Monday, September 30, 2013

one year later

The last year has been so weird. At times, it's felt like there have been many more years stuffed into this one, but looking back, I can't believe it's already been a whole year since I first found the lump. It's been a life changing year. I know that I've been greatly blessed, but I also feel that I've missed out on some pretty important things (there are whole months that I can't remember anything but the "bad", pain, chemo, nausea, missing the girls, anxiety). I know part of it wasn't really my fault. Surgery and chemo were completely necessary to rid my body of the cancer...pain and nausea were both part of the process. I knew then that I physically couldn't handle the girls being home during the roughest times. Looking back, there is no way I could have handled it emotionally either. It doesn't change the fact that I feel I've missed a huge chunk of the past year with them.

Part of the reason I feel that way is because I think I shut down so that I could just get through everything. I didn't realize it while it was happening, but I can see now that I just went through the motions for a while (not constantly, but for more time than I'd like to admit). To be totally honest, I've really only stopped doing that in the last few weeks. I'm tired of being a hollow shell...I want to feel everything fully again. It's hard processing through the last 12 months. So many emotions well up (disappointment, bitterness, anger, remorse, sorrow, joy, apathy, excitement, agony, embarrassment, confusion, peace, hope, and many others). I've got to start making my way through the muddle; otherwise, I'll be stuck going through the motions for the rest of my life.

Honestly, this year has been a whirlwind. Sometimes it all seems like a nightmare, but then I see the scars and my cropped head and I'm reminded just how real it's been. I keep going back to that first appointment when I was told I most likely had a "pesky cyst." I tried to make myself feel relieved that I had just dodged a bullet, but in the back of my mind, I was still concerned that something more was going on. I felt anxious for two months. I was hoping that going back to the doctor would ease that, but instead, my world was shaken. I left the hospital after having the biopsy fairly certain that I was facing something major. I couldn't enjoy Christmas because I was on pins and needles waiting for the clinic to call and tell me what I had. I tried to make sure the girls had a wonderful time, but it was so incredibly difficult because I wanted to crawl in bed and shut the world out.

After getting that dreaded phone call, I'm pretty sure I entered a somewhat catatonic state. I did what was expected, but I honestly don't remember much of anything except the intense need to get everything over with as quickly as possible. I'm still amazed that I had surgery two weeks after getting the diagnosis...I'm glad it happened so quickly because I didn't have time to second guess decisions or dwell on the situation.

It's also incredibly hard to fathom that it's only been nine months since my bilateral mastectomy. So much has happened in that small chunk of time. I completed chemo and had so few side effects...the main one was no hair (the only hair I missed was the stuff on my head...I kinda wish the other just stayed gone). I completed all but the final reconstruction step...that one happens on October 10. (Only by God's grace and mercy have I been able to complete this whole process almost a year to the day of first finding the lump...and just over nine months from surgery day.)

My hair is now growing like a weed. I'm pretty sure this is the fastest it has ever grown. I have a pixie "cut"'s crazy curly, and people that don't know what I've been through assume I just chose a super short style. I am so ready to be able to put it in a ponytail again.

I am sitting here near tears because this year has been so hard! I was stretched and pushed past what I thought my limits were. God moved mightily in me during this year. He moved mountains in my life. I've read (and am now rereading that I'm a little more clear-headed) a couple books that have challenged me to seek God like never before and to let go of my fears. I'm learning to find God in the things that I wouldn't notice if I wasn't searching for them. I'm learning how to rest in his word and to not listen to the fear and doubt. This year was a year of trial, but I'm hoping that it paved the way for me to dig in and grow deep roots.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

daily sufficient grace

I'm going to try to write out something that has been on my heart for several days...I'm not sure if I can sufficiently put into words all that is there.

A sweet older lady in our church came up to me after service last Sunday and told me how much seeing me go through this journey has encouraged her in her faith walk. She said that she was amazed at how strong my faith was and that she didn't think she could be as strong as I had been. I was floored! I've just felt like I've been putting one foot in front of the other to try to keep from being swallowed up by all the crazy thoughts and emotions that have come with finding the lump, diagnosis, surgery, recovery, and treatment. I have purposely done as much as I could, and probably sometimes more than I should have, to get over the surgery and to beat cancer. Honestly though, a lot of times, I haven't even thought about how it could grow my faith or strengthen my relationship with the Lord. I was doing what I had to do to survive.

Her comment has stuck with me all week. I've been trying harder to trust God's plan and to walk in it. I want this journey to be something that leads me into the arms of Jesus. In turn, I want others to be led to him because they see that my trust in him is what has brought me through the dark days and that my faith in him is what has encouraged me to keep going. I've been digging into Scripture more in the last week than I have in a really long time. I've also been purposely listening to some songs that really resonate with me right now.

One place I always return to in the Bible is the book of Ruth. I LOVE the me, it is much more than just a story about a woman finding love. It's about a woman wholly trusting in God and living a life of faith, believing that he will take care of her, even when circumstances seem overwhelming. My favorite verse in the book is 1.16-17 "Don't urge me to leave you or turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me." Ruth had met God and was determined to know him more. Naomi could take her to a place where she could learn more about him. Ruth vowed this to Naomi because her love for the woman that taught her of God was great, but her love for God was to be greater. I want my life to draw me daily closer to God. And I want to tell him "Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay."

The title of this post comes from the song "Grace" by Laura Story. I put it in my playlist of songs I listen to on hard days, but I hadn't paid much attention to it until today. I feel like I have let God down because I haven't turned to him as much as I should have during all that has gone on in the last few months. I have probably missed several things that he's wanted to teach me because I wasn't paying attention. I've seen the miracles that he's done for me and through me during all of this, but I haven't let him teach me all that he could have. The song reminded me that I don't have to be discouraged about how I messed up yesterday...I just have to be open to his grace and teaching today. I have to turn to him daily, sometimes moment by moment, for all that I need. When I seek his face, I walk in his power and have daily sufficient grace. I don't need him to give me all I need at once. I need to daily return to him and let him give me what I need for that day. I can't take what I need for a week or a month because life quickly strips it from me. I have to daily depend on him to get me through. That is the only way that I'll be able to grow in my faith. That is the only way that his grace and love can shine through me.


My heart is so proud. My mind is so unfocused.
I see the things You do through me as great things I have done. And now You gently break me, then lovingly You take me and hold me as my father and mold me as my maker.

I ask you: "How many times will you pick me up, when I keep on letting you down?
And each time I will fall short of Your glory, how far will forgiveness abound?"
And you answer: " My child, I love you.
And as long as you're seeking My face, You'll walk in the power of My daily sufficient grace."

At times I may grow weak and feel a bit discouraged, knowing that someone, somewhere could do a better job. For who am I to serve You?I know I don't deserve You. And that's the part that burns in my heart and keeps me hanging on.

I ask you: "How many times will you pick me up, when I keep on letting you down?
And each time I will fall short of Your glory, how far will forgiveness abounds?"
And you answer: " My child, I love you.
And as long as you're seeking My face, You'll walk in the power of My daily sufficient grace."
You are so patient with me, Lord.

As I walk with You, I'm learning what Your grace really means. The price that I could never pay was paid at Calvary. So, instead of trying to repay You, I'm learning to simply obey You
by giving up my life to you For all that You've given to me.

I ask you: "How many times will you pick me up, when I keep on letting you down?
And each time I will fall short of Your glory, how far will forgiveness abounds?"
And you answer: " My child, I love you.
And as long as you're seeking My face, You'll walk in the power of My daily sufficient grace."

Monday, March 4, 2013

end of physical therapy and chemo treatment #2

God is still at it! I'm still doing really well with all the treatments and recovery. If it wasn't for the really dry skin and bald head, I would question whether they really gave me the right amount of chemo last time.

I went to my final physical therapy session on Thursday. I was supposed to have to go three times a week for four weeks, but the PT felt like I was at a point already where I only needed to go once a week. From the beginning, he told me that my range of motion in both shoulders was much further along than it should be for that point post surgery. When I finished Thursday, he told me that I have full range of motion in both shoulders and that that's not usually the case for seven weeks post surgery. I still have to do my exercises to help make sure scar tissue doesn't develop and cause problems.

Today, I had lab work done and then saw Dr. Young. I updated her on where I was in recovery and she was more than pleased at how well I'm doing. She was also amazed at my counts from the lab. She said it they are normal and that you wouldn't know I was taking chemo based on the results! She asked what side effects I had after the first treatment and told me to expect pretty similar side effects this time. So it looks like I'll be looking at some mild headaches, chemo mouth, and not really being able to taste things for a few days. I'm hoping for a repeat of very little nausea and tiredness.

The actual chemo treatment was looooong. I didn't get a private room this time and ended up with a new nurse even though we had requested to have the same one from last time (or at least I think we did). It seemed to take a really long time to get the drugs, even though Dr. Young had called in the orders for them before we got to the chemo floor. Then it seemed like it took way longer than two hours for them to be administered. Maybe I was just having a really cranky day and everything aggravated me though because it seemed like everything annoyed me today.

I have to go next week to see Dr. Runnels again. I think he'll add more saline to the tissue expanders. Hopefully, he'll have a better idea on how much longer it'll be before the procedure to switch from the expanders to the permanent implants.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

a revelation

I've been thinking a lot today about how blessed I've been through this journey so far. Then something that I hadn't thought about in a while smacked me upside the head. I've often wondered why God allowed us to get pregnant with ML so quickly after we got married. Our plan was to wait 2-3 years to have a baby so that I could easily finish graduate school. We had been married 6 months when we found out I was pregnant and all our plans were thrown out the window. Even during that moment of shock, we knew that God had plans that were bigger than ours and that we just had to trust in him. It hit me today that he knew we'd be walking down this road now. If we had it our way on when to have kids, I probably would have been pregnant when I found the lump. God knew what we didn't and chose to bless us with what we wanted earlier than we wanted it.

Until today, I'd been feeling sorry for myself because I still want another baby and can't even try to have one for at least 5 years. But now, I'm thankful that God's plans aren't my own and that he chose to bless me with a child before I was ready for one. I'm in awe of how he works things together for our good, even when we would have preferred them to have been totally different.

I forgot to mention this last week, but my genetic testing came back negative. In all the tests they did, no mutation was found in the BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 genes.

Friday, February 15, 2013

new 'do

So I'd originally planned to just get a buzz cut a week or so after my first chemo treatment. I decided that might be just a teensy drastic and decided on a shorter pixie cut instead. It's short enough that it'll be easy to buzz it later if my hair does start coming out but it's also still feminine in case it only thins and doesn't come out all the way.

I did a google search and looked through pinterest and found a couple styles that I liked that I thought would work for my face shape. I've always loved Audrey Hepburn, so I decided to try something similar to the pixie cut she had in some of her movies. My stylist fixed it so that it has more volume (I was clueless how to make it do that so she was showing me a few things) but I'll probably normally fix it where it is a little flatter.

After my cut, both the girls decided they needed a new hairstyle too. Mattie Leigh got four inches or so cut off hers and got it styled with layers. Allie Grace got about two inches trimmed from hers and got a few wispy layers added. They are both excited about their "big girl" haircuts.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


I was really expecting to have some major nausea after my chemo on Monday. Praise the Lord, I haven't had more than really mild nausea a couple of different times (I'm fairly certain one can be attributed to acid reflux and the other to a bad migraine).

I've also still had most of my energy and have felt like doing just about as much as I have since feeling better from surgery. I know how blessed I am and that this is by far an exception and not the norm for how people feel post chemo. Thank you to everyone for the prayers; I'm certain that this is why I have done so well so far in my recovery.

I had my second physical therapy session today. I was told that I have almost my full range of motion back and that I only need to go for sessions once a week instead of three times a week. I am being allowed to drop my range of motion exercises from six times a day to twice a day and I have some strengthening exercises to do once a day. I was talking with another lady who was having physical therapy done on her foot, and my therapist told her that I was one of the toughest people that he'd seen this quickly post surgery. I know God has big plans for my story because of the many miracles that he keeps performing in my life.

I'm going to get my hair cut tomorrow. I decided not to shave it. I'm going to get a pixie cut (like Audrey Hepburn had in some of her movies and like Anne Hathaway has for her role in Les Mis. This way, I still have some hair and don't look totally crazy if it doesn't fall out from chemo. If it does fall out, I can easily just buzz cut it later.

Monday, February 11, 2013

first treatment

I had to be at the clinic at 9:00 this morning for my first chemo treatment. I waited a little over an hour for them to call me back for lab work. I think it was at least another hour after that that we went back for them to start the IV. They pumped me full of Zofran and Decadron before starting the chemo drugs so that I wouldn't be nauseous and to help lessen any allergic reaction that I could have had. I was also given a flu shot and pneumonia shot. I think we finally left the clinic around 3:00.

I had one of the best nurses (I told her I was requesting her for my other treatments too). She told Kevin and me that she could see the hand of God on me and that she could feel the peace that I had about the whole situation. She then told me "by HIS stripes, you are healed!" It reassured me, yet again, that God is definitely holding on to me during this journey.

Because I was hyped up from the Decadron, we went to Target after we left the clinic. I found a couple more hats on sale and we found Allie Grace's birthday present. I wanted to get out while I felt like it and take care of her present...I've been so afraid that I wouldn't feel up to helping her celebrate turning three so I needed to get this done while I could.

We also had dinner with a dear friend on our way back home. He actually took time out of his hectic schedule to come to the clinic and sit with us for a little while too. Again, God knew I needed a little extra reassurance that I was going to be okay today.

I was so excited when we got home because my new the rusted chain necklace came in the mail today. I LOVE Beki's work. I got this one with a gift certificate that I won from a facebook giveaway that she did. I think it fits perfectly with my situation right now.