Quick Medical update: I went to Seattle yesterday to have an appointment with my doctor and to get my MRI read. There are just a couple small issues that have arisen. 1)There is small white crescent forming around the rim of the tumor cavity. They have had their eye on this spot for the last couple appointments, but it showed up a smidge brighter yesterday (which could be just because they used a different measure of dye this time), but they want to watch it very closely to make sure nothing dramatic happens without them being aware. The good news is that they have yet to see any swelling in the brain which will always accompany tumor re-growth. 2) In the last several months I have occasionally been experiencing what I call “dizzy spells”, usually lasting only a couple of seconds. It’s usually a brief wave a nausea followed by an intense dizzy sensation… but by the time I sit down its pretty much over. This seems to have had a direct connection to dehydration (I’m finding I have to drink a lot more fluids post surgery/radiation), but regardless, it’s something that the doctors were very interested in. The cause of these could be anything from issues of low blood pressure, electrolyte balance, scar tissue build-up, or dehydration… but another possibility is that I’m experiencing mini seizures. Seizures sound scary but since they are so very small, and I have never blacked out or lost consciousness, they have really had no interference with daily life… besides having to drink a lot of water and peeing a lot:) The doctor explained that with the large amount of tumor and tissue that was removed from my brain during surgery, there were electrical pathways that became disconnected/interrupted, so occasionally the brain can have a small electrical “short” as it figures out how to forge a new pathway through the jungle of scar tissue and the tumor chasm (aka “the pit of despair”, Princess Bride, sorry..;). If they are indeed mini seizures they could remain just as they are (small and not affecting life) or if we get worried, or they become worse, I could always go on seizure medication as a safety precaution. So folks, there it is. Nothing huge, but there are things we’re keeping a close eye on. I am still awaiting word on whether they want me to come back in 2 months as opposed to 3. Regardless, there is no action that needs to be taken now… so on we go:)
I wrote this update right after getting my MRI done on Tuesday… but then had my appointment in Seattle Friday before I was able to post anything. It made sense to include the medical update in this post, because I know so many of you are waiting. Thank you again and again for your prayers. This is a long one… my apologies:) Go to the restroom, grab a cup of coffee, find a comfortable seat and have a nice read. Thank you for being a part of my journey, you continue to bless and humble me.
I’m sitting in one of my favorite coffee shops here on 23rd in Portland, and just had a fantastic lunch. I scored an awesome seat by the window today – it’s beautiful, sunny, and clear… lots of folks are out, a perfect day for daydreaming and people watching. I suppose it’s a good day for updating too:) I just got done with my MRI about 30 minutes ago (results are in 3 days). Taking myself out to lunch is like my own little reward to myself…I know, you can laugh… I like to celebrate the little things. I find myself in an oh-so-familiar every-three-monthly place of life contemplations and soul-searching. Not that I don’t think hard or search my soul on the other days… it just gets EXTRA intense starting about a week before my MRI. Those of you who have, or are currently going through some sort of similar testing know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s big stuff, it just is. I’ve mentioned this before – I’ve talked about how I go through a huge process every time an MRI comes around. I have to re-align priorities, check my heart, let go of the parts of life I’ve started to re-attach to. I have to make sure I’m ready to hear anything they tell me. As if that isn’t deep enough, this month I’ve found there’s more.
Really it comes down to my deep-seated fears of failure and worthlessness. Okay, that sounds intense… let me explain. We all have certain lies we believe. They are lies told to us by the enemy, meant to discourage us. But if left un-checked we move quickly from discouragement, to paralysis, to just an empty lifeless shell of what we once were. Lies can range from anything like “I’m unattractive”, to “I’m unlovable”, to “I don’t belong”, to “I don’t deserve happiness” or even “I’m better off dead than alive”. I’m going to be really honest and let you all know that my particular lie is that I am a failure, a complete and total failure. It sounds silly I know, you can all argue with me as much as you want, but the truth is, it feels true. That’s why it’s a lie. And all the people in the world telling me how much it’s not true wouldn’t help because the origin of this lie is spiritual, not personal. I could write you pages and pages listing my failures… listing why I just don’t measure up. If people only knew what I really got on my SAT’s, if they saw how much money I really make (or don’t make), if they could see how much my business is struggling, or knew how I wasted time today, or how I really do get fearful sometimes, or even that I failed my simple written motorcycle test (grr..:)… then they would agree with me. Wow, she really is a failure. Too bad she can’t pull it together. This lie was especially made known to me a couple weeks ago in a conversation I had with my Mom and Tammy on our cruise. They are so good at pointing out lies (call one of them up next time you’re struggling if you don’t believe me:). I guess the point of all this is that I have found myself even believing that my failure is directly related to how God sees me and what will happen next in this cancer process.
This is where I’m struggling. I know I am alive for a reason. So many miraculous things happened to get me to the point today, where I’m sitting here with an almost full head of hair, feeling good, with no signs of new tumor thus far. I’ve had no seizures, I sailed through surgery with no complications, radiation was alright besides losing the hair… but then I grew the hair back! Okay so through all the prayer and miracles I sit here over a year later and look at my life. What am I doing with my second chance? What am I doing to honor the way God spared my life? I can’t seem to get work figured out, I’m still getting supported by my parents. While I desperately want to be involved in a ministry, I’m too overwhelmed by the choices, I’m not starting cancer organizations or encouraging others with my best-seller book and inspirational speaking tour:). I’m doing a lot of searching without any resolution..why am I here? Why am I alive? Have I failed God? Did I miss something? And my fear at MRI time boils down to this… if I can’t make good use of this precious time God’s given me, is he going to stop holding the cancer back? Is he going see me sitting here with no significant accomplishments and say wow, what a wasted miracle. On to someone else who knows how to handle it.
(Sidenote: for those of you who don’t know yet, I have most definitely become a crier this past year… it doesn’t take much.. puppies, cute kids, deep conversations, matters of the heart, The Biggest Loser.. yes I know:) So yes, here I am in a coffee shop trying to explain my deepest of emotions…and of course I have tears rolling down my cheeks. Oh well.. just hoping the cute guy doesn’t come sit nearby and ask if I’m okay. HA, it might be funny to actually explain the whole thing between sobs and watch him back out awkwardly and sprint for the door:).
Anyhow, those are my deep and truly honest fears, unfounded as they may be. But before you get too depressed for me, please let me tell you this. I recognize it ALL as LIES! The truth is God does not see me as a failure. I am NOT a failure… as much as I want to believe it sometimes. And when I feel too weak to fight that battle in my head and heart (which is most of the time), I fight it with scripture. How does God really see me? What does His love really look like? What are HIS definitions of success and failure? Why does he still intently pursue us in the midst of our sins and failures? I find the farther I drift from the intimacy with Christ, the deeper I wallow in self, and the deeper I wallow in self, the more shallow my perspective of success/failures become. Honestly, do I think he measures any part of my worth on whether or not my business makes it, where money comes from, or what I scored on certain tests?? Who do I think He is?? It really looks like I’m caring more about what PEOPLE think of me. Hmmm.. pride. Always seems to come back to pride doesn’t it? And even if I screw up with sin or selfishness, if I repent and change my heart, doesn’t he promise to cast our sins as far as “the east is from the west”(Psalm 103:12)? And do I really think that God does miracles with contracts and fine print allowing him snatch back miracles as soon as I fail to check one of his “expectation” boxes? He just doesn’t work that way…thank goodness!:)
And so I press on. I continue each day trying to listen to his voice and take care of things as they come my way. I’ve found that the less I care what people think of me, the better I seem to do for the most part. That’s when I get the most done, that’s when I’m doing things for the right reason, and that’s when I’m living in the freedom and personal adventure I was meant for. I truly see my life as a gift and want to use it to its full potential for his glory! And I have to trust HIM to bring that about instead of trying to force it into happening so I feel better about myself. My job is to get really good at listening to his voice… and MOVE when he says MOVE. This week he kept bringing the scripture to mind from Jeremiah, one most of us know: “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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 20:11-12
God has hope and a future for me…whether it be 1 year or 80 years… he KNOWS the plans he has for me. And they are good plans – prosperous, not disastrous. And so my simple job is to just seek him, because when I do that with ALL of my heart, he promises I will find him. And there’s really nothing greater I could ask for. The Lord’s presence is where all the earthly “failures” melt away with no foundation and God’s ridiculously awesome love fills up our every insecurity until we’re just overflowing. I am armed with my little notecard booklet of special scriptures to battle my lies… and I continue to walk in his mercy every day. I encourage you if you are hearing lies, to confront them at the source. Do not let them win your heart! Name them for what they are and look through scriptures to feed your heart with TRUTH. Lies are the enemy’s greatest trick and think how strong we could be if we squash his favorite, most lethal weapon!:) That makes me excited anyway:) Thank you Lord for loving me. Thank you for your perfect love…. May your thoughts start to become my thoughts. I love you.
The holidays were great! I got to go home for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, and got to take my roommate Stacey along with me. Luckily she puts up with the Ahmann shenanigans and isn’t scared of us so far:) We also had a ton of snow in Portland (14 inches one night) and I got to be quite the expert with the snow chains and wintery driving. Lots of people hate it because it’s inconvenient, but I LOVE IT!
I got the opportunity to go on a cruise with 5 other amazing ladies to the Caribbean (Mom, Tammy, Sue, Debbie, Stacey and myself). Don’t ask me how I keep getting this blessed! We had an amazing time, worked through many deep and enlightening conversations, got pampered, and dressed up, and made memories to last a lifetime. A few highlights really stand out to me:
- Getting to swim with the dolphins in the Virgin Islands! Amazing!
- Meeting a French Canadian man in Puerto Rico named Michel who sold both Stacey and I beautiful necklaces. He seemed eager to talk to us, even after we bought our stuff… he just kept saying there was something about the four of us that was different. We were genuine and truly joyful in some way that was unmistakable. Eventually the story of my cancer came out as well as Stacey’s unique story in her own life. I’ll never forget how after I told him about my cancer, he grabbed both my shoulders and said “No! don’t tell me this!” It was such an incredible opportunity to share what the joy and total satisfaction in the Lord can look like despite “tragic circumstances”. It also sparked many questions later that night about what it means to shine Christ. How is it that an unbeliever can recognize the Lord’s true joy and true contentment enough to point it out, and doesn’t even know what it is? How is he so attracted to Christ in us that he doesn’t want to let us out of his shop, because he might lose it again? What does it truly mean to be the aroma of Christ, and to actually watch that aroma sweep into a hungry man’s soul. It was a beautiful sight. I’ll never forget it. We took a picture with him and promised to write. I love how God works:)
- The last night I had a little spare time before dinner and decided to go walk the outer decks with my ipod. I found this incredible spot at the bow of the boat on one of the top decks. It was completely deserted and I found a way to sit under the low angled deflector glass so the air was absolutely still. The sun was setting, the ship was charging ahead through the beautiful Caribbean seas, and I was sitting in absolute stillness in awe of such a beautiful majestic scene. I turned my ipod on to my favorite worship mix and just blasted it. You guessed it… the tears came, somethin’ fierce. That moment was such a gift, and it will stay burned in my mind forever. Yay God:)
I took the first step fulfilling my motorcycle dream last weekend. Stacey and I took a motorcycle basics class that automatically gives you your endorsement provided you pass both the skills test and the written test. I soared through the skills test with flying colors, but like a swift kick in the shin I turned around and failed my written test! Not by much, but that doesn’t matter when it’s pass or fail! I had already planned my mini celebration… it was quite the let down. HOWEVER, it was another good lesson in fighting the ever-present lie that I am a failure. Not my favorite way to learn it, but still a good lesson. SO…I will reschedule my written test on Friday and show up test day with my number two pencils blazing!:) Can’t wait!
*and I did have my mini celebration anyway… as I said before, I love to celebrate the little things, even if sometimes you have to celebrate a failure:)
I got a new computer for Christmas which could be great news for this website because I will now have the power to update the website by myself, which should allow me to do it more regularly. I know I’ve said that before, but I would LOVE to be better about this… even if I’m the only one who reads it, it’s still probably good for me:)
My young friend, Liz, with Leukemia, who I mentioned a while back, and was in the process of completing her bucket list, finally died right around Christmas time. It was a privilege to watch both her and her family walk that journey with such grace. A trying time for sure… but also so surrounded by love and peace. Liz touched a lot of lives. Please remember Liz’s parents and sister especially in your prayers.
So that’s about it. Thank you to whoever may read this for checking up on me. I’d love to hear from you if you ever get the chance. Peace to all of you! Hope to see or talk to you soon!