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Monday, July 02, 2018

Professional Help

I've never given much thought to psychology, counseling, or therapy. Not until my oncologist suggested I might benefit from talking to a professional, that is. Maybe the fact that I stopped taking medication without permission and increasingly spent my time crying and feeling incredibly anxious were her first clues? She sent me to a psychologist who specializes in oncology.  I showed up to my first session with absolutely no expectations. I know very few people who have utilized counseling. I didn't have negative feelings; counseling was just a complete unknown. I walked away from that first 1-hour session with every single bit of my makeup cried off but feeling 100 pounds lighter.

I didn't realize how much I had been withdrawing from everyone around me, how much I was hiding from my family and my doctors, how many tears I was shedding. Riding the ups and downs of cancer has never been easy, but I've managed fairly well until recently. As Dr. PC walked through various coping mechanisms, I felt the proverbial lightbulb going off in my head. How had I forgotten? The truth is that nothing she said to me was new, but we all need reminders.

First on the list? Keeping a gratitude list. This one is pretty significant because I've often said that the way I survived the first year with cancer was documenting my list of 1,000 gifts. Next up was reconnecting with friends and hobbies. She asked me to pick up my camera, to put down my phone and read a book. To stop protecting my husband and confide in him. To trust myself and my doctors enough to know that when they prescribe medicine it's for my own good. That I'm smart enough to acknowledge the pain and side effects of both chemo and cancer are not imaginary. She reminded me that I don't have to be tough when I have doctor's visits and that they're professionals, not friends. Which means I don't have to protect them from how I feel, just be honest. It's their job to listen to my list of ailments. She encouraged me to pursue 8 hours of sleep, to walk, drink water, and eat healthy foods. 

She also encouraged me to drink less caffeine, but I'm ignoring that one.

I am lucky enough to have a strong support system, and the psychologist released me from her care after a month with the freedom to schedule a visit any time. As a believer, it's easy to say that trusting in God should be enough. But sometimes it's not. Sometimes you need a professional to give professional advice with practical solutions. The mild depression I found myself experiencing had nothing to do with how much time I was spending in prayer and reading the Bible. It was about needing to redirect my thoughts, to revisit practical ways of taking care of myself. 

The initial chemo break, followed by a more extended break is playing an important part in how I feel. But the house I spent with a psychologist trained to address the unique needs of someone living with cancer is just as important. So the next time someone suggests counseling, I'll be the first to say yes or to encourage you to say yes.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Five on Friday (June 29, 2018)

Hatred stirs up quarrels, but love makes up for all offenses. -Proverbs 10:12

1. Our lives changed pretty dramatically Sunday, when 180 Church offered Brian the job of pastor. This means he will no longer be teaching but will instead be a pastor and part-time bus driver (in order to keep our very excellent insurance through the school system). Way back in 2004 when we brought home an adorable 8-month old Camden, I was devastated to return to work and leave him in daycare. We decided there would be no more additions to the Lewis family until we could figure out a way for me to be a stay at home mom. At the time I was working at a college (our alma mater) and Brian could take classes tuition-free. So he returned to college for an additional 2 years to complete requirements for certification to teach in Tennessee. He taught his first class in fall 2007, and I will always be so grateful for the way God provided a way for me to stay at home with the kiddos. When he started the process of becoming a teacher in 2004, there was no way to know about Rory coming into our lives, about cancer, or about 180 Church.

Eleven years later, and he has been the best teacher. But ministry has always had his heart. I am overwhelmed with the ways the Lord has been so faithful to provide for us throughout the years. Brian is studying hard to take the CDL test and will begin 4 weeks of driving instruction before receiving his own route. All of his personal days and sick days will transfer over to this new job (which is only 20 hours a week and half of those hours are before 8:30 a.m.), and we continue with the same excellent insurance. Truly a blessing. All of it.

2. The kids have settled into summer and are enjoying being together, which just makes my heart sing. Listening to them giggle and tease and screech in laughter is so much fun. Loud, but so fun. As you know, peace among siblings can be as rare as a unicorn, but Camden and Rory are currently in a delightful phase and I love it.

3. We went to see Incredibles 2 as a family Monday night (Movie Pass continues to be so fun, even though flexibility is a must). Later in the week, they watched Jurassic World from home during an incredibly gloomy, stormy morning, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how they intensely watched. Brian and I hope to go see the newest Jurassic movie tomorrow (again, Movie Pass). So lots of movies this week.

4. Mom accompanied us to the Frist Museum this afternoon, followed by a trip to Trader Joes. The Frist is always on the summer bucket list but Rory was still in a stroller when we last marked it off our summer list. The current exhibit is contemporary art called Chaos and Awe. The museum also has one hallway devoted to telling the story of Nashville's part in the civil rights movement from 1960-1967. As we were browsing through this section, an older black gentleman was just ahead of us with a young man who I'm assuming was his grandson. He was telling his own stories from that time period and I (1) nearly burst into tears and (2) really wanted to follow along and learn from him.

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5. I have read several good books in the last 10 days. The Ensemble is the story of a professional string quartet ensemble; despite a few 8 uncomfortable lines (via Modern Mrs. Darcy), I could not put this book down. The book explores what it's like to work your entire life to be the best in your field and the relationships between such a tight group. I immediately looked up string quartets on YouTube when I finished the last page. A Place for Us was also a great story and look into not just an immigrant's life but also the Muslim culture. If You Only Knew by Jamie Ivey was a fast read with an important message. I'm on a long streak of 4 and 5-star books, and it's wonderful.

Happy Weekend, Friends. May it be full of ice cream and air conditioning.

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Friday, June 22, 2018

Five on Friday (June 22, 2018)

For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, the mighty and awesome God, who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed. He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. So you, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. -Deuteronomy 10:17-19

The Lord protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows, but he frustrates the plans of the wicked. -Psalms 146:9

1. Brian, Camden, and Rory have been at camp all week, which means I have had all the quiet time in the world. Brian was the camp director; it's Rory's age group, and Camden was just along for the ride. I've heard so many good reports about Camden's servant spirit this week, and it makes me so happy.

While they were gone, I accomplished absolutely nothing and would be embarrassed to admit how much TV I consumed. The food situation is also embarrassing. Because I wasn't about to cook, I literally ate carrot sticks and Twizzlers for supper one night and Golden Grahams with no milk for supper another evening. Yesterday I had a BLT for a late breakfast/early lunch. It's possible I had ice cream (in small amounts) nearly every day.

2. Rory came home from camp with an ugly reaction to a wasp sting. She also came home with tales of two dates to the bonfire. It makes me laugh. Two boys asked her to be their date and so she told them how fun it would be to go as a group. (She went to Brian for counsel on this, for which I am thankful.)

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3. Because Sunday was especially busy with Brian preaching both services and needing to leave for camp, we rushed through Father's Day celebrations. But look at the notes my kiddos wrote to Brian. I don't know how the words made him feel, but I cried.

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4. I took advantage of my day off on Wednesday and spent the morning shopping with my mom and sister. It was a lovely time even though I purchased exactly nothing.

5. When the world feels like it's falling apart (or your president starts separating children from their parents), it is easy to feel helpless. Or at least that's how I felt this week. So for the first time in my life, I contacted my senators and representatives asking them to make a change. It's not much, but it's something. Only one responded, btw.

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This weekend is full of camp laundry which is no small task. Rory's towels and bedding came home soaked in mud and rocks. Liz, Addison, and my parents are coming over for popcorn and a movie tonight (Wakanda forever!). Sunday the church is choosing (or not choosing) Brian as pastor, which is quite significant, and then a game night at church Sunday evening. Next week's schedule is pretty bare bones, so I might need to look for some family fun activities. Happy Weekend, friends.

(He laid down on the couch to watch a soccer game as soon as he arrived home from camp. Two minutes later and he was out cold for the next 3 hours. Brian fell asleep even more quickly, but I had to convince Rory she needed a nap.)
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Saturday, June 16, 2018

Thankful

I am enjoying a quiet Saturday morning complete with birds chirping outside the window, a good book and a hot cup of coffee. As I was writing my daily Scripture (I use this blog's monthly plan) and recording my list of things to be thankful, I decided to share them here.

Both kids have been especially joyful this week. Rory had friends here Tuesday for a sleepover and not only did the 3 girls giggle non-stop, but Camden was a sweet host and also played along. So many big grins as Rory anticipated the evening and then so many giggles in the midst. Camden has also been especially excited this week because the World Cup began Thursday. He's a huge soccer fan (okay, actually a sports fan in general) and he is so happy to watch the games.

We celebrated Liz's birthday last weekend. There are so many of us in Tennessee these days that we have a standing birthday celebration each month. And, tomorrow, we'll celebrate Father's Day together.

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This week at work, not only did I get to spend my Monday at Pinewood Social for a day-long meeting (if you have to have an 8-hour meeting, it might as well be somewhere cool) and go to Woolworth's for a quarterly birthday lunch on Thursday, but my friend Kathy is in the building, and she stopped by to give me a hug hello and to pray with me before all my doctor's appointments.

And speaking of doctor's appointments, my CA125 has dropped another few points to 17.6 - the lowest since 2014.

For the final item on my gratitude list for today, I've taken a screenshot of our church's FB page.

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One more ministry-related item I am thankful for - Brian was invited to present a breakout at the D6 Conference this year. How incredible is that!

Happy Saturday, Friends.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Five on Friday (June 8, 2018)

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. 
(The Message - Matthew 6:34)

1. We dropped Camden off at our alma mater for basketball camp on Sunday and then spent most of the day Wednesday picking him up. He came home tired and a little grumpy and with a whole bunch of nasty blisters on his already blistery feet (his feet have never really recovered from cross country in the fall). Rory spent Sunday and Monday with grandparents. and I'm certain she enjoyed not sharing the time with Camden.

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2. He has the job of mowing our pastor's yard for the next month. It's amazing the motivation a little money brings to the table. He's certainly never been so eager to mow our own yard! ;)

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3. Anxiety over quitting chemo is a pretty common emotion in the cancer world. There's something about knowing you're not actively doing anything to kill cancer that can be difficult to manage. I've never actually experienced this until recently. Of course, I've never had ongoing symptoms either. I've mentioned the cancer-related pain that I've had for nearly 2 years now. While it has improved so, so much, its presence is a daily reminder that I'm living with cancer. Still. Living with cancer or any chronic disease or pain is just never easy. (see verse above - reading it daily)

4. I finished 2 books this week: The Perfect Mother and Educated: A Memoir. While I thoroughly enjoyed both of them, Educated just might make it on my best of 2018 list.

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5. Kathy - one of my oldest and dearest friends - recently accepted a position at the same company where I work. We haven't worked together for 11 years so the opportunity to see her on such a consistent basis is awesome. We're generally squeezing in coffee dates every couple of months, so being in the same building a couple times a week is just fantastic. Thursday, a group of 4 of us who all used to work for the same college met in our work dining hall for lunch. It was the highlight of my week to have us all together.

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Brian and I are trying to get back on track for date night this summer. Actually, they're more like day dates, and seem to involve running errands more than anything but we're trying. This afternoon we used our Movie Pass and went to see Oceans 8 in the middle of the day, and it was glorious. Not the movie, actually, just lounging in a recliner with the free popcorn.

We have had very busy days this week and next week is even busier so I'm hoping to rest a bit over the weekend.  Tonight, we plan to watch what will probably be the final Warriors/Cavs game (we're all LeBron fans around here). Tomorrow night we're celebrating Liz's birthday with my parents and grandparents, and I'm in charge of the cake. Our pastor (who resigned last week, btw) is out of town so Brian is preaching for the next several weeks. This means his summer days are a little fuller than usual but in a good way. Happy Friday!

(We had some unexpected time on our hands Wednesday so we found a cute coffee shop and did some reading. Even Brian!)
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