“This is what He wanted to do and it gave Him great pleasure.”
(Ephesians 1:5b NLT)
Every day people are in search of someone to love. Someone to care for and be cared for by. They have an image in their heads of size, hair color, personality, affection and security. Most often, though, that plan is reduced to a simple statement of “I will know it when I see it.”
It is this search for not just a companion, but someone to take great care for, that sends many right past the specialty shops in the mall. Right past the big box gatherings. Right past the matches of pure perfection and straight to the misfit mutt at the local pound.
Yes, I am talking about a puppy. Or am I?
Amongst the human race, especially in these turbulent times, are many of us who feel very much like that…
My thought for tonight is simply this: I wonder if our loss of freedom to move about in humanity has made us more human. In the past 6 weeks, I have cherished memories more than I ever have. I have pushed aside the past more than I ever have I have mourned more people at once than I ever have. I have had to be more creative to show my care than I ever have. I have had to give and serve more than I ever have. I have I looked for more moments to laugh than I ever have I have realized it is okay to cry more than I ever have. I have experienced the need for music more than I ever have. I have searched for pockets of silence more than I ever have I have worked harder than I ever have. I have been more purposeful in play than I ever have. I have fought to hold on to dreams more than I ever have I have fought off nightmares more than I ever have. I have been mindful to conserve more than I ever have I have mindlessly indulged more than I ever have I have been more thankful of home than I ever have I have longed for outdoors more than I ever have. I have been more grateful for health more than I ever have I have been more anxious about health than I ever have I rejoice more for the resilience of my children than I ever have I sorrow realizing they don’t need me as much than I ever have I take notice of the brilliance of colors more than I ever have I take notice of the presence of darkness more than I ever have I steer from the residuals of human touch more than I ever have I long for the residuals of human touch more than I ever have. I see crises makes lonely more than I ever have I see crises makes us one more than I ever have. I feel more human now than I ever have. I feel He is God more now than I ever have
All of my life I have refused to eat any food that moves, Jello, Pudding, or running eggs. Don’t know why but it has always been a stomach turning thing.
This morning, I was in a situation where I either had to eat or be rude and not eat at all. Tempted as I was, I figured I would at least taste the thingy called a “Croque”… loaded with special cheeses, thick toast, tomato Jam, and dripping on top… a sunny side up egg.
To make matters worse, I had just talked about in Bible study last night about not being afraid to try all that life has for you. I talked about after fighting cancer for a year, everything else seemed easy.
Well I will be dern…. It was absolutely delicious. Movement and all. . I want another. Still aint eating no pudding or jello though. LOL.
While I waited to hear back on a very special “flight”, I was awaken around 1 a.m. with an amazing feeling of God expressing His love to this person.
It is what I prayed for my very special friend who found Christ late in life and went on to do some amazing things for the Kingdom. Though I know God honored his service with extended life and people who loved him and his infectious laughter, I asked that he would feel an amazing sense of being loved “just because” God does.
It made me giggle with joy and pray my beloved Doc C did too.
I also pray now for some folks in my life who have not come to know Christ for varying reasons. You may think I am nuts sometimes, but I try to impress on you that God is good despite life circumstances or the hand you have been dealt. I want you to know this love and why it makes me Peaceful when you wonder why I am not falling apart.
It’s not about rules or regulations or anything remotely religious. Its about a God who loves you, hurts for you, moves for you and works it out if we pay attention. Nobody is trying to change you. But this love does it when you truly let it in.
It’s not about being a religious freak or perfection……have you met me yet? LOL. Being set apart for God is what being Holy is. And that being set apart is based on you feeling His love and never wanting Him not to know yours. Your actions follow suit.
God loves you the way you are. His love improves you and uses your flaws to love on others. If you truly know me, then you only love me because God loved me first. If any flaw in me has steered you away from Christ…..I beg you to forgive me and let’s fix it.
To the person who feels like they are going thru hell and that God does not care. Look again. Look again.
He is there in the friend who sent you ginger snaps when chemo would not let you eat. He is there is the nurse who smiled at you just a little extra to get you thru. He is there is the coworker who sends you an emoji every morning to motivate you to live. He is there in the person who sent you food for no reason. He is there in the 100 bill somebody felt they just had to give you and you needed it.
He is there in the songs that bring you joy. He is there in the counseling sessions. He is there in the eyeglass cleaner delivered every Christmas (you know who you are.) He is there when your grandkids overwhelm you with kisses.
He is there through tough times and sorrows. He holds you when no one else will. And you wonder why you didn’t lose your mind…it was Him holding it together.
And this is for a very specific friend: He was there in every Star Wars movie. He was there in every recipe you perfected. He was there and used Optimus Prime to bring a message. He was there in Bumblee. And for Pete’s sake He is there with them crazy cats of yours. Lol. He was there during our elementary school days when you would hear my church choir wooing you but we’re afraid to come in because segregation still existed. Who do you think made us sing so freaking loud!!!! . He sent a ram in the bush to get you out of a bad situation as a child. Your family was not perfect. No earthly family is. But God whispered more times than you noticed and He is still whispering.
To all of us, just because the Red Sea has not parted for you or you have not noticed a burning bush yet, does not mean God has not loved you. People disappoint you. They disappoint God. But His love overcomes and with some focus….We can see it everywhere and in everything.
I write this with tears in my eyes because today….more than anything I want my friends and loved ones to giggle with God’s Presence today. I want to arise in Glory someday to see our comedy club section. Filled to the brim with the joy of God’s love.
Please if you need me to show you the way…..reach out to me. I’m coming for you….but hoping you catch me first.
Knowing full well that I have to be ready for work in 4 short hours, I am changing the flower pot holding a certain plant on my dining room table.
Honestly, I can’t even tell you what kind of plant she is. All I know is that when I acquired her the tag said “low maintenance.” She ( I determined that because it was far too pretty to be otherwise) was an impulse purchase made immediately after I had been diagnosed with cancer.
“I want life in this house. Something that grows!” That is was I screamed at my husband when he questioned my purchase. He was right to be puzzled because my green thumb was notoriously lacking. Not even faux plants were safe from me.
But this one said “low maintenance.” I knew she would not fail me. I needed that in my life knowing that my world was about to change. All I had to do was water, feed, turn some light on her. I would sing around her and we would both be alright.
Fast forward. Just about 15 months later. The hard part is done. Surgery, chemo, radiation over. Hair growing back. Returning to more life as Michelle and less as a patient. Busy, busy, busy.
I’m doing pretty good. Her? Not so much. This morning I could practically hear her crying. Missing some leaves. Some turning yellow. Not growing anymore.
I wanted to give excuses. I wanted to blame Her for not living up to the guarantee. I swore I had not changed a thing. I was still doing my regular routine care of Her.
Or was I?
Was it this Sunday or last? Had my every Sunday morning ritual of loving on Her become less regular? When was the last time I added plant food. Did I forget that She was not a cactus?
I realized from feeling around her soil that water was not this issue. Her position near the light was giving Her the proper hours each day.
Her roots were exposing but She was dying. I realized She was not growing, changing, and evolving because she had no room to. The normal processes of day to day without the promise to expand space had choked the life from Her. Literally.
Routine care was killing Her.
Her, was teaching me a lesson. Daring me not to return to my “low maintenance” life from before cancer. Her yellowing leaves were weeping begging me to remember to not just breathe but to live.
And then I began to weep.
A few days ago, I lost a beautiful friend. Not to cancer but to a stupid flu bug. I begin to think of her as that neglected plant. Loving, caring, giving her all to make the lives of others beautiful. But not requiring much in return.
Too young to die, but who had convinced herself she was too old to try new things.
She was an awesome cook who dreamed of catering, but was stuck at a desk job. After many years, she got caught in a company downsizing. I tried to make her see it as an opportunity to finally make use of that awesome kitchen. I even bought her a chef’s hat with her name monogrammed on it, hoping to it motivate her. I never saw her wear it outside of the day I gave it to her at the office.
So I am still weeping at this awful hour with dirt under my fingernails. Heartbroken at the thought of what could have been if she had just re-repotted.
Now don’t get me wrong. She had a beautiful life. She had an amazing soul. Her love was beyond compare. But I always could feel her holding back what was truly inside. She gave herself routine care with no room to expand.
Then I begin to think of the others I lost during the past 15 months. To the ravishing of cancer clinical and otherwise. Where might they have wanted their roots to go? How tall did they want to be?
I realized that their memories were speaking to me through the plant I am fighting to save.
Fight to grow! Everyday! Don’t accept a low maintenance condition when you are born to reach for light. Don’t let the routine “have to” things keep you from being as green as you can possibly be. Don’t let any disappointment, disability or person impede the life you were born to live.
So, now I am completing this task with love. I will probably have the smell of fresh potting soil in my nose all day. I should have worn gloves to keep me from having any dirt under my nails when I go to work.
But it’s okay. It will be a reminder that I am meant to grow to a bigger pot. Doing my work …but chasing my dreams!!!
In memory of Michelle Rodgers Baber. The most beautiful flower transplanted to Heaven on January 17, 2020. “See ya later, Darling.”
I suppose I will answer in fuller detail later. But I was asked earlier about my “why me?” moments. My answer was this: of course I have them. But I try simply to avoid them because then I find my spiritual self asking my carnal self “why not me? ” to which both sides have lofty answers. And then the fight ends with the question to which no pure soul can answer with a holy heart “Who would I rather God had picked instead?”
Cancer sucked. Surgery sucked. Chemo really sucked. And I suppose my upcoming radiation will too. But no where do I believe I have a target on my back. My name is not Job or Job-ette. We live in a world where stuff happens even to those who love God and are loved by God. The magnificent difference is I am never alone. I would have lost my mind without His ever presence.
Would I have chosen this path? A resounding NOPE. But nor would I choose to hand it off to someone else. There is none else worthy to walk in my shoes nor is none else deserving to have the pain I bear walking in my shoes.
I fight on believing that purpose and goodness shall come out of this. That nothing I have experienced, bad or good, is in vain.
I shall not waste time wondering “why” on many days. I would rather spend the many days wondering how to powerfully live.
In the grand scheme of things, there was nothing nuclear about it. The world has not ended. But it certainly felt like I had been hit by a bomb.
I was prepared and unready all at the same time. My infusion nurse had warned me. My oncologist had warned me. Every book and every fellow survivor had warned me.
It had even warned me. In the three days prior, and without further description, everything below my neck had made a steady march toward the shower drain. Adding insult to injury by forcing me to repeatedly clean the “shower shroom” I had purchased in case of such of an event.
I even had a beautician and a back-up beautician on stand by. I was going to take control of this. I was not going to let it beat me. I was going to be brave and rid myself of the trauma. Was even going to go live on social media with it. I was going to declare that “Pink Warriors” rule. A group of us girls were going to fight back.
But this was not to be the case. Whether this was bad luck or whether it was divine providence, I don’t know. Every single lady involved but me was busy that Friday night. My power moment was quickly becoming a whimper.
I was desperate. I was edgy, but I was sure I could make it to Saturday morning. “Just go to bed”, I told myself, “It will be okay”.
Taxotere aka “The Hair Taxi” said ” Yeah, Right!”
Ever had a sunburn on your head? That’s what it felt like when the “glow bugs” came to fight. Woke me up at 3 a.m. with a jolt. Instantly, my hand rises for my head. Ascends empty and descends full of what used to be.
My face was wet with mourning before I even picked up the comb and started to loosening the plaits I had been wearing to lessen impact. But nothing could save me from the pain in my scalp nor the pain in my spirit as they began to fall on their own. For each one I pulled, another came with it.
Exhausted from trying to keep up, I woke my husband up at 4 a.m . I sat between his knees on the floor to let him finish the job. Towel around my shoulders and bag in hand to protect the carpet.
We turned on the comedy channel, though neither of us really felt like laughing. I was attempting to drown out the screaming that was going on in and on my head.
After nearly two straight hours of digging, pulling and stopping to cool my scalp with a towel, I was left with a gallon sized freezer bag of what used to be black (and grey) natural curls and braids.
My “Whoopie Goldberg” pigtails use to extend just about my shoulders. Very few in my professional life had seen them. I kept them neatly tucked under a curly wig of about the same length during daylight hours. They were my little secret that got exposed the minute I hit my door frame each night and all weekend long. Only my closest family and friends had seen them. Oh, and occasionally, the mail man who I felt no need to be fake with.
My “Whoopies” were my guilty little pleasures. My real me. My freedom. And now I was carefully gathering them for a funeral procession in a zip lock bag coffin. A sobbing march to the super can outside so I would not be tempted to keep them.
SIDE NOTE: It is just hair. I know that. But it was mine. The next person with a full head of hair who has not experienced chemo or alopecia…. and says that I should just get over it….. best believe they should stand at least my arm span away for a week or more.
In rotation, for 50 years. Together, thru a gazillion style and color changes. Fads and bad hair cuts. Extensions and protective wigs. Personality, definition, style! Alter ego! It was mine and I need at least 24 hours to pout and eat some of the crap I have been avoiding. I will smile again Sunday.
As I ran my hand again through the remnant still attached to me, the physical pain was very much there. I would spend most of the morning with cold towels on my head trying to minimize the burn. I tried to talk to God to do the same for my soul. I have come to the conclusion that I was not allowed to beat this part of the race because He needed me to “feel” this for somebody else. Testimonies are never for ourselves, but for those in ear shot or in the reading.
I will be real with you. This day, though horrible for a few hours, was truly never really about hair. It was about the feeling of breast cancer robbing me of something else.
Please, don’t read pity …. read mad as spit.
I know what millions of men and women feel as surgery changes your body. Scars criss-cross in vain places. Things taken off and things inserted in. Skin texture changes and color changes. Ruined taste buds. Weight gain and weight loss. Steroid hots and steroids cold. Steroid cries and steroids mean. Just this week, I met a lady who lost her hearing to chemo. Another of whom it caused heart problems.
Let’s not forget people talking to your chest like your tumor will glow and reveal itself or your missing boob will reappear before their eyes. Or the dumb things that are said like “my 3rd cousin didn’t make it”, “where’s your faith” or “it’s just hair”.
I got myself together Saturday morning. Since the beauticians were still not available, I grabbed my daughter and headed straight to the neighborhood barbershop where I take my boys to. I knew “Pop Trim” as he is affectionately called would be opened early. I needed to get this over with quickly. I called ahead and was greeted with a ” I got you girl”.
The shop is normally full of noise and a lot of trash talking guys. I am one of only a few ladies that can hang in such a place…. well trained by my large family of uncles and male cousins. But today I was first in the door and it was almost silent.
Pop, a veteran of the Armed Forces and a retired firefighter with strong hands, handled me like he was cradling a newborn baby. His quiet demeanor was almost unsettling as I had never seen it before… and probably never will again.
Scissors and clippers flying around my head, he took breaks in between when the sobs came. He never acknowledge them. Didn’t hand me a tissue. He just let me have my tears. I thought I wanted an army of women with me to cheer me on. But the healing touch of this stately rescuer who knew how to properly war was more than enough.
My eyes flowed upward toward the ceiling seeking my true Rescuer. I know He is with me and will never leave me comfortless.
And then into the eyes of my daughter who was filming my buzz cut. I pray for the day that breast cancer goes playing in traffic. I want my girly girl to never know what this feel like.
I am too smart for my own britches. Have always been. Probably will always be. A blessing and a curse, I read my diagnosis in my hospital’s electronic MyChart five or so days before my surgeon had a chance to bring me in to talk about my biopsy results. Big bold letters, Invasive Metastatic Breast Cancer = Stage 2 to Stage 3…. and a bunch of mumble jumble about hormone receptors and on and on.
Panic stricken, I did would any good patient would do…. I didn’t call my doctor…. I went straight to the internet.
Wasn’t showing too much brain on that one was I?
While the internet is full of great information, ( but only if you stick to national sites dedicated to cancer research and helps) I found myself drawn to my version of the “dark web.” I found every scientific thing on the planet that spelled doom and gloom. Horror stories and every memorial available. If that were not enough, the commercials on TV … (you know the ones…. “side effects include” every list of death imaginable) kept screaming at me “metastatic is relentless.”
By the time I got to Dr. Misti’s office (she is the greatest by the way), I had already planned my funeral (more about that another day). I brought my husband, my mother-in-love (she is too great to be an in-law) and my “always there” auntie with me, so Dr. Misti could verbalize the extent of my bad news without me having to do it.
“Oh, I am pretty sure we can fix this!”
Her casualness and chipper demeanor took me aback. This surely was not the drama filled meeting I had been rehearsing in my head for days. I saw my family smile and draw sighs of relief. My mother-in-love promised Doc a big pan of cinnamon rolls if she kept her word.
I on the other hand was totally confused and started off my list of but, but, buts.
Firstly, Dr. Misti was furious that my results had been released to me before she could sign off on them. We both agreed that was a tool of satan to mess my head up. He won that round. Had me dead without dying.
Secondly, she explained that while my treatment plan would not be easy, that I would be facing surgery, chemo, radiation and years of hormone therapies, however, INVASIVE metastatic did not mean that I had been INVADED. That a staging of 2 to 3, while more to deal with than a 1, did not necessarily mean death before God’s timing was on the horizon. And finally, the hormone stuff that I did not quite understand…. she said the hormone/biological gene patterns I had, while though they made me a target for breast cancer in the first place, they were also the kind to have. Basically, I was made to beat this.
If you have not figured it out yet, Catholic hospital with a soft hearted Christian surgeon. She prayed with our family before we left that day. My auntie blessed her hands. My mother-in-love was already working on the frostings in her mind. My husband tried to hide the fact that he “was leaking” as men who do not cry call it.
In the months, that have followed, I have repeated over and over, ” it aint easy, but it’s worth it.” Something I adopted after my son received his long awaited kidney transplant exactly 9 birthing months before I received the cancer diagnosis.
I have since had the tumor that I never felt removed. It was the size of the average ping pong ball. It was clean and tight, which was very much in my favor. I didn’t do any kind of reconstruction because the concave in my breast is not horribly huge and at my age and weight, I don’t wear bikinis anyway. ( You can laugh, I want you to. )
The invasive metastatic part is that it spread to my lymph nodes.
Invasive- meaning moving.
Metastatic – meaning attached elsewhere.
Lots of weird and sometimes scary testing proved that breast cancer (which does not travel by blood but by lymph fluid) had not appeared anywhere else in my body. All of my lymph nodes under my left arm have now been removed. Only two of the 7 tested showed cancer. One fully and one in early staging. Consequently, a huge scar where my armpit used to be. I now have to use deodorant in the form of a crystal ….. it actually works, I don’t stink.. My range of motion is not fully back yet, had some nerve damage in complication, and I have only driven twice in the past few months. Still hurts sometimes and getting used to an altered body sometimes has me walking in to door frames where I never had before. ( You can laugh here too. I want you to).
I won’t lie. Chemo sucks. I will detail that more another day. It is an aint easy but worth it moment.
Long story short, the only thing that was invaded last September, was my mind. I allowed a trick of the enemy to “steal, kill and destroy” all my hopes, dreams and plans for the future for a few short days. Just enough so that if I had not had God in me, I probably would have jumped from a bridge in fear.
You see, the enemy uses his taunts to make a lot of us lose the game before it’s played. The children of Israel had lost the battle with Goliath in their mind long before a spear was even thrown. He taunted them day and night with words and they caved in. It wasn’t until David came armed with the Word of God and a belief that the Host of the Armies was with him, that Goliath went down like a rock because of a rock. (1st Samuel Chapter 17)
I wish I could say I felt like David every day. The enemy really loves to whisper when the pain sets in or when I have been unable to eat for 3 or 4 days. Body snatched is what we call it. However, I am a lot more careful to make sure my mind does not get snatched with it.
Dr. Misti’s reassurances armed me with three especially smooth stones:
1. Guard Your Heart And Mind with the right information. The Word of God rightly divided and the word of experts rightly interpreted.
2. God has a plan for me as long as I focus. The enemy can only taunt me if I choose to believe. I can always fight back with the truth.
3. After two procedures and two pans of cinnamon rolls, Dr. Misti is addicted to my mother-in-love’s promises. She will always work hard to keep her “fixing” reward! LOL.
I have never been a very vain girl. Even the day of my wedding I would have preferred a T-Shirt and Jeans over the big foo foo dress and sparkly make-up. But I knew, I had a role to play and in doing so, you dress the part. You have to be able to tell the bride from the bridesmaids, right…. or at least from the groom. LOL.
Just six days after my 50th birthday and on the morning of one of the toughest days of my life, I woke up with the weirdest thought…. what does a girl wear? What does a girl wear to chemotherapy?
As of that date and 5 months into my diagnosis, I had become accustom to baby pink and “fight like a girl” shirts. All kinds of inspirational buttons and “you gonna make it” paraphernalia. And while I fully believed all the cups, the bags, and the jewelry have helped to develop a mostly healthy attitude about all of this, I wasn’t feeling any of it that day.
I only wore mostly all black, not to be morbid, but because it was convenient. It would not show blood in case there was any. My tank top had a very lose neckline so that the nurse could access the port line that had been inserted in my chest just under my skin. From it shoots a “line” that extends into the veins in my neck. Hate that necessary evil. It protrudes from my neck like the veins of a body builder ready to “pump you up!”
Over that and black leggings, comfy socks and shoes, I wore my favorite big blue jean shirt. My modesty point so that I wouldn’t be giving out peep shows. Chemo and infusion wards have no real privacy. Soft, worn, out and comfortable! Familiar and feeling like me. Tough for the wear but easy to the touch. Needed my old friend ….very old but not stained friend,….with me like the blankie I bought with me.
And speaking of blankie, that was my one pink deviation. A good friend had given it to me. It was covered with inspirational words… each of which I needed ….none of which I actually read that day as I watched 3 bags of what I call “glow bugs” seeping into my veins. Nor could I concentrate on the best seller I bought with me by Michelle Obama… nor my YouTube Videos. The only thing in my well packed “field trip” bag that got attention was my massive stash of ginger snaps (for nervous tummies) and 2 liter bottle of water (glow bugs are very dehydrating.)
For the next 4 to 5 hours, I watched a drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. At this point in my treatment plan, my ping pong ball sized breast tumor (which I didn’t feel by the way) has been cut out… along with all the lymph nodes (two cancerous) under my left arm. The march of drips is designed to go throughout my body on a seek and destroy mission looking for any remnants. Best explained as looking for any rapid producing “clumps” of redundant cells (which cancer basically is) to kill. I wondered why it doesn’t take out fat. I must remember to ask my doctor that next time.
From time to time a nurse would check on me.
“Anything hurt?” – Nope.
“Hot or cold?” – No Maam
“Need a pee break?” – No thank you
“Need a snack?” – What ya got?
“You are so funny!” she says. “Your positive attitude will serve you well thru this”
And that is when i realized what I really wore to chemo that day. The funny girl had worn her fraud face.
I told my husband, I wanted to do this first one alone. Told my aunties, I got this… go live your life. My kids didn’t even ask because they know their mama. I bravely noted I didn’t need nobody but Jesus. And while He is thoroughly all I ever need “my outfit” had started to crumble just about the 5th hour.
I have always used laughter to cover my fears. I use my faith as my own personal super hero cape. Taking care of others is how I am able to fly. My pride made me smile through the need to vomit just so the mother of the girl in the chair next to me would not be afraid. I even commented to another that I hope my face looked as pretty as hers when my hair starts to leave me. I joked about wanting to be a “Wakanda General” rather than a wig wearer.
In reality, I wanted to suck my thumb, something I have never done. I wanted to stuff my face with fiery Cheetos, something I have always done. For once I wanted to lose control and scream …. ” I hate this!, Cancer sucks! The Attack on Boobies Is Evil.” Something I will probably never do.
My personal kryptonite would not let me. I caught the one tear before it dropped.
Just then I knew I heard My Comforter, who was still with me even when i was being fraudulent, wooing me to sleep with the “its going to be okay” that I would not receive from any human that day. At some point I nodded it off, feeling my well created facade wrinkling as much as the chambray shirt I was wearing. Soft, comfortable, tough for the wear, able to cover a multitude of flaws. In the midst of my dreaming ( and some snoring) I felt in my spirit, “crying is okay, even for tough little clowns”