"For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made

in the secret place, when I was woven together

in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my

unformed body; all the days ordained for me

were written in your book

before one of them came to be."

Psalm 139: 13-16









Monday, December 1, 2014

Highs and Lows

So I started to write an update about regular life, and never got around to posting it. Meghan however decided it was time for an update so here goes...(and I'm working on very little sleep so bear with me).

She had had a bit of a rough week with an invasive test of her urinary system. Meg is really never dry, and has not ever been, and with her history of a tethered spinal cord, she's at risk for damage to the nerves that help control urination. She had to be awake for the testing to be accurate so she had to endure some difficult moments. Out of that we found out that she is in fact incontinent and will not be able to hold her own urine without surgery. The catch is that if she did have the surgery, she wouldn't be able to urinate at all without a catheter. Major bummer. In the grand scheme of life, not a huge issue, but my heart breaks for her self esteem and quality of life in the future. She came through that ok, and we enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving with family. 

Saturday evening we got to hang out with Meghan's runner Dawn and her family. She was totally fine and we had a fun evening. Yesterday when I got up, Meghan was still sleeping, which is unusual- she's usually my little alarm clock. When she was only stirring at 9, I decided to go in and check on her. I'm glad I did because she was lethargic, and began vomiting. I discovered that her overnight tube feed had not run in as it should have, so I thought maybe she needed some fluids to get her going. I gave her pedialyte and she drank some water but continued to throw up. Since she was still acting really off, and she didn't have a fever to point me to a clear viral illness I became concerned about her shunt and we decided to head into the ER. After we got her all checked in, they tested her blood sugar and it was really low. That hasn't ever happened before. We got an IV in and gave her some sugar, but she didn't perk up as expected. The neurosurgery team came and ordered tests for her shunt. After we were (thankfully!) able to rule that out as a cause for her symptoms they admitted her for her low blood sugars. They disconnected her IV for the ride.
  After we got settled upstairs, they rechecked her sugar. It had dropped again. After some more sugar through her IV, we tried giving her her regular feeding through her tube. At a slower rate she dropped her sugar yet again, but after we bumped her up she began to stabilize. This morning she's doing much better and they are getting her endocrinologist to come and consult today and help us figure out what's going on. 

Thank you all for continuing to pray for her. We just continue to take each day as it comes by the grace and strength of the Lord. 

Big sister face time makes for some good medicine:)

"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. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord."
—Lamentations 3:22–26



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Immeasurably More

Tuesday we flew on faith. Friday we returned home with a testimony to Gods faithfulness. 

We arrived at the children's hospital in Salt Lake City on Wednesday. After getting the final details of her MRI worked out, we got her checked in for the procedure. Her slot was later in the day, and despite not having had her normal feedings she got through the waiting process like a trooper! One bonus about being at this hospital was a surgery waiting area with kids toys and games in abundance! 
After they got Meghan off to sleep, we got to met the surgeon who has been following her X-rays for 2 years now. He reviewed her previous images with us and explained her specific deformities in detail. The biggest concern was the stability of her neck at the level of C1 and C2 (the top of the spine that articulates with the skull base). Her bones did not form completely in that area, and on the X-Ray appear as if they are moving more than they should- the danger being that she could become paralyzed with a fall or other injury that might only cause someone with normal anatomy a good case of whiplash. He explained that often when these bones aren't formed, the ligaments that hold them together never form. He measured and discussed the potential need for surgery, definitely by the age of 4. At this point I am hanging on every word, trying to absorb all the details, my stomach churning at what he described as "lack of structural integrity". We then met the orthotist that would fit Meghan for the cervical collar to protect her in the meantime. After getting the most important set of images, the views of her spinal cord with her neck flexed and extended, he walked us down to MRI and we were able to look on as Meg was being scanned. His next words?

"We're good"- I traveled almost 2,000 miles to hear those words.

At this point I can no longer see through tears of joy, and RELIEF! If I wouldn't have knocked over the anesthesiologist in the process, I might have hugged the surgeon. The orthotist who was standing by to make a cast of her neck shook my hand, and headed off. I am still in shock!

Despite her crazy anatomy, in both flexion and extension her cord was not compromised. Although we can't see it, the assumption is that there is cartilage or a ligament present that is giving her the necessary stability. The scoliosis caused by her hemivertebrae is still present and will be monitored, but he said that after a few more sets of X-rays, if she makes it to age 4 without showing more signs of instability (there is increased risk with growth), then she will likely not need surgery for the instability itself. 

We came prepared for the worst, and left with better news than we could have hoped. I am so thankful that among many challenges ahead for Meghan, this may not have to be one of them! What we had been so worried about for so long was taken and quieted in a way that could have only come from God. It's so like my nature to worry, and fret, and try and control the things I am afraid of. Sometimes our worry is warranted, and we have to rely on our belief in the sovereignty of God, but what a sweet reminder that so often my worry is wasted energy. Radiologists, orthopedists, and neurosurgeons so convinced of her instability, and an outcome that was so much more than we could have hoped for. Immeasurably more. It's a reminder of His faithfulness, and His hand on her little life. He formed her, He knit her together, and it's His name we praise.

"Now to him who is able to do 
immeasurably more
 than all we ask or imagine, 
according to his power that is at work within us" 
Ephesians 3:20









Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Flying on Faith

I am writing to you from somewhere above the Midwest! We didn't expect to be traveling so soon, but after our neurosurgeon here discussed Meghan's case with the surgeon in Salt Lake City, it was decided that the best thing for us to do would be to bring Meghan out to the hospital in Utah for further imaging and to see the neurosurgeon there in person. We are also going to see an orthotist who will make Meghan a custom cervical collar which she will wear for protection until her surgery. Part of this visit will also be to determine if her bones are ready to accept the hardware, and to determine how soon she will need the surgery. Although the timing is a little crazy, we are grateful to have found a skilled surgeon who is knowledgeable about Meghan's specific deformity and has been faithfully reviewing her imaging for 2 years without ever having seen her in person. 

I almost have to laugh at the timing of everything. I have my last chemo, and have a small window of time that I was able to travel before I start radiation. The deeper my faith becomes, the more I no longer believe in coincidence. I am so thankful for a God who loves us so much that He perfectly orchestrates the events of our lives. I could certainly be temped to complain- cancer treatment, a child with needs so complicated that we have to travel across the United States to find a surgeon who will take her on....but I am called to give thanks to God in every circumstance, and my thankfulness to still be able to care for Meghan, to be healthy enough to travel with her, for doctors who are dedicated to the smallest of miracles, and for His financial provision over this trip continually brings my perspective back to a place of peace. We are flying on faith, and there's no better way to travel:)


If you are praying for Meghan, please pray for continued provision over our trip, a successful and safe MRI, and wisdom for her surgeon!

16  I will lead blind Israel down a new path,
    guiding them along an unfamiliar way.
I will brighten the darkness before them
    and smooth out the road ahead of them.
Yes, I will indeed do these things;
    I will not forsake them.
Isaiah 42:16

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Ringing the BELL!!!!

For everyone who was with me in spirit, here is a short clip of the bell ringing at the end of my last chemo! It may seem like a trivial thing, but believe me, it is symbolic of making it to the end of a part of this journey that I am very glad to have behind me! I would not have been standing there without all the love, support and prayers we have had from everyone. And Jess, sorry, but I have to call you out on this one. You have been there from the beginning, and have never left my side. You were my "person" through ALL of this, and are a beautiful example of true friendship. Thank you for being so present, and walking right beside me....

And to my husband, who never complained about taking care of the kids, the house, and everything else so that I could rest, and who still makes me feel beautiful in spite of how different I look, you are a testimony to commitment and love, and the meaning of "in sickness and in health". You are my earthly rock, and I love you.

And to my kiddos, who bring me so much joy in the middle of all of this. Addie said yesterday "whoa mom! You shaved your eyebrows!" Well, not really kid. She also told me later that if you fart in someone's face their eyes will turn pink. Good thing this is my last treatment.



The sweetest sound! Onward!


Hallelujah!
Praise God in his holy house of worship,
    praise him under the open skies;
Praise him for his acts of power,
    praise him for his magnificent greatness;
Praise with a blast on the trumpet,
    praise by strumming soft strings;
Praise him with castanets and dance,
    praise him with banjo and flute;
Praise him with cymbals and a big bass drum,
    praise him with fiddles and mandolin.
Let every living, breathing creature praise God!
    Hallelujah!
Psalm 150

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Brave



The summer of chemo is coming to a close!! Tomorrow is my LAST chemotherapy treatment, and saying it's a relief is an understatement. It's been a challenge to write through this process for some reason- I have started blogs and left them unfinished. The emotional ups and downs of coping are very real. Cancer affects every single aspect of your life, and redefines how you view so many things...but many of them one hundred percent for the better. Make no mistake. This experience has changed me, and it's not even close to being "over". After chemo, I get a little reprieve and I start radiation on October 6th. Because my cancer was on the left side, the radiation will affect my heart and lungs. For this reason, I am going to have a newer type of radiation which is cardiac sparing. They are finding that as more and more women become long term survivors of this disease, they remain cancer free, but suffer from heart failure, and effects of scar tissue on valves and lung tissue. We are really blessed to have this available to us. It unfortunately means Monday through Friday trips to main campus every day for 6 weeks, but the inconvenience is worth it to try and prevent as many long term side effects as possible. I will also continue to have the targeted therapy trial drug infused every three weeks for a year, but at least the really hard stuff will be behind us by Thanksgiving:)

Incidentally, September is Hydrocephalus Awareness month, and I figure we are way overdue for a Meghan update! We have enjoyed a great summer with her. We have done NORMAL. We have done playtime, and splash pads, and playgrounds, and thanks to some new equipment that was loaned to us, Meg has gotten to have some great experiences. She has continued to have all her therapies, and specialist follow ups, and until last week, things were mostly status quo. Meg has X Rays taken of her spine every 6 months to assess both the curve in her upper back, and the instability in the bones of her cervical spine (neck). We knew she would definitely need surgery at some point, and have been communicating with a neurosurgeon in Utah that specializes in her type of condition (for anyone who is new to Meg's story you can read about Klippel Feil Syndrome HERE). I got a call from her surgeon on Friday who said that he thinks her most recent films show that her instability is getting worse. She was already scheduled for an MRI of her brain and spine next week, so were are trying to get additional images added on as a starting point. If the MRI shows the same instability, we will get a CT scan to look at her bones to assess their maturity. If they are ready for hardware, we may be traveling to Utah sooner than we thought. In the meantime, I am alternately afraid for her to fall since she is becoming so much more mobile (she is cruising like crazy!), but still cannot stand on her own. Falling for her could be devastating if she fell in such a way that her neck moved enough to damage the spinal cord, so we continue to pray that she will be protected from injury until we are able to get her to surgery. While she is sedated for her MRI, she is also going to have some minor ENT surgery, a g tube change, and an ultrasound of her kidneys and bladder. She may have had more nerve damage than we thought originally from the tethered cord, so the ultrasound will help us determine that (and we get to add another specialist to her list...). Nothing like making the most out of a day of sedation!

So, we continue marching ahead. We have been blessed with some incredible people helping us through this season of our lives, and God has shown Himself faithful to our family over, and over, and over. Lavishing love, infusing with strength, and enabling a type of bravery I could have never known first hand without this specific experience. Anytime I feel like I am struggling, I look to this perfect little gift He gave me to remind me of what it looks like to be brave. To me, it looks a lot like Joy. The kind that can only come from Him.

"No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength" 1 Corinthians 10:13...."I can do ALL THINGS through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13


He makes me Brave.


A little peek at the rest of our summer! During my good weeks, we made the most of LIFE!!

Testing the waters...
Playing at the Inclusive Playground- awesome!
Splash pad!
First Pony Ride:)

And this happened. I still cannot believe it!!


And yeah, we met Mandisa! So cool!






Sunday, July 13, 2014

Duke

There are just times in life when you think your heart is literally going to ache right out of your chest. This is one of those times. We had to say goodbye to our beloved Duke on Friday and I have not grieved over something like this in a long time. Over the past couple of years we have had some heartache in our family. Joe and I are starting to joke that we could write a country song just about now;) Through most of our experience, because of our faith we are able to experience joy in the middle of trials, but this is one of those experiences when I am just struggling. I am definitely remembering some good times with that big guy. He saw us through the first years of marriage, it was his fur I sobbed into when we lost our first pregnancy, and he was there to greet us at the door when we brought both girls home from the hospital. He slept at my feet most nights for the last 8 years, and his gregarious personality is woven into so many stories over the years. We recovered from our surgeries together, and he was there to sing me Happy Birthday this year (ok, he barked, but still....), and he saw me to the halfway point of my chemo treatments. I am so glad we were able to give him three more good months with us, but it certainly didn't make saying goodbye any easier. Grieving a pet is like grieving the loss of a slobbering savior- unconditional love, faithfulness, and devotion on four legs.

The night he died, we sat down to dinner and Addie said grace for us, at the end adding, "and Jesus, please take good care of Duke in heaven".

I'd like to think that he's curled up at His feet.


"Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat,
 the calf and the lion and the yearling together; 
and a little child will lead them." Isaiah 11:5-6

Rest in Peace buddy.


Duke
November 18, 2005-July 11, 2014

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Being Still

So we're in it. I'm on day 8 of my first cycle of chemo, and finally feeling well enough to focus on something other than just plain moving forward, or my kids. My first treatment was blessedly uneventful despite it being a very long day. First we met with my oncologist one last time, the clinical trial nurse one last time, and after being given the green light we headed downstairs to "club chemo" at the Cleveland Clinic. When you check in they give you a little buzzer- a la crowded chain restaurant- and you wait for your turn to be seated in your chair for an entree of toxic infusion with a side of steroids and anti-emetics. Party of one. They give you each drug separately, so the infusion takes a while. I was randomized to receive the Herceptin so I am getting that drug plus the two chemo drugs Taxotere, and Cytoxan. I was grateful that they let me be up and around a little, and I was even able head out to the lobby for High Tea (since having tea out of real china cups makes you feel oddly better about life when you are hooked up to a cytotoxic cocktail).

High Tea with a dear friend:)
Being a good sport:)


While I was infusing we met with a nutritionist, and a social worker. The nutritionist discussed ways to cope with some of the appetite issues while on chemo, and the social worker came bearing gifts! I was given two pairs of fancy earrings to make me feel better about my impending baldness, and a little package from another young mom who just finished her journey with breast cancer. A book, and a pink quilt with scripture written all over it.
Thank you Laura!

Out of so many patients she gave it to me, and things like that just make you feel special! Her note had a link to her blog, (read it HERE!) and I have found it helpful to read about another young mother who went through a very similar journey.

What a surreal experience to be walking through- I was extremely grateful that day for the company of my husband and dear friend. That night wasn't too bad, and the next day I just felt "off", but well enough to go get a shot of bone marrow stimulating medication (so my body can still try and fight infections while on chemo), and have a delicious dinner at Chick Fil A with some of my favorite special needs moms!

These are some of the most incredible people I have ever met. Inspiring, and encouraging are understatements! 

Fortunately, cancer doesn't stop life from happening, and over the last week we had follow ups for Meghan with her neurologist and developmental pediatrician. She had testing to see where she falls on the spectrum with typical children. These appointments used to be such a source of anxiety for me, and now they aren't! It doesn't matter what she is or isn't doing- I just love watching Meghan be Meghan. I love watching other people marvel at how far she's come in 2 years. Sure she can't stand up on her own yet- go sing her a song. I dare you not to smile:) Both her neurologist and developmental pediatrician say she's cognitively and socially "right on track". This appointment incidentally, was with the same neurologist who gave us a "very poor prognosis" after reviewing her fetal MRI. We love him, and we know he is obligated to tell the truth, but I love that two and a half years later, she was clapping, singing, and chatting her way through that appointment:)  Praise God for such a miracle.

Introducing Meghan to Charming Charlies after her appointment:)


The rest of the weekend was spent just moving forward. Sometimes all I could do was just sit. The type of fatigue produced by chemo is unparalleled. Couple that with some unpleasant side effects and it's all you can do to just be. What a strange thing for me- not "doing" anything to fight (I am a doer!). Fighting means taking action! Fighting means accomplishing something! Yet, in the height of the physical battle, I hear God whisper "be still". Sometimes fighting means enduring. Sometimes it means chosing to focus on the peals of laughter coming from 4 happy girls running through the grass instead of what you feel like at the present moment.
So sometimes I will have to be still, and I am learning to find the good in that too.


 "The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still."
Exodus 14:14


Being still, with a new haircut:) I wanted to lose some of it on my own terms.
Addie helped me try out wigs! This one looked way better on her;)

Thank you for continuing to pray for our family!!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Survival Advantage

   The countdown to chemo is on. Yesterday I met with the oncologist who gave us the green light for treatment beginning a week from today. We have been in information gathering mode to establish a final plan, and we are nearly done. The final pathology from the lymph nodes they removed returned with just one positive node. Last week I had scans of my bones, chest and abdomen for final staging and thank you God, they were all clear, leaving me at Stage 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. The purpose of chemo now is to wipe out any cancer cells that may have spread via my lymphatic system. For my chemo regimen I will be on a clinical trial in which at the end of standard chemotherapy I may be randomized to receive a drug which has been used for a long time in HER-2 (a specific receptor on the cell) positive patients. Sparing you the super technical explanation (although my nerd cells are salivating- this would totally be fascinating if it weren't actually happening to me), my tumor cells were "HER-2 negative" by standard testing and by another test they are actually weakly positive. The purpose of the study is to see if there is a survival advantage to giving this drug routinely to patients with any HER-2 receptors on their tumor cells. I should know later this week if I am randomized to get the drug or not. Regardless, 6 cycles of standard chemo- one treatment every 3 weeks starts next week. Later today I get a "port" which is surgically implanted IV access into a central vein in my chest. For the rest of my life, my left arm is out of commission for any blood pressures, lab draws or IV's (due to the mastectomy and amount of lymph nodes the surgeon removed), so by using the port for the chemo process we can protect my right arm, and always have IV access.
   Things are still crazy around here. After the surgery I developed axillary web syndrome which limits range of motion in my left arm due to "cording" or hardening of the lymphatic vessels which were damaged during the surgery. The cord acts like a tether, and at about 70 degrees of outward motion laughs at me when I try and reach for anything. This limits my ability to drive safely (and blow dry my hair- good thing I won't have to worry about that soon, right??), so with all the testing I have been going through we have been very grateful for all the help driving the girls and I around!
  So life goes on. Addie finished preschool this week (sniff!) and is gearing up for her first dance recital. Meg is practicing her pulling-to-stand skills, and has been learning some sight words thanks to a very dedicated Grammie. Joe is taking care of nearly everything I can't, and does it all without complaining. (Honey, you deserve an award. I love you.) The lines between disbelief and reality are developing some clarity, and anxiety and fear can come easily if I let myself "go there". However, I am waking up each day choosing to focus on the hope I have in Christ. Your world may rock, the earth may shake under your feet, but your feet will land on the rock of ages when you fix your eyes on the everlasting. Study drugs or not, I have the ultimate survival advantage. Hope.


As for God, his way is perfect:
    The Lord’s word is flawless;
    he shields all who take refuge in him.
 For who is God besides the Lord?
    And who is the Rock except our God?

It is God who arms me with strength

    and keeps my way secure.

He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;

    he causes me to stand on the heights.

He trains my hands for battle
Psalm 18: 31-34


Impossible not to smile back.
Getting a workout in!
Officially a kindergartner.



If anyone is interested in Arbonne Products, during the month of May, a friend of mine is graciously donating her commission to our family. Visit her page at http://www.facebook.com/arbonneCynthiaPadavick for more information or to place an order!





Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Provision

I've spent the last week "recovering"- which for me looks a lot like me trying to do stuff and getting yelled at;) I have always been a type A person, and let me tell you I was NOT prepared to have things take so long to heal. I still have a drain, which means I can't lift my left arm above my shoulder, and I am still not allowed to lift anything above 10lbs, or drive. Going from a do-everything kind of mom, to a semi-sedentary person who actually has to practice patience with herself has not been a strong point for me. I am anxious to feel better so that I can enjoy these last two weeks before I start chemo. I am 100% certain that I am learning a lesson in patience right now. Patience and pride. Accepting help has not ever been something I have been good at- BUT, when you try and take everything on yourself, you miss out on the beauty and the blessings of the people that God has placed in your life to provide that help. I know I keep saying this, but honestly I am SO overwhelmed with gratitude at everyone who has been here to pray, cook us meals (THANK YOU!!), take care of the girls, help with the "man" jobs while Joe is busy being Mr. Mom (seriously, this man is my hero), clean, run errands, take me to appointments, and even wash my hair (You know how much better you feel when you have clean hair, right?!) The greatest of joys has been brought to my life right now by the people who have reached out to help, and all who have offered prayers on our behalf. When I make it through this, I can promise you- if you need a friend who will help you bathe, cook you food, let you cry, do your laundry, hold your drains and wash your hair, I am your girl:) I feel like I could say thank you forever and it still wouldn't be enough. The last month has been so much easier because of the gift of friendship.

With all that said, I wanted to share some of the things that have been organized by my friends. All we ask for are your prayers for our family during this time, but if you feel led to do something else here is a link to my website: We Are Sarah Strong. It has links to a meal train, fundraiser, and our blog. There is a T-shirt fundraiser that ends tonight:) Also, my salon, Salon Evangelene in Medina is hosting a CUT-A-THON to benefit our family on May 16th from 5-8. The salon has an incredible team of very talented artists who are all volunteering their time and efforts, and we are so grateful to them for such a gift. Click here for more info!

We met again with the oncologist yesterday, officially consented for the clinical trial, and have a start date of May 21st for chemo. A lot will happen between now and then- testing, placing a "port" (permanent IV access), more appointments, etc. The drain is scheduled to come out on Friday morning (finally!) with my scans right after. Upheaval of the usual routine is an understatement, but thanks to lots of help we are meeting the challenge.

You know how people say "God is faithful to provide"? He does, and he is. We truly believe that every good thing comes from the Lord. He has provided us with "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine", through His word, and through all of youBecause of this our needs are being met exactly when they need to be, anxiety over the future can rest, and we continue to praise the one who gives us HOPE beyond hopes.

Love to you all.


I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,

    the Maker of heaven and earth.
 Psalm 121: 1-2



Snuggles are the BEST medicine.


Drains and all, we couldn't miss the Suhaj wedding!
Because it is necessary that you see this cheese face:)


PS...a little Meghan update while we're at it! She got her walker on Monday and is testing it out, and is pulling herself up to stand on everything she can. Her vocabulary is expanding, and her communication improving as we work with her. Her favorite song is still "if you're happy and you know it", and she always claps on cue. I cannot possibly harbor any grief when I look at her sweet face- her little voice is healing balm for the soul.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

It's Still Ok.

Today was a good day. It's the first day I have felt even a little bit more like myself, despite being limited in what I can do. I still have these drains. In my head I keep thinking of the minute I finally get them out. I am reasonably certain I shall burst forth in song, to the tune of "Amazing Grace" Chris Tomlin style, except it sounds like, "my drains are goooooone, I've been set freeeeee!". Clearly I have had a little time on my hands. It has taken a small army of helpers to take care of the kids, the house, and me during the last week. I cannot tell you how much I owe my family and friends. I can only hope to help someone in the future in the way in which these amazing people have served us in love.

My lowest point was over the weekend. All the mental prep in the world can't quite measure up to staring yourself squarely in the mirror for the first time post-mastectomy. What surprised me the most was the shape. Instead of a smooth, flat remnant, there is a hollowed out place. So very different than the picture I had in my mind. It felt almost like more was taken from me. Weighed down by this reality, and the knowledge that once I am past this surgery there is still another mountain to climb made for a spiritual struggle of will. Sometimes it takes faith over feelings- choosing to believe the truth of His promises despite the lure of darkness. I am rejoicing in the fact that His truth wins every time. Sunshine helps too:)

I have been thinking about Meghan a lot these last few days. The surgery she has endured without a choice. She accepts it because it is her reality. She doesn't know a life any different than the life in which there are extra struggles, except to her, it's just what's normal. She keeps fighting, progressing, and moving forward in spite of the body she has been given. If this sweet girl can press on, so can I. I have learned that "the worst thing that can happen"....happens. And it's still ok. In fact, it's even better because no matter what you fear was taken from that hollowed out place is nearly always filled up beyond measure, and overflows with things that are so much better than what you had imagined you would lose. All things for good.

Next week we start the ball rolling towards chemo with some tests and appointments to begin the process. I am pretty sure I am going to participate in a clinical trial in which I will receive what is considered standard chemo, and depending on a computer randomization, one additional drug to try and treat the cancer. It's going to be a long process- 18-24 weeks of chemo even before the trial drug. The mountain is waiting.

And it's still ok.


  "Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world....So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you."
                                                                                                               1 Peter 4:12-19



Doggie Update: We found out that Duke's tumor that they removed last week was in fact cancer. The vet gave him 2-12 months. I can't hardly believe this, but I am glad that we know. He will definitely be getting some extra treats and love for as long as we are lucky to have him around.

AND- thank you so much to everyone who has sent cards, gifts, texts, donations, bought T-shirts, prayed, served and LOVED us this week. We are so completely humbled, and grateful.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Fighting words

I'm home. I am happy to be back in my own bed, surrounded by the sounds of sweet little voices. Duke (the dog) and I are recovering together. On Monday I woke up to a hurting puppy. After several vet trips and a couple ultrasounds, they found a tumor on his spleen which had ruptured and was bleeding in to his abdomen. He underwent surgery Tuesday to remove the spleen, and now we are waiting on the pathology to tell us if it was a benign tumor, or something worse. If the dog and I have cancer at the same time....well, he is just taking his canine empathy a little too far!

My surgery went as well as it could have. The first few hours after were really rough- I was pretty sick from the anesthesia, but once that wore off I have felt ok. Unfortunately they did find cancer in my lymph nodes, meaning it has spread at least a little bit. They took all the lymph nodes under my left arm and we are waiting on the pathologist to tell us how many nodes total were positive. Because my surgeon had to take so many, she also intentionally cut a nerve branch which has left me with some numbness to my left arm. I also have 2 surgical drains in place which should come out in a week or so. Once they are out, I will have some additional testing to see if they can identify whether or not the cancer spread to any other organs or to my bones. Chemo is a definite now, and radiation is highly likely as well. Reality has definitely set in.

I spent a little time yesterday struggling with all of this. For the first time since the diagnosis I am scared. My body is different now, and the knowledge that chemo isn't just a precaution because of my age- that's it's a necessity- well I am just sad, and scared, and shocked. But, I refuse to give in to any sadness. I refuse to wallow in the anxiety of what "may be". For the first time I feel I am ready to fight, knowing that this is about not only surviving through cancer, but thriving in the midst of it. This is an absolutely impossible feat without God. He allowed this to happen to me, but he also promises that he will never leave me or forsake me (Deut. 31:6),  he goes before me (Isaiah 45:2), and he will fight for me (Exodus 14:14). There is assurance from every angle that he is walking with me through this trial. And there is assurance of his love. We are promised suffering in this life, but we are also promised hope because of his perfect love.


"There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear" 
1 John 4:18

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
John 16:33

Resting in His promises today.

And the promise of a good shampoo. It's the little things:)



Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Under His Wings

  I just wanted to send out a last minute thank you for everyone's overwhelming support. Today is going to change my life, but it has helped so much to know that there are so many people who care, and who are standing beside our family as I take the first step in fighting cancer.

 "He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear"
                           Psalm 91:4-5

Thank you for lifting me up today.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Facing the Future

Wasn't yesterday just beautiful? I have been so grateful for the beautiful weather we have had this past week. Having some sunshine and fresh air is healing to the soul when you feel any trepidation over the future. We have been able to enjoy some great time outside with the girls. Meghan has a loaner walker (and her new walker should be arriving really soon!), and she has been able to go outside and start exploring which is amazing! Her skills have started to take off. She's pulling herself up to stand, and incidentally, decided that yesterday was a great day to try and crawl UP the stairs for the first time!


She is bringing me so much joy right now (and an equal amount of panic, rest assured). At least she can tell me when she wants to sit or stand, which makes protecting her a little easier:) Both of my girls have provided me with a special strength right now, born out of a lot of silliness!

We are gearing up for surgery Wednesday. Last week I had a breast MRI which thankfully did not show any cancer on the right side. The pathology report from the biopsy was positive for cancer cells at the surgical margins of excision, and more cancer lit up on the MRI of the left side. I am anxious now to have the surgery and get it out now that I know more is still hiding out in there. I also spoke with my oncologist. We will formally meet tomorrow, but he was kind enough to call me and give me an idea of what the plan will likely be. As of right now, he feels that based on my age at diagnosis and the fact that the cancer was already invasive we will do 4 cycles, 3 weeks each, of chemo, beginning 4 weeks after surgery. This is not a fun thing to think about, but I was happy for the extra 3 days to prepare to be off of work. I also met with a plastic surgeon to discuss reconstruction options. The information was helpful, and further reinforced my decision not to reconstruct at this time. I really want to get past the cancer stuff first, and then make a decision. Because I will get past it. I will.

Preparation has been a the the theme around here. We have meal schedules, and schedules to help get the girls to and from school and appointments and therapy. My bedroom is completely redone, and is now a little sanctuary in my house, complete with a loaner recliner to use during recovery. There have been willing hearts and hands- so many people offering help that I am overwhelmed and humbled to have such fantastic people in my life. All the physical preparation has left me wondering how mentally prepared I am for this. As much as my identity is not wrapped up in my physical body, it is still such an egregious assault on my woman's heart to lose that which is part of what makes me a woman. I am thankful however, that I got to nurse my babies, giving them that precious gift, and establishing that bond before I have to lose that ability to cancer. I have thought and prayed about how the Lord wants me to handle this experience- how He wants me to respond in the face of a challenge that although it affects men as well, is uniquely female. Sometimes He whispers in response, and sometimes He shouts. When you see the same verse over an over again in different places, I consider it shouting.  
  
"She is clothed with strength and dignity,
    and she laughs without fear of the future."
Proverbs 31:25



So laugh I will.

Thank you Sarah for your talent, friendship and generous spirit. Thank you for crying right along with me, and giving me a gift I can only repay with love. You are a blessing to me!