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 :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My 'mini' Oprah experiance...

I was watching Oprah today, and of course it was ANOTHER Oprah’s favorite things show. This is the show where she gives away her favorite things to the people in the audience. Well, as I was sitting at home on my couch, not in the audience :), I of course was thinking about how awesome it would be to be there in Chicago…but not for the gifts actually. I would have liked the point of just being surprised as much, if not more, than the gifts! I love surprises (my dad is the best at this!). I really want to be surprised like that sometime in my life...doesn't have to be a car, coming home to a clean house would be just as great (hint hint hubby ;) And actually, I kinda got a surprise today! I was watching Oprah give away the glitter Ugg boots and what literally comes to my door within MINUTES?! The mailman with a pair of Ugg boots just for me! It was an Oprah miracle! ;) Now, this was actually my Christmas present so of course I was already expecting it, but just not at that moment like the Oprah audience! So for just a second, I felt like I was there getting my Ugg boots with the rest of the audience and I smiled, in my living room all by myself :) If I never get to be in the Oprah audience one day, I at least have this memory! Oprah at the end said that although it is great to receive all these gifts, it’s really all about Hope. Just knowing that something joyful and magical can happen to you when you least expect it. Hang on to hope people…and if my cancer can be cured, I don’t need Oprah to witness something joyful or magical. :)

So as we all know the ‘big day’ is coming soon. I want to believe with everything in me that the cancer in my body is gone. That the chemotherapy treatment did the job intended. However, I know how my body feels. There is still some discomfort going on. The reality you guys is that ‘it’ could still be there. I’m not going to be mad or upset if I hear that news because I have prepared myself to hear that radiation is in my future. It’s not something I want, but who really does want radiation? So this week to prepare myself, I am praying Psalm 112:6-8 (I changed the he’s to I in this so that I can make it my own personal prayer this week as I head in for my ‘big news’ on Wednesday morning) - ‘Surely I will never be shaken; a righteous woman will be remembered forever. I will have no fear of bad news; my heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. My heart is secure, I will have no fear; in the end I will look in triumph on my disease.’
I’m not living in fear anymore; I am however living with curiosity about the possibility of other side effects from my treatments. Hey! Did you know that my ‘chemo brain’ is an actual side effect? Its short term memory loss…I totally had that while I had chemo! So weird that people out there actually called it 'chemo brain' too. Anyways, along with my wondering mind about infertility and my lung function, I’m also curious (not fearful, because I know my future is laid out already for a reason, I just need to find it) because my GI track will not make up it’s mind and I have this ‘burning’ in the middle of my chest. I’m not sure if it is the lungs or the stomach, or both at this point. Needless to say, I am so ready to hear my results and make a plan to get me healthy again! I know I’m jumping the gun, but all I want for Christmas is my health back…whatever that is these days :) In the mean time, it is a time to be thankful and I should be giving thanks instead of whining about my curious brain. Please know, I am thankful. For so much, even ‘dirty chemo drugs’ that are making me healthy again so that I can give many more thanks in the future. Tomorrow I am going to see the kids at school for their Thanksgiving Day feast really quick, and then I get to have a massage with my momma. Man am I thankful for her too right now :)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pics from a cancer chick (:-D

Hey are some more of my favorites from the photo shoot I named Pics from a cancer chick ( :-D (see my bald smiley face too??) Thanks again to my friends, those who could and couldn't be there this day, and to Jessica Paxon Photography for documenting this time in my life and for giving me a day, and time period in my life, that I will certainly NEVER forget! I hope you all are just as touched as I was when I saw these, I still can't believe that is me sometime. Thank you so much for encouraging me to share these with you :)

Isn't the scenery beautiful! What an artist God is!

I feel like a model in these ones!

I am WOMAN! Full of strength and beauty!!

I like these ones in my comfy clothes! You know me and my love for comfy clothes :)

I get teary eyed when I see this's like my eyes are telling the story of the bittersweetness of this pursuit.

And this one could tell a story too! My husband, my love!

Bye Bye wig!!
This Wednesday is the 'big day' when I find out what the next month or two has in store for my life. Help me be patient and understanding again Lord. I keep going back to the song I sang as a child...ok and teenager too:)
My God is so BIG, my God is so MIGHTY, there's nothing my God cannot do!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Bucket List

It’s Friday night again…it was 8:08 when I sat down and decided to watch a movie. How the Grinch stole Christmas was on, but it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, so I couldn’t watch that. Then I turned to TNT, The Bucket List! Oh, yeah I have always wanted to watch that movie! So I cuddled up in my blanket…AND LAUGHED!!! This movie made me laugh out loud that it hurt in my chest…augh, cancer. Jack Nickelson and Morgan Freeman are two old guys that find out they have cancer and end up becoming friends in the hospital room they share. Jack is a grumpy, rich man and Morgan is a hard working, middle class man. I just have to quote some of these funny lines! Like when Jack got rolled into the hospital he said, ‘And I want to talk to Dr. Frankenstein about that Bleomycin shit. I hear it eats your lungs.’ Totally relate to that! And when the doctor tells him he has to have chemo in the morning he says soothingly, ‘Oh, the smell of chemo in the morning.’ :) You have to hear the sarcasm from them. Great duo. Then, when Jack is done puking from chemo, he says, ‘Some lucky guy right now is having a heart attack.’ Took the words out of my mouth!

But what I really liked was the idea of making a Bucket list. You know, write down the things you want to do before you kick the bucket. Life isn’t about living a metaphor, it’s about the actual LIVING part. Morgan said in the movie that he always wanted to go back to school to be a history teacher, but 45 years goes by fast. I don’t want to be that person 45 years down the road saying, oh I should have…So here it is. This is my current Bucket List…beware, I dream big...and a lot.:)

See New York City at Christmas…especially Rockefeller Center and the ‘Big Tree’
Scuba dive in a coral reef and surf on my 5 Year anniversary in Hawaii
Volunteer my time to something I would never do.
Take a hot air balloon ride…I came so close this fall!
Run a marathon…I want to have a number on my shirt. And run like I know these lungs can.
Take a cruise to Alaska…mainly to see the whales.
Own a boat…two down, a few upgrades to go yet.
Have at least 20 more sister nights where we laugh ‘til we cry.
Watch a Vegas show in person…nothing dirty. Just to be in total awe of it.
Frame my own art work. My parents did it in high school, but I want to try again.
Have a walk in closet…my fashion life would be easier.
Take a missions trip to Africa…and definitely do a safari.
Make out in public…to be caught totally off guard by my husband in front of a hundred people if I want to get real picky.
Take my loved ones to the Virgin Islands…its close to Heaven.
Own just one pair of Jimmy Choo shoes…I want the red bottoms.
Give something away that I totally love…to learn it’s not all about possessions in life (bye-bye jimmy shoes)
Go skinny dipping...
Go to an Oprah show, even if I’m in the back row…I’ve tried but I think it’s impossible to get tickets.
Save someone’s
Take my parents to see Billings, Montana where they used to live…I want to see them smile.
Ride in a limo with the sunroof open…you know what comes next. :)
Direct a Children’s Christmas Play…those were some of the best times.
Talk to a homeless person…oh the lesson’s I would learn.
See baby sea turtles hatch…it happens in South Carolina near my aunt’s house.
Do some serious fine dining…like risotto, 5 star, black dress/black tie dining.

Go on a Youth Trip as a chaperon to see what we put them though.
Have true friendships…the ups, the downs, the forgiveness, and the laughs.
Write a book…
Experience labor…I’d go through it a hundred times just to have my own child.

When I’m old, have a big family that sits around a table, with a dinner that I cooked, and eats together. I want to be a grandma too.
Read the entire NIV Bible…yes, even the boring books.
Sing a song for an audience…that perfect song made just for me.
Give my children every opportunity I had as a child…and know the meaning of work.
Go to Europe…and see it all.
Make a difference…somehow.
Die in my sleep…because I don’t like pain.

Some of this won’t happen, I know. Oprah herself would have to call my work to let me come to her show because I’m out of personal and sick days :) But seriously, I’m glad I at least have some things in life to dream about. I’ve done some amazing things already with this 26 years of life…swimming with dolphins, graduating from college with my last name on the diploma, landing my dream job two weeks after I graduated, experiencing crazy true love and marrying the cutest guy in town :), and soon to be a cancer survivor. And if I can fulfill at least some of this stuff on my bucket list before I see Jesus, I am one very lucky girl. I want to make sure I had joy in my life and was a joy to someone else’s life before I kick the bucket. Like the movie says, Today I lived to die another day. I just want to make sure I’m LIVING in the process.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I Cried.

I finally let it out and I cried today. I mean I cried, a lot. Andrew wasn’t here to see it. Luckily he wasn’t...Im not sure if he would have consoled me or laughed at me :) I cried because of everything, good and bad, sometimes a girl just needs a good cry. I cried because I don’t know what’s in store and I can’t make a plan yet. I cried because I can't get the words out that are in my head. I cried because things are so clear, but yet so foggy in my head. I cried because I can’t remember what I tell or didn't tell people…especially my husband and it gets me into trouble at times. I cried because I love my mom so much. I cried because I miss Grandma Mary. I cried because I feel like I could be a better wife, friend, daughter, and coworker. I cried because I love my dog, but he is chewing everything! I cried because of how beautiful Jessica made my pictures. I cried because I really do have THE BEST support group out there. I cried because I think my cat hates me. I cried because my chili finally turned out good. I cried because I don’t want to fold my socks. I cried because all I really want to eat is Oreos for breakfast. I cried because I just saw how much cancer costs. I cried for the people out there who have no one to talk to about their problems. I cried for my friends who are in pain and there isn’t a thing I can do to make it go away. I cried because I have no idea what’s happening inside my body and I feel I have no control. I cried because I’m still a girl and I still have hormones. And I cried because I’m done with cancer…but it’s not.
So what did I do next? I took my Kleenex’s to the bathroom and finished crying in the bathtub. :) I didn't write this for you to feel bad for me, I just wanted to be honest and remember the day I felt like this girl below. I cry too, I’m not perfect and I don't hold it together all the time. And I didn't even have a good reason to cry today. I think it just needed to come out. One time a doctor told me I itched all the time because I held in my feelings too much. Well there was no itching today my friends! :D Today, I just needed a good cry. And I feel so much better now.

When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.
-Harriet Beecher Stowe, novelist

Maybe this is a turning point for me…I’ll learn something from this good cry today, but for now, a few more tears won’t hurt :)
Have a good cry tonight if you need it...from experience, it really makes you feel better! No matter if you are a man or woman!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

THAT's what Friends are for...Making Bald Beautiful.

In Galatians 6:2 we are told to carry each others burdens. Here are just a few people who did that for me on a day I will absolutely never forget...

My friends are amazing...
Have I already said that before??? But really, they are. Here’s the story...

There is an amazing photographer in town named Jessica Paxson. I knew I wanted to document my time with cancer and writing it down in the blog has been great. But my new physical appearance has been life changing too and my own pictures never did justice to show this side of cancer...The beautiful side. :) So what did my friends do? They helped me carry a cancer burden by stepping in and giving me a wonderful day of celebration and beauty. They surprised me by not only going with me to get my pictures taken, but by getting my make up professionally done, buying a new outfit, toasting to being done with chemo during lunch, and then off to a great photo session with the one and only Jessica Paxson Photography. We had to cancel a few times due to chemo, but these ladies didn't let me down and made me move forward with this type of documentation...even when I was unsure. Cancer isn't something you choose to get, but how you handle it is something you can choose. I chose to grab it and run with it, making it the best it can be. So here is to all of the bald women out there, even us who have that darn 20% stubble left! :) This one is definitely for YOU!!! Because if you have supportive friends, family, and a husband like me...bald really is beautiful. So go out there, get all glammed up, and take a picture of this time in your life! Even if you aren't bald, start documenting your life and see what your story is...and get your pictures taken by Jessica Paxson Photography, you will not regret it!

Tara, Laura, and Ashley...friends since the fourth grade! Ash-Ta-Loo!! :)

My husband and his bald wife ;)

There are so many more pictures to come that are just awesome...just wait!! :) Thank you Ashley, Tara, and Jessica! There are just not even enough Thank You's out there for how you girls took what looked like a bad situation, gave it a new beautiful perspective, and made me smile.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

More than just a Question in a Journal...

Yesterday I was at the hospital and all went well. Just a long day. But knowing that I had my hospital sisters there with me made me happy. I didn’t feel so alone as I got the scans. Not only was my real sister Sarah there to help me laugh before I went in to do the PET and CT scan (like when asked to fill out paper work and it asked to write down the reason why we were there... I put 'The 'c' word :) We are trouble together!) But I had my other two friends (yesterday I called us ‘hospital sisters’ because we were all in different hospitals at the same time for a day) were in Columbus and Wisconsin finding out their health fate too. So I didn't feel so scared or alone. I’m glad we all have each other to help get through these tough times when we are all still so young to be dealing with all this.

So no news yet. I will not know anything about the status of my tumors until I see the doctor next Wednesday, right before Thanksgiving. That’s a lot of waiting for my results! Like I said, yesterday was a long day in itself and during the time in-between my tests, I looked into my over-filled purse full of junk and found my journal that I started before I found this blog. I started reading, as well as reliving, some of the feelings I had when this Pursuit first started. Here’s an excerpt from my journal…
Thursday 6/17/10 - ‘I heard the words. I couldn’t comprehend them. I knew I had heard the words Hodgkin’s Lymphoma before, but was it true. Do I have cancer? I had to ask the doctor again over the phone as AJ pulled into the nearest parking lot. ‘Is this...cancer?’ When he told me yes, I started to shake, and cry. The questions I paid no attention to in the past were now in my head…’Did I do something to deserve this? How much time do I have? Will I need chemotherapy? Will I die?’
I realized, as I sat there in the hospital where it all began, that some of those questions have been answered. Did I do something to deserve this? No, no one deserves cancer and you don’t get it because you’ve been bad. It just happens, to both good and bad people. How much time will I have? Well, so far I have had 4 months, 29 days, 6 hours, and 14 minutes (roughly ;). I’m blessed to have that! Will I need chemotherapy? Yes, but it’s ok because it’s going to make me healthy again. And Will I die? Yes, one day I will die. That was a dumb question though, because I know I’m going to die. That’s one thing in this life I CAN count on. The better question I should have asked was Am I prepared for the day I die? So, I ask myself that question now...Laura, are you prepared to die?
My answer is yes. Yes, because even if cancer wins, my last breath will be on earth and my next breath will be in heaven; and be rest assured that I will see my loved ones again, and I as well as them will be more beautiful and complete than ever. Isn’t it wonderful to believe in the God who created the heavens and earth, that even after we mess up so many times, He still accepts us in heaven? All we have to do is accept Him as God and ask for the forgiveness we are so undeserving of. But that’s just how much He loves us, that He would forgive a sinner like me (John 3:16)

Dear God,
Thank you for loving me so much that You would send your own son, Jesus Christ, to die for us. So that we can be with You and our family who believes in You again in heaven. We don’t deserve this, but thank you. Because it gives me a reason to not be scared of cancer or anything else on this earth. Knowing I will be with You in the end where there is no sadness leaves me not in tears of fear, but in tears of gratitude. So I am not afraid to die because I have You there waiting for me. My source of strength and my constant comforter when I'm scared out of my mind. Forgive me please of my sins and thank you for washing them away each and every time I confess them. Thank you or giving me a new chance each time I mess up too. That’s why you are so awesome. Please help me to have a better relationship with you everyday. Because that’s all you really ask of us.
Love you,
Me Laura

This Pursuit has become so much more to me and is becoming clearer to me everyday. It's not just about cancer anymore as you can see, it's about Life and how cancer woke me up to Life. I’m starting to gathering my thoughts for the day when I make my last blog entry. The day when I have won my battle with cancer. It should be a doosy :) OH!!!! AND......I have some AMAZING pictures to show you soon...I am getting really excited about this!!!!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Heading back to the 'Cancer World' tomorrow...

Do you ever get annoyed when the nurses call you to confirm your appointments…like you didn’t already know? Well, I found out today why they call. It’s because of people like me! If they wouldn’t have called on Friday to remind me about tomorrow, I would have shown up on Wednesday like I thought. I can still blame chemo brain can’t I?? So tomorrow I get to spend a glorious day at the hospital full of testing. De je vu if you ask me! I feel like I am back in July again…anxiously waiting again for the news of what my future holds! I start tomorrow with fasting until 10:00 when I get my PET scan done. They will test my sugars and then inject me with the radioactive stuff. Then, I sit in that dark room without moving for an hour. After that is all done, I have to stay away from children for 24 hours. I get to have lunch with my sister Sarah after that and at 1:30 I go to get my CT scan. Both of these tests will show the tumors…if they are there :) Remember I’m trying to be optimistic that maybe chemo did a super-duper job and I don’t have to get radiation. But I am also realizing that I am becoming more of a realist through this process…so I’m ready if they tell me they are still there. Although I am very interested to see the progress I have made and rejoice in it, I also have to be prepared to hear the reports on my lungs. I am happy to report that if I had to say if my lungs are getting better or worse…I would say better, but just a little. The CT scan could report that there is scarring on the lungs from the Bleomycin medicine and that is what they will call lung or pulmonary fibrosis. However, because I communicated the discomfort I was having to my doctor early on, I have been off of that IV drug the past 3 rounds of chemo. That means that if there is scarring, it could have been a lot worse if I wouldn’t have told them about my lungs so early on. We will just have to see what the reports say and take it from there. It really isn’t in my hands right now so no need to get worried about the things I can not control :)

So if you have room in your prayers tonight, pray that my body keeps healing and responding to the chemotherapy, and that it will show on the scans that are being done tomorrow. Oh, and I have a confession to make…I went to work on Friday. We do not have students on Fridays and I really wanted to wrap my head around teaching again before I head back with the kids. It was nice to be there, see some familiar faces, and get my hands back into the work I was made to do. I’m glad I wrote this blog while I was sick though. It gave me something to do and feel like I wasn’t alone when this house can get so lonely. You have provided me a place to release my frustrations, share my heart, and ask for your prayers. Thanks for listening, even in the boring times. Tomorrow I go back to the cancer world…wish this Warrior Chick good luck!

Your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.
Abraham Lincoln, 16th U.S. president

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I'm soaring on Eagles wings!

Before you go any further...take a look at the quote from Mark Twain at the bottom of the last blog I just put up…awesome!

Greetings! So how am I doing?? Feeling better every day! There really is light at the end of the chemo hang in there Kara from Wisconsin! Just 2 CAN do it…you are a mom, you can do anything I think! :) I PROMISE you it gets better…PROMISE!

The good news is that my blood pressure is back to where it should be and all the side effects from the shot have worn off! Yea for medicines!! I’m telling you, chemo could have been SO much worse if medicine was not as good as it is now days. I think I may still be doing a little mind over matter too right now because I’m just so happy to be done with chemo that it just makes me feel better anyways! I need to keep reminding myself that my body is still weaker than I think. I’m not a 100% yet so I just need to keep building up my strength and stamina (I can sleep for hours still!) back up. I still hit a wall pretty quick if I ‘do too much’. Wow, I keep saying the word still...maybe I just need to 'Be still' (Psalm 46:10) and know that God's got this. But I am doing my part and getting out more and working on building myself back up so that I CAN GO BACK TO WORK! I can’t go back to work full time yet with the kids because I have some more appointments and the docs want me 100% WELL so that we have no set backs. Boy, am I glad I listen to them, because they are realistic while I am optimistic. The reality is that preschoolers are germy, really germy, and set backs put me in the hospital. I don’t want to go back there! Besides, I have to get a CT scan and PET scan next week which keeps me away from the kids for 24 hours because of the radioactive glucose they inject in me. So I am going to try to build myself up a little more every day and get back to where I feel I need to be after Thanksgiving… my school kids :) See, I’m optimistic!

So pretty much every chemo symptom is gone! Praise the Lord!! The only thing is the obvious lack of immune system, and my lungs…they are not getting any better or worse. I’m not going to freak out yet because it could just be that Bleomycin medicine trying to work its way out of my lungs. I think that may be some of my strength and stamina issue too, I can get so winded so fast and I just need to sit and catch my breath. So as my body is getting stronger I feel, my chemo brain…well that has yet to be determined. :) Just let me tell you what I did…So I was driving home from the doctor’s office and I stopped at a red light. In just two seconds, I totally forgot where I was! I was all turned around and didn’t know what to do! I had people beeping at me to go, but I didn’t know where to go! Then, I went to get some gas and forgot how to pump gas. I put the hose in the gas tank and then just looked at the pump with a confused face, like what’s the next step? I don’t know! Then to top it ALL off…I went to my parent’s house and pulled into the wrong driveway! I pulled into the neighbors drive way! Oh boy…maybe it is a good thing that I am off one more week from the kids. I can’t even begin to imagine the trouble I’d have them in with this chemo brain girl! :)

However, I do take my vitamins like crazy still. I’m telling you people, get the right vitamins to help your body stay healthy and you will help it fight off disease and get back to normal (I like D3 and Fish Oil…although it’s a massive pill!). Although medicines are good and help heal the body, I’d be ridiculous if I said it was just medicine that is making me better. I fully believe that I AM the verse from Isaiah 40:28-31 - He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like an eagle; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint. When you pray and believe in this prayer for yourself…it can move mountains in your own life. It makes God so much more real to me. I pray it like this ‘God gives strength to me and increases the power in me. Even I, just 26, can grow tired and weak, and stumble and fall from cancer and chemo. But because I hope in the Lord I WILL have renewed strength again. I will be as strong as an eagle with You by my side. I will live and not be weak. And I will walk with You, then stand strong in Heaven.’ Yes my body is being healed as we speak by the medicines…but something much more is being healed as well. It's the spirit inside this almost healed body. I hope I see you soaring like the eagles beside me one day :)

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Pursuit...not only a story anymore, but now a Boat!

Wow, that was a rough couple of days there…but I’m glad to say that I am doing much better now! For some reason, the side effects lasted ALL day, for 3 days straight. I have never been down that long. When I say down, I mean I did not move from the couch...only to get my shots, go to the bathroom, and get Cooper out of trouble. It was rough. But Sunday, I woke up and it was gone! All the side effects were gone and I was able to move and be apart of civilization again! I was so glad to be able to see some friends for her daughter’s first birthday party and my other friend for her baby shower. Today I went to get my shot again (I get one more tomorrow, they are supposed to help make my levels all normal again), and I've been good so far...just don't want to be too far from a bathroom...oh the joys and realities of cancer! My blood pressure has been low the past few days, but they say it’s because my body has been through so much these past few months. I need to do what they tell me and just keep resting and recuperating so I can get back to the lifestyle I used to have. I also have to drink Ensure :) I’m such an old woman I tell ya! That is pretty much the update. I’m not allowed to go back to the kids yet. My body is still too fragile they say…but after Thanksgiving…HERE I COME!!!!!!!!!!! That’s my plan anyways :) We’ll see what happens!

So here is the Chemo is Done present……WE BOUGHT A BOAT! Meet Pursuit!

Yes we did! So Andrew and I were pretty set on taking a cruise this Christmas break to celebrate my soon-to-be remission stage. However, a cruise only lasts 4 days...a BOAT can last years! So we decided to buy a boat and celebrate with a group of friends on a cruise sometime down the line. I'm thinking that We turned 30 cruise is still looking good right ladies?? :) So anyways, Andrew has had a fishing boat for a couple years now and we have always talked about upgrading when the time was right. I wanted to make sure we had the money to pay for it and make sure the timing was right for us. Now seemed as good as time as ever! I couldn't think of any 'why not's'...and we must LIVE right?! So thank you cancer for giving me the ambition to Live. Cause it could have been years before we ever bought a boat again with my pre-chemo brain that over analyzed everything :) Now however, with this boat, we can go water skiing (or at least try) and tubing and take it out on Lake Erie! I AM SO EXCITED FOR SUMMER!! And you should be too because you all are welcome ANYTIME! But the boat holds 7 people (and Cooper) so we can't all go at once :) This isn't our Yacht yet people!

Honestly, I have been very blessed in my life, and my only prayer is that somehow we can pay it forward and give you guys all a fun time out on the lake sometime this summer too. Really! I just want this boat to be a blessing not only in our lives, but in your lives too because you have all been such a blessing in my life. Thank you God for my many blessings in life and please let this boat, the Pursuit, be used as a tool to bless someone else too. You know, sometimes a nice day on the lake can do WONDERS for the mind and body. And docking the boat at Cranberries and getting some fried food isn't too bad either ;) I am happy to see light at the end of my tunnel and know that some of that light is the sun reflecting off the water as I sit and soak it in on the Pursuit...ahhhh, makes me smile! :)

My Loves...

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
- Mark Twain, American writer

Saturday, November 6, 2010

In the words of Shakespeare...

Oh, Chemo how I do not love thee, let me count the ways…

1) I do not love the nausea you give me
2) I do not love the extreme fatigue where I sleep the days away
3) I do not love the sore throats from the shots
4) I do not love getting 4 shots over 4 days to make me better on top of the IV drugs
5) I do not love the throbbing jaw pain
6) I do not love the killer back pains
7) I do not love the migraines
8) I do not love how I smell like chemo for two days
9) I do not love how the beeps go off in the middle of treatment that wake me up
10) I do not love how you mess up my digestive system. Can’t I just be regular?!
11) I do not love how I can’t decide if I want hard or soft foods because which would it hurt less…my stomach or throat
12) I do not love the achy bones or the flu like symptoms
13) I do not love how my lungs feel like I’ve been running in the cold
14) I do not love how you give me ‘chemo brain’ and I can’t think straight
15) I do not love that you took my thick eyelashes
16) I do not love that I can’t just get up and go like I used to
17) I do not love…well, I just do not love you right now.
If you can't tell, I'm not quite over the after chemo symptoms yet :)

I do however love that you challenge me internally to be stronger than what I think I can be. And that you’ve shown me that my own strength is not going to be sufficient enough to live through this Life alone. I love how you have shown me to lean not only on others in my times of need…but on the source that is most high. I do love how you are healing my body, I just wish you didn’t have to break it down first. But that’s kind of like what we have to do with God. Become vulnerable and break ourselves down before Him so that we may be healed forever in His name. I sing this song today as a source of strength to get through these last chemo side effects…which seems like the harshest side effects yet…

I stand to praise You
But I fall on my knees
My spirit is willing
But my flesh is so weak

So Light the fire
In my soul
Fan the flame
Make me whole
Lord, You know
Just where I've been
So light the fire
in my heart again

I feel Your arms around me
As the power of
Your healing begins
Your spirit moves through me
Like a mighty rushing wind.

'Lord, please move through me today, make me whole again, and light the fire in me so that it burns brighter than ever before! I'm feeling weak this round and need to feel Your arms around me these next few days. Thank you God!'

Give me another day my friends to get past these side effects...I want to feel really good when I reveal to you the After Chemo Gift because I'm really excited about it :) Thank you for your prayers of healing!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Last treatment…take Two!

Wow, am I glad that my chemotherapy treatments are OVER!!!!! So I’m sick and exhausted right now and can’t keep my eye lids open without toothpicks, so I will make this quick because I know you all would appreciate an update…stay tuned for the longer version in a couple days :)
Thought this squirrel was's kinda how I feel these days!

Eight treatments later and this is kicking my butt. I am so tired and nauseated from the treatment today. My blood count looked better than last week so I was able to have treatment though! PTL!!! And the nurse let me know what was in store for the next few weeks. I get a PET and CT scan in a week and a half and meet with my oncologist to go over those results a few days later. We then set up my consult appointment with the radiation oncologist (if needed of course ;) Then, I get all ready for radiation the next week after that appointment and start the radiation process every day for any where from 15 to 30 days. Then after all that…I SHOULD BE DONE!!! I can see the finish line to this Pursuit people! If you aren't smiling like me right now, you should be! :D I am so close! I have literally been sleeping all day, Andrew did a good job taking care of me. But, I really have to go because I’m not feeling good and because my 'chemo brain' has me wondering if I even got THIS information correct to give you:) Look for a better update in a couple days AND the Chemo is Done present!!

On a side note, I just have to say 'Shucks'…I wasn’t able to go to the Relay for Life kick off meeting today, but my mom and dad stopped to get me the information. I hate when chemo gets in the way of stuff…but such is Life. We must be flexible and go with the flow without getting discouraged. Thanks everyone for the congratulations! But it's not over yet...I still have some more of this race to run! I'm emotional and for the first's awesome!!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Just a Pursuit Update...

Hey there, I wanted to give you all an update on everything. Nothing specific, just everything. As you know I am on a Pursuit and at the beginning I didn’t know what I was pursuing, but it is getting clearer everyday. It’s something that I have been referring to as Life. But I’m still going through this process and don’t want to get into that Life discussion yet…but it is coming:) Here are some other updates though that you might be wondering about…
Cridersville is getting back to normal after the tornado. The town has calmed down and everyone is building back the pieces that were left behind from the storm. It was a relief to know that there really is calm after the storm. Some storms (or life situations) may only last a couple minutes, others can last several years. It just gives me peace in my heart to know that my calm is coming soon. May not have been as soon as I would have liked it to be, but it is coming.
Cooper is amazing. He is totally potty trained by ringing the bell on the door (yes, Andrew won that bet because I thought it would never happen) and he just learned how to shake! Cooper keeps me warm on these cold days, he can cuddle up just right. He still hasn’t learned how to hide if he wants to chew on something, he brings it right to me or just does it in front of me. Kinda makes me wish I did that with all the stuff I’m not ‘suppose’ to do in Life. Just bring it to Andrew before I do it to stop me from getting in trouble. I’m not a drug addict or criminal, I’m talking about anything here…I’m not perfect :)
Dena is holding down the fort in my classroom. I told her I feel like I forget how to teach, but I think that also has to do with my ‘chemo brain’ right now. I may just have to ease back into this if we really want to be realistic. I’m really grateful for her and how she has truly taken things over so I can rest. I don’t think you realize how stressful and time consuming teaching can be. She has really allowed me to be able to relax and recover without my health being compromised because of the work put into working.
I’m proud to say that my friends who were sick there for awhile are being healed as we speak. We were in scary water there for a couple days, but they are doing well and getting back to Life. Me on the other hand, I’m just waiting it seems. Waiting to go get treatment, waiting to hear about radiation, waiting to get my CT scan and results, waiting for my lungs to feels better, waiting to get the clear to go back to work, waiting for my hair to grow back, waiting to get my Life on schedule again. I’m waiting, and if you don’t know me, I’m not the most patient of people. I get very antsy, very quickly. I’m sure you have seen that on some of the blogs :)
Hey, I’m living too! I have done things that challenge me that I wouldn’t have done in the past, like buying a dog, taking risks, and opening myself up for new opportunities (my first Relay for Life meeting is this Thursday…start getting your legs warmed up! :) Sometimes my plans work out and sometimes God intervenes and says just wait though. Like the hot air balloon ride I wanted to take this fall to see the beautiful fall colors we had this year. It got cancelled three times for chemo and bad weather. So this summer it will be something fun and relaxing to look forward too. And my vacation trip to celebrate being done with this…we aren’t doing that either. We did something better!! But I will show you after chemo is done on Thursday. I got a great Chemo is Done gift from my husband :) And I want to share it with you too for helping me get through chemo!
On another note, God is looking out for us not only in my health life, but Andrew’s Army life too. We dodged the bullet again. Just two weeks after Andrew was done serving in the Army this past summer, his unit got orders to deploy next year. We literally missed it by two weeks. I can not count my blessings enough to know that he has fulfilled his duty to the Army and does not have to deploy with them for a year. I could cry I am so happy he gets to stay (hopefully, keep your fingers crossed!!) God is totally watching over us right now, truly not giving us more than we can handle at the moment. Trust me, the first year of marriage is hard enough as it is getting to know each other and your personalities, but the first year of marriage with cancer has really tested our strength as a couple. I’m learning about forgiveness, patience, and communication hardcore! We have our ups and downs, but every couple does. And if they don’t, they are lying to you :) Thank you Andrew, for loving me when I know it can be so hard to sometimes. And for never, ever doubting our love for each other.
I’m also learning how to Let Go and Let God. Before this diagnosis, I had things so under control that things usually went my way. I’m learning that not everything goes my way, and that my way is not always the right way. I was getting to a point in my life where this was driving a wedge between me and a lot of people and things I care about. Sometimes you need a wake up call in life. Maybe my wake up call was cancer. But whether it be something that was out of your control or just a bad decision you made, it can be one of the best things to happen because it can change your life for the better…but you have to let it. I held this guilt of control for a longtime through this Pursuit and to be honest, I’m still working through it. But just remember, there is nothing that God can’t forgive. It says ‘that as far as the east is from the west, so far He has moved our sin from us’ (Psalm 103:12). All we have to do is acknowledge that it is there and do our very best to change. Sometimes I forget how freeing it feels to just give it to God and give Him the driver’s seat again. Please know I pray for you all as a group and thank you so much for your support. There's the Pursuit of charge in this world that demands ever penny we make! HAHA :) Thanks again everyone!

“Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them. I said to myself, ‘I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.’ And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone” (Psalm 32:5).

**Just as a side note, I'm think about the King family are missed by many Dan and I hope we are all reminded of just how precious life can be and how easily it can be taken away. Let us all remember how you made us laugh and would want us to live Life to the fullest!**