Living In The “In Between”

I have had a really hard time getting back to writing. One of the lingering side effects of chemo is foggy thinking, lack of focus and inability to concentrate. They call it “chemo brain” and it doesn’t just go away when chemo ends. Chemo is a double edged sword. It heals and it destroys at the same time.

My pathology results after my surgery showed that the invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), the tumor that was rapidly growing in me, was gone! All that remained was a small DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ). This is a tumor inside the duct, which chemo doesn’t treat, it must be removed. It was also explained to me to be the origin of the invasive tumor that was rapidly growing outside the duct. All traces of the cancer were removed through surgery. I no longer have any breast tissue left in my body. My breasts were reconstructed using abdominal tissue (fat basically).

So chemo did it’s job and not only dissolved the tumor but all evidence shows it kept any cells from escaping from my breasts and spreading anywhere else in my body, resulting in my breast cancer being staged at 2. I am fortunate. I am blessed. But chemo damage lingers. So I may be considered “cancer free” but I am not yet side effect free.

I am also still undergoing treatment for the full year, due to the type of tumor I had being HER 2 positive. I am receiving a drug called Herceptin. Although it is a targeted therapy drug and not chemo (it targets specific cells for destruction), it still has side effects. One of which is joint pain, which I am now experiencing all the time. I receive this transfusion every 3 weeks, just like chemo, for the full year (17 doses total).

Around 60% of patients on chemo get CIPN (chemo induced peripheral neuropathy). I am in this 60%. 6 months after chemo 30% still experience symptoms that can last from 18 months to 5 years and can even in some cases be permanent. I am 4 months out from chemo and still experiencing CIPN. I pray I will not be in the 30%.

I am also in chemo induced early menopause and because of my age it is highly likely that will be permanent. I experience intense hot flashes and reduced hormonal effects.

So between having chemo brain, neuropathy, hot flashes, lingering fatigue and now joint pain daily, I continue to struggle with healing from the effects of cancer and treatment. I also have nerve sensitivity and blanket numbness over most of my breasts and my hips and abdomen, from my extensive surgery.

My body is foreign to me and still unrecognizable. The reconstruction is not complete yet. I am taking it one step at a time. My next surgery will probably be in late summer. My perspective has shifted in regards to my body after my cousin said to me, “Hey this is your second body, most of us only get one and you were gifted another one!”

I know I’m blessed. I feel fortunate for so many reasons and that makes the acceptance of living with this “newly gifted body,” and these hopefully temporary side effects and pursuing complete healing my goal. So I press on.

I am grateful I was able to keep most of my hair through cold cap therapy. I did loose most of my eyebrows and eyelashes, but all my lost hair is now growing again. I am also recovered from my anemia and feeling much stronger.

I am “in between.” That is my new terminology for where I’m at physically, emotionally and mentally. I am cancer free, but not yet to a place of “normalness,” whatever that may be? When treatments and surgeries and healing is complete and I can feel normal, even if it’s a new kind of normal. I have heard from other survivors that it can take 2-3 years to reach a place where they wake up one day and feel “normal” again.

Emotionally it can be hard, not just because I’m dealing with treatment and physical side effects still, but because not everyone close to me truly gets what I’m still going through. So many people see me as cured and healthy again. I get that, not everyone knows what I experience every day. So mentally I’ve had to adjust my expectations and also understand the average human response in light of my situation. I’m taking one day at a time, with my eyes on the path before me.

My husband has been beyond amazing and continues to be my biggest support. His understanding and compassion toward me is astounding. I can’t say enough about how lucky I am to have him in my life. He gets me and he loves me so well.

The struggle is real through each step of this process. And it is a process. Cancer will not consume me. Treatment will not consume me. Despair and fatigue some days try to consume me, but I have hope beyond all of this!

My hope is in The Lord. My redeemer, my comforter, the rock on which I stand. My trust is in Him.

But you, O LORD, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high. Psalm 3:3

So I may be “in between” and that’s ok, because my God is right here with me every step of the way. I am never alone. He knows the plan for me, a future full of hope!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord.

Jeremiah 29:11-14a

I will seek Him with my whole heart. All for His glory. There is hope beyond this!

The Vows

“to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part”

Everybody knows these traditional words that are “repeated after me” at almost every wedding ceremony you have ever been too. But when marriage gets hard, and they all have their hard times, do these “repeat after me” words just become words or does a vow mean something more.

Next Monday Dan and I celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary! That’s a big one and a milestone for sure. We have lived these vows for 30 years. We have even renewed these vows to each other twice!

“To have and to hold from this day forward.”

We wouldn’t want it any other way. We are grateful for everyday that we get to share our lives with one another. Loving each other and growing older together. We have learned the art of having and holding over these 30 years and we do it well. Very well.

“For better or for worse.”

It just keeps getting better! We’ve had the for worse moments also. Lots of them! In 30 years of life together, experiencing all the ups and downs, raising a family, multiple moves, job changes, career changes and just being human, oh yes, we’ve seen the worst in each other. But looking back over 30 years the “better” moments completely swallow up the “worse” moments. And honestly we’ve learned that you get what you focus on. Focus on the good and more good will come. Focus on the negative and that will become all you see.

“For richer for poorer”

We’ve seen both richer days and poorer days. Our finances have always been a training ground God has used with us throughout our marriage. We’ve made lots of mistakes financially and sometimes we had to learn very hard lessons more than once. Money trouble is often one of those things that can take a marriage down. This one never broke us even when we were broke. God used it to teach us about true contentment in spite of our circumstances. Once we truly learned this lesson we realized a rich life has absolutely nothing to do with money. We have a rich life!

“In sickness and in health”

This is a biggie! Not only because I am currently struggling through breast cancer treatments but because we have dealt with chronic illness the majority of our marriage. Chronic pain and inflammation has plagued Dan for nearly 23 years. The “sickness” part of our lives has caused disabilities, job changes, career changes, financial troubles, and countless days of pain, grief, depression and crying out to God. Despite all this, we are grateful for our overall health and trust God that ultimately our lives are in the hands of the Great Physician.

“To love and to cherish”

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

The key to any great love is sacrifice. Once you get married, your focus should shift from your own happiness to the happiness of the person you are now joined to for life. It’s no longer about you! Here is where most marriages fail! You want a holy marriage? Devote yourself to your spouse the same way Jesus devoted himself to us all, unto the cross, laying down His life for us.

We have loved each other in the dearest most intimate ways and have grown together in ways we never dreamed possible. Sacrificing and laying down for one another becomes an honor when done in humility and with a pure heart. No ulterior motives. Loving each other is easy now and loving is only part of the vow. We also truly cherish one another. You can love someone without truly cherishing them. But why would you if you want a great marriage? Don’t leave out the cherishing! The cherishing is where all the richness and fullness comes from! The cherishing is where two people in love become best friends in every way. We consider ourselves blessed beyond measure in the loving and cherishing area of our vows to one another. This one is what swallows up the “worse” the “poorer” and the “sickness” parts. Focus on the loving and cherishing and the rest fades away.

“Till death do we part”

This one is written in stone. Nothing could separate us in this lifetime except this one. All our days are written in His book. Only God knows when death will be written into our story and how that will play out. So until that day comes we will cherish every day we have together and pray that our days will be long on this earth so we can love each other in ways that glorify our Maker and enjoy all the good gifts He has given us in each other, in our love, in our marriage and in our blessedly large family that all came from two kids falling madly in love!

30 years

360 months

1,560 weeks

10,950 days

262,800 hours

15,768,000 minutes

To my best friend, I love you forever. I will always be your favorite and you will always be mine. Happy 30th babe. We got it right!

There is so much hope beyond all of this! Glory to God

Every Love Story is Beautiful but Ours is My Favorite

Five years ago we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary on March 4th. For the 25 days leading up to our anniversary, I wrote out our love story year by year from March to March of each year. (Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes)! I then shared it over 25 days on Facebook. In this blog post I have compiled those 25 year of posts and added the last five years in one blog post to equal all 30 years. This is a very different type of blog post then anything I have written before. It is 30 years of my story, with quotes, quips and scriptures at the end of each year summary. It is a very long read, because 30 years is a very long time to be married. But in honor of our love story and 30th anniversary, I have put it all together in one post. I hope anyone who reads our story will enjoy reading it and ultimately learn more about my family and what 30 years of life, love and marriage can look like. Happy reading! To God be the glory! There is hope beyond all of this!

(1989-90) Year One

3/4/89 Our wedding day. All my dreams had come true at 17. I married my High School sweetheart of 3 years and I became a wife and soon after I was expecting my first baby. It was all I ever wanted! We were so young and naive but so happy. Our precious little bundle, Brittany Noel, arrived Dec 12th. The BEST Christmas present ever. Danny had broke his leg a short time after our wedding and had to have surgery and the recovery was long and hard and we only made it financially because we lived with my parents. We hadn’t figured out what to do with the rest of our lives, we didn’t have established careers, but we had each other. And in spite of all that, we had our precious baby and life was good, just figuring it out as we went along.

“Marriage is a mosaic you build with your spouse. Millions of tiny moments that create your love story.” -Jennifer Smith

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

(1990-91) Year Two

Life was fun and we were young! We were so happy with our little family of 3 and soon expecting baby #2. We still lived with my parents. Danny landed a good paying job (for our standards at that time), with the school district and later with a larger company. We were excited about moving out on our own! We had good friends and were in a young marrieds life group (bible study). We welcomed the arrival of our 2nd child and firstborn son, Colin Michael, 4 days after our 2nd anniversary. A few weeks later we moved into our first apartment. We were so excited!

“Love is the master key that opens the gates of happiness.” -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:8

(1991-92) Year Three

Here comes our troubled times! The times that made us who we are, the times that allowed God to come into our young love and lives and work His miracles. It wasn’t easy and it certainly didn’t happen quickly. We separated and I moved with our babies back in with my parents and started college a month later, with my parents devoted help with my children. Soon after our separation I found out I was pregnant with baby #3. Talk about throwing a wrench in things! But we know God works all things together for good 🙂

“There are a hundred paths through the world that are easier than loving. But who wants easier?” -Mary Oliver

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6

But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side. Psalm 3:3-6

(1992-93) Year Four

This was a time of devastation mixed with little gifts from God as I clung to Him and my Christian friends and family. I grew stronger in my relationship with Jesus Christ who truly sustained me through this overwhelming time of my life. The most precious gift this year was the birth of our 3rd child, Kyle Daniel. Danny asked me to give him his name for a middle name. I gladly honored his request. I continued full time this year in my prerequisites for nursing school. I involved myself in two different bible study small groups, these were the friends who stood by my side, prayed for me and gave me strength to move forward everyday in spite of my circumstances. This was a year of maturing, growth and healing in so many ways.

“They say it takes a village to raise a child. That may be the case, but the truth is that it takes a lot of solid, stable marriages to create a village.” -Diane Sollee

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

(1993-94) Year Five

Still separated for almost two years, Danny and I spent the summer months dating and trying to give our marriage a second chance. I knew in my heart that something was wrong. No matter how bad I wanted to reconcile and not get divorced, some things are out of your hands. We tried and during this time I conceived baby #4! But a few months after I knew that reconciliation wasn’t going to happen. So I let go and cut things off and we started proceeding toward a divorce. I started nursing school that fall. I was in my first trimester of pregnancy and my first trimester of nursing school! I gave birth to Bethany “Hope” during my OB semester of nursing school and returned to my nursing clinicals one week after I delivered at the same hospital. I had a network of nurses and friends that helped me because this hospital was also the L&D unit my mom worked in. I had so much support and love during that time and I felt the love of Jesus surrounding me. I was in a strong place. Starting to see the future with hope for new beginnings!

“No one has ever measured (not even poets) how much love the heart can hold.” -Zelda Fitzgerald

May the God of all “hope”fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with “hope” by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you “hope” and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

“The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”’ Numbers 6:24-26

(1994-95) Year Six

A year of redeeming love, a year of miracles! God got a hold of Danny in only a way He can and Danny’s heart was changed. Some say people don’t change, but God can change people, it’s the only truly lasting change. (I have often compared it to a “Saul to Paul” type conversion!!) This was our road to Damascus. God had to do a work in my heart also, to forgive and trust and be open to what He was doing. I had already made all my own plans for my future and was happy and at peace with them. I had to let go of my plans and embrace what God was doing. Best decision I ever made. On our 6th anniversary we renewed our vows with our 4 babies and our family at our side. A new beginning! Not the one I thought I would have at this point, but God gives us so much more than we can hope for or imagine! He truly brings beauty from ashes. I was in my last semester of nursing school and working as a student nurse in a postpartum unit, life looked so bright. God had done the unimaginable and restored our marriage and family. And of all the times I have shared our testimony over the years, God has and will always get the glory!

“Love doesn’t sit there like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; re-made everyday, made new.” -Ursula LeGuin

“A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” -Robert Quillen

“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” -Mignon McLaughlin

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or imagine, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oak that the Lord has planted for his own glory. Isaiah 61:2-3

(1995-96) Year Seven

A time to celebrate! Our marriage was restored. We lived temporarily back with my parents as we were purchasing their house and they were building their new home! (So I guess you could say they were living with us). I graduated from nursing school (whoop whoop!!) and started my first RN job in postpartum. THEN a Christmas surprise! It only seems appropriate with all these blessings that we would find out we were expecting baby #5 during this year! It was a little overwhelming but also exciting! Lots of changes. Counting it all JOY! My marriage was stronger than ever, full of love and growing richer and fuller than I could have ever known to be possible.

“Love is a partnership of two unique people who bring out the very best in each other, and who know that even though they are wonderful as individuals, they are even better together.” Barbara Cage

“Marriage is not a noun; it’s a verb. It isn’t something you get. It’s something you do. Its the way you love your partner every day.” -Barbara De Angelis

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

(1996-97) Year Eight

I got a new job and was hired at the hospital were I gave birth to all my children. I was trained as a NICU nurse, I found my place in nursing. My career became dedicated to my passion, babies! We had a romantic second honeymoon in Puerto Vallarta when I was six months pregnant. We then welcomed baby #5 that summer, Connor Logan. A busy time in our lives, Danny was working in accounting for a large construction company, I was working full time in NICU, a new baby, kids in school, preschool, home day-care! Life was busy but life was good and full of love!

‎”No one can go back and change how it started but a new future for any marriage can begin the moment one person begins to invest in it.” -Fawn Weaver

“Marriage: Love is the reason. Lifelong friendship is the gift. Kindness is the cause. Til’ death do us part is the length.” -Fawn Weaver

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. Psalm 55:22

(1997-98) Year Nine

Immersed in life! Working full time, school talent shows, brownies (pre-Girl Scouts), dance classes, music lessons, diapers. A busy life. A full life. Sharing good times with my best friend and husband. Happy times!

“Happily ever after is not a fairy tale. It’s a choice.”-Fawn Weaver

“In the arithmetic of love, one plus one equals everything and two minus one equals nothing.” -Mignon McLaughlin

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your cares on Him, because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7

(1998-99) Year Ten

A rough year medically, Danny was home on disability with severe vertigo, the first of several chronic conditions he would have to struggle through from this point forward. He became a stay at home dad and started earning his degree by attending college online during his disability. I had surgery to have my tonsils removed this year. Then we decided to have another baby (why not?) and conceived baby #6 this year. The kids were happy to have their dad home. We were busy as ever and added community theatre to the list of childrens activities this year. In spite of the rough patches and trials life threw our way, our family continued to grow in love, in size and in The Lord!

“The greatest marriages are built on teamwork. A mutual respect, a healthy dose of admiration, and a never-ending portion of love and grace.” -Fawn Weaver

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

(1999-00) Year Eleven

We welcomed our 6th baby and our 4th son, Caleb Aaron. Football and cheerleading were added to our busy repertoire this year. We continued in community theatre fun with all four of our oldest kids performing together in the play Peter Pan! So much fun!

“Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years.” -Simone Signoret

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. Psalm 127:3-5

(2000-01) Year Twelve

Some people called us crazy, many didn’t understand why, the comments we received were sometimes really hurtful, but this year we decided to try for baby #7. Yes, another baby! After all 7 is the number of completion! We conceived this year while Danny continued his studies online from home, being a stay at home dad. He added coaching pop warner football to his resume as he became a coach to our son. We had two cheerleaders this year for our sons team. Life became even wilder and so full and fun! We took an incredibly fun family road trip with my parents to Estes Park Colorado and even drove up to South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore!!

“A good marriage is each for the other and two against the world.” -Robert Brault

“Marriage is our society’s most pro-child institution. If you want kids to do well, then you want marriage to do well.” -David Blankenhorn

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

(2001-02) Year Thirteen

We welcomed our 7th child and 5th son, Tristan Bradley. The other kids helped us choose his name and he decided to arrive much differently and he was delivered by CS since he saw fit to turn around completely into a breech presentation at the very end of my pregnancy. He was born 4 months prior to my 30th birthday and 9/11. He made our family complete. We added basketball this year when Kyle started playing and Danny was his coach. This was a happy time, a busy time. We were so in love with each other and our children! We had so much to be thankful for.

“A happy marriage doesn’t mean you have a perfect spouse or a perfect marriage. It simply means you’ve chosen to look beyond the imperfections in both.” -Fawn Weaver

The blessing of the LORD makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow with it. Proverbs 10:22

(2002-03) Year Fourteen

I changed jobs this year and took a staff position in NICU at Queen of the Valley Hosp (my most favorite place I worked throughout my career). We also bought a bigger home this year and moved just after Christmas! Danny completed his bachelors degree in IT and continued on for his Masters! He started his own IT consulting buisness and began doing contract jobs on occasion while he continued in school and daddy duties! Those contract jobs eventually led to the job opportunity and career he is currently in. We juggled sports, dance, voice, community theatre, performing troup, music lessons, school and still diapering and baby raising! Life was grand! We were rich in love and friends and family!

“The more things we can laugh about, the more alive we become: The more things we can laugh about together, the more connected we become.” -Frank Pittman

“Enjoy the little things in life… For one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.” -Kurt Vonnegut

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

(2003-04) Year Fifteen

With our pregnant and nursing years behind us (14 years of being pregnant and breast feeding), we decided a little mommy and daddy time was in order and this began an amazing couple years of the most exciting trips we have ever taken. We started small with a 3 day cruise to Ensenada Mexico and we were hooked. Several months later in the fall we went to Maui and took Kim and Daniel (my brother and sister in law) with us, and had such a memorable time together in paradise. Then 5 months later, for our 15th wedding anniversary, we took a road trip across the country to New Orleans and from there went on a 7 day western Caribbean cruise to Jamaica, Grand Caymans and Cozumel. (On this cruise was when I cut my long hair) We had so much fun, we decided we had to take all the kids with us on our next cruise and began planning right away with other family members wanting to join us. These were some of the adventurous years.

“The best time to love with your whole heart is always now, in this moment, because no breath beyond the current is promised.” -Fawn Weaver

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

(2004-05) Year Sixteen

Danny graduated with his Masters degree this year! We had a huge luau celebration in our backyard! Biggest party ever! As a gift for his graduation, family pitched in and sent us to Cancun. Then within months, we finally got to take our kids along on a cruise, a 4 day cruise to Catalina and Ensenada. We had so much fun with the whole gang. That was when we decided to buy a travel trailer and take a lot more family trips! We had begun the journey of home schooling earlier in the year because we weren’t happy with the public schools our children were enrolled in. So we hit the road, sometimes for two weeks at a time. We went places like Zion National Monument, Bryce National Monument, all over Colorado and Arizona including the Grand Canyon. We visited family in New Mexico and saw Carlsbad Caverns. We traveled through several mountain passes and my husband will tell you how much I loved to take the “scenic routes” on the map. Which with towing the huge rig we had, where often narrow and a little scary, but always so beautiful. What a beautiful country we have to explore!

“Being in a long marriage is a little bit like that nice cup of coffee every morning – I might have it every day, but I still enjoy it.”-Stephen Gaines

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:16-17

(2005-06) Year Seventeen

Those road trips led us to Arizona where we visited family after a fun trip to Tombstone, AZ. During that visit we found out that two of my cousins were in foster care and their social worker was looking for family placement. We felt compelled to take them in after having experienced a brief foster child placement in our home several months before. During that time we got emergency foster parent credentials to take in a boy that my husband coached on our two oldest sons football team. It was short lived, but we knew all things happen for a reason and we felt this was the greater purpose of that experience. So after several trips to AZ to visit with and get to know Dustin and Desiree, they came to live with us in CA and our family grew to 11 for a short time. This became very temporary when we quickly found out they had problems beyond our abilities to help. We had to make a hard decision and relinquish them back to AZ for specialty placement. As we picked up all the broken pieces it all caused within our own family. This was an emotionally devastating time on our own children and I took a stress leave from work and we spent some quality time loving on our kids and restoring our home.

“The difference between an ordinary marriage and an extraordinary marriage is in giving just a little ‘extra’ every day, as often as possible, for as long as we both shall live.” -Fawn Weaver

In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good. Ecclesiastes 11:6

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18

(2006-07) Year Eighteen

During this time of healing we took a trip to Texas where Kim and Daniel had moved the year before, to visit them and see their new home. It was during our trip there that we decided to go home and put our house on the market and make the move to Texas. I had been offered one of the two job offers I received before ever leaving town to head home. This was a time of confusion and sadness. We grieved over what we thought was a failed experience with our foster children. We sought The Lord in prayer and our house sold. So we picked up, packed up and moved to Texas that summer. We enrolled our oldest son as a freshman in public school so he could play Texas High School football but continued to home school all the other kids. Starting a new life in Texas was exciting and new but very difficult as well. Starting a new job, having a new home, new church, new friends, all huge changes. God knows how many bad choices we made along the way costing us financially. With medical issues mixed in, Danny had surgery on his foot and I had my gall bladder removed. In spite of all this it was a very happy and restorative time in our lives in which God was drawing us closer to Him. We learned about peace and contentment in the midst of life’s trials. Our lives were rich with love and friends and family. We knew that we were right where we were meant to be and things had turned out just as they were supposed to.

“Love doesn’t make the world go round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.” -Franklin P. Jones

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13

(2007-08) Year Nineteen

Life in Prosper, TX was exciting and fun! Full of good people, friends and community. We enjoyed watching our son play football and excel and be promoted to Varsity his Sophomore year. We enrolled Kyle as a freshman that year so he also could play football a year behind his brother. The other kids were still home schooled. Brittany was singing occasionally in church and leading worship in youth. Our kids were thriving and we enjoyed being just down the road from Kim and Daniel and the kids cousins. I continued working full time as a NICU nurse and Danny worked as an IT consultant, self-employed and working contract jobs which included occasional trips back to CA to do jobs for the company that would eventually move us back to CA for a full time career opportunity. My parents moved to Texas from California this year, bringing our Texas family total to our family, two brothers families and my parents. We bought our house on Brittany Way this year and we were content with life and happy. Good times!

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” -Henry Ford

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7

(2008-09) Year Twenty

This was the year of the State Championship in Football! Prospers first ever. My son was a two-way starter for the Prosper High School football team, it was his Junior year. We enrolled all our kids back into public school that year and Bethany was a freshman at the HS and the freshman team mascot (Edgy the Eagle). Kyle got moved up to Varsity for playoffs and all the mascots got moved up as well. It was so exciting to have all three of our kids down on the field during that ride through playoffs and all the way to State! The game was the last game to be played in the Cowboy stadium before it was torn down to build the new stadium. What a highlight of that year. We won state! Our son was integral in making that happen and all our HS kids were involved in the team that year! Brittany moved to CO for a school year to attend worship school at New Life church in CO Springs. She still pursued singing, music and writing. It was hard letting her go so far from home but also exciting entering this phase of life. They were all growing up and we were thoroughly enjoying these teenage years.

“A fool in love makes no sense to me. I only think you are a fool if you do not love.” -Unknown

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

(2009-10) Year Twenty-One

Brittany graduated from worship school, came back home and started working at the church and singing on the worship team. What a blessing and joy to see her and hear her each Sunday up on that stage! Our lives were full and brimming with joy. Our jobs were the same, although Danny started traveling a little more frequently to CA. The kids were all excelling in school and sports. Colin was a Senior, Kyle (and Sarah), Juniors, Bethany a sophomore, Connor in 7th, Caleb in 4th and Tristan in 2nd. All of them were now going to the great schools in our small town community. We traveled before the school year started on a trip back to CA and to Vegas with the 5 youngest kids. (This started a trend of traveling once each summer with Danny on his buisness trips).

“A great marriage isn’t something that just happens; it’s something that must be created.” -Fawn Weaver

(2010-11) Year Twenty-Two

Colin graduated from HS and his baccalaureate was held at our church. Brittany was the spokesperson and led worship for the event. It was very special! A proud moment to see our oldest children’s achievements. Brittany was also in a blossoming relationship with her soon to be husband Brady Williams. This is the year they met, got engaged and got married! We travelled to AZ to join our friends at the CO river for a vacation. ALL of our kids joined us on this trip including our soon to be son in law, Brady. In his honor we made a side trip to the Grand Canyon since he had never been. This was the last trip we all took together. I am hoping that will someday change. Kyle and Sarah were seniors this year and grew up fast after going through the tragedy together of losing Sarah’s dad in a car accident the summer before their senior year. With heavy hearts we attended his funeral and said goodbye to a great man, husband and father. We all learned how short life can be that summer and how important it is to seize the day and cherish every moment. Kyle had an amazing football season and was named Offensive Lineman of the year. Colin got recruited to play football for a private Christian University and went away to East Texas for a year of school and we took several road trips to East Texas to watch him play college football. Connor played middle school football, life was busy still.

We held a small, quaint, and beautiful wedding ceremony for Brittany and Brady in our living room in January of that year. It was charming perfection, just what the bride ordered! (The twinkle lights hung in the living room until we sold that beloved house). We gladly and with full hearts welcomed another son into our family and were so happy for our daughter, also being the first of our children to wed. Blessings abounding!

“A long-lasting marriage is built by two people who believe in -and live by- the solemn promise they made.” -Darlene Schacht

“There are few things more frightening to a man than giving away his heart. And there are few things more comforting to a man than to know the woman he gave his heart to, will protect it with her life.” -Fawn Weaver

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13

(2011-12) Year Twenty-Three

An exciting year for sure! Kyle and Sarah graduated from HS and Kyle proposed to Sarah that summer, who we adore and had already become a precious addition to our family. Colin moved home that summer to continue his education at the community college and started working for the school district. Kyle got accepted to the fire academy at the same college. Brittany was expecting our 1st grandchild!We took another fun trip to CA that summer with our 4 youngest (notice how the numbers on our trips keep decreasing). We spent 4th of July weekend at a hotel on the beach in Dana Point and took a trip to Disneyland. Bethany started her Senior year. Connor, Caleb and Tristan all played football this year and Danny coached again! So fun! Brittany gave birth to Availeth Joy, our first grandchild, in Nov of that year and all of our lives were better for it. Avey is so precious. What a Merry Christmas it was that year! Full of Gods riches and blessings in our lives!

“Love is the greatest gift when given. It is the highest honor when received.” -Fawn Weaver

“Marriage is a commitment- a decision to do, all through life, that which will express your love for one’s spouse.” -Herman H. Kieval

(2012-13) Year Twenty-Four

Kyle graduated as Valedictorian of his class from the fire academy and went directly into EMT school all before his wedding in July. We welcomed a beautiful daughter into our family that summer and were so happy to see their 4 year long romance blossom into happily ever after!

Bethany graduated from HS and started college. Colin started his job full time at Texas family fitness which eventually resulted in a General Manager position. Brittany and Brady were expecting grand baby #2 and we were enjoying life with our kids and granddaughter. I was at a new job, still in NICU, at a different hosp. We traveled to CA again that summer for vacation with our 3 youngest! (See a pattern here). Danny was traveling for work more than ever and we started discussing the possibility of moving back to CA for his career…something we never thought would happen!

“We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.” -Sam Keen

“Where there is love, there is life.” -Mahatma Gandhi

(2013-14) Year Twenty-Five

This year was a roller coaster. We welcomed our 2nd grand baby (1st grandson) Benjamin Alton, into the world in May. A few months later in August Danny and I and our 3 youngest children moved back to CA after 7 years in Texas! (again with that number of completion). We chose Chino Hills because it is so nice, so close to Danny’s job in Pomona and right around the corner from my sister and only relative from my family, left in the immediate area. I was able to retire from nursing after 20 years with the move back to CA! A dream come true! (I do miss those babies though). Kyle was in Paramedic school and a volunteer fire fighter. Sarah was in her final semester and graduated in May with her Bachelors degree from SMU. We kept our home in Texas for a year before selling it and two of our adult children lived there. Colin proposed to Kyli in December. We have been so blessed by God as our family continues to grow. We were all able to go home to Texas for Thanksgiving and be all together to celebrate the holidays. We also celebrated Christmas on Dec 1st with all our kids while in Texas. We spent Christmas Day that year at our apartment in Chino Hills with our 3 youngest sons. That was the first Christmas in 25 years that we couldn’t be all together as a family on the holiday. In January, Bethany also moved to CA, so we had our 4 youngest children with us in CA.

“There is no greater happiness for a man than approaching a door at the end of a day knowing someone on the other side of that door is waiting for the sound of his footsteps.” -Ronald Reagan

(2014-15) Year Twenty-Six

Colin and Kyli got married in April! We were so blessed to all be in Texas together for the wedding to welcome our newest member to the family. We sold our Texas home this year and let go of our Texas residency. Home was once again California! We moved to a larger townhome apartment in Chino this year. Danny’s job was going great and I was enjoying retirement. Connor was working hard as a shop mechanic at the same company as Danny. Caleb was a sophomore and Tristan was in 7th grade. Bethany only lived here a couple months and then moved back to Texas. Brittany was expecting her 3rd baby! We traveled to Texas for many visits this year and enjoyed the holidays in Texas in November once again.

“Show me a man who is smiling from ear-to-ear and living a beautiful life, and I’ll show you a man who is grateful for what he has and utterly in love with his wife.” -Fawn Weaver

(2015-16) Year Twenty-Seven

Tragedy hit our family hard this year when Brittany lost her precious son Elias who was born still, full term. We don’t always understand why things happen as they do in this broken world. She also had two other early miscarriages and now has 3 precious children in heaven. I spent some time in Texas with her family during that time. She conceived again during this year and we looked forward to welcoming another precious boy into her family. We bought our house during this year in Chino, California and finally got permanently settled in. Colin and Kyli moved to Ca this year. Soon after they were expecting their first baby! Colin took a job as a project manager at the same company Danny and Connor worked at. Connor moved into a superintendent training position. Caleb was a Junior and Tristan was in 8th grade.

“A successful marriage isn’t the union of two perfect people. It’s that of two imperfect people who have learned the value of forgiveness and grace.” -Darlene Schacht

My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned. Song of Solomon 8:7

(2016-17) Year Twenty-Eight

This year we welcomed two beautiful grandchildren! Brittany and Brady welcomed Noah Eli in April and I spent nearly a month in Texas with my family and grandchildren! Colin and Kyli welcomed Jaxson Micah in June in California, their 1st child and our 4th grand-baby! Bountiful and bouncing blessings! Once again sadness hit our family when Kyle and Sarah who were excitedly expecting their 1st baby, lost him at 18 weeks of pregnancy. Sarah went on to sadly loose a second baby to early miscarriage. We now have 5 grandchildren in heaven to reunite with some day. She quickly conceived again after that! Caleb started his Senior year and then tested out by receiving his equivalency diploma. Tristan was a freshman this year in high school. Brittany came to spend the summer in California with her children since Avey had been diagnosed with JRA, she wanted to see if the climate helped Avey the same way it had helped Danny. Avey’s RA went into complete remission! So Brittany and Brady moved to California during this year and joined the numbers that were growing here in California calling this state home once again!

“Once we figured out that we could not change each other, we became free to celebrate ourselves as we are.” -H. Dean Rutherford (in a letter to his wife on their 59th wedding anniversary)

I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine. Song of Solomon 6:3

(2017-18) Year Twenty-Nine

This year Kyle and Sarah welcomed their son Kirk Kyle to the family at Christmas time and we were in Texas to help welcome him. Soon after Colin and Kyli announced they were expecting their second baby! Caleb worked most of this year as a shop runner for the “family” company’s Tristan started a part time job at Pizza Hut an started his sophomore year. Brittany and Brady’s family moved from the San Diego area out to Joshua tree area in the desert as their occupations and lives changed as Brittany started Instant Loss, her blog and social media buisness that blossomed into a cookbook deal as she was about to become a published author. Bethany moves into her own apartment in Plano, Tx, we kept hoping life would lead her to California also.

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” -John Lennon and Paul McCartney

Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Song of Solomon 8:6

(2018-19) Year Thirty

Tristan studied hard and passed his CHSPE and received his equivalency diploma and started community college at 17! The days of having kids in school finally coming to a close! Colin and Kyli welcomed Jhett Colson into their family this year, their second son and our 6th grandchild! Life was looking pretty joyful and abundant. Maybe just the lull before the storm. Shortly after welcoming Jhett into the world, my life took a turn when I was diagnosed with breast cancer after a routine mammogram. Since then has been a time of rest, treatment, doctors appointments, tests, consults and healing. We had to postpone my bucket list trip we had planned to NYC at Christmastime. But we had a wonderful holiday with ALL of our children and grandchildren in which we came away with family pictures! I have undergone 18 weeks of chemotherapy and will soon be having a double mastectomy with immediate DIEP reconstruction just 8 days after we celebrate our 30th Wedding Anniversary. This has been a hard trial and an onslaught to my health. Yet we head into this next year grateful to God that I am alive and that we caught the cancer early enough to treat it at stage 2. Life will go on. We have a God in whom we can completely trust in and rest in and that is where we are. Danny is working hard, taking care of me, carrying the world on his shoulders and trying to start a buisness opportunity for our family alongside the company several of them work for now. There is much on the horizon and a future full of hope! We are excited to celebrate 30 years of marriage and family and to take the time for me to heal. Then we look forward to taking some postponed and long awaited trips! We have thoroughly enjoyed all the 2-4 day weekend travels we have gone on these last couple years. Places like San Francisco, San Diego, Mammoth, Big Sur, Colorado, Texas, Beverly Hills, beach trips, etc. We plan to continue frequent long weekend trips starting with a celebration of our anniversary in San Simeon on the beach near Hearst Castle. But we also look forward to many other travels, visits with family, family weddings, welcoming babies as great aunt and great uncle to several now! We look forward to the future and all it holds.

So here we are in the present chapter of our love story! Celebrating 30 years of life, love and happiness! We would never have made it thru life’s ups and downs without a solid foundation in Christ and the love of family and friends! Marriage is hard, but nothing worth having is ever easy! Love is a choice! Oh it starts out as an attraction and a lot of emotion and fluff, but true and lasting love is a daily choice to lay down your life for another, to stay when life gets tough, to forgive when hurt arises and to love as Christ first loved us and gave himself for us as an example to follow. And through this sacrifice there is a coming together, an expression of Christ’s love, a richness, an intimacy that so few couples experience nowadays! It is in our nature to look back and think about what we would change if we could! My answer is nothing! I wouldn’t change a thing! What we’ve lived is what’s brought us to where and who we are! And where we are is happy, still married, best friends, rich with blessings, with our cup running over, and YES, “IN LOVE”….happily ever after, till death do us part! You know…to have and to hold, to love and to honor, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health (and we have seen it all!), forsaking all others, until death do us part! I wouldn’t have it any other way! Happy 30th Anniversary to my love!

May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer— may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love. Proverbs 5:18-19

I have found the one my soul loves. Song of Solomon 3:4

Chemo Ends…Surgery Next!

*warning: graphic and transparent. What else would you expect? 😊

Today is my last chemo infusion. I have been looking forward to this since I started chemo, but I’ve been even more excited since infusion #5 because I could see the light at the end of THIS tunnel. I emphasize “this” because I still have to get through all the chemo side effects from infusion #6, some of which linger for months, and I still have several metaphoric tunnels to navigate this year. The cancer trial and journey doesn’t end with the end of chemo. Although, I am so excited that chemo will end!!! 🎉🎉🎉 I will continue to come in every 3 weeks for my Herceptin infusion for an entire year. (October). Herceptin is a targeted therapy drug for HER2+ cancer cells. But it is not chemo, so no more cold cap therapy either and I shouldn’t have all the side effects that chemo brings. My thinning hair should start growing back and hopefully my eye brows and lashes.

The next “tunnel,” “hurdle,” whatever you want to call it is the biggest one. The first and largest of my surgeries. Here is where I will part with a part of my body that has been with me for nearly 35 years. The part that adolescent girls look the most forward to getting. The part that gives shape to the most womanly curvaceous parts of our bodies. The part that most consider the most beautiful part of the female form. Yes, they take a lot of abuse over the years, with breastfeeding, in my case 7 babies, with stretch marks taking up residency with each pregnancy, and gaining of weight, and with gravity not being kind to this area of our bodies most specifically. My breasts.

So some may think, “you get new boobs!” But with cancer, it’s not like that! I never asked for new boobs, I never wanted new boobs. I was very happy with the ones God gave me, well maybe not “very” happy, but at least they were mine. And every stretch mark tells a mostly happy story. I’ve looked at them through every change in size, shape and pull of gravity, in the mirror. I have grown pretty attached to them and will be sad to see them be cut up and completely changed to NEVER look the same.

I choose to part with them freely and without pressure, knowing I’m making the right choice, so that I hopefully will never have to go through this again. And yes, that’s worth it to me. My husband absolutely supports my choice. Even though it affects him also, no matter what I choose, because yes, he is just that wonderful and genuinely supportive and selfless. He also never wants to see me have to go through breast cancer again or for me to have the risk of metastasis or reoccurrence. And I never want him to have to go through this again either.

Now I will have something very different, with new scars and marks that will tell a completely different story, not such a happy one this time. I will turn it into a story of triumph but it will be tainted with scary moments, sad moments, sick moments, painful moments, sacrificial moments, real life moments.

I suppose I will have to process the loss in my own specific way. Not comparing it to anyone else and how they would feel or comparing it to any other type of loss of limb, organ or part of a person because we are all individuals and process things differently. Our experiences are our own. So understand this….before you start a sentence with, “well at least…” it doesn’t help.

4 weeks from today a breast surgeon, one of the most respected in the state. One that can’t weigh more then 100lbs soaking wet (why do we say that, who weighs themselves soaking wet?). One who is a cute, adorable blond who hugs me tight every time she sees me. One in whom I can see her compassion for me in her eyes every time she looks at me. Not the “feel sorry for you” kind of compassion but the “I’m in this with you and I’ve got your back,” kind of compassion. She will remove both of my breasts in a “skin sparing” double mastectomy.

This is the treatment option I have chosen, to give myself the best possible chance of never having a reoccurrence of breast cancer. She will remove both my nipples/ areolas for the same reason. Along with my breast tissue she will also be removing anything that could be left of the tumor that chemotherapy has mostly or possibly, completely eradicated. I will be deemed “cancer free” after this surgery, if my excised “sentinel” lymph nodes come back clear of any cancer cells, which is the expectation after chemotherapy.

I am 47 years old, and hopefully have many many years left to live and don’t want to go without breasts for potentially 30-45 years! There are so many different choices to make with treatment and surgical options. I chose a double mastectomy to minimize any chance to have breast cancer again. With immediate reconstruction using the DIEP procedure, so my new breasts will be as natural as possible.

This is NOT a tummy tuck my plastic surgeon, a completely different surgeon than my breast surgeon, tells me. Don’t mistake it as such, he forewarned me. The goal is not cosmetic enhancement of your tummy, it is successful tissue transplantation and reconstruction of your breasts which is a long and complicated procedure and is safer not adding unnecessary time to with cosmetic touch ups and elective add ons.

I chose this procedure because I have no desire, and never have to have anything artificial placed in my body. I have not wanted it for cosmetic reasons and still do not out of necessity either. Not to mention the potential risks and side effects that can come with an artificial implant option. That is me, that is how I feel and that is my choice. For someone else that may be what they choose, and that is fine for them.

The DIEP procedure will go deeper than a traditional “tummy tuck” all the way through the fascia to the muscle and in some cases, though they try to attempt a “muscle sparing” dissection, in 5% of the procedures they have to take muscle. The key to success is the vasculature that feeds the tissue. They have to take healthy vessels that are large enough to reconnect to achieve adequate blood flow and circulation to the transplanted tissue. I will have abdominal tissue (fat) and blood vessels placed within my breast skin through the cuts made when my areolas and my natural breast tissue and any cancerous cells that may still be there, are removed. Then the abdominal tissue vessels will be reattached to vessels in my chest to create new healthy living breast tissue. The incision of the abdomen will go from hip to hip and will be just below the belly button area. The incisions on my breasts will be where my areolas and nipples are excised.

There will be other necessary follow up surgeries and procedures, much simpler day surgeries. They will occur three months apart from each other to follow this huge surgery. They will cosmetically complete the look, symmetry, shaping, scar revisions, nipple creation and areola tattooing. So that in the end, I will have the most natural looking and feeling breasts that modern medicine can create while maximizing the hope of breast cancer never returning to wreak havoc in my life again.

My plastic surgeon is an incredibly experienced, kind and humble man with a great bedside manner. He specializes in and has done so many of these procedures that he says in 20 years he has stopped counting, but probably has done 1 a week for 20 years! 😮 The surgery is long. The mastectomy itself, is done by my cute, tiny and adorable breast surgeon whom I love, Dr Kruper, its about 4 hours at the beginning of the surgery. Then my plastic surgeon, Dr Tan, and a second highly experienced micro-vascular surgeon, take over for the dissection and reconstruction. The total procedure lasts 12-14 hours. The hospital stay will be approximately 5 days and the recovery will take 3 months.

Please, if I may ask for your continued prayers for me. Please pray everything would go smoothly today. That my chemo side effects would be minimal and subside quickly. That my body would recover quickly and thoroughly to be strong for surgery. That the toxicity of chemo would not create additional complications or future health issues. That my surgery would be a success and that God would guide the surgeons through that success. That healing would be as painless as possible. That my healing would also go smoothly and with minimal scaring. That there would be no complications. That my husband would be given peace throughout the procedures and strength throughout my recovery. Thank you in advance for all your continued prayers, support, encouragement and good thoughts. You all bless me so much. I am grateful beyond words.

Chemotherapy ends today, but the effect cancer will have on my life is not over. Not by a long shot! But today I am thankful for successful endings. I am grateful for medical science, that despite the toxicity of treatment, can effectively treat the cancer that was growing and multiplying quickly inside of me. So fast I could feel it by touch. That was scary! But chemotherapy stopped it and shrunk it fast, possibly killing it completely. We will know soon.

I am thankful to my Savior who has faithfully walked with me through this journey, and all my journeys, that make up my story and my testimony. Who has guided my decisions. Who upholds me with His righteous right hand. Who shines His light upon me and through me and gives me peace that surpasses all understanding. He fights for me while I rest in Him and enables me to just be still. He fills me abundantly with joy as the trials I face allow me to persevere in my faith, shaping me in maturity and wholeness so I will lack nothing. He gives me strength and makes me brave. He blesses me immensely in the process because He is a good, good Father. Yes, I’m so eternally grateful. He fills me with an anchor of hope as I trust in Him. My cup overflows.

There is hope beyond this!

God, take the glory! All of it! I lay my crown of glory at your feet.

When God Opens a Window (revised)

This is a metaphoric story of my life that I wrote 4 years ago but have updated and revised here.

My whole life I have walked with the Lord. My walk has had many ups and downs, many winding roads and many pitfalls. I’ve had times when I tried to take my own path, and I had to use my God given GPS to find my way back to the right path. There were times I felt alone in my walk and times I felt physical walls blocking my way. A few times I have felt completely waylaid on the sideline but knew Jesus stood over me encouraging me to get back up and keep going, until I did. Sometimes the path seemed too difficult and at times I felt Him even physically carrying me. Then there have been the times where my path was straight and easy, when I have felt His presence as real as anyone walking beside me, holding my hand, walking and talking with me on my journey. Those times have been more rare but so precious.

There is a saying: “when God closes a door He opens a window.” Well in my spiritual house I have had many doors close, even slammed hard in my face. I have found myself looking desperately for the open windows that I thought were supposed to be there and couldn’t find any. I have tried to unsuccessfully pry windows open even when I couldn’t find any that were open to me. I don’t recommend this! Then were the times I would just throw up my hands, retreat back into my house and stop looking for doors or windows, often closing myself in behind more doors.

I have had an occasional open door over the years and even experienced the open window after a door had closed. I have felt God use me in situations and circumstances and have been eager and honored to serve Him and show Him off to others. But I have always wondered about my call and purpose in life. I’ve wondered if I’m getting any of it right? Or was my call just to have lots of babies, work really hard and pour into their lives? Don’t get me wrong, this has been a noble assignment, my crowning call, not one I take lightly, but truly cherish deeply. It will continue to be my calling until I am called home. (Your babies will always be your babies and family just grows).

Often though, I have found myself asking, is that it for me? Then just choosing to be content with that, because it is an amazing and blessed part of who I am. The best part! My legacy is for Gods glory after all!

But these past two years have been a journey like no other. I went from being a mom of seven and a full time nurse, to having only three children left in my charge and a stay at home mom. I have grown up and gained some wisdom and perspective over the years. I understand love is a choice, joy is something we choose and I have experienced true contentment in spite of all my circumstances in life. I can see the fruit that came from some closed doors. Yes fruit, from a closed door! I can see why windows were left closed while I had character shaping that needed to take place, healing to happen, and other things that needed my attention. All along I have known that God has a plan for each of us, me included. Willingness has almost never been my issue, but you can be selectively willing and this is something I am still working on. The struggle between His will and my own. I’m a work in progress. But I have confidence in this, he who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it!

Then about a year ago a door opened, much to my surprise, and I stepped through. I did not recognize it at the time as a door God opened but over the course of the year the One who opened that door became clear. I felt so blessed and excited as I discovered that door and what its openness meant to me! I was eager to step through that door even though I felt safe there on the other side. It wasn’t an exterior door though, it was on the interior where I had retreated and shut myself away along the way. I had even become content and full of joy there. Just as He promises: “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete.”

After stepping through the door, I spent a little time in that hallway just enjoying the new scenery, it was nice here in this hallway. I was slightly reluctant to venture out. After all, I could always run back into that safe room if things got scary.

Then over the last two months, Jesus slowly took my hand and He led me out of that hallway into the front room, the whole time I kept my eyes focused on Him as we went.

Then something happened next that I have never experienced to this extent of fullness and grace. He nodded as to have me look where He motioned. I looked around and there I was standing in a room with doors and windows wide open! With sunlight streaming in and so much promise beckoning. Standing there in His embrace, but not as if to say goodbye and set out alone and not clinging to Him out of fear. But as an excited daughter who has grown up a bit, and learned some things along the way. Molded and shaped by the Master Potters hands, who was just given a first class all expenses paid trip as a gift from her Father…and He is taking me on it! His bags are already packed and He packed for me too!! A light load to carry as I’d exchanged my baggage for His yoke. Let’s do this!

What an adventure this will be, both scary and exciting. So many questions? Am I ready? Are you sure you have the right daughter? How will I know where to go and what to do? What will I say and who will I encounter? How will I know who to help along the way?

These questions flood through my mind and He takes my chin and turns it to look into His face, to fix my gaze on Him as He smiles and the questions all disappear. I’m looking into His face, the Word. (In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God).

There it is:

“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Then this:

“I repeat, be strong and brave! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic, for I, the LORD your God, am with you in all you do.”

And this:

“Teach them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

This also:

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”

So here we go, setting off…abiding in the vine…the great I AM! Yes, the great I AM is my daddy! Oh how I adore and love Him so. I am so very humbled and so excited! What a journey it will be!

4 years have passed and I’ve had many adventures since then in those 4 years and the continuing sanctification process has been so incredibly beautiful to me. God knew I would need this journey to build me up to bring me to the scary place I am right now. The valley of the shadows. I have returned to my “spiritual home” with all its doors and windows. I never had to go far to see the sights and experience the love and grace and mercy of those travels. I find it ironic that much of the past two years I spent right outside in my literal and “spiritual garden.” Learning to be content in His presence and in the glory of His creation. More than that, learning to deeply love all He has created and to grow in that love. He taught me what Christ-like love really means. He opened my eyes to the wonderment and importance of love over all other spiritual gifts. “The greatest of these is love.” You can have all the gifts, all of them, but without love it is all pointless! God is love and so it all starts there.

He has taught me in my garden about planting and growing and pruning and watering and harvesting. Both physically and spiritually. I have felt His face shine on me. I have found peace over and over again.

“The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.” Num 6:24-26

He has shown me the beauty that comes from a life well lived in His presence, trusting Him, resting in Him, loving Him with my whole heart and loving others. He prepared me for this time of trial in my life. He knew from the beginning the preparation I would require to walk well through this valley. He promises to give us everything we need for each day we encounter and tells us not to worry about tomorrow. He promises to walk with us and if need be He will carry us.

He knew I would need to brush off my gardening and travel clothes and step back inside my spiritual house or maybe just sit on the front porch and rest in Him, hope and trust in Him. And let His face shine upon mine and fill me with His peace.

I’m not all closed in now, as before, hiding in some back room. My door is open, the windows too. Gentle breezes and whispers of love and reassurances drift in those windows saying “it will all be ok,” they come from all different places, sometimes the most unexpected places. But always received as gifts from the Spirit of God. Where all good gifts come from.

Sometimes I get visitors to my house and they join me for conversation. Sometimes they need seeds, sometimes water and sometimes pruning. But my loving Savior equipped me for this part of my journey and He guides my hands, my words and my open arms and also who I invite in, to lead them to Him. I can do anything through His strength.

Do I ask how I ended up here? Why do I carry this affliction? Sometimes. But I don’t linger long on thoughts that aren’t peace giving. He has taught me well how to take my thoughts captive. I know that all my days were planned and counted from the beginning and written in His book. And I know I can trust Him with the outcome. His Holy presence is with me and He will never leave me or forsake me. He pours out His love into me and through me as my cup runs over and my joy is complete.

Even my afflictions and the trials I face can not detour my faith and hope in who He is. My faith is steadfast. My hope is an anchor to my soul. My trust is in Him alone. And my joy is abundant and complete.

There is hope beyond this! All to His glory forever and ever!

Power in the Blood

Ringing in the new year had me feeling sorry for myself. Everyone gets excited for the start of a new year. Conversations revolve around fresh starts, resolutions and great expectations for the coming year. All I could think about was how hard my year was going to be continuing on chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer, with a major surgery and several small surgeries looming in my future throughout 2019. It was hard to get excited about the new year and I had slipped into a “woe is me” state of mind. I complained to my husband about this being another year of putting off trips I’d wanted to take and things I’d wanted to do. I lamented again about my precious New York trip at Christmas I had to cancel because of my health condition. I even complained on Facebook about how hard it was to get excited about the new year. I was truly disheartened and in low spirits those first couple days of 2019.

It didn’t help much that physically I was deteriorating, just days after my 4th chemo treatment, as my side effects were kicking in and fatigue was setting in unlike anything I had experienced to date. This time something was different. I was so weak, I could barely stand for more than just a few minutes without feeling like I was going to pass out. I couldn’t walk around the house or climb the stairs without getting winded and my heart rate racing into the 140s. This was not good and it wasn’t going away.

I had a near fainting spell a few weeks before, the week after my 3rd chemo infusion. I then learned that I was anemic and my hemoglobin was dropping with each successive treatment. So with all my current symptoms matching anemia symptoms and not subsiding, I was pretty confident that my hemoglobin had dropped even lower and was responsible for my worsening condition.

After three days with no improvement and barely functioning, I called the nurse triage line at City of Hope to report my symptoms. The nurse wanted me to come in to be evaluated as soon as I could. For several different reasons, we decided to wait until the next morning before we headed to COHs ETC (Evaluation and Treatment Center), a fancy name for urgent care.

I woke up around midnight on Thursday January 3rd and couldn’t fall back to sleep. It came to my mind that I had fallen several days behind on my first5 app, which is my daily devotional and bible reading. Since sleep was alluding me I decided to catch up on my app. I am studying the book of Jeremiah presently and read a chapter each day and then the commentary from the app that coincides with each chapter. I had 4 days worth of chapters and reading to do.

I’ve learned that timing is everything with God. Ive also learned that he will do what it takes to get my attention, even when, and probably especially when I’m in self-pity mode. So it isn’t unusual for him to wake me up to get me quiet and alone with him. As I began to read through these chapters and devotions in Jeremiah, God got my attention in that incredibly personal, “let me speak directly to your heart, exactly where your at, through my Word,” kind of way!

So many times in the past when I have gotten a little behind on whatever study I am doing, and I finally sit down to catch up, the message ended up speaking directly into my situation at that precise time. If I had been “on time” doing my study, the message would have come too early for my circumstances or experiences and I may have missed the bigger impact that the message contained for me. That is what I mean when I say, Gods timing is everything, and this time was no different. If I had been “on time” spreading these 4 days of study out on the days they should have been done, I would have missed the clustered message. God knew the perfect window of timing when he could get me alone and quiet during the middle of the night in my woe-is-me state of mind, so he could speak directly to my heart and lift me up, shift my perspective, teach me a lesson I needed to hear and replenish my joy! He is just so good that way!

These several days worth of teachings spoke directly into my circumstances in huge ways and I won’t go into it all, but the key verse and message that really struck me, was a message God gave Jeremiah to deliver to Jeremiah’s good friend and scribe who was bogged down in self pity. (See the correlation?)

“This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says to you, Baruch: You have said, ‘Woe is me, because the LORD has added sorrow to my pain! I am worn out with groaning and have found no rest.’” This is what the LORD says: I will demolish what I have built and uproot what I have planted, throughout the land! Are you seeking great things for yourself? Don’t do it! I will bring great disaster upon all these people; but I will give you your life as a reward wherever you go. I, the LORD, have spoken!'”
Jeremiah 45:2-5

For real…this is in the Bible! I can’t make this stuff up! God was speaking to me directly:

“Rebecca, you say, ‘Woe is me, because of my sorrow and pain! I am worn out with groaning and have found no rest.’ But I, the Lord says: Are you seeking great things for yourself? Don’t do it! I will give you your life as a reward.”

My self focused, poor me attitude was self defeating. God was telling me: “Don’t do it!” When I fix my eyes on Jesus, trusting and resting in him and don’t pursue “things” for myself, but look outwardly at my true purpose in glorifying the Lord and resting in him, than he gives me peace and fills me with abundant joy. Besides, knowing that God is giving me my life as a reward in the midst of what I am going through currently, was extremely impactful having him speak this into my heart! Amen! If I never get anything else or go on another trip…my life is enough!

He asks us to exchange our heavy burdens for his yoke:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

So after spending the night talking with and learning from the Lord, the morning came and I was renewed spiritually, mentally and emotionally and filled with joy and peace and a shifted perspective. I could now be excited about the new year! I easily wrote out my New Years goals and found my new purpose in 2019:

I will not wallow in self pity. I will keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. I will do more than survive, I will thrive. I will rest in Him. I will trust Him. I will give God the glory.

I was so excited, I shared my revelations with my husband as we headed to City of Hope in the morning to have me “physically” evaluated. No longer feeling sorry for myself, I was resting in and trusting God for the outcome.

14 hours is what I spent in the ETC on Thursday January 3rd. My hemoglobin had dropped to 9.4, but not low enough to need a transfusion according to “textbook” requirements. So the doctor was determined to find some other explanation for my new and worsening symptoms, even if it meant chalking it up to, “well you are on chemo!” So after ruling out dehydration and bladder infection, the easy answers he was hoping for, I pushed for a deeper answer. I couldn’t imagine being sent home in such a physically weakened state to live like this.

Drawing on 20 years of nursing experience and being armed with my own background of medical ailments and family history, I was ready to challenge him on every turn. He was a trooper. I was extremely impressed with his willingness to get to the bottom of this with me, exchanging ideas, calling in consults, ordering tests and doing his own research into things most doctors would discount immediately.

To make a very long day and long story shorter, we ruled out anything heart, brain or lung related. Which was good to know, of course, that the most vital parts of my body are in good shape and have been spared damage from chemo. Praise God! In the end, he relayed my arguments and concerns to my medical oncologist who approved the blood transfusion despite it going against the medical norm.

So Thursday evening I was transfused with 1 unit A- PRBCs. It’s amazing what additional red blood cells (the cells that carry oxygen throughout the body) can do for a person in such a weakened state. There IS POWER in the blood! I could physically feel my extremities warming up during the transfusion, my energy was improved almost immediately. After an additional trip to CT (as I said, he wanted to rule out any possibilities) and then being treated for an allergic reaction to the contrast given during the CT scan, I was headed home and to bed. Loaded with IV Benadryl my eyes couldn’t stay open.

Friday I was nearly bouncing off the walls with energy. The first half of the day you couldn’t have got me to sit down. I was talking a mile a minute and full of exuberance. I felt a lightheaded, giddy feeling of euphoria that is hard to describe. I literally felt like I had been infused with someone else’s energy. And in fact I had!

Double fold!

Thursday in the early morning hours I had been filled with supernatural peace and abundant joy and purpose through a different kind of transfusion made possible through the blood of the cross, renewing me spiritually and mentally. Thursday evening I was physically transfused with life giving, oxygen carrying blood that revived me physically. Oh the power of the blood in that day of my life, renewing me in body, mind and spirit!

For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. Colossians 1:19-20

So bring on the new year with all its struggles, pain and challenges. I have a God who will take all my burdens and exchange them for rest and give me peace.

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

There is hope beyond this, to God be the glory!

Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has come at last–salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth–the one who accuses them before our God day and night. And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. Revelation 12:10-11

Chemo and a New Normal?

My new normal? Being that this is my temporary new normal, doesn’t make it much easier to handle, it also doesn’t make it normal at all. It just makes it my life. Most people don’t really know the extent of what it’s like unless they’ve experienced it as only they can through their body or they have lived with someone going through it. To the rest of the world you may hear about cancer and treatments and side effects in varying degrees but you are far enough removed it isn’t something you have to think about and experience all day everyday. So the impression you can get of what it’s like is convoluted. Most people just want to focus on the positives. It is treatable. Treatments have come so far. It is curable. They know someone who beat it. I will pray for healing. I know this is how many think because this was me before I had cancer. All of this is wonderful, positive, wishful and hopeful thinking. But for the person going through it and those loved ones walking through it with them, it is a whole different experience even when it’s curable. Being curable really means it can return. Even if being a “survivor” only means a survivor for now and maybe you won’t die from it but the thought of it returning may never go away, but yet you survive. So this blog post is to tell of my experience, for those who really want to learn what it is like through my eyes. Also, for those who really want to know “how I’m doing?” Please know that it is different for everybody. This is my story. These are my details. This is my reality. This post is a lengthy one. Some details are not fun details and very personal. You’ve been warned.

How am I doing? That is the question I get the most on the day after my chemo infusions. It is really a loaded question though. The day after chemo is usually a really good day with minimal side effects. So it does not give anyone asking a good representation of what going through chemo is like for me. When my answer is almost always, “good, just a little tired.” Other answers I usually give throughout my cycle: “I’m doing good,” really means life is tolerable and I’m having an ok day. “I’m ok,” really means life kinda sucks but I’m trying to stay positive. “Not good,” means life sucks bad today and staying positive is really hard.

So, with experiencing chemo #4 today, I want to talk about how I’m doing and what it’s been like for me. I say, what it is like for me, because it is different for everyone. Not only does it depend on how the individual person handles the side effects of chemo but also what chemo meds and other meds the individual is on and the dosages and regimen. It is individualized to each person, their type of cancer, their type of tumor of that cancer, the stage of that tumor, and several other individual factors that effect treatment.

Cancer is not just cancer. Breast cancer is not all the same. Treatment is different for everyone. And chemo is just a piece of the puzzle in the treatment plan and very individualized.

For example for my type of cancer, tumor, stage and age. There where two different and very specific chemo regimens that my oncologist had to choose from that would be the best course of action for me. Those two are specific to just my type of tumor. (HER2 +, ER and PR -). The one that we didn’t go with was not as harsh because it only had 2 meds (1 chemo drug and 1 targeted therapy drug) that would be infused weekly for 12 weeks. The med combination that my oncologist decided was the best for MY specific circumstances was the second option. My chemo regimen is 4 meds (2 chemo drugs and 2 targeted therapy drugs), infused every 3 weeks or 21 days for 6 total infusions, lasting a total of 18 weeks. Referred to as the “big guns.” Because of my age and higher risk of spread and reoccurrence the “big guns” were felt to be necessary. Many people think it is just the chemo meds that are “poison” and come with horrendous side effects. Well all 4 meds come with their own set of harsh side effects.

Let me first share what my chemo day is like. I want to start with my wonderful husband who accompanies me to every chemo day and is committed to being there throughout my treatment for everything, especially the treatment days, Doctor appointments and any other day that is crucial to my treatment, procedures and planning. He has been my rock and has sacrificed so much since the day we found out. He has taken up the role of caregiver selflessly and compassionately. He sees to my every need while coping with his own emotions and fears. All of this while working 50+ hour weeks and taking care of our family. On chemo day he is with me the whole time, he drives me there and sits with me throughout, sometimes just watching me sleep for hours, then drives me home.

City of Hope is in Duarte, Ca. This is where my team of Doctors and specialists collaborate on my care and all my appointments and care is given. It will also be where I have my surgery in March. It’s about 40 min from our home, sometimes up to 60 min in traffic. When we arrive we report to the VAD lab. VAD stands for Vascular Access Device. This is a special department of the lab, staffed with nurses instead of phlebotomists, who can access central lines. I have a port cath placed under my skin below my right clavicle and runs up into my external jugular vein. It is a centrally placed line used for all infusions and lab draws and must be accessed under sterile technique and have a needle placed in it and secured for infusions. In general the port itself and line can easily be felt under my skin and also seen. The port site is a lump about the size of a nickel in my chest. I have two scars from the placement of the port. One over the port itself about an inch long and one tiny one about 1/2cm over the site in the base of my neck just below where the catheter enters my jugular vein. I use lidocaine cream over the port prior to my appointment. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It takes 30min to an hour to be effective, so if it has to be accessed quickly or unexpectedly there is not time for lidocaine cream. That was the case when I had my fainting spell 3 weeks ago and was taken to urgent care at COH. The poke of the IV/infusion needle itself hurts and feels uncomfortable for a period of time after insertion. Often the lidocaine doesn’t work to completely numb the skin and with the exception of one time, it has been uncomfortable with each access.

Once accessed they draw several tubes of blood to run labs that are essential tests to run prior to each chemo infusion to make sure that my body has recovered adequately enough from the last chemo effects and to check my liver function, my electrolytes and my blood count and differential. After drawing labs they secure the needle in my port for use later with chemo, then flush it with heparin to keep the port from clotting.

After my VAD lab appointment, I report to the Women’s Center where I wait, usually about an hour, while my labs are being processed, then I see my medical oncologist for an update. She reviews my labs, my symptoms, my meds and any changes to my plan and treatment, she reviews updates on any test results and specialist consultations and addresses any needs or questions I have. Sometimes this leads to additional scheduling after the appointment for further imaging or consults. One problem or side effect that has revealed itself through my lab work is that chemo is killing off my rbc’s. So in 2 months my hemoglobin has dropped from 14.5 to 9.9, which means I am anemic, which contributes to fatigue, dark circles under my eyes and fainting spells. If it drops to 8 they will have to transfuse. We will see what happens.

After my Doctor appointment I report to the infusion floor to check in for chemo. When I learned that the chemo meds I would be on have a 100% side effect of hair loss but there is a therapy called dignicap or cold cap therapy that has a 67% effectiveness rate, I was interested. It is not covered by insurance and it is not cheap. It is $350 for each session. My chemo consists of 6 separate sessions. My generous and wonderful husband told me from the beginning if it was important to me than we would find a way to pay for it. (I told you he is pretty great!) Hair loss is very personal and everyone feels differently about it and copes with it differently. For me it was a matter of not wanting to “look” like a cancer patient and get that pity look from everyone I encounter. I don’t want strangers to know I’m a cancer patient. I also want to look like myself when I look in the mirror and don’t want to avoid pictures because of it. For me, keeping my hair would be a way I could still feel somewhat normal in a very not normal struggle and year of my life. And yes, hair grows back, but it takes years for hair to grow back out to a pre-cancer length, so that means living with a very outward appearance reminder long after chemo is over. Scars can be hidden under clothes. Lack of hair cannot, except with wigs, which to me are almost just as obvious as scarves, wraps and hats to those who know me and most importantly to me. Also, when you go to bed at night it is usually not with any head covers. My wonderful husband says it wouldn’t bother him, but it sure would bother me. Fortunately I have proven to be in the 67% that cold cap therapy works on. I would have lost all of my hair by the second chemo treatment if I was going to. Although you can loose up to 50% of your hair and still be considered in the 67% group. My hair is thinning but it isn’t noticeable at this point. I try to wash it no more than 2 times a week because I loose the most hair when I wash it and brush it, especially when it’s wet. I could still possibly loose my eyebrows and eyelashes although I haven’t yet, they are not protected by the cold cap.

One benefit to cold cap therapy beside the preservation of my hair is that it means I get a private room during my chemo infusion. I have to be attached to the dignicap machine the entire time of the infusion which lasts about 6 hours, so they put a commode next to my infusion/lounge chair which is the primary reason for the private room. But it is nice having the privacy, the cap looks funny on me. It also gives me a quieter environment to preferably sleep as much as I can through the miserable therapy session and gives my husband privacy being the introvert he is.

The worst part of the infusion experience is the cold cap therapy. You may wonder why I would subject myself to torture that is elective. Again, it’s because keeping my hair is worth it to me and they sedate me pretty heavily to be able to tolerate the pain and discomfort of the most intense brain freeze you can imagine, which is why I am able to sleep for periods of time. If you can imagine what it feels like to stick your entire scalp, wet, in a snow bank, with nothing protecting your head and then staying there for 6 hours, that is the best sensation I can imagine comparing it to.

My infusion session starts with a specially trained dignicap technician securing the cold cap on my head which starts with her saturating my hair with a spray bottle then placing three layers, a thin cotton cap, a rubber type cap fitted to my scalp and then the attachment layer to the machine that locks the cap down to my scalp and wraps it around my chin. They turn two knobs on the sides of my head that lock it down tightly. Once they turn the machine on it is immediate extremely cold water that constantly circulates through the cap and gives me an instant intense painful headache and overall discomfort. It is absolutely miserable initially but with the sedation it gets better and eventually more tolerable as I get used to it. For the first 30 minutes the chemo nurse that is assigned to me loads multiple medications through my IV port, including Ativan sedation, Benadryl, steroids, anti-emetics, acid reducer and any other medications the Dr decides I need based on my labs. I usually also take Tylenol to help with the cold cap headache as well. It takes the full 30 minutes for the cold cap to gradually reach the temperature it has to be at for the chemotherapy infusion to begin.

Once the temperature in the cap reaches 34 degrees then the nurse starts my first of 4 infusions, they begin the chemo medications first over 1-2 hours for each, separately. After the two chemo drugs have infused, the other two targeted therapy medications are infused separately over 1-2 hours each. Once all four medications have infused, the cold cap is turned off and removed. A medication infusion patch called Neulasta is applied to my abdomen before I leave. It injects a needle into my abdomen after applied and stays adhered on my abdomen with a tiny plastic cannula in my subcutaneous tissue until it infuses the medication 27 hours later over a 45 min time period, it then alarms and I remove it. It is a bone marrow stimulant that can help the body make white blood cells after receiving cancer medications.

After all of this, we go home. Once the cap is off, I feel pretty good, just tired. I continue taking oral steroids through the end of the next day. I usually feel pretty good through the next day and into the 3rd day before the steroids wear off and the worst side effects really start kicking in. Fatigue is always present in varying degrees and never completely goes away. Chemo brain kicks in right away, which is a lack of focus and concentration, brain fog, inattentiveness and restlessness. There are other side effects that can happen and don’t go away until after all chemo is complete and some can last for 8-12 months after chemo. Some side effects can even cause permanent issues. Side effects I am unfortunately experiencing that fit in that category are my monthly periods, they have stopped and because of my age, may or may not come back. This is accompanied with menopausal symptoms including hot flashes, so that’s not fun. Secondly, and more serious, I am also experiencing neuropathy symptoms in my hands and feet since after my second infusion, worsening after my third and it is expected to progressively get worse. It often doesn’t go away until months and sometimes years after chemo. There are cases where it is permanent. 30-40% of chemo recipients are effected by varying degrees of neuropathy. For me it feels like a pins and needles sensation in the bottoms of my feet and finger tips and mild numbness and tingling in my feet and hands. This comes and goes throughout the day and seems to be worse when I’m inactive or laying in bed. But it does not go away throughout my 3 week cycles and seems to be worsening, as warned, with each progressive infusion. Fatigue and energy depletion also gets worse with each progressive infusion.

Then there are the side effects that start to kick in on day 3 and last for varying lengths of time. The worst of these and the most annoying is bowel issues, primarily diarrhea accompanied with abdominal cramping. That usually starts by day 4-5 and lasts daily till about day 12-14 and causes the soreness that you would expect especially with all my mucous membranes being raw. That is also a side effect. All my mucous membranes are effected, by day 3 and lasting into the 3rd week in varying ways and cause a variety of issues. Those include mouth rawness, which feels like the entire inside of my mouth, throat and tongue is burnt and raw, this causes problems with nausea, bleeding gums, occasional mouth sores and loss of appetite, also it makes food taste differently and makes it harder to want to eat and drink on the worst of those days. Throat sensitivity and hoarseness occur with overuse of my voice, the rawness in my esophagus causes heartburn that lasts throughout the cycle. Nose rawness leads to dryness which leads to my nose running incessantly by week two and my nose bleeding for several days, up to a week, especially in the morning. My eyes water constantly by week two which drain through my tear ducts and cause my nose to run even more. Other annoying mucous membranes that are effected and not pleasant to talk about, cause vaginal dryness and rawness and rectal rawness.

Day 3-6 I have body aches, nerve pain, tenderness and sensitivity to touch all over, I also have facial flushing, and my scalp and face feel tender to the touch. After my first treatment, I broke out badly with acne all over my face, neck and scalp and was treated with antibiotics. Since then I have been faithfully using an activated charcoal bar from Beauty Counter to wash my face, neck, chest and behind my ears and that seems to be helping a lot with the breakouts. I use moisturizer to treat my dry skin and essential oils for my nails which are dry and brittle. I also use oils for skin breakouts and other breakdown, scars and abrasions. Lip balm is always on my lips to prevent chapping.

By day 4-5 I want to crawl out of my skin, I just don’t feel normal, it is like I can feel my cells dying. It is a miserable sensation throughout my body and this is when it is the worst. My hands and feet get really warm from the neuropathy, nerve and body pain on these days especially. I experience sensations at times of my ears ringing and buzzing and my pulse beating loudly in my ears. I have only had one actual mouth sore so far. But I am really careful with oral care and I rinse with biotene and salt water/baking soda mixtures because of the rawness and burnt sensation. I brush with a special, extra soft bristle tooth brush. This helps with the rawness and bleeding. I get completely depleted doing simple things like taking a shower or climbing the stairs. I stay in bed a lot or lay on the couch most of the day. I have difficulty sleeping some nights or wake up frequently.

Day 4-6 is the worst of the symptoms and they are pretty constant. Day 7-14 I may have several good hours (good means ok in comparison) and then several bad hours lasting different lengths and times of the day. I never know when the worst of it is going to hit. So I stay close to home mostly. Day 14-21 get better, some symptoms have gone away, my energy level increases and I feel pretty good for most of the week before my next infusion. During this time the lingering issues are mostly annoying but tolerable, usually lessening of the fatigue, watery eyes and runny nose and occasional queasiness. I have only thrown up once.

This last cycle I got sick with a cold prior to chemo and it settled in my chest and even though it never got very serious, the phlegm and productive cough and on and off throat irritation lasted for over 3 weeks. It is very hard for my body to heal and very easy to catch infections and viruses because my entire immune system is suppressed and my white count depletes. The typical days when research shows white count dips lowest is days 7-12. Then it begins to recover to normal in time for the next chemo infusion. The Neulasta injection is supposed to help boost white cell production in the bone marrow which can cause bone pain. I take Claritin to help prevent this histamine response. I also have multiple PRN (as needed) medications for some of my symptoms, including antiemetic/nausea meds, an antidiarrheal, antacids, lidocaine rinses, anti-anxiety medication, pain meds, allergy meds, throat spray, and other topical OTC creams and ointments. I pretty much keep a pharmacy with me.

My tastes have changed and change on and off throughout the 3 week cycles. Some days what I can eat or what I have an appetite for is limited. I have to force myself to drink anything because of the rawness and queasy sensation in my throat. Sadly I have lost my enjoyment of the flavor of coffee by day 3 and don’t get it back until about day 16 or so. So I have learned some flavored teas that I like. I cannot drink green tea because it actually counteracts the chemotherapy.

This is my new normal for now. So when you ask me how I’m doing on day 2 or 3, or day 16 or 18 or 20. I may tell you I’m feeling pretty good. Because in comparison, I am. But this is my life for 21 solid weeks including the 3 weeks of side effects following the last chemo infusion. Then I will continue the infusions of 1 of the targeted therapy medications (not a chemo drug). It is called Herceptin and I will continue to receive this infusion every 3 weeks for an entire year, with follow up echocardiograms and cardiologist consults every 3 months for the duration of treatment because of possible adverse side effects of this medication. Most of my side effects will stop and the lasting ones should go away during this time.

After the #6 and final chemo infusion, 4 weeks later on March 12th, 8 days after my 30th wedding anniversary, I will have an incredibly intense and hard surgery that takes 3 months to recover from. The surgery is 12-14 hours long, 4-5 days in the hospital and 3-4 weeks with drains in. I’ve been told I will walk hunched over like a granny for nearly a month and will have weekly Doctor appointments and OT/PT follow up.

The good news, chemo works! After my first infusion prior to my second, I could tell the tumor had shrunk considerably. After my second infusion, I could no longer feel it nor could my doctor. After my third infusion I had a follow up breast ultrasound and it showed that it was less than half the size of what it was when I started chemo. At the halfway mark Chemo has shrunk more than half the tumor. So we know that even though the treatment is awful, and harsh to the body, it does it’s job very effectively!

Most people don’t ask how my husband is doing which is something he notices. When we go anywhere and see people everyone asks how I’m doing and gives me attention and shows concern over me but almost never ask him. He says he doesn’t mind really because he doesn’t like the attention or having to answer questions anyhow but he says he can see how it could really bother people with different personality types. He is amazing. He is such a source of strength, compassion, understanding, service, care and stability. He works 10-11 hour days and comes home wanting to serve me. He caters to all my needs and tells me constantly, you should be resting. He checks in on me throughout the day and I know if I told him I needed him home he would come immediately. He is walking through this with me, literally. I can describe to all of you what this is like for me but he actually experiences it all with me. It becomes a lot more real and difficult to watch a loved one experience when you are physically there watching them go through it. When you come home at the end of an already heavily stressful day and ask how their day went and you get all the details. When you check in throughout the day and hear the updates and wish desperately you can be there with them so they don’t have to be alone while they suffer. Then there is the fear and the unknowns of being married to and wanting to grow old with your best friend and love of your life and not knowing what the future holds for them. He has to hold it together everyday for me while I’m given permission from everyone to fall apart as needed. This is his experience. This is his new normal.

I wrote this post to focus more on the chemo experience and treatment plan for me and what my future treatment plan will entail. To help others who would like to understand my experience and truly know how I’m doing. I could write so much more about the mental, emotional, and spiritual aspect of my journey. But I will save that for another day. God has been so faithful and so present. I walk through the valley of the shadow with Him right there with me. His will, not mine. His plan is perfect, and I am content in his peace as I walk with him in his plan for me to bring glory to His Name.

There is hope beyond this!

My Life, Hallmark Movies and Unexpected Bonuses

I’m a romantic at heart. It’s why I’m such a fan of cheesy Hallmark movies. You can guess, at the beginning, exactly how they will end. You know there will always be a silly mix up or misunderstanding that will have to get resolved. There will always be interrupted, almost kisses. Many of the plots are similar. Someone always seems to be having to make a decision about accepting a job offer that will mean relocating away from or to a small town. But, what I really love about them is the settings and relationships. The adorable small towns over-saturated in Christmas decorations where everyone knows and loves everyone. Where communities pull together to support each other and help each other. Where family is the most important thing. Where moms are thrilled to have their sons meet the sweet girl who will become the daughter she always wanted. Grandmas are always delightful and the most involved grandmas on the planet, the granny that anyone would want to have. Moms and Dads are always there to receive their adult children home for the holidays with unconditional love, family traditions and holiday cheer. They are always eager to welcome the love interest into the family as a valued member. Yes, I just love the homey, small town details and the dreamy, close-knit relationships!

I guess I live vicariously through those relational stories. Don’t get me wrong, I come from a large and incredible family. My parents love me with unconditional love and have welcomed each of their children’s spouses into the family as their own. Growing up, the holidays were big family celebrations with all the trimmings. What has always been missing for me was the grandparent connections and then the feeling of being welcomed into a family who loved me when I got married. My grandparents always lived in another state and so unfortunately I was never very close to them. My family didn’t travel to visit extended family for the holidays when I was young. I have six siblings, so growing up it was the nine of us and that was a large gathering by most standards. Then as we each started getting married and having kids of our own, we just kept expanding and the holiday gatherings became worthy of a Hallmark movie scene of their own.

Relationships are important to me. Feeling loved and accepted by others matters. It bothers me deeply when people don’t like me. So when I got married I wanted the Hallmark story. I wanted to gain a “second” mom, who would appreciate me and love me like her own daughter. That did not happen in my story. No matter how hard I’ve tried to win her over all my attempts have fallen short. So my own personal life experiences didn’t have all the Hallmark movie moments and relationships I would have liked but that has led to two realizations of the person I aspire to become: a fun grandma who is involved with and close to my grandchildren and a mother-in-law whose “added” children feel loved and valued as part of my family.

Presently, three of my seven children are married. So I am blessed with two added daughters and one added son. I love them all. They are each incredible matches for my children. They have enhanced our family in wonderfully unique ways and they are cherished members of our growing family. I want them to feel like they’ve added a mom who loves them and values them for not just what they add to my child’s life but for all the joy they bring to mine and to our family. I am also presently blessed with six wonderful grandchildren. Oh what fun they are! I love them all so much!

As a mom, you realize as your children grow up, that the relationships you have with your daughters is usually very different from those you have with your sons. In general, boys and girls are just different. Girls tend to be more relational, and boys, well they just don’t. Most men when they get married, their moms just aren’t foremost in their practical, get it done, day to day thoughts. They have a wife and a family and a job and that takes most of their energy. Moms are lucky to get a phone call here and there from their sons and often it’s because their wife reminds them, “call your mom, it’s her birthday.”

Daughters are different, by nature they tend to stay closer to their moms, leaning on them for advice and friendship and support. I am close to both my daughters and make effort to be close to both my added daughters. I love them all and cherish things like conversations with them, opportunities to spend time with them, sharing holiday traditions, giving advice when it’s asked for and generally being part of all their lives. There is mutual love and support with all my girls. I also look forward to the three potential daughters and one son I will be adding some day when my three single sons and daughter get married. Those are expected bonuses. I expected my kids would get married and I would add bonus children and grandchildren to my family. I mean don’t we all?

What I wasn’t anticipating was the sweet unexpected bonus relationships that have blessed my life in the last couple years from extended family. Let me explain! I mentioned coming from a large family of seven children. So I have a lot of nieces and nephews and I adore them all. Coming from such a large family, and having such a large family myself, it is difficult to maintain close and special relationships with everyone. Relationships are important to me and so is family, so I have tried to do some special things for my nieces and nephews over the years, like be there for the big things. Such as with birthdays, graduations, attending softball games, trying to get to all the weddings or sending a nice gift for the big occasions, I have tried to show them how special they are to me in whatever ways I can. Some, I have been closer to than others and many times that had to do with geography, which for me has changed from California to Texas and now back to California. I love to keep up with them all through Facebook. The absolute best thing about social media is how easy it is to stay connected to the people you care about and be able to actively participate in their lives even when you live far apart. Whatever those relationships have been, I love them all so much and they are all often in my thoughts and prayers.

Here is where the unexpected bonuses came in. I never dreamed that in my large extended family that as my nieces and nephews got married that I would gain what I have through them. Again, geography and Facebook has taken a role in the shaping of these wonderful relationships.

I have one nephew who just recently got married and two nephews who are engaged to get married to three of the sweetest and most remarkable young women. These women have become very special friends to me in unexpected ways in my life! They have embraced me as an “added aunt,” but as for me they are so much more than “added nieces.” I love them and treasure them more than they could know. They have each shown me so much love, support and encouragement and those relationships have become very special to me.

I always dreamed about the special blessings I would add to my family as my sons and daughters married and as my grandchildren came along, and that has happened. They are all blessings to me and they are deeply loved, valued and cherished. Each of them mean the world to me. I can’t wait to add more!!! But I never imagined the unexpected bonus relationships that I would get as my nephews got married. These women have added so much joy to my life in such unexpected and surprising ways. Oh how I love them!

So life isn’t always like a Hallmark movie. We can’t always predict the endings of the story and really what fun would that be anyways? Maybe those small town dreamy worlds with Christmas trees and lights and garland and snow everywhere aren’t very realistic. What I do know is real is the relationships we gain and the people who get added into our lives along the way, they are far from predictable but they are what really counts!

There is hope beyond this!

Glory glory glory to God the Father of all good gifts from above!!!

When Life Throws Curve Balls

I will be starting chemo on Thursday October 25th. It’s an all day thing. I only have to go in for it one day every three weeks, 6 times. (18 weeks total) That will take me through to February 7th. After that I will continue on one of the medications, Herceptin, every 3 weeks for an entire year.

The day will start with bloodwork and a visit to my medical oncologist then to an infusion chair. I have opted to try a therapy called dignicap. It is a cold cap that is placed on my head to blow cold air to constrict blood flow to my hair follicles in hopes of saving my hair. It’s expensive and not covered by insurance. 😕But I want to try it and see if I tolerate it and if it works for me. They have to start it 30min before and run it 2 hours after the 6 hour long infusion. Like I said, it will be an all day thing.

I will most likely still loose my eyebrows and eyelashes! 😫 I’m sad about that!

I had my portacath (central venous line) placed on Tuesday just below my right clavicle and it is healing. This will make infusions and blood draws easier.

My bone scan came back all clear! 🎉🎉🎉

The MRI of my breasts showed the tumor has almost doubled in size since they found it. (HER2+ is aggressive). A few other little areas of suspicion could not be found on the follow up ultrasound and so I did not have to be biopsied again. (IF there IS anything there, I’m assured, chemo will knock it out!)

The MRI of my brain is pending (I just did it yesterday) Whole new meaning to “having your head examined!” 🤕

My CT scan showed a couple things, mostly clear:

Possible ovarian cysts (probably no big deal), I am being referred to gynecology next week.

A tiny 5mm nodule on my thyroid (95% of thyroid nodules are benign) I will be having an ultrasound next Tuesday of my thyroid.

Tiny cysts on my liver that weren’t even worth measuring because I’m told they are that common and insignificant.

Oh and my gall bladder is missing!!! 😜😜😜

Yesterday I had a baseline echocardiogram because one side effect of the drug Herceptin, that I will be on for the next year, is cardiac side effects. The echo tech was excellent and thorough and found that I have mild aortic insufficiency (regurgitation). He said it most likely will not effect me being put on chemo and Herceptin because the drug won’t effect that part of my heart. But I imagine that this will mean a cardiac consult and follow up throughout my life, if not future surgery if the condition worsens, which it can over time.

I will wait to get official word from my doctor. Cross that bridge when I come to it. I am asymptomatic at this point and it is mild.

Also, I will be having echocardiograms every 3 months for the entire year I am on Herceptin anyways, so my heart will be very closely monitored. ❤️

Moral of the story: when they start scanning and imaging every inch of your body…they find stuff!!! 😬🙄😉🤔😮

…and I’m no spring chick anymore! 🐥

I also met with one of my care coordinators yesterday for chemo teaching. I have 7 prescribed meds. Two that I have to take the day before chemo, day of and day after. A steroid and an antacid. One is Emla cream (numbing cream) for my port usage. The other 4 are all PRN (as needed) for the expected common side effects of the chemo. Day 2 & 3 after are supposed to be the toughest. Day 7-10 after is when my white count bottoms out and it is most important that I stay away from sick people and crowds. 😷🤒🤧🤮🤢

I was told that it is highly suggested I DO NOT fly ✈️ or go near (uncontrolled) crowded places during the entire 18 weeks. That means my dream trip to NYC at Christmas time will most likely have to be postponed to next year! 😢 That made me super sad! I haven’t cried much throughout all this, but that news required a Kleenex. 😢😢😢

TMI: I was also told this chemo regimen will most likely screw with my cycles if not stop them altogether. Which due to my age could possibly induce early menopause, which could mean the symptoms that come with that also! 😰😰😰

As if 18 weeks of chemo wasn’t enough and all that comes with that, surgery will most likely be in March once my white count has recovered after my final chemo infusion. I haven’t shared this with everyone yet because it’s the part no one likes to talk about or hear about, but I’ve opted for a double mastectomy with reconstruction. It is an intense and long surgery, over 10 hours. With a 3 month recovery. But most likely means I won’t have to have radiation and it is my best option to reduce any chances of reoccurrence. I don’t want to do any of this again if possible. And I have researched all the options thoroughly.

It will be a long and trying year!

So this is the plan!

Thank you for walking beside me. Thank you for your prayers, please keep them coming. 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻 I will take all prayers but if you want to get specific, I would love for my husband and my family to be lifted up and receive the same peace that God has supernaturally given me. I’d like to keep my hair, my eyebrows and my eyelashes. I’d love to have little to no side effects. I would love to not be in pain throughout the next year! I would love for God to miraculously heal my whole body and “remove this cup from me.” That’s all. 😬

You all have been incredible and I feel the love from all of you. ❤️ God has a plan for good in all of this! I’m part of that good plan! 😊 He is bigger than cancer! He is bigger than side effects! He is big enough! He loves me intimately and He is carrying me through this! I’m peacefully ok. 😇

This life throws curveballs, that is why we need a Savior to depend on and to give us hope in and beyond this life because of all the curveballs and wrenches that change our “perfect” plans. We may make our plans but it is God that directs our steps. Living separated from God is not living at all. Count it all joy! That doesn’t mean it won’t be hard, but I choose to find the joy in the process. I choose to cling to Jesus, the author and perfector of my faith.

I will take it one day at a time because tomorrow has enough worries of its own! I’m standing on His Word!

I’ve overcome tough stuff before and I will again!

Gods got this!

❤️❤️❤️

All for Gods glory!

There is hope beyond this!

I Have Breast Cancer

I am 46 years old, I’m going to be 47 in 11 days. And at 11:11 this morning, September 14th, I received the call confirming what I already suspected, it is cancer. I don’t know a whole lot yet except that the type I have is common and the outlook is promising.

On August 30th I went in for my annual mammogram. The tech spotted something on the scan that she immediately showed the radiologist who then ordered further images localized to a specific area of my left breast (directly over my heart) and then further imaging with an ultrasound. I knew that day what all of this could mean, even before my Doctor gave me the results that afternoon of all the imaging: “highly suggestive of malignancy.”

One week later on September 6th I went back for an ultrasound guided core needle biopsy of the mass found in my left breast and some enlarged lymph nodes in my left axilla. I never felt a lump in my breast. I didn’t know anything was wrong. This was supposed to be routine. This goes to show you just how important it is to get a mammogram done annually. Don’t put it off. Screenings are essential.

After the biopsy I had to wait for results (up to a week is what I was told). It took 8 full days. Not fun!

“Be still and know that I am God.” This was hard, conflicting thoughts and feelings ran through my head every waking moment. I had to work hard to not let my thoughts run away with countless hypotheticals. I spent this “still” time listening to worship music and seeking the Lord for peace and comfort in the process. All the while totally aware of the flood of emotions being held back just below the surface by the hope that this could all be nothing. Not knowing is the hardest thing for me. Even though I know that God has all the details and he holds me in his hands, I just want to know which direction to release my thoughts and emotions in a productive way.

1 in every 8 women will get breast cancer in her lifetime. I am more than a statistic. I am chosen, I am valuable, I am loved. I am forgiven. I am saved. I am redeemed. My name is written in the book of life and my Savior goes to prepare a place for me where a crown of righteousness will be bestowed upon me when that day comes. Everyday of my life is recorded in his book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. This did not sneak up on him or catch him off guard. My citizenship is in heaven and my identity is in him. I rest in that!

As I ask for support and prayers from everyone, I want you all to know my hope is in the Lord and His will for my life. My faith is strong and my confidence is in God alone to see me through to the outcome that brings glory to His name. I ask for prayer for strength and peace, healing and guidance, comfort and joy in the midst of this storm. This not just for me but for my dearest and sweetest friend, my husband and love of my life. Also, for my beloved children and all my family. I pray that they will be given peace from Jesus that surpasses all understanding.

I prayed for a miracle between my mammogram and my biopsy that the mass would be gone and there would be nothing there for them to biopsy. That was not his plan. I believe I will receive my miracle, I just don’t know how that will play out. So I continue forward in the valley with Him at my side, my Shepard, comforting me as we go. He will lead me beside still waters and eventually to my mountaintop moment when the valley will be behind me. As a realist I know that some of us he heals this side of heaven, others he heals through spiritual resurrection in heaven. What is His plan for me?

This I know, whatever his plan for me is, I will trust in him as I pray for the desire of my heart as Jesus did, “that He will take this cup of suffering away from me.” I want to live life long on this earth with my dear sweet husband, my beloved children and grandchildren and my family. I want to be here and I pray the number of my days is oh so much longer than this. I ask that you pray with me and for me. He hears our prayers and is a compassionate and loving God and a good good Father.

Jesus knew in the garden what he was about to face. The unbearable suffering. He knew the outcome was death on the cross, the ultimate sacrifice for us. His whole purpose in coming to this earth in the flesh. Yet He cried out, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

What an incredible example he showed us of steadfast faith in the valley of the shadow of death. His feelings were intense and real and his human desire was to not have to experience the suffering, but his desire to allow Gods will to come to pass above his own flesh was stronger. His suffering and resurrection was necessary for our salvation and resurrection. As believers we are eternally grateful for his obedience unto the cross and also grateful the responsibility for the salvation of all mankind does not rest on our shoulders.

I may not know exactly what lies ahead for me, the extent of the suffering, the outcome of this trial, or the purpose it will serve. But I do know that because of what Jesus did on the cross and because I believe in who he is that my eternal home is in heaven and this life is “but a breath.” I trust Him in his plan for me and in the promises in His Word. He is the Rock on which I stand all other ground is sinking sand. He is my hope, my healer, my strength, my comforter and my guide.

From the moment I came into being my days, and yours, were numbered, only he knows the number of my months and so I put my hope in him alone. All my life is in His hands. I trust Him. Ultimately, I want my life to bring glory to His Name.

There is hope beyond this…to God alone be the glory!