Double Mastectomy instead of a Vacation

kim-harmsMy name is Kim Harms. I turned 40 on December 20, 2015 and was diagnosed with breast cancer on January 20, 2016. My husband and I were hoping for a tropical vacation to celebrate entering our 40s, but instead took a trip to Iowa Methodist Hospital for major surgery.

I underwent a bilateral mastectomy on February 25 and am still in the process of reconstruction. Earlier this spring, I was told I may need chemo, but received test results a couple weeks ago that showed it would not be necessary! Hallelujah!

I will be starting on a 10-year prescription of Tamoxifen next week, and will have surgery in July to complete my reconstruction. Beyond that point, I will just have regular check-ups with my oncologist to make sure there aren’t any rogue cancers cells growing again in my body.
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Elizabeth Jolley Shares Her Journey with IBC

Some months ago, I posted an article written by a lady who was living with metastasized breast cancer.

In Living in Victory: When Cancer Seems Out of Control, Elizabeth Jolley offered 10 tips on how to cope with that nightmare diagnosis and treatment.

Today, I’m honoured to be able to share with you her testimony of how she discovered the cancer and what transpired. read more

Living in Victory: When Cancer Seems Out of Control

This entry is part 9 in the series Friends

Elizabeth Jolley

 

So often, testimonies from cancer survivors are from people who are now well.  Today, I’m honoured to be able to share with you the testimony of a lady who is fighting metastatic cancer. She too is a survivor. She has survived the diagnosis and initial treatment. But the cancer has spread.

If you’re in that situation today, read what she has to say and take courage. If you have a friend in this situation, please share this with her. 

Shirley, you asked me one time what I would suggest telling someone newly diagnosed with metastatic cancer, what I’ve learned from my experience. Here are some things I would tell her, provided she is also a Christian. *

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Laughter – the Best Medicine by Debbie Nolen

DebbieNolan2Proverbs 17:22 says: A joyful heart is good medicine. (I’ve had plenty of medicine recently. I prefer laughter!)

Ecclesiastes 3:14 says: A time to weep, and a time to laugh. (I have done a little crying, but I’ve tried to laugh more.)

Proverbs 31:25 says: Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. (Even a virtuous woman can laugh while still being honorable.) 

“Laughter is the Best Medicine.” No doubt you’ve heard this phrase before, especially if you read the Reader’s Digest. read more

Meet Karen Ingalls, Author

Karen IngallsToday it’s my pleasure to bring you an interview with Karen Ingalls, author of
Outshine, An Ovarian Cancer Memoir.

Shirley: Hi Karen. It’s such a pleasure to have you on my website. Please tell the readers a little about yourself.

Karen: I am a retired registered nurse, an aspiring writer, and a 4-1/2 year ovarian cancer survivor. My hobbies are writing, gardening, golfing, and reading. As a nurse I worked mainly in epilepsy and hospice. For over twenty years I had my own nursing service called Kare ‘N Touch, where I provided counseling, biofeedback, stress management, and therapeutic massage. I love to laugh, play games, and go into my world writing stories, blogs, and poetry.

Shirley: I love the fact that you are also a registered nurse. Although I no longer nurse, I am still on the nursing register. read more

Out of the Dark Comes Light by Alison Selfe

Alison SelfeOut of the Dark Comes Light

If anyone had told me when I was first diagnosed with Bowel Cancer that good things will come with it, I would probably have given them that withering look I used as a teacher to silence cheeky young lads–and then burst into tears.

I was diagnosed with Bowel cancer on Saturday June 19th 2010, 3 years to the day that I lost my dear Mum. It was a complete shock. I had a total colectomy with ileostomy formation as I had 2 primary tumours, one in the rectum and one as far away in the ascending colon as was possible. Pathology showed that about 11 lymph nodes had been affected, so I was advised to have adjuvant chemotherapy.

However a scan taken at the beginning of chemo showed that cancers tentacles had already reached my liver and lungs, so chemo and subsequent care was now palliative as my cancer was now staged at 4, advanced cancer. After 12 sessions of chemo my oncologist was delighted to tell me that all but one tumour had gone with the chemo and that the one left in my liver could be treated with radiofrequency ablation therapy (RFA).

Unfortunately tumours reappeared in my lungs 6 months ago and I am again having chemo in the hope that they shrink enough to enable me to have surgery. Whilst in the first terrifying weeks after diagnosis, when sleep is impossible, I found the wonderful charity Beating Bowel Cancer who have a nurse helpline to ring up with any question or query you may have or just to pour out your fears or concerns to people who really understand what you are going through.

When I was first diagnosed, I became very angry not only at the fact that at 57 I was facing an uncertain future: Would I ever get to see my grandchildren? Would I ever go with my daughter to help choose a wedding dress which I may never see her wear to walk down the aisle–to a husband I have yet to meet? But I was also angry at a system that was already letting me down. Through a catalogue of errors I was never contacted by my CNS, my scan appointments never got made, neither did my first appointment with my surgeon. I had to chase everything up at a point when I was barely able to talk to anyone without breaking down. BUT, that was when my life turned around. My anger turned into positivity.

I am now an administrator on the patients forum for Beating Bowel Cancer, where we have almost a 1000 members, 9500 posts in 830 topics.  I  give talks around the country on what it is actually like to have cancer, it’s diagnosis and to be treated under the NHS, to NHS staff and student nurses at university. I also do ‘Health in the Workplace’ sessions at factories and large organisations, about the symptoms of bowel cancer. I sit on the steering committee of the new QiC Oncology awards and counsel patients frightened of their diagnosis or refusing to consider an ileostomy and stoma bag. I have spoken at a big pharmaceutical conference and had my story published in the press.

 Why am I telling you all this?

Because for over 30 years pre cancer diagnosis I suffered badly from anxiety and depression My life was governed by anxiety about just about everything, I lacked confidence and was a very unhappy women, not living life to the full at all. Cancer has eradicated my depression and anxiety. It was a complete wake up call.

Today I am a confident and very happy person, with a full life. I love the work I do, the people I meet and the wonderful friends I have made. Each day is looked at positively and with enjoyment. My family mean more to me than ever. I watched my son marry his beautiful bride a week before my first surgery and now have an adorable 10-month-old grandson.

Yes, I still am battling a cancer that will probably ‘get me in the end’ but at the moment I am very much living a life that I love and appreciate more than if I’d never had my cancer diagnosis.

ABOUT ALISON: Alison Selfe lives in Kent England. She is married with 2 children and a grandson and has three voluntary jobs, one of which is working for Beating Bowel Cancer.  

Letter from Jonny Imerman by Jonny Imerman

Jonny ImermanI am a testicular cancer survivor.
 
I was born in Saginaw, Michigan, in 1975. When I was just a baby, my parents divorced, and we moved to a suburb of Detroit called Bloomfield Hills. After graduation, I moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Michigan. After college, I returned to the Detroit area. I worked during the day while earning an MBA from Wayne State University at night.
 
Suddenly, one Thursday morning in October 2001, my busy world came to a standstill. At 26 years old, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
 
I couldn’t believe it, so I went to another doctor for a second opinion. He confirmed that I had cancer. The testicle was the epicenter of the disease. I went right into surgery. My left testicle was removed.
 
Although the surgery went well, my visits to the doctor did not stop there. It soon became clear that the cancer had spread (“metastasized”) from the testicle. The disease was making its way up my body.
 
The form of testicular cancer I had was a “non-seminoma.” That means it was a mixture of many different types of cancer cells, as opposed to a “seminoma” tumor, which consists of only one type of cancer cell. Nonseminomas are much more aggressive and spread much faster than their counterparts.
 
I knew what was next–chemotherapy. I did not understand what that meant. What is chemotherapy? What color is it? How will it make me feel?
 
I called my brother. I started sobbing. I could barely talk. My world was shattered. But, I was not going to give up.
 
My oncologist told me that the treatments might make me sterile. So, I went to a cryogenics laboratory to bank sperm. After that, it was time to start chemotherapy. My chemotherapy recipe was known as BEP: Bleomycin, Etoposide (aka: VP-16), and CisPlatin.
 
My regimen included three cycles of chemotherapy. Each cycle lasted three weeks.
 
One cycle included:
Week 1: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: 8 hours of chemotherapy each day
Week 2: Wednesday – 2 hours of chemotherapy
Week 3: Wednesday – 2 hours of chemotherapy
 
The treatment weakened my body and wiped out most of my white blood cells. In fact, I was in such bad shape, the doctors were forced to delay my chemotherapy while my body recovered between cycles.The chemotherapy caused many side effects: throat sores, mouth sores, skin rashes, dry skin, cystic acne, extreme fatigue, hair loss, numbness in my fingers and toes, and partial hearing loss. But the most damaging side effect was a blood clot that developed in my left arm. The clot formed around my port, a medical implant that was an access point for my chemotherapy. The doctors had to remove my port, pull out most of the blood clot, and then pump me with blood thinners to break up the rest. With all the side effects and delays, the chemotherapy lasted for
five months.
 
At last, after all the treatment, I thought my fight was over. I slowly returned to the gym, started going out socially, and got back into life. Although I was happy to be alive, every day was a challenge. I did not have as much energy. I looked different. I struggled to find my postcancer identity.
 
Just as I was getting comfortable with myself, I learned the fight was not over.
 
Nearly one year after chemotherapy, a routine CT scan showed four tumors along my spine. Rather than risk cutting the spine, the surgeon went in through the stomach. He made an 11-inch incision, placed my organs to the side, and took out each tumor. The surgery lasted for four hours. It was successful.
 
Finally, I was freed from the disease and began my road to recovery.
 
I made a vow to myself while I was on chemotherapy. I looked at others in the oncology clinic and realized that I was different. Each day, my room was filled with family members and close friends. With so much support, I did not have a chance to lose hope. However, in many of the other rooms, hope already seemed lost. As I walked down the hall with my chemotherapy IV-pole on the way to the bathroom, I saw other people fighting cancer alone. They were lying in bed, motionless, watching television or staring in space. Their only stimulation was a nurse checking in for a minute or two on the hour. I knew this was not right.
 
I felt guilty because I had so many good people and so much positive energy around me. I made a silent promise that if I were given life after cancer, I would help these people.
 
So, how could I help?
 
I started by walking into the other rooms, one at a time, and introducing myself. “Hey, what’s up, I’m Jonny. What’s your name? I have testicular cancer. What type of cancer do you have?”
 
Many were older than me. A few were younger. Although they were exhausted just like me, everyone was friendly and welcomed my conversation. We shared stories, emotions, and opinions about many things in life. We all had our own type of the same disease.
 
Some fought for themselves, others for their children, and yet others for a spouse. But no matter the motivation, we were all fighting for life. And I wanted to help them get it back.
 
I wondered: “What if every cancer fighter could talk to a cancer survivor, who not only had beaten the same type of cancer, but who also was the same age and gender as the fighter?” The cancer survivor would be an angel–walking, living proof that the fighter could win too. What an amazing connection.
 
This is why I created Imerman Angels. We started in 2003 and today we’re a federally registered non-profit organisation that exists to provides personalized connections, enabling 1-on-1 support among cancer fighters, survivors and caregivers.
 
Please visit us at our website. The number one way you can help is to connect us with cancer fighters and survivors. They are the lifeblood of our service. No one should fight this disease alone.
 
I wish each of you well.
  
Footnote from Shirley: I can testify that Jonny is indeed alive and well at time of posting. I ‘met’ him in cyber-space a few days ago, and trust me! He sparkles with energy and enthusiasm for the work he’s doing. Thank you for sharing, Jonny!

Excerpt from the book, Ovarian Cancer by Karen Ingalls

Ingalls bookMy younger sister, Denise, and her husband, Randy, visited from Vancouver, Washington, three months after my diagnosis of ovarian cancer. It was very therapeutic for me to spend time with them as we laughed, shared, and prayed together. We hugged, cried, talked, played games, then cried and laughed some more. They rubbed my bald head and said, “You’re beautiful.”

The four of us went to our son Michael’s house for his daughter Gabrielle’s eighth birthday party, filling the house with more laughter and talks. My son immediately wanted to see my bald head that he rubbed and said, “Mom, it looks great.” I gave Gabby a quilt her great-great-grandmother had made for me when I was Gabby’s age. I included a picture of my grandmother and wrote about her journey in life. It was a rite of passage of a woman’s role in the family. It was also the right time to pass on a keepsake from one generation to the next.

One morning, Denise and I went to my favorite coffee shop, Brewberry’s, for a cup of white chocolate mocha. Of course, we got the largest size and sat for over an hour, just talking girl stuff. We talked about our kids and our own childhood, but mostly we talked about the cancer and me. It’s one thing to talk about the loss of a grandparent or parent, but it’s unusual and painful to contemplate the death of a sibling. My two sisters are very special friends, and over the years, I could not bear the thought of something happening to one of them. Each of us is unique, and yet we have the common bond of blood, genes, and family history. We sometimes have different memories even though we grew up in the same house.

“I’m not scared to die. I just don’t want to die now,” I said as I fought back the tears. “There’s so much I still want to do, see, and complete.” Denise reached across and took my hand as she said, “Karen, you’re not going to die now. The doctor got all the cancer.” I so wanted to believe her, just as I wanted to believe Jim when he said those same words. But how do we know the cancer is all gone? Who’s to say it won’t come back? Are they in denial of reality? Or do I not trust enough?

Once we exhausted talking about the “Big C,” we moved to other topics, many of which brought smiles, giggles, or laughter. We left the coffee shop arm in arm, and we agreed it would be so much better if we lived closer. The last night Randy and Denise were here, we sat around the dinette table as they led us in communion. They lit a candle and placed it in the middle of the table. From the Bible they read Luke 22:14–20, broke some pieces of bread on a plate, and filled our glasses with juice. They took turns reading the passages as they moved slowly around the table and placed their hands on Jim and me. It was a beautiful time, and the room was filled with love. My tears were not of sadness or fear, but of the overwhelming joy only God can provide.

We can turn our backs on tomorrow And live for yesterday. Or we can be happy for tomorrow Because of yesterday. —Anonymous 

Karen IngallsOutshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir is a personal, medical and spiritual journey with the author, Karen Ingalls, a 4 year survivor of Stage II C ovarian cancer. The reader will learn about the subtle symptoms, risk factors, and statistics for this cancer; about her struggles and triumphs; how God, family, and humor helped her to cope; and resources that have been informative and supportive.
 
 
Karen Ingalls is a retired registered nurse with a master’s degree in human development. Her primary nursing career focus was in epilepsy and hospice. For over twenty years she had her own nursing service called, Kare ‘N Touch, where she provided counseling, biofeedback, stress management and therapeutic massage.

Life Begins With Cancer by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Carolyn Howard-JohnsonThe day after my biopsy, my husband and I drove to Las Vegas on a business trip, never thinking about possibilities. We stopped at the state line for a ride on the giant Ferris wheel. We shelled giant prawns for lunch at the Stardust buffet. We slid quarters into a slot machine–the old fashioned kind I like with spinning cherries that will surely triple my money and spill the winnings into a silver trough. That was not a bad approach at the time. There is no reason to assume the worst, to project abject possibilities that may never come to pass onto the present.

Denial is sometimes very useful. On the other hand, it often keeps one from examining one’s own behavior, one’s own motivations. I share this anecdote because it illustrates how thoroughly denial had become entrenched in my life. I was raised in times that were not easy for women. Most of the barriers I faced were ones that couldn’t be seen nor acknowledged because I didn’t know they were there. They crept up silently on padded feet and, if I sensed them at all, I choose not to turn and face them. This faculty for denial was intact and very healthy when I was diagnosed with cancer.

By 3 p.m. that day, the picture was not so jolly. We had to return home so I could begin autogenous blood donations. The risk of AIDS in the blood supply was still high; my doctor believed that we should have my own blood on hand in case it was needed. My first reaction was true to pattern. I reassured myself that everything was going to be just fine, that I wasn’t nervous, that cancer was not a terrifying word.

Unfortunately, my doctor had not sounded especially positive when he demanded that we set a surgery date in that moment, over the phone. My husband was also up to the task. “We won’t work today. We’ll just take off, have some fun and drive back tonight.” We were two peas in a pod. We’d both try anything other than just saying, “Gee, I’m scared.” I almost went along with that plan.

Instead, I used the time on the open road to meditate. In that time, I realized—sort of knew at a cellular level–that I had to do more than donate blood to myself and that cancer doesn’t just happen. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe those of us who have it are being punished but I do believe that it follows those of us who haven’t taken care of our own needs.

The way we relate to ourselves, more than the way we relate to the world, is a factor in our illness, or for that matter in our health. When I tried to excuse myself out of those thoughts, that was only another indication that I needed to look through the glass in my kaleidoscope one more time—at its fragmentation as well as its beauty—and to make sense of the patterns I saw there.

I began to read. At first I chose books that helped me deal with my fears. My favorite is Love, Medicine and Miracles, by Bernie Siegel, M.D. I also liked some of the practical skills offered by Louise Hayes in her books. I read books on how to deal with grief. Even though most of them explored grief that follows death, the understanding of it and the coming to terms with it are the same whether we are grieving for a lost parent or pet or career or health. As I began my recovery, I utilized some hatha yoga I had done in my youth and continued with a vitamin regimen (with the permission of my doctor) that I started when I first found little chicken scratches in the skin around my eyes.

I used vitamin E oil on my incisions. “You’re healing so quickly,” my doctor said. “What are you doing?” “Yoga and snake oil.” He just shook his head. I began to read more not only on how to heal but also on how to remain healthy (or more negatively, how to prevent cancer’s reoccurrence!). I liked William L. Fischer’s How to Fight Cancer and Win and The Cancer Solution by Robert E. Willner, M.D., Ph.D.

The next step was healing my life. At first my family wasn’t crazy about the changes in me. Families are a bit like mobiles—little works or art that are delicately balanced. When I started to change, they had to do some adjusting, too. Mostly they weren’t happy about it. I read When I Say No I Feel Guilty by Manuel J. Smith, Ph.D., Mother Daughter Revolution by Elizabeth DeBold, Marie Wilson and Idelisse Malavé, and The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck, M.D.

The latter book gave me the courage to get some therapy and the determination to “afford” this process for our insurance didn’t cover it. I had been raised with the idea that we are all completely in control of our own destiny. It felt awful about the loss of that concept when cancer made it a personal mission to disprove my theory. The upside was it did exactly that. That allowed my attitudes to unfold like a blossom, letting in all kinds of possibilities for my life that hadn’t been there before. Therapy was also a good support system for me during the changes I was making in my life.

With another book, Deepak Chopra’s Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, I was ready for my epiphany. Actually I wasn’t all that taken with the entire book for it seemed he wasn’t saying much I hadn’t already learned, but I did keep reading to the part where he said that those who live until they are fifty in these times may very likely see their hundredth year.

Honestly, it was like a sunrise, all pink and aqua, in my brain. To think that I might have another entire lifetime before me–plenty of time to do whatever I wanted, in spite of the fact that I had thrown a very important part of that away (more about that in a minute), in spite of the fact that I had experienced cancer. I suddenly knew right down to my toes that women in their 50s—and that was me– might have even more time for their second life because they won’t have to spend the first twenty years preparing for adulthood.

That is where the real story of my recovery begins. I was suddenly aware of the biggest denial factor in my life—the one that I think “caused” my cancer. Many young girls in the 40s and 50s were literally taught to deny their own calling. If their parents and family didn’t do that, then likely the society they viewed did it. In the place (Utah) and time (1950s) when I was growing up, women had a notion of who they should be, could be and, mostly, they got it from those around them. Many of them couldn’t see the difference between society’s expectations and their own.

“You can’t be a nurse,” my mother said. “Your ankles aren’t sturdy enough.” I also was told I couldn’t be a doctor because that wasn’t a woman’s vocation. “Be a teacher because you can be home the same hours as your children, but learn to type because every woman should be able to make a living somehow if their husband dies.”

I had always wanted to sit in a forest or an office or a newsroom with a pencil in my hand. I dreamed writing, lived writing and loved writing. I wanted to write the next Gone With The Wind only about Utah instead of about the South. I had a plan that was, itself, gone with the wind. Writing was not a consideration. It didn’t fit any of the requirements. So, when I gave it up, it didn’t feel like I was giving up much.

When I began to put myself through college, I took the sound advice and studied education so I’d have a profession. I made 75 cents an hour (this was, after all, the 50s!) working as a staff writer at the Salt Lake Tribune. That I was making a living writing didn’t occur to me. I met a handsome young man and we were married. His career took precedence; that was simply how it was done. Then there were two children, carefully planned, also because that was how it should be done.

By the 70s, we both yearned for a career with autonomy, one where we could spend time with our children and be in command of our own lives. My dream was a victim of the status quo. It never occurred to me to just strike out in my own direction when my husband and children needed me. The pain was there. I just didn’t recognize it so I could hardly address it and fix it. My husband and I built a business. We raised a lawyer and a mathematician, grew in joy with a grandson, lived through floods and moves, and enjoyed travel.

For forty years, I didn’t write and, during that time, there were changes. Women had more choices but more than that, they had become more aware. The equipment, gears and pulleys were in place for a different view on life, I was just so practiced in all my old ways of doing things, I couldn’t see it.

In midlife, I became aware that there was an empty hole where my children had been but also that the hole was more vast than the space vacated by them. Cancer filled it. Until Mr. Chopra’s philosophy appeared on a page in black and white before my eyes, I could not see it. Once it did, I knew I not only would be able to write, I would need to write. One day I sat down and began to write the “Great Utah Novel.” I thought it would be a lot easier than it was.

I had majored in English Lit. Writing a novel should be pretty much second nature. It wasn’t long before I realized that it wasn’t as easy as writing the news stories I had written as a young woman. There were certain skills I didn’t have. It was a discouraging time. I might not have to learn speech and motor skills and the ABCs but there sure was a lot I didn’t know about writing. Somewhere after writing about 400 pages (easily a year’s work), I knew something major was wrong.

I took classes at UCLA in writing. I attended writers’ conferences. I read up on marketing. I updated computer skills that had been honed in the days of the Apple II. And all the while, I wrote and revised and listened and revised again. This Is The Place finally emerged. It is about a young woman, Skylar Eccles, who is a half-breed. In Utah where she was born and raised, that meant that she was one-half Mormon and one-half any other religion. Skylar considers marrying a Mormon man in spite of her own internal longing for a career. By confronting her own history–several generations of women who entered into mixed marriages–and by experiencing a series of devastating events, she comes to see she must make her own way in the world, follow her own true north.

Much of what I wrote about is my own story. If my novel were a tapestry, the warp would be real but the woof would be the stuff of imagination—real fiction. For me it was more therapy, but this time in my own ink, not someone else’s. I think I bring a unique vision to my work. Utah has a beauty and wonder of its own. The Mormons are a mystery to many. I think I tell a story about Utah in the 50s that could only be told by someone who lived in that time and place and who was a part of the two cultures—the Mormon and the non-Mormon—that make it a whole. In making it whole, I made myself whole.

It was my major process of therapy, but not my last. I am proud that I did it. I’m glad that I waited until I was sixty. I believe that forty years brought insight to the story in terms of the obstacles that women faced in those days. I also really like being proof that a new life can start late—or that it is never too late to revive a dream nor to conquer adversity. But I also know that it is just the beginning.

I know that. In my heart, in my head, in my bones. I believe that cancer was a lesson. It taught me to live in the moment. It also taught me to be aware of those moments, not to resist them but to nurture what was in each one so I could learn from them, to do that without participating in the patterns of denial I had learned as a child. This process allows me to ignore what I choose to ignore and embrace what I choose to have in my life.

Cancer was the first step of a staircase. It led me to new levels of understanding about nutrition, career, spirituality. I have even written a poem about a beautiful black crow—the image of death—who sits on my shoulder and reminds me that each day is beautiful, each day is to be lived.

For me, cancer was a gift. I intend to keep learning from its presence. Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s novel, This Is The Place, was published by AmErica House exactly ten years after she was diagnosed with cancer. The book explores intolerance. Tha,t along with a renewed interest in genealogy and Carolyn’s unique insight into the place she was raised, makes this novel not only timely but essential. It is now only available used on Amazon! That presents a new healing process to the author! Next up, an e-book! You can read the first chapter FREE by emailing: carolynhowardjohnson@sendfree.com

  Carolyn Howard-Johnson  

When God Puts You in the Sidecar by Marcia Lee Laycock

Marcia Lee Laycock2My husband is a motorcycle enthusiast. So far he hasn’t gone out and bought one, but whenever he likes one he sees on the road he’ll point it out and say, “Nice bike,” then look at me to gauge my reaction.

We were sitting at a stoplight not long ago and a shiny motorcycle pulled up beside us. It had a sidecar attached. “There you go,” Spence said. I laughed, imagining what it would be like to ride in such a little appendage. “I think I’d rather be on the bike with you,” I said, “or better yet, on one of my own.”

Sidecars are for kids, I thought.You don’t have any control in a sidecar; you just have to hang on and try to enjoy the ride.

But now it seems God has put me in a sidecar for a time. I’ve just been diagnosed with cancer and suddenly my life is not mine to control. Doctors are telling me what will happen, when and where I will go. I don’t really want to experience any of what they’re telling me I will go through. But I have no choice. All I can do is hang on and find ways to cope with the ride.

In the book of John, Jesus tells the apostle Peter about a time when the same thing would happen to him. “I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:18-19)

I don’t know exactly what lies ahead for me. I’m hopeful that this cancer can be eradicated and I’ll go on with my life, publish my next book and continue to enjoy all the blessings God has showered on me for so long. I’m praying my time in the sidecar will be short. But perhaps God has another plan. In the meantime, I take encouragement from those few words, “by which Peter would glorify God.” What happened to him was not in vain. It had a purpose.

The events of our lives all have purpose and are meant to bring glory to God. We have agency in that, by his grace and mercy – we can choose to hunker down and cling to the sidecar in fear, or we can sit tall and trust the driver. Perhaps God will give me the privilege of bringing Him glory through words of encouragement to others going through this same journey. Perhaps He’ll even allow me to continue to write about it. Or perhaps it will just be Him and me. That will be enough. Jesus is always enough.

And I’m spurred on too, by the next words Jesus spoke. “Follow me!” That’s a path Peter tried hard to take, one that changed him into a man of God, a leader of men. It’s a path that leads to “a spacious place,” (Ps. 18:19), where God’s presence is evident, to the joy that comes in understanding God’s undying love and the peace that makes us lean into the wind and relish every moment on this earth – even moments in the sidecar. “but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me” (Psalm 18:18-19).

Marcia Laycock’s inspirational writing has won awards in both Canada and the U.S. Her devotionals are distributed to thousands and her novel, One Smooth Stone, won the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award in 2006. Marcia is also a sought-after speaker for women’s events.   She is blogging on her experiences in the valley of cancer at Spurts.Please pay her a visit and encourage her. And of course, pray for her. It’s not an easy ride, even in a sidecar, but praise the Lord, she knows the Driver!