JENNENE’S ‘THANK YOU & GOODNIGHT’ TO CANCER 9/09

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
1. Heartburn
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

TOP MEALS/FOOD
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!)

WRAP UP
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.
Amen.

Grace and Peace to you all!

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STUDENTS, GOD, HUSBAND, THE WHOLE BIBLE 8/15/09

HEALTH UPDATE
I’m feeling well and almost done with radiation.
I have just one more week, and I am now doing the “boost” part of my treatment — they are narrowing the focus of the radiation to just the site of the mass (the past 5 weeks they radiated my whole right breast).
I have been experiencing a few side effects, but they are almost nothing compared to chemotherapy.  I have a slight “sunburn” on the area they have radiated, and I have been a little more tired — the last few treatments I have taken a nap in the car on the way home.  The only other side effects I’m feeling are the hot flashes that are common with tomoxifen.
Hard to believe there are just 6 more days of treatment!
Once that’s done, I continue the tomoxifen for 5 years and have checkups every so often.
It’ll be nice to be an “official” survivor!  🙂

BACK TO WORK
I went back to work this past week — part of why it has taken me so long to finally write this update!
There were meetings and work days, and then finally on Thursday the students showed up.  I was a little anxious because I’ve been out of teaching for 8 months.  I wasn’t sure if I had forgotten how to manage the classroom, I was nervous about having students who are discipline problems, I wasn’t sure if I’d have the energy to do a whole day.  Well, the Lord is gracious.  He helped me to be confident and passionate, and so far the students seem willing and positive.  I was tired the first day (I never seem to sleep well the night before the first day back), but I slept very well the second night and felt pretty energetic the following day.  I have been working until 3 and then leaving at 4 to go to radiation which is at 5.
It makes for a long day… but it’s almost over!!

The first day I told the students a little about myself, and included the cancer journey.
One of the classes even clapped a little for me.  Ha!  It was cool to see them respond that way to cancer survival.  It was a reminder of how seriously everyone takes the disease.  I guess I sometimes forget about how other people perceive cancer.
I also saw this in the responses of my colleagues to my return.  I was received with such warmth and encouragement — it was overwhelming yet again.  So often I think we forget to verbalize how we care for and appreciate the people around us.  Well, this was an opportunity for me to hear how people felt about me at work… so touching and humbling.  There were several people who expressed how glad they were that I was back.  Made me feel loved!  God is good. |
Additionally, I received several notes and texts from friends on the first day, wishing me a good day, telling me they were praying for me, asking me how it went.  People are kind.
I’m thankful to have people in my life who have reached out and who have lifted me up in prayer.

OTHER ACTIVITIES
Eric and I have enjoyed spending time together — I’m grateful that he has wanted to continue driving me to radiation each day.
This past few weeks we listened to “Joy at Work” on CD.  It was very inspirational as he and I were preparing to start back at work.
We also took advantage of having to be in LA each day by going out to dinner a few times, going to a few movies, visiting some friends in Hollywood, driving around exploring, and doing a little shopping.
Aside from going down to treatments, we have also had a chance to spend some time with family.  We’ve spent some time with my dad, Eric’s sisters, and Eric’s brother’s family.  When Eric’s nephew saw me with my new hairdo, he said, “You look like Uncle Eric.”  HA HA!!  Funny and quotable.  🙂
I’ve also had a chance to hang out with some friends here and there — enjoyed Holly W’s birthday over Indian food, dinner with Melyndee B, school planning time and conversation with Megan P, lunch with Sarah and Chris B, lunch with Alison H and Maura B, time at church with the worship team, and lots of just fun, casual conversation in the kitchen with Sarah Jane (and Jake). 🙂
I’ve also enjoyed connecting over the phone, email and Facebook with some of my good friends and family — you know who you are!  🙂  Yes, I guess I’ve been pretty busy!

THINGS I’M LEARNING/THINKING ABOUT/READING
-I’ve now officially read through the whole Bible!  I’m stoked!  But I still have more to go to get through my whole Bible-in-a-year — parts I have read before, but it’s been a while!  So I recently finished Job and am now in Ecclesiastes.  They are great books.  Through Job I thought a lot about a man’s perception of God, and God’s right to do anything He pleases.  Job questions God because he feels like his afflictions are unfair.  Looking back at the cancer journey, I am glad I mostly had the perspective that God was just and good, despite cancer.  Although I must confess, there are other times when I am more like Job, feeling self-pity or lacking thankfulness to God for the things He allows in my life.  Truly, everything in the life of a believer is a gift from God.  Some of His gifts don’t seem so good at the time, but they are good because they all have a purpose and all work out for good.  I have been thinking about thankfulness and God’s gifts quite a bit.  I want to receive all of God’s gifts with thankfulness and faith.  I have already tasted and seen that God is good and can be fully trusted, so I want to keep that in mind and respond in worship and humble gratefulness.

-I have also been reading Ecclesiastes, which has been a reminder of that which is worthwhile and that which is futile.  The “teacher” who writes the book speaks about a man’s lot in life — he explores the difficulties and hurts of life, but he also concedes that there is satisfaction in the simple pleasures of life — food, drink, work.  Reading this book makes me feel small and makes my life’s labor seem less significant.
I’m thankful the Lord gives purpose and meaning to our labor, and that every part of my life can be a sacred offering if I have an attitude of worship.

-I had the chance again today to converse with my father about the gospel.  Though I mostly feel like it is a pointless pursuit (in that he seems completely uninterested in the gospel — but I know the Lord can change his heart because nothing is impossible with God), it has been humbling for me to meditate on the wonder of the mercy of God.  My dad is still holding on to a works mentality, that he can pay for his own sins or be good enough for God’s favor in his own strength.   Though it makes me very sad to see him reject Christ, it makes me so grateful that God has made a way for me to have a relationship with Him through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.  I am so, so glad God will receive me on Christ’s merits, because I cannot stand before Him on my own merits.  It’s the greatest message there is. I quoted a lot of scripture to my dad today — if you would like, please pray for my dad’s conscience to be stirred by the truth of the gospel.

PRAYER REQUESTS
-Besides salvation for my dad…
-Physically and mentally I covet your prayers for me this coming week as I will be working and going to radiation for 5 days in a row.
-Please pray for wisdom for me as well as I am establishing authority and rapport in the classroom — I want to do excellently with teaching as a good and faithful servant of the Master, and I want to be a godly example to my students for the sake of the gospel.
-Spiritually, please pray for me to be humble and to rely on the Lord, and that I would be thankful for all of God’s gifts in my life!

THANKS for reading and praying!
I’m so thankful for you!

PICS

LIFE & DEATH SUNDAY AUG 2, 2009

RADIATION
I am officially half-way done with radiation, and so far it hasn’t been too bad at all. The commute takes some time, and I have been waking up a bit later and falling asleep a little earlier, but besides all that, it is going swimmingly. I have 3 more weeks and then I can officially call myself a survivor.
Eric and I checked out books on tape at the library, so that has been a cool way to spend the commute time. We just finished Slaughterhouse 5. We’re glad we heard it, but it’s not too uplifting. Very modern and humanist and life-is-meaningless type literature. But it was fun to discuss it w/ Eric afterwards. Who knows what we will check out next! We go back to the library tomorrow.

HAIR AND SUCH
My hair is slowly growing back, and I can now wear mascara again. That’s pretty exciting. I do get stares from time to time due to my very short “haircut,” but I’m looking more and more female each day. 🙂 I’ve even gotten a few compliments on my hair (gasp). I appreciate the kind people who compliment me, but I am certainly looking forward to having a bit more of it. But I’m thankful now to be able to go out and about without hats or wigs.

OTHER THINGS E & I HAVE BEEN DOING…
– I’ve continued to spend time each day in the yard… It’s hard work and hot out there!! But I’m happy to see the progress I’m making. Some day I may even look around and think, “This looks nice.”
– I have started planning for school. I have an outline of the semester and some great ideas. Now I have just one more week of free time to get more organized. I have avoided going to the classroom, but it’s time. I’m excited and filled with some dread all at the same time. That is a prayer request — that I may have more excitement and gratefulness and less dread. It’s been quite a while since I’ve done my job, so there are many transitions to get used to — getting up earlier, dressing professionally, talking much of the day, managing and running my classes, planning and grading — there is a lot that I haven’t done in 8 months… Pray that I get good kids! Well, the Lord knows and has a plan.
– We’ve enjoyed spending time with our friends the Dennises — saw a very good documentary about Darfur called The Devil Came on Horseback. Intense and moving. We had good conversation also with them — Esther and I talked a lot about how to live by the Spirit, relying on grace. Hard to do… I’m still trying to grasp how to do it as a regular practice, but it is so worth pursuing.
– We had a fun date night in Encino. Ate Cuban food and went to an art house movie in French w/ subtitles — Lorna’s silence. The main character comes around to her conscience in valuing and protecting human life by sacrificing her own dreams. Very sad. Afterwards we talked about the movie over dessert at Jerry’s Famous Deli. It was nice to have some varied activities outside of the SCV.
– We started reading Adopted for Life — A point made in the book so far is that all Christians are adopted, so the concept of adoption should not be so unusual and foreign for us… it should be something we think about a lot.
– We had dinner w/ Siona and got caught up on what’s going on in his life. He’s been a cool friend and support to us.
– We took a few walks around the neighborhood. I feel pretty strong and normal.

REFLECTIONS ON READINGS
I’ve been reading through the Bible in a Year, which has been such a wealth of encouragement and wisdom. I’m currently reading Job and it has been good to consider this book at this time in life. I haven’t lost all the things around me as Job did, but I can relate a little to some of his struggle. Today’s sermon on Psalm 11 tied in perfectly, and it asks at one point, “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” I felt like some of my “foundations” were destroyed. Things I trusted in or had my heart set on. I trusted in my routine, I trusted in my health, I trusted in our plan to have children. These false foundations were destroyed and it was pretty unnerving for me.

Job’s “foundations” also, of family, health, and wealth were all destroyed. Even his friends and wife were not able to comfort him. But, Job affirms over and over that both good and bad things come from the hand of the Lord, and he continues to look to God as the sovereign One in control over all our circumstances. I’m glad Job expresses his emotion, though. He is a real person who feels great distress and calls upon God over and over throughout the book for relief. I am glad this book is in the Bible. I have felt great loss as some of the things I hoped in were taken away, but I see it as the hand of God removing them. He is always there reminding me that He is my foundation, a place for me to stand and the hope for me to trust in for my life.
He oversees the worst difficulties we face, and not without care and feeling.

OTHER PONDERINGS
I am glad I have had this brush with death in my diagnosis of cancer. I was never right at death’s door, but the reality of death seemed more real to me than usual. And now when I spend time with my dad who is so interested in prolonging his life through medicines and vitamins and alternative therapies, I wonder why. Why would he hold on to life so much and love this world so much to stay in it longer? The best things in this life that I have enjoyed and tasted have been just shadows and “seeing through a glass darkly.” In my heart I know there is so much more offered by the Lord than what is offered by this world, by what is enjoyed materially. Maybe we all know that deep down and that is why we humans are always searching for more. Strange how I know the source of the true “abundant life” but I still often choose other paths that look promising. I pray that all of you reading this may know and pursue the true source of abundant life, and consider the brevity of life and pointlessness of life without the Lord.

PICS

LASER BEAMS, SPROUL, TOP 10 LIST 7/15/09

Update 7/15/09

Thank you all again for your kind words and prayer.
Radiation is going along smoothly!

I have had 2 treatments, and they are really quite a breeze so far.
THE WHOLE THING (RADIATION) GOES LIKE THIS –
– Eric and I drive down to Hollywood, about a 30 minute drive, park in the garage, check in, then wait in a waiting room with lots of other people.
-Over the loudspeaker I hear my name and the room to which I am to report, so I head down the hall to the mini dressing rooms and put on a gown.
-Then I stand awkwardly at the door of the therapy room until the therapist comes to get me.
-I head in and lay on the treatment bed with my arms over my head in “stirrups” and de-robe slightly.
-They make sure my pin-prick sized tattoos are aligned to the green lasers coming from the ceiling, and then press on a remote control to move a large machine around me. They stop it above me to my left and then leave the room.
-There is a buzz sound and light indicating that xrays are happening (like at the dentist), and after about 30 seconds they come back in and move the machine below me slightly to my right and leave again. Buzzing and light. They come back in and move my “bed” down and then it’s over.
-The therapy part is really as fast as getting 2 or 3 xrays from the dentist. Pretty amazing. I feel like I’m experiencing medicine from the Jetsons because I feel nothing and it’s just lasers and whatnot. 🙂
-Then I change back into street clothes and leave with Eric.
-30 minutes back home and the day is done.
-The whole thing takes about 1 1/2 hours.

SCHOOL
Thanks for your prayers about school planning! I still need it!
-But I’ve started and I’m excited about the upcoming semester!
-I got my schedule and it is exactly what I wanted! Praise God! I will teach 9th grade Reading, 10th grade AVID, and 10th grade English. I would love your prayers for wisdom and efficiency in preparing units and lessons that will help me keep a balanced and more simple life.

SPIRITUAL RESOURCE
Today I listened to a great message by RC Sproul — from “Themes from James: Grace to the Humble” — 6/26/09 Renewing Your Mind Podcast (available free on Itunes! Check it out! 30 well-spent minutes!)
MY HIGHLIGHTS:
-Why do we have conflicts and disputes? Often it is because of envy — wanting something that we do not have, believing it will make us happy. We do not have because we do not ask, or we ask amiss, wanting to spend it on our own fleshly desires.
-What must we do? Realize that God’s grace is sufficient for us, and He gives grace to the humble but resists the proud. We must come before Him remembering what we are — servants who have received everything from His hand anyway. Do we go before Him demanding from Him what we want? What arrogance! Do we go trying to persuade Him as if he needed our counsel? As if we know a better way than He to provide for us? No, we go to Him thankful for the abundant grace He has already provided, and ask of him in humility. He gives grace to the humble but He resists the proud.
-Sproul’s practical “assignment” — I’m going to do it, maybe you can too!
List 10 things you want the most out of the rest of your life.
Look at that list and say, “why do I want these things? are these the things that really matter? are these the things that will make me truly happy and will truly fulfill me as a creature made in the image of God? are these the things that I could walk into the presence of God without embarrassment and without shame say to God, “God, will You please give me these 10 things?”
See if you can find a mirror of your own soul in this list, and then get on your knees and say, “God, give me humility that I may enjoy Your grace.”

One of the things on my list:
1. I really want to be a mother... I would love to partner with Eric to parent children the Lord brings to us, either naturally or through adoption. I would love to be able to parent children from a less “fortunate” situation, be it from a depressed area like Uganda or Ethiopia or Haiti or….?, or perhaps children from the foster system.
When thinking about this first desire, I realize that I am not always thankful for the grace God has given me now. I am able NOW to partner with Eric in teaching and encouraging people around me that God has brought into our path — people who may already know the Lord but that I can still encourage them to live before the face of God.
As well, I also have a myriad of people around me who do not really know or love God that I can do all in my power to try to lead them to His throne as one beggar bringing another to the treasure she found.
These “mothering” instincts can be poured out on any with whom the Lord has already surrounded me. Meanwhile, I can still petition the Lord in faith for my original request, while trusting that His grace is truly sufficient for me! And I can pursue the humility of contentment — being thankful for the grace that He has already ridiculously lavished on me.
Hope ya’ll can also find contentment, peace, joy, and thankfulness in the grace you’ve been given today!! 🙂
God bless.

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MOVIES, MARATHONS, MODELING (RE-) 7/12/09

Hello friends!

Thank you all for praying for me (and Eric) about preparing for school in the fall — I have only 4 weeks left of summer!  Ah, where does the time go…

MEDICAL UPDATE
On Saturday I had my radiation xrays and tattoos done.
They are just 4 small pinprick-size tattoos, and it hurt a little but wasn’t too bad.  There were lots of red lasers on me, I guess to help them align me each time.  The room I was in was pretty cool — it reminded me of a spa because the ceiling was natural wood, the lights were low, there were back-lit nature images to look at, and they were playing “relaxing” classical music the whole time.  Kind of cool, but kind of funny!
It wasn’t as comfy as it sounds, simply because I had to lay still with my head slightly turned and my arms up over my head and no adjusting my position for about 45 solid minutes.
Fortunately, radiation therapy sessions are only 12 minutes each time, so that won’t be as difficult a time to stay still.

RECENT ACTIVITIES
-We’ve seen lots of movies lately, and pretty interesting ones.
We’ve seen Departures, a Japanese movie about ceremonies for the deceased;
Il Postino, about poetry, romance and communist ideas;
Baghban, a Bollywood film about respect for elders and authority and the lack of it;
The Station Agent, about the human need for community;
The Killing Fields, about a friendship during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia; and
Away We Go (can’t recommend wholly — it was good, but if you go, miss the first 5 minutes), a movie about the search for home and for what is the best way to live and parent — there was definitely a lack of clear hope and clear destination for the main characters, which reminds me of the shortcomings of this world’s system.
Eric and I (and friends) had many good conversations about these films, which is what I love about good art — when it inspires thought and dialogue.

-We also have enjoyed dessert with Esther & Rick Dennis and dinner with Meg and Adam Powell — cool times of fellowship and delicious food!

-Eric has been running a lot; he ran a half marathon on Saturday and has been incrementally working up to it.  Obviously he is tired today, but he is doing really well with all the physical activity.  He has inspired me greatly to work back to fitness myself.  I may start walking with Sarah Jane regularly.
Who knows, maybe in a year I’ll be running alongside Eric in these distance runs.  🙂

GOINGS ON AT HOME
Our AC is working a bit better — there’s some water damage that we might have fixed and some other minor construction that might be going on at our house.  Fortunately, I don’t mind that kind of thing.  I rather like seeing improvements happen to my living spaces — it excites me. 🙂

RECENT READINGS & PONDERINGS
-Ezra & Nehemiah: God makes a way for his servants to accomplish His will.  It won’t be perfectly smooth and there will often be opposition, but God’s hand and blessing will be with His servants
-I Cor. on marriage — a husband and wife belong to each other; unbelieving spouses can be saved through the behavior/testimony of their spouses
-Psalms on getting help and mercy from God; and assorted Proverbs
-Church – the importance and testimony when believers submit to the authority of their employers — working hard, being trustworthy, showing respect, not stealing, submitting, not complaining or arguing; these things make the doctrine of God attractive!  So true.  It was good to have a message on this as I am about to prepare my teaching units for the fall — it is a good reminder to work excellently for the Lord and to consider my work and attitude as a testimony to all around me.

Thanks again for your prayers and encouragement!  🙂
I’m a 9.9/10!!

PIC

HORMONES, RADIATION, PONDERINGS, KARAOKE 7/4/09

CANCER UPDATE
So what’s new with cancer this week?
Well, I went to see Dr. Shin and he seemed pleased with how my surgical site is healing and prescribed my hormone therapy medication. So I will take 2 pills a day for 5 years — they will block the effects of estrogen, which can cause breast cancer. I read the prescription info and it’s kind of crazy what the possible side effects of cancer treatments are. Most commonly this medicine causes hot flashes (nothing new here), but can also lead to blood clots, which can lead to strokes. That’s pretty rare though. It can also cause other kinds of cancer, but the risk is low for that also. Just weird to do things to your body that are so hard core! But up to this point I have done well and I’m thankful for those very treatments that have made cancer go away. I just need to be aware of how my body is doing — Dr. Shin said to be careful on long plane trips to get up and move around. 🙂 Will do, Dr. Shin.

Dr. Shin also asked if this blog was still up and running, and wished a hello to mom and Eric. He’s sweet.

While getting my blood pressure taken in the nurse’s station (by the mother of a former student of mine) Dr. Hwang came through for a chance meeting. We talked about my radiation dates, and she said she would try to move things along faster — she’s hoping to get me in for tatooing on Saturday July 11 (my first tatoo! ha ha), and then start radiation on Monday or Tuesday following, July 13 or 14.

SOME COOL ACTIVITIES I’VE BEEN INVOLVED IN LATELY
– Attended a church friend’s beautiful wedding (Aimee B)
– Had a great time at Aimee’s reception with friends from church and from Eric’s school. Each table had to choose a song to sing to be dismissed for food, but it had to have the word “LOVE” in it — our song? A “Billie Jean”-“All You Need is Love”-“Can You Feel the Love Tonight”- and “Barney” medley. We were overachievers. 🙂
– Dinner on the deck, hang-out and Bollywood time with Adam & Megan Powell
– Reading the Bible, Ezra, I Corinthians, Psalms and Proverbs
– Reading a very interesting, practical book about a woman’s role in marriage: The Fruit of Her Hands. Getting a lot out of it!
– Hang out time with Sarah Jane Brock and some of the Thursday night dinner folks
– Enjoying the roominess of our new bathroom tub — Thanks Doug Trim and Jim Cantisano!
– Saw some cool movies: Defiance, Departures (these were excellent), and The Proposal, Bride Wars (I enjoyed them but I’d say they are rentals)
– Sweatin’ to the oldies as our A/C unit struggles along
– Having Claim Jumper lunch on Roger with Michelle, Holly and Eric after the weigh-in
– Getting my step dad to consider using daily plate (Livestrong) and to count his calories
– Cleaning my room!

SOME THOUGHTS I’VE BEEN THINKING LATELY
– I remember when I used to take my hair for granted, my mascara for granted, looking normal for granted… 🙂
– Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart
– God’s wisdom seems foolish to the world, and the world’s wisdom IS foolish to God
– We do not need to be strong to glorify God; His glory is even made perfect in our weakness!
– I want to strive to see people as God sees them — through the saving, cleansing blood of Christ
– We are all just servants, each assigned to our own tasks (neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow)
– Am I making ETERNAL investments? with money, with time, with resources, with people…
– God changes the hearts and attitudes of kings when he wants to
– Joy comes from: separating from worldly and unclean pursuits to seek God, being cleansed, taking the slaughtered sacrifice that was offered to God for our sins and eating it, and then celebrating with joy, together as a community.
– Eric has inspired me to get back in shape for reals. (when I’m healthy again)
– I remember when I used to take A/C for granted… ha ha

OVERALL RATING TODAY
-Feeling: 9.8/10

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JOURNAL STYLE UPDATE THURSDAY 6/25/09

IN J’s OWN WORDS…
JENNENE’S RECENT PONDERINGS

Hello friends.  Thank you for reading.
It feels a little strange writing this blog while on the tail end of cancer treatment.
Actually, it felt strange during treatment also — at that time I was surprised at how many people read and commented.  Well, now that I’m feeling so well and concern for my well being is not as necessary, now it feels like there aren’t as many people — by the way, if you are reading, thank you for your continued concern.
I guess that’s one strange thing that I have experienced with all of this.  There was extra attention or “specialness” attached to my situation when I was diagnosed.  But one thing I’ve seen very strongly while going through this is that there are always people in pain and struggle all around me.  I was never really unique, except that I finally got to share in a tiny part of the suffering of the masses.  Even the times of suffering, though, seemed very minimal, easy and doable.
I look at others’ experiences and realize that I had it easy.

It was a strange transition for me to be pulled out of my comfort zone and for my life to be more public.
Now I think that it is another transition to fade back again into oblivion.
We made jokes at the beginning about how I had “carte blanche” in what I said and did because I was the cancer patient.  Well, that may be a little bit of a stretch, but it does make me wonder what it will be like in this transition back to “normal.”
Will I get less benefit of the doubt, fewer cards in the mail, less prayer from church members, less physical help?  What expectations do people have on me now and will it increase or decrease?  Will people still want to read about my life?  And what about me?  Will I miss the attention?  Will I resent being “normal” and wish to be more “special” — perhaps I have let myself become spoiled by all these kind, caring friends and the extreme ways they have served and supported us?
I certainly don’t want to be selfish, so I hope the loving attentions I received in my time of need will naturally move on to those who need them now.  I hope I will become a part of the group who offers these loving attentions asking for nothing in return.

TRANSITION TO THOUGHTFUL PEOPLE
Speaking of loving attention, Kristin M is truly a kind, thoughtful person.
My foyer is now graced with roses from her regular Tuesday gift. 🙂

Also, E and I really appreciated the time in Lake Arrowhead, thanks to Roger and Michele H so generously providing us a stay at the resort.  It was a beautiful, peaceful setting that was perfect for a getaway.
E and I took the opportunity to review the year and our marriage, and to make goals for the next year of marriage.  From our cool times of debrief, I can see that God has been knitting us together more and more, which is such a blessing.
However, what I also saw was that there is always room for improvement in any relationship.
Well, there is in ours —  mainly that I am still finding ways that my selfishness creeps in.  As an example, one goal of mine this year is to take a greater interest in E’s interests (Biblical — “look to the interests of others” and “consider others as more important than yourself”).  So taking a greater interest in sports is one of my goals this year.  🙂   Yes, watching sports is now Biblical — ha ha.

CURRENT PHYSICAL RATING
Overall I am a  9.7 out of 10 (10 is the best)

PICS FROM THE LAST WEEK