Tag Archives: cancer

“How are you?”

“Hey! How are you?”

Do they just mean in general or, like, cancer-wise? How deep are they looking to go? How long has it been since I’ve seen or talked to this person? Have they heard the latest update that I’m fine? Am I fine? I think I’m fine…

“Fine! How are you?”

This often leaves someone looking a little bewildered that I hadn’t answered them fully.

Crap. They wanted to know more…ok where are we at here….

“Yup, scans have been good so I can’t complain!”

“But how are you feeling?”

Now this is the question that really gets me. How am I feeling? I realize people ask because they care just like that’s why I ask them the same question. I just quite never know how deep to go.

Technically, I’m ok! I’m still here and comparatively, way better than I was a few years ago. But I’ve got some issues.

I get asked about the things that still affect me pretty often so I’ll try to give a full answer here. It’s not complaining or trying to garner sympathy, I think it’s just interesting to see where cancer is still affecting day to day life. These are all things I can adjust to, it’s just that this is life now.

Although cancer is not an immediate looming threat on my life at this moment, that’s not to say I can really ever get away from it. All throughout the day every single day I’m reminded, one way or another, that my life and my body are just different than they were 5 years ago.

So here’s the breakdown:

Brain. My brain just does not work the way it used to. Surely part of it is aging and part of it is having kids (….because they age you…), but most of it is due to my brain tumor, the radiation I had to my tumor, the radiation I had on the right side of my head that hit the lower side of my brain, and part of it is residual effects of oxygen loss during grand mal seizures. These side effects are mostly memory loss, difficulty thinking of the right words for things (very common things, like “cup”), and in general a slower processing time.

Sinuses. I never had sinus issues before all of this, but my oncologist seems to think my chemo amped up my immune system in my sinuses so that any bug I get ends up turning into a sinus infection. I don’t quite understand how that all works but I’ll believe him because I’ve seen the PET scans that always always show my sinuses lit up like a Christmas tree but it’s not cancer. Strange things are afoot…

Hearing. Radiation is not over once it’s over. It continues to degrade the area that was radiated more and more over time. Since I had radiation on the right side of my face and neck, this has affected my hearing on the right side to the point where I have lost probably 80% of the hearing on that side so far (the expectation is complete loss on that side eventually).

Hearing loss has actually affected me way more than I thought it would. It’s extremely disorienting and I cannot make out where sounds are coming from. If I’m in a crowded area, I cannot hold a conversation because I can’t make anything out. It just sounds like a swarm of bees or something. Beyond the hearing, my right ear is always uncomfortable and feels “full”. All the time. I can’t get water in it or I’ll get an ear infection and those aren’t all that fun.

My face. Ohhhh, my face. I know it’s a vast improvement from where it was, but it’s still hard for me to look in the mirror for any longer than absolutely necessary. I despise doing my hair or makeup because I have to look at myself for longer and the huge scar and transplant site in my face are just not what I want to see. So I usually just don’t. I may give off a “low maintenance” vibe, and that’s not completely inaccurate, but it’s really just because I can’t stand to look at myself. It is what it is.

Thyroid. Since radiation went down into my neck, I’ve began to lose thyroid function. This comes with a whole list of not awesome side effects. Weight gain and fatigue mostly. Fuunnnn….

Voice. I love singing, I always have. I used to be able to rock a Mariah song but because of, you guessed it, radiation, I’ve lost my high range.

Port. I still have my port in my chest and as I’ve tried in recent months to get back into great shape, this thing is a pain in the butt. It doesn’t hurt it just is sorta weird feeling and can be uncomfortable especially during physical exercise.

Thigh. In case you didn’t know, I had a large transplant of muscle placed into my face and neck and that muscle came from my left thigh. I have a huge scar down the front of it and it has a huge indent down the middle from where the muscle was taken. This has become really uncomfortable since I’ve started running again and trying to get stronger physically. It really aches as I’m building muscle there and the muscles are trying to figure out how to work properly. There are still some leg exercises that my leg just won’t do.

Emotional. This one is definitely the most sneaky but the hardest to deal with. I struggle now with anxiety which I never had before. It’s unmedicated and undiagnosed but ohhh, it’s there. It’s mostly separation anxiety with the kids and it’s a real struggle most days.

I don’t like to give off the impression that life is back to complete normal after cancer. I can’t imagine that to be true for anyone who has had to deal with it. We just have a new normal and we adjust the sails and move forward regardless.

So, seriously, I’m fine! 🤗

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A Season of “No.”

Imagine if God gave us everything we wanted right when we wanted it starting as soon as we repented and accepted Christ. At first, this sort of sounds awesome, right?

But what would we ask for?

We would, no doubt, destroy ourselves with indulgences and whims and would turn from Him to live in our selfishness, glorifying only ourselves.

I think back on things I’ve prayed for and can see where His unwillingness to yield to the foolish whims of my heart were ultimately in my best interest. I also see clearly where seasons of suffering, that I prayed to be delivered from, were painfully drawn out and have brought much fruit that otherwise wouldn’t have flourished if left to my own will.

This is why I will trust His “No.” or His “Wait.” Whatever it might be. It is most certainly for my own good.

The problem is I’ve grown impulsive in my faith, all because of cancer. I no longer see any need to sit around and wait, I want to be shown where to go and I want go. So being told “No” or “wait” is most definitely bothering me more than I’d like to admit.

But just as these two pictures of our lane show, clarity will come. It won’t be foggy forever. And so I’ll seek Him in prayer and scripture. I will continue to serve Him the best I know how.

And I will wait.

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Cancer, a Birthday, and a Secret Prayer

I was dying.  And I knew it.  I was under no delusions that healing was on the table for me and I had accepted my lot in life.  Or death, I suppose, as it were.  Cancer was “exploding” all over my body, in the words of my oncologist, and I had a few good months left – at best.  My brain tumor was wreaking havoc in the way of grand mal seizures that left me for minutes on end without oxygen, leaving me to try to regain my body functions and memory after each one.  And after each one it got increasingly harder and had more long term effects that didn’t dissipate.  I had tumors in my lungs that were so inflamed that any exertion left me in a coughing fit and I found myself night after night sleeping upright on the couch because laying down in bed next to my husband, where I longed to be, would result in painful coughing fits.  My hip and back ached constantly, crying out in pain, and reminding me that the cancer was eating my bones.  Little by little.

Each day I had to relinquish more and more control of my life and the life of my family over to family and friends.  I thank God endlessly for the selfless love we received, but there is no 30 year old mother on earth who wants this for her family.  And so I struggled mentally with my lack of involvement with my kids at the level I had wanted for myself.

My body and my mind were both betraying me more and more each day.  And there was no hope in healing.  And so we faced each day as we had to.

I watched my kids, then 2 and 4, living a seemingly normal life.  At least, as normal as we could provide in the midst of all my treatments, scans, and appointments.  We tried to build a sense of normalcy around the fact that Mommy was dying and we treated it as a fact of life rather than a scary and sad event.  I bought them a book called “A Kid’s Travel Guide to Heaven” and we read it every day.  And while it’s certainly not scripture based, it did help open the discussion and help the kids to see that that was where Mommy would be.  Waiting for them to come.

I needed them to know that if they understood the gospel of Jesus Christ and that if they accepted the gift of salvation that we would be together again.  And I needed them to know that although Mommy was happy to go to heaven, that it would never be my choice to leave them.  Never.  I was desperate for them to understand this.  And the tears would fall.  Rolling down my cheeks in silent protest.  Just as they are right now as I write this.

A sibling squabble was a reminder that I wouldn’t be there to help them bond as they grew up.   Setting the kids in front of a Veggietales so I could get a break because I was in too much pain was a reminder that I wouldn’t be a spiritual influence for them for very much longer.  A sweet hug goodnight and even the frustration of trying to put young kids to bed were all too painful reminders of all I would be missing out on.  And selfishly, this tore me up inside.  Everything in me longed to be there for them as they grew up, and so the tears fell.

People often ask me how I did it.  How could I face this?  How could I cope?  There is truly no good answer to that.  I know we did what we had to do but looking back it seems so impossible.  It really was too much.  How did we do it?

There was a profound acceptance on my part that this was the end.  Mind you, acceptance certainly did not mean gladness.  I was tired and I was sad.  But I was ready.

I remember one sleepless night very clearly.  I had propped myself up on lots of pillows so that I could stay in bed with Eric, and as was so often the case when I could manage to stay in bed, I would listen to him rhythmically breathing as he slept and I would be soothed by the fact that he, at least for a few hours each day, had calmness and rest.  On this particular night, just like I had on so many others, I would pray.

But tonight would be a little bit different.

I lay there with my eyes closed tight, silent tears falling faster each second, cascading down my cheeks only to puddle up onto the sheets.  And in my desperation I reached my hand up to heaven.  And I begged God with all I had in me, to give me until I was 34.

34 years old.

Please God!  It would be about 3.5 years at that point and I felt like I was asking for the moon.  I felt like I was asking God to turn me into a unicorn or something equally as impossible.  I felt like I knew I was asking for too much, that it wasn’t possible, that it was absolutely ridiculous.  But that for some reason in my head that was the perfect amount of time.  That if He just allowed me that window of time that the kids would be old enough to have some good, solid memories of me.  At that time, this was the number one tug on my heart.  Selfishly, I wanted nothing more than for the kids to remember me.  That’s just the way it was.  Eric and I would have been married 10 years when I was 34, and that was just an astonishing feat to me.  It sounded so glorious.  Perfect.  The perfect amount of time!  I kept apologizing to God because I knew my request was so silly and so selfish.  But as I continued to pray, my desperation simply grew as I begged and begged God to please just give me until I was 34!

I write this today.  On my 34th birthday.  I can honestly say I never thought this day would come.  I know God isn’t a genie up in heaven granting wishes, but I believe He heard my heart on that night.  I’m not sure I’ll ever know for sure how all of this has worked or why it has worked out this way, surviving this long isn’t something I believe I deserve or have earned.  It just simply is.  And as I sit here now with clean scans as of last week, I’ll accept it as the beautiful gift it is.

I didn’t want to tell this story.  In fact, I could count on one hand the number of people I ever told this prayer to.  Why?  Because it felt like a childish prayer.  Like a lack of faith on my part, and maybe it was.

But I wanted to tell it now because God is good and deserves all praise.  Always.  He has given me more than I could ever ask or imagine.  Think about those words, more than I could ask or imagine.  All glory to God!  And I give Him glory for this urgency He has placed in my heart for spreading the gospel.  It can feel like a burden sometimes because it was so much easier to live a lukewarm life, but I pray He never lets this passion for praising Him and spreading the Good News fade.  Christ has reconciled this sinner with a Holy God through His righteousness alone.  I’ll always be grateful and I want to only praise him forever.  Thank you, Jesus!

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever!  Amen.”  ~Ephesians 3:20-21

Prayer for Believers

May Your holy fire burn within us again;

And may Your love boil over in result, forcing us to action in Your name.

May we cast off the rotting corpses of shame, guilt, and regret,

And may we fully come to know that Your blood has washed us clean.

May we be ceaselessly burdened for those who don’t know You,

And may we make discipleship our priority.

May we take the Good News so far that our feet become sore and weary,

And may our arms ache and cry out as we reach farther and farther towards the lost.

May we keep our eyes fixed only on Him, our feet straight in His path,

And our lives set in His will.

May we see suffering and long to ease it,

And may we endure suffering in Your strength only.

May we experience unity as believers,

Recognizing that we all share the same goal.

May our lips speak to praise You,

And our words bring You glory.

May we meet contempt with love.

May our words build each other up in constant encouragement.

May we no longer pursue a world that is ripe with decay,

But let us seek revival in Your word.

May we experience hunger so that others may be fed.

May we serve with intent and selflessness,

Forsaking accolades and meaningless praise.

May our egos dry to dust and float away in the wind of God’s goodness.

And may our icy apathy and cold-hearted complacency towards Christ’s final directive begin to melt,

That we may thirst for the living water above all else to fill us.

Sacrifice.

2017 word of the year for us: Sacrifice! Eric and I were called to give up a lot, I mean, A LOT! But we chose obedience over acceptance, as difficult as that was at times.

I won’t undercut those who suffer from true depression, but I have felt depression deeper this year than I have ever known even when dying from cancer. Truly. Although we know we still “have” our church family from New Holland (and love them!), it still felt like God was telling us to give that up as our place of worship. For Him. Not because New Holland is any way bad, NO, not at all!! But because it was time. For us.

We felt led to plant a church and that NH would no longer be our place of worship, after 12 years and the fact that it’s the only church home I’ve ever had, that was hard. I have cried more over these last few months at the “loss” of this family, and most specifically at the loss of being a part of the youth group, than I ever have at anything regarding to cancer. Yeah, seriously….

But God had not left us without. Not even a little. He has given us a new church and a new vision and this has been an amazing blessing to our family. Church planting is, well, WAY more work than I ever thought it would be. That’s not necessarily bad, it just is what it is.

2017 has been very hard for the same reasons that it has been wonderful: People. We love and value all of the relationships we have and that have flourished this year and we mourn the loss of those that we have lost. We have lost friendships and for that, I grieve. But I don’t want to lose focus on my goal of spreading Christ simply based on the disapproval of Christians who don’t agree with my methods. I just can’t. It’s too important and they can say literally whatever they want about me, I know the truth and so does God. And my mission is pure, regardless.

It’s been a hard time because I felt like I needed to hide all of this hurt. But our old church has supported us so much and so have many others and for that we are thankful!

I’m praying that God will do BIG things in us and through us this year as we try to reach those who do not know Him!

We are totally unworthy of this calling to plant a God-honoring church but so excited because that’s how we know God works – through those of us that are unworthy.

May His strength be shown in my weakness as my weaknesses have been on full display this year. I’ve been quick to anger. Oh! So quick. I’ve said less than kind things as a reaction to being hurt. I’ve tried to be a pleaser of people. I’ve lost sight occasionally of the ultimate goal and passion of living for the purpose and life that only Jesus can give. Sadly, even after all I’ve been through with cancer, it’s possible still to lose sight of the most important things because of hurts caused by people. How silly, ultimately.

And I’ve been listening to way too much Taylor Swift. Haha! But seriously there are times that “Bad Blood” has seemed way more appropriate to me at the given moment than any Chris Tomlin song.

I’m a work in progress.

But I can’t and won’t live to please people. God is real and He is good and I will live to please Him only. This has been a surprisingly hard realization to come to regarding all of the testing we have endured this year, but I believe things are looking up and I can’t wait to keep giving God the glory!

Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2018!!

Thank you, Chris Tomlin

Ok, so I try not to preface because usually it’s unnecessary, but I feel like I should let you know in case you don’t already just who Chris Tomlin is.  He is a Christian mega-celebrity.  The Beyoncé of contemporary Christian music.  The Sandra Bullock of worship music.  The Taylor Swift of worship leaders in America (minus the pettiness.  Well, I guess I don’t actually know his level of petty, but I’m assuming it’s lower than me and TS’s.). And I, little old me, got a personalized video message of encouragement from him! (See below).

All that said, I had a pretty cool experience this week.  As my “cancerversary” is right around the corner and we have had some pretty big life changes lately, I’ve found myself more pensive than usual.  I’m having a hard time declaring my gratitude to God for his powerful healing in my life from cancer because survivor’s guilt keeps me from proclaiming His healing glory.  And the fact that he used a missionary who prayed over me as a vehicle to showcase that power?  It’s all so wild and unbelievable, and yet being healed from stage 4 terminal cancer is my truth.  Even if just for now.  I mean, I’m already almost 3 years past my oncologist-given expiration date and that’s pretty hard to shake.  Am I boasting?  Well, maybe, but Paul feels me on this:


So at the risk of sounding like a braggart again, stay with me because I think this is kind of cool.  When I was very very sick a few years ago, I wanted to go to Creation festival but couldn’t.  I had been in 2009, and besides being introduced to a little-known up-and-coming rapper named Lecrae, I also got to see Chris Tomlin as he lead worship.  His set is firmly embedded in my memory (even with as much of my memory I’ve lost through radiation and seizures) as a very worshipful and powerful time.  Declaring God’s glory and proclaiming His goodness with thousands of others.  Just awesome.

So fast forward a few years.  I’m literally dying.  My physical body is failing.  I’m mentally prepping for death for myself and prepping my kids for my death and that this time they are 2 & 4.  I bought a burial plot and have asked for an evangelistic service with an altar call.  And amongst so many other supportive and ridiculously amazing people in my life, I have a beautiful and kind-hearted friend who works at the Creation festival.  I message her and tell her, if it’s in any way possible, could she please just tell Chris that his song “Angel Armies” was one of the most healing songs for my weary soul.  It reminded me of God’s power and, at a time when I was powerless to change anything in my own life, it soothed my weary heart to hear that God is still in this.

This is what I got in return:


Ok, I’m not deluded enough to think that some people are better or more important than others, but that was pretty cool!

I had a lot of feelings about this, but mostly I just had to smile at the naive thought that I, a dying person, would somehow get to see Chris Tomlin again in this earthly life.  He was so sweet, but so naive.  I wouldn’t be seeing him and I knew it, but I so appreciated that kind gesture!

And here I am as of a few nights ago.  Seeing Chris Tomlin live and absolutely breaking down and ugly crying during “Angel Armies”​

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It’s a weird, amazing, wonderful, guilt-ridden, triumphant, and awe-inspiring benchmark in this journey.  I have so much more I want to say, but for now I’ll say thanks to Mr. Tomlin for his faith that we would, indeed, see each other in the future (even if I was just a face in the crowd – I’m more than ok with that).  

Life is crazy.  Cancer is terrifying.  But God is steadfast and He is good.  Always. 

Why Did You Stop Blogging?

I get asked why I stopped writing fairly frequently, and it always manages to throw me off guard a little bit.  I mean, people actually noticed?  I truly love that so many people have joined us in this crazy journey and I never cease to be amazed by the endless support that even people who don’t know us readily shower us with.  So I’ll address this the very best I can and I hope it makes sense.

It was on purpose.  I didn’t just get busy or forget about it, it’s something I enjoy doing and it’s a cool way to connect with people but I felt that God told me to wait.  And so I was only posting as barebones as possible with announcements and scans and things because people are so amazingly awesome that when I would go a long spell without reporting, people worried I had died.  I don’t want people to worry!  But I came to a place where I knew God was trying to tell me something and I needed a period of silence to be able to hear Him properly.  So I pulled back from writing and did what I felt Him telling me to do which was study scripture and focus on face-to-face ministry.  Taking the time to truly connect, one on one, with the people whom I was sharing the gospel and building up in faith.  And I needed to grow my own too before I felt comfortable speaking out on a public forum about anything definitively.  My greatest fear has become misrepresenting God and I needed to learn so much more about Him before I could be confident that I wasn’t doing just that.

I also felt, and maybe I was projecting, that people were getting sick of me.  Tired of the same old story.  I know that there are some people who are less than enthusiastic about our recent endeavors, but I also think I was sick of myself.  If I’m being honest, I had been putting way too much stock in what people thought of me and was fueling myself off of the positive things people said about me.  It was a tough realization that I was worried more about what people thought about me than what God thought of the message I was bringing, so I needed to step back and take a breather.

I believe that respite has done me some good and I feel God has not only laid a message on my heart but also a burning passion to share it.

But how?

I have this platform in my blog that is really cool and can be effective, people have suggested I write a book, I just didn’t know what to do with this.  I love writing and that seemed appealing to me simply because it’s something I enjoy, but again, we would be back to a non-connective way to reach people.

So I’m going to open myself up to doing the best of both worlds and try to share my testimony, my crazy cancer story and the message that God has placed urgently on my heart by speaking.  Well, that is, if anyone wants to hear me haha.  Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to speak to many groups and in churches and it’s always so much more difficult than simply writing but much more meaningful because there’s personal connection and dialogue.  And I never get tired of changing something I’m going to say last minute because the Spirit moves then hearing someone tell me that that specific thing was impactful to them.  God is so amazing!!  And I so much long to see revival in the American church that I’m willing to get really uncomfortable for it.

And please know, this is not self-promotion.  In fact, I struggled with how to convey this so that it didn’t come across haughty or self-righteous or that I think I’m so special or talented or whatever but my husband has been telling me for a few years that I need to put myself out there for this.  And I think I finally have a message worth sharing along with this crazy cancer testimony.  And I’ll put it out there, I’m not an especially good speaker, I’m just passionate and want to share it.

So I’ll say this, if you or your church is looking for someone to come and speak, I am willing.  Women’s groups, youth groups, cancer groups, Wednesday night, Sunday morning, secular groups, (I’ve even spoken to sports groups believe it or not.  And if that’s not showing God’s sense of humor I’m not sure what is!)  Anyway, my point is, whatever it is, even if it’s only 4 people, I’m in.  I don’t, and will never, charge and there’s no expectation of any financial reimbursement whatsoever.  I just want to see revival in the church and to see God be glorified through my willingness to live in obedience, even if it means being uncomfortable.  And public speaking, for me, is very uncomfortable!

I’m not looking to be famous or well-known or anything like that, in fact that’s a super cringe-y thought, honestly.  I’m not going to promote myself or anything like that.  It’s just that I feel like I have this crazy story for a reason, and like the woman at the well, who was so consumed with Jesus after her encounter with Him, I just want to go and tell it!  John 4:39, y’all!  And I’m not like trying to do this for a job, just putting it out there that if you need someone and think I would be a good fit, I’m here.  I’m in PA, by the way.

Maybe no one will take me up on this, and that’s ok.  I have a few “gigs” coming up that I am really looking forward to and really enjoying prepping for.  But I’m putting it out there because, well, I feel like I have to.  If you want to get ahold of me, you can email me at morelikecantcer@gmail.com, can comment here, or if you know me in person, facebook me or call me and I will try my best to make it happen.  I’ll do my best to respond so if you try to contact me and I don’t respond, assume I didn’t get it for some reason and maybe it was the wrong email address or something.