Monthly Archives: September 2015

For the past year I have looked forward to this day. The day I learned I had Breast Cancer. Some could argue it could be the worst day of your entire life but for me it was anything but. The moment I learned I had breast cancer was the day that living became something I realized I took for granted. All of  a sudden those things that used to matter never mattered anymore. I simply wanted to be surrounded by those that mattered most to me, I wanted to be still and simply be alive.

One year ago tomorrow, I was standing on the street corner outside of an office building when my phone rang and the doctor shared with me that the place on my left side was breast cancer.

The world froze. I fell to the ground. My eyes became a pool of water as tears fell to the ground around my feet. Time in that moment was still.

I was never going to be the same again.

In the past twelve months, I underwent three surgeries (a double mastectomy, egg harvesting retrieval and implant exchange). Endured four rounds of chemotherapy. Numerous IV’s of fluids. Hundreds of doctors appointments. Countless shots and what has seemed like hundreds of blood draws. I have waited for results, prayed over white blood cell numbers, watched my hair fall before my eyes and spent countless nights awake.

All for one purpose to live…

Today, I celebrate with thanksgiving for what was a year of hardship, heartbreak, suffering, joy, celebration and peace. While my journey to recovery has now left me struggling to find hope. Wondering over why living seems so difficult. I honor the journey and the gentle ways it opened me up to places in my heart that I did not know were there. I have come to terms with some ugly parts of living. That living is hard. Life is hard with or without cancer and that journeying through the hard is what makes life so very sweet.

I believe God has never left my side. I believe he adores me. (he adores you too). I believe he awaits the day when I begin to bestow the same love and care to myself that I do to others. While I would love to say each day is a new day, one I find gratitude in, I more often than not find the days daunting. I find the grind of the to do exhausting. I find my cancer story suffocating. I find living well beyond cancer overwhelming…

I love what Kara Tippets said,

 Suffering is not the absence of goodness, it is not the absence of beauty, but perhaps it can be the place where true beauty can be known.

Beauty has been known and is being made known each day since. While at times it may be small, I hold tremendous hope in my tomorrows. In the journey that is yet to be revealed before me. What joy it has been to walk the road of breast cancer so young. What a privilege it is to be a survivor.
I would like to Thank you for following, reading, praying, crying, and celebrating alongside me and my family. To my parents for raising me to be strong, to believe in tomorrow and to not give up. You have shown your true colors over the past year and what beautiful colors they are. To my Sister and her Husband Josh, for being far but never making me feel you were more than a phone call away. You have braved parenthood so well and I am so grateful for little Brady. Thank heavens for little boys. To all of you, I am without words to let you know how grateful I am. What an honor is is to have a safe place to share…. you make the living worthwhile and I am so grateful for that.
Happy Cancerversary to Me!
Here is the past year in pictures…

It was this evening one year ago that I went in for the MRI that ultimately discovered that I had Breast Cancer. This MRI was supposed to occur every year. It was to simply be a test to monitor me closely and be proactive. That was all it was going to be. Or so I thought at least.

When I was finished I went to dinner with my mom to celebrate. We had a glass of wine, good food and I sat with my arm wrapped in purple tape from the IV. The picture below evidence.

While I look at the girl and smile at her innocence, I am so grateful I am not that girl anymore. The last year in all of its complexities and heartbreak made me someone new. Someone different and that person in the picture below is no more.

Cancer took a lot, but in turn gave so much more. I will be writing more these days, sharing on my cancerversary. What looking back looks like. Who am I today? Who was I then?

Today I have hope and joy in that I am here. While I am still journeying through survival, through the unknown and many moments of tears…… I am here. I am alive.

 

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My own pain in life has taught me that the first step to healing is not a step away from the pain, but a step toward it… I am convinced that healing is often so difficult because we don’t want to know the pain… It is especially true of the pain that comes from a broken heart. The anguish and agony that result from rejection, separation, neglect, abuse, and emotional manipulation serve only to paralyze us when we can’t face them and keep running away from them – Henri Nouwen’s Life of the Beloved

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These days seem to be getting harder but I can say I am handling them a bit easier. At this time I still remain in menopause. I am now six months out from chemotherapy. Last week I had a blood test and learned that my estrogen level is very high (indicating that my ovaries are coming back). Can I get a amen to that??! My oncologist expects that I will have a menstrual cycle again before Christmas. This is tremendous news. My doctors hope that as my ovaries start waking up, that my body will start to normalize again. Unfortunately as a result of the both the medicine and menopause my weight continues to climb as these symptoms remain. (close to 12 lbs. in eight weeks). Clothes that I wore just four weeks ago are no longer fitting. To say this is easy or I am handling this well would be a lie. Every day I have to take a deep breath, remind myself that my body is still healing and allow myself the grace to see through the end of the day, or get through the dreaded “what should I wear today” saga. Most days I fail at this miserably.

At this time I will remain off of Tamoxifen until things start to balance out, i.e. my emotional health, my ovarian suppression, menopause symptoms etc.

As I read the above quote I kept thinking about how in life we are so quick to run from things. But yet something in me tells me that I have gotten this all wrong. That instead of running,  in order to find healing I must face the pain, confront the hard, be honest with myself, lay things out there that I struggle with…. and work through it. I am working to take apart the parts of who I am that are ugly and shed light on those places. I think that by shedding light on these things I can begin to make changes and move to a place of healing.

What things have you been running from in fear? What could you move towards, or approach head on to bring healing?

As time approaches my anniversary I have experienced nightmares over memories. I noticed just yesterday in talking with a friend “chemopause” is a very real thing. So many things this friend reminded me of that I have no recollection of. While the last year was good and hard there is also a lot I recognize that is a blur. Memories that are merely just faded moments in time. Conversations that got lost in my mind. This again is another hard reality.

Last weekend I was up in Vancouver, BC all by myself. One of the best parts of traveling alone is you get to delight and indulge in whatever YOU want. (If you have never done this before I highly recommend it). This past weekend I spent exploring, walking, biking, running, eating and drinking all that Vancouver, BC had to offer. I rented a place on AirBnB in the West End and thoroughly enjoyed the modern flat with an ocean view porch. It has been a while since I traveled alone, and I forgot how much I enjoy it. A lot of thinking, reflecting, resting and just enjoying the city.

The summer is drawing to a close, the nights are cooler, the mornings darker. I am beginning to pray over the words I will share in a few weeks at the 2015 Karens for the Cure Fundraiser. I am honored to have been chosen as the Keynote Speaker. If you are in Colorado and would like to join I would be honored to have you there. You may register here. Next weekend I will run in the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Race wearing my Survivor Shirt proudly. I must admit it is sort of surreal to be participating in this way.

Thank you for thinking of me. Praying for me and never leaving my side.

Happy Friday to you.

Two Saturdays in a row where the first thing I have gotten to do is sit down and write. This is one of my happy places.

The title of this post is unique, because this week was special for me.

“Celebrating Surrender”

In honor of this date and this time (September of last year I was diagnosed), I decided to be more intentional, seek truth, rest, read, listen and humbly commit to prayer. While these intentions may seem minimal, typical or cliche… for me they are none of these things. I am aware of how difficult this month is. Just the word September gives me goosebumps. Just the mention of the phone call I received that day fills my eyes with tears. I decided it would be best if I allow myself the time to grieve, to reflect, and to most of all surrender over my life.

Why then you may ask would my title this week be a celebration? For the past two years I have been in counseling. I know for some of you counseling is a standard practice for you and for others you hold strong opinions about those that attend counseling, perhaps you had a negative experience or you went yet were unable to find the help you desired. For me counseling has been monumental. It has given me a space to explore, to share and grow. I tell anyone when they ask about it, that it is the hardest but the very best work I have ever done. In conjunction with counseling I have made a decision to seek additional assistance to help me heal. So this week I met with a psychiatrist.

I mention this boldly and admit this only because I have for so long made assumptions about those that seek medical assistance. I was determined to not be one of those people. I allowed my assumptions about what that meeting would be like to keep me from going in the first place. I now can see that the relief, the freedom, and the peace I gained in taking this step, that it was something I should have been doing a long time ago. More than the fear about meeting a stranger for the first time and sharing my story, I was most afraid to admit that I was not doing so well. So these words while hard to write are my surrender.

When I met with the hospital social worker months ago she advised me that the next year is often harder than the year of cancer. She showed me a lovely presentation that discussed common side effects, grief, depression, anxiety, inability to show up day to day, the list goes on… I remember viewing the presentation and thinking, yep, I got it. I will be ready when that hits. What I failed to realize in that moment was that the list of side affects had already taken up root in me and they were slowly revealing themselves over time.

Whether one wants to hear it or not, I am on a long journey of healing that is at times unbearable. The weight of my cancer story and the daunting future ahead overwhelms me to the point of paralyzation. I am overwhelmed in the reality that I may very well be in permanent menopause. Overwhelmed by what it means to have been diagnosed with cancer at 26. I am overwhelmed when it comes to thinking about interacting with others my age. I find myself at times unable to relate when someone complains of a broken down car or that they were late for a dentist appointment. I find myself sometimes so far removed from their reality that it seems incredibly overwhelming to try and find my place. The thought of cancer returning is the big elephant in the room that everyone wants to know. Are you in remission? Are you still battling? The answer I often want to give.  No I am not, but at times I wish I was.

Ouch.

I have learned in the last couple months of voicing this reality that this is a very common outlook survivors have. The thought of doing life as a survivor is often so overwhelming that the cancer journey seems easier. It was structured, it was goal oriented, I was focused, I was doing self care the best way I know how and now, I am told to go and live. To go and do. That is overwhelming.

Maybe you do not understand but imagine for a second… and if you cannot I only ask you to commit to praying for me.

So many of you have been and I am so grateful for that. I am excited about the place the Lord has me in. I am excited about the very desire I have to surrender over so many things I have been holding on to.

The very first one, “It is ok, to not be ok”.

I hope this finds you well on your Saturday and my words are an encouragement to you. I am off to a wedding in the mountains. Have a great Saturday!

(Also got my second hair cut since chemo yesterday… silver lining folks)