Part 1 – A Look Back at my Cancer Journey – Overview

(In honor of being 11 years cancer-free, I’m sharing part of my journey so that others may be educated, encouraged, and possibly entertained. The following journal entry has been slightly modified from its 2008 creation.)

I’ve been reading health and nutrition books since I was 14 and following all the best advice available to live a long and vibrant life and leave behind a great set of organs for recyclable parts. The ultimate hippie-living, earth-loving, chart-your-biorhythms (whatever they were), stretch-yourself-into-a-pretzel and only-take-natural-drugs kind of lifestyle had my name all over it. To this day, I’m an avid supplement fan. I get regular exercise, eat my dark chocolate, grow my own organic fruits and veggies, use sunscreen, drink red wine and grind my own wheat, flax, millet…you name it. Some coworkers used to cringe when I brought in treats, wondering where the wheat germ was hidden or if the fiber content would have them running to the restroom all day.

Imagine my shock when I received the fateful news that my body was harboring cancer cells. This doc clearly had a wrong number. My life was the anti-cancer!

My long stretch of enviable immunity to illness was about to come crashing down, along with my pride, my physical strength and my emotional stability. Oh – and my hair. Can’t be too proud when you’re – ahem – bald! I was no longer in the driver’s seat, and I wasn’t too sure I could trust all these oncologists and surgeons with their traditional medicine. I was all about alternative therapies for anything that ailed me. The next days and weeks were a blur of appointments to determine how far and wide these enemy cells had invaded my carefully tended temple. During this “staging period” I numbly followed the suggestions of my medical team. I endured way too many white lab coats, rubber gloves, needles, and countless humiliating exams. I went under the knife to have an Infusaport installed for the administration of future chemotherapy drugs. Too proud to have a messy meltdown around medical staff, I chose to have a few private breakdowns instead – in my car, in the tub, while reading e-mail and doing frightening Internet searches. I tried to grasp what was rushing toward me and said lots of prayers, mostly the questioning kind.

Yet, from the very beginning of this wild journey, my precious Jesus showed Himself to be my Provider, my Comforter, my Encourager and my Strength.

Tangible evidences of His peace and comfort came in the people God brought to care for me. My radiation oncologist got his training in North Dakota – my home state! Guess I could trust a guy who knew where Minot was. The first nurse to administer my chemo was named Mary Jo – just like me! She was a younger version of myself – a petite, brown-eyed runner. The video I had to watch about cancer was produced by…(drum roll please) Lange Productions – just coincidentally (?) my maiden name.

Finally, despite all the awful side effects of my treatment, there were moments of sheer hilarity, deep intimacy, amazing tenderness, and a miracle or two for good measure. I leaned into this unwanted adventure with my uber-supportive family, friends and prayer warriors on all sides. I came through cancer a changed person in many ways.

Join me as I take a look back over my shoulder and marvel at what God has done in the last 11 years. With hindsight and humor – I promise – we’ll laugh our way through some embarrassing and hysterical moments. You’ll meet Tootie the Toomah and her 3 Tattoos, and wander into the wilderness of wigs, waiting rooms, and wooziness.

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