Here we go again! It was time to get my game face back on and jump into the ring for round two yesterday. I have to say, my “fighting spirit” wasn’t quite as strong as it was going into round one, primarily because I now know what I’m getting into.
That first round is shrouded with a bit of naivety which I think is a blessing. However, once you know what’s coming with the subsequent rounds you find that little spring in your step isn’t quite as present as before. But, at the same time there is a familiarity of the process that is strangely comforting.
I also got a fun little gadget this time to help with my predisposition for ending up with little to no white blood cells after treatment. It’s an on-body injector that helps boost white blood cell growth. It’s a little pack that sticks to your arm and injects a medication 27 hours after treatment.
The fun part is it blinks a green light every 10 seconds which makes it easy for my husband to track me when I get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom! My sister-in-law said that my auntie “cool factor” just went up in my nephew’s eyes because I’m now a female version of Buzz Lightyear.
This past week before this second chemo cycle was a good week and I actually had a few days of feeling relatively “normal”. I made it out to Target (whoa!) and even a couple of quick lunch dates. It was wonderful getting out again and enjoying things I did “BC” (before cancer), but I noticed that it was still hard.
I wasn’t prepared for the strange looks from people that don’t know me, and the spontaneous waterworks when someone would ask me how I was. I found I could only be out in public for a few hours before I needed to go home, crawl under my sheets and hide for the rest of the day.
I know this will get better and it already has, but those first few days of “ripping off the bandaid” of your new normal is tough. And I’m getting used to the fact that my fun new haircut isn’t so cute anymore and I’m resembling an older man struggling with male pattern baldness. Yeah…..kind of hard to prepare for that one! But again, it’s all a process and you adapt and grow with it daily.
This has also given me a brief insight into the lives of people living with disabilities or physical deformities and the struggles they face everyday. By no means do I compare this temporary season of what I’m going through to someone who lives with a permanent physical or cosmetic disability.
However, I’ve definitely experienced slight moments of what looking different compared to “social norms” is like. And it has grown my empathy and love for those people who deal with it every day of their lives. I believe times like these that give us the ability to walk in someone else’s shoes, even for a short time, are priceless.
I also have to say that I continue to be completely overwhelmed and grateful for the continuous outpouring of support from all of you. I have honestly felt guilty at times because I find I’m just too tired and worn out to pray and seek God’s face as much as I feel I should be.
Yet coincidently, or not, during those precise times I get multiple messages from friends telling me that they are lifting my hands up for me just like Aaron and Hur did for Moses in Exodus 17:11-12.
“As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up–one on one side, one on the other–so that his hands remained steady till sunset.”
It has been such a beautiful reminder for me that we don’t have to go through tough times alone, and it’s ok to let other’s hold up our hands.
Especially for someone like me who often thinks I can handle things all on my own. So thank you again, for all of your incredible encouragement. It truly helps. To say I am grateful doesn’t even come close to doing it justice. So thank you, “to infinity and beyond”! From the strange, balding woman walking down the street blinking like Buzz Lightyear.
I knew this day was coming for awhile and it’s finally here. Earlier this week I earned myself a little two night “staycation” at the local hospital. I experienced something many people being treated with chemotherapy go through which was a high fever and infection due to having a nonexistent white blood cell count.
During that time my scalp began to hurt like I’d had a ponytail in too long, and I knew what was coming.
I don’t think you can truly be prepared for this step of the process, even though I felt God preparing me for this for quite some time. My wonderful friend, and hairdresser, graciously agreed to be “on call” for me when it was time to take this step and came to my home armed with her cape, clippers, and her hundred watt smile.
Due to my time in the hospital with the absence of a brush, my hair developed a pretty big dread lock in the back that I was honestly afraid to try to brush out for fear of it all falling out in my hand. So what better “buzzing” music than Bob Marley!
We cranked up the volume on some reggae tunes outside on our patio and she did her magic. Both of my girls and Andrew got in on the fun and took turns with the clippers. My parents, A.K.A. the rockstar support team, were also there to cheer me on.
I’ve never had to imagine myself without hair, or what it would be like to wake up in the morning and look at myself in the mirror with no hair, eyebrows or eyelashes. And honestly, it’s been hard to come to grips with it.
You may be thinking, seriously, it’s just hair. And I completely agree, it is JUST hair. I have those days when I think, “I will totally rock this!” as I YouTube how to tie a turban and spend stupid amounts of money buying fun earrings online. But, then I had that day when all I could do was sob uncontrollably in the shower while holding clumps of hair in my hands. It’s still hard.
I’m still a woman who wants to feel beautiful. When you are faced with this kind of reality it forces you to dig deep within yourself and pull out things that you never realized needed to be dealt with. When I allowed myself to do a little soul excavating, what I discovered was….pride.
I realized that there is a small piece of myself that is pretty proud of the fact that I look relatively decent for my age, can still get those “O.M.G. you haven’t changed since high school!” comments, and get carded once in awhile. Ok, so maybe THAT hasn’t happened recently, but a girl can dream!
I found that at times I was putting more importance on my physical appearance than I should. Ladies, you know we all dress for each other, not for our men. Heck, our wonderful guys don’t even notice when we color our hair! Seriously…..they don’t. Now, don’t get me wrong, this girl loves everything visually beautiful and “fashiony”, and that will never change, but I feel God is shining a soft beam of light on an area of my life that needed some attention.
I think it is very easy to become prideful. We are all so blessed! Many of us can say we have wonderful jobs, or intelligent minds, great lips, fantastic kids, cool cars, or amazing talents, and there is nothing wrong with any of those things. But, often times one or more of those possessions can be tainted with a slightly unhealthy dose of pride.
Pride gets in the way of our ability to truly put other people and their needs first. It focuses too much attention inward instead of outward. Being completely humbled by this experience has shown me how all that “stuff” doesn’t matter. It can all be gone in an instant. And when that happens, what are you left with?
By no means, do I believe that me losing my hair, or having cancer for that matter, is some type of punishment or “Godly smackdown” intended to penalize me for anything I have done or any character flaw I may have. However, I do believe God will use situations in our life to gently redirect our thinking or push us back on the road if we are floundering a bit in the ditch.
Proverbs 31:30 says, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised.”
This has been a good reminder for me that so much in this world is fleeting, and when my time here is done I want to walk into heaven being praised for my fear in the Lord. And only that.
Hair grows back. (Preferably extremely thick, with no grays, and streaked with honey highlights please!!) Eyelashes grow back, and so do eyebrows. But, what I know will also grow is a truer sense of the person God intended me to be. A person that knows how much He loves me no matter what I look like, and a person that can stay humbly focused on what really matters in life. So I will take this next “cancer punch in the face” with a stiff upper lip and a softness my in my heart knowing that I am being molded into a more affective and empathetic person everyday.
And with that comes great possibilities, and even better Halloween costume ideas.
If I had to describe in one word how this first week of chemotherapy has been it would be….INDESCRIBABLE.
Unless you have experienced this yourself there is no way to fully comprehend what this treatment is like. And for those of you who have traveled this road I applaud you and empathize. I am by no means writing this for sympathy or to invite myself to my own pity party, but it’s simply a fact. This is hard.
I will spare you the details, but know that this takes you to a place of complete physical and emotional brokenness and surrender. You have moments when you question if this will ever end, and then somewhere in that darkness shines a glimmer of normalcy when you actually entertain the thought of washing a dish or two. That only lasts a second, mind you.
I have asked myself many times these past few days, why? Why is this happening to me? Why do I have to face this trial? What did I do I deserve this? Why must my children watch me suffer? Why? Why do bad things happen to good people?
Now I am not claiming to be any more “good” than anyone else in fact, I’m quite flawed, broken, goofy and in process just like the next person. However, I’d like to think I don’t have serial killer tendencies, I’m kind to animals, and I am “that girl” who will go all the way back to the Target cashier from the parking lot, once I realize that small pack of gum that slipped through my cart at checkout didn’t get rung up.
So again, why did I win the “your life is going to pretty much be crap for awhile” lottery?
Well, it’s actually pretty simple. We live in a fallen world. We live in a world that is not our home and on this earth we will experience pain. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done or not done with your life, we will experience trouble.
John 16:33 says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
It doesn’t say, your life will always be butterflies and rainbows and there will be an endless sale going on at Nordstroms! No, it says, you WILL have trouble. But, you have to remember the last and best part of that verse. The promise that God wins. You win.
I believe God has allowed this to happen to me, and it is my job to approach it with an attitude of thankfulness. Now please understand, I am not THANKFUL that I have cancer. I am not HAPPY about this one bit. And do I kick and scream and cry like a baby sometimes? ABSOLUTELY. But, I can be grateful knowing a merciful God will never leave my side, and He will see me through to victory.
I can be grateful that He is giving me an opportunity to trust Him more, to see His incredible and constant love poured out on me each and everyday, and then maybe I will be given the opportunity to use this experience to help someone else in the future.
I can also choose to see the good this will produce in my family. My children will learn about a very real life struggle and hopefully gather tools about how to deal with trouble within a safe environment while they are young. I can choose to let this be an “inconvenience” on their perfect little lives, or I can choose to allow this to make them stronger and more equipped for what they will encounter as they grow.
I can choose to take this opportunity to teach them about compassion, fortitude, faith, trust, and chipping in when the chips are down. We all have a choice when it comes to how we view tough times in our life. I’m not choosing to like it, but I am choosing to except and embrace it.
I know I will have to remind myself of this all over again when it’s time to put the gloves back on and jump in the ring for round two. Because having this mindset is hard work. It’s not a flippant, happy-go-lucky attitude you just adopt. It takes daily prayer, internal wrestling, and literally throwing your hands up to the heavens and saying, “HELP!”
And even in those moments when you just can’t wrap your head around everything that is happening, making sure you are allowing yourself to be ok with not having all the answers and finding peace with that is what becomes most important.
So my question should NOT be, “Why me?” But instead….
“Why not me?”
Thank you all for your prayers and good thoughts today. I can tell you I actually felt them. I woke up this morning feeling peaceful and ready to get this party started. I did have a few “oh crap” thoughts as we were driving to the hospital, but those were momentary and fleeting. Thank goodness.
The port placement went well, and I knew I was in good hands when the doctor came in wearing a University of Iowa surgical cap. YES! Go HAWKS! My alma mater!
After the port placement I had some lab draws and then it was time to get the good stuff. After the first bag of Benadryl, I was feeling a little loopy, and managed to close my eyes and rest a bit. Then came the chemo cocktail. Again, that went down fine with no initial allergic reaction which was another answered prayer.
I was at the hospital most of the day, so I packed some essentials that I thought would make this experience a little more tolerable.
I had a Glamour magazine, (because who doesn’t want to feel glamorous while pumping poison through their body), a wonderful list of healing scriptures that I mediated on thanks to a sweet friend, some healthy snacks (it’s all about the “sprouted” seeds), my lavender essential oil that helped to relax me (I had nurses coming in to ask what smelled so good!), my fantastic 32 ounce glass water bottle from BKR, my Beautycounter hand cream containing ZERO ingredients that are linked to causing cancer, and last but certainly not least, the cute guy in the corner who was the best “essential” all day. My amazing husband.
Watch out cancer cells. Your days are numbered. Here is the nitty gritty. We decided on a treatment plan yesterday that will consist of four rounds of chemotherapy every three weeks. After those four rounds we will assess how well the cancer has responded to the chemo. If everything is looking good then I will wait a month to recover and then have surgery.
There is a possibility, I could need an additional two chemo rounds. But, as far as I’m concerned, that won’t be necessary. I will begin treatment this Thursday, starting with the port placement, and will then be given the “chemo cocktail” that the doctors have prescribed.
These past few weeks, beginning the day I was diagnosed until now, have been like nothing I have ever experienced. It has been a combination of a few very joyful and happy days, and a lot of rock bottom days with a few “meh” days mixed in.
Andrew and I have experienced all of the emotions that come with a cancer diagnosis; fear, denial, anger, disbelief, and extreme sadness. It has forced us to confront the realization that we can’t “do” this life on our own. We always knew and understood this concept. But, until you are faced with something as tragic and uncertain as cancer, you don’t really grasp the scope of it.
Cancer strips you of any inkling that you can “fix this” or muscle through it on your own will-power, and takes you to a place of complete dependence on something greater than yourself. At some point, you have to take your hands off the steering wheel and say, “Lord, take over.” The peace that comes with allowing yourself to do that, regarding any struggle in your life, is indescribable.
I was explaining that feeling to a friend using an image that has been coming to my mind recently. The image is a cloudy, stormy, sometimes sunny landscape that represented my life. Some days are sunny and beautiful, and others are downright tumultuous. But within that landscape is a thin silver thread that is constant, unwavering and strong.
This thread represents the peace that I hold onto and have found through my faith. It’s the one thing that doesn’t change throughout the changing landscape of each day, and it’s the one thing that keeps me going, and looking forward with hope. There are so many verses in the Bible that support this concept, but the one that spoke to me, of course on the day I needed it most, was Isaiah 12:2.
“Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.”
So, some may say that “every cloud has a silver lining”. But, I like to say mine has a silver thread, and I am holding on for dear life.
LETS DO THIS.
Some have been asking what my treatment plan is and when it will start. Well, we are still in the information gathering stage. This week I will meet with a genetic counselor to begin the process of determining if I have a genetic marker for breast cancer.
This will be helpful information not only for deciding on the extent of traditional treatment, but it will also be crucial information for our girls in the future. Then, I will have an MRI to make sure the cancer hasn’t spread to other areas of the breast and/or lymph nodes. Once we have all of this information, which could take up to three weeks or more, then we will have the pieces needed to formula a battle plan.
Until then, it’s “Operation Green Machine”! We are in a full-scale reconnaissance mission to gather as much information about cancer busting diets as we can. I’ve currently cut out refined sugar, and I’m filling my diet with organic fruits, and vegetables, and other ultra “healthy” whole foods, juices, and smoothies. Probably how I’m supposed to eat anyway! Ok, not gonna lie, I MISS PIZZA!!!! (And it’s only been a few days.). I’ve had a few “hangry” moments, (hungry and angry), but I’m getting it figured out and actually feeling quite satisfied with my new diet.
Here are a few of my favorite books that I have been reading to learn more about anti-cancer diets. I particularly love, Breast Cancer Smoothies by Daniella Chace.
Another fantastic resource we have been using is a blog called Anti-Cancer Mom. We met Courtney, the author of this blog, a few months before I was diagnosed. She and her husband have been a great resource for us. If you’re looking for some fantastic resources for “cancer busting” recipes, this is the place to go!
I am also kicking up the exercise routine and getting myself in top fighting form. I will be focusing on increasing my pilates workouts and forcing myself to jump on the treadmill. (Not one of my favorite things to do.) But, I have to say it does feel good being able to put my own action plan in place now while I wait for more answers.
God has been strengthening my spiritual armor everyday. I love how God’s word will speak to me right when I need it most and touch a part of my heart that is yearning for peace or knowledge. One of my favorite devotions books is Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. It has been a great tool for quick devotions every morning. I’ve been using it for years, but it’s so cool to see how He makes it fresh every day. Here is today’s devotion:
“I have promised to meet all your needs according to My glorious riches. Your deepest, most constant need is for My peace. I have planted Peace in the garden of your heart, where I live, but there are weeds growing there too: pride, worry, selfishness, unbelief. I am the Gardener, and I am working to rid your heart of those weeds. I do My work in various ways. When you sit quietly with Me, I shine the Light of my Presence directly into your heart. In this heavenly Light, Peace grows abundantly and weeds shrivel up. I also send trials into your life. When you trust Me in the midst of trouble, Peace flourishes and weeds die away. Thank Me for troublesome situations; the Peace they can produce far outweighs the trials you endure.”
“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 4:19
“Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all.” -2 Thessalonians 3:16
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” -2 Corinthians 4:17
I will continue to trust Him daily and know that He will provide all my needs! Even if it’s something as simple as, lunch.
Thank you. Everything in me thanks you. Andrew, my parents, and I have been completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support these past days. It has made us laugh, and it has dropped us to our knees in tears. Please know that every thought, word, prayer and silly comment has filled us with peace knowing that you are there. So again, thank you.
We left yesterday morning and took the train to Chicago for a weekend away with the girls. Coincidentally enough, or not, we had this trip planned before we even knew anything about my diagnosis. It has been wonderful to take this time away to absorb information, scripture, and just be quiet before the Lord with our family.
In those quiet times I feel more and more confident that this is a trial God has allowed to affect me for a greater purpose. I already feel His incredible love and reassuring voice asking me to trust Him and walk through this one day at a time, knowing He is by my side.
God’s truths are powerful and it is what I am leaning on daily. There is a song that coincidently, or not, began streaming into my headphones recently as I was listening to the my Christian music Pandora station. It was Jeremy Camp’s song “Same Power”.
This cancer is physically “in” me, but guess what cancer! So is the Holy Spirit! There is a power that lives inside of me that will fight my battles for me. I need only to be still.
“Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world”. 1 John 4:4.
So, I’m SOOOO sorry to rain on your parade and spoil the ending for you cancer, but I BEAT YOU!
I have felt a strong leading to share this experience and will continue to be very open and honest about this journey. The good times, the crappy times, and how God is working through this with us. I promise to make it fun because even in serious and heavy times, I much prefer a good laugh than a good cry.
So, with that said, let’s begin this new chapter of our lives which I lovingly like to call:
LET’S KICK CANCER’S A$#!
Well, this is me. I am the one in the eight. A few days ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. In this country one in eight women will be diagnosed with this disease. I am the typical, young, healthy woman who does not have a significant family history of breast cancer. I have annual mammograms and my most recent one this past November came back clean. However, about a month ago I felt a small lump in my breast. As most mothers do, I put off taking care of myself and I didn’t address it until last week when a friend told me she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After that conversation I immediately drove home and called my doctor.
And here we are.
Right now I am trusting Jesus every moment and taking things one step at a time. He has given me such PEACE and confirmation that He is walking right along side me through this trial that I WILL overcome. He continues to impress upon my heart that in this world we will have trouble, but He has overcome the world. (John 16:33). My prayer is that He will be glorified through this process, and that I may learn the true measure of trusting Him. I know He’s not through with me yet. l know He has a plan and a purpose for my life, as He does for all of us. He is my rock and my salvation, and in the end we WIN!
Some have been asking how they can help. TRULY, the only thing we are asking for at this time is PRAYER. Prayer for healing, prayer for our girls, prayer for wisdom for the doctors, and prayer for strength through this process.
Women, please be diligent about your manual breast exams, and if you find something that seems off, get it checked immediately. I can’t stress enough how important that is. Even if you think, “I’m healthy! I’m young! This could never happen to me!” It doesn’t matter. I thought the same thing.
So, even though I felt that I had a pretty extensive life experience “resume” so far, I guess I will be adding this to this list…
BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR
Let the fight begin.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”