Tag Archives: death

Closure.

I’m writing this for several reasons. For one, I know that a few of you have been along for the ride but don’t actually know me. You’ve prayed for me and supported us through this so you definitely deserve an update! But I’m doing this for me as well. Although I don’t go back and read my old blogs, if I ever decided to I would for sure want this chronicled.

Yesterday, I got my port out.

Yes, it’s an awkward pic but I don’t care! Because I’m excited and I’m happy! Let me tell ya, the procedure is done in a very professional way in the OR and all that, but I was also fully awake for it. So all of the tugging and pulling against my scar tissue while I was still awake and aware was gag-worthy. For real. But…good has come from it.

For a while this port was like a security blanket for me. It felt like relief and it felt like comfort. I didn’t want it at first but once I had it, I truly came to rely on it as a source of calming, as weird as that may sound.

But over the years, I’ve needed it less and less. Treatments were stopped over 2 years ago and it became a hassle. Something that was uncomfortable and that needed attending to (in the form of getting flushed) even though it was inconvenient. As my days were spent more at home than at Penn, these visits to have my port flushed felt increasingly intrusive. And so we decided to get it out.

I need to include something here for my own records because I felt that I never had closure on this cancer stuff. As much as I could physically feel healthy and mentally detach from the trauma, there was always the reminder in the form of that uncomfortable port in my chest. Treatments didn’t stop with some triumphant “last chemo” where I ring a bell and get applause. No, I simply didn’t want to do them anymore and my oncologist understood and supported that decision.

Appointments and specialists and scans sort of petered out. There wasn’t an end. But this? This felt like an end to the chapter. This felt like the turning of a page. This port that had ingested so much chemo and has seen me through some of the hardest times of my life was about to go. And symbolically, it was impossible to ignore.

You see, God has been opening my eyes to so much recently.

I wanted to go by myself to Philly to get my port out and as I drove home, I thought I’d listen to my chemo playlist on my phone. This was literally the playlist I would listen to during infusions. I haven’t been able to bring myself to listen to it for over 2 years, but I also haven’t been able to bring myself to delete it. It’s special.

So as the songs played, I felt myself get real honest with God. You see, over the last year and a half, we have been a part of starting a church. This is good! But on the same coin, it’s been the hardest time of my life. I’ll explain.

When God called us to this church plant, it ripped me from the only church home I’ve ever known. It tore me from the comfort of the church family that was truly my family, the people who had loved and supported us through my cancer and the people that I wanted to love and support. It took us away from the teens who loved and trusted us and who we loved so very much. Being a part of this church plant meant willingly giving up a huge piece of my heart. And unbeknownst to us at the time, it meant enduring some cruel and unjust criticisms as well. And I was just not ready for that.

On the drive home from having my port removed and thinking through all of the happenings of the last few years that I had shut off from myself, I came to see a few things.

For one: difficult emotions can coexist. I’ll say it again, difficult emotions can coexist! My grief over the loss of my church family in New Holland did not mean I love my new church any less! I’ve tried to hide my grief because I felt like if I looked sad to leave my other church that it would look like I wasn’t ready or excited to tackle what God had in store for us at the new church. And that’s just not true! I spent almost a year in a deep depression over losing our old church, especially the youth. So much so God had to hit me over the head with the new opportunities we had to spread the gospel this past week as 20 teens came to our house for youth group. Praise God for His goodness!! I will always miss our old church. Always. Especially the teens. But I feel more free to experience that grief alongside the excitement and joy of creating new relationships.

And two: God showed me that I have closed myself off from Him. Ok, actually I already knew this, but I guess He showed me why.

Over the last few years, God has called me to some things that were hard. Things I didn’t want or ask for. Things I didn’t want to do and things I didn’t want to face. I’ve meditated on the verse that says, “draw near to God and He will draw near to you” a LOT over the last few weeks, and there was just a hesitation on my part to draw near to Him but I couldn’t figure out why. I love Him and I want to serve Him only, so why couldn’t I connect?

Then, in the drive home from having my port removed while I was listening to the worship music on my chemo playlist it hit me like a ton of bricks.

I’m terrified of what He’ll ask of me next.

The last few years have been so hard, such a struggle, with so little clarity that I was scared that what He’d ask next would be even more so difficult. I’m a little ashamed to even admit this, but I know I need to as some of you look at me as a Christian who just has it all together and has it all figured out. That’s just not the case.

So why even write this? For one, an update to you amazing folks who have followed this journey with me. And for two, so I can look back someday and see what God was up to in this season. I feel closure on the part of my life that was ruled by cancer and that feels so good! And while I still grieve the loss of the most amazing church family anyone could ask for, I’m thanking God for putting us where He has put us.

If you read this to the end, I’m so sorry for making you endure all that and may God bless you for it!! There’s no way I can thank you guys enough for your love, encouragement, and prayers over the years. It’s really mind-boggling to think of all of the support we’ve received and we are beyond thankful! So, thank you!!

And in case you want to know, Eric and the kids are doing great and I found a hobby and passion in cookies!

Love to all of you!! 💕

It’s MY cancer, not hers.

It’s my cancer, not hers.

I wish she could understand that, but I know deep down that this story is not just mine but that it belongs to my children, too. That this is theirs just as much as it is mine.

We ran head-first into an unexpected trial of a “cancer parent” tonight. I’m not much of a cryer and wasn’t expecting to cry tonight but I write this as tears flow steadily down my cheeks.

Brit just had a complete breakdown because she’s going back to school tomorrow after Thanksgiving break and she’s going to miss me. Well, that’s where it started.

If you know me well, you know that I have severe separation anxiety from the kids. Absolutely and without a doubt in my mind a side effect of my trying to reconcile having to leave them – in the form of death – just a few short years ago. I’m still plagued by nightmares of them calling for me but I can’t get to them. And my anxiety grips me each and every time they’re away from me. Regardless of the circumstance. I joke “yes please take them! They’re driving me crazy!” (Which, to be fair, they are) But the jokes are simply a cover for the fact that I’m miserable and worry-stricken every single moment we are apart. They don’t know I struggle with this EVERY DAY and I’m not planning on making it an issue for them ever! But while Evan can, for the most part, go off and enjoy his independence and then come back and let me know he missed me and tell me all about his adventures, Brit is just not quite like that and it kills me to see her broken down at the thought of us being apart tomorrow. This is may just be your classic “nature vs. nurture” psychology sort of issue (is this her natural personality to be anxious and worried or did she develop that because most of her life has been marred with the threat of losing her mom? Or hey, let’s be honest, did she just learn these habits from me?). All possibilities seem plausible when you dwell in them long enough.

Today, I had to go to the doctor for a flu shot and when he looked in my right ear and asked me why it looked the way it did, Brit chimed in that it’s “because Mommy has cancer”. She was matter-of-fact and unemotional, it didn’t seem to phase her, it was just a fact. But I cringed so hard because as much as you try to protect your kids from these realities, they still know and understand. And it’s really hard to watch how MY cancer has affected them. It wasn’t supposed to. It was supposed to me mine! But here we are. Just since I’ve sat down to write this, she has come out 3 separate times just to make sure I was ok and that I am still here.

And, update, now I sit on the edge of her bed writing this as she drifts off because she wanted to be able to see me. She had to know I was there.

This wasn’t supposed to be her burden, but as they grow I am beginning to see how all of this is shaping their story too.

And I feel so guilty.

Snapchat was the only thing that calmed her down a few minutes ago. I’m thanking God for His provision, for health, for my still being here with my children, and for His steady hand holding me in the moments where I can’t actually take any more.

It’s MY cancer, not hers.

It’s my cancer, not hers.

I wish she could understand that, but I know deep down that this story is not just mine but that it belongs to my children, too. That this is theirs just as much as it is mine.

We ran head-first into an unexpected trial of a “cancer parent” tonight. I’m not much of a cryer and wasn’t expecting to cry tonight but I write this as tears flow steadily down my cheeks.

Brit just had a complete breakdown because she’s going back to school tomorrow after Thanksgiving break and she’s going to miss me. Well, that’s where it started.

If you know me well, you know that I have severe separation anxiety from the kids. Absolutely and without a doubt in my mind a side effect of my trying to reconcile having to leave them – in the form of death – just a few short years ago. I’m still plagued by nightmares of them calling for me but I can’t get to them. And my anxiety grips me each and every time they’re away from me. Regardless of the circumstance. I joke “yes please take them! They’re driving me crazy!” (Which, to be fair, they are) But the jokes are simply a cover for the fact that I’m miserable and worry-stricken every single moment we are apart. They don’t know I struggle with this EVERY DAY and I’m not planning on making it an issue for them ever! But while Evan can, for the most part, go off and enjoy his independence and then come back and let me know he missed me and tell me all about his adventures, Brit is just not quite like that and it kills me to see her broken down at the thought of us being apart tomorrow. This is may just be your classic “nature vs. nurture” psychology sort of issue (is this her natural personality to be anxious and worried or did she develop that because most of her life has been marred with the threat of losing her mom? Or hey, let’s be honest, did she just learn these habits from me?). All possibilities seem plausible when you dwell in them long enough.

Today, I had to go to the doctor for a flu shot and when he looked in my right ear and asked me why it looked the way it did, Brit chimed in that it’s “because Mommy has cancer”. She was matter-of-fact and unemotional, it didn’t seem to phase her, it was just a fact. But I cringed so hard because as much as you try to protect your kids from these realities, they still know and understand. And it’s really hard to watch how MY cancer has affected them. It wasn’t supposed to. It was supposed to be mine! But here we are. Just since I’ve sat down to write this, she has come out 3 separate times just to make sure I was ok and that I am still here.

And, update, now I sit on the edge of her bed writing this as she drifts off because she wanted to be able to see me. She had to know I was there.

This wasn’t supposed to be her burden, but as they grow I am beginning to see how all of this is shaping their story too.

And I feel so guilty.

Snapchat was the only thing that calmed her down a few minutes ago. I’m thanking God for His provision, for health, for my still being here with my children, and for His steady hand holding me in the moments where I can’t actually take any more.

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

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. 

Trying to Forget

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Going for a walk around our neighborhood is one of our favorite activities.  Brit always grabs her stroller and puts her precious Baby Monkey in it while Evan insists on riding his tractor down the sidewalk, threatening any mailbox that stands in his way.  Eric and I always enjoy the view from behind and like that we can actually catch up with each other and get a moment to talk.  Tonight was a beautiful time to refresh and recharge and…remember.

It was a gorgeous early spring evening with a crispness in the clean, fresh air that was so invigorating and I thought to myself, “I don’t want to forget this moment.”

Just as quickly as I had that thought, a whole range of emotions came over me as I realized that the only reason I was truly taking in this sweet moment to its fullest was because not long ago I wasn’t promised this time. There was a time not so long ago that I was so close to losing my life and somehow…I had forgotten. 

I’ve been laying a little low lately – almost trying to see if maybe I could forget.  Forget what it felt like to be facing death eye to eye.  Forget what it feels like to need to “wrap up the loose ends” that we all have in life.  Trying to forget the feeling of being helpless to take care of my family.  I was trying to forget the pain and heartache and physical and emotional hardship of living with stage 4 cancer. 

And my health has been conducive this way of thinking as I am completely stable right now.  No major pains, no treatments, no appointments, no scans (until May). 

Life is, well, back to normal.  Which is all I ever wanted from the start of this!  Or so I thought.

Tonight I realized tonight 2 things:

1. I can’t forget
There are constant and inevitable reminders of the fact that, yes, all of this really happened.  My body is scarred and in several places grossly misshapen and often painful.  I still have my port.  My kids know too much about death and cancer for their own good and I realized that although I had grown slightly uncomfortable in discussing it, they had not.  There are medical bills still coming in regularly and I still need seizure meds as I still have a brain tumor and thyroid meds because radiation killed my thyroid.  I can’t forget these things. 

Our family has changed because of it. Our marriage has changed because of it. I have changed because of it. And this leads me to #2.

2.  I don’t want to forget. I see now that my diagnosis is on a similar level to that fateful day at the age of 23 where I walked down to the altar and finally found where I belong.  I met Jesus that morning and accepted His unimaginable gift of salvation and my life has not been the same since in the best possible way.  And I consider it not just an honor but a duty to share all of the ways He has been faithful to me since that day.  My battle with cancer is no longer something I want to forget because it too has so deeply changed me and affected how I see and relate to the world.

I always say that sometimes I feel too “Christian” for the secular world and feel to worldly for the Christians.  I often feel like there’s not a place I “fit”.  But God is amazing and has used this as a beautiful testimony and a way to reach other people who also feel like outsiders.  People who doubt.  People struggling with shame and loneliness, just as I once had.  I never want to forget my life before Jesus.  It wasn’t pretty a lot of times, but it shows me just how deeply and truly He can change us.  I’m forever grateful and will spend my days forever glorifying Him. 

So I apologize if I start blogging way too much!  I’m not trying to be annoying (it just comes naturally to some of us 😉) it’s just that I’ve learned so much and have had so many amazing experiences that I need to use every chance I get.  And I look at this blog as another opportunity to bring praise to God.  And honestly, I’ve missed the interaction and connection to others that I feel in doing this.  Its been a great way to meet people, pray for people, and hear other people’s stories. 

I’m not trying to forget anymore.  In fact, I will be trying more and more to remember what this journey has brought because ultimately it has borne fruit in me and I’m so grateful. 

And why would I want to forget that??

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Overwhelmed

This time last year I was planning my own funeral.  Seriously.  Things were looking so bad with my cancer at that point (mets in my brain, lungs, and hip bone after spreading from the lymph nodes in my neck), and what we had hoped would be a wonder drug, ipilimumab, just seemed to make my cancer grow faster and reach farther.  I was in a good place spiritually and I honestly felt a peace about death.  I truly believed that it was my time to go and acceptance came very naturally and with that came some of the “housekeeping” that comes along with this: I bought a burial plot, was storing up letters and gifts for my kids, I was planning a crazy, over-the-top Christmas for us under the assumption it would be the last one I spend with my family, and I was planning some of the logistics of my funeral. I’m not saying this was easy, I mourned of course for things I would miss with my family, but I never stopped trusting in God’s bigger plan for this.  Even if His plan included what I considered dying young.  

And here I am a year later.  Having lived about 9 months past my prognosis and having just had a perfect PET scan that shows I’m having a complete response to the chemo that I received about 20 treatments of, Keytruda.  Complete response.  

This was on my check out sheet from my visit to Penn today:  

I’m not delusional enough to think that I’m special or deserving of this. I am well aware of people who have been recently diagnosed, or restaged for the worse, or who have lost their battle with this horrible cancer.  I know that my result isn’t what always happens.  It’s a helpless feeling, truly.  I knew that my healing may come in the form of death, and this still may be the case (I will still get scans every 3 months and my prognosis is just a big old question mark at this point) as I am still stage 4 and this cancer is a wild card.  But for the first time in a long time, I don’t feel…cancery.  

As I drove home from Philly today, a song came on the radio and the weight of all of this really settled in for the first time.  Overwhelmed by Big Daddy Weave.  Click the blue link to give it a listen.  I’ve heard this song 1,000 times but today I really got it and I truly was overwhelmed with gratitude.  To God, to my doctors, to my friends and family, to all of you who are so kind and encouraging.  

Ok sorry, it sounds like I’m accepting an award here or something, but I’m genuinely, for the first time in 2 very long years, able to think ahead a little.  To plan a little.  I feel like there’s a chance of making it.  Of doing the things I had completely cut out any chance of.  I had shut the door on being here to experience so much:  homeschooling, seeing the kids do sports or activities, experiencing my children’s baptisms and weddings, seeing any more anniversaries with my husband, and so much more.  

It’s exciting and scary and overwhelming.  It’s living.  I’m just really really happy right now…  

Just a few months before my diagnosis…  
This time last year at the amazing flash mob my friends and community and church did for us ❤️


 And now… 
 

Can’t wait for next year!!

Cracking

I have a PET scan tomorrow.  Although you would think I’d be used to these by now, I still am not completely there yet I guess.  My usual means of dealing with the feelings that come along with these types of tests are to withdraw a bit for the few days leading up to them.  Ok, withdraw a lot.  From friends, from family, from God.  I know it sounds weird but I guess I figure if I can grit my teeth and just get through it then I can deal with whatever comes of it.  Lately my scans have been good.  Great, actually.  

But today I feel overwhelmed with the fragility of this state.  The thought that this could all be taken away from me so quickly is weighing me down.  Anything bad showing up on this scan could mean the end.  Living with this knowledge is a huge weight on my life that changes how I view everything else.  It’s not just hard to live this way, it’s torture sometimes.  

I went to a funeral this morning.  My brother-in-law’s mom passed away from cancer and she was a huge inspiration to me throughout her cancer journey.  Every time I saw her, she was upbeat but realistic.  She had assurance in Christ and had a light that shone through her for Jesus.  I always looked up to her and how she was dealing with everything.  But that came with consequences too as I found myself wondering when I had these little break downs if Judy ever did that.  I figured she probably didn’t; she was so strong and so sure of her faith.  Maybe I didn’t have enough faith.

The last time I saw Judy was a few weeks ago when I was taking a meal to their house.  Luckily, the kids were sick this time.  I realize it sounds odd to say “luckily” when talking about sick kids, but it wasn’t anything serious and I just didn’t want them around her in case they were contagious.  Where our previous visit had consisted of the kids being silly and Judy being so sweet and making them laugh, this time I was able to talk to her one on one.  She kept repeating a few things that didn’t seem quite so heavy at the time but as I sat in her funeral they were all I could think about.  

As I visited her that last time, she held my hand tight.  I tried to make small talk but soon realized that she and I were both thinking the same thing, that we could understand each other.  She began to cry and kept saying, “Oh, this cancer.” and “but I know where I’m going!”  Smiling through our tears, I felt like she was trying to comfort me.  And I realized then that it’s not being “strong” when we don’t cry or don’t get upset, that may actually be denial.  True strength and bravery means always putting others before yourself.  I finally get that.  There is no doubt in my mind that she was hurting and sad.  I get that and I understand that on a very deep level.  There is a very real sense of grief when you know you’re dying.  You mourn for what you’ll be missing out on.

Judy’s service was beautiful and honored the wonderful person that she was and gave the rest of us hope through her love for Jesus shining through in every part of the funeral.  But I came home with a huge chip on my shoulder.  I wasn’t sure why but everything just seemed wrong and off and I was getting quite aggitated.  I sent my poor mom off with a less than warm goodbye and as I walked back to the kitchen, a song came on my Pandora station.  It was Britt Nicole’s Safe.  Tears began to stream down my face uncontrollably.  

You keep tryin to get inside my head /  While I keep tryin to lose the words you said / Can’t you see I’m hanging by a thread? / To my life, what I know, yeah I’m losing control / Oh no, my walls are gonna break…

Just at that moment as I began to break down, I heard my 4 year old son crying downstairs.  I didn’t want him to see me this way so I tried to wipe my face as best I could, knowing that I still had long black tear stains on my cheeks but I needed to get to him.  I found him balled up on the couch crying.  I sat next to him and and tried to pull him close.  But he resisted and tried to get away from me.  I firmly held his head in my hands and looked him right in the eyes and gently wiped his tears with my thumbs.  He relented and fell into my lap with his arms flung around my legs and he just laid there and sobbed for a few minutes.  He looked up at me and told me the cat had bit him (nothing serious) and he put his arms around my neck and just let me hold him for a few minutes.

Tears began flowing again as I realized that I was denying God this opportunity to comfort me.  I was pushing away when what I needed to be doing was just letting Him work on me and comfort my hurting heart.  

With no answers and no insight I’m just choosing to curl up in my Heavenly Father’s lap and let Him wipe away the tears.  There are certainly no shortage of them today.  

“Cancer Mom”

So things have been pretty crazy here! I just made my TV debut and I’m pretty famous now, so not sure how often I’ll get to blog since I’m a celeb. Haha, jk. The local news did a story on us and I guess specifically on my “bucket list” of which everything has been accomplished (almost) minus all the little things I want to do for the kids. It was really weird when the news lady (Meredith Jorgensen, who is amazing and beautiful and a cancer survivor herself!!) asked me about the third thing on my list.

Refresher:
1. Travel to Italy. My friend organized a trip to Little Italy in Philly in food and it was AMAZING. CHECK!
2. See Hillsong live. Never, ever thought it would actually happen, just thought it would be cool. Well, IT’S HAPPENING!! I am beyond excited and a little scared to talk about it because it seems too amazing to even be real. Hopefully by this time next week, I will be worshipping with my favorite band and a whole ton of other people. AHHHHH! ALMOST CHECK!!
3. To leave my kids special things for them for throughout their lives. Presumably without me. Letters, gifts, special things for birthdays, milestones, weddings, baptisms, etc.

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Ok, so I’ve been putting this off. Big time. And it wasn’t until the nice lady started asking me about it that I realized that I’ve been putting it off, not because I’m busy, but because subconsciously I knew that that would really mean facing my mortality and not only facing it, planning for it. I immediately began crying as I answered her because it hit me like a ton of bricks. I just can’t do this. It’s too hard. Leaving my husband and kids is something I just cannot prep for. I had been delusional enough to think I was just “busy”, but realized that that wasn’t at all the case. Ugh….Reality. Such a drag!!

So yesterday, the day after my TV debut (move over Kardashians!!), my sister in law asked me if I wanted to go with her to a local Christian bookstore. I said sure since my mom was here to watch the kids. So I’m there and I realize this is the perfect place to get things started. And things start flying into the cart. I want them to have nice Bibles from me (13th birthday? Baptism? I haven’t decided yet…), keychains for their 16th birthdays, young adult devotionals, baby girl’s Bible for Sis, etc. Then I start to look at those Willow Tree statues and I lose it. Like ugly crying. Like tears streaming, snot flowing, inability to speak coherently, the whole nine yards. Ugh. I was able to pick one for each of the kids, but man was it hard! The checkout girl must have thought I was nuts as I was still sobbing hysterically at checkout.

It was hard, really hard. Like typically I just gloss over things and make light of them, but this was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But I had to get over this hurdle. Now that I have I feel more open to starting other projects for them, and not making excuses. I’m still here. I get this opportunity that some mothers don’t, and I want to make the most of it!

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If any of you are in the same boat I am, this book has been a great way to open up the conversation about heaven and death in a kid-friendly way. Brit’s a little too young to get it, but Evan does and he really likes it.

Thanks again to everyone for your love and support, it’s overwhelming in the most amazing way. We really love you all and couldn’t be getting through this without you!!