Friday, June 1, 2012

Cancer Survivor's Journal - Guest Post with Sandra Humphrey


Perhaps I should start a Cancer Patient’s Journal series.  We are all supposed to write one.  My cancer journal turned into an eight-hundred page love story.  Today my guest blogger Sandra Humphrey writes about her cancer journal turning into a litany of praise.  Enjoy - Delinda

Brief Bio:
Sandra McLeod Humphrey is a retired clinical psychologist, a character education consultant, and an award-winning author of eight middle-grade and young adult books.  She's also the recipient of the National Character Education Center's Award for Exemplary Leadership in Ethics Education (2000) and the 2005 Helen Keating Ott Award for Outstanding Contribution to Children's Literature. You can learn more about her books by visiting her Web site  at www.kidscandoit.com.


A Season for Everything


“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1

            When I found out I had breast cancer, my immediate response was--I’ve got to begin a cancer journal!

            With over thirty years experience as a clinical psychologist and my last few years as a writer, all my psychological and literary juices came bubbling to the surface, and I knew I wanted to--no, make that I had to--journal.

            And I knew exactly what kind of journal it would be. It would be a “psychological” journal relating my cancer journey from the viewpoint of a psychologist. A very sophisticated journal!

            I was more surprised than anyone when my journal turned out to be something quite different--an intimate dialogue with God, thanking Him for all my many blessings along the way.

            The first entry in my journal was a thank you for the gift of family when our ten-year-old granddaughter Johanna volunteered to journal along with me. I loved the idea of our journaling together, she from her perspective and me from my mine. And I looked forward to her companionship along the way.

            After the official diagnosis, everything moved very quickly. Surgery in less than a week and again I wrote a thank you in my journal. A thank you for the gift of so many friends who took the time to send wonderful uplifting cards and notes.

            Next came a thank you for the gift of caring professionals who treat the spirit as well as the body. All the members of my treatment team, from the surgeon and oncologist to the lab technicians, were always upbeat and optimistic, yet very professional and dedicated.

            My chemotherapy began a month after the surgery and it was time for another thank you. I was so glad the chemo would be during the spring and summer when things were bright and beautiful rather than during the more gloomy winter months. I thanked God for the gift of His perfect timing. 

            Even when I was too tired to write or too nauseated to read, God kept me busy thinking. Just as one writing endeavor neared completion, He made sure there was another one on the horizon waiting for me.

            Knowing how tired I was of the nausea and the “blahs,” He introduced me to The Heroes & Dreams Foundation which supplies character education materials to elementary schools all over the country. They had seen my website and asked me to be their consultant and official writer. What an unexpected bonanza and time for another thank you. A thank you for the gift of new endeavors and wonderful people who gave me all the time I needed to “get well” before expecting anything from me.
           
            It was unsettling, to say the least, as my hair began to fall out during the chemotherapy--kind of like losing a body part. I had no idea my hair was so gray until I saw it sitting there in the wastebasket. I decided it was time to make the dreaded appointment to get my head shaved, so that I’d feel that I and not the cancer was in control. And I thanked Him for the gift of courage when I needed it most.

            Next came the turbans and the wig. When our Great Dane MAC saw my wig on the styrofoam head in my study, he let out a menacing guttural growl, backed out of the room on his tippy-toes, and flew down the stairs like something was after him. We all laughed until it hurt and it felt so good to laugh. And I sent up a thank you for the gift of laughter which helped me keep everything else in perspective.

            After the nausea and the “blahs” (not to mention the heart damage and the two weeks in the hospital getting blood transfusions) from the chemotherapy, the radiation was a piece of cake.  I could finally see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel!

            As I finished my journal, it was time to review the past year. There were so many things to be grateful for. Small things like my hair growing in curly after the chemo (alas, the curls are now long gone) and big things like the gift of restored health. This was not a journey I would have chosen, but it is a journey I will always cherish and never forget!



           




43 comments:

  1. Sandra,
    I was so moved by the devotion and convictions that come across in your words to the Lord our God. I fight a different disease but one that takes its toll. Sometimes it is difficult to see our blessings but anyone who reads this will be able to remove their blinders.
    Thank you for sharing. May God continue to enrich and bless your life.
    Thank you Delinda for your gift of shaing as well.

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    1. Thanks so much, Rosemary, and I am so enjoying getting to know you. Thanks for dropping by and being such an encourager as always!

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  2. This post truly is uplifting and a reminder that God is in everything, and we always have something to be grateful for.

    Here I am feeling sorry for myself, and then I read your article and am reminded of God's amazing grace and awesome love for all of us.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and journey with us. :)

    God Bless,
    Heather Bixler
    http://heatherbixler.com

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    1. Thanks, Heather. What was really cool is that during my devotional time one morning, He told me to "prepare myself for a new journey." At the time, I was hoping it was a new book, but as it turned out,it was quite a different kind of journey.
      Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  3. Hi Sandy, God is always so wonderful. Jesus died with all our infirmities so that we could have everlasting life. With each one of our trials, we become stronger. As you appreciated and gave thanks to God for His love, He sings for you in heaven (Zephania 3:17 "The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

    Remember, we are more than conquerers in Christ Jesus! Thank you for sharing this very personal time with us, it fills my soul with joy that you rejoice in the Light! Our God is an awesome God! Love, Deirdre

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    1. You're so right, Deirdre, our God is a most awesome God! Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving such a beautiful message!

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  4. Sandra, what an awesome post. I had no idea you went through this. Nor was I awe of your writing accomplishments. I meet the most astounding people on the 'net' and you are one of them. Blessings to you.

    Tom Blubaugh, Author
    Night of the Cossack
    http://tomblubaugh.com

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    1. Thanks Tom, and you are one of those "astounding people we meet on the net." Thanks so much for dropping by!

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  5. Thank you for sharing your journey and all the positive portions that you were able to find. Have shared in hopes that others will read the post too.

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    1. Thanks so much, Kathleen, and thanks for being such a positive influence wherever you go!

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  6. Thank you for sharing this. Journalling is often a surprising endeavor. We discover things we had not expected to find; it refreshes the mind, calms the soul and renews the spirit. Life can throw us these curves...we would not write the script of our life quite that way, but since God did write it that way, I'm trusting that when we are able to fully see, we'll agree that His plans are good!

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    1. You're right, Carol, that's definitely not the script I would have written, but it's a journey that I will never forget. Thanks so much for dropping by!

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  7. Thank you Sandra for sharing your journey as a cancer surivor. What an inspirational story of courage.
    Dicy

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    1. Thanks, Dicy, and thanks for all your ongoing support as we share our problems with "technology." I think you're still way ahead of me as far as "getting it." Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  8. What a wonderful way for a writer to journal and heal at the same time!

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    1. What was really cool, Jo Ann, is how our granddaughter Jo and I journaled together. We ended up writing a book together called A Family Affair. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  9. A lovely heartfelt post--beautifully written and touching. Sharing your experience will help so many people.

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    1. Thanks, Sandy, I appreciate your taking the time to stop by and leave such a wonderful comment!

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  10. Thank you, Sandra, for writing this. As writers we tend to want to document events, but I know this one must have been difficult for you. My wife had pancreatic cancer and I was with her pretty much around the clock for the next eight months until her death. I kept a caregivers' journal during the time, but it was hard for me to write much more than medications and stats. It's been almost four years and I haven't been ready to read it.

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    1. I'm so sorry for your loss, Sid, and you're so right--we do love to document just about everything. They say that writers can't not write. I think that's more than a truism, I think that's the truth! Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  11. Sandra,
    You are an amazing woman, one whose voice we should all hear, and especially me. Your constant thankfulness is something I want the Lord to grow in me, and He has but not enough for my satisfaction. I didn't have to experience chemo so I made light of my cancer, thus not much support from family and friends but my medical providers were the same as you described yours and they made my experience (surgery and radiation) a very easy one. Keep inspiring us!

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  12. Cancer, even without the chemo, is never an easy journey and I'm so glad you didn't need the chemo. Thanks so much for stopping by and you inspire all of us through your extraordinary writing!

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  13. Sandra –

    Thanks sharing your experiences. I wasn’t aware that you had had cancer.

    I’m very pleased to hear of your successes. I know three young girls who had lost the battle to cancer in the last few months. Their ages were 22, 23, and 47. I often feel a sense of sadness when thinking about them. I’ve told a few people that I have often thought about working at a hospital providing therapy for children with cancer.

    As a professional recreational therapist, I noticed many additional factors, including the therapeutic benefits of journaling, being grateful/ focusing on the positives, having support/ cards from people who care.

    ALSO: I don’t believe I’ve heard of the The Heroes & Dreams Foundation until now. I’d love to help promote it. My book, Building Character with Sam, Izzy, & Many Other Dogs has a similar focus in helping to teach children how to increase their social skills/ character traits needed to be successful in life.

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    1. It's so much sadder when young people get cancer and I'm so sorry that you've lost three of your friends. I'm no longer that active with the Heroes & Dreams Foundation, but they were there for me when I really needed them and I greatly appreciated that. Thanks so much for stopping by, Danny!

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  14. Sandra ~ Thank you so much for sharing. You fought for life and are now living it to the fullest. My mother is a breast cancer survivor. She has experienced so much joy since her battle ended and appreciates life so much. I'm glad you are well. ~ Peggy

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    1. Peggy, I'm so glad your mom is a cancer survivor and I bet she has some wonderful stories to share. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  15. Gratefulness is a gift in itself, Sandra, and The Divine has surely blessed you. Thanks so much for this inspirational post about your cancer journey. I too would have journaled my way through the experience. Thanks for sharing it with us.
    Clara Bowman-Jahn

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    1. Clara, I think that's what writers do--we write! Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  16. Thank you Sandra, for sharing this with us. One of the things I enjoyed while reading this blog post is the impression of your positive attitude from the very beginning.
    There is no readable or feelable self pity, it's greatefulness all the way through.
    Thank you!

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    1. You're right, Raani, and the reason I was able to feel so positive is that God had told me to prepare myself for a new journey a few days prior to the diagnosis. It gave me such comfort to know that He was there with me right from the very beginning. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  17. Sandy,
    I admire your strength and courage through a journey that was dangerous, could have turned out badly, yet you made it into a journal of optimism and hope. I'm sorry your heart did get some damage. My fear is that if I get cancer I can't take the chemo with my weakened heart. When my oldest daughter got Lymphoma, she was like you, full of determination to beat it and she took everything she went through like a trouper, even ripping off her wig and going without it for the same reason you shaved your head. I applaud you as I do her for keeping control which is no doubt why you both survived. And for sharing your story in case one day we need to reread it.

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    1. Thanks, Micki. My heart has actually healed, so there is no longer any damage. And I actually never felt comfortable wearing my wig, so I stuck to my navy scarf with the fake bangs. I even developed an attachment to that scarf--kind of like the way you develop an attachment to your maternity clothes! I'm so glad your daughter survived her Lymphoma--she reminds me of you! Thanks so much for dropping by!

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  18. Thanks for sharing your wonderful journal. It is so inspiring and convicts me that I too should start my thank journal detailing the wonderful things God has done for me in my journey of life in the recent past.
    God bless you and keep you cancer free.

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    1. Thanks so much, Yvonne, and what's so cool about journaling is that we don't miss as many of the small blessings we might otherwise miss as we rush through our lives. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  19. Sandra,
    Thank you for sharing such a personal journey. You took control of the things that would happen to you (hair falling out) and used it to guide your emotions. Your strength is remarkable. Starting a thank-you journal, PRICELESS. We should all be thankful for every ache and pain we wait up with becuase someone didnt get to feel that ache or pain this morning. Thank you to GOD for letting me see another day.

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  20. You're so right, B. We so frequently take our blessings for granted and each new day is a blessing in itself. Thanks so much for dropping by!

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  21. Sandra: thank you for this wonderful, bright perspective on an otherwise horrible ordeal. What a splendid example you are!

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  22. Thanks so much, Jeanette, I appreciate your stopping by!

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  23. Very inspirational and unique. You give honest viewpoints and Thanking GOD is a definite first priority. I guess there is a plan for all of us.

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