Unplugged

vespers

My family and I attended our 15th family camp at Camp Crystal in Frankfort, which was just what we needed. A whole week of being unplugged – no TV, internet, news, and limited phone use. It felt good to not have the world pushing in on me. Just a relaxing week having fellowship with family and friends and spending time with God in the beautiful outdoors. And the best part was I didn’t have to cook or wash the dishes. This may be the best part for my family too as they are lucky to get a hot meal out of me.

You might wonder just what is family camp. It is hard to put into words just how special it is but here are some pictures to give you a taste:

Multigenerational games
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Teen-led vespers (evening prayer service)
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Crafts
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Pranks
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and FAMILY BONDING TIME
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Joshua 24:15  As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

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Graduation Day

It is finally here – graduation day from radiation and here is my certificate to prove it:
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My celebration included lunch with friends followed by a much needed nap. Later this evening my family and I had a “burn” party where we symbolically burned my radiation card declaring it final and the end of  that business. No more doctor appointments for a whole month, and I am hoping the time goes by slowly!

One of the best choices I made during this treatment period was to meet regularly with Chaplain Diane at Lack’s.   I knew I needed guidance as I had been struggling with the same issues since this journey began; however, making that first contact was hard because it meant opening myself up to being vulnerable. I was a blubbering mess most of the first session (which was exactly what I feared)  Throughout our meetings, she has helped me find clarity and peace.   Today she presented me with the stones pictured below and explained how they related to me.  While I possessed all of these to some degree, this trial has definitely required growth in each of these areas.

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My daily battle is finding peace amidst the storm.  The Jesus Calling passage from July 15th tells me clearly how to do just that: “Do not worry about tomorrow! This is not a suggestion but a command.  I divided time into days and nights, so that you would have manageable portions of life to handle.  My grace is sufficient for you, but this sufficiency is for only one day at a time.  When you worry about the future, you heap day upon day of troubles onto your flimsy frame.  You stagger under this heavy load, which I never intended you to carry.

Throw off this oppressive burden with one quick thrust of trust.  Anxious thoughts meander about and crisscross in your brain, but trusting Me brings you directly into My Presence.  As you thus affirm your faith, shackles of worry fall off instantly.  Enjoy My Presence continually by trusting Me at all times.   

Matt 6:34  “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Ramblings About My Week in the Big City

While I am glad to be home with my family, I also am thankful for my week staying at Hope Lodge. It has the kindest staff and there is something healing about being around people who are going through the same journey. One of the rules at the lodge is that food is not allowed in the guest rooms. While it seems inconvenient, it is a brainstorm. It requires you to get dressed everyday, which in itself makes you feel more human and physically better, and brings everyone to a common meeting place to the community kitchen and dining room. It is a gorgeous kitchen supplied with anything you would ever need Each guest has space allocated in the fridge and pantry for his / her own food. There is also a fridge and pantry where the community has donated food. Once a week a different organization provides a dinner. This past week a girl scout troop provided the meal. What a wonderful service project for our youth!

One evening at dinnertime, I realized I was the only one in the dining room who still possessed her own hair. I felt guilty as though I had not experienced as much of a trial as others and undeserving to even be there. Then it hit me – how can trials even be compared, why should they be compared, and who can truly know someone’s trial just by looking at them. I recognized this issue when listening to friends who shared discouraging events in their lives. They usually end by saying, “but it is really minor and doesn’t compare to what you are going through.” We all live in a fallen world and most of us will experience trouble, trials, difficulties sometime throughout our lifetimes and some of us may experience what feels like more than our share. However, it doesn’t devalue what each person is going through. We are all human and feel hurt, sorrow, and discouragement at the loss of a dream or ideal and we all need God’s peace and direction.

I was inspired by the attitude of a woman who has been living at Hope Lodge since October, the entire time I have been battling melanoma. She has only been home for one week due to her condition making it difficult to make the three and half hour trip. This weekend she is speaking at the Relay to Life rally and she is committed to letting people know how their donations have made her stay at the Hope Lodge possible.

Another eye-opening experience was movie night at the Lodge. I assumed it was a regular event and did not realize it was the very first week. The Hubbardston Fire Department donated $20,000 to the Hope Lodge, which paid not only for the movie equipment (so it may become a weekly event), but also for four rooms to become dedicated solely to blood marrow transplant patients. Currently, there are only three in all of Grand Rapids. All of this giving reminds me of all the good there is in this world.

I didn’t spend all of my time at the lodge. In fact, I realized that the more I was experiencing life, the less discomfort / pain I felt.  Grand Rapids offers a lot of interesting people and places. I went to the Grand Rapids Art Museum where I found the security guard following the group of adolescents with autism much more interesting than the art . One young man obviously had been taught the protocol prior to visiting the art museum, as he loudly remarked “don’t touch it” upon viewing each piece.

The Downtown Market held many culinary delights and I was like a kid in a candy shop at the Fulton Farm Market with its beautiful array of fruits and vegetables. San Chez Restaurant was a new experience. I didn’t think it would be possible to get full eating off those tiny plates but it did work. Of course, we still seemed to find room to fit in some frozen yogurt from Sweet Yos. Below is a photo-op from San Chez. I thought it fitting that I was in the frying pan as I feel as though I am being “fried”  lately!

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My week ended by attending a presentation by “The Minimalists” who were speaking at Schuler Books. I didn’t really want to go  as I figured they were extremists who lived in a hut with no running water / electricity living off the grid with minimal items used in a variety of ways. I am so glad my friend insisted as I enjoyed their talk. Their message really is to learn to live with less to make room in your life for more of whatever matters most to you. The best quote of the night: “Love people and use things because the opposite never works.”

My time of “frying”  is near the end . THREE MORE THERAPY SESSIONS TO GO. Whoo hoo! Feel free to comment on how I should celebrate my last day. Please continue to pray for the healing of my skin. My radiation doctor continues to tell me how fortunate I am that this “skin reaction” is happening so late in treatment and that it is minimal compared to others. Um, okay, because it doesn’t feel minimal to me. I do wonder if doc’s genitals were burned, peeling, and with sores if he would still feel the same way.  Keeping it real, Just Pamela.

Jer 30:17 “I will restore your health and heal your wounds.”

Being a Frequent Flyer

My pre-op nurse and I had a good laugh about my frequent flyer status in the OR. She thought I should get my name on the wall and I felt I should at least have VIP privileges. Even the registration person remembered me! I experienced more fear of this surgery than I needed to. It all went quite quickly and uneventfully. According to Richard, Dr. Brader said the surgery went well and he felt he removed all the melanoma (at least in that area). I again had two wonderful pre-op nurses. One of them had a similar medical history and we were having such a good time chatting, we forgot about Richard and left him in the waiting room for an hour. Whoops.

I cannot express enough positive remarks about the Hope Lodge, which is located next to the hospital. What a wonderful haven for families affected by cancer. It is serene, accommodating, and beautifully decorated. I will be staying there during the week until my radiation treatments are completed on July 16th. If you are in Grand Rapids, please stop by for a visit. I am looking for someone to fulfill another bucket list item – teach me how to play chess. An eagle scout crafted beautiful chess and checker tables as his eagle scout project and donated them to the Hope Lodge. I want to learn on that table! I am also looking for someone to watch the movie Sixteen Candles with me – an oldie but goodie! I found it in the lodge’s DVD library so it will be my guilty pleasure to look forward to this week.