Stayin’ Alive

I’ve tried to calculate how many Keytruda/Alimta treatments I have had since being diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in July of 2019. Since I’m too lazy to go through the insurance papers to be exact, I tried to estimate and do the math myself (quit laughing). Anyhoo…. it seems to me to be around 34. If I told you the total $$ amount you wouldn’t believe it and you might say I’m not worth it..ha. I’ve been blessed to have excellent care, experienced 34 blood draws, met angel nurses and watched patients arrive alone or with caregivers.

And also let me say we’ve made 34 left hand turns at NEA Baptist, and we locals know how dangerous that is, don’t we?

Keytruda is, for my body, a miracle drug. I wish so much it was for everyone… but it’s not. The doctor describes it simply as a key for a lock…… and after lots of testing, mine matched. Optimistically speaking, the drug is now being used for melanoma, some bladder cancers, and also being tested for others. Similar immunotherapy drugs are being discovered as we speak. I want so badly for them to work for every cancer patient, and I believe one day they will. For the time being I’m surviving. My side effects are minimal and manageable. I’m definitely the fortunate one…I’m slower, I stay home more….I’ve finally come to grips with retirement and and am in awe of my grands and the joy they give me 24-7…..little stinkers.

I couldn’t help but think of this song when describing my situation…. I also have to apologize to my brother Mike who, when I came home from college with this CD, told me it was crap and that all disco was crap. Oh, brother Mike, how I wish you were HERE!!! We would laugh long and hard about that.

Those of you who have walked the cancer path, either yourself or with a loved one, are well aware of the incredible challenges. Those challenges are often as much mental as physical, aren’t they?

I’ve dealt with every emotion imaginable since my first breast cancer diagnosis in 1997. Before that I watched my precious mother suffer and die from breast cancer.


I was young. Newly married. Living in a bubble of love, the future and all the possibilities of a perfect life when she had a recurrence five years from diagnosis and died. I prayed for her to live. I prayed desperately for her to live. I could not understand why God was allowing such a good Christian person to suffer and die when I selfishly needed her so badly. I was shaken. My faith and my perfect life was shaken. Remember that it was 1985 and there were few medical options.

It was at that point I started to question. And trust me when I say I still don’t have all the answers…but I’m sure a lot closer now than I was then.

Romans 5:3-5

Not only so, but we[a] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

I. love. this. scripture.

I recently sat at home on a Sunday morning because I felt rotten. My hip was killing me and I just couldn’t find it in me to maneuver getting to Sunday School and Worship. I was channel surfing, waiting to listen to my pastor on facebook , when I landed on a channel with a minister preaching on this scripture… boy did it hit me.

The first part was just thinking about what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown spiritually since all of the stinkin’ cancer stuff decided to visit. Talk about perseverance and character.. how about;

  • learning to prioritize
  • appreciating my family, my friends, my church
  • a realization that living a life of purpose and legacy matters
  • recognizing pretentiousness as well as honesty
  • having hope that this life is just the beginning

But you know what? It was his take on the shame part that hit home the most. We Christians seem to be pretty certain things should go our way…. and when they don’t we shame ourselves and imagine that others shame us because illness, failure, heartache must surely be our fault, the result of our shortcomings.

It’s not.

We are human. Things happen. Illnesses, loss, ………Isn’t the answer to walk through it all….day by day….searching for what we can learn, how we can help others. and yes, to persevere and build character, always having hope.

Beauty all around

It’s no secret that times are hard. So dang many issues to deal with…So many folks at “odds” with friends and neighbors over these issues. Issues that are really important to our country, our families and our churches. A good friend told me she just wanted to stay in her bubble….and I totally get it…….Unfortunately it’s my teacher nature to want to fix things…and of course I can’t. So I spend lots of time on my patio. Jack has planted beautiful flowers for us to enjoy and enjoy we do. Not just flowers but lots and lots of music. Mostly oldies because we are oldies, but we throw in a few newer options occasionally. Our sweet neighbors may or may not agree….especially at 6:30 am.


I often call myself the “cancer whisperer” but that’s ok. I try to talk and encourage others walking the path. Trust me when I tell you there are friends in my life who have done the same for me and have made a huge difference in my outlook and my journey. If I can help one person with my words, a hug or a listening ear or a nod of understanding, it will be God’s gift to me.


There is hope. Always hope. There is prayer for a better day, for healing, or simply for less pain. A gentleman in my Sunday School class commented that it wasn’t about “What would Jesus do” but instead it was “What Jesus did”…..hmm. I didn’t totally agree. I think every day we live we need to follow the example of the one who sacrificed for us.

Shout out to my Methodist friends…this John Wesley quote says it all.

Hope….for life

I know you heard my desperation a couple of years ago when I thought my beloved crepe myrtle was dying. It looked horrible. The black, sticky junk was all over the tree and all over the patio. I was heartbroken. But then we had it treated and we crossed our fingers. We hired an Arborist to come trim.. and low and behold it lived. The blossoms are falling this morning like snowflakes.

It’s alive.

Sometimes life gives us lots of black, sticky, messy stuff we have to treat. And we have hope that either it will be healed now,… or ultimately in the future.

So what are my thoughts today? I’m drinking awesome coffee, just visited with a dear friend while wearing the pjs she bought me for my birthday (TMI)…..I’m thinking about what I’ve learned since 1997….but more specifically since 2019 and the latest cancer diagnosis….

Just a few things

  • To love and cherish my family, sometime obnoxiously so
  • To have empathy not just sympathy
  • To appreciate beauty in everything..the smallest of things
  • To be a friend, a good, good friend
  • To show people I care
  • To forgive more, to blame less
  • To share love and acceptance of all of his children
  • To be thankful in all things….especially medicine and really smart doctors

And finally….. to have hope.

Stayin’ Alive….right?

Published by swcall58

I'm a wife, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother....a retired choral director living with stage 4 lung cancer. My faith sustains me and my writing is therapy. Day by Day.

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