Sunday, September 18, 2011


Just over a year ago on September 18th 2010 I was crashed out sleeping from my first round of Chemo two days before. Yesterday on Sept. 18th I was decked out in pink and freaking running the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure here in CoMo. Now how awesome was that. Being at the Komen event was amazing, overwhelming, and all around fabulous.

Ok so it took me 39.40 minutes and I came in 250th out of 263 but by golly I ran it! Seeing that sea of pink was so moving knowing all those people were united for the same cause. Knowing that each person had somehow been touched by breast cancer and motivated to help find a cure for people like me was awesome. I had 14 people on my team, the Udder Believers, some walked, some ran and some were pink in the pew or sleep in for the cure team members but I'm great-full to each of them for helping me support the cure.

It was fun seeing other survivors that I have met along the way either at other events or during treatments.  Breast cancer survivors are a unique group of people. They are so full of support, and love, and laughter and most of all unity. We don’t have to explain what its like having BC because we already know. You don’t have to say what your struggles are or explain the fear that it might come back because they fear the same thing. Standing there amongst so many other strong brave women laughing and cheering was a great experience and its one that I have been waiting for for multiple reasons. Yes partly because I enjoy being with other women who have walked in my wig. Ok not really since I never wore a wig but you get my point. There is this “hot topic” among some women with breast cancer over the whole “pink thing”. I wondered how I would really feel being at an event where nearly every single person was in pink. Not only that but we were being handed pink bags, pink buttons, pink scarves, pink toilet paper (ok not really but they might as well have) and I wondered how I would really feel surrounded by so much pink. Would I be upset by it? Would I think it was just some stupid ploy or waste of money? Would I feel like it was down playing the seriousness of having breast cancer? There are so many women who dread the month of October because of all the pink and frankly I wondered if I would be one of those women. 

*Stepping up on my soap box* As it turns out I loved the Komen event. And not only that but I’m counting down the days till Pinktober. I realize that some people have their issues with it but I don’t see how it’s a bad thing. If my carrying around a pink coffee travel mug with me that has a ribbon on it makes even one person stop and think to do a self breast exam, or schedule a mammogram or appointment wither their doctor then its well worth it. If even a few cents of a T-shirt I buy goes to help fund awareness, screenings, treatment or research then how can that be such a bad thing? If my pink bible with words of hope highlighted in pink brings me encouragement during hard days then I don’t see how this can be hurting our cause. Its also not only about awareness, research, screening or treatments for me. You see if my cleaver pink t-shirt brings a laugh or even the slightest encouragement to someone else, especially another survivor than I don’t see how this is such a terrible thing. There is healing in laughter and there is laughter in breast cancer if you just look around. 

Some survivors don’t like seeing a sea of pink because they don't believe it shows the true nature of cancer. I guess sometimes life is what you make of it. No its not all sunshine and roses. Back when I was first diagnosed we kind of got tired of answering the question “how are you” to people. No offense to anyone that asked I realize that you just never know what to say or to ask at a time like that but we got sick of trying to answer that because there is no good answer. Shawn and I being the unique people that we are just started telling people “well we aren’t farting rainbows”. That usually ended the questions and gave people a good laugh. I think that response helped remind people that while yes times were tough, and scary and we didn't know what the outcome would be, that we would get through and we would do it the only way we knew how...together with laughter and love. Now don't get me wrong cancer isn’t this super happy fun time but I don’t see why people think that trying to add a little happy color or a sense of humor downplays what we went through. So you struggled that’s ok! You had a hard dark time and that’s fine. As one of the shirts at the Komen race said “your race your pace”. Everyone deals with things different but I just don’t see why that makes people feel that have to hate on the pink. There are even anti pink campaigns like "think before you pink". I don’t know maybe it doesn’t bother me because I love the color pink. Maybe its because I owned so many pink things already. Maybe its because my roller derby name was PinkE BreakHer. Yes for those who were not aware I was part of the CoMo Derby Dames and I still love my CoMo girls and the sport in general (big shout out to my CoMo girls I hear I missed an amazing bout this weekend).

I love the fact that I get to wear my PinkE gear anytime I want with the best excuse possible. Frankly I think that as survivors of this terrible disease we deserve some joy and happiness and pink makes me happy. I think that after all the treatments we go through leaving us boobless and bald that we deserve to wear a color that’s so pretty and feminine. Because even boobless and bald we can still be feminine and beautiful! So go out there and wear a funny t-shirt that makes someone laugh. Buy some yogurt and send the pink lid in, dye a strip of your hair pink this month, get a pink tattoo. Heck even go out to hooters who happen to be huge supporters (pun intended) of breast cancer and eat some chicken wings just do something that helps raise awareness! If you want a great excuse to buy pink feel free to say that your doing it in support of me I promise you I won’t be offended. If it raises money for research that’s fantastic but even if it doesn’t but it makes one person, even if its you, do a self breast exam or schedule a mammogram then go for it. Yes a cure would be fantastic and of course it is something I hope to see in my lifetime but prevention and awareness are so important especially for those of us with BRCA 1. I know people say that everyone is aware but that’s simply not true. I had no idea that women in their twenties and sometimes even younger can have breast cancer. I thought you had to have a history of it in your family.  I thought that very few people die from breast cancer now days and that too was wrong.There are still so many misconceptions about breast cancer out there. Yes we need a cure but we also need this awareness.

As for the pink haters out there…I’m sorry. I’m sorry that you have so much trouble finding hope and happiness in the color pink. I’m sorry if my plethora of pink offends and upsets you. I’m sorry if my happy carefree attitude about cancer makes you angry and I’m sorry if  I find Pinktober inspiring but stop trying to end the awareness campaigns. Don't try and keep people from attending large events like the race for the cure. If you don't want to participate in those things or wear pink to support your sisters then don't but quit trying to put a global halt on it finding a cure because that is what it appears you are trying to do. As for me, I will gladly support Komen and all the other cancer foundations out there working diligently to promote awareness and prevention, to aid in treatment and researching to find a cure. *stepping down off my soap box now*
Spend this next month sporting your pink and helping raise awareness, find ways to help raise money to fight for the cure and most importantly don't forget to do a self breast exam and schedule an appointment with your doctor and one for a mamo if your of "that age". "Big or small lets save them all"

Friday, September 9, 2011

"The Big C"

 Today marks my one year cancerversary. I can't tell you how blessed I feel to be here today able to write about my life and how much its changed in one short year. I'll never forget the day that I received that call and was told I had the “big c” cancer. Not that I was surprised because I was 99% sure that is what I would hear when I picked up my phone to answer it on September 9th 2010. In fact I would have been more surprised if I had been told that it wasn't cancer. For those out there with IBC you know what I mean; this cancer has a life of its own. That day was surreal and so were the days that followed. It was as if I was living in slow motion while everything around me was going at supper stealth speed. I sat there and watched people buzz around me using tons of words I had never heard of and telling me about treatments and medications and only about every 24th word registered as English. It was a hard time and yet Shawn and I had this peace about us that everything would be ok. Sure we didn't know how I would handle treatments or really just what all the treatments would entail and frankly we didn't really even know if I would physically survive and beat this cancer but we knew that in the end it didn't matter because we had the other “Big C” on our side...Christ. While we prayed before and after the biopsy that everything would turn out fine we also prayed that if it was in fact cancer that we would be able to accept it and to use it as a way to reach out to others, to share our faith with those around us. We prayed over and over that no matter what the results were of the biopsy that we would praise Him.

Today I’m still praising Him and celebrating one of the greatest most life changing moments in my life. Was I happy to hear that I had cancer. No. Not at all. Had I hoped that I would hear good news from the other end of the line? Of course! Did I cry as I hung up the phone? Absolutely! Was I full of questions? Well yea who wouldn't be? Its not as if it was an easy transition to make but at the same time having the “Big C” in our lives before hearing I had the “big c” made it all seem easier to take in. I have spent the day looking back on the last year and I'm so happy that it turned out the way it did. I’m thrilled that I'm here writing and telling the world about my journey. I can't help but wonder how hard fighting the “big c” would have been without the real “Big C” in my life. Today I played my playlist of praise songs that have become one of my greatest comforts over the last year. Not all of them are praise songs but they all are inspirational. I played this list over and over as I dealt with three sick kiddos and disinfected the house today. What a way to celebrate huh? As I got to one of our China hutches and began cleaning it off I picked up the stack of cards that sit there. I have saved every card I have received since this whole cancer thing started. One of my Aunts sent a card with one of my favorite scriptures on it and I'm betting that she didn't even know this was one that I have always loved and that I had quoted often to myself. Romans 8:28 says “and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose”. It was going back over these cards a little while back as I have done so many times over the last year that this one made me stop and put them all down and pull out my bible. How long had it been since I had really studied the book of Romans I'm not sure but here I sat reading it, taking in every chapter and every word, I read things that I had somehow missed many times before. In particular was Romans 5:2-5 “We also have joy with our troubles because we know that these troubles produce patients and patience produces character and character produces hope. And this hope will never disappoint because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts”. did I miss this so many times. I often quote James when talking about perseverance. Don't get me wrong I love that James talks about perseverance and says to “consider it pure joy my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds” and continues to say that perseverance makes you “mature and complete not lacking anything” and while I still love that scripture I think this one better describes both the journey with the “big c” but also my ongoing journey with the “Big C” because it talks of our trials and not just finding joy in them like James says also but because it talks about it producing patients and character and hope. Those my friends are things that you learn from cancer. I'm not saying I'm a patient person in fact I'm far from it but I'm a heck of a lot more patient now than I ever was. I think that my character though it still has a ways to go is also far better than it used to be. There is a song out there by Sammy Kershaw that happens to be on my play list called “Better Than I Used to Be” The lyrics of this song describe me to a T. I encourage you to look this song up sometime and listen to it. The first verse says:

“I know how to hold a grudge\I can send a bridge up in smoke
And I can't count the people I've let down
Or the hearts I've broke
You ain't gota dig too deep if you want to find some dirt on me
But I'm learnin' who you've been ain't you you've gotta be
Its gonna be an uphill climb
but Honey I won't lie

I ain't no angel
But I've been sittin out a few more dances with the devil
and cleanin' up my act little by little
I'm getting there
I can finally stand the man in the mirror I see
I ain't as good as I'm gonna get
But I'm better than I used to be

I’m so happy that that God has spent the last year humbling me. It was in my trials and my weakness that I learned who I am. That I was able to reflect on my character and not only what it was but what I wanted it to be. I’m so thankful that as the song says “I’m learnin’ who you’ve been ain’t who you’ve gotta be” I have joy that my troubles with the “big c” have helped become this new person and that never could have happened without the “Big C” in my life. Its His grace and love that covers us from all those mistakes in the past. Maybe sometimes its not even mistakes as much as it is not doing everything you can to fulfill His purpose. Just as it says in Romans it is certainly from building my character during my trials that I have found hope. Hope that if we unite and dedicate our time, energy and resources we can someday find a cure for cancer. Hope that we can change who we are. Hope that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose”. Hope that we can make a difference in the lives of those around us. Hope that “I ain’t as good as I’m gonna get…but I’m better than I used to be”

Friday, September 2, 2011

Love Out Loud

 If there is one thing that cancer changes about your life its that it forces you to look at everything in new ways. Not only does it force you to see things differently it also does the same to those closest to you. Shawn and I have always enjoyed staying up late and talking with each other. Sometimes its about the silliest most unimportant and odd things. Sometimes its about our plans for the next day or the rest of the week, sometimes its about our hopes and dreams and then sometimes its about so much more. Lately after we have chased the girls off to bed for the 15th time and they have finally given in and gone to sleep we have been talking about some of those ideas from my last blog. Most of my blogs come from our late night talks actually. Its that lesson of compassion and clothing ourselves in it that keeps coming up in our conversations. It nags at me daily about what it means to be compassionate and the more we talk about it the more I realize that we must do more than just talk about it. I probably learned the most throughout this cancer from our late night talks.

To show compassion is really to Love out loud. Now of course this applies to so many areas of our lives. The most obvious is those whom we are closest to. Do you give your spouse a kiss each morning as you go your separate ways? Do you give each other a hug every evening when you get home? When you kids get up for the 23rd time after they have been put to bed do you yell at them to get back in bed or do you give them a hug and explain to them that you love them but they need their rest so that we can have fun again tomorrow? Bed time is exhausting in my house these days. Not as bad as nap time but it is exhausting to say the least. They find every excuse to get up. First for a drink, then to potty, then another drink, then of course to potty again, finally when I’m starting to get tired of the game and they can hear it in my voice they say “mommy I just need one more hug and kiss” in the sweetest and most innocent voice and of course I melt and give them one. I usually tell them at some point that they have had enough to drink or that they need to cover themselves after I have done it a couple times but loving out loud means NEVER refusing them a hug and kiss no matter how tired and frustrated I am of chasing them back to bed. Besides who could say no to this face?

Do you love those close to your heart out loud by sending them cards and notes just because? When you see a friend that you haven’t seen in a while do you say “good to see you” and then carry on or do you love them out loud and show them its good to see them by giving them a hug. What about when they leave? Do you just let them go or do you give them a giant hug and refuse to let go? I apologize to my friends for this because I’m terrible at this! I hate that I’m terrible at this but I’m going to get better at it I promise. Next time your getting the biggest bestest hug!

The thing is you never know just how much time you have left or how much time your loved ones have. That is what makes loving out loud so important. In an instant they could be out of our lives and if that were to happen would they know just how much you loved them? Do me a favor tomorrow and kiss your spouse as you go your separate ways and leave for work, greet them upon return that evening and when your kids get up for the millionth time smile and give them a kiss and go tuck them in one more time.

Loving out loud also means taking compassion on anyone we greet. Again its something that as Christians we are called upon to show compassion just as Christ did. When you are asked for money by a stranger do you stop and question what they may use it for. Do you stand there and judge them for the possible bad choices that may have been the reason that they are living on the street begging or do you reach in your pocket and give them money no questions asked? If you give them some or all of the money in your pocket do you also stand there and preach to them and tell them how if they don’t change their ways they will go to hell? If you do I can tell you that the last thing they need is someone judging them and preaching at them. Do you hand it over and tell them that God loves you and he wants so much for them, that this money is gift not from you but from Him for them. That I believe is more likely what Christ would have done and it will make a much bigger impact on them. Tell them simply to go find a church, to find God if they haven’t already because he can make their life amazing.
 One night when we were talking about what it means to love out loud as I call it Shawn pointed out just how often we fail at this. He asked why we don’t stop to help someone stranded alongside the road. Duh, because its not safe. They could rob you or hurt you or maybe even worse. Then he said “well if say we trust God and this is something that Jesus would have done then shouldn’t we also trust God that he will take care of us if we are doing his work and that even if something does happen that its part of His plan” we sat there in silence for a few minutes. I tried to think of every reason I could to say that he was wrong but I couldn’t do it. No matter how I look at it he is right. If we are going to profess that we are Christians and as Christians we are supposed to try and live our lives just as Christ did then our own fears should not stop us from doing the right thing. In the book of Matthew we are told “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the vary hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” Matthew 10:29-32. That scripture has always been one of my favorites and yet it has taken me most of my life to actually understand the depth of its meaning. No longer will I be afraid to love out loud because God WILL take care of me and my family if we are out there doing His will.
Loving out loud also means finding ways to love those that need it most even when we don’t have contact with them. It breaks my heart to think of all the children and families in the world who are going without food, water and basic needs. Those who are treated poorly by the world that surrounds them, those who each day fear for their lives. Its one thing to think about it and be sad for them and its another to actually do something about it. No I don’t suggest everyone go run and join the mission field. For some maybe that’s the best answer and the way they are meant to love out loud, for some it may mean sending money or other material goods and yet for others it could be something entirely different. I’m not even sure what it means right now for our own family but I know that its something we are praying about and trying to figure out. (For any family that reads this and freaks out no we will not be moving and joining the mission field. I had cancer and need only the best medical care so that I can continue to find ways to better his kingdom. This means staying right where we are. Also this does not mean we will be fostering or adopting children because again I had cancer. A rare and aggressive type that doesn't allow for such things so please do not call freaking out about such things).

Now I'll be honest. Shawn and I have always felt this way and we have had this exact conversation many times since we have been married. The difference is that an experience like this last year forces you to not just talk about things like loving out loud but to actually do it. I challenge you to join our family in our quest to find ways to love out loud in all aspects of life and to embrace what it really means to be a Christian and walk the road the Christ would have walked in our world today.