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Monday, October 23, 2017

Skipper

Tomorrow!!
In exactly 12 hours I go in for yet another surgery. This time I get these super uncomfortable expanders out and my squishy implants in. New FOOBS for this girl!!

Yes, I'm excited.

I'm only a tiny bit nervous.

Prayers are always appreciated💙

And here's a little humor for your trouble😉 (just don't call me Skipper!)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Metamorphosis

met·a·mor·pho·sis
ˌmedəˈmôrfəsəs/
noun

...the process of transformation from an immature form to an adult form in two or more distinct stages...

...a change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one, by natural or supernatural means...

I couldn't have found a more appropriate word to describe this reconstruction process. I felt like cancer and its standardized "treatments" left me in shambles. The wreckage gave light to why so many refer to this as a battlefield and I, a warrior. I felt broken, maimed, mutilated, empty, and lost. I felt like a shell of my old self. I desperately needed God to transform my shattered pieces into something beautiful again. Whole. Feminine. Restored.

I put on a good mask in public...

I'm quickly approaching the anniversary of my last chemo treatment. I've had much work to do to clean up the mess it caused. Detoxing my physical body was only part of it. I needed to rid my heart from past hurts, my mind from the lies I'd allowed to take up space in my head. The healing has been slow and painful, but good. Oh, so good!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2 Corinthians 5:17

My Creator is in control here. I'm looking forward to my new form.

[A very special thank you to Bella Joi photography for capturing my vision and bringing it to life.]

Monday, October 16, 2017

Reconstruction

4 months ago I went in for surgery to begin the process of restoring some semblance of my pre-cancer body. I haven't posted an update since because...well, it's been hard to put into words the myriad of emotions I've experienced along the way. It has also been a more delicate subject to share publicly, this rebuilding of my breasts. I go in next week to complete the process (God willing!) and I figure it's time to fill in the gaps.

In June of 2016, I underwent a bilateral mastectomy, more commonly known as a double mastectomy. Even though the cancer was only in my right breast (and one lymph node), it was an "easy decision" to have both removed. At that time I opted to delay reconstruction to allow my body to heal from surgery and chemo before putting more stress on my already impaired body.

I was left with scars from armpit to armpit, scattered along my ribs from blistering caused by an allergic reaction to the surgical tape, plus more scars from those horrid drains. I also had "dog ears", weird looking tissue under my armpits that look weird in my clothing and are uncomfortable when exercising. I call those my armpit boobs because...they are.


One year later, I went in for yet another surgery to have tissue expanders placed underneath my pectoral muscles. This is my surgeon's "game plan", marking where he would go in, where my new incisions would be (he used the same scar lines), and that little circle on the right was a suspicious lump that appeared. 


It was removed and sent to pathology and was thankfully just funky scar tissue and not more cancer. More drains, more scars, more healing.


 Giving myself injections to avoid blood clots, measuring fluid output from the drains, nausea. It's sad how familiar this has all become. 


Alloderm, was sewn in to hold the expander in place, creating a bit of a hammock.


Expanders look like fancy whoopy cushions. This is the sample expander my nurse showed me and my mom, my constant companion to these appointments ♥ The ones I have have 3 of those little tabs, each to hold the expander in place with a few uncomfortable stitches. 


Each expander has a magnetic port so they don't puncture the wrong spot. That would be bad!


Each week I would go in for fills. 50ccs of saline in each side until the desired size was reached. That funny looking device in the upper right hand corner reminds me of some type of navigation tool. I guess in a way it is. It has a magnet in it to locate the port in the expanders.

I'm sure you can imagine the discomfort (that word really doesn't have much weight to it) that these things caused. I have rock-hard boulders stitched under my pecs. I can't sleep comfortably on my side or my back and have been on muscle relaxers and pain meds throughout the process. I can't wait to be done. Next Tuesday, October 24th, I will go in for my "exchange". My plastic surgeon will swap the expanders for implants. I'm told they will be much more comfortable than the expanders and I should heal quickly.

There's more to share but that's for another day❤

PRAYER REQUESTS
I got sick this weekend. My first cold in over a year and a half, but it's a doozy. Please pray that I will be well again soon and nothing will delay my surgery date.
Also, my medical donation fund set up last year has allowed me to continue with treatments, self care, and medical expenses but is now less than $200. I see my integrative oncologist this week and that will leave me with very little left and that is causing me no small amount of stress. I'm not even sure how to ask you to pray here, but I trust God has a plan for this.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

2 days post op

This morning was my first time waking up at home. I slept through the night, which is both good and bad. Good because I need the rest to heal. Bad because it means I didn't take any pain meds for almost 10 hours. I was in so much pain just trying to sit up I thought I'd either throw up or pass out from the pain. No bueno. I'm thankful my boys were here to help me get a quick bite to eat so I could take my meds. It's taking about 45 mins for them to kick in. Ugh...

Feeling better now but planning to try and stay ahead of the pain going forward.  I hate taking meds but right now they're necessary.

My surgery went well. No complications. My surgeon was able to place my expanders and give me my first fills. I'll see him again in 2 weeks to remove my drains. Thankfully the drains aren't bothering me as much as the ones last year from my mastectomy. Awkward and uncomfortable, yes, but not awful.

I'm sending out gentle hugs to all my loving helpers these last few days. You know who you are 💜 Thank you! Whether it was to deliver a meal or just a quick visit, we appreciate it. The more I can rest the faster I'll heal.

While prayers for my healing are appreciated, please continue to keep our family (especially Charlie, his sister Angie, and stepdad Ray) in your prayers as we each find our way through the grief of losing his mom less than 2 weeks ago. Thank you❤

Showtime

8:30 am UPDATE: All is well. Got a little rest and they finally figured out a pain med that seems to be working without making me ill.  I'm going home in a couple hours. Thanks for covering me in prayer💜

Night owls, please pray. It's been over 12 hours since I got out of surgery and I haven't slept. I got 2 hours Monday night. I have a very LOUD roommate that is coughing and puking. I can hear her through ear plugs. The thought of me getting sick when I'm in so much pain already is no good.  I'm wearing a mask but claustrophobia sucks and so do hot flashes. So far nothing they've given me has touched the pain. Please pray. They tell me there are no empty rooms. I just want to go home.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Rearview mirror

One year ago today, I went in for a life-changing, life-saving surgery to remove the cancer invading my body. I am still sorting through the long-lasting effects, even now as I'm preparing for another surgery to rebuild what was destroyed.

Not long after my double mastectomy last year, I had a doctor tell me "I know this is hard right now, but a year from now you'll look back and see that this is all behind you." The timing was perfect. It was just what I needed to hear then to carry me through the months to come. I looked forward to this day, looking in my rearview mirror to see that cancer was far behind me...only it's not.

I'll be honest (because what's the point of lying?) I'm struggling lately. When I stopped chemo last November, I was hopeful to enjoy and celebrate the holidays with my family. They too have been through so much. But it flew by with more doctor appointments and catching up on everything that had been put on hold. Everything but them. I was hopeful for a family getaway to rest and recuperate, to spend time together, to celebrate the end of the hardest days of my life (their lives too), but that has been put on hold too. We went from one hardship right into another. My inlaws both are fighting cancer right now. Both were diagnosed just as I finished treatment. My mother-in-law is close to her Homecoming. Soon she will be face to face with Jesus. How pathetic that I'm a little jealous. No more suffering. It's so not fair! No more sickness and pain. I hate cancer. I'm so happy for her. She will be missed but she will be remembered and loved always.

I said I was struggling. That may be an understatement. I need your prayers, my friends. I should be celebrating today but instead I'm in tears. This dark cloud that has moved in again is not welcome here but I'm helpless to change it. I pray and I know God hears my prayers. I just wish I could hear his response...

Some days it's a lot easier to choose joy. I *want* to choose joy! I want off this stupid rollercoaster of emotions and hardship. I have much to be thankful for. I also have much that weighs heavily on my heart. God tells us (repeatedly) to be strong and courageous. He also tells us not to be anxious. I feel weak and afraid, worried, disobedient. I feel like I've failed.

I planned to have a party next weekend to celebrate my year of being cancer free. As much as I want to do that, I'm not sure it's a *need* that God is providing for. I go in for reconstructive surgery at the end of this month and will not be able to work for a couple weeks. I had planned accordingly with my schedule at my art studio, scheduled extra classes and events to help cover the weeks I won't be working. I'm starting to wonder if that too is a *want* rather than a need. Business is so slow...I truly don't know how I'll be able to keep my doors open if I go through with my surgery. Please pray. God is so confusing sometimes yet I know he loves me. I just don't understand what he wants me to do next. Who am I to doubt his plans when I *know* they are good? Who am I to question God?

How do you climb out of a dark pit of despair when so much is out of your control??

Friday, May 5, 2017

One year

One year ago today, I sat in the doctor's office with a doctor I'd only met because my regular doctor was unavailable. I sat there with Charlie, waiting to hear the results of my biopsy. The doctor walked in wearing stilettos and I remember thinking how impractical those shoes must be, especially for a doctor. As she started going over my results, her vocabulary made me cringe...trash mouth...I wanted to hand her a bar of soap...but cancer. I have cancer? I wasn't sure if I heard her correctly through all the profanities. Cancer. I wanted to tell her to shut up. Stop saying those words. Stop being unprofessional. Stop talking. Just stop.

I had planned an open studio for that afternoon. Charlie encouraged me to cancel it and go home. I insisted that I needed to be busy. I didn't want to be alone. I didn't want to think about what the doctor said. I didn't want to have cancer. I wanted to throw up. I needed to scream. I went to paint. No one showed up. I was alone anyway. I painted and I prayed. I covered my hands in paint and smeared it on my canvas. I was scared.

fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

I was not alone. God was with me then and he is with me now. It's been one year since my world was turned upside-down and I am well. I am still choosing JOY. Thanks be to God❤

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

First check

It's been awhile since I've shared much of anything. There are many reasons for that, none of them I feel necessary to explain, but there is a bit of an update.

Yesterday was my first post-chemo checkup with my oncologist. When I got there, I sat in the parking lot on the verge of tears, feeling like I might throw up. This time was so different...not there for treatment...not there with someone else. Feeling very alone...but determined. We discussed what the last 3.5 months have been like for me, what to do next. She did her sales pitch for tamoxifen again, as I expected, but I'm holding my ground. I have no intention of doing it. I asked for labs again, checking my vitamin D and more, liver function, and hormone levels. We talked about reconstructive surgery too. I'll have another CTC test next month when I see my integrative oncologist. (For those that don't know, the Circulating Tumor Cells test I had in January came back showing 0...ZERO...cancer cells in my body. Praise the Lord!! I've been way out of whack on my diet the last few weeks, but it feels good to be getting back on track again. I want to keep that number at zero! I'm adjusting my supplements too since my body's needs have changed.

I'm exercising 4+ days a week now, and loving it, though in shorter spells on some days since I'm finding myself exhausted and needing more rest. (This daylight savings has been rough!) I'm looking forward to the sunshine though! Did you hear I went skiing?? First time in 19 years, only one run, but I did it. As a result, I'm setting more goals like this for this year.

God has been working on my heart too. Things that previously would have lingered (festered) and brought me down are now put into (proper) perspective. I recently had an...encounter...with a "friend" that left me reeling but then, after much prayer over the matter, freedom. The hurt was real and painful, but I don't have to stay in that place. Healing is happening...

I'm spending several days a week in my studio doing what I love and sharing it with whomever shows up. God is at work there too, bringing in the people HE wants there and that's all I want. I love getting messages from customers telling me how my classes boosted their confidence or helped them to relax. The therapeutic element is evident in many ways and I'm thankful that he's using me to bless others.

If you've read this far, I'm asking that you join me in prayer. In the last 3 months, we've had 3 family members diagnosed with cancer. It's hitting close to home and a little too soon for me but we don't get to choose, do we? Please pray for their healing, for wisdom for both patients and doctors, and for them each to be surrounded by the loving support they're sure to need in the months to come. Thank you!

The following pictures were taken 1 month apart: 

Today (mid March) 


Mid February
Mid January
Mid December
It's nice to have hair again! Lol 😂

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

+2mos

It's been 2 months since my last chemo infusion. I am asked all the time how I'm feeling. I am well. I mean that. I feel good.
Things that have returned or have been restored: my appetite (woohoo!), my sense of taste, my energy (mostly), my hair (everywhere), my strength, my life, and joy. Joy, like I've never known it before.  

It's good to recognize that joy though. Especially since we've experienced so much non-joy recently. Another family member battling cancer, a broken car x2, a broken dryer, a broken water heater. All this in the last few weeks. Good grief! But God is good and we know it will all be okay.

After spending most of last year in one doctor's office after another, I'm so thankful to have a bit of "normal" back in my schedule. I'm more selective on how and where I spend my time and trying not to stretch myself too thin. My integrative oncologist has helped me lay out a plan for this healing year, both what I put in my body (food, environmental, etc) and what I put out (exercise, therapies, etc). I'm already noticing the healing to my brain. Bye bye, chemo brain! I feel like I'm dancing my way through the week-  Monday = ballroom dancing lessons, Tuesdays & Thursdays  = aqua zumba class, some Fridays we dance again to practice what we learned on Monday. Other Fridays, Nathan and I are walking for miles. This Friday, I just might be found on the mountain for the first time in 19 years. Pray for me! 😂

I'm still homeschooling my boys but this past year has pushed them into further independence. That's not a bad thing though and I'm glad to be back on track with them both.

I'm spending more and more time in my art studio. The transition from being a mobile operation to having a permanent location has taken some adjustment but I have hope that it will turn out well. Don't get me wrong - I love it. It's just different than what I've been doing and will take some getting used to. (Eventually it will bring in a profit, right? Lol)  I absolutely love being able to share this venture with others, what has been so healing for me. I've started reserving a seat or two from each class to gift to someone "just because" and that is good for me too.

I have a blood test to go do this week. I've been putting it off because of the cost but I really can't afford not to do it. $700+ to check my blood for circulating tumor cells. This first time will be a baseline test.  I'll have to do it again in the spring. I wish my insurance covered it. (The good news is that last week we finally got officially documentation that I have been approved for coverage through a special program.) So many of you have generously supported our family this past year and we sincerely thank you all. If you have it on your heart to help with this upcoming expense, please contact us or visit our donation page here. Each and every dollar makes a huge difference, no matter if it's $5 or $500.

I'm praying blessings and joy over each of you that reads this today 💜 Go hug a loved one...a few seconds longer than normal. Smile at someone you don't know. Do the unexpected just because you can. Say "I love you" often. Call a friend and catch up. Drop by and visit someone you've been meaning to connect with. Count your blessings.

1.23.2017

1.23.2017 - More time painting on the wall today makes me very happy 😊 Can't wait to finish it so I can share!

1.22.2017

1.22.2017 - BE JOYFUL! I don't know how many days I have. Neither do you! So why waste time grumbling and complaining? We are given good gifts every day! Praise God for each one.

From today's Sunday school teaching:
"And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun."
Ecclesiastes 8:15
Solomon's odd exhortation to enjoy life seems out of place because "the world is ungrateful," as Martin Luther put it, "always looking elsewhere and becoming bored with the things that are present, no matter how good they are."
Do not underestimate your daily bread and drink. Do not belittle your weekly work. Thank God for such gifts.
[Ecclesiastes, Douglas Sean O'Donnell]

1.21.2017

1.21.2017 - I spent most of today in my art studio, one of my favorite places to be lately. After a lovely tea and painting party, I started working on a secret project.  It makes me smile just thinking about it. Music blasting, paintbrush in hand, singing my heart out. Yep. Good day. And I got to wrap it up with my JAF family 💜 God is good.

1.20.2017

1.20.2017 - Ski school got cancelled today so I got an unexpected day with my beloved. Coffee,  Lowe's, working on "stuff" at my studio...and...more dancing! Lol 😂 #dancingfools

1.19.2017

1.19.2017 - Do you know what this is? That's right, it's a $3 solution that saved us the hefty cost of replacing our dryer. The repair guy didn't even charge me for a service call. Hallelujah, THAT makes me very happy!

1.18.2017

1.18.2017 - After-dinner selfies at my mom's house followed by a rousing game of Scrabble. I lost by 1 point.  😭 Life is good.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

1.17.2017

1.17.2017 - I almost skipped my aqua zumba class today. I'm just soooo tired...BUT I'm also determined to keep making life-giving, life-restoring choices. I love being back in the pool, Getting my workout in, even when I'm tired, and so I went. No regrets. (I did discover that I need a new towel though. This one's frayed and a bit threadbare but it's my favorite.)

1.16.2017

1.16.2017 - Yes, this is really the 3rd time in the past week that I'm posting about us dancing. But we really like it! 💜

Sunday, January 15, 2017

1.15.2016

1.15.2017 - Little things like this, seeing the discoloration of my finger nails growing out...the new, healthy nail growing in.. makes me thankful for each day, each moment. It makes me more selective on how I spend my time and who I spend it with. Each moment is a gift from God and I don't want to miss a single one!

1.14.2017

1.14.2017 - This is as close as we got to a photo of us ballroom dancing at tonight's Winter Wonderland Formal. Maybe someday we'll actually be good at it but meanwhile we (usually) enjoy the process of learning.

Friday, January 13, 2017

1.13.2017

1.13.2017 - I promised this kid that I'd walk with him today. Our goal was to walk for about 45 minutes. We enjoyed it so much - the laughter, the fresh air, the sunshine - we just kept walking. We dropped by my mom's house to say hi, went downtown and I bought him a chai latte (with caramel, please), and circled back home. My fitbit tells me we logged several miles today but there's nothing to measure the joy I get from spending time with this kid. I'm so proud of him 💜 Plus, he likes to give me hugs. And they're my favorite.

1.12.2017

1.12.2017 - This handsome guy...I love him so. He takes such good care of me and of our family. He works hard to make sure we have all we need, often sacrificing his wants to provide ours. His energy seems endless, he's always ready and willing to lend a helping hand. His love runs deep for those he cares about. He makes me laugh with his silly sense of humor. His eagerness to take care of me warms my heart and makes it full.  I don't know what I would do without him. I'm so thankful to have him by my side, doing life together.

♡|| I love you, Charlie ||♡

1.11.2017

1.11.2017 - Hot mama! Lol 😂 No, seriously. This is me "perspiring" in 140° infrared sauna...because ladies don't sweat, right? Uh...no...
Whole-body hyperthermia...raises my body temperatute higher than normal and..."may cause certain immune cells to become more active for the next few hours and raise the levels of cell-killing compounds in the blood." (American Cancer Society) Basically, it brings on a temporary fever, boosts my immune system, helps with pain, cellular healing, and detoxification.
This, for a girl who (used to) hate sweating. I now look forward to this treat. 😊

1.10.2017

1.10.2017 - Got my new specs today. Love them!

1.9.2017

1.9.2017 - dancing with my beloved at the Evergreen Ballroom 💜 (I really need to get a picture of us there and dancing!)

1.8.2017

1.8.2017 - "I've got my eye on you!" 😂 I can't tell you how many times I've sent my sister strange pictures like this but each one makes me giggle. And oh, my friends, laughter is good for the soul!
Truth be told, I don't know that I've ever looked this closely at myself...mostly a quick glance and I'm on my way. Now I see my reflection looking back at me and I like who I see. I am more accepting of my "flaws", knowing I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I see scars and wrinkles that mark my skin, telling my tales of the years I've been blessed with, the adventures I've lived, the battles I've fought. I see a head full of new, babysoft hair growing longer each day and know that I am healing. I praise God for  it all and am thankful for each day and each new discovery. It's not difficult to imagine him saying the same thing to me, "I've got my eye on you!" And I know that he does.

♡ I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. ♡ Psalms 139:14

1.7.2017

1.7.2017 - My baby turned 15 today. How can that be?? So happy to celebrate with some of our favorite people. And some killer bunnies 😉🐇 Happy birthday, Nathan!

1.6.2017

1.6.2017 - goofy puzzles with my goofy man (with help from our goofy son) equals our strangest stay-at-home date night ever.