Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Day 475 Blue Dogs

For many of us, when we hear or see the words, Blue Dog, our thoughts go straight to artist George Rodrigue.  His paintings of Blue Dogs and Cajuns are collected worldwide.  George's wife Wendy posts daily in her Musings of an Artist's Wife and on her website, www.WendyRodgrique.com  about the life of an artist.  If you're not familiar with George's work, you can see it at www.georgerodrigue.com .

Yesterday, my friend, Darlene, sent me Wendy's latest post.  I knew that George had spent last summer in Houston for medical treatment at the same time I was going through mine.   I didn't know for sure but assumed it was for cancer.  It seems my mind most often goes in that direction now days. 

For the first time, Wendy posted about the experience and her words were so poignant and so accurately descriptive, that I just feel compelled to reprint here.

Summer 2013 also has its challenges. We paint a rosy picture on facebook and in photographs, but anyone who knows such health concerns understands that there's no quick or guaranteed fix. Remission, we learned, means living with cancer, even after successful treatment. It means ongoing tests, occasional setbacks, and unpredictable side effects.
Anyone who has dealt with this enemy can quickly identify with what she is writing about.  Even a report of "Cancer Free" does not release a warrior from the battle.   It is ongoing for the rest of their lives.
For the last few months I've been dealing with pain in my shoulders, mainly my left shoulder.  I waited as long as I could to give it a chance to heal itself but finally gave in and am headed to an orthopod on Friday.   Bone cancer?  Yes, that thought crossed my mind.  Since the pain is in both shoulders, I'm believing its just geriatric but there is still that kernel of doubt that lingers.   The job is to not give that kernel life so that it grows and takes over my quality of life.  
This past weekend I visited my cousin and his wife in the hill country.  As we were sitting deep in conversation one day, I remember telling them that I love my life.  It surprised me when those words came out.   I used to say that all the time but I I haven't since April 23, 2012.   Overcoming colon cancer and then the depression that nursing my best friend, my 14 year old Golden, Chipper, who was my nurse through chemo, and then having to have him put to sleep, brought about.....I thought I would never utter those words again.   But I did.   I was excited to realize that I once again am in love with my life.  I am so grateful for my creativity and my life as an artist, a mother, a grandmother and, most importantly, a child of the Most High.
Thank You, Father.   Thank You.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Day 470 Survivor's Kitchen

In the last few years, I have come to love the flavors of India and that part of the world.  Amazingly enough, most of the spices used in that cooking are very similar to those used in Mexican foods which are a staple here in Texas.   When I open my pantry, I'm not sure whether I'm smelling Mexican or Indian but either way I love the smell.

Going back to the list of foods that are considered to be antiangiogenesis - foods that starve the blood vessels that feed cancer cells -  I am constantly looking for recipes that include several at the same time.   I recently tried a recipe by Aarti Sequeira from the Food Network and it is a winner.   There is such an explosion of flavor when I put a forkful in my mouth that it surprises me every time.   Delicious.   Here it is.   Please try it.  Also, this is a large dish for someone cooking for just one so I can attest it freezes well and does not lose any of its flavor in the thawing and reheating process.

Lebanese Lentils, Rice and Caramelized Onions
1 cup brown or green lentils, sorted and rinsed (AA)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (AA)
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. cracked black peppercorns
3 medium red onions, thinly sliced (AA)
Kosher salt
3/4 cup basmati rice
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 1-inch piece cinnamon stick (AA)
1/2 tsp. cayenne
2 tbsp. pinenuts (AA)
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice (AA)
Greek yogurt, for serving, optional (AA)
Throw the lentils into a medium saucepan.  Fill with enough cold water to cover the lentils by about an inch.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn down to a simmer and cook until the lentils are tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes.  Drain and set aside.
As the lentils cook, put a skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil.  Allow the oil to warm and then drop in the cumin seeds and cracked peppercorns and cook, shaking the pan until the cumin seeds darken a little, about 1 minute.
Add the onions, sprinkle with a dash of salt and cook until they turn dark caramel brown, stirring often.  This will take about 15 minutes.  (Took longer for me)  Splash the onions with a little water if they stick to the bottom of the pan.  You'll know they're done both by their deep chestnut color and by the slight crispiness developing on some of the onions.
Using a slotted spoon or spatula, remove about half of the onions to a paper towel-lined plate, these are for garnish later.  Into the remaining onions, sprinkle in the ground cumin, cayenne and then add the cinnamon stick, saute about 1 minute.  (Oh my goodness, the aroma at this point is mouthwatering)
Add rice and cook, stirring gently until some of the rice grains start to brown.  Quickly add the cooked lentils, 3 cups water and 1 1/2 tsp salt, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook 30 minutes.  (Only needed about 17 minutes to the perfect consistency when I made so check frequently)
The water should be completely evaporated and rice should be tender.  Turn off the heat, keep the lid on, and allow the rice to steam undisturbed for about 5 minutes.  In the meantime, toast the pinenuts and used for topping along with reserved onions, a squeeze of lemon juice and dollop of yogurt.
I did not have the pinenuts on hand and did not use either the lemon juice or yogurt.   However, there is a little heat from the cayenne and next time, I'll make the Indian yogurt condiment, Raita,  to accompany.  Also, I used only two onions and mixed all of them into the dish rather than reserving some to use as a topping.   I am thinking that I also want to try this as a filling for a Mexican tamale.  Yummmmmm Yummmmm...........   Hope you'll try and let me know if you like this as much as I do.

Precious Lord, Jehovah Rapha,
I know that You have incorporated healing into the foods You created to feed, satisfy and nourish us.  That You for the research that is revealing more and more of the intelligent design You incorporated into every aspect of this world that You spoke into existence.
Father, we thank You for the supernatural healings that You make part of our lives as well.  We ask today that You touch the life of every person fighting the enemy cancer.  Guide us to the right foods, the right exercise, the right lifestyle that will fight that enemy and enhance our quality of life.
Remind us daily, Father, that the best quality of life is in knowing and loving You.
Thank You Father.  Thank You.
These things we ask in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Day 469 No Need to Panic

In November, two years ago, I began to have sore throats and sinus infections over and over.   It seemed I was barely over one when another one would start.  In January, I started with an allergist thinking it was just allergies and he would give me the allergy tests and discover I had a huge allergy to something environmental and give me a shot and I would be done and start to feel better soon.  When the allergist told me there was no allergy and no magic potion to start making me feel better, I burst into tears in his office.   I had felt so poorly for months.  Surely someone could do something.

By March, nothing was showing up as a physical problem and I went to a new doctor for my well woman exam.   Fortunately, that young doctor was horrified that I had not had a colonoscopy and insisited I schedule one immediately.   Thank you, Dr. Heaps.   That colonoscopy saved my life.  The sore throats were not a symptom of colon cancer but they were a symptom that my immune system was working over time, trying to kill the cancer that was growing in my body rather than fighting the sore throats and sinus infections.

Last week, after spending more time outside than usual, I started to have a sore throat again.  This was the first one in almost two years.  It was only on the right side but went up into my ear.  By the third day, I started to worry.  I guess, no matter what, I will forever wonder if every pain or twinge or not great day is a symptom of the enemy trying to gain a foothold again and destroy my life.   So, what did I do?   Pray?  I should have but instead I just pushed it to the back of my mind.   I sort of felt that praying about it would be acknowledging it and giving it some power that I didn't want it to have.  I suppose on some level I was praying, just not going down on my knees asking that the sore throat not be a return of cancer.  But He knew.

"Now my daughter, do not be afraid; I will do for you all that you ask........"   Ruth 3:11

I am amazed every day how God shows up in my life.   I shouldn't be surprised but I continue to be, as He reminds what an great and amazing God I serve.   I am so blessed to be counted one of His children and I give Him all the praise, honor and glory.    My God is an awesome God.

Precious Lord, Jehovah Rapha,
I thank You for loving me and for healing me and for protecting me and for blessing me.  I thank You for showing Your greatness every day in my life.   It is all You, Father.   It is all You.
Father, today I pray again for our friend Tony's blood counts to come up.   He has missed two rounds of chemo because his body was not strong enough to handle the onslaught of the poison meant to destroy the cancer cells invading his body.   He will be tested again Friday and, in Jesus' name, let the blood numbers soar so that this enemy in his life can be killed.
I ask strenth for every one out there fighting the same enemy.  Special blessings for friends Lisa, and Jo and Marti and Bryce and Frank.   Love them, bless them, heal them.
These things I pray in the precious name of Jesus Christ, the name above all names.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Day 464 Small Victories

This morning I was reviewing the Book of Joshua.   After Moses' death, Joshua was appointed to lead the Israelites across the Jordan to take possession of the Promised Land.   God told them that, if they would be obedient,  He would guide them in victory.   Their first battle, Jericho, He fought for them.  All the Israelites had to do was walk around the walls of the city every day for six days and on the seventh day, walk around seven times, blow their horns and shout and the walls would come down.  And it happened just like that.   Then the humanity of the Israelites took over and disobedience came into play.   The result is that the army of God's chosen people was routed at the tiny defenseless town of Ai. 

What an incredible lesson God gives us in the telling of these events.   He is there to go into battle with us against the enemy every time.   We can't expect the defeat to be as easy as that of Jericho was but we can always have a victory of some sort in every battle ....... as long as we're obedient.  It is only when we turn our backs on God that defeat is inevitable.

I had cancer.   I am healed.   There is a victory in the healing, certainly.   But the greater victory is in a better, a closer, a more trusting and loving relationship with God, with Jesus, than I ever had before.
There is a victory in knowing that God wants me to take care of myself and eat the right foods and that I can do that.

"Bless the Lord, O my soul....who satisfies your mouth with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle."    Psalm 103:2-5

Good food, exercise, study, service, doing our part to be the best, strongest, healthiest we can be in order to better serve Him.   He honors that.   That is when He goes into battle with us.  And what a comfort it is to know that, in the words of my friend Lisa, "Either way, we win."  

We don't have to start big.  We can start with small victories.   My small victories for today are going to be...........1. Cook a new healthy dish made with only cancer fighting foods. 2. Exercise this morning to get my heart rate up.  3. Walk this evening to strengthen my bones.  4. Extra prayer time to thank God for all He has done for me so far and for all the good plans that He has in store for me.   So, those are mine.   What are your small victories going to be today?

Precious Lord, Jehovah Rapha,
Thank You for going into battle with us against the enemy, cancer.   Thank You for every new discovery and development to battle that hated destroyer.  Thank You for every victory, no matter how large or how small, that we have today as we strive to do Your will, to love and honor You and to be the best for You that we can be.
You are a good and loving God, a healing God and a forgiving God.  Thank You for showing us how to live, for giving us victories every day and for forgiving us when we fall back into the old harmful ways of our lives before cancer.   Thank You for the knowledge that there is a better way and for showing us that way.
We love You, Lord.   We love You.
We pray and give thanks in the precious name of Your Son and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Day 463 A Big Responsibility

I had lunch yesterday with some friends I had not seen in a while.   My friend Lauren was sitting across from me and she looked at me intently and said, "You know, Jo, you're my only survivor."   I remembered then that she had seen a daughter and a best friend through horrible struggles with cancers that they had both succumbed to.   In both cases it was a lengthy and painful fight.  Her daughter Mandy was young, in her 20's and just starting life.   Elaine was full of life and fun and the type of person that everyone was always happy when she walked into a room.

I hate cancer.   I hate it.  And my response to Lauren was that if I was her only survivor, it was now my responsibility to see that I remained a survivor so that she wouldn't have to deal with another loss to cancer.   That's a pretty big responsibility but sometimes we do things for others that we won't do for ourselves.   I know that's an extreme example but attitude is so important in defeating this enemy.   So, I have given myself several long term goals that I'm working toward.   I don't want to ever get to the point where I quit looking toward a productive future.

First of all, is my study of the Bible.   Every time I read God's word, something new is revealed to me and I have this huge "ah ha!" moment.  How can I express or defend my beliefs if I don't truly understand the whys and wherefores of what I believe.   So, I have goals there.   Secondly is my art.   I have just taken on a new gallery and I am painting daily to make sure that all four of my galleries have inventory as well as trying to get paintings started now for the Christmas season.   To see my work, go to www.texasgalgallery.com

I have grieved terribly over my precious Chipper Dale who passed a few weeks back.  I still cry every day and I know that isn't good for me.  Grief and depression can have a negative effect on the immune system and I don't want to do anything that might give cancer a second chance.   So I have decided that the best way to fill the empty spot in my heart is with another dog.   It will, of course, be a rescue and I'm combing local websites now to see which one seems to need me the most. 

Through all of this, I've stripped the wallpaper in both bathrooms.........I should say the three layers of wallpaper in both bathrooms.   An old house can really be a pain sometimes.  I've filled in the holes, and have two coats of kilz in one bath waiting for enough time to start with paint.   Then I have plans to repaint the living room.   Busy.   Busy.   I'm too darned busy to ever be sick and debilitated again. 

So, what's your plan?  Do you have goals for the future?   Future goals that you're going to make happen yourself and not expect God or someone else to accomplish for you?  If you don't, start today.  Silly, crazy, improbable plans..........it doesn't matter.   Set out projects for yourself and start to work on them.   God will honor your tenacity, your life will be fuller and maybe, for just a little while, you'll forget that cancer ever existed.

Precious Lord, Jehovah Rapha,
We thank You that even with and after cancer we can be productive.   We thank You for the love and care You show us each day.   What a great and glorious God you are and how grateful we are to serve you.
Thank You for the amazing progess that our friend Lisa has made in her victory over multiple myeloma.   She is months ahead of schedule in her recovery and gives You all the praise, honor and glory.
Father, we ask again for the strengthening of Tony's system so that he can start his next round of chemo.   He has already delayed one week because of low counts.   You can raise them Lord so that this precious active teenager can get on with his healing and put cancer behind him.
We thank You Father that Bryce is feeling well enough to start his next in hospital round of treatment. 
We love You and give thanks for the faith and stamina that you are giving each of these warriors daily as they fight the enemy.   Give them the victory of total healing.
These things we ask in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.