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Can We All Say Plot Twist?

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:3-4)

 

 

For those of you who neither write nor read fiction, a plot twist occurs when the main character in the story appears to be heading on an obvious course. Suddenly, through the craftiness of the writer, the character’s path takes an unexpected turn, forcing her to fight against unbelievable odds. That’s great writing. It imitates life.

The Author and Finisher of my faith and my life has been using plot twists a lot lately, just to keep my role interesting.

Plot Twist!

After the biopsy and the radiologist assuring us I’d need more chemo, I prepared to hear “we’ll start tomorrow” from the oncologist. Instead he said, “No chemo at this point.”

I know it was good news. But in the moment, I felt let down as though I had prepared myself to receive a powerful punch in the gut, only to have my opponent pull back, gently stroke my cheek, and say, “Psych.”

The doctor explained there were other options to receive the desirable results just as quickly without the harshness of IV chemo. He would save that as a last resort. He would start me on a new hormone therapy called Faslodex, which consists of two shots in the fleshy part of my anatomy (yes butt). Plus, he prescribed an immunotherapy (oral chemo) to accompany the Faslodex. Apparently for some patients, the combination works well.

Plot Twist!

Three days later, I arrived at the clinic to receive my first 2 shots and the information about the side effects of the immunotherapy. The nurse entered the room, looked a little grave, and said, “I have nothing to tell you. Your insurance won’t cover this new immunotherapy because we had to take you off Ibrance.”

But! Wait. What?

That’s when I learned the real reason they took me off Ibrance was not because it was making my neuropathy worse, but rather it had a attacked my immune system, causing my white blood cell count to drop to one. And all this time, I thought they were just being nice not wanting to worsen my neuropathy. Silly me. Turns out since, Ibrance did that, there’s a very high risk that any similar drug will do the same. So no immunotherapy for me.

Exit nurse one. Enter nurses two and three. I knew I was scheduled for two shots that day. I had to laugh when two nurses came into the room. I don’t know—it just struck me funny. So I said, “What two shots—two nurses?”

“Yeah. Unless you’d rather have one at a time. We usually give both at the same time because it takes two minutes per shot.”

“Sounds good. Let’s gitter done.”

And that’s how I learned to be careful what I tell friends at church. I told one friend that it reminded me of when I took my granddaughter to get her ears pierced. Two ladies stood on either side, counted to three, and just like that the task accomplished without giving the child a chance to change her mind.

That friend told another friend I had my backside double pierced and wanted to know if she should buy me hoops or studs as a gift. The second friend looked at me with puzzlement and deep concern. She wasn’t sure if it was some kind of joke or if I had honestly gotten into body piercing. I shook my head, as I told her what had happened. We shared a good laugh—good medicine for the soul, right?

These two friends have suffered through their share of hardships. They persevered. And now, they’re definitely characters. They give me hope. I sure love them.

How about you? What plot twist is God using to develop a strong character in you?

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

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Welcome to Your New Norm

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. (Isaiah 26:3)

April 2017, I had my first brain MRI. The technician said, “Welcome to your new norm,” as she strapped me onto the bed of the machine.

Her comment stunned me. I tried to pass it off. But like a pesky fly buzzing around my head, that comment tormented me for the past year and a half. This can’t be my new norm. I refuse to accept it. I have better things to do, a life to live without all these annoying tests.

It doesn’t matter how much I argue. My old norm has gone. The new norm is here.

As you read this, I’m lying on another table at another medical facility. My CT scan from two weeks ago revealed a few new spots on my right lung. Yep, my concerns were validated. And here I am. Tomorrow, I go for a lung biopsy. My oncologist said not to jump to conclusions. He’ll give us the results and the plans on September 10th. Meanwhile, we wait.

I’m trying very hard to stay focused, to trust, to wait, to pray.

I find it much easier to wait on the Lord than to wait on a doctor’s report. But there isn’t anything else I can do. Just go along with the suggested tests and pray.

And I’m working on total surrender, not to the disease, but to the Lord. I know He can heal me immediately. I know that because the other night, I felt the Lord’s hand on my shoulder and the pain subside. I’d been having pain in my shoulder for quite some time. I assume it was arthritis acting up. It doesn’t matter. I prayed in Jesus’ name for the pain to let up. And it did. I have slept pain-free for the past two nights. Praise the Lord.

But healing my cancer might not be His best plan for me or for those He has for me to encourage. Jesus said hardships will come. We shouldn’t be surprised when they do. The Father has purpose in them.

Hardships teach us things about God and about ourselves we wouldn’t otherwise learn. They, also, give us opportunity to reach out to others in ways we couldn’t do without difficult experiences of our own. These are dark times. But we shouldn’t fear the dark. We should be thankful for the opportunity to let our lights shine.

He has turned my thoughts concerning hardships around. He has taught me to trust Him. He has kept my mind steadfast and in perfect peace.

How about you? What are your hardships teaching you?

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

Anxiety Strikes

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:5-7)

By the time you read this post, I will have had my appointment with my oncologist about the results of my recent CT scan. It’s difficult to wait. I admit, I’m anxious about it. Will the findings lead to more tests, another biopsy, more chemo?

I know anxiety isn’t from God. It does more harm than good. That’s why God would rather we cast all our concerns on Him and allow Him to ease our minds (1 Peter 5:7).

I want to be obedient. But this is a tall order. I’m battling with submitting and holding on to something over which I have no control. Sounds senseless to me as I type it. Why hang on to the anxiety? Why tighten my grip on something I can’t fix? Why not hand it over to the One who can do far more than we ask or even dream of asking?

I haven’t discussed my concerns with anyone. Why stir up anxiety in others? They can’t change anything. Besides, I may be worrying about nothing, right?

The best I can do is turn it over to God, trust Him, and do what I’m called to do. Write. Paint. Be a wife, mother, and grandmother. While I do those things, I’m not trying to fix, control, or figure out what’s going to happen next. I’m being obedient, which is the first and foremost important calling on my life.

I don’t have any answers today. I have to wait until my oncology appointment. In the meantime, I choose to live in today. I choose to display a cheerful attitude. I choose to have confidence in my Father who promised to hold me in the palm of His hand throughout this life.

I don’t know what the future holds. But I know who holds the future. I know He has a plan and a purpose for me. I know His purpose for me is to bring Him praise, honor, and glory in all things. And I know His plan is to give me opportunities to do that.

I cannot control the outcome of this disease. But I can control my level of submission. I can choose obedience. I can praise my Lord for His goodness, faithfulness, and grace in all circumstances.

How about you? What do you choose?

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

Setting and Meeting Goals

I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. (Acts 20:24)

July 14, 2018 marked a major milestone for me. I completed the Ta-Ta Trot, a 5K walk for breast cancer awareness. Three and a half miles may not seem like much to many of you. But considering I had to use a shower chair to take a shower and a motorized cart to do my shopping for the first 4 months of the year, a three and half mile walk was huge.

Last year, I had to forgo the event because I had a chemo treatment a few days prior. At that moment I determined my family would not participate again without me. So in April, I began training. My first attempt got me to the top of the hill one block away from my house. Everyday, Gene and I walked a little farther. When I was too stubborn to admitted my own limitations, he gently urged me to turn back. He was always right about how much strength I had. I was always glad he insisted we headed for home.

Every week, I set a longer goal. Eventually, we were walking a mile, then a mile and a half. One day when Gene was at a men’s breakfast, I took our dog, Hunter, for a two-and-a-half-mile walk. I felt accomplished. My confidence soared. I could do it. I could.

With only a month to go, I still hadn’t passed the two-and-a-half-mile marker. No matter how hard I pushed myself, that was the extent of my strength. Doubts began to seep into my fortitude. But we kept trying.

The week before the 5-K, Gene and I went to a nearby park with a path and mile markers. We walked three miles that day. What a boost. At that point, I knew I could do it.

I can’t begin to tell you the overwhelming sense of accomplishment I felt when I walked the last leg of the Ta-Ta Trot. It was one of the biggest events in my life. Yet, there was no fanfare, no cheers, no awards. No one noticed, except my family who walked with me. In fact, we were almost the last ones to cross the finish line.

I know I’ll never be the first one to cross the finish line of any sort of a race. That has never been one of my goals.

But there is a race in which I will receive a crown. That has been and always will be my greatest goal—to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

How about you? What have you completed that has given you a sense of accomplishment?

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

Cancer Reveals God

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3)

A friend of mine commented my last blog post: Dandelions, I learned when I began teaching outdoor ed, are not native to North America. The settlers brought them here, because they didn’t know what kinds of greens would be safe to eat here in the New World, but they knew they could eat the greens of dandelions in the spring, and they were prolific. They’re prolific alright. Thank goodness the bees like them, otherwise they’d have one less redeeming quality.

Although I confessed my love for dandelions last week, I understand why others dislike them. Dandelions show up in one spot and, if not dealt with properly, they show up in other areas. They invade and take over until everything is infested. They’re hard to get rid of and seem to always return no matter what you try or how successful you think you are at getting rid of them.

Cancer’s a lot like dandelions. If not treated, the malignant cells multiply and show up in unexpected areas. No matter how successful your treatments are at getting rid of them, the abnormal cells often return with a vengeance.
This dreaded disease has far less good characteristics than do dandelions. In fact, I can only think of one…

Cancer happens so the works of God might be displayed in us. I’ve said it before and if time continues, I’ll say it again and again. God reveals many of His magnificent attributes to us during times of crisis.

Jesus Will Carry You

One of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had to date while going through this cancer journey is God’s peace. It enveloped me during my chemo treatments, like the calmness in the eye of the storm. It sustains me now. When I feel overwhelmed about “what ifs,” the Lord reminds me of His peace. He didn’t calm the storm. He carried me through it. He’s not going to leave me now or ever.

How about you? What has God taught you during your storm?

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

I Don’t Want to Be a Cancer Survivor

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 43:5)

March 28 marked the anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis. The entire month of March was gloomy for me. I could contribute my funk to the weather as some suggested. But the weather usually doesn’t affect my moods so much. And I feel better since Easter even though the sky still displays a grey overcast most days. Therefore, it’s safe to say the weather had little to do with my downcast spirit.

Since I had gone through a depression several years ago due to my thyroid, and now chemo had messed up my thyroid again, my thoughts drifted toward another dark season on the horizon. That is one place I never want to return to. I consulted the doctor and, after blood tests, found out my numbers were all good, ruling out the thyroid theory.

What was causing my blues?

The memories of the past two years, last year more so, darkened my soul and mind, making my days dreary and arduous. I wanted to cry most of the time and had no desire to do anything other than read or sleep.

I had no choice but to ride out the emotional storm and pray it wouldn’t last long.

Throughout the month of March and the first week in April, my memory ran rampant. The doctor’s voice telling me my test came back positive for breast cancer and his statement, “It was a miracle we even found it” replayed in my mind. The oncologist’s encouraging words echoed in my ears as he prepared me for treatment. The vision of Gene almost collapsing when I told him the cancer had metastasized to my lung. The brain MRI, thankfully, showed a sinus infection and nothing else. Then treatment started.

At the time, everything flashed so quickly I had not time to think about what was happening. During the next six months of treatment and the following five months of recuperation, I concentrated on healing, getting my strength and my life back to a recognizable normal. I’m still not there, but it’s getting better. But now, the memories replayed in slow motion as I relived every detail.

Today I’m writing this post, thinking I don’t want to be a cancer survivor. That statement might sound odd to you. But I really don’t. I don’t want to have cancer at all. Yes, I’m grateful beyond words to be as healthy as I am. I have no regrets, not even after having going through chemo. I know it was the treatment God wanted me to have. He has taken care of me through it and because of it. But I still don’t want to be a cancer survivor.

Here’s why:

1. Cancer is for brave souls who can withstand a great deal of discomfort. I’m not one of them.
2. I want to be the prayer warrior who takes them to the throne room and kneels before the Lord and requests healing, peace, and comfort for them.
3. I want to be the arms that wrap around them, giving reassurance that they’re loved and not alone in this battle.
4. I want to be the mouth that speaks comforting words.
5. I want to be the hands that bring needed meals.
6. I want to be the feet that do the shopping when they can’t
7. I want to be the shoulder they cry on.

I don’t want to be the survivor in need, wondering when cancer will put me in that place again. I want to go back to health and no worries.

But we can’t go back, only forward.

I’ll be okay. The funk has past, enabling me to write this post.

God is awesome all ways, always. I love Him. I know He loves me too. He has carried me through. And I remember the peace that enveloped me for the past year. I am blessed and thankful for all He has done, and yes, I’m thankful to be a cancer survivor, even though I don’t like wearing that label.

How about you? What label do you wear that you’re not thrilled about, but thankful for all the same?

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

I Looked in a Mirror and What Did I See …

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

I looked in a mirror and what did I see … a monkey looking back at me.

Well, not a monkey exactly. But I do have to laugh at myself. Currently my hair sticks up in all directions. It seems to have a mind of its own and does as it pleases. I wonder how my husband can sit across from me at the table and not burst into laughter.

Sometimes I see a different me though. Sometimes I see a confident, attractive woman who’s ready to face the world head-on. I wonder what life will throw at me today. But it doesn’t matter because the Lord and I can handle it

Sometimes I see an older woman, whom I barely recognize. She’s homely and insecure. And I wonder how Gene can still find beauty in such a body. But he does. He says I have inner beauty my health can’t touch and that’s what he sees when he looks at me.

I squint at the image in the mirror. I still can’t see the inner me.

Why do I focus on my outward appearance when the ones I care most about don’t see me as I see myself?

God says I’m wonderfully and fearfully made (Psalm 139:14). He also says I’m created in His image (Genesis 1:26). That’s pretty special. He says I’m worth dying for (Romans 5:8). That’s almost unbelievable. He says I’m His handiwork—His masterpiece—created to do good work (Ephesians 2:10). If God says all these good things and more about me, why should I question my appearance or demerit His creation in me?

Where do the negative thoughts about my appearance come from?

He [the devil] was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). Satan wants to destroy believers. He attacks us physically by means of diseases, broken relationships, financial ruin and intellectually by means of the lies we tell ourselves.

The Lord reminds us to not conform to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). That verse continues with proving God’s will…His good and perfect will. His will is not for us to condemn or belittle ourselves. His will is for us to be confident, battle-ready servants of Christ.

Now I have a choice to make. Do I believe the father of lies or Jesus Christ, who is Truth (John 14:6)? Of course, I choose truth. I have to work on renewing my mind to believe what God says about me and to see what Gene sees in me.

How about you? What lies has the enemy told you in an attempt to destroy your confidence in who you are in our Risen Savior?

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks