Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Gotcha Day

Through the journey of my cancer diagnosis I have been remiss to remember another important day in our family. On Oct 17, 2012, Elliana Marie officially became an Asbery. I remember being on the phone with our adoption agency and answering the questions of the attorney 1900 miles away in California. Will we love her like our natural children? Absolutely! Will she be eligible for inheritance like our boys? Yes! BAM the gavel goes down and the judge declares her OURS! I remember Dave was holding Elliana and I was standing standing beside him. At the gavel sound, I fell to the floor in tears. I did not even realize the amount of stress and breath holding I had been holding in for the past 8 months. She is ours!

And since then, if not before, there has never been any doubt that his child was born to be in our family. She fits us like a glove. She has mannerisms that are just like me. But she has her birthmother's long fingers. We prayed for a child just like her. For ten years I wanted a daughter in our family. And Elliana is our dream come true. We prayed for her before she was born, and we continue to do so.

For her Gotcha Day gift, we got her ears pierced. It was our forever gift to her, as she is our forever gift. I first held her when she was 18 hours old, but she has had my heart long before she was born. I quoted in my book that I saw a child in my dreams that had blue eyes like my father, brown curly hair, and a spirit that just won't quit. God has given me my heart's desire. Elliana has blue eyes like her Grandpa Fisher. She has brown curly hair like I did as a child, and she is showing that she has a spirit that won't say quit. She is in every aspect, a child of mine. She grew in our hearts, long before we held her in our arms. We are blessed by adoption.

We have a semi open adoption with her birth mother. She and I share a private face book page where I give her updates and post pictures she can share. I also have an open relationship with Elliana's maternal birth aunt. Through her, I am able to gain family history and share out sweet girl's life. We are blessed by an open adoption.

I never knew our lives would go this way. That one day, my husband would come home and say he felt led to adopt. That he would voice the avenue that I had been praying for years ago. That we would pick an agency seemingly overnight and that within four and a half months of Dave uttering those words, that we would hold our daughter in our arms.

Happy Gotcha Day, Nonna! We adore you! You are our heart's desire and you complete our family. We love you!! May you always know how much you were wanted and loved!!!




Two weeks.

Today I am two weeks post mastectomy and reconstruction. It has also been four weeks since I received my cancer diagnosis. Just to show you how time can change in the blink of an eye. Now that I am finally up and around I realize how crazy I have let my life get. I still am unable to lift things over 10-20 lbs which leaves Elliana on the floor. I also tire easily which I think is more due to the fact that I spent a week and a half flat on my back in bed. Slowly, I will gain that strength back and soon I hope to be bustling about doing my daily frantic life.

One of the important things I learned through all of this is my breast is just a mountain of flesh. Breasts do not make or break a person. I see people glancing and my face and quickly glancing down at my chest. will it be flat? Is there a fake one in there? Or does she look the same? Is her reconstructed breast bigger? I get many comments about how one should go bigger if they are being reconstructed. Honestly, I wanted the cancer gone. I could have cared less on the bottom line on if I had a breast or not. But because I had a choice, I chose to reconstruct. And because they could spare my skin, my breast is not much different in size than it was previously because I only had so much skin. And because my implant is a tear drop shaped one, it closely resembles the shape of my birth given breast as well. So, on the outside, I do not look much different than I did before. Same nipple, same skin, different insides. I'm not a very shy one so I suspect my close friends will eventually get a gander at it. ;) It's amazing what plastic surgeons can do!

Another thing I learned through this journey is that cancer took my breast. I, on the other hand, am pretty much the same person. My sense of humor is the same, my birthday is the same, the type of clothes I wear are the same, my personality is pretty much the same. Cancer did not take me. Cancer does not control me. I am still the same person and if I met someone on the street for the first time, they would not know I had cancer unless I chose to share it. Which I will. Often. Because I believe sharing our hardships help others know they are not alone. But I did not become some fragile being that I wasn't before. I am still me. I'm thankful for that!

I also am reminded of the kindness of people. Every day for two weeks food has come into my home. Food by people I know and love dearly, and by people who know me only fleetingly. Food that nourished my body as I healed, offered comfort to my family, supported my parents in caring for me, and allowed my mother to stay healthy enough to help me in the weeks to come. Never underestimate bringing a meal, whether it is breakfast, lunch, or dinner to help someone. Or giving a gift card. Cookies or cupcakes were cheered as well. A friend of Kadin's Grandmother showed up with two loaves of fresh made bread. A neighbor stopped by with a homemade apple pie. Those outward shows of comfort are priceless. I can never thank everyone enough. I received flowers from friends near and far. They were physical reminders that I was being prayed for and thought of often. I wanted them all around me so I could think of each person individually as well. Footed pajamas brought smiles and encouraged my littlest man to put his on as well so we could match. The cards were touching. The bracelets reminders of friendship and those that were fighting with me. I will be more giving when I know my friends are hurting. I will make sure they know that their illness or sorrow is mine as well. Cancer did do that. I will make sure I give back tenfold.

I hear other cancer stories. Over 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. This year alone! I know that I am lucky. I know that many prayers were answered with my health status. I know that God heard them all and I am very thankful. I have shifted to accommodate cancer in my life. I know it does not define me. I will cope with each day, pacing myself as I heal, and learning to take the time my body needs so that I can go back to the whirlwind of my life. I will survive to build my new normal, to reach out to others, to live in gratitude, moving forward in time, and surrounded by those who love me. I had breast cancer. I am healing from a mastectomy and reconstruction. But I am strong. I believe in a Big God! And I will survive to guide others, as I have been guided.

For now, I am just thankful. Thankful my cancer was caught early. Thankful I live in the United States where our health care coverage allowed me the tests I needed. Thankful I live in a country where doctors who can help me also reside and train. Thankful that my parents were able to come and step in taking over my duties with my children so I could heal. Thankful my husband was beside me every step of the way. Thankful we live in a community that cares for its members. Thankful we live in a part of the world where we can praise our Heavenly Father and that I am surrounded by so many that took my name to His ears. I am thankful the cancer is gone from my body at this time. I am thankful I am healing without complications. I am thankful I was healthy and strong before surgery and that I will be again. I am thankful for each of you, and mostly, I am thankful for my precious Savior. Who went through every hardship and pain imaginable to us and promises to always be there to carry us through the fires. We are never alone in life, and that brings me such comfort.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Lucky One

I've stumbled and fallen many times in my life. Some times those falls have been due to my own making, others due to shoves from others. Rarely have I been knocked off course by something that was beyond my control. But it happens. The last three weeks have been out of my control. And to a type A person, that is not a good time. But finally, I feel like I can finally see the path in front of me. Its a little rocky, has a few bends, but promises a beautiful view at the end.

Today I met with my breast surgeon. She reviewed the results of the pathology report on my cancer. I think everyone who chooses a treatment path wonders if they made the right choice at some point. Even if they are prayerfully done. Should I have done a lumpectomy? Should I have taken both breasts? Did I make the right decision with the information I was given? Thankfully, my results found a third tumor forming and that my breast tissue contained lobular tissue that could or could not have formed other tumors. I don't understand the mechanics of it, I won't pretend to. I'm a psychologist, not a pathologist! But the bottom line was, my surgeon told me I made the right decision to remove the entire breast. It was a good move. Now there is no looking back. If I did or didn't make the right decision doesn't matter. That door is shut.

Removal of the first tube was traumatic in that I had just gotten the news that my lymph nodes were not compromised. I sat with tears flowing down my checks while the nurses cheered at my good fortune. As one nurse snipped the stitches and got ready to pull the drain, the other nurse held my hand and praised our Father in heaven for good news! The drain was out in a second and I didn't feel a thing! That was good. I regrouped, and moved on.

Removal of the second tube was not so good. Yes, I got full disclosure about my cancer. Lobular cancer, ER and PR positive, HER-, genetic negative, stage 1A........I'm in remission. They can't say cured because they never know if they get every microscopic piece. There are no promises that it won't come back. I will leave that up to God. I will pray he spares me from this road ever again. I wish I could wipe cancer out of vocabulary. I've heard of too many new cases just in the last few days. My heart is heavy for others. I'm a lucky one.

I jump on the table (ok, I didn't really jump with a drain coming out of my side and the grenade part in my hand...I gingerly sat there...) and look at my mom. The nurse asks if it is "their" drain or "Plastics" drain. Um, I don't know..I was kinda knocked out when they were inserted. So she checks. And unenthusiastically replies that it is plastic's drain. Which is different than their drain. Their drain looks like a straw. Plastics, yeah, not so much. She begins to remove it and I break out in a sweat. Holy Cow! What IS that?? What is she pulling out of my body?? Or is she trying to insert her fist into that tiny hole?? Finally, after I felt like screaming, she removes this huge 6 inch flat piece of plastic that looks like an irrigation system. It is wider than the hole in my body. Nasty. That is just gross. And it was in me. SHUDDER! But now, it's out. Thank you, Jesus! Whew!

I am still shocked that it has been three weeks and two days since I got the news I have cancer. And now I sit here, altered, but in remission. I am a SURVIVOR of cancer, a little over three weeks after I found out I was a Victim. I am one of the lucky ones. I know! Early detection saved my life. A diligent Radiologist, a feisty Family Practice Doctor, both whom are also friends, and my husband fought for me. They pushed for tests that needed done and examined things as quickly as possible. I was guided by people we know in the medical field every step of the way. I know the benefits of that. I do not take the privilege lightly. Ever.

I sometimes wonder if that is why God put Dave in my life. He was there when I had my first asthma attack climbing the Tybee Island Lighthouse steps. He was there when I had a partial abruption that could have killed me and our premature son. He was there during the birth of that premature baby. And there through the second son that was stuck in the birth canal and wouldn't come out. And there again for a little baby who's heart beat kept disappearing during labor. He read through medical records on a stranger to see if he felt comfortable enough to adopt her child. He found out his wife had cancer before she did. He explained all the medical mumbo jumbo every step of the way. I am lucky to have him in my life. He is my rock.

As I continue onward through my journey, I am thankful this part is over. I'm thankful that although I am still in the middle ground. It doesn't feel like I am floundering there any more. I no longer feel like I am walking through muck to get to an unknown destination. I have a path to follow. I will walk it. God will pick up my feet and I will put them down. I will work with my oncologist. I will follow his direction. I will keep up my healthy life style and exercising. I will return to work. I will pick up where I left off, kinda. I am definitely not the same person as before. I will no longer fear having a mammogram thinking it will hurt, I will fear it, dreading the results. I will have an MRI every other year and anxiously await the results. I will be closely watched by a slew of people. Cancer may no longer be in my body at this moment, but it will always be hanging over my head.

But I will think of that later. For tonight, I was able to hold my little girl close. I got to play with her, get her kisses, watch her play, and reach for her. Tonight I was able to eat dinner with my family. Tonight I was able to have my third son snuggle up to me without fear of hurting me. My life is back on track. I am eternally grateful.

I had breast cancer. I am healing from a mastectomy. I am thankful. I follow an amazing God.

I am lucky.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Middle Ground

How can I describe the experience, of being driving almost 2 hours away to a doctors appointment in the back seat with my father driving. How automatically when Daddy comes around, I become his little girl again. Talking about his cancer and mine, another vein that connects the two of us. We still don't know the status of my lymph nodes and it seems to be hanging over us, like a dark cloud that swells with oncoming rain.

Sitting on Aztec like furniture at the plastic surgeon's office. Biding our time by talking about the boys and their athletic interests. And the phone rings.  I have forgotten to turn it off when I entered the doctor's office. That is a big no no as 'Back Where I Come From' blares from my purse. I contemplate not answering but on a whim I do. And the soft, kind voice on the other side has the power to give me hope, or to take it away. And she starts talking with "I have good news, your lymph nodes were not contaminated......" Big breath out. Big breath in.

I did not realize how much I was anticipating this call, those words. As I am lead back to the examination room, I can feel tears form and start to fall. Oh, how I have such little faith!! When I knew I had cancer, I prayed for God's guidance. To be a pillar for my family. An example to my friends. To walk the walk so that maybe, someone, somewhere, would see it and be drawn to God. To use my battle to inspire others to dedicate their lives to God. To strengthen their relationship with Him. To use me, but make me be ok. I knew that although I had cancer, that all would be fine in the end. The journey would be hard, but I would walk with His hand in mine. Yet, at times, I wavered. At times, I was frightened of what could be. Of losing my life. Of not being around to see my children grow. To not grow old with my husband. To fail. I believed God would heal me, but I was still, so afraid.

I know I have a long road of healing ahead of me. I know I have many more doctor's appointments to attend, other surgeries to live through, medication that will put me into menopause and all that comes with that. I know this is not the end. This is the middle....where I refused to go before. At the beginning it was, I have cancer. I need a plan to get rid of it. I made a plan. Fast forward to the end. And it is gone! But now the middle ground has to be done. The healing. The long road of picking myself up, dusting off, and moving on to life after cancer.

I am humbled by the support of hundreds of you. Friends of friends, complete strangers, new friends, old friends....everyone. It brings me to my knees to see what people will do for me. How I am so unworthy! I have felt the comfort of your prayers since the first moments I became one woman out of eight. I have been lifted up, held, supported, and encouraged every step of the way. I have no words for the cards, the gifts, the flowers, the food, the picking up of my children, the phone conferences so I don't have to go in to the school, the thoughts, the texts, the emails, and the unending prayers. I can never thank you all enough. I simply will say Thanks. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for caring about my family. Thank you for supporting my husband. Thank you for watching over my children. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. I am wildly blessed and very undeserving.

Now I'll get back to the middle ground. Concentrating on healing so I can once again hold my daughter close, hug my boys with wild abandon, and place my arms around my husband and friends. And now it's my turn to pray for others that cancer has in it's ugly grasp. So that I may walk years from now with my Forever Sisters. Women in a club that I would have never wanted to join, but now that I have, I can't live without them.

Onward!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Onward!

You never know how strong you are, until life calls on you to be stronger. I've pushed my body further than I thought it could go. I've lifted higher weights, flipped huge tires, and run long distances, all the while praying what a neighbor taught me..."Lord, I'll put it down if you will help me lift it up". (Thanks, Barry!) Some people think they are weak, and not just in the physical sense, but emotionally as well. And then I've watched them be battered by life's unfortunate events, and from deep within comes a strength that was always there. From that, they grow into more of who God intended them to be. Painful life events make us stronger. We learn to weather the storms, and to not take the good weather for granted.

 I've stretched my faith further than I thought it would reach. I've asked for things from God and been disappointed when the answer is 'Not Now.' I've placed complete faith in God and walked away with life's fullest blessings. My faith has never wavered during this newest walk with Christ. I've seen what He can do. I've benefited from Him in so many ways. I am blessed beyond measure and I know it.  I also know that God has been by my side every step of this journey. I trust He knows that I am not finished here yet. And that I will continue to walk in His glory all the days of my life. Which for a time, felt like they were numbered.

And now I've experienced more courage than I ever thought possible. The Strength I have in my Faith allowed me to face cancer head on. The Courage I gain from God allows me to fight without ceasing. I know that I am held, preciously, in Our Saviors Arms. To listen to a diagnosis of breast cancer. To telling my children of my illness. To being held by my husband as I sobbed over mastectomy pictures. To going through test after test after test. To facing surgery that would change my body forever. To facing down those changes and looking at my new normal. To endure the pain. To not hold my children close. All of these take a courage I never knew I had. Each one, on it's own, capable of making a person stumble and fall. But through it all, the strength in my faith makes me courageous.

So my advice to whatever battle you may be facing. Whether it's health, financial, relationship, or emotional; do NOT set limits on yourself. You have it in you to do what you envision. You can walk the walk. Be Strong. Be Faith-Filled. Be Courageous!!!

Onward!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Surgery

Getting ready for surgery should be an olympic event. The dash to the hospital then slow down and wait to register. Moving from one desk to another. Being asked the same questions. "DOB? Can you tell me in your own words why you are here today? " Really, I should have been more creative in my responses. Instead, I repeat the procedure and what side. I tell them to follow the bruises left from my biopsy and to leave the other side alone. I take a pregnancy test. Which is negative (no duh!). I'm in a gown with a bag of fluids and have talked to more people than my patience level will allow. Dave sits beside  me with the heater vent that pumps up blankets in his shirt. It's cold back here. Why? Why do they make it cold when you are practically naked?? I'm just thankful the hospital robe is not pink. 

The OR room always creeps me out. I climb from one bed to the next, cognizant of the fact I am almost naked in front of a room full of people. And soon, due to the meds, I won't really care! The anesthesiologist  has been warned of my metabolizing meds quickly and says I won't wake up on his watch. I drift off.

Waking up. Where am I? How did this happen to me? Me. I really had cancer in my breast. I really just had my breast removed and reconstruction occur. I have a fake boob. Me. How did we get here? I take all precautions to stay healthy yet, I am here. Everyone looks at me in disbelief. I meet none of the tags that mean I'm at risk for breast cancer. They look at me, and it makes them look quickly at themselves. If this could happen to me, it could happen to you! I tell every nurse to get their mammogram. That by having one, I spared my life. My LIFE. If I had not gotten that mammogram, the cancer would have grown and grown without me knowing it. And soon, it would have been harder for me to get well. Longer for me to get healthy. I know cancer doesn't play by any rules. Because if it did, I would have never been chosen to be on the team. 

It's surreal to see my breast. It's my skin and nipple area but the shape is different. And looking at it, I feel different. Betrayed by my own body. And I hurt. Badly. And I have two drains that look like octopus arms coming out of my body. Which hurt and are gross. But you do what you have to do, you get up, walk around, go to the bathroom where they measure the blue pee you put out. Blue. I have never peed blue before but its from the dye they put in me. Weird. 

At home, I have a hard time Letting Go. Go figure. I want to clean the house, fix broken things, I want to stand up without pain. I can do nothing. My poor mom gets the brunt of my frustration. I cry. I haven't seen Elliana since the day of my surgery. I don't want her to get caught in the drains or pull my stitches so we are keeping my presence a secret. I spy on her when she is outside playing. My arms long for her, but I know this is best. And the boys fill that void. They come and sit with me, watch me drain the drains and talk about all kinds of things. I am a captive audience. I can't walk away to fix things so I sit and listen. Which is what we both need right now anyway. 

I hear their prayers. Thankful the doctors were able to cut out the cancer. Thankful I am home. I am thankful to be home in the business. Thankful that God has given me this story to share. This walk I'm on to meet new friends and educate others the importance of their health. Now, I trust God will heal me and soon life will be like it was. Before Cancer entered. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Letting Go

I'm a type A personality. I like to do things myself. I dislike asking for help, but love when others ask me. This is so unbalanced, I know. It's not like asking for help is a weakness. It's a strength in knowing your own limitations. So why can't I seem to do it?? Through cancer's touch, I am learning to Let Go.

As the rush to get all things together for my surgery, and to make sure the kids are taken care of, I am constantly touched by those around me. The quick notes from friends. The silent hugs. The quiet prayers in the car (I'm always in the car it seems). It is the offers to help that still stop me in my tracks. It takes all I have to accept. Yes, that would be great if you provided meals. It will help take the stress off of my mother. Yes, I would really appreciate if next week you pick the boys up from school and drop them off at home. It will make things easier for my heart. Yes, mom and dad, I need you here. For an undetermined amount of time. Such things are hard to swallow, but a necessity. It is hard to Let Go.

I try to talk to myself about it. What would I tell a friend who was going through this? I would tell them to let others show their love for them by helping. I would tell her to be gentle with herself. To take time to heal. That needing down time and support is a strength to lean on, not a weakness to be avoided. I would remind her of all the people she has been there for, and that they want to return the favor, and show her they love her. I would tell her to Let Go. So, I try. I am trying.

I'm letting go that I have cancer. That God's will has already been written in my healing process long before I knew my diagnosis. That He has patiently guided me and placed others in my way, like a pin ball game. It feels that my life is darting here and there, bumping into other lives that have walked this path, but in reality, there is a set destination. And God wrote it into the tapestry of my life. I trust in His will in my life. I know He will heal me. Of this, I have no doubt. So then, why is the road so difficult? Why is calling the American Cancer Society to ask for help with a leisure bra seem like a failure? That I  have admitted there is something I couldn't do for myself. Only to have the kind voice on the other end share her own battle with cancer. Uplifted, I will have a bra, a book, and a pillow to help me through the next few weeks. Ask, and you shall receive. Let Go and let God.

I'm thinking maybe this will be a good addition to my personality. More of a humbleness. Instead of thinking I should be all things to all people and do all things myself, I can Let Go. Already I have missed two engagements I was looking forward to only because they seemed so hard to follow through on. So I declined. That was hard. Hard to admit I wasn't on top of my game. Hard to admit I was having a hard time. Hard to admit I was fighting with Letting Go.

My high school English teacher had a poem on her bulletin board when I was a senior in high school. It talked about how we are like small children with a broken toy. We take it to God to fix, but we become impatient when it isn't fixed right away. We stew. And hem and haw. And finally, we grab it back, thinking we can fix it better, faster, and that God must not care because He didn't fix it in our worldly time frame. When in reality, we never Let Go and let God completely have our problem so He could show us it was already mended. I'm trying to remember this and to Let Go. To know that God has my cancer by the hand and will protect me. He already has. I just have to be patient and Let Go.........


Liam



On the eve of my third son's birth, I am reminded of what a struggle his pregnancy was. Not only physically, but emotionally. Three sons. No daughters. Where we were living, girls were revered, boys, not so much. To most, I drew the short stick. The losing stick. Time after time. Now that 7 years have passed, I can just barely drudge up those horrible times. I remember the words that were spoken to me, the things I was told regarding my third boy. But I also remember God's grace.

I remember the elderly lady in Walmart shopping for her great grandchildren. An older man trailing behind her, talking with her, holding her arm. When she saw my boys and my expanded belly, she asked I was having another boy. When I replied yes, I held my breath for what was to come. She was gracious and excited. She had had three boys! In fact, her third son was with her now, shopping. He took her out every week for lunch and shopping. He was her greatest joy. Thank you, Jesus, for small favors of other mothers.

When I thought I would lose my best friend because she was having a girl after her two boys, I was reminded that true friends don't stray. We are friends to this day. :)

On another low day, I was at church feeling sorry for myself and walked out by the playground. A man was doing some yard work and asked how I was doing. We got to talking and he said that he always felt special to his mother because he was her third son. Another angel on my walk. After several incidents like this, I knew I was ready to meet my little boy.



 From his scary birth on, this little guy has captured my soul and broke my heart wide open. I fully embraced being a boy mom. I know not how long I hold their hands, but they will hold my heart forever.

Tomorrow, Liam turns 7! Seven! He is getting so big. In the first grade, reading like a fiend, doing so many things for himself. He is our silly boy. The one who keeps us in stitches with his antics and funny faces. He has a ready smile, an open personality, and a giving soul that just won't quit. My life is so much richer due to my third son.  If I could look back and tell someone in these shoes what I have learned, it would be this. Embrace it. Embrace the children you are given. Boy or girl. All boys or all girls. Cherish them and the gifts they bring to your life. For how you raise them depends on if they will be there when they are older or not.

Happy Birthday, Liam! I can't imagine life without you! Love you to pieces!!


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Little Things

Many of you may remember last month when my friends' boys were in an ATV accident. My close friend, Heather's son, Cohen, lost his right thumb and had a skull fracture. Losing your right thumb is a big deal, especially when you are a 7 year old right handed boy who loves to draw. These past three weeks he has been enduring a groin fold attachment where his right hand is attached to his stomach area to grow skin for his grafts. He has always been a sensitive little boy with a big heart and a beautiful smile. I have watched him, and his two brothers, grow up in the past 6.5 years. Through all that he has been through, he is still thinking of others. This is a note I received from him.



When you walk through life without paying attention to the little things, they will pass you by. This little boy has learned the hard way how fragile life is. And is passing on his caring and loving soul. I was brought to tears by this simple note written by his LEFT hand! 

It reminded me of how many times I think of others but do not take action to let them know. When a pet dies, or if I know they are having a hard time, or even to just say THANKS! My goal is to remember to do these things. To send cards, emails, texts, FB messages, anything to let others know they are in my heart and mind.

Many of you have done this for me in the past week. Gentle reminders of our friendship, and the bond we share whether we have met in real life or not. And I appreciate each one of them. I feel completely supported and held up by my friends near and far. I cannot express the comfort this brings.

But I will always be touched most by this little note. Because I know what it took for this little guy to complete it. I know what a blessing it is that he survived his accident and is still with us today. When I see him, it takes my breath away to think about how easily our children could be taken from us by one accident. One mistake. But thankfully, that was not the case. 

Be aware of the little things around you. The tiny impacts you have on other people's lives. And the big impacts they have on yours. Take nothing for granted. Find joy in the storms. It will help you weather things much easier. Trust me. Finding joy really helps ease the soul. For if you are willing to praise God from the valleys, it makes praising him on the mountaintops that much sweeter!

Carry On! :)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Marching On!

Quietly you walk down the hall. Praying silently in your mind. "God, I know you are in control. Your will has been, and will continue to be done. I just pray that my lymph nodes are not involved. I'm walking this walk, Lord. I'm looking for the blessings. And I see them! Oh, I see them!! But, please, could you not let my lymph nodes be involved. Just my breast. Please? Amen."

Pasting a smile on, you pull open the door to the Breast Center and face the receptionist. Who obviously has not gotten up with her Thursday Happiness on. Great. With your heart pounding, your blood rushing to your head, tears welling in your eyes, and your heart in your throat, you persevere. Smiling though you want to cry, you ask her about her dog, who's picture is hanging behind her. You tell her you hope her week has gone well. (Listen lady! You deal with breast cancer ever day! WE are not having such great days on this side of the counter!!). Finally, she softens a little. One hurdle down.

You don't even sit down and they are ushering you into the back. Your husband has barely gotten into the office from attempting to find a parking spot. Why do hospitals never have enough parking???? You undress into a pink gown. Again. Seriously people. I get it. Pink is for breast cancer. This is a breast clinic. But egads! I've had enough!! Its like my life suddenly exploded into pepto bismol! Another person exams my breasts. I'm totally numb at this point. They could leave the door open and I wouldn't flinch. We sit, we talk.

Lord, please don't let my lymph nodes be involved.....

Weirdly, some part of you, as you sit in that chair, expect that the doctor will look at you and say, "Well, we were wrong. I don't feel a thing. It's really not cancer. Miraculously, it has gone away! We're sorry to have scared you and brought you all this way. The nurse will see you out." But of course, that does not happen. You hear those words again. You have breast cancer. Even though you have no family history. Even though you don't smoke. Even though you don't do drugs. Even though you are at a healthy weight, work out, watch what you eat, limit what you drink, go to church, pay your taxes, love your children and your mate.....it is not enough. You have cancer. And, oh, by the way....there is a second mass that was not originally detected. BAM! There is no turning back now. As if there was before.

Test results are read, options weighed, more ultra sounds and mammograms are done. More people feel your breasts and push and shove on them.  And by the end. You.Are.Done. Sitting in a waiting room with 14 women all in the same pink gown, you look around. No one is talking. Why is no one talking? Are we on death row? Is it prohibited? They said to turn your phone to vibrate but where was the sign that said 'SHHHH! This is a library'? I missed it. As I gaze around at the sea of pink I realize something else. I am the youngest one in the room. At 42, on this day, no one comes within a decade of my age. Yet we are all the same. How did this happen to me? Why is this happening to them? But it's not our fault.

For cancer does not know your name. It doesn't know your age. It doesn't know your socioeconomic status or your social security number. It doesn't know what you have to live for, or what you would be willing to live without. Cancer does not care. But I do. I care very much for these women among me. My forever sisters that I've never met. And one to never sit in silence, I begin to chat.......

There is a sort of humbleness to give your health history. To reduce your life into a few small sentences. I started my menses at 13. I was on birth control for 10 years. I had three pregnancies and three live vaginal births. I've had 3 surgeries in my life time and then this most recent biopsy. I am on no medication. I am healthy. Or, I was. Or I still am, but my right breast is not. I don't know. All I know is that I WILL be healthy again. Soon.

Lord, please don't let my lymph nodes be involved.......

The plastic surgeon has great gusto for what he does. He can make me have breasts again! He can build them with my skin and his two hands! I feel  the implants. Dave feels the implants. We look at each other and try not to giggle. I ask if I have saline implants and I do box jumps...will I slosh?? "Yes. We have some patients that say they that does happen." For real? HA! Ok...I do not want to slosh. We volunteer to be part of a blood flow study to help surgeons be able to do more nipple preserving skin sparing surgeries. We are all about science. We can help. We will do it. I actually have to have pictures of myself taken. Shirtless. This is so strange. There is a 3D image of me in a chart. So they can note the changes in my breasts as they document my satisfaction. But underneath, I'm not satisfied! This is not fun and games! I don't care about your new camera! This is a necessity. I HAVE to have my breast removed. Or it will kill me. All jokes aside, this is some scary stuff.

But through it all, I trust that God has his hand on me. And He does! My news is good news after good news. Other than the other mass, all results show I am a healthy 42 year old woman. With this one flaw. Which they can take away! And soon! I'm grateful. I'm so thankful that I have a curable cancer. So, in the cancer world, I rock! And next Wednesday, I will cast this demon from my body, hopefully never for it to return.

Lord, please don't let my lymph nodes be involved...... This is, after all, my mantra from the start. I have cancer. I get it. I'm ok. I will prevail. I will do what it takes to get it gone. I will fight. And I will win! But can I have this one little wish? Oh, and good blood flow to the nipple too, please. One doesn't want to be the loser statistic. ;)


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Standing Still

It's been a week since the dreaded word Cancer has re-entered my life. Not since 2005 when my Dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer has my family been touched. Not before it either. Sure, my Grandpa Hinman had some spots on his skin that he had removed, but he was a contractor, always outside. Isn't that to be expected?

Last week as I sat outside our local YMCA with Elliana, texting my mom, when Dave called for me to meet him at my doctor's office. And I knew. Just like I suspected when the lump was found, and I knew in my heart when the biopsy was done. I knew I had cancer. As I drove to the doctor's office I knew I had a choice on how I would receive and react to this news. How would I respond? We all have those moments in life when in our minds, there is a split second review of what our actions will be. Or our words. And it was as if time stood still. I heard a small voice tell me..."Remember when you watched your friend deal with her daughter's brain cancer? And you said if you were ever in a situation like that, you wanted to walk with her same grace? Now is your chance." And I knew, in that tiny moment, how I would proceed.

This week, since things are calmer before the storm of deciding what treatment and surgery I will have done, I have had many moments of standing still. And I am reminded of something else. I am a woman WITH cancer. I am NOT cancer. Meaning, it is now a part of me. But it is not all of me. It never will be.

It reminds me of when I worked in mental health and did psychological testing, diagnosis, and developmental clinics. I would have the joy of spending time with other people's children. Getting to know them. Finding out their intellect, how they answer things, what toys like they to play with, how they compensate, relate to, and deal with life. Then I would put on paper my findings and talk to their parents. Many times in my career I gave wonderful news! But other times, I had to give grave news. Life shattering news. Changing news. And one thing I always reminded those parents before they walked away from me. This is your child. The one you love, laugh with, care for, and enjoy. He is the same when you walk out of here with this diagnosis as he was when you walked in without it. The only thing different is that you have the knowledge to know how to move forward with this same child. You have the power to intercede and change things in his environment so that he excels. But him, this little one of yours, HE is the same.

I am the same.

I am still doing the normal every day life things. Getting the kids up. Driving them to school. Grocery shopping. Laundry (egads! The laundry a family of 6 creates!). Talking with friends about things that are going on in their lives. Because their lives haven't stopped just because mine seemed to rotate on the same film day after day. I am still raising four kids, Christmas shopping, cooking dinner, and meeting new faces. And thinking about breast cancer and how to get rid of it.

In the standing still moments, I know I am not the only one who is going through a rough patch. I know I have other friends who are dealing with situations in their lives. With their children, their pregnancies, their marriages, their jobs, and their health. I had a friend tell me recently, "You don't want to hear my stuff, you have enough going on." True. my plate is full. But I am a master at moving things around and finding a place for other people's stuff. Because your troubles bring my heart something else to focus on. And it helps remind me that as we walk through life, we all have our struggles. The things that we find overwhelming and heartbreaking. We just carry different bags as we walk, but the burdens can feel the same. I want to know how you are as my friends. I want to pray for you, too.

I wish everyone would know what it feels like for me on this side. So that no one ever doubt the power of their words or actions. Sometimes we get so engrossed in the comings and goings of our lives, we forget how many people there are around us that we care about. And in turn, care about us. Only once before in my life have I ever experienced such an outpour of love. Only once before in my life have I felt totally surrounded in prayer, uplifted to Christ, and known that I was on a faith walk like no other. This was with the adoption of our daughter. I've seen what God can do. And if you have ever seen her, you know what He can do, too!

This past week, I have felt the same gentle guidance. I have felt the same strong arms. I have felt the same total trust and peace at what is coming ahead. I know it is due to the many prayers that surround me. I am in a protective bubble of God's making and it is because of the hundreds of people who are praying for me and my family. I am humbled and can never thank any of you enough. The comfort that prayer brings outweighs the stress of the situation. Please keep them coming!

For they wash me with God's grace. As I am standing still.




Saturday, October 5, 2013

Blessings

As I sat with God early this morning, talking about the past few days, thanking him for so many things, and reminding Him to show me the blessings along the way, I was rewarded with a screen show of the past week.

I was reminded of the kindness of the ladies who did all three of my mammograms. From the first joking 'why do we have to do this' shots to the last young lady I had a total meltdown on. The soft explaining of an ultrasound tech who was by my side during my biopsy as well.  The patience of a patient advocate who never expected to become my sounding board. The quiet confidence of a radiologist friend who remarked he would rather see me with the boys on the ball field than enduring a biopsy. This same radiologist who stayed late to read scans, explained every tiny detail and looked at things immediately when they crossed his desk so that we would not have to wonder. To worry. I know not everyone gets these privileges.

The kindness of the patient registration workers. Walking into imagery and seeing a dear friend across the desk. Who sees you are shaking before you realize it and places a warm blanket across your shoulders. To two MRI operators who pray with you that the cancer will be localized, treatable, that you will be CURED.

The unselfishness of a surgeon who meets you between cases, orders additional tests to have done that day because she knows you have another dear friend watching over your baby. A wonderful friend who knew before being told something was 'off' in your universe and quietly shows up to lend a hand.

A primary care doctor that has seen you through years of regular work ups, watched you adopt a baby, and rejoiced with your family every step of the way. To know that sitting down to give you the diagnosis of cancer feels like she is telling someone in her own family. Because in essence, she is. Her pitbull attitude has gotten you a biopsy on Monday, results on wednesday, a MRI and CAT scan on that same day, another CAT scan on Thursday as well as meeting with the surgeon, a bone scan on Friday, a PET scan on Saturday, and a second opinion surgeons appointment the next Thursday.

A second family at my husbands office. Who sent flowers, gifts, texts, emails, face book messages. Who showed up at my home to watch my children so Dave could be with me during tests. Who when I showed up for work called out the pink elephant in the room, hugged me and let me know no matter what, I am supported. And then moved on.

My husband, who was crushed by this news, yet held his head high. Asked what I needed and what he could do to help. Who patiently explains test after test and it's results as if I were a simpleton. Knowing I cannot process what is happening. Trusting him that he does know and walking where he leads me. Where he has been every step of the way. His strength oozing into me. His arms holding me. His love surrounding me. Oh yes, I am blessed! Tried, but blessed.

Several friends who work in the medical field who have been there since the first moment I could breath and announce. With their check ins by text, dinner, small tokens of letting me know they understand and that I do not walk alone. Their quiet presence all I need. How they feel they aren't doing anything but by being there, as they are, they are doing everything in the world.

To friends who just walk up and hug. And then walk away. Those hugs are the most precious gifts. The strength that flows from them into my body keeps me upright. To the calls to friends who have walked this road before me. Their ability to know what is going on in my mind without me saying a word. Their 'been there done that' advice is heeded. I have wonderful, strong women and men I am following and I want to be just like them.

The gifts of support from my family. The ability to call and give each detailed report. The levelheadedness, yet love that pours from them. The 'when do you need me?' time frames that let you know when the time comes, you will be taken care of. The break down texts to a sister who holds it together when you cannot. A sister in law who shares her heart. And a brother who calls. I am a woman who could not ask for one more thing.

I am grateful this is happening to me. Not to my husband. Too many people depend on him, including me.  And certainly not to my children. I would take any pain from them and hold it as my own. I know they are watching how I walk this path and I will not let them down.

And I have an amazing support system online. For years, most of my closest friends have been people I have never met. Those I talked to in the dead of night. Those who's insight was not into my physical presence but my words. The detailed going ons of my life. Few people understand it, but those who have an online support family, there is no explanation. As we moved from place to place, even my dear friends that I saw every day, became an online presence. And I have been blessed to accumulate friends from every walk of my life, and to have kept most of them. When I read the words of my friends, I am humbled. By their emotions, by their words, by their support. Even people I do not know at all are offering prayers. And I know anything whispered from your lips is heard by our Father. He has let me know that these prayers surround me, lift me up, comfort me, and that they will get me through this. Every step of the way. I am a fighter with God's army behind me! How can I lose?

So although I am starting my 4th day as a breast cancer victim. I am not a victim. I have seldom been in my life, and this is no different. I am a child of God! I am met at every corner of this adversity with people who are at my side. And His word in my mind. And I will walk through this the only way I know how. I will write. And share. And be so thankful for the blessings that have already been bestowed upon me. Thank you, Jesus. For that beautiful picture show. My heart is full.

Now Onward! For a PET scan. Soon, I will be my own glowing Halloween decoration! :)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

I Am.....

I am the second daughter to a wonderful couple. I am the third granddaughter to a family that was over run with girls, only to be over run with boys now. I am the child who walked to the beat of a different drummer. I am the child who had one sock up and one sock down and pig tails that did not stay put. I am the child who gave my parents a run for their money, yet had a gentle heart and a giving soul. I am a loved child of my family and God.

I was diagnosed with scoliosis in the 6th grade. I was told by peers that my back was broken so I could not participate in cheerleading. I was a child championed by a family friend. I cheered. I played ball. I became a runner at the age of 11. My mother drove me to Shriner's hospital in Lexington, Ky, two and a half hours from where we lived, once a year for five years. The curvature of my spine got so bad they were contemplating putting me in a back brace. I had a growth spurt and the curve almost corrected itself. I am now only bothered by my scoliosis during pregnancy and if I am very tired. I am an answered medical prayer.

From going to Shriners, I witnessed children with no limbs, with half limbs, burn victims, children with trachs, and their families that were struggling. I saw the effects of drug abuse, accidents, and birth defects. I learned to look past the outside deformities and to see the child or adult behind. I learned to look people in the face, look into their hearts, and to really see them. I learned compassion at a young age. It gave me the drive to help others. I am a believer in the human race. And in goodness in every heart. I am a defender and a supporter.

I graduated college in two and a half years. I graduated from grad school a year later and got a job in community mental health. From there I learned to stand for the underdog, help families heal, believe in children who had no one else, organize and run a developmental clinic for children who were born prematurely, with developmental disabilities,  and with Autism. I worked in the NICU with the neo-natologists giving advice and support to nurses on how to developmentally support neonates. I worked with some of the most fragile and sick babies known to our world. I watched some thrive and others die. I learned to comfort through tears. I am a believer in miracles. I have seen them first hand. I know God is our ultimate healer and that He has a plan for every one of us. I have seen the tapestry of life in bits and pieces. I know the fragility we live with every day.

I am a mother. Of three boys who at various points of my pregnancy and their births, we could have lost any or all of them. From prematurity, stuck in the birth canal, to losing the heartbeat in utero. I have given natural childbirth, breastfed four kids through breast infections, in public, on planes, in the bathroom, and anywhere else between. I have been pitied for my lopsided family, told horrible things to my face about raising boys, and made to feel less than because I was the Queen of my household. I am a champion of boys. I am the face of gender disappointment. I am a woman who took what life gave her and made it better. I am the Mom of Boys and I Love It. I am an author to share those experiences with others. Because no one should feel alone. Or left out. Or less than. Even if it's controversial. Even if others don't understand it. Even if it makes people mad or sad or happy, it is out there. I am a 'stand for what you believe in' kind of gal. I will protect those I care about. I am not to be pitied. I am a pioneer, a strong lady. I am in love with my three sons. I am grateful for life lessons.

I am a wife who makes mistakes. Who has followed her husband through 5 moves to different states. I have taken down homes and built them up again. I am his biggest champion and his greatest frustration. We have been married for 15 years. He is my rock. He has given me wings to do anything I have ever desired. I am loved and cherished.

I am the mother of a daughter. I am part of an adoption triad. We adopted for family balancing. I have learned to walk in faith, not by sight. Our daughter had been my biggest walk of faith to date. I have been entrusted with one of God's greatest gifts, a child. I am the face of open adoption. I know that I can love a child that grew in my heart just as much as if she grew under it. I can love complete strangers just because they share my daughter's bloodline. I am grateful to a friend who supported me in my desire to breastfeed my adopted child. I was successful, much to the surprise of others. I am blessed beyond measure by a God who made me a promise and kept it. I am humbled by the prayers given by a community larger than life that helped to bring her to us. I am changed by adoption. I am blessed. I am thankful. I am the mother of four.

Yesterday I found out that I am one in eight women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lives. I am the woman who went in for a routine mammogram and came out weeks later from a biopsy. I have heard the unthinkable. Cancer. I have been CAT scanned, had dye inserted, been poked and prodded. I will have surgery and learn words I never wanted to know. But through it all, I know one thing about myself. I am a fighter. I am a believer. I know that God is by my side. I know that he deemed this walk would happen to me long before this day. I know that I will get through it on the wings of prayers, and His good words. For one day, I will be able to say I am a survivor, like my Dad. Because I know, I already am. I am the face of breast cancer. I am a fighter. I.will.overcome.

What are you? What makes you--you? What gifts do you have? Are you using them? I had a friend ask "Why you? You don't deserve this," and it made me smile. Why NOT me? Why would God not use me in this manner? To soften my heart to others struggling. To make new friends. To be there for someone else down the line. To give hope. To receive it. I am a child of God. I will be healed by Him. I am on another faith walk that will expand my horizons and bless me tenfold. Why NOT me? I'm looking for the blessings. Are you? Do you see them in your own life? I do.

For that is what I Am.