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Charleston, Elevators, and Good News

13 May

It’s been a little quiet here on the blog lately. That is partly because work/life has been c.r.a.z.y. and partly because we did a little traveling last week.

DSCN1904-smallCharleston’s Rainbow Row

One of the places we visited last week was Charleston, SC on a vacation/health-related trip. I had an appointment with a Scleroderma specialist at the Medical University of South Carolina and I’m thrilled to report that the results of that visit were better than I expected.

I haven’t mentioned this yet on the blog because I wasn’t sure what to say or how to explain it. For years, I’ve had an issue with my hands & feet where they turn red and I get a burning sensation in them. Sometime during the past year, this began change to the extent that it started happening more frequently and with greater intensity. In addition, they also started turning white/cold/numb before the redness and burning would occur.

I mentioned this to my oncologist who immediately said “Raynaud’s” and suggested I see a rheumatologist. The labs came back positive for an autoimmune disease called Scleroderma and he felt like I had the limited variety of it. He also suggested that I might want to go to MUSC to see a Scleroderma specialist there to get confirmation and discuss it with him.

The first thing they had me do was an echocardiogram to make sure my heart is functioning as it should (and it is). Then I did a breathing test so they could make sure my lungs were functioning as they should (and they were). In fact, the doctor said she hadn’t seen numbers that good in a long time. :)

Then we met with one of the resident doctors as well as Dr. Silver, the head of the Rheumatology/Scleroderma Center at the hospital. Dr. Silver felt that I have the mildest of mild forms of limited scleroderma, and even stated that if my labs had not tested positive for it he’s not sure he would even diagnosis me with it. This made me very happy since the more serious forms can be pretty awful. He ordered some more labs so they could have their own numbers as a baseline, suggested we treat the Raynaud’s, and monitor the Scleroderma with yearly visits.

I felt great about this, very pleased to have a mild-mild form of it as well as a plan for dealing with the sometimes painful and always annoying Raynaud’s symptoms. But then . . . the news got better. The resident doctor called Friday to say the labs they did came back NEGATIVE for Scleroderma and with that in mind, they did not feel that I should be diagnosed with it at this time! Woohoo!! They have officially diagnosed me with a General Connective Tissue Disease, which would be Raynaud’s.

If you noticed the title, you may be wondering what this has to do with elevators. Well, for the first (and hopefully last) time in my 44 years of living, I got stuck in an elevator! Barry and I were going from the building where the echo test was done to the building where the breathing test would be done and got stuck with a plastic surgeon, a nurse, and three other people in an elevator for 30 minutes. The longer we were in there, the warmer it got. The warmer it got, the more anxious I got. But thankfully, no one freaked out and they managed to get us out, and we made it to the next appointment only five minutes late.

The funniest part was when they said the elevator would have to go back up to the second floor before it could come down the first and that they wanted us to ride back down to the first floor so they could get our names for their records. Ha! Fat chance. We all got off that elevator on the second floor, took the stairs, and never looked back. :)

And that’s where things stand with me right now. What about you? How are things in your corner of the world?

Blessings,
♥Rachel

Another Way of Looking At It

22 Apr

I found myself a little (ok, a lot) annoyed and frustrated after every news channel and outlet overloaded us with the second-by-second playback of the capture of the youngest Boston bomber this weekend. The amount of time they spent analyzing, replaying, and digging into every aspect of the lives of these two criminals/cowards/terrorists was astonishing.

Who cares, right? Not me.

not-important

Tell me about the victims, the brave ones who are still fighting for their lives in the hospital. Tell me about the heroes, you know the true heroes who rushed toward the smoke before they even knew what was happening. Tell me about the officers who poured their heart and soul into finding these people. Tell me about the ones who lost their lives to yet another senseless act of violence.

But don’t tell me about the criminals. I don’t want to know their names, where they’re from or why they did it. I don’t care what their friends think about them, how great they did in school, or if their neighbor thinks they were “very American.”

I wish they would focus on the good ones. Focus on those who have courageous stories to tell – give them the spotlight (if they want it).

Before I knew it, I was all worked up about the media and their incessant coverage of this event (and how they just run every single tragedy/disaster into the ground).

And then I saw this:

thankful-for

And I realized I needed to look at this another way. I could remain annoyed by the ridiculous amount of media coverage of this event or I could be grateful because:

  • I have ears to hear and eyes to see it.
  • I have a brain that works (most of the time!) and can comprehend what they are saying.
  • I have a heart that feels compassion for the victims.
  • I have numerous ways to watch the news – TV, computer, phone.
  • I am alive and well and safe today.

There are an unlimited number of things that can annoy and frustrate us on any given day . . . if we allow them. If you find yourself becoming aggravated today, try to stop your complaints before they grow too big and look at it another way – from a heart of gratitude.

Blessings,
♥Rachel

Love Always Wins

18 Apr

I saw the first inkling something was wrong on Twitter. The news outlets were reporting two explosions near the finish line at the Boston Marathon with numerous people injured and possibly dead.

And I thought, not again, Lord. Please, not again.

no-more-tears

[Mumford & Sons, “After the Storm.” Image Source: Pinterest]

The tragedies seem to come in waves. We, as a country, are knocked down by the waves of shock, sadness and grief only to stand up, spit the water out of our mouths, and keep moving forward. Before we know it, another wave comes along and knocks us down again.

I’m at a loss for words today. Not because what happened in Boston on Monday was the greatest tragedy to every occur – although it was and is a horrendous act of violence. I’m at a loss for words because this “stuff” continues to happen, I don’t understand why, and I don’t know how to stop it.

I mean, I do understand why things like this happen. I know there is evil in the world and that, at times, the evil wins – even if only for a brief moment – before love rises high enough to heal the broken hearts. I also know that no matter how good God is that freewill can result in tragedy and devastation. And I do believe that God is good and that He will ultimately use these events for good.

So, I sit here thinking.

I think of all the runners who trained and worked and pushed themselves to get to the point of not only running in the Boston Marathon, but nearly completing it . . . but who didn’t get to. And without regard for their own feelings of disappointment, stepped up to help those who had been injured.

I think of the young boy, Martin Richard, who truly had his whole life ahead of him, but now that life is gone. And his family. A sister whose leg had to be amputated. A mother in critical condition. And a father, running in the race, who is most likely numb with shock.

I think of the others who were seriously injured and I see their pictures in my mind – pictures I wish I’d never actually seen.

And I think, not again, Lord. Please, never again.

Father, I pray that you will heal the bodies of those wounded in Monday’s explosion. I ask you to please heal the hearts of those grieving loss of life and loss of limb. Please comfort those families who are preparing to bury someone they love. Ease the emotional and physical pain being experienced by those recovering in hospitals and provide strength for their families as they support them through the challenging days ahead. Most of all, Lord, I pray that you would show us how to love each other in such a powerful way that it squashes the hate. Teach us how to care about and for those around us, compel us to be compassionate, and show us how to be sensitive to those you place in our paths. May your love, expressed through us, be so powerful, so big, so consuming that it swallows up all anger, bitterness, and hate in the world.

Because hate never wins. Love always does.

Blessings,
♥Rachel

The Gardners of My Soul

15 Apr

charming-gardners

[This beautiful print is available in Katie Daisy’s Etsy store.]

I have numerous people in my life who bring me happiness – even joy – and I feel overwhelmed with gratitude for their presence in my life. My husband is one of them. My parents are two others. I got to spend time this weekend with my husband and my parents and the garden in my soul is blooming with beautiful, vibrant flowers today!

There’s something about holding my husband’s hand, looking at my mother’s beautiful face and feeling my dad’s hug that just simply makes my heart smile. I realized how truly blessed I am and what a treasure it is to know I am loved.

If you are blessed to have people in your life who bring happiness and joy into your life, please do two things today: 1) say a prayer of thanks for them and 2) let them know how much they mean to you.

Hope you have a beautiful day!

Blessings,
♥Rachel

On Birthdays and Aging

7 Feb

First, thanks for your feedback and encouragement on my decision to reduce my number of posts each week. It’s felt good to have a little breathing room in my schedule. :)

I want to wish one of my most faithful readers – my mom – a VERY happy birthday today! Love you so much and am blessed to be your daughter!

Speaking of birthdays, I turned 44 on Tuesday. Does that seem really old to anyone else? I feel like I should be so much smarter, wiser or more mature than I actually am if I’m going to be 44. Grown ups are 44 and I don’t feel grown up. {grin}

growing-older

Birthdays are different now (in a good way). Those of you with cancer know what I’m talking about. Milestones are no longer saved for turning 40, 50, etc. Each birthday is a milestone, a reason to celebrate. A gift. This is true always, but we become more aware of it after a cancer diagnosis (or some other serious health scare). Sad, but true.

It’s no longer about how many gifts I receive or what my family does for me to celebrate the occasion (although those things are wonderful and I don’t want want to give them up!). It’s not about me being the center of attention (although I am very comfortable being in that position – {grin}). It’s about breathing in the day and acknowledging what an accomplishment the previous year has been. It’s about making it through a year of maintenance treatments without a relapse or major issue. It’s about growing more into the person God created me to be. It’s about learning to thrive in the midst of challenges. It’s about living.

This past year has been calm in comparison to the previous one. I’m on cruise control right now, and that’s where I hope to stay for a looooonng time. But it’s still been a challenge. The emotional side of dealing with cancer has been harder this year than my first. In year one, I was busy “doing” cancer – going to appointments, getting tests and scans, receiving treatment, taking it one day at a time. Now, the reality of having a chronic cancer, while not immediately life threatening, can be tough to wrap my head around at times. I don’t want it. I want to stamp “return to sender” on this cancer and put it in the mail. Too bad that’s not an option,  huh?

In spite of being stuck with a package I didn’t want to receive, life is good. I have people to love and I am reminded often of how much I am loved. God gives me reasons to smile each day. Can I really ask for more than that? Nah.

Speaking of cancer, tomorrow is my 7th maintenance treatment! Only five to go after this one. Oh, yeah!!

So, what’s your perspective on birthdays? Love them? Hate them?

Blessings!
♥Rachel

I’m Making a Few Changes

4 Feb

It’s hard to believe, but this is my 400th blog post. I started writing here in August of 2011 with intent of updating family and friends on my experience going through treatment for follicular lymphoma and it’s kind of grown from there. I found that enjoyed writing and sharing in this space every day and it is such a pleasure hearing from and interacting with so many new friends from all over the world!

156764310

I still enjoy writing and sharing and interacting, but maintaining a 5-posts-a-week schedule is growing harder and harder. After working all day at a full-time job and then doing the many other things I need and want to do, I found that I was scrambling to find things to write about so that I could get something worthwhile up here. The quality of what I’ve written has suffered and that’s not fair to you. Your time is precious and I consider it a honor that you stop by here and allow me to share a few minutes of your day.

In order to reclaim some of my sanity (or as Andy Stanley states it, to create more breathing room in my life), I’m going to cut back on how often I post. The only reason I’m even mentioning this “officially” is because you guys are so caring and kind that I know you would be concerned if I started missing days. I’m going to test some different schedules, but as of now, I will most likely be posting on Mondays and Thursdays.

If you want to make sure that you don’t miss one single, riveting, life-changing word I write {wink}, you can sign up for email notifications so that you will receive an email each time I post here. All you have to do is enter your email address in the box in the upper right corner of this page underneath the Follow This Blog heading.

Talk to you soon!
Blessings,
♥Rachel

Weekend Kitchen Adventures + A Cookie Recipe

21 Jan

Historically, I’ve not had many opportunities to say “this was a really good weekend for me in the kitchen.” But this was a really good weekend for me in the kitchen. {grin}

After ten years of marriage, I finally mastered the art of cooking green beans the way my husband likes them. There’s a bit of skill involved in cooking them the country way – the way his grandmother and mother have always made them. He likes them very soft, with at least a hint (or two or three) of bacon grease in them. And, I have to admit, they taste pretty good that way. (But, Savvy Sister, if you’re reading this, I also like them roasted with just a splash of olive oil on them! {grin})

Ya’ll. I have tortured some green beans in the past. I have over salted these things, I have burned them so that they stuck to the bottom of the pan, I have cooked them so long they came out tasting like water, but not at all like green beans or even bacon grease for that matter, I have basically stunk at this one little thing. Until now.

I do believe the Lord blessed me this weekend with a vision of how cook them. {grin} I cooked them exactly that way and, unsolicited, Barry said, “the green beans are good.” And then I tasted them and thought: Hallelujah!! I conquered the green beans! Some day, maybe I’ll tell you my technique, but I’m sure most of you have already perfected this age-old method of cooking vegetables until they don’t taste like vegetables. :)

In addition to the raging success with the green beans (ha!), I made a cake for my boss’ birthday today and it turned out great! It was a hummingbird cake, which I love to eat, but had never made before. I’m happy to say it turned out quite nicely. Happy Birthday, Andrea!! You have blessed my life in so many ways and I am grateful for you, your compassionate heart, and your desire to help those around you excel.

no-bake-cookies

Once I started smelling victory in the kitchen, I had to keep going. So I made some of my stepdaughter’s favorite cookies: No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies. They’re so easy to make, and I’ve made them before, but they often turn out a little too dry or don’t set up as firmly as they should, so I’ve tinkered with the original recipe a bit and I think I landed on success because these were just right!

Here’s the recipe for the No Bake cookies. They are great for an after school snack or after dinner treat because they are quick and easy to make. It’s a great recipe for the kids or grandkids to help make, too.

No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 stick butter
  • 4 generous tablespoons cocoa
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups oatmeal (if you don’t use nuts, below, you may want to add another 1/4 to 1/2 cup of oatmeal)
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Directions

Boil sugar, butter, cocoa and milk for at least two minutes, but no longer than three. Remove from heat and add peanut butter stirring until mostly incorporated. Then add the vanilla, oatmeal and nuts and stir well.

Let cool in pan for one to two minutes, but no longer or it will thicken too much.

Drop by spoonful on parchment paper to cool.

We love to eat them with a spoon once they’ve cooled enough to put them in your mouth without scorching your tongue and the roof of your mouth. Don’t you hate it when you do that?? The pain lasts for days as a nagging reminder that you couldn’t wait just a few more minutes for something to cool. It’s a cruel lesson in patience. :)

Blessings!
♥Rachel