Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Resilience (May 25, 2015)


 
 
Resilience…

 
May 25, 2015

Resilience - the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc.

     It’s been some time since I’ve written.  I told Gilbert, my husband, that I believe I was suffering from writers’ block.  In truth, things have been a bit overwhelming.  I’m being stretched!  I am not a person to allow myself to become depressed, but I find that I am weary.  I’m being pressed!  I’ve religiously gone to the doctor for my 3-month checkups and each checkup has found something.  Something that has to be examined further… thyroid… hernia… possibility of endometrial disease… something.  It’s made me… weary… lots of pulling.

 
     My joy is always boundless when I have to visit Sloan Kettering (MSK).  How can you not feel joyful when you receive the greatest hugs from Nick and Ava?

     Last week I visited the chemo building to get my CAT scan and there was MY Nick.  I thank God for Nick!  He prays for me constantly.  He prayed for me as I entered the 53rd Street building.  “Stay the course.”  1 Corinthians 16:13 says “Be firm in your faith. Stay brave and strong.”  Then as I sat upstairs preparing for my CAT scan, drinking my unsweetened Kool-Aid, I read the MSK newsletter “Bridges”.  A survivor says “By handing the keys to my MSK team and the driver’s seat to God, this planner was now the passenger and the ride was about to begin.”

     The Director in me has been fighting this.  Gilbert can attest to the fact that I’m a Director, especially when he’s driving!  “Turn here”; “Turn off your indicator”; “Exactly where are we going?”; “Why are you heading into traffic, when you could make a left here and go around?”; “Didn’t you see the crosswalk?”;
“I can’t see, please turn on the wipers.”

 
     I had already given the driver’s seat to God but I now realize that my Directorial tendency was rearing its ugly head.  I know, I know!  God needs the help, right?  “Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.”  Proverbs 3:13-14   “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”  James 3:17

 
Help me Lord!


    Do you now believe?”  John 16:31  Lord I believe!

 

Love,

Charmaine Yvette

 

P.S.:  The past two months have been difficult for my friends and family who have lost loved ones or those who received sad diagnoses.  It makes my struggle appear inconsequential.  Please know that I pray for you.  God is a healing God.  Trust him and he will heal your sorrow… just believe.  “You who are my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faint within me.” Jeremiah 8:18  

  

Friday, February 7, 2014

Wait! (February 7, 2014)


 
Wait!
 
 
 
February 7, 2014


I had my CAT scan at the end of January.  Something as simple as the injection of dye into my system knocked me over for a full day and a half – I was sick!  Still, I was now excited to see my doctor a few days later.  The good doctor would not tell me anything I didn’t already know.  My faith helped me stand and my God has already spoken.  Going to see my doctor was just a technicality.

My sister, Cheryl, noted that the scriptures all talked about patience – I just didn’t think it was directed to me.  I walked into the doctor’s office a bit upset though.  After she delivered the great news, I begin…

“I’m not sure what is going on, but my last chemo was three weeks ago and I’m still feeling fatigued and beaten up.  Going up the subway steps is like climbing the infinity stairway and having to stand on the train for an hour is hell.”  I begin to describe my plans… “Today I was going to clean up my basement, then I want to re-do my kitchen, we need new back splash – so the old tiles must be removed, I’m looking for a new stove and I definitely need a new dining room table.  I’m hanging new family pictures so I just bought frames.  Then I want the dining room and living room painted and I have to choose a new color and we definitely need to have the floor sanded…”  Before I finish Dr. Makker pipes in “Whoa, whoa!”  Then she begins to explain to me.  She says “We threw an atomic bomb at you to fight this thing.  I am simply amazed that you continued smiling and laughing and working through all of this.  Unfortunately, you will continue to feel this way (weak!) through August or September (OF 2014!!?)  We need for you to rest.  We would like you to take 3-4 weeks off now and just lay around and take things easy.”  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Ephesians 4:2

I begin to cry.  Not for the great news she has just delivered, but the simple fact that I cannot return to my life as it used to be… at least not immediately – be patient!  I get off the elevator at the chemo building and walk directly into a great big hug from Nick (who I learned is also a survivor).  I cry as he hugs me and prays for me.  He thanks God for delivering me and continuing to use me. 

I am not the strong, invincible woman I used to be but I still thank God! 

Reflections says - “Interruptions are nothing new.  Rarely does a day go by as planned.  Life is filled with inconveniences.  Our plans are constantly thwarted by forces beyond our control...  However, inconvenience could be God’s way of protecting us from some unseen danger, or it could be an opportunity to demonstrate God’s grace and forgiveness.  It might be the start of something even better than we had planned. Or it could be a test to see how we respond to adversity.  Whatever it is, even though we may not know God’s reason, we can be assured of His motive - to make us more like Jesus and to further His kingdom on earth.”

…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12

 

sandwin.blogspot.com

 

Sing! (January 15, 2014)


Sing !
 
 
January 15, 2014


“Searched all over... couldn't find nobody
I looked high and low... still couldn't find nobody
Nobody greater... nobody greater... nobody greater than you

Nobody can heal... like you can
Oh most holy one you are the Great I Am
Awesome in all your ways and mighty is your hand
You are He who carried out redemption's plan
You are He who carried out redemption's plan”

– Nobody Greater (Vashawn Mitchell)

My heart has been singing.  I’m excited!  My final chemotherapy session was scheduled for January 14, 2014.  The day arrived and Whitney is with me (my own personal paparazzi).  Nobody greater than you Jesus!  My excitement is really about my trust.  I don’t have to wait for the results of my upcoming CAT scan.  I have already claimed my healing.  I stand here on three little words… faith, trust and praise.  Where is God?  He’s still here… with me!  How can I say that when God allowed this “bad thing” to happen to me?  My sister talked about the sermon of the beauty of the orange; however, to really enjoy the orange it must be squeezed!  I’m being squeezed so my light can shine. J  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:16

My excitement is also about finally eating the 25 lbs. of pineapple, 10 lbs. of honey dew melon and cantaloupe and all the undercooked/raw vegetables/fruit and wheat/grains I can eat.  These were my banned substances during this journey.  The things I now crave the most.

My excitement is about leaving behind the side effects of these drugs.  The neuropathy (big word I learned from my sister) is all the nerve ending tingling and numbness in my hands and feet I previously mentioned, that has me limping like my 86-year old mother.  It’s painful!  I now feel what she is going through with her diabetes – we won’t even talk about her arthritis pains.  The bone-weary feeling that I must work through to continue with my job.  The sleepless nights that have allowed me to master levels of Candy Crush.   Finally, my hair can begin to grow back. 

I must tell you though that all of you simply ROCK!!  My husband, my prayer warriors, my compadres, my friends, my intercessors!  Many of you I’ve never met!  You are all my angels; Terry, who showed up on Christmas day with trays of food for my entire family (this made Nigel very happy because he was not feeling spaghetti on Christmas day); Nick, walking into the chemo building can be a depressing reality, but your smile, your hugs and your prayers are always on time; my family, co-workers, my Sloan-Kettering family and my sisters (Barbara, Cheryl, Sandra, Claudette, Sharmaine, Jenny – some of you are from other families, but I’ve claimed you).  That you would all take the time to say a prayer for me and you continue to call, text and email me with an encouraging word.  Thank you! 

 

Sandwin.blogspot.com

Monday, December 9, 2013

Angels (12/9/13)


 


Angels !
 
 
 

December 8, 2013

I am woman!  Hear me roar!  …as I crawl into my little uncomfortable space.  This chemotherapy is kicking my butt, upside down and sideways!  The Paclitaxel affects my nerves and nerve endings!  Honestly, it affects my nerve endings, but I am short-tempered!  There is no way to get comfortable, in or out of bed.  I am bone-weary and my fingers and toes are tingling and numb and it’s lovely to be told to let them know if I begin tripping and falling down!! J 

During a conversation with a friend, who has had her own battle, she mentioned that during her struggle with tumors her mother asked her “where are all of your friends?”  There was no one around.  I must admit I never knew about her fight until afterwards.  How do we gain support and see all of our angels if we keep this trapped inside us?  Is this a stigma?  If we mention this dreaded sickness, does it appear that we seek sympathy, are we embarrassed?  Then again, we don’t paint a placard and walk around declaring this disease… giving it power.  To this day my mother, who is a breast cancer survivor, has not shared with anyone (other than her sisters).  She says… “people always know or have heard of someone who died and when you’re going through this, the last thing you want to hear is about someone’s uncle’s cousin who had the same thing who died four months later.” 

I walk around with my bald head never giving it a second thought that others may be uncomfortable with it.  I don’t wear a placard, but if asked, I have no problem answering questions.

The greatest thing has happened to me though.  In my truth, I began to notice angels around me.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.  - Philippians 2:4  When I walked into the barber shop and began bawling and traumatized the barbers there - Tony was very gentle with me - thank you!  That a friend and her daughter would fix meals for my family on the lowest days after chemotherapy - thank you!  That my nieces would call or send me a note to encourage me - thank you!  That your calls and texts "checking on me" continue to encourage me - thank you!  That Nigel, Whitney and Cheryl would shave their heads as well... crazy :) but thank you!  God continues to bless and surround me with angels!

Our Daily Bread says:  “We too can serve as caretakers to the weak and weary. …we have ways to honor God by helping others.  As we seek to serve those in need, may the grace of God that reached us in our need move us to reach out to others in theirs.”

What does the Lord your God reqire of you, but ... to walk in all His ways and to love Him. - Deuteronomy 10:12

Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

I am not my hair… (11/6/2013)


 


I am not my hair…
 
 
 

November 6, 2013


            My mother, the lover of glorious long hair has three daughters.  To my Mom’s dismay, all three of us have lived for countless years with hair cut quite short.  I have never been infatuated with my hair.  I’ve been blessed with hair that is fine and soft, not thick and luxurious.  It’s natural and wash-and-wear for me.  No problem!

            This past weekend Gilbert cleaned the bathroom.  I step into a sparkling tub and four minutes into my glorious shower I’m muttering under my breath.  How can Gilbert clean up and leave hair all over the place.  I adjust the showerhead to rinse it away… but there’s more… and more… and even more.  I’m shocked to realize the process has begun… and… I. freak. out.  Chemotherapy and I are good friends.  We’re on a first name basis.  I know the results of chemo.  I was told the effects of chemo… yet, when I see the hair swirling around the drain it hits me like a sledgehammer.  I don’t know if I can handle this.  “…Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

            Forget about what I know and what I expect.  It all flies out the window.  I am truly freaking out here.  I jump out of the shower and call Gilbert.  “It’s okay!” he reassures me.  “Are you ready to shave it all off?”  I have yet to answer his question.  I’m confused about why I’m feeling this way because my hair has been one-eighth of an inch long for years.  How do I know?  After spending two hours at the barber shop a few years ago, I had hubby purchase an electric thingamajiggy for me and I use the one-eighth inch attachment.

            This is my chemo “off” week, so to quote Jenny, who has conquered her own battles, “I feel like a million dollars.”  Hubby and I head out to shop for the things I may need next week.  In the car, on our way home the heavy weight of my hair finally breaks me down.  The floodgates were opened previously for the pain, but never for the circumstance.  It’s an ugly cry that’s probably been months coming.  I see the helplessness on Gilbert’s face as he tries to comfort me.  He can’t do much but hold my hand as he drives and I cry.  The tears are filled with the weeks of recovery, the diagnosis, the abandonment by close family who can’t deal with it, the days of radiation, my good friend chemo and how my head will look like a person with ringworm.  The hair loss is not like taking off a wig… it’s a gradual process.  Every day more falls out in the shower.  Trust my sister to see the positive side.  As she says, “That’s great, no more shaving!”

            “Are you ready to shave it all off?”  I know I am. 

            The Daily Bread says, “Our circumstances never stay the same for long.  Sometimes we welcome change in our lives.  But often it is difficult, especially when it involves sorrow and loss.”  I am thankful though, that God remains the same – he loves me and holds me in the palm of his hand, with or without hair.  “I am the Lord, I do not change.”  Malachi 3:6

Love,

Charmaine Yvette

P.S. Don’t be surprised if you get a newsflash of Tina Turner or Angela Davis walking through Times Square – it’s me!!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

THANK YOU! (6/27/2013)

 
 
Thank you!
June 27, 2013
 
Dear family and friends:
 
The road to recovery after surgery has been more difficult and longer than I thought possible.  Being reduced to less than Super Woman has been humbling to say the least.  When times get tough and the winds are tearing things apart, that’s when the valuable wheat remains and the chaff is blown away.  My Mom (86 years old, two knee replacements {which have expired}, bursitis in shoulders, osteoarthritis all over) makes sure she brings dinner for the family every Sunday – may God continue to bless her.  My husband, Gilbert… WOW! 
There were times I struggled to get up from the couch and Gilbert appears at my side.  He held out his hand and whispered to me… “I’m here.”
For the times I needed an extra support going up the stairs, he stood at my back saying… “I’m here.”
The trip to the bathroom at 2:00 a.m. – the extra push I needed to help me out of bed and on my way… he reached across the bed… “I’m here.”
Those words made me smile every time; because it’s what my God has been saying to me.
            During my first few days after surgery, the technology of the On-Q “pocketbook” (which I happily wore) filled with an intravenous pain killer they embedded in my skin in two places… “I’m here.”
Gilbert made stewed chicken… again… “I’m here.”  (I’m happy to say he’s now expanded his repertoire under my guidance. J)
As I battled with depression because it was quite obvious I would not be healed in two weeks and be able to compete in Wimbledon, I cried (copiously) and my God said… “I’m here.” … then your wonderful phone calls began coming in to encourage me!  Thank you!
The results from the lab are not encouraging… but my God says… “I AM! … and I’m HERE.”    
 
Psalm 3:3-5
But thou, O Jehovah, art a shield about me;
My glory and the lifter up of my head.
I cry unto Jehovah with my voice,
And he answereth me out of his holy hill.
I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for Jehovah sustaineth me.
 
Caretakers are the most underappreciated people - but the job they do!  Lord I thank you for all the caretakers and if you haven’t heard it today, this week, this month… Thank You!
I thank you all for thinking of me and offering up a prayer for me. 
Love to all,
Charmaine

My Journey to Radiation... Where is God? (9/8/2013)


My Journey to Radiation…
September 8, 2013

 
For I am the Lord your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you!!   Isaiah 41:13

 
It is another long day for me.  After work there is a smile on my face as I greet the bus driver on the M42 bus to go crosstown to First Avenue, where I change to the M15 bus that drops me off at the Radiation Building.  God rides with me!  In the Radiation Building all adults are scheduled for afternoons/evenings as the mornings are reserved for children.  We all gather in the main waiting area. Unless you’ve lost your hair due to chemo, you cannot tell who is here for radiation and who is here to support.  Across from me sits a big strapping construction worker with his heavy work boots; then a very tall, distinguished older gentleman in his Armani suit walks in talking on his I-phone; a middle-aged woman sits with her knitting needles and next to her is a very young lady who never stops texting.  

 
Kenny calls us out one by one… “Ms. Sandy, please get undressed!” I grab a robe and a key for the locker and head to the changing area.

 
In the inner waiting area our nakedness defines our battle.  The suits are gone, boots, needles… no more texting.  Under our robes I begin to recognize… those naked from the waist up are battling cancers of the upper body: breast, thyroid, brain. Those naked from the waist down are battling testicular, cervical, ovarian and other pelvic cancers.  Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me…

 
There isn’t much conversation, not much friendliness.  I guess everyone is concentrating on their own survival.  I talk anyway, and find out we are all recovering from a surgeon’s scalpel… we’ve all lost a summer.

 
I thank God for Kenny, Ava, Juan, Gerard, David, Jennifer, Mark and all the others who work there.  They greet me with a smile and a kind word every day.  Ava is like one of my girlfriends, we talk and laugh out loud.  The security guard in the Chemo Building greets everyone with a smile and God’s words flows from his lips every time I see him.  It blows my mind to think how many people they see every day, fighting a battle, wrapped up in the battle.  Where is God?  He’s right here!  thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me…

 
Your words and your prayers continue to uplift me.  Juan and David tell me I smile a lot.  It’s simply the God in me, for I wouldn’t have the strength to do this on my own.  Maya Angelou has said “…He has created the leaves and the trees, the birds and the insects and I am humbled that God loves me!

 
God loves me!  Amen!  Love you all.

Charmaine Yvette

 
P.S. Thank you Gilbert – I love you! I am always amazed by your creative use of ingredients… in addition to the cheddar and ketchup sandwich, the new menu item – stewed string beans and plantains… together!  I came home to a feast fit for the entire Brooklyn this week. Gilbert baked 10 lbs of fish, 20 lbs of potatoes, cooked 2 lbs of rice, peas, spinach and stewed string beans and plantains. J It’s a very welcome sight as I get home close to 9:00pm each day and it will last all of September!

Weakness... (10/28/2013)



Weakness…

October 28, 2013

Before I continue with my journey, I wanted to talk to each and every one of you for a moment.  Please know that your thoughts, your prayers, your notes… the responses… all my friends and family, Cheryl’s “Reflectionites”, the technicians and nurses, my new sisters in Sharmaine and Jenny, co-workers Kim, Fior, Diana… I received them all and I am humbled.  Your outpouring has made me cry.  Claudette and Mimi you are wonderful! Ava, that you would track me down during my therapy session to give me a hug.  Gita, that you would take a few moments to encourage me from across the ocean... it all means the world. Because I don’t mention your name does not mean your thoughts and words were any less impactful, but it would take me four pages to properly thank everyone by name.  I thank you!

Last Tuesday I walked into a very unassuming building on East 53rd Street in Manhattan.  It’s in the midst of the corporate world – this is the Chemo building.  I’ve been here before but numerous times I’ve walked past this building myself as I hurried to catch the # 6 train.  I never once thought of what goes on in here.  As I enter the building Nick smiles and greets me… it’s always the best; he holds my hands… “Good morning Beloved, it’s wonderful to see you again.  How are you today?” (He makes me feel joyful, he reminds me that wherever we are, in the midst of it all, God sends a word.)  I smile as I respond – “I’m blessed and highly favored.”  Nick responds “Keep walking in faith.”  My day begins…

A day at chemotherapy is very different from radiation therapy. The waiting area is much larger (I believe to accommodate the larger groups of family members).  People stroll out of the elevator with large totes and luggage.  Some carry their favorite pillow or the comfy blanket to snuggle up with.  In one suitcase I glimpse socks and books and a teddy bear.  Therapy spans 5-6 hours. I initially thought it would be an injection, but the chemo is slowly dripped into our bodies.  We make ourselves comfortable. 

Cysplatin… Carboplatin… Paclitaxel… Potatoe, Potato all the same right?  I’ve had a dose of chemo before.  After my dose of Cysplatin and my days of radiation I was lulled into a false sense of my own strength.  I’ve got this! I can handle the burns and the fatigue and adding Imodium pills to my diet and staying away from fresh fruit and vegetables and always having a piece of candy in my bag and the fact that even water has a strange taste.  Then Carboplatin and Paclitaxel was introduced to my system as the fight has been ramped up – as Dr. Makker says, we are dealing with this very aggressively. 

As I get comfortable, take off my boots, put on my socks and place my bag in the appropriate area so I can get to my phone, the crosswords and the Kindle that Nigel has graciously allowed me to use.  My nurse friend prepares me for infusion.  The veins on the inside of my elbows have too much scar tissue, they can’t get a line in there.  They must go in by my wrist – it’s more painful.  There are lots of medications… saline solution, anti-nausea medication, Benadryl, Carboplatin, etc.  Everything has its purpose and Nurse Showda sits to monitor me to make sure there are no allergic reactions.  I would love to say I sat through all the hours thinking and writing and playing Subway Surfer.  The Benadryl knocked me out… I wake as they change medication bags… wake again as they bring lunch… I am finally awake as Gilbert calls and says he’s waiting for me downstairs.  They warn me that the effects of all the medications would begin wearing off in two days.  By Thursday afternoon, I slipped away from work early.  I’m feeling it! I feel the battle in my body… nausea – yes, weakness – yes, flu-like symptoms – yes… my toes hurt, every muscle aches… indescribable feelings (whether imagined or real). 

I’ve been knocked from my happy place.  Gilbert is not comfortable seeing me like this.  My response of “I’m okay” to his question does not cut it for him.  On Sunday he declared that I must go back to the doctor and tell her that this medication does not agree with me and I need the previous medication.  LOL! 

As I curled up in bed Sunday night trying to feel comfortable, cuddling up to my aches! and pains! and feelings! it comes to me that God, with his infinite wisdom rarely goes into the house of the strong – they don’t NEED him.  When we are strong, we pat ourselves on the back and accept the accolades.  It’s what I’ve been doing – you go girl! you can handle this!  

Then the realization that I’m not in control … I am weak!... in my weak moments… in my weakness…  Help me Lord!

2 Corinthinians 12:9-10
   
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Psalm 145:14   
The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.

Amen!  Love you all.

Charmaine Yvette

P.S.  My Mom and sisters, Cheryl and Barbara… my prayer warriors!  Thank you!

P.P.S. I’ve been told these notes are the dinosaurs to a blog so I should probably get hip right??!!  Mimi, I’ll be calling you J