Sunday, November 16, 2014

Be Mindful

I sit here in the silence watching the snow fall. It allows my mind to wander to journeys behind me and those to come. The roads that each of us travel to get to where we are. And then to evaluate where we are and is it where we wanted to be? Or somewhere quite different? On my mind is an upcoming surgery, a classmate who lost his wife to breast cancer, a friend who just gave birth, another friend trying to find his footing even a year after losing his daughter and grandson, a friend struggling through divorce, health issues, new all becomes mumbo jumbo in my mind. I don't spend a lot of time thinking of how I can change the world. Dave does that. Big ticket items. Huge ideas that would impact worlds. He is a larger thinker than I. I feel small and insignificant compared to the thought process of my husband. How he can make things better for millions of people. How he can change things for scores of humans.......I'm more on a small scale. And have always felt a little less than because of it. Because my thinking is more based on the small group of people in my circle. Those who I know are hurting, or celebrating, or I'd like to get to know better. I'm trying to learn my gifts that God has given me to use. What are they? How shall He use me? What shall I lean towards as the seasons change in my life.

I have stood for many things. I have fought for many things. I have defended many a person as well. But I've also said hurtful things. Done the wrong thing. And been less than I could of because I would not listen. I'm human. I learn more about life every day. But I am also forgiven. Not to continue to do the wrong things, but because of them, God forgives me and I move forward. To make new mistakes. :)

Today I wonder why me? Why was I chosen to live when someone else was not. Why am I on my fourth breast surgery while someone else is on their 13th or more. Why did my implants not become infected? Why did my nodes not have cancer? Why did I just need tamoxifen for 10 years and no chemo or radiation? Yes, I lost both of my breasts, but I feel like I GAINED so much more. How can that be? How can I be a support to women going through cancer when I feel that it has been one of the blessings of my life?!?!?

A blessing? Really? Have I lost my mind? No. Before cancer I was continuing on about my life in a self centered way. I went to church, yes. I have always been a believer and a strong religious person. But I wasn't seeing life around me fully. Not that I take ever moment morbidly now, but I enjoy moments more. For example, today, at church, there was a young couple with their tiny little boy sitting in front of me. He was small, only about 4-6 weeks old and so handsome with a head full of hair and big boy clothes on. His little momma loved on him. Rocked him, fed him, kissed on him....his grandma reached over from a person away and stroked his hair and his hand. His Daddy held his Mommy's hand through communion. You could tell she was exhausted. And the Dad, he kept searching her eyes to see what he could do. The Grandma held him but he became fussy so she handed him back to his Mommy where he breathed a sigh of relief and went to sleep. She rocked him in her arms throughout the service. Even though you could see in her shoulders she was tired. She never let on. After the service, I simply hugged her, a stranger, and told her I thought she was an amazing Mother. To continue on. She was blessed with this tiny little person she loved more than life itself, and it showed. She was simply amazing. Doing what any other mother would do? Possibly, but she did it with Grace. And as I prayed over her small family, I knew God has his eye on her and she will be just fine.

Just like me. Just like God has always had his eye on me. Through scary moments when it seemed I would fall from a cliff side, to dancing in the rain, God's plan has always been beautiful. Through the heartbreak and trials are blessings and heart filled rewards. Through reaching out to others, become friendships that seal. Through illness comes an understanding of others. A time to show strength, grace, and God's love as you walk.

I hope I always do that. Whether it be through gender disappointment, raising boys,
adopting, a working mom, a physicians wife, a cancer survivor, or anything else that comes my way, I hope I always show a humbleness to walk with God. Or be carried. Whichever. I hope I'm always mindful of those who came before, and are watching as they follow.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

On This Day

On this day a year ago (it was a Monday), I walked into the Radiology Dept of Good Samaritan Hospital to have a needle biopsy of the mass near my chest wall. Dr. Ryan Willis and I chatted about our children, sports, and anything else that came across our minds. The ultrasound lady was the same from Friday so she knew exactly where my mass was. Holding my hand was the patient advocate, Linda, who would become a rock for me.

Thanks to a family history of metabolizing meds quickly, I was given the full amount of pain meds allowed. But even it wore off towards the end of my procedure. In tears from the pain, it was finally over. I was sent next door with a titanium ball now in my chest to have a mammogram to check on it's placement. Only the machine was broken. I was scheduled to go back in the afternoon.

That afternoon as I had a follow up mammogram, my incision spot burst open and bled on the mammogram screens. I had a major fall apart which scared the girl doing the mammogram. As she dashed from the room, blood oozed down my chest to my stomach. I sat partially unclothed and cried. By the time she came back, with Dr. Willis in tow, I had pulled myself sort of together again. Lesson for the day? Mammograms with a barely closed incision hurt badly. Thankfully, I will never have to do that again.

One week later, at the plastic surgeons office, the bruising from that procedure remained. When I see pictures of myself before my mastectomy, two weeks later, it is still there. I jokingly told my surgeon to follow the bruises to know the right side to remove.

At this point, on that day, I was still unsure of where this road was headed. Where I was headed. I put my trust in God and moved forward.

Now, it seems like a life time ago. And at times, like it all happened to someone else. How life just goes on. And it does. And no amount of worrying was going to change the outcome, on this day.

What have I learned? That I can talk to three people as I lay partially naked in a room with a huge needle in my breast. That I can step away from myself, as a stranger is applying pressure to said wound and ask her about herself. To find out that she, too, had had a needle biopsy. And is a breast cancer survivor. Through our tears she admitted that no one had ever asked her about herself at this point in their journey. I'm thankful I did. She is one of my heroes, although she may never know. I learned I could trust deeper, depend on others, and move gingerly through the day as if nothing happened. I learned God has me in His hand and when I walk the walk He has placed in front of me, I have the best guide of all.

On this day, I am once again thankful for this journey and the people it has brought into my life.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Another step...

Have you ever looked back at your life and wondered about the roads you were on and how you ended up in a totally different place? Are you happy with that different spot? Do you look back and see where you could have gone totally wrong and yet you landed here?? I think of that often when I think about what a single minded teen I was. Things were either black, or they were white. There was no grey area and that was my downfall. Because a lot of life falls in that grey area. But I just didn't get it. If you asked me a question, be prepared for the brutal truth because I had no idea how to be diplomatic. Thankfully, as years have passed, I have learned that skill (mildly). I know I hurt many feelings due to my own insensitivity and it makes me cringe.

Through life events, I've learned that everyone feels they must have an opinion. Sometimes those opinions are hurtful, almost always, they are not even asked for. I've received so many comments about having all boys. And then about adopting a daughter, and now about breast cancer. Each situation has been different. I would get defensive with the comments about boys, whether it was specific or a general comment. I would rally to defend my boys and others. Then I was protective of Elliana. I still am. "Oh, she's the one you adopted..." What? And you felt you had to say that WHY? She is our daughter. She has been in my arms since she came from the womb. I breast fed her, cared for her, went to great lengths to solve an allergy issue for her. She is ours in every sense of the word. But then, on the other side, I like to educate people on the birth order differences, and about adoption. My journey with breast cancer has been different. I don't mind the comments. Or the questions. I love being there to support others, to help guide them, to be a place to start when they are newly on the road.

So where does that leave me? Looking back. I often feel I can't move forward without looking backward. To truly appreciate what I have been given in this life. A patient told me this week that she feels that once you live your life to the potential God set for you; when you have done what he placed you here to do and are using the gifts He gave you, then he snatches you back to Him. That made me think....maybe I don't want to use up all my Godliness yet. ;) I'd like to stick around for awhile longer.  I'm kinda thankful I'm not perfect. HA!

This week I am reliving my cancer diagnosis days of a year ago. And looking back, I see what a blessing having cancer was for me. The ups and downs and twists and turns of this past year have strengthened my faith, increased my connection with family and friends, taught me to reach out in my community more, and reminded me that prayer is the best gift of all. It's almost like I have been rejuvenated in life and am looking at things so much clearer now. I pray I continue to walk in grace.

In a few weeks I will be joining three dear friends as we do a 3 day 60 mile walk for SGK. Each of these friends have a connection in my life that I have due to decisions that were made in my journey. Lisa and I have been friends since 1996 when I moved to North Carolina. She helped me plan my wedding, looked forward to the birth of my first child, we got piercings together on a girls weekend trip......I have a quilt rack hanging in my house that her dad made for me.  I have Christmas ornaments on my tree that we hang every year that she bought for us. She was my saving grace when I moved far away from my family for the first time. Dawn and I have had a connection since 2012 when we met through our adoption agency. We've been there for each other through the trials and tribulations of adoption, her father's passing, my cancer diagnosis....she has been my sounding board. The person who texts out of the blue to make sure you are ok. The voice on the other end of the phone. A meet up in DC where we felt like we had been friends for eons. A soul sister in life. Alexes and I knew each other on the periphery of life. But once the idea of a walk was brought up, she jumped on board with both feet. She has showed up at my house for no reason other than the fact she knew I was having a hard time. She has dealt with my mood swings, my ranting and raving, and my tears. She is my voice of reason. She is ready to do anything we come up with and gives herself 100%. She makes me smile and my heart sing. I am a lucky woman with these three friends. I cannot wait to have this life altering experience with them. We also hope to see our friend Amanda at the walk since it was all her original idea!!!

One year. Another step forward. Another journey after cancer. I wonder what is in store for me next!! Whatever it is, I hope God helps me to continue to walk in grace.......

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Out of the blue

I went in for a regular mammogram. Me, a mom of 4 kids ages from 13 to 18 months. I have no family history. No reason to fear. Other than fibrous cysts, there has been no reason for concern. Small breasted, healthy weight, exercise like crazy, moderation in everything in life, breast fed four reason to be concerned. Until there is. At age 37, my mammogram was clear. At 42, it was not. I was brought in for another look. An ultrasound, another mammogram. And then a biopsy. I had breast cancer. Me. Who meets NO risks. Other than the stars aligned and here I was. This was last year. Last year. One year ago I went in for a routine mammogram. Which turned out to be anything but routine.

In a few weeks I will relive the days that led to my diagnosis. The biopsy, the waiting, the call, the dr appt, the scans. Nothing that anyone wants to endure, but things we remotely run through when it is expected of us. Appointments I went to without question. Demoralizing, dehumanizing, yet uplifting and prayerful along the way.

I remember someone telling me this journey would be at least a year. And they were right. One year ago I thought I was completely healthy. Normal every day things irritated me. I was frustrated by tiny things that mean nothing in the wide scheme of things. I was not fully involved in my own life. I was worn out, spent, and emotionally through.

Today, a year later, after a cancer diagnosis and surgeries and a pernicious anemia diagnosis, I find myself light years away. I am MORE involved in life. MORE involved in my marriage, in my children's lives, in my family, with my friends, with my community. We are not promised tomorrow, but we are given today. I have learned to live each day to it's fullest.

Do I ever get frustrated?  Yes. Do I ever feel exhausted? yes. Are my feelings ever hurt by others? Yes. I have learned so much this year. I am SO thankful for my cancer. For this is what I have learned Cancer cannot do:  It cannot steal my joy. It cannot take what I have to offer others. Cancer cannot stop teaching me life lessons. It has taught me to love deeper. Forgive immediately, cry freely, and to offer encouragement when it's needed. Cancer has taught me that every day is a gift. Every experience is to be met head on with JOY not with sadness. With each step my children make, I am smiling like a fool. Thankful to be in their memories and to be there every step of the way for as long as God allows. I no longer fear the end. I am a child of God and I will see him one day. Whether it is sooner or later, I have no idea, but I will live each day with no regrets. Do you do the same?

Cancer does not need to steal your happiness. It does not need to steal your friends or your life. I have seen friends fight huge battles and come out the other end further along in life than they were before. I want to do that. I want to continue to walk in grace. I want to be the face of God in my journey. I had breast cancer. I had both of my breasts removed. But I can come to the alter and pray for you, no matter what is going on in your life, because I am protected by my one true God. I will walk with you, no matter what your journey is. Because I have faced death and won. I have looked into my children's eyes and lived their whole lives with them, even though I take day by day. Lessons learned and passed on.

Sometimes life hits us like that, out of the blue. When we are normally going through things and something extraordinary hits us. For me, it was cancer. It made me rethink my life. My marriage, my boys, adopting the child of my dreams, my expectations, my bucket list. And I'm thankful that I sit here fulfilled. Although there are minute things I may have changed, each lesson has brought me to where I am. And I'm thankful for the journey. And I will continue to face life, out of the blue.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Fear Tamed

What are you afraid of? Losing someone you love? Having a terminal disease? Never having the quality of life you had before? Never having a child in your life? Some fears are bigger than others. Some are fears that stop us in our tracks. When I think of losing one of my children, I can feel my throat close as I start to gasp for breath. But other fears are able to be overcome. They may not be enjoyable, but you can do them. Riding a horse, zip lining, eating escargot.....

Since my cancer diagnosis eleven months ago, I have been afraid that I will never be able to exercise like I had been. I would never do cross fit again. I would never again flip a tire, do chin ups, do push ups, lift weights. With the node removal, my arm is at risk for lymphedema. The swelling of my arm that had the cancer and the nodes removed. It is a serious condition and one I look for even though I am at a relatively low risk. As I have walked and begun running again these past few months, I have ached to get back into the gym. To see what my body can do now. To push myself beyond where I am. Which is stagnant. And I don't want to be here. I want to be where I was. Before breast cancer entered my life and I lost both of my breasts.

But fear has stopped me. The fear of ripping my mesh (which I did) and having to have another surgery (which I did). But mostly it's the fear that I can't do the things I want to do. That I now have limitations that I didn't place upon myself. So I just walked at the gym. Ran a little. Did small weights. Jumped rope....  But my heart called out to the dead lift bar. To push ups. To chin ups. OH, how my heart called out to chin ups!! I longingly watched others do them and lamented that I would never be able to do that again. I was sad.

Then, I talked to another breast cancer survivor. One who did cross fit through her journey before cancer and did not want to give it up. I did a Skype call with her and laid all my fears on the line. She was amazing. She, too, felt like I do. She, too, was afraid. But she did it anyway! So armed with tips from her and exercises to do, I hit the gym.

Today, I did chin ups and pull ups. With my foot on a green elastic band to help with the weight of my body. I did 37 of them. I am not as strong as I once was. But that is ok. I'm also learning I'm not limited. I did dead lifts, and push ups off the bar. And wall throws and kettle bells and lap pull downs and sit ups and obliques.....I did it all! Not at high reps or weights, but going through the motions. I did them without pain. Or ripping. Or trepidation.

Facing things we are afraid of is never easy. But staying afraid is not easy either. And staying the same is not an option for a full life. So go out! Meet those fears head on. And when you do, let me know about it!!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Calm After the Storm

A quiet sense of peace envelopes over me. A smile plays at the corner of my lips. Yes, there is pain. And drains to empty. And a sore arm, along with with unattractive velcro bra that a mere nine months ago brought me to tears. But today, today as I empty my sole drain and stare at my scars, I am calm. I am not thinking of what I have lost, but what I have gained by taking my health into my own hands.

"I could never do that! You are so brave." I have heard so many times. Truthfully, I am not brave. I was scared to pieces. I prayed often hoping I was making the right decision. First to have one breast removed, and then, with no reason other than the scary chatter in my head, to have the second one gone.  It is not bravery, it's survival. Every time I looked at an old lady, a part of my heart would squeeze. Would I get to be like that old lady? Would I ever wear the polyester, elastic waisted pants and sensible shoes? Would my hair ever turn completely grey as Grandchildren clamored for my attention? I was so afraid my chances had been removed. So, I chose to have my second breast removed. And now, when I look at those old ladies holding hands with their husbands of 40 plus years, I feel happiness.

Nine months ago, I blindly walked in Faith that God would heal me. I trusted His steps as He carried me.  Today, I do the same thing, only I see two sets of footprints. My Lord always is with me, but today, I walk WITH him instead of Him carrying me. And I love the companionship.

As I told my breast surgeon about the chatter in my head, I was still so unsure I was making the right decision. As I told her of my fears, through my tears, she kindly smiled at me. And suggested the prophylactic mastectomy. It was a decision I knew I had been leading up to when I changed my implant surgery in December. At that time, I was fearful if I had the lift my plastics dr wanted to do done, that I could never have a nipple sparing mastectomy done in the future. So he only augmented and off we went. Until the implant fell through the mesh, and the voices got louder in my head. I knew moving forward to having my second breast removed was the only thing that would stop the chatter.

But little did I know that it would also calm my soul. Little did I know that it would bring a smile to my face. And relief. I truly feel like a breast cancer survivor now. Instead of waiting for the other shoe to fall. Will the cancer come back somewhere else? I don't know. But I do know that it will NOT come back in my other breast. Because it does not exist. I have eliminated my chances of a second breast cancer. And I hope I have increased my chances of never having any type of cancer again.

I find myself looking at my children differently as well. Like I'm here for the long haul, instead of being fearful and trying to soak up every little daily thing. I'm excited for their new adventures; high school, theater, 2nd grade, preschool......because I will be there to see it all. The doom and gloom is gone.

Could I be knocked backward??? Sure. I know that I am still at risk. And the medicine I take every day has it's side effects. But this peace that surrounds me is priceless. I had cancer. I had my breasts removed and reconstructed. And now, I am ready to live my life again. Fully. Without fear. Finally.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


I'm staring at two weeks. Two weeks until my next mastectomy. Two weeks until I do this all over again. The surgery, the pain, the drains, the removal, the healing. Why am I doing this? Voluntarily? UGH.....

I stand in front of the mirror and I look at myself trying to see if there is a way around having this surgery again. If there is a way around removing both of my breasts that will have implants with skin covering them. A way to wrap my head around the fact that I had cancer. And lost both of my breasts. Due to my own choices. Not that I chose to have cancer. But that I chose to have my breasts removed. Both of them. Who does that?

And then I remind myself. People who want the chatter in their head to stop make this decision. People who want to increase their chances of living make this decision
. People who realize intellectually that breasts are not what makes a person. Even if emotionally they feel they are being judged.

This is not an easy decision. I'm imposing on a ton of people to have a mastectomy this time. Last time it was my parents. Who are medically not in a place to care for me this time. So it is left to our sitter. My husband. My sister. My friends. People who have their own busy lives but are willing to take a moment out to help me. I am humbled all over again. I am inconvienencing my patients who will have to go a month without guidance. I feel horrible about that. I will feel every stumbling block they feel and take responsibility for them. Who leaves their patients for a MONTH?  Sigh...... And my children. Who's summer will be filled with other people taking them to camp, swimming, to dance class, to the cabin.....when it should be me. It should be ME.

But in the middle of the wallowing in self pity, I am reminded that I asked to walk in Grace. That I asked for this journey to make an impact on others. That I asked for this testimony to lean on God and to trust His weaving. So, I am trying to do that. To lean back. To let go. To accept the fact that my real breasts tried to kill me and yet I could make decisions to save myself. So that with God's will, I could watch my children grow, marry, and have kids of their own. That I could hold my baby niece and tell her amazing stories from her Dad's youth. Every time I see an elderly woman, I pray that one day, that will be me.

So for two more weeks I'll waddle around in thoughts that won't leave my head. Looking at my mismatched breasts that feel cold to the touch. And I'll remind myself I'm still one of the lucky ones. I'm a survivor.

Monday, June 9, 2014

You Never Know.......

Who goes on vacation and ends up on the local news? This family!! Some of the crazy hair brained schemes of our lives have never gotten us so much attention. But this one act of last minute decision making (Thanks, Dave, for pushing us all to go!) got us much more than we bargained for.

We go to South Dakota because my Dad is a history buff. He loves Custer, the battles, the Indians, the forts, anything that is related to that time period, he is so into it. I've bought him so many books through the years, we could have our own library. This is my Dad's thing. And through him, ours. Every 4-5 years we have been going to South Dakota with my parents. As young children, and now as adults. Most people go to the beach. We climb mountains. Most people lay in the sand. We bring home huge granite rocks. It's just how it has always been.

In 2005 we did our first Volkswalk up Crazy Horse Monument. On a few days of the year you can walk through the woods and up the monument to the flung out arm. It's a 10K. Mostly uphill. That first time, it was so cold, we had to buy sweatshirts before we started! With Kadin by our side, my dad, brother, husband, and I walked up to the top and took in the breathtaking view. In 2010 we took Cullen as well. This year we were going to take Liam, Elliana, my brother's wife and their baby. But due to the cold weather and the rain, the girls stayed home with Johnna who was gracious enough to remain behind so the babies weren't exposed to the horrible weather.

Who wants to climb a mountain in 45 degree weather? In the rain? No one. But Dave said we came all this way to do it for my Dad, so we headed out.

See, my Dad couldn't be here this time. With surgery on his carotid artery less than 2 weeks past, he was not able to come. So we walked for him. This time, my sister, her son, Dave, all three of our boys, my brother, and I did the walk. A first for Lisa, Jacob, and Liam. Did I mention it was cold? And RAINING?? And this is a hike through the woods and up a mountain? We are crazy!

At the first checkpoint there was a guy with a camera. Just a guy. With a tripod and a camera. Now, I admit, I've been to Disney wayyyy too much. I thought this guy was snapping pictures of people to commemorate their walk. So we get our checkpoint cards signed and I move over to see if he will take our picture. A family photo! How awesome! So, he does it. And then I realize......he is not there to take pictures!! We walk up to him and he is actually an anchorman from a TV station in Rapid City. He is there to film the Volkswalk and to look for a human interest story. We become his story.

He asks if he can follow us up the monument and we say YES! So now we are a group of nine. We learn his name is David Johnson. He's been in Rapid City for 3 months. He would like to do International News. He lived in California. He has a small apartment and likes the warmer weather over the cold we are in. We are here to tell our story but we are blessed more by this man who came into our lives unaware. He films us through the walk, the mud, the other people, and we chat.

We tell him about our hard year. My beast cancer. My brothers shattered arm. My mom's hospitalization and near death episode. My dad's surgery and struggles we are all here. Smiling, laughing, joking, and helping each other up this huge monument for our Dad. Dave chats with David about all kinds of things. We have a new sibling and he is really nice. :)

At the top, we face time with Mom and Dad. Because of the rain, the arm is not filled with people so we can wander around as we want. Showing Dad the view, letting him see if more cracks have come upon the face of Crazy Horse in the past 4 years. Letting them talk with their grandsons. It was the next best thing to having them with us. To see his face and to tell him, we did it. For you.

It was the yuckiest of days. One where you would rather stay in the cabin. But thanks to my husband's foresight, we braved the elements and had one of the best days ever. You never know when a day that seems so dismal will be one of your biggest blessings.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


I'll remind you all again that I am a born and raised Presbyterian. We do not go to the alter. I've been one time for myself. The day Elliana was born. But I have found myself drawn to those steps several times when friends go forward. For health of spouses, dealing with addiction, pain of miscarriage or anything else. This past Sunday I went for a dear friend who's son was recently diagnosed with diabetes. It has rocked their world. Yes, there are worse things, but this was a game changer for them. I adore this friend. She always has a smile. She is always helpful, welcoming, her hugs are like coming home. Her son is like my own. My heart was broken because hers was. As I went forward to pray, my husband followed me.

Little did I know that it would become a blessing for me.

I realize I am open with my struggles and my walk. My 6 month follow up appointment with the breast surgeon is on Friday. Dave and I will have to ask her some difficult questions. But the sermon was on Living in Fear and I have basically made up my mind on what will occur to my left breast. But while down at the steps, praying for my friend and her son, a new friend began praying over ME.

Knowing my road is twisting, she prayed for peace. For guidance. For God's hand in what decision I made. For my complete healing (I hope she meant my mind too!). That I have four children and a loving husband that I needed to be here for. That I had a ton of living left to do. For God to watch over me, protect us, and to let me know in my heart that He is there.

As my friend and her family left, I felt God surround this new friend, others, and my husband, and I knew I could no longer live in fear. I cannot stop the chatter in my head. I had breast cancer. It may come back. It may come in the other breast or somewhere else. But my story has been written!!  By a glorious and loving God! Why was I afraid? Why did I think I needed to make Earthly decisions when He had already written the upper story of my life???

So, thanks to the spoken aloud prayers of a new friend, I know what I will do. If the surgeon does not recommend doing a mastectomy on my left side, I will let my plastic surgeon do the lift he wanted to do to begin with. And I will live with the knowledge that my breasts will be matching for as long as I live. Or if my cancer comes back, until then.

But really, as much as God has done for me? How dare I not trust him??? How dare I live in fear of what is to come?? I will not. I greet it with open arms. God is my provider. He is all we need. He will blend my lower story with His upper story and it will be beautiful. I only need to do my part.

To walk in Faith.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

"Hold the hand."

Scared cries wake me from a light sleep and I lay and listen to see if they will settle and stop, or continue and I will need to get up. The house is quiet all except the whimpers that come across a baby monitor on the dresser. As the cries turn into shouts for me, I get up and go to our little girl. A bad dream. A scary moment in time. She wants held and to be "rockey." I comply. As I hold her small body close and she clutches me around the neck, we rock. Slowly she drifts off to sleep again, breathing deep, her clenched arms loosen.

It reminds me of how so many times I have had to let go in life and just be held. That I try so hard to be in control but in reality, I am not. My house gets dirty, my schedule gets messed up, my kids get sick, things don't turn out right.....but through it all, I am held. There is a Casting Crowns song that says in it something about when it feels like your life is falling apart, the pieces are really just falling in place. Cullen said this song reminds him of me. How I try to be so strong for everyone, yet in the end, I allow God to hold me close. My eleven year old is watching and learning how to lean on Christ through rough times. My heart is full.

In the darkest of the night I am always reminded of the journey of how I got to where I am. Times when on my knees I called out to God to direct me. Times when I did not wait around to listen, and other times when no answer came right away. Yet, there was always a path I was on that lead me following Him. With this small child's heart beating next to mine, I find myself in a prayerful state for those around me. For my family, for friends with stage 4 cancer, for friends newly diagnosed, for friends adopting, or finalizing, for friends going through painful relationships or infertility, for friends with new babies, or pregnant, for friends who's children have medical concerns or learning issues, for friends who have life long issues that never seem to go away. For myself.

In a few weeks I will meet with my breast surgeon again. We will run the six month follow up tests and make sure I am ok. That cancer has not popped up anywhere else, or in the other breast. I feel confident that my right side is ok. That unless micro organisms are in my chest wall, that the breast cancer is gone, along with the breast and nodes on that side. But I am worried about the left side. The side that sags because my implant bottomed out. The side that constantly hurts because it's misshapen. I have a decision to talk to my surgeon about. Do I keep this breast or have it removed as well. So I can stop the chatter in my head. Dave and I have talked extensively about it. In my gut I know I made the right decision to remove only one when I did, but in my head, I wish I had done them both. So we will see. The thoughts of having another mastectomy swirl in my head as I rock my baby back and forth. I'm ready for my breasts and cancer to no longer be in the forefront of my mind. I'm ready to do what needs to be done, and move on. But right now, I'm nervous, worried, and scared about what the decision holds.

As I lay my sweet daughter back into her crib, she stirs. I lean over the side and pat her making comforting noises that I have whispered to all of my children. To let them know I am there. I am watching over them. They are safe. As I lift my hand away from her warm body, she looks up at me, her arm shooting up in the air, "Hold the hand, Momma? While I sleep?" I eagerly reach down and grasp the small hand of the child of my heart and I am reminded again, I have always been held by God's arms. That He has always been close to hold my hand when I needed him. That is the greatest gift of all.

Hold the hand, Heavenly Father, hold the hand.............

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Curve in the Path

I see my mother in the veins in my hands. And reflected in my brown eyes. And sometimes in the set of my mouth when I want my own way. I hear my mother's voice in my head often in the things that I say and the warnings that I hear in my head. She is the person I turn to almost first when things happen in my life. After Dave, I let my mom know what is going on. Mom, I'm getting married! Mom, we're pregnant! Mom, we're moving! Mom, I have cancer........  She is one of my best and dearest friends. She has known me through my worst and loved me in spite of it. She has accepted my quirks and my ways of dealing with things and adjusted how she responds to me. She listens to my dreams and fears, and shares her own. I am thankful to have her in my life, and to share such a relationship with her. Because of her I learned I could do anything I set my mind to. I could work and be a mother. I could learn new things and always had a safe place to land when needed.

So what do you do when that safe coven is threatened? When the health of your parents become precarious, you are thrown back to being a child. Suddenly, although you are grown, you are not ready to be fully grown. Yet, you already are. But you think ahead to the things you do automatically. Calling your Dad to let him know you made it home after a trip. Calling your mom on long car drives to just pass the time. Texting funny things you see and think about through the day. Little mundane things. Things that you will dearly miss in your every day life when they are gone. Forever.

I'm not ready. I admit it. I'm not ready to die myself, and I 'm not ready to  let go of any other family member or close friend. Not my husband or children. Not my dad or my sister or my brother. Not anyone in their families. And especially not my mom. I.Am.Not.Ready. But I know God has a higher plan. My mom has been sick since 1994. I've had 20 years with her that I may not have had. And I have not taken one thing for granted. Twenty years is a long time to battle with breathing problems and a multitude of other health issues. She is a strong woman. She is determined to live her life as she wants to. And to leave a legacy. I always thought I was more like my Dad, but I think I got some good stuff from my mom too.

Now I wonder about the curve ball. That bend in the road I wasn't expecting. With another surgery in my horizon and knowing I will weather this one alone, it's scary. But I think I have a little bit of my Momma in me. I will have it. I will endure. And I will move on. And through it all. I will be "fine" like she always is.

My mom is my hero. One of the most amazing women I know. One of the strongest individuals that ever walked this Earth. She is compassionate, sarcastic, sees the best in everyone, eager to laugh and try new things, loyal and loving. I hope I can be half the woman she is. I love you, Mom.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Do you ever find the need for quiet time? Time to just sit and exist without having to listen to the chatter of others, the drone of the TV or anything. I'm having a night like that. Where I wish I could sit outside (but I'd freeze to death), listening to the crickets chirp and the frogs croak from the pond in my parents back yard. Mentally, I'm putting myself there. Even though they have no working internet on their back porch, live in the boon docks....but you get the picture. I'm feeling the need to reground myself. To refocus. Only the people I need to refocus on are buzzing around me and I really just want the quiet time without their voices messing up my memory of childhood.

Parenting is hard work. Some days I feel like I have it all together, other days, I'm barely hanging on. Today has been just a regular day. Nothing bad. The big boys had their piano recital and it's always fun to go and listen to the kids and see the progress they have made. Another milestone we've reached together. I'm proud of them for sticking to piano even when they didn't want to. And I kinda laugh that it's my kids that take piano lessons when I was so hyperactive I couldn't sit on the bench to get through lessons at all. My sister was the piano player in our family and her kids don't play instruments at all. Ironic. :) But her girls do sing and dance.  My boys are very musical and I love to share that part of my life with them. Kadin plays the piano and the saxophone. Cullen plays the piano, the trumpet, and the guitar. Liam wants to learn the drums and within a year will start the piano. We promised Elliana's birth mom that she would be exposed to the piano as well. I love to hear our home filled with music that they are creating. It reminds me of nature's song.

The big boys and Dave went to see God's Not Dead tonight. When Cullen got home, he wanted to tell me all about it. One part of it was someone being diagnosed with cancer. Being asked how they keep hope after having such a horrible diagnosis. And that makes me think of the people I know fighting stage 3 and stage 4 cancer. How they want to hear the words I have heard. "Cancer free" but their road is long, painful, and unfair. I feel guilty thinking how reoccurrence hangs over my head when I didn't really do the time for the disease anyway. Yes, I lost a breast. And it's stressful. And I worry. And I'm on medications. But these wonderful children and adults I know and love are dealing with so much more. I pray for their healing. For balance to be restored. For the reason that they are on this journey to be revealed to them so they know they do not walk alone. How do you keep hope? Because you trust that God has a plan. And since God lives on the inside, He can't help but shine through to the outside as well. But they all weigh heavy on my heart and soul.

So, I'm needing some quiet time. Away from it all. A time to contemplate and be thankful and to just exist. For in a few hours I will have to jump back in to the craziness of a new week. But for now, I'm feeling the breeze from the country air blow against my cheek, as the bull frogs croak their magical son that lulled me to sleep every night. With the security light shining brightly into my bedroom window, I listen closely to the sounds of the night. As the crickets sing a sweet song that makes you feel safe because they only stop if danger is near. But as long as they sing, all is right in the world. May they always continue to sing.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Six months ago.....

Six months ago, on a day much like this one, a Wednesday to be exact, my life came to an abrupt stop. When I heard the words 'breast cancer' I wasn't sure what would come next. It seems unbelievable that it has been only six months since that day. Other times, it feels like a lifetime ago.

It makes me think of other things that throw our lives for a loop. Illness, job loss, death..... I've been ruminating about these things for several days. Thinking about how each of us have a struggle. Each of us have had bad news delivered in a small room, in a doctor's chair. Through mine, I've been thankful that I have a voice, and that I am willing to use it. So that other women and men do not have to walk this road alone.

Which also reminds me that April is Child Abuse Prevention month and how passionate I was about children and their safety when I worked in community mental health. It's also Autism Awareness month. Which reminds me of all of the hard work I did in changing programs in Ky and NC for children with this diagnosis. I had a voice. I used it.

But today, a friends 5 year old daughter made me stop and think. So many times we talk about what we cannot do. What doesn't work right in our lives. What doesn't look good on our bodies. What exercises we can't do. How far we can't run. What we can't eat. When we should really focus on what we CAN do. And a small, red headed, spirited little girl had the best words in regards to her older brother. "Let's not talk about what he can't do. Let's look at what he CAN do." Because truly, this little 7 year old boy has moved mountains. He CAN do so much. And learns more and more every day. And with his sister beside him, there is nothing he CANNOT do.

So in honor of this sweet 5 year old, I'm changing my mind set. I'm focusing on the things I can do. I can speak up for children who are being mistreated. I can support my friends who are dealing with an Autism diagnosis, or living with one. I can talk about mammograms and their life saving benefits. I can talk about raising boys and adoption. I can talk about so many things, sharing how God works in my life, and in those around me. And thankfully, how He works in the children around us.

I have a voice and will use it. Will you? Will you speak up and share your struggles so others know? So others feel less alone? I realize that this venue is not for everyone. There are people that are very private (obviously I am not one of them!). I respect that. But I am going to focus on what I can do, in a world full of can nots. And be thankful for a voice that allows me to share, and to be there.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Stay Positive!

"How do you stay so positive? How do you reconcile the fact that you did nothing wrong, yet you had a cancer that if you hadn't caught early, it could have killed you. How do you go on? If it had happened to me, I would be sitting at home, depressed, unable to go on. How do you do it within yourself?"

Those words were asked of me last night at a United Way get together and they made me stop and think. Because honestly, I don't feel like I have been always upbeat and positive. I've cried, I've complained. I've stared at my old chest and now my new one many times and lamented what has come to be. I've changed my diet, changed it back, and then settled in to a moderation. I've taken meds that make me want to barf, and then meds to counter my craziness that make me want to barf, and through it all just moved forward.

Why? Because what else is there to do? I've been sad and scared for myself. I've cried over the old woman I may not become. I've broken into a sweat thinking I won't be there at my younger two kids weddings, or at any of them. I've feverishly written in their journals all of my hopes and dreams for them so they know if I were to pass on. But living, day in and day out, it happens.

My faith has been huge for me as well. I know God has a purpose. For everything that happens in our lives. People to touch, stories to hear…..they all entwine together and I look for those strands daily. If one person learns from my life, is touched by my story, finds strength for themselves, then this journey is doing what it was meant to do. Such as all walks in my life. I simply asked to walk in Grace.

I also know that I got off easy. Four months ago tomorrow I lost my right breast. And lymph nodes. And woke up cancer free. I have friends battling through so much more. I never forget that fact.

In eight months, at my one year anniversary, 5 friends and I will do our first Susan G. Komen 3 Day walk in Atlanta. 60 miles in 3 days. I've always wanted to do one, and now, as a survivor, I will. The impact of that is not lost on me. As we raise money, tell our stories, work together, and think about how we can do a few things long term, I am reminded of our basic needs. Food, water, shelter, others……and I know in my heart maybe that is how I make it through. I know I am not alone.

From Cullen's best friend's mom handing me a lapel angel silently, to my family being here, to the meals, to the cards, to the calls, emails, notes, through the support as we fundraise for this amazing walk, the hugs, the smiles, the other survivors who's strength I rely on….I have not been alone one step of the way. And it's hard to feel negative when you feel the love. So much love. And support. And prayers. And stories of hope. And peace. For God has me in his hands and even though I know not what will happen next, for now, I am here.

So I guess for me, there was no other option I considered than to stay positive, stay faithful, lean on others, ask for prayers, and to move forward. To make most days count. To exist in the here and now. To show that yes, this horrible ordeal happened to me (even though some days I can scarcely believe it!) but I came out the other side. And so can you. Because I will love you, support you, and hold your hand through it. And I bring along a slew of people who are holding my hand as well.

And in that fact, I find Grace.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Oh Lord, if my feet are meant to be on this path, then lead me. If I am meant to pause, help me find peace in the moment......

Peace in the moment. Peace. Today I had my follow up with the plastics dr. Dr. Terry McKatyn. He is a gem among men. A little quirky but not overbearing. And he listens. He did not do the lift surgery he wanted to two weeks ago. I chickened out. In order for him to do the lift, he would have had to cut around my nipple to move things up. Which would have compromised my blood flow. Which means IF I got cancer in my left breast. And IF it weren't close to the skin or in the nipple, THEN I couldn't have a nipple sparing, skin saving mastectomy like I had on the right. And I so want that surgery again if it comes down to it. So he just augmented. So the breast is off. The nipple is off, the size is off. But it was my choice. And I know why I made it. So we agreed. I see him in three months to double check things. And then when I am a 5 year survivor, I'll let him do the lift. ;) Deal.

I suddenly have a new lease on life. As if this surgery and these results were hanging over my head like an anvil ready to fall. But three months ago, I stood in this kitchen, on this computer, with cancer in my right breast. Two days later I had a mastectomy that removed it. Today I stand here cancer free. For now? Maybe. Forever? Maybe. But right at THIS moment, I am cancer free. I had cancer. Now, I do not. And I am going to live for that.

I am going to take my friend Crystal's advice and I am going to proceed with joy. That each milestone I DO make, I can mark them off the list. Eighth grade night. CHECK. First grade. CHECK. Potty Training a girl. Soon. But I will be here for many of them. I am a survivor. And a fighter. And I will move forward with positive thoughts. Because with those, my emotional well being will heal, and my physical strength will return.

For the past 2 days I have walked my 10,000 steps. Those steps that came so easily just a few months ago, are a struggle now. My body hurts, I'm tired. The medicine makes my joints ache. But I move on. Forward. To get those steps in. To get back my strength from before. To recapture ME for a time. I will succeed. In time.

For months I have floundered. How can I counsel people at work? How can I tell them how to eat healthy, to BE healthy and reduce their risk of medical conditions and cancer when I, myself, had cancer. Will they look at me differently? Will they think I know nothing?? And then a quiet voice on the phone tells me..."Since you know more about what my journey is like, I want your opinion..." and I realize, this walk was not one I did to myself. I did nothing concrete to cause breast cancer. I eat healthy. I work out. I maintain a healthy weight. I do not smoke. I have cut way back on my alcohol intake. But I got cancer. My genes and the environment made a situation in my body that became toxic. And cancer was the result. I will continue to do what I can to remove the chances of getting cancer again. It is all I can do. And all I can advise others. But in the meantime, I've decided I will live my life as well.

Is this journey over? No. I have a huge 3 day walk to make in October with five of the most amazing women I have gotten to know. I have survivors to meet. I have fighters to pray for. I have those who have been taken to celebrate. And I have four children and a husband that need me. This story is not over by far. Only ready for another chapter.

Peace. I think I have stilled my heart enough to find it. God was there with it all along. Only I kept darting away. Be still and know that He Is. And the peace will come to you, too.