expecting and hoping August 21, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — cindytripp @ 10:48 pm

Indulge me for a bit here.

I’ve been trying to figure out why the news of a possible blood clot has affected me as it has—well, of course, other than the obvious reason, that having a blood clot in the inferior vena cava is not something to ignore. I get that. I can even adjust to that; I am taking my medicine and going for blood tests and praying that this thing quickly dissolves or disappears.

What I’ve felt since last Friday, however, is deep sadness, grieving almost, as if I have lost something I wanted. Why is that?

In the past few days, I’ve been thinking about the words expect and hope. Here’s where the indulgence from the first line comes in because I’ve approached the topic as the English teacher I am.

I expected things to proceed according to a more normal process once I finished the six chemo treatments. I expected to resume my regular routine or at least my routine before my diagnosis. I expected to feel better and to be able to catch up on all of the dropped balls in my life over the last six-plus months. I expected no surprises with my health. In fact, I expected things that no one can expect. I must also say that I expected more than I hoped. I was so confident in the outcome that I didn’t feel that I had to hope.

Yesterday I looked up the difference between the words expect and hope. One of the first things I noticed was that I expect something but that I hope in or for something. To an English teacher, that’s a significant difference. I (doer) expect (active verb) something—the something is the receiver of the action I did by expecting. On the other hand, I can only hope in or for something—there is no receiver for the action, just one who hopes (a doer).

I lost you, I know. I’m sorry. Maybe it would be clearer if I were writing on a white board but, then again, maybe not.

Then I found a neat distinction concerning four words on a ESL website. The words are wait, expect, hope, and look forward to. Here’s the breakdown:

  • wait: to remain without moving until something happens that you expect; a physical action
  • expect: to assume that something will happen because it is reasonable or likely; a mental action
  • hope: to feel that a desire will be fulfilled; an emotional reaction
  • look forward to: to think pleasurably about something in the future; a combination of physical, mental, and emotional actions

I know how to wait; life and motherhood have taught me many lessons about waiting. I also know how to look forward; my life has been blessed by looking forward to many things.

Where I get into trouble is with expect and hope because I mix those words up all too often. My hope merges into my expectations. It’s easier for me to think about what I expect because I believe that I have control or at least the illusion of control. It’s harder to hope because I have to give up even the illusion of control.

Hope is completely outside my control. I can hope my almost-empty fuel tank will fire enough drops of gasoline to get me to the gas station. I can hope that my hair will grow back in one week. I can hope that my family will always be safe and happy. I can hope that my life after cancer treatment will quickly return to normal. The deal is that hope comes with no guaranteed results, even when I expect hope to be different this time.

Emily Dickinson’s poem Hope is the thing with feathers comes to my mind (of course, it would!): “Hope is the thing with feathers/that perches in the soul/and sings the tune without the words/and never stops at all.” Hope is joyful and unending and causes the soul to take flight. Hope is unpredictable and unexpected and unanticipated. In the words of the apostle Paul, “Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?” (Romans 8:24).

I keep forgetting that I control nothing and that the Lord is in complete control of everything. I confuse what I can expect (not much at all other than what is true about God) and why I can hope (He is faithful to His promises). Almost every time I expect to control my life, I end up disappointed. Every single time I hope in His love for me and His promise to draw me to Himself, I always receive a full measure of His grace.

Therefore, I will wait patiently, and I will expect His presence even when I can’t feel it. I will hope in His mercy, and I will look forward to the healing that I know will come on whatever side of heaven He has written in the book of my life.

You may not realize that I write these posts for myself to help me accept that God is present in the details of my every day. He is, and I am reminded of that incredible truth whenever I struggle with words to write in this space. Ah, but when I finish, I  feel at peace with whatever issue I had in the beginning. I guess that’s the miracle of hope.


Interesting Friday August 18, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — cindytripp @ 8:32 am

The really good news is that my CT scans taken on Wednesday revealed significant shrinkage in the larger tumors since early April when I started chemotherapy. The treatment has worked, and my cancer marker number is still dropping. After 6 treatments and 19 weeks, this is really good news.

The avastin treatment on Friday was uneventful, which is also good news. Going forward, I can expect the procedure to take about 35 minutes once lab work is done and my port has been accessed. I won’t need anti-nausea medicines, and side effects should be minimum. We’re hoping that I can continue on this treatment every three weeks as long as possible and maybe for 2 years.

Really good news and good news—that’s what I thought about after I got home and reflected on my day.

All of the above good news happened between 9:00 and 10:30 Friday morning, but I got home about 4 pm. Hmmm….5.5 interesting hours that did not qualify as really good or even good news.

In addition to the good news, the CT scans also revealed the possibility of a blood clot in the inferior vena cava, which is the blood vessel that brings blood needing oxygen back to the heart. The scan showed something in the area above the renal veins that was questionable. After my treatment, I went to the imaging center for an abdominal ultrasound, and that seemed to make the possibility a bit more probable. More ultrasounds were ordered for my legs, and those thankfully were negative; however, the question remained about the IVC. As the oncologist implied when I made my way back to his office, nothing about my experience has been easy or typical. Although I’m not worried, now I’ve entered the world of daily blood thinners and regular blood tests and intentionally avoiding any injuries that could cause bleeding. No more cage fighting for me!

My other area of concern for the last three weeks has been neuropathy, which causes numbness in my feet. I have a med for that, but I’m told to expect this numbness and pain to take many months to heal, maybe even as long as a year.

Honestly, I had my doubts on Friday, and I wondered if  these issues mean something that’s not good. Of course, my mind would go there, even though I had good news and really good news at the beginning of my day and my doctor feels that things look fine overall.

Ah, well. The more things change, the more things remain the same. Keeping my eyes on the author and finisher of my faith (Heb. 12:2) is my only option unless I want to crumple. I don’t want to crumple. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8), and I can trust Him in all things. It always comes back to a matter of trust, doesn’t it? I have the choice, and I will choose to put my trust in you, Lord.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you….

This I know, that God is for me.
In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me ?…

For you have delivered my soul from death,
yes, my feet from falling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life. (Psalm 56:3, 9-11, 13 ESV)

Upcoming dates and more opportunities for me to trust:

  • Bloodwork on Monday, August 20
  • Possible repeat ultrasound end of next week
  • Chemo (Avastin) on Friday, Sept. 7
  • PET scan, results from my doctor, and next Avastin treatment on Monday, Oct. 1

wake-up call August 3, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — cindytripp @ 9:47 pm

The last nine days have not been what I expected. Whether the reason was that I expected to feel better or that the cumulative effect of six chemotherapy treatments kicked in, all I know is that it’s been a challenging nine days.

If you’ve asked me, I have probably told you that things have not been good. I have been a bit of a complainer actually. Chemo day has always been good, but not this time. Queasiness and intestinal issues have ruled every single day, and nerve pain and numbness in my feet have left me almost non-functioning. I have felt and looked like an old woman (don’t joke, please!), and I admit that I have been a real grump. I haven’t liked myself or my attitude, but I haven’t tried to change either.

Tonight things are marginally better, but all day I’ve been thinking about why I have been acting like this. Did I not expect to experience problems with chemotherapy? Did I think that my problem is somehow worse than another person’s problem and so I would be excused for my attitude? Did I really think that having cancer is a valid excuse for whining and complaining? Now before you start thinking I’m being too hard on myself, let me say it has been that bad and, in fact, my internal conversations have been worse than what I’ve said aloud. I have ignored the truth that God is real and present and faithful. I just wanted to feel sorry for myself, and I didn’t care what anyone thought about it.

There has been nothing different about my reality for the last 9 days, except my attitude. I’ve allowed myself to wallow in my misery, and I’ve felt worse as a result. I’m not saying that I should be faking having a good day; I am saying that taking every thought captive to the will of Christ is not optional and it’s not dependent upon my circumstances.  Here’s the context: “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5).

I’ve always thought of rigid self-discipline when I read those words, and I haven’t liked the message; however, tonight I see the freedom that comes from living in this truth. As long as I am fighting my situation, I am miserable. When I stop complaining and start trusting, I find my situation becomes brighter in spite of my circumstances. Gee, doesn’t that sound like something that God would do?

When I was first diagnosed, my prayer was that I would be faithful to the One who loves me and calls me to Himself. That’s the lesson I’ve realized God has had for me over the last nine days, a wake-up call to the purpose I myself identified for this experience. I’m also thankful that He forgives my unfaithfulness and restores me to a right relationship.

Let me list some of what I’ve discovered about God since February 17:
• He has prepared every step of the way for me.

• He has interrupted my moments with precious encounters with friends both near and far.

• He has removed my ability to push beyond my strength and made me welcome rest.

• He has turned my instinctively frustrated reaction when I can’t do something to a peaceful acknowledgement that He is protecting me against myself.

• He has made me aware of how glorious is the body of Christ and the blessings of being a part of a community of believers.

• He has reminded me that we are all broken people in a world that is not our home but that we can live in victory because the battle has already been won.

Lord, forgive me. I am listening, and I am grateful for the wake-up call of the last nine days. Wherever you lead me next, I am following and I want to take every thought, word, and action captive to Your will—because I’m miserable when I focus on myself.