Thursday, October 27, 2011

It Wasn't Always Like This... Part 1: The Angry Years

In the past several weeks, I have been accused of a few things. I’ve been blamed of being courageous, joyful, and full of faith. I know these accusations come in the forms of encouragement and compliments … but I need to come clean. Truth is, I am scared, I am not always so happy and my faith is a daily walk of trust.

A friend from elementary school sent me a verse the other day that is now my ‘Spirit Verse’. Kinda like a cheer I have needed to treasure within my heart… my ra-ra-shish-coom-bah!

This passage comes from 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, where the Apostle Paul is sharing about a “thorn in his flesh” (ailment) that he believed he had been given as a way to keep him (Paul) from becoming conceited and in full awareness of his daily need for Christ.

      9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I have never really understood this passage. And now, I believe maybe it was a gift waiting for the right time in my life for my heart to be able to understand it. I am finding that in this journey of life, this transition through time, there are new wonders and discoveries along every step of the path. I believe there are things one can study in depth, but until you truly experience it, you have no idea the power or truth behind the theory. (Grace is another one of these things… but that is for another blog.)

So here is my attempt to be honest and to share that ‘it wasn’t always like this’.

It Wasn’t Always Like This…
Part 1
The Angry Years

In December of 2005, we decided to move back to California from Georgia. It had been a fun and eye opening journey, but it was time to go home. Things just had not worked out as planned and I was pregnant and wanted to be near family to raise our children. Our house sold in under a week, my job transferred me to a great position in a local Sacramento office, and Eric had a new job brewing in the works. God was in control of everything and it was abundantly clear by His provision and how things fell into place that we were making the right decision.

From December 2005 to March 1, 2006 I was Happy. On March 2nd, around 7:20am things changed. The happiness faded and a new companion named Angry Bitterness entered my life.

You see that morning our life was derailed from our plans. We found out that our baby was dead inside me and I would need to deliver her still. I had never know anyone who had a stillbirth and had no idea what club we had just joined. (The full story of our daughter Madison can be read in the blogpost entitled “The Tiniest Teacher”.)

Shock set in. Followed by anger. Denial. Disbelief. More anger. Reasoning. Bargaining. And then more anger. Anger had decided to move-in long term and everyone around me just needed to get used to it.

How could God do this? How could God let this happen? If he is all-powerful, why didn’t he stop this from happening? If he did not stop it, was it fair to say he killed my baby? (These are big questions, and slowly I believe I am finding the answers that I need. But honestly, unless you need the answers, you really need not ask these questions.) Even as a pastors wife I had these hard questions. Surprisingly (to others, not me), my husband’s occupation did not take away the pain of our loss. Despite the fact that we are at church a lot I found no comfort in the idea that “God needed an angel” or the idea that my baby dying was “Gods will.” Why not someone else’s baby… how about your baby? Truth be told, these words hurt deep and further added to the division I already felt with this God who had the power to save my baby, but didn’t. I was mad… at just about everything.

I was not a good pastors wife. I had decided everything religious was a crock and I was less than supportive of his job. I went to church… but not happily. I remember one night when Eric came home excited for a great night at youth group and I verbally blew him up and told him my angry feelings about God, his job, and the life I was trapped in. I wanted my baby more than anything and did not care whom I hurt in making sure everyone around me knew how much pain I was in. In retrospect, I am grateful that my behavior did not cost Eric his job or spirit.

We started attending Sharing Parents, a support group for parents that have lost babies from the point of conception through 6 months of age. At this group, I found other angry people. These people understood my pain and gave me permission to cry. Eric found other husbands who wanted their loving wives back. As time went on, we found that these people, our new friends, were the perfect place to begin to heal from our pain. They understood that just because I was pregnant with another baby did not mean that I was magically done hurting from my loss. They walked with us through our pregnancy with Nathan and celebrated his safe arrival.

I also went to a psychiatrist, who I believe gave me my life back. She taught me how to balance my moods through journaling and she gave me the best homework and advice that I had received through the experience. Mt assignment was to find a Bible study, outside of my church, where my husband and I could participate together. It just so happened that a small group of friends from my college years was starting a Bible study so we jumped in.

Nathan was born. Joy entered our home. However, I still wrestled with Anger. I became a volunteer with Sharing Parents and began giving back to other parents walking through the darkness of losing a child. Nevertheless, I still danced with Anger. He showed up less frequently, and was not as obnoxious as before, but Anger was still living in my pocket, ready to come out at any moment.

I remember being at my brother’s house for a New Years Eve party to bring in 2008. We had a great time celebrating with a large crowd of family and friends. We cheered as the Times Square ball dropped and circled up as a group to began the traditional sharing of New Year resolutions. Some people vowed to never make a resolution; some decided they would water ski more that year. Someone shared their plan to start their family, which of course meant the men in the room began to grunt and utter subtle jokes. When it was my turn, I faced my fear as I shared, “This year, I want to get right with God and deal with Him regarding losing our baby.” Well, if your looking for a way to sober up a party, mentioning dead babies is the way to do it. But, it was honest and that was my resolution for the year. Thankfully, the party picked back up and we had a fabulous time. So now, the pressure was on. Before a crowd of witnesses I was determined to kick Anger to the curb and fill that emotional spot with something else.

But how the heck do you do that?

Coming soon…
It Wasn’t Always Like This…
Part 2
The Transformation

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Hair Massacre: Just A Little Off The Top

I just had a thought. Wouldn’t it be awful if my hair wasn’t really falling out? Perhaps I actually had super-hair and the clumps that covered my hands in the shower yesterday morning were the only 200 strands that were gonna fall out and the rest were all like super-powered steel hairs that were impervious to chemo?

Yeah, that would be really lame. Like really. Cause its gone now. Ah chop-chop. Gone. Basta.  Nevertheless, what is done is done, and now I will never know the true strength of my Sampsonesque hair.

So here are the gory details of "The Hair Massacre: Just A Little Off The Top"...

I had planned exactly how I wanted this event to go. Having a close family, and my fear that the kids might not think I am the coolest aunt ever, I came up with a plan.  This wasn’t just going to be a regular, every day, go into the bathroom and shave your head in a melancholy regret kind of event… we were gonna have a party!

Yesterday, when I took my shower and shampooed my hair it became clear that the day I had been waiting for had arrived. My hands were covered in hair strands; enough that I knew this was the beginning of the end for my boring brown mane. As I have said before, I have ever really liked my tresses, but when you have to choose between having hair and shaving it off, one suddenly becomes sentimental.

I called my sister-in-law Eileen who is also my hairdresser. When she answered the phone I asked her, “Are you ready to party?” She new what this code meant, and told me her family would be at our house by 5pm. My sister Katie and her kids were already here as she was watching my children for the day. Just had to invite my parents… then we were ready to rock’nroll.

When the family all arrived we first had dinner (thank you Tammy & Monica for the delicious Mexican dishes) and enjoyed each other. Then it was go time. So here’s what we did:

  1. My mom sat with the 4 oldest grandkids and read to them from a “My Mommy Has Cancer” coloring book. The book broke down the basics of cancer and what happens during treatment. It was funny to watch Nathan as he was excited and shared, “Wow, my mom has cancer too!” Grandma asked them about what they knew about cancer and chemo and she explained that cancer is not like a cold that you can catch; that it is like a broken leg. This was so that they would know they did not have to be afraid of me or getting sick. The best part was having then kids all say the word “chemo.” Try it… “kkkkkeeeeeemmmmmoooooooo.” Isn’t that super fun!
  1. Next, my mom did an object lesson with the kids. She had bought Hostess Sno Balls and gave them each one of the tasty pink treats. She had them pull off the marshmallow outer shell to reveal the delicious chocolate cake that was hiding inside. The point was, even when the outer loveliness that is pink coconut marshallowy goodness is removed, the best part is still there. (Okay… I could easily argue that the marshmallow part is the best part… but for the sake of the lesson, I will let this go.) She talked about how even if I didn’t have hair I would still be mommy/Aunt Kelly. That I would still be me... loving, goofy and happy. That the hair is just marshmallow… I’m the cake. (Thanks mom for the illustration.)
  1. Eileen pulled my hair into several sections and tied them off in rubber bands. I explained to the kids that my hair had started to fall out because of that pesky ‘good’ chemo and that since we are in control I decided that we would cut it off on our own. Nathan went first and he cut off a chunk of hair. The kids all took turns cutting the mini-tails off until I was ragged with a mullet. We explained to them that we were going to send these ponytails to a company that would make wigs for children that have cancer so that they could go to school and feel normal. I have chosen to donate the hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, which is a partnership with the American Cancer Society. I’m not sure how much they will be able to use as only half of it is 8 inches long… but they can toss it if need be.

Nathan cutting off the 1st ponytail.
Proud of their kill!
  1. And now for the fun part. Eileen whisked out her lovely little pink clippers and went to town. She buzzed me to the base. As she shaved the kids started teasing “You look like baby Lincoln” but thankfully they did not act afraid or freaked out. After Eileen was done and she cleaned up the mess of hair bits, each of the kids got a chance to touch my head. Even little Leah was interested in her new Mommy. My scalp is pretty sensitive so we didn’t ‘bic’ it… but I think we did a pretty darn good job cleaning it up.

To end the night, my husband also stepped up to have his head shaved in support. Since day one, he has told me he wanted to shave his head too and walk alongside me through this every step of the way. I see a ‘Uncle Fester’ costume in our future... just in time for Halloween!

Eileen had to have a little fun while shaving Eric's head.
Doesn't he look lovely?
In the end, the party went just as I had envisioned. We had a fun time together as a family. Spirits were high. The kids came away understanding more and were not afraid. And of course, I felt the enormous amount of love and support of my very special family.

Eileen "The Scalper" Randall & my shiny new head!
Best part of the night came from the lips of my little man. Nathan had been riding his bike in the back yard and he pulled up to the sliding-glass door to say, “Mommy, you actually look pretty beautiful.”

Now that’s a special boy!

*** Please note that in a previous e-mail the Joppa's address house number was not correct. The correct address is: 10141 Sheffield Oak Way, Elk Grove, CA 95624

Also, if you are interested in helping with meals, house help, babysitting, fundraiser, etc. please contact Megan at to be given access to the '' calendar and she will send you an invitation to the website.

Thank you,
Megan Marcroft
(Joppa Family Secretary)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Dance

Earlier this year, I want to say in April, I overheard a conversation that really challenged my thinking and my habit of grabbing for control of every aspect of my life.

The conversation hit me hard because at the time Eric was looking for a job and seeking God in prayer for his next career opportunity. We had a couple good options on the table, our house was miraculously in escrow and the closing date was fast approaching, and I was starting to worry where we would be living in a month’s time. In the craziest of ways, God had provided financially through mini-jobs, gifts and forgotten rebate checks in the mail for our monetary needs. I believed fully that God was in control of our lives and had us exactly where we were supposed to be, however I admit, I had to remind myself often throughout the day to trust His plan.

The conversation that I overheard was a friend discussing a conflict that she was having regarding a power struggle over who would have which role in hosting a luncheon party. In verbally working through her frustration, my friend said:
“My need for control is such a character flaw, I need to work through this.”

What I heard, for myself (not for her or anyone else), was:
“My need for control is more than a character flaw,
it’s me wrestling with God for control,
WE need to work through this.”

As I started to think through this conviction, I began to see that my need for control is more than just being a strong “Type A” personality. Perhaps it is even more than an annoying character flaw. Maybe, my need for control is actually my telling God that I am good on my own. That I do not really need Him, that my plans and my timing (as opposed to His) are best for me.

This line of thinking challenged me to take this thought even further. What if my need to control others is even a statement of my lack of trust and struggle for control with God? What if my internal freak-outs when things are not perfect, my mental grasps for control when I think something should be done differently are actually the overflow of my struggle in trusting God with everything?

Over the past several months, I have found myself exercising my excellent control-freak skills and have had to step back in giving this conflict to the Lord. Sometimes these have been large issues like the purchase of our home, and at other times, they have been small instances, like how the dishwasher was loaded. In both the big and the small, I find repeatedly that I have to hand over my need for control to God. After several months of working through this reality, I’m coming to believe this struggle might just be something I have to battle daily for the rest of my life.

So, here we are, and I find myself faced with what will likely (hopefully) be the biggest trusting God moments of my life. After just one treatment of chemo I am here to testify that cancer and chemo suck. (I know that “suck” is not a lady-like word… but please don’t judge me. The other words I am thinking of are not appropriate for a pastors wife to publicly type.) I am preparing to go in again for Treatment #2 in just a few days… and the thought of purposely walking back into that room makes me queasy. The idea that I have 15 more treatments seems insane. The past two weeks have not been easy. I was knock-down sick for about 4 days, was tired and achy for a couple days, and then had a few normal good days, during which time I totally over did it physically resulting in exhaustion and these amazingly deep headaches which meant a couple more days of resting and avoiding an immune system crash. 

I should not be surprised, but the hardest thing has actually been giving up temporary control of my life. Giving up control of my kids and trusting family and friends to love and be enough for them. Giving up control of my home and trusting that my husband is able to keep the house clean the way I like. Giving up control of the bills and administrative house duties and trusting that everything will be taken care of. Giving up control of the controlled structured life I like to lead.

Thanks to the mind-altering insight God started preparing me with months ago, I am again working to trust Him and lean on Him for the peace I need as I learn to give up control. I am trusting that God has given me the perfect family and friends to help watch my kids when I am unable. Trusting that God gave me a husband more than capable of not only serving the children dinner, giving them baths and getting them to bed; but also a man able of keeping the house clean and paperwork/bills taken care of. Trusting that if I need to take a nap; the world will not fall apart.

Some people make trusting God and giving Him control look easy.

I wish I could say it is easy. For me it is more daily, more hourly and sometimes even more momentarily.

And maybe that’s exactly how He wants it. That He and I would dance a dance of:
Handing Him control, giving Him my trust,
Handing Him control, trusting He is stronger,
Handing Him control, knowing we are in His care,
Handing Him control, thanking Him for family and friends,
Handing Him control, believing in His love,
Handing Him control, surrendering my fears,
Handing Him control, resting in His peace.

This dance could go on and on. 

And since I like to dance, and it appears God likes to dance with me... we will. 

George Costanza: I did happen to pick up one little nugget of entertainment. 
Have you ever seen Elaine dance? 
Jerry: Elaine danced? 
George Costanza: More like a full-bodied dry heave set to music. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

It was the best of days...

Today was the perfect end to summer.
It was the best of days.

Before leaving for church early this morning, Eric gave me my shot. I laid around for a couple hours as the medicine worked its magic and the pain worked itself through my legs. Eventually, I took a shower and then headed over to my sisters house for a family workday. My parents kept the kids last night so it was easy to take my time and enjoy getting ready.

At my sister and brother-in-laws (Katie and Ryan) house there was a team of friends and family working to lay a decomposed granite walkway/border around their backyard. Their yard is huge, so this project required a ton of help and muscle to get it done. In the end, the walkway looks amazing and as soon as the sod goes down their yard will be easy to mistake for a park.

Of course, I just sat around watching people work and kids play. I sipped my water and did my best to not look the way I felt inside. The day started catching up with me so I went in and laid down for a little rest while the guys ran to the store to get dinner. After a peaceful nap I returned to the fun.

And that’s when it happened. I felt normal.

The 'little people' in my life.
Back left to right: Nathan, Parker, Eden, Will
Front left to right: Norah, Lincoln, Kaylee, Jordyn, Leah
August 2011, Photo taken at our family reunion.
The kids ran in circles playing soccer while Katie and Eric ran around them creating a monkey-in-the-middle scenario. When there are 9 children under the age of 6 you know there is fun to be had. It was like watching a movie where there is a perfect families having a beyond real time – perfect playing together, perfect laughter, perfect lighting, perfect weather, perfect conversation, perfect every last thing.

As we ate dinner, the kids made each other laugh and then walked around to the adults telling and making up jokes on the spot. A couple kids even shared songs they had learned in school. Dinner was delicious and ice cream was the perfect end to the night.

I felt like I was watching the evening end in the same way you would watch the sands of an hourglass disappear. And then it happened… I found myself ‘grrrrrrring’ like a lion at the kids as they squealed in delight. They ran away from me and then came back for more and more and more. In my exhaustion, I worked up what little energy was left to be the crazy loud aunt that I want my son and nieces and nephews to think of me as. You see, I am the aunt that sneaks kids candy as if we are keeping a secret from their parents. I am the aunt that puts on dance parties and lets them run around off-the-hook at my house. I encourage giggling at sleepovers and throw birthday parties based around sugar. I jump in the kiddie pool with my clothes on and bring out the tickle monster as often as possible. Each of the 4 aunts/moms in the room have their own special identity, which we all respect and appreciate… I try to be the wild one.

After ‘grrrrrrrring’ for about 10 minutes, I knew I needed a pill so I slipped away for a short break. And in that moment I began to cry. This might be a slight stretch, but I felt like the father, Guido, from the amazing movie “Life is Beautiful” (La Vita è Bella, 1997). In the film, the father is a playful dreamer who uses his over the top imagination to attempt to stay alive and help his son survive the horrors of a Jewish Concentration Camp. Throughout the movie, Guido, pretends that the Holocaust is a game and he challenges his son to earn points by hiding and to ‘win’ because the grand prize is a tank. It may seem like a strange illustration, but I can’t get out of my mind the image when the guards are taking the dad away, and the boy is hiding in a box and yet Guido still acts silly for his son, marching like a toy solider, bringing the child joy up until the last moments. As if humor can cover fear. (This is an amazing film if you have not seen it. My highest of recommendation.)

I know what is coming with my illness, but I want to do anything I can to keep the little people in my life from thinking that I am as scared as I really am. They all know that I am sick, and my niece Kaylee was even telling me today about her pink camouflage breast cancer bracelet that she has to remind her of me. They all know that I am going to loose my hair. We are not hiding the truth from the kids. But… I do have a need to hide my fear of the unknown and to protect their innocence.

I want them to think of me as crazy Aunt Kelly… not as a sick lady that needs quiet and ruins the fun.

I plan to still sneak them candy. I will wear pirate-like bandannas with an eye patch and wigs made of streamers. Maybe I will make up a contest where we add up how much I sleep and when I reach a thousand hours, we get to go to Disneyland. I do not know for sure all the outrageous stuff I will have to come up with to keep things light… but trust me; I’ll do my best to keep it CRAZY.

Friday, October 7, 2011

What does it feel like?

Last night I went for a walk in my dreams...
I woke up wanting to escape reality back into my sleep. In that dream, I found my safe, peaceful, joyful place. I do not think I have ever dreamt a dream walk like last night… it was a perfect escape.

I dreamt of the street of Florence, Italy. 

During the 1999-2000 school year of college, I spent 10 months studying Art History with the CSU International Program. Best decision ever. I truly loved every part of studying and traveling abroad. No regrets.

Lights and decorations leading to
Piazza della Signoria in celebration of
Christmas and The Year of Jubilee!
My dream took me through the streets of Firenze the first night we arrived in Italy and the first time I took in the enormity of the Duomo with my own eyes. The size of that church was humbling and empowering. I walked along the Arno River on the way to The Uffizi Gallery – as music spilled out of the concert hall corridor into the river. I walked the 1 mile walk to school, past the fresh air market, past the bakery with that salty smelling ciachatta, past the little park decorated with children, past our daily café stop where they made espresso with hearts in top, and straight to the castle-like door of our university. I walked through the Piazza Santa Croce in the winter when the ice skating rink was full of children laughing and spinning in the cold. And again past the same piazza where the crazy lady in a black trench coat & tattered hat was twirling in front of the Dante Alighieri statue to whatever random song she was making up and throwing kisses at anyone who would catch her eye. I saw the fireworks in the sky high over Piazza as we brought in the Year of Jubilee! And the beautiful lights and Christmas decorations that danced over the streets in an endless maze ending at Piazza della Signoria. I walked down my street, Brogo Santa Croce, past the gay bar at the far end, up to our huge double door with a knocker like that on The Wizard of Oz. I looked up at our window, where four young ladies (okay, that’s being generous) lived for 10 months… changed forever by the power of following their dreams.

I went all over town… the perfect escape from my now reality.

So, what does it feel like to go through chemo?

Well, I can only tell you at this time what the first week of my treatment has felt like. I am not nor will I be an expert in cancer and chemo… but, when this is all said and done I will be an expert in my experience.

When we went to the doctors office on Monday we first met with my Oncologist. He answered all the questions we came armed with. The main thing that he shared was why they are being so aggressive in treatment of my cancer. (Here is the dumbed down version for people like me.) I have Stage 1/Grade 3 ductal breast cancer. What makes me so darn special is that the DNA make-up of the cells is a triple negative. Usually cells grow/are fed through hormonal proteins… but mine are basically mutant and are growing too quickly and multiplying through some other source. (Insert Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle music here.) Here’s a link if you’re interested in this kind of stuff:

Anyways, after meeting with the doctor we went into the chemo room. It looked like a barber shop with chairs in the round. I got a big comfy chair while Eric got a junky straight back. They gave me a cup of anti-nausea meds to choke down. Them the pharmacist made up my potion… fresh to order – just like Burger King. The nurse inserted an IV into my port, which is located under the skin just below my collarbone. Once my mix was ready, the nurse came out and injected two humongous syringes of Cytoxan into my IV. The potion was red in nature and mixed with a bag of saline that was already dripping into the line. I did not feel a thing.

Once the syringes were emptied she hooked up a drip bag of Adriamycin. Within minutes my head started hurting, like a sinus/congestion headache. She slowed down the drip and it took a little over an hour to finish. I could feel the sensation of something rushing through my legs… but it wasn’t like anything hurt.

We went home and the feeling in my legs continued. A few hours later, I started to feel like I was coming down with the flu. I took more of the anti-nausea medicine (I have both Compazine and Zofran), which have completely helped subdue all nausea and urge to throw up. Went to bed on Monday night, feeling yucky, but mainly as if I just had the flu.

Tuesday I woke up and again felt like I had the flu. It might seem simple, but that’s just the best way to describe it. Aching bones and muscles, headache, tired… but a little more. Tuesday night I felt fine and went downstairs and had dinner with the family.

On Wednesday, I felt like I had been beaten with a mallet. On top of feeling sick, I had my first shot of Neupugen. This drug helps in rebuilding the white blood cells that have been destroyed. I have to take nine injections of this drug after every chemo treatment (1 a day three days following treatment). Nurse Eric is in charge of making sure I get this shot every morning.

On both Thursday and Friday (today) mornings I felt fine… until I took the Neupgen shot. Both days that shot knocked me down. It feels pretty awful and I am fully aware as the drug travels through my legs. The only side effect I am currently experiencing is pain in the bones and muscles. Last night and today, I have started to notice that my nerve endings (fingers, toes, ears, hair, etc.) feel electric – like ‘pins & needles’. That feeling you get if your hand falls asleep. My scalp is starting to hurt and my hair hurts if tugged. I went to throw it in a ponytail and ouch… it’s just weird.

That’s it – so far. I feel like I have a crappy flu bug, with electricity running through my nerves and a never-ending headache. I am not sure if this is more or less of what I expected. Since chemotherapy is specific to each case and effects everyone differently I have been slow to have expectations. I was told that my hair would fall out within the first two weeks. I imagine that is what the pain and electric feel is. Curious if I find anything in the morning.

My emotions have been all over the place. There was a moment on Wednesday when I had the brief thought that I understand why people choose not to go through a second or third round of chemo.

For me I have my kids to fight for. I have a long life to live.

Moreover, I have a desire to someday return to the streets of Florence, Italy to see if the crazy lady is still dancing in the piazza.

1 Treatment down… 15 more to go!

Monday, October 3, 2011


Kelly's last dinner before chemo...
Hello to all of Kelly's loyal subjects (she loves her public),

This is the lucky guy that calls her wife! (Eric)

Kelly wanted me to update everyone on her day, and first round of chemo.

We were the loudest people in the Chemo area for sure. (Ok, I was the loudest, Kelly was the most embarrassed) We laughed and talked. Apparently, people getting chemo aren't in the mood to laugh... I'm not sure why...

They administered two chemo drugs, Cytoxan, and Adriamycin. One looked like red chalula sauce (I was hungry), and the other was clear like the saline. about ten minutes into the second drug, Kelly got a massive headache. once we got home, she went into our room and there she stayed. she came down for about ten minutes to say hi to our offspring as they came home, and also to her mom and dad, then again after the kids ate dinner. That lasted about 5 minutes before nausea sent her running for the hills. 

Kelly during her first treatment.
She is currently resting in bed with some hot tea and Chicken Noodle Soup! As for me, well, it is exhausting being both Eric and Kelly Joppa. We are going to be needing lots of help. Below is an email that was sent out via Megan Marcroft, our cousin. She and I are coordinating all help, from childcare to Kelly care, fundraising and family meals. please read the message below and respond to Megan, or me at if you can help in any way. 

Hello Everyone,

Let me introduce myself. My name is Megan Marcroft and I am Kelly's cousin-in-law (I married her cousin). As you all know, Kelly is starting chemotherapy today, October 3rd, for breast cancer. You are receiving this email because you are either friend or family or both and she will be needing us in this time of uncertainty and not feeling good. I have volunteered to be Kelly's personal secretary (for lack of a better term) and will be coordinating all the meals and help that will be coming her way. There are many different ways to help and this email is your invitation to do so. In times like these, we all feel a need to give and to help in any way we can, but we are busy. It's a fact of life. Please feel free to do only what you can and understand that it is a blessing. Kelly and Eric have expressed many times that they have felt loved and encouraged by all of you for the support that you have shown. 

Listed below are various ways to get involved. 
  • Bring them a meal. We are using the website to coordinate meals. Please respond to this email saying you would like to be on the meal calendar and I will send you an invitation to the website. You can then sign up to bring them something to eat. If you don't cook, but would like to help, you can send them a gift card for a restaurant or grocery store (you can do this even if you do cook, it's nice on the off days). 
  • Offer to do housework/yardwork. We are using for this also. Please respond to this email letting me know you would like to be added to that website. 
  • Babysitting services. If you would be willing to babysit in the instance that the regular day care people are not available or Kelly and Eric need babysitting at other times, please respond to this email with your name, phone number and your availability (i.e., afternoons on Mondays and Wednesdays).
  • Financial Assistance. Last but not least, if you cannot help in any of these other ways but would like to do something. Eric and Kelly will be losing some income and have many medical bills to pay, so if you are able to give in some way financially, it would be greatly appreciated. There will be some fundraisers or you can just send something to Eric and Kelly directly (address below). 
To sum it all up, let's love on the Joppa's in the many ways that they will be needing it. Please respond to this email letting me know if you want to be a part of the website for meals/work and if you want to be on the babysitting list. Pleasedo not contact Kelly as she will not be able to get back to you in a timely manner. To hear from Kelly about what is going on, please visit her blog at On that site, you can sign up to receive an email every time it is updated by clicking on "follow by email" on the right hand side of the page. 


Megan Marcroft

P.S. We talked with Kelly's oncologist regarding her stage/grade/prognosis. She has Stage 1/Grade 3 Ductal Carcinoma. Her 5 yr. survival prognosis is between 60-80 pct. If she makes it beyond 2 yrs. her prognosis goes up to 98%. This is why her chemo is so aggressive. We are not worried at all about those numbers. The fact is, God is bigger than cancer. And Cancer cannot steal our joy. 

Also, Kelly's oncologist shared with us that he is a believer, and even prayed with us and for Kelly before her treatment. Pretty cool if you ask us. More soon.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

What a day!

What a day!

This morning I had to go into the hospital for a PET scan. The Pathologist offering a second opinion on my slides agreed with the first Pathologist that there was something “unusual” going on with my cells. While I normally pride myself in being slightly unusual… this is not the kind of info you want to hear from an Oncologist. Here's the definition of a PET scan: “A PET scan is very different from an ultrasound, X-ray, MRI, or CT scan. A PET scan allows the physician to distinguish between living and dead tissue or between benign and malignant disorders. Since a PET scan images the biology of disorders at the molecular level, it can help the physician detect abnormalities in cellular activity at a very early stage, generally before anatomic changes are visible.” 
Basically, with this scan they wanted to eliminate the possibility that there weren’t other tumors hanging out around my body and  be able to once and for all clarify what kind of cancer we are really dealing with.

Armed with a sedative (next time I want two), as a newfound claustrophobic, I spent about a half hour in a tube being imaged. I just closed my eyes and sang in my head. The tiniest of sneak peaking resulted in immediate mental freak out… so, despite my lack of singing ability I made a joyful noise to myself (and hopefully the Lord).

Tonight I enjoyed a great night at a women’s gathering at my church. I generally do not like women’s ministry stuff… but this was my kind of event – a sweet prayer night with just the kindest and most sincere of women. Have I shared how much I totally love our new church???

Allen's Black & Tan
Yes, it is as amazing as it looks!
Calorie free too!
Anyways, I have a ton of paperwork to get in order before I start chemo on Monday so I am currently at the one place that I knew was open late, would satisfy my sweet tooth, and would help calm my nerves in preparing for this new leg of life. LEATHERBY’S! I have been warned that my food will taste like metal for the next 8 weeks (to possibly 6 months), so I wanted to treat myself to the single most delicious food item in all of Sacramento – an Allen’s Black & Tan!

For those of you that have known me a long time, you know I worked at Leatherby’s through high school, college and even a little afterwards for a total of 9 years. When I finally left to go into the ‘real world’, I had worked there over a 3rd of my life. Why you might ask would someone work so long at an ice cream parlor? The answer is simple. As far as I’m concerned there was/is no better job on earth than severing people and putting a smile on their face – which ice cream has a magical way of doing.

In addition, the Leatherby’s are just a great family, employers, and community supporters in Sacramento. Honestly, there was a lot to learn by watching the ethics and heart behind their business. I watched them give to those in need, consistently pick up the checks of service men, public service officers, and clergy, and make serving the community a priority. They gave second, third, fourth chances to employees needing guidance & offered a firm hand when necessary too. Their strong faith and family values were a core part of the restaurant – and they still are. I respect and love the family and can’t speak highly enough of the owners/managers.

Working at Leatherby’s kept me out of trouble too. When you work every Friday and Saturday night there is not much time to get involved in parties and other questionable activities. Plus, I made the greatest of friends at work, which made it fun and a great place for positive support. I just loved working there.

Lastly, who does not like walking out at the end of a shift with a wad of cash spilling out of your apron pocket? Yep, in retrospect, those were the best of days.

So anyways, it has been a long emotional day. I am tired and thinking of what is coming Monday makes me anxious. I have been trying to get everything ready, but I do not know that being ready is actually possible.

Man, that Black and Tan was good.

We had Mikuni’s Wednesday night so my sushi craving has been covered. Now I need to figure out what to eat Sunday night. I am thinking there will have to be Honey Walnut Prawns somewhere on my plate.

Oh, by the way, my doctor called at about 5pm tonight with the results of the PET scan and everything is clear. I just have plain old boring Ductal Breast Cancer.

Which is like the best news ever.

(Hahaha… this is not at all what I sat down to write. Isn’t it funny how ice cream has a way of being the prefect distraction?)