Weightier Matters

Ender's Game

“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him.  I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves.  And then, in that very moment when I love them…I destroy them…”  These are the famous words of Ender.  They sum up so much of what I wish to share.  They are profound.  Take time to identify your “enemy” and you’ll see what I mean.  Is it my family members, my co-workers, my neighbors, myself?  Define enemy: a thing that harms or weakens something else; a person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something.  Now, again ask yourself about your enemy?

The problem I have with myself is that I don’t really understand weig10 kght.  Yep, I said I don’t understand weight.  There are two definitions. 1) A body’s relative mass or the quantity of matter contained by it – the heaviness of a person or thing.  2) The ability of someone or something to influence decisions or actions.  I believe we are always confusing the definitions.  We end up placing them on the wrong issues.  Allow me to expand.

Atlas, from Greek mythology, was a legendary Titan. He was in a lot of stories, including a story with Hercules. Atlas led a battle of Titans against Zeus which lasted for ten years. Eventually Atlas was singled out by Zeus and forced to hold up the heavens as a special punishment.  There aatlas holding the worldre several images of him holding up the world or carrying “the weight of the world” on his shoulders.  It is the symbolic image of man’s struggle with internal turmoil.  How often are we weighed down by this feeling?  Actually, I find it ironic that a feeling, something that bears no actual relative mass can create such heaviness because of the influence it plays in our decisions.  This cancer inside of me is probably one of the heaviest things I have ever carried, yet, it mays next to nothing.  It pulls at every part of my life and the lives of those around me.  It is pulling them toward a vortex, an endless hole of despair that really doesn’t exist because the Plan of Salvation leaves to place for it.

Nonetheless, I continue in the same pattern of thinking that I have always had.  It is a pattern similar to many.  I believe that gravity’s pull on my body is more important than my spirit’s.  I beat myself up over what the scale say about, pretending that this number measuring pounds or kilograms defines my character.  I highly doubt that when I am face to face with the Savior he will ask my weight.  help scaleHe may ask well I took care of the body He gave me but I can’t see Him asking for a number.  In spite of knowing this, I frequently assassinate my soul for not being physically correct.  As a result, my weight problem becomes even heavier to carry.  In turn, I punish those around me by making sure they experience the same misery I feel by vomiting my emotional weight all over them, sometimes even blaming them for the way I feel about myself.

How, you might ask, does this relate to Ender from the beginning quote?  I am finally, at age 38 getting to know my enemy.  I am learning what I want and what I believe.  I am beginning to understand how I love myself and quite frankly I have not done a good job at loving myself enough.  In the past 6 months (yep, it has been almost 6 months since the first doctor’s appointment), as I have confronted the idea that I am enough…me, Mary, this girl is exactly the way the Lord intended her to be, flaws (or delayed blessings as Elder Eyring calls them) and all.  Ironically, as I have been working to understand myself and relinquish the pain-staking idea that I have to be perfect inside and out, I have not only felt lighter, I have become lighter.  I’m not trying to lose weight anymore.  I am trying to acknowledge the weightier matters.  I thought, at one point, if I didn’t look a certain way then Josue would leave me for another woman.  He didn’t, despite my efforts to convince he would be happier.  I thought, at one point, being the best at my job would make me more desirable.  It didn’t, despite my countless lost hours away from home.  Turns out, that when I allowed others to accept me for who I am, the way I am, I like me better and the weight of the world melts away.  Businessman with the World on his Shoulders

I would encourage everyone to take a hard look at themselves.  Ask how your enemy is destroying you and seek to love yourself at a level that becomes indestructible.  Let those around you love you the way you will learn to love yourself…the way the our Father in Heaven loves each and every one of us.

 

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3 doctors in 3 days

It has been a pretty interesting week at the Barreiro house.  Maximo broke is middle toe on his right foot. He has it in a “buddy cast.”  For those of you that don’t know, that is simply what they call it when you tape one toe to the other. Maximo thinks it’s pretty cool until he has to go to sleep at night and slows down long enough to feel the ache. 

I ran a couple extra tests for the oncologist this week. I started experiencing pain in my chest muscles and made everyone nervous. Who am I kidding, it freaked me the heck out. Turns out it’s a side effect of my chemotherapy and should start going away. I was just worried about another tumor but it is exactly the opposite.  The chemotherapy is working well enough it starts to over do it and they may reduce the dosage. That could be really cool. 

As if Maximo and I having trips to the doctor wasn’t enough, Josué found himself in the emergency room after a late night soccer game.  He displaced his little finger and has to see a specialist to fix a ligament. He’s wearing a little finger mold for 10 days.  Seriously,  it’s a good thing we have insurance. We keep Idaho Falls doctors employed. 

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Take Me Out To The Ball Game

I haven’t posted in a while.  Well, I have been busy…sort of.  After the last dose of chemotherapy, I was pretty depressed.  It wasn’t because of anything really big but it felt big to me.  So, each time I do chemotherapy I have to see the Oncologist first so that he can submit an order for it.  Quite frankly, I don’t like him.  However, he has taught me something very important.

There is a huge difference between a doctor and a healer.  My doctor is always focused on the prognosis.  He is quick to point out that despite the uplifting and miraculous news of my lungs being totally free of cancer, “stage 4 metastatic breast cancer still has a prognosis of about 5 years.”  He talks about research and new information coming out.  He worries only about the science of it all.  Let me tell you, it is never easy to be reminded by your doctor that your prognosis is “about 5 years.”  Then, he goes on to tell me that because the chemotherapy is working it has now become “indefinite.”  Yep!  You read that correctly.  I will stay on chemotherapy until one of two things happens, either it stops working or I die.  Neither one of those options sound very good to me.

I spent the first week just being mad.  I was mad that I don’t have any hair, nor will I.  I was mad that I have to have this horrible feeling in my feet and hands.  I was mad that I feel tired and worn out and that’s before I get out of be.  Really, what it comes down to is that I was mad that my doctor refused to acknowledge that the faith of all the people out there pulling for me is working better than his stupid medicine.

Josue. on the other hand, is a healer.  He knew just what to do.  He called into action my family and friends within hours of my first tears.  My phone was so flooded by family that I had to shut it off to sleep.  He talked only of faith and miracles and hope.  He spoke about my kids and the power of the priesthood.  He was at my side and then he called in the secret weapon, Mom.

She came with every intention of helping me to stop thinking about myself.  We made a quilt for her first great-grandchild.  If you aren’t aware Sarah, Ann’s daughter is having a little boy in August.  The biggest blessing turned out to be the visit from my sister, Karen, for her daughter’s softball tournament.  We dropped what we were doing to spend the day frozen in St. Anthony cheering for Kylee to take second place in the tournament.  I was stoked when Karen called later to let me know that Kylee and Eric would be back in two weeks for another tournament in Idaho Falls.

During the two weeks, Josue kept me busy with little projects and the arrival of his mother, Ana.  She is now living with us.  I know that receiving your mother-in-law into your home could be rough for some but mine is a blessing.  She never tries to be my mom.  She plays with my kids because she loves them and even spends time teaching them to play the piano.  She got a job and is staying busy but is the first to help around the house.  In fact, she is way more help than my constantly complaining children who think chores are some type of horrible punishment for being born into our family.

Then came the second softball tournament.  We spent Friday being pelted by dust from wind and Saturday we were cooking in the sun.  It was awesome.  It was so much fun that I was sad to see them leave.  We even watched a couple of the games after Kylee’s team was eliminated because we were having so much fun.  The best part was that Marina enjoyed the games so well that she has the entire neighborhood of kids playing softball in the yards.  They use a plastic bat and ball as we don’t have much room.  She even includes the moms as “empires” as she can’t remember they are called “umpires.”  Eric, my brother-in-law, gave her a softball at the games and she has carried it around from house to house and in the car with her for the past week.

So, why haven’t I written, because my healer helped me forget about myself and get to work.  I was building memories with my family.  I am feeling good.  I have some nasty neuropathy in my feet but the neuropathy in my  hands has reduced drastically as they have reduced the chemotherapy dose by 10%.  Other than that, I still have no hair and I get tired but I can see the positives.  I take way less time to get ready and my Sunday naps are way more appreciated.  I know I have to keep seeing a doctor but I think I’ll keep my healer with me.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been drafting something to post but haven’t felt like it is quite right…it’s a little more personal and I want it to be as perfectly expressed as possible when I post…so all of you can hang in there, I am.

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That’s No Bull.

Josue often quotes an old Spanish proverb, “El torero no mata el torro.  El torro se mata solo.”  Translated, this means, “The matador does not kill the bull.  The bull kills itself.”  As of lately, this has been on my mind a great deal.  Now, I don’t pretend to know much about Spanish bullfighting nor do I have an opinion about all the contravercy that accompanies it.  However, I believe that traditions often teach us more than we realize at the surface.  So, I spent some time learning about this tradition.

Allow me to introduce you to the Alguacilillos.  alguacilillosThese two men start the ritual by asking the presiding government official for a key to open the gate that allows the bull to enter the stadium.  They parade in, with their fancy hats, and perform a quick little organized routine on horseback.  Then, they receive the key and open the doors to allow the bull into the stadium for the awaiting crowd to meet for the first time.

After this, will begin the first of three rounds.  The first round is dedicated to the Picadores. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA However, it is critical to the other two rounds.  In this round, two Picadores are selected to start the tandas, or passes.  These two men, on heavily padded and blindfolded horses, have the sole purpose of driving lances into the bull just behind the large mound of muscle in his neck.  This has two purposes.  First, it allows the matador to learn about the bull, understanding it’s movements and preferred charging side.  Second, if successful, the combination blood loss and the force exertepicadoresd by the bull to lift the horse up with its neck and horns will strain the bull enough to cause it to hold its head lower during the following stages of the bullfight. This is a mandatory step in the fight which makes the bull’s charges less dangerous and more reliable, enabling the matador to perform.  The angered bull now is doing two things on his own.  His heart rate is increasing, causing him to lose blood at a faster rate and he is becoming reactive as to make for a better show.

The first round is twenty minutes.  The second round will welcome the Banderilleros.  These are three matadors with the intent of driving two banderillas each, or barbed spears, into the bull’s shoulders.  This causes the bull to become more weak and to make ferocious charges.

Onto the final round.  This is the round of the actual Matador.  matadorEveryone recognizes the Matador.  This is the goofy dressed guy carrying the large cape.  This guy is largely just for show.  The bull is angry but tired.  If the other fighers have done their jobs correctly, the Matador is merely a 15 minute dance partner to finish off the bull.  However, the Matador is best known for the final estocada. While this sounds like a graceful dance move it is actually “the thrusting of the sword between the bull’s shoulder blades and through the heart.”  This is the move that earns Matadors the big money.  The move is crucial.  If done correctly, the bull dies almost instantly.

Why the famous proverb?  What if the bull, when  the gate was opened, just didn’t go inside?  What if it opted out of the whole thing?

Satan lures us into the stadium and kills us spiritually, in an ever so slowly manner.  He drives in lances of self-doubt and spears of complacency.  When we are weak and bleeding, we go back for more, believing that it will relieve the pain.  Finally, at our point of least resistance and strength, we finish ourselves off.  The bull believes it is on the offense when it goes after the movement of the Matador’s cape.  It believes it is protecting itself.  All the while, it’s charges provide an open shot for the finale.  It opens itself up to be killed.

Why must we be the bull?  We need not enter the stadium.  We can opt not to be around those that drive in self-doubt or complacency.  We have the option to hold our head high, without the increased chance of battle wounds.  If we but heed the warnings looming from the sound of “oh so appealing crowds.”  The noise coming from that stadium is not what will make us happy, it will eventually kill us.  Ironically, the average sized, less aggressive bulls live long lives out to pasture.

 

 

 

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Miles For Mary

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Those of you that missed Miles For Mary have no idea of the memory you missed out on.  In 70 days, my dearest friends and family put together the event of my lifetime.  I have no words to express what type of an experience it was, but I know it was a spiritual one.  I walked away knowing one thing without any doubt: Family is not who you are born to, it is who you are bonded to.

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Rachelle, Danyelle, Mary, Katie, Amanda

These are the master minds, minus Jorge (he always seem to be missing).  These the primary driving force of this event.  I have no idea how much time they put into this.  All I know is that every time Josue and I asked what we could do to help we were told “Nothing.  We got it.”  These nuts have been by my side through some of the worst chemo days and slowest walks that you can imagine.  They build me up when I cry about my discouragement and fill my spirit full of hope by sharing their faith.  There are not words to express the gratitude I have for them.  These are the type of friends you hope your daughter finds.  I got so blessed that Heavenly Father included them in my life at such a crucial time.

There are literally hundreds of pictures from Miles for Mary.  I can, in no way, post them all.  I love them all.  I am struggling to decide which ones to post.  So, I have decided to post the pictures that are the best representation of how I saw the event.  This does not mean I wanted to purposely exclude someone or include someone, for that matter.  It means these photos captured my emotions and thoughts in ways I couldn’t have. They are truly the meaning of what this event meant to me.

This brought together people I haven’t seen in quite some time.  It left me feeling like long lost friends are still the strength in my life they have always been.  I must comment on Superman (B.J.).  He appeared out of nowhere, after Rachel Gillette posted on Facebook.  He contributed to the run and than totally out ran everyone.  Not that it’s fair since his stride is one step to three of everyone else’s.  The other pictures are the perfect symbol of long lost friends that still mean everything to me.  My dear friend Nicole (also mission companion) left Saturday by saying “you’re in good hands.”  Oddly, I needed those words.  She is the person I call every so often when life is falling apart.  She puts me back together.  However, she has now given me permission to fully trust in the hands of those angels the Lord has given me at this time.

He is a real life super man. Yes, I spelled that all correctly.  Josué might not have super strength or be able to spin the world to reverse time but he’s SUPER!  He has been by my side for everything.  Super heroes are people that find those in need and do all they can to help them, using the unique talents they have been given.  What better way to describe the guy I married.  There are days when we are both frustrated but he forgives me for those, usually more often and quicker than I forgive him.  When I crossed that finished line, despite all the support that was there, his were the arms that refueled me more than any others.  His faith in me and our needed miracles has been a motivator for our entire family.

This is my extended family.  Some of them traveled a great distance to be there.  My cousin, Terra, told me “I want to personally thank you for your willingness to go through this trial.  I have seen miracles take place in this family in the past few months that I know are because of you…”  As much as I would like to accept the credit for such things, it is not me.  It is the willingness of this wonderful group of people to move past old feuds and move on.  Miles for Mary was a chance to heal.  It brought me an uncle that hates hurt and allowed me to hug him.  He can see I’m still alive.  I’m still going strong.  This event showed the community the strength of being part of the Stevenson and Nelson families.  These people rock.  I have male cousins that run in green tutus and female cousins that out run us all.  I have not forgotten from which stock I come.  We are pretty awesome.

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I laugh every time I look at this photo.  I love Super Heroes.  However, what makes me laugh is that I love Marvel Super Heroes.  Now, I realize that most people don’t know the difference between Marvel and DC.  Well, I do, and besides Hulk these are all DC.  I have spent years developing a healthy taste for Marvel Super Hero Comics and learning their back stories.  What is so funny is that I have, on more occasions than I can count, made snide remarks about DC Heroes.  I take them all back!  These Super Heroes, including the Mini Batman are freaking awesome.  Everyone was so incredible.  It was an honor to stand among the DC crowd.  Although, Cat Woman has a ways to go to look as good as me.

My dad used to say, “Work hard when you’re working but play hard when you’re playing.”  If anyone out there doubts miracles, please, look at my siblings.  In the past few months, I have found my oldest sister, seen selfless gestures from another, found the approval of my brother, and felt the prayers of all their children.  These are miracles far greater than no cancer in my lungs.  These are my siblings.  These are my hidden gems.  They know me better than anyone, even my friends.  They have come together at a time of most need and these gems now shine.  They are real heroes.  I want them to see themselves how I see them.

  • Teresa, you are a second mom.  You silently stand in the shadows and make sure every detail is attended to.  You never ask for a thank you or recognition.  You just get everything done.  You are a pillar of strength.  You are 100% selfless.  I want to be a mom like you.
  • Ann, adversity does not stop you.  You continue to move forward, setting high goals and reaching them.  You do not let your own mind or dark places hold you back from being great.  You are a light in the darkness.  I want to brighten people like you do.
  • Karen, you are the best example of the atonement that I have ever met.  You and Eric are the statistic that should have left the gospel and been making chaos.  But you aren’t.  You are dedicated to your faith.  You love your family.  You work to strengthen your belief in Heavenly Father.  I want to beat the odds the way you have.  I want a testimony like you have.
  • Lance, you are diligent.  That says a lot since it’s my favorite gospel word.  Everything you do is done with great care and with the focus of bettering the people around you.  I have very few memories of our dad, but I don’t need them.  The memories I have of you have taught me the life lessons he would have wanted me to learn.  You are a great man.  I want to be like you.
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Best Mom Ever!!!

Mom’s shirt says “I am Mary’s mom, isn’t that super hero enough?”  I’d like to answer that.  YES!She is the greatest mom ever.  Anyone that knows my mom knows that she does not share emotions often and that she is not likely to express feelings willingly.  However, she is probably the most emotional person I know.  She feels everything.  She cries at commercials during the Christmas season and loves Sunday naps (who doesn’t).  Since starting chemotherapy, she has not missed a week.  She comes up on Wednesday, after my shot and takes care of all the house hold duties.  She washes laundry faster than we dirty it and is now totally familiar with my grocery store (which is great since Josue still isn’t).  Mom walks around the block with me when I’m slow and sore.  She sprays the weeds in my rocks and some of the neighbors’ too.  Mom listens to me cry when I’m so scared I don’t know what else to do and she comforts me that this great Plan is designed to take care of me.  She is unwavering in her faith.  She has become such a dear friend and trusted part of this process.  The word “woman” in the Bible is used by Christ to express reverence and humility toward his mother.  The way I can fully express my emotions for Mom are “Woman, thank you.”

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Unnamed Hero

I don’t even know who this is.  However, it is the perfect photo to represent the hundreds of people that were there to support me.  They ran, not because they wanted to win a prize or break a record.  They didn’t even ask for recognition.  These people just showed up to meet a need because they saw one.  This man, whoever he is, turned out to be the symbol of all the unnamed people that deserve my thanks.

 

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My brother-in-law, Chad , created this picture. Please see his blog, Chad’s blog, as he will be posting more photos and it’s pretty dang awesome to read. However, since I’m not on social media, I haven’t read the post he posted somewhere on Facebook.  It is the best picture ever.  Besides the balloons being a huge surprise, it is just the best way to sum up the whole event.  It was perfect.  Balloons are what you give to children to make them happy or you send to the hospital as a Get Well Soon gesture.  Balloons are sent on Valentine’s to lovers or tied up for birthday parties.  These balloons, these pink balloons, are hope.  They are the reminders that even our heaviest burdens are made light as we allow others to lift them with us.  This event was epic, not because it was for me, but because of the people who where there to make happen.  I love you all.

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THE FINISH LINE

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CT Scan Results

I wanted to get my Miles for Mary posted first but it will have to wait.  We got our results back from the CT scan this morning.  First, let me tell you that I am so excited to tell everyone that I am sitting in chemotherapy, waiting for them to get me hooked up and started, posting the results.

“Impression:

  1. Excellent response to chemotherapy.
  2. The primary lesion within the inferior right breast is significantly decreased in size as compared to previous exam.
  3. Right axillary lymph nodes are smaller in size and are now largely composed of fatty hila.
  4. The pulmonary  nodules noted on prior exam are now completely absent.
  5. No evidence of metastatic disease to the abdomen or pelvis.”

Well, there you have it.  What does this all mean?  It means miracles happen!  There is no evidence of cancer in my lungs.  I’m not thrilled to hear my lymph nodes are “fatty” but that is what they are supposed to be.  I don’t think I’d like anything to be called “fatty” but in this case I’ll take it.  THE CANCER IN MY LUNGS IS “NOW COMPLETELY ABSENT.”  The mass in my breast is reduced by more than half and I can’t even feel it any more.

From here, we will continue with the chemotherapy for another three rounds.  Then, again in 9 weeks, we will do another CT scan to see if we can finish off the mass in my breast and get it down to “no evidence of disease.”  And then the wait.  We will then make a decision as to what we want to do about maintaining the “no evidence of disease.”  If we can get three years of no reoccurrence, my prognosis will change.  It will drastically change.  It could mean a prognosis change from roughly 4 years to more than 10 years.

Suddenly, I am flooded with hope.  Look what prayers do!  Look what the faith and hope of so many can change!  I am first and foremost thankful to my Father in Heaven for this miracle.  He has heard the pleading from my soul.  I believe that more loudly and more clearly, he has heard the pleadings from all of yours.  Your kind requests to the Lord have been heard.  He is listening!

I know that my life, because of this cancer, will have more ups and downs.  I know that this won’t be all rainbows and lollipops from here.  However, it is today.  I am all smiles and mostly tears of joy.  Literally, I have been crying all morning since I got the news.

Lastly, I must offer a special thank you to Moises Barreiro.  When I was diagnosed with cancer, back in February, my dear deceased father-in-law once told Josue that he had offered a prayer asking the Lord to take him instead of me.  I remember, at the time, Josue and I both thought that was such a kind gesture.  Now, it seems like a grand gesture.  He and my father are, as my Aunt Deb would say, pulling for me on the other side.

Life is good and it looks like I have a little more of it to live.

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CT Scan This Friday

This Friday is the first CT scan since starting chemotherapy.  I am pretty nervous.  I should be excited.  The lump in my breast is gone and this is a good indicator that the chemotherapy is working better than they projected.  My fear is, what if they cancer in my lungs hasn’t gone down or they find it in another area.  These are the thoughts that creep into my mind throughout the day.  I try to keep myself busy but that is hard when you are on “house arrest.”

I got a little sinus infection this week and you’d think I was contaminated with Ebola or something similar.  My doctor about freaked out when I had a temperature of 100.1.  He kept threatening to put me in the hospital if my temperature hit 100.4.  I showed him.  I just took my beanies off for a good 15 minutes before each reading to ensure my temperature was nice and cool.  Then, the darn doctor made me do a blood culture.  As if drawing blood from my chest port on a weekly basis isn’t enough, this week they drew from the port and then had to take another sample from my arm.  I had to get poked by needles twice!  They drew so much blood I had to wait a few minutes before I could leave because I had driven myself.  To top things off the doctor infused some antibiotics into my system and then gave me a prescription to take.  All this to make sure I can see me family and friends this weekend at the race.  So you all better be there because I’m going to be loaded on germ fighting antibiotics to be around all of you.

I’m confined to the house until my next doctor check-in later this week and the dreaded the CT scan.  At this scan, they will pump me full of iodine and light me up like a stop light.  I don’t know how many of you have had iodine flushed through your system but it makes you feel like you are wetting your pants.  Even though the Technician keeps assuring me that I am not urinating, the sensation is pretty real.  Then the wait!

There will be no results until Tuesday when I meet with the doctor just before another bout of chemotherapy.  I won’t lie…I’m pretty freaking nervous.  I’m tired of test results with bad news.  My fingers are crossed that something is finally going our way.  I know the prayers of everyone have to start paying off at some point.  I feel them.  I feel those prayers.  They lift me and motivate me.  Keep them coming.

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