”May you cast your cares on Jesus. May your load feel instantly lighter as you trust Him. May He fill you with expectancy, right here, right now, right in the midst of your circumstances.
May Kingdom power upstage every worry and every fear. May Kingdom authority help you to rise above your circumstances instead of being crushed by them.
New days are ahead. Breakthrough days are just around the corner. Don’t give up hope. You serve the God of breakthrough and He is for you.”
– Susie Larson
This past week was a difficult one. My daughter sent this to me and it gave me just the hope I needed. I hung onto the words for dear life…I was in desperate need of a breakthrough.
Let me back up and get you caught up.
After my mastectomy, my recovery went well and in just a short time I was walking a few miles every day, eating healthy, and losing weight. I have been on hormone therapy for 5 weeks and have absolutely no side effects. My oncologist told me I was 1 out of 3 women who don’t suffer from aching bones, fingers, or hair loss. (Another praise the Lord kind of thing) Things were looking up and I was ready for the next step of radiation.
Well…my first meeting with the radiology oncologist burst the little bubble of hope that I had. He told me that my heart and lungs would most definitely get radiation, he reminded me that I am high risk for metastasis, and when I asked him if he could give me any reason for hope…he was unable to do so. On top of that, he talked about my neck nodes and said they had discussed doing a biopsy on them to see if they also had cancer. Whaaatttt????
That conversation knocked my legs out from under me which sent me on a google search to learn more about the side effects of radiation. In my search, I learned about a radiation treatment called Proton Therapy which is offered at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and it is designed to better protect the heart and lungs. In no time at all, I was driving with my husband to the Mayo just 1 1/2 hours away and to also hear what they may or may not say have to say about my neck nodes.
The radiologist at the Mayo was wonderful. He gave me every confidence that he could protect my heart and lungs during radiation. At the same time…he felt that before doing radiation we should not only take a look at my neck nodes, but also my right armpit nodes so that he knew exactly how he could help me. (My neck nodes were enlarged at the time of my petscan but I had also been sick – so the hope was that it was from illness rather than cancer)
After our meeting at the Mayo we booked it to our oncologist appointment in Minneapolis and he was in agreement with the plan ahead. I then do-what- I -do and I asked my oncologist for a truthful prognosis.
In the most gentle way he told me that if my neck nodes are clear, the disease is still curable. But…if my neck nodes had cancer it would put me at Stage IV which would basically mean I just “manage” cancer as long as I am able to. Some women live with Stage IV for 15 years but most do not. I was to have the ultrasounds on Thursday and Friday and in the meantime I think our entire family felt like our heads were in a pencil sharpener. The gravity of my situation was inescapable.
This is the place where my daughter sent me the encouraging words at the top of the page. After numerous bad test results, I was desperately praying for a breakthrough.
Soooooo…Thursday I had the ultrasound on my arm nodes and they were – CLEAR. Boom-da-boom!
But Friday was the big one. We woke up that morning knowing it would be either a very good day…or a very bad day. And God gave me the breakthrough that I so desperately needed. There was NO cancer in any of my neck nodes. Cha! Cha! Cha! Cha! Cha!
As my friend said to me, “Now ON TO THE CURE!!!” Yes, indeed. Yes ma’am!!!!!
The past few months have been the most difficult and the most beautiful of my entire life. I want to share some of the things that I will forever hold in my heart. I cannot possibly name them all, but here are a few.
* The night before my surgery I received an email from Kordie, (my former boss and dear friend of mine) and she said this to me, “Be your best tomorrow.” Every day since, I hear those words whisper to me and I have sought to do just that. One of the few things I can control is how I respond to this terrible situation. Nobody can stop me from being my best – except me.
Worry and fear do not bring out the best in me. Remaining hope-filled while at the same time trusting God’s plan – brings out the best in me. Feeling anxious about test results does not bring out the best in me. Remembering what God is able to do brings out the best in me. Letting cancer steal my joy does not bring out the best in me. Enjoying the many blessings right in front of me brings out the best in me.
For the rest of my days I will seek to be my best.
*Also the night before my surgery…my wonderful friends and co-leaders of the Comfort Club (Diane and Maggie) asked me to gather a group of women to pray over me. At first I declined, because A) it was Labor Day and I knew the young women had to get dinner on the table and the kids showered up before school the next day, and there were many I couldn’t even think of asking because I knew they were out of town for the weekend. And B) I don’t like being the center of attention and felt awkward at the thought of it.
Well… my friend Maggie can be pushy at times and she would not take no for answer. Sooo…I sheepishly asked a group of women and one by one they each said yes.
Shortly after we arrived, Maggie sat me in the middle of the group. (I was sweating I felt so awkward) and they each laid a hand on me and they prayed. And suddenly I wasn’t feeling awkward anymore as I was taken up by the strength of their prayers. My friend Jane prayed that “an army of angels would surround me” and I could not help but think they were truly my army of angels. The strength of each hand, the sincerity of their love, and the determination in their prayers was – well…there are no words.
That evening when I arrived home I checked my phone and my close friend, Mary, from California sent me a video her husband had taken of her and her daughters while they lifted me up in prayer. It left me undone. I was undone by these amazing people in my life and cried and cried because I simply felt – grateful.
The entire evening left me in a state of blessed exhaustion and I slept like a baby.
* One of the unexpected blessings on this journey has been reconnecting with people who I have not seen for years. A few guys who my husband and I knew in highschool have sent warm messages that lifted both of us up with encouraging words. Loobs, Shows, Granny, Kins, Jon – thank you!
Jon has twin daughters who have both been diagnosed with breast cancer and it has been a privilege getting to know their amazing family through our shared pain.
Back in the day I used to be a hockey mom and I have reconnected with two of my fellow hockey moms. One lost her husband to cancer 20 years ago and the other has struggled with illness along with some other deep heartaches. Each of these women have offered a unique kind of support because they know from experience what I am going through. They have offered tender concern towards me as if we had been hanging around together for the last 10 years. I hope to hang around with them a great deal in the next 10 years of our lives.
There is another new younger friend who came into my life in the most unusual of circumstances. Last summer we needed to find a home for our beautiful Bernese mountain dog because he just didn’t get the time and attention he deserves. A young woman in my small church group put the word out at work and I was connected with a woman and her husband who have twin 6 year old boys. She had just been through the most difficult part of her breast cancer journey and they were ready take our Bernese into their lives as a sort of celebration.
We have texted early in the morning and late at night. She showered me with special mastectomy undergarments, teas, a cozy blanket, and scrumptious meals. We have shared tips for radiation and prayed for each other. I consider her a special gift God dropped in my lap and we are pretty positive our Bernese thinks he died and went to heaven since being adopted by them. 🙂
I have reconnected with a highschool friend, Mary H, who has quickly become one of my favorite friends in the whole wide world. She had a brain tumor many years ago and is a tremendous woman of faith and also a prayer warrior. Which leads me to another one of my favorite blessings…
Mary’s husband, Dan, also went to our highschool and he is giant TEASE. He has yanked my chain so many times and made up stupid stories and every single time I fall for it. So Mary texted me yesterday and shared the many people who have been praying for me and then said that Dan had asked my son to pray for me with he and some other old high school buddies at the Holiday gas station store.
And I thought – oh, yeah…right! Dan just told her that to yank my chain because he knew it would get me to laugh once I realized I had been a victim again.
Dan and a few other guys we knew from highschool have a little “coffee klatch” and meet very early each morning in some makeshift spot in the corner of the Holiday store. (I mean, seriously??? Caribou Coffee is right across the street!!) Anyhow – my son, Dylan, often gets coffee on the way to work and chats a bit with the gang before work. It was hard to imagine Dylan praying with the old guys right in the middle of the Holiday store.
So I called Dylan to find out the truth…and he did. Dan, the guy who yanks on me and who also believes in prayer, asked my son to pray and they all prayed together – for me – in the middle of a Holiday store. That just gets me. It’s just the sweetest thing ever.
*Today after our good news at the Mayo, we were just pulling out of the parking lot and my son Steven called and happened to also be in Rochester and had just finished his work meeting. We decided to do a quick rendezvous at the Taco Johns (we celebrate in style) and when I saw my son he wrapped me up in a big strong hug and said, “That’s such good news, Momma…” Another sweet and tender moment for me – standing right in the middle of Taco Johns with my grown son hugging me and it felt so good and solid and so right.
– I do need to make mention of a few people. (This is more on a personal note so feel free to skip down below the little line below to read my closing thoughts.)
In the past few months I have had a glimpse of my entire life. I have told you how much I love my life – and it is because of all of you. You have been and are – my very life.
To our first “couple” friends from our younger years who we shared incredible memories with – pre-kids – Karen & Brian – thank you for the emails on that dark Saturday night when I was in a low place. Brian – thank you for sending us into fits of laughter which made us feel like life is still normal and good. Steve & Lyn, thank you for your constant love and support no matter how far away we live. Steve – thank you for calling Eric – it was perfect timing. He doesn’t always know he needs support from others but that day was extremely helpful for him. Mary & Todd, there are not enough words. Your strength, wisdom, support, laughter, daily check-ins, gifts in the mail, loving support to Eric and the kids, and your rock solid faith have helped my entire family to see God in all of this. You were right beside us on our wedding day and your steady friendship for 40+ years means the world. We are so very grateful for you.
Jan – Three times you rolled in from Arizona and you rolled into my house with laundry baskets (literally) of goodies, every breakfast treat a girl could dream of, flowers, a heel rubbing thing (love that!) and finally a prime rib dinner of Thanksgiving Day proportions. Thank you.
To my small group from church – thank you for remaining committed to our group going through thick and thin. I find it absolutely amazing how we all come from different walks of life, different stages and different ages…and we are connected on a soul level simply because we all love Jesus. Thank you for your honesty and transparency that helps to keep it all real.
Maggie and Diane – Thank you for daily check-ins and checking my emotional temperature. Thank you for your many notes of encouragement and reminding me to lean on God’s truth instead of the “truth” of my situation.
Sandy from California – Thank you for taking me deeper in faith and for always seeing the best in me and for checking in regularly and asking how you can pray. Thank you for the way you help me to approach faith on a deeper level and helping me to realize our battles are not against people or illness – but against the evil which desires to tear us down and tear us apart.
Nancy, Nancy, Nancy, – thank you for calling me regularly and expecting me to meet you at Bunny’s with only a 15 minute notice. Thank you for still making fun of me and making me laugh so I don’t feel “sick”. NOBODY would treat a sick person that way and that makes me very, very happy. Jen – thank you for the fighter pilot analogy – I have carried that with me to the “tube” and radiation and scary appointments and it looks like we got em’!!! Jane O. – thank you for the many mornings we meet at breakfast spots with all of your “blue-haired” friends. It is a privilege being with you, my friend, and homecoming queen of the 80-90 year olds! (How on earth do you know all of those people???) And thank you for your prayers and the songs you send at just the right time. They have literally sustained me.
Terri/Hughie – Ter – thank you for being my Bellacour breakfast buddy and providing me an escape from the reality of my life. Sitting on the back patio is much like our many moments with you and Hughie in Carmel. Hughie – thank you for being the kind of friend who makes it easy for Eric to talk with. I don’t know how deep you guys go – but whatever you do, it seems to work. You are a solid and steady presence in our lives. Thank you both for being our travel buddies, our lifelong through- thick -and -thin buddies, and for making us laugh until we cry. We have piled up a lot of good memories over the years.
To mom and dad Eastman, You have known me since I was 12 years old and have been a wonderful support since then and a tremendous help as we were raising babies and navigating busy schedules. Thank you for being there always and forever. To Auntie Pat and Uncle Bob – After Reed died and my family of origin fell apart, you did an amazing job of loving all of us, empathizing with our struggle, and always encouraging reconciliation. Thank you for giving it to me straight when I need it; for helping me learn to forgive and for helping me to grow in faith and in character. Thank you for your encouraging emails over the past few weeks. Uncle Bob – Thank you for INC.
To my cousins…to my faithful, steady, fun, solid and strong cousins — I love you all. Thank you for such easy relationships and for keeping our family strong and connected. Betsy, you were my very first best friend and you are a huge part of who I am today. You have an uncanny way of saying incredibly profound things in just a few words. Many times on this journey your words helped me to push my shoulders back and stand up strong. Jule – I will never forget the days that you held me up when I was flat on my back after Reed died. Never once did you let me sit down for breakfast without first grabbing my hands tight and praying. We have shared some hard things together and many wonderful and happy times. You are an amazing woman of God and every time I am with you I am inspired. Our cousin/friend bond seems to just keep getting stronger.
Speaking of bonds…to my younger brother, Ricky and his wife Debbie and to my older brother Reed’s wife, Cindy. When our family fell apart – we did NOT. Our bond cannot be broken.
Ricky – you are one of the kindest men I have ever met. You have helped to fill the hole that was left when Reed left this world. I love your quick laugh and your ability to let go and move past hurts. You have helped me to do the same. Thank you for those times you gave me assurance that I could endure the “tube” and making me believe that I would and could beat this thing.
Cindy – you are about the nicest person I have ever met in my life. I love chewing on scripture together and trying to figure out difficult passages. The day Reed married you, you became my sister and my friend. I enjoy your curious mind and intellect (even though you have a tendency to show off with words like ubiquitous). And I am grateful for the times you encourage me to reach higher with the Lord and to be a better person. Thank you for loving Reed so well…and thank you for loving me. I have loved our many road trips to Leech Lake and Sioux Falls – thanks also for getting up at the crack of dawn to drive with me to Rochester this week. It helped to lighten my load and it was great fun doing the happy dance after my first good report!! Thank you for always, always being there for me.
To all of you who sent flowers, cards, books, phone messages, timely texts, emails and FB messages…I read every word and I was deeply touched by your sentiments. In some regards it has been like attending my own funeral because I have gotten to hear your generous thoughts towards me. And oh! I don’t plan to be the person of significance at any funeral any time soon!!
To the spouses of my kids, Ashley, Nikki, and Greg…I can hardly write these words. Thank you for the way you love Eric and me, and for the way you love our kids. I know this has been hard on them and I am so grateful they have your strength and support, and rock solid faith. I cannot put into words how I feel about each of you…its so enormous and so big. Thank you for showing up often and for no real reason. When you and your families burst in the front door …my life is complete.
And to Steven, Dylan, and Tay…you have blessed me more than words can say. In the moments when a person is faced with the possibility of life being cut short…it causes you to do a lot of reflecting. And I have done a lot of thinking about each of you.
I have loved every second of my adult life because of Dad and YOU. And then along with you came your spouses, and the grandkids – Payton, Coop, Finley, Eli, Maysen, Reese and Hudson and it has been SO MUCH FUN. You are wonderful people, you have amazing marriages and ohhhhhh…your kids. You are doing such a good job raising those kids. It has been an absolute thrill watching your “grown up” lives. I have loved every minute of it.
It is a strange thing when for so many years Dad and I have been your support, yet in the past few months you have been that for us. (Thank you for looking after him without him even knowing.) And thank you all for the beautiful way you get along with each other and for how you love me and Dad and each other’s kids. You have created our family
…While I don’t intend to leave this earth anytime soon – if that were to happen I can honestly say that all of you mentioned above have blessed me with so much good, day in and day out, year after year after year…and you have given me a life beyond my wildest dreams. I could leave this earth feeling enormously satisfied because my greatest dreams came true because of all of you.
Maybe the MOST amazing thing I have experienced is spending time in the thin space. The thin space is a place where heaven meets earth…its that space where we experience and know God in a real and powerful way. I have experienced God in ways I have never experienced before.
When I go on my walks I listen to Christian music or sermons and I am taken to a place where it is just me and God and the rest of the world seems like it is in a place far away. If someone saw me walking they would think I was doing just that – walking. But inside of me I am dancing in the streets and doing cartwheels and feeling pure joy just being in His presence. He has literally filled me with His presence and we have had wonderful times of communion.
I have asked Him to direct me and He has offered clear direction. I have asked for peace and He has given me peace. I am so closely connected with Him I have finally been able to say, “Here I am, Lord. You know the prayer of my heart, but I trust Your plan for my life.”
And the Lord answered the prayer of my heart. The day of breakthrough truly was just around the corner.
Thank you for all of your prayers. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I believe prayer released the power of God into my situation. Your prayers engaged angels – shoulder to shoulder – guarding my life and protecting me. God sent out His angels and He said to Satan and to cancer – ENOUGH.
I know I still have a lot of hard work and unknowns in front of me…but today the Son broke through the dark clouds and the storm subsided.
I am basking in the calm and praising God for today.
”I thank God every time I remember you. In all of my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” – Philippians 1:3-5