Good news, golf and grief…

“We would cut away a portion of your skull, lift your brain and take out the tumor. Afterward, you would look put together, but you would have lasting effects.” (“And there is a morbidity risk…” that is doctor talk for YOU COULD DIE!)

There are some things it’s good you don’t know. It’s really good I never knew this was the possible process of biopsy or removing my tumor until today (July 14, 2017) when I found out my tumor continues to shrink and the MRI and Petscan look good. I thanked Dr. Su (who, btw, I love and wish she lived close enough that I could be real life friends with her) for not telling me this information before.  Now I understand why it took them several weeks to decide the course of action for my treatment.  I also learned that before proton therapy, surgery would have come before standard radiation and I would have had a 10% chance of being alive in 5 years. Now, we think there there is a 90% chance of me being alive in 5 years. (The cancer I had is so rare, I am one of the first couple of people to be treated for it – not sure if this is at MD Anderson or in the nation. Adeno carcinoma in the nasopharyex is more prominent in Europe, but proton therapy is not, so there is no data to stage the cancer or make educated predictions. My understanding is that Adeno Carcinoma is very responsive to both proton and standard radiation.  Because of the location of the tumor, proton therapy was the much safer option.  That being said, I am indebted to doctors, scientists, and physicists who discovered this technology, and to Humana, who covered my treatments when Aetna wouldn’t.  It saved my life and my life savings. Humana a great wellness program for members too.)

Sometimes “all the facts” are food for anxiety, and poison for hope. (So stay off webMD!) The information may be true, but it’s truth that would not have been useful for my healing during the hard days.  

I know I’ve talked about dealing with anxiety in my 20s and 30s.  The past weeks have been beautiful evidence of God’s work in me.  I had several people ask the week before I left for Houston if I was nervous.  I had to ask them what I would be nervous about.  My trip was the farthest thing from my mind.  I was thinking about work and kids and what was for supper.  (Speaking of dinner, Hello Fresh has changed my life! I can cook a meal now without great anxiety or resentment.  It’s a new skill! Send me your email or cell and I’ll save you some money.  My friends have jumped on the bandwagon with me & love it too.  Thanks Mom & Angela for getting me started.). I realized I live today, today.  Tomorrow, I will live tomorrow.  It’s a beautiful and peaceful thing, a gift from God.  He taught me a new skill set for life just as Hello Fresh has given me skills in the kitchen.  He gave me Philippians 4:6-7 as life verses 5+ years ago.  He has slowly increased that to include verses 2-8, and the revelation of these scriptures has completely changed my mental health.

Philippians 4:6-8

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.  Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.

I took these words literally, little by little, starting with praising and petitions when I wanted to worry.  Praise and thankfulness are a mighty weapon against the negativity of our minds. 

This week, one of my Facebook friends asked a political question that sparked my memory.  I quit watching the news the night I got the call that I needed to be at the doctor’s office the next day because something was wrong with my MRI.  When I got home from Houston, I would turn on Good Morning America before I took the kids to school, but I would pause it.  Then, I would fast forward through the negative junk that was mostly opinion, and watch the uplifting parts. Turns out, there were not that many unplifting parts, so I quit. In fact, I’ve mostly eliminated TV from my life (I do watch When Calls the Heart on Netflix. Although Today I watched the last episode… crisis😣), and I am happier than I remember being before in my life.  

Golf

Roughly four days a year, I get paid to play golf.  (THAT MAKES ME A PROFESSIONAL, RIGHT!  Ha! Take that Hinrichs clan! You may all play golf, tennis, and corn hole better than I do, but I’m the paid professional!) In reality, I’m terrible because those are the only days I play golf.  Thankfully, the event planners know that and put me on a team with people who can carry me.  Last week, I played with three semiretired men.  Three grey haired men and me.  This year, I was even worse than normal.  I’m not quite back to my normal strength.  

One of my teammates is just the greatest man.  He told the most beautiful story of God leading him to retire that again strengthened my resolve to live in obedience to the Holy Spirit.  He is a leader of leaders and well respected.  I haven’t met his kids, but I’ve been told there are pretty great, like their dad.  I noticed that every time I hit the ball he would find something good about the shot.  This had to be a challenge, but he would find an honest and positive statement every single time.  At first, I took it as just being nice and overly positive.  I wondered about his authenticity.  As we played, I noticed that he did the same thing with the other guys on our team, and they were pretty good. He really celebrated each of us as we played.  About 15 holes in I finally had enough.

“Ok.  I have to ask a parenting question.  Were you this uplifting with your kids when they were playing sports?” (He is a good athlete, and his kids are too.)  His answer surprised me.  He said he was.  He said he knew althletics came easily to him, and he always wanted sports to be about the fun of the game for his boys.  He tried to encourage them and make sure they were having fun.  From spending the afternoon with him, I suspect he is this encouraging in every aspect of life.

I know I have a pretty critical eye and tongue when I let my true colors out.  In life, I’ve learned through many social disasters to keep it to myself, but with my kids I let it out.  I’m afraid I have forgotten to remember to enjoy the fun of things.  I’ve focused on what needs to be improved on, rather than finding and celebrating the good.  I have known, and have been working on changing this, but my experience this day hammered home the point.  You know what happened as he encouraged? I felt safe.  When I felt safe, I asked for instructions on how to improve my game.  He was very helpful!  He has the reputation for being a great coach, and I have to agree.

As I have bit my tongue with my kids, I have noticed they talk more.  They let me deeper into their lives.  They ask for suggestions on things more.  I wish I had done this with Ty and Emma when they were younger.  I just really thought I was my job to help them be the best they could be… at everything.  I’m thankful that Deacon gets the refined mom.  

Grief

This year, we have learned what it is to live in grief.  We have learned the struggle and the beauty of it.  We have also learned what it is to be carried and supported by a community.  We understand the significance of card and texts and quick phone calls when you are hurting.  I didn’t get that before.

This month my sister-in-law and brother-in-law have each lost a parent to cancer. Several of my friends have lost their parents in the last few weeks.  Our community has lost a much loved young man. I have friends who have lost their health while mine is returning.  Even having gone through what we have, I realize I still struggle with the awkwardness of how to mourn with those who mourn. My tendency is to crack jokes in any uncomfortable situation (which can be a disaster), but sometimes people just need you to be: to listen, to sit quietly, or to go about the business of life until they are ready to stop and mourn.

I’ve learned what not to say: “God needed them more than you did.” “It’s God’s will.”  “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” PLEASE STOP! These are not sound teachings.  The book of John tells us over and over the God is the author of life, that Christ came that we may have life and have it to the full.  It tells us that He will work all things together for good for those that love him and a called according to his purpose. Silence is better than lies made up to fill the void or to answer questions that have no answer.

I guess I also realize I could lose my parents.  Although the whole concept seems kind of insane. My maternal grandparents are still alive and doing well.  I can’t even put my parents in a category that they are old enough to get sick, much less die.  They are so full of life and health. They still try new things (ok, mom more than dad😂), and work, and ride bikes most days (If you see a guy riding on the rail to trail in 90* heat with jeans, long sleeves, gloves and a wide brimmed hat on, that’s my dad.  I love him and I am proud of him, even if I question his fashion choices at times.  At least he’s not wearing spandex.  Cause I’ve seen some of you this week & you need to leave the spandex at home. Oh wait!  if you want to let it all hang out, I guess it’s your business.  And I will try to find something positive and true to think about it.  Thank for the opportunity to practice my new skill.)

I found this online and want to share. I don’t know the origin or the author to give credit:
He Was Grieving Over The Death Of His Best Friend, Until An Old Man Told Him THIS. Mind Blown.
POSTED 1 YR 118 COMMENTS  From the depths of old internet comments comes another incredible gem of a story. One user wrote the following heartfelt plea online:
“My friend just died. I don’t know what to do.” 

The rest of the post has been deleted, only the title remains. However, the helpful responses live on, and one of them was absolutely incredible. The reply by this self-titled “old guy” might just change the way you approach life and death.

I’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people I’ve known and loved did not. 

I’ve lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can’t imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here’s my two cents…

I wish I could say you get used to people dying. But I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter”. I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. 
Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.
As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.
In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.
Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.
Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. 

If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.
Blessings!
P.S I tried to find a picture of skull surgery online… way too gross to put on a blog post! 😳

PPSS Tell me about a time positive words changed your life.

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10 thoughts on “Good news, golf and grief…”

  1. My father passed away a week ago. It has been the worse thing I have ever experienced. The waves explain it perfectly.

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  2. I received a note in the mail one day that said the most beautiful words, “I’ve been watching you and want you to know how you effect our community with your love, keep up the good work.” I framed it and put it in my closet. When I’m down on myself I read it.
    Great post Katie!

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  3. Kate girl I get to read your blog post and therefore get to know you way more than you know me, but let me just say you are such a kindred spirit and I think so much the same as you – it’s actually a little scary. And I so need Hello Fresh…period. I actually already set up an account with them but haven’t followed thru. Please send me savings 270-254-6126 😊👏🏻. As far as encouragement, one of the most encouraging things in my life is getting to work with and be close with Candice. We too are much alike and I love how she loves Jesus so genuinely. Being around her makes me a better person. There are many days we cannot hardly get started on our work because we are discussing scripture we’ve just read that morning that jumped off the page so fresh and new even though we’ve read it many times before or parenting fails/victories, marriage fails/victories or simply how God spoke to our spirit so gently about how we spoke out of turn or said way too much or not enough and sometimes how we did “it” (whatever it is) just right… it’s endless. I’m so thankful for girlfriends who genuinely love Jesus – girls like you and Candice are such a blessing and encouragement to me. 😘

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  4. Katie, well spoken as always. Love your honesty and raw truths.

    I was told by two different folks this week that they were proud of me and that my story is still being written. One said that she can see a much calmer, at peace, Mel and the other that my valley will be used to help others who may end up where I have been.

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