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Choosing Joy

Have you ever been fully engrossed in a tv show where your favorite character has something serious and irreversible happen to them. The plot takes a sharp turn, and you are left feeling… what now? At just when you think all is lost, the character wakes up and realizes it was all a dream. Their life hasn’t changed dramatically, and they can go on just as they were; just like you can…after you recover from the shock! I have to admit I hate this storyline. I don’t like spending a whole episode thinking things have changed just to find out it was a false alarm.

But I’m not sure I would complain if that happened to the storyline of my life. Some days I think this is all so unreal. Maybe it’s all a dream. Perhaps I will wake up to find I am still pregnant with Robbyn and we are both completely healthy. But that is not the case.

This summer has been a blur having absolutely flown by. When I look back and see all that has transpired since April, it is unbelievable. Our life is unrecognizable. If you had told me all of the things that we would endure in such a short time, I would not have thought it possible. But by the grace of God, we have persevered. We have taken it one step at a time. Step one is complete: Robbyn is here and healthy. Step two was completed two weeks ago: chemotherapy is finished!

Sure, my life would be much simpler if all of this really had been a dream. I was content in April. Our life was good. Our kids were good (most days. If you have toddlers you understand our love/hate relationship). Our jobs were good. No ripples in the pool that was our life. But I think that may have been part of the problem. We were so content with our life that we weren’t striving to do more. We weren’t looking to see what areas in our life where God could be using us. We were wasting the gifts that God had blessed us with. We weren’t striving toward sanctification with the fervor we should have been. (sanctification: a fancy word for becoming more like Jesus).

In many ways, this cancer has not only been a blessing, but also wake-up call. I have been able to see God’s handiwork in even the smallest corners of my life. I have decided to choose to have joy in every situation.

I’m notorious for nagging the daylights out of my husband and being upset that he has not completed my entire honey-do-list on my rigorous timetable. (Jordan, try to hide your surprised face.) But lately, I have not seen the need to be upset over things I would have blown my lid over a few short months ago. I’ve realized what things are worth getting upset about. When you think you are about to die, life gets put into perspective pretty quickly. I have realized the insignificance of things we tend to get upset about; the unimportance of the things we rant and rave about on social media or with our group of friends.

When I thought my days were numbered with my husband, I didn’t want to spend all of my time being upset over things that really didn’t matter anyway. Does it matter that my Pinterest-inspired kitchen utensil holder was not completed by the deadline I had given him? No. He works hard all week and comes home and loves on our babies who are begging for his attention the instant he walks through the door. I want to show him love and compassion, and I have received the same things from him in return. Our house has been so full of love and joy since April, and it took a cancer diagnosis to move us from our complacency to a place filled with joy.

I can see what a blessing each day is, and I have felt genuinely joyful this summer.

No. I’m not happy all of the time, but that is the difference between joy and happiness. Joy is given by God and is not dependent on our circumstances. Happiness for me anyway, is controlled by my circumstances, emotions, hormones, or quality and quantity of food I have eaten. (If I have gone 24 hours without iced coffee you can bet I’m not a happy camper).

“Therefore you now have sorrow, but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.” John‬ ‭16:22‬ ‭

“You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Psalms‬ ‭16:11‬

I can have joy because of the hope I have in Jesus Christ, and these circumstances have allowed me to experience the fullness of the hope and joy that only Jesus can give. I may never have gotten the opportunity to experience this otherwise.

Choosing joy. Not how I would ideally like to do yard work but trying to make the best of every situation.

If the world looks at Christians and sees how upset we get when life doesn’t go according to our plan, why would they want to trust our God? (Especially when it looks like we don’t even trust him!) If we can’t have joy in every circumstance and we know the ending of the story (we win! Christ has beaten death! And we will be with him in Heaven!), why would other people want to hand their lives over to Christ?

It is not hard to have joy when everything is going according to plan. It takes work to have joy when your world is upside down. I believe that we have a greater impact on nonbelievers if we have joy when our future looks uncertain to them. But we have a secret… we know the ending…our future cannot be too bleak when attain heaven at the end of this life.

Like it says in Philippians 1:21, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Meaning if I live, I get the opportunity and privilege to do Christ’s work here on Earth. How cool is that? The creator of the universe wants me to be a part of his plan for the salvation of the world (But God doesn’t promise we won’t suffer here on Earth). On the flip side, if I die, I gain Heaven and shouldn’t that be the ultimate goal of our life? I get to be in Heaven with Christ, where I FINALLY have COMPLETE sanctification (We are imperfect and we will not be completely Christ-like until we shed this sinful human flesh).

I’m a pretty practical person. I’m not huge on theory and I like to have concrete tools to work with. So here are some tools that I have found helpful in choosing joy in my life

Find the bright side in every situation.

I promise there is one. You might just have to look past your unhappiness to find it.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭1:3-4‬

If you think you can’t find the bright side in your situation, just know that you will one day be able to comfort and walk alongside someone going through a similar situation.

  • Meditate on the blessings in your life
  • God has blessed you with so many things: your health, your family, your friends, your job, your home and so much more. Take time to thank him for all that he has done for you. No blessing is too small to thank him for. He owes us nothing but chooses to give us so much. If you can’t think of any, then you are missing a BIG ONE! Christ already died on the cross for you.

    “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world.” Isaiah‬ ‭12:4-5‬ ‬

    Don’t stoop to the negativity of others.

    Negativity can spread like wildfire in the workplace, with your group of friends, at home, and even in your church. It is so easy to jump on the bandwagon! Believe me, I know. But I promise you will have more joy in your life if you steer clear. If you aren’t brave enough to tell them to confront it head on then just remove yourself from the situation. It may mean unfollowing people on facebook.

    “Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy.” Proverbs‬ ‭12:20‬

    Do something for someone else

    We are all selfish by nature. So if things aren’t going the way you had planned, or you feel like your life is lacking joy, then I would encourage you to stop throwing yourself a pity party and do something nice for someone. I think the quickest way to get out of a funk is to help someone in need. Do it secretly, or without expecting anything in return. I think the people who have the most joy in their lives are the ones who are focusing on others. It may be as easy as doing something kind or out of the ordinary for your spouse. Do a task around the house that is usually theirs just to lighten their load. It doesn’t have to be anything earth-shattering. Although, the most joyful times of my life have been serving on mission trips in Mexico; with no air conditioning, sleeping on the floor, sunburnt, trying to learn how to mix mortar by hand. And the people that we were serving were such a blessing to me.

  • Stop dwelling on the circumstances that are out of your control
  • Give those to God. I find in my life there is a direct correlation between dwelling on things out of my control and the level of my anxiety. It is tough for me to give it to God but it also makes me pray harder and more frequently. I try to move from thinking of those thing and shifting my focus to the things that I can do. I don’t think God wants us to use “let go and let God” as a way to sit on our rumps and do nothing. Maybe you lost your job and you may have had no control over that, but that doesn’t mean you don’t go looking for a job because you are “letting god.” God gave you two hands to write a resume with. So use the tools that God has given you to work on the aspects of your life that you have control over instead of dwelling on the things that you can’t.

    The more you choose joy, the easier it gets.

    I think the inverse is also true. The more you choose negativity, the easier it becomes to jump to that reaction in every situation. Make it a priority to choose joy. You will probably have to stop yourself when you start to head down a path of negative thoughts or feelings. Pray to God to help you see the blessings in your life, pray for the strength and the wisdom to overcome negativity, doubt, and worry. When you feel like you just can’t have joy… pull from your personal source of joy. The Holy Spirit. He will be your joy and sustain you when you have none.

    “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah‬ ‭8:10

    So, my life may not be a dream like so many tv episodes I have seen, but I can have joy because the creator of the universe has written my story.

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    In Sickness and in Health

    Do you take Kari to be your wife, to have and to hold, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish as long as you both shall live?

    On your wedding day, the happiest day of your life, you say your vows to the love of your life. And during those vows, you are probably only thinking of the better, the richer, and the health. No one is thinking of the worse, the poorer, or the sickness. I mean I assumed those times would eventually occur, but I certainly didn’t think we would be staring down the barrel of sickness five years and eleven months into our marriage.

    My favorite picture of the two of us and it was candid.


    Our wedding was perfect. I know most people think that theirs was but ours really was! I had it all planned. The bridesmaids’ dresses cost only $12 a piece, and I found my dress on clearance. (I refuse to buy things at full price) I had the ceremony configured that from the time I walked down the aisle to the time we were pronounced husband and wife was only 14 minutes (Jordan and I neither one are big fans of standing in front of people). For the Grande Finale, we had a s’mores bar; so yeah, it was pretty awesome.

    But as perfect as our wedding day was, our marriage has been that amazing and more. I swear Jordan treats me like the queen of England. If I ask for anything, he moves heaven and earth to make it possible. I can probably count on my hand the number of times Jordan has told me no. Granted, there are probably plenty of times he should have told me no and didn’t!

    I get all of these brilliant ideas from Pinterest or Joanna Gaines, and I usually get about 1/ 8th of the way through my project before Jordan has to come to bail me out. I have this extraordinary skill; I strip every screw I have ever put in. It’s one of Jordan’s favorite features of mine. He is the one who has to come in and figure out how to finish the project with only stripped screws to work with! Jordan especially likes it when I get the fever to paint, and more paint ends up on the floor and me than on the walls. He just shakes his head at me. But how else am I going to get the farmhouse look?!

    He wears matching Halloween costumes with me every year even though he hates it. He makes me laugh: all the time. He once drove 2.5 hours round trip to make sure there wasn’t a burglar outside the house I was housesitting. He always lets me control the remote. He goes to Walmart to buy me a chocolate cake from the deli section when I just can’t fight the craving. He will sit through a hallmark movie and only complain a quarter of the time. He let me pick our first dog (Jordan looked ridiculous taking a teacup chihuahua for a walk)

    Jordan and I have been on this cancer journey together, every single step of the way. We have had to make so many major decisions that I never dreamed we would be making at this point in our life. Is our life insurance up to date? Will we have to sell our house to pay medical bills? How should we handle our finances? Which hospital system do we trust with to care for our premature baby? Should I have reconstructive surgery? How much should we tell our children?

    Our wedding vows have definitely been put to the test but I think we are passing with flying colors. Our marriage is stronger and more Christ-centered than it has ever been. We have been together since we were 17 and we have grown and matured together spiritually and physically. We have grown through failures and successes. We have tried new things and created traditions. We even took on our own fixer-upper house before the Chip and Joanna were a household name, and I am convinced if you can get through a remodel with your spouse you can get through anything life throws at you.

    We have gone to church camp, Christian conferences, retreats, and bible studies together. He is a perfect example of a Spiritual leader for our family. I think it is so important to pray about decisions in your marriage, to worship together, and to study God’s word together. I pray for Jordan daily and I know he prays for me.

    He has been the rock of this family; especially recently. I don’t have too many complaints about chemotherapy, but I definitely feel more drained as the day goes on. Jordan is here every day in and day out, after working hard all day, doing everything that needs to be done with our house and kids. He gives baths, plays with them outside, changes so many diapers, fixes our air conditioner, does dishes and anything else that needs to be done without uttering a single complaint about the extra load. If Jordan thought chopping of his arm would help me, I know he would do it in a heartbeat. He is the prime example of loving me like Christ loves the church. The love Jordan has for me is a sacrificial love. I do not doubt that if he could bare this disease for me, he would.

    “Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

    Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

    I can’t imagine having to go through all of this without the love and support of my husband. I count it a blessing because I know many people navigating their cancer journeys don’t have the support I have. He has lifted me up mentally, spiritually, and physically over the last few months. But I also know that we would have already crumbled under the weight of this disease if it weren’t for Christ’s love for us and His position in our marriage. Jordan and I are both in agreement that the order of importance for our life is as follows:

    1. God

    2. Spouse

    3. Children

    If these get out of order, I believe our life will quickly be in disorder. The Bible is pretty clear about how our life should be prioritized.

    Matthew 10:37 says, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”

    If I put Jordan before my love of God, then I will rely solely on Jordan. He is only human and will fail eventually, just as I will. We both need to depend on God more than each other because God is perfect and will never fail us. God wants us to have him at the center of our lives because when we put him first, everything else will fall into place.

    Everything in our life needs to be looked at from an eternal perspective: including our marriage. How is what we are doing as a couple affecting the kingdom of God? Are we being a good example of a Christian marriage? Are we raising our kids in a way that leads them to have a strong love of Christ?

    Our marriage should not just be about the two of us. I want our marriage to be a tool that God can use to bring people to him. If we have a good marriage but keep it to ourselves are we really honoring God with what he has given us? We should be doing the work of Christ together. God brought us together for a reason and I don’t want to get to the end of my life and see missed opportunities.

    “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” Luke 12:48

    Jordan and I have been given so much which means we have so much we need to give back by praying for others, offering support, serving together in and out of the church, raising godly children, being examples for a Christ-centered marriage.

    Sure, Joanna Gaines has Chip, but I have Jordan Justice.

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    Really Connecting

    Have you ever scrolled through your massive amounts of Facebook friends liking pictures, stories, memes? Posted vague comments on people’s walls saying “we need to get together soon?” Kept checking your Facebook or Instagram to see how many likes you got, as if it validates your existence? In a world, we are so “connected,” why is it that so many people feel so alone? Why does the suicide rate continue to rise even with thousands of Facebook friends?

    I’m not an expert in human psychology, in fact, it was one of the few classes in college that I got a B in. Nevertheless, I think that in a world where it is so easy to get in touch with others with a quick comment or like on social media, we use it as an excuse to not make meaningful connections with others. We use it as a crutch to stay at a shallow level and never build a deeper relationship. We claim we don’t have the time (myself included) but we have time to troll through all of our social media accounts and spent hours looking at cat memes. Don’t get me wrong I love a good cat meme.

    I have seen so many people come into the cancer center and sit in the waiting room, looking defeated and completely alone. I have wondered if they are awaiting test results or if they are waiting to find out their treatment options. It is very humbling and makes me feel so guilty that I always, always, have someone or multiple someones with me. My dad insists on taking me to every single appointment, test or, lab draw I have. I had to talk him out of coming to my six-week postpartum OBGYN appointment, because NO ONE wants there dad there for that. He still insisted on dropping me off at the door. He is definitely a helicopter mom, but I am blessed and wouldn’t want it any other way.

    I have had so many offers of people wanting to drive me to chemo and sit with me during my infusion. This is so wonderful, but it also makes me feel so much sadness for all of the people I see there completely alone. I have heard from many of the nurses how lucky I am to have such a great support system because it is so rare. The nurse navigators at Community are phenomenal and attend all of your appointments to make sure they are entirely up to date on your treatment. They know your plan of care and can answer any questions you have, but that is no replacement for the support of a friend or family.

    I’ve said it before, and I will say it again… this is why it is so important to have a church home. Sure, you can watch a sermon online or do a devotional at home alone or with your family, but that should be supplemental to church membership. There is no replacement for the unity you feel when you worship the creator with people who also love him. When you attend church, no matter how well you know the other members, you already have 2 things in common: Christ died for you, and it is up to you to share that message with others.

    “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

    ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:24-25‬

    It doesn’t matter your social standing, economic status, race, political belief, or whether you pull your toilet paper from the top of the roll or from underneath. You all make up the body of Christ. If a church is made of members who are identical to one another, then that Church is not doing a very good job spreading the gospel. It is not meant to be a clique but a home base for your collective mission. It is a place to spiritually renew yourself before you go back out into the world.

    And no, for you skeptics, I don’t believe that the church is perfect. Not even close. As a pastor’s kid, I can tell you, I have seen the downfalls of the Church and its members since I was a little girl. That doesn’t change my feelings on the importance of the church. The church is made up of sinners, and we get off track at times when Satan and our sinful human nature intervene. But for every time I have seen failure in the Church; I have seen support, love, and compassion tenfold, because of the undeserved grace shown to us by Jesus Christ.

    I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if I had an emergency, there are at least 50 people that I could call who would be at my door within minutes. The church is so more than a building. In fact, it has nothing to do with the building at all. It is all about the people whom make up the church. If Mt. Pisgah burned down tomorrow we would still exist and thrive because the people are the church. I can’t help but wonder if these people in the oncology center have a church family to depend on. Are they just part of a church that is not loving its brother or sister in Christ the way they should or do they not have a church family at all? Either way, I feel the Church has probably failed them.

    At most weddings, you have heard I Corinthians chapter 13 (“Love is patient. Love is kind…”) read so lovingly. What you probably don’t know, is that it is not written in the tone of voice it’s read in at weddings. Paul is ranting, actually yelling, at the church in Corinth because they were fighting amongst themselves, and are not loving each other (Fellow Christians, not even the nonbelievers!) as they should!

    “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I give all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, I have nothing.”

    I Corinthians‬ ‭13:2-3

    ‭‭According to my bible commentary, this use of the word love is not commonly used, because it means “self-giving love that is more concerned with giving than receiving” We should have this “self-giving” love for other Christians by more than just a quick thumbs up on Facebook. We should show up for them in their time of need even when it is not convenient for us. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t convenient for Christ to be crucified unjustly for our sins. (Guilt trip intended! I am a mom of three, remember?) I wonder if the people sitting alone at the cancer center had a church family that was just too busy to be there. We should offer our support in person, or through a call, or text.

    Each family in our church has a deacon assigned to them. Our deacon called us in the early stages of our cancer journey when were in the car coming back from an appointment and prayed with us over the phone. That act of love brought us so much peace. We should really pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ, not just type it into a comment box on Facebook. (Not that it is a bad thing…if we actually stop to pray for them)

    I have had the incredible privilege of not only my home church praying fervently for me but multiple churches all over the country and beyond. I have churches in El Paso, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, New York, Alabama, and even Turkey praying for me. How blessed am I? This is just one advantage of church membership! You are not only a member of your church body but also the global church body. Do I sound like a salesman yet?


    I was given this beautiful quilt from the prayer ministry at a church in Georgetown, Kentucky. This quilt has several strings knotted all over the blanket and as it says above “Each not represents a prayer that was said for you.”


    Pictured above are some of the members of Olive Branch Baptist Church in Vevay, Indiana. They are praying for me over 2 blankets that they sent to me. I don’t know most of them personally but we have gone to church camp together for over 15 years, and we share a love of Christ. Matthew 18:29 Christ says, “Where two or more are gathered together in my name I am there in their midst.”

    These pictures may not mean much to you, but I believe in the power of prayer and that “love never fails” (I Corinthians 13:8) I know that these people have not just liked a comment on Facebook, but they have taken action and gone to the throne of God on my behalf. This is love. The kind of love that the world will stop and take notice of. We need to love other Christians (even though sometimes they are the hardest people to love!) so that we can show the world that Christ’s love has made us unique.

    I can’t help but think that if we exhibited this love and reached out to those in our church, making an effort to make others feel cherished, that people would extend that love to the world. We could have an impact on the rate of loneliness, depression, and, suicide by loving others the way that Christ loves us. Like my mom says, especially when watching TV commercials nowadays, “This world needs Jesus!”

    So, to finish my sales pitch, I would encourage you to make a meaningful connection with someone this week. Starting with someone in your own church family.

    If you don’t have a church family, I strongly encourage you to find one. There is a church on just about every corner. Mt Pisgah has a 9 (traditional) service and 11 (contemporary) service, and we would love to have you, as would many other churches in town! http://mtpisgahbaptist.org/

    Contact someone you have been meaning to reach out to but have just been too busy to do so.

    Stop and really pray for someone that God is putting on your heart or mind.

    Invite a new church member out for coffee or play date to make a connection with them.

    Invite someone new to your church.

    Stop watching your cat memes and figuring out which Harry Potter house you belong to and make a real difference in someone’s life.


    ***If you are curious about my study bible here it is. Half of the page is scripture and half is commentary. I find it very helpful to understand fully what the text is saying. It helps me read scripture in context.

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    If you give a toddler clippers…

    I’m sure you have heard it said: “You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” Well, that was definitely how I felt approximately 16 days after my first chemo. I have always, ALWAYS complained about my hair. It’s too curly. It’s too frizzy. It doesn’t cooperate. It’s a dull brown. Why couldn’t I have Holly’s shiny, perfect hair? My mom has told me my entire life, that if I have a problem with it I can, and I quote “Take it up with God when I get to heaven.” I must have complained too many times. I am now bald.

    The purpose of the chemotherapeutic drugs is to attack and kill fast-growing cancer cells. Well, it kills all fast-growing cells in the body. And can you guess what some of the fastest growing cells in the body are?

    That’s right.

    Hair Follicles.

    Honestly, losing my hair hasn’t bothered me too badly. For me, it is proof that the chemotherapy is working. I can’t see the drugs working on the cancer inside my body but I can see my hair falling out, and that is proof enough for me that treatment is working.

    Maybe it’s all of the free time on my hands, but I can’t help but compare my diminishing hair to identifying a Christian in the world today. I’m not saying that I can tell who is and who isn’t christian. Only God knows who has truly accepted Christ into their heart, but there should be outward signs of an inward change. The world should be able to identify that we are Christians.

    John 13:34-35 says,

    “A new commandment that I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this, all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

    Just as hair loss is a byproduct of my chemotherapy; we should have byproducts of Christ living in us. These are characteristics that you have probably heard more than once: the fruits of the spirit. They sound simple enough, and yet we (or maybe just me) seem to fail to display these attributes daily. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

    These traits are rare in the world that we live in. A world where we argue nastily with strangers in comment threads on social media. A world where we are in such a hurry all of the time we scream at the person driving the speed limit in front of us. A world we complain about not having the nicest house, or car, or phone when there are people across the world that would be ecstatic with a tiny portion of our material possessions.

    If we can display the characteristics in our daily lives, we will stick out like a sore thumb. Just as I am a walking billboard for cancer with my very bald head, if we live in such a way displaying the fruits of the spirit, we will be a walking billboard for Christ in a dark and jaded world.

    Don’t worry I was preaching to myself on that soapbox too.

    Back to my hair; or lack thereof.

    It is a bizarre feeling when your hair starts to fall out. It started out with my head tingling. (weird, but I could deal with it) The next few days it turned into a slightly painful tingling but still manageable. I had some options. I could pull my fairly long, curly hair out in clumps, I could cut it short, or I could shave it completely. My sister talked me into to cutting it short so that I had an idea of what it would look like when it came back in.

    Exhibit A

    I had my cute little pixie cut almost two weeks when one night while Jordan and I were watching tv, I had pulled and picked at my hair until there was a feline-sized ball of hair next to the couch. The painful but manageable tingling had turned into a feeling of someone yanking my hair out. It was giving me a huge headache… so I caved. It was an amazing and peculiar phenomenon; once my head was shaved the pain went away immediately.

    One of my biggest fears going through this whole process is how to will affect my children. I don’t want them to see me as sick. I don’t want them to be scared or worry about their mommy. They are only two and three. Reed is a smart kid but still not quite at an age that he can grasp the whole picture. We have told him only that mommy has to take some medicine to make her better, but it will make her hair come out.

    Much to my surprise, the kids haven’t been fazed at all by the Brittney Spears circa 2007 mental breakdown hairstyle. They look at me the same. They still want to cuddle with me. They do not seem the least bit concerned about my appearance. They know that I am still the same person that I was yesterday and the day before, and they trust that my love for them is the same.

    If my children can trust me, a human who makes mistakes daily, so willingly, why do I have issues trusting a perfect God.

    Hebrews 13:8 says “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” It doesn’t matter if my circumstances change. He still the same God.

    I got a little bit ahead of myself. Let me rewind.

    I decided I didn’t want to freak the kids out by walking in bald one day. We decided to let the kids be a part of my transformation. I was about to face the scariest part of my cancer journey. No, not being bald… giving my two-year-old and three-year-old a set of clippers and letting them help shave my head. I really wanted to try to make it fun. (I mean what toddler wouldn’t have fun when they are given a set of clippers and told to go to town)

    The pictures that follow are not glamorous. They weren’t taken by a professional. I have no makeup on…holding my kids’ fruit snacks…in front of our bathroom. This is not staged to be Instagram perfect. This is documentation of our REAL life experience with cancer.

    Jordan making the ceremonial first pass of the clippers

    Ryanne’s turn!
    Reed getting his turn. (Notice the bald spot on my right side)

    The aftermath.

    I would consider our head shaving party a success. The kids had fun!

    Once we were done Ryanne even shouted it was her turn to shave HER head!

    So naturally, we have locked up the clippers.

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    Chemo According to Kari

    Chemo #1

    This post is a little different. I want to explain my thoughts on the ins and outs of chemotherapy so far, especially for people who haven’t had much experience with cancer treatment before.

    As a disclaimer: I AM NOT AN EXPERT. I am 100% sure this is not everyone’s experience, and all cancers are different!

    ***I repeat, I by no means consider myself an expert on the subject, this is just how my treatment have gone so far.***

    Sunday, April 15th, we had Robbyn and Monday April 23rd I had my first chemo. It was the first out of 8 treatments. I go every other Monday; so it’s a total of 16 weeks for chemotherapy to be completed. I call them my chemo “on week” and “off week.” Basically, I get a dose of chemo on Monday and spend the next two weeks recovering until my next dose. The first four treatments that I received we’re Adriamycin (AKA the “Red Devil” because it is literally bright red and TOXIC, it even turns your urine bright red) and Cytoxin. The second half of my chemotherapy treatment will be a drug called Taxol; which I will start next week.

    (That’s right! I’m halfway through chemo as of now!)

    Below is a text from my brother’s good friend and coworker. As a cancer survivor himself, he has been a wealth of knowledge and support for us during this process. He sent this text through my brother for my first day of chemo.


    My knowledge of oncology was very limited before I started this journey. Nursing school really only touched on it here and there. It’s astonishing how much I have learned over the last month and a half. In my limited knowledge of cancer treatment, I assumed I would have to sit there all day receiving my infusion when in reality that is not the case. It’s mostly a lot of prep work!

    When I go in for treatment they immediately get my weight and labs to make sure I am healthy enough to get the chemotherapy that day. They check to make sure my white blood cell count is high enough along with a plethora of other labs.

    After the labs come back, the oncologist looks them over and comes to examine me. She sees me before every chemotherapy treatment; listens to my heart and lungs, completes a breast exam, and asks how I am doing overall. (She is absolutely fantastic in case you were wondering!)

    Once she examines me, she verifies that it is ok for the pharmacist to mix my infusion. The infusion is weight-based and made for me specifically, so it can’t be mixed until they know for sure I will be receiving it that day. Once pharmacy starts preparing the infusion, my nurse gives my “premeds,” which is a cocktail of long and short-acting drugs to combat the nausea that is caused by the Red Devil. Those premeds run over 30 minutes.

    Next up!

    The main event: my chemo!

    The Adriamycin is pushed in 3 separate syringes over 15 minutes by my nurse. The cytoxin is next and it runs on an IV pump over 30 minutes. So its a ton of set up time for a short infusion! I usually get to the cancer center at 11:00 and leave by 2:30.

    All of these medications go into my port which I had surgically placed the day of my second chemotherapy treatment. They can also draw my labs out of my port so I only have to be stuck one time. They kindly gave me numbing cream to put on it before I arrive, so it doesn’t hurt.

    The port is quite possibly the greatest medical innovation in my opinion!

    This is my port when it is “accessed” or being used.

    One of the side effects of Adriamycin is mouth sores, so to combat that, the logic is to fill your mouth with ice chips to vasoconstrict (shrink the blood vessels) in your mouth to keep the medicine from causing sores.

    So, I can’t talk very well while the medication is going in. Not to mention, I look completely ridiculous.

    I’m not sure if it actually works or if the staff thinks it funny to watch me try to talk with a mouthful of ice.

    Also, after the completing four treatments of this, I will never be able to eat ice chips again. I associate the taste with the horrible taste of adriamycin in my mouth. For the past week, it has tasted like I have a wet dollar bill in my mouth… mmm.

    Another huge side effect of Adriamycin is a drop in your white blood cell count putting the body at increased risk for infection. I get a pump that looks like an insulin pump placed on the back of my arm. It has a medication called Neulasta, that automatically injects my arm 24 hours after chemo with a drug that kicks my bone marrow into overdrive to make more white blood cells.

    I have to call if my temperature is above 100.9 because it is considered a medical emergency. My oncologist said she didn’t care if it was 3 am I needed to call her immediately. If you know me, I usually have to be on my deathbed to call for a doctor’s appointment, so this would take some adjusting to.

    One more significant side effect of Adriamycin and Cytoxin is hair loss, but you will have to wait for another post to hear all about that!

    As you can see from the top picture, the nurse is all garbed up head to toe with protective equipment. A gown, special chemo gloves, goggles, mask, and a special bag to dispose of it in.

    It’s very comforting to know that the medication going into my body is that toxic!!

    In reality, I don’t care what they are putting into my body as long as it kills the cancerous tissue.

    I am also supposed to drink a TON of water. The goal is to keep hydrated and flush all of the byproducts of the chemo out of your system to make you feel better.

    This is easier said than done when you are already queasy!

    Just a word of warning: drinking that much water especially if you have just delivered a baby a week earlier, make sure you are close to a bathroom because your bladder has NOT recovered from childbirth.

    I go back to the cancer center every Friday of my chemo “on week” to get a liter of normal saline to rehydrate my body. I don’t really notice how dry I really was until Saturday morning when I feel like a new person from the extra fluid.

    I start Taxol on my next visit, and this regimen will be different. The Taxol is a 3 hour infusion. So, the prep work (labs, pharmacy, and exam) will be the same but with a longer infusion time. So, I am told I should plan on being there 5 hours. I haven’t quite figured out how I am going to sit still that long. All I can say is thank goodness for Netflix and my Kindle.

    I cannot complain because God has been so good through all of this and my side effects have been so minimal compared to what many others go through. One nurse even asked if she could clone me! My nausea has been manageable and my white blood cell count has remained within normal range for the first half of treatment. I think most of my fatigue is due to the newborn and 2 toddlers at home!

    Chemo #2

    Chemo #3


    Chemo #4 HALFWAY!
    (Another chemo side effect: hyperpigmentation or darkening of my skin. Notice my knuckles)

    I have been a nurse for 6 years and a student nurse before that for 3 years. Having no significant health issues my entire life, I have realized that I’ve never fully understood the impact good nursing care can have.

    I have taken care of many patients and many of those were cancer patients, but being on the other side of the healthcare system now has turned my world upside down. I am seeing things from the patient perspective that I have never considered before.

    Until recently, I had never been in the fragile position of awaiting critical test results, being unsure of my treatment options, or have very little understanding of the treatment I would be receiving. The teaching my oncology nurse has given me has been vital and could save my life.

    Feeling the nurses’ genuine compassion and having them taking the time to ask how I am really doing, has made all of the difference. Seeing these nurses care for me makes me proud to be a part of the profession, and makes me want to work harder to be a better nurse and patient advocate in the future.

    ”Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, and patience.” Colossians 3:12

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    Lights. Camera. Action.

    People were offering to help us left and right. They were praying for me and “officially” announcing my situation at church in front of so many people. I had heard talk of tee shirts, wristbands, badge holders. All things that people were doing out of the absolute goodness of their hearts, but the thought of being the center of attention on such a large scale, sort of made me want to vomit.

    I have always been slightly socially awkward. My dad and siblings can talk to people with such ease, and I usually end up standing awkwardly to the side, hoping people forget that I’m there. It takes a few times of talking to me to realize I’m not quite as awkward as I first seem. Only slightly!

    Don’t get me wrong; once we get to know each other, it’s hard to shut me up, and I have actually gotten much better than I used to be.

    I swear I did not order my own food at restaurants until I was well into high school; always having my parents or siblings order for me.

    To this day a waiter could bring me the complete wrong meal with a giant hair in it, and I would accept it with a polite smile.

    After this week, it was clear that God was going to pulling me kicking and screaming out of my comfort zone.

    I was going to be in the sympathetic limelight, and there was nothing that I could do about it.

    I wanted to keep my lousy news quiet until we had some answers, but that ship had long sailed. I was so worried people would bombard me questions I didn’t have the answers to, and I was not mentally prepared for that.

    Much to my surprise, it wasn’t people prying or drilling me with questions, but people graciously offering prayers and support, both physical and emotional.

    I had two options. I could keep everything a secret and decline all of this help people were offering so freely, or I could be upfront and accept these sincere acts of charity with as much grace as I could muster.

    Every time I saw someone from my family they were telling of another person or organization that had plans to help Jordan and me. It was so overwhelming. I didn’t want to put people out or have them think I was abusing the charity they had offered.

    I’m sure it has a lot to do with pride. I didn’t want to be the “sick” one needing help. I want to be the one helping others.

    In light of all of these people coming out of the woodwork to offer their help and my ever growing anxiety over all of this, the night before my PET scan I bargained with God, big time!

    I was so concerned that my diagnosis would turn into a spectacle with my name being plastered all over Facebook or my face on posters for benefit dinners. (These are an introvert’s WORST nightmare).

    I prayed and begged God for good PET scan results, and in turn, I would let him make as big of a spectacle as he wanted. (Not the most spiritually mature thing to do, I’m sure) Shoot! I would print off the posters with my face on them myself! I would accept the help offered to me, not turn people away, tell everyone what God had done for me, if he would just heal me.

    Well, the next day, as you know, yielded fantastic news from my scan and the morning after that…God made a pretty funny joke.

    We dropped the kids off at our babysitter pretty early that next morning. I hadn’t been able to see Robbyn the day before because of my slightly radioactive status and wanted to be there in time to feed her.

    We had not been in the room 15 minutes when a tall man in a suit walks in from ”marketing” and says they are shooting a video for nurses’ week and wanted to get shots of a NICU nurse with a family. Our family.


    It was quite a production. Lights. Camera. Action.

    Well if you think I’m not a fan of being in the spotlight, then you should meet my husband! Compared to him, I have the social graces of Miss America. I’m pretty sure most people think he is in physical pain during social gatherings based on the RBF plastered on his face.

    We are a great deal alike though, in that once you get to know him he doesn’t stop talking, and he is loud. Seriously loud.

    He yells all the time in the same tone whether he’s happy, mad, funny, or quoting a movie (which is a well-honed skill of his).

    I swear, he is so loud that all of our children knew his voice better than mine at birth.

    So, this marketing guy really didn’t know how horrible of a situation he was putting Jordan and me in.

    I’d done it though. I told God I would gladly be made a spectacle of and he delivered, very quickly I might add.

    Now, God has blessed us with free will and I had every opportunity to say no, but I was serious when I bargained with him.

    I wanted to be obedient, and see the plan he had in store for me.

    I have failed in the past when God has given me opportunities to share my faith and chickened out; using my God-given awkwardness as an excuse. I didn’t want to fail him again.

    There is a man in the Old Testament, in Judges Chapter 6, named Gideon. He lived in occupied Israel, and when God appears to him, he is cowardly threshing wheat in hiding, so his food isn’t stolen by the country’s enemy, the Midianites. God is coming to Gideon to tell him to raise up an army to rebel against Israel’s captors. God arrives on the scene and says “The LORD is with you mighty man of valor!” 

    God is calling this man to do something extraordinary. A man who is clearly not acting very bold or mighty. A man who is a farmer, not a warrior. A man who knows “My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” (Judges 6:15).

    He is the smallest man, in the weakest clan, from the smallest tribe of an enslaved country.

    He has some legitimate concerns if you ask me.

    Gideon and I have a lot in common. Mainly, we are cowards, and we come prepared with excuses.

    But thankfully, another thing Gideon and I have in common is that we serve a God who sees us not as we are, but as the extraordinary people HE created us to be.

    God came to cowardly Gideon and called him a mighty man of valor. God saw Gideon as the marvelous creature he designed and gifted with the ability to do great things for God. Gideon didn’t even want to believe it when God himself told him.

    I could feel God calling me to be brave.

    To step outside my comfort zone.

    He has a job for me to do and I have been hiding. I’m not special. He has given the same calling to me as all Christians.

    Love God.

    Love People.

    SPREAD THE GOSPEL.

    (So if you don’t think you know what God is calling you to do, start there!)

    I have been so cowardly in the past. I have missed so many opportunities to share the love of God with people. To share how great my life is because of Jesus Christ. That I have peace and hope because he died for me.

    How could I experience this magnificent love and not want to tell everyone I meet?

    I mean, seriously, when I can tell the cashier at Walmart how to get great discounts at Dunkin Donuts but am too scared to tell them Jesus loves them… That is a problem.

    I think God used this nurses’ week commercial as a way to pull me a little further out of my comfort zone before he pushes me head first into the waters of something great.

    I don’t know exactly what that is, and to be honest, it makes me nervous but as Judges 6:14 says “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?”

    He has sent me. So I will go.

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    Testing, Testing

    It was a blessing that Robbyn was in the NICU, because there was no way we would have been able to care for a newborn with all of the testing and appointments ahead of me that week.

    I would have loved to sit in the NICU and rock her 24/7, but I had a job to do: fight this cancer.

    I was discharged as early as I could be; 24 hours on the dot after delivering Robbyn. I called my nurse navigator at community. (She coordinates all of my appointments, testing, scripts, and financial assistance and she is AMAZING). I called to tell her I had delivered Robbyn the morning before, and was hoping some of my testing could be moved up so we could start chemo ASAP. Not that I was in a hurry or anything.

    Well, she moved heaven and earth and got almost everything moved up. I was discharged from St Francis on the 16th and had my mammogram, clip placement, and cardiac echo done on the 17th. Talk about service! The night of the 17th, the night before my PET scan, I was an anxious mess.

    I prayed what I have been for what seems hourly the last two weeks, “God give me peace!”

    For me, this scan was the most significant piece of missing information. It would tell us if the cancer had started somewhere else, or if it had already spread to other areas of my body.

    The next morning, I woke up at 6 am to pray, no, beg God for good results. Ryanne had wandered downstairs sleepy-eyed with tousled hair, crawled in my lap, and slept while I prayed.

    I begged God not to leave this little girl without a mommy, and for God to allow me the privilege of watching my three beautiful children grow.

    I also prayed for peace if I didn’t hear the results that I wanted and for the strength to keep my eyes fixed on God.

    Reed was clingy and could sense probably something was off. Jordan looked like he hadn’t slept in a week. How lucky I am I to have so many people concerned and love me so much?

    We got to the cancer center where I was registered, and taken back to a tiny room with nothing but a recliner and a small table. The technician started an IV, then left and came back in the room with a small lock box. She explained that I would be injected with a radioactive tracer that would attach to sugar because fast growing cells use a lot of sugar. Cancer cells are very fast growing; so they would light up on the scan and show if there were cancerous spots anywhere else on my body.

    She opened it up the small lock box and inside was a menacing looking metal syringe that resembled something they inject into the villain in a superhero movie to give him super-human powers. She explained that the tracer would stay in my body for 6 hours and advised me not to be near children.

    Well great, no seeing Robbyn today unless I want to turn her into a Marvel character.

    She went on to tell me that the tracer takes an hour to circulate through my body before they could complete the scan, so I would have to sit in this tiny room until then.

    It was then I realized that I had left my purse with Jordan, and asked the technician if she could get it from him. She came back to say, “Um…He and your mom went to the NICU when we told them it would be a while before you are finished.”

    Well, I couldn’t be upset that he was so smitten with a certain little gal in the NICU. She was so sweet and had the roles been reversed I would have done the same thing. He is an amazing dad with so much love for our kids.

    But with him at the NICU with my purse, I now had to sit in this tiny room in complete silence for an hour.

    So I sat.

    And prayed.

    And begged.

    Again.

    I begged God with everything inside me to take this illness from me. To let this cancer be confined in my breast. To keep me with my husband and kids.

    It was then, that I had the biggest epiphany of my 28 years. I was having a tiny glimpse into what Christ must have felt in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before he was crucified. I was sitting in this room, in physical pain, worrying about being separated from my husband and my small children should this cancer kill me.

    The pain that I felt had nothing to do with the fear of dying, but rather it all had to do with the separation from my family.

    How much more awful must it have been for the holy, perfect, Christ to know that he would willingly take on the sin of the whole world (past, present, and future). On the cross, He took our place as the holy sacrifice, so that we could go to heaven but in the return he had to be separated from God the father while doing so.

    God the father is so completely just and holy that he cannot be in the presence of anything unholy (aka: all of us). Because God is so just, someone had to pay the price for our sin. So, Jesus Christ came to earth to live a sinless life, because we clearly cannot and died on the cross to “settle the bill” for our sin so that we can be in the presence of God for eternity.

    It has always baffled me why Jesus was so upset in the garden the night before he was crucified. He knew what was about to happen. He knows everything, for pete sake. It was the whole point of him coming to earth, and he knew exactly how the story would end. He knew that he would rise from the dead after three days conquering death like no one had or ever will. So why was he so distraught?

    “Father, if it is your will take this cup from me; nevertheless not my will but yours be done. Then an angel of the LORD appeared to him from heaven, strengthening him, and being in agony he prayed more earnestly. Then his sweat became great like drops of blood falling on the ground.” Luke 22:42-45

    I have been told this story in church over and over again but it had never “clicked” with me until now.

    He was so distraught because he was going to be separated from his father.

    The pain of knowing that he would have the sin of the world on him and would not be able to be in the presence of God, tormented him.

    Jesus knew the ending but that didn’t make the separation any easier.

    Just as we know the ending; as Christians we win. Jesus Christ has defeated death and Satan. We will go to heaven and be with God for eternity, but that doesn’t make the idea of being separated from our loved ones any easier.

    The pain of knowing if I died I would not be near my husband and children was crippling.

    It makes it that much more absolutely humbling to know that Christ took on that kind of pain…FOR ME, so that I can have eternal life.

    It was at this point, I began to worry since the tracer was attracted to blood sugar and hyperactive cells and maybe I should calm down before I have a panic attack and my whole body lights up like I Christmas tree on the can! (I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works but I didn’t want to take any chances.)

    I then prayed for peace…again. I wanted that peace that passes all understanding.

    It was then something happened that has never happened to me before. God started bringing bible verses to the front of my mind. No, that’s not a miracle and they are all verses that I have heard before but one right after another they were filling my head.

    First I heard, “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalms 46:10

    “The Lord will fight for you, you only need to be still.” Exodus 14:14

    “I have told you these thing that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble but take heart for I have overcome the world” John 16:33

    “Be anxious about nothing but in everything with prayer and petition, with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

    (Disclaimer: I did not know the exact chapter and verse of these at the time)

    And then… I fell asleep in the chair, even though minutes earlier I was ready to bolt from the building. It was amazing the overwhelming calm that God had given me.

    This was peace, real peace.

    I had no idea if he would heal me but I had peace.

    The kind of peace that cannot be described.

    The actual scan was uneventful and very much like and MRI. As we left, my navigator said she would call as soon as she had the results. We went to eat lunch, then Jordan was going back to the NICU with his sister, since I had been banished due to my radioactive status.

    My mom had a few things to pick up, so I was going to ride with her to Meijer. On stop 11 road right by St. Francis, my phone rang.

    It was my navigator.

    She said she had the results of the PET scan.

    My immediate response was to throw up.

    I didn’t.

    She said the PET scan was clear! I asked about my lymph nodes and she said they were clear too! Praise God! He heard my cry! I could breathe. Really breathe. For the first time in two weeks.

    I called Jordan and he whooped and shouted “Babe we’ve got this! Are you ready to fight?”

    I love that man so much.

    My mom was immediately calling my dad, bawling at the intersection of stop 11 and Emerson…while driving, or at least attempting to drive.

    I yelled “YOU HAVE TO DRIVE!”

    This cancer might not kill me but my mom’s driving may.

    There can be no denying that she is my mother because the first words she said to me when she got off the phone with my dad were, “We need ice cream!”

    So by golly, we got ice cream!

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    A Time for Baby

    Two shots in my rump and now we were ready to meet our baby bird! I have been jokingly calling her the grand finale for months now. Well, this girl really knows how to make an entrance! This is quite a lot of commotion she has created in just under a week. However, we think she is pretty special despite not having met her yet.

    How many little girls can say they saved their mama’s life before they even left the womb?

    The doctors told me that my tumor is not hormone driven, but it grew to such a massive size so quickly right when my milk started to come in. This may be too much information for you but when I began to leak at 32 weeks (roughly the same time I did with my previous daughter) this tumor accumulated fluid (20 ml worth based on the first ultrasound) making it very noticeable.

    I have dense breasts anyway, and I would have never noticed a small lump, and pregnant bodies are so strange anyway, I probably would’ve assumed it was pregnancy related.

    So, being pregnant with Robbyn at this time allowed the tumor to grow to such a noticeable size so quickly for some reason.

    I believe this was another one of God’s magnificent blessings to our family. We were able to find this mass before it had spread anywhere else in my body.

    Saturday afternoon, we dropped the kids off for a fun weekend with Jordan’s parents, and I met up with my sister for our ceremonial pre-delivery pedicure. Heaven forbid anyone in our family pushes a baby out without having professionally polished toes at the ends of our very swollen legs. Holly’s method of comfort usually involves pedicures, retail therapy, and ice cream, so we had to make a few stops before meeting up with Jordan.

    I’m sure you have heard of love languages, and all of this is Holly’s love language and an afternoon of escape was just what I needed after this week. I’m not usually good at doing these sorts of things, I’m more task driven, but Holly has always had a way of forcing me to have fun.

    After being properly pampered, we met Jordan for an extremely greasy burger and fries since I didn’t want hospital food for dinner, and I would be cut off entirely at midnight.

    Jordan and I carried our bags into the hospital. It’s always a strange feeling walking in not knowing the next time you will be outdoors. Jordan held my hand, but honestly, I wasn’t even nervous about this impending delivery. I was just so excited to be doing something instead of sitting and waiting.

    I was genuinely surprised I hadn’t gone into stress-induced labor earlier that week. Robbyn definitely could tell something was not right I had been having pain and contractions all week.

    I had Cervadil that evening and had to be on a fetal monitor through the night. Miss Robbyn decided to roll around all night, and we kept losing her on the monitor.

    *That means the nurse was in every 30 minutes to try and find the runaway baby again. *

    Not the most conducive environment for sleep.

    Not that I was in the mood to sleep anyway.

    The next morning the nurse came in to start my Pitocin, and we were off to the races!

    I prayed to God early that morning

    I wanted that day to be a joyful occasion. I didn’t want to think about my cancer. As I said in my prayer, I wanted to enjoy the blessing that Robbyn was to us. Ecclesiastes 3 says “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

    Today was a time to be born and celebrate.

    I did not have an epidural with my other two children. I am a cheapskate and didn’t want to have to pay for it, but we met our deductible 3 times over in just over a week; so what the heck!

    I also knew there was a possibility I could start chemo that week, and I didn’t want to be utterly worn-out from labor so I thought I would give the epidural a shot. It was a strange feeling or rather unfeeling. And the “laboring” continued.

    The nurse, being a good patient advocate tried to get my mom, dad, sister, and Jordan to stop talking so much so I could rest, but that is my family.

    We are loud.

    There are always four different conversations going on, and everyone just keeps talking louder. It was calming to me to hear the chatter.

    I much prefer the soothing sounds of my chaotic family to the numbing silence.

    While they chattered away, I laid with my eyes closed convinced I was not progressing because I wasn’t feeling anything.

    My sweet nurse kept asking if I was feeling any pressure.

    No pressure. No real pain. Nothing.

    Holly and I forced Jordan to go to the cafeteria and grab something to eat since we had no idea how much longer I might be laboring, and Robbyn was almost promised a stay in the NICU.

    Our nurse took that opportunity to go ahead and drain my bladder since it had been a few hours. I swear she emptied a 5-gallon bucket from my bladder. That’s when I started to feel a little uncomfortable.

    Nothing terrible just slightly uncomfortable.

    She said she wanted to check me, but I told her I KNEW it was not anywhere near show time. Well, she is the labor and delivery nurse and not me for a good reason.

    She proceeded to check me and said, “You’re a 10, we are going to have a baby.”

    She started rushing around, moving in tables, calling the doctor and the NICU. Holly called Jordan and told him he better hustle back because Robbyn was coming quickly.

    I just sat there in disbelief.

    The doctor was gowned and seated at the foot of the bed, and I was in the “ready” position when Jordan finally rushed into the room.

    The doctor said, “Ok Kari, on this next contraction you are going to push.”
    I looked up at the nurse and said, ” You are going to have to tell me when.”
    She said, “Now!”
    I said, “Now?!”
    I seriously couldn’t feel anything.

    Three or so pushes, and we could hear our angry little girl screaming!

    She was here, and she was mad about it.

    An excellent sign when we were worried that she would come out with difficulty breathing.

    The NICU checked her out and packed up and left, leaving Robbyn on my chest! She was doing so well we were able to hold her for about an hour before she had to make her journey up to the NICU.

    As she lay on my chest, I could hardly believe she was really here. I literally had not even broken a sweat during labor. I was not expecting her for at least six more weeks. And here she was; all whopping 4 pounds 15 ounces of her!

    We had our ecclesiastical time to dance!

    Now that she had made her arrival and was safe, our gears had to shift.

    It was now time for war.

    I was raised in a very military-minded family. Our vacations always revolved around which battleship or military museum we could visit. My dad is a retired chaplain, my brother is an army ranger, and my sister is a former Army ICU nurse. (I am clearly the slacker in the family.) So it was no surprise when Adam texted me this:

    “I was going to tell you today; I think these next 16 weeks are going to be your “deployment.” You might not get to see your kids as much and do the things you want to do with them, but you are fighting for something far more important, and only for a season. This is “a time for war” (Ecclesiastes). Phase one complete. Robbyn is out and safe. On to phase two: destroy the enemy. So stand in the face of fear and let God win the day. He is able. 2 Chronicles 20, “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. You will not need to fight this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD who is with you.

    This battle is not mine, but God’s and our battle is just beginning.

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    He is able. We are faithful.

    Adam was still is Europe but sent me this prayer in the wee hours of the morning before we met with Community Breast Center. The day before we had received a very bleak prognosis and I was trying my best not to panic. I just kept thinking, “It’s in God’s hands.” I just want to stay in his will for my life.

    Nevertheless, in the back of my mind, I could hear “What if God’s will is to take me home to heaven sooner than I planned?”

    That was a possibility. It still is. It is for all of us really.

    That is where the hope of salvation comes in. Not to be a Debbie-Downer but if you think you are making it out of this world alive you are going to be very disappointed one day!

    That is why I feel so strongly about this blog. I am here to tell you if you haven’t heard it before, Christ died for you.

    Yes, you.

    And if you were the only one who ever accepted his free gift of salvation, He still would have died on the cross just for you and you alone.

    As Adam said in his prayer, “We thank you for Jesus and the gift of eternity, and we hold onto that hope in the darkness of this world. The unfettered joy of knowing Christ has suffered so much more than this for us keeps our eyes fixed on you.”

    Well, Tuesday morning came. We dropped the kids off at the babysitter and went to carpool with my parents. It was no surprise to find my mom in the kitchen doing what she does best, stress baking.

    I was rereading a couple of psalms from my bible over and over again to calm my nerves, while Jordan and my dad ate an unhealthy amount of oatmeal cookies.

    The breast center had called the night before and told us in addition to meeting the surgeon; we would also have an ultrasound of my armpit (to see if my cancer had spread), meet with a geneticist, the medical oncologist, and finally the breast surgeon. We had a full day ahead of us. Since the past Saturday, I had been keeping a little notebook full of doctors’ names, information, appointments, and many, MANY questions. On the way up there, mom and I added to our seemingly never-ending list of questions.

    Once there, I was whisked from appointment to appointment. Every single person there knew who I was and knew the order of events for the day. They all called me by name and treated me like a person (a person who was scared out of her wits but a person no less). The only missing piece about choosing Community Hospital was I still didn’t have an OBGYN or a Maternal Fetal Medicine doctor at a hospital with a NICU.

    We had called the office of the OBGYN and the Maternal-Fetal Medicine doctors several times trying to explain the situation, and the soonest date they had to get me in for an initial visit was two weeks away!

    Well, my breast surgeon took care of that too. While I had the ultrasound on my armpit, a nurse came over to tell me that my surgeon had personally called and got me an appointment with the OBGYN that Thursday. I was really liking this lady already, and I hadn’t even met her yet. So the only piece missing from our puzzle now was a maternal-fetal medicine doc.

    While that was being figured out, I still had a long day of information ahead of me. It was terrifying not knowing what kind of information bomb was going to be dropped on me next. Every time someone walked into the room I could feel my stomach drop before they even started talking.

    Well, it finally happened!

    I got my first piece of good news that week.

    The ultrasound technician ran her pictures past the radiologist and came back to the room to tell me my lymph nodes looked clinically normal. Thank you, God!

    Next on our parade route was meeting the medical oncologist. She came into our very crowded room (Holly had high-tailed it up from Cincinnati by this point and I had two nurse navigators in the room as well) and took me out to examine me in a more private setting.

    After explaining how I found the mass for what seemed like the hundredth time that week, she proceeded to tell me that I had done a great job of catching this so quickly and she confirmed that my lymph nodes looked good on the ultrasound as well.

    We rejoined the rest of my posse so she could go over a treatment plan. She had a paper in front of her where she wrote down the stage (2), the chemo drugs I would get and how often, the side effects, and then she very confidently circled the box that said cure! CURE!

    We asked her many of the questions we had about how this would work with Robbyn still in utero. She explained if we couldn’t get her delivered within two weeks we would go ahead with chemo while pregnant. She went on to explain if we could get her delivered soon, then I could start chemo soon after. I asked her how soon that would be (the doctor the day before had told us 4 weeks) and she responded with “immediately.”

    I need to tell you at this point it was at least 5 o’clock, and it was clear that everyone in the building was staying late to accommodate me, doctors included. Now, it was time to march this parade upstairs to the breast surgeon’s office.

    She took Jordan, and I back to an exam room, and she performed a breast exam. (I had lost all concern for modesty at this point) She left my gown open and walked across the room and bent down to look at my chest squinting and bobbing from about 5 feet away. It was comical, to say the least.

    She and I could both see Jordan looked very disturbed in the corner of the room and I wish I could have taken a picture of his face; it was priceless. She then said, “I’m doing this because nowadays almost all breast cancer patients are survivors and we want to make sure you look good when this is over.”

    That was twice in an hour that I was told I would live! She also told me she called the maternal-fetal medicine doctor AGAIN and arranged for me to have an appointment with him the same day as the OBGYN (That Thursday!)

    The meeting with her went very similar to the one with the oncologist. She explained my tumor pathology and staged me as 2B based on the large size of the tumor, and we would do 8 treatments of chemo over 16 weeks, double mastectomy, and radiation. She whipped through some more information, and when she got done, she asked if we had any questions. I looked through my list of questions, and she and the oncologist had answered every single one. Holly said “Look at your book. Did everything get answered?” This was the reason I wanted her here. She is my big sister and my forever protector. She is assertive and confident, two things I have always wished God had blessed me with. She has always pushed for me to be heard even when I don’t want to make waves. But her concern was unwarranted this time because both doctors had answered every single question!

    Very few times in my life have I been absolutely sure of what God wanted me to do in a situation. To be fair, the blame should fall on me because as I mentioned have not been very good about giving God control and praying with the fervor I had been this week.

    I felt this was God’s clear answer about with whom I should entrust mine and Robbyn’s care. Every single question or concern that I had was answered with confidence and clarity by both of my doctors.

    God had directed us here.

    As my mom said, God gifted these women with the intelligence and the drive to become doctors and prepared them with the knowledge and experience to provide me with the right care. Now don’t get me wrong, I know I’m not the only reason these women went to medical school, but I am a tiny part of a story that God set into motion years ago.

    I have read and re-read the prayer Adam sent to me so many times on our short journey. Healing is in Christ’s hands. I will continue to hold on to that hope and that he will leverage it ALL for his kingdom and his glory.

    “In God I have put my trust. I will not fear.” Psalm 56:4

    He is able. I am faithful.

    Our elevator selfie after we heard the word cure! I am the happiest person to ever find out they were getting chemo!

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    “It’s not a show of HIS power if the odds aren’t in the favor of the world”

    The chapel where Adam and all is family prayed for us.


    Riding in the car with my mom later in the week, she accidentally pulled out in front of another car and quickly pulled into another lane, she asked jokingly,

    “Did you just see your life flash before your eyes?”

    I responded with, “Not more than any other day this week.”


    Let’s rewind to Monday. After my flurry of phone calls while at Cracker Barrel, a breast surgeon from our second opinion hospital was able to get us in that Monday afternoon. We looked up the surgeon that the office told us we would be meeting. She was board certified with years of experience and a recipient of several excellence awards. Perfect.

    Well, not perfect. We get to the office to check in, and the place is empty. I tell the receptionist the name of the surgeon I am supposed to be meeting with, and she shakes her head and says I am meeting with a completely different surgeon.

    She makes a Vanna White gesture with her hand pointing to a brochure that says, “New to our practice! NOW ACCEPTING PATIENTS!” Hmm…ok. That’s fine. I know everyone is new at some point in their career, but I also know that I am not your run of the mill breast case. (The sizeable pregnant belly gave that away.)

    They called us (Jordan, my mom, and me) back to have an ultrasound so the surgeon could look at the mass, followed by the most awkward breast examine I have ever had. After the ultrasound was finished, she took us into a consultation room. She went on to explain that I had a triple negative tumor, which means they don’t know what is driving the growth. It was negative for estrogen, progesterone, and HER2. She also said it was grade 3; the fastest growing.

    SIDE NOTE: The surgeon made it sound like these are two separate pieces of bad news. Don’t get me wrong, these aren’t good things, but we found out from my NOW oncologist that these are a double check. If I am triple negative, then it SHOULD be a grade 3 tumor.

    The surgeon went on to explain all of the different kinds of mastectomies, lumpectomies, types of incisions and other specific surgical jargon. I pointed to my stomach and asked how this would affect the baby. She said we might not do anything until I am term (7 more weeks!) or they may deliver early. We would have to see a maternal-fetal doctor to find that out. She also told us it would be four weeks after a c-section before I could start chemo and she wasn’t sure how soon they could deliver the baby.

    All three of us were tallying up weeks in our head and comparing it with how fast the tumor was growing. Jordan asked her the likelihood of getting all of the cancer out during the surgery, and she said with a shake of her head, “There is no guarantee.” She went on to say she would try to get us in with a geneticist and an oncologist the next couple of weeks.

    Then, she handed us a binder made from breast cancer survivors about treatment options. In the car on the way home, Jordan was shouting, “I don’t want a binder from breast cancer survivors right now. At this point we need a binder from breast cancer doctors!” I can laugh at that now.

    So we walked out of the consultation with this surgeon, and before we had a chance to discuss it, we all three had basically heard her tell us that my prognosis was not good. I personally thought the surgeon believed I would be dead by the end of the year.

    It’s incredible what kind of effect so few words can have on your hope.

    In hindsight, we think this surgeon was so new she didn’t feel comfortable saying, “I don’t know the answer to that but let me find out.”

    Instead, she left me thinking about how Jordan was going to raise two toddlers and an infant by himself. She left my mom thinking that she would give her and my dad’s burial plots to Jordan and me. And she left my sweet husband in complete shock.

    To say this was the most depressing day of my life would be an understatement.

    We had no hope.

    I knew that everything would work out the way God had already planned but everywhere I looked I saw death,

    that Jordan wouldn’t have a wife,

    that Reed and Ryanne would cry for me in the middle of the night after I was gone,

    and that the tiny baby girl growing in my belly would never have any memories of me.

    My brother happened to be in Europe with his family and his wife’s family the week this all transpired. My mom actually told him of the diagnosis during his layover in Philadelphia on their way to Europe. Adam texted me Tuesday morning about 4 am the day we were to meet with the breast surgeon I was supposed to meet originally. I was already up having not slept in over a week. Here was our conversation…

    He said it all so perfectly. We have the ear of the King, the creator of the universe wants to hear our cries and answer our prayers. Even if you don’t think you are worthy of healing, forgiveness, grace or God’s love… you are.

    ………………..……………

     

    Proof that I have mud wrestled (at least a dozen times) and why you should send your children to church camp!