Cancer Survivor

Tip Of The Hat


A tip of the hat is a traditional greeting or a sign of respect. Additionally, the term means to honor someone who’s doing a fantastic job, as in, “Let’s give Scott a tip of the hat.” Today I’d like to tip my hat to the body of Christ, the miracle of God’s making, who have upheld me through my suffering season. You have empowered me through prayer, covered me in kindness, and blessed our household with generosity.

We are part of a community of individuals designed to function as a unit. We truly are better together. Paul said, “The members [individual] should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Cor. 12:25-26). Through the power of the Spirit, I realize new strength. By God’s grace, my sorrow abounds into joy. In your love, I find quiet rest.

Perhaps Lucy from the famous Peanuts cartoon can portray the courage of our collective stance better than I. Lucy demands that Linus change TV channels and then threatens him with her fist if he doesn’t.
“What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?”asks Linus.
“These five fingers,” says Lucy. “Individually they’re nothing but when I curl them together like this into a single unit, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold.”
“Which channel do you want?” asks Linus.
Linus looks at his fingers and says, “Why can’t you guys get organized like that?”

As Christians we should be organized because we are…
Fellow citizens: “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints” (Eph. 2:19).
God’s family: “Now you are…members of the household of God” (Eph. 2:1).
His holy temple: “In whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Eph. 2:22).

What has been the result of all your kindnesses in my life? Yesterday was my second chemo. I told Dr. Ampuero that last week, I ran one mile during my 2 1/2 mile walk since he’d told me “you could do anything you feel like doing.” His eyes jumped open wide, but he looked very pleased. He said that trials prove that chemo patients who exercise recover better than non-exercisers. But here’s the best news! There’s a blood test, called CA-125, a “cancer marker” for abdominal/female cancers that has a normal range of 0 – 19. Before the surgery my marker was elevated to about 110. Today, it was down to the low end of the average at 7. Multiples tests, surgery, and 2 chemo treatments down with just 4 more toxic drips to go. I’m more than half way through this ordeal and flourishing. Okay, I felt tired and nauseated. But after taking my little yellow pill and a nap I felt much better.

Your helping hand reminds me of a story about a Vacation Bible School teacher whose class was interrupted by a new student who had one arm missing. She was afraid that one of the children might comment on his handicap or embarrass him. She began to end the class they way she always did by asking the class, “Let’s make our churches,” she said. “Here’s the church and here’s the steeple, open the doors and there’s…” Suddenly she panicked and stood speechless. The little girl sitting next to the boy reached over with her left hand and placed it up to his right hand and said, “Davie, let’s make the church together.” This story may be seen as a parable of our search for oneness in Christ: to put our inadequate, handicapped lives alongside the lives of others and to pray, “Let’s make the church together” (Unknown source).

I will never be able to thank you individually for your concern. You’ll never get the warm hug you deserve. You might not see the amazing ways God answered your quiet prayers. But this much I have learned; something done for another member of the body of Christ comes back to bless the doer. When one suffers, we all suffer. When one succeeds, we all succeed. Please reach out this week in small and simple ways to give hope to one of God’s children in pain. What goes around really does comes around. And then we’ll offer you a tip of the hat.

Love,

Lenya

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Cancer Survivor

Oops, I Did It Again!

Britney Spears terrified fans in 2007 when she walked into Esther’s Hair Salon in Tarzana, CA and told the stylist, “I want my hair shaved off.” The proprietor, Esther Tognozzi, said “Well, I’m not doing it,” suggesting that perhaps the pop star was having a hormonal moment and might feel differently in the morning. Ms. Spears grabbed the buzzer and began shaving it away herself. TMZ ensured that the scene would live on in infamy–playing it relentlessly for months on end. As usual, there’s a story behind the story. Bad hair weaves had damaged Britney’s beautiful blonde locks to the point that she complained the extensions were too tight.

Today, more than ever, I have greater sympathy for the teen idol. Chemo hair hurts. It causes a sensation similar to the one you get after taking your hair out of a ponytail that you’ve worn all day. This morning I couldn’t take it anymore and it became obvious that my badly damaged hair couldn’t be salvaged either. Just like the diva, I reached for the electric razor to do what must be done.

Hope you don’t mind if I indulge in a little red neck humor. You know you need to shave your head when:
…there’s more hair clogging your shower drain than there is on your head.
…you scare yourself when you look in the mirror.
…it takes a lint brush to clean off your pillows in the morning.
…blow-drying your hair creates a cyclone.

What does it feel like to watch your lengthy locks fall from your head into the bathroom sink? At first I wept. But mid-way through (picture me with half a head of hair), I started to giggle. This turned into a laugh-out-loud moment. And then I felt empowered by taking my journey into my own hands. I decided I’m not a victim, I’m a victor! We have a choice in the midst of disease, divorce, debt, or despair; we can press into our faith or flounder in the flesh. I followed the footsteps of Paul.

The apostle met far greater adversaries than cancer. He was thrown into prison, shipwrecked, beaten, ridiculed, abandon, starved, robbed, left for dead, and eventually martyred. I can’t find one Scripture where he felt sorry for himself. He kept his eyes on Jesus rather than his troubles. The apostle wrote to the Corinthians, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. Through suffering, these bodies of ours constantly share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies” (2 Cor. 4:8-10).

I don’t know the trials you face. But I do know that you, too, can follow Paul as he followed Christ.

Love,
Lenya

Cancer Survivor

Goldilocks


Remember Goldilocks’ quest for perfect porridge, a cozy chair, and a comfy bed? She sampled a trio of options in each category that ranged from too hot to too cold and too hard to too soft. Eventually, she stumbled upon the things that were “just right.” It’s true, life really does imitate art. We all encounter some duds before identifying the ideal. For instance, how many pairs of jeans do you try on before purchasing the ones that fit “just right?” Don’t get me started with bathing suits; just the term creates spontaneous rolling of the eyes and heavy sighs in most women.

Well, it’s time for me to trade my golden locks for a wig. Believe me, I tried on some doozies before getting it “just right.” I named the red one “Mrs. Roger Rabbit.” Let’s just say, “va, va, va, voom!” The brunette made me look in the mirror and say, “Hello, mother.” No offense to mom; she’s beautiful, but no one wants to look like their mother, right? Next was the long, blond bombshell. Immediately I parted it into ponytails and began speaking with a Swedish accent. “Yah, dis is so not me.” In the end, the one that was “just right” was the one that looked the closest to normal; it was the one that suited me the best.

I confess that last night when I ran my hands through my real hair and multiple strands came out, I gasped. Then I did it again, just to see if it was a fluke; more hair. Once more…just to be sure. Oh no, it’s really coming out—not in clumps but equal opportunity thinning. I silently walked Skip to the sink to show him the carnage with tears rolling down my cheeks. Of course, he hugged me and said all the right things.

This morning I could still wash, dry, and style it to look presentable. But I know that the days of freeing my follicles are numbered and thankfully, so are my hairs. The Lord said, “The very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matt. 10:33). By next Wednesday, the day of my second chemo, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to count them too. The doctor assures me that when it grows back, I will have curly locks. Imagine that. I pray that it’ll look just right.

Love,
Lenya

Cancer Survivor

The Weaker Vessel

Stefanie Farley, Suzanne Friesner, Nedra Farley, Lenya Heitzig, Hanna Farley, and Janae’ Heitzig

Peter dubbed women as the “weaker vessel” (See 1 Peter 3:7). I think he meant it to be a deferential, honoring term. I’m all for knights in shining armor, but the women I’ve encountered lately are certainly not weak. In fact, I have drawn such strength from their courageous reservoirs that I attribute much of my wellness to their influence.

My sister, Suzanne, left this morning after seeing me through the first round of chemotherapy. Walking into the nicest of such facilities reduces the stoutest of hearts to feeling like a lab rat. When she scanned the sterile environment with its bags, tubes, and needles full of dread, her eyes began to well. I thought, “Uh oh, she’s going to start boo hooing big time. If she starts, I won’t be able to stop.” But no, she straightened her spine and with heroic resolve cracked a joke, “The scariest thing in this room is the scale hiding in the corner; dare me to get on it?” she asked. From that moment on, I knew we would persevere with laughter and love.

Seeing others who had joined the chemotherapy club long before me, smiling with shining heads, strong hearts, and Sudoku puzzles, made me realize that I’m following a legacy of fighters and survivors. I would take a seat beside them, Bible in hand, and show the world that another “weaker vessel” could do it.

Recently, I wrote about the unique ability women possess that men do not. Friendship between women shape who we are, soothe our troubled hearts, and support emotional gaps in our marriages. Scientists in a landmark UCLA study now believe that spending time with our friends actually relieves stress which manifests in upset stomachs. Previous to the study conducted by coauthor, Laura Cousin Klein, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Heal at Penn State University, scientist supposed that stress caused a rush of hormonal reactions in the body triggering the flight or fight instinct in humans.

But the new data reveals that women have a greater repertoire than men due to the hormone oxytocin released during stress that causes us to make and maintain friendships with other women. Instead of running or raging, oxytocin encourages us to tend to children and gather other women for support, which counters the stress and produces a calming effect. Drs. Klein and Taylor describe this female response to stress the “tend and befriend” syndrome.

“This calming response does not occur in men,” says Dr. Klein, “because testosterone — which men produce in high levels when they’re under stress — seems to reduce the effects of oxytocin. Estrogen, she adds, seems to enhance it.” As a result men tend to isolate their feelings, which has significant negative health repercussions.

The old adage is true “united we stand, divided we fall.” Maybe the key is that we are the weaker vessel, but when we come together we make one strong stand. So what about you? Maybe you don’t have close family or friends, but you can find sisters in Christ in the Women at Calvary. We all need someone else to stand with in our hard times; I hope that you will step out in faith and engage in a small group. Maybe you will be the strength that someone else needs to persevere in laughter and love.

Love,
Lenya

Cancer Survivor, Family

For Better or for Worse…



It’s not easy being married to a man made of superior genetics. He’s tall and thin, blonde haired and blue-eyed. I promise he eats what he wants, when he wants, all day long, and has never gone up a pant size. After 28 years of marriage he’s had a headache once—one time! He’s smart and talented; he still corrects my English gaffs and I write books! He plays the guitar (electric and acoustic), the base (electric and acoustic), the piano, and the harmonica. He photographs on a level that should be shown in a gallery in Santa Fe or New York. He just rebuilt his ’42 Harley and we all know about his silver tongue oratory skills. Truly, I live with a renaissance man.

With all his amazing talents and abilities there’s an area in which he did not excel. Whew! That would be in the realm of coddling, cuddling, and care giving. I’m not saying he doesn’t care, he just doesn’t know how to show it. It’s like expecting a father to be a mother. The nurturing skills just don’t come naturally to him. If I need sermon suggestion…he’s the man. If I want to take a road bike expedition…he’s the guy. If I need the lawn or car maintained…he’s on the job. But ask for help washing your hair, preparing Cream of Wheat for breakfast, or getting dressed in the morning and things go south…that is up until recently.

I’m convinced that your prayers and God’s grace have transformed Skip into a saint. He’s on top of my complicated medicine and supplement schedule. He has accompanied me to every doctor’s appointment and takes notes. He ordered and assembled a teak wood bench for my showering needs. He keeps the wily Winston (our Airedale) brushed and bathed. At bed time, he places a beverage and crackers on the nightstand, just in case I feel nauseous. He tweaks the thermostat, adjusts the curtains, fluffs the pillows, and hands me the channel changer. It seems that my worst is bringing out the best in him.

Today he will escort me to my first round of chemotherapy. He’s made sure that my sister will be by my side throughout the eight hour ordeal and he will bring us lunch mid-day. Then, after the toxic drip, he’ll bring me home and tuck me in bed. I know when I wake up that he will have been hovering the whole time. What a comforting thought.

Love,
Lenya