Not Cancer + Not OK

I first heard "Not cancer!" about a month ago.

It's been a whirlwind since then-- more scares, some reliefs, and even more unknowns.

And I'm not OK.

I should be OK because I don't have cancer! But I'm not OK. I'm struggling and I feel so guilty about that. People say to me all the time, "Well at least it's not cancer!" or "At least it's treatable." So I feel like I should feel better. But I don't. 

I shared with you when we didn't know if it was cancer or not and my faith was strong. Fear still present but my faith was solid.

So I want to share with you today when it's not so solid because we need to all hear from one another even when things aren't all "God is amazing!!!!!!!" We need to hear from people when what we know is true about God is solid in our minds, but our hearts are struggling to connect to the truths.

(Don't worry, I'm not wallowing in a pit of self-pity. Words are often hard to convey, so please don't read this as melodramatic. I want to be honest with you all in the good and the not so awesome.)

I remember that afternoon after the doctor's appointment going to one of our favorite burger places and writing this on the wall:

It was unreal. Not cancer. I was crazy giddy!

It didn't get old the next day either. Or every little moment of each day following. It would hit me, "not cancer" and I'd be reminded all over again how different that day would've felt had we heard: "You have leukemia."

After a week the adrenaline started to wear off and I've felt a little stuck since then. It's been an unending rollercoaster with my health.  Had a second opinion follow up at MD Anderson a couple weeks after. That was sobering walking in there. More ideas from doctors. Then more waiting. Then more unknowns. My heart was and is exhausted.

In the midst of all this was life. Marriage, mommy to 3 young girls, friend, neighbor, etc. I have been mostly sucking at all my roles in life. Oh and during all of this, we were launching Advent with Sacred Holidays. No big deal. Just our biggest and busiest month of the year and all I can think in my head is: "Do I have Cancer? Only Jesus. Lord help me. Replace fear with faith. Your will. Your way. You are enough. Oh crap. Jesus be enough.... (rinse and repeat)."

Chris and I are doing good. I'm not dying. Sacred Holidays is blowing up awesome-- so many lives are a part of this, so many women in prison are joining us. 

I should be over joyed, right?

Yet, my heart has been exhausted, finally catching up to my body that's been off for a few months now.

I'm struggling in the unknown. My head and my heart both know all the things-- about God having a plan, that He can heal me, that He is using this, that this can be a good reminder to slow down, etc. I hear the answers in my head and I've heard them from so many as I share my funk with them. 

Here's what I'm learning: It's easier to trust God when there is a sense of control or absolutely no control, for me at least. I had no other hope but Jesus a month ago. There was nothing I could do to manipulate or control my numbers on those tests. Nothing. I'm excellent at getting things done, and I could do NOTHING. So trusting God, even with something as scary as leukemia, was easier than this wait of "we just don't know yet but we know these numbers tell us something is going on." The wait, regardless of what it is we are waiting for isn't fun for any of us!

Oh how I wish it was as easy as: sleep more, work out more, drink more water, etc. It's not.

We all find ourselves here often, don't we?

I don't have a pretty way to wrap this up. No answers for you.

Other than my heart and my head still know fully that Jesus is enough for all I'm going through, and whatever it is you are carrying. I also know He will use this for His glory and my good. Those things I find such confidence in!

When I was waiting to hear, "Cancer or Not Cancer," I could not stop reading and praying Isaiah 43. I made this print out and pasted it all over my house. You can get it by clicking the link below. I've customized it for what I was going through, but you can still use it, or make your own. I pray you are as encouraged as I have been reading what He says is true about Himself, us, and our situations of unknown or waiting. 

I've been excited about all the studies we've put out with Sacred Holidays, but I'm especially for this years-- He Is: The Attributes of God. This whole study focuses on a different attribute of God each day, and I so need it.

I would love for you to join me! Click the image below to preview the studies.

If money is an issue, go here and we have some discount codes available. 

I don't want it to be cancer

We weren't sure if we would share this publicly. We had actually decided not to. But this weekend I felt like I needed to. I hope this connects with you and encourages some of you. I don't ever want to be an over sharer on the world wide web. But I've also learned that vulnerability, as scary as it can be, is also crazy beautiful. Vulnerability unites us. Allows us to share our "me too"s. Vulnerability allows us to come around one another, in a world that is full of facades and filters. 

So here is my vulnerable share today. My offering to you. My offering to the Lord. 

Two and a half weeks ago I sat in a doctor's office and heard the words, "It could be cancer."

I know. What in the world?!

Two months before that I had gone to the doctor because I was ridiculously tired. Not the normal, I have three kids and run a ministry tired, but that times 10. Imagine a 90-year-old going through their first trimester in pregnancy and then you'll have an idea of the kind of tired I'm talking about. This night owl was falling asleep every night by 9pm even after taking a nap during the day. I hate sleep. When asked what super power I wish I could have it would be the ability not to have to sleep. It feels like such a waste of time. (Please feel free to laugh at me. I know I'm ridiculous.)

I thought that I might be depressed. The last time I could remember feeling "off" like this was when I had Post Partum Depression after having Moriah. So I went to the doc.

Thankfully he was thorough and said, "I can put you back on anti-depressants to see if that helps but I want to run a few tests too." (Friends, I cannot stress to you how important it is that you get your annual physical (and if you are a woman, your annual other doctor appointment).)

A few days later I got the call, "Mrs. Kiser, we are going to need you to come back in two weeks so we can re-test you. Your white blood cells were mildly elevated. It's likely nothing, could be elevated from stress, but since you weren't sick it is unusual, so we just want to re-check."

I thought nothing of it and went back two weeks later.

Then I got the next call a few days later, "Mrs. Kiser, your white blood cell count went up some more and your platelets have risen too. We are going to need to refer you to a Hematology Oncologist just to get things checked out. Again, no need to worry because they were just mildly elevated, but you do need to be seen by a specialist." After further questions, because that's what you do when you hear Oncologist, I learned that a Hematologist (blood doc) is also an Oncologist (cancer doc). I could have anything from nothing at all, to a blood disorder, to a "very slim chance" of cancer. Again, they repeated the words mildly elevated, I took a deep breath and relaxed.

Two weeks I had to wait. 

The Lord was so sweet during this time. He knew all of this. He knew I would need both some rest and time to process. A trip, I had booked months before any of this, to Colorado was three days later.

I needed that time away to process. It was a retreat for dreamers and doers. To get to dream about what I would do next, in light of what I could be facing, was life giving. The perspective gave me courage to dream bigger and also courage to not chase other dreams. I had perspective of what actually mattered. (I need to blog about this another time.)

I tend to be an under-reactor when it comes to medical things. One of the gifts of having had so many surgeries and medical issues in high school and college, it gives perspective. My friends and family however, took this seriously. I didn't tell very many people because I honestly thought it was no big deal. I had heard "mildly elevated" from the doctor's lips enough times to leave me unconcerned. Google proved that it could really be anything, so why should I waste time worrying? My closest people rallied around me-- praying and watching kids and going with me to the appointment.  

The wait was over. I snapped this picture as I waited, knowing that for the coming months, if not for the rest of my life, this appointment would be a marker of before this day and after this day. 

I was sitting before the Hematologist, trying my best to crack jokes that would make him laugh. He didn't bite. I'm OK with that. I don't need to be besties with my doc. I prefer for them to be smarter and more focused than I tend to be.

He asked lots of questions about my history and how I was today. He went over my previous lab results. He pushed and poked all over.

Then he tried to explain what it all could mean as best he could in common person english (which is hard for really smart people, again something I don't mind). He said it could be many things but he narrowed it down to what he thought was most likely going on: a rare blood disorder or leukemia.


"Excuse me?" I actually said that to him. "You actually think I could have cancer?" To which he finally laughed, as if I finally understood why he was taking all this seriously, and said, "Yes."

It could still be anything. I know that. He also said that some people test high but have nothing going on. So I know it could be anything. I know it could be the rare blood disorder that only takes a baby aspirin a day to keep controlled.

But cancer is an actual option.

He spelled out the kind for us, Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. They call it the lucky cancer if you have to get cancer. 10 years ago it was a death sentence. 10 years ago no one lived longer than 5 years. They've had a big breakthrough and there is a medicine now that will hold the cancer stable (since you can't technically go into remission with chronic cancer) if it's caught soon enough. A pill a day, that's all.  For those that have this diagnosis, I've read it's not as easy as that. Chronic cancer means it doesn't go away, not even with a magic daily chemo pill that doesn't make you lose your hair. 

Cancer is cancer and cancer sucks.

So now we wait until this Wednesday, Oct 19 at 11:30am CST.

Why am I sharing all this with you? I honestly don't know. Other than I've been telling Chris since the beginning I think I am supposed to. And this weekend it felt clear that I should, that I needed to even. I hope its so you are encouraged. I hope it's so you have some perspective. We never know what others are dealing with. But if I'm honest, I really just want you to pray. 

Pray for this to be nothing.

Pray for healing. 

Pray for me to be OK and trust God during this wait. 

Pray for Chris. This is more for him to bear. This will mean as much for his life as it does mine.

As we've started to share, the first question I get is, "How are you? How is Chris?"

We are OK. Some days good, some great, some pretty low.

Right now we are pretty good. We are making lots of jokes and I am trying to milk this for all I can. I got to have a shopping spree the other day because it could be my last. :) (FYI: It wouldn't be. Again, lots of treatment options. Just me being me. I've told a few friends when I stop joking about this then they can get worried.)

I've cried and been sad at the possibility of what could be. No one wants this. This mom with 3 little girls really doesn't want it to be cancer. Not only do I want to be alive to see so many of their days but I want to live each of those days fully.

But I also know I'll be OK regardless of what the doctor tells me on Wednesday.

I'll be good even. That whole peace of God that passes all understanding is so true. It's not even a longing for heaven thing because I want to live, even though I don't fear death. Paul said that too-- to live is Christ, to die is gain. I don't want it to be serious-- there's a lot more living (for Christ) I'd like to do!

Even so, regardless of what the coming weeks bring, He is so good. (Endless scriptures prove it.

His ways have always been better than the stories I try to write for my days. (Isaiah 55:8-9

I don't know how He is going to use it yet but I know He will. (Jeremiah 29:11-14

The day after I found out the possibilities, I was scheduled to speak at a women's retreat. I wanted so badly to cancel but I knew I couldn't. I knew God was in this. And it was at the beach. I've often said that my chosen sanctuary is the beach. I love my church wildly but God's presence is never more tangible, for me, than when I'm at the beach. When you see this, it's hard to deny Him. 

They had chosen the theme and the verses-- God Will Not Desert You from Isaiah 43. For weeks I had been studying the theme of God never deserting His people in scripture. I thought it was for them, and it was, but it was also for me.

Would you join me in praying this?

Little snippets from Isaiah 43 (plus some side notes from me):

Thus says the Lord (master over all things), your Creator,... He who formed you (every cell in my blood stream-- healthy and potentially cancerous)... "Do not fear (He sees that I am a little scared), for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine (He cares about me just as I care about those who are mine)! When (not if) you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you (even if they come chin deep). When (not if) you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched (remember shadrach, meshack and abednego-- in the fire, never singed), nor will the flame burn you. For I am the Lord your God,...Since you are precious in my sight (He sees you), since you are honored and I love you (not just the world, but you specifically),... Do not fear (He knows that even knowing all these things I'm still afraid), for I am with you (he doesn't desert us in our fears)... You are my witnesses and my servants whom I have chosen (He will use even this to share about His goodness, He chose you for this), so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He (let all of this draw you closer to Him). I, even I, am the Lord, and there is no savior besides Me (no baby aspirin or chemotherapy or trial study group can save you). ... Thus says the Lord, who makes a way through the sea (remember how He did something so insanely awesome as parting a sea in half for His people?!!!) and a path through the mighty waters... Do not call to mind the former things or ponder things of the past (this seems strange to not think about what has happened, but He is saying He can do even greater things that what's happened in the past-- so move forward with Him!). Behold, I will do something new (this new you don't know because it has never existed-- brand new), now it will spring forth (you don't have to wait 3 weeks for Him to move); will you not be aware of it? I will make a roadway in the wilderness (what?! amazing!), rivers in the dessert (not just provide water but will bring about an entire river!) to give drink to my chosen people. The people whom I formed for myself will declare my praise."  

I printed these verses out and taped them on my bathroom mirror and fridge. I pray them over myself multiple times a day. If you would like to join me in praying, I'd love for you to download these verses too and pray. 

Finally, (and I promise to wrap up this world's longest post) I have to share something from this past Sunday at my church. We sang a song I know I've sung a thousand times and this time it quite literally threw me to my knees. The tears couldn't be stopped. 

I give you my life / I give you my trust / Jesus / You are my God / You are enough / Jesus, Jesus / My heart is yours / My heart is yours / Take it all, take it all / My life in your hands / I lay down my life / I take up my cross / Jesus / You are my God / Whatever the cost / Jesus, Jesus / All to Jesus I surrender / All to You I freely give / Oh I will ever love and trust You / In Your presence daily live

I give you my life. So many times I have sung that song, I was actually in the crowds of the video below. I would open my hands wide open, imagining Him taking all my plans for my life and in turn accepting His plans for my days. I had always opened up my plans, never my actual life. I have never sung those words and thought my life as in my existence. To sing these words with that perspective was heart wrenching and freeing, sobering and beautiful. It was a powerful moment I will never forget. 

You see, that morning I had woken up anxious. Racing heart like you get after you have too much coffee. I couldn't settle. I had googled the day before (stupid, stupid thing to do) and it left me filled with fear of what could be. I heard stories of what the worst case scenario could be. It didn't feel lucky. 

I opted for dry shampoo instead of a shower, and I pulled out my concordance and looked up every verse on anxiety in the Bible and I wrote them out. 

If you are dealing with anxiety about anything-- big or seemingly insignificant-- I highly recommend this. Not a bandaid quick fix but continuous hope.

I can't encourage you enough to fill your mind and heart with words that are true and bring life. It will help you in surrendering your life. 

So now we all wait together... Thank you for joining me and Chris in the wait. I'm so grateful. 

So will you pray for me? of us?

This Wednesday, Oct 19, 2016 at 11:30am CST we will know. 

We will let you know as soon as we can.

Not sure if it will be on this blog (subscribe in right column for updates), Instagram or Facebook. So you are welcome to follow me on any of those places to get updates quickly. 

If you are dealing with some health issues as well, I highly recommend these two sermons: 

Jesus Heals a Blind Man (Thoughs on Healing) from Mark 10 by Jason Shepperd at Church Project  (my church home). (This sermon was preached last week. So timely. He shared a little bit about our story as well. Our church family has been so good to us during this.)

Death and Life in Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi at Houston's First Baptist (our old church home).

Letters to My Daughters: You are Beautiful

At least once a day I over hear this conversation between you and your Daddy:

"What does Daddy think of you?"

"That I'm so beautiful."

Years ago he read an article about girls and their self-esteems. The study showed that the girls that heard they were beautiful from their dads frequently grew up with higher confidence in their appearances. Your Daddy, being the most intentional person I've ever known, started this conversation with you each that night and has repeated every single day since.

I've heard your your little toddler selves stumble out the words "I am so beautiful" in a variety of ways. That's a big word to say! Each time my heart melting a little more.

You believe you are beautiful.

When I tell you that you look so beautiful, you respond: "I know."

You don't hesitate. 

You don't force those words out.

You know that you are beautiful.

There will come a day you will understand why we tell you this so often. There will be a person who says something horrible. There will be a pair of pants that just don't button like they used to. There will be a magazine cover that shows you what your abs "should" look like or that thighs aren't mean to touch. You will hear others object to compliments and infer that they must be lies you've been told too.

And you will hear that you aren't beautiful.

You aren't living in ignorant bliss right now, the rest of us are living in lies.

I don't want you to hear them and I so wish I could shelter you from them forever. I can't. You will hear them. I fear that you will believe them, like every other woman that has gone before you.

But when you start to listen to them remember that your Mommy and Daddy think you are beautiful.

Remember that the definition of beauty changes with each generation. I used to wish I was born in the days of corsets because I could've rocked those outfits and been the ideal body type of that generation. This generation of extreme working out and nutrition and lean is beautiful, well, my tummy just doesn’t fit the mold.

I've struggled with body confidence my entire life. I've shamed my body. I've cringed in the mirror. I've wept in dressing rooms. I've starved myself and taken pills. I've dieted and cleansed and joined groups. I've never considered that I was beautiful because the mirror told me a different story.

This is ridiculous. These I lies I've believed for too much of my life and I don't want you to waste the same energy I have. 

So we don't do diets in this house. We don't do extremes with food or working out.

We work hard to love ourselves just as we are. We try to take care of ourselves too, that's a part of loving ourselves. But we are not slaves to our scales or mirrors or pants size. Magazine covers don't tell us what is or isn't beautiful.

Our Daddy does. 

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:14

You, my daughters, are beautiful.

I get lost looking at you so often. Your profiles as you watch TV next to me. The way your eyes sparkle and disappear when you laugh. Even that pout on your face when you argue makes my heart swell (when it doesn't make me want to roar). The way you dress with free expression and dance without awareness of others (or rhythm). When you hug one another without prompting and say I love you first. When you try something new and when you try something again after failing.

You are beautiful.


{To read all the Letters to My Daughters, click the image below.}