Christmas Eve service

I go to a wonderful church in Cochrane. my pastor has asked me to speak about my cancer journey a few times and I’m always away so I finally agreed to postpone Christmas with our families and speak this Christmas Eve. I don’t know why this is more nerve-wracking to me than speaking at other events but it is.  Trying to put all of my thoughts and feelings and the physical side of the last year into a 9 minute speech is very difficult! I have so much I want to say but I guess that’s why I have this blog so I can talk as much as I want 😉  so much has gone on this last year and so much of it has been joy filled despite the circumstances so the verse that is popping into my head today is

“ The joy of the Lord will be your strength”

I hope that people can see despite my nerves how much joy has filled my heart this year and how excited I am about living life for Jesus!

When I’m done speaking at the Christmas Eve service I will post on here what I said. Come out and hear me as well as others speaking about the  hope we have in Jesus at the Cochrane Alliance Church Christmas Eve service at 4:00 and 6:00!

School talk

Today I spoke at my daughters elementary school. It was terry fox day and also hero day. The school graciously allowed me to speak about my journey through cancer, my hero and just encourage the kids to be kind to one another because we all go through difficult times. Here is my speech:

” Hello school! My name is Tiffany Haensel and I am a mom and auntie to 2 wonderful students that attend this school. I am also a cancer survivor…or patient, I’m not really sure what I am yet, but I’ve been going through cancer treatments for this whole last year. I’m sure you’ve all heard about cancer. Maybe you’ve even had someone you know who’s gone through cancer. Well I’m not going to talk to you too much specifically about cancer but I do want to talk to you about something very important and tell you about my cancer story. Cancer, just like many other things in life is very hard to go through and it can leave people feeling really sad or mad. What I want you to understand is that every single person here either has gone through something difficult, you are going through something difficult or you will be going through something difficult in the future. And I want you all to know that there are ways for you to be able to make it through that hard time. It will not last forever. Another thing I want you guys to think about, especially now that we know everybody goes through difficult times, is instead of being mean or leaving someone out who’s maybe not acting kindly to you, think about the fact that they might be going through something really hard and that’s why they’re angry or sad. That person needs a friend and someone to stand up for them more now than ever. That’s a real hero. Having A friend can help someone through just about anything. 

So now let me talk to you about my journey this past year and my friend. I found out that I had cancer in November last year. It not only was a cancerous lump but the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are little bean shaped bits of tissue located all around our bodies and they help fight off infections and viruses. Now lymph nodes are all connected through our entire body. It goes from here to here to here and all around. so when cancer gets into SOME lymph nodes, it can very quickly spread into a persons whole body and that will often cause people to die. You can imagine that that was kind of scary for me and my family. So once the dr’s knew this they started me on a medicine called chemotherapy which was to shrink the cancer. But good medicine can also come without some nasty side effects. I was so sick in my stomach that I had to lay in bed all day every day because moving made me want to throw up, I was so weak I could hardly get out of bed, my head hurt so bad I could barely open my eyes, my chest  felt like it was burning inside every time I ate, but I had to eat a lot otherwise I felt more sick, I was very achy all over my body just like when you have the flu and on top of all of that I lost all of my beautiful long blonde hair, my eyelashes and eyebrows. Not very often could I play with my kids, make them food, help them get ready in the morning, walk them to the bus or take them to their sports. Their mom was pretty much gone for a couple of months. Now that was a difficult time. After that I had to have surgery to take out the cancer. I had so much pain sometimes I had to get my husband to help me roll over in bed and get up because I couldn’t do it on my own. I had tubes coming out of my side that I had to bandage up and try not to hit or rub. My kids couldn’t wrestle with me anymore or really even hug me. After that I had radiation which burns the cancer. I had 3rd degree burns across my chest, up my neck and under my arm. It was kind of like if you got burned by touching the hot stove but it was a very large area that was burned, blistered and peeling. I had to put cream and bandages on it every morning and night and be so careful to not get an infection because I didn’t have very many good cells left in my body to fight off an infection. I had to sit in my room by myself every day for a while to let the wounds heal because I couldn’t wear anything that would be touching it. I know what it’s like to go through difficult times. But the word that I have used over and over this year is that I felt blessed. How in the world can someone feel blessed going through something like that where they could die?! But I did. You have to focus on the good stuff when you’re going through a hard time. If you look hard enough, there is always something to be grateful for. Blessings to me were things that gave me joy and that I felt grateful for. I felt very blessed to have such a good family who was willing to sacrifice what they wanted in order to help me, I didn’t have as bad symptoms as I could have, I was able to see alot of good in people as they brought my family meals, paid for me to have wigs so I didn’t have to bald all the time, and helped me with taking care of my kids. And you know how I was talking about friends being so helpful. Well I was very lucky because I had alot of friends. My family was there for me, my friends were there for me and I also had a best friend whose also my hero. his name is Jesus and He was there for me. He’s a supernatural friend and part of what I believe in. We all have different beliefs and mine is in Jesus and God. If you have a good friend or faith in a higher power that’s huge for getting through a tough time. My Faith is what has kept me going. So when I was sad, I asked God to help me and he made me happy, when I was scared, I asked Him to help me and he gave me peace. He may not choose to heal me but I know that His plan is the best plan, AND so far I know that the cancer has shrunk! In fact I may not even have cancer right now! We’re not sure yet, but it could be all gone. Many many things to be thankful for during such a hard time.

So I want you to always remember, when hard times come, they won’t last forever, there’s always something to be thankful for, and there’s always someone or something to go to for help. Either your faith, or a friend, or family or any one of the staff that works here, would love to help because they care about you. They wouldn’t be working here if they didn’t. And also remember, if You’re not going through a hard time right now, somebody else probably is and a real hero comes along side and helps out that person. So, go be a hero today! take care, and thank you for letting me come and talk to you today.“

How I’m doing after 10 months of cancer treatments

I thought I’d share today a post that I put on my Facebook account a couple weeks ago just to share how I’ve been doing lately in my cancer journey.

“I was feeling discouraged last week because even if I make it through this next year, I will never be my “normal” again. I ended up with swelling in my fingers/hands (lymphedema) because I did too much when I first got home and it’s kind of painful because the fluid is resting on my joints.  The Radiation oncologist told me I’ll have to watch that arm for the rest of my life and be careful to not lift heavy things or have anything tight in that arm, be careful with flying, shaving my armpit (it’s numb) or doing anything where I could gets cuts on that hand/arm for risk of infection, which means I’ll probably always have to wear a glove when I do a lot of things, I’ll have to ask for help instead of moving furniture on my own, and I might not be able to scuba dive or sky dive or do a lot of things I would like to do. I also might have to wear a compression glove abscess sleeve forevermore to prevent any further swelling. Not enjoyable, but this week I’m feeling like if I had to go through all of that but I was still alive in 50 years, than it would all be worth it:)

other than that thankfully be energy is decent because I have one child starting grade 1 today and going into ballet and Awana and another starting hockey and ball sports and doing preschool at home… so besides doing normal housewife duties and trying to work a bit I’ll be kept quite busy which will be good to keep my mind off of the “high risk” of seeing this cancer again this year. We will only know if it’s still there if it grows, and because it’s so aggressive, if nothing shows on CT scans in the next year, then it’s most likely gone and treatment worked. It’s good to be busy and have a giant trust in the Lord that His plan is the best plan.”

The reason for my passion

I just want to take a moment to tell you why I’m so passionate about living for Jesus. I’ve mentioned before that I feel very blessed. There are a lot of reasons for that but the biggest one is that I’m so grateful for The plan of Salvation. I believe in the Bible and the Bible teaches that if we accept that Jesus is God’s son who died for our sins, that we will have eternal life. (The famous John 3:16) Jesus has the power to forgive sins and He forgave mine when I asked Him to. I am living my life for Him because I am SO grateful!! The Bible says that everyone has sinned and that the penalty for sin is death (Eternal death which is Hell) but the gift of God is eternal life (Heaven) through Jesus. We just have to accept the gift! My sins are forgiven because I asked and I’m going to Heaven when I die because of that. Not because I’m a good person. You can never be good enough. Perfection is the only way and the only person who has ever been perfect was Jesus. Take the gift people!

The other reason I feel so blessed is because I am absolutely amazed and baffled that the God of the universe, the God who created everything, wants to have a relationship with ME, a mere peasant in the grande scheme of things. (And it’s not that I’m so special-He desires that relationship with everyone!) 

The other incredible thing to me is The fact that He designed a way to talk with me by giving me His Holy Spirit when I became a christian. That’s why I say “I felt like God said to me…” It’s not an audible voice, but it’s a feeling of His presence saying something to me. That is crazy amazing to me. So Not only do I now have peace and joy amidst a life threatening illness-gifts He gave me through His Holy Spirit- but I also have a hope that is greater than anything. I have the hope of knowing where I am going when I die because of His death and resurrection and my receiving that gift from Him. The hope that I have does not come from knowing God will heal me in this life. the hope that I have is knowing I’m walking this life with God present and loving me through every difficult situation as well as knowing when this life ends for me I will be in heaven with God. Can I get a whoop whoop?!! Now that is hope my friends! And there ain’t nothing anybody can do to take that from me! So… I am living life abundantly, peacefully, joyfully and with great hope that whether I live or die God is with me. Death is not scary but exciting! How can a person not be passionate about something so incredible?! It’s called “good news” for a reason. It’s the most amazing news!

I try not to be “preachy” because I know people don’t like that But please try not to  be annoyed or angry at someone who “preaches” to you. If this is what you believed, would you not want to tell people about it?! 

Live life abundantly and for eternity and you’ll have a blessed life no matter what comes along!

Thoughts about life

(Originally written around March/2018)

I wanted to share a bit of what’s been in my heart lately:

I don’t know why God grants miracles/blessings to some at certain times and not to others. I don’t know why he gives us what we need/want sometimes and other times lets us struggle. but I can say with confidence that I have experienced both and I can also say with confidence that God is a good and loving God so there must be a good and loving reason. When my kids were babies/toddlers, I struggled. I cried out to God every day for help but I often felt like I was drowning and defeated. God gave me little glimpses of himself and I knew he was always there with me but I wanted to be rescued and for some reason he didn’t rescue me. I was meant to go through that difficult time. 

And for some reason The Lord has chosen to give me a huge blessing at this time of my life. The Father gives his children good gifts and I have been given some of the best. And I didn’t even ask for them! I can’t describe how blessed I feel that God would choose to give me such peace, joy and strength right now. It is supernatural and God given because anyone who knows me knows that I would normally be an overwhelmed, stressed, crying mess right now. But Jesus has chosen to give me a glimpse of what it looks like to walk in fullness with Him. What it’s suppose to be like when your circumstances don’t dictate how you feel. 

That doesn’t mean life is perfect when we follow Him, it just means when the storm hits, He’s the anchor to have. He’s the only one that knows what wave is coming next, so I want Him to be guiding the boat! It’s a crazy feeling, and not easily understood but I’m so grateful for where I am right now. Right where I’m suppose to be. 

Things I’m learning on my cancer journey

(1-5 Originally written January/2018)

  1. Life is not about this life. Think eternally 
  2. Don’t worry about what you eat /striving to keep ridiculously healthy. God’s got it all figured out and it doesn’t matter too much what you do. We all have to die sometime. He wants you to enjoy life! Not be in bondage.
  3. Don’t hold so tightly to this life and the things of this life including our kids. They are His. (Ecclesiastes) Hold them loosely.
  4. Let go of control and having things done “right” and let Your husband lead, giving him grace to make mistakes. 
  5. Take the time to think about what’s great in your life. The things you’ve seen in the past and present that have been changed for the better or always were great. Be grateful for everything! Never forget what God has done. He didn’t have to give us anything, but he wanted to because He loves us.

Part 3: Feelings

I’ve written enough now for you to know that I’ve felt really good the majority of the time through this so I don’t think I need to do a step by step summary but I did want to tell you of a couple times I felt really sad/scared and some times that I felt blessed.

There were two specific moments that stand out in my mind of the times I did cry. The first one was when I went for the mammogram and the dr came in and said “This looks really bad. we’re sending you for a biopsy” That was my confirmation of what this was and I thought I was going to throw up, pass out or bawl. I cried in the waiting room that day waiting for my biopsy to be booked as I was scared of the unknown. The next time was one day when I watched my husband struggle through this and I thought about him being left here to do life without me. That part has been pretty tough when I allow myself to think about those who would miss me if I died. Thinking about my husband not having his wife, my children not having their mom, my parents watching their baby girl go to heaven before them…the list goes on. I just don’t allow myself to go there because I know God has the best plan in the big picture even if it hurts for a while.

The rest of the time, I’ve really been able to enjoy the process (minus the sickness of chemo, the pain after surgery and the annoyance of radiation burns/dressings.😉) It’s been one of the most relaxing, joyful, exciting times of my life. I’m just excited about life! And I’m so grateful for all the blessings I’ve seen and felt along the way. I was hugely blessed to have help with everyday life, to spend a lot time with my husband, to have seen answered prayers, to see God’s people using their gifts, to have had opportunities I otherwise wouldn’t have had to tell people about how great God is and how he’s helped me through this, to feel Him speak to me in a real and powerful way,  to have seen how my journey has helped others, the opportunity teach my children about being selfless and having compassion, to be able to rest and have a lot of time to myself to reflect, pray, write and study Gods word, and to have a lot of time with our families. It’s been a great year and full of good feelings about life, love and God.

I actually made up a song about how I’ve been feeling. It’s very ametuer so don’t laugh but I’m going to put it in here anyways.

”Blessings”

It’s all I think about 

It’s your love given out

 I can’t contain myself 

‘Cause blessings 

Its my eternal hope

It’s your word that you spoke

Your peace and joy and hope

 

Oh Lord you’ve given me all I need 

you are my everything

My one eternal King 

oh Lord I’m grateful for my life 

This thorn is my only plight

I’m willing to fight the fight

 

‘Cause blessings 

are your gift that’s got me through 

This trial that I never knew

But you’re asking me to continue

‘Cause blessings 

I use to serve my king 

My gifts and offerings

I’ll always seek to bring

 

Thats it. I feel blessed!

 

 

 

 

 

My cancer journey Part 2: An overview

You know how you’ve heard of cancer taking over a persons life for a year…Well, they mean it. I didn’t think it was that crazy busy at the time because I was just doing what I needed to do but looking back over the last eight months, it really was busy. Not only because of all the cancer appointments, but in between that I still had a life to live and two kids to raise. Thankfully between my mom, Jons mom and Jon, I didn’t have to go to or do everything that would normally be required of a wife/mom/friend etc.

Here’s an overview. I’ll write how I was feeling through it all in the next post.

November 7: Dr.appnt for the lump. Sent for an ultrasound and then a mammogram.

November 14:  biopsy

November 21: diagnosis-cancer. started on antibiotics for 2 separate unrelated infections which made me very sick.

November 27: pelvic ultrasound to see if cancer had spread. It hadn’t.

November 23: surgery consultation diagnosis: in-operable tumour due to size

November 28: bone scan. clear.

November 29: CT scan. diagnosis- stage 3. cancer had spread to lymph nodes.

November 30: another biopsy

December 5: 1st appointment with the oncologist

December 8: 1st chemo treatment

December 12: wig shopping. Feeling sick.

December 19: lab work

December 20: oncologist appointment

December 21: clip placement for surgery

December 22: 2nd chemo

December 25: Christmas at home. sick.

January 2: lab work

January 3: oncologist appointment

January 5: 3rd chemo

Faith and Remington start skating lessons

January 15: cardio appointment

January 16: lab work

January 17: oncologist appointment

January 19: 4th chemo. last one of that drug

January 30: lab work

January 31: oncologist appointment

February 2: 1st of the next chemo drug. unable to go to Mexico for a Berstad family holiday as planned:(

February 13: lab work

February 14: oncologist appointment

February 15: 2nd surgeon appointment

February 16: 2nd round of new chemo

Ski lessons for kids

February 27: lab work

February 28: oncologist appointment

March 2: 3rd round of chemo

March 7: 1st appointment with plastic surgeon

March 13: 1st appointment with radiation oncologist.  lab work.

March 14: oncologist appointment. Another ultrasound

March 16: last round of chemo

Remington‘s 4th birthday

March 26: CT scan

March 27: lab work

March 28: oncologist appointment

April 5: 3rd appointment with surgeon. Faith starts dance lessons.

April 17: 2nd appointment with the plastic surgeon

April 19: anesthesiologist appointment

April 20: mastectomy surgery

April 26: drains taken out

May 3:  appointment with surgeon

May 7: physio

May 16: oncologist appointment.          soccer starts for Remington.

May 18: 1st day of oral chemo meds which will end in November

May 24: physio

June 5: lab work

June 6: faiths birthday. organized a full day of events.

June 12: radiation begins

June 13-15: radiation

June 18-22: Radiation

June 25-29: Radiation.                                 Lab work. Oncologist appointmentPostponed chemo meds for a week due to burns starting.

July 1-4 Radiation

July 8: off to Saskatchewan to heal from Burns and continue with help. dressing changes twice a day which I’m still doing.

After this I will just be on chemo pills until November and then regular check ups and CT scans to monitor me.                                      And hopefully no cancer returns…             so that will be THE END!!

 

 

 

 

 

My cancer journey: Part 1

Originally written feb/2018

The story of my cancer journey started to unfold on oct 24, 2017. That’s the day I discovered the lump. When I first felt it, I thought something wasn’t right, so I told my husband. He reminded me that our daughter had just accidentally kicked me and that it was probably just from that. I wasn’t so sure. During the next 2 weeks that I waited before going in, God confirmed that for me. I wasn’t praying about it or anything at this point, but I just felt the Holy Spirit say to me:

“1. This is cancer. 

  1. I want you to listen to the doctors and not research or stress.” 

And then, the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to a miracle happened. I felt a wave of peace and joy wash over me in the face of a life threatening illness. It was a gift from God that I did not deserve, but was very grateful for. I didn’t understand at the time why I was given that gift but I began to see what God was up to over the next few months. I was excited at the thought that I could be used by God through this situation. I didn’t exactly know how that would look but I felt very sure that I was entering into this difficult time so that I could tell people and show people about Jesus love. I had prayed a couple years earlier that God would use me for His glory and that if that meant going through something difficult, then I was willing. I knew that’s what this was about. 

I felt incredibly blessed that God would choose me! Many other Christians have prayed that prayer in yet God chose me, an undeserving sinful person to carry his message of hope to hurting people. 

(The neat thing that I realized later, is that He has called all Christians to that same calling. He just uses people in different ways. But I felt like I had been especially assigned something great!)

A couple days after my initial feeling that this was cancer and excitement in being used by God, I felt like the Holy Spirit was telling me that I would die at 33 from this disease. I felt like He was saying that people would hear about Jesus at my funeral who otherwise would never hear about His love for them and that this was my way of being a servant for Christ. I was excited again!! So excited to think that my life could be used to bring people to Jesus. Quite a few months later though, I started to question whether that thought was from God or just me. I thought “Either I heard right but God might change His mind and spare my life because of the prayers of so many righteous people or maybe that just wasn’t Him.” My father-in-law said something very interesting to me. He said “have you ever answered the phone and thought that it was somebody who it wasn’t? that’s what it’s like to listen to God. It takes practice and we don’t always get it right.” that was encouraging to me and made me realize that maybe that wasn’t God but even if it wasn’t, that IS what I felt and so it was very real to me to think about my life ending and prepare for that. I started to write out my will and what I wanted to be said at my funeral. it was so crazy because it was a joyous time for me, even though there were moments of sadness thinking about leaving my family behind but God gave me a wonderful picture of him holding my family in his hands and taking care of them and I knew that I didn’t need to be worried for them. Then the whole process began…

My life in a nutshell

Originally written January/2018

Where to begin…let me first tell you about my life up until this point. 

I was born in a small town in Saskatchewan and raised on a farm just outside of it. My growing up years were wonderful. I had 2 loving parents, 2 older siblings, grandparents close by and a host of neighbors within a 10 km radius who were just about all my relatives. I loved “helping” on the farm, making forts with my siblings, playing with my dolls and cousins, going for picnics, “four-wheeling”, cross country skiing in the pines, and swimming/boating/coneing in the lakes. One of the highlights of my growing up years, and the most important decision of my life came when I was 12 years old. I had accepted Christ as my saviour when I was about 5 but at 12 years old I decided to get baptized and make it known that I would now be commited to living for Jesus for the rest of my life. When I got older I started working as a waitress and then a lifeguard/swimming instructor. After high school I moved away to New Zealand for Bible school which was a fantastic adventure and time of growth in my faith. When I was finished my time there I decided to move to drumheller and take the licensed practical nurse course. That was a difficult decision for me because I had always wanted to be an elementary teacher, But I felt the Lord was leading me to that and it turned out to be a great decision as I met my husband during that time! I took my practicum in Cochrane where he was living, we got engaged, I got a job and then we got married -all within a year! It was a very stressful but exciting year! We bought a house a couple years later and moved to strathmore. Then back to Cochrane onto the ranch my brother in law and sister run, where we are now raising our 2 children that were born in 2012 and 2014. My Life has been like everyone else’s in that I’ve had moments of excitement, pain, happiness, difficulty and everything in between…but I wouldn’t trade it for anything!