Tag Archives: hope

Results are in

I met with my oncologist in Philly this afternoon and I’m just still so astounded by how this all played out.

It started with seeing my results posted online yesterday.  The wordings of the reports from my brain MRI and my full body PET scan are something I literally thought I’d never see the day.  In fact, I was a little suspicious so while I shared the news with close family, I did not spread the word just in case my homie Dr. A would say something different today.  But yo.  Check it out:

Whoa.  There was a ton less medical jargon to google and the reports were shorter than I’ve ever seen.  What is happening?!  (There was a fascinating report detailing my sinus infection seen on both scans though.  Totally rad for real.)

Then today I met with my oncologist and he was obviously very pleased with how this is all going and… he thinks it’s ok for me to stop my seizure meds!  Why is this important?  Because he can’t assure me I won’t have any seizures once I’m off of it because he’s never had a stage 4 patient go off of this medicine.

It’s nuts.  And I only say this because I’m still trying to grasp this myself.  Once you have tumors in your brain from melanoma it’s typically marked as the beginning of the end.  The meds keep the side effects as minimal as possible while tumors typically grow, multiply, and metastasize.  And here is my genius doctor with a million patients saying he thinks it will be fine but he doesn’t know because he’s never had this opportunity before.  This was super exciting!!  

Until I had to give 10 vials of blood for research purposes.  Eh whatever, I’ll be a guinea pig for this. 😎

It was a gorgeous day today and I received some really great and exciting news.  I’ve recently found it harder to deal with this topic with the kids as they get older and have more specific questions but we take it a day at a time. 

Today, as we were laying in the grass watching the puffy white clouds roll quickly past us while basking in the patches of sunlight, I told them I had some big news.  I told them that at this point they can’t find any cancer in me.  My six year old sat straight up with an open mouth and wide eyes.  They began to sing “Mommy doesn’t have cancer!  Mommy doesn’t have cancer!”  My heart both flew and sank at the same time.  My kids are fully rejoicing in this good news, but it’s also not something that I would choose for them to have to deal with if I could avoid it.  

Our life is different from cancer but I cannot say it’s worse.  I know this isn’t the case for many people and so I share this with a heavy heart on their behalf.

So….we enjoyed the afternoon.  They played joyfully in the springtime weather and I rejoiced inside knowing that I shouldn’t even be here to see that.

It was a good day.

Missing Cancer

“I actually miss it.” I said, probably a little too casually.

Her head cocked to the side as her furrowed brows conveyed her confusion.  A tight smile ran across her lips as her mind reeled with the possibilities of how she had misheard me.

“No, really.  I miss it.” I assured her.

They say that after you have a baby you forget about all of the physical agony your body just went through in the wake of basking in the joy of the new life before you.  And although I can’t say this is 100% true, I can say with complete certainty that it’s worth it.  And I would go back in time and do it again, both times, in a heartbeat.  I’ll never forget how much it sucked, but I’ll always remember that it was worth it.

When I look back on my cancer journey, I feel quite the same way.  Because even though there were so many tears and there was so much heartbreak and physical suffering, everything that happened was ultimately good.  Even if not in the moment, it certainly lead to good.  And I miss it.

When I was sick and facing death, I felt God more clearly than I even knew was possible.  My relationship with Him was solid and easy.  His words were clear and His depths seemed to have no end.  I think back and envision our times together as a literal walk side by side in a lush and beautiful garden on a warm, breezy summer evening.  Just the two of us.  The soft, sweet grass squishing gently between my toes as I beamed with pride at the chance to walk with my Father.  Side by side.  Every time I think of it, this is the image in my head and I gasp a little every time I remember this feeling.  So real.  So close.  So much love and intimacy.  

And so fleeting.

And I hate that it’s over and I hate that it’s so hard now.  I have to work so hard to find Him now.  I know He’s here and I will not forget what has done for me.  But I miss it.  I so much miss that intimacy and connection.  I know that even if I don’t get to experience that again in my life, although I yearn for it, that that has been just a glimpse of what is awaiting me when I pass.  And I long for it, as weird as it might sound.

But I thank God for the fact that not only can I, with confidence, assure someone that He really does work for the good of those who love Him, but that I can look back and actually see where that has happened.  

I was willing to die of it meant somehow that more people would find Him through my death than through my living.  And I still mean that.  But I’ve actually gotten to witness first-hand the genuine love of the Lord gripping my children and I get to walk them through tough moments in their lives and I get to see them putting the pieces together of who Jesus is and why we need Him.  I get the great privilege of serving in ministries where I can see Jesus working first hand.  I’m not sure I could have looked at parenting or ministry with such a God-centered urgency without cancer being a pressure on me to do so.  And I thank God for this every day.

Although I’m thrilled to still be here, it was never my goal to survive cancer.  Maybe I was pessimistic or maybe just realistic, but there was a point where, medically, survival wasn’t in the cards and I accepted that.  I wish I could say I had a fighter’s fire within me that just wasn’t going to give up, but that just isn’t true.  Don’t get me wrong, I always appreciate when people say they’ve found strength because of my story.  That to me is such a blessing and I’m so glad for it.  But when it came down to it, I’ve never in my life been someone who people would describe as particularly brave or courageous.  Any strength that I may have projected came only from God.  It was in my illness that I finally understood what God meant when He said that in our weaknesses is where He shows His strength!  I am, and I say this without fishing for compliments, literally as ordinary as they come.  I am awkward and self-conscious and just completely and painfully average.  

But yet somehow through my circumstances, God was able to reach people and draw them to Him.  I’m still in awe that I was able to play any small part in the growth and cultivation of anyone’s faith.  It’s beyond anything I could have dreamed of.

But a few months ago I began to feel like a hypocrite trying to comfort people in the depths of their pain when I was no longer at a place of physically suffering on that level.  And I had something, at least for the time being, that I couldn’t assure them they would have.  I had life.  I had clear scans and improving health.  I had a second chance and I knew that wasn’t anything I could in good conscience give people hope for.  That wouldn’t be fair or honest.  So I stopped writing for the time being and focused on the relationships right in front of me and how to best serve Jesus in a more hands-on way.  Not  I’ve ever been hands-off in ministry, this is just where I felt God leading.

This is something I’ve said from the beginning with this blogging stuff: I don’t want to give people false hope.  There is no hope in medicine, doctors, treatments, holistic stuff, any of that.  All of that can and will, at one point, fail us.  There is hope only in the salvation that comes from Jesus Christ.  That will never change and His grace will never fail us.  I never wanted to give people false hope and I felt that as a stage 4 melanoma survivor who is doing, well, fine, my continued blogging would do just that.  Do I want that for them?  More than anything!  But I can’t give false hope.

I don’t say this to be coldhearted but honest.  I pray for people to be healed and I desperately want that for people who are suffering but I just never found hope in that.  Hope comes from knowing Jesus is who He says He is and did for us what He said He’s done.  God doesn’t change or fail us or leave us.  He may allow suffering but if we embrace it and try to use it, it will be used for good.

I’m just lucky enough somehow to be able to have been around long enough to see some of this good happening.  I’m so appreciative of people who have shared with me how my story has helped them or a loved one.  And because of that I am much more conscious about telling people how much I appreciate them and how much their stories have helped me.

It was just so beautiful.  It was simple.  It was clear and fresh and everything good.

And I miss that.

But wow am I glad to still be here.

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It’s My Cancer-versary…

There are lots of things in my life that are amazing and awesome, but this is downright unbelievable.  It’s crazy.  Insane, actually.  Today marks 3 years since I was diagnosed as having advanced stage malignant melanoma.  So much has happened (and if you’ve been with me from the beginning you’re well aware of that) but as I soaked it in today through all of the wonderfully mundane things I did, I realized that so much is the same.  How can this be?  How can my life look so normal?  It’s unfathomable (don’t worry, I’ll run out of adjectives eventually…)

It’s wild to think that three years ago today I was at work in our church office with my cell phone right beside me just waiting for it to ring.  I already knew.  I knew I was sick but there was that small glimmer of hope that they were just wrong.  That the biopsy would show the lymph nodes were benign.  That it was all just a crazy scare.  

I’ll never forget taking that phone call.  Hearing those words.  Trying to soak in everything it means to have cancer while also just trying to figure out the logistics of getting an appointment at Penn and the scans I’d need to rule out more metastasis.  How would I get there?  Who would watch the kids?  What am I supposed to tell my one and two year old?! It was right then that I learned that dealing with cancer is an existential awakening as well as a logical, practical process.  There were steps and protocol and buttloads of appointments.  Appointments for days.  And scans.  And more appointments.  More specialists.  Endless specialists.  (Here we learn how good it is to have cancer in America.  We are fortunate to have this level of care and for that I’ll always be grateful.)

It’s been 1,059 days since I heard the words, “You have cancer.”  And not any part of that was easy.  Not physically, not emotionally, not relationally, not spiritually.  The surgery, the radiation, the chemo.  All of it was awful.  It was awful for me and everyone who knew me.  I don’t say that to sound conceited, but you don’t realize it until you have it that cancer affects everyone you know.  And it’s hard to watch.

And then came that little part where we were told it’s terminal.  I’m going to die.  And not in the philosophical sense of “oh we are all dying aren’t we?” but in the “buy a burial plot, tie up all the loose ends that you can, and look at these hospice pamphlets” sort of way.

I was told I wouldn’t live past Christmas 2014.  That was when they found my brain tumor and I was told the cancer was “exploding in my body”.  They would try to slow it down, try to control it of they could, try to zap it as it popped up, but at the end of the day, the term “quality of life” was thrown around much more than one would like to hear when they are 30 and with a young family.  

669 days.  I’m 669 days past my expiration date.  669 glorious, beautiful, painful, crazy, wonderful days.  It’s absolutely baffling.  It’s something that makes me want to stand up and cheer and it’s something that without exception brings shame and guilt.  Every single time I hear about someone who has passed from cancer, all I can think is “it’s not fair. That should be me.”  Survivor’s guilt is real, and it is painful.

But I’ve grown.  I’ve loved more radically.  I’ve reached out more.  Been a better mother and wife because of this.  I’ve been able to watch my kids grow and learn and be awesome little people.  I know people who don’t like to think of their cancer as a journey, and that’s ok.  But for me it absolutely has been.  I’ve allowed the Lord full control of my entire life and have trusted the Spirit in times when I could not possibly do things myself.  I’ve learned that God has a sense of humor in that I’ve been privileged enough to have been able to (and continue to) share my story in many churches and at cancer events.  I hate public speaking, but I love the Lord and wish to be some small part of furthering His kingdom so I’ve (sometimes with grumbling) agreed to do His will here for as long as I possibly can.  I’ve learned how to say yes to God, unquestioningly.  And that’s been the best part.  

And I’ve learned that, above all and through everything, my only goal is to spread hope.  I wish I could honestly say that I was interested in giving people hope that they may survive cancer.  But I can’t and won’t do that.  Because I never want to lie to people.  But I will absolutely tell people about the hope in Christ.  The hope of peace, purpose, and a love that surpasses anything Hollywood can concoct.  Hope in something very real and absolutely true.  And hope that through Him, our sufferings are not in vain.

I’m still here.  I don’t understand any of this, and of course my prognosis is still guarded, but I don’t feel cancery.  I don’t feel like someone with cancer.  Although mentally it will always be there and physically it’s statistically very likely to be an issue again in the near future, I feel good.  And have peace.  And, Lord willing, tomorrow I will celebrate 670 days past my expiration date.

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this with me.  Whether walking alongside me physically or just hearing of my story and praying.  I just love you all so much.  

Happy Cancerversary to me…

Just a month before diagnosis. Blissful ignorance…
After my first radiation treatment (and about 1 month post neck dissection surgery)
I know it’s gross, but this is what radiation does, folks
Zapping my brain tumor with gamma knife
Dat port tho

I’d do it all again in a heartbeat ❤

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I Just Can’t Believe in a God Who…

A lot of people don’t believe in God.  I get that, hey, I used to dabble in that thought process myself.  But if I’ve heard one argument the most I think it would be, “but I’m a good person.  I haven’t killed anyone and I’m pretty nice, why should I not go to heaven when a mass murderer can say sorry right before he dies and go?  I just can’t believe in a God that would do that.”

Here is where God is battling against our pride.  We are told all our lives to work hard and achieve personal success, doing it yourself as much as possible.  So why shouldn’t it be the same in our faith?  Why shouldn’t I be able to just be “good” and still make it to heaven?

We don’t get this because we are good, we get it because He is good. We can’t boast about what we did to get here because we didn’t do anything to deserve it.  That is, besides chugging a big old cup of humility and facing the fact that we do actually need forgiveness.  All of us.

We all want equality and here it is, plain as day, the equality we claim to want. Across the board with zero discrimination.  And then suddenly it’s not fair.  But this is a cool thing about God – He uses our own logic against us to show us our foolishness.  

There is nothing we can do to earn heaven.  No. Thing.  Of course, our fruit and our works will show that we belong to Christ, that’s straight biblical.  But no amount of works will get us there.

Look, I’m not one to use heaven and hell as a scare tactic.  Honestly, when I accepted Christ almost 9 years ago, that wasn’t what ultimately changed my mind.  I wanted something more.  Something real.  Something bigger.  I had been chasing the dreams the world told me to for so long and I was so unfulfilled.  I was an academic with a bachelor’s degree from Pitt who was ready to make some money and get the heck out of rural PA and move onto grad school.  I was too smart for God.

But then I did something super uncomfortable for me – I went to church.  A Nazarene church.  And I’m not sure why that made a difference in my mind, but it did – perhaps because this is the church God wanted me personally to be in.  And there I saw something that I hadn’t witnessed even once in my 23 years prior.  I saw people being genuinely happy where they were and with what they had.  And they were genuinely happy to help others.  I saw people of all socio-economic standings and all ages working together cohesively for a common goal.  I know some Christians get a bad name, but let me tell ya, at least a lot of the ones I know, they do the work. No, nobody’s perfect and of course there are still struggles with greed and pride, among other sins, within the church.  But in my experience, once we truly give ourselves to Christ, we don’t have to carry the burden of self anymore and are finally free.  Free to love and to give and to serve.  Free to find where we truly fit and what our true purpose is.  And there is rest in peace in that.  Now that is a beautiful gift.  

I’ve seen this with many of the Christians I know and they inspire me all the time to do more and do better.  Not because there will be a greater prize, not out of trying to “out-Christian” each other, not because we have anything to prove, but because we all know we don’t deserve this gift that Christ gave us and so out of gratitude and love for others we will serve.  Sometimes I think we focus so much on the heaven part of the gift that we forget about the gift of freedom in this life.  The broken chains, the freedom from sin, the power of the Holy Spirit within us.  What a gift it is!!

People don’t like the gospel because it implies the need to change.  I get it, I was there once too.  Yes, come as you are, but you aren’t meant to stay that way.  God has a better plan. And yes, it takes some humbling to admit that.  Allow change, allow a clean slate and a new heart and a rebirth.  You won’t regret it.  I know how it feels to have a million questions and doubts running through your mind and none of it making sense.  And if you want to discuss anything further (civilly and respectfully of course 😉) please feel free to email me at morelikecantcer@gmail.com

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Happy Good Friday!!
❤ Kim

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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Tears

The other night, the night after speaking to my oncologist, I laid there with his voice running through my head.  I found myself no longer just accepting the news, but trying to make sense of it, trying desperately to put it in perspective.

There is no sign of cancer in me.  My brain tumor is unchanged (possibly dead) with no new mets, my abdominal MRI showed the tumors in my liver were benign and the chest CT showed no change.  The lymph nodes in my lungs are still enlarged but there is no sign of active cancer or metastasis.  For all I know, there may not even be cancer in me at all.  I’m still here.  I’m still freaking here.

I laid there smiling through the tears because I was so in that moment. I thought about how I’m still here and still able to siphon my husband’s body heat on this bitter cold night.  Still able to hear my son snoring away through the thin wall that separates us.  Still able to check on my daughter as in her sleepy stupor she had woken up crying because she couldn’t find her beloved blanky that was of course right under her.  I listened to the dog trying unsuccessfully to scratch his ear from under our bed where he likes to sleep.  I laid on my soft pillow and let the tears silently stream from my cheeks soaking the pillow case as I soaked in my favorite sounds. 

A song began to play in my head.

You’re a good, good Father
It’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am….

I’m convinced I will never fully understand this reprieve I’ve been given, it’s too big and just difficult.  But I’m so grateful to still be here and able to give and love and feel and cry and hurt and smile and laugh and grow in the Lord and do all of the things I’ve been created to do.  In a way it feels like a chapter of my life has closed.  Of course cancer could rear it’s ugly head again at any time, but I finally feel a peace about feeling good and that feels, well, good.

Some things will take some time.  I still mentally cannot plan more than a few weeks in advance.  There is an absolute mental block there.  Something may make its way onto the calendar, but for the most part I’m still in the mindset of “day by day”.  I still over think just about everything, but I don’t think that’s all bad.  In some ways things are completely back to normal and in other ways things will never be the same, but either way I have gratitude, joy, and a peace that cannot come from anywhere but God himself.

Chris Tomlin’s ministry has been so present and important in this journey.  (Oddly enough, through a friend who knows him, he actually knows this – how weird is that?).  But here’s a song that just reaches my soul and guts me spiritually when I hear it – in a good way.  He’s one of the few artists that can make me ugly cry with great consistency lol.  Here’s “Good Good Father”
Chris Tomlin – Good Good Father

Thanks to everyone who’s been praying.  I don’t take that lightly or for granted.  I’ve seen prayer change things and I know its power and I hope you know how deeply I appreciate that support. Love you guys so much ❤ thanks again.

A Great Cancer Date

I haven’t updated on my health in a while – and that’s a good thing!  I’m doing really well and after some scans on Friday it seems as though I’m still responding to the chemo and can still be considered NED.  Hallelujah!!

Not only that but I got to go on a date today with my handsome son 😊 He has always had tons of questions regarding my treatments/doctor/etc so I figured since today I was just seeing my doc and not getting a treatment that it would be a great time to bring Evan along.

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And was I ever right!  We had a blast.  He was his sweet and charming self and brought smiles to many faces in the waiting room.  And my oncologist was very impressed with his reading abilities and how smart and well-spoken he was for a 5 year old.  Yo, when one of the smartest people on this planet tells you your kid is smart, well, that’s a proud mommy moment!  Evan keeps telling everyone he talks to about how the doctor said he should skip kindergarten and go straight to first grade haha oh my we’ve created a monster…

So now I just have a brain MRI coming up next week to check out what my little brain tumor buddy is up to and make sure there aren’t any more lurking but I’m not worried since I’m not having any troublesome symptoms.  Life is just going really well.  I’ll praise Him in the low times too but right now I just have to thank God for this reprieve because it’s been so refreshing to my soul.

That’s all I got.  I hope you all are doing well!! ❤