a place of abundance

"we went through fire and through water, yet You brought us out into a place of abundance" Psalm 66:12b

Guest Post About Cancer Lessons October 13, 2011

Filed under: cancer,post cancer,spiritual life — vivmabuni @ 11:48 am

The transition over to the new website www.vivianmabuni.com has gone smoothly. Thank you for all of your encouragement and love. For those of you who receive these posts via email and haven’t re-subscribed yet, feel free to click on over and enter your email in the top right hand box. For those of you who already re-subscribed to receive email posts, my apologies for the overlap.

My friend, Natasha, invited me to write a guest blog on her website: www.asistasjourney.com about some lessons I learned through my cancer journey. Please feel free to click on over and check it out.

Also, for those of you on Facebook. I have a writer page now. It’s Vivian Mabuni (how creative!) but if you look closely there is a place that says “writer” under my name (as I bite my knuckles and squeeze my eyes closed). Anyway, please feel free to “like” the page. I will update with prayer requests, book writing updates, post blogs and share blogs and other writing related stuff there.

Thanks for your encouragement. I go back and reread many of your comments when I get discouraged. Grateful for your support and care.

 

Two Years!! October 4, 2011

Filed under: cancer,post cancer — vivmabuni @ 2:38 pm

October. It’s no longer about black and orange and Trick-or-Treating. If you look around the “in” color of the month is PINK. I  have a new Hermes (oo la la) pink scarf that someone gave my mom that she passed on to me. I’ve been sporting it in honor of Breast Cancer awareness month. (see photo) This month two years ago marks the milestone when I finished active treatment (surgeries, chemo and radiation treatments). I found out this morning at my every-four-months-for-three-years follow-up appointment with my oncologist that the two-year mark is even more signficant than the five-year mark for cancer survivors. The highest reports of recurrence happens within the first two years, so that I am still NED (no evidence of disease) is cause for celebration!!! I am continuing to grow in confidence in this survivorship stage, but with a sober approach to the preciousness of life.

When news that our beloved Max died this summer, I couldn’t help but think when I saw my kids grieving what it would be like if it had been me instead of our dog. Two words that describe how I am: sober and grateful. This new season has me saying “yes” to invitations to speak at a fall retreat, on a radio program, staff conference, and at a church in the next two months. The theme that keeps tossing around my mind is: Life and Death. Would appreciate your continued prayers for health and that the words I speak (and write) would continue to point people to God.

 

 

The Beginning of the End and New Beginnings May 18, 2011

Filed under: cancer,post cancer — vivmabuni @ 11:27 am

“When this madness ends, we must celebrate by visiting someplace amazing like Italy.” Dreams of visiting Italy would get sprinkled into our conversations and during the hardest, darkest times the hope of walking about the streets of some new place helped me to stay the course and finish treatment. Leila (of the Awesome Threesome) and I would pull up our frequent flier points and occasionally look on-line to see if there were any specials. I remember sitting bald and sitting in discouragement and sitting in pain and discomfort and Leila would cheer me up with visions of faraway places. We talked of visiting Charmaine in Florence and travelling by train to Toulouse to visit Donna or Paris where Jen was now living. We discovered there was a marathon in Rome.

But then life took over and the weeks and months blurred and the everyday swallowed up the opportunities to visit the amazing some places.

We knew we would be in Orlando the first weekend of March for the annual Synergy conference (incredible conference–a definite future blog). We were inviting our friends from all over to join us. We ended up with six of us making up what I affectionately termed “the California Cohort.”  Cohort. I love that word! So, Lisa, Loi, Sonia, and Joanna agreed to join Leila and me for a heart expanding, world-changing, eyeball lifting outside ourselves and onto God kind of weekend. And somehow our conversation turned to visiting Italy in the Epcot center. Afterall, “something was better than nothing.” We booked our flights so that we would arrive a day before the conference started. We would take in Italy AND France, and the Middle East, and oh, pretty much the whole world through Epcot.

The week before we left I was online and the tickets for the Epcot center were running $82. I couldn’t see paying that much money, so I started talking the whole experience down. “It’s okay. It’s too expensive. We don’t have to go. We can just hang out by the pool at the hotel or go to the mall and just relax before the conference begins.” I was trying to let my disappointment dispel by looking forward to the other good things that would be happening that weekend. Once again, pushing down my hopes, desires, wants, dreams.

But then Joanna (fellow Triathlon 2006 team member…blogged about the Triathlon we participated in on CaringBridge) connected with a friend in California who had a daughter that worked at Disney in Florida. Around 2 am the night we arrived we got a text from the daughter with news that since her boyfriend also worked at Disney that they could get all SIX of us in for FREE with PARK HOPPER tickets!!!

YEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSS!!!!

And so we giggled and floated our way through the Epcot center. No rushing about trying to squeeze everything in. We took our time. Lingered whenever we wanted. We hit Italy right at lunch time. Handsome Italian waiters with fun to pronounce names delivered $20 salads that we didn’t have any hesitation ordering.

After lunch, we headed over to Japan to use the restroom.

And as we came out we heard Taiko drums.

My heart started pounding. Tears starting forming.

We came to source of the amazing sound and saw this:

Three women Taiko drummers.

Most of you know what the Taiko drums signify (also blogged about it  in CaringBridge). Kierstin told me that Taiko drummers play at the finish line of the LA Marathon with the sound heard a mile away–long before they are in sight. Upon hearing that, Taiko drums came to represent the end of the marathon of cancer treatment. The women drummers were symbolic of the journey I have been on trying to figure out and embrace being created in the image of God as a woman, as an Asian American woman, as a warrior, as a leader, as a Christian. Those Japanese Taiko drummers displayed both feminine beauty along with a “don’t hold back, play with all your heart” kind of strength.

And now, here at just the right time, at just the right place, with just the right people, the Taiko drums played.

They played for me.

And we all stood there and wept.

God was speaking to my heart that the end of the wilderness time had come. The Israelites wandered around in the wilderness for 40 years. God provided manna for them to eat, their shoes did not wear out. It was a unique time but not the final destination. God did not intend that the Israelites live as nomad wanderers. He was clear from the beginning that Abraham would have the land. Moses was to lead God’s people to the promised land. Joshua and Caleb reported back about the land God promised and it was all that God said and more. The wandering time was a detour time. God redeemed that time. But the wandering was only for a time. The story did not end with walking in circles. And so, with my little life, I was reminded that the cancer, post cancer wandering time was not the ultimate destination.

And so right there in the Epcot center in Florida, in Japan, down the way from Italy, God sweetly, symbolically, in my heart language, showed me that it was time to take up arms and re-engage in battle.

Game on.

I have sought to be open to opportunities that have come up now that a new chapter is opening.

In one of my bags is the readmittance form to Talbot Seminary. There is an Orange County extension class about three miles from my house  that will meet once a week on Thursday evenings this fall and it seems to be part of the next steps. This cancer book idea keeps coming back around and around. Each time I dismiss it, another reminder comes up for why I need to follow through on at least trying. I have a soft deadline to have the book ready to be looked at by an editor and for next steps by August 15th. My life is not my own. So, once again, I yield and surrender. Be glorified in my life, O God.

Here is the California Cohort in front of the cool looking silver ball in the Epcot Center.

I somehow picture that when it is time for me to go home, Jesus will greet me at the finish line of my life playing Taiko drums. And I picture learning to play from Him and welcoming each of you into heaven playing the Taiko drums with reckless abandon.

 

We, Us (x 5) January 18, 2011

Filed under: cancer,encouragement,spiritual life — vivmabuni @ 2:02 pm

Last month I had the privilege of giving the message at church. I am attempting to connect this blog to our church website here http://www.crossroadscommunitychurch.net/SundayMessages/tabid/45/Default.aspx if you want to hear the talk. While preparing I came across a new observation that I had never noticed before. The passage (Hebrews 12:1-2) is a familiar one. I’ve memorized it and studied it over the years. But this time when I read and reread it, what stood out was…

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. (Hebrews 12:1)

We, us, us, us, us, us, in just one verse. I think the author of Hebrews was pointing out an important truth about the Christian life. We were not meant to go at life alone. Probably the hardest decision we have when we struggle or are in pain is to let someone in. It is difficult, but I have found that it makes all the difference.

During the fall of 2008 my friend, Missy, and I were leading a women’s Bible study of new believers. We would meet in the food court at the Irvine Spectrum and it was clear that God was knitting our hearts together as we shared our lives and studied God’s word. After several meetings, one of women shared about an Irvine mom that she knew. This mom was an Asian “Martha Stewart.” She always looked together, her kids looked together, her home looked together, the food she made, everything she did was in a word: together. Then she got diagnosed with breast cancer and she couldn’t handle the physical changes that happened to her. I guess when faced with battling cancer, she couldn’t hold it together. She ended up committing suicide and leaving behind her husband and two kids.

That story really hit me. I remember thinking, “It’s hard to let people into the messy parts of life. I like being the “strong one” and helping others, but I don’t like being on the receiving end. I could also, so easily, shut people out of my pain.”  And I remember pausing right there in the midst of the Bible study going on, and the background sounds of the people at the food court and silently praying, “Father, I purpose in my heart, right here, right now that if anything like that ever happens to me, I will let people in.”

God was, and is, so very gracious.

Breast cancer wasn’t even on my radar that day when the story was shared and that  prayer was prayed. I look back and believe that God used that story to prepare me before I even knew what the following year would hold.

So, in keeping with the prayer and what I had purposed with God, I called Kelly, Debbie and Leila (who became and still are the Awesome Threesome). I called them and I called Missy and Terry even before I knew the results of the biopsy. I opened up and let them into my pain. And, through CaringBridge, brought you into some of the good and hard of the cancer experience.

It made all the difference.

I have tasted “we, us, us, us….” and God really knows what He’s talking about.

 

NED August 30, 2010

Filed under: cancer — vivmabuni @ 12:44 am

Last month I went in for an ultra sound to throughly check my lymph nodes, scar tissue and chest area to make sure the surgeries, chemo and radiation obliterated any and all cancer cells. I had set up the appointment without much thought and mentioned it in passing to Darrin. He asked me if I wanted him at the appointment. I told him, “No, it’s fine. I can just go.” A little while later I came back and said, “On second thought, yes, I would like you there.”

This was the same office that performed the diagnostic mammogram, ultra sound and core biopsy back in December 2008 and two days before Christmas called with the devastating news. I hadn’t been back in over a year and found it disturbing but familiar to see the cancer magazines, informational flyers, and wig and hat pamphlets. The regular screening mammogram office was on the floor below so I knew that every woman sitting in the waiting room had a higher percentage of having their lives radically altered. I was so thankful to not be alone like that first time–thankful that Darrin had the wherewithal to know that I still needed his support.

The appointment was pretty uneventful, but I was in the same room, lying on the same table, with the same machine, same smells, same sounds. It was profoundly comforting to know that Darrin was out there in the waiting room. The ultrasound tech was also a breast cancer survivor about a year ahead of me through all the same cancer treatments and it was helpful to ask her questions about crazy curly chemo hair and various aches and pains. I finally asked her what I had wondered. “I’m curious. If my cancer was slow-growing, how come it wasn’t found in the other two mammograms I had done when I was 38 and 40?” She answered, “Funny you should ask. I was just in the hallway with your most recent mammogram and I asked one of the techs to find the cancer. The tech looked and looked and then I told her that it was a 4 cm by 6 cm mass and she still couldn’t find it until I pointed it out to her.” I guess denser tissue makes mammograms less reliable or unreliable.

As she finished up the appointment she handed me a yellow paper with my exam results. She had checked off the box Normal: No evidence of cancer. Woo-hoo! NED stands for No Evidence of Disease. I’ve kept that yellow paper folded up in my notebook that I take to all my doctor’s appointments. Each test result that comes back clear helps me to exhale a little more. My confidence is coming back slowly. But I have dealt with feelings of being lost, unsure and confused for much of this summer.

Do you remember being little and swinging for hours on a swing or playing in the ocean all day or riding amusement park rides and then trying to fall asleep at night and having those sensations from the day still so close even though you are lying still? That is what it feels like for me.

I’m thankful for this new place to continue to process and ponder and to share.

 

 
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