Thursday, July 29, 2010

Reminders....

No matter how much I know and believe something, a little reminder is always welcome.  Here was one I received this week:


(Sorry for the iphone quality taken with my left hand through the window of a moving vehicle.)

This reminder:  God's promises are true; you can count on them.  This was the largest rainbow I have ever seen.  I was driving from McKinney to Dallas after an appointment at about 7:00 p.m.  It had been raining.  Then, in an open field I saw it rising from the ground.  When I could safely turn and look over my left shoulder, I could see where it ended.  I can't recall every seeing an "all-the-way" rainbow.  It was awesome and I was humbled by remembering it's origin.

Genesis 9:12-16

And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come:  I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth."

You may not be worried about being destroyed by flood waters, although there are places where that is a real threat.  But, chances are, you're worried about something.  The Bible contains over 5,000 promises from God; and, if you are his child, you, like I, are "standing on the promises."  Who knows what to believe today?  There's certainly not a lot of trust going around.  But, certainly, we know WHO to believe.  God does not have the ability to lie to us because He is perfect, holy, without darkness; He is the light!  So, I know there is a promise for you today in His word.  One that will take away fear, or provide assurance, or make you happy, or make you humble.  It will be just the one you need when you open His word to read.

I received word from M.D. Anderson that I will return there on October 22-23 to meet with the Integrated Medicine Department, have an ultrasound of my lymph nodes and a PET scan.  I am continuing with my vitamin and supplements regimen and healthful eating.  I felt challenged this week when I attended an event with a Mexican buffet.  Honestly, I found plenty to eat that didn't include meat.  It was rewarding.

My right ankle still looks like a balloon by the end of the day, but the tenderness caused by the lymphedema is less.  It's a nuisance but hasn't slowed me down.  Someone reminded me this week that rest should be part of my wellness plan.  I agree, and I plan to do better...soon!

Thanks to all of you who have offered suggestions, advice, warnings, and opinions.  They are all welcomed (whether I heed them or not).  I read, read, read and am so thankful I have melanoma during the Google age.  My myriad of clients continue to be inspirational as I work to meet their expectations and be a blessing to them in some small way.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I wanted to play basketball

My brothers were basketball stars. They were great players and successful coaches. They had state championships, all-conference titles, and even an All-American honor. Halls of Fame house their pictures. (We just attended another induction ceremony in Louisiana tonight.) They were ten and fourteen years older than I, so I spent a great deal of my childhood going to their basketball games. Then, they became coaches and one of my sisters-in-law was a coach. When we weren't at games, we were talking about basketball. Meal time discussion topics included zone vs man defense and offensive schemes to beat the upcoming opponent. See what I mean? We were consumed by basketball.


At the Jackson Parish Sports Hall of Fame ceremony:  Larry Toms, left, introduced our younger brother Stuart, right, as we was inducted on Saturday evening.  Stuart was inducted into the Louisiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1989.

I just assumed that I would play basketball because my brothers did and everyone thought they were great. But, I didn't get the gene, nor was I encouraged by my parents to play. Nay, there was not even a goal in our yard by then. See, outside of basketball, we spent our time going to church and singing. And, we needed a piano player. My daddy had prayed for a piano-playing daughter, and, there I was. So, the piano was my destiny -- not basketball.  He brought a piano to our home when I was five, and I started playing--first by ear until they could find someone who would teach a five-year-old.

I've wondered how our lives would have been different if one of my brothers had taken up the piano and I could have been the sports star. Oh, well; we all ended up loving basketball and singing together. There is one slight injustice, however. My basketball playing/coaching sister-in-law also plays a mean piano. She's my hero, and in my personal Hall of Fame! I grew up with her, and, even though she was five years older than I, she always had time for me. We spent many Sunday afternoons at singing conventions with our fathers. I thought it was torture. Why couldn't I be doing something that normal kids were doing on a Sunday afternoon?  But, she was there, too, so it made it much more bearable.  She taught me cool moves on the piano--fill-ins, rhythms, key transitions--and, we loved singing together (and still do when we get together). She's a pastor's wife and, next to my mother, the most Godly woman I know. I never had a sister; but, if I had been blessed to have a sister, we could have been no closer than this relationship that I have with my sister-in-law.

Johnette Toms, left, is married to my brother Stuart.  My niece Catherine Lucas, right, came in from Jackson, Tennessee, for the induction ceremonies. 

I didn't start to write this blog about her, but that's where God took it.  Family is important.  My parents taught me that, and I've tried to pass that down to my children. They taught us to look out for each other and protect each other, caring for each other as our Heavenly Father does. Whatever one of us did to the other, we forgave and were forgiven.  I can still hear my father saying to one of the nephews spatting with another, "Son, that's your brother."  And, we knew what that meant.

My "I wish I could play basketball" scripture:

Colossians 3:17 (NIV)
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

About my family:

Philippians 1:3 (KJV)
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Take Care of You

The more I read about cancer, the more I am convinced that there is something dreadfully wrong in our country.  According to the American Cancer Society, 1,529,560 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in 2010.  This year, 569,490 people will die from cancer -- more than 1,500 a day. More than 11,700 people will die from melanoma this year. (Source:  "Cancer Facts and Figures 2010")   Why was I always so smug to think that cancer wasn't something that would ever happen to me?  If it is true, as according to David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD, and author of Anticancer:  A New Way of Life, that all of us have cancer cells in our bodies, but not all of us will develop cancer, why don't we hear more about ways for the bodies that God created to fight the harmful agents that have infiltrated our systems?

The food we eat, beverages we drink, and the air we breathe have become our attackers. How do we change what we've always known and, quite frankly, enjoyed about food?  It's not easy; it's not very enjoyable, but it is absolutely essential.  Why don't we see more studies about natural ways to treat the health issues we face?  I am not a conspiracy theorist, by any means, but I believe with all my heart that our health system today is being manipulated by pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies.  And, as with most of the failures in our country, it's all about greed.  There's simply no money to be made by recommending that people juice, add turmeric to their food, eat red grapes and blueberries, consume dark chocolate, drink green tea, give up meat (except for omega 3-rich fish), give up white bleached flours, beware of plastics and cans, and exercise. And, the insurance companies would rather pay for a one-time invasive procedure than have you be monitored by sonogram every three-four months or pay for preventive therapy.


So, it's up to us to change our behavior, to live a more healthful life, and to educate ourselves in how to do that.  It's up to young mothers to introduce that healthful behavior to their families. I'm choosing to fight melanoma by changing just about everything I put in my body. I welcome your input and hope you will share your stories.  We hear a lot about people who die from cancer, but there are many survivors.  I heard of one today:  a breast cancer diagnosis with recommended double mastectomy.  She refused the surgery, deciding to help her body fight the cancer.  That was fourteen years ago.  She's still going strong.

Dr. Servan-Schreiber has teamed up with M. D. Anderson to examine the effects of an innovative, standardized integrative oncology program based on the model outlined in his book.  This is great news for all of us.  Someone you love, if not you, will have cancer.  Maybe our focus will shift to preventing cancer rather than curing it.  Not an original thought, I'm sure.  I just didn't pay attention before.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hello, Houston; Good-bye Catfish

My visit to M. D. Anderson today was eight hours of driving and four hours of clinic (and a cherished lunch with my pregnant niece). All in all, I felt encouraged by the appointment, even though Dr. Homsi encouraged removal of the remaining lymph nodes in my groin. He was not, however, and advocate of interferon. Characteristic of other surgical and medical oncologists, the “standard of care” (node removal and interferon) was the recommended treatment. I communicated early in the meeting that I was not interested in the standard treatments for several reasons:

1) They are at best 10%-15% effective
2) They have really bad side effects
3) It’s the lazy way out. I realize that this is a harsh statement and that there just isn’t anything new out there for treatment except for melanoma in an advanced, metastasized state. Sad, isn’t it, that we don’t focus more on prevention instead of treatment?

So, when I communicated my thoughts, he said, “I can see that you have done your homework on this.” He and his resident were very receptive to a more “integrated” treatment that focuses on building up your immune system through good nutrition, anti-oxidants, and exercise. He also picked up the phone and spoke with Dr Aggarwal about the use of turmeric in cancer treatment (a study he did not know about even though it was being conducted down the street.) Now, in defense of the good doctor, there are 17,000 employees at M.D. Anderson, and I know that although they try to operate out of their own tunnel, they cannot know about every ongoing study.  The bottom line is that, of this minute, I will not have additional node removal nor take interferon. I will :

• See an Integrated Medicine Specialist at MDA within the next few weeks
• Return to MDA within three months for a sonogram of my groin lymph nodes
• Have a PET Scan in three months
• Continue praying for complete healing and non-reoccurrence

I am so grateful to all of you who read this blog and have prayed for me. I covet those prayers and hope you will continue to lift my name when you talk to our heavenly father. Hudson, my best friend and biggest supporter, is concerned that we will be dropping fried catfish from our diet. All things in moderation, honey!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

To Market, To Market

A trip to market each year will usually reveal things that are "in," colors, and trends.  Over the past years you could spot polkadots, elephants, birds, monkeys, and anything "green."

Here's what I noticed over the last three days in Atlanta:

Angel Wings








Is there a place in your home for these?

Turquoise

It's been strong all year, and it's still around.  When Pantone picks the color of the year, manufacturers are often slow to respond with product; but not this year.  It's everywhere -- in home decor, fashion, and jewelry.  


Soft turquoise in  urban industrial:


Look how it's mixed with orange and rust to go into fall:


Showroom:  Dallas's own Global Views





Other notes:  Birds are still big, bees are making a comeback, and I spotted lots of butterflies.


All in all, my leg has held up pretty well during the miles I've covered.  My friend Pam from New Orleans met me here and thought she would be pushing me in a wheel chair.  Naahh; we didn't need that.  The short bandage wraps have helped with the swelling, so I've just kept walking. The real reason we come here is to be together.  Sometimes there are a lot of us; this year it's just the two of us.

Before, during and after my surgery I would receive a text message almost everyday from Pam.  It would say simply, "I love you," or "I'm praying."  I would always respond, "I know."  And, I did.  These angel wings remind me of her (not John Travolta, as I mused today).  And, this anonymous quote:
"A real friend is like an angel who warms you by her presence and remembers you in her prayers."

Psalm 91:9-12 
If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter,
no evil evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home.
For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go,
They will hold you up with their hands so you won't even hurt your foot on a stone.






















Friday, July 16, 2010

From Atlanta: Design Forward . . What's It Called?

Two distinct styles are dominating the Atlanta Market this year -- and, they don't even have a name.  It's just a look.  At least ten showrooms featured this collection of industrial objects.  Surprisingly, it is not the gen-xers in lofts who are the primary buyers of this style.  It's the second-homers.  Interesting.

Urban Organic / Industrial Chic

French pallets with wheels.  Use:  coffee table











Softened with Lucite:

Lamps made from balusters and anything else they can find:
Interesting light fixtures:

Showroom:  moss studios

More uses:

Home Office



Shabby French / California French
You've seen it; it's everywhere.  But, what is it?   Neutral, gray, muslin, burlap, chipped paint.  Many of the items come from Italy and France.  Some are stripped or painted.  It's the alternative to Urban Industrial right now.

This showroom introduces the occasional darker wood into the mix, making it more interesting.




Showroom:  Eloquence

The creativity of man is evidenced here like nowhere else.  A thousand times I've caught myself thinking, "Why didn't I think of that?"  Even the ideas I wouldn't choose to incorporate into my personal style gain my admiration.  I admire the re-purposing of objects, the inclusion of artifacts, and the preservation of antiques. Most of all, I am thankful that there are people who have those gifts and that I am able to be here and enjoy their handiwork.

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 (NIV):  Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.


Next:  The Colors of Market



Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lymphs, Lamps and Laughter

I could not ask for a more diverse life these days. I'm writing as I wait for Dr. Saint Cyr to come in and remove the final stitches from the T-spot of my incision and flap. Last night was the end of sleeping with my leg elevated on two pillows. Hooray, because I'm a side-sleeper. (Note: To compose on an iphone is pure insanity, but I seize the time when it comes, and I'm sure I'm not the only blogger who has to do that.)



The weekend was spent with my friend of 25 years--a weekend where we saw 4 movies in three days and focused on everything but melanoma and lymph nodes. We sat through two sub-titled Stieg Larsson movies: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire. They were so good that we didn't even notice the sub-titles. I am reading the final installment of that trilogy -- The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest -- but I understand that the movie is not due out for a while.


I also wanted my friend to see Winter's Bone, and I didn't mind seeing the award-worthy performance of Jennifer Lawrence again. Great, great movie where the take-away is don't mess with your Missouri kin. Could there be two characters who are so different, yet so similar than Lisbeth Salander and Ree Dolly?

Then, we saw a new movie with Michael Douglas-- Solitary Man. I must admit I took a brief nap during that one, which was the one redeeming factor of the movie.

So, after movie marathon weekend, it was back to work on Monday and taking care of my swollen right leg. A little lymph node massage from the therapist was helpful, and she gave me some good pointers on self-massage. I kept wondering how I could be swollen from the removal of only three lymph nodes.  She enlightened me that there are only 10-12 lymph nodes in the groin, so I guess when 1/4 of them is missing, that would create the problem.  She encouraged a lot of movement, as did Dr. Saint Cyr.

Well, as always, I learn to be careful what I wish for.  Got the stitches removed, the wound all cleaned up, scabs peeled off, and now this leg is wrapped from can to can't!  It is wrapped in an ace bandage from the ankle to, well, you know where!  I may have to seek a cooler clime as I will be wearing this for several weeks to encourage the flap to flatten out.

The wrap slows my gait a little, but I did manage to do a five-hour installation today--lots of window treatments, bedding, and acessories.  My new favorite go-to in Dallas for last minute accessory fixes is Arteriors Too.  It is an offspring of the Arteriors showroom World Trade Center and the local warehouse and distribution center.  Defnitely worth a stop and prices are wholesale and works when I don't have time to order.

But,  the most fun of the day came in the form of lunch at Stephen Pyles with Jeanette and Marsha. 




 


 May I just say that Marsha strong-armed us into a dessert called "Coffee and Doughnuts." I had a five-hour installation to work off that splurge, and I needed it.

Trying to stay awake after that lunch on the 30-minute drive to my installation, I thought of how thankful I am for the diversity in my life.  Yes, even the adversity.  The challenges I have faced with my melanoma have brought amazing new people into my life, strengthened my faith, drawn me closer each day to God, and have made me immensely aware of and thankful for the too-many-to-count blessings He gives each day.  Like: 

Good friends with whom to eat, watch movies, and laugh
Sources for beautiful items with which to surprise my clients
My clients
God's love for me and the ability to search his word for the ultimate source of illumination.

Psalm 119:105 -- Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Check!

As I begin my day in Bible study and prayer, there are always numerous items that I have to discuss with God. There are, however, two constants each and every day:

"Lord, please lead me in a blog topic that will teach me something and help someone else."

"Lord, my business is yours.  Lead me to the clients and work that you want me do."

Today, before I opened my eyes, I prayed about the blog topic.  My appointment for M. D. Anderson is scheduled for July 20, so I wanted to incorporate that trip into the content.  But, as I was drinking my coffee that my husband (my most treasured gift) has faithfully delivered to me in bed every morning of our almost 30 years of married life (he says it started because he didn't think I was ever going to get up and it was his polite way of saying "get up!"), my dear friend Kathy called to check on me and update me on her life and her upcoming trip to Italy.  She began to tell me about referring a few people to my blog, thinking it would be helpful to them in situations they are facing (i.e., divorce, death of a loved one, etc.). I was blown away and began to praise God immediately for answering my prayer about this blog.  Check!

Now, about my business.  I already have the coolest, most fun, entertaining, lovable clients (most of them) in the world.  Many of them have become very close friends.  We have lunch, go to movies, hang out...and most of them are MUCH younger than I, so I am most flattered that they even want to be around me.  I'm getting to see their precious children grow up and witness their lives unfold.  What a blessing!  This week my joy has ranged from:

             A young mother of 9-month-old twins.  She is my new heroine, no kidding.  She has no nanny, no help.  She is amazing and so in control.  I guess I could have done what she does (not now, no way) when I was her age, but I stand amazed as she feeds two, changes two, cuddles two, catches two as they fall over because the dog ran into them, and never raises her voice. We're going to make her home beautiful together!

Peyton's Room.  Remember the cherry-blossom-themed nursery?  We continue to make decisions and move to completion.  We have a delivery date:  September 9.  Here's another sneak preview of fabrics we are using in this little princess's room.  This was our inspiration fabric from Osborne & Little:



Then we added some other yummy go-withs:



It will be fun to see this all installed and ready for her to come home.



There were many other joys this week, but I had a rather unusual call for assistance.  It was a request to help de-clutter.  Now, I've done a couple of these before and, I must say, it is not my favorite thing to do. (If only Blue-eyed Bride were here; she's an organizing genius!)  As, I went for the initial consult, I knew immediately why God put this one on my to-do list.  Clinical depression is a serious, serious illness, and this is an extreme case--a debilitating situation.  She was a spotless housekeeper, with nothing out of place.  Then, the illness came -- along with a back injury -- and the clutter piled up.  I am calling in my favorite guy team of John and Travis (although primarily painters, they can do anything, and are always willing to help me) and we will get this done!  And, I will pray that this will help her depression in some way.  Thank you, God, for sending me to her.  Check!

"My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus - Philippians 4:19

I'm looking forward to the weekend and a visit from my friend Paula from Michigan.  She doesn't get independent films in her theaters, so we will probably be sitting in the dark for a large part of her visit. Hudson doesn't get it!  He says that you can't visit in a movie.  Hah!  YES WE CAN!  

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Aaahhhh.....

Let me introduce you to two very special people in my life.

                                                           This is Holly:


And, this is Bryan:


They are the wonderful friends who take care of my hands and my feet.  And, what a welcomed visit that was this week!  I had been a little hesitant to put my foot into a pedicure bowl until the stitches were out and the incision healed. They had even graciously offered to make a house call while I was sofa-ridden.  Bryan was very careful and gave me extra massage time to help with my swelling

The swelling in my leg is lymphedema and is a result of the lymph node removal.  I have an appointment with a lymphedema therapist next week to get some pointers in alleviating some of the swelling.  One of the tips is:  sit down and elevate your foot/leg.  I do elevate when I sit down, but I am back to about 80% of my work schedule, so sitting and elevating don't always work out in the middle of the day.  I do think that if Bryan could work his massage magic everday, all would be better.  The Texas heat doesn't help, either, of course.

I will be in conversation with M. D. Anderson tomorrow to set my appointment.  It will be enlightening to get their input.  And, a little extra treat will be visiting my niece who, coincidentally, is a med tech at M. D. Anderson.  She has a baby due in August, so I have to get to Houston to see the nursery and pamper her a little before their life changes forever.

As my feet were being pampered, I thought of this verse:

"And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"   Romans 10:15 NIV

Pampered or unpampered, I want my feet to bring the good news of Christ.  The OPI Red polish is just a little lagniappe.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Imaging


There may be some scan that exists that I haven't had in the past two weeks, but I doubt it.  I've had a PET, CT, MRI, and smack in the middle, a mammogram thrown in for good measure.  Let me just say for the record:  if men had to have a mammogram (or some similar squeezing of a highly sensitive area of their anatomy), there would already be better breast imaging technology, or at least, a less painful technique.

Yes, I have been seen on the inside with nothing left to the imagination.  I've had enough radioactive dye flowing through me to light this side of Dallas.   It was all worth it to receive the extremely welcomed news yesterday that all of my scans were clear; no evidence of cancer presenting its ugly head somewhere else.



After seeing Jesus in the PET scan, I entered the MRI imagining God watching, laughing, saying, "Go ahead, if you must, but I already know what's in there.  I created her.  And, what's more, I see things you can't with your machines.  I know what she's thinking, what she cares about, and what's really in her heart."


And, there it is.  The real image that matters.

Genesis 1:27
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.


We hear so much about genetic research, genetic testing, genetic engineering, the human genome, DNA -- it's all very deep and promising and controversial.  More than anything, I want to have the genes of God my father.  I want that DNA.  I want to be exactly like Him, inside and out.  When I trusted in Him, he cleaned me up inside--erased all my sins.  I fail in so many ways to model His behavior, but I don't have to earn His love.  He's always there, picking me up, encouraging me to keep going.  That's the freedom and good news I'll be celebrating this weekend.