"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

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!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Moving Forward

Most of this week has been spent in various stages of disbelief, fear, or overwhelming gratitude. What a strange place to be in! I am so completely humbled by everyone that has reached out to offer support. We have been blessed to know much human kindness because of Meghan, but my diagnosis has brought me to my knees with thankfulness for the friends and family in my life who are ready and willing to offer their hands in the fight.

My surgery is confirmed for April 23rd. When we discussed all of the options with my surgeon, my choice is to have a total mastectomy, without reconstruction, with a sentinel node biopsy. You can read more about that here It seems to be the safest route to go from both a cancer fighting and complication standpoint. I was able to get in more quickly for the surgery, the recovery time is shorter, there's fewer complications, and there will be shorter delay in starting chemo if that is what they decide I need. I learned that my tumor is strongly estrogen and progesterone receptor positive, and HER2 negative, which my doctor says is actually great news because it means the cells are at least trying to behave like normal cells instead of cancer cells, and it means some endocrine therapies will likely be an option for me. I was glad for that piece of good news!

There are a lot of decisions still to be made, and I have several appointments over the next week. I see a genetic counselor today to discuss testing for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. A positive test would help us make decisions on having a double mastectomy instead of just the left. I have an MRI to check for lesions in the right breast on Tuesday. Please pray that this is negative- if something is found, it will delay the surgery process as we will have to go through biopsies of that site to determine if it is actual cancer or a benign lesion before we can make a surgery decision. I have pre-op teaching with my surgeons nurse to learn about the drain I will have in after surgery and how to care for my incision sites. I am also going to meet with a plastic surgeon to discuss options for reconstruction down the road. I just want to get this cancer part over with first. The last thing I have is an appointment with solid tumor oncology to talk about chemo. There is a small chance that I might not need it if my "oncotype" is favorable (another test they will perform on the tumor now that we know the receptors are positive) and if I have no cancer cells found in my lymph nodes during surgery. My surgeon thinks I will likely have to do chemo because my age is "less than 35 at diagnosis" which is unfortunately associated with higher re-occurrence rates. At any rate, there are still many things up in the air, but we have a plan for a first step in treatment which is having the mastectomy. (I still can't believe I am typing this.)

I've spent some time trying to get organized, and have delved into a little project to spruce up my bedroom decor in anticipation of spending some time in there. Mostly I am trying to pick up my babies as much as possible since I won't be able to lift for a few weeks after surgery. Having a Meghan makes this more complicated as her main mode of transport is still rolling around:) We will figure it out.

Despite the absolute awfulness of this diagnosis, I am already beginning to see God working through this situation. The blessing of having THE BEST friends in the universe (seriously, my girls know how to rally). Fresh appreciation for my family and my sweet daughters. Meaningful conversations. Genuine and overwhelming love from my friends and family. The gift of the living word of God breathing life and hope into my heart. This is the stuff that I will choose to focus on- the blessings- in the days and weeks to come.

 "though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed"
1 Peter 1:6-7

Pray that these two girls will be strong, and have peace during this process. Having Mommy out of commission will be hardest on them.

Monday, April 7, 2014

So you can hear it from me..

This was not the update I thought I would be writing today. In fact it's hard to even type out the words. Today, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I have had a lump that we have been watching for a while. The original diagnosis was a galactocele which is a milk cyst. I was still nursing at the time so we waited until 6 months after I was done and repeated the ultrasound. It was fine, and smaller, but on that exam the doctor found a new lump- one that I hadn't even detected myself. We've been watching both now for over a year, and three weeks ago at a regular follow up my doctor discovered that both lumps had grown, so I had biopsies done of both. The original lump is a benign fibroadenoma, and the one that my doctor found came back with atypical cells. This past Thursday I had a lumpectomy. Tonight, my doctor called and when the conversation started with "I'm afraid I don't have good news", suddenly I knew that moment would be frozen in time for the rest of my life. I know because I have been here before. Meghan's diagnosis day is similarly etched into my heart and mind.

I don't know much other than it is Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, and the plan will be to have a mastectomy and probably chemo. They are in the process of typing the tumor for hormone receptors. We meet with my doctor tomorrow to discuss the entire plan, and get me set up with I'm sure a whole lot more appointments. At least we are used to handling those:)

I am still totally in shock. Trying to wrap my mind around what this will mean for our family in the weeks to come is pretty tough. Uncertainty is something I am becoming familiar with, and if I have learned anything from having Meghan, it's that there is good in everything. Especially the hard things. We prayed before my surgery that the will of God would be accomplished. That whatever happened, it would be part of his perfect plan for my life. So my prayer now is that He will use this too for His glory, and that He will protect my family in the process.

Tonight I am resting in the everlasting arms of God. The one who Knit Me Together. I am afraid, and upset, and completely reeling, but I choose to believe that there is a purpose for all this, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He will bring me through. After all, He gave me these two beautiful girls to help get me through....

"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

Thank you to Sarah Marie Photography for her talent and giving us these amazing images of the girls!