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6 Requirements of My Husband

It’s always been my hearts desire to have a family- to fall in love, get married and have children. I have spent years imagining what my husband would be like, what he would look like, what his career would be, his hobbies and personality traits. I have prayed for him, that the Lord be crafting together a man specially designed for me and that he be equipped with certain characteristics. It’s the prayer that all us women pray: “Lord, I pray that he is kind, thoughtful, smart and generous. I pray that he can always make me laugh and that we never run out of things to talk about. I pray that he is my best friend, travel buddy, and lights up at the thought of watching documentaries. Let him treat me with the utmost respect and love me as Christ loved the church. Allow him to be extra fine, chocolaty and attractive. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.”

Breast Cancer has altered this prayer somewhat. I’m realizing just how amazing my husband would have to be to handle all of this cancer, sickle cell goodness. His tolerance for all things medical is a must, and his compassion level must be a 10. The following are a list of things that I am now praying for, criteria that my husband must meet.

He must not mind a deformed boob.

Bonus points if he actually prefers it! Does that exist? Anywho, in its current state my right breast is one large wound. It has no skin and is bloody and gross. I have to change my wound dressing everyday and while you can make out what it is, its’s not the most attractive breast you’ve ever seen. Once the wound has healed, I’ll be eligible for surgery, in which I will get both breast removed. So if he is a breast man, this is not going to go well for him. I need a man who doesn’t care if they’re dented, scared, or missing a nipple. I need a man who despite this will still look at me like the sexy vibrant and exciting women that I am. May he come home at night still craving the cleavage I have left!

He must be okay with hospitals.

My husband must be okay with the occasional hospital stay. Now, visiting a loved one in the hospital is very different than being a care provider and staying with someone in the hospital. My husband will find himself responsible for making sure I don’t send embarrassing text messages while on morphine, keeping track of all medications given, advocacy work (which may include telling a doctor off), delivering food cravings to said patient, selecting riveting TV movies to fall asleep to, be the main source of contact for our family, friends, and employers/employees, act as a nurse when they’re nowhere to be found, and attempt to sleep in semi comfortable recliner chairs while machines beep in your ear. I can’t control when I may be ill, so he must be okay with the possibility of spending a major holiday on the inside, or missing the Mavericks game which he bought tickets for months ago. Sigh. Now it’s, not all downhill! I typically have an unlimited supply of graham crackers while in the hospital, which I’m more than willing to provide you with. Just call me the graham cracker plug.

He must not be attached to hair.

Chemotherapy and radiation has taken my hair twice now. While it’s currently attempting to grow back now, I’m never certain how long that will last. I’m very bald and he is going to have to be okay with any hairstyle I bring to the table. Whether I’m bald, have short hair, choose a wig or am able to grow long locs, he will have to accept me for me. Now, as a black women I’m not asking for anything out of the ordinary as we stay changing our hairstyles. I just ask that he comes knowing that “no hair, don’t care” is always an option. Who knows, maybe we will be balddies together! Sexy.

He must have an understanding for the need to nap.

I don’t plan on ending my love affair with naps, despite our committed relationship. I. Must. Sleep. While I forsee having to take naps less as my healing progresses, I don’t anticipating living life without it. I take emense joy and pleasure in my Sabbath Hour everyday, and pray my husband won’t mind spending a little downtime with me. Do I like to turn up? Heck yes! I love me some adventure time! Just give me a heads up so I, like a toddler, can plan my nap accordingly and be ready to go!

He must be flexible with the idea of parenting.

I have always wanted children. I desire to experience pregnancy, birth, parenthood- the whole nine yards. I went to see a fertility doctor when I was first diagnosed with cancer. My doctor wanted me to know my fertility options being that chemo can cause infertility. I was told by the specialist that with cancer and sickle cell combined, I have little chance at getting pregnant. That even when I beat the cancer I should wait five years before getting pregnant. He suggested that I consider freezing my eggs for in vetro fertilization, a possible surrogate or adoption as possible avenues. I was crushed. Then I was reminded that God has the final say in this matter too. I didn’t freeze my eggs; it felt like a decision that I wanted to do with my husband. I’m open to God’s miracles, including adoption. My husband must understand this and be onboard for it. Our family could look unconventional, and he must love it all the same!

He must have faith,

This is of utmost importance to me. He is required to believe in my complete and total healing. I need him to remain unwavering in this, not only for me but for himself. This is for the benefit of our peace, joy and hope in the forward progression of our lives, marriage and family. I’ll need the occasional reminder of just who God is, when I’m in the thick of medical storms. He will too and I pray that our faith is such that we will be able to uplift and encourage each other in the Lord. He must be able to look at me and at any obstacles that come our way and say, “God is good and this has already been conquered.”

I don’t ask or expect perfection. How can I, as I’m not willing to attempt to be perfect myself? But I do ask the Lord to send me someone who sees me, and sees past all of the obstacles before me. I ask that he see my destiny and the miracles before me. I pray that he believes in me; believes I can do anything through Christ who strengthens me. I pray he sees the God in me, and falls madly in love with Him. I pray that all of my new cancer insecurities will mean nothing to him, and that he will respect and love me more because of them and not despite them. I pray for bravery and vulnerability for both of us. I pray that God is molding the perfect human just for me.

I can’t wait to meet this piece of awesomeness!

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Glancing Back

I hate the oncology office. It smells like chemotherapy and pain.

I’m currently waiting in the lobby of Texas Oncology, breathing through my mouth, so that I don’t smell the odor of illness. Okay, I’m not certain what illness smells like. Most likely I’m smelling a combination of hospital cleaners, hand sanitizers and latex gloves. Regardless, my mind associates the smell with all the crap that cancer brought. I’m taken back to chemo, nausea, muscle pain, soreness and radiation burns. I hate this smell. On rare occasion I’ll get a sniff of it while in the foyer of my apartment complex, or in the grocery store and immediately must move away from it. But right now, as I wait for the nurse to call me back, I must sit in it and flash back to the worst of the past year. I hate remembering.

Flashbacks are fickle.

These very same images that I hate to recall in the doctor’s office, are the very same images that come to mind during worship. I stretch my hands to the Father, close my eyes and meditate on the “red devil” coursing through my veins, and the days after where I lay in pain on the couch. I recall to memory sickle cell crisis’ in the hospital and crying from the mind numbing pain in the emergency room. I recall the smell again, and I smile, because I’m reminded of the healing that God has brought. I need to remember the bad that occurred in my life, so that I’m consistently aware of the good that is happening. I love remembering.

Where is the healthy balance between remembering and forgetting? How do we balance no longer living in the past and rejoicing in the present, while not forgetting just what the Lord has done?

And then I remembered our friends, the Israelites, and this particular scripture:

“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.” -Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)

Now, I’ve heard this scripture before, understanding it as a call to put my past out of memory. I grew up thinking that there was something “healthy” about forgetting. We are told as children to forgive and FORGET. But as I wrestle with the memories of my cancer battle, I question this. So I look at this scripture a little closer and as I read it now, I’m noticing two important things. The first thing I noticed is the verses above this passage:

“This is what the Lord says—

he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:” -Isaiah 43:16-17 (NIV)

In the preface to telling us to forget the former things, the writer reminds us, pulls to memory, what the Lord has done in the past! The writer is saying, “Look, the dude who parted the red sea, who drew you out of the hands of your enemy- that guy has something to say.” He is defining God by what He has done for him in Israel’s past! This requires us to go back, and recall all of the mess we were in AND HOW the Lord delivered us from it. We look back to remember this, that we may remind ourselves of just who God is.

The second thing I noticed is the word “dwell” in vs 18. Remembering the past and dwelling in the past are two different things entirely. It’s not the casual glancing back that is dangerous, but the complete 180 turns we make to stare and meditate on our past. This is dwelling. The longer you stare in a direction, the more likely you are to walk in that direction. We move in the direction in which our feet and body are postured; surly if I’m facing towards an exit, I will walk in the direction of the exit. Surly if you position yourself to fixate on your past you will move toward it.

So, I encourage you to not turn around and dwell on your past. There is nothing in the past that is worth the repositioning of your body, and the slow backwards journey you will embark on. Your future, and the brightness and fullness thereof, is in front of you! Glance back. Occasionally turn only your head, ever so slightly over your shoulder that you may be reminded of the incredible road you have challenged. Do this only that you may remember what the Lord has done, and that it will propel you deeper into praise, worship and service. This is important, as Moses warned the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6:12 of forgetting, saying,

“Then take care lest you forget the Lord,

who brought you out of the land of Egypt,

out of the house of slavery.” (ESV)

I’ve often wondered if this is why the Israelites complained so much, and had such little faith during their journey. Time and time again, the Lord showed His mighty hand, providing for them in miraculous ways! The Lord parted the Red Sea, allowing them to escape from slavery and the wrath of Pharaoh (Exodus 14); He rained down manna from heaven that they may eat (Exodus 16); He provided water for the Israelites to drink, from a rock in the desert (Exodus 17)! And yet every time they approached a trial, complaining and unbelief overcame them. Maybe they didn’t glance back. Maybe they allowed themselves to forget the previous wonders and miracles that the Lord had done. Maybe they no longer remembered the pain of slavery and their prayers for freedom.

I don’t want to forget. i wont forget. I shall not. I’ll be sure to glance back to the past on occasion while resisting the fleshly urge to dwell on in.

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A Great Story

I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to coast. Only for a brief moment- not forever, not even beyond a year. Just a significant season of life where it wasn’t necessary to fight. Fight mentally, spiritually, physically or emotionally. I desperately crave the life my imagination is made of, a life devoid of all problems. A life where I felt secure and completely confident in what I was doing and its capability to launch me into my destiny. A life without illness. A life of simplicity.  Aww yes, simplicity, success, romance and Jesus (of course). All of this at my fingertips, without hard work or tears. You know, picture perfect happiness, just like I see on my Instagram feed. *insert wink*.  
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I would be in the thick of my very lucrative, highly respected and successful career, that allows for power heels and high waisted pencil skirts. I would have the feet and abs that allowed for power heels and high waisted pencil skirts. Natural abs, which required no effort on my part to develop for my metabolism was anointed by the Lord. I would have seamlessly fallen into this profession immediately after graduating from a college program that would have adequately prepared me for the workforce. A program that was fully paid for on account of my awesomeness. The man of my dreams would have relentlessly pursued me after accidentally bumping into me at a coffee house. He spilled his coffee and I dropped my muffin and the rest was history. One year later he proposed by candlelight after a carriage ride in the park. This is how I would tell the story at annual Christmas parties and to unwilling strangers on cruise ships. The screensaver on my phone is an Easter portrait of my perfect little family, highlighting our 3 perfect little girls. They cause just enough trouble to supply me humorous topics for happy hour but nothing that requires prayer. Perfect angels, that live in a perfect house, who’s perfect mom has found a perfect man while wearing the perfect high waisted skirt and power heels. 
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In this narrative, there is no growth. No authentic accomplishments. Nothing was learned. There is no winning because there is no fighting. There is no resolutions because there is no conflict. It’s predictable and boring. Therefore, this story sucks.  
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Everyone knows that in every great story there is conflict, a problem that must be solved. Conflict draws us deeper into a great book or movie, so much so that we make sequels with new problems to solve, new dramas and new challenges, just so our great stories may continue to be told and that we may celebrate new victories. Conflict also draws us deeper to God, as we grow increasingly aware of our humanity and need for help and refuge from life’s great trials. Conflict draws us closer to ourselves, as it forces us to examine who we are and what we are made of. It’s the conflict, the fall and failure, that makes for excellency! What would the bible be without the fall of Adam and Eve? Boring!  
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The “perfect” life would have produced the stagnation of my spirit. While my life would have been filled with “accomplishments”, my spirit would have had none. Like a muscle that has never been used, my spirit would have atrophied, and IN me nothing would have produced. No strength, courage, peace, integrity, love, patience, or power. There is no true progression or forward momentum in perfection. Do not waste your time daydreaming of a world that will produce IN you nothing. Accept your challenges. Face them head on. Smile at them. For you know the Lord is in the midst of writing a great story! This story doesn’t suck. This story is fantastic. 
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Savior

A little episode of PTSD kept me from falling asleep a couple nights ago. In these rare moments, my mind fixates on the idea that I am not going to be alright- my life will be taken from me and surly I will die. The root of these thoughts are deep, birthed out of my mother’s death in 2011. Since then, I have irrational thoughts of being afflicted, just as she was. While I have grown tremendously in this area, the thoughts sill come on rare occasion, and I’m stuck in anxiety.
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In the thick of the panic, I cried out to God for peace and calm, for it was internal anxiety I could not will myself out of. And so, I prayed and in the midst of tear soaked prayers, God reminded me that He was and is my salvation. He brought to memory various situations in which He has saved me; a testimony of His greatness. I kept the list of saving grace on repeat over and over in my head, until a calm fell over me, because certainly if He did it before, He’ll do it again. We often want to erase the bad from our memories, but I want to hold on to them just enough, so that they may operate as reminders of victory and my undefeated God. The very breath in my lungs serves as a reminder that I have survived the worst days of my life and that the Lord is a continual savior! So in the racing of my thoughts, as I rock back and forth in the thick of darkness, I will my mouth to speak out loud the things that the Lord has saved me from: 
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1. You saved me from Mental Breakdown
2. You saved me from Abusive Relationships
3. You saved me from Drunk Driving
4. You saved me from Cancer
5. You saved me from Sickle Cell Anemia
6. You saved me from Pulmonary Embolism
7. You saved me from Fatherlessness
8. You saved me Starvation and Homelessness
9. You saved me from Dangers Unseen
10. You saved me from ME
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What has the Lord saved you from? Reach back to your past and recall the moments in which you thought you would never make it, when it seemed that your mental stability or very life would end. You were at your breaking point and yet you are still here! Because you’ve been saved, and mercy has surrounded you! I encourage you to write them down, and keep them close. This list serves as your reminder that the Lord your Savior is a faithful rescuer.
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And surly if He’s done it before, He will do it again.
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Therefore, I’m free.
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5 Reasons Why You Need an Auggie Doggie

A moment of transparency is coming. Please don’t judge my ignorance and show me grace. Okay, here we go…
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I never fully understood the need or purpose of an emotional support animal. It seemed like a convenient way to avoid pet rent and an excuse to bring your cat to all your social events.
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Yeah I said it.
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Animals that assist the hearing impaired, can help the legally blind navigate their surroundings, or the pup that aids the seizure patient- I get it! That’s amazing! How do I register and train my pup for such a noble deed!? But a dog who just makes you ‘feel happy’- can a dog truly be that beneficial to your depression?
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Fast forward to April 2017. I was diagnosed with Stage II Triple Negative Breast Cancer at 30 years old. I felt devastated, confused, sad, angry and defeated. My emotions ran the gamut and for the first time since my mother’s passing I experienced deep grief, and road the wave of depression.
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It was during this time that my dog, August (aka Auggie, Doodle, Doodle Bucket, Doot, Auggie Doggie and mylittlecutietootieshuggawugga) gravitated to me, fusing himself to my right breast at all times. Y’all, he never left my side, providing me with unlimited amounts of cuddles, licks and puppy eyes. I wasn’t aware of how in tuned he was with my health, both physical, mental and emotional. He proved himself loyal, attentive and caring. It was clear that August was well aware that something was wrong, and that he felt the need to fix it the best he knew how.
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Once chemo started, I was left drained and laid out on the couch for days at a time, exhausted and in physical pain. Auggie would lay on top of me, allowing me to pet him while he napped. He became my companion, my shadow and overseer. I can’t deny that his presence brought me comfort, as he is extremely calming. Whether I knew it at the time or not, he was aiding in my emotional stability, providing a little call to a big storm.
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Well I’ll be damned. August is my emotional support dog.
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While he may not be a legal registered emotional support animal, there is no doubt that this is what he has been to me for over a year now. I can now say, I get it y’all. I’m officially Team Emotional Support Dog/Cat/Goat etc. I’m coming to this conclusion while fully recognizing that what I have experienced can not compare to clinical mental or psychiatric disabilities. Therefore, I can only imagine what an emotional support animal can do for those who battle such disabilities. It is no longer inconceivable to me that animals can truly provide a companionship and calm in a way that reduces anxiety and soothes. I’m incredibly grateful that Auggie was there during my battle through cancer. 
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So this is to you Auggie- my little shadow and companion. Thanks for being so attentive, and for always seeing the needs of my heart.
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Love you Doodle!
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So, here are 5 reasons why you too need an Auggie Doodle in your life, especially if you’re battling illness:
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1. Forced to Get Physically Active
    Just because I had cancer, didn’t mean my dog stopped needing walks. (It also didn’t mean that my sister, whom I live with, didn’t relieve me of all dog responsibilities, and for that I am grateful… I guess.) One of the best ways to fight that chemo fatigue is to be active. Taking Auggie on short walks was at times the only reason I got of of the couch.
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2. Calming
    Animals have been proven to reduce blood pressure and and reduce stress levels. Reduced stress levels can also reduce anxiety levels. Bonus points if you found a calm animal. It still works even if you have a pet who is a bit of a spaz like mine.
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3. Companionship
    Although I had a Village surrounding me during my battle, I still appreciate the companionship that August offered. I felt less lonely when it was just me and him in the house. I talk to him, and I swear he comprehends half of what I say to him. My dog throws shade, gives attitudes and laughs at my jokes- all which are excellent qualities in a friend.
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4. Feel Good Feelings
    Petting your animal can release endorphins and oxytocin, those feel good hormones in the brain that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Your dog loves it, your brain loves it- it’s a win win situation really.
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5. Portable Heater
    My dog is a portable heater and I LOVE that quality in… well anyone really. He’s hot, so I welcome him to lay anywhere near me to warm me up. Heat is comforting to me, especially if I’m not feeling well. I’m a”suffocate me under 26 blankets” kind of human, so his warmth brings me much comfort. SIDE NOTE: A cuddle with a pup is not recommended for those goring through the “menopause” stage of chemo. You’ve         been warned.
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Just give me Jesus and a dog!
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Gratitude

I have been loved on, taken care of, and fussed over from the time I entered this world. Partially because I was brought into a family with big hearts and partially because I was born with Sickle Cell Anemia Disease, a genetic blood disorder. Upon my diagnosis, you rallied beside me and poured your love over me. My Village- you’ve always been present. You then grew in numbers upon my breast cancer diagnosis and another portion of love came to me. I’ve always been amazed at your heart for me and for doing good by others. Through out the years:
You’ve claimed me as your friend even after I flashed the male nurse under my morphine endured stupper.
You’ve took me to the emergency room and sat with me in the early hours of the morning.
You’ve committed to wheelchair races and strolls through hospital gardens. How did I always win?
You’ve pressed the nurses button more times that you can count at the slightest chance that I may be uncomfortable.
You’ve listen to that damn machine’s beep, beep, beep, beep… beep.
You’ve memorized the medications I was allergic to, so that you could inform doctors and nurses. 
You’ve come to understand my treatment plan better than I do. Morphine, I. V fluids, heating pads. Repeat.
You’ve prayed.
You’ve held buckets while I threw up in them.
You’ve seen more blood and needles than you ever cared to. You haven’t passed out yet.
You ever so subtlety placed water bottles in front of me as your plea to hydrate. “Drink you water.”
You’ve turned up the heat so that I may not get too cold, while you wiped the perspiration off of your own face.
You’ve brought me balloons, flowers, games and treats to my hospital room.
You held my IV bag up in the air for 20 minutes while we waited for an IV pole, which was quite the task for someone with little arms.
You’ve spent the night with me, sacrificing the comfort of a bed and shower, to watch movies with me until I fell asleep.
You’ve listen to me complain and told me to suck it up- there’s work to be done.
You prayed again.
You’ve cooked for me. Fed me. Stolen my hospital jello and replaced it with candy.
You’ve intentionally made laugh, to keep my mind off of the physical pain.
You’ve called my parents and family to update them on my health. They’re numbers are saved in your phone.
You’ve run errands for me, gathering my prescriptions and miscilaniois items through the city.
You’ve endured a rediculius amount of hospital cafeteria food. And it ain’t all been gravy.
You’ve packed many a hospital bad, both for you and me. It’s required you to rummage through my underwear drawer and you were never judgmental.
You’ve been my chemo & hospital entertainer, is coming to never ending games of uno, cards and checkers.
You’ve collected my homework for me and committed to helping me play catch-up once I returned to school.
You’ve held my hand while I was in pain. You’ve endured my grip, which is strong.
You’ve lied to nurses, telling them you were my sister, so that you could stay with me in the absence of my family.
You’ve wiped my tears while you hid your own.
You’ve taken me to chemo appointments, enduring the disgusting sounds and smells of the clinic.
You’ve sent me care packages from across the county, that carried healing supplies, fun activities, words of encouragement and items to sooth my soul.
You’ve thrown me “No More Chemo” parties, reminding me that I didn’t do it alone. I’ve never done it alone.
You’ve loved me relentlessly, unapologetically, wholeheartedly and sacrificially.
Thank you.
I believe it’s my turn to do the same for you.
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Bonding With Purpose

I’m. Cancer. Free.

I completed the checklist. Chemo. Surgery. Radiation. My understanding was once that checklist was complete, once I was officially a cancer survivor in remission, that life would return back to “normal” and I would operate as I always had. My old life, my definition of normalcy, is what I coveted for 10 months. What I did not know, what nobody told me, is that cancer (and I imagine all life altering events) shatters normalcy, leaving you with fragmented bits of your old life. Like shattered glass, you can’t mend it back together, as some pieces are chipped, scratched and missing all together. Instead, you’re left with a few familiar pieces and the scars, wisdom and revelations that cancer left behind. Then it hits you: life as you knew it is over. You can’t go back to who you were despite how desperately you may have wanted to. There is a spiritual and emotional shift in the atmosphere, orchestrated by non other than God, and it requires every ounce of your attention.

I’m not the same. I never will be. There is something terrifying, yet so freeing about not recognizing yourself. There’s something even more surreal about realizing that you’re simply at the beginning of this transformation and that a month from now, a year from now, 5 years from now, you’ll continued to be shocked by who is looking back at you in the mirror.

Because Cancer.

Because you spent too many moments questioning death. You saw too many patients suffering more than you had. You wrestlers with God in your attempt to convict Him for what He has allowed. You can’t shake these things; the experiences bond to you like thick adhesive, becoming an extension of who you are. It’s like a heavy tumor, a sudden growth attached to your side, which causes you to now walk with a perminamt limp. I have a perminamt limp. A glorious limp that oddly enough I wouldn’t trade for the world.

The tumor’s name is Purpose. I’m so glad that she has found me.

Purpose will cause you to walk differently and therefore I no longer anticpaite going back to “normal”. Instead I’ve come to realize that further change is on the horizon and it will affect every facet of my life: relationships, career, vision. Changes that will further propel me into my new relationship with Purpose, are coming and have already arrived. I acknowledge that these changes are frightening as I’m not certain in which direction I am moving. But I’m certain in this: God is in control and I am His own possession.

So this is what I say to you loved ones: that which has not killed you has come to shed light on your kingdom purpose- to proclaim the excellence of God. And as you shift into this purpose, do not resist, attempting to glue back the pieces of your old life, but rather embrace the changes within and truly bond with your purpose.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” -I Peter 2:9

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The Checklist

It’s Radiation Day! You get radiation, and you get radiation and YOU get radiation!! (Admit it, you read that in your best Oprah voice like the good Lord intended. If you failed to do this, go to the beginning and try again.) I am too pumped to begin my first day of radiation today, because it means I’m one step closer to completing this cumbersome, long winded and dramatic healing process. I love a good checklist. Nothing is more satisfying than checking off a task on the to-do list and feeling that sense of accomplishment and adulting. The gratification is so good that I will intentionally write remedial tasks on my checklist, such as “brush tooth” and “feed dog”, just so I have something to check off. I digress. Here is where I currently stand on my cancer checklist:

[x] Chemo x 8

[x] Surgery x 2

[ ] Radiation x 33

See that!? One box left! Now, I know this list seems relatively short. You’re thinking “Jewel, whats the big deal? It’s a 3 step process.” Truth is that this checklist expands, to include what was needed for the emotional healing and journey. What doctors and nurses don’t tell you, is that healing from cancer can range anywhere from a 1 step process to a 352 step process. My checklist reads something more like this:

[x] Grieve.

[x] Make sister touch your lumpy boob.

[x] Purchase pink stuff.

[x] Phone call with oncology finance office.

[x] Phone call with insurance company.

[x] Throw phone against wall.

[x] Wait. Patiently?

[x] Chemo appointment.

[x] Get Neulasta shot the next day.

[x] Hate everything.

[x] Love everyone.

[x] Pray & cry lots.

[x] Repeat steps 1-12 a total of 8 times.

[x] Celebrate the end of chemo .

[x] Get felt up by all doctors in Dallas.

[x] Make appointment for surgery.

[x] Get labs drawn for surgery.

[x] Contact insurance company 2,347 times for approval on MRI needed for surgery.

[x] Cancel surgery due to hurricane affecting insurance company.

[x] Make second appointment for surgery.

[x] Check into hospital.

[x] Let nurse attempt to find a vein 9 times for an IV.

[x] Access port instead.

[x] Cancel surgery because hospital forgot to do a needed procedure for surgery.

[x] Go home and cry. Eat lots of food.

[x] Make 3rd appointment for surgery.

[x] Surgery.

[x] Lay on couch for days while touching boob.

[x] Schedule appointment for 2nd surgery due to cancer appearing in lymph nodes.

[x] Panic.

[x] Pray.

[x] Surgery #2.

[x] Send text messages to friends while sedated. Laugh about it.

[x] Lay on couch while touching armpit.

[x] Heal while watching Blackish.

[x] Oncology appointment.

[x] Heal.

[x] Radiation appointment.

[x] Get freckle sized radiation tattoos.

[x] Show sister tattoos with pride.

[x] Get radiation.

[ ] …

And it was all necessary.

One of the most frustraiting things about this process is that I don’t know what to expect, nobody can prepare me for whats to come and the checklist is forever evolving and shifting. I didn’t know that I had to go through so much for the process to be complete within me; the expanded checklist was necessary to build my character, strengthen my worship and heal my soul. This is reflective of life for all of us on earth, whether sick or not. We don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow, our expectations rarely become reality and our life projections of growth and prosperity become overshaddowed with life’s cancer.

Life is a cancer.

We suffer uncontrollable abnormal growths of life’s complications and sorrows and at times it can feel cancerous. And in these cancerous stages of life, when we want nothing more than to feel better, for the pain to go away, sometimes we mistakingly convince ourselves that if we adhear to a set of tasks, that all pain will go away. We treat our healing journey like a perscribed checklist, believing that if we go through the motions, all will be fine. We try to shortcut the healing. Dont. Go through the expanded checklist. Work through every mundane, annoying and painful detail with God. Check each of them off, proudly, knowing that you are growing in the process. Embrace the crazy.

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10 Reasons Why Cancer is Awesome 

Cancer isn’t awesome. It’s pretty craptastic actually. Despite this, I have come across a few benefits to entering this hell storm.
1. Airport Benefits

Aw, the power of the wheelchair at the airport! My sister convinced me that I would need wheelchair service at the airport, as I would have just had chemo 6 days ago. The first week typically depletes me of all energy, so this sounded reasonable to me. Bruh, I contemplate purposefully breaking a leg the next time I fly internationally just to receive this glorious and devine perk.

This. Was. EVERYTHING.

This service allowed me to be pushed around by airport personnel, bypassing the lines at security, customs and boarding. I waited for nothing (except for my Starbucks order to be filled, because let’s not be greedy) and moved not a single one of my legs. It was glorious. Particularly when we arrived in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, at an airport that was very crowded, busy and foreign to me. Being escorted through the mass of people trying to get us to stay at their hotels or purchase their taxi service was a blessing, and without it we may still be there trying navigate through the crowd of people.

Might I add my travel buddy also benefited from this perk. You’re welcome.

2. Free Hugs & Kisses 

I’ve never been caressed more than I have in the past 6 months. As I’m writing this I realize that for some of you this is not a win. With irritation you would consider this a loss because you hate being touched, whether by loved ones or strangers. For me it brings me comfort and at times I’m a little tickled by it.

During my vacation in Mexico I repeatedly ran into an elderly woman who was fastenated with my bald head. She complemented me often, telling me how well I wore my look. At our last encounter, without saying anything, she grabbed my head with both hands and kissed it. While this is both strange and an invasion of personal space, I recognize the love behind it. She wasn’t the first (and I hope not the last) to show spontaneous love toward me.

3 Converstaions with Debbie

Cancer forces you to have a lot of deep, personal conversations with yourself. None have been more challenging to have, than the one you must have daily with your inner Debbie. You know Debbie, that heffa that keeps telling you to give up on yourself. She always says things like, “You can’t do this. You should give up on yourself. You’re not strong enough. Eat more kale.” I can’t stand her. When faced with trials you have to learn how to talk back to her, and put her in her place.

“I’m. Strong. Deborah. I’m resilient, disciplined and courageous. I can overcome anything. I will overcome everything. Heffa.”

I’ve gotten to a point where I like having these conversations with Debbie. Nothing like going in on her at 4am while drinking ginger ale and eating crackers while trying not to vomit. I feel like a true warrior, and it’s at that moment that am I truly connected with my inner strength. I think she’s made me a better person.

Thanks Deb.

4. Care Packages

I have been blessed with many wonderful care packages since diagnosis! There are many items a cancer patient is in need of to help them through their journey- thick creams/lotions & chap sticks to combat dry skin, hand santizers, ginger snacks and crackers to defeat nausea, head scarfs and more! My Villiage made sure that I never went with out, by sending several care packages throughout treatment! I have received magazines & coloring books, journals, candy and scarves ( I’m currently using one of these beautiful head scarfs to wipe the perspiration off my forehead, from a current hot flash I’m experiencing. I’ll tell you more about the joys of that internal hell later. I digress.) all of which have been used and appreciated greatly! To My Village- you’re the real MVPs. Thanks for your generosity which helpes me to defeat this thing with comfort, dignity and love.

5. Obscene and Indulgent Eating 

Because cancer I am deprived of nothing. I see it, I eat it. All of it. Nothing was considered to be too fat, to have too many calories, to not contain enough nutrients etc. I ate the chocolate cake, the burger, the milkshake, the Snickers, the fried chicken and the cobbler, while helping myself to seconds and dessert. I knew nothing of kale and treated myself to gluten everything.

And it was deliscious.

What made this all the more marvelous was that nobody felt the need to correct this bahavior- everyone cheered me on! Because cancer! Because I was apart of the rare few who didn’t lose their appetite and suffer from sever weight loss. My Village took this as a sign to “feed it” and consistently blessed me with snacks and food deliveries of all kinds! Who doesn’t love no judgment eating?! We could all use a little bit more this, don’t you think?

Speaking of over indulgent eating, I’ve had some amazing free homemade meals! This was such a blessing during chemo weeks to not have to think about cooking or grocery shopping. Food just arrived at my house. Good food. Free food. Heaven on earth!

Can you tell I love to eat?

6 Found Purpose

Oddly enough it’s not the cancer that reveals your purpose, but the living. It’s the fact that I am living and thriving through it that causes me to question my exsistance and pay close attention to fulfilling my purpose. If you’re breathing, you have purpose and this fact brings peace to my soul. I have work to do, people to bless, joy to give, hope to send and gospel to spread. This is my purpose, my mission and I’m excited and honored to fulfill it.

Thanks cancer for making it oh so clear.

7 Naps

I love a good nap. Always have. I certainly have taken more naps in the past few months, not only because they’ve been needed but because it’s been easier to convince myself that it’s okay. Who cares if bills need to be paid, lesson plans need to be done or the dog hasn’t been fed all day!? You have cancer, take a guilt free nap and rest yourself!

8 No hair. Don’t care. 

I have a long history of hating my hair (It’s a black woman, cultural, historical kind of hurt that I would love to discuss in a separate post.) and attempting to grow it to long lengths, so you can imagine the pain I had watching it fall out. Despite this aggravation I have found some amazing benefits to the bald life:

* I haven’t bought shampoo or conditioner in months.

* No need to shave! Yaaassss!

* I’m jumping in this swimming pool care free! I don’t have to worry about getting my hair wet…because…bald!

* I don’t have to do my hair in the morning, which means I get ready in 2 seconds (well, after I spend an hour drawing on my eyebrows).

* It’s an awesome reason to shop for scarves and head wraps! (Like I need a reason to shop.)

* I’ve kept cool in this Texas heat!

9 Period Free! 

You don’t realize how convient this truly is until it’s gone. What?! It’s hard for me to believe that I tolerated it for so long! Women, how are you doing it? You deserve a cookie. Always eat the damn cookie because…periods.

I can’t wait until I get mine back though…because babies.

10 Love Displayed 

I’ve never been so aware of how much God’s love is on display for me, until this journey. He shows us the love He has for us through all things- even cancer. It appeared in your text messages, cards, embrace, packages, listening ear, kind words, prayers, food deliveries, rides to the hospital, balloons, well wishes, shared laughter and margaritas. I’ve been so overwhelmed by this display of love- my heart is full and aches from rejoicing. He’s a good good Father.

 

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The Evolution of Why

One of our scholars has passed away from cancer just a few weeks ago. He was 16 years old. I instantly feel guilt.
When I receive news of someone passing away because of cancer, it affects me entirely differently now that I have it. Each time I hear of someone dying because of cancer, it forces me to dive deep within myself and question my exsistance. Especially when it’s a child that has been taken far too soon. In this journey I frequently ask myself “Why me?”
The meaning and root of that question has changed several times over the course of this journey, and I imagine will continue to transform and evolve until the day I’m heaven bound. My mind twirls around “Why?” frequently these days, taking on new meaning in each phase of this cancer journey. So far, my “whys” can be categorized into 4 stages:
1. Questioning Current Circumstances 

“Why me? Why did I have to get breast cancer?”
2. Questioning Past Pain
“Why me? Why has my burden been my health? Why has it been relentlessly attacked my whole life?”

3. Questioning Blessings: 
“Why me? Why has my journey been smoother than most? Why has this been “easy” in comparison to others whom I’ve gotten know along the way? My appetite is still intact (I’m gaining weight!), my energy is stable and I’ve been told time and time again, ‘You don’t look like you have cancer!'”

4. Questioning My Unique Purpose:
“Why me? Why do I get to live and they didn’t? Why have I been blessed with life? I’m not going to die. Why?”

I’m troubled that I don’t have the answer to that last question, yet incredibly greatful, honored and inspired by the fact that it’s mine to ask. It’s terrifying and humbling to know that the very thing that has ended someone’s life, is the very thing that’s brewing inside you. You realize that both you and the deceased have fought the exact same fight, possibly (and likely) equipped with the exact same weapons. I’m watching beautiful strong soldiers climb into the exact same wrestling ring that I’m to climb in and not returning. It feels like I’m carrying death with with me. Carrying it right in my breast.
Which is why that last question is the question of most importance, the most transforming, the one to meditate and pray upon. Lord, why have I been allowed to not only live, but thrive? Have you ever thought to ask God “why?”, not when it comes to your misfortunes but as it pertains to your blessings? It’s human nature to be an expert at asking the first type of “why me?” question- we must fight these thoughts of pitty, self loathing and resentment sometimes daily. Why did my children have to be born with disabilities? Why did my parents have to get a divorce? Why did my spouse cheat on me? Why did I get rapped? Why did my mom die when I was 25? Why was I born into poverty? We ask these questions relentlessly, but rarely ask “Why did I come through it? Why did I get this far in my life? Why did I persevere? Why did I live?”. What is the purpose behind you surviving your trials?
He has an answer. Because He’s sovereign. Because there’s no such thing as happenstance. Because it’s not by coincidence that I have breast cancer at 30 years old. Nor is by chance that you have lived through the hell you have gone through. Once you fully recognize and respect the fact that not everyone made it, you too will ask “why have I?”.
Why?
This is by design.
Some may say that I shouldn’t question it- that questioning God is wrong. The issue is not the questioning itself. In fact I urge you to forever be in pursuit of your “why” and to press into gratitude, thanksgiving and slefeshness in order to evolve your “why” from phase 1 to phase 4. Let your “why” grow from complaining to purposeful action. Afterall, you didn’t make it this far for nothing. I’m alive for a reason and it compels me to do something. I’m not certain of what that something is yet, but I know this: someone will be blessed and God will be glorified.
Why, against all odds, are you still here and how does this fit into your unique purpose?
I pray your “why” is forever evolving.