About Me...

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In a nut shell : I'm a wife, a full time working mom, a teacher, a Star Wars geek, comic book nerd, Disney enthusiast, hockey Mom, a decade long breast cancer survivor, and oh let's not forget such a happy, sassy, southern mess!

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Scars We're Left With

Today I am going to share a very intimate part of myself, a very closely hidden place, not many ever see.  I have never really revealed my deepest physical cuts, except for a select few I haven't let anyone in to see the places I keep tightly wrapped, up, away from the awkward back-step of those who fear what hides behind curtain number one. These are the parts of me that have been ripped away, cut from my body and sewn back together again. Scars, most would feel best left tucked away, out of sight, out of mind. But today I feel the need to reveal who I really am. It's time to expose the truth, to let my unsightly scars see the light of day. With God's grace today I am pulling back the curtain, peeling back the ugly bandage that has been covering my very awkward, misshapen battle scars for years.

No, it's not my breast, it's actually part of what was created in the absence of a breast. Think of  this scar as the outer edge of the bigger scars still hidden underneath away from the world. Looking at the photo above, you are coming face to face with what I have come to accept as  life after cancer, those small and large reminders of the beast and her personal mission to kill, steal and destroy my life. Today,  I am opening a door I never thought I would, making  you apart of my hidden, personal history, my daily life in the aftermath of breast cancer's attempt on my life, physically, emotionally and spiritually. These scars are some of my most personal reminders of  the path I have traveled, a personal, intimate journey I honestly would not change for a perfect body in place of the marred one I now own.

I have always shared my thoughts,  put my words to paper, worn my heart on my sleeve, placed my outward armor on, but very rarely have I  actually shared my own very real physical scars. Each scar, and believe me there are many more spread across my chest, each tell a different part of my story. The one above is just one physical scar who's story is written and mapped out upon my body. When I look back at where I have been and ahead to where I am going, I am completely and humbly amazed. Sure I sometimes wish it could be easy, but that's not how the map reads is it? I've fallen apart, become discouraged, fallen short of hope, been unfocused, and if I could give you a penny for each time I have wanted to scream, shout , gather up my tears and cash them in for self pity you would never want for anything ever again.

The truth is I have been broken, shaken and had to fall hard flat on my face in order to see the lighted path ahead of me. I've felt the sharp knife of fear cut across my body, into my hopes, yet what I have found in all this pain, misery and suffering  is God is truly the Healer of my soul. He is the One who has taken these scars left stretched across my failing body and made them a thing of beauty. What I know now is this: my scars are not truly mine alone, they are also His. God has taken each one of my scars, red, angry, puffed up, sunken in and taken them upon His own body, felt each hurt, each worry, and each crushing, pressing pain my body has been through. Each scar, each tear, each reminder of the pain no one sees is a road map to tomorrow.

Sure I have those moments when I  break down and cry, uttering, " Remember me God? Remember my heart as a child, all my dreams, all my hopes, my plans"? Those are the times I have to hide myself in Him, let the burdens I bare, the fear I hold rest upon Him. When there is no relief in sight I know now He will bare each and every one of my hidden hurts, scars tucked away from the prying eyes of the world with all it's perfection paraded in front of my imperfect body on a daily basis. Truly these scars leave me breathless, reminding me of how blessed I truly am each and every day. All the shame, blame and guilt I feel in those moments of self consciousness, self doubt, they have all been washed away, they have no place inside these scars left behind , cancer's mark, her consorts branding upon my body has no hold on me.

The Bible reminds me, "I lift my eyes upon the hills, where does my help come from, my help comes from the Lord, maker of Heaven and Earth". ( Psalm 121:1)  If He could create the beauty of the Heavens and the Earth than how can He not create something beautiful out of my scars, out of the ashes of the life burned right before my eyes? I have found this to be true in my life: God stays close by my side, keeping His eyes on me, even when I doubt Him, wander from Him or try to hide my scars from Him. Life is hard, extremely difficult, some more than others and so I say to you my precious friends even when it's still raining, when the clouds are dark and scary, when the thunder rolls and the lightning strikes close, when you feel He has taken everything away from you, look deep inside yourself and see the beauty still there.

My prayer, my hope as I run my fingers across these sometime terrifying scars, trying to read this mystery of a road map etched into my skin is this:  I pray these scars will become a colorful tapestry, a testimony of His mercy and love. Oh may each scar sing a song of hope and joy in the midst of my suffering. May I be a living breathing story of redemption, restoration and His perfect grace in the middle of so much uncertainty. For so long I yearned to break free, only half way through the grief of cancer's scorn. But today as I expose my scars to you, His love is breaking through my fear. I have truly found peace in my journey, in my history,in the past that wants to haunt me each and every day.

You may ask how many times will my eyes look upon these scars? How many days will I face the mirror, seeing cancer's mark stamped upon my chest, battling to surrender my fears, my pain, my torment? The truth is everyday is a battle. I have to face and fight my doubt each and every day. Sometimes I lose but most days I overcome by God's grace. Despite my own insecurities I am trusting His plans for my life,and in this brand new life He has given, for His work in me is not finished. How can I be so confident in a God who has allowed my body to be torn apart, marred, scared and branded by this beast we call breast cancer? Well the honest truth is I know He is making something beautiful in me, something divinely captivating in the wounds He has healed. No, everyone may not see my physical scars, but He does, and in those scars His beauty is revealed in me.

~ Christina

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dancing With Death

Have you ever stopped and thought about what you would do, how you would react or even how you would cope with a breast cancer diagnosis? It happens everyday, to both women and men, to families, mothers, fathers, wives, husbands and the list goes on and on. I know because I am one of them.

Honestly, if you saw me on the street now you wouldn't look and say , "hey that women, had breast cancer!" Nope, honestly those of us who have walked a mile or two with Beastie here, the truth is we have gotten fairly good at hiding our scars from the world. Once we live past the initial shock, after they whack off our breast(s) and all our hair falls out, then grows back in, we get pretty good at disguising our experience with the Beast. But the truth is we still Tango with cancer, with her consorts and with our scars, sometimes they are reminders of pain, other times they are bittersweet memories of victory.

The Beast, the monster within, well she's clever. She may allow you to lock her up, banish her to the dog house but the truth is we live each day with her, with this beast on a chain dragging her around with us don't we? As soon as a headache doesn't go away or a cough sets in doing time in our lungs she creeps back into our thoughts reminding us she's never gone, nope, she's just hanging around on that ball and chain we've tied her to out back.

Cancer is a bully a seriously, mean, deceitful, aggressive bully, waiting around the corner in the hope of surprising you when you lest expect her. The thing is this: My hope is not in reliving another round with the beast. Second: I don't like bullies, so you can say Cancer and I have had some major all out fights about her place in my life. For one, I am simply way too busy to die! Seriously, have you seen my to do list recently? Death is just not on my list of things to do right now! Sure, I know she likes to lurk, to peek around from corners, to play hide and seek ( though I don't hide, I just ring her bell and run!) and she likes to taunt us every chance she gets. Personally, I remind her on a daily basis, that she doesn't have the deck of cards in her hands, nope, my Father in Heaven does. So until He says, Death it's time, and Death allows the beast out of her cage, simply put: I'm not going anywhere! It's as simple and as easy as that.

This beast and her friend death have no hold on me. I have to giggle every time Death has come for me ( and from the time I was a child she has tried many times) God pushes her back. I tell her from time to time, just so she and I are clear, that she has the wrong memo in her hand. I certainly didn't get it, and I'm not going anywhere just because the BEAST has placed a bounty on my head! In my crazy, silly way, I have always imagined her in a pink, mini robe, pink high heels, dark black sunglasses and a glimmering sickle, hood pulled up walking around behind me, sitting down beside me with a "what's up" node just waiting on the "Go" from above.

So how can I joke about death and this man eating beast? Well, because I have faced death, I have looked her square in the eyes and wet my pants. I have felt the fear take hold, come for my life as I have screamed , no, not yet and yes I have even felt my life start to slip away from this fleshly body as my baby boy watched his mom begin her first steps toward Heaven. I have had more than enough time to dance with death and this personal beast of mine to know that they have no control of today, no right to steal me away before I am called home. I am not going to say I am ready to jump up and down, screaming pick me, pick me! No, what I am saying is I have been given a second lease on life, a new beginning, a chance to appreciate every moment I am given, to hold my children, to kiss my husband at the end of the day, to rejoice in those little moments we share together as a family, to celebrate another birthday, to enjoy a good meal, to lay my head down and rise again the next morning to the annoying sound of the alarm. Life is full of moments, sadly moments we take for-granted and dancing with death has a way of reminding you how many we waste complaining the whole way.

The real truth my friends is this: the real blessings we receive come from our tears, from the pain, the suffering we feel. How can I say this? Well, the truth is I know I am alive, able to feel, to love and to experience all God has to offer me while I can still feel pain. Cancer, diabetes, a mini stroke and all the other countless conditions I have been blessed with can never take my joy. Not a one of them can take my life until my name is called home to the Father who has created me. So for now, I am just too busy to take death's hand, but one day peace will come and speak my name quietly. When that day comes I will not fear the unknown because I will be ready, knowing I have lived a life full of love, joy, pain and so many more unspoken blessings to count. Above all I know my children and my husband will be secure in His hands. I know this beyond a shadow of a doubt because of both the pain and suffering, because of His grace, His mercy, and His foresight to give me a second lease on life.

Without my dance with disease, with death and with the Beast tied up in my back yard how would I be able to appreciate all He has given me ? The truth is, I wouldn't because I would have continued to spend my life taking all the blessing's surrounding me for granted, complaining about what I do not have. Instead because of the pain, of the suffering I have been allowed to experience, I am truly a life reborn. My life has been restored,  I have been given a second lease on life, dents and all. So from this day on I choose to be courageous, even on the days I Tango with Death or those nights I hear the Beast howling in the distance, because with His grace I have nothing to fear.