I hate cancer. October 27, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — cindytripp @ 9:20 am

Cancer is a vile, insidious disease. It destroys cells and organs and internal systems; it brings nothing good in and of itself. For those of us with a diagnosis of cancer, everything changes from the moment we hear that awful word. Cancer changes how we view our bodies, it puts a roadblock in the path of our goals and plans, it scrambles our emotions and our brains, and it adds stress to all of our relationships.

The aggressive treatment for cancer—chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, or a combination of these—causes additional side effects that run the gamut from tolerable to absolutely awful. Throughout the process, we wait to hear the words, “Your cancer appears to be in remission,” although we know that our cancer isn’t “cured” and that scans and tests will continue for the rest of our lives. We are thankful for that.

Because of cancer, our perspective takes a radical shift, and the boundaries of our world close in. We learn to concentrate on the moment because going beyond the moment is too frightening. We cling to the words of the apostle Paul: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). Such hope! We can be convinced that nothing—and that includes cancer—can separate us from God’s love.

On Friday morning, October 26, 2012, a friend of mine again changed her perspective and moved her address from this world to the next. Shelley Wolf now knows the reality of the face-to-face presence and the precious love of our God. Shelley was passionate about,  and was blessed by, a strong community of family and friends, who each ministered to her in his/her own way. She was gracious and kind, curious and creative, strong and tenacious. She loved animals and the outdoors, and she embraced the many people whose lives crossed hers. I met her because her girls attended Brentwood Academy, and through the years I looked forward to our conversations on all sorts of topics. She was a strong advocate for her family and for causes that mattered, and she and Jack were generous with their Wolf Den Farm for events and end-of-year school gatherings.

Her intelligence and wit were such a powerful combination, and she often delighted in delivering a punch line that surprised her listeners. I remember a parent meeting in the spring after her cancer was first diagnosed and treatment completed. Arriving a bit late, she took a seat on the top row of the 7th grade den and thanked everyone for the prayers and care extended to her family. Then, she paused and with a coy smile said she wanted to share her joy in the newest member of her family. She bent down, carefully cradled a small bundle, peeled back a corner of the swaddling blanket, and held up her new baby—a sweet little lamb! The look on her face was priceless as everyone broke into laughing applause. Classic Shelley!

While I wasn’t part of her closest community of friends, I prayed fervently for her and her family for the last three years as she faced the challenges of her cancer. Then I was diagnosed on February 17, and five days later I was in the hospital having a port inserted into my chest for chemotherapy. As I lay in the recovery room, hoping that perhaps I’d wake up and discover this had been a nightmare, I heard a soft tap at the door. In came Shelley—who knows how she got back into that room? She placed on my wrist a simple bracelet, one with a small dangling turquoise cross and a pearl, and said that her family and friends wore the bracelets and I needed one too. She told me to do my chemo on Thursday because that’s when she was there, and later that spring we did sit side-by-side in chemo chairs for a time or two.

My prayers and sympathy go to her dear husband Jack; her precious daughters Tory, Taylor, Tara, and Tate; her faithful parents and family; her beloved friends who have been constantly by her side, especially throughout this last cycle; and the wider circle of all who knew and loved Shelley Wolf.

I grieve the loss in this world of this precious woman. I also know that we “do not grieve like those who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). In 1 Corinthians Paul quotes the prophet Hosea: “Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?” and then answers those questions with these joyous words, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55, 57)

I hate cancer, but I love that it is defeated in the end. I am thankful that with Job we can say, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand on the earth” (Job 19:25).


“Look at me! Look at me!” October 15, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — cindytripp @ 7:48 am

Our granddaughter Abigail loves to run and jump and play and talk. She says “Look at me!” as she is running around on the playground or making faces at herself in the mirror. Of course, we love looking at Abigail, and we love being part of her joy.

“Look at me!” is a delightful phrase when Abigail says it. It’s delightful when students seem to say these words as they succeed in the classroom, on stage, or in an athletic venue. It’s delightful when we see evidence of the words as someone steps out in faith, accomplishes something that seemed out of reach, or discovers the treasure hidden within. In each of those moments, we look, sharing in the joy.

Sometimes people say, “Look at me!” because they feel that no one will notice them unless they call attention to what they have done. They need the affirmation, but looking at them usually doesn’t give anyone joy.

In the last few weeks, I’ve realized that my attitude is a hodgepodge of both of those extremes. Recently I’ve reconnected with many people who have been praying for me since February. In our conversations there is joy because I have come through a difficult diagnosis and treatment and because I am resuming regular parts of my life.

On the other hand, I am also the junky person who wants to complain about the continuing physical struggles, to say “I may look okay but I don’t feel okay,” to direct the conversation to a gripe session rather than a moment of joy, to forget all of the true joy that these last eight months have brought into my life. How quickly I forget all that God has done, and I’m not referring only to the “good” things but to the things I have learned about Him and about myself through this experience.

Why am I not like Abigail—running and jumping and playing and talking? Why am I focusing on to the clouds and the misery and the pain especially now that those things aren’t as prevalent as the sunlight and the health and the progress? Why can’t I stop feeling, “Yeah, but…”?

I guess that’s because I can’t. I can’t help myself or save myself. I have to make the choice of faith every moment, to believe that my circumstances aren’t what matters, and to trust that I don’t have to remind myself and others of what I still need before I am willing to be joyful.

I love the promise in Isaiah 43: 1-2

But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.”

The Lord knows about the junky side of me because He has redeemed me and because He calls me by name. All of me is His. If the rivers will not sweep me away, then neither will the stream I think is so deep. If I will not be burned and set ablaze by the fire, then neither will I become overheated if the air conditioning is stuck on 78˚.

Once again, in my life it all comes down to fear, specifically my fear that my life will disqualify me from belonging to Him. Then I notice that Isaiah also records these words (v. 18-19) from the Lord:

“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.”

Abigail treats everything in her life as new, and she is joyful. She is joyful even when she is saying, “No,” because she’s two and finds it fun to say “No.” I’m many years older than two, and I want to find joy in perceiving the new things He is doing, not in saying “No.” I want to see a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert.

I want to say, “Look at me,” and have my life and my words speak of the mercy and love of God.


As I was saying… October 4, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — cindytripp @ 10:12 pm

I’m settling down now. The three-week routine of avastin treatments, the intentional response to the neuropathy issues, and even the slow reappearance of my hair have been stages in my coming to terms with my life. When I met with my oncologist on Monday, he reminded me that returning to my full-strength activity level will take time (yes, I know that you are surprised that I haven’t yet realized that obvious truth) and that I have come through a battle against a strong foe. I guess it’s natural to have battle scars, both external and internal ones.

Part of that conversation has led me to another stage in the process, an embrace-my-life-as-it-is stance. What does that look like? The biggest change I’ve made is allowing my shorter-than-short hair to be seen without a scarf or hat. I realized that I’ve been hiding under these scarves; a few weeks ago, I stopped wearing a scarf or hat at home, and I’ve decided that it’s time to do the same when I am not at home. My doctor said that this is good because it means I’m accepting myself after what’s happened. Of course, I’m sure that I’ll still wear something when it’s cold.

Those of you who know me know that I tend to repeat myself. As I was saying, I do repeat myself. How many times have I struggled with this same issue in these posts: dealing with the reality of recovery after chemotherapy? Actually, the answer is more times that I want to think about. What else can I say? It is what it is.

By the way, my granddaughter Abigail has started telling me that she thinks my hair will grow back red. Now that will be something to see!

These two verses from my favorite psalm are always a comfort to me:

Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. (Psalm 27:7-8)