"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

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


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.