Posted in Writing

Riding Currents

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Momma and Daddy’s house in Virginia.

 

I watched the boat putter away and slip under the James River bridge, leaving me behind.

“Daddy!” I said. “You forgot something!” I waved bobbing up and down in his wake.

He cupped his hands around his mouth. “Put your feet up in front of you and ride the current. You’ll reach me in no time.”

 

Fishing was a large part of our family culture, starting all the way back to Momma and Daddy’s first date, when he took her fishing on his john boat; but my early teen years I found ways to buck the family culture as I balanced on the shifting soap box of finding myself. Finding myself meant sticking my chin up a notch while I explained why my barbie’s head was shaved and she wore GI Joe’s camouflage “She’s in the Army of course. Women can serve in the army if they want to.”

Daddy often chuckled and shook his head. “You know I tried to raise her right, but I don’t what’s happened.”

With regards to fishing, I woke up one morning and decided, fish have feelings too, so while my family threw out their lines and rolled their eyes at me…again, I dove off the bow of the boat and swam with my new friends.

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Daddy on his small boat fishing with my husband Jay.

 

The current was strong that day. I had to swim far off from the boat in order to not be pulled into it and Dad was having a hard time keeping the boat off the bridge. He decided it was better to move to the other side, only, he forgot me in the process.

I laid on my back and put my feet up to ride the current. In case I hit the bridge the barnacles would hurt my feet not my head. Sure enough, I was swept under the bridge’s shadow while the sound of vehicles hitting the bridge’s grid echoed above. Before long I was spit out the other side back into the sun. I flipped over on my belly to swim the rest of the way to the boat, but felt my arms stinging and wrapped up in slime. It didn’t take long to realize my body had landed on a five-foot jelly fish colony. My brother Brandon swam over to me to see what was causing me to splash and scream.

“Roll off Tammy,” he said. “You have to roll off of it.”

I rolled over several times and freed myself of the stinging tangle. By the time I climbed up the ladder my body was covered in red patches. By sunset, I’d picked up a rod and cast out my bait.

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Currents can pull at your mind too. It’s our human nature for our thoughts to ride the river of fear, guilt, vanity etc, until we find ourselves in an uncomfortable stinging mess. My doctor told me breast cancer is much more than a physical disease, it can become a disease of the mind if we allow it to.

 

The worst part breast cancer has played on my mind has been guilt. My sister wasn’t pushed to the front of the line when she needed surgery. In fact, her surgeon scheduled hers outside the safe zone. My sister didn’t have a slow growing cancer like I had. She didn’t have the option to forgo chemo and radiation. Her cancer invaded her lymph nodes, whereas mine didn’t.

As my family celebrated each good report, and the fact that my surgery was bumped to the 11thof this month, I felt I was drowning from the current of survivor’s guilt. Until one afternoon, my best friend KK and I were talking on the phone and it all came pouring out. I sobbed how unfair it was that I got such a good cancer, while my sister didn’t. How I had access to wealthy friends who knew the best of the best when it came to doctors.

“It’s so unfair. Tricia didn’t have a chance. She didn’t have all these blessings. Who am I to have this?”

“You’re looking at this through your humanness,” KK said. “God doesn’t love you anymore than He did Tricia. God brought Tricia home to be with Him sooner. Tricia’s journey is just different from yours. You still have work to do. You must remember “to die is to gain.” (Philippians 1:21b) You must remember “to be absent from the body is to be with Christ.” (II Corinthians 5:8)  If Tricia could see your diagnosis, she may think you got the bad end of the stick.”

And there it was…she threw me a lifesaver…truth.

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My son Nick thought it’d be funny to fish in the water fountain at the Millenia Mall. He told the security guard he had to catch a fish for his Momma’s supper. The guard said, “Son, your Momma’s gonna go hungry tonight, reel it in.”

 

Today, I was working on my Gospel of Mark Bible study and the writer Lisa Harper pointed out Peter. When Jesus explained to the disciples what He was about to be arrested and killed, Peter pulled Jesus aside and rebuked Him for thinking such things. But Jesus flipped the table on him by stating, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

 

What current have you been riding lately? What human thoughts are stinging your mind? Fear? There’s a lifesaver for that:

Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV) “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

 

Guilt? Let me throw you some truth.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9 NIV

 

Feeling unloved? Climb aboard.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 ESV

 

Fight that current, don’t allow your human thoughts speak louder than your Holy Spirit.  Here are some other truths about our thoughts…

“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” Proverbs 23:7a KJV

“…Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8 ESV

“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” II Corinthians 10:5 ESV

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After surgery, I look like a puffer fish.

A little update: I’ve had my double mastectomy and upon my request the plastic surgeon put in small implants so I could get it all done at one time and not face another surgery. I am hurting and tired but doing well. Thank you for the outpouring of love and prayers you have showered on me. I’m so blessed. I thank my Heavenly Papa for all of you.

Until we chat again…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Cancer, Christian, Writing

Funny Thing About Breasts

 

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Tricia doing the white man overbite.

 

Today, I couldn’t help but remember my breasts beginnings. I don’t know if I fall into the minority here, but as a girl I didn’t want them poking their way into my life. Growing up, since we didn’t have air condition and lived in the country, Momma let Tricia (my little sister) and I work the garden wearing only our under pants. Our backs turned a dark mahogany and our hair a light blonde, and we loved to show our Granny the only place the sun didn’t brown. She’d laugh so hard she had to wipe her eyes. Then we’d run to Paw Paw and threaten him with our full moons, but he claimed his eyesight was already dim and our butts would make him go blind.

One evening, while picking vegetables Momma stood up to stretch and glanced in my direction. She placed her hands on my shoulders and peered at my chest.

“What’s wrong?” I said, brushing my midsection, thinking I had a beetle on me.

“Tammy, you’re budding,” she said as if she were surprised. I didn’t have a clue what budding meant. “Momma, come look Tammy’s budding.”

Granny examined at my chest. “You’re right they’re coming in.” I glanced down to see what they were looking at and didn’t see anything.

“It’s time you start wearing a shirt in the yard,” Momma said.

“But it’s hot!” I said, frantic my nude independence was being stolen from me.

“Priscilla, you should get her a training bra too,” Granny said.

Bra? This was going way too far. Why don’t you just put me in a wool straight jacket.

“We’ll start with a shirt,” Momma said. “I don’t want your brother’s friends riding by here on their bikes getting a peep show.”

“What about Tricia?” I pointed to her. “She needs to wear a shirt too.”

“She will when she starts to bud.”

“Am I budding? I want to bud.” Tricia said smiling. “When can I get a training bra?”

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Our brother Brandon, myself, Tricia, and our cousin Linda (kneeling)

 

The next year, Timmy moved down the street. I stopped wearing baseball caps and brushed the tangles out of my long hair. When I saw him in the yard, I slathered on the candy scented lip gloss and found some reason to talk to him. One afternoon, I wore my green, strapless, terry cloth jumper (Remember those from the eighties?). Timmy tossed the football to Brandon and meandered over.

“Are your sister’s coming over to play basketball?” I said tilting my head the way Daisy from Dukes of Hazards did. He smiled and reached out to touch the ribbon of my jumper, but somehow his finger became stuck in the bow and he snatched his hand back quick. Immediately, the top fell down and my new breasts met the late afternoon breeze. It was slow motion horror. His eyes planted and I screamed before sprinting to the woods.

Tricia found me in our fort sobbing. “What happened?” She said kneeling down in front of me.

I pointed in the direction of their football game. “He saw…” I choked on the words. “He saw my BOOBIES!”

“Who?” she said. “Brandon?”

“No! Timmy!” I said.

“I’ll get Momma. She’ll know what to do.” Tricia sprinted to the house before I could stop her.

I prayed right then God would change me into a forest animal and let me scamper into a hole somewhere. I’ll never flirt with the males, and I’d wear walnut shells on my chest if it doth pleaseth the Lord. I waited to see if He’d answer my prayer, but instead…

“Tammy!” Momma said. “Mrs. Johnson is here. I called her and told her the whole thing!” For some reason, Momma thought this would make things better.

I begged the Lord to reconsider and if He loved me at all to transform me right now!

“Tammy, you can come out the woods now,” Tricia said. “She’s hiding because she’s embarrassed.”

I prayed God would turn Tricia into a rat.

“Now young lady!” Momma said.

I walked out on shaky legs and approached the perv and his mother. My eyes were swollen shut. He looked equally embarrassed.

“Timmy, what do you think you’re doing pulling down this girls top?” Mrs. Johnson said.

I didn’t correct her. Let him squirm. Serves him right seeing my boobies and all.

“I barely touched the ribbon and it just fell. I don’t know what happened,” he said.
“My finger got caught or something.”

Momma glared at him. His mother glared at him. I glared at him– I felt powerful.

“I think an apology is in order,” Mrs. Johnson said.

“I’m sorry Tammy.”

I nodded.

“Let’s keep our hands off my daughter’s clothing,” Momma said.

He agreed before Mrs. Johnson yanked him away, with a warning of what was waiting for him at home.

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Tricia, me, and our cousin Linda. 

That night, I pulled Momma into my bedroom and told her I was ready to wear a bra now. I imagined a metal cone variety attached to my body by a chain and lock, that would take a stick of dynamite to open. Without a word, she closed the bedroom door.

“Let me see your breasts,” Momma said.

I’d reached the peak make that peaks of humiliation, but I knew my Momma was not going to spend a dime without proof I needed one. I stared at the ceiling and raised my t-shirt.

“Yep, you’ve bloomed. We’ll get you a bra tomorrow.” She turned for the door. “I wonder if they make them that small.”

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Tricia, Linda, and I.

Today brought back those same feelings I had as a young girl. Two nurses took nudie pictures of me, turning me this way and that. Meanwhile, my husband busied himself with checking his emails, which was a sign he felt bad for me. I was surprised he didn’t jokingly snap a couple for himself.

Later, my breasts were measured, squeezed on, and placed in two containers while I was slipped into a loud cave and dye was administered through an IV that burned my biopsy sites.

 

 I already feel like they don’t belong to me anymore.

 

And, I’m okay with that I suppose. I’m praying God saves my life. He doesn’t have to save these.

Today, the nurse asked me if I had a source of joy. I smiled and said I did. I have a God that heals, and God told me He was going to heal me before it was for certain I even had breast cancer. God led me through verses in His word and I journaled page after page of what He was telling me.  God is going to heal me.This is going to be cancer. I must pray and believe.As I’ve entered this journey, and each day the news went from bad to worse, I’ve felt Him impress on me, “Do you still believe I’m going to heal you?” And, after I cried a bit, I’d settle down and pray, “Yes, I still believe Lord. I am choosing to believe.”

 

 Believing is a choice.

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Me, cousin Lisa, and Tricia

 

But, like a wink from heaven, just as I wanted to grow up slow, and Tricia like a typical little sister wanted to steal my air and zoom past me towards the finish line. It seems our cancers are doing that too. The test results came back, and my cancer is not Triple Negative as the doctors suspected. It is hormone-fed and a slower growing cancer than the cancer that took Tricia’s life.  I inherited my Granny’s breast cancer instead. The doctors reassure me, I will survive this just as my Granny did– twice.

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Me, Momma, Brandon, and Tricia.

 

When I told my boys about the cancer, my eldest Nick hugged me and with a voice that gave way to emotion said, “Momma, you’re always telling other people’s stories. God’s giving you your own story to tell that’s all. This book you’re writing will be way more powerful if you’ve experienced cancer too. It just needed a happy ending, because God doesn’t want it to end on a downer. He’s going to heal you. I know it.”

Those are words I’m hanging my bra on…

And these…I hope you allow the scriptures below to speak truth to a situation you may be going through.

 

“Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, Be taken up and thrown into the sea, and does not doubt in his heart, but believes what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore, I tell you whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you received it and it will be yours.” Mark 11:22-24 English Standard Version

“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6 ESV

“But even the hairs of your head are numbered.” Matthew 10:30 ESV

“’Peace! Be Still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”’ Mark 4: 39b-40 ESV

“Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease.” Mark 5:34 ESV.

Catch ya later…

(Oh and the name of the boy Timmy has been changed because his sister is my friend on Facebook. And to set the record straight it was purely an accident.)