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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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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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