Thursday, October 31, 2013

Day 31

As I think back on the month that will come to an end in just a few short hours, I must admit I am a bit sad. There is always much anticipation about October for me. Because it is Breast Cancer Awareness month, I know it is an opportunity-an opportunity to remember where I have been and to build my altar to God in thanksgiving. I think the anticipation is mostly about doing those two things well.

It all started with a game time decision to join the rest of the 31 Dayers and write consistently for 31 days about how truly blessed I am by the “pink” in my life. As I kept a watchful eye for the pink around me, I found myself in awe of God's whispers and leading through each day. Then with the help of a friend who asked a simple question, another dream was realized and the idea of the “Think Pink” Run/Walk took shape. Through that event, I got to experience the love and generosity of so many as they filled the pink boxes with donations for care packages going to women facing breast cancer surgery.

After walking through another October, my heart is definitely full. I am so grateful for all that followed along, helped me to think pink and cheered me on as I built my altar. I look forward to returning to this place again next year.

A few other photo highlights from the month:
{My husband and I got to have a mini vacation, just the two of us, to St. Augustine, FL which is where we first met in 2001.}
{Our family enjoyed a beautiful fall day at Councell Farms on the Eastern Shore with some dear friends.}
{Our big boy kindergartner lost his first tooth and scored his first goals in soccer.}

{While celebrating the birthday of one of our sweet little buddies, Princess Tinkerbell got to take her first horseback ride.}
{We enjoyed another Halloween with all of our neighborhood friends}
{These are the newest addition to our kits for women facing Breast Cancer Surgery-notecards designed by an extremely sweet and talented friend who is in the midst of Breast Cancer treatment herself. I received them in the mail today, the 31st. Coincidence? Not a chance.}

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Day 30

It has happened several times this I rode in the car talking to my husband, as I cooked dinner one evening, and most recently as I stood in the hallway at church on Sunday. I kept hearing this song playing in the background. It seemed familiar, like I have heard it before. It gave me chills but also made me incredibly calm. I had to know what it was....  
{If you are viewing this post on email, you may want to view online OR you can click here to watch the video}

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Day 29

Earlier in October, our local newspaper had a section dedicated to Breast Cancer Awareness. As I read through the pages of articles about Breast Cancer as well as advertisements for local businesses who were supporting Breast Cancer Awareness in one way or another, my eye was drawn to an article that mentioned Radiologist, Dr Daina Pack. Dr. Pack played an important role in my cancer journey. At the time of my first mammogram and ultrasound, Dr. Pack was the one who told me with a crack in her voice that there were two masses in my right breast that needed to be biopsied and the results would most likely be abnormal. While she was the first to deliver this news, she was also the one that performed a needle biopsy on an extremely difficult to find axillary lymph node. I was told she was the best and that she was the one I would definitely want in my situation. It was not a memorable step in my journey but I am thinking she probably felt a little redeemed when she got to be the one to call and tell me the tested lymph node was not cancerous. Read more about that HERE and HERE.

I found the article to be very interesting and not just because Dr. Pack was offering her profession opinion. It spoke of a new Maryland law that went into effect on Oct 1st that requires that when a woman has a mammogram she must now receive as part of her results information about the density of her breasts. About half of all women have dense or highly dense breasts, and from what I understand the younger a woman is, the more dense her breasts are likely to be. Cancer can be missed on a mammogram of someone with increased density because of how similar the dense tissue and cancer appears on imaging. Having this measure of breast density helps women to weigh it against their other risk factors to determine if further diagnostic testing should be performed. Again this all goes back to early detection as being one of the best ways to prevent death from breast cancer. 

Although there is no guarantee that I will never experience recurrence, my cancer was detected early and I was spared a few extra steps in my journey because of that early detection. It is part of why breast cancer awareness especially for pre-menopausal women is so important to me. It is also why I choose to spend my October writing and sharing my heart.

When was the last time you did your self-breast exam, scheduled your mammogram or had that concerning symptom checked by a physician?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Day 28

This is my favorite post that will be published this month. My friend and sister, Jen (she is one of those that I described on Day 25) has agreed to guest post on my blog today. I was so blessed by her participation last year when she provided a guest post on Day 30 of 31 Days: Life Lessons Only Cancer Could Teach. Believe me, you will welcome the break from hearing from me to read the words of such a gifted writer. She blogs HERE and if you are looking for continual encouragement and inspiration, be sure to subscribe!

Her Little Pink Question

“Mommy, why is October pink month?” asks my ever curious 5 year old. She's glancing back at the grocery stand covered in pink ribbon products. I wonder how I would have answered her question had things been different.

What would I have said if my forever friend had never called with cracking voice, “I found a lump…”

The flashbacks come quick bringing a pit in my stomach and chills across my face.

I'm in her guest bedroom, writing a letter of hope begging God she'll open it years and years and years from now, only to remember. I'm throwing my phone in the grass, her husband's news of a double mastectomy and months of chemo pounding in my head. I'm on a couch across from her mom who through tears is steadfastly thanking our Lord for this trial, while the rest of us sob and ask that His mercy would come quick and save. I'm pushing a stroller next to her. Leaves crunch under our feet and we watch our children run ahead laughing. She wears the first hat out of necessity. It covers the clumps that began to fall that morning. And some days there are no words. And all you can do is pray through your eyes.

There are many images and they are different every time I stop and think pink. I don't have her full pinked perspective. But when you've lived even just a bit of pink you don't have an average answer when your five your old asks, “What's with all the pink?”

Before, I may have said, “I'll explain it when you're older, honey. Now grab your granola bars. Let's keep moving.”

Do I wish that were the case? That it had all never happened. Not for a heartbeat. And here in Safeway, two years later I'm thankful she stops me in my tracks. I'm thankful her little pink question interrupts my thoughts of what's next on the list, because I have been given a much better answer.

“Do you remember when Aunt Kara was sick and had to take that yucky medicine?”

“Kind of.”

“And do you remember how we prayed that God would help her get better?”


“Well, this is the month when we remember that God always hears our prayers. That He healed her, and we pray for anyone else who might be sick like Aunt Kara was.”

The 3 year old blonde interrupts from the cart. “Yeah, cause God loves us!”

And with those words I see my friend, not like she was before the cancer, not like she was during the cancer, but how she is now. Her smile a little brighter. Her steps more purposeful. Her heart overflowing in compassion more than ever before. And I know it deep again. The sweet blonde is right. God does love us.

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.“ ~ Jeremiah 31:3

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Day 27

Once a month on Sundays, we get to spend an hour and a half with about a dozen precious 3 to 5 year olds in the Coral Reef, our church's preschool wing.  It is truly a blessing especially because the staff of our children's ministry does such a great job preparing for each week.  This week the "Bottom Line" for the kids was "I can always count on God?"  As I sat in our large group time listening to fifty preschoolers shout with all their might "Who can I count on?" then quickly answer with "I can count on God!", I felt privileged.  I felt privileged to have the responsibility of reinforcing this idea along with the truth of Deuteronomy 31:6 "Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid...for the Lord your God goes with you." (the same verse I read the morning of my surgery on August 25, 2011, read more HERE

They believe it because a few adults tell them it is so but when does the head knowledge that we can always count on God become heart knowledge?  

For me it helps to remember where I have been and that God met me count my blessings and give thanks.  This is why 31 Days to Think Pink has been such an amazing experience.  

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Day 26

Nothing quite prepares you to hear the words “you have cancer”. Although there is comfort in the promise from Jesus himself that we have the help of the Overcomer when trouble shakes our life (John 16:33), being ready to face all that cancer entails is a completely separate thing. I remember the overwhelming anxiety of the unknowns that came with the initial diagnosis. 

Suddenly my life was emptied of priorities, expectations, schedule and I was forced to look at only the day ahead of me. My nurse navigator told me during that first consultation that my head would be swimming for a while but my thinking would become more clear as I was made aware of each next step. This bit of advice was partly the reason that Psalm 143:8 holds such significance.

I should have known my nurse navigator, Amy was to be trusted. I felt that she was a provision from The Lord the moment she stepped into the room and introduced herself that first day. There were others besides Amy that helped prepare me for each step of my journey. For needle biopsies, I had sonogram techs, Amy and Jennifer. For my MRI, I had a tech named Cara. For my genetic testing, I had my friend and sister, Jen to sit next to me and take in the meaning of BRCA 1 and 2's. For surgery, I had my best friend's mom, Debbi and home health nurse, Ann to give me practical suggestions for an “easier” recovery. For chemo, I had my breast sister, Cathy who provided an email of practical suggestions for an “easier” recovery from the poison hangover.

As I sit here two years later recalling all of these special ladies that helped prepare me for each next step, I better understand why it has become so important to me to provide the care packages for women who are about to undergo surgery for breast cancer. It is also why today meant so much to me. 

Today was the first of what we hope will be an annual event to bring awareness to breast cancer while collecting donations for the care packages, or kits. Early this morning in really cold temperatures, we had several friends and family join us for a “Think Pink” Run/Walk. We are so thankful to all who participated and filled our pink boxes with items to help prepare those facing this terrifying next step in their journey.

Do you know of someone that is facing breast cancer surgery and may benefit from some preparation with one of our kits? 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Day 25

Yesterday I wrapped up the introductions to my family for the month.  But there are a few people in my life that although there is no blood relation, I consider them family. They know my heart well because they have stood in the fire with me and waited for the rescue. They have carried my burdens for me countless times when it seemed I could no longer stand up under the weight. And they speak truth into my life when the volume of the discouraging voices gets turned up. 

 I pray that you have a few of these in your life too.  

It was a few of these people that introduced me to the music of All Sons and Daughters.  As I mentioned, they know me well and knew how the voices of these artists would minister to my soul.   

{If you are viewing this post on email you may want to view online or click HERE to watch the video.}

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Day 24

It's Thursday! That's family day on the blog this month. Introducing my family would not be complete without writing about these four amazing people, our parents. One of the things I love most about them is the steadfast support and cheerleading they provide in the things that matter the most. They each have a relationship with The Lord and encourage us by example to be followers of His Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives. What an abundant blessing in and of itself! But they also understand the value in our healthy marriage relationship as well as our deepest desires in raising our kids. They are interested and involved with what that looks like on a daily basis.

For example, they appreciate our priority to give our children fond memories of special moments together and want to be a part of those memories. In March of this year we got to take a vacation to Oahu and Maui and spend time with both sets of our parents all together. Because my husband, Blake is from Hawaii we have had the opportunity to visit a handful of times since we met in 2001. It had been six years since our last trip to Hawaii and it was the first time we got to take our kids with us. There is no exaggeration when I say that it was one of the highlights of my life. There are the obvious reasons…it was warm after a cold winter, the most amazing beaches and sunsets are found there, the Humpback whales were in abundance and showing off, the Asian and Hawaiian foods as well as tropical fruits are delicious.

But I think the real reason it was such a highlight was because in light of the struggle we had recently lived through, it was like a dream to spend each day in paradise experiencing God's Goodness with the people I love the most. 

(Click HERE to read more from my blog series from the days we spent in Hawaii following our Rainbow).

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Day 22

This is my Monday morning commute. At first glance one might notice a whole bunch of brake lights. At second glance, you might be proud to see that I have left several car lengths between me and the car in front of me (mostly because I am taking a picture while driving-eek!) But really I was hoping you might be able to notice the pink sky that met me on my way to work this morning.

It was a sweet reminder of a six month period that I did not make this drive because I was recovering from surgeries and chemotherapy. It was a period of time that made me better able to appreciate the extraordinary opportunity I have to work part-time outside of our home.

It has been eleven and a half years since I graduated from my physical therapy program while living in one of my favorite places on earth. I have had several jobs and worked with many different therapists, techs and patients in that time. I wouldn't say I loved every one of the jobs I have ever had, but I have always loved being a PT.

I love educating people about their bodies and taking care of themselves. I love that I don't sit behind a desk and sometimes even get to exercise. I love that I get to use my hands and offer the power of a caring touch. I love that I currently work with a staff of supportive and loving people who have become like family to me.

Perhaps, the part I love the most is that I get to spend time with people and hear their stories....they are usually hurting people looking for healing. While I do not believe that I can fix every dysfunction or take every symptom away, I do believe that my salt and light have the ability to make them better than when they came in.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Day 21

More cancer, a broken marriage, a diseased liver, severe depression… had been one of those weeks where bad news seemed to be piling one on top of another. Even though the whole point of my own journey was a surrender of my control, I felt oppressed by my inability to change any of these circumstances for these people I love. My plea was they would feel God's unfailing love and know the Hope that only He can offer, but for some reason the spoken prayer just didn't seem like enough.

It wasn't until I read with fresh eyes the words of Jesus from Matthew 5:13-16 that I realized the reason for the heaviness I was feeling.

“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage. Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:13-16 MSG)

There is a calling on my life: to be salt to bring out the God-flavors and light to bring out the God-colors. In the past, I would have been completely overwhelmed by the idea of fulfilling this calling in the midst of such intense circumstances. I would have relied on the spoken prayer and moved on.

But I experienced my own “bend in the road” and to not act was no longer an option. It was those little acts of love poured out on us by many people that left a God-taste and opened my eyes to Grace of it all. Just as salt must lose itself in the food in order to offer the savor….just as light has to go to the darkness to dispel it….the action steps became more clear and the burden started feeling a little lighter.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Day 20

For today's post I wanted to share a ministry that has become dear to my heart during this last year. As part of a campaign to make room for people at our home church and support local and global ministries, we were asked to consider supporting The Annapolis Pregnancy Clinic. The creative minds on staff at our church put together this moving video.  Then I was able to take a tour of its home at 934 West Street.  As I stood in this modest white house on a corner lot and listened to stories of the battles for life being fought there, I began to feel a sense of urgency. It is an urgency that comes from an agreement in my spirit that there is life-changing, life-saving power in this ministry.  

Their Mission

"The Pregnancy Clinic Ministry is a medical non-profit offering Help, Hope and Healing to women and their families facing unexpected pregnancy, giving them tools to choose life for their babies and to find the Hope of the Gospel". 

Do you know of anyone that may benefit from the support, counseling, and love offered by this ministry? 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Day 19

I have mentioned that part of my long-term treatment for breast cancer is taking the drug Tamoxifen.  Approximately three quarters of all breast cancers are found to be estrogen receptor positive (ER- positive) meaning the growth of cancer cells is encouraged by the hormone estrogen as it activates receptors. Tamoxifen works by blocking the hormone receptors, and therefore, lowers the chance of recurrence of breast cancer.  Up until now the recommendation for pre-menopausal women taking the drug has always been 5 years. However, last year a new study came out revealing a significant decrease in recurrence and death in women who stay on the drug for 10 years.  For today's post I am including a link to an article about the study for those who are interested.

What this study means for me is that if I can deal with the annoying but not significantly life-altering side effects of Tamoxifen, I am most likely looking at a sentence of 10 years.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Day 18

In a little over a week, our family and several of our friends are going to be getting together for the first annual "Think Pink" Run/Walk in Crofton, MD and we wanted to invite anyone following the blog to participate. You can participate by either coming out to run/walk the entire loop or part of the Crofton Parkway (approximately 3.5 miles) or by donating items to provide "kits" for women who are facing Breast Cancer surgery.  Read more about the kits from Day 6 and see our email invitation below for more details. 

Many of you know that for the last two years our family has participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Hunt Valley, MD. Although we really enjoyed the experience of uniting with so many others that have been affected by breast cancer in an effort to raise awareness and money for research/programs, we have really been desiring something that is more local and personal for us. So with the help of a friend, an idea has evolved and we were hoping you would consider joining us. On Sat, October 26th, we are going to meet at 8 am at the Village Green parking lot in Crofton, MD for a "Think Pink" Run/Walk around the Crofton Parkway in celebration of Breast Cancer Awareness month. This is not a timed race. Some may run, some may walk, some may just hang out and wait for us to head over to Panera Bread (in Waugh Chapel) for Pink Ribbon Bagels and coffee! 

Since my own journey through diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer, I have had the privilege of showing care for other breast cancer patients by providing a kit of a few helpful things for going through surgery. This is a ministry that I would love to see continue for many years to come. At the "Think Pink" Walk/Run, we are hoping to collect some donations for the kits (although it is not a requirement in order to take part). 

Ideas of possible donation items would be: 
  • Pink (solid or patterned) fabric and ribbon for making the drain sacks (Tammy Smith has been so graciously offering her sewing skills for these)
  • Jesus Calling devotional books
  •  Bars of Clear white Dial soap
  • pink ribbon pens
  •  thin journals/notebooks
  • button down pajamas (for various sizes and seasons)
  •  pink gift bags/tissue paper
  •  money to cover the cost of shipping to those who are out of town
  • anything pink ribbon that you see while you are out and about shopping this month that might be a nice addition to the kits.
(This is what is usually included in a kit)

If you think you can attend and can let us know, that would be awesome but feel free to just show up and bring others the morning of the walk/run.  Don't forget to sport your pink!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Day 17

I have mentioned before my previous aversion to the color pink. Prior to my breast cancer journey, there was one other time in my life when I couldn't have been happier to be surrounded by pink. A little over 4 years ago we met our baby girl, Kalea Mei. We had chosen to be in the dark about the gender of both of our kids throughout the pregnancies. I didn't have any strong feeling either way when I was prego with number #2, but I think I had convinced myself that it was a boy as a protective mechanism. Deep down I really hoped that I would have a girl.

In hoping for a girl, I never imagined I would have such a girlie girl on my hands. Being quite the tomboy myself at her age, my mom tells me that I refused to wear dresses. Meanwhile, Kalea has a drawer full of jeans that will likely never see the light of day. The struggle in my house currently is convincing my girl that wearing nothing but a Tinkerbell bathing suit to run the neighborhood is not exactly appropriate for October. I was repulsed by the idea of nail polish until I reached my college years. For Kalea, there is probably no better treat than to have her fingers and toes painted. Although, she claims her favorite color to be purple, the girl exemplifies pink.

And I am so happy she does. Although she is different from me in many ways, I like to think there are many ways we are the same. She loves people, loves to talk and loves to be a goofball (as you can see from the photo). Like me, she is also very much a momma's girl. I wonder if that will change with time but pray it never does. I feel so incredibly blessed to now be on the mom side of that very special bond.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Day 16

“Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have! (Matthew 6:22, 23 MSG)

Cancer has a way of stopping you in your tracks. It makes you re-evaluate your life, the decisions you've made in the past and what you are holding onto in the present. What excites me about cancer, yes I did say excites, is how it has allowed me to view the future.

This concept is what Pinked Perspective is all about. While I was walking my journey, I was writing on the CaringBridge website to keep friends and family updated. I discovered that I would experience healing in the writing. It allowed me to put those whispers that I mentioned on Day 11 into words, as well as express my thanks for God's undeniable presence during that time. 

I realized that if I was able to see the Grace in the midst of such things as surgeries and chemotherapy, I would certainly be able to see the Grace in whatever the future holds as long as I am looking with “eyes wide in wonder and belief".

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Day 15

I lost a lot of sleep after my diagnosis. Now at times, the Tamoxifen can make it hard for me to sleep. But I have always been a huge believer in the power of sleep. 

It is why I have been so rigid with my kids' schedule for the first several years of their lives. It is why I am in bed early at the first sign of a cold. It is why I constantly ask my patients how their injury is affecting their ability to get a good night's rest. 

It is also why I wanted to share this interesting article about the ability of Melatonin to fight Breast Cancer.

Melatonin: Never Ignore This "Wonder Hormone"

Monday, October 14, 2013

Day 14

So I made it into the club...the “Bloody Thumbs” club. I have heard many stories of those that have made it in before me. I guess it was only a matter of time with the way I would proudly boast the praises of my pink Otterbox as if it had some magical protective power.

The other night while walking along one of the brick roads of St. Augustine, my phone jumped out of my hand, face first. It wasn't the first time but for some reason my trusted case failed me this time around. For my fellow club members, you know that horrible feeling when it happens. I wanted to cuss. And then I wanted to cry.

My husband's words echoed in my head, “It's just a phone.” I tried to believe his words, but the fact that I was so upset made realize it is actually more than just an phone. In a lot of ways, it has become an idol for me.

I have come to rely on my phone for so many reasons. For example, I write almost all my blog posts in my DayOne journal on my phone before publishing them from my laptop. My camera allows me to capture those moments that no longer need a thousand words. Not to mention, my chemo brain relies heavily on the logistics of my calendar and reminders apps.

While none of these things are bad, it can become a slippery slope.  It is the first thing I look at in the morning and the last thing I look at before bed. It often feels like my access to the outside world, but isn't the contact I really desire to have. And perhaps more dangerous than anything else, it has the potential to steal away precious moments with my family.

I don't imagine I will be able to hang with my busted screen for long but am thankful for the reminder to keep first things first. In the meantime, pass the band aids!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Day 13

This pink house was where I called home for about 8 months while I completed my education. I am reminded that sometimes the blessing is in an experience we have that sets the course for the rest of our lives. That is how I feel about the time I got to spend from January of 2000 until April of 2002 living in St. Augustine, Florida.

This weekend, Blake and I are spending some time away in this very special place. As we drive around town, lie on the beach, visit with friends, and eat out at many of our favorite places, it is hard not to reminisce about our time here.

We each had moved to St. Augustine (him from Hawaii and me from Maryland) to earn a doctorate in physical therapy. Although, we started the program together in the same class, it wasn't until about a year into it that we started studying together and eventually realized we might be more than just study buddies. I'm pretty sure he always planned to return to paradise in Hawaii but somehow found himself settling with me in Maryland.

When we lived here it didn't always feel like the incredible vacation destination we now enjoy and enjoyed as a family last year. While in school, most of our days were spent either in class or stuck inside a Starbucks or cadaver lab studying til our brains felt like they would explode.

But now every time we return here, there is an excitement. Not only is it where it all began for the two of us, but many of our best friendships have ties here. It is one of those places that pulls you in with its charm, impresses you with it's sunshine, beautiful beaches and yummy food, and leaves you incredibly sad to leave. At least this is what it never fails to do for us.

A few of the highlights from this trip:
{Our bubble bath beach on the first day}
{a PINK sunset sky while out to dinner}

{SUP Boarding with Joanna}

{The Scines in their new home}

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Friday, October 11, 2013

Day 11

Participating in the 31 Days challenge is more about the listening than it is the writing. I have found that when I set my mind to the task of writing consistently for a period of time, my heart rate immediately quickens and the discouraging voices in my head grow louder.

“Will my written words convey my (and God's) heart well?”

“Will it sound like I am saying the same thing over and over?”

This is why I try to focus on spending more time listening. Listening is a lot easier when you learn, as my friend Caroline has, to love Silence

Oftentimes, it is a whisper that comes in something I read, a memory I recall, a song I hear, or a glimpse of beauty I behold. Sometimes it is more of a tug from a heart prompting I feel. Occasionally, it is more of a scream that comes from the chaos our everyday life holds
Today it came in this:

This was the backdrop for our dinner date last night while enjoying a few days away in Saint Augustine, FL. Other than it being the current home to a few of our favorite people, it is where Blake and I met while studying PT twelve years ago. With views like this, it is not hard to understand why it is such a special place. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Day 10

I have designated Thursdays this month to introduce you to the people that make my life such a gift.  Last week (and a few other times), I wrote about my husband, Blake. For today my son, Kekoa Li is my inspiration.

I have discovered that one of the neatest advantages to making a big deal of October as Breast Cancer Awareness month is the opportunity it provides for conversations with my kids about my cancer journey. The other day, I was asking my five year old son, Koa if he remembered when I was sick. He was quiet for a minute so I wasn't sure what was coming next. His only memory from that devastating, life-altering time in my life was a happy one sitting at the kitchen table with his baby sister eating a snack watching Daddy “cut” Mommy's hair. That feels like a huge mark for the win category!

See, as we navigated through the emotion of those first few days after diagnosis, we (especially my husband) went into full on protection mode. We were determined that they would not know the anguish were feeling. We were determined their world remain just as it had always been.

I pray that as they get older and their understanding grows, so will the depth of our conversations concerning those days.  

I wish that one day they grasp that in the face of such uncertainty, we had Hope because of a God that wouldn't forsake us. 

I plan to explain that while cancer has the power to steal away life on earth, our eternal life in heaven is secure with faith in saving Grace.  

I will use the example of the way my husband took care of me to explain how they must love and be loved by their future spouses. 

And I will re-iterate that because tomorrow is never a guarantee, how we love people today is of greatest importance.

For now, the sweet memory of Teddy Grahams and a haircut are just fine by me.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Day 9

I am surrounded by a lot of strong women (like the kind that don't get epidurals in order to birth babies). I would never have considered myself one of those. In fact, there have been many a time that quitting came a little too naturally when something got too tough for me. When I think back to the ride home from our consultation with the breast surgeon on the day I was given my formal diagnosis, I remember saying to my husband, “I don't think I can do this.” In those moments, I didn't feel I had it in me to fight. Quickly, I realized there was no choice but to fight.

Being a native of Maryland and always having aspirations of being an athlete, I have become a big fan of the UnderArmour brand. When I realized they brought out a line called “Power in Pink” every October for Breast Cancer Awareness and donated to various breast cancer fighting organizations, I was super excited. I even submitted my story last year in an effort to be one of the 2012 Power in Pink Ambassadors. It didn't happen for me, but that hasn't stopped me from sporting as much of the Power in Pink gear as I possibly can. In fact, I have a new favorite shirt that you just might get sick of seeing me wear!

As I mentioned, in the days before cancer I would never have considered myself much of a fighter. But then I was called out. I was forced to step up, to stretch beyond my limits and go to battle. Now I get to wear a T-shirt that claims it.

This past week, I heard the sad news that my boss and friend lost his mom to Metastatic Breast Cancer. I never met Ms. Donna but in all the stories I have heard there is no better description for her than “Fighter”. She exceeded all of her doctor's expectations, living eight and half years beyond her diagnosis of Stage IV Breast Cancer. She was her own best advocate during her treatment process, thereby inspiring many other women to fight like she did. This post is dedicated to her and all the others who have battled or are currently battling Metastatic Breast Cancer.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Day 7

Every morning, I reach to the window sill above my kitchen sink to grab two of these big pink pills. I do this because my oncologist has recommended that a daily dose of Calcium + Vitamin D can help prevent recurrence of breast cancer. Of course, I will seize any and every opportunity to ward off those nasty cancers cells.

This is precisely why every nighttime routine now includes swallowing the little white hormone blocker, Tamoxifen. It is why I have significantly reduced my intake of red meat, increased my intake of spinach, and completely eliminated my intake of soda. It is why I subject myself to “insane” workouts 5-6 times a week. It also why we attempt to shop and cook Organic as much as possible (or at least as much as the grocery budget allows). It is why I stopped using deodorant for a while (you might be pleased to hear that I have started using it again.)

I don't think any of these choices are in vain but the truth of the matter is that I don't know.  I don't think any of us really do. Why are so many more women being diagnosed with breast cancer? Why when it used to be more common in post-menopausal women, are so many younger women now being diagnosed? Why are so many people being diagnosed with all types of cancer?

While I don't believe there is anything wrong with asking such questions and certainly nothing wrong with making healthier choices to prevent recurrence, it really isn't the point. I don't believe I walked my journey to come out on the other end asking these questions. I do believe the point is that life is full of hard stuff. In fact, Jesus said himself in John 16:33 that in this life we will experience trouble. My cancer could return and cancer might not even be the worst of it for our family. The most important point is that there is One who has already overcome it all and through Him I can overcome whatever comes as well. When I choose to open my hands and trust this, that is when I find Peace.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Day 6

The days leading up to my breast cancer surgery were frightening.  I remember trying to walk that fine line between wanting to prepare myself for what was ahead but also not wanting to scare myself with too much internet research.  One of the most helpful things I did was call my best friend’s mom who had walked through it a few years before me.  She gave me a few pieces of priceless advice and followed it up with a package in the mail of button down pajamas.  I was so grateful for the preparation she and a few others offered me that I decided I would one day do the same for others.  With 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 in mind, a few of my friends and I started putting together “kits” to give/send to women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and were facing surgery like mine. 

The “kits” include:
  • A letter written by me-to offer encouragement and outline a few helpful tips
  • Button down pajamas-for easy access to the drains during the first two weeks of recovery
  • A bar of white Dial Soap-for bathing to protect against infection
  • A small journal and pen-to record medications and fluid collected from the drains
  • “Pink” Flannel-to be put against the skin/incisions and under the Jobst surgical bra. 
  • “Pink” sack-to hold the drains during bathing
  •  Jesus Calling by Sarah Young- the devotional that I read throughout my journey which now holds extreme significance for me 

As much as I hate to learn of another woman that is facing treatment for breast cancer, I feel privilege and experience blessing every time I get to help lighten the burden by providing these kits. This is a ministry that I hope to be able to continue for many years to come. Stay tuned for more info on how you might be able to help make that happen. If you know of someone that is facing breast cancer surgery and would like me to send one of our kits, please contact me at

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all of our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort ourselves have received from God.” 
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Day 5

If Psalm 143:8 was my journey verse, then Matt Redman's "Never Once" was my journey anthem.  It is now my ringtone so that every time my phone rings, I am reminded that God is Faithful. 

 I have been waiting two years for him to release a new album and on September 24th, Your Grace Finds Me was released.  There is no disappointment in this album for me.  It is running music, it is driving music, it is praising music!  For today's post, I wanted to share one of my favorites from this new album, "I Need You Now".

Or Click here to find it on iTunes.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Day 4

There is an attribute of Jesus that has such great importance to me since two years ago when I walked through my treatment process.  The book of Matthew in the New Testament is full of stories about Jesus healing the sick. {We happen to be studying Matthew this year in Bible Study Fellowship International (BSF) so I am really excited.}  Many came to Jesus with faith that He was the One that could restore their health. Some came with all the faith in the world and some came with that of a mustard seed.

On one of the evenings before my biopsy that confirmed that I did in fact have breast cancer, a group of our friends all came to our house to pray.  We prayed that there would be no tumors to stick a needle into. We didn't pray that prayer just to say it, we really believed that God could do that.  I still believe He could have. But I also believe He uses other means today to allow for healing.  There are amazing minds at work in the field of medicine and advances that were certainly not available in the days that Jesus walked the earth.  

Sometimes the healing comes in the provision of a superb team of doctors that have the perfect blend of compassion and knowledge.  Sometimes the healing isn't physical at all but comes in the whispers of God when we seek him in our distress.  Sometimes the healing comes in the love poured out on us from the community around us.  And sometimes the healing comes when He chooses to take us from this world to enjoy heaven and His Presence forever.

{Today was a reminder of my physical healing through my friends at the Breast Center during my survivorship follow-up appointment. I got to bring a lil power in pink along with me.}