Faith and Story, Story and Faith

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My parents tell me the first place they took each of us as babies was church.  Faith has played a central role in my story ever since.  Thanks to my parents, from the beginning of my life faith has been a part of my story.

I was recently asked to share my “story.”  But with the understanding that many who would read it were “of different backgrounds” and would not want to hear “faith”, only story.  They wanted to know how I coped with Maffucci Syndrome and chondrosarcoma without hearing that faith played a role.

I can’t separate the two.  I honestly don’t want to. I understand that not everyone is a person of faith, and that all still have a story.  However, without faith, my story would be totally different.  Without story, the peaks and the valleys , the gifts and the graces, my faith would look very different.  In the valleys of my life, I’ve leaned heavily on my faith.  It’s where I drew strength and hope.  During the peaks of life, I’ve celebrated the goodness of the Almighty God, who didn’t desert me at my darkest moments.  I cannot imagine my life without either.

Separating the two for me would be like trying to remove the oxygen from water.  Please don’t ask me to try.  My story, my faith, they are inseparable.  They make me who I am.

I am a child of God.  God has forgiven and redeemed.  When I have been empty, God has filled and refilled.  God’s been with me when I’ve struggled and when I’ve failed and when I’ve succeeded and achieved.  God has never left me in sickness or in health.  On the darkest days, God carries me and gives courage for tomorrow.  On the most beautiful days, God celebrates with us.  On the days we blow it and let sin and weakness have our hearts, God does not abandon us.  When we try to remove him from our story, He stays anyway.  He knows our griefs and burdens, our heartaches and sadness.  He’s ready to hold us again.  He’s ready and willing to be a part of our story again.  He waits for us.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6

Be of good courage my friends.  You are loved by a faithful God.

Love, Cindy

 

The Dance and the Arm Holders

Written Sep 13, 2013 2:05pm by Cindy McMurry

My Mom needs to go home… Kevin reports that Dad only cooks one item at a time… a gallon of potatoes, tomato soup etc.  They eat that till it’s gone, then and only then will he cook something else.  Kevin says he’s “starving to death.”  Poor boy!  lol  Dad hasn’t resorted to salsify soup yet… but he will if Mom doesn’t get home soon.  I’m sure she misses being in her space, with her friends and church and I know they miss her too.  I’ve even heard the rumor that “Dad has Mom’s house a mess.” I choose to believe this is only a rumor.  🙂   I don’t know what we’d have done without her though and she’s staying to take me to my appointment next week.  She’s been amazing… and she coddles John, getting him ice cream etc.  Thank you Mom!

I’ve given a lot of thought to scars lately, and what has brought about the one’s my body bears.

As a teen scars worried me and I mentioned this to Dr. Wiley.  I’m sure he must have thought to himself that I had no clue how hard he was working just to save my fingers, hand and arm from Maffucci Syndrome.  Thankfully, he was sweet and understanding with my vulnerable self esteem.  I can’t even count all of my incision scars now, much less fret over them… I feel certain there are over 75, some reused more than once.

As I’ve gotten older, scars represent much more to me than just a gash on my once smooth skin.  They have become a part of our story.  Most of the people in my life who have tattoos seem to have thought them through and they represent something about their story.  Personally, I do not love tattoos, but I do understand they may tell a story, much like my scars do.

Each time a tumor/hemangioma/lesion has rebelled and gone rogue; swelling, causing pain or in 3 instances become cancer, we had to decide how to respond.  Do we watch and see what happens or do we fight by going into the OR?  It’s a big decision… I’m really tired of surgery.  It’s no fun and while I may have been in pain before surgery, surgery is likely going to make things more intensely painful for a period of time.  And then there is recovery time… PT, adjusting to changes in our lives, modifying our lives once again.

However, I’ve decided that when necessary, going into the OR is the best choice for me.  Deciding and having surgery to remove a tumor or tumors that are challenging our lives and then the recovery process has become to me the Victory Dance.  We’ve decided to take authority over and fight that which is threatening to destroy my life.  The scars serve to simply remind me… “You fought.  You are not defeated.  You have danced the Dance.”

Dancing “The Dance” has come at a cost for all of us… for my husband, my children, my parents, my family, my friends.  Sometimes I cry when I see the scars, they aren’t just physical, they represent an emotional toll as well.  As in any battle, there are always others who are affected.  I grieve over the days I have missed playing with my children and grandchildren, days I cannot get back.  I miss the way my husband and I used to sleep in the bed and may never be able to again.  I miss driving and pray I will be able to again.  I miss cooking for my family and friends.  I miss dressing myself and wonder… Will I ever again?  I wonder if brushing and flossing my teeth will ever be painless again.  Have my husband and I reversed roles… I loved being able to care for him, but will he spend the rest of our days taking care of me?

John said the kindest words to me last night… he was helping me get in bed and covered me up (I cannot pull up the blankets) and he said “I think I could get used to this.  I enjoy helping you get in bed and ready for sleep.”  He’s been so tender and so kind… I am often overwhelmed by my husband’s goodness.

I chose to and continue to choose to fight The Fight… to dance The Dance.  Some days, I admit the dance is exhausting.  It’s a lot of work to do the simplest of tasks.  But fight we will… we will not give up.  We are richly blessed to be surrounded by family and friends who stand with us and who have promised they will help us through the challenges ahead.

We are overwhelmed by the way so many of you are demonstrating your love to us.  Thank you!  We are humbled by your generosity and kindnesses.

The love, support, concern and compassion that John, my family and our friends have shared with me reminds me a lot of one of my favorite Bible stories:

The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim.  Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”  So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill.  As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.  When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset.  So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army.  Exodus 17:8-13
May each of you who face “The Dance” (surgery/health/spiritual/emotional/family) have your own Aaron and Hur to hold your arms when you grow weary.  May they prop you up and help to sustain you as you dance “The Dance.”  Praying this for Margaret, Mary and others who are facing cancer and my family and friends who are fighting for their children who have experienced early childhood trauma today.

We love you,
Cindy and John

It Was, But is No More.

Written Sep 5, 2013 2:33pm by Cindy McMurry

My surgeon, Dr. Wurtz just called to share my pathology report.

He reports that the cancer was intermediate grade (“was” being the best word of the day).  My two previous cancers were considered low grade, I was hoping for the same grade this time.  But, as I said earlier “was” is the word of the day!  All the borders are clear.  The tumor had broken through the bone but they removed enough tissue and cartilage that nothing was left behind.

So there was cancer, but there is no longer cancer.  Now that is good news!

Thanking God for his goodness!

“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful to him, and bless his name.” Psalm 100:4

I love you,
Cindy

These are the Moments…

Written Sep 4, 2013 2:24pm by Cindy McMurry

These are the moments I get tickled and laugh at the things we take for granted. These are the moments I’m in wonder at the goodness of God. These are the moments that the change in my body distresses me. These are the moments that I try to process what our tomorrows will look like while being eternally grateful for our today.

I’m healing. Thanks be to God. There are some obvious challenges and some obvious changes. There are also obvious blessings.

John gave me a shower today and I realized washing my own hair was something I took for granted. Now my husband is learning how to care for me in a way I hadn’t expected and demonstrating love for me in new ways. Receiving care from others that we expect to provide for ourselves is both humbling and a blessing. John has teased me that I “have more skin surface” than he does even though he “is nearly double my body weight”… and has wondered if all girls wash their ankles. 🙂 I’m amazed at how tenderly he’s caring for me.

Yesterday John left quickly for work, before making himself a cup of coffee. I discovered the coffee maker hadn’t been plugged in since we returned home and there was no water in it. Not being able to reach or being steady with either hand made plugging it in rather interesting. Essentially I hiked my belly on the counter, braced my left arm with my right hand and the counter just to get the thing plugged in. Then I had to add water and hit the button on top to turn it on… I’m sorry you missed it. I’m sure you would have laughed… I’m learning to contort my body to meet our needs in ways you would be amazed. Yoga friends… beware. I’m going to need you.

Eating is not too rough. I brace my arm on the table and move my mouth to the fork instead of the fork to my mouth. I’m not sure if everyone else enjoys my meal that way, but I’ve found the food tastes the same… it’s also more work so perhaps I will eat less. I might be starting a new diet trend, who knows?

When I had my left scapulectomy I was much younger and it worried me that I “looked like a ballerina on one side and a football player on the other” because of the way my muscles adapted to accommodate my needs. Well… I don’t match this time either. I took a good look in the mirror today and I’ve lost my corner… no more sharp turn at my shoulder. It’s a lot more like a slope. Who knows how clothes will fit… most of my time right now is in pajamas.

My Mom is here and doing her best to help every way she can and our friends are preparing meals. I continue to be in awe of the sweetness, kindness and generosity of our family and friends. Just today we had three visitors, a fresh pineapple from Hawaii and flowers from my Rotary friends and a girlfriend.

In the middle of these moments I’ve been reminded that in 1987 a physician told me that my life expectancy was less than 5 years. F.I.V.E. Y.E.A.R.S. When I struggle to relearn to function and when I get discouraged because of the changes I remind myself what a glorious gift the last 26 years have been, even the struggle itself is a gift.. I may have to relearn to function in some areas, but I’m alive.

In those 26 years there have been more gifts and blessings than I could begin to mention… Derrick grew from a toddler to a man. He became a husband and a father, he serves our country with honor and dignity. Our girl Bethany came into our life and through her struggles has taught all of us to be better people and what courage it takes to face the challenge of everyday life. I met and married John who is an extraordinary human being. My Father has beaten bladder cancer and been a trooper through many accidents. All of my nieces and nephews have been born and grown into fine young men and women. And our grandchildren… Alex and Emma… let’s just say John says I have “Grandmother Derangement Syndrome.” What a gift they are to us. I’ve had the honor of serving God in churches as pastor and youth minister. We’ve been richly blessed with relationships that have challenged us to grow in faith, courage and strength.

Today I am not the same girl I was when I received that scary diagnosis 26 years ago and the prediction that my life expectancy would be less than 5 years. No way. Today I’m so blessed it’s hard to fathom. The fact that I CAN plug in the coffee maker is a gift. My shoulder may slope, but it’s still a shoulder and moves and will learn to do more. These are moments I will treasure, reminding myself that I CAN and if I can’t, there are others who will. What a great life I have.

I love you,
Cindy

And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 1Timothy 1:14

Surgery

Written Aug 15, 2013 12:56pm by Cindy McMurry

I have a surgery date.  August 26, 2013

It will be in Indianapolis.

Taylor’s wedding is Sept. 1, please pray that all goes smoothly so we can enjoy her festivities and wedding.  The only other option for surgery was Sept 9.  John and I felt like that was just too far away.  The doctor could not work anything out for the few days following the wedding.

We are trusting that God’s got this in his hands and this is the right decision.

More later friends!

We love you,
Cindy and John

“The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him;” Psalm 37:23

Remembering these lyrics today:

Rejoice for the steps
Of a righteous man
They are ordered of God
They are ordered of God

Chorus

“In the time of trouble
God will uphold you
God will preserve you
God will sustain you
In the time of trouble
God will lift you up
So rejoice
Your steps are ordered of God ”
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This is a Test, Only a Test

Written Aug 10, 2013 10:36am by Cindy McMurry

Do you remember the Emergency Broadcast System tests of your childhood?  Those Public Service Announcements to warn us that there could be a catastrophe of one kind or another?  They would announce “This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System.  This is only a test.  If this were a true emergency,” blah blah blah. Then there would be this terrible static noise that scared you, even though you knew it was coming AND it was “only a test.”

Several things about those tests bothered me as a child:
1.  The noise.  It seemed so ominous.
2.  The fact that there really might be a true emergency someday.
3.  Maybe they actually meant to hit the “true emergency” button and
only accidentally hit the “This is only a test button.”
4.  They almost always happened during the “After School Specials”,
and my Dad would be on his way home from work.  If we had a
“true emergency” it would be better if we were all together.  (You
thought I was just going to complain that it interrupted my TV
show,  right?)

I am a person of faith.  I love God.  I believe God is ever present and accounted for.  I believe God can, does and will make a difference in our lives.  I believe God will not forsake us.  I believe God does and will comfort us.  I believe God has, does and will forgive us.  I believe God has saved my life more than once and protects us from the evil one.

So here’s my dilemma.  I am having a test, “only a test” on Monday.  Tests make me anxious.  We don’t get immediate results.  PET Scans are known for false positives… I know this.  I’m a planner.  I like to have my finger on the pulse and, dare I say, control things.  I can’t control this.  I can’t be sure how quickly I will get the results.  I can’t be sure the radiologists who read it are not going to read a false positive.  I can’t be sure there are not other issues in my body, even though I don’t expect them.

This test, requires fasting from any number of foods and medications, some for 24 hours.  I have an appointment with my girl Bethany the morning of the fast.  I will drive 4 hours and not be able to munch or have coffee to keep me awake.  John cannot be with me.  I’m really, really tired.  All the “this is only a test” nightmares of my childhood seem to flood me with fear.

It’s silly, I know it is.  First of all, the God who created the universe is with me.  He is on my side.  I’m a big girl and being fearful of something that “is just a test” doesn’t make much sense.  Every year when it’s time to have my bone scan, I feel the anxiety push up within me.  I hear a little voice begin to whisper, “Maybe this time it will be back.”  It’s like soul torment.

I listen for the “still, small voice” that speaks peace  and courage to me and trust in my heart that God’s got this.  And God does have this.  PET Scan, CT Scan, surgery, cancer Maffucci Syndrome, God’s got this.  This is really “just a test” and while it feels like a “true emergency” in light of the bigger picture, of the things to come, this is just small potatoes.  God’s Got It!

“And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:  And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.”  1 Kings 19

As the world shakes around us, and the storms of our life seem to overwhelm us, we pray that each of us would stop, listen and hear the still small voice that will give us peace.

We love you,
Cindy and John

Decisions

Written Aug 8, 2013 8:46pm by Cindy McMurry

We’ve been to both Vanderbilt and Indianapolis. Both physicians seem capable. Both have similar treatment ideas. Both gave a similar prognosis. The personality of the MD’s, facilities, community, traffic etc are very different, yet both have many strengths. We are also considering which doctor and facility would be best for long term care. We do not believe we need to go to MD Anderson at this point since we got similar results at both facilities.

Some of you may want details, so I’ll share a bit. The acromion is part of the scapula and there is a “spine” on the scapula. The deltoid muscle attaches to the scapular spine and humerus. The acromion and about half of the scapular spine are involved with the cancer. The goal is to remove all of the diseased bone and find somewhere to reattach the deltoid to try to minimize loss of mobility. The base of the scapula the bigger triangular piece does not appear to be as affected.

I have many enchondromas (non-malignant cartilage tumor that can become malignant) in the scapula, humerus and other bones that one would expect to see with Maffucci Syndrome. Right now, they are in hopes the only enchondroma that’s decided to go rogue is the one in the acromion. I have a PET Scan and additional CT Scans again on Monday. By the time I’m done being injected with radioactive meds and having all these images done I should be glowing… not quite the way I would hope though. I prefer any glowing to be a reflection of the light of Christ.

John and I are wrestling with what to do, where to go and when to do it. Taylor is getting married soon and we really want to be able to fully celebrate her day. Derrick will be home soon from Afghanistan and we want to celebrate his service and homecoming. Bethany may be moving soon and I need to be available to support her through the transition. John’s work schedule will be very intense through Sept and Oct. The doctors say we can wait a few weeks. We need wisdom as we decide. Please pray for us to have wisdom about each of these issues and make decisions that will bring God glory.

We all have so many things we wrestle with daily, choices and decisions that affect others, and struggle to conduct ourselves in a manner that is pleasing to God. As one of my little friends discovered today, sometimes we mess up, but grace and forgiveness abounds. I’m sure we won’t go through our journey without mishaps and wonder if we are doing the right thing. But grace abounds. My goal today is not perfection, it’s not even making all the right decisions. It is to trust that God’s grace is sufficient and that God will be glorified.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matt 5:16

Please pray for our friend and her family as they wait on tests and results.

We love you,
Cindy and John

Precious Times

Written Jul 31, 2013 9:02am by Cindy McMurry

Emma JaneWhen I was twenty two I learned the lesson that health and life were fragile.  That was during my first bout with cancer.  I learned to try to find value in each day and be thankful.

But it seems to me that what I’m learning during this time is how to appreciate and invest in the precious times and recognize that each second we have is precious.  It’s not the things of this world that have our attention, it’s the gifts we’ve so generously been blessed with; one another, our children and grandchildren, our family, our friends, our faith.

I find that John and I are laughing more, we are talking more, we are just ‘being’ more.  I notice that we are holding hands more and finding each touch precious.  We are not putting things off that we’ve wanted to do for a long time.  I find that we are smiling and laughing when we think of our two grandchildren, Alex and Emma.  Any problems we face seem to be made smaller as we look forward to times with our children and grandchildren.  All of creation just seems to be more beautiful.  We are no longer just thankful in passing for each day, we count each day and each moment as precious.

Pray for us that as we begin to have appointments at Vanderbilt, Indianapolis and MD Anderson that we don’t become overwhelmed by all we are hearing, but that we will consider each moment of our day and recognize just how precious it is. Ann Voscamp wrote “1000 Gifts” and reminds us to find gifts in the unexpected.  I pray we are able to have eyes that see and ears that hear, so we don’t miss the unexpected gifts and precious moments of our days.

We are going to meet our little Emma for the first time in the midst of my appointments.  Pray that we can drown out all the unimportant things and the things we cannot change and just revel in the miracle of our first granddaughter.  Isn’t she beautiful?

Thank you for being our friends and for your prayers.  You are precious to us.

We love you,
Cindy and John

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” James 1:17

My Story, August 2013

 

Lucinda

Dearest Family and Friends,

We’ve had quite a journey together.  My story is really our story, without you I would not be the person I am today.  Each of you have impacted me in a special way.  My husband, parents, children, grandchildren, siblings, brother and sister in laws, nieces and nephews are some of the most extraordinary people I’ve ever known.  I am eternally grateful for the support and love you have faithfully extended toward me.  I could write a book on how remarkable your love and support have been, you’ve gone above and beyond to help me, sacrificing for my well being, always.  I love you each more than you could possibly know.  I have been so blessed with friends who are generous with words of encouragement, who offer help in ways that are unexpected and help me to heal through laughter and joy.  And my Lord and my God… there are not enough words to express my gratitude for his faithfulness, his forgiveness, his constancy, his healing, his peace, his love.  Thank you for loving me, a sinner and making me your child.

Our story of health challenges began about 40 years ago when it was discovered that I had a rare disease called Maffucci Syndrome.  My parents and extended family supported me through many surgeries, traveling, sacrificing, praying, staying with me in the hospital, bringing me peanut butter balls (Thank you Aunt Montana!!).  You made the scary times for a young girl bearable.

In 1987 I began to have pain that was different than I’d experienced before.  Dr. Wiley (one of the finest men on earth) did the first of a series of 3 surgeries in 4 months.  Very unexpectedly, it was discovered that I had a chondrosarcoma in my left elbow.  Six weeks later I had a scapulectomy, again with chondrosarcoma.  Six weeks after that I had a resection of the left elbow.  These surgeries were not easy to recover from.  But God… I cannot imagine this journey without him.   God placed me in a family of loving, generous, extraordinary people who supported me in fighting the dreaded cancer, who helped me to never give up and not limit what I would do in my life.  Cancer and Maffucci Syndrome became a part of my story, but only a part.  There is so much more.

Cancer and Maffucci’s did not stop the loveliest parts of my life.  My husband, my children, my grandchildren, my family and friends, those who’ve been a part of my life through ministry, my relationship with God… these are the loveliest parts, my greatest treasures.  You have my heart.

There was a noticeable change in my right shoulder a few months ago.  I began the process of trying to get answers.  Honestly, I’d been telling myself “it’s overuse of the arm, it’s arthritis, it’s the weather.”  But finally, I couldn’t ignore it any longer.  After many tests, X-rays, MRI’s, and scans, I was told on July 26, 2013 that I’ve had a reccurrence of chondrosarcoma.  This time in my right shoulder, my only dependable arm.

Your prayers are precious to God and to me.  The word says God begins to act as soon as we pray.  Our prayer requests are for wisdom and guidance for the physicians, continued peace and strength for us, complete removal of the cancer, saving my right arm and shoulder and functionality of the arm and shoulder.  We are also praying that we will walk this journey in grace, through faith and with courage, exalting God.

Initially, I was fairly terrified.  But God has given me peace that is beyond my understanding.  I’m so thankful.  I know this is a sad and difficult time for my husband, children, parents and family.  I know many of my friends are wrestling with it as well.  I want to remind you that God is sufficient.  He’s the healer, the giver of life and my redeemer… He is the Great I Am.  We can’t see the completed journey, but God is with us no matter where we go.

“The grace of our Lord was more than abundant (more than enough) with the faith and the love which are found in Christ Jesus.”
1 Timothy 1:14