Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tiny Steps Toward Trusting God

I have been a bit quiet lately. However, my excuse is that we have been insanely busy this summer. I am having a desire to write more consistently (about more than cancer stuff) and, by the encouragement of so many of you, try to turn this blog into a book of some sort. We’ll see what can happen if I attempt to be a little more structured and focused with my time. In the meantime, here’s the lowdown of events over the past few weeks, each of which I could write an entire post about… but instead I’ll just throw out few blurbs.

Leah blowing out the candles on her 10 ft banana split!
  • Leah turned two years old on June 29th! We celebrated with a 10 foot banana split (made in a rain gutter). It is so cool seeing the lightbulb click in a child's head when they realize the party is for them and that people are there to celebrate their birthday. In her quiet sweetness she just loved being the center of attention. I love birthday parties!!!
  • We went camping at Half Moon Bay for a few days. The trip was a complete blast while we hung out with some of our dear friends and enjoyed a day of playing at the beach. We witnessed a couple as they got engaged on the beach and in true paparazzi form I snagged my camera and took a ton of pictures of them celebrating and embracing. Last week I sent them the pictures and it has struck up a sort of sweet e-mail friendship… kinda cool.
  • Started back to work at Leatherby’s at the new location, which is about 5 minutes from our house. I’ll be managing a couple nights a week which will allow Eric to care for the kids while I make a little extra $ and get to be outside of the home a bit. The store is crazy busy and man did my feet hurt after that first night, but what a fun time I had! It took about 30 minutes for everything to come back to me… like I never left. I’m quite grateful for this opportunity to “go home” and had fun while working.
  • Went to a bridal shower for a friend from elementary school that I hadn’t seen in nearly 20 years. She actually lives in Europe, but we have reunited via FaceBook. It was fun to see several faces from the past but the best part of the day was to see the extreme excitement and joy that she oozed with when she spoke of her future husband.
  • My garden is flourishing. The tomatoes taste like candy. Cucumbers, zucchini, squash, strawberries… they are all starting to produce wildly which is such a rewarding feeling. I also went blackberry picking with my girlfriend as we plan to make jams later this summer. Love the beauty of dancing with nature and reaping a harvest from the earth.
  • The infection I wrote about last week actually turned out to be a KIDNEY STONE! At one point, I thought that perhaps I was going to end up on that bizarre show “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant.” Talk about pain… geez. I’ll still contend that natural childbirth is more painful, but at least when you have a kid you know that it will be over at some point. Once it passed I felt/feel like a million bucks. I really think it was getting in my way of feeling better after radiation finished. If I never experience a kidney stone again it will be too soon!
  • We went in for my 3 months oncology follow-up appointment. Here’s the story of the events that followed:
A few weeks ago, I met with my oncologist for my 1st follow-up appointment. I will need to see him every 3 months for the next 3 years, with mammograms once a year (the next one is scheduled for August.) We talked about how I was feeling, which at the time was still very tired, and about how it will take several months to get back to full strength. He checked me out and then I wanted him to look at a lump I had found above my armpit. I had shown it to him a few months ago, and due to the location, he wasn’t concerned. He said it not in the right place for a lymph node and was likely just a pocket of fat, which is apparently common as women begin to age. But this time when he touched it he agreed that it had grown in size and should be checked out. This is how the conversation went:
Dr.: “Yes, that has grown. Who was your surgeon?”
Me: “Dr. SuperCool in Roseville.”
Dr.: “That’s right. You had surgery in Roseville. Are you comfortable moving to a surgeon here?”
Me: “Sure.”
Dr.: “Okay, I’m going to schedule an ultrasound.”

And that was it. He looked through some paperwork, wrote down some notes, and then said goodbye. Eric and I sat there silently. Of course Eric tried to assure me that everything was fine, but all I could think of was “Wait… I was supposed to leave here clean. Am I clean? What just happened?”

About 20 minutes later, I received a call from radiology to schedule the ultrasound. They gave me the first appointment for the following Monday. Two business days later. One of the good things about being an oncology patient is that you get crazy fast service. A downside is that when people are crazy fast, your mind goes straight to being scared and wondering why you are getting such fast service.

The following 4 days were heavy. I spent 3 days in a trace-like constant prayer state and then most of Sunday as a crazy ragging psycho. Let’s just say the fact Eric didn’t kick me out of the house that day is a testament to his loving patience. I am pretty sure that in those 4 days I cried harder and more than in the 10 months of treatment combined. Talk about stress and fear. To have finished treatment and think that possibly what we had just gone through didn’t even matter. I was a wreck.

On Monday morning, we went in for the ultrasound. They scanned the area, examined the lump, and determined that it is just a cyst. Due to the location, it is most likely an ingrown hair, which has created a pocket (yeah… not even fat.) They said we don’t need to do anything unless it grows and becomes annoying. I wonder if their not wanting to pull it out has anything to do with it being on my surgery side and not wanting to create more scar tissue in that area? I’ll be sure to ask at my next appointment.

So… it was a super scary time where I really felt pushed beyond control of my emotions and fear. I didn’t realize that I had that much fear stored up inside of me. But God is good and he took me somewhere great in the midst of that fear. He took me to a place of surrender. A place of surrendering my children to Him.
Nathan (5 yrs) showing his T-Rex hands and
Leah (2 yrs) just being her sweet self.
Let me explain. In the Protestant Christian culture, it is a tradition/rite that when our children are infants we do what is called a “Baby Dedication.” (We save baptism until the child is older and able to make that choice on their own in their own time.) At this ceremony a pastor will pray over the child and the parents and “dedicate” the baby to God and commission the parents as they publicly declare and commit to raising the child in a Christ centered, church attending, God fearing home. Eric and I had chosen to do hold this event at the 1st birthday parties of both of our kids with special pastor friends offering the blessings.

But on the day before the ultrasound, as I lay trying to take a nap next to Leah, my tears flowed and I was overwhelmed with so many thoughts and fears for my kids futures. As a mom, you can understand that much of my time laying in bed during chemo was spent worrying about my children. Thinking (worrying) about what would happen to my kids if I didn’t make it. Dwelling over what kind of video journals I want to make (have you seen the movie 'My Life' with Nicole Kidman and Michael Keaton? Box of tissues required!). Should I make the movies now or later (do I wait till I really get sick)? Who will help Leah sell Girl Scout cookies? Who will sew on her badges? Will she even be signed up for Girl Scouts? Will the kids hair be combed for picture day? Will their lunches have sweet encouraging notes inside? Will Eric know to cut oranges for soccer into wedges so that they can be orange smiles? Will he sign them up for soccer? He better sign them up for soccer!!!! Who will take Leah to buy her 1st bra? Who will… what will… how will…? Thinking about and planning a future where you may not be there is numbing.

Anyways, in the midst of those racing thoughts I was met with the quiet whisper of God reminding me that my children are not mine… but they belong to Him. That he has trusted me with them for a time, but ultimately he is their Father and He will meet and care for their every need. While my human nature and thoughts are normal, the quietness reminded me that I had dedicated my babies to the Lord already and it was time to believe that He is enough.

I’ll be the first to admit that this act of trust is easier said than done. Nevertheless, I am finding that the tiny steps toward trusting God are bigger than choosing not to take any steps at all.

Peace and love.

July 2012 - Half Moon Bay

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Great Week... A Great Breakthorugh

Throughout the past year, I have had numerous people ask me how my kids were dealing with everything. In general, my answer has been that Leah is oblivious and Nathan has been a trooper. This week my boy finally broke and shared his heart.

But first… the good stuff.

We spent last week on vacation! A real, escape from life, family getaway. We had a blast visiting our awesome friends, the McAwesome crew, at their home in Northern California between the tiny towns of Fall River Mills and Burney. They live in a magical place where if you look to the north you see Mt. Shasta, to the south you see Mt. Lassen and to the west you see Mt. Burney. This is what I saw each morning when I opened the RV door.

Mount Shasta, California  
Still wonder why this is our new favorite vacation destination?

Let me just highlight, by family member, a few of the great things that we got to do during the week.

Pretty in Pink
  • Our baby grew up this week. While she may technically be turning two this Friday, she has taken on the independence of a 4 year old. That little girl kept up with the older kids like nobody’s business.
  • In sitting at the bar with the “big kids” (not in a high chair), Leah learned to swallow her food last week. If you have ever seen the girl eat, you know what I am talking about. She usually chews it up, sucks out the juice/nutrients, and then spits out the bulk. This sort of twisted baby eating disorder has finally been cured and we could not be more proud.
  • She conquered her fear of water and proved to be a true water baby. Floating on her back is her favorite. The girl is a fish.
  • She fell in love with their baby kitten and little teacup shiatsu. Poor animals could not hide fast enough. You would have thought she was a mama cat by how she carried the kitten around by the scruff of her neck. Let’s say the girl loved the kitten too much!
Nathan and Daddy
caught a fish!!!
  • 6 days in the spa for at least 4 hours a day. Raisin fingers… happy boy.
  • If it is possible to have a forever friend at 5 years old, I do believe Nathan can officially say he has found his. “Superman” (6 yrs old) and “Spunky” (4 yrs old) are the kind of friends we will keep for life. Nathan has decided he wants to marry Spunky… and we are all completely fine with his choice. What a amazing time to watch my son find friendship at such a young age.
  • Tape. Tape and paper. Tape and paper and pens. If they were not in the spa the kids were drawing. Bliss.
  • Nathan had a great time with his dad. They caught a fish in the stream and had a blast golfing. Here is a pic of his stance/swing. Eric says his swing  is near perfect… I don’t know enough about golf to argue. Love watching my boy and his dad share such amazing bonding moments.
The kid looooooooooves golf.
  • The man shot at clay pigeons and was an all-star. There were only about 10 left and I watched him hit 7 in a row.
  • Golf. He was able to go twice in one week and had a blast. As much as this habit can drive me crazy, I love how he comes home from a round relaxed and content.
  • The boys had the amazing opportunity to go fly-fishing on the Fall River during the hex-hatch. Basically this means they went out on the river at sundown during the time that a special mayfly hatches and the fish go crazy jumping out of the water trying to snatch the flies. My man caught a 17 inch 2+lb rainbow trout! Happy, happy husband!!!
  • I followed Mrs. Awesome around and learned a ton about gardening. She sent me home with a pallet of divided flowers that I put in the ground this morning. Just hoping I can nurse and love them to great health and vibrancy here in the valley.
  • I experienced pains near the intensity of childbirth. Got to go to the ER and the determined that I was border lined between a kidney infection and UTI. Ouch. Reminder that my body is still healing and that my immune system is not yet normal. Grrr… but this will improve with time.
  • Honestly, the kids were great and I just got to sit back and watch them have fun.  This is my favorite kind of mothering.
  • Deep conversation. Mr. & Mrs. McAwesome are very, very, very smart people. It is refreshing to have deep, intellectual conversations. About politics, about parenting, about religion… the list goes on and on. Loved the conversations of the week.

Okay, so you’re wondering what was the breakthrough with Nathan.

On our last night, while getting my boy ready for bed, he started telling me how much he as going to miss Superman and Spunky. This discussion turned to how he was going to miss me when I died. While he has brought up death since I have been sick, this was the first time he ever said, “When you die of cancer.”

When I was first diagnosed, I know he had a conversation with some of the kids in our friends group about cancer and dying. A teenager that greatly influenced my nephew and our friend’s kids died last year and I am pretty sure one of the kids talked to him about how she had died. We have talked about death… but never like this.

I tried to reassure him that my doctor said that they killed the cancer and that I am healthy. I talked to him about how the chemo and radiation fought the ‘bad guys’ and won. We talked for quite a while and finally, I said, “Nathan, you are 5 years old and all you need to think about are cars and dinosaurs and riding your bike.” With tears streaming down his face he asked me, “Mommy, how can I think about those things when all I can think about is you.”

I was speechless. Just hugged my crying boy and cried along with him. 

It kills me that he has carried these kinds of heavy thoughts and burdens. However I am so glad that he has finally expressed his fears and let go of just a little bit of the stress that he has been carrying. Honestly, Nathan has done an amazing job being the son of a cancer patient. He has not significantly acted out, he hasn’t regressed in behavior or cognitive learning, he hasn’t shut down. He has actually thrived and taken every bump without much issue. I personally believe there is great freedom in sharing and releasing deep emotions such as this, so I am so grateful that he is beginning to let things go. Poor boy… incredibly strong little man.

I love him. I love him a lot. 

Joppa Family - June 2012

Nathan and Superman in the spa.
(Showing off their dinosaur and camel figurines.)

Superman (6 yrs), Nathan (5 yrs),
Spunky (4 yrs) and Leah (week shy of 2 yrs)
"Best Buds"

Thursday, June 14, 2012

One Week Ago…

Today marked a full week since my 30th and final radiation treatment. The day was super busy and full of celebration and food. Lots of food. It was a day that I was not a focused whole-food, fruit and veggie, whole grains, and being an example of healthy eating change. I was naughty… and it was delicious.

When I walked into the Cancer Center, I was surprised and blown away to be greeted by one of the ladies that I had sat with through the first couple of weeks of radiation. With a huge smile, she stood there with open arms and a bouquet of helium balloons. We had become e-mail buddies over the past month and this new “sister” had remember me on my LAST day of treatment and showed up to celebrate. I was, and am, humbled by her kindness.

As I walked into the dressing room, the techs let me know that I could come back as soon as I was ready. It took about 10 seconds to change into the gown. I marched myself right into the radiation area, clapped my hands and energetically said, “Let’s get this done!” I raced to the table, they lined the lasers up, the machine did its thing, I sang a song of praise louder than the sound of the buzzing… and then it was all over. My last radiation treatment. The last time I would have to stare at my scared reflection in the glass ceiling tiles. I deeply hope that it was the last time I will ever have to step foot in that room again. My gown did not go back into my cubby; instead, it shoved into the laundry bin. In fact, I took my nameplate off of my cubby, waded that thing up, and tossed it in the trash! I met with the doctor for a few minutes and then jammed out of there as if I was late for an appointment. However, I was not late for anything. I was just free.

Two dear friends that have been helping watch the kids throughout treatment took me out to lunch to celebrate. A kid free lunch and an amazing dish of Thai curry was the perfect reward for finishing treatment. Then we went back to the house and Erika had made a rum cake for dessert. I am not a huge fan of cake, but this stuff is beyond amazing. When I had tasted it before I begged for the recipe… seriously beyond yummy.

I took the kids home, we all rested and then I prepared dinner. Our friends came over to celebrate with us and to enjoy the tri-tip Eric barbequed. We ate ourselves silly and then Holly brought out a special triple layer red velvet cake that she had made for me/us. The word ZERO shouted that my long countdown of appointments and treatment are finally over. It was magically scrumptious! The kind of cake that could possibly make me change my tune and say I like cake. So, so, so good!

After everyone left & the kids were in bed, Eric brought out the bottle of wine that we bought last year on our Napa anniversary trip that we had been saving for a “special occasion.” Together, under the stars, we sipped, celebrated, thanked God, and breathed relief that we had survived the past 10 months.

Yes, it was a day of a million calories. It was a day of floating on air. It was a day of feeling set free. And in true Joppa fashion, throughout the night Eric serenaded me with the theme song to Greatest American Hero:
Believe it or not,
I'm walking on air.
I never thought I could feel so free-.
Flying away on a wing and a prayer.
Who could it be?
Believe it or not it's just me.

To top it all off, last week I was able to enjoy a celebratory massage. Several months ago a friend gifted me two massages with an amazing gal here in the area certified by the Healing Arts Institute in Oncology Massage. What a blessing this treat has been. Danette has become a cheerleader and support (physically, mentally, food wise & spiritually) throughout treatment and wanted to be sure to see me through complete healing... what a treat to be blessed with this kind of special gift. 

I celebrated hard, totally over booking my schedule and making sure to squeeze in more fun than one should have in a week. As a reminder that I am still healing, my body rejected the fun and finally put me in bed for a day. I knew I didn't feel good but when Nathan said I had "Sick Eyes" and Eric said I looked "Chemo Sick" it was clear that I really had pushed myself too hard. I have been reminded that it did not take a day for my body to get to this place... I need to take time to rest and heal as well. 

What joy and peace and thankfulness that this journey is all over I have enjoyed this past week. Sure, I still have a painful sunburn (radiation burn) that needs to fully heal and a port that needs to be flushed out and funky hair that needs to grow to a decent length. Nevertheless, I am free to enjoy each day and focus on the life I am here to live. And that’s just what I’m gonna do.

Hugs and love to all of you!

*** If you are looking for a massage therapist or know somebody going through cancer treatment or other chronic pain where massage would help in the healing process, I cannot recommend Danette enough. Her studio is in her home, so it is a very comfortable, peaceful environment and she is just the sweetest (most positive) person you'll ever meet. If you are interested, her email is .

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Last Dance

The reason I haven’t written about radiation is pretty simple. It’s just too real and has been too hard to write about. Radiation has blindsided me with emotions and forced me to look at mortality more than any other part of this journey. Why you ask? I have repeatedly sat next to and talked with women that are basically watching the time on their clocks run out… to be short, they are walking dead. And it freaks the crap out of me.

The Radiation Macine
This thing is pretty amazing. It takes x-rays,
zaps, zips and does a host of other sciency things.
The process of going to radiation really is not too involved. I walk into the clinic and change in to a hospital robe. Usually within 5 minutes they call me into the radiation room and then I lay on my personalized pillow (a bean bag sort of mold where the air has been sucked out to shape to my body). I remove one arm from the gown to expose my breast; they line up the two tiny tattoos and sticker markers on my chest with the guidance laser beams. The techs leave the room and the machine works its magic. The huge arm of the machine slowly moves around my body, sizzling and reminding me of the sound of my dad’s welding argon tank. Within two minutes, the procedure is over. The techs re-enter the room and lower the table that I was laying on and we smile at each other and say “see you tomorrow.” In all, this entire process takes about 15 minutes. It takes me twice as long to drop my kids off at friends to watch them and drive to the cancer center… making the entire daily process about an hour and a half of my day.

I have 7 more (of the 30) treatments to go. They have done 23 on the effected cancerous area of my breast and the next 7 will focus on my lumpectomy scar and the tissue leading to where the tumor was removed. Side effects have kicked in on cue. My chest is burnt (like a bad sunburn), as expected. It itches like crazy. The doctor prescribed me a special cream and steroid cream that should help with the burning. Also, I am incredibly tired – kinda like chemo tired, without the sickness part. Thankfully, Leah still naps so when she goes down so do I. Nathan, as the manly 5 year old he is, watches TV and knows to wake me if he needs anything. I am so glad he knows how to work the remote and is easily entertained by unending episodes of Dino Dan.

The kindest women seem to sit with me in the waiting room. This has been a blessing… and a hard part of the process. We share the stories of our journeys and talk about side effects with each other. Two of the women have left a deep impact on me. The first is a gal perhaps 50 years of age. Kind, classy and her outfits look like she stepped out of a fashion magazine. She had gone through breast cancer twice about 10 years ago. With each occurrence, she went through chemo, but I believe only the second time she had radiation treatment. Now she has brain cancer. She said the radiation wasn’t too bad, but the medicine they give her to relieve the stress of the tumor on her brain makes her sick and feel awful. She finished her radiation last week, however will continue chemo indefinitely.

The second woman is also in her early 50’s. She has two sons that both just finished college and when she was re-diagnosed they both moved home to help. She said that she had breast cancer last year and actually finished her 6 months of chemo and 30-treatment radiation last June. She and her husband went on a trip to celebrate “finishing” last November and when she got home, she felt pain in her back. She saw the doctor, he said it was nothing and two weeks later, she went back because the pain had not gone away. A PET scan showed that she had full-blown bone cancer. She asked me the question that those of us deep in the fight use to judge each other, “What KIND of breast cancer do you have?” I answered “Triple Negative.” Her head spun toward me as she replied, “me too.” We looked at each other differently than ten seconds before. My eyes watered up and we had a quick and honest conversation. Of the three women with TNBC that I have met, two of them had re-occurrences with a year of finishing treatment. I had read that TNBC could come back in other body parts but when I asked my oncologist about it, he just said not to worry about that. She shared that the radiation treatments were to ease the awful pain in her bones and that she would go to chemo as long as her blood cells would let her. Her cancer is incurable.

Both women shared that their faith was their strength, which brings a comfort in their eternal security, and both appeared to be covered with peace. I have heard from friends who are nurses that oncology patients are their favorites. That we tend to complain less, laugh more and encourage them in their work. I hope I left that kind of impression on the angel nurses that have crossed my path, I am certain that both of these women have.

Please pray for the two otherwise strangers who are gracefully dancing their last dances. I admit that when I think of them I turn to instant tears… it just doesn’t seem right. 

Eric calls this the depressing post. I think it's just honest... and unfortunately sometimes honesty is depressing. So here's some hope to chew on...

“May the God of 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

Monday, May 21, 2012

Gifts Of Love

Last week we celebrated Mother's day. As a young mother I suppose I should have been quick to post a blog about how sweet my day was and I should have bragged to the universe that I have two of the worlds best kids. But I have learned over time that Mother's Day (and Father's Day) are actually two days during the year that bring up painful emotions for so many people. When we lost Madison I remember how it was just an awful day of feeling like a failure. We did not yet have the autopsy results back, so I was still in a place of "what did I do to kill my baby". I remember going to church and there was a bouquet of flowers given to the "newest" mom. That should have been me. I sat in silence but I wanted to scream. My sister gave me a sweet Mother's Day card that day that mentioned Madison and missing her, it meant the world to me.

I have friends who struggle with infertility, friends who also have lost children, friends who's mothers have passed away, friends who's moms walked out when they were little, friends who's moms are losers/addicts, moms who's kids have gone astray, friends with broken relationships and I know for them Mother's Day is a bittersweet (if not just bitter) day. Two all of you... love you.

So I'm a little late, but I thought I ought to share not just about Mother's Day, but about some of the sweet gifts of love that the little people in my life had blessed me with along this journey.

My Mother's Day started at about 5:15am with Nathan poking me in the face with the present he made for me. He had wrapped it earlier that week, tried to give it to me about 6 times and had even told me what it was. Check it out, he drew on the 'wrapping paper' and taped up one of his favorite cars "Trans-Berry Juice". He said he knew I liked purple so he knew I would love it.

"For My Mom - Love Nathan"

Eric scored a home-run with the gift he had the kids make me. They made cement handprint stepping stones for my garden. I love them!!!!

But if we go back in time I want to share several of the precious pieces of art, cards and gifts that the little children in my life blessed me with throughout my sickness.

The night before my surgery in September we attended a cancer research fundraiser that my uncle and several of his friends put on in honor of their wives who have lost battles with cancer. My Aunt Sandy died of ovarian cancer over 10 years ago... it seems like cancer has a way of taking the best of em. Anyways, my cousin Chad and his wife were explaining to their daughter that they were going to an event to honor her Nana and that she would hear the would cancer. They talked about what that meant and then told her that I have cancer too. They said that Paige went into her room and about an hour later came out with the following piece of art for me.

Paige was just 5 1/2 when she created this...
 isn't it perfect. 

After my surgery, when we were staying at my aunts, my cousins family came to visit. My nephew Will made me this sweet little book. Inside there were drawings of several things he said were "the happy times me had together." There were pictures of us camping, our old house in the woods, bouncing in a bounce house, playing Star Wars and this is a picture of when we went bowling the week before the surgery. The last page is covered with superhero stickers and the message "Get Well Soon."

I love stick figures... look how skinny I look!
(Will was almost 6 when he made this.)

The below card was made by our friend's 5 year old son Cameron. I just thought it was the sweetest card. He really took time and used care with his writing and when he gave it to me he was super proud of himself.  Just too kind.

On the front of the card he wrote
my name in bubble letters.
Great work for a kindergardener!

This is one of the funniest things ever. One day I heard the doorbell ring. Nathan yelled up to me that it was the little boy that lives next door.  I told him he could answer the door and listened while the boys talked. A minute later the door closed and Nathan brought me this flower that Ayden had wanted to give me. This pic was taken right after he gave it to me...  a wilted, totally dead dandelion. Bless his little heart.

Given with love. Ayden was 4 years old.

A bookmark from my (at the time) 3 year old nephew Parker.

This is a crazy detailed pictures drawn by my niece Kaylee. She was 6 when she drew this masterpiece.

And finally, probably my most favorite gift of all...

When I got home from my last chemotherapy treatment and we tore down the chain Nathan was pretty excited. I clearly remember, the next day I was laying in bed feeling miserable and trying to rest. Nathan snuck into my room and told me that he had something very special to give me. I sat up and he then gave me this car. He said "This is your reward for being so brave."This car hasn't left my bed stand since that day. Leah tried to play with it the other day and Nathan ran over, gently took it from her hand and told her "No baby, this is mommy's special car. No touch." I suppose it's kind of like a trophy.

Anyways, thought you all might enjoy a look into the sweet, loving, generous hearts of the kids that I have been blessed to know.

I love the hearts behind these gifts... pure... compassionate... true.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Walk To Remember

My sweet family wearing pink
and showing me love & support.
Photo by Nicolette Jean Photography
I have received several sweet “how you doing” & “are you okay” messages in the past few days as I have been pretty quiet lately. So sorry to be in hiding… I am just ridiculously tired. I’ve had so many people that have not had cancer, go through chemo or do radiation treatments assure me that radiation would be a breeze, but contrary to popular belief, it has kinda been like a daily beating. I’ve heard from a few people who have gone through radiation (without chemo) that the symptoms usually associated with radiation start to appear during week three – which is what my doctor told me to expect. Yet, I have spoken to three other women who went through chemo and radiation (like me) and they have confirmed what I am feeling… that the fatigue hits in the first few days. I am so tired it is bizarre.

Additionally, for me radiation has been a very emotional and mental fight. I have actually been surprised by this reality. Even though I am usually in and out of the radiation center in less than 15 minutes, almost every day there has been some sort of emotional exchange while in the facility. On my 1st day of treatment, I laid on the table for about 45 minutes as they re-aligned my ink marks with the laser beam. My ears were full of tears that had dripped down my face as I oozed emotion through my tear ducts. Because I could not move, the tears just pooled up. You feel so vulnerable lying there naked as this enormous machine encircles you working its magic. A Survivor Sister shared the following verse with me, which she said she would meditate on during radiation as she prayed for protection from burning, pain, and radiation going anywhere besides where it is supposed to be. Psalm 121:5 “The LORD himself watches over you! The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade.” I have found great comfort in these words… but still, some days are hard.

10 treatments down... 23 to go!

But enough about that… I need to share about how awesome the Relay For Life was! First off… thank you to so many of you for your donation to the American Cancer Society. Together we raised $2, 956!!! I am proud to share that I won the award for ”Most Money Raised By An Individual” – but really the winner is American Cancer Society and the cancer patients, future patients, families and research that will be done as a result of your amazing generosity. All I can say is that being completely obnoxious about fundraising totally paid off! I know many of you made donations in memory of loved ones – it was my honor to walk for them and you.

The Survivor Walk
The day was great. I got there at 7:30am for the Survivors Breakfast - they really did treat us like royalty. Then after the opening ceremony I walked arm in arm with two Survivor Sisters that I have come to love as we strutted our stuff around the field in the Survivors Lap. My husband and kids came out to cheer me on and as I got up to join the other survivors on the track, my little Nathan hollered, “Have fun Mommy!” It was fun. When we got back to the start he wanted to know if I won. With tears, my answer was “Yes.”

I had made a challenge to
take a lap in high heels.
Well... I did my best. 
There were booths set up around the track with raffles and stuff to buy to help make money for ACS. I was able to personally decorate the luminary bags that had been donated by my friends/family in memory of a loved one. Some friends came to visit and walk with me, there was a special Survivors lunch, special music and all sorts of activities throughout the day. Oh… and I walked 6 of the half hour blocks around the field as part of our relay team. Was I tired? Yes. Was it a good day? One of the best.

As the sun began to set, they lit all of the luminary bags that lined the field. There was a special Luminary Ceremony and then everyone in attendance walked a lap in silence in memory of those lost to cancer, which was followed by a lap where bagpipes played Amazing Grace. It was a somber, humbling experience. Seeing all of the hundreds of bags, each representing a life stole by this nasty disease. I think I experienced every possible emotion while walking those laps. As Eric held my hand tightly, I cried tears of sadness and joy. I felt angry and saved. So many thoughts crossed my mind… what an experience.

The morning belonged to survivors. The day to the fight. And the night belonged to those lost. It really was a beautiful event.

Look at my fancy paper certificate.!
Woot - Woot
I camped out over night with my team and hung out until and 9:00am for the closing ceremony and to participate in the final lap. I’m so glad I stuck it out. After winning the award, I was able to get into a conversation with the coordinator of our local ACS events. I ask her how I could volunteer for the ‘Making Strides Against Breast Cancer’ walk that is held in October at the capitol. She looked at me and asked, “Do you want to volunteer that day… or serve on the committee?” Well… since she put it that way, I chose to join the committee. Our first meeting is in a few weeks so I don’t yet know what I got myself into, but I do know that I have been asking God what the heck he wants me to do with this experience, so maybe this is the beginning of something exciting.

I know I can say it a million times, but I do not know that you can all truly comprehend how much I appreciate your support in this. Being part of Relay For Life was bigger than me or my story… which was cool. It was a way to give back to an organization that helped me personally and helps so many others on a daily basis. This was an important mark in my journey and a huge step toward hope and healing… thank you!

 ***As a community, the Elk Grove Relay For Life raised a tad over $85,000! 

I want to recognize so many of you that added to the success of this event. 
Thanks a million!

Challenge To Donate - Businesses
Whiteley Photography  (Donated 3 Portrait Sessions)
Cupcake Cuties Bakery (Donated 6 Dozen Gourmet Cupcaked)
Ammin Nut Company   (Donated an Almond Butter Gift Basket)

Luminaries Donated In Memory Of:

Joanne Clark
Jan Irey
Dan Angeloni “Big Papa”
Julio Torres
Luann Larson

Thank you for your donation to the 
America Cancer Society. (In no particular order…)

In Memory of Joann Clark
Andria & Rob St. Evans
Rosa & David Magana
Lynell Cuthberson
Ed & Donna Monroe
Deanna & Mike Lockhart
Ken & Stacey Hisey
Barbara & Tom Sisson
Rhonna Dra
Al & Carroll Amator
David Key
Holly Cybuski
Joel Archer
Sally & Bob Finkbeiner
Ryan & Megan Marcroft
In Memory of Jan Irey
Anna Schwiesenger
Pam Robertson
Emily Brown
Pat & Bob Montgomery
Gaye & Tom Bone
Heather & Chris Bendinelli
Nancy & Bruce Lofgren
Camryn Thomas
Bobbie Lewis
Louisa Bwers
Lori & Scott Bergenstock
Susan & Tim Jones
Jennifer Buwella
Liz & Tim Driessen
In Memory of Dan Angeloni
Joni & Glen Kelley
Bradi Lomack
Candice Morton
Gregg & Candice Stetzer
Kim Key
Stu & Christal Kapicka
Gary Perkowitz
Phillip & Emily Ramey
Frank & Shirley DeLange
Kelly & Rodrigo Rodriguez
Faith Conley
Jennifer Brooks
Rebecca Hainz-bBxter
Melissa & Toby Van Horn
In Memory of Julio Torres
Kyle & Rebecca Bruns
Heather & Aren Bazzocco
Shannon Anderson
Gayle Calderone
Shandela & Dane Brooks
Signe Weeks
Glen & Debbie Brasel
Amy & Michael Erwin
Elisabeth & Joel Walsh
Clay & Francine Whiteley
Nancy Fiole
Julianne Christ
Danielle & Jay Joost
Kristen & Jason Fullmore
In Memory of Luann Larson
Eather & Ron Marcroft
Tom & Debbie Ramsay
Leslie & Bill Randall
Rebecca Erickson
Michael & Brooke McClimans
Sommer & Eric Horn
Gary & Kris Randall

*** If I forgot anyone I am so sorry. It would not mean that your donation didn’t go through… it would have been my error in tracking emails. 

My Survivor Sister Jackie & I flashing our medals!
The "Hope Wall"
Yes... Eric and Leah are sword fighting.
Nathan signed the "Hope Wall"
Little Missy and Mommy
Self Portrait
"Time To Get Some Rest"