Saturday, September 24, 2011

My answers to: How, What & Why

Here's a pic of our new house.
Home sweet home!
I am excited to share that on Monday we finally moved into our new home. An amazing team of friends helped us with moving and unpacking and in just 5 days, the house is 95% unpacked. Really all we have left to do is unpack the clothes in our bedroom, hang stuff on the walls, and organize tools in the garage. I have been blown away by the kindness and teamwork that has taken place to get our family moved in and ready to take on our next ‘adventure’.
Thank you to the many hands that have blessed us in making this house our home!

In the past several weeks there have been 3 questions which have popped up repeatedly during conversations with different friends and family members. They are all good questions… so in case you are wondering here are my answers:

Question #1
How did you find the lump?
I found the lump myself while shaving my armpits. During a downward motion, I just felt something funny as the side of my hand brushed my breast. It was subtle, like the way you might notice a bug bite while rubbing your arm. I just happened to have a Mary Kay self-check showerhead hanger staring me in the face… so I checked myself out. Sure enough, there was something there.

So ladies, there are three things I want to encourage you to do…
  1. Check yourself often enough to know your body and to be able to recognize when something is different. (Husbands, this can be a team effort. I know your wives will love that I am inviting you to help them. Hee hee.)
  2. Shave your armpits. It could save your life, not to mention it is the American way.
  3. Buy lots and lots of Mary Kay products from my sister-in-law Eileen and she will give you a self-check hanger. (Here’s her FaceBook address if you need a consultant: ) Okay, I know this is a shameless plug… but seriously, if you could see my 87-year-old grandma’s face and skin you would be a Mary Kay believer too. Anyways, the showerhead hanger that I got years ago served as a regular reminder to take 10 seconds to be proactive.
 ***Here's a link to the Mary Kay self-check shower hanger thingy:

Question #2
What are your feelings about losing your hair?
I am not sure how I feel. I have never really been into doing my hair and have worn it up in a simple ponytail most of my life. Eileen (same sister-in-law, also my hair stylist) is always trying to get me to do something exciting and new. Nevertheless, I just keep with the simple cut I have had for years. I imagine that losing my boring mane along with my eyebrows and all body hair is going to be more emotional that I expect. But, what can I do? My Oncologist said I should expect to lose my hair within the first two weeks of chemotherapy, which will start October 3rd.

I will not be wearing a wig unless it is a silly costume wig to humor my children. I think I’ll be a scarf and ball cap girl. I read in my chemo book (which I have barely opened) that due to the pain on the scalp they recommend satin pillowcases. Sounds good to me.

Question #3
Why you?
This is a common question that we ask whenever we learn of hardship that a friend is suffering through. Fortunately, (or unfortunately), this is a question I have had to ask myself & find the answer to a number of times in the past several years.

When my brother Casey joined the U.S. Army in August 2001, I was proud and excited for him and his decision to follow his call to be a solider. Just two weeks into boot camp on 9/11 my excitement turned to fear when it became clear that he wouldn’t just be traveling and playing army, but would actually be going to war. Casey was a member of the 82nd Airborne and served a tour in Afghanistan and a tour in Iraq. It was during his deployment that I started struggling with sleeping through the night. I would have crazy vivid dreams of awful things happening to him. I would lay in bed begging God for his safety and protection. I remember one particular time when the news reported a helicopter crash just outside of the base where he was stationed. I was terrified that something awful had happened to my baby bro. Casey called my parents and shared that he was safe… I was thrilled to know that he was okay. And then I felt a deep sense of conviction for my celebration. I realized that while my brother was safe, somewhere out there a sister was weeping because her brother had been killed. How dare I rejoice when someone else wept? I know that not everyone reading this will understand what I am trying to share… but basically my question of “why me/why my brother?” changed to “why not me/why not my brother?” It was during this change of mindset that I actually began to hand over my fears of his safety to God. In asking “why not” I could embrace that the future was not mine to control and well… somebody had to be the person to endure pain, how could I wish that upon someone else?

Also, when our 1st daughter Madison was stillborn in March 2006 I was again faced with this question of “why me/us.” We had done everything ‘right’ to prepare a great life for a child and so desired to start a family. While drug addicts and teenagers seemed to have no problem having children, for an unknown reason our wanted and planned baby died. Even a full autopsy and genetic testing could not give us a reason as to why she passed. The mean stillbirth rate in the United States is approximately 1 in 115 births, which is roughly 26,000 stillbirths each year. How was it possible for our child to be the 1 in every 115 pregnancies that was born still? What a messed up odd to win. As I asked myself and God the question of “why me” over and over I eventually found that again the only really answer was “why not me”. If babies being born still is statistically bound to happen to someone, how could I think I was so impressive that it should not be me?

This line of thinking does not necessarily answer the question of ‘why me’, but it has made me self-aware of accepting that things sometimes just are what they are and sometimes they just happen. It also has made me realize that to blame God for my situation is giving myself way too much credit. I am sure God has bigger things to deal with than ways to thwart my life. In fact, I personally believe that sometimes these tragic events are actually part of the bigger picture of life’s purpose.

So here I am at 34 years of age. There is a 1 in 233 chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer between the ages of 30 and 39.

Why me?

I don’t know what to say except why not me?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Today 3 Good Things Happened

 Today 3 Good Things Happened:

1. Watched the movie ‘Beauty and The Beast’ with Nathan and cheered for the Beast when Gaston was fighting him. It was great. 

2. Ate a Nachos Bell Grande.  Yum.

3. Sat next to Leah in the backseat while my mom chauffeured us around and tickled her chubby little thigh. Love her laugh and the way she scrunches her nose.

And here is my list of 3 bad things that happened (to balance out the good):

1. We did not get the keys to our house as expected. It is a stupid reason and has to do with the appraiser stepping out of his lane and suggesting a repair that is not necessary. Our lender agent is working hard to make the deal happen and hopefully that we will have keys Friday. If it isn’t done Friday they have to redraw papers and well… let’s just not talk about it.

All I will say is, in my opinion, bailing Fannie Mae out was a poor decision on behalf of our countries leaders. That company should have been allowed to fail and capitalism to work itself out. Strange how this situation is hitting a political nerve that I did not know existed.

2.  Witnessed a precious baby that our friends had been fostering, (since 48 hours old) be taken away to be with her father. They are working to foster-adopt. She is 3 months old and a few weeks ago all rights had been removed from the mother. Since in 3 months the father had never even asked for visitation, they had hopes that this baby would become an official family member. They found out just a few days ago that the father changed his mind and he and his mother had decided to raise her… and that the social workers would be there on Wednesday (today) to pick her up. 

It was just heartbreaking. You can only pray that the father and family will love her the way her foster family has. Trusting in Gods plan for her little life.

3. Nathan asked me, “When we move and all get to be together, can we take Zeke and Kudzu home too?” I had to explain to my 4-year old that his cat (whom he loves and talks about all the time) has disappeared and we do not know where to find her. He sobbed. He told me he does not want another cat (which wasn’t gonna happen anyways) and needs Kudzo for us to have a whole family. Did I mention that he sobbed?
Zeke and Kudzu meeting for the first time.
The day we got Kudzu.
Look at Joppa... yet another blackmail
pic of him loving a cat. He's all talk!

Leah and Kudzu... that sweet kitty
would tolerate anything from the kids.

Kudzu and Nathan
Photo taken the day before we moved.

Oh… and I (we) met with the Oncologist and got a glimpse of the future. So here’s the story:

We are moving forward and treating me for Breast Cancer. The Oncologist is having my lump transferred to from Roseville to the Elk Grove hospital to be looked at again by his Pathologist and then he also said that next week he would submit my case at the monthly conference that all the Oncologist meet at since I am young to have the poorly differentiated cells. So… we get a second opinion on the diagnosis and will have the opinion of several doctors from the conference.

I will start chemotherapy the first week of October. For the first 8 weeks I will go every other week and get adriamycin & cytoxan. (I’m only writing those names down because I know some of you know a lot about this and are probably wondering the specifics.) During that time I will also have to take daily injections. The next 12 weeks will be weekly treatments of taxol. Then I will go through radiation for 6 weeks.

8 + 12 + 6 = 26 weeks = 6.5 months

I thought it was cute when my mom checked out the calendar and say “Oh good, you’ll finish chemo in time for your birthday and then radiation will wrap up in time for Nathan’s birthday.” Now THAT is seeing the silver-lining. We just love to celebrate and party in my family!

So that was my day. I know that when I am overwhelmed God is still in control. I know this too will pass. Tomorrow I’m having a mommy-son day with Nathan, just the two of us. Which means tomorrow will be a fabulous day… no matter what!

***Many of you have asked if there are ways that you can help. If you are interested, in the next week or so I will post a link to a site that my cousin Megan (okay she’s my cousins wife, but same difference) is managing called . On the site there will be a calendar of ways to help/participate with meals, daycare, projects and fundraisers that they are throwing to help with the co-pay costs.

Also, we have decided that this blog is the best way to share updates. I plan to keep writing as it is therapeutic, but occasionally Megan, Eric or my friend Claire may write updates if I am unable. If you would like to be kept in the loop, you can submit your e-mail address under the words “Follow By E-mail” and you will be notified as new posts are published.

Love and hugs to all,

Monday, September 12, 2011

To Love and To Cherish

For my Face Book status update on 9/11 I had written: 9/11 for me: Got in the car for work & heard the news on the radio. My brother was just in his 2nd week of boot camp. What was his 'adventure' became my family’s worst fear. Terrified for him & our country. I knew that day I would be marrying Joppa.”

About two hours later on Sunday morning Eric called me and asked why was it that on that day did I knew I would marry him? The answer was not mushy or sweet or even romantic. My answer was simple, “Cause I just needed you.”

I remember reading somewhere that there were more marriages in 2002 in the United States than in any other single year recorded. We were one of those weddings. Clearly, the fall of the Twin Towers and attacks on our country encouraged many people, like us, to tie the knot and get busy living life.

This weekend Eric had the pleasure of officiating the wedding of our friends Mike and Brooke. We had been looking forward all year to this event. Not only were we thrilled to get to be a part of and witness the marriage of two great people, but also it was to be held in gorgeous San Luis Obispo so we were excited for a weekend away in one of the most beautiful of places. When we learned of my cancer and surgery Eric called at give notice that he was not sure he could do the ceremony. After I woke up ‘tube-free’, we discussed it and decided that he would go to the ceremony and I would stay home. The drive & festivities would just be too much to handle while recovering from surgery. Eric went and spent the weekend solo in a lovely Victorian-Country love nest, eating fine food and enjoying an over-the-top amazing wedding that I’ve heard could easily appear on TLC. I snuggled with my little superhero & baby girl and enjoyed watching them splash in the kiddie pool… its’ all good.

Knowing that Eric would be leading Mike and Brooke in their vows it got me thinking about marriage and my own wedding vows.
“For better, for worse,

For richer, for poorer,

In sickness and in health,

To love and to cherish,

'Till death do us part."
We’ve been better and richer and healthier. However, the worse and poorer and sickness part is really what has made our marriage what it is today. I can’t honestly say that I have enjoyed being worse off and poor and sick… but I’ve found that when I/you view life as a puzzle and all the ups and downs as little pieces, you eventually end up with a pretty lovely picture if you do it right.

I recently saw a quote by Doug Larson that reads:
“More marriages might survive if the partners realized that
sometimes the better comes after the worse.”

In a very strange way, I think we are fortunate to be getting this ‘worse’ junk out of the way. (I do hope.) Cause right now we get to soak in the ”love and to cherish” part of the vows.

I knew on 9/11 that I needed Joppa. And now I know why. He is my strength, coach, personal comedian, protector, provider, love, and all round best friend.
Aug. 2011 - Our 9th Anniversary trip.
Sailing on the San francisco Bay!
In keeping with my commitment to write this blog in honesty and transparency I might need to write about what we now jokingly call “The Screw Driver Incident of 2006”. I’ll never tell a young bride that marriage is all easy. In fact, I am more likely to quote my girlfriend (to remain nameless in case her husband is reading this) and say “the white dress is a lie”. Cause really marriage is work.
But it’s good work if you can get it.

Saw this on a plaque at Tuesday Morning and loved it!
“Fool! Don't you see now that I could have poisoned you a hundred times had had I been able to live without you.”
- Cleopatra, 69 BC – 30 BC

**** Oh, by the way… If you wondering if my brother was able to attend our wedding the answer is no. You see soldiers don’t get to take the weekend off for fancy parties. Therefore, when you thank a solider for their sacrifices… know that their sacrifice is great. They are basically giving up their lives even while still living them.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Just Live A Little

Dear Family and Friends,
It has been five full days since my surgery and this is the first time I have opened the computer. I have checked e-mail on my iTouch, but as far as actually getting on-line and connecting with the cyber world out there in computer land this is a first. I have just been super tired, physically, emotionally, and mentally. Nevertheless, I thought it was about time to say hello, thanks for all your prayers and well wishes and give a little update.

So here goes…
When I woke up from the surgery on Saturday morning, with the mask still covering my face I asked the nurse “Do I have a tube?” The sheets were up around my neck and I couldn’t see anything when I tried to look down. She looked at me funny so I asked again “Do I have a tube?” She shook her head no. I remember grabbing the mask and asking repeatedly “Are you sure I don’t have a tube? Are you sure?” Clearly, the nurse was not interested in the tube that didn’t exist… I breathed a sigh of relief and gave thanks to God. This meant that the cancer had not spread to my lymph system.

Pretty much this was my prayer. That I would not wake up with a tube draining out of my arm. Based on the info the surgeon had given us regarding what they saw when they looked at the aggressive nature of my cancer cells we had been prepped to expect that the cancer had spread. So this was my miracle… no tube.

The past several days have been taxing. I am tired in a way I have not ever been before. Eric and I are staying with my aunt (and uncle), who is the most amazing of caretakers. I have been pretty spoiled here to say the least. The kids are staying with my parents, which is wonderful for them, but obviously exhausting for my poor mom. This will be our life until my scar heals and I can lift the baby and until we get into our home, which is expected to close on the 16th. Just 8 more days to go!!! It is tiring to go back and forth to see the kids, but this arrangement does allow me to rest while living the life of royalty. (Seriously, I am in a princess bed and I love it!)

Not only is this physically tiring but also mentally exhausting. As you can imagine there are many thoughts that flood your mind when you find out you have cancer and that in 1 week you will be in surgery. They gave me a pretty purple bag containing about 5 inches of material to read about cancer and I have a book on nutrition that I want to read. So far, I have read a People magazine featuring all the details of Kim Kardashian’s wedding (important stuff) and have been maintaining 21 games of Words With Friends. (Did you know that they will only let you play 21 games… then you have to wait for games to end to open new games?) My mind is flooded and I have not even begun to learn about this new life. I am overwhelmed with how my kids are handling this change of living with Grandma and Pops and being gentle around ‘mommy’s sore’. And there are other things on my mind too. I am heavy hearted as Eric and I had agreed that if the lump was not cancerous we would try to have another baby this fall… but it is, so we won’t. Is my family complete? Really? I guess there is just a lot going on in my mind as we plan for the future.

I did receive an encouraging phone call from the surgeon today. He confirmed that after additional testing the lymph node defiantly is clean, meaning the cancer had not spread. This is very good news if we are dealing with breast cancer. He said that they size of the tumor was 1.6 x 1.2 x 0.9 which means it falls in Stage 1 category. This is huge as the ultrasound showed that it was much larger and before surgery we had thought we were possibly dealing with a Stage 3 tumor. So, this is great if we are dealing with breast cancer. He also said he got a good margin surrounding the full circumference of the tumor, which is good, if this is breast cancer. So the question remains… is this breast cancer? He said the cells have ‘features that don’t quite fit perfectly’ with the way breast cancer cells should look. Apparently, there is still the possibility that another type of cancer just decided to grow behind my breast. So next week I will likely go through several scans and tests to further determine what we are dealing with. So yes, it was a good phone call… but I am still waiting and anxious to find out exactly what kind of cancer has invaded my body.

We have the post-op appointment next Tuesday and then we meet with the oncologist on Wednesday. It will be at the oncology meeting that they will decide my route of treatment. As we hear stories after stories of people’s cancer and treatment, or not needing treatment, or needing radiation but not chemo, or just changing diet, or surgery was all they needed (etc.) I am realizing that cancer is a whole lot like having a baby. Everyone has a story they want to share with you and everyone wants to tell you how they (or someone they know) did it was best. And since I have gone through 3 different birthing experiences, and I can testify that they are each as different as apples and oranges from each other, I know that my treatment plan will be unique to me and my mystery cells. I am eagerly waiting to hear what my doctor has to say about our plan of attack. Count down to next Wednesday!

I don’t really have anything profound to end with tonight. So here’s a dare… go hug someone extra tight or whisper something sweet in that special persons ear or sneak into your kids room while they are sleeping and take a mind picture. Just live a little!

Final artwork. Love it! Thanks Ladies!!!

P.S. Had to share this with you all…
While I was in surgery Saturday morning, our friend Stacy Haustein was participating in ‘Chalk It Up Sacramento’ at Fremont Park. Stacy, being one of the sweetest people on the planet, had lovingly decided to dedicate her square to me. She enlisted the help of a professional artist, our friend Sandi Padilla, who helped design sidewalk square. The shield stands for my name (Kelly), which means ‘warrior’, there is a pink ribbon with my initials, and the dove is carrying a nasturtium flower, which symbolizes ‘victory’. The original verse was "But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,' declares the LORD..." Jer. 30:17 and I believe the Hebrew reads: To God be the Glory!

We went down to the park Sunday night to see the artwork. Just amazing! Thanks so much Stacy and Sandi!!!

Stacy 'chalking' it up!
Stacy & Sandi with the
original design.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Thanks ya'all...

Dear Family and Friends,
I am humbled to realize that there is a literal army of people on their knees lifting me, my cancer and my family up to the Lord. There are also tons of you sending good vibes, wishing on stars, focused on the positives, lighting candles, sending thoughts and a slew of other ways to rub goodness and health off on me.
To each one of you… thank you.

We will keep you updated on the results of surgery and recovery. I hope that I will soon be back to posts about funny things Nathan says or sharing about the silly ways that I have spent the day. The support we have received is amazing and I have truly felt carried these past few days.

Love to you all,

To my Brothers and Sisters in Christ I have a request….

This week I have been reminded of something that Eric and I have learned together over the past several years.

When we pray, pray to God for who He is, not for what He can do.

He is healer.

He is stronger.

He is with us.

He is gracious.

He is holy.

He is a refuge.

He is supernatural.

He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

He is knowing.

He is good.

He is loving.

He is just.

He is Father.

He is merciful.

He is faithful.

He is mighty.

He is in control.

Regardless of what they discover tomorrow, God is good. You see, while I am exhausted from several years of transition and pain, I know these experiences have toughened me/us up for this fight.

So tonight, I pray for a miracle, because he is the miracle maker. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Joppa Family Photo Shoot

This past Monday night (August, 29, 2011) we were able to and have family portraits taken. We went out to the Willow Creek river access in Folsom and had a great time. I won’t lie… I wanted to get some good pics of our little family before I loose my hair, so I contacted our friend Clay to see if had time to do a quick shoot… and this is a taste of what he captured.

Left to Right: Nathan, Eric, Kelly & Leah

Nathan just loves when we swing him around!

Daddy adoring Leah

My little man throwing the
largest rock he could lift.

That's my girl!

Don't you just wish you knew
what was making him blush...

Love kissing my boy...
The joy that comes from this
little girl is amazing.

Baby Leah - 14 months old

We have lots of  fun together.

Believe it or not, after 9 years
of marriage we still like each other.

This is Francine (Clay's better half).
She is an old friend... not that she is old...
she's the kind they talk about in that 'Silver  & Gold'  Girl Scout song.
She's the gold kind...

(So here is my shameless plug for Whiteley Photography. If you are looking for a photographer for family portraits, senior pictures, wedding or other event photography check him out. Clay has a causal, comfortable style and is always quick to deliver your photos to you. Plus, he’s just an all around good guy. Thanks Clay!)