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The Rebellious Boob Chronicles: A Year Ago Today…

twin towers

(I dedicate this blog to my dear friend and soul sister Brooke West who took me to all of my doctor visits, who sat with me through every minute of chemotherapy, who endured me on steroids…whoa! who laughed, cried and prayed with me, and who sent me the most powerful text message early one late December morning that inspired these words.)

They say time flies when you are having fun. I say time has a way of creeping by and flying by all at the same time whether you are having fun or not. It is hard to believe that just one year ago today I was getting ready to embark on the most challenging personal journey I have ever faced in my life. I have definitely been through some rough times in my 49 years, heck my early childhood was enough to make anyone tremble a little (but that is another blog for another time). I have lost family, friends, a marriage, a spouse. I have had my heart broke by people who were supposed to be my friend. My family has experienced the tragedy of senseless violence, we have suffered the consequences of not-always-the-smartest choices (a nice way of saying I have done some stupid stuff in my life!), and we have had the proverbial rug pulled out from under us on many occasions. I could go on and on, but I think you catch my drift that life hasn’t always been a piece of cake. The hard times have shaped me and my faith has produced a stubborn resilience that refuses to let the hardships get the best of me! However, in January of 2019, life was getting ready to throw me a hefty kick to the gut, on the most personal level, which would require me to dig deep, trust wholeheartedly in my faith and endure with the strongest determination I could muster up.

On November 21st, 2018 I went for my yearly mammogram. After receiving a bad scare in 2015 and having to go have a diagnostic mammogram and ultra sound to determine density in my right breast, I had kept up my mammograms on a regular basis regardless of the fact that I didn’t have health insurance for years (kudos to the local health department for a grant that covered mammograms for uninsured women). On November 28th I went for a complete physical with my primary care physician. I hadn’t had one of those in years and felt it was a smart move since I now had health insurance that covered such things, and I hadn’t been feeling quite like myself here and there. The good news is that my physical results were fabulous! All of my blood work came back perfect and my doctor said I was one of the healthiest women she knew. The bad news is my mammogram came back showing some questionable areas in my right breast, and once again, a diagnostic mammogram and ultra sound was ordered. I would like to say that I was as calm as a cucumber, but I won’t even try to downplay the fear that ravishes a woman’s heart when she is told further tests need to be done. Not to mention that over the course of 2018 I had noticed a change in the pea size mass that was diagnosed as density in 2015. It was now about the size of a nickel but according to google it was nothing, (seriously, of course I googled it!!) but deep down inside, I was scared. On January 3rd 2019, I went in for my testing. It wasn’t anything I was unfamiliar with, but this time the atmosphere seemed a little more intense. The mammographer appeared a little more serious and the ultrasound tech took an extensive amount of time checking out my right side and under my right arm. Finally, she called in the radiologist so that she could sit down with me face to face, eye level to eye level, and tell me ever so gently that it was expedient that I go for a biopsy.

I left the office feeling overwhelmed and as I drove back to work, I cried a little and prayed a lot. My thoughts rushed to my children and I had no I idea how I would tell them that their mother may have breast cancer. I spent the next week praying profusely and diplomatically telling God why I DID NOT need to walk through breast cancer at this time in my life. No just NO! Of course I didn’t want to have to fight the battle, but my reasons weren’t selfish ones, first and foremost I did not want my children to have to suffer through another parent having cancer. Please Lord, not at this time in our lives. Give us a little more time to grow, to heal, to enjoy life. I am strong in my faith and firmly believe that the God I serve can work miracles and remove anything out of my body that He chooses. Yes Lord, work a miracle on my behalf, after all my God moves mountains, right?!?

A year ago today, on January 10th, 2019, I was dreadfully waiting for the sun to rise as I rose out of bed early to get ready to go to my scheduled biopsy. One of my most dear friends and soul sister’s was taking me so that I didn’t have to go alone. I made my coffee, read my devotion, prayed and again recited to God at what a testimony it would be and how I would so praise Him if He would just remove these freaking lumps in my breast (yep, ultra sound showed two!).  I opened my Facebook and the first thing I saw was a memory from my ‘Dear Christy from God’ letters on January 10, 2018 (exactly one year prior) that said:

“Dear Christy, when I choose not to move the mountain, then what?” ~God~.

I knew in that moment what the outcome of the biopsy would be before they ever pierced my skin. I knew in that moment that my life and my children’s lives were getting ready to change drastically. I honestly didn’t know what all it would involve, but I knew from this moment on that my life would be on a different time table – you know, like how we measure time as BC (before Christ) and AD (anno domini – the year of our Lord) – now for me it would be “before I got breast cancer” and “after I survived breast cancer.” I sighed deeply and read the memory again:

Dear Christy, when I choose not to move the mountain, then what? ~God~.
Dear God, well, I guess we climb the dang mountain, that’s what. ~Christy~

And that is exactly what we did.

It took eight viciously long days for the doctor to call and ask me to come in for my results. Tom Petty nailed it on the head when he said “the waiting is the hardest part!” My dear friend and soul sister went with me to hear the results and we all had to chuckle a little as my doctor recited again that I was one of the healthiest women she knew…but…the biopsy showed that I had breast cancer.  My first reaction was “well hell” and after listening to what the next few weeks of my life would be like with all the doctor visits they would line up for me, Brooke and I both agreed on one thing; My God, the one in whom I believe in and love wholeheartedly, the one who loves me more than I can imagine, the one who flung the starts into place and measured the depths of the seas in the palm of his hand, the One who is good all the time, He was not at all surprised by this diagnosis. The bargaining was over, the course had been set and if He wasn’t going to move the mountain, then in no uncertain terms He was going to have to show up and help me climb it. On this side of the battle I can say that not only did God show up, but He showed out!

I have spent the past year of my life climbing this mountain called breast cancer. I have gone through two port surgeries, 5 months of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, 25 radiation treatments, and reconstructive surgery. I lost my hair, my dignity, my hot, muscular beast of a body I had worked so hard for (okay, maybe I wasn’t so hot to start with but it’s my story and I’m sticking to it! J). My battle isn’t quite over yet as I am still doing immunotherapy infusions every three weeks. I am getting ready to take a preventative pill for a year and then another preventative pill for five years. Hopefully I will only have one more surgery left to complete reconstruction. All in all, it is safe to say that it has been a wing-dinger of a year! I have felt strong and I have felt weak. I have felt empowered and I have felt helpless. I have been brave and I have been scared. I have been challenged physically, mentally and emotionally. I can say that being on this side of the battle feels much better than where I was one year ago and, despite all of the losses and struggles,  I have experienced some pretty awesome things through all of the madness. I have been surrounded by the most wonderful support system of family and friends, saturated in prayers and positive thoughts by a countless number of people and received more acts of kindness than I deserve. I have met some of the most precious folks along the way who had fought this same battle, strangers who became friends almost instantly because of the special bond we share. In the best of times and in the worst of times, I know without a doubt, that I have not been alone in this struggle for one single minute.

By the grace of my Almighty God, I was not only able to continue to work full time, I was also able to do my job with a passionate fervor and reach and exceed the goals that were set before me. I have traveled to more states this year than I have in all my life and I have watched the sun rise and set on the east coast and the west coast. I was able to experience a sweet beach vacation and a grandiose out west adventure, celebrating my 50th birthday watching the sun come up over the Mesa Arch in Canyonlands, Utah. In the midst of fighting cancer, I logged 3,284,177 steps and I was on the trail 83 days, only missing  a handful of adventures due to treatments and side effects. The most difficult year of my life has also been the most glorious of adventures! And I give all praise, honor and glory to the God in whom I gave my heart to so many years ago. His joy IS my strength!

Some would argue that if He was such a good God, why didn’t He move the mountain like I had begged him too? Oh my, as I type this I shudder at the things I would have missed if He would have done things my way. Am I saying that I am thankful for cancer? NEGATIVE GHOSTRIDER! However,  had I not walked this journey, I would have missed the recognition of His mighty hand weaving the strands of my life and guiding my every step. In 2012 God sparked a desire in me for the outdoors, and after my first hike in June 2013, a passion for hiking and adventure was birthed in my soul. I can name 3 things that tried to divert my passion through the years, but God in His goodness would always just redirect my steps and lead me to another place til eventually I found my Tribe. From 2016 through 2018 I spent weekend after weekend on the trail and with each step God was with me, honing my heart for maximum strength, honing muscle and sinew to perfection, building up every aspect of my body, strengthening my mind. healing my soul, and preparing me for a battle that would inevitably attack it all. He knew that on January 18, 2019 when I received the news that I had breast cancer that I would need to be in the best physical, mental and spiritual shape that I had ever been in to endure and come out victorious. Insert that I worked for 13 years without health insurance, and in August 2018 I was hired at my new job that offers incredible benefits, my health insurance kicked in on October 1, just 3 short months before my diagnosis.

A year ago today breast cancer was my diagnosis but it was never my destiny! It is just a path to another purpose and I hold fast to the peace, joy and thanksgiving that fill my soul. Today, on January 10, 2020 I open my eyes to a new day, a new year, a new decade and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am better, much better than I was…a year ago today.

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2020 in breast cancer

 

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Of Waterfalls and Hidden Treasures

Of Waterfalls and Hidden Treasures

Everyone has things that they love to do to feed their soul (or should!) One of the things that I enjoy doing is hiking. It is a hobby I took up 3 years ago that has provided me with an abundance of opportunities to explore some incredible places in and around East Tennessee, southwestern Virginia, western North Carolina, northwestern South Carolina and Kentucky. I’ve also been privileged to meet some of the finest folks on planet earth that share the same passion for adventuring that was birthed in me from the first step on the trail. One of my favorite things to do is venture off trail in search of treasures that are hidden away in remote places that not everyone wants to take the time and the sometimes helluva of a lot of effort it takes to get to.

One of my friends had been told about a waterfall located off trail on Holston Mountain that wasn’t well known and rarely seen. On Labor Day, 2015, several of us set out in search of this fall. We located the stream quite easily and began our trek up the mountain with hopes of finding a treasure. The journey was a fairly moderate one with some small creek crossings, quite a bit of bushwhacking through the thick mountain laurel and fallen trees, some rock hopping and some uphill scrambling. However the further up the mountain we ventured, the smaller the creek became until eventually we completely lost the water source. We found ourselves standing on a boulder filled area that appeared to be the perfect place for a waterfall, we could even hear water running underneath us, however, no waterfall was to be found. No adventure is a waste of time but I do admit we were all a little disappointed that we did not find what we were looking for so we set our sights back on the trail and headed back to the car.

Skip ahead to a rainy Sunday in February, 2016 after old man winter had dumped a few deep snows around us and then saturated us with several rainfalls. Instead of staying inside where it was warm and dry, three of us from the previous adventure decided to get out and do some exploring. A few ideas were tossed around, and after considering the amount of the recent snow and rain, we decided to revisit the location on Holston Mountain in search of the unfound fall. As soon as we approached the creek, that was swelled and raging, we knew this adventure would merit a different outcome from the last. As the rains fell from the heavens and the waters sprung up out of the earth we began a journey that would prove much more difficult this time around. The creek was at least three times wider than before with deep waters rushing violently (thigh high in places!) and crossing was impossible unless we wanted to have soaked bodies from the get go. We decided to bushwhack up the bank as far as we could, using dead logs for makeshift bridges and tight-roping fallen trees whenever possible. The laurel was thicker than thieves, the rain saturating and the ground slick. Less than halfway up the journey, the only things still dry on me were the body parts protected by my raincoat and my feet sheltered in waterproof boots. After 3 hours of travailing through any way that we could, my hands and fingers were covered in dirt from gripping on to anything I could to stay upright, my jeans were soaked and muddy from belly crawls through the brush and I’m sure my face was decorated in shades of dirt and muck from the unsuccessful attempts to wipe it dry. But oh my! Our efforts were getting ready to pay off royally and the sights we were to behold, simply breathtaking.

From a distance we looked up and saw the first sights of a waterfall! The same boulder filled area we happened upon on our last visit was now covered with rushing waters falling from high upon the mountain. I couldn’t believe my eyes! The same area that had been dry as a bone before was now waterfall heaven laden with some of the absolute most gorgeous drops I have ever seen. Valiant efforts were put forth to capture this fall on film, yet it was impossible to get the whole fall – which was at least 300ft from top to bottom – in one frame. The falling rain made it even more challenging to snap a capture, but we persisted and persevered, making our way up drop after drop. I was completely captivated with each new drop, like a kid in a candy shop trying to get a piece of all the good stuff. Even the side tributaries that flowed into the main stream possessed incredible drops and cascades that were more than picture worthy, yet I was nowhere near ready to behold the magnificence that waited for us at the top.

I’m scrambling to get as many pictures as possible with the little bit of daylight we had left, I finally climb up over the last boulder and stand upright, and oh my! I knew immediately that I had been transported to some magical place. The rock wall to the left of the waterfall was an incredible sight within itself with small streams of water trickling down from its top. My eyes scanned over to the impressive waterfall that flowed out and over the top of the mountain. My eyes teared up as gasps of wonder from deep inside my soul escaped past my lips (yes I know, I am such an emotional creature!). All of the efforts had paid off – the repeated attempts, the bushwhacking, the cuts, the bruises, being soaked to the bone, dirty as crap – and we had found her! The hidden treasure was on full display right before my eyes. Heck yes!

As I stood there engrossed in amazement, I heard that still small voice that so eloquently speaks and seizes my attention. “What if you went through that much trouble to find the treasures hidden in people? Make repeated efforts when you appear to come up empty handed on the first try. Fight through the muck and dirt of their life. Weather the storm that is raging inside of them. Not give up until you find the treasure that I know is there?” Thus began another one of the priceless moments where the great God of heaven and earth stood beside me, stopping time as I know it and conversing with me for what seemed like an eternity. We talked of those who were hurting, confused, trapped inside walls of guilt and shame. Those who felt worthless, irrelevant, insignificant. Those who appeared dark and dreary to the naked eye, but to the soul who was brave enough to take a closer look, to delve deeper into the muck, would discover a treasure so grand our hearts would be astonished. He reminded me of times that I had been broken, empty and felt worthless and ashamed. We reminisced of the anger I had exchanged for pain and the fortress I had constructed around my heart to not hurt anymore (Pink Floyd’s wall didn’t hold a candle to mine!). He took me back to that glorious place on April 10, 1994 when I knelt before Him and surrendered. The moment I joined Him on my journey to find the treasures of His spirit buried deep inside my own being (talk about an ongoing bushwhacking adventure! Hello fuzzy!). Last but not least, He addressed the weariness that was lingering in my soul from what seemed like futile attempts and exhausted efforts in my life without any treasures being found. Journeys that had left me cut, bruised, wounded and vulnerable. And then I simply stood with Him in silence as this place of visitation was being forever burned into the portals of my mind.

Only a matter of seconds had passed when I returned to the present. We were running out of daylight and it was time to bid farewell to this glorious place we had discovered. I knew with every step back to the car that, although the waterfalls we encountered on this day were nothing short of a spectacular find, the greatest treasure I had discovered was a renewed sense of hope and desire to venture on His journey, embrace His plans and continue the search for His treasures that were hidden all around me.

2 Corinthians 4:6-8Living Bible (TLB)
For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made us understand that it is the brightness of his glory that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. But this precious treasure—this light and power that now shine within us is held in a perishable container, that is, in our weak bodies. Everyone can see that the glorious power within must be from God and is not our own.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Of Rocks, Trees and a Beloved Savior

Of Rocks, Trees and a Beloved Savior

I belong to my beloved, and his desire is for me. Song of Solomon 7:10

I recently had the opportunity to visit Grayson Highlands State Park, 4522 acres of gorgeous terrain in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia. With every hiking adventure that I go on, I’m always amazed at all of the beauty we encounter with each step on the trail. Our first stop was Big Pinnacle which reaches 5068 feet elevation. Rocky cliffs decorated with various wildflowers, moss and shrubbery adorn the pinnacles edge and are perfect for climbing and exploration. We ventured up the trail and over to Little Pinnacle which is 5089 feet elevation. You can see breathtaking views for miles and miles from both of these pinnacles! Our final destination for the day would be Cabin Creek Falls, unique in their own sense with two cascades resembling a heart shape as they flow downward in a slanted motion, meeting at the bottom and emptying into the icy cold pool.

The best words I could choose to describe this area is simply the hills are alive with music! The forest landscape was filled with the greenest green I have ever seen; beds of ferns as inviting as a pillow-top mattress; an assortment of wildflowers painting the green canvas with color; fire honeysuckle that shone as bright as the noon day sun; jack in the pulpits and trilliums galore. One couldn’t help but to remain in a constant state of awe with each new discovery. Sights, sounds, smells – my senses were alive and dancing with the harmonious melody of nature.

A few days before our trip, a trail friend had shared a picture with me of a tree that was growing around this rock. It resembled something from a magical land of elves and kings, and the anticipation of laying my eyes on this sight was growing inside of me. As we descended from Little Pinnacle, coming down the hill and around the corner, there he stood! Magnificent! Bewitching! Stunning! Handsome! I was overwhelmed and had to fight back the tears that desperately flooded my eyes. The way this tree had formed himself around this rock was remarkable. The way he had wrapped his roots around her and planted himself firmly in the ground, astonishing. I stared for what seemed like eternity as I was transported back to times passed. A time when this rock had stood alone in the forest, unique in her own sense, however bare and exposed. Somewhere from on high, a seed looked down and fell in love! He observed her vulnerabilities laid open for all to see as she stood there, unprotected from the elements around her. He settled in his heart the desire to leave his home on the tree, to exchange his life as a seed and become the mighty tree she needed. To come down to where she dwelt, fall upon her, break open and plant himself in the depths of her being. He knew his destiny was to love her, to be her guard and protect her forever. He would embrace her and shelter her from any storm that came her way. He would become her shield and companion; he would belong to her and her to him.

In a moment of time I saw centuries pass before my eyes and was taken back to yet another hill. A place called Golgotha where my Savior hung, naked on a cross, broken and spilled out for me. He had looked down from his home on high and saw me, standing alone, bare and exposed to the sin that threatened my existence. His desire for me caused him to leave where he was and come to where I dwelt. He planted his love in the depths of my being as he wrapped his arms around me and embraced me. He became my protector, my shield, my companion. He exchanged his life as king of existence to become my savior, to belong to me and I to him, forever. Oh my, the revelation that stirred in my heart. I wanted to shout! To cry! To lay myself prostrate on the ground and worship my Lord.

It never fails that with each hike I discover a new part of me that has been planted in the portals of time and has been patiently awaiting my encounter. On this day, I found myself in a rock, embraced by a tree somewhere in the southern highlands of Virginia.

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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The Great Channels – Beauty from adversity

The Great Channels - Beauty from adversity

This picture was taken at the Great Channels of Virginia, on the cliff’s edge, peering down at where we had come from to get to where we were. The trail was taxing at times, even to the point of having to stop to catch our breath, yet the anticipation of the destination was enough fuel to carry us on along our way. Approaching the Channels and her mammoth size sandstones gave me butterflies. Hopping along her spine was a mesmerizing invite, yet one slip of the foot would send you hurling downward 40 to 60 feet to the caverns floor (well if you were lucky enough to make it to the bottom – some places gave you the idea that you might become the next object wedged so intricately in the display!) Walking down into the channels gave one the feeling that you were traveling through a magical wardrobe into an enchanted land from ages past. It’s difficult, almost impossible to describe all that my eyes beheld! The beauty, the magic, the traces of history, trees growing out of rocks, colors more impressive than a rainbow, slithers in caverns that invited you to come in. Some led to dead ends giving you the sneaky sense that you were captured inside an old Egyptian booby trap and at any moment tons of sand would pound upon your helpless self, while others, with enough effort and maneuvering, found you in another room full of awe and wonder. The faces in the rock formations intrigue me the most. ‘Keepers of the way” as I like to call them, evidence of a lifetime I know nothing of but if I take enough time to linger, I will have the honor of connecting to those who have passed before me.

We could have lingered for days in these channels and still not have gleaned all of the riches intertwined within her. It was difficult to leave, something in my soul was just not ready to say good bye, and as we made our way back out onto the trail, we discovered a side step that lead us to the destination of this picture, the best seat in the house. With careful steps, we ventured to the edge, knowing that one false move would be the end of life as we know it. Right at the corner of the way stood this annoying little bush with barren, prickly branches that seemed to want to prohibit my arrival and rob me of the view that was mine to behold. Yet my perseverance outweighed the timidity that was rising in my throat and, wah-lah! Here I sit. Victorious! Amazed! And free! It was at that moment I heard distinctively in my spirit “Look where you are and see where you have come from.” I knew that my heavenly Father was getting ready to reveal something grand to me. My eyes gazed upon the trail below me. The twists, the turns, the ups and down and the level plateaus. My mind pondered on each step that it took to get to the destination of our journey. The sights along the way; some breathtakingly beautiful, some intriguing, exquisite, some ordinary and I’m sure some that were worthy but missed due to the concentration and focus on what was awaiting me.

The wind rustled through my hair and brushed my face like an unseen hand. It was only seconds, perhaps a minute or two that I sat on the edge, but a lifetime passed before my eyes and I saw:

A lonely child, heartbroken, beaten and afraid.

A young woman, angry, confused, stripped of worth and identity.

A wife hungry for love and approval.

A mother discovering a love so fierce that nothing in time nor space could extinguish it.

A student passionately discovering a truth that refreshed, renewed, affirmed, healed and transformed.

A minister fervently sharing the good news that broke chains and set the captives free.

A woman revealing her heart and soul, exposing the depths of who she was and how she had come to be. Bearing the scars of adversity yet standing tall, strong and victorious. Familiar with loss but embracing the blessings.

A survivor overcoming her fears.

Hungry to live, to love, to laugh, to discover.

The Great Channels – a magical place that had been formed from adversity. Had the pressure from the ice wedges not shattered the capstone, no one would have ever been able to venture inside the maze of passages and discover the beauty that lied within the heart of the mammoth stone. On a beautiful spring day in April, I found a part of me hidden in those ancient passages. My soul identified with the adversity that was necessary to break open the stone and reveal the treasure that lie within. My life resembled the trail with its ups and downs, its times of leveling out, beautiful times along the way, times I surely missed while focusing on something else, and my, oh my how many stickly bushes had wanted to prevent me from taking that next step. Had it not been for the times of adversity and pain I would not be who I am today. My heart sighed, rejoiced, lingered and somehow expanded as I sat on that edge, knowing not only had I visited a magical place full of awe and wonder, I had also found a piece of my soul and would travel home enriched, more complete than when I arrived.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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