I was incredibly blessed the weekend of Sept. 7 – 8 with three opportunities to meet and sing for old friends and new ones, too. Saturday night, at Our Lady of Nazareth Catholic Church, I was overwhelmed to see and minister to SO many friends from ALL corners of my 13 years living in Roanoke. That was the icing on the cake of the weekend. And I LOVE icing!!!!
Friday was one of the most emotional days I’ve had in a long time. I want to tell you about Friday.
Friday, at 4 pm, I shared a small portion of my show for the Rally at the Rescue Mission of Roanoke with the men and women who are in their residential Recovery program. I worked several years at the Rescue Mission as their Director of Industry, running the thrift store and retail operations, and also taught a class for the Recovery program when we lived in Roanoke. I was so thrilled to see and hear how the recovery program is running stronger than ever and still changing lives, one day and one person at a time.
That evening at 6:30, I was honored to lead the Chapel service they offer every evening to the men and women who come off the streets for a dinner, shower and a cozy place to sleep. Chapel is a mandatory part of the evening, and even with the many years I worked there, I never participated in the evening services. I know now that I truly missed a lifetime of blessing by missing those services. I encourage ALL of you in Roanoke or nearby to attend or lead at least one of these services. I “preached” on Paul and his “secret” to being content. Philippians 4:12 -13. “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned THE SECRET of BEING CONTENT in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength” That’s powerful stuff right there! That’s also a tough room to preach that truth in. [any who want the copy of the mini-sermon or notes on this, let me know, I’ll send it to you] Basically, I wrap up with stating that “to be content is to choose to rest in the TRUTH, to choose to see the JOY in whatever situation, with the strength and vision God gives. Like Paul, I was blind, but now I see. I have made my choice to be content like Paul. To choose to laugh, love and live.” Then the song…. “I Choose to Live”… It was a well-received message and many came forward for prayer and I was able to take with me a handful of their written requests to pray over. It was an amazing time to be in a room full of God’s children and know God was really there, too.
After that service (we ended at 7:15 pm) it was still daylight. I felt a strong urge to go to our old neighborhood, and see if Rick and Margie, our neighbors were sitting out on their front porch drinking a can or glass with the other neighbors, just like the days when we lived there. Bill and I drove out there, saw their car in the driveway, but no one on the porch. Lights on, so we knocked on the door. Margie came out and broke the news that Rick had died – just 3 hours earlier. Massive coronary. Had just started mowing the front yard. Ambulance took him to the hospital, but he didn’t make it. And, in a remarkable Roanoke way, One of the EMT’s came back and finished mowing their yard.
That afternoon, I knew I needed to see and hug Margie. I didn’t know why. I look back at how I was sharing my story of looking death straight in the eye and not allowing fear to interfere – of being content in every situation, every condition. Later, realizing how sudden death can be so shocking, I had to pull myself together emotionally to share my “funny show about living (and dying) with cancer” with a sanctuary full of friends and people who came to receive a word of hope because they or someone they love is walking on this scary cancer path with me.
I gave and received so many powerful hugs that weekend, but the 2 most powerful ones were given to me by Margie and God. I can only hope and pray that God is hugging Margie now.
Hi, Star City friends! I’ll be back in Roanoke NEXT weekend (not Labor Day weekend), September 8th to do the show, “Because I Can, Sir!” at Our Lady of Nazareth Catholic Church. 7:30 p.m. I’m also scheduled for 2 shorter spots at the Rescue Mission on Friday at 4 for Rally, and 6:30 for the Chapel service that evening. I hope to see many of you while Bill and I are in town. The big show is free Saturday night, no tickets issued. There will be a love offering taken, half of which will be donated to the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation. Here’s the poster. Share this, and bring your friends. We are all touched by cancer in some way. Please come. I’m eager to share my journey with you all.
Tomorrow’s show at St. James’s Episcopal in Richmond is in final prep stages. I’m printing programs as I write this. I’m also “fluffing” the tablecloths I use for the wig song in the dryer – which is handily located in my tiny office. 🙂
I have been blessed in the last couple of months to be able to ‘book’ my show in several locations, so I thought I’d compile a list. If you see one in a location near you, please know I’d love for you to come. If you DON’T see one in a location near you, AND you’d like to….. please contact me for info on how to book this show. I’m really cheap…. but never in the ‘easy’ sense. HA! 🙂
Here’s the schedule:
July 25th – Richmond, Virginia St. James’s Episcopal Church. 7:00pm
September 7th – Roanoke, Virginia – the Rescue Mission of Roanoke 4:00 and 6:30 and Sept. 8th, Our Lady of Nazareth 7:30 pm
((POSTPONED TO SPRING ’19)) October 14th – Washington, DC – the Peoples Congregational Church
October 21 and 22 – Richmond, Virginia – Firehouse Theatre (Sunday 21, 4 pm, Monday 22, 7:30 pm) Tickets at http://www.firehousetheatre.org through brown paper tickets. $15 in advance, $20 at door.
November 4th – (near) Texarkana, TX – First Baptist, Wake Village, Texas
January 23rd, 2019 – Richmond, Virginia – The Woman’s Club (Bolling-Haxall House)
We change the ‘show’ a little each time we do it. Sometimes, it’s 45 minutes in length, other times, it’s up to 90 minutes long. Some of these will include “talk-backs” afterward. Some will have more comedy and even improv included. All include audience participation with sing-along opportunities.
Well, the tablecloths are done. Why not iron them, you ask? It’s a health hazard – having nothing to do with cancer. I’m just dangerously clutzy with HOT things. And SHARP things. [[insert your own joke about my husband here….]] Love you, Babe! 🙂
Guess I better go practice now…. Hope to see many of you tomorrow night at 7 in Richmond.
Come and invite your friends! It’s summertime….and it’s indoors! There will be laughter, music, AND Conditioned-Air !! 😉 – please note, my ‘summer haircut’ will look more like the LOGO and not the headshot! (Bald is amazing!)
My granddaughter Haley has found a new activity she loves – competitive cheerleading. And, unlike cheerleading back in my youth, there’s no football or basketball team or school associated with this. It’s cheering as a team sport, and boy, is it rough! Well, maybe not so much for her group level, except for the battle that is the perfect competition hair! In the large order of competitive cheerleading, the ages are 5-6 for the ‘tiny’ squads and up to age 18 for the ‘senior’s. And, although an audition (observation and placement) is necessary to be placed in a group, all who sign up (and pay a long-term investment of tuition, etc…) are placed in a group, or a squad. The squad meets together and learns individual and group stunts, jumps and tumbling, choreography, dance moves, and the ‘looks’ that go along with the moves. Importantly to Haley, there’s ‘drama-face’ and ‘cheer face’. Both of those are plastered in competition makeup – which is fun for a 6-year-old – and involve an overly-sucked-in closed mouth with facial attitude for the ‘drama face’ and a creepily, overspread smile, showing all teeth, even loose or missing ones, with deer-in-the-headlights eyes opened wide for the ‘cheer face’. Haley and I enjoyed a private dance party the other evening. We often have dance parties when we’re together. That night, she taught me that ‘drama face’ was important while dancing and slinging her head around to Bruno Mars and Meghan Trainor, as well as her favorite selections from Disney’s Descendants 2. She often stopped to see if I was doing the ‘drama face’ correctly.
Recently, I was (blessed? Forced?) to escort her to her cheer squad’s season ending cheer competition in the Poconos. (Yes, this sport involves expensive travel, as well.) Luckily, my sister flew in to visit and help, so, a fun “girls’ trip” to the north ensued. Haley’s group performed well. They’ve made good strides this season. They’ve learned many skills. They’ve learned that it takes everyone on the team working and moving together to be safe and effective. They’ve learned that the “base” or support of the bottom of a pyramid or lift is just as important, if not more so, than the one lifted at the top. Haley is the tallest on her team and will most likely always be a ‘base’. I’m sure we all know how Meghan Trainor feels “all about that”!
I’ve learned from Haley’s experiences this year that there’s a LOT of parts and pieces to CHEER. I feel I must draw some parallels here to being full of CHEER on my Cancer journey, but I think I’ll let YOU draw your own sight-lines. After her final competition this season, I sat down with Haley and actually interviewed her for this blog. (She was really excited about that!)
Here’s some of our interview.
Me: Tell me about the first time you started trying to do cartwheels.
Haley: It was at my house. And in gymnastics I had before cheerleading.
Me: Were you afraid?
H: No, not afraid. I did it a bunch of times and messed up, but I knew I was brave enough to do it.
Me: Did you think you needed to know all the parts and pieces of doing a cartwheel in your head before you did it?
Haley: I thought about it in my head. And in a movie, it said, “if you think about it, you can do it”!
Me: Now, you know, I’ve seen that you really can do good cartwheels, and I know you do them often.
Haley: I do them every day. It doesn’t matter. Inside or outside – just not on the mulch or blacktop. If I fall on that, it will hurt.
Me: What other ‘cheer things’ are you working on now?
H: Backflips. I need help to lift my bottom up. In the future, I’ll probably have to do it by myself. I’m still working on back walkovers, but Mom helps.
Me: Is that important?
H: It’s definitely important to have someone help you!
Me: Haley, I want you to give me 3 important rules for being a competitive cheerleader.
H: Can I do more?
Me: Maybe, but let’s go with the top three right now.
H: OK. First of all, work hard. Then try to do it – do your best! And third rule: Have FUN! – and smile!
Me: What is the hardest thing about competitive cheerleading?
H: stretching and doing the splits – ‘cause I cannot do that well. And getting my hair done is a PAIN!
Me: Does that mean, when it’s a pain you quit because it’s a pain?
H: NOPE, nope, NO!
Me: Is that an important thing? We don’t quit when it’s a pain?
H: Don’t quit even if it hurts. If you’re sick, you still gotta do it – well, you don’t HAVE to, but I’m doin’ it”! Yea! (insert leap here. Followed by two cartwheels)
Me: What else is important?
H: Being on stage. And the most, having fun! [proof positive she is biologically connected to me. 😊]
As I learned this Bible verse growing up, in the King’s English, John 16:33 says “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation; but BE OF GOOD CHEER; I have overcome the world.
It’s been a while since I wrote an email letter. NOW, with my NEW WEBSITE, you may hear from me again! The previous blog posts were some of the past “Best of” writings I sent out to family and friends. I still try to keep Facebook updated on ‘chemo days’ with a chemo headshot picture.
Since I began this journey 3 years ago, the quiet writing I thought I’d be doing daily in journals evolved from the journal pages, to email letters, to the full-blown show of “Because I Can, Sir”! I have been blessed to perform this show – or some variation of it – thirteen times, and several more are being planned for this spring/summer, and one group has scheduled me WAY in advance for January 2019!
Most of you know that my journey with Cholangiocarcinoma began with a Richmond oncologist and a Richmond surgeon thinking we should schedule surgery to remove my large liver tumors followed by chemo, as a cure for this terrible cancer. My tumors were the size of a ping-pong ball and an iPad mini. We went to NY to consult with a surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, to have him do the surgery. He and the tumor board decided that surgery would make this monster spread more and very quickly if it was touched by the surgery. They were able to insert a chemo pump, the Kemeny Pump, as they call it – named for my MSKCC oncologist, Dr. Nancy Kemeny. Dr. Kemeny pioneered the use of the Hepatic Artery Infusion pump, the Codman 3000, to treat colon cancer that had metastasized to the liver. That is her cancer specialty. They were now using this pump in a new trial to treat cases of Intrahepatic Cholangiocarcinoma. My granddaughter calls this my “pump lump”. 🙂
I was told 3 years ago that I had somewhere between late stage three and four very ugly cancer that had a 5 year survival rate of 2%, and that was for early stage CC. My original “shelf life” upon diagnosis was 2 – 6 months life expectancy. Chemo was prescribed as a tool to shrink the tumors and make me more comfortable. They call this Palliative care. I didn’t expect to be here today. I’m thrilled that I am. I’m humbled knowing that I’m only here today because God is allowing me to be here.
Bill and I are about to leave this afternoon to hit the road again, to drive to NYC. We do this once a month, sometimes more often. Tomorrow I will have an MRI and a CT – internal ‘school pictures’, to peek in and see if Fred and Ned and Bob (my newest little tumor) are growing or sleeping or dying. I’m not anxious, like most people are before scans. I know that the fact that I am here right now, in this moment, is a part of God’s plan. I also know that I am supposed to live in this moment and reach out to as many people as God puts in my path, to encourage them to live like I am living.
I hadn’t thought about my 3 year anniversary with my HAI chemo pump, but my daughter Ashley wrote a wonderful note on Facebook telling everyone of my ‘anniversary’ with the pump. For the first time, I looked at the abbreviation for Hepatic Artery Infusion (HAI) pump, and saw the words to a song we used to sing in church many years ago. Here Am I. I didn’t remember all of it, but the part of the music that triggered this thought goes, “Here am I, send me. Here am I, Lord send me….” I knew I had to find the chorus and share it.
“Here am I, send me. Here am I, Lord, send me. Unto Thee, willingly, yielded I come. Show the path that I must walk, compel me then to go. And if I stray, bring back the light of day. For here am I, send me, I pray”.
Isaiah 6:8 says “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us”? And I said, “Here am I. Send me”.
Where are you going today? Are you being sent there for a reason? If you don’t know, then you are not listening. If you see no one who needs you, you are not looking. None of us are promised to live the next three years, three weeks or even three days. If today, you hear the voice of the Lord asking, “who will go for us”, are you ready to answer “Here am I”? I hope so. I highly recommend going where God leads. The path God put me on is incredibly bright, happy and full of people He’s placed in my daily path. People who need to see His strength through My weakness. I am daily amazed, and grateful to be here today, 3 years now with my HAI pump. The BIG titanium one. Size of a hockey puck. 🙂