Friday, December 22, 2017


Looking at my bald head and the scars across my chest yesterday, I just wondered... how did this happen? Life is so weird. It is so good, so hard and so mixed all the time. As we prepare our home and hearts for Christmas this year, I have felt like I'm taking a back seat to the 'normal.' Still getting the gifts, planning the meals, and even getting to participate in many of the holiday festivities, but in a weird way I feel removed from it. Emmy said a couple days ago that she didn't "feel happy" like she usually does this time of year... and I feel the same. As we talked through it a bit, we realized that the weekly trips to Stanford, the loss of 'normal' and excitement as I am tired and they can't predict how I'll be feeling from day to day, and I think just the 'fog' of cancer in general that penetrates our daily life... is dampening the 'happy' feelings. But on the flipside, it generates a joy that is so deep and profound, it's hard not to be thankful. Thankful that I am here to celebrate Christmas, that we caught it, that it's treatable, that we have hope for my healthy future. Thankful that there is more to this life than just surviving. Thankful for all the blessings, and friendships, and support, and help, and love. Thankful that we are celebrating a Savior that is more than just a Christmas story, but one that loves and gives and comforts and gives meaning and purpose to this weird life.

I was given a tip from a dear friend at the beginning of this cancer journey to take lots of pictures. For those of you who know me well, this was not a tall task. But it has proven hard to remember! I just wanted to use this opportunity to share some of the happenings around here as of late... not only to share all the wonderful things that are going on, but that I can also look back and be reminded that I am here, I am able to enjoy my children, my home and our blessings in this life... thank you, Lord!

Zeke received the honor of being named Sonora El's Student of the Month for November! It was wonderful to be able to attend the board meeting and hear the amazing comments from his teachers throughout the years...

All three of these amazing kiddos were recognized for their hard work and academic accomplishments this month. Both Em & Zeke made the Superintendent's List with 4.0's and Ethan exceeded his Accelerated Reading Goal and made Super Reader! Proud of them and their efforts!

Bill and my hubby are hard at work with LOTS of house projects... garages being worked on inside and out, electrical panels changed out, a new HVAC system (we have air conditioning now!!!), and the beginnings of our solar panels!!! 

Fun with Emmy's holiday band recital and both Ethan and Emmy in our church's kids Christmas play, "Jingle Bell Beach"


Annual Gingerbread House decorating with friends!

Taking care to capture the moments in my heart even more so than in my camera. It's the most wonderful time of the year and I pray I never lose sight of that and all these amazing realities... weird life and all.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

December update

Many of you have asked me to update the blog... and I see now that it has been a few weeks. I guess I just have felt like not much has changed in terms of news, so there hasn't been much to say... but I definitely need the prayer covering and feel like this is the best way to keep up on those targeted prayer requests, so an update it is :).

I just finished my 4th infusion of this 2nd round of chemo... 8 more to go. I go each week (usually Mondays) for the chemo called Taxol (12 total of this kind). Then every third week, they cocktail it with the chemo called Carboplatin (4 total of this kind). The simple terms that my dr used to explain things to me were that the Taxol is the clean up crew from the original pathology of my tumor (the hormone positive stuff) and the Carboplatin is the attack guns for the new pathology that came from my tumor out of surgery (the triple negative stuff). After chemo, I will be referred to a radiation doctor to determine my schedule and needs for that, but they said standard procedure is 6 weeks--but on hold there till I get closer to the end of January and finish chemo (last infusion is scheduled for January 29). 

So far, this cocktail of chemo hasn't been as bad as the AC chemo was for me. The side effects are a bit different, and they have started--bone and joint pain, restless leg, nose bleeds, dry mouth and mouth sores, insomnia, 'chemo brain', and the carbo brings nausea on, too. I've also started losing my hair again (being off chemo for 8 weeks around surgery brought back quite the head of fuzz!). They say it will get harder as it builds up more, but I am so thankful in the meantime that it's not as bad. So far my blood counts haven't been too low, I have been able to start Physical Therapy to help with arm and shoulder mobility from surgery, I have gone to work a few days, I was able to enjoy Thanksgiving, was able to decorate the house for Christmas and even am mostly done with Christmas shopping (thank you, Amazon!). 

I think one of my specific prayer requests would be to heap portions of blessing on my mom and Bill, who are giving their lives to us right now. They are living here (in their trailer), and have been since Oct 15th just before surgery, and taking care of all our needs--cooking, driving, kid stuff, taking me to appointments, working on our house, honey-do-lists, everything--so that I can focus on healing and what I can do and Brian can take care of work and do what he needs to do. What a gift. It's also been awesome to have them around for the kids--just getting to spend time with these wonderful grandparents that we usually don't get to see very much--has been so wonderful.

Another specific prayer request would be for me in this chemo process, not only that it is effective and I can handle it well, but I have noticed I've developed a 'Sunday anxiety' issue. Having chemo each Monday, I feel like Sundays are this day of dread heading into it and I get nauseous, foggy headed, and super emotional. I haven't been able to go to church because of the immunity factors, and as much as I miss my friends and community there- I don't really want to see anyone on Sundays because of the way I'm feeling. When I'm in that state, all I want to do is take a long hot shower and lay in my bed and do nothing... which is not helpful in beating any kind of anxiety... just exacerbates it! So... I would love prayer to overcome this and choose to take that time (while my family is at church) to listen to the previous weeks sermon online, read my bible and take in God's words and truth that keep me connected to him and my amazing church community. That seems like the thing to do to help beat that funky feeling, while still having that time on my own to process and gear up for that infusion. So, the prayer there is that I will choose the thing I know is good for my heart and soul, even when I don't feel like it. It's like waking up early for exercise (which is another thing I need to do--exercise!)--hard to do, but know it's what you need and feel so much better when you do. Yep... that is what needs to happen...

Otherwise, prayers for my kids, my husband, my doctors, the traffic to and from Stanford, our cars to stay good, continued healing from surgery, the house remodel process (lots of work happening out in the garage area, HVAC and electrical in the next couple of weeks), and as of today... my family in Ventura and the raging fire down there. Thank you all so much for your continued support, prayers, gifts, food and love... just love pouring down on us.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Complicated Emotions--my 4am thoughts

Inside Out by Disney Pixar has got to be one of my absolute favorite movies (and my kids watched it with me last week on our rainy day!) primarily because of the brilliance of the emotional intelligence it teaches behind the entertainment. They explain such complex emotions, what makes you you, and how your brain makes sense of life in such a simple way. Ethan was able to use this movie to explain what's been going on at school with a classmate--"He's got no Honesty Island, mom, he lies all the time." It has also helped me as I try to wrap my head around the complicated and layered emotions that this cancer diagnosis has been for me and my family (and all those I love)--the trials that bring the blessings, and creating lasting impressions of mixed emotions on my heart and soul.

Trial: more chemo, 2 infusions down, 10 more to go (weekly)
Blessing: time and connection with my cousins who live close to my appointments, this type doesn't seem as harsh as the last kind I had so far and don't have as much nausea--thank you, Lord!

Trial: needing help to maintain life for our children and home
Blessing: so many family and friends providing... getting to spend time with my family, and everyone finding out where our new house is when bringing meals or coming for a visit!

Trial: missing work (which I actually love and really miss!)
Blessing: being around home (and getting to watch those movies with my kids on a school day!), being able to work from home when I can, and not being so busy with life (and wondering how I actually used to do all of this?!?!?)

Trial: insomnia by chemo
Blessing: quiet time alone, today it was getting all these thoughts out and then reading for a couple hours (trying to get sleepy, to no avail) to finish an awesome book, Wonder, so now I can go see the movie that just came out! And then a couple good cups of coffee!!!
Trial: going through this terrible disease and treatment
Blessing: reconnecting with friends and making new ones (including lots of random people), being able to walk through this same journey with a couple friends going through it now, too, being aware of how much I am loved and cared for by so many, especially my Lord. 

There are so many more, but this encompasses the gist... I am (choosing) to be thankful for the blessings in this journey. It gives me so much hope and peace. If I focus on the trials, I drown. And there are so many things to be grateful for and so many ways it could be worse. Thank you, Lord, in this season of Thanksgiving, for the bounty your love provides... and how it spills out through others onto me. 💗

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Just Be Held

I heard a new (to me) song today while driving alone (yeah... fewer pain meds these days means I can drive!) and I didn't even catch the beginning... but I loved it. It's by Casting Crowns and it's called Just Be Held. The lyrics hit me so close, and so powerfully, I just had to share so I can remember God's words to me today...

Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on
And when you're tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There's freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go
So when you're on your knees and answers seem so far away
You're not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world's not falling apart, it's falling into place
I'm on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held
If your eyes are on the storm
You'll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
You'll know I always have and I always will
And not a tear is wasted
In time, you'll understand
I'm painting beauty with the ashes
Your life is in My hands
So when you're on your knees and answers seem so far away
You're not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world's not falling apart, it's falling into place
I'm on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held
Lift your hands, lift your eyes
In the storm is where you'll find Me
And where you are, I'll hold your heart
I'll hold your heart
Come to Me, find your rest
In the arms of the God who won't let go
So when you're on your knees and answers seem so far away
You're not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world's not falling apart, it's falling into place
I'm on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
(Stop holding on and just be held)
Just be held, just be held
Just be held, just be held
Written by John Mark Hall, Matthew West, Bernie Herms • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, Capitol Christian Music Group

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Nitty Gritty

It's all good to focus on the positive and just report the wonderful things, but there is also a reality that is not so fortunate... it is cancer after all. I feel like I have finally come to grips with what the Tumor Board's decision for my treatment will be and understand it enough to report out.

Surgery recovery is going well... doctors are all positive about how things are healing up. I did develop a seroma (pocket of fluid, apparently common when lymph nodes get removed) in my left armpit area that was super uncomfortable (it felt like an egg under my arm). I was able to stay local to get that drained yesterday (40cc's of fluid!) and it was almost instant relief. Hopefully it will not refill... once created, the body can just see that as a place to collect fluid. I covet your prayers for that and for continued healing and comfort in regards to the surgical healing overall. I would love to be off of pain meds before I start back on anti-nausea meds...

While we were originally encouraged that only 1% of the cells in the tumor from the removed breast tissue were cancerous, it is now known that the remaining 1% is the 'worst' kind of breast cancer cells--called 'triple negative.' Originally, my cancer was hormone positive and HER2 negative, which means is was aggressive (the HER2- piece), but that it would respond well to hormone therapies and such. From, the triple negative breast cancer (1) is often more aggressive than other types and (2) isn’t a good candidate for treatments such as hormonal therapy and Herceptin. But it can be treated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, so that is what is on the schedule for me next. Still very thankful that pre-surgery chemo was very effective, but DARN THAT 1%!!!

I start chemo again on Nov 14, with a weekly schedule of Taxol cocktail-ed with 4 doses of Carboplatin each 21 days, for 12 weeks. I will have a port put in early on the 14th so I don't have to be poked with the IV each week and ruin all my veins with that nasty stuff and all the blood draws each week, and that port will stay in me until I'm done with chemo treatments. After chemo, I will be getting radiation, which my oncologist will refer me to the radiation dr to set up, but said it's usually 30 treatments within a 6 week period (read: each weekday for 6 weeks, yikes!). The good news is that my doctor is still talking 'cure' and not just subdue. 

So... we will continue. I never really felt right calling this a 'fight' before (all the 'warrior' and 'fight like a girl' things), but now I get it. I'm in a war against cancer for my life, and this daily battle to trust God with this, to willingly go in and get stuck with needles and inject (what seems like) poison into my veins, and to face the illness and pain that come with all of the procedures and medicine--these are battles I must face. Isaiah 12:2 was an encouragement today from a friend that puts to words what my heart is feeling:

Image result for isaiah 12:2

Where HOPE reigns,

Sunday, November 5, 2017

God Moments

  • Soccer mom prior to surgery--Our daughter's had been on the same team all season, but in a God moment, she reached out to me and asked, "you're in treatment for breast cancer, too?" I had been struggling to wrap my head around surgery, what my doctors were saying to expect in recovery and the reality of what was coming. This angel mom had the same surgeon, same hospital, same procedure, and was willing to share the good, bad and ugly, let me ask all my questions and shared from her heart what she wished she would have known going in. She was a literal answer to prayer I couldn't have even known I needed.
  • Vincent, the awesome pre-op nurse who made sure I was comfortable and taken care of while my surgery was delayed, and also advised us on how to ask for certain areas for recovery overnight while in the hospital so that I could be most comfortable and well cared for.
  • Seeing Candice and Justin at Stanford as we were all in between appointments, getting to share stories, get updates and encourage each other that God's got both of us in His hands. Her smile and positivity was so refreshing and it was great to hug each other between these tough appointments.
  • The Habitat for Humanity Restore having a french door and a brand new Pella window that will work perfectly for our playroom plans at a fraction of the price of new materials. Also scored some patio lounge chairs for a great deal!
I don't think the valets at Stanford were too excited to see our truck pull up for parking service!
  • While at the Restore, in the restroom, a woman who is a breast cancer survivor struck up a conversation with me. She was diagnosed when she was 42, like me, and now 10 years later she is loving life and her newly reconstructed boobs (which she showed to me without hesitation--or really even me asking). This was oddly encouraging to me, because what I have going on now looks really, really horrible--and hers were great! I have heard people are really open about this kind of thing, but this was a first for me to experience it, and I thank the Lord that it was encouraging rather than just weird!
  • Dr. Lee's (my plastic surgeon) nurse practitioner suggesting that we connect with Dr. Reid in Sonora, who actually studied with Dr. Lee at some point, to do the quick check ups and post-surgery stuff locally instead of driving down to the bay area for a 10 minute appointment. I had my first appointment with Dr. Reid last week and she is amazing! I am so glad to have someone local that will be a good resource for me and save us some time and gas for quick check-ups.
  • The Sonora Police Department asking Brian and his class last spring to design pink inserts to raise money during October for breast cancer awareness month. Of course we had no idea of my own diagnosis at that time, and the officers were very sympathetic when Brian told them what was going on when he dropped the inserts off at the beginning of October. They stopped by Brian's classroom today (10/30/17) with a beautiful orchid plant and a card saying that they had donated all the money raised this year from those badge inserts to Susan B. Komen research on my behalf. Just awesome, and humbling, and awesome. 

  • Puzzles, movies and down time with the kids and my mom. 

  • Thankful that I felt well enough to walk around trick-or-treating with my kids and our huge crew this year!
  • Another gift basket from my amazingly generous Columbia College family, delicious dinners from so many friends, visits and lunches with dear ones. My mom and Dad2 giving their lives to us right now in our time of need. Prayers, texts, facebook messages and posts, calls, cards in the mail (yes, real, written cards!!!), flowers, food, and sooo sooo much encouragement. 
So many things to be thankful for, to live for, and to love 💗💗💗

Monday, October 30, 2017

Journal Entry - 10/30/17

So, I watched a chick flick, Safe Haven, yesterday while the family was enjoying Fall Family Fun Night at church. I thought it would be a good time to enjoy a sappy Nicholas Sparks movie, right? The main premise was a girl getting away from an abusive husband, but the unexpected angle of the movie that rocked me was that the guy she fell in love with lost his wife to cancer years before. The wife had written lots of letters before she died--for her kids mostly on those big things in life... their 18th birthday, wedding day, etc. The emotion of all that didn't hit me until the very end of the movie when the man gives a letter to the new girl he loves addressed 'To Her,' which was a letter his wife had left for the girl her husband would go on to love. I bawled. It was so well written and said would I would love to have the courage to say myself, but...

I DON'T WANT TO WRITE LETTERS LIKE THOSE. I want to be with my kids on those big events and milestones. I want my love to grow old with Brian. And that is why I am going through all of this.

Not everyone gets a chance to fight. Like the mom in this movie. Like those shot in Las Vegas or who are fatally injured in a car accident, or in so many ways that we lose our loved ones. Lots of pain and nausea and sickness for me to wade through, but I get a HOPE to be here with my family and watch my kids grow up, to help Brian pick paint colors for our new house, and write a graduate school reference letter for one of my amazing students.

Thank you, Lord, for HOPE. Thank you for the purpose you have given me and that I have a reason for the HOPE that is within. It gives me the will to endure, to suck it up, to keep going, and to keep moving forward (a line from Meet the Robinson's--one of my favs--and much more uplifting than Safe Haven!!!). 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Post Surgery Update

It's taken me much longer than I thought it would to put words together enough to update here. I don't know why, other than the pain med fog I've been in or that I just haven't wanted to do much of anything, but I have appreciated the individual texts, visits and questions in the meantime checking in on me and making me (and my family) feel very loved and supported.

I had my post op appts this week, so we know now beyond 'surgery went well'... the short version is that pathology came back 99% clear of cancer cells (a good result for them is 95%--so we beat that!). Also, out of the 8 lymph nodes they took out and tested, 6 were completely clear and 2 were cleared by 'evidence of treatment' (again, the chemo worked!). My doctors are taking the pathology (all the slides and evidence from surgery) to the 'Tumor Board,' which happens today, and all the smart people together in the same room come up with the best treatment plan moving forward. My oncologist has already anticipated another round of chemo (darn that 1%) called Taxol, which is a weekly IV dose but apparently isn't as harsh as the first kind I received, and that is scheduled to start Nov 14th. The tumor board is going to be looking at whether or not radiation will be recommended after that... so specific prayer request is that it will not be!

My ovaries and tubes are still intact--short version is that the 3rd surgeon responsible for that part had the flu. The silver lining is menopause is delayed for now... but we'll just schedule that procedure with the 2nd phase of breast reconstruction after everything else is done.

Which brings me to recovery... not going to lie... this hurts. It's been a week and a few days and I finally am starting to feel like a truck is not constantly resting on my chest. The pain meds have been working well and I have been sleeping a lot. These last few days, I've been able to back off of them, intermixing tylenol instead of just the big guns, which is good because it helps me not be so out of it, as well as means that I'm not in such pain that we can adjust things down. These drains they put in are a total pain--literally they hurt but they are so annoying! I was able to get 2 of the 4 out while I was down there on Wed... hoping these others can come out soon. A praise is that my surgeon provided a referral to one up here in Sonora that can help take these drains out and do a couple of the minor check ups in between now and when I go back down to start chemo. Prayer requests for that would be that all the orders come through and I can get scheduled easily for next week.

Other than that, I am definitely appreciating my husband and all the time he is taking from work to be with me in hospitals and doctor offices, my mom and Dad2's help around here in keeping the house and the kids functioning, as well as Bill doing a ton of work in the garages for Brian! The meals and the friends and gifts have been so encouraging and supportive... we are so thankful. I'm pretty sure I mention this almost every time I post something, but I can literally feel the prayers and support you all are providing in terms of the peace from God that calms my heart and mind. There have been so many 'God moments' and answers to prayers in this process that I look forward to sharing in a future post... but now, it's time for a nap. :)

Love to you all, 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Surgery is scheduled

Surgery is scheduled for Tuesday, October 17. Brian and I will go down the night before, check in is at 8:30am with the procedure to follow. They say it'll be about a 3-4 hour surgery, with a 24-hour watch afterward, so overnight in the hospital and home the next day, if all goes as planned 🙏.

So thankful that my mom and Dad2 are going to come and stay with us during this time... to be with the kids while we are gone and at the post-op appointments to follow, to help me in recovery, and help us keep our house functioning so Brian can work and kids can feel as normal as possible while I am down. So, so thankful.

Also thankful for all the help being offered from our wonderful friends, co-workers, and church family. The support on this journey has been incredible... the delicious home-cooked organic meals and freezer meals, the rides for our kids, the eggs and fresh produce from farms/gardens, the help around the house, the cards and gifts that are show up regularly... just an amazing blessing to both Brian and I. We are so encouraged by everyone around us, it helps us to think on our blessings instead of the burdens in this tough time. Thank you!

My Bible study book brought me to Chapter 4 in Philippians this morning, and it was impeccable timing for me and what my heart needed as I brace myself for this surgery (this is what I think it means about the Bible being a 'living word'--speaks truth where needed and when needed if you are open to it!). Here's what Wiersbe (author of the study, Be Joyful) had to say, "Chapter 4 (of Philippians) describes the spiritual resources the believer has in Christ: God's peace (vs 1-9), God's power (vs 10-13), and God's provision (vs 14-23). With resources like these, why should we worry? We have the peace of God to guard us (vs 7), guide us (vs 9), come to us when we practice right praying (vs 6-7), right thinking (vs 8), and right living (vs 9)-- God's secret victory over all worry!"

Gonna hold on to this one with everything I've got for the next few weeks!!!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Post Treatment #4

I figure an update is due… I received my last dose of AC chemo a week ago today (Tuesday). I also was able to have a consult with both my oncology surgeon and the reconstruction surgeon while I was down there. Wow. A ton of information in a short amount of time… topped by the last of the nasty stuff.

The good news first… they stop short of saying I’ve had a complete response to the chemo, because what they ‘feel’ only tells them 30% of the story of what is actually going on inside the body. However, all of the doctors were beyond pleased—there was no mass to measure (where there used to be 9x8 cm one mass!) and they did not feel any swollen lymph nodes (there were at least 3 before) There was nothing to measure!!! Such great news and makes all this yuck at least worth it.

The harder stuff… My veins are getting hardened from the chemo, so the nurse had a hard time getting my IV in this time. Also, I got a kind of anxiety attack (realized what it was after the fact) when she started pushing the chemo… thankfully the med that was already prescribed to me to help with the nausea and to sleep has an anti-anxiety effect as well… so she just had me put it under my tongue to dissolve it quicker into my body and I was a-okay.
Just looks nasty, doesn't it? It's pretty tough to watch this stuff get pushed into your veins... yuck!
Surgery is coming… probably in three weeks from now (which, honestly makes my stomach turn almost as much as the chemo), but the schedulers apparently are having a time with getting the doctors coordinated. We’ve decided to do a double mastectomy--the BRCA 2 gene I tested positive for raises my chances of another breast cancer (not just a re-occurrence of this one) up to 60-80% if any breast tissue remains. That was enough for us to call it done. On surgeon’s advice, I’ll also start phase 1 reconstruction with this surgery, then follow whatever treatment is determined by what is discovered in surgery (maybe more chemo and/or radiation), then more reconstructive surgery after all treatment is done. All the appointments and all the information was a bit overwhelming, but overall, the doctors are very positive about the outcomes and that is good news to me. They also set up a consult for me next week to talk with the gynology oncologist about getting my ovaries and tubes removed due to the increased risk of ovarian cancer with the BRCA 2 gene—which could be coordinated with this first surgery or the next one.

My Bible study group is starting a new book on Philippians, Be Joyful by Warren Wiersbe… reading the introduction this morning was encouraging to me and a good way to think about all that is and is coming. A couple quotes that I’d like to hold on to… 

The secret of Christian joy is found in the way the believer thinks – his attitudes. After all, outlook determines outcome.” (pg 18)

 “He (Paul) did not look at Christ through his circumstances; rather, he looked at his circumstances through Christ—and this changed everything.” (pg 22) 

And… this is why I can have JOY (even through the tears here and there--been emotional this week!)! This is why I can find thankfulness. This is why there is HOPE!!!

Love to you my friends…

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Journal Entry from 9/12/17


"May the God of HOPE fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13

Notes from NIV Study Bible: Any hope the Christian has comes from God. Hope cannot be conjured up by man's efforts, it is God's gift by His Spirit.

My Bible reading this morning reiterates a theme that has been standing out to me... I am NOT in control of this (or much else, for that matter!). I have no say as to how the chemo is working, how my white blood cell counts are rebuilding (or not), how the cancer is behaving... which is really weird because it is in my own body, but yet I have nothing to do but respond, rest, and HOPE. I actually love that this verse tells me that even HOPE is outside of my realm of control--because it can be easily lost or squashed if it is just in my hands. Lord, YOUR HOPE in ME. I trust you. I trust you to give me hope to overflowing. I trust that you can use this. I hope that you can use me. Joy and peace in the midst of this hard time. Fill me with your HOPE.

The Toby Mac song, Way Beyond Me, has been an encouraging word to me in this same theme. I'm including the song and lyrics here as a reminder for me that my HOPE is in the Lord that I trust--and it's not a whimsical hope, but a HOPE in a God who loves me and will bring peace and joy to me, even in the midst... even when the waters are a little too deep, when I feel like the underdog in the fight of my life... I've never been so aware of my need... Lord, I know I need you!
Call it a reason to retreat
I got some dreams that are bigger than me
I might be outmatched outsized the underdog in the fight of my life
Is it so crazy to believe
That you gave me the stars put them out of my reach
Call me to waters a little to deep
Oh I've never been so aware of my need
You keep on making me see
It's way beyond me
It's way beyond me
Yeah it's out of my league
It's way beyond me
It's way beyond me
It's way beyond
Anything that I got the strength to do
In over my head keeps me countin' on you
I'm leaving the sweet spot sure shot tradin' it all for the plans you got
Is it so crazy to believe
That you gave me the stars put them out of my reach
Call me to waters a little to deep
Oh I've never been so aware of my need
You keep on making me see
It's way beyond me
It's way beyond me
Yeah it's out of my league
It's way beyond me
It's way beyond me
You take me to the place where I know I need You
Straight to the depths that I can't handle on my own
And Lord I know, I know I need You
So take me to Your great
Take me to Your great unknown
It's way beyond me, way way beyond me
It's it's way beyond me, way way way beyond me
Yeah, You gave me the stars, put them out of my reach
Called me to waters just a little too deep
Oh, I've never been so aware of my need
Yeah, you keep on making me see
It's way beyond me (it's way beyond me)
It's way beyond me (it's way beyond me)
Yeah, it's out of my league (it's way beyond me)
It's way beyond me (it's way beyond me)
It's way beyond me (it's way beyond me)
It's way beyond me
You take me to the place where I know I need You
Straight to the depths that I can't handle on my own (it's way beyond me)
You take me to the place where I know I need You
Oh take me to Your place
Take me to Your great unknown
Songwriters: David Arthur Garcia / Toby Mc Keehan
Beyond Me lyrics © Capitol Christian Music Group

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Just got round 3 and it's going well!

On Day 3 post 3 chemo infusion... so thought a blog update would serve as a great update to what is going on since I'm in-house for the next few days.

First of all, last week was full of blessings... kids first week of school, Columbia College back to life and Brian back to school with a good group of students!

Also, my dad came for a visit last weekend and helped the kids get their back to school shopping done (yea! I didn't have to deal with Walmart!!!), attend 1st soccer games, and we had a good visit, the first since my diagnosis. AND... my mom is here now with us to help us through these last two rounds of chemo. Helping with school, soccer, treatments and sickness... she has come to help us keep things regular for the kids and keep up on life in general, as well as either attend appointments with me or stay with the kids while Brian and I go. Such blessings from my wonderful parents (and their supportive spouses that let them come!).

Mom driving us back from Stanford through the bay area traffic
On to the medical stuff... had an appointment on Tuesday with my oncologist who was totally pleased with the progress the chemo is making. This is the first time that he hasn't taken a physical measurement of the mass because he said it's too mushy to measure... which is a great sign of it breaking down! He also verified again that no lymph nodes are swollen, so that is a great sign that the cancer is being contained. I received my 3rd round of chemo, along with a dose of Neulasta, which is a white blood cell count booster (that apparently costs as much as a new Tesla--hope insurance picks that up!!!), because again, my numbers were lower than they wanted them to be. Hopefully this will help build me up back higher so that I can recover stronger from dose #4 of chemo and be ready for surgery. I have a surgery consult on Sept 18, the day before my last chemo dose (of this round), with anticipation of surgery 4 weeks after that--so surgery will likely be sometime mid-October.

As we approach surgery, a few weeks ago I was given the news that I tested positive for the BRCA 2 gene mutation, which is likely the cause of my breast cancer. This changes treatment options for me, as well as increases the likelihood of me getting another related cancer--either breast or ovarian--(like up to 80%). So, I will still consult with my surgeon for specifics, but knowing that I have to get a mastectomy anyway, I will likely do a bilateral mastectomy, as well as remove my ovaries/tubes. Not sure how it's all going to go down, but again, I have the surgery consult on Sept 18 and will hopefully know more then. In terms of the BRCA genetics, there is a family history on my dad's side of the family with my grandmother and her mother (they didn't know about BRCA genes back then), and on my mom's side I have a cousin who had breast cancer (but tested negative for BRCA). So, I still have to meet with the genetics counselor on what that all means, but will communicate more as I know more, especially to my amazing family members.

Now what... get through this next few days of chemo icky. Enjoy my mom being here and trying to stay cool in this terrible heat wave. Pray for Texas and the mass devastation there and know there are so many who need HOPE in this crazy messed up world. Maybe work a bit over the next few weeks when I feel good.

So many of you have been asking how to help and we thank you so much! With my mom here, we have put a halt on the meal train stuff and the big needs, since she is here and is such a big help. In her words, "what else am I going to do at your house if it's not cooking, shopping, cleaning, etc.?" So... you'll notice the dates are pretty far out for the meal train... and that is for after she leaves and we're dealing with the 4th round of chemo and prep for surgery. Surgery will be another whole beast in itself. Then there will be more treatment after that... so this is a loooonnnnnggggg haul of help that will be needed. So, we definitely appreciate your continued prayers and offers!

The scripture that I read this morning...
So because our hope is set on what is yet to be seen, we patiently keep on waiting for its fulfilment. Rom 8:25   Richard Rohr writes, “IF YOU ARE NOT trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait—you will run—or more likely you will “explain.” Not necessarily a true explanation, but any explanation is better than scary liminal space. Anything to flee from this terrible “cloud of unknowing.”  CLICK THE IMAGE TO KEEP READING

Sunday, August 20, 2017

From Brian

As Brian started back at school this last week with all the teacher meeting days (school starts for him and the kids on Tues), he had lots of conversations about our summer and felt the need to send an email to his fellow staff members about my health situation. It got relayed to me and it was actually really good for me to read, through his words, what's been going on around here. I'm obviously living it, but it's good to see it from his perspective and hear how he communicates his heart. I got his permission to share it here as well, as a way of an update in the middle of round 2--so... guest post by Brian Miller 💓

Hi all,

Sorry to anyone who asked me how my summer was ... and then was surprised hear that Kirsten was diagnosed with breast cancer. So I thought that I would let everyone know what is going on.  My wife has breast cancer. It is a pretty aggressive form. We were not able to catch it super early. It is in the lymph-nodes but has not metastasized anywhere else. She has had two treatments of chemo at Stanford and is responding well to the treatment.  The mass shrunk after the first treatment and our oncologist was pleased by that. She has two more treatments scheduled (one every three weeks) before a re-evaluation and probably surgery and then maybe more chemo at that point.

Any of you who know her know that she is positive, strong and is a rock star... she loves her job and was actually at work today! She is upbeat and we are both confident that she will be OK. 

I am doing well (thank you to those who asked).

The kids are well too. They all seem to be themselves and doing their normal things. We are trying to keep life as normal as possible around the house.

People have asked if they can help.  I like hugs. Kirsten does too. We will take all they prayer and positive thoughts we can get.  If you want to take a more active roll there is a meal train that has been set up for us... I will get that info to you later... cant remember the website. The only problem with joining the meal train is that we are trying to go hippie dippy organic which we have discovered is tricky at first. Signing up for that is not for the faint of heart.

So now when you ask me how I am doing I won't feel like I have to explain all of this before I just let you know if its a good day or a bad one.

Thank you all,
Brian Miller

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Good news from Dr--the chemo is working!

Let's start with the good news. I am so thankful. We got to go to Avila on our annual family vacation with family... and to feel good for this time was so great! Beach time, play time, even a dinner at Jocko's with our great friends, Steve and Lisa. Day in Morro Bay. Then drove up to San Jose on Mon night and got to stay with my cousins Staci and Matt, and their sweet babies, before my appointments on Tues morning.

Blood work, then appt with Dr. Massarweh, who was very pleased with my response to this powerful AC chemo cocktail. On his physical exam, the mass measured 6x7cm, which is down from 9x8!!! Also, he said that the lymph nodes that were felt clearly in our last appt are now no longer defined! He said that typically he would see some softening or something, but this was better than expected results for the first round--the chemo is WORKING! Praise the Lord... and keep those prayers coming!

My white blood cell counts were lower than expected, so my chemo infusion was delayed a bit until my nurse received dr. approval to continue. During that time, I got to meet with a nutritionist who was very helpful in looking at my blood work, eating habits, and knowing chemo side effects and immune building techniques. She wants me on a regime of 80-90 grams of protein a day (an egg is 7 grams) to help build those white blood cells (and other things I tested low in this time)--that is a lot of protein!!!

Anyway, chemo #2 is done and my handsome husband got us back to the beach safely. Much thanks to my awesome sis-in-law, Jennifer, for keeping our kiddos overnight and giving them a super fun beach day while we were away. 💗 Today has been not terrible, the nausea meds are working well and despite a few hot flashes (normal side effect of the chemo blocking hormones), I've felt okay and enjoyed the ocean view room and air conditioning!

However... I had finally had it with my hair. Chunks were coming out and hair was just falling out all over the place. The little hair I still had on my head looked so ratty and thin, it was just sad. So, today, after the fam went down to the beach, I took the shaver to my head and now it's gone. I won't razor it down right away because I read that can cause ingrown hairs. I was surprised to see how much blank space was there from all those chunks coming out, or maybe I wasn't. It is just surprising to see myself bald. But honestly, my head feels so much better (it had been feeling bruised and itchy for 2 weeks) and to not deal with the hair falling all day long was so much better. So... now to embrace this new season (and my new hats!).

Saturday, August 5, 2017

My girls... and my hair.

I have the most amazing friends... I really, really do.

My sweet bible study girls have come around our family since my diagnosis in so many different ways. They have hosted a prayer night complete with floating candles symbolizing hope and faith and sticky notes with every prayer and praise I mentioned while updating everyone, and everyone took the multitudes of notes to keep praying for the specific things we need.

They used one of our Bible study Weds nights together to do a group effort on freezer meals for my family (we got 5 in one night!). They have organized a meal train for our family to help us, especially around my infusion dates when I will be down, to help our family eat well and stress less (the link is here on my blog under the 'about me' picture). And two nights ago, they hosted a 'Hat & Scarf Party' (with some other special friends in attendance, too), where I was honored and gifted with beautiful hats, scarves, cards, and some other fun and meaningful gifts from their

And just in time, too... as my hair has officially started to fall out. Today, it's really bad... chunks of hair when I run my hands through. I've been dreading this part. Not ready to shave it down yet, but I have a feeling that, if it lasts that long, when I go for my next infusion on Tues, that will be the kicker. I'm so thankful to have these beautiful head coverings that I'm excited to use to buffer the blow. It's really sad.

I don't have any pictures of my hat party because I was truly in the moment and pretty overwhelmed... but I will remember it forever. The love and the hope these girls have for me is beautiful, and I am so blessed.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Thankful and Blessed

Now on Day #13 after infusion #1 and I am happy to report that I am feeling almost normal... which feels so good!!! 

I say almost because there is still an underlying tired in there--and with a no sugar and light caffeine policy for myself--it's hard to work out of, so a nap a day is helping! Also, acid re-flux is happening easily with random foods, so trying to keep track of what is triggering that. And, trying to be cautious about exposure to make sure my immune system can rebuild itself for the next round... thus, my family is at church and I am writing this blog post. I'm learning that I can't see all these people that I love and not want to receive their hugs! So far, I haven't started losing my hair, which they said would start sometime after days 10-14. My head is pretty itchy, and I have been given some really cute hats, and I still don't like the short hair cut... but I imagine that I will still wish I had it when it's gone.

Kids came home from Hume yesterday, with dirty and tired bodies, but great stories and hearts bursting with joy! So thankful for the counselors that took on the week with these kids, the Hume staff serving these kids with their lives this summer, and for the God-led ministry of Hume Lake Christian Camps. This is where I heard the message of a God who loved me and for the first time, accepted the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross to die for my sins--the reason for the HOPE within me! Then, I got to work there two amazing summers while I was in college. Now, my kids get to experience it, too! So fun!!!

The love and the gifts and the encouragement that continues to pour into our family is just... incredible. Jesus with skin on for me... even if you aren't believers yourselves. Every single card, call, text, message, visit, gift, meal, offer of help and prayer is felt deep in my soul and is very uplifting and significant to me. I feel like if I were to list it all, this post would go on and on and I would probably forget something, so I will just show you one of the blessings that came to me this week...
These baskets were put together for us by my Columbia College family--we were blown away! My favorite gift in the basket was a framed picture of many of my co-workers (whoever was around on that particular summer day) with a thumbs up for me, but also included were cards, hundreds of dollars in gifts cards for anything from Starbucks to gas, books to read, fresh fruit and eggs from gardens, home canned items, bible verse coloring book and pencils, and more. I said to Brian, "now do you understand why I love working where I work?" He always has, but this even blew him away! Many of you have asked if I will continue working this year with all that is going on, and the short answer is "when I can." I have an amazing boss that cares about her people and does whatever she can to make things work on our behalf (within the district HR limits, of course!). I have an amazing job that while it takes a lot of brain power, is not physical in nature, so it won't tax my body too much (and I will have a Germ-x bottle in my office for everyone I meet with!). I also have a lot of flexibility doing online counseling and teaching, so that will be part of the mix. I also really feel like it will be beneficial for me (mind, heart and body) to be involved with 'normal' life, when I can, especially when Brian and the kids go back to school. The job I do is so meaningful that it makes it worth it, and then of course the people there are so great to be around, it will be good for me (and being alone too long or too often is not!). So, when I feel like I can be there, I can be there. When I feel like I can't, there is no expectation, just support and encouragement... which is another gift in itself.

So, in the progression of the chemo effects, this week before my next infusion (scheduled for Aug 8) should be a good one, as they say after day 12, the immune system is back on the rise. As I'm already feeling good, it's quite likely that it will continue. I am living today so thankful and blessed!

"... I have hope because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness... The Lord is good to those whose HOPE is in him, to the one who seeks him" - Lamentations 3:21-23, 25