blogs

Identity Crisis

Up at 5:15. Get ready. Get the kids ready. Drop them off at the sitter. Go to work. Pick up the kids. Clean up the house. Fix dinner. Give baths. Put the kids to bed. Repeat.

I was so busy. Running around with the kids, running errands, doing housework, and working 40 plus hours a week. Things have been so chaotic since we had kids and I honestly enjoy the chaos. And now…nothing. Since chemotherapy has such a significant impact on my immune system and working in the field of nursing is not the most sanitary of careers, I currently find myself jobless. No, I wasn’t fired, but I am on a personal leave of absence for the time being. My new job, it seems, is to attend an endless stream of doctor’s appointments and treatments. Jordan and I talked it over, and our number one priority is not our finances but instead, my health. We are not taking any chances. I have three sweet babies that need a mother, and I am concentrating solely on beating this cancer.

I have had a job since the ripe old age thirteen, and my first job was working the concession stands at the Babe Ruth Park. It was definitely not a high tech operation. There was no square app like every single trailer at the county fair has today. We were sans cash register. I definitely built on my math skills that first summer. “Oh, you had 3 hot dogs, 2 drinks, a snow cone, 3 candy bars, and a pretzel and cheese? Hmm… yes, let’s just call it 20 dollars.” Needless to say, I acquired not only better math skills but also people skills. I learned how to deal with angry customers who have been sitting in 105-degree weather, and now some dyslexic girl at the concession stand overcharged them due to her deficiencies with mental math.

Despite my rocky beginnings at the diamonds, I learned so much from my first job; like the value of hard work. My parents really instilled Colossians 3:17 into our hearts, ” and whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord, Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” They taught us that no matter what task we are asked to do at our job, do it to the best of our ability. We should do such a good job that others can see Christ through us…even if the job isn’t glamorous. Or should I say especially if the job isn’t glamorous? And I have always had a job since my not so glamorous snow cone crafting Babe Ruth days. I tried my hand at waitressing (Not a pretty sight for someone as clumsy as me!), ticket taking at the pool (Vampires like me can’t sit in the sun all day saving lives), babysitting, movie theater attendant, and student nurse. During college, I managed to work two jobs and still not fail out of nursing school.

I have always loved working. For me, it is fulfilling. My job makes up such a huge part of my identity. I mean, I spend most of my waking hours there. I enjoy every aspect; from feeling like I have made a difference in someone’s life to the comradery with my coworkers to the gigantic warm cookies in the cafeteria. (Can I get an amen from my surgery people?)

And now my life has taken a complete 180. When I look in the mirror in the morning, it doesn’t even recognize myself. My hair is gone, no unruly frizz and curls springing out of my head. In fact, no hair at all on my head. My eyebrows are much thinner and lighter than they ever have been. My skin is dry and cracked. Even though I feel great most days, I still look paler (as if that is even possible) with dark circles under my eyes. Is that from the chemo or the 3 children 3 years old and under? You decide. I see this very different person than I am used to greeting me in the Mirror.

I used to take ZERO medications and now this person I don’t even recognize needs a pillbox!!

I don’t have to rush the kids to the babysitter like I am used to; which is nice… but I feel like I am lacking the purpose and drive that I am so used to having. Every day is just a countdown. To my next chemo, then to my surgery, then to radiation. I feel as though I am just treading water until the next event in my life. I am so used to always being in a hurry with a to-do list a mile long. Now, I find myself wandering around Walmart to kill time.

Don’t get me wrong! I have loved spending so much time with my kids, and I have chosen to make the most out of this time I have with them. I mean, who else gets a maternity leave this long? I left my first two babies at 8 weeks to head back to work. I have been blessed with an entire summer to watch all three of my children grow and play. I am trying my best not to let this cancer take complete control over my life either. We go to the park, library, splash pad, and play outside quite frequently. We look like we have escaped from the circus anywhere we go, between the yelling and the general chaos that tends to accompany my family. However, I am not going to sit and sulk about my lot in life when I have babies that need my attention. My summer has been fantastic, and I feel the draw to being a stay at home mom that most mothers probably feel. It is just trying to adjust to this “new normal” in my life.

My recent identity crisis has caused me to evaluate my life, and I have realized two things…

Number one

I have always made excuses in the past for my lack of personal prayer and bible study time. “I’m too busy. I have to be at work too early. I was at work too late. The kids need my attention. The dishes need to be washed.” Sure, these are all real issues that come up, but somehow I still find time to troll Facebook or watch my DVR’d shows. And there are so many avenues to complete a Bible study in this era of technology; between the Bible app, Right Now media, and the Audible app just to name a few. I have the greatest teachers of our generation at my fingertips, and I don’t take advantage of that. The Bible app sends me a reminder every day which is a good wake up call for me. I can literally YouTube an entire sermon from Matt Chandler or Louie Giglio at any time, and yet I don’t. It feels like now God has heard all of my lame excuses and really freed up my time. There is no reason now why I shouldn’t be in my bible more than ever. It just a matter of making it a priority.

Number two

I have recently realized how much time we really waste worrying about our calling and spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 says, “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:”

….For those who don’t know spiritual gifts are often talked about in the church. Most Christians try to determine how God has enabled them to serve him and others. It can be the gift of preaching, teaching, generosity, hospitality, prayer, encouragement, listening, baking, manual labor…the list goes on and on. Basically what things you can do to further the kingdom of God….

Don’t hear me say that our spiritual gifts are not valuable. I just think we spend too much time “meditating on” and contemplating what they are when God just wants us to put our feet to the pavement and do his work. How did you find out what career you wanted to have? Probably like me… by figuring out what you hate or aren’t any good at. I knew I would never be called to the food service industry after holding the world record for breaking the most lanterns during my stint as a Cracker Barrel waitress. But I never would have known that had I not tried.

I think it is the same for our spiritual gifts. We are not going to know what area we are gifted in until we try it. How do you know you aren’t called to teach the toddler class at church until you have wiped the snot off of their tiny faces as they sing Jesus Loves Me with more passion than we sing in the service?

How do you know you aren’t called to lead a bible study until you dive into the word for deeper understanding not just to say that you finished your daily reading?

How do you know you aren’t called to service until you have seen the appreciation of an elderly church member after you clean out their gutters?

How do you know you aren’t called to cook until you lighten someone’s load by bringing a meal to a family whose mom is recovering from surgery?

Your gift does not need to be glamorous to make a difference in someone’s life. “No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty” (I Corinthians‬ ‭12:22-23‬) Even if no one notices what you have done: God does. And one day you will receive an eternal reward.

So stop stalling by saying you don’t know what God is calling you to do and volunteer to do whatever needs to be done. Think of all of the opportunities you are missing while you are trying to “figure out” God’s will. One of my dad’s favorite saying is “God can’t steer a parked car.” There is no reason why you can’t be praying for God to show you his will for your life while you are already serving others.

blogs

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.

blogs

Granny’s Card

When you think of a grandma probably think of lady baking up a storm in the kitchen, sharing secret family recipes, maybe canning fresh food from the garden or quilting marvelous blankets you can pass down to your children. Well, this was not exactly my experience. One of my grandmas had a stroke when I was very young, and I only knew her personality post-stroke. My mom tells me she was a brilliant and strong woman. I knew her as witty, funny, sarcastic, and sometimes socially inappropriate Grandma Jean. I loved spending time with her because she was so much fun! With my other grandma, I learned the proper way to set a formal table and arrange guests for a dinner, to properly organizing your clothing and jewelry, but she could also destroy me in Words with Friends.

My relationships with my grandmothers were probably not what most experience, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. They were both college graduates in a time when that was uncommon. Both were strong, intelligent women who were passionate about teaching. They both loved me fiercely. The one thing that I never really appreciated until after they passed on, was the fact that I always knew they were praying for me. Everyday. Sometimes more than that. My grandma Joy called my sister and me frequently to ask how she could be praying for us. My Grandma Jean was pretty limited after her strokes, but even she had a prayer list on her kitchen table (a mile long) that I was always on, and she told me she prayed for me every day. No, they didn’t pass down any baking or sewing skills, but they passed on their strong faith in Jesus Christ by being excellent examples of strong God-fearing women.

In the New Testament, there are really only a handful of women mentioned by name, but it actually mentions a Godly mother and grandmother. Paul says in his letter to Timothy, ” I am reminded of your sincere faith which first lived in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded now lives in you.” (2 Timothy 1:5) Now, don’t hear me say if your grandma was a devout Christian that it somehow carries on to you and makes you a Christian. Each person has to make a personal decision to accept Christ as Lord and savior of their life to be saved. But how awesome is it that Timothy’s mother and grandmother were such strong women of faith that Paul mentions them by name and we know who they are so many years later?

My grandmothers have since gone to heaven, but God has blessed with two wonderful grandmothers-in-law that love me as their own. Jordan’s granny is the portrait of everything I picture when I think of the word granny. She is amazing at sewing, baking, cooking, gardening, and canning. She is everything I want to be when I grow up. She knows when to hold her tongue and when to speak up gracefully. Both traits I am lacking! But the character trait of hers and my grandmothers that I am striving for the most is their rock-solid prayer lives. I have said it before, but my goal for this time of my life is to go from a worrier to a prayer warrior, like so many of the women in my family.

On top of all of these other wonderful things she is known for, Granny is also known for her gift with greeting cards. She has a card for everyone in the family and for every occasion; birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries. She always handpicks the perfect card for every person, and she underlines the words she thinks are most meaningful for emphasis. I have been the recipient of many granny cards, but she recently gave me a card that nearly took my breath away.

The weekend we found out I had cancer, Jordan’s brother and his wife were down from Illinois, and we were having a birthday party for their son Wes and our daughter Ryanne, who were born only 16 days apart. We ended up canceling the party and just having a small family gathering with cupcakes at Granny and Pap’s house. (I ruined 4 different birthday celebrations that weekend including my own. Talk about being a party pooper!) Granny took me aside after dessert and gave me a card that I didn’t open until we got home. The card had a quote from Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life. It read:

“In every circumstance, God is working on our behalf. His heart is moved with compassion; his purpose is guided by love, his ways are paved with grace. We can rejoice even in the tough times because we have hope and because we know that God is working in our lives.

You are part of a perfect plan designed by a God who loves you completely. You’re in his thought every moment–and they’re filled with the desire to bless you.


Jordan’s mom came over the next night and asked if I got granny’s card. I had actually put it on our refrigerator because I liked it so much. This is a miracle itself because I am the opposite of a pack rat: I hate clutter, and I throw everything away. I am not very sentimental with physical things. I have no paraphernalia from Jordan and my wedding, much less any of our dating history. When we moved from our old house, I found my wedding dress in the back of our garage under the lawn mower! Clutter gives me anxiety, so most cards I get go into a drawer before I trash it on my next clutter attack purge. I absolutely love getting cards, and it is wonderful to know that people are praying for me, but I usually don’t feel the need to keep them…except this one. His mom went on to tell me the story of Granny’s card.

Granny keeps all of her cards together and has had this particular card for what she is guessing 10-15 years. She told me she doesn’t usually buy a card unless she has a person in mind (except this one) and she doesn’t give a card to a person unless she thinks it fits them perfectly. So time after time, she has gone to her cards and prayed, and when she pulled out this particular card for someone, she could feel God telling her, “No, this card isn’t for them.” So for 10-15 years, she has been praying for the person who would receive this card.

So that Saturday, Granny went to pull a birthday card out for Wes, and she saw this card. She said God laid it on her heart that this card had been meant for Jordan and me all along. How amazing is that? Jordan’s granny, one of the strongest prayer warriors I know, had been praying over this card and the person who would receive it for the last decade! She had been praying over our current situation for so many years without even knowing it. At this point, we were only 2 days into this journey and had no idea what my prognosis was. Knowing that she had been praying for us, for this time in our life, before Jordan and I had even started dating was staggering. Knowing that I was being front-loaded with prayers even before I knew I needed them was overwhelming. Knowing that God’s plan is so intricate, I can’t even begin to try and understand how he is orchestrating every aspect of our lives. The thought of it gives goosebumps, and I can be a pretty hard person to impress sometimes.

James 5:13-16 says, “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call on the elders of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the LORD. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the LORD will raise him up… the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”

My Bible commentary says “the energetic, passionate prayers of godly people have the power to accomplish much.” I can’t think of many people more passionate about Christ or more Godly than Granny; so how lucky am I that she is praying to Christ Jesus on my behalf! I took her aside and told her that I knew that my grandmothers prayed for me every day and with them now gone, I needed her to pray for myself, Jordan, and our family every day. She said she would pray “constantly.”

I don’t know how people experience things like this and choose to believe that there is no God or God sits in heaven unconcerned with our daily affairs. I firmly believe he didn’t just create the world just to wash his hands of us and watch us fumble. I truly believe he is invested and concerned about our everyday life and our problems no matter how big or small. Psalm 139 says,

“You have searched me LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You perceive my going out and my lying down; you’re familiar with all my ways…where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea even there your hand will guide me; your right hand will hold me fast.”

These verses make it clear that he has his hand in every part of our lives. Even in the tiny, mundane decisions, such as buying a greeting card. God put it on Granny’s heart to buy that card so many years ago and again to pray for the recipient of that card. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and in complete control over every detail of my life. Over and over again during this journey, God has shown he is working in even the smallest details of my life. Granny’s card is just one more piece of proof.

Granny delivering the devotional at a mother-daughter tea. As always wonderful!
blogs

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

blogs

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.

blogs

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!

blogs

Dignity & Strength

I am the mom who never sent my babies to the nursery in the hospital.

If the nurse had to take them, I waited on pins and needles until they returned.

I wanted skin to skin as soon as I popped them out. I didn’t care if they looked like someone had pulled them out of a giant tub of sour cream.

I wanted to breastfeed exclusively as long as I could.

Their precious rear ends rarely touched a bassinet or swing because I would just snuggle them and watch them sleep.

I waited almost 10 months to finally hold these sweet things in my arms, I didn’t want to miss a single second of bonding once they were finally here.

Well, the reality that my experience with Robbyn would be completely different set in as I sat in a dimly lit postpartum room by myself.

I forced Jordan to get some food with his parents, we couldn’t see Robbyn for a couple of hours, and my left leg was still so numb I could barely stand up.

The room was quiet. Had I really just had a baby? Or did I dream all of this?

No newborn snuggles. No awkward fumbling as we try to figure out breastfeeding together.

No breastfeeding in our future either, due to the toxic medications I would soon be starting and the bilateral mastectomy in my very near future.

No sneaking a pacifier in her mouth while the nurse is out of the room.

No peeking into the sleep sack to recount all of her fingers and toes.

My baby was on the floor above me in an incubator.

Don’t get me wrong; I knew this was our destiny once we found out she would arrive a full 6 weeks early. I was ecstatic she was strong, and I was able to hold her for almost an hour, but her tiny body had tired out, and now she needed to rest.

She hadn’t needed to be intubated and only required a small feeding tube through her nose, but that was to be expected. At 34 weeks, she had not yet developed the reflex that allowed her to suck, swallow, and breathe at the same time and she could not eat enough to gain weight without tiring.

She had done phenomenally well, and I was so grateful that she was healthy. This could have been so much worse, and I personally know some of the world’s strongest parents who have watched their babies go through much more terrifying circumstances. After seeing a tiny glimpse into what they have gone through, I have the utmost admiration for them and how they handled their trials with such grace.

So, it didn’t seem fair to be upset about our small hiccup when God had already blessed us so much.

The two other moms and their sweet babies I know who have very recently endured long NICU stays, and multiple surgeries have inspired me with their strength and reliance on God.

Chapter 31 in Proverbs is all about what it means to be a godly woman. (The whole chapter is excellent if you are curious about what it says.) In verse 20 it says, “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.”

I was in a pretty “needy” state once we were home and Robbyn was still in the NICU without a foreseeable discharge date. Both of these women who have experienced this before checked on me multiples times offering prayers, advice, physical and emotional support every time I see them.

They have been doing just what Verse 26 says a godly woman should, “She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” They used the previous trials God allowed them to face, to now assist me. Something that I intend to do for others now that I have been there. These two women continued to care for their husbands, their households, their other young children in the home and continued to nurture their children spiritually by assuring they rarely missed a Sunday of church to learn that Jesus loves them.

I also know another mom who waited years, YES, YEARS, to get her already adopted son and daughter out of Africa because of paperwork and red tape. She had so much strength. How could I be upset about a possible month-long NICU stay when she waited patiently for years for God to allow her beautiful babies to be brought home, and she gave praise and glory to God every step of the way? She has inspired me to be a woman like verse 25 describes. “She is clothed with dignity and strength. She laughs without fear of the future.”

Dignity and strength.

No, that was not me.

Such powerful words.

Guilty and afraid was more like it.

Fearful that this baby in the incubator would never know who I was pending my PET scan results. Guilty for having to induce labor forcing her into a possibly lengthy NICU stay. Guilty I wasn’t with her most of the day providing her care. Guilty that she would have a different newborn experience than my other children. Guilty that I was dumping two small children with relatives every evening so we could see our new baby. Guilty for not seeing our baby to go to Reed’s first baseball game or having Ryanne’s second birthday party while Robbyn was 30 miles away in an incubator.

I was having some serious guilt. I feel like I hear this over and over again from moms around my age. You have probably heard the phrase too.

Mom guilt.

Feeling guilty for leaving your child while you go to work or them not having as many playmates because you are a stay home mom. Feeling guilty for not putting them in enough activities or debating if you have them in too many activities. Worrying about not having a Pinterest perfect Christmas, to retaking your Instagram picture so your messy house isn’t shown. This mom guilt comes in all different forms and it torments us no matter the mom’s circumstances.

Definitely not Pinterest perfect but perfect nonetheless

Definitely not Pinterest perfect but perfect nonetheless.

We forget that we are daughters of the King, and He gave of these children, whether biological or adopted, knowing we were the perfect woman to raise them.

He knew that you might have work full time or night shift to provide for them, or that you wouldn’t be able to afford to throw the best birthday party, and still, he handpicked you to raise them. He entrusted you with these precious children. I am learning that the negative thoughts and fears about whether I am doing the right thing for my children are Satan trying to take time and energy away purpose God has designed for me.

Proverbs 31 also say a Godly woman, “arises while it is yet night and provides food for her household.” I believe whether you care for your family by staying home or by working part-time or full-time, you are providing for your family the best way that God has shown you.

One is not nobler than the other. Whatever the job God has given you, you should do it to the best of your ability. I am also learning that if I approach God in prayer about the role he has for me, then I need to have peace with that decision instead of this misplaced “mom-guilt.”

James 1:5-6 says “If any of you lack wisdom you should ask God who gives generously to all, without finding fault and it will be given to you. But when you ask you must believe and not doubt. Because the one who doubts is like a wave in the sea, blown and tossed about by the wind.”

I don’t want to be like a wave tossed about, second-guessing whether every decision I make about my children is the right one. I want to be the the Proverbs 31 woman whose “strength and honor are her clothing” I am trying my best know to turn over my concerns, fears, and misplaced guilt to God and have peace about my circumstances.

He knew when I had Robbyn that she would be in the NICU and he knew I had two small children at home. He also gave me a fantastic support system to care and love on my kids when I’m not there whether it is our family or the amazing NICU staff.

“She is clothed with dignity and strength. She laughs without fear of the future.” Did you read that? She laughs! Laughs! She’s not even saying, “I know God has my future under control, and I’ll try and be ok with that…”

No! She boldly laughs because her God, My God, the creator of the universe, has already has a plan for her future, so she has nothing to fear! I want to be that bold with my faith in God. I’m not anywhere close yet but I will keep running toward him.

blogs

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.

blogs

The Final Countdown

So can you believe it? We are only on Wednesday! It hasn’t even been a full week since my OBGYN told me I had cancer.

My world had been completely turned upside down in seconds.

But this is the lot that I was given, and with the optimistic news from the Community Breast Center, I felt like I had hope again.

Of course, there were still critical pieces of our mystery missing: the small matter of ALL the testing that could not be completed until I had delivered Robbyn.

We needed a clip put in the mass because much to our surprise, the doctors said the tumor would shrink very rapidly once chemo was started and the surgeon will need to know the original site was when she operates this fall. We also needed a breast MRI to see if the cancer was only in the left breast and exactly how dense the mass was. And last, but certainly not least, we needed a PET scan to see if there was cancer in anywhere else in my body.

To make matters a little more complicated, we wouldn’t know if it was going to be chemo first or baby first until after we met with the OBGYN and the Maternal-Fetal medicine doc the next day.

So, my mom and I took this appointment-free Wednesday as an opportunity to prepare for whatever the rest of the week was going to throw at us. We did so by going to the most magical place on earth, (no sarcasm here) one of my most favorite places, WALMART. I had things I hadn’t bought yet for my upcoming hospital stay because I thought I still had roughly 7 more weeks before Robbyn arrived, and now I had a new list of supplies to pick up as well.

Supplies for something I never thought I would be preparing for: Chemotherapy.

I was too scared to google side effects from the chemo I would soon be receiving, so I did what any 28-year-old mom in 2018 would do…I pinterested chemo care packages for ideas.

We had things for baby: premie diapers, pacifiers, a few preemie outfits, and other unmentionables for the havoc wrecked that accompanies delivering a baby.

We had things for chemo: multiple gallon size buckets of hand sanitizers, Lysol wipes, soft toothbrushes, dry mouth spray, sunscreen, chapstick, and an eyebrow kit.

And one item that I have been told by both cancer survivors and mothers alike that is 100% necessary: Stool softeners.

The poor cashier must have really wondered what was going on in my life with this vast array of items piled high in my cart.

In preparation for the next morning, I spent that night praying that God would keep aligning circumstances for us so we could kick start our plan. I knew I would feel better once we were physically doing something about our situation because at this point in the game we were still planning and information gathering.

I started a journal a few days prior to keep track of all the information we were being given, since everything was happening so fast. Not to mention, I was not at my mental or emotional peak being 33 weeks pregnant and told I have cancer. I also tend to be a worrier, and when I physically write out my fears and concerns, I have an easier time of letting them go instead of playing them over and over in my head.

After my recording of daily events, I write down my thanks, confessions of sin, prayer requests, rants to God, etc.

Even not very far out from my diagnosis, it is incredible to see all of the prayers and concerns that God has already answered or addressed. It is really humbling to go back and look at how worried I was over concerns that God was already handling on my behalf.

One of my goals for this season of my life is to go from a worrier to a prayer warrior.

If a prayer journal is something you haven’t tried, I highly recommend it. I’m scatterbrained, and my thoughts get derailed pretty quickly if I’m not organizing them on paper. It’s not something you have to spend all day doing either. I keep my small journal in my purse, and I jot things down during the day that I am concerned about and try my best to hand them over to God. Later, I spend more time in the evening writing out a full prayer. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Mine is a $5 black journal from Walmart but looking back to see how God is working in my life is priceless.

Here is an excerpt from my prayer journal that night,

”LORD, I need to trust your timing and your plan. You have been so good to us so far setting the right people in our path. I want to fight for my babies, and my sweet husband and I want to start now! Please help me to be patient. Please give me peace.”

I prayed I wouldn’t have to have a sparring match with the maternal-fetal medicine doctor to make my case for not wanting Robbyn to have a chemo bath in utero. As I said, I have made it only of my goals in life to fly under the radar but my mama bear instincts we’re now in overdrive. I could not be held responsible for what I said to the doctor the next day.

Well, after spending the whole night worrying about how the next day would play out, the next day turned out to be an absolute breeze. We met with the OBGYN first. We had little bit of a wait because he fit me in on a non-office day between two surgeries he had to perform in another building. (God definitely provided!)

He said as long as the maternal-fetal medicine doc agreed, we would be able to deliver as early as Sunday! And as fate (or as I believe God’s providence) would have it, he was already on call Sunday and would be there for my delivery.

One baby doctor down, one to go! Next was the Maternal-Fetal Medicine doctor. A title that I didn’t even know existed until this week. He is a high-risk pregnancy doctor, and he would be in charge of monitoring Robbyn should I have to receive chemo first, if she wasn’t developed enough to deliver. He was also the one to determine if she was developed enough to safely deliver. I had to have a very detailed ultrasound first to see how developed her organs were at 33.5 weeks, especially her heart and lungs.

The ultrasound technician was very thorough and explained every picture she was taking. She showed us how Robbyn was actually practicing her breathing and estimated her weight at over 5 lbs. (Another HUGE answered prayer)

She tried to get a picture of Robbyn’s face, but I think this little girl was upset that I’d had three breast ultrasounds that week already and she hadn’t been the star of those shows. Now that we wanted to see her sweet face rather than my left breast, she WAS NOT going to show it to us. The tech pushed and poked on my belly trying to get her to move her hand out of the way, but Robbyn was stubborn and could not be swayed. A trait I am 100% sure she received from her father.

The technician left the jelly and a towel on my stomach just in case the doctor wanted to take more pictures. He walked in very confidently, shook my hand and pulled the towel off my belly.

I introduced Jordan as my husband. He then asked, “And are you are the one who impregnated her?” Jordan almost fell out of his chair but I could spot a fellow sarcastic kindred spirit a mile away! After our other introductions, he cut to the chase and said

“I think we can deliver this baby now. Although I have a feeling this train was rolling whether I thought so or not.”

He shared my concerns about starting chemo before delivering her. He also made a point we hadn’t yet considered. The chemo would attack my immune system as well as hers, and we would have to monitor her blood count and mine before we could deliver. This is one of the many reasons why he is the doctor and not me.

So all I had to do now was receive a steroid injection immediately, and another one in 24 hours to dry up Robbyn’s lungs. Finally,we would come back to the hospital Saturday night for an induction!

God had provided again! This cancer appeared when Robbyn was developed enough to be delivered safely. I cannot imagine being given this diagnosis when I was only 15 or even 25 weeks pregnant.

Her lungs were in great shape, her weight looked fantastic, and both doctors were on board with our plan A.

The best part of the day was when the maternal-fetal medicine doctor asked to pray with us before he left the room. He obviously had a strong prayer life based on the ease and passion that he prayed with.

He prayed for Robbyn’s health and safety, prayed for my upcoming treatment, and prayed for strength for my entire support system. The act of him praying with us was just another confirmation from God that he was directing our path and we were right where he wanted us to be.

I had prayed to God, and he gave me more than I had expected. I have a tendency to underestimate Him, and he was showing me just how wrong I can be.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Jesus Christ, throughout all generations forever and ever! Amen.”

Ephesians 3: 20-21

blogs

“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!