Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Road to Radiation...Hitting the Storm

So on my treatment road, we have finally hit the storm. The side effects have kicked in. I’m so glad they decided to wait until after the holidays to start. :) On Tuesday, after my sixth radiation treatment, I took my first nap because I was so tired. It usually hits me around 2 or 3 in the afternoon, so this should be interesting when I start work again on Monday. It is the kind of tired where your eyes are heavy and you just need to shut them. That must be the sign that your body is telling you to rest so that it can rebuild itself. The other side effect is my sore throat. I first started to notice it when I tried to swallow a bite of hamburger and it felt like I was trying to swallow the whole hamburger! My throat feels like the hole is the size of a dime instead of a half dollar and just feels dry and raw. For the first time, I am drinking hot lemon water and honey and chewing more gum to keep my throat moist. Other than that, I can still eat pretty much anything, just not comfortably.

Things are starting to slow down again, the parties are all done and my decorations are coming down. Although I did keep one thing up. I bought a little 4 ft. lit up evergreen tree this year with some Christmas money to keep up throughout the winter months in an attempt to keep that holiday spirit somewhat alive. But that wasn't the only reason. This year was hard, obviously, and although my body was weaker than ever this year, I found out how strong I was on so many different levels...both physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And this little tree reminds me of the The Oak Tree poem given to me by someone at my dad’s work…those Apollo people are so supportive and are more of a blessing then they know.

The Oak Tree
by Johnny Ray Ryder Jr

A mighty wind blew night and day
It stole the oak tree's leaves away
Then snapped its boughs and pulled its bark
Until the oak was tired and stark

But still the oak tree held its ground
While other trees fell all around
The weary wind gave up and spoke.
How can you still be standing Oak?

The oak tree said, I know that you
Can break each branch of mine in two
Carry every leaf away
Shake my limbs, and make me sway

But I have roots stretched in the earth
Growing stronger since my birth
You'll never touch them, for you see
They are the deepest part of me

Until today, I wasn't sure
Of just how much I could endure
But now I've found, with thanks to you
I'm stronger than I ever knew

Cancer showed me just how strong I, Laura Elizabeth, really am.
In a way, thank you cancer, for showing me my strength and how deeply rooted I really am.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Merry Christmas! Only 363 days left until Christmas :)

Merry Christmas from 1983!

I have had an absolute BLAST this holiday season! After a work Christmas party and a scarf gift exchange, I was determined to find a scarf that was exchanged that I just loved! Because I’m crazy, I found it at the store…and I'm in love with it! Then on Christmas eve, Andrew had to work and I had my extended family Christmas at my aunts house with all of my dad’s side of the family. Pretty neat still to see all the great-grand kids open up presents and not us anymore. Christmas parties have the BEST foods so I am so glad my throat hasn’t started hurting yet from the radiation and I can still swallow. I’m eating like a hog this season and praising God that I didn't have chemo to make me sick during the holidays!!
Then I had Christmas morning at my house with just me and my hubby. My monkey bread turned out AWESOME this year…truly a Christmas miracle!! And then my parents house was just AWESOME too. I love getting together with my family…especially when we take it back to 1983! Since Andrew has a moustache, we decided to surprise my parent and do a tribute to his moustache by having all the guys have moustaches…then that led to the holiday sweaters…then we all just went crazy and went all out! We totally went to my parents house looking as if we stepped out of Christmas movie from the ‘80’s! Totally fun as Julie looked like the mom from the Dugger family, and Billy looked like a used Volvo salesmen with his hair slicked back. Scott was decked out in a black dickie and white sweater dressed as Uncle Eddie from Christmas Vacation , Sarah had the poofy hair and lipstick, Andrew had his I LOVE CHRISTMAS...AND LAURA sweater I made him as a joke from 2007 on...and the moustache that started it all, Mike wore HIS sweater from when it was cool back in the '80's ;)...and I wore the leg warmers, leggings, pearls, and headband. What a laugh til you cry moment…and made a great memory! We were just glad none of us got pulled over or in an accident. Could you imagine this crowd's mug shot?!?! Oh and thanks momma for the sweaters :) We snuck into her closet and got them out!! We love ya mom!

Meet Marlene and Marve for the evening...

My sisters Sarah and Julie and my brother Scotty

We just kept saying...'These were the guys we COULD have married!' So glad we have the normal Mike, Andrew, and Billy :)

Smile Big Sisters! We are ALWAYS happy at Christmas time!

Dad was prepared with some holiday trivia…and we walked away with even more laughs! We learned that Scott can’t pick a number between 1 and 1,000 (3,364 was his serious much for paying attention!), and that there is no W in the word value Andrew (and it's still not in the word Thanksgiving either!) We also learned that Billy still knows more about technology than anyone, and yes Sarah there are 4 Oceans…and one really is named Indian. I’m serious, my family laughs until it hurts our face, stomachs…and my chest. :) Oh…and we all had to sing We Wish You a Merry Christmas in a different language for our lotto tickets this year. Dad had the words and we were trying to sing and pronounce them…lets just be glad we do not speak in Cherokee right Andrew?! Poor guy had to try and sing this: We wish you a Danistayohihv & Aliheli'sdi Itse Udetiyvasadisv... TOO funny!

We did our gift giving and had the auction again this year (where we pick a number and get the gift assigned to that number). Scott, my brother, once again made out with laundry detergent, dial soap, and a snowman seat cover...just what he needs when he still lives at home with mom and dad :) Andrew and I really did good because combined we got three gift cards to Beer Barrel, the movies, and Keystone meats. Date night here we come!
Most of all, we shared laughs and love, and that’s what family is all about. We are all so different, yet too much the same. We married good guys who fit in just right with this crazy Hochstetler family and agree to play our funny games and participate in crazy holiday costumes. I have parents who go over and beyond every year to make us happy and have a memorable day. I’m not sure how we are going to top it next year…but we will :) Maybe me just being there, being healthy, and cancer free will be the best topper of next year! You have no idea how many times I thought about how lucky I am to have family, and have my life back so that I can have many more Christmas's to come. Thank you cancer treatments. :' ) Yes, that made me tear up again!

Sarah took an intermission from Christmas to promote Breast Cancer Awareness :) She is too funny! Laughing is what has got us this far in my Pursuit with cancer.

Me and my beautiful momma! And my North Face sweater...thanks Santa Andrew :)

The Funny face picture of my nieces and nephews!

What an exhausting day :) We found Keaton like this in a chair around 9:30.

Then we had Andrew's family Christmas tonight and that was also filled with laughs and yummy dinners. I got an awesome Bible from Andrew's parents that goes through the whole Bible in 365 days AND in chronological order from when the events actually occurred! It also has historical dates and an overview of Israel's history. Just what I was looking for this year! And Andrew's dad got this movie...and I just had to get a picture with the moustaches!

And this lady gets the award for best sister in law ever! Period. I love ya Bethy! And you probably already noticed, but my eyebrows are in, my lashes are in, I have color in my face again, and my hair is growing back pretty good. It brings me to tears sometimes when I look in the mirror and realized how I took those tiny hairs for granted just six months ago. Christmas has come and gone and while laughing in the process, I have learned about both the fun in giving and receiving of gifts and I received the best gift ever this year, understanding God's love for us like never before. :)

Friday, December 24, 2010

It truly is A Wonderful Life

I just watched It’s a Wonderful Life for like the 10th time in my life this holiday season. Don’t you want live back in the 1940’s just to see what it was like without any of this instant technology?? I really love the movie and I love George Bailey and Clearance the angel. I like George because he’s just like us…looking for a break in life while everything about us still needs improvement…our faith, relationships, work, marriage, duties around the house, health. But like George, I have friends who I know would come through for me the moment I was in a sticky situation and needed them. The ending reminds me to be grateful for the life that I have, regardless of my situation…because I have friends.

Did you know that Frank Capra filmed an alternate ending to It’s a Wonderful Life? The other ending had Uncle Billy remembering that he misplaced the money in the newspaper when he unties a string, and then Mr. Potter receives a "comeuppance” or a punishment. But Capra did the right ending. It leaves you with the importance of friendship and helping each other out when times get rough instead of focusing on punishment and ‘getting what they deserve’. They ended the movie with the note that read ‘No one is a failure who has friends.’ It holds true then and still now that there is more value in friendship than in money. Because George had friends, they came through for him just when he needed them debt and about go to jail. I hold my friends dear to me, and by friends I mean family too...they are the best friends you will ever have. I am so glad that they have not fled during my diagnosis, but have been there to listen to me and encourage me. They accept me for who I am, the life that I have. But most importantly, they are there for me at my weakest points, when I feel like I can’t screw up any worse, and when there is a problem I just don't know how to solve. We are all a work in progress and have bad times in life, but don’t try to end your life like George because you can’t see the end of the tunnel during a bad situation. Be brave and talk your problems out with your friends to gain new insight and perspective. A true friend will not judge you, but help guide you. I’ve learned the most valuable lessons when I’ve asked for help and opened myself up for help when I needed it. But most importantly, be like the people of Bedford Falls, encourage each other, support each other, and let each other know that we are doing a good job in this hard life we live in. We may not have the opportunity like George to look back and see how much of an influence we were in this world, but just remember to treat people with kindness and love, and you will always have friends.

And Now...Last night I got to have supper with some of my oldest and bestest friends...some since the 2nd grade and they are still the best :) Thank you my dear friends both old and new for not judging me when I’m at my worst, for giving me memorires to cherish, and for letting me encourage you when you need it too. I know we don't get to see eachother often, but knowing that you are a phone call away and always there for me truly helps guide me along this life so that I don’t feel like a failure…and it’s because I have you, my friends.

And to my best friend, my husband Andrew...Thank you for constantly loving me at my best and worst moments and for never giving up on our marriage throughout all the crises we have endured. You are truly the best friend I have ever had and will be until the day I die. You've made my dream 'movie life' come've given me A Wonderful Life.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Road to Radiation...Finally on the Road, with some good reading material from Dad :)

My first two radiation treatments at St. Rita's Regional Cancer Center were a piece of cake! I’m in and out in no time. I don’t feel a thing while I’m receiving it, and you don’t see any kind of rays or light to scare you off! All you hear is a buzzing sound for a little bit and then you are donezo! I can definitely handle this! I don’t have any side effects yet, the only thing is that I feel some ‘commotion’ going on in my chest. It's the best way I can describe it, its not painful at all, just a weird, still kinda tight, ‘fluttering’ feeling. Honestly, I can’t describe it at all, because its nothing I ever felt before, but it doesn't hurt...lets just say its working and if this is all I feel, HOORAY!!!!
So this is what the radiation machine looks like, it's not me, but its a picture I found. I lay just like this with my hands above my head and I get to keep all my clothes on from the waist down and keep my hospital gown on until its time for the radiation. I then take it off and lay on this board, put my head in the head/shoulder mold we made and my arms go above my head. Then, they push and pull me around to line me up just right with the tattoos and then say some number/letter combination that I don't understand...then its time for the main event. They step out of the room, and I'm there to sing with the radio all by myself. :) The circle thing is what makes the noise, it shoots the beam through my chest, and then it does a 180 so the circle thing is on the bottom, and then hits my back and gets the tumors from the backside too. Its actually a really cool and quick process. In and out and to work in 30 minutes! I have 18 more sessions to go and that takes me to the middle of January. I am SO glad this process may treat me better than the first cancer has to be, I got my first radiation treatment and then the same night, the Sing Off sang 'Fix You' to me!! My cancer song from the dance on my blog from a few months back!! I love when things happen like that :)

Oh, and I made a full circle too when I had to go back to Cancer Care where I got my chemo treatments yesterday after radiation (I have called it Cancer Center in my past...but I pulled in yesterday and looked at the sign, then realized it was called Cancer Care...can you say chemo brain?!?!) I have to get my port flushed once a month so that my vein doesn't get clogged. I was so happy to see my chemo nurses, just as funny and awesome as ever. I can't believe it was a month and a half ago since I have been there to get a chemo treatment. Seemed like yesterday when I was spending my time there, the routine came right back to me...Take my vitals, deep breath for the poke, done! Port flushes are much better that chemo drugs I must add!

On a side note, my dad has a way with words and this story he wrote touched my heart and I wanted to share it with you…he’s pretty good at summing things up from the past 6 months...let me tell you, many people had cancer during my diagnosis...I just carried the cancer cells. My dad is one of those people who was there every step of the way with me...

An Unanticipated Holiday Season Reflection

Six months before Christmas, unwanted news was given to me
My “Me Lorla” was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma you see
Since that time, many lives have been turned upside down
But from the beginning Laura said ‘please don’t wear a frown’.

I needed information, to know what this war was about
And I soon learned, Laura’s life would be turned inside out
Big changes were coming, for her body and her mind
And as we soon learned, these changes were not kind.

She said from the start, “My God, My Family and My Friends will stand with me”
But in times like this, we heard it was easy for people to flee
Only God truly knew, what the future would hold
The challenge for us, was to remain faithful and bold.

Laura’s foundation that was to get her through was pretty clear
It was truly based on her simple Faith, and “Never Give In” to fear
And although this ordeal, of being ever optimistic can be quite a task
She had to - because this new enemy was always coming at her, wearing a different mask.

She said that the nurses, “Are always a blessing to people like me”
For they would always put things in perspective, for people like us to see
One area was “The treatment they said that would be used to help us”
And another was “Painful side-effects, but still the treatment would be a medical plus.”

She always reminds us, that her personal Faith is growing stronger throughout this ordeal
Even though every day, she is reminded this enemy definitely is for real
It has been real for her mind, her body, and also her soul
But her foundation remains strong, and will not let the enemy take its’ toll.

Laura’s family and friends remain faithful to her and are so proud
That she has inspired us to remain strong, and keep finding ways to take away the cloud
We constantly try new and fun ways to be there for her each day
Even though all she asks, is to think about her and pray.

They say the way for people to grow stronger when times like these get tough
Is to remain focused when these times start getting rough
Focused on what is good, what is right, and what is the optimistic thought
For those we are reminded, are all that remain after a good battle has been fought.

She blesses us so often with her blog so we can constantly learn
How the ever constant new enemy is being dealt with, through each and every turn
Her every blog becomes inspirational and keeps us up-to-date
And in her own inspired words, helps us to grow and to relate.

Relate to the good, the bad, and the ugly we learned she was to share
And as a result, she constantly teaches us in many ways to more deeply care
To care about our loved ones through the good times and the bad
Because when all is said and done, they are the best friends we ever had.

So Me Lorla - this reflection is somewhat a summary of the past
And now we are on to Round 2 of treatment and hope it goes fast
With chemo and radiation, being two words we have all learned too well
Your reflection about this, has been quite the inspirational story to tell.

It still saddens my heart that a child of mine has had to endure this all
Because it was my prayer, should this ever occur, it was upon my life this should fall
But our life takes many turns, that we could never have known
And ultimately it is through God’s plans, we finally realize the ways in which we have grown.

In Summary but Not to Verse:
Thank you Laura for sharing, for giving, for loving, for enduring,
and for the Faith that gave you your attitude of “Never Give In” throughout this ordeal.
Thank you Laura for taking this temporary misfortune of yours and making it
into a spiritual, mental, moral and emotional fortune for you and us!
Love Ya Me Lorla,

Sunday, December 19, 2010

You Swing Harder after the Curve Ball

Tomorrow is my first radiation treatment! I’m actually excited about it because the sooner I start, the sooner I finish! My side effects from chemo are COMPLETELY gone, no nausea, fatigue, aches, digestion problems, and no weird breathing issues like before. I feel ‘normal’ actually! So the doc was right when he said my body just needed time to heal itself. I love what I read from What Cancer Cannot Do… ‘The body has a remarkable capacity to heal. Our very cells have the memory of health. Even when assaulted by trauma or disease, they want to return to normal. God, who designed us this way, wants more than physical health for us; he wants us to be whole- body, mind, and spirit. In Isaiah 38:16-17, it says You restored me to health and let me live. Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish.
I am still amazed that God chose me to go through cancer, restore me to health, and then let me live. And I know that it was for my benefit, not His, because I learned many life lessons through my battle with cancer and chemotherapy. And I am glad that I have been able to share many of them with you. My newest battle since my body feels like its old self again is to not go back to the mind frame I had before this all began...specifically to not get mad or sad about the small things in life or when Life throws you a curve can throw the bat in anger, but make sure you pick it back up and swing harder the next time :)

My Life lately has been full of highs and lows, and if you know me personally, you may have seen some of those highs and lows I'm talking about :) My life is going so good, I have a life that is enormously blessed by lots of laughter, even in the hard times. I think that's why I get so mad at myself when something 'out of my box' happens and my reaction at times is to get so sad or mad about it. We all have times in our lives when things don’t go according to plan. When we have things so perfectly lined up, but then something happens out of our hands to throw it off balance. When this happens, my first reaction is to get mad. And the times when I do get mad first, it’s then that I have to pray for peace, (for both peace in that moment and constant peace in my reactions to Life's curve balls). I am human and I am not perfect. None of us are perfect and keep it together all the time…shocker huh? :) Life doesn’t always go the way you think it will. As soon as Life is going good, your world can get shaken or turned upside down. Things will change in your life, but sometimes the changes that seem so bad now, can actually open up doors to opportunities you never imagined could happen. Good opportunities that build you up to be an even stronger person!! I think that is when we are challenged. We can either dwell (which is the typical reaction) or we can learn from the situation and take action! We can all be a Warrior Chick! Although its not easy to do all of the time, I choose to take action instead of letting it get me down and draw me away from God. Yes, I do still go through the motions of the down times, the anger or sadness (so sorry if you might have caught me at that time…thanks for the talks momma, I’m a talker and need to sort out my feelings sometimes :) but the important thing to do is have your moment, learn something from it, and then choose to laugh again and move on to the bigger and better things of the future! :)

So, note to self when this is all over and the treatments are done and the blog is finished:

Laura: Don't let the curve balls in Life get you down for too long when life doesn't go the way you want it to go. You are a fighter and a Babe you swing harder and faster each time Life tries to throw you another curve ball! You know you don't want to draw away from God and start trying to figure things out on your own and doing/fixing things on your own again…because that is your human reaction to do so, and you know you are not as smart/right as you think you are :) What you need to do instead is step out of your emotional box, pray about the situation, and then go on with Life the way it was intended to be blissful happiness and laughter :) Haha...see Andrew, a little bit of the 'dreamer' is still in me :)

So if you know me, keep me accountable after all this cancer business is over. Help me sort out my feelings when I can’t do it on my own, let me get mad when I need to be mad, but encourage me to pick up the bat and swing harder than I did the first time as soon as possible. Without a doubt I will do this for you too when you get a curve ball :) We all need eachother to get through this thing called Life. Help me to remember that there is a life out there that is far better than one that is full of too much silly anger or sadness. It’s the life that doesn’t belong to me anyway…it was God’s to begin with to use however He saw fit for me here on this earth.

BTW: 6 days until Christmas!!! hehe ;)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Road to Radiation…Got the Map out, we hit the road on Monday

I had the radiation practice round today. Everything is looking good and we are set to go on Monday to start my first treatment. Today I laid down in the actual radiation machine and instead of giving me radiation, they took x-rays to make sure I am lined up exactly right….we were right on, with just a little glitch. Ever seen Independence Day? Under this machine, this thing above me opened up, just like the alien ship did as it was about to blast the green beam down and blow the building up...and I was sure they were going to zap me! :) I mean the noise and everything as it opened to reveal the insides of the machine made me think of that movie! This radiation business takes a crap load of computer work and configuration and I am too tired now a days to figure it all out. I'm glad they are doing it so they don't mess up, but I'm just ready to start!

We wrap up the Polar Express unit on Monday at school by watching the movie and wearing our PJ's to school. It should be a good time.:) I’m tired, have I said that yet? But I can’t be because this weekend we have two more Christmas parties so I have to get geared up. I’m at the point now in my Pursuit that life is getting back to ‘normal’, and I am starting to see what my life coming up will be like again. I look at life differently now, maybe I just laugh more and don’t get so mad at the small stuff. I have times though, just like everyone does when I feel like I’m ‘dry’ in Life. Does that make sense? We all have those moments where we aren’t really absorbing anything, just dusting by life. But then Andrew came in and reminded me to keep balanced. That you need to exercise your body, mind, and spirit everyday. He’s doing a great job of it lately and it inspires me. He can inspire me, and he has no idea he does. We are not a perfect couple, but I love him, unconditionally. Both of our lives are changing, and I'm so glad we are together to witness it.
So I exercised my mind and spirit and read this verse, once again at just the right time, because one of my closest, dearest friends called me and asked me to pray for her little boy as they went down to Dayton Children's to find out if he had cancer or not. Humble yourselves…under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7 By not getting to far away from my source of strength to pull me back in and lean on Him during this awful time, I was led to get on my knees and pray for my heavenly sister’s little boy. I prayed that I would know what to say to her and that we have understanding, no matter what the news was that we would hear. I prayed that I would be a source of strength and information because I had just gone through this process and could be a great tool to her. No one should have to go through cancer, the questions, the pains, the fear, the time...especially a little boy. I just prayed, every moment I thought about him, I prayed. Thankfully, they found out he does not have cancer, but a virus. When she called and told me the news, I cried good happy tears for the first time in years. Like sobbing, happy cry. For the first time, I was GLAD I had cancer because I was there to help her and bond with her in one of the darkest times of her families life. If we weren’t tied together from 20 years of friendship before, we are sure tied together now because of this experience. She told me she truly understands how I feel now and looks at my situation totally differently...sometimes you just can't understand someones situation until you are truly in there shoes. I think cancer is one of those situations. Cancer this time showed me what true friendship ya Ash, you are my 3rd sis.

This week I learned to put my full trust in God again. I learned that if I pray and ask for what I need, truly need, and pray for it in full faith with a body ready to be used, He will answer those prayers, and surly He did. It was in His timing, both specific prayers I prayed this week. But I really feel because I have prayed and waited, and not interfered with what was happening by handling the situation in the way I would have typically handled it (without prayer), He answered my very personal prayers. That made me trust that I could put my faith and hope back in Him to get me through My Road to Radiation and the road my life will now lead me on. I'm not starting to feel so 'dry' let this trip get started, I’m ready again to learn more lessons. :)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Greetings from the Gromans! A Christmas Message for YOU!

I couldn’t find a card like I had last year that had a picture on the front and was blank inside for my 2nd annual Greeting’s from the Groman’s this blog will have to do this year. 2010 started like any other year, life was filled with work and school. It consumed our lives! And we both didn't think about much else...we didn't allow ourselves to have the time to think about anything else. It wasn't looking like the most exciting 2010.

In the mean time of Life, Andrew finished up paramedic school, I made it through IEP season by a miracle, and we had a couple sushi nights that will not be forgotten! Andrew bought a new truck with the money we saved up, and we waited for my lease to be up in the fall so that we could buy me a car too and have no payments. It felt good to accomplish that goal and get closer to being debt free. We got involved in a new church, Shawnee Alliance, and found a small group that fit us perfectly. Life was going just as scheduled...nothing big was happening, but nothing small either. We were just taking in breath after breath and 'living'.

Then life threw us a curve ball, which it usually tends to do. In June, we found out the reason for my red itchy rashes and for the tightness in my chest that hurt when I took a deep breath in. Right before we left for Iowa to see his family, I found out I had cancer in my lymph nodes called Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Talk about shock. Andrew and I made it through the summer to go on vacation with my his and my family both, see our new beautiful niece Maci, and start chemotherapy treatments. I was surrounded by an enormous amount of encouragement by friends, family (even a new dog Cooper!), and strangers, and in an effort for everyone to hear my latest updates from me, I started a blog called The Pursuit. Little did I know, this blog would change my life completely. COMPLETELY. From not being able to have the time to think about anything meaningful in Life, to that becoming all I craved for during my find new meaning and purpose. I found myself more alive than I have ever ironic when my body was doing anything but that. I am not grateful for cancer, but I am grateful for the new insight that I’m not sure I would have had before if I hadn’t gotten this diagnosis.

My goal for 2011 is still the same as it was from the start of this Pursuit…forget the troubles of yesterday, love your life today, and be grateful for the future to try again (because it can really hold anything!!) With or without cancer. My hope was to go into 2011 without any form of treatment, but I’m only over 2 weeks. I can handle that. I survived chemotherapy and now its on to radiation this Thursday. Such new words that I didn’t think I would ever have to learn about. Andrew and I anticipate this new year to be full of travel, friends, good health, and fun. We want to get the travel bug out of us before we start a family so we are going back to Iowa in May to see his cousin get married, I'm planning a trip to Texas to see my friend in July, and at the end of the 2011 year, my hope is to finally make it to New York City to see the big Christmas tree (check that off my bucket list!). Our next big trip in finally the Europe trip the summer of 2012. I also want to keep up my exercise routine, my new interest in reading, and making use of the boat this summer. Basically, I want to keep living...not just in the day to day breaths or in the BIG moments of life, but in the in- between ones too :)

More than anything, I want to thank you. Your support has gotten both of us through this time, and all I can say is thank you and God bless YOU for being so kind to us. Andrew and I want to wish all of you good health in the future so that you can make many RADICAL memories. Since Andrew and I have been together, we have always tried to have RADICAL moments. Moments in this life that are memorable and just RADICAL. Not just the big moments in life like weddings and babies...but to make ALL of Life as RADICAL as it can be. Life is precious, it can be gone in a breath. Make sure the last breath you take is a RADICAL one. I'm more grateful than ever this Christmas season that Jesus was given to us so that we can be with God forever in heaven after we do take our last breath on earth...we just have to BELIEVE! Take a minute and thank God for giving us His son so that we can have the most RADICAL time in heaven after we leave this earth.

Merry Christmas and God Bless YOU all!!!!
Andrew and Laura 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Busy and Tired...means time to REST!

Oh my gosh! My hair is really starting to grow back! And all of the sudden some of my eye lashes have popped out and my eye brows are literally sprouting it seems!! So neat to see this transformation back into a 'typical' woman! Its AWESOME! I know its crazy, but I wanted to show you a close up picture of my eyelashes and eyebrows! :) See the little dots? Those are the sprouts! And I actually had enough lashes to wear mascara again!

These are the lashes and brows I had one month into chemotherapy...

After two months into treatment, I lost the majority of my brow and lashes...

And here is what I have growing back now, one month after my last chemotherapy treatment...What a transformation!

Two words to describe me lately are... Busy and Tired. With working again and trying to keep up with all the holiday hustle and bustle, I can say that I am tired too. And working is hard work. I give many, many kuddos to the mothers out there who take care of children and work at the same time. How do you do it?! You must have some unknown strength that us without children do not know about yet. And because I'm teaching again, I am busy all day...those children keep you busy and if you aren't energetic, it's like BAM they turn on you! And the sad thing is that I am so tired when I get home, I’m not reading as many books as I did on my time off. I’m too tired to think at the end of the day that I barely get supper on the table. This is when I start to wonder, Is this really me? Working so hard that I forget about everything else in life? I catch myself wondering if this is how we are supposed to live this life. The past two months, I have had the time to dive into the many questions I've wondered about and lots of time for refection on the things that matter. Now, after concentrating all day on work, I find myself sitting in front of the TV after supper because my brain is just tired of thinking. I watch television because it literally requires nothing of me. I can even turn off my brain and zone out and not even realize what I’m watching or what it is about.
So I definitely believe that we need rest after work, even God needed rest on the seventh day after creating the heavens and earth in six days. So I believe that we can use the TV to relax. Now 4 hours a night in front of the TV I don't think I can justify...but oh is it just so easy and tempting to do! What I need is balance. Balance in everything that I do in life. So my prayer is that I remain balanced so that I can still have some energy at the end of the night to socialize with my family and friends, exercise on the treadmill, and especially have some time to read. I have really enjoyed reading during my time off. It gives me so much insight and gives me time to reflect on Life, and I certainly do not want my job to keep me from the great insight I have been exposed to these last 2 months.

Unfortunately today, the benefit for Paislyn has been rescheduled because of the winter snow storm we are having here, however that did give me time to rest tonight that I was not anticipating on having. So I cleaned the house a little, finished some laundry, and wrapped some presents. Its about time to fill up my cup of Ovaltine and rest while watching another Christmas movie (I’m a sucker for Christmas movies), yes we still need rest because working around the house it still WORK. We will see if I get another day of rest tomorrow...I'm starting to see the school delays come across the screen. It's been a hard week in different ways for me this week, and God must have heard this tired and burdened girl who just needed more rest... Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

I have needed to hear these words for a little time now. I'm praying for specific things in my life right now and I'm an impatient person, I want the answers now. However I do not learn anything when I get what I want right away. So I will WAIT. Because while I wait, I learn. I pray, I wait, I learn, and then God comes through on HIS timing. Always. But it's the WAITING part that is hard. I'm learning to WAIT better because I know that if I am faithful, the Lord will hear my prayers and answer them.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Road to Radiation...All Packed Up, Ready To GO!

My Christmas song of the day: 5 days of Christmas...
5 weeks of treatment, 4 tattoos, 3 silly nurses, 2 Ct scans, and a very tired Lady ready to watch Sing Off! Just adding some humor :)

I woke up this morning in an oddly upbeat mood. I jammed to Taylor Swift’s Speak Now CD as I got my hoodie and make up on (Yes! I used mascara for the first time in months! I only have a couple right now, but they were magnified today!) and on the way to St. Rita’s, I was totally zoned out to my 2006 jam, Saving Jane CD. I had to psyche myself up for starting this whole treatment thing over again. And I was doing awesome, then we turned the corner and I saw the big words on the building…St. Rita’s Regional Cancer Center. I have drove by this place so many times, never taking a second look at it. This time, I just couldn’t believe that I was about to go in there, to be a patient. Going in there means you have cancer. I have cancer. It just caught me of guard because I have been out of the cancer world for a month now, but I still have cancer. Wow.

So this is the place where I will spend the next month and a half getting myself better. Here, at the Allison Radiation Oncology Center is where I will receive radiation treatment for lymphoma. Radiation works by using a machine to direct high-energy X-rays at the cancer. The machine looks just like a CT scan machine. The beam will go directly through the skin to the cancer and surrounding area to destroy the tumor and any nearby cancer cells. This beam will destroy the DNA of the cancer cells so that they do not know how to reproduce and multiply anymore, but also they destroy the surrounding healthy cells too. Radiation will be given to me 5 times a week, for approximately five weeks. I can’t start yet because with radiation there is a lot of treatment planning with computers and software so that they can control the size and shape of the beam and how it is directed at the body (that’s why you get the mold and tattoos too), so that it can treat the tumor while sparing as much of the surrounding normal tissue as possible. Today was the day that I got the mold made (I laid down on a bean bag pillow naked from the waist up...but still had my ugg boots on again!...with my arms over my head, and they sucked out the air from the pillow, leaving it hard and in the shape of my body. I felt skinny when I got up and saw the mold!) Then, they did more computer configuration and it took awhile, but they had Christmas music playing so I sang and was entertaining myself :) Then it was time for the tattoos. They use these to line me up exactly right in the machine so that the beam hits the tumor and nowhere else. I have 4 small dots in the middle of my chest, on my stomach, and on both sides of me. I also got to see a nurse I knew there and I’m so glad she will be one of the nurses helping me through this. Yeah! I go back next Thursday after all the computer configuration is figured out for a trial run. They want to make sure everything is perfect before we actually start with the radiation. I said 'All this must be expensive...can't I just stand in front of a microwave??' Guess that's not how it works :) I was still doing good until we went over side effects. There are always side effects, aren't there?

So radiation has side effects and I catch myself thinking 'why am I doing this?' Oh yeah, because I do not want this disease anymore, ever. And by doing this, my chances of getting cancer again greatly decreases. The major side effect from the radiation beam that will be entering through my chest is that my skin will be red and irritated. It will look like a sun burn for a little while, but lotions should help that. Because the radiation goes through my chest, it can irritate the esophagus and cause shortness of breath and swallowing problems. If this starts, I’m back to drinking Ensure to make sure I’m getting the calories I need. But I will be back to normal foods a few weeks after radiation is done once the esophagus heals. I also have to watch out for pneumonia this year because with the radiation on my chest near my lungs, I am more susceptible to that illness. We also have to watch out that the radiation beam doesn’t damage the muscles around my heart; because the beam is hitting the tumor in the mediastinum (which is right where the heart is). Fatigue is something you just can't get around, so plenty of rest and exercise is needed. And of course pulmonary fibrosis, scarring of the lungs which mean more shortness of breath. Oh and don’t forget the secondary cancers I could get…lung cancer, breast cancer, and the no guarantee that this lymphoma is not coming back. What am I doing?!

Radiation. Wow, you can totally get carried away with cancer if you don’t have the reigns. I mean, I could have walked out of the library with 15 books on cancer if I wanted too. They ranged in everything from 100 questions about Lymphoma, cancer etiquette books, self help books for hearing the diagnosis -to during the treatment-to after treatment, even books on sex and fertility during and after cancer. Ok, cancer at that point is overwhelming! It can really control every aspect of your life. If you let it. It is great to educate yourself, I’d be disappointed if someone out there who was diagnosed didn’t educate themselves. However, there is a point where you have to let go and let God. Whatever happens will happen, so don't worry about the unknown nows. And share. Share your story because the more people share the story the less frightening cancer becomes somehow. And if someone has the ability to add humor to cancer in a cancer etiquette type of way…then more power to them! I give props to the book Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips by Kris Carr. I started reading this book half way through treatment and she made cancer real and uncensored for girls my age. She made me laugh and gave me great tips and inspiration, like how to get my cowboy boots back out and dream again, and to take time for me in the day, and to spell cancer with a lower case c. But it was God, God who led me to take the reigns on this time in my life and not let it take me down. To have the faith again to Live and dream. And I am such a dreamer now :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Who is Little Miss Miracle?

Who is Little Miss Miracle?, Playing for Paislyn

Playing for Paislyn Benefit Concert (featuring Harlend and Together Awake)
Location:'The Axis' at Lima Community Church
Time:6:00PM Sunday, December 12th

You may remember a while back I was going through a hard time, because so many of my friends were going through an even harder time and I felt that there was just nothing I could do to help. Well, luckily the time has come to help. :) This little girl you see is someone I prayed hard for during my time with cancer. She touched so many people's life, but mine too because we were both going through a tough spot in Life...not sure what our outcomes were going to be at one point. This little girl and I were walking in the same shoes and little does she know, I held her tiny little hand so tight because she gave me more hope than she will ever realize. Jake and Aubrey (Kirkendall) Metzger (if you know me, you may also know Allison (Kirkendall) Jones or their mom, Laurie Kirkendall) had their first baby girl on August 24th and within a couple hours, she was rushed to Toledo because they discovered she had Congenital Heart Disease and that she has a hypo plastic right heart, which means her right ventricle is underdeveloped. In the past few months, this little girl has come back to life and proven to be Little Miss Miracle. She has been through countless days at 3 different hospitals and has already been through 1 of 3 open heart surgeries. As we all know, surgery and hospital bills aren’t cheap…but here is a way to help carry the burden like we are told in the bible and help out this family during the holiday season.

This Sunday at The Axis (Lima Community Church of the Nazarene) there will be a benefit to help the Metzger family pay for the medical bills they have incurred with their baby girl, Paislyn. There will be two live bands playing a collection of songs, including some holiday songs, and a silent auction (which I will be helping with :) that includes a plasma flat screen TV, an over night stay at a cabin in Hocking Hills, Mark Lowry tickets, a family pass to the Toledo Zoo, and MUCH more!

Andrew and I have been blessed in many ways, including financially. Andrew and I both have great jobs with great insurance. I am BEYOND grateful for all the people who wanted to set up a fundraiser for me during my time with cancer, but we were able to pay the bills and still live sufficiently in this life. This is all I ask, if there was ever a time where you thought 'what can I do to help out Laura?' Here’s what you can can help out this family who truly needs it. I ask that we remember the real reason for the if you are looking for a way to donate some money locally this year, help out this family to help lighten the load a little. 100% of the funds raised at the benefit and on the website will go directly to the Metzger family to help pay the medical bills of baby Paislyn. If you are not able to make it to the benefit (and see me at the silent auction!) visit and read all about this miracle child, the story behind her life so far, to read more about the event this Sunday, and to make a donation. Trust me, your life will be changed by giving if you let it. It almost is a bigger blessing to you than the family you are helping :)

And just an FYI, this event doesn’t replace Relay for Life for me, this is just something extra to let you all know about since it is helping someone in need that touched my life through my cancer process. Relay for Life is my way of paying it forward this year. I will be doing Relay For Life this spring in pure thanks for the research that has already been done to cure my cancer. These donations literally saved my life. So I will still be walking and raising money this spring to help in further cancer research so that EVERYONE can be saved from cancer, not just me. Everyone deserves to live and have a second chance, even a little girl as young as Paislyn. I just do not believe that we should use the ‘there isn’t enough money for research’ excuse anymore when you should see how much money Americans spend a year on Christmas gifts (google it, you will be AMAZED!) So help me this spring raise money so there is enough for more research, because if cancer happened to me…it could be you one day…and don’t you want a cure by then??

Hope to see you out there on Sunday to enjoy the Christmas music and to support Little Miss Miracle in any way possible :)

Acts 4:32-35
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hospitals and Hibachi...does anything else start with the 'h' sound??

Sorry...I'm back in teaching mode again...lots of rhyming, alliteration, and letters!
So isn't this a sight?! Didn't think this would be the start of my weekend...

So here's the beginning...Friday night started out great! I went to Encore Theater with my mom, grandpa and his friends to see A Christmas Carol and it was really good. I’m not sure which was more entertaining though, the production or the majority of old people in the audience to observe! Gotta love hearing aids and their own unique personalities that come out at just the right times to make you laugh. :) Maybe that’s where it all started…too much laughing and entertainment at the theater. However, that’s when my chest on the left side started to tighten up and clench, making it hard to breathe. I did the old 'breathe in and count to 3' trick like my grandma showed me when I was little, but that wasn’t working this time around. By the end of the show my chest was in such tight, sharp pains that I called Andrew at work (he's a fireman/paramedic) to have him just take a look at me.
So my mom and I drove to the fire station, and by this point I could hardly stand up in the fire station the pain was so bad. I had sharp, intense pains going through my shoulder, down the left side of my heart and under the ribcage, and it started moving up into my neck, but only on the left hand side. I kept telling everyone I would wait it out and see if it went away, just go home and see what it was like in a few hours. My mom called my sister who's a nurse on the way to my house and I was describing my symptoms, that's when she wanted to check me out herself. So we started driving to her house instead of home where I really wanted to be. On the way there, I felt my left arm go numb and I couldn't lift it very well and the pain in my throat started to tighten up so bad that I couldn’t catch my breath, it was hard to see, and for the first time I started to get scared! My biggest fear in life in not being able to catch my breath. Kind of ironic with my cancer, huh?? My biggest fear lived out in front of my eyes. Not once, but for six months of not being about to catch the breath I dream about. Well at this point, Mom made a V-line to the hospital. We were done wondering what was going on.

Sarah met us at the ER and I wasn’t ready to go in until she thought it was absolutely necessary. She looked over my pale face and body and said, 'better safe than sorry sis. Come on'. I still wasn’t convinced until she told me this could be a circulatory problem and I may not be getting enough blood to my heart or something. I was in pain, so I agreed and we got admitted to the ER. Hello, my Name is Joe (and I work in a button factory) did an EKG right away and Farmer Nurse who 'looks with her fingers not her eyes to start IV's' got me settled into my room. Sarah and my mom were there to calm me down and make me laugh as the people started rolling in. A physician’s assistant who looked like he was 17 came in (he reminded me of Dr. Nathan Horton from Days of our Lives) to ask questions and check me out. That’s when Abby the Happy Nurse came in and the real doc too. We went through the exam and Dr. Horton laughed at my boots. He wasn't prepared to see my Ugg boots on under the blankets with my blue hospital gown :) They keep my feet warm and I was shaking like a mad women! In the middle of testing, blood work, and CT scans, my mom left, Andrew came, and we 3 were entertained by creating Mash Up of songs Andrew would throw at us. We haven’t lost our touch Sarah J! When there were silent moments, that's when the silent prayers were sent to Jesus from me pleading for nothing serious to be wrong.
As time went by, I was laying down and the pain was starting to subside. The plan was to admit me to a floor for observation, but with my white counts and hemoglobin still low, my family was skeptical. If nothing serious was going on, I didn’t want to get sick from being at the hospital. Last thing I need is another infection. And I was really feeling better the more I relaxed and laid down. I assured the docs and nurses that I was feeling better every time they came in. Then the results came back and the great news was that I had no blood clots near my heart, which was what we were all worried about thinking I could be having a stroke. Thank you Jesus. My blood counts were abnormal, but typical because of my cancer. So I assured them that if the pain got worse I would come back, and I was able to be released. Thanks you again Jesus. I was happy, yet sad though. And I started to get emotional when everyone left and I was getting my clothes on.

I couldn’t figure this out. That night was probably the most pain I have been in through this whole process, yet nothing serious was going on. I just couldn’t figure it out. I mean, I went to the doctor six months ago and found out I have cancer. I go to the hospital with intense pain, and nothing is too wrong. I just couldn’t figure it out and told Andrew something is wrong with me and my head...I'm going crazy! He laughed and hugged me and assured me of what my parents and sister said too, that we have to be more careful with me right now. Anything, small or big, is nothing to take lightly. With everything going on inside my body, anything could be potentially serious and if something worse did happen, like a stroke or something we thought I was having, we didn’t want to be stuck at home…the hospital was the best place to be. So I can’t be afraid to let them know if something feels ‘off’. Well Friday night, something definitely felt off. I was also reminded that we have a God who really does perform miracles. Even in the present day...I've seen it, mot presently through a little baby we call Little Miss Miracle (something I'll catch you up on later...but save the date next Sunday night for a benefit!)
They say it could have been a muscle or something stressed induced, but honestly, I’m really not stressed out. Seriously. The other option is that it was referred pain from something else going on in my body. Which means the pain just localized in my chest for awhile. Makes sense with all the stomach problems I've been having through this healing process. Just another Laura Medical Mystery. :) Anyways, if I never have to feel that pain again…it would still be too soon. I haven't felt the sharp pains since that night, and my chest is just sore from all the action from whatever it was going on in there. Honestly, if I can chalk it up to the healing power of prayer and Jesus, I will...because I was nervous, and I have never felt anything like that before. And to be able to walk out of the ER feeling insanely better the same night, I just have to give praise one more time to my God for looking out for me once again. I think I've almost used up all my Get Out Of Jail Free cards though :) I'm just really thankful for the faithfulness He shows me everyday.

But nothing, not even the hospital, was going to keep me from my sushi and Japan West to celebrate my sis's birthday! The Sing-Off birthday celebration is coming Monday! :)
Oh, and please excuse my husband's latest trend. Moustaches will never look good, however since I'm not looking my top notch either, I'm hoping this is his way of dying down his good looks too ;)
Today I have been feeling good too. I went to church and was able to serve communion to the congregation. Very powerful to be apart of such a cool thing with others. I'm just getting ready for the next week of Polar Express with the kids, keeping Cooper out of trouble, and about ready to have pizza with my parents. I love living so close to them :)

Hey, What do you think of the new wig?! Thank you Liz from Yellow Tuesday (another great place for hair!) I love it!! REAL hair is starting to come back!!! My eye brows and more pencil eyebrows!! MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ME!!

Thank you all for your continued prayers of healing...they are not going unheard, PROMISE! This weekend proved it yet again :)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Road to Radiation...Planning Time!

Good News!

Radiation is set to take place next week! I never thought I would get used to hospitals, but I have...I didn't really have nerves going into this because it all feels so familiar still. The Allison Radiation Oncology Center is really nice with nice people (and I got to see my cancer friend Julie there too by surprise!), however no one can replace my chemo have a lot to compete with radiation nurses :) My appointment lasted about 3 hours and they explained everything, I explained everything, and no questions were left unanswered. It was a very smooth transition for me ironically because I knew more about what was going on with the cancer in my body, so I could understand what he was talking about so much better. I remember that first consult appointment back in June and my head was spinning the whole time my oncologist was talking about chemo treatments.

So I start next Wednesday by going in and getting my 'mold' made and tattoos on my body. This is done so that they position me in exactly the same spot so that the radiation beam hits the exact spot every time. Then, I will most likely start with the actual radiation treatments the week after that. The treatment only takes ten to twenty minutes at the most, and I will get radiation 20 times, Monday through Fridays with the weekends and holidays off. After that, we do another scan and that's when we will hopefully hear the word REMISSION! I should be all done with treatments by January 15!!

With lots of my questions answered, the most important one I got answered was why we are doing radiation. With the many years of research done, they have found that the combination of chemo and radiation treatments together have the best results of never having this kind of cancer again...AWESOME! Totally in awe of doctors having the brains to figure things out that save my life. Thank you God for the brains you gave them.

The only side effects they say I will have is fatigue, irritated skin, and some trouble swallowing because the esophagus is right in the way of the radiation beam needed to hit the tumors. Also, I need to have a mammogram done every year because I am more likely to have breast cancer in the future. That's a lot to swallow, so I'm gonna worry about that tomorrow... I'm really tired now and I'm going to bed. Gotta let this all sink in and I'll fill you in on even more of the details later when I can think straight.

Overall, I am okay with this decision to get the radiation because ultimately, it is going to heal my body of the cancer that struck it. I'm showing this cancer who's boss!

12:33 am and I'm still awake, writing a song...

...If I get it all down on paper, it's no longer inside of by Anna Nalick: Breathe (another song that just gets me)

Any new surprise?? I can’t sleep the night before my appointment. I’m thinking too much. About the future, about the past. About 10 years ago, about 10 years from now. Anything and everything. It’s just on my mind. Songs can do that to you don’t they? I’m loving country right now. There are so many songs out there that inspire me and were written for me. But I want to write my own song. So here it is…past, present, and future.
It’s a draft so give me some slack...I'm a teacher (but a rock star at heart ;) My sister will kill me for saying this, but we used to make music videos and secretly wished we were on Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit! Oh yes, there are video tapes out there to prove it...braces and all :) Love ya sissy!

So picture this…I got my long brown curly locks on top of my head, sundress and boots on, my piano under my fingers, and I’m playing on the edge of the world…

Theme Song to my Life.

A piano starts by playing softly…
I sit down, and wonder how I got here
Full of mistakes, surprises, and unfulfilled plans.
My heart sinks as I think of how much time I’ve wasted
Spent on nothing. Purely wasted.
Then enter in the soft, long strokes of a violin chord.
Can there still be hope for this girl?
Still a place in this world for me?
Still time for forgiveness to tie up loose ends?
Can I still be the girl you thought I was going to be?
Just maybe…

Enter in the electric guitar for the chorus…
But wait, it fades back into the verse of life again. The piano starts again…

I can hear the soft lyrics of a heart that’s broken
an apologetic soul that just needs to move on and pray,
A scared little girl, too afraid of failure to live out her dreams.
and the tears of a woman, who just wants it all to go away.
But in comes the violins again, giving a burst of hope…
Hope, it’s the person that comes into your life with inspiration,
the man that enters and sets your heart on fire to live and love again,
and a moment happens that only you dream about.
A new song, a song that changes your whole life!

We’ve made it to the chorus again!
The song of your heart is letting your hair down,
Dancing up and down and throwing your arms in the air.
It’s the part of life where you play air guitar in your sweats and T,
It’s your eyes that show a smile because you fell in love again,
or conquered a goal that could never be reached,
or simply know there is a cure to heal your cancer.
I’m so lucky, I’m so blessed.

And here comes the bridge…slow the music down and wait for it…
So how did I get here?
What did I do to get so lucky?
There must have been something I did right.
And for some reason the only thing I can think to do right now…
As the music begins to get louder and the drum beat gets louder and faster
So here I am again…dancing like there’s no one watching.
And loving me, for the first time.
I got my life together and now it’s time to live a bit louder.
You’ve got it girl, don’t be afraid to let it show!

Thank you, you let this girl out. Thank you.
My husband says I can be a dreamer...well, what fun do you have if you don't dream right? Thanks for letting me dream on here tonight. It was fun.

So sweet rock star dreams tonight :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Volunteering for YoungLife...check!

First day back to work went better than I ever expected! The kids all remembered who I was and I hit my wall about 2:00. That’s when I started thinking that a nap would be SO nice…no, we didn’t take a nap at school, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t cross my mind :) So thank you for the prayers, our God hears them and answers courageous me, keep reading! Now if I can just get through the next two days I’ll be even more happy. We are doing a unit on The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg and I am loving it so far…and I think the kids are too! I just have to keep my thoughts in order because I still get really distracted at times.

Selfishly, it would have been nice to come back home and lay on the couch for the rest of the night…a delivered pizza really sounded good. But I made a commitment to serve a dinner at YoungLife for the Lima City kids at the old YMCA tonight. Volunteering..checked off the Bucket List! Where I found the energy, I have no idea, it must just be a God thing. :) What my small group did tonight was prepared and served a meal to the Lima City kids, and afterwards they have a mini Bible lesson. I’m so glad I went because I was able to be apart of our community in a way I’m not usually apart of (and it’s always great to see my small group members). So yesterday we prepared the meal and today five of us went and served it.

You guys, doing something like this really puts life into perspective on a visual level. Even while having cancer, I consider myself lucky. I am so lucky that I have food on my table every night, like so lucky. I’m not saying these kids don’t have food, but they sure did come up pretty fast, without hesitation, for seconds :) When I see things like this, I see how good my life really is. It’s when you take the time out of your busy day, to help someone else, that’s when you have the opportunity to put yourself back in check. To evaluate your own life. To see that sometimes, we may not have it so bad. There are times when I feel that cancer was easy for me. I mean, it came with an instruction book and I just followed the rules and have been really lucky so far. It’s Life that’s hard and these kids don’t have an instruction book like me. It’s the people who have no money to eat a good meal to stay healthy or the drive to make life better that have it hard. They need hope and you guys, we can be that for them if we take the time out of our schedules (yes, take a night off from Glee or The Middle:) and serve someone else. You may just be blessed more than them, you never know. I am so glad this group is in Lima to help the inner city kids have some hope too. We all need hope don’t we? I challenge you to stop for a second and think, what can I do? Even if it is something that seems so small, at least you tried to help. Its the holiday season, now is the best time to volunteer your time to help people you both know and do not know. You will be changed, I guaran-freakin’-tee you! :)
After tonight, I don't think volunteering will be a one time thing for me...this may need checked off the Bucket List a few more times :)

Philippians 2:1-4
If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The 'Back to School' nerves...will I sleep tonight?!

Happy Holidays!
I can officially say that now that Thanksgiving is over! Yes, I am one of those people who really loves everything about the holidays…around my house, I’m Clark Griswold and Andrew is Ebenezer Scrooge - usually I put Christmas up with the Christmas music playing, and that seems to be his cue that he ‘forgot to get something at the store’ ;) I really love the whole holiday feel and even more when we talk about the real reason for the season. Sweet baby Jesus and the joy of giving! :)

Thanksgiving was another eventful time at the Hochstetler’s this year, but what I loved best was that Andrew, my sisters and their husbands, and I all sat in the living room and talked for a time period that was more than 3 minutes. That hasn’t happened in a very long time with kids and work schedules! They have no idea how awesome it felt to feel like a whole family again. What was weird though, was that we have now become my aunts and uncles sitting around at the holiday parties, and my parents and grandparents have become the grandparents and great-grandparents. They were all sitting in one room and we were all sitting in another room talking, while the ‘kids’ were in the basement…this means we’re getting older! And the cool thing is that it is still a great time…that is SO awesome! Here's a pic of the 'most awesome aunt' with her beautiful nieces!

My appointment to see the radiation oncologist is this Thursday. Dr. Powell has given my new radiation oncologist all of my information and I just got the paper work in the mail to fill out, so all we have to do is have a consult appointment and radiation gets started. I’m ready to see what that process entails! I’m thankful for many things, but this year I am specifically thankful that I have the strength to go through radiation and get this cancer GONE! I’m thankful that my body is healthy enough to receive the new treatments and that I do not have to be in a hospital anymore than I have to. I keep reminding myself that this time will pass for me too. It’s only another month. I really pray not only for complete healing, but that I am still useful during this time of radiation. That I will not only have the gift of my health back, but the gift of learning something new through the process of this new treatment.

So I have the back to school nerves in my stomach :) I just thought I would ask you all to say a quick prayer for me. I’m heading back to work tomorrow. I’m not sick like I was with the chemo, and radiation I hear will leave me fatigued, but I’m just up for the challenge right now and I pray for the physical strength to do my job. I've got a lot of people not too happy with me for going back before the start of the year, but I like what Winston Churchill said, 'Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it.' Awesome things happen when taking chances I've found out, and this won't be easy, but that's when awesome things can happen :) I promised I was going to take it easy (Dena won't let me work too hard anyways) and really I do not expect any major problems, just being tired after the day is done…but that’s already normal for a teacher so I’m getting myself even more back to normal. :) If anything happens, I will still listen to my body and if it says enough is enough during the radiation treatments, I will listen. I’m not going to make myself any sicker than I already am. I’m just so excited to teach the kids at my school again. I really love working with children with special needs and I love being apart of their lives. Teaching is hard though, and anyone who wants to challenge me can come visit for a day :) I wouldn’t change where I am right now though, because it is right where I belong. I’m challenged everyday, and although it’s tough, it’s the reason why I’m here on earth, using the talents that God gave me. Even though I question it...

See, I’m being challenged not only in my career and health, but in every aspect of my life now. I’m more conscious and aware I’ve noticed. And I’ve opened myself up more in the past few months to let God in to do the works He sees fit for me to do. Acting upon it can be a challenge at times because it’s not the ‘normal’ thing to do. And sometime I wonder if I’m still up for the challenge. It’s so easy to live a life without any kind of reflection and take the easy way out; however I see the deeper picture when I am more reflective and I get so much more out of life when I take the road less traveled. Sometimes I feel like there is so much deeper to go and understand, like I’ll never get to the bottom. The cool thing is that it's normal. Because we are never suppose to stop when it comes to God. We will always keep digging, getting deeper in our faith, asking more questions, and searching to really know God better. And the best place to do that I’ve realized is the Bible. That’s where the truth is because God is truth, and He spoke the words in the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16 'All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness), so that means the Bible is truth, and I’ll take anything that helps get through this life with a little more understanding.

Now that I have talked your ear off once again, I am signing off tonight…I need the rest for tomorrow :) Thank you again for your continued support and prayers for me. I know the newness of a disease like mine wears off after a couple months, but I’m still fighting it and the battle for true understanding of this Life. I appreciate your love and support, so much.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving and a Sister's Night Re-Do

So we definitely need to re-do Sister’s Night soon. Sarah only made it for half the dinner because her hair appointment was running behind, and the movie, Love and other drugs was definitely NOT what I thought it was going to be about. Previews for that movie were a little misguiding I think and I don't recommend the movie. People, too much of one thing really CAN be a bad thing, especially when it’s more of Anne Hathaway than you ever thought you would see…get my drift. And with my appointment with the doctor the same day, it was just ‘too soon’ to hear about sick people and relationships for me. So I left the movie mid-way through and decided that I need to do more movie review readings before I pick the next movie :) So needless to say, I put my other sisters in charge of the next Sister’s Night...which I am way excited for! Christmas break is the next one!!!

Thanksgiving at the Gromans was good this year. Everyone was able to make it and the food was good as always...Thanksgiving meals are always the best aren't they? I also loved waking up and drinking my coffee (well Tim actually made the coffee this morning) on the couch while watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. I mean you just HAVE to at least have it on right?? This year I am more thankful than I have been in years past. I had my eyes opened this year to see the many things in my life to be grateful for, especially family and friends to spend the holidays with. We have Thanksgiving with my side of the family this Saturday, that should be a good time too...think we will see a turkey running 70 mph down the highway Sarah?? HAHA!! :) Its an inside joke from last years Thanksgiving, but I'm sure if we are all together again....the Hochstetler games will make us laugh 'til we cry...or pee our pants! :) Like last year we played a game... person A- 'You can't spell 'window' out of the word thanksgiving?! There is no w in that word! person B- Oh, you mean we aren't writing down as many words as we know in a minute?' HAHA!!! Guess someone never played that game in school. :) We are one pretty funny family! Looking forward to it and the many funny stories to come from that day!

Happy Thanksgiving!
Psalms 145:7 - They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

On the treatment road again...

Yesterday I went to school and it was good to see the kids again, but even better was my relaxing massage with my momma at Jewels Health and Beauty Spa…you’re one of a kind at Jewels (don’t those advertisement songs just get in your head!). Thanks again momma! But when we came outside, my mom was admiring these beautiful red roses, then she looks at me. She said, ‘Those have our names on them.’ I finally noticed what she was talking about because I’m always in my own little world, and right there on the counter were two vases, one for her and one for me, that had a dozen red roses in them! We asked what was going on and actually no one who was working knew at the moment. Well since I am noisy, I said it has our names on it so I’m gonna look at the card. Inside, all it said was Surprise. I knew right then…my dad :) We called him and he told us that he was planning on doing a surprise for awhile now, then when I mentioned how much I love surprises a couple days ago…he knew just what to put on the card. What a great dad, huh? Then today, I received a candle from a fundraiser I supported for Little Miss Miracle, and it wasn’t even the candle I ordered! It was a gift from a very special friend. I am sure blessed and THANKFUL for those blessings in my life!

So that brings me to today. I woke up early and the simple lyrics by Jeremy Camp were in my head ‘In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus. When I am alone, give me Jesus. And when I come to die, give me Jesus. You can have all this world, but give me Jesus.’ Don’t know why, but it comforted me and my anxious nerves. Probably because I know that all I simply need in this world is Jesus and I can fight through literally anything this world throws at me now. So take the world, I don’t need it…but give me Jesus. Because then some how, you find true strength and happiness. So Andrew and I went to the Cancer Center in Celina where the other office is. It was good, but the one in Lima just feels like ‘home’ to me. :) It didn’t matter though, I could have heard the news in Lima, Celina, or Canada for that matter! Heck for all I cared, I could have been naked at the top of Mt.Rushmore and had the appointment (would rather not though), I just wanted to hear my future for the next few months! ;) Then I got it, the news I had been waiting to hear. The PET scan showed that I have reduced metabolic activity which means the cancer has not spread anymore!!! PRAISE THE LORD!! And the tumors are about a ¼ the size as they were at the half way point. The biggest one is now 3.5cm, remember it started at 9.5cm. The others are almost there, 1.5cm, and some are even gone! I am making progress! This means that I do not have to receive anymore chemotherapy treatments and we will move right onto radiation therapy. PRAISE THE LORD AGAIN!!! Although it would be nice to be all done, I am reminded that we are moving in the direction that will make me better and not any sicker, so I am thrilled at this point :) I'm on the road to recovery you guys, like packed and sitting in the car ready...let's freakin' GO!! :) My doctor doesn’t seem to be too concerned about my other symptoms yet. My body is still irritated and inflamed internally in some places from the chemo treatments, so that means it will go away hopefully in the near future. He gave me some medicine to help the pain as everything settles down inside my body.

So the next step is radiation. What’s that??? You wanna hear Whitesnake ‘Here I go again?' ;) Well at least this time I’m not on my own. I got all you guys for support this time around. I go this Thursday to St. Rita’s Allison Radiation Oncology Center for my consult appointment with my new radiation oncologist. From there, I will know how much, how often, where at…all the good stuff that goes with my new treatment plan. Ready, set, GO!!! We are moving, now all I have to do is read up on radiation…geez, I just got my Masters degree in Google searching chemo! Guess I’ll just move onto my Doctorate in radiation. :D So if we keep moving at this rate…I may take a deep breath into 2011 with a clean bill of health! Hey, it's good to have goals! By the way...I talked to a homeless man yesterday too...not for very long, but it's a start. Check that off my Bucket List! And tonight is another Sister’s Night…oh boy this should be a hoot! Dinner at Beer Barrel and a movie, Love and other drugs. Can’t wait to celebrate with them and so many more people this Thanksgiving weekend!! Happy almost Thanksgiving everyone!

My surprises!!

My puppy Coopy :)
My kitty Koko :)