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July 15, 2010

 

I've just celebrated my two year anniversary as a breast cancer survivor and I am more assured today than ever before that God has a purpose for my life to encourage the lives of others.  I've celebrated with other friends who have heard the words 'cancer free' and I've mourned the loss of those who battled, then rested in the arms of Jesus.  Life can simply be overwhelming at times, but God is faithful.  I feel stronger than I've felt in years and I'm staying very busy with my family and travel schedule.  With celebration as a theme, Jeff and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary, June 18 and spent the evening with close friends and family just before we left for a family vacation to Disney World.  We're going into the studio soon to record a couple of love songs that we are planning to add into a 25 song project entitled "Silver" to be released in January.  Personally,  I am in the process of compiling some of my journaling from 1974 to the present, along with some of the songs I've written and many of the blogs written during those very dark days of breast cancer, because I found that I was most encouraged by hearing the stories of others who had fought hard and survived.  I've always enjoyed writing of any nature and always had a desire to compile of book of my writings.  So far it has been an interesting experience going back and reading some of the words I  penned in my past.  There were days that I could hear the joy bouncing off the pages, and days that I cried feeling losses all over again.  It's amazing that just as a singer records emotion, a writer can pen emotion onto a page.  That emotion can then express encouragement to others, offering hope to the hopeless and life to the lost.  Now that's something to celebrate, so pardon me while I dance!


 

July 8, 2009

It's official...today is the anniversary of the removal of cancer from my body.  I'm a survivor!  I read somewhere that if you have ever been diagnosed with cancer, you are considered a survivor, but I kind of like counting from the day the cancer was officially removed.  It seems to legitimize the title for me.  At first, I didn't like that word, 'survivor', it felt a little too sickly or maybe even a little too boastful about not being sickly--whatever the reason, I have come to love the word, cherish it's meaning in my life and celebrate the title.  I have a button, a ribbon, a totebag and a shirt that all proclaim my title.  According to my dictionary, a survivor is someone who has gone on "to live after or in spite of"--yep, that's me, living "after or in spite of".  I used to be so quick to break out in song with Gloria Gaynor when she'd wail, "I Will Survive".  Then,  I just liked the song, it made me feel good, but now I 'get it'.  And because I 'get it', I have this tremendous desire to 'share it', tell everyone, be thankful out loud, and of course, even break out in song.  So, celebrate with me today, you've probably overcome obstacles in your life that allow you to use my same title, I like to share.  Let's be thankful that we're living, breathing, loving, singing and dancing, hugging the ones we love most and offering thanks to the Giver of Life.  I am a survivor, one year, and counting!

July 2, 2009

One year ago today, I received the most difficult news I've ever learned, the diagnosis of breast cancer and today I am celebrating life.  I had my final surgery 10 days ago and I'm feeling wonderful.  Blessings to all of you who offered your prayers, calls, emails and cards, they were my encouragement!

 

June, 2009

How do you begin to describe what breathing in and out feels like, or what sunshine feels like on your skin, or how deep the red is in a rose?  That’s how I feel these days…really no words to describe my gratitude.  It’s bigger and better than words can tell.  According to my second set of scans, the doctors say I’m still cancer-free, Praise God.  I feel great, my energy is returning, my hair is coming back with a vengeance, and I’m down to my last two surgeries.  By the end of summer, I should be well on my way to being myself, which brings me to a great little story that happened to me recently.  I was in a little shop in Gatlinburg, during Family Fest and a couple there was trying to determine if I was, in actuality, Sheri Easter.  When I got off the phone, the lady asked, “Are you Sheri?” and I replied, “Yes, I am”.  Her husband then responded with, “I knew it was you because I saw your scar”.  That little sentence became so profound to me by the end of the day.  The scar that I try to hide, the one that reminds me of the chemotherapy and all of the ugliness I went through last year…that scar, told them who I was.  I began to embrace the scar at the thought of the encouragement it could offer to others.  Isn’t that what this life of being a Christian is all about?  Showing the world your scars so that they might be encouraged!  Jesus wasn’t ashamed to show Thomas His scars, neither was he bothered that Thomas asked to see them.  Embrace your scars, share them with others—your scars show the world who you are!

 

February 22, 2009

It’s been a lazy Sunday—I’m sitting here in the kitchen drinking a cup a hot tea.  Jeff is working with his computer and projector; he’s such a gadget guy.  Morgan has gone to bed because school comes early for her in the morning, while Maura sings and dances in the den as if she were performing for an audience of thousands.  Madison has been living on his own for six months now, but stopped by today to show me his new fascination, a black Lab puppy he just picked up today.  I am grateful for each moment God blesses.

We just got back from a cruise to Mexico and I feel so healthy with the return of my eyelashes and eyebrows!  I’ve undergone another surgery in the reconstruction process and I have a six week checkup on Tuesday.  I’ve scheduled bone scans and ct scans in March and if all is well, I can have my port removed.  It’s been a very difficult eight months and I’m looking forward to the time when I don’t have a doctor’s appointment on my calendar every week.

Throughout this battle, I’ve heard so many stories from you, some very encouraging miracles and some heart wrenching losses.  Life can be very difficult, but God is faithful!  We’re in the process of recording a new project and it reflects many of the places we’ve found ourselves this year.  I understand all too clearly these days, the analogy of the mountain in physical and spiritual climbs, but one thing’s for sure; you can’t experience the view from the top if you never begin to climb.

December 13, 2008

A Note from Sheri…
The cumulative effects of chemotherapy can wear a body down.  Although it has been a difficult journey, God has been faithful and I am looking forward to a New Year with new beginnings!  There have been days with tears, physical pain, and days so full of fatigue that I didn’t even feel like getting out of bed.  Still through all of this, I was blessed never to miss a concert performance, but of course, there were some days I slept until concert time, then returned to bed immediately afterwards.
My ‘secret’ for surviving all of this—I haven’t allowed chemo to rob me of my life.  I told Jeff at the onset of the treatments, if I allow it, the chemo will rob me of all three of my children’s birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas—I refused!  Instead, I found a rhythm and began to dance.  I chose certain days to rest and do nothing, praying without ceasing and forcing myself to experience life on other days.  My prayer for those of you facing long term chemotherapy is to pace yourself.  Train as if you are running a marathon, not a sprint.  It’s hard, very hard, but God is faithful.
On December 2, I was administered my last treatment.  I expected to hear the “Hallelujah Chorus”, but instead it was a quiet celebration among my newfound friends in the clinic. Today, I feel wonderful, fully alive!  I am very grateful for a cancer-free diagnosis and the end of chemotherapy.  I now wait for my fingernails to become healthy again, eyelashes and eyebrows to grow, and although I never lost all my hair, it became very thin and I wait anxiously for it to thicken.  I continue to receive cards, calls and gifts from encouragers everywhere and for each of you, I am so thankful.  You have given me a spirit to fight when I didn’t think I could.  May God bless each of you bountifully for the giving of your hearts, and may you be blessed in your New Year of new beginnings!

 

October 18, 2008

Round Three, Day 13—Jeff said something the other day that reminded me of an article I read just after my diagnosis in July.  We were on our way home from a quick trip to Augusta and he said, “You know, this really hasn’t been so bad”.  I assume he saw daggers lunge from my eyes by the way he reacted, but instead of being angry, I laughed, no I guffawed!  It was hysterically funny to me!  After all of the queasiness, the fatigue, the emotional and physical battle of surgery, the mourning of the gradual hair loss that worsens with every treatment, the nosebleeds, runny nose, sore throat, and you-name-it-and-it’s-different symptoms that goes on in your body because of chemo, I laughed a huge belly laugh.  It reminded me of an article in our local paper written by one of my favorite local writers.  The article was ‘things not to say to a cancer patient’ and was really quite humorous.  My favorite was “You have cancer?  Is it bad?  To which you would reply, “Noooo, I’ve got the good kind!
I’m typically an eternal optimist, and so I began thinking about the good things I’ve experienced in my life since July.  Beginning with the diagnosis—we found it, many aren’t so blessed.  The surgery went well—thank God for great surgeons.  A week after surgery, I had lost 5 pounds (hey, every woman gets excited about losing 5 pounds!)  I received hundreds of cards, calls, etc. affirming that I was loved—although we should, we usually forget to tell each other this information without a reason.  I had family and friends praying for me around the clock—another thing we should do more often and don’t.  At least if I lose all my hair, my brother is bald and if genetics play a part, I’ll have a beautiful head!  And, wearing a wig assures me of the ‘best hair in the building’ especially on a rainy night.
Looking at it this way makes me really glad I got the ‘good kind’!

 

September 24, 2008

Round two, Day ten—I’m doing extremely well with the chemo.  I haven’t had to take any anti-nausea medication, my energy level is great, and my blood counts were so good with the first round, my doctor doesn’t have to see me until Round three!  Praise God for the many prayers that are being offered on my behalf.  I’m taking Immunocal twice each day to keep my immune levels raised—it’s an all natural whey protein—and I’m drinking Mona Vie in the morning and at night, which is an all natural antioxidant made from the juice of the acai berry. I’m drinking 64 oz. of water daily, especially days 1-4 and trying to stay busy and exercise.  Other than that and Vitamin C tablets, I’m trying to eat what is recommended for specific days for patients going through chemo and it appears to be suiting me well.  I promised myself and my family, I would fight with everything I have and you do have to be determined to stick to such a regime.  I still have my hair, although my hairdresser gave me a really short, easy to take care of “do” last Thursday!  Monday, our family attended a presentation by our county and the Georgia Department of Transportation to celebrate the renaming of the road on which we live to the “James Roy ‘Pop’ Lewis Memorial Highway”.  What an honor!  We were all so excited that Pop was being memorialized in this manner.  I was asked to be one of the speakers and I couldn’t help but point out that the most successful people I’ve ever known, never set out to be great—they simply woke up each morning and made a lifetime of daily good and right choices which led to their success.  Pop was a very humble man, never thinking of fame, simply thinking of the things that brought him joy—his family and his music.  These joys and his uncanny ability to have a response to any question ever posed, usually with humor, garnered him his legacy.  I’m so proud to be the granddaughter of a man who was so loved by so many!

 

August 28, 2008

Day four of chemotherapy—I was told to expect the worst between days 1 and 4 after my treatment, so I chose to wait and give everyone an update tonight.  On Monday, Jeff and I went to the oncology clinic and had my first round of two of my chemotherapy drugs administered.  I experienced a slight headache and a few waves of nausea, but otherwise did pretty good.  On Tuesday, we went back for the third drug (they administer them at different times so they can be alerted to any reaction that may occur).  About an hour after the treatment, I felt several waves of nausea, a headache, and some chills and fever, and decided it would be best to lie down as soon as I got home.  After several hours of chills and fever, it passed and I felt a little more like myself.  On day three, I awoke at 7:30 a.m., began washing clothes, working in the office and then I walked a mile on the elliptical.  I had an enormous amount of energy and prepared for the weekend.  Tonight we sang in Richmond, IN.  It was a very warm congregation and everyone was so kind.  I told Jeff I wanted to sing every opportunity that God gave me and I’m very grateful for each one.

 

July 3, 2008

I watched the sun rise this morning! It's one my favorite ways to celebrate life--I usually do it on vacations or just after a battle...times that I can truly appreciate it. Yesterday at 4pm, I received a call from my newly acquired surgeon informing me that I had breast cancer. I have breast cancer. I feel almost as if I should type it 100 times to remind me not to do it again, just like in grammar school--I will not talk in class (that was always my sentence of choice!) I cried until it hurt and then, I cried more. Morgan was sitting with me when I got the call. Jeff, Madison and everyone on our bus quickly came to the front lounge and along with me were broken. I wanted to say "I'm sorry" but I stopped myself because I knew they'd remind me that it wasn't my fault. Jeff called my mama, my brother and several of my closest friends because I couldn't speak.
I found the lump last October, scheduled a mammogram, received the news that it was normal and lived with a false security until last week when an online nosedive into the percentage of reliability of mammograms sent me rushing to schedule another check up. The nurse asked if I had a surgeon and I waited for the appointment. Wednesday, I drove down only to find out that he had been called in on an emergency surgery and I would have to reschedule the appointment for Monday.
On Thursday morning I woke up praying, "God, you're going to have to get me through this weekend, I can't do it on my own." I opened my Bible to a random page and the first words I read were in a passage from Mark 5 "Don't be afraid. Just believe." I shared that all weekend, not specifying my need, but simply to remind myself and my audience that God IS faithful. Monday morning the surgeon examined me by sonogram and asked if I minded if he did a biopsy because it didn't look normal. I wanted a cyst. I wanted it aspirated. I didn't want a biopsy, and I certainly didn't want to wait another 48 hours for test results. Nevertheless, I waited until yesterday, and then again, heard things I didn't want to hear like breast cancer, mastectomy and lumpectomy/radiation. We had previously gotten a call from Charlotte that Greg's daddy, Jerry Ritchie had passed away after a long battle with cancer. Jeff briefly worked with Jerry in the early 80's and we, of course, loved him because he was Greg's Dad. We had planned to be at the funeral today...
I wonder how many times in my life I've used the word planned? My schedule doesn't have an opening for cancer. I'm a scheduler and a very good one at that, but even I can't schedule life onto a calendar.
I'm leaving in an hour to meet with my surgeon and discuss my course of action. Please pray that we make wise decisions. I may not be able to schedule life, but I am assured that God can.