A new diagnosis!

Yes, that’s right! Apparently two different cancers in 20 months wasn’t enough. This time I’ve been told that I’m pre diabetic.

In this regard, I’m following in the footsteps of my grandmother, my mother and my aunt. Fortunately, Nana lived to 83, Mom to 92 and my aunt is an amazingly active 91. None of them developed full blown diabetes. Hopefully, I won’t either but if I do, it’s manageable. I’ve already spoken with my doctors at the Cross Cancer Institute and they’ve assured me that it wouldn’t change anything as far as my cancer treatment is concerned.

There are 3 lifestyle changes that are usually recommended for a diabetic (or pre diabetic):

      • Lose weight. Umm… no! At 5’8″ tall and 135 to 140 pounds, I don’t have any extra weight to spare!
      • Make dietary changes. Again, not an easy one for me as we already eat an extremely healthy diet, but we met with a nurse this morning and I have a bunch of reading to do on this subject. Apparently, I don’t have to eliminate sugar. Moderation is the key. That means that I don’t have to completely cut chocolate out of my life. After all, would life without chocolate be worth living? It looks like I have a lot to learn about carbs though; which ones to choose and how much of them to eat. I might also be wise to cut out my morning glass of orange juice even though it’s almost as essential to me as most people’s first cup of coffee! A couple of common slogans for diabetics are “Don’t drink your fruit” and “Don’t drink your sugar”.
      • Exercise. Again, exercise has already been a vital part of my life, but I do admit to getting rather lax about it over the past few months. 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 5 days a week is recommended. The half hour of yoga like exercise that I do 5 mornings a week doesn’t count as it doesn’t elevate my heart rate. Sadly, golf doesn’t either, except maybe in those moments when it frustrates the heck out of me! No, it’s time to get back in the habit of going for a brisk walk every day.

 

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Well, I’d love to be curling up with a good novel this evening, but I guess I’d better start reading this stuff instead!

Milestone!

I reached a medical milestone today!

Yesterday, I completed my initial round of four radioisotope treatments and this morning’s scans showed that my primary neuroendocrine tumour (located in my colon) is shrinking! The other four tumours appear not to have grown and there are no new ones. As a result, my cancer treatment will now go into a maintenance phase. I will continue to be treated with Lutetium-Octreotate, but instead of a treatment every nine to twelve weeks, I will now have one every six months!

While I was sitting on my hospital bed yesterday afternoon while the Lutetium was being administered via IV drip, I flipped open my new issue of Chatelaine magazine and was in for a surprise. When I read “Crashing the Cancer Club”, Jenny Charlesworth’s story of surviving cervical cancer, in the March 2015 issue, I immediately responded with a letter to the editor via email. I’d completely forgotten about that until I saw my letter in print yesterday! Here’s what it said:

Thank you for pointing out, in “Crashing the Cancer Club,” that every cancer story is different and that each of us who has cancer, or who has had it in the past, is a survivor in our own right. Since August 2013 (a misprint in the magazine says 2014), I have been diagnosed with two different cancers. One was removed by surgery followed by radiation; but the other is a rare, slow-growing cancer for which there is no cure. People have a hard time grasping the idea of a chronic cancer. The usual assumption is that patients either die of their disease or are cured, thereby becoming cancer survivors. I’ve learned to look at my situation differently. I may die of my cancer or I may die with it, but either way, I am a survivor.

It may sound silly, but I was encouraged by my own words. Written two months ago, they reminded me that though mine is an incurable disease and, barring a miracle of God, I will have it for the rest of my life, I am indeed a survivor!

Reaching today’s milestone was a great reminder of that!

 

No ordinary weekend

This weekend Christians around the world celebrated the death and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who came that we might have life, and that we might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10) It was definitely no ordinary weekend, but for our family, it was also no ordinary Easter.

Thirty years ago, a heartbroken young grandmother placed her first grandchild in my arms and walked away not knowing if she’d ever see him again. On Saturday evening, she sat across the table from me at his wedding reception. Her daughter, Nate’s birth mom, was at the next table. This was definitely no ordinary weekend!

Nathan was just three days old when he joined our family but there was already an unmistakable twinkle of mischief in his eyes and he has found his soulmate in Colleen, a beautiful and godly young lady with a mischievous twinkle to match his own! The wedding ceremony and the reception, complete with an inflatable bouncy castle in the corner of the hall to keep the youngest guests entertained, were a perfect reflection of the fun-loving and quirky but also very classy personalities of the bride and groom.

My weekend began with a moment of panic on Friday morning when I woke to discover that the five pound block of ground beef in our hotel room’s mini fridge was still frozen solid! I had a rehearsal dinner to prepare for approximately two dozen people and only a couple of hours until I needed to begin putting it together. Where there’s a will, there’s a way they say, so tying the meat into a plastic hotel laundry bag and dropping it into a bathtub of warm water, off I went to breakfast! The novel defrosting method worked wonders and by early afternoon I had three slow cookers filled with lasagna. (No, I didn’t prepare the meal in the hotel room! We transported the meat, along with all the other ingredients, to one of the bridesmaid’s homes.) Though I never want to be a caterer, the meal was ready right on time and received rave reviews. Once that was over with, I could relax and enjoy the rest of the weekend!

From the bride and groom’s self-written vows that reflected both the sanctity of the moment and the humour that permeates their relationship to their impromptu dance on the platform during the ceremony, the wedding was, in the words of one of our dear friends, “a wonderful, classy, down to earth celebration.”

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For me, one of the highlights of the weekend was having all my children and grandchildren together in one place, something that doesn’t happen often. On Sunday morning, with the bride and groom off on their honeymoon, the rest of us gathered at their home to be for a relaxing brunch before having to go our separate ways. The Easter bunny somehow knew exactly where our five young grandchildren would be and ensured that there were chocolate eggs to be found!

After cleaning up and making sure that everything was ready for Nate and Colleen’s return, we headed for home stopping on the way for Easter dinner at my sister’s place. It was also a celebration of my nephew’s 22nd birthday and in his words, “a perfect end to a perfectly incredible weekend!”

Our beautiful children: Matt and his wife Robin, Nate and his lovely bride Colleen, Melaina and her husband Aaron

Our beautiful children: Matt and his wife Robin, Nate and his lovely bride Colleen, Melaina and her husband Aaron

Uncle Nate and Auntie Colleen with our five grandchildren

Uncle Nate and Auntie Colleen with our five grandchildren

First day of spring

According to the calendar, today is the first day of spring, but looking out the window I see a grey, gloomy Eeyore sort of day.

Eeyore

Yes, though it seemed for a little while that spring had come, this morning we woke up to snow again! The geese are back, the pussy willows are in bloom, Jami-Lee and her little friends found dozens of ladybugs at the playground in Calgary last week, and I’ve heard that the gophers have been out and about. I suspect that they’re huddling deep in their holes this morning though.

The best thing about snow in March is that it isn’t likely to stay very long and it will provide much needed moisture for the fields. Unlike the eastern part of the continent, we didn’t get as much snow as usual this winter.

I’m not a fan of winter and I’d love it if the first day of spring really was spring-like, but like Eeyore, I’ll try to look on the bright side. I’ve been receiving regular updates from a missionary couple living in Vanuatu, the remote cluster of tiny south Pacific islands that was blasted by Tropical Cyclone Pam late last week. It has been called the worst storm to ever hit the Pacific region and the devastation is beyond imagination. More than half of Vanuatu’s buildings have been badly damaged, many having their roofs blown off, and up to a third of the country’s 266,000 people have been left homeless. What’s a little spring snow compared to that? I dare not complain!

One of our Vanuatu churches

One of our Vanuatu churches

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Five at a time!

I love books and I’m an avid reader but with the exception of my Bible, I rarely read more than one book at a time. Though it probably happened back in my university days when textbooks and research papers were the bane of my life, I don’t ever remember reading five at a time before or since! Such an occasion seemed worthy of a blog post especially since I’ve been thinking about following the lead of fellow blogger, Kari Ann, who posted “Five Things Friday” on her Outside Air blog last week.

So what am I reading and why so many books at once?

Bible

In addition to using a daily devotional booklet that takes me all over the Bible, I’m almost always somewhere in the middle of reading the scriptures from Genesis through to Revelation. For this purpose, I like to use a chronological Bible, one that puts the stories of scripture into the actual order that they happened. I find it so much easier to understand the big picture that way. I’ve read through my New International Version chronological text several times, but this time I chose the New King James Version Chronological Study Bible. I’m not a fan of daily reading plans that take you through the Bible in one year. To me, reading the Bible is not a ritual or a race. I like to immerse myself in the scriptures, seeking to understand what they’re saying to me about how I ought to live my life. I’ve read the entire Bible in less than a year, but most often it takes me considerably longer. With its illustrations, fascinating background and daily life notes, timelines, maps and charts to help bring the cultures and people of biblical times alive, this one could take me two years and that’s okay.

7 ways

I’m not going to air our dirty laundry here, but Richard and I have hit a rough patch in our marriage. To be entirely honest, it’s actually more like we’ve fallen into a sinkhole or gone careening off a cliff, but long term marriages are like that sometimes and we’re working on it. Since we’re both academically minded, we tend to turn to books for help at times like this. He went to a Promise Keepers conference last weekend and came home with this one, 7 Ways to Be Her Hero by Doug Fields. He read it in a couple of sittings so I thought it must be worth looking at. It’s written for men by a man, but Fields acknowledges that “some women will sneak around and read it (and will most definitely get something out of it).” The book, which he originally wanted to call How Not to Suck as a Husband, is written in colloquial man-speak that is fun and easy to read. It’s definitely not a textbook! I read eight of its ten chapters in one sitting last night and all I can say is that I’d like to give it back to my husband and tell him to read it again, memorize it and put it into practice. It’s that good!

Love & Respect

This is another one that I’m hoping might help us through the rough patch. Based on more than three decades of counselling, as well as scientific and biblical research, Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerich is based on the premise that a wife’s greatest need is to feel loved while a husband needs to feel respected. We’ve decided to go through this one together, reading and discussing one chapter a day. It definitely isn’t as fun and engaging as 7 Ways and we’ve only read the first two chapters so it’s a bit too early to pass judgment but I think it does make some good points and it’s already provided a good jumping off spot for discussion.

Outlaw

This is another one that we’re reading together along with two other couples that we meet with for a weekly time of prayer and Bible study. Sadly, it’s been a huge disappointment. John Eldredge is probably best known for his first book, Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul. I have to wonder if he wrote Beautiful Outlaw simply hoping to cash in on the success of the earlier book. He attempts to introduce the reader to the real Jesus by squashing typical stereotypes and focusing on what he calls Jesus’ playful, disruptive, and extravagant personality. He spends most of the first three chapters dwelling on Jesus’ playfulness. While I expect that our Lord did have a playful, exuberant side, I don’t think that a single one of the scriptures that Eldredge uses points to that. In addition, as one of our group so aptly put it, he could have said everything in the first three chapters in three sentences. As a group, we’ve decided to read and discuss two or three chapters a week instead of just one so that we can get through it sooner and move onto something else. My assessment of this one is that it’s just fluff!

Rainbow

And finally, book #5, the novel that I’m reading for sheer enjoyment. When our small town librarian saw me looking over the shelf of recently acquired books, she pointed to The Dark Side of the Rainbow by Caren Powell and told me to try that one. “I thought of you when I bar coded it,” she said. “It looked like an Elaine book.” She knows what I like to read and hasn’t steered me wrong yet. According to editor, Ann Westlake, “The Dark Side of the Rainbow tells of Nelson Mandela’s South Africa – a country struggling with racism, fear and determination.” She calls it “a wonderful, endearing blend of characters, scenery and history.” I’m still in the early pages so I’m just getting to know those characters but I can hardly wait to dig deeper. Caren Powell lived in South Africa for 38 years during the apartheid era and the changeover to democracy. She and her husband owned a farm there and much of the detail in the book was drawn from her personal experiences.

It’s unusual for me to have so many books on the go at once but tonight’s choice is easy. I’m going to read the last two chapters of 7 Ways and then escape to The Dark Side of the Rainbow!

International Women’s Day 2015

Tomorrow, March 8, is a day set aside to celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. Women’s rights have come a long way since the first International Women’s Day in 1911 but we still have a long way to go. This year’s theme is ‘Make It Happen’, a slogan aimed at encouraging effective action for advancing the rights and treatment of women. We need to make it happen in those workplaces where women still earn less than men, in countries where women are regularly sexually abused and forced into marriage, and for girls who are still denied an education or forced to undergo female genital mutilation.

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I couldn’t help laughing at the tongue in cheek parody of the lists that women are given to prevent rape that has been circulating on the internet today. At the same time, I felt guilty for laughing. I realize that rape is never a laughing matter but sadly, there are still those who believe that women are to blame for their own abuse.

Rape prevention

I was absolutely incensed when I read this week’s news reports about one of the men convicted in a 2012 gang rape and murder case in Delhi, India. In an interview from jail, 26-year-old Mukesh Singh said that women who went out at night had only themselves to blame if they attracted the attention of gangs of male molesters. “A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy,” he said.

Singh also claimed that had the 23-year-old victim and her male friend, who were returning from an evening at the cinema, not tried to fight back, the gang would not have inflicted the savage beating from which she died two weeks later. Describing the killing as an “accident” he said, “When being raped, she shouldn’t fight back. She should just be silent and allow the rape. Then they’d have dropped her off after ’doing her’.”

Equally appalling was this comment made by one of the lawyers in the case. “If my daughter or sister engaged in pre-marital activities and disgraced herself and allowed herself to lose face and character by doing such things, I would most certainly take this sort of sister or daughter to my farmhouse, and in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight.”

I wish I could say that things like this were unique to India, but that’s far from the truth and as long as my granddaughter is growing up in a world where any man, anywhere thinks it’s okay to rape a woman, we need to do more than celebrate the achievements of women; we need to ‘Make It Happen’. I am neither a man hater or a radical feminist but I dream of a world where every child has the right to an education and every woman feels safe.

Freedom Sunday 2015

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As president of our church’s missions council, I share a short message about what the church is doing around the world during every Sunday morning service. This week’s Missions Moment required more research than most and had a profound impact on me so I’ve decided to expand on it here.

Would you believe me if I told you that there are over four and a half thousand slaves living in Canada today and approximately 60 000 in the US? If you think that slavery ended in 1865, think again! According to the 2014 Global Slavery Index, that is the number of people trapped in modern slavery in our two countries and that’s only the tip of the global iceberg. There are, in fact, more slaves in the world today than at any other time in history! Experts estimate that 30 million people are caught up in the global slave trade, an industry that generates $150 billion in profit each year.

Today is Freedom Sunday, a day that Christian churches around the world have set aside to increase awareness of the problem.

According to the Polaris Project, a national anti-human trafficking group, most of North America’s modern day slaves are foreign workers labouring in factories, farms, strip clubs, and begging and peddling rings or serving as domestic workers. They come seeking a better life, but instead, they find lives of servitude. Most are told upon arrival that they owe huge sums of money to the smugglers and traffickers who brought them here, debts that they have little hope of ever being able to pay. Many are physically abused. Employers often keep their passports and other documents “for safekeeping” making it impossible for them to escape. Threats of deportation or of harm befalling their families back home keep them from trying.

Human trafficking is defined as the illegal movement of people, typically for the purposes of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation, a system in which both children and adults are bought and sold, held captive through force, coercion, threats, deception, or abduction. It is a global problem that affects people from many backgrounds or situations but people living in poverty are especially at risk because traffickers prey on those who are most vulnerable.

Ours is a worldwide denomination that has a presence in many countries where children and adults are vulnerable to trafficking. In those areas, it partners with local churches in anti-trafficking efforts that range from prevention and education to protection and rehabilitation. It’s strongest efforts toward ending human trafficking are through prevention and providing economic and educational opportunities to lower the risk of poverty-induced trafficking. Children living on the streets and in the slums of third world nations are particularly vulnerable to abuse and to “too good to be true” offers of a better life elsewhere. Child development centres and child sponsorship programs help children stay in school and teach them to see themselves as valuable and loved by God. Other programs focus on providing homes for orphaned and abandoned children to keep them off the streets.

Imagine the heartbreak of a parent so trapped in poverty that selling their own child seems to be the only way out; a parent who chooses to sell a son or daughter to a stranger rather than watching them starve. Church run self-help groups and skills training programs empower women to improve their household finances, thereby lessening their children’s risk of being trafficked. It’s a documented fact that money in the hands of men often goes to alcohol and prostitution but in the hands of women, it nurtures children, feeds families and promotes education.

Our denomination also partners with other ministries that help survivors of trafficking by offering rehabilitative services and skills development.

But what can we, as individuals do? What can you do?

First of all, you can do what I have done this week. You can educate yourself and then others. Take the time to be informed and to inform others. None of us can end the curse of human trafficking on our own but together, we can make a difference.

If you believe in the power of prayer, commit to praying regularly for the victims of human trafficking and for those governments that are striving to end it. James 5:16 tells us that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

You can financially support an organization that is working to end human trafficking. Whether it be a church or a secular organization, there are many that need resources to carry on the battle. Do your homework, check the links in this post and choose an organization to support.

Combat the demand. I’m as guilty as the next person, but if we put our minds to it and took the time to do the research, most of us could do a better job of ensuring that we don’t purchase products that are produced by men, women and children trapped in slavery. Do you know how and where the clothes you’re wearing were produced? Click here for a 5 step guide to ethical fashion shopping. What about the coffee you’re sipping or your favourite chocolate? There are many resources on the internet to help you be a better global citizen through how you shop.

I know I might be treading on toes, but now that I’ve started, I’m going to get even more personal and specifically address the men who are reading. Guys, if you are in the habit of viewing pornography in any of it’s many forms, you are involved in the slave trade! You are contributing to human trafficking. I could write an entire blog post, or perhaps a series of them, on the connection between pornography and trafficking but suffice it to say that many of the girls and women who are used in its production are the victims of trafficking and are being held against their will. Think for a moment, what if that was your sister or your daughter?

Let’s all commit to doing something to help bring an end to the curse of human trafficking and modern day slavery. Let’s set the captives free!

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