Life Changes

In my extended absence from my blogging chair a number of things have changed in my life, thankfully all of them good. One of the accomplishments reached during my absence has been the completion of my bachelor’s degree—yay me! At the onset of that journey I intended to complete that degree and roll right into a Master’s program to obtain my advance nurse practice degree, in other words, a nurse practitioner. So as I neared the end last December I began the search for the next school. I was so excited when I walked through the doors and into the wing of the nearly new medical building of a local university for an informational session, it felt like the perfect fit. In the spring I submitted my application and went for the interview and began the waiting process.

Then the envelope finally arrived.

I put it on the counter and walked away.

I knew whatever was written on the letter was going to change my life. Getting accepted meant quitting my job, a job I loved, and going to school full-time.

I waited.

All the years of school, months of planning and I chose to wait some more.

Finally I called my husband and told him, it’s here. Of course he asked, “what would that be”, the letter of course…you know the thing that I have been planning and working toward for years, waiting all these weeks to arrive. Oh, he said, well open it.

I can’t, I told him. I know that no matter what those words say it is going to change my(our) lives.

Of course he told me to stop being ridiculous and open the letter. So I did.

Stay Tuned

Be Quiet Please I have Something to Say

Do you ever feel  that you are the only person who thinks the way you do?

I often find myself silently pondering this very idea. Not too long ago when I was dwelling on this idea the Lord spoke to my heart and reminded me that I don’t think like those in the world…my mind is being renewed with the thoughts of Christ.

Hmmm, a familiar verse indeed and one that spoke truth to me at the time. Often when I find myself in the place that reveals my thoughts to be different from those in the world I do not speak up–I consider this the power of discernment–knowing when to speak and when not to is a valuable lesson, one that I was not always mindful of. The circumstances were different in a recent meeting however and I felt the prompting of the Lord to share a perspective that the group needed to hear.

The group consisted of a number of my colleagues, nurses, social workers and other closely related providers of the team. The topic being discussed was the boundaries of the professionals as it pertains to interacting with patients. The “issue” being explored was the  decision of one of the group to go to a patient home to inform him of an upcoming  chemotherapy appointment that he was not aware of.  The patient was known to have many barriers to care, including only having a pay as you go cell phone. I should mention here that one of the primary functions of my role as a nurse navigator is to identify and overcome barriers to care. Well my colleague decided that she would make an “unauthorized” home visit and tell this person of his upcoming appointment. Her decision was not embraced by the administration.(Point #1 of thinking differently than the rest of the world)

The discussion that ensued eventually came around to caregivers, i.e. “the group” attending personal events of a patient, like celebrations and funerals. There was quite a bit of dialogue around the table. Many of the group felt that attending these events blurred the lines of professionalism, who were they attending the event as, the nurse/social worker or as a friend? Still others believed that this simply oversteps an unstated boundary.(Point #2 of thinking differently than the rest of the world)

As I usually do I sat quietly absorbing this conversation and asked, do I speak up or keep silent? The answer I received was to speak up. And so I did.

I entered this profession to provide health care to human beings. This meant showing compassion and mercy towards those that need it. It however doesn’t stop there, at the door. I went on to share with the group that when I have been invited to attend a celebration of some sort by a person I have had the privilege of caring for, I received the invitation with honor. As caregivers we help people in what is often their darkest hour overcome fear and pain creating a unique and treasured bond. Why should I not attend a special event that represents so much to the person? And if the person has extended an invitation to me how would they feel if I didn’t attend? And on those all to often occasions when a person I have provided loving care for leaves this life and enters into eternity should I spare myself the burden of attending the funeral service and forsake the opportunity for closure for me and the family?

Thankfully I have discovered that when I separate myself from these experiences, I cannot possibly be all that I am created to be in that moment–living life authentically and fulfilled.

I have long since come to appreciate that if the Lord has you share something it is to be done if faith–act as the mailman and expect nothing in return. In practice this can be difficult though as affirmation is often a much needed component to our life of obedience. On this occasion the Lord sent a special someone to tell me how much my sharing was appreciated. Oh the JOY!

Meet Grace

Last year I attended several photography classes in which the instructor would give us an assignment and we would interpret using photographs. On the particular class we were to photograph someone into who’s soul we could see. What follows is the narrative that preceded the photograph’s I shared with the other participants. I must give full disclosure by telling you that there was not a dry eye in the house by the time I completed the story. I hope you enjoy.

February 2, 2012

In my role as breast nurse navigator I am in a unique position to meet and minister to many women and families who are in a trying and vulnerable season of life. I am often extremely impacted emotionally and spiritually by the struggles, fear and pain that I witness and must provide support through. I have felt a deep stirring over these past couple of months as I struggle with the injustice of this life altering disease.

It was during a time of prayer and fasting that I began to sense a bud of an idea. Cancer care is inclusive of what is known as complimentary medicine; the use of eastern medicine as well as the arts to restore the WHOLE person to health. We are after-all composed of mind, body and spirit. I believe that God wants me to act as an agent to aid in the healing process. This assignment gave be the motivation I needed to move to the next level.

Let me introduce Grace. We met my first week on the job; the first patient at my hospital to be navigated through breast cancer care. Early August she underwent the first surgical procedure to remove the cancer from her body. The day we took this photo she was receiving her last dose of chemotherapy medication…we are two-thirds of the way complete.

I asked Grace to answer a couple of questions if she was comfortable. What I will share with you next is her response which is being shared with her permission.

Me: I was wondering what your thoughts are about how cancer has changed YOU. I know how it has changed your life at least on the physical level but how has it changed you…your thoughts, the way you interact with the world, people, God. Is there something that you have learned during this time that you will never forget?

Grace:First of all I never thought about death. I was always on survival mode.  When I was just diagnosed I was sad for my kids; in my head I was ruining their life; they couldn’t lose their mother yet, they are momma’s boys and they are too young (14, 23 and 28). I would not allow myself to mess up their life. I needed to do everything without them; including them but without them being present; what if anything went wrong and they saw me suffering? No, no it couldn’t happen.

I decided to reach out to the women in my life; they would understand and sympathize with me in a different way.  I created two closed groups in Facebook, one named girlfriends and one named amigas for the ones that spoke Spanish. It was a hit! I was an inspiration for them and I was able to share very openly how I felt. They shared my fears, my inside battles and my little by little accomplishments. They made me feel so loved.

In the dark side some people I thought they were close friends disappeared from my life; people that I bent backwards for them so many times; may be they were scared, may be they were not who I thought they were.

Cancer taught me to be wiser in my choices.

Cancer brought me closer to God; showed me that miracles happen every day.

 I need to share this with you.  When I was 17 years old I fell in love with a boy and for some strange reason we got separated. He married, I married, and we never forgot each other.  Technology brought us together.  This year right after my surgery and 1 day before my birthday he found me in Facebook; it was some happiness in my life much needed and unexpected. He lives in Argentina (where I’m originally from) and he is very active in the Catholic Church; I told him about my cancer and somehow he convinced me that with prayer my cancer was gonna be gone; God was going to help me.

Here is the miracle- one day out of the blue he told me that I should go to church and find out when they have a special mass for the sick people.  I said ok I will go tomorrow to find out; that was in the morning something inside me made me go the same day to check; well my friend the mass that is held for the sick people and is only once a year was that same day; I couldn’t stop crying……..I knew at that point God wanted that for me………I went by myself and I cried my eyes out; I felt so blessed…….. The same guy from Argentina said to me ‘you know one day you’ll be able to share this miracle in front of people and I said yes I told my kids and I told Steve and he said no I went to church today and I got that message from God that you will be standing in front of people and you are going to be giving your testimony’. Now Paige I think your project make my miracle/message complete.

What did I learn during this time?

I learned to be more patient; I learned to give thanks every day for another day;  I learned that I was chosen to fight this cancer battle was because I was strong enough to make it through;  I learned there is people around me who love me unconditionally;  I learned to reach out in order to heal; I learned a life lesson. 

I never said ‘why me?’.  Instead I said thank God it’s me with cancer and no one of my dearest.  I can make it!  I will make it!

Thank you Paige for giving me an opportunity to share this with you!

Thank you for showing up in my life when I needed a hand and helped me walk though!

Love you Paige!!!!!!!

As with every other adventure I have been on when the Spirit is leading I have learned that the Divine Healer uses power to heal me while I am working to heal others…

Here is beautiful Grace on the last day of her chemo treatment. I met her to give her a Victory Rose which is pictured. Grace has passed the one year mark since her diagnosis of breast cancer. Even though her treatment is complete, the fear never really leaves.

Grace and her Victory Rose

Grace and her Victory Rose

A Winning Smile

Lessons in the life of a Nurse

585

I met Karol a few weeks ago. She had been admitted for some medical complications secondary to her metastatic breast cancer; that means the cancer has spend to other organs beyond the origins of the primary cancer. Karol was a woman in her early 60’s, she was easy to talk to and  quick to share stories about who she was and her life. We talked for a while in her hospital room about her travels and her love of books. Her husband had passed into Eternity 8 years ago but Karol had many friends so although childless, she was not alone in life. She was quite happy.

The plan on for Karol on the day we first met was for her likely discharge over the weekend. I would call her in a week or two following her discharge to home. I returned to work on Monday to find that Karol hadn’t gone home, in fact her condition had deteriorated and she needed to be moved to the cardiac step-down unit. I to visit her later that day. Her sister Kathy had just flown in from Florida to spend sometime with her…even thought Karol told her not to come. As Karol dozed in her bed, I could see the look of concern in her sister’s face. I could understand her feelings, Karol looked much sicker than when we talked last week, her skin was clearly jaundiced and she needed oxygen.

As the week progressed it became evident that Karol’s condition was deteriorating, she was dying. She stabilized enough to be moved back to the oncology floor, which in my opinion is a more peaceful unit.

I went to visit Karol later that day. She told me that she awoke early that morning and asked herself, “is this the day that I should let go”? I asked Karol if she believed if we have the power to decide on when we die. Yes she replied, don’t you. I have been with people who hold on in this life until a particular family member arrives, sometimes I see people seemingly wait to let go until their loved ones leave the room…did I believe that we could decide when we die? No I don’t think we have that power, I have witnessed too much needless suffering to believe this to be true.

Her phone rang. I could hear her on the phone with friends, who were obviously full of sorrow and crying while talking with her. During that conversation she spent much of the time comforting those who would be left behind after she departed this life. This I told her is a phenomenon I frequently witness; the dying comforting the living. Karol was completely at ease with her impending death. She told me that she wasn’t afraid to die and was at peace. I shared that I believed that peace was a result of living a life that was free of unforgiveness. Yes, she agreed this was true.

I left her room that afternoon. I didn’t talk with Karol again, the next time I went to see her she was unconscious, moving closer to Eternity. Her sister was at her side, friends came and went. Karol left this life peacefully later that day.

We have much to learn from those who are dying. I am most thankful for the time I spent with Karol. I do hope and pray that someday soon we will be even further along in our fight against cancer…in the meantime I continue to reach out in kindness.

A Weekend In April

As Sunday rolls to a close I thought I would share some of the images I captured in my varied and busy weekend. I was most relieved on Friday afternoon to end my work week.  It had been exhausting and challenging on several levels but I decided that instead of thinking about the “issues” all weekend I would do as my Savior tells me to do and cast my worries Him. You know I must say when practiced this works! I am feeling refreshed on many levels this evening and ready to begin the week afresh tomorrow.

Yesterdays post captured images of My Favorite Things from around the yard and house. After snapping, cropping and writing I returned to the yard to determine where my new raised flower beds would be placed. I hope to have fresh, organic vegetables all summer long, I will keep you posted on how this goes. I will confess it is a bit of a stretch for me. I kept my camera nearby and captured a few additional images of the bees and butterflies at work collecting nectar from those luscious lilac blooms. Butterfly sipping Nectar

Busy as a Bee

My daughter Jess came home, fairly unusual for a Saturday, and we spent some time chatting while she cleaned out her car(which acts like a cross between a closet and a suitcase). Both Haley and Kitty enjoyed some of the sunshine and fresh air.

Here Kitty Kitty

Cute dog!

After a nice day in the yard I headed out to a FunRaiser for a breast cancer organization called Team Towanda. I was participating in the health fair prior to the party honoring and celebrating amazing women. It was a great event with food and dancing all night long. I was blessed to have both my sister Kelly and a friend Grace attend the party as my dates.

Celebrating Women at TTF

Sunday was busy and fun too. There was a bike blessing this morning at church, hosted by the Christian Motorcycle Association. No good pictures of our bike though…I will snap a few next time. We rode along the shore enjoying more glorious sunshine until we reached a destination our most recent favorite eating spot, The Bridge. Plenty of good food and fellowship. Once back home I decided it wasn’t time to let the weekend go so we went out where I let my husband beat me at two games of pool:) We were heading around the final corner towards home when I spotted him. Standing so majestically. I could hardly believe it. So beautiful. So still. Such great posture. Patiently watching. Waiting for some unsuspecting prey to come past so that dinner could be fetched. Just look at him. Tell me he isn’t amazing.
Large Crane

Beautiful Women

Everyday I am amazed at the strength and grace I see at work in the lives of the women I interact with as they struggle to deal with their breast cancer. Today was no different.

I met C.P two weeks ago after that fateful biopsy revealed the dreadful news for cancer. She is a 38 year woman who moved to the US 2 years ago to start a new life for herself. This unfortunately means that she qualifies for NO federally funded insurance and cannot simply not afford the payments on the plan offered by her part-time employer(in my state you must be in the US for 5 years to qualify for state aid).

Needless to say C.P. has done her share of crying in my presence. Today I accompanied her to the consultation to the medical oncologist, the doctor who will order the chemotherapy medications. She saw the surgeon last week and since then has had several body scans looking at various body organs to determine the extent of her cancer. She is very nervous when we go into th exam room to meet the doctor.

After reviewing her history, all the reports and a thorough exam, the doctor tells CP that there are several small areas in her lung that could be cancer. If this proves true it means the disease is now considered Stage 4, treatable but not curable. The doctor also tells her that she has what is known as Inflammatory Breast Cancer. Much less common, always more aggressive, and more frequently seen in women of color. CP has difficulty making eye contact with the doctor for much of the visit. She needs to remain strong.

When the doctor steps out of the room CP tells me that she is a Christian and that she has been praying. Yes, I reply, prayer can gives us strength. She asks, are you Christian, Paige. Yes, I tell her. The doctor returns to the room and reviews the things that need to occur next, a new long list of people to talk with and tests to be done. This is such a difficult process. So much new information, so many appointments, so much stress.

As CP and I say good-bye for now she tells me ” I am not going to let this cancer beat me, I am going to beat it.”

She is so strong. She is so beautiful. She is so courageous. And today she is hopeful.

I am so blessed and honored to have such a place in the lives of so many beautiful women.

Pink In Honor Of Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Image via Wikipedia

Grace

I am thankful the end of the work week has arrived. As you may recall I am a nurse working with breast cancer patients. It is a wonderfully rewarding experience that allows me to bring hope and healing into the hearts and lives of so many bright stars. At times however it can be very hard. While we have made tremendous progress in the treatment of breast cancer in the last 2 decades it does not always have a happy ending.

This week I was blessed to get to know a few women that have a more advanced stage of the disease. These gals are truly remarkable. Their strength second to no soldiers! I however have been overwhelmed with the unfairness of it all. Why God does someone who has faithfully had annual screenings get the news that their cancer isn’t a simple small tumor, after all it was only 12 short months ago the image was taken. Why? Why?

Where does her strength come from to endure the endless tests and the anxiety of waiting in between to hear if the nasty disease is claiming more of her body?

Why does the young woman with 2 young children with no insurance and no ability to get any have to learn that her cancer is now in her bones? Where am I to find the money to help her get a wig for when her hair falls out with her chemo?

No of this makes sense to me!

It does however make me draw closer to my God. I need your presence, wisdom and strength so that I can give these beautiful woman the love you have for them.

As I sit in your presence I hear you whisper to me. I get up to grab the bible off the shelf and am drawn to 2Cor 12:9. 

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

I am quite familiar with the first part of the verse: my grace is sufficient. What however grabs my attention is the later part…your power rests upon me and is made perfect in my weakness. This is only possible when I come to the end of myself. It is at the end of myself that you can take over, your power flows through. Oh, let it be! Not for me but for them.

There is something deeper…I sense a new beginning coming to the surface…

rose

With Love and Admiration for all these brave woman in the battle for their lives.