Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Accepting a Different Kind of Christmas

Today is day 7 post-chemotherapy, and this is the point where everything that goes in my mouth has a burnt taste to it.  My strength is slowly returning and I look forward to enjoying a week and a half or so of feeling pretty good before my 6th and final treatment on January 11th.  I am coming down to the last few injections into my expanders that are needed for the over-expansion process.  The hope is that as soon as I can build my immune system again after the final chemo, I will be able to undergo my second surgery in which the expanders will be replaced with implants.  The expanders feel so foreign to my body that this second surgery is eagerly anticipated.  I continue to receive physical therapy treatment on the same days that I have my expansions in order to help reduce the muscle spasm of the pectoralis muscles. 

In the time since I last updated my journal, we have enjoyed a lot of family time.  Blake’s mom, Ivy and her husband, Jarrett’s visit from Oahu, HI has been a welcome change from the routine we have come to know since this journey began.  We celebrated Koa's 4th birthday with a winter luau complete with a Hawaiian plate of Kalua Pork, Mac Salad and Rice.  Christmas has provided some variety as well with Blake able to take some time off work allowing for more time to just be still and take it all in.

For me personally, this Christmas has been about acceptance.  I realize that most of the time my mood is based on how accomplished I feel.  The accomplishments usually include how organized my house is, how much time I spend with my kids, how consistently I have exercised, and how much time I spend with the Lord, just to name a few.  With the notorious hustle of the holidays, it is also about how many thoughtful gifts I can give.  Chemotherapy has definitely affected my ability to accomplish and has, therefore, set me up for a real season of feeling down.  Although I continue to be far from mastering it, my weakness during this time has been a good lesson in accepting what the Lord has for me.  I wasn’t able to give as many gifts this year, but between the Ulman Cancer Fund supplying gifts for our kids and trying to treasure the time spent with my family more, it turned out to be a pretty great Christmas.  Although we have received some free house cleaning, it can be quickly undone with the kids’ toys/games strewn all over and that is okay. My overall fatigue makes it hard to spend as much time playing with the kids but we have been blessed with rare occasion of having both sets of grandparents to love on our kids this Christmas.  I desperately miss the burn of a good workout and the high of a good run but have been able to take a few good walks recently.  As far as my time with the Lord, it has been more about being still and reflecting on all that He has brought me through in the last few months. In my acceptance of my lack of accomplishment, it has been more clear than ever that Christmas is simply about accepting the greatest gift given to us, a Savior come to earth as a baby.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Wasting of Our Earthly Tents

This has been of week of reminders that outwardly (our bodies) are wasting away. It started last Tuesday when my dear friend, Sara ended up at the Bowie Health Center with excruciating pain in her right side that turned out to be a dermoid cyst on her ovary. Then I got news that my neighbor and friend, Kim underwent emergency surgery and had been hospitalized for acute appendicitis and an appendix rupture. Sunday's church sermon was beautifully preached by Pastor Pat about our broken bodies, and my story of breast cancer was used as an example. I sent two care packages to women who are undergoing surgery for breast cancer this week. Then I watched a video of the amazing Tim Webster's recent testimony about the loss of his wife, Lara to brain cancer. This Saturday I will attend a memorial service for another friend, Bobby Snow that went home to heaven just last week after battling brain cancer as well. Frankly, I am overwhelmed by it all. The health concerns of my loved ones hit me in a whole new way these days.  

However, I am encouraged by several things that I got from listening to both Pat and Tim. First of all, Christmas is proof that God is here and that He cares. My journey has undoubtedly taught me that as well. Just as He showed up as a baby born in a manger as was prophesied long before it happened, I have seen Him show up for every step of my journey. And His care for me and my family is unmistakable. Tim mentioned that the suffering of losing Lara has made him long for Jesus' return and to be in heaven. Although I cannot identify with his loss, I can identify with his groans and longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling (2 Cor 5:2). The affliction of my physical body that I have experienced excites me for heaven where there will be no more pain, no more tears, no more heartache. I believe it hurts God to see us have to endure the suffering that comes when our or our loved one's physical bodies break down, but I believe He also wants us to long to be with Him and bring glory to Himself through it.   

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Mother's Love

I remember her saying it so many times as I was growing up. "You won't understand until you have kids of your own." This week I have been talking a lot with my mom about their annual Christmas letter since it will no doubt have to include sharing about my journey. I have been thinking about how the last 4 months have been for my mom as she has had to watch her child go through something like this. Since I received my diagnosis, I have praised the Lord that it is me having to go through it and not one of my kids.  Being a mom is the hardest job in the world not because of all the physical work involved (which there is plenty) but because of all the emotion involved.  God created us with such strong emotions to begin with and then we are given these gifts that we just can't help but love with this amazing self-sacrificing love. When something happens to cause them pain whether physical or emotional, we're frantic. Then tack on the fact that we are powerless to take that pain away and that makes us completely desperate. I know my mom must feel desperate at times, like when she has to watch them inject those crazy chemo drugs into me (especially the bright red one). This makes me so grateful that she too trusts in a Faithful God.  

My mom has taught me so much about relying on the Lord and praying for every detail of life no matter how small. She has also taught me so much about being a mom. She has always given so much of herself to make sure I know how loved I am.  It has been no different as I have walked this journey. Since there are many times I am unable to care for my kids, my mom is constantly filling in the gaps. And seriously if it isn't me or Blake, I want it to be her. She spends every Tuesday and Thursday helping me with the kids and takes Koa to school so I can avoid a germ-filled preschool. She keeps the kids at her house from Wednesday through Friday on the weeks that I have chemo so I can get the rest I need. As I mentioned, she sits by my side at the infusion center as I'm hooked up to IV bags receiving my chemotherapy treatments. These are just the beginning of all the things my mom does to help me get through each day of walking this journey.  More times than not when using the expression "You won't understand until you have kids of your own" it was when I was being denied something. But I am hoping she knows that I do understand. I understand what she has been feeling over the last few months and I understand why she does all that she does. More importantly, I want her to know how grateful I am for all of it.    

Monday, November 28, 2011

God's Intimate Concern

It continues to amaze me how the words of my devotional in Jesus Calling and my reading in The Land Between seem to echo each other as if there is a very specific message that I need to hear. The scripture reading in the devotional was one that I have come to love, Ephesians 3:17-18 "And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ."  Then the chapter I read in The Land Between was about all about God's Provision. I love this quote, "God loves to provide for us-providing is what He does. And he does it with intimate knowledge of who we are and what we need."

This message could not have come at a more appropriate time. Despite enjoying a beautiful Thanksgiving weekend at Bethany Beach with my family, I was fretting about the week ahead. Today I was scheduled with the Plastic Surgeon for another injection in the expanders which always leads to some increased discomfort. Tomorrow I need to have bloodwork followed by an appointment with the Oncologist. Then this Wednesday at 8 am begins the dreaded few days of nausea and fatigue that comes with my chemotherapy treatments. However, as I was reminded this morning, God provides. And not only does He provide but He provides out of His extremely wide, long, high and deep love for me. He has provided with people to help care for me and my kids this week. He has provided with a knowledgeable physical therapist to help give me relief after my expansion and talk through some of my concerns regarding the expansion process and my next surgery. He has provided with a phone call from my Nurse Navigator to let us know that an organization would like to provide Christmas gifts for our kids this year. Most of all, He has provided with His Word that continues to keep my heart encouraged. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Wind in my Sails-Part 2

My reading in The Life Between continues and I really love something I read in it this morning.  “With each discomfort we experience, our responses both reveal the person we are and set the trajectory for the person we are becoming.” It doesn’t seem like a profound point being made but then I started thinking about how hard it is to apply to our lives. It also reminded me of someone that has been teaching me this principle over the last ten years that I have known him. 

If you don’t have the privilege of knowing my husband, Blake I wish you would and I want to tell you a little about why. Blake is probably not the guy that will walk up to a stranger and start making conversation but once you get to know him, you just can’t help but like him.  On a personality test, he would score extremely high on Thinking vs. Feeling when determining how decisions are made. In our ten years together, I have never seen him shed a tear. We have a joke when we sit down to talk, I will ask “So how are you feeling about things?” There must be some emotion in there but it doesn’t present itself too often.  He isn’t one to start an argument either because conflict is not his thing. He is a hard worker but doesn’t spend too much time on any one task cause he doesn’t see the value in perfection. He always thinks ahead and is the man you want if you need to work out some logistics.  Numbers run through his head a lot especially when it comes to finances.  But perhaps my favorite and one of the most amazing things about Blake is that I never hear him complain. Most likely, this is because of his past. Blake lost his dad when he was just nine years old to Melanoma. His mom who is a truly amazing woman in my eyes then raised Blake and his three younger sisters on her own in Hawaii. The man I just described to you could have turned out a lot different being without his dad for most of his life.  Blake has chosen to let the hard stuff in his life provide him better perspective on what is truly important and realizes that discomfort can deepen our character if we let it.  It is for this reason and so many others that I know God has given me an incredible gift in my husband, especially for this time in my life. 

Yesterday, the kids and I had the privilege of participating in the Mid-Atlantic Cancer Support Group’s annual Fashion Show at Lord & Taylor in the Annapolis Mall.  The purpose of the fashion show is to celebrate cancer survivors and their families.  Who would have thought I would ever qualify? It was a great event to be a part of and I got to meet some really neat people.  I am including a picture of the kids and me from the fashion show. Thank you to all who came out to support us.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Manna in my Wilderness

I must confess that this week began with a bit of grumbling and complaining on my part.  It wasn't until I started reading The Land Between by Jeff Manion that I even realized the condition of my heart earlier this week.  Perhaps it is the shorter days (I love being outside) or the overall yuck feeling I have after chemo or maybe it is the discomfort from the expanders in my chest while trying to sleep at night.  Things were starting to get to me.  As I mentioned before "The Land Between" refers to the difficult transition times in our lives during which we have the option to put all of our trust in God or to start to grumble and complain. Jeff Manion uses the Isrealites' journey through the wilderness from their slavery in Egypt to the promised land in Canaan to help us compare to these times of "undesired, transitional space" in our own lives.  

I was particularly touched by what Manion says about the Isrealites' option for food while they are traveling through the desert.  Numbers 11 speaks of the manna that God sent down every night for them to eat.  They would then go around gathering it and would grind it up to either be cooked in a pot or made into cakes.  It doesn't sound like there were too many options for preparation, and this is what they ate for every meal.  I think I would start to grumble myself.  But then I was reminded that the manna was God's provision and it was literally falling from heaven for them.  As horrible as the thought of controlled poison being injected into my veins every 3 weeks is, chemotherapy is God's provision for me to be well and for this cancer to hopefully never come back.  As much as I hate not being able to sleep in my beloved fetal position with pillows between my legs and arms, the expanders are God's provision that my body might someday look pretty normal again.  And the short days, well maybe it is God's provision for me to slow down a bit and allow for some hibernation to get through the next few months. Especially with Thanksgiving being next week, I am so very grateful for the manna that God has provided for me and will do my best to avoid the grumbling and complaining.  

Friday, November 11, 2011

Almost Halfway There!

Wednesday was my third Chemotherapy treatment and I am excited to say that I am almost halfway through all of my chemo.  I say "almost" because I am still struggling through the side effects of this most recent treatment and feel like once I get through the next few days, I can honestly say I am halfway there. I have been relying on the Sancuso patch again for this round and it has been successful at keeping the nausea under control and keeping me out of the ER. I am extremely grateful for that. I am also grateful for the Lord's provision of those that cared for the kids and for me during the days when I am mostly in my bed.  It seems that He always works out the schedule to allow my mom, my aunt, and my friends to fill in the gaps when I don't have the strength for the usual activities.  

This week I have been reminded once again that this journey that I am on is all because God loves me and wants the best for me.  He has provided an opportunity ("a Land Between" as we heard at church on Sunday) for growth as I seek to put my trust completely in Him and learn that God is all I need.  I don't think I could have learned this without traveling through this land between at this time in my life.  So I will continue to be grateful and cling to how great His affections are for me. 

I am including a YouTube link to a song that I heard last Sunday.  I was so overwhelmed by "How He Loves Us".  Click here to listen.

Monday, October 31, 2011

God's Response for Me

I have received wonderful feedback regarding my last journal entry and would appreciate more.  However, I wanted to share how the Lord answered my last journal entry.  Forgive me for quoting it again but on Sunday morning, Jesus Calling said "Quietness is the classroom where you learn to hear my voice....When you step back into the mainstream of life, strain to hear those glorious bells, I am with you. I am with you. I am with you."  "When you step back into the mainstream of life.." It is as if He was directly speaking to my last journal entry. In other words, when your treatment is complete and you resume life as normal, set aside quiet time every day to hear My voice telling you I am with you. Guess I know where I will be spending my early mornings...

Later on Sunday morning we watched our church service online.  Pastor Pat spoke about remembering that God is the Great Rescuer. Jews use Passover as a celebration to remember that God was their Great Rescuer from the plague of the firstborn in Egypt.  Then Jesus gave us the Last Supper and specifically the Bread and Wine to remember that He rescued us from sin and death. Jesus has been my Great Rescuer ultimately through what He did on the cross but also in my present journey through Breast Cancer. Perhaps I will use July 29th (the day I was diagnosed) or my last day of treatment as a special day of remembrance in the years to come. One thing is certain, from this journey on Communion will hold even greater significance for me.  

I couldn't help but include a picture of my little elephant and chinese girl. I was so happy to be feeling well enough to fully enjoy all the Halloween festivities. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Deeply Rutted Paths

As I have mentioned before I like to try to start my day or at least spend some portion of it reading a devotional entitled Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  On Thursday, I read something that I cannot seem to get out of my head. It spoke about how we can lose our conscious awareness of how we are going through life. I love the quote (written as if Jesus is speaking) "I will not leave you circling in deeply rutted paths. Instead, I will lead you along fresh trails of adventure, revealing to you things you did not know." Wow! Before I began this journey, we were literally circling in deeply rutted paths.  Blake and I have said it many times that before this journey began, we were stuck. We were experiencing an extremely blessed life in that our jobs were stable, our family was healthy, and we were without any major worries. But we were also talking less and our faith was becoming a bit stagnant. This is what I love about our God! He wanted to lead us along a fresh trail of adventure. There are so many steps along my journey that have been without a doubt ordered by God to reveal things to us that we did not know.  

Race for the Cure

It is hard to put into words the experience of Sunday's Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. As I think about all the people that were represented there (and that was just in Maryland), I realize there are so many people affected by Breast Cancer and I am not alone. But as I reflect on the sacrifice of all the family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors that came all the way up to Hunt Valley before dawn to support our family, I am truly humbled by the fact that they want to be sure I know that I am not alone. It was without a doubt one of the highlights of my journey, if not a highlight of my entire life.

In the end, Kara's Krew was made up of 49 members and we raised $5,845.00.  Come to find out if we had raised $5,000.00 before a certain date, we would have been able to have our own designated tailgate area. So, I guess we have a goal for ourselves for next year!  The morning was not without its complications with an accident on I-83 that shut down the highway and kept a few of our team members from making it to the race in time.  However, considering the huge numbers of people and the amazing sea of pink, Kara's Krew did a great job of finding each other.  I think I was able to get a picture with almost every member of the team. Please click on the link Race for the Cure in order to see pictures of the day because they really tell you more than any words can say.  

 I will be sad to say goodbye to October and certainly miss seeing all the Breast Cancer Awareness stuff around.  In an effort to maximize the month, we along with a few of our friends  decorated our trunk for Bay Area Community Church's Trunk or Treat with "Pink and Pumpkin" in order to spread the awareness.  

Friday, October 21, 2011

His Compassions Are New Every Morning

"Yet I call this to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."
Lamentations 3: 21-23 

I have grown up hearing Lamentations 3:21-23 because it is one of my mom's favorite verses.  Since I have been walking this journey, these verses have continually been coming up reminding me of all that I have to be thankful for. I feel so blessed to be able to write this journal entry this morning. My experience after my second chemotherapy treatment has been considerably different than after the first. I attribute it first and foremost to the prayers that many of you have been saying for me. Then I attribute it the Sancuso patch that I started wearing 2 days before my treatment and will continue to wear for another day or so. I have also had several other drugs on hand to keep my nausea under control.  

We decided with this treatment that we would schedule it for earlier than the last time, so we were at the Infusion Center from 8:30 am until 1:30 pm. While we were there, we had a visit from one of my new friends from church that I have had the sweet opportunity to get to know because she walked a similar journey back in 2004. Her friendship has been a huge blessing to me and yet another one of God's compassions to me. Her visit seemed to make the time pass much more quickly. During my treatment and following the treatment, I felt very tired. I was prepared this time to just go home and rest in my bed with my anti-nausea medications on hand. When I started feeling some nausea at 3:30 pm after my treatment, I started using my medications regularly. Although I feel quite fatigued and nauseous at times, I am blessed to say that "devoid" is not the descriptor I would use. His compassions are new every morning! 

Another way that His compassions seem new every morning is how I seem to see "Pink" everywhere I turn.  I have been asked if I am "pinked out" and without a doubt, I am not!  It is funny because pink has always been one of my least favorite of colors but now have a newfound appreciation for it. I love that so many are joining in and sporting their pink to increase Breast Cancer Awareness this month. This weekend we have a team of 39 people including family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and patients called Kara's Krew joining together to walk/run in the Susan G. Komen's Race for the Cure in Hunt Valley, MD.  We have currently raised $4,690.00 as a team (which far exceeded any of our expectations but we would love to break $5,000.00).  I want to say to everyone that has joined Kara's Krew or participated through donations that I am very humbled. You have no idea how much it blesses us that you would support our family in this way. It means so much because I love running, because it is a huge sacrifice for 39 people to get up early on a Sunday and drive up to Hunt Valley (in the chilly temperatures), and most of all, because I don't want others to have to walk this journey. I am very excited for Sunday morning and plan to have our entire family decked out in pink (there will certainly be pictures to follow)  In the meantime, I will be close to my bed resting and gaining my strength to be able to personally say thank you to everyone on Sunday.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Quicker Showers

Yesterday was a big day.  A day that could have been full of such agony and yet my Faithful God made it a day of joy.  It began with church and a trip to Target-my first big outing wearing a scarf on my head. My hair had been falling out quite a bit and I was getting pretty tired of cleaning up hair. So we decided yesterday was the day to shave it. We borrowed some clippers, set up a chair in the kitchen, had the kids gathered around and Blake shaved my head. We tried to make it a fun event and get the kids excited. The crazy thing is they didn't really care that much. They laughed a bit at first but after a few minutes they were on to something else. I love that about kids and love that I am walking through this while my kids are so young. Last night, my sweet girlfriends threw me a Hat and Scarf party.  We enjoyed delicious desserts, and I was showered with many hats/scarves picked out by the ladies that know me best.  

Many have asked me about the wig thing. I have thought it about it a lot and really just don't feel like I am a wig kinda girl. I realize that this is a very personal decision for ladies having to walk through this and my feelings about the subject are just that-my feelings. I am choosing to go the scarf/hat/bald route because I don't want to cover up what is happening to me. I want people to know, but more importantly I want them to know all that I am learning through it.  So maybe they'll ask! 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

In Christ Alone

Today was another good hair day.  I don't know how many more of them I will have, but today I got to go see Megan (my hairstylist) again. The plan had always been to get one more really short cut before my hair falls out. So I walked in with a picture of a cute pixie cut on Natalie Portman and another picture of Alyssa Milano. And once again, Megan exceeded my expectations. I wonder if she ever imagined she would use her amazing skills with hair to minister to someone the way she has ministered to me. It is not a hairstyle I would pick for myself (I really loved the last haircut Megan gave me) but I am hopeful this will be an easier transition to my baldness for both me and the kids. Today I was reminded that it is just hair and this is just a season of my life, as well as a necessary part of my journey. 

Something else I was reminded of today and throughout my journey is that this life is not guaranteed. It seems like there are far too many friends that have had to walk the cancer journey. Just today I heard an update on a dear friend who has decided to stop receiving further treatment for Stage IV Brain Cancer. Fortunately this friend and his family believe that even in his surrender there is ultimate victory in Christ and heaven awaits. As I drove to my hair appointment this afternoon, I heard a song that I have heard and sang many times before. However, today the words touched me more than ever. The song is In Christ Alone and I especially love the following verse of the song:  

"No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand."

If you have never heard the song or even if you have, click here to watch a video. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Life As Usual, Just More Precious

Your prayers have been felt!  The last few days have been so incredible for me. It all began on Thursday evening when I was able to go on a pretty lengthy walk with one of my best girlfriends through our neighborhood. Then in the wee hours of the morning I was able to wake myself up to put my pre-order in for my new iPhone 4S (something I have been waiting for and saving up for since my birthday). Friday, I was able to meet some friends at the park with our kids to play and picnic. That evening we celebrated my dad's birthday with a delicious dinner that I was able to fully taste and enjoy. Then Saturday was rich with friends and traditions (as I mentioned before, two of my favorite things!) as we headed to the pumpkin patch and ate Five Guys for lunch at the park. Today continues to be great with a family walk to the park and lots of time outside in the yard. I have enjoyed sitting on my front porch (one of my favorite things about our house), and I even started reading The Help with hopes of completing it in time to go see the movie. I have loved watching my kids play. I especially loved watching Kalea hug all the pumpkins at the pumpkin patch! The weather has been amazing and my strength has returned. I haven't lost my hair yet so I am not reminded every time I look in the mirror. It is almost as though I have been able to forget I have cancer. 

The only thing missing this weekend was being with our church family this morning. This time period is when my white blood cells are predicted to be at their lowest, and therefore, we thought it would be best to stay home and watch online. It definitely isn't the same, but I am just grateful that I did not miss out on Pastor Greg's amazing recounting of the story of Baby Moses in the basket and how God used the faith of all the key characters to work out His perfect plan. I was reminded once again of why I need to just simply TRUST HIM!

 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those that love him, who have been called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


I felt bad about the way I left my last journal entry and have been wanting to get back here to leave on a more positive note. Several things have kept me from getting back to writing. One of which is that I have been a little uninspired. I am trying to listen to the Lord's voice with each journal entry and not just write for the sake of writing. I am happy to say that the Lord started to put something on my heart yesterday and then completely confirmed it (as only He can) today.  So I want to take the chance to say thank you for reading what I write.  It has helped me capture this journey more than anything else ever could. I look forward to reading my journal in the future and being reminded of all that God has done during this time.  

Although I do not wish to dwell on all the negative side effects I have experienced with my first round of chemotherapy (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, fatigue, restlessness, reflux, minimal bone pain, burnt taste in the mouth, etc), I also don't want to minimize them too much because they are an important part of my journey and this journal entry. Other than listing the effects as I just did, it is difficult to entirely describe what those days following chemo were like. But if I had to use just one word to describe it, I would use "devoid". The definition rang so true as I read it to mean "completely lacking, destitute, empty". The severe nausea was debilitating to the point of being unable to sleep or even sit still. This was what made it obvious that we needed medical help. Fortunately, they were able to provide enough relief at the ER that I could rest. However, it left me with an incredible weakness that I don't believe I have ever really experienced before including following my surgery. 

Today I was reminded of a sermon series that was preached at Bay Area Community Church on the prophet, Habbakuk. I feel like the description given in Habakkuk 3:17 so adequately describes me in the days following Chemotherapy. "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vine, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls."  I am so thankful to say that my strength as been renewed a little bit with each passing day but I felt like I was good for nothing, unable to care for my kids or even myself. I had no power of my own and was completely in need of the Lord's supernatural strength. I may have thought I was weary before, but I have truly never felt this lacking before. If my first experience with chemotherapy had been different, I might not be as intent on relying on the Lord's strength for the remaining cycles. I may have even entertained prideful thoughts that "my body stood up well to it" when the truth is, this entire journey has been about my spiritual submission to this circumstance that is completely out of my control. And what I really want is for Habakkuk 3:18 to describe me as it described Habakkuk, "Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be Joyful in God my Savior."

Today, I had a follow up with the Plastic Surgeon for another injection of saline into the expanders. Expansion days and the ones following are usually sore days, but relative to my post-chemo experience, it is nothing to complain about. I also had an appointment with my PT (Lymphedema Specialist) and that is always a relaxing time for me.  The best thing about today's appointments was that I actually drove myself to both.  It felt so good to hop in the car and go off on my own for a while. I was also able to take Koa out for a nice walk yesterday.  We walked to the park and talked, not about anything specific but it felt good to be able to do that with him. By the time we got back to the house, I was quite fatigued. Yet another reminder of how little control I have, to once be training for a half marathon and now to barely be able to walk to the park and back. But as long as the weather and my body allow, I plan to be out walking and rejoicing as I go. 

Friday, September 30, 2011

Chemo Day 1-2=NO GOOD!

Apparently, I fall into a category that is high risk for post-Chemo nausea. The strong correlation between pregnancy nausea and post-Chemo as well as my age make me more susceptible for experiencing severe nausea.  I kept hearing things like "You'll do great with it." and "The worst days are day 2-5". So when we finished up at 5:30 pm with my treatment and I started feeling pretty strong nausea by 9 pm, I was a bit surprised.  The nausea worsened to the point that there was no question we must go to the ER. I was hooked up to an IV and given anti-nausea medications which allowed about 50% improvement at most, but at least I was able to sleep. We were discharged from the ER at 4:30 am and it wasn't until about 12 noon yesterday that I started to feel like a human again. Blake went to work on about 1 hour of sleep and my parents and aunt took wonderful care of the kids at their house. My mom then took me to see Dr. Garg's Nurse Practitioner, Julie who prescribed an additional anti-nausea medication for me. I already had a few drugs to take but I think I was just beyond the point of return on Wednesday evening. They have a plan for my next round of Chemo but I must admit that I am scared to death considering what I just experienced. The goal is to keep me out of the ER for the future especially as I will be immunosuppressed.  Please pray for that as well as my continued improvement from this bout of nausea. I am slowly gaining strength but continue to be mostly in my bed. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Above and Beyond

 "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men" 
Colossians 3:23

There is a tendency in all of us to just go through the motions of whatever job it is that we have been called to do.  However, I (as a Breast Cancer patient) have the unique opportunity to experience the amazing good that people are willing to do.  I am not just referring to my friends and family who have poured out so much love to me, but I am also talking about those that are working in positions that required their paths to cross mine over the last few months.  I think back to the compassion that I felt from the two sonogram techs, Jennifer and Amy as they told me that I likely had Breast Cancer at the very beginning of my journey.  I remember the commitment of my Nurse Navigator, Amy V. as she has made herself available to me at all hours of the day in an effort to let me know she is walking alongside of me from the beginning of this journey to its end.  I realize how completely blessed I am that I have Dr. Garg as my Oncologist because of his amazing blend of intelligence and compassion for his patients. Then I think about the wonderful staff at Asbury Community Christian Preschool who are not only taking extra care in helping our son, Koa as his mommy is going through some changes but also took the time to make me a quilt to comfort me during my chemo treatments. I recall our electrician, Troy who came out to help us with what we thought was an electrical problem but has committed to helping us get our Air Conditioning working again. And lastly, as I sit in my special warming chair receiving my first chemo treatment, I am so grateful for a staff of caring nurses at the Infusion Center that work to make me as comfortable as possible. I chose physical therapy because I wanted to spend time with people that had a need and to make a difference in their lives.  Because of this journey I have been on the receiving end of that and can’t express the effect that it has had on me. I pray that this is a lasting impression that I will carry with me as I return to work. I pray also that those reading this would be reminded of the importance of the position they hold (and grateful to have one). Whether you are a mom of young kids, a healthcare professional, or salesperson, you have the opportunity to minister to people no matter what line of work you are in.  

 As I mentioned, I am writing this as I receive my first Chemotherapy treatment. I realized that I failed to update CaringBridge about our decision. We decided to go with the most aggressive treatment possible, which is the TAC regimen. I will have six treatments every three weeks, which will go through mid-January.  My treatments are about 4 hours long and include various anti-nausea medications followed by the three Chemo drugs Taxotere, Adriamycin (“Red Devil”) and Cytoxan all given through an IV. For now I am grateful for a few hours to just sit and relax with Blake in the midst of a busy week of appointments.  As we continue along the journey, we will just pray for minimal side effects and that my body stands up well to it. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sucker Punch

One of my sweet friends described it best. Yesterday felt like a "sucker punch"-one of those blows that catches you completely by surprise and knocks the wind out of you. My OncoType Dx Score came back very high, actually higher than my Oncologist expected. The positive of that is that there is no question that Chemotherapy is needed and will in fact reduce the recurrence rate of my cancer by about 20%. The bite comes in the fact that the Oncologist is now torn between giving me the chemo regimen (TC) we discussed during our previous visit and the one that does include Adriamycin ("The Red Devil"). So now the decision becomes ours to make. We plan to ask some more questions and make a final decision by tomorrow. Please pray for this decision. Whichever Chemo regimen it will be does begin on Wednesday 9/28.  

I struggle even writing this entry because I like to always be as positive as possible. I have had a rough 24 hours as the reality of Chemo has been setting in. I don't think I entirely know why God has allowed this sucker punch but I think He wants to know "Kara, do you really mean what you are writing in this journal? Does your hunger to know Me and be transformed by Me exceed your dread of suffering?" So I go back to a conversation that Blake and I had with some mentors/friends of ours in which I was asked "Would you trade this experience to have everything the way it was before your diagnosis?"  My answer at the time was beyond a shadow of any doubt "NO." It was "No" because of how I have experienced God in a completely new way.  It was "No" because my relationship with Blake is different.  It was "No" because I see life with a whole new perspective. The fact that the Cup wasn't taken from me and that the Cup might be worse than I anticipated means He is not finished with me. The transformation is not complete, and that is what I will cling to.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

May This Cup Be Taken From Me

I had a bit of trouble sleeping last night.  Some of this I attribute to some increased pain and difficulty finding a comfortable position.  Most of it I attribute to being anxious. This morning we will meet with Dr. Garg and hear the results of the OncoType Dx test. As I mentioned before the results help us to determine if Chemotherapy is a necessary treatment for my breast cancer. 

As I was lying in bed I couldn't help but think of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane just before He was to go to the cross. Matthew 26:39 says, "Going a little farther, He fell with his face to the ground and prayed, 'My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.'  I have prayed this prayer this morning. I don't want to be nauseous (I had enough of that being pregnant). I don't want to lose my hair. I don't want to have tingling in my arms and legs. I don't want to be too fatigued to take care of my kids. I don't want to have to rely on other people for another 3-4 mos. I want to get back to running and getting stronger. Father, if at all possible, please take this cup of Chemotherapy from me.

The most important part of the verse, however, comes next.  'Yet not as I will, but as You will.'  I have also prayed this for this morning.  I know that only He knows what it best for my body. Only He knows what I still need to learn in this process. Only He knows if there are other people I still need to meet. Only He knows!  That is enough for me because I know how the story ended after the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus went to the cross for me so that I can have the hope that I have and death no longer has its sting.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Our Bright Beauty

Today we celebrated the 2nd birthday of our baby girl, Kalea Mei. Her name means "Bright Beauty", and to us, she truly is. She brightens my days with her infectious smile and loveable nature. Some of my favorite moments (just before surgery when I didn't have my lifting restrictions) were those quiet moments just before bed when I would hold her in the rocking chair and sing songs to her. She would rest her head on my chest and it was one of the greatest feelings in the world.

However, if you have spent any time with her lately, you may have experienced that she is in fact a two year old.  She is trying to figure out the world around her and how she fits in. She wants what she wants and she wants it NOW. She definitely does not want to be told what to do. She believes she should have and be able to do exactly what her big brother has and does. She is quick and stealthy when it comes to getting into things she shouldn't. (Blake refers to her as a "ninja") Her tantrums usually involve objects being thrown across the room.  

As I was spending time watching her this morning and praying for her, I had a neat revelation. Aren't we all just a bunch of 2 year olds?  We all want what we want and we want it NOW.  We don't want anyone telling us what to do. We are so busy looking around at what other people have and do and feel like we need to have/do the same. We think we can be slick and not be noticed when we want to get into some trouble. And lastly, there are days that we get so angry that we feel like throwing things across the room. This journey I am on reminds me that I must continually surrender my will to God. Without Him, I am just a "terrible two" year old.  

Then I was reminded of one of the great promises in Zephaniah 3:17 "The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." Although, our sweet Kalea can be a fiery pistol at times, we (as her parents) take such delight in her and rejoice over her daily. God is the same way about me!  I love all that I am learning as I walk along this journey!  

I also wanted to just include a quick update on medical stuff. Yesterday was my first appointment with the physical therapist who specializes in Lymphedema management. Her name is Donna, and if I can be so bold to say this, P.T.'s are just the coolest people. She opened up a whole new world of P.T. for me and Blake as she shared all of her knowledge about lymphatic drainage and treatment for post-mastectomy patients (ME!).  It was really strange but cool at the same time to be the one on the treatment table; and I have no doubt that this whole experience will serve to make me a better physical therapist. I really look forward to seeing her again next Wednesday.  

We will also meet with Dr. Garg next Wednesday to go over the results of the OncoType Dx test and make decisions about my Chemo regimen. Many of you have said you will specifically be praying that I do not need Chemo. Although I appreciate those specific prayers and encourage you to continue praying them, as I stated above I realize I need to surrender to God's will even if that means I will need the Chemo. There may be more for me to learn and more friends to make that aren't possible without going through Chemotherapy.