus and me” Playlist.

As I walked, admiring the sheer beauty all around me, I began to feel heavy inside. I suddenly realized I had truly forgotten what a gift living on this side of life really is. I hurt inside that there were days over the summer that I almost envied my fellow warriors who got to go Home, while I had to stay here and fight. I recalled how completely finished I was on the morning of my 8th chemo. I begged Jesus to please explain to me why He was keeping me here. It felt like a punishment, not a gift. That morning, it wasn’t just cancer and it’s treatment I was done with. I was done with having been molested, having my heart broken over and over again, suffering a stroke and still trying to rebuild my life from that and a divorce…. I was done with what life on this side of heaven had to offer. It required too much fighting, too much crying, too much pain and I was FINISHED!

Seeing the beautiful landscape all around me, I thought about my beautiful family and how the ladies gave up their Saturday to spend it loving on me and all of the ways Jesus has sent love and encouragement to me on my lowest days. Not just during this cancer journey, but throughout my entire life. He has always shown up for me. He has always been faithful and true to His word. Though I know I am human, and most people probably wouldn’t judge or criticize me too harshly for how I felt the morning of my 8th chemo, today when I thought about it I hurt because I felt like I cheapened what Jesus did for me when He gave up His life on the cross.

He died so that when things like cancer and all of the other crazy, painful stuff entered my life, I would know it has no power over me because He already defeated it on my behalf. So, for me to say I no longer want the life He died for me to have, in my mind, is the ultimate slap in the face! All I could muster up to say from the deepest part of me is, “I am so sorry, Jesus. Please forgive me.” To which He lovingly replied, “My heart toward you remains the same. I love you. I will never leave or forsake you. You are Mine and I am Yours. I am Your Healer. I am Your Deliverer. I am Your Strength. I am Your Peace. I have abundant life and even life more abundantly for you beyond this affliction. I know you are battle weary. All I have ever asked of you is that you rest in Me that I may show you the beauty I have hidden for you in plain sight.”

In those moments I reaffirmed in my own heart that my life with Jesus is worth fighting for. In May, I watched a sermon Pastor Steven Furtick preached called, “The Drop Zone.” In it he said, “If it were not hard it would not be worth fighting for. If it were not hard it would not be worth surviving for.” Each day I am given on this side of life is another opportunity to point somebody in the direction of Jesus, to be His hands and His feet, to be an extension of His love. That is both a gift and a privilege. I pray I never forget that again.

On Tuesday I went to my second appointment with the radiation oncologist. This appointment was to do a CT scan and the markings so they can formulate my plan for treatment. As I sat on the CT scan table waiting for the doctor to come in I suddenly got upset inside. It was as if I was being told for the very first time that I had breast cancer and I almost burst into tears. I suddenly really understood all of these months, since January, I have actually been fighting breast cancer. When I thought of that moment today I thought, ‘I’m not just fighting. I already won!’

I am learning that who I am in Christ, the risen Jesus, the Holy Spirit IN me, is way stronger than this tent I am housed in. That same power that woke Jesus up from His death state is the same power that moves this worn, achy, crappy feeling, sick body everyday. So, for today, “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord (Psalm 118:17 NKJV).” I am just so very thankful for the beauty and the gift of today!

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: The Me I See

Last Thursday, September 7, 2017, I rang the bell and completed my ninth and final round of chemotherapy. At the beginning of all of this I was bombarded with so much information that somehow I mistakenly thought I was told I had to do 12 rounds of chemo. On August 17th, the morning of my 8th chemo, I reached my end. I woke up early that morning and prayed like I do most mornings. But that morning was very different. As I prayed, I cried and told Jesus I was finished. I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t depressed. I was FINISHED. My children are grown. I had done the best I could to be a light for Him and an extension of His love in every way I could. I wanted my work here to be finished. I pleaded with Him and told Him that I just could not do four more rounds of chemo. His only response to me that morning was, “You can’t, but I can.” Immediately, with an attitude, I stopped crying, pulled myself together and got dressed. His response let me know He still had work for me to do here and although I felt as if I was finished, He wasn’t.

When I arrived at the oncologist that day, my doctor asked how I was feeling. I told him how much harder it had become to recover from the treatments. He said with a smile, “Well just three more weeks and we’re done!” I looked at him puzzled. He clarified his statement by telling me my next chemo would be my last. He said he didn’t know who told me I had to do 12 or how I got confused, but I only had to do nine. You could not wipe the smile off my face! I left chemo that day feeling like I had caught my second wind. I better understood Jesus’ response to my breakdown that morning and I knew for sure with Him I could do it one more time.

My last chemo I took cupcakes and doughnuts to celebrate. Both of my sisters went with me. I wasn’t prepared for the sense of sadness I felt. The staff and rotating group of fellow warriors had become family to me. The thought of not seeing them on Thursdays every three weeks made my heart ache. I received and gave lots of hugs. I told them I’m not going to let them forget me. I’m already thinking of what I will do for them for Christmas. I left that day glad that it was over, but still wondering in my own heart and mind if I really had it in me to continue on through the rest of this journey. Inside, I still felt like I had nothing left and was finished.

The usual after chemo side effects hit me like a ton of bricks. I stayed in bed all day Friday and would have done the same on Saturday except I had committed to going to a cookout with my sister, Leslie. I wrestled with rather I would go or not all day until finally I decided I would push myself and go. I didn’t know why, but I just felt a press in my heart to go. It didn’t start until 3:30. So, I stayed in bed until the final hour and started getting dressed around 2:30.

When Leslie and I arrived at the cookout the beautiful woman who was that host greeted us with hugs. Leslie introduced me as “the one who writes the blog.” The woman then hugged me again with a big, warm hug and shouts, “You are the bomb.com!” She went on to say how my videos on Facebook have been such an encouragement to her and that my voice is very soothing. Later in the day, she shared her own testimony of her battle with a life-threatening disease. I was truly encouraged and inspired by her journey. She is the definition of a warrior!

Today, as I am writing this blog post, it is day seven after my last chemo. Other than going to that cookout, I have been in the bed feeling sicker than I have throughout all of the treatments. As I lay in bed today I thought about all of the words I have heard spoken to or about me. Words like, “strong,” “encouragement,” “blessing,” “fighter,” “beautiful.” I’ve heard statements like, “You don’t look like you have cancer!,” “No one would ever know you were sick if you didn’t tell them!”, and my now all-time favorite, “You are the bomb.com!” As I thought about that today I thought, ‘I would love to meet the person they see.’

The reality is that is not the me I see. Most days I am just barely hanging on. In 2011 when I had a stroke and could read words, but couldn’t understand them I would sit in my closet every day for hours and read Psalm 27, because it was the only thing I understood. Every day Jesus would say to me, “I in you, you in Me; forever and ever. Amen. Don’t worry. I got you on the left. (He said that because the stroke happened on the left side of my brain).” I understood that despite having the most loving, supportive family on this side of heaven, at the end of the day it was just Him and me. And that remains the same.

I used to pray that one day I would look so much like Jesus that I wouldn’t know where He ended and I began. A cute prayer in theory, but in reality I need to ALWAYS know and clearly see where I end and Jesus begins. One of the many things I love about the writings of the Apostle Paul, in the New Testament, is he clearly defined what was him and what was not, always giving all glory and honor to God for His miraculous works. In I Timothy 1:15, he even spoke of himself as being the “chief” of sinners. The line of demarcation was clear. Though I know I am a generally nice person and don’t give up easily, all of those wonderful words that have passed through my ears I have sent directly to Jesus.

In this “selfie”, “followers,” and “likes” generation where so much effort is placed on showing everyone your “best” self and gaining praise for it, I need for it to always be crystal clear in my own mind that the very best of me is Jesus in me. He’s the part of me that is a blessing and encouragement to others. He’s the strength and fight inside of me that keeps me going from day to day. Absent Him, I am certain many of the words I’ve heard over these past months would be quite different. Looking from the inside out, the me I see at this moment is very small, tired, weak, and fragile. But, I know I am safe in the arms of the One who is greater and is everything I am not.

For today, I am comforted knowing were it not for Jesus, “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13 NKJV).” Next stop on our breast cancer journey seven weeks of radiation, five days a week…

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: My Body, God’s Temple

It has been awhile since I sat down and wrote a blog post, May 26th, after my fourth chemo, to be exact. I have since completed two more chemo treatments and am now beyond the halfway mark of the end of chemotherapy! All has continued to go well, except that my heart rate and blood pressure have been elevated, which my oncologist expressed concern about. If it continues, he said we will have to take a look at my treatment and possibly make some adjustments.

I’ve finally gotten into a rhythm where chemo is concerned. I don’t get worked up or upset about it anymore and no longer have to “prep” myself for it mentally and emotionally a few days before. I don’t know that I will ever fully be used to and comfortable with having the needle put into my chest when it begins. But, each time its done I know I’m one step closer to the finish line. Breast cancer has become such a major part of my daily life that all of the aches, pains, ups, downs, physical, mental, and emotional nuances that come with it are a part of my new normal. So much so that when my body prohibits be from doing something I want to do or I get really cranky because I am exhausted from doing something small I get frustrated and upset, because I often forget that I am still in a battle. 

Last week I made it back to doing one of my favorite things, walking at the lake near my house. I absolutely love it there. I walk there for as long as I can in the mornings listening to my “Jesus and me” Playlist. It is my time of praise and worship. There are two songs by Mercy Me that really ministered to my heart. The first one is called, “Greater.” The song says, “There’ll be days I lose the battle Grace says that it doesn’t matter. ‘Cause the cross already won the war. He’s Greater, He’s Greater. I am learning to run freely. Understanding just how He sees me. And it makes me love Him more and more. He’s Greater, He’s Greater.”

As I walked, listening to those words, the lyrics jumped off of the music and into my heart. It was as if I suddenly realized for the first time, with great clarity, I am in a battle. Daily I battle to force my aching body out of bed and do some kind of exercise. I battle to press pass how nauseated I feel and choose the right foods to eat, while praying they stay down and I do not vomit. I battle the intense feeling of loneliness, while surrounded by the people who love me most. I battle trying to understand where I fit in this crazy world I live in. I battle trying to remember that God really is working all things together for my good and His glory. As I listened to “Greater” that day, the revelation that no matter how intense the battle and how many days I feel as if I am losing, Jesus already won the war on my behalf settled so deep in my heart that I felt renewed. 

That day I started thinking about my body. At my oncologists suggestion, I’ve been trying to do some kind of exercise daily. Mostly I just go walking at the lake, but I also incorporate some very light strength training. I’m beginning to see my body changing. The back of my arms don’t flap as much when I wave or lift my arms. My lower body isn’t as jiggly as it once was. And on my good days I feel my muscles growing stronger. As I’ve been trying to be consistent with exercising, I have used I Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV), “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies,” as my motivational scripture. 

The same body that has had more surgeries that I can count right now, a stroke, has suffered tremendous mental and emotional trauma, and is currently being pumped with poison every three weeks to war against breast cancer, is the actual House, the Temple in which God’s Spirit, Holy Spirit, lives. Throughout many of my traumas I have often said, ‘Well no body has nailed me to a cross yet so this pain is nothing compared to what Jesus suffered for me.’ But, I am beginning to see that all of those indescribably painful experiences really are tangible, relatable, glimpses of the pain Jesus suffered on the cross. Every lash of the whip that tore through His flesh and each nail that pierced His body was laced with my sin, my abuse, my stroke, my cancer, my pain… He bore ALL of it on His body in my place. Romans 8:16-17 (NLT) says, “For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.” So as a joint heir with Jesus, I must also join Him in a measure of His suffering. But, Romans 8:18 (NIV) promises, “…our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

The chorus of Mercy Me’s song “Flawless” says, “No matter the bumps, No matter the bruises, No matter the scars, Still the truth is The cross has made, The cross has made you flawless. No matter the hurt, Or how deep the wound is, No matter the pain, Still the truth is The cross has made, The cross has made you flawless.” As I listened to that as I walked at the lake on another day last week, it was a much needed reminder that no matter how many times I miss the mark, despite all my failures, heartbreak, rejection, every perfectly placed imperfection, and the sickness and disease that has attacked this body, because of Jesus I AM FLAWLESS! 

In John 2:19 Jesus said, “…Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” He was speaking of His body, His crucification, and His resurrection. Galatians 2:20 (NIV) says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” My body is is not my own. It is God’s temple. It is prime real estate! Jesus paid the ultimate price so that He, through His Holy Spriirt, could live on the inside of me.

Ephesians 2:6 (NIV) says, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” Since I am crucified with Christ and reside in Heavenly realms with Him, I know when my “three days” of this cancer journey are over He is going to raise this body to abundant life, health, and strength like I have never known before. For today, I am standing firm on the promises of God’s word, while I keep pressing on toward my expected end of this breast cancer journey.

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: 3 Down 9 To Go…

It seems with each chemo I learn a little more about myself. Yesterday’s treatment was tough. I didn’t feel well physically or mentally when I woke up. I just wasn’t feeling it yesterday. I didn’t want to have my finger pricked to check my white blood count, get weighed, have my blood pressure and temperature taken, then have my oncologist examine me and talk about any side effects I am experiencing so he can determine if the treatment needs to be modified in any way. And I DEFINITELY didn’t feel like having that needle inserted into the port in my chest! Even when they spray my chest some kind of spray the is supposed to ease the pain a bit before they do it, it still hurts. But, since not going wasn’t an option I rolled out of bed at 4:30 AM and started my day. My appointment was at 8:45 and the office is only about 15 minutes from my house, but I knew I would need every minute of the 3 1/2 hours to get myself together to go.

For this visit I ordered three dozen doughnuts from a fabulous bakery not far from my house and scheduled to pick them up at 7:30. When I arrived at the bakery there was a line of people, with their morning coffee in hand, out the door. That’s how good their doughnuts are! Mine were already prepared, boxed, and waiting at the counter for me. They were so fresh they were still warm. I couldn’t resist getting a dozen doughnut holes for my grand babies. I figure why not get them amped up on sugar, while they are visiting me. Watching my daughter handle her two rambunctious little ones the way I once had to handle my three little ones, always makes me laugh. 😂 

My niece, DeAnna, arrived to take me to chemo a little after 8:00. When we arrived I told the young lady at the front desk I brought doughnuts and asked if there was somewhere I could place them and the napkins so anyone that would like one would be able to see them and serve themselves. She directed me to a counter just outside the Infusion Unit. Then another staff member corrected her and said I needed to put them in the conference room. When I did she asked me what company I was from. I laughed and said, “I am a patient.” She grabbed me and gave me the best hug and said almost in disbelief, “You brought these for us and the other patients!” I asked her if she could take two dozen into the Infusion Unit for me and we left the other dozen in the conference room for the staff. She insisted I go with her to the Infusion Unit to give them the doughnuts so they would know who they were from. I told her they didn’t need to know who they were from. I would be over there shortly anyway.

Next stop was the lab to have my finger pricked to check my white blood cell count to make sure it wasn’t too low to do the treatment. I’ve never asked what is a good number or what is too low. Whatever it is mine was good, because I was able to do the treatment. My visit with Dr. Mendoza, my oncologist, started off differently. He came in, sat in the chair, and said he started reading my blog. He said, “You never know what people have gone through.” I don’t remember his words verbatim but he said something like, “Ms. Ransome I had no idea you have been through so much. I’m so sorry those things happened to you. Yet, you come here with a smile and joy that you share with others.” His words really blessed me. I felt humbled and honored with his busy schedule he took time out to read my blog. He said I do a really good job of detailing my experience. He has the most calm, gentle, caring spirit. And like me, his default facial expression is a smile. At the end of the visit, I took our now customary selfie, and was ready for chemo.

Chemo itself was uneventful. Same drill, different day. My niece wasn’t prepared when my Infusion nurse, Nicole, inserted the needle into the port catheter in my chest. She cried. My heart hurt that it upset her and felt so very blessed that I have a family that loves and supports me so much that different family members, friends, and my fellow breast cancer warrior,Wanda, always ask if they can take me to chemo. Once she dried her tears, DeAnna and I talked the entire two hours we were there. The time flew by. After chemo she treated me to lunch at Panera. I hadn’t eaten anything for breakfast and was able to eat a half of a sandwich. 

When I got home I immediately got into bed. I texted the four ladies that I know are true prayer warriors and am blessed to call my sister-friends asking them to please pray for me. I told them I couldn’t really explain how I felt. I just didn’t feel like myself. I was growing battle weary and felt like I was being beaten down from the inside out. They each responded with words of encouragement and prayer.

When I went to lie back down I thought over the events of the day. The smile on the young lady’s face when I picked up my doughnut order. She knew what the doughnuts were for and excitedly handed them to me. The staff member that gave me such a big hug when she realized I was a patient, not a pharmaceutical rep trying to woo them with some doughnuts. The smile on the phlebotomist’s face when I told her I brought doughnuts and she should go get one while they were still warm.The smile on Dr. Mendoza’s face as he shared his insights with me about my blog and his kind words. The tears my niece cried when she saw the needle pierce my chest and when she dropped me off at home, hugged me tight and said, “Thank you for letting me take you to chemo today, Aunt Lisa. I love you so much.”

Today, I discovered the thing that gets me out of bed everyday is love. Love is what makes me want to press pass what I feel like, put my feet on the floor each morning, and go wherever the day takes me. I just want to share with as many people as I can the warm, nonjudgmental, unconditional, never ending, love of Jesus that He so freely gives to me everyday.

For today, I am thankful that through all of the smiles, hugs, and even DeAnna’s tears, I was able to see Jesus. In each smile I could see Jesus looking back at me. And He was pleased. In each hug I felt His arms wrapped around me tightly. In Dr. Mendoza’s words I heard His voice reminding me He hasn’t changed. We have been through many battles together. Just as He was with me then. He is still with me now. In DeAnna’s tears I saw Him crying to remind me that He hurts when I hurt.

I don’t know what I will take with me when I go to my next appointment on May 25th. I have some time to think about it. The Easter candy bags at my second treatment and the doughnuts yesterday were such a hit maybe I’ll stick with keeping everyone high on sugar and take some scones and pastries. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It amazes me how something as small and seemingly insignificant as candy and doughnuts, placed in the Master’s hands, given in love, can change the entire atmosphere of a place where people are sick, hurting, and scared. When I am finally finished with my treatments I just want them to know Jesus was there. I want to make Him unforgettable, especially for the patients that come by themselves. I want them to know in Him they are never alone. Any opportunity I am given I tell people it is JESUS they see in me. To know Him is to love Him. To love Him is to share Him.

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: The Truth About Sex

I slept in this morning until around 5:30. I woke up with a song called, “Let’s Talk About Sex” by Salt-N-Peppa from 1990, playing in my head. As I listened to the song this morning I thought it was hilarious that a line in the song says it wouldn’t get played on the radio, because of its content. In comparison to the songs now, their song about sex sounds like a baby’s lullaby. It actually has a good message in it. 

If you are squeamish or uncomfortable talking about sex, which I don’t think many people are in today’s culture, you can stop reading now and move on with your day. I know my adult daughters stopped reading as soon as they saw the title for this blog post. I’ve always talked to them as openly as I could about sex. But, now that they are adults and I don’t have to filter my word choices as much, they generally run away screaming when the subject comes up. During our last conversation my oldest daughter, Ashley, who is 28 said something like, “Mom, I want to shove something in my ears and vomit right now.” I get it. My mom and my aunts (her sisters) are very transparent about EVERYTHING. Though most of what they say is HILARIOUS, it is still an awkward image of your mom that sends your mind places you NEVER want it to go. Lol. In our family our mothers are superheroes that have achieved a level of holiness that my generation of our family can only hope to achieve some day. 

Because I invited Jesus to become my Savior and Lord when I was five, there are many things I didn’t do just because I was told in church it was wrong or it was a sin. Having sex outside of marriage is one of the things I unsuccessfully tried not to do and ended up marrying the young man I got pregnant by at age 18, hoping that would somehow cancel out the sin. I know that sounds crazy now, but it made perfect sense to me 28 years ago! Lol. It wasn’t until I entered my 40’s that I began to ask Jesus questions about sex and try to understand for myself what the Bible actually says about it.

My quest for understanding developed, because I wanted to understand what was “wrong” with me. I have always felt detached when it comes to sex, meaning, to me sex was just sex no matter what you called it. Rather it occurred between a husband and a wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, friends with “benefits,” strangers with nothing else to do… it was all the same in my mind. It was just a physical act with very little meaning. I carried that mindset with me into both of my failed marriages. But, deep down inside I knew my thought process could not be the correct, because God made a distinction and set apart sex within marriage by saying, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral,” (Hebrews 13:4 NIV). And there are a plethora of other scriptures about the dos and don’ts where sex is concerned.

Though separated at the time, I wanted to understand what should have been happening in my marriage bed when my husband and I were together that was not, at least from my perspective. There was something broken on the inside of me that I didn’t understand or know how to fix. I was able to completely detach myself from sex all together in that I could participate in it and be a million miles away from the whole experience. It was no different then any other responsibility I had at the time. I have since discovered there is a tremendous difference between just having sex and what Jesus described to me as, “loving someone with your body.”

Anybody with a penis and a vagina is capable of having sex. Sex just requires body parts. It is mechanical, based on lust and/or basic physical attraction. However, loving someone with your body is something quite different. Yet, people often use the terms “sex” and “making love” interchangeably. Because I have recently become a fan of Bruno Mars’ music I will use two of his older songs as an example. On his Unorthodox Jukebox CD he has a song called, “Locked Out of Heaven” and another called, “Gorilla.” In “Locked Out of Heaven” Bruno is basically singing about how having sex with a particular woman takes him to paradise and makes him feel like he has been locked out of heaven for far too long. One line of the song says, “Swimming in your water is something spiritual. I’m born again every time you spend the night.” (SN: Generally speaking, women talk to each other about sex as much as men do. The only difference is men say stuff like, “Man, I was swimming in her water and it was spiritual” or something more graphic about body parts or their perceived performance. Women tell the truth. Lol. If a woman talking about sex with her friends says, “Girl, he was swimming…” She wouldn’t even have to finish the sentence, before all of the women would tell her either with their facial expressions or words how sorry they were for her. It’s not really a compliment for either person involved. But, it is a cute, catchy song lyric. And the song was a big hit!) 

In the song, “Gorilla,” Bruno is again talking about having sex with a particular woman only this time what he describes is what he calls, “Makin’ love like gorillas.” (SN: If I had a spouse and he ever came to me talking about us making love like gorillas I promise you I would contact our cable company provider to have Animal Planet, National Geographic, the Discovery channel… removed from our cable line up IMMEDIATELY. And there would be no more trips to the zoo! 😄 But, to each his own.)

My point is in both songs he seems to be describing the same thing, but calls one act sex and the other making love. To him there may not be a difference. Or there is and he was just doing what he does extremely well, which is just writing some songs that he didn’t intend for people like me to put under a microscope in a blog post. But, I used that example, because until Jesus explained the difference to me I honestly didn’t see one.

Jesus explained to me that since my introduction to sexuality was forced upon me at such a young age, through molestation, I never had the opportunity to naturally discover things about my body, men, and how much I would actually be giving up when I chose to relinquish my virginity. In the King James translation of the Bible when it speaks about a man and a woman having sex it says they “knew each other.” That is actually a perfect description for what Jesus explained to me as “loving someone with your body,” which is set aside for marriage. He said what should happen within a marriage is you should be so connected with your spouse spiritually and know one another so intimately that when you come together as one flesh physically, it should be as natural, comfortable, enjoyable, and pure as a hug and a kiss. It should be a physical expression of the unconditional love you have for one another, forsaking all others, by desiring only to love and know your spouse in this special unique way set aside by God, for marriage.

When He explained it to me that way I knew I had never loved either of my husbands with my body and I can’t say with any measure of certainty that either of them ever loved me with theirs, which is really sad to me. Now that I understand and know better, I can do better. Jesus also told me that each time I had sex before I came to the knowledge of what sex is truly meant to be a spiritual rape occurred. Meaning, each sexual encounter took something from me spiritually that I did not voluntarily give, because from the moment I was molested my ability to make godly decisions about sex was skewed. He said virginity isn’t just a physical purity; it is a spiritual purity as well. Now that I know what is truth the decisions I make regarding sex from this point forward are mine to be held accountable for.

For today, I plan to continue on with what I call my “refurbished virginity.” To say I’ve decided to continue to remain celibate sounds like I just decided to not have sex. But, to me, refurbished virginity is like when you buy something and it is refurbished. You know it has been used before, but all of the broken or messed up stuff has been removed and replaced by brand new parts to make whatever it is in like-new condition. In that way I hold Jesus accountable to His word that says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV).” I don’t know that I will ever have the opportunity to experience loving a spouse with my body and he loving me with his. But it is well worth it to me to wait it out on the off chance that it could happen. I value myself, my body, which is God’s temple, and the sacrifice Jesus made for me way too much to give away something, which I now understand is priceless. Cancer really makes you pause and take an introspective look at all areas of your health. 

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: My Side of the Bed

I woke up this morning at 4 AM with a song called “My Side of the Bed” by LSG (Gerald Levert, Keith Sweat, Johnny Gill) playing in my head. I finally gave in and downloaded the song from 1997. At 4 AM my house is so quiet. The only noise I hear is the sound of whatever is in my mind (usually a song or a bunch of words) and cars traveling up and down the street. My bird friend doesn’t even arrive on my windowsill until after 5 AM. It is the time and perfect atmosphere to write out whatever is on my mind or heavy in my heart. I’m beginning to think maybe it isn’t chemo that is waking me up so early each day, but rather my mind and heart seeking an outlet for relief.

My family and I took an overnight road trip to Pittsburgh over the weekend. It is approximately a four hour drive from Maryland to Pittsburgh. We ran into traffic due to construction on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. So the trip took about five hours. I was just a passenger, but by the time we arrived I was exhausted and my whole body was aching. After visiting my nephew who was the reason for the trip, and going out to dinner together, we all crashed at my mom’s house. And I literally crashed on the twin sized bed in the guest room. I quickly fell asleep on the bed just big enough for just me.

Though I have been divorced for six years, and my former husband and I were separated two years before the divorce, for the last eight years when I get into my bed each night I still sleep on my side of the bed (the left side). I never noticed it before. When I returned from Pittsburgh and got into bed I noticed how I felt as if I was lying in the twin sized bed at my mom’s house. There seemed to be an invisible barrier between my side of the bed and the right side where my former husband used to sleep. I purposefully moved my pillows and myself to the middle of the bed and stretched out as much as I could to remind my bed and my body there was only one occupant in it now. 

When I woke up this morning with LSG serenading me with the chorus of “My Side of the Bed,” I started thinking about my stance on marriage, dating, and relationships. Once you are divorced for a while people begin to ask when are you going to start dating and/or do you want to get married again. My response has never wavered. The idea of dating, being married again, or dealing with all that comes with being in a relationship really creeps me out. Most people believe I am speaking from a place of bitterness or resentment toward my former husbands. But, that really isn’t the issue at all. While I did experience some hefty bumps and bruises in both of my marriages, I am thankful for those experiences. I’m not bitter or angry. And I still believe with my whole heart marriage, done God’s way, is the BEST example of how He loves us. 

My issue with dating, being married again, and relationships is me. I texted my closest friend yesterday and told her that even if I didn’t feel how I feel right now I honestly don’t know if there is a man that I would ever be able trust with my whole self. I think I have had this distrust or leeriness when it comes to men almost my entire life. I don’t believe it is only because of being molested so early in my childhood. I’m sure that’s a large part of it. But, I saw some crazy things in my parents marriage. My dad was one of the most loving, kind, funny, and generous men I knew. That is who I knew him to be as a dad. However, as a husband, he looked very different to me as did many of the men in my family. That helped me learn men were ok until you marry them. After that you better have your guard up at all times to protect yourself from imminent heartbreak. I mastered that skill and was still heartbroken in the end.

So, my trust issue doesn’t have anything to do with my former husbands. I went into those relationships not trusting them with my whole self. So they were already set up to fail. Anything that happened just confirmed that there is no man that I can trust with my whole self. My whole self being, the most intimate part of me. That part of me that only Jesus knows. The part of me that sees what other people don’t see, hears what other people don’t hear, and understands what other people don’t understand. The part of me that would be content to spend the rest of my life just praying for people, giving people hugs, and making people laugh out loud. The part of me that would rather cuddle up with someone I love and do nothing than dress up and go somewhere “fabulous.” The part of me that thinks stars can only be found in the sky and Jesus is the only “celebrity” worthy of all the praise we give people who are just really good at whatever it is they do. The part of me that looks at the world we live in with all of its craziness and still sees the beautiful, visual masterpiece God created, with its array of colors of people, the beauty of nature, and variety of animals… the part of me that makes me, me. 

Between the stroke and cancer I have discovered life, with all of its complexities is pretty simple and basic for me. My default facial expression is a smile. I would rather laugh or cry with you about our similarities instead of argue and debate about our differences so I try discover what those things are with whoever I meet. If I could wrap my arms around the whole world and give it a the biggest, warmest, most loving hug I would (I know it sounds kinda Miss America-speech-cheesy, but I really feel that way 😄). In many ways I am still discovering who “me” is. Most days I feel like an alien or an outsider looking into a really crazy place. 

For today, I don’t see myself dating anytime soon. Just working on sleeping in my whole bed and pressing on to the other side of breast cancer is enough for now. But, I guess I will allow Jesus to help me tackle this trust issue so I don’t become one of those women who says, “I don’t need a man. All I need is Jesus.” While that is true, many women say that because they have given up hope that the right man they can trust with their whole selves will find them. When you say, “All I need is Jesus” in that way it is not making a bold profession of faith. It is making Jesus the consolation prize instead of having the man you really want. For me, Jesus is THE Prize so it goes without saying. Should I decide I want to be married again someday, having the right man find me would just be an extension of the gift Jesus already is to me all by Himself.