Well, while this particular post is longer than any of the other ones since December 2008, thankfully, this is the post where Jennene concludes her cancer journey and is basically giving her Oscar acceptance speech thank yous. This is a post of Jennene reflecting, debriefing, changin, growing, and most sincerely, thanking!
So, grab a coffee and a quiet 10 minutes and join J in closing this chapter with Jennene and looking toward the next one… Don’t Waste THIS post, in particular. 🙂
END OF THE JOURNEY – Don’t Waste Your Last Blog Post
This post took me a long while to actually write.
I knew I wanted this one to be thoughtful and reflective of the past year, and I guess I got a little overwhelmed with the task. Well, I’m not at the end of the overall journey, but I am at the end of this season, the time of this cancer treatment.
I had my FINAL radiation treatment on Monday August 24 and received my certificate of completion and well wishes from my therapists. Sadly, they were out of T-shirts. :)
So Eric and I now move on to the next phase — there isn’t really a “back to normal” because there really have been many life-altering aspects of the past year. As I spoke to Joan Davidson last Sunday, she confirmed this, that it is life-altering and you never look at things the same. But, yes, we are moving back into our jobs, church life, and general trying to keep up with laundry and bills and birthdays and life as a non-cancer patient person. Now I’m a “survivor.”
It is appropriate that Pastor Bob would preach about Psalm 90 recently, where Moses prays that God would teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
This past year, the fact that my days are numbered became a little more real to me.
Eric shared with me recently a story of a woman who lost her 11 year battle with breast cancer.
If that were me, that would make my life a lot shorter than I would have predicted. It could be that I will indeed do very well and not have a recurrence. I could live a lot longer, especially now that there are so many amazing medical breakthroughs. However, it could always be shorter. Who knows but the Lord? But for now, He has allowed me to be cancer free and feeling very well, very strong. I have been encouraged by several people that taking an aggressive treatment course was a good choice. I understand that some who lose their battle with cancer may lose because they do not use all the treatments that are available. Though there are sacrifices that come with doing chemo or taking Tamoxifen, I am thankful to be alive and cancer free right now. I guess if I were to encourage those who are getting diagnosed with cancer, I would tell them that the treatments may be hard, but they are temporal, and they can work.
Eric and I went to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants after the final radiation treatment, kind of as a celebration. We looked back together and wrote our thoughts in crayon on the paper table cover.
We debriefed the things we learned (and are still learning), the things we will miss (surprisingly), and the things we are thankful for.
Additionally, Sam made a great suggestion to put together some “top ten” style lists of things like favorite meals, things you’ll do differently, etc.
So, below I will combine these ideas into a final DWMC list-style debrief.
LESSONS (being) LEARNED
1. Life is precious
2. Everything we enjoy and struggle with is a gift from God, including a disease like cancer
3. There are people all around us who are suffering,
4. We can use our creativity and unique gifts to support those who suffer
5. Being consistently too busy to be balanced was not glorifying to God nor good for me and those around me
6. Practice thankfulness — it prevents many sins, helps us to see God rightly and respond positively in any circumstance
7. God sometimes needs to strip us of comforts to make us aware of our dependence on Him
8. Cancer can be a huge blessing if you let it
9. People around you can show great love and support if you are open to receiving it
10. There is a great camaraderie and empathy among others who know physical suffering
11. Though people are a great support, only the Lord is our perfect shelter
12. This is Eric now – I agree with everything J has said! I would add that we are learning to stop and think about life more. In life, especially in our jobs, we seem to deal with a lot of things we have to do and don’t always get to what we should do. If we stop and think more often, those goals will no longer merely be hopes.
13. Communicating with people seems to be something we both took for granted. Too often we are paralyzed by the, “I don’t know what to say” mindset. This experience has taught me that I should not assume people know how I feel.
14. Whining sucks. I find that I spend a lot less time whining now. Even traffic and drivers that are not my favorite are not that big of a deal. Whining communicates a victim mindset and one thing that stands out through this experience is just how blessed we are and how little we deserve anything. We don’t deserve health (if we did why would we be thankful for it?), we don’t deserve life either which should lead to more and more of #6.
15. God is awesome. The stories of the cancer patients we heard reminded me just how fleeting life is and how it seemed unfair that J had such great treatment while others suffered. Our lives are in His hands and He bought us with the price of His Son. He has numbered our days and this serves as a reminder to live for Him because that’s the only way our joy will be full.
16. (back to J) I learned a lot about honoring my husband (I recommend The Fruit of Her Hands!)
17. I learned a lot about the Bible — parts I had never read, I finally had plenty of time to read and consider.
18. I learned that real joy is available in every situation — it is mostly dependent on a thankful, joyful attitude, and an approach of wanting to love and serve and make others feel comfortable and appreciated. (I find this hard in practice…)
THINGS WE LIKED AND WILL MISS (HOW CANCER WAS A BLESSING)
1. The felt prayer and felt support — people were so giving and so prayerful. It was almost like experiencing my own funeral, in a way. People expressed how much they cared and how much they missed having me in ministry or as their teacher or whatever — I’m not sure I ever would have had that outpouring of love in so tangible a way (without it being a funeral) — there were phone calls, cards, gifts, money, blog comments, Facebook messages, emails, meals, visits, and more, poured out constantly during the treatment time
2. Eric specifically appreciated that there was a break down of pretense and small talk with others — cancer removes some of those walls — he felt that his conversations w/ people were much more real and deep much quicker.
3. I liked not having to shave.🙂
4. I loved my morning routine of reading the word — I finally caught up to where I should be in my Bible in a Year, and I had time to read, think, write and pray, more than I ever have before. It has created a good habit of reading in the morning that I have continued fairly well. I also found some pretty great resources and Christian reading, my favorites being “Practicing the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence and “Talks for Growing Christians” website.
5. Not worrying about my meals — so many people made such thoughtful, delicious meals, and we always had more leftovers than we could manage!
6. Always having someone to accompany me to treatments or appointments — Sam, Nadine, Brad, my mom, my mother-in-law, Eric — the hospital is a lot more fun with good company
7. The people who came to visit — I had many drop in visitors and also people who made extra effort to come see me, even people from out of town. It was such a cool thing to spend time with each of them and enjoy them
8. The time to connect and reconnect with many friends and family by way of the blog and Facebook — friends from high school, college, church; family from all over — there were friends I haven’t seen for at least a decade or more who were praying for me, writing me cool notes and sending me gifts! I also enjoyed growing closer to family members through facebook and email and phone — I had family members making great effort to encourage me and show me love — received many cool gifts and cards and had extensive contact with some of them
9. Time to think about my life, to analyze how I have been living and consider changes to make
10. A true time of rest from all responsibilities of my life — it was very freeing and calming not to use the alarm clock, not to have work each day, to have no homework to grade, to have an extra measure of grace from people around me, to go to second service at church at 10:30 (usually went at 7am for worship rehearsal) — I would sometimes tell people with a laugh that having cancer was easier than my normal life
11. I was thankful to learn more about loved ones — I learned that Eric is truly a great husband (was there ever a doubt?) — he was a servant and was always on the same page as me. He was a great shot giver and supportive, loving friend. I learned more about the love of my mothers — they were both so giving and self-sacrificing. It was neat to grow in my relationships with both of them.
THINGS I WON’T MISS
2. Needles, needles, everywhere
3. Baldness and hot or itchy head-wear
4. The nausea (thank God there wasn’t much)
5. The weird bone pain caused by my shots to increase WBC
6. The occasional sleeplessness
1. Donohoe’s salad – love the goat cheese and cranberries…
2. Valentine’s meal by Jan, Nadine, and Karen — BEST ambience
3. Heidi Keller’s lasagna
4. Stuffed Artichokes by Karen Noa
5. Kate’s fruit dip
6. Rachel Phillips homemade bread and healthy meal
7. Megan’s yummy savory asparagus pie & healthy meal
8. Karen’s gourmet meal w/ balsamic sauce for the watermelon
9. So many more meals that we loved but now don’t remember. Thank you all so much for your loving preparations!
THINGS I LEARNED ABOUT MYSELF
Well, I think some of this was above in what I learned in general, but I did learn a few things about myself.
1. How I deal with pain, for one. I learned that I can push through it, but that it is hard for me to be thankful for it in the midst of pain.
2. I also learned that I am much more dependent on people around me, which can be good and bad. It’s good in the sense that we all need each other, and in the sense that I really DO appreciate the people around me and all they contribute to my life. I sometimes think I am alright to be alone most of the time, but really, I need people more than I thought. But, it is bad when I put more emphasis on getting my needs met by other people rather than looking to God with greater dependence. People are great, but they are not a replacement for the Lord’s love and help, and God will never fail us. Additionally, I need to guard against having expectations of people around me — I want to always be thankful for their contribution to my life and not take it for granted.
3. I learned that I can be susceptible to temptations, perhaps slightly harder to deal with due to physical difficulties — I know the Lord holds me accountable to be obedient and to honor and rely on Him in faith even while my body is weak or my hormones are crazy — these are times I should be MORE reliant and more in prayer.
4. I learned a lot about contentment — that even though I had a lot of blessings (no need to go to work, very little need to cook/clean, lots of love and support), I still had struggles with contentment and thankfulness at times. I can look back, though, and see that God was always good and I could have been content and thankful if I had pursued it more.
5. I was convicted by watching the people who were so generous with their time, money and creativity. I saw clearly the difference between my response to others’ griefs and difficulties and others’ response to my difficulty. My deficit is great — I was regularly blown away by how much people would give and intercede for me. I am very “behind” in this area. God is kind to convict me in such a gentle way.
6. I learned that I had been taking many blessings in my life for granted. When I was away from teaching, friends, activity, work, ministry, etc., I realized how much I appreciated all the great gifts God had given me that I was often just going through the motions in. It was a blessing to be away from it and miss it all. It made me more thankful for all of it.
7. I learned that there are a lot of people around me that I was not making as much effort toward as I should — people that I care about but didn’t value or proactively pursue, or people that I could make feel more welcome.
THINGS I WILL DO DIFFERENTLY, Lord, help me
Cancer helped me step back from my life and analyze my habits and lifestyle to see what needed to be changed.
Well, as you would expect, there were several major areas of life that I want to be different.
1. I want to establish a habit of thankfulness. I have been more regularly “counting my blessings” lately and hope to continue that habit.
2. I want to live life with more balance –– I used to have work and my “urgent list” as the things that filled most of my time. Everything else came second. I thought I could “do it all” but really, many things slipped through the cracks, and I often felt inefficient, overextended, stressed, and tired. I still deal with this temptation, but I am now much more aware of needing balance and much more motivated to work toward it. I am striving to work smarter rather than longer, to have time to do other activities, to enjoy life more along the way, to be more aware of being more people focused, and to not feel like I have to have my nose to the grindstone.
3. Related to #2, I will be striving to make work life easier while still trying to be effective — more planning ahead, more non-graded learning activities, more delegation, more having fun in my job.
4. I will also strive to keep in touch with people — especially through Facebook and email, and also having people over.
5. I want to live more healthfully
6. I also want to be more aware of the brevity of life — I want to be more thankful for everything, more purposeful, more in the Word, and more aware that everything is SO TEMPORAL.
Things that I thought would last for a long time really do have an end, and that end is sooner than I think. Enjoy it! Appreciate it! Make the most of it and don’t waste it! “Teach us to number our days…”
TOP ENCOURAGING THINGS (in random order)
1. Faithful Tuesday gifts from Kristin M — always creative, beautiful, thoughtful. She’s my hero.
2. The great effort (again) of Jan, Karen, and Nadine to make our Valentine’s Day so romantic and special. It was the best V-day I’ve ever had, really.
3. The huge gifts from SCCS, VHS, and a few amazingly generous gift givers through the blog. Wow.
4. Sam’s huge sacrifice to be around as often as she possibly could, to take zillions of photos to get the best ones (especially of the teddy bear), to upload and format a blog post every single day so people wouldn’t have to trouble me or Eric for news, to organize all of my meals and accompaniments to treatments, to set up a Facebook group, Blog, Paypal account, and even Don’t Waste Jennene’s Cancer business cards, among many other offerings of service too many of which to mention. Triple wow.
5. Huge pile of Lemonheads from Siona, with a great mix CD and serenading at our front door from our Bible study guys.
6. Kind gift cards from lots of people — Summer, Betty, Katie and Kristy,
7. Gifted movies from Christina that I really enjoyed, and lended movies from Melyndee, Esther and Amanda
8. Fuzzy blankets and other comfy cozy stuff from Laura, Nancy and Kelly, and some from SCCS students
9. Made-with-love beanies and scarves from Jan, Carol, Jessie
10. Bought with love beanies from Sam, Susan and Ned, and T-shirts from Mark
11. Lots of head-wear and much love and cheerleading from Joanie
12. My go-to wig whenever I wanted to blend in, from Mary
13. My regular meal peeps — Nadine and Marybeth, who were ready to provide at least once a week with deliciousness
14. The great books people provided for my encouragement — George Muller, Hinds Feet in High Places, God’s Smuggler, Stepping Heavenward, Dead Man Walking, I Flunked my Mammogram, A Woman’s Decision, A Year In Provence, and The Shack. :) Thanks Nadine, Maria, Heidi, Kerry, Kathy, Dee, Karen, and Kristen!
15. All the people who were so willing to bring healthy, delicious meals!
16. The great encouragement on Facebook and the blog when I was having a hard treatment, and when I was getting surgery. I also had a huge surge of love on my birthday, especially from my AVID students at VHS.
17. Amazing service of Krystal to clean my house EVERY chemo (I loved coming home to a clean house! I brightened my day even while I was feeling pretty nauseous!), and the SCCS service team who came out and painted our fence and cleaned our house too. What a blessing!
18. Some great long talks on the phone w/ Kristen, Renee and others. Some great hang out times with Sam, Marybeth, Brad and Nadine, Sarah Jane, Holly, Adam and Megan, Melyndee and Amy, Joanie and Amy, Sue P, Alison H, Dave H, Jeff and Heather, Sarah and Chris, my mom, Mary, Kathy A, Siona, Phil, Mark & Thomas, Sue and Kara, Diane and Ned, Don and Sierra, Steve & Debra and the boys, Monica and Frank, and many, many others. Some very special cards and letters and messages from Pammie, Arika, Kristy, Pastor Bob, and so many more of you.
19. Our amazing gifted Arrowhead “weekend” getaway from Roger & Michele (so relaxing and cool!)
Well, I have tried very hard to include as many of you as I could, to let you know how greatly you impacted us and made us feel loved and lifted up in prayer. It was always exciting to see how God would use all of you, to see what you would come up with to support us creatively, to see who would come to visit, to see what you would send us in the mail — almost every day there was a new surprise and a new way we felt loved. I am thankful for this season of cancer and I thank you all for being a big part of it. It wouldn’t have been the same without you. I hope you know what a huge blessing you all were. We will never be able to repay your kindness, but we know that you would never expect that. I hope that Eric and I can take the unconditional love and giving from you and pay it forward to others — you have inspired us and we have been moved and convicted. Thank you.
The Lord has been so good to us through cancer.
We have learned more about Him and know more than ever that He can be trusted for everything in life. He has used cancer to show us His love, to humble us, to make us more dependent, to make us more prayerful, to draw us closer together and closer to Him.
I wouldn’t change it.
I know I didn’t always live up to my blog name, “don’t waste my cancer,” but I know the Lord didn’t waste it and you didn’t waste it. I know that every part of it was worth it. I pray God will continue the lessons and help us to be faithful to what we learned and received.
I know He was glorified and I pray He will be more greatly glorified as a result of it all.
Grace and Peace to you all!
Filed under: Advice for Do-Gooders, And I Quote, Bible Verses That Hit The Spot, ChemoTherapy, Church, Doctor Talk, Family, Friends, General Update, God Using Cancer To Teach Me, Good Day, Opportunities To Share About God | 32 Comments »