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.