Monday, January 31, 2011

My New Normal

The newest picture of me post-treatment...I can't believe how much better I look with hair, eyebrows, and color back in my face! This pic is for you Olivia! :)

Another attempt at a family you can see, Cooper and Kota were not thrilled about being so close to each other! Their friendship is like two sixth grade girls..friends one day, enemies the next!

I thought I would write and tell you about something called the New Normal. I read this in a 'Life after Treatment' pamphlet that the radiation nurses gave me after treatment, and I actually related with the thing (after rolling my eyes at yet another self help pamphlet given to me- this one got read out of boredom waiting on the doc). Its basically a run down of how 'normal' may feel different after having all the cancer treatments than what your 'normal' before treatment was. It’s just what it says, its my New Normal. Basically, the biggest difference I can tell from before I had cancer and now, is that my lung capacity just isn’t what it used to be. I can’t take as deep as breath as I could before, and that’s probably due to the scarring on the lungs from chemo. Also, the lymph nodes in my chest that had the cancer in them are scarred too, so I may not ever feel 'just right', but I’m ok with that because it’s not that bad…way better than when there was a 9cm monster tumor in there! Other than the breathing, my energy level is almost where it was. I’m not nearly as tired as I was when I had radiation and chemo, but that doesn't mean I jump out of bed in the morning either! All of the chemo and radiation side effects are gone and my New Normal includes not putting off going to the doctor anymore. I've gone to the chiropractor for my bulged disc (yeah, for some reason they didn't care as much about the bulged disc as they did about the cancer when they found both in June, so I've been living with back pain these last 8 months ;) and I am headed back the OB/GYN to figure out why my body doesn't do what it's supposed to do! :)

But something else that has become a New Normal is my newest thoughts as I wake up each morning. My first thought, of course, is how I wish I had my coffee maker right beside my bed so that I can wake up easier, but honestly, my next thought is, ‘Do I still have cancer?’. I'll know for sure in a few weeks. But I imagine when I hear that I am cancer free…my next morning thoughts will include ‘has my cancer returned?’. My dad’s friend put it just right after I told him that I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t think about cancer, but now, instead of it being right in front of my face, it’s to the side, out of view...but still there.
Now I know we couldn’t let the fear of future cancers hold us back from treating the current cancer. Yet I am still a human with human thoughts. And that one day when it’s all gone, it could still come back. What if 10 years down the road I am still waking up everyday wondering if ‘it’ has returned...and this time with a vengeance. I could let this question literally eat me alive, however, I’m not going to let those thoughts dictate how I live my life. I’m not going to be scared of the world because I wake up with the fear everyday that my cancer has returned. Reality is, I will wake up everyday wondering if it has returned. There is just no way to turn that off. So what I need to do is build up my defense. Instead of fearing the reality of this world, I will face it like my dad’s picture in the military barracks of its interpretation of a Psalm ‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil because I am the meanest son of a bitch there is.’ Somehow, as crude as this saying is...I smile when I say it and it gives me power :) But even more power than that is these words from the same book of Psalms...Psalm 27:3 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident. And the reason I will be confident every morning I wake up and am faced with the fear of having cancer again, is because I will remember that the LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold, of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1 Such strong and powerful words...powerful enough to beat the soldiers that cancer sends my way to make me fearful. So I say, Bring 'em on...cause I got a warrior inside me so strong that I will NOT be afraid of a disease called cancer or anything else in this world. Amen!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Relay for Life...and I got 'Frogged' today!!

You knew I would have to thank you here is my THANK YOU to my mystery frog person...whoever you are!! :)

So as I walked into work today, I was met by not the normal junk on my desk...but a desk full of everything frogs! Frog pencils, magnets, papers, stickers, borders, animals, and F.R.O.G. key chains and bracelets. I was taken back because I had no idea who would do this...then I looked at my other door and there was a frog poster hanging in the doorway with a note. It was the kindest note about my Pursuit and remembering to Fully Rely On God. But still no name. So for all of you who know how much I love also need to know how much I love to thank you FOR the surprises. So please reveal yourself one day...because you are awfully nice and totally creative! And thank you for supporting me along this here's my way of paying if forward this year...


Over the summer I decided to give my garage sale money to Relay for Life. Well, shortly after I decided its time for me to get out of my box and do more to help others, so I went to a meeting yesterday and got some more information about being apart of the Relay for Life event. So here are the basics...The event will be held on June 10 and 11 (yes, it goes on ALL night! :) at the Allen County Fairgrounds. The event is open to the public with lots of activities...but the main focus is to have fun, walk the track to promote awareness, and celebrate the money raised to further cancer research. Here's what I need to do...I have to create a team of about 10-15 people. And your job is to pick a one hour time slot on June 10 through 11 (I'm counting on you Scotty to help me with the midnight hours :) to walk around the track. And if you want to help even more, you can help me in any way you want, raise money for cancer research...hey, you'll get a free T-shirt (you know we are suckers for the free T's!). The idea behind this day in June is for EVERYONE to come together after raising some money to celebrate the survivors of cancer and remember the ones who have lost the battle. Unfortunately, cancer is still a deadly disease. So if you feel like being apart of my team and help me walk and raise money to further cancer research (or to just know how to simply donate) please let me know! (email me at or for any ideas on fundraisers to raise some money for that day). I am way out of my box on doing something like this...way out because I am usually the girl behind the scenes. But I feel like I owe it to the American Cancer Society this year to do this event because the money raised to fund cancer research in the past saved my life. You saw me from the beginning in every emotion through this Pursuit, the good the bad and the ugly, so please help me one last time and come to this event to help me celebrate the end of my Pursuit! And even if you aren't apart of the team, you can still come out that day in June to donate, walk, or just see me! :) I will give you more details as I hear, but more than anything, I would just LOVE to see you at the event and give you a BIG HUG for all the support you have given me through my treatments. And to meet some of you in person for the first time who have been reading the blog and keeping up on my progress. Remember, this is open to the public, you don't have to be part of the team to walk the track, enjoy the day of music and activities, and donate to a great cause (did I say yet that I get to have my own tent set up for our team and all of you who come?! Sweet!!) Now you all know I love being social, so please don't leave me alone out there!!! :) For more info on Relay for life, visit

In case you may have just started reading this blog, here is a recap of the cancer I was diagnosed with in June 2010. This is all courtesy of WebMD, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and the Lymphoma Research foundation.

Hodgkin lymphoma, also known as Hodgkin disease, is a rare type of lymphoma. Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s are the two types of Lymphoma and most people are diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's. Lymphoma is the most common of blood cancers. If I was glad to get cancer, I’m glad I got this cancer. This is a kind of blood cancer that can be curable. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 8,500 new cases of Hodgkin lymphoma are projected each year. In 2010, about 628,415 people (153,535 with Hodgkin lymphoma and about 474,880 people with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma) are living with lymphoma or are in remission.
Researchers know it is a cancer which arises from an abnormal lymphocyte (white blood cell). Lymphocytes normally die, and your body replaces them with new ones, but in lymphoma, your body produces abnormal lymphocytes (aka abnormal white blood cells) that quickly divide and multiply. Hodgkin lymphoma develops when a lymphocyte (usually a B-cell) becomes abnormal (cancerous). White blood cells are divided into two types: B cells that produce plasma cells that then make antibodies to battle foreign substances, and T cells that fight these foreign bodies themselves. My lymphoma started in my white blood cells (the B cells) which fights infection. I wonder if this is why I got the rash that couldn’t go away. These abnormal cells in my body are called Reed-Sternberg (R-S) cells. Reed-Sternberg cells are cancerous and continually divide, making more and more abnormal cells, which do not die when they should. The R-S cell is what they found when they looked under the microscope after they took a piece of my tumor out for testing. This was how they knew it was cancer because of this abnormal cell. When all of these abnormal cells build up, they can form a mass of tissue called a tumor.

Adult Hodgkin's lymphoma is a type of cancer that develops in the lymph system, part of the body's immune system. Hodgkin lymphoma usually starts in the lymph nodes. Since lymph tissues are connected, cancerous lymphocytes circulate throughout the lymphatic vessels. They overwhelm the lymph nodes and cause swelling and tumors. Hodgkin lymphoma often spreads from one lymph node to another and can also spread to organs outside the lymph system. Because lymph tissue is found throughout the body, Hodgkin's lymphoma can begin in almost any part of the body and spread to almost any tissue or organ in the body. Luckily, mine only made it to my chest and neck before we caught it.
So this is the low down and science behind my cancer. Pretty crazy...but there are a ton of different cancers out there, even some that may haunt me again one day, so lets find a cure...starting with Relay for Life!!!

Monday, January 24, 2011

It's just one of those funky mood days...

Do you ever just have one of those days? Where nothing is earth shakingly wrong, but nothing seems absolutely right either? You don't want to be alone, but you don't want company either? You just aren't content and you don't know why. So you get in your car and drive? Usually when I would get this way as an emotional, dramatic teenager, I would go see my grandma Mary in the nursing home. She could always set me straight more than anyone else could with her witty personality and tell it straight conversations. But grandma passed away a few years ago, and my sis who reminds me of her was eating supper out (a supper that she invited me to, but I declined because I couldn’t get out of my funk mood and wasn't about to depress others) so I did the next best thing…I went shopping. :) I swear, remember that good cry I said I needed? Well, tonight was the night. I cried in my car as I listened to songs and just needed one of those good thought-provoking cries. I just kept thinking 'why?'. Why to so many questions right now going through my head about not just cancer, but about my future, my family and friends and their situations and so on. Just why are some things happening that I can’t make sense of. Even asking 'Why am I in this funky mood?'

So as my night went on...I found some comforts, not only by my letters I got from my nieces and nephews (it’s a Christmas present that last all year, we write to each other…you’d be surprised how happy you get when you get the good mail!), or my visit to the fire station to see the only person who can instantly cheer me up (I’m talking about AJ here, not the other B shifters who can make me laugh too), or my Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch that I am munching on as I type this out (as Cooper desperately waits for a piece to fall out of my hand to the floor), I was also comforted by remembering why God doesn’t always answer my 'why' questions. Pastor Dan told us over the weekend that if God answered all of our 'Why or Why Me?' questions, we would stop going to Him for the answers. And if we stop going to Him looking for answers or directions to Life, our temptation becomes depending on ourselves to answer the questions...consequently getting further away from God and becoming our own God (and I don’t know about you, but God has some pretty big shoes to fill, so I'm perfectly fine letting Him be God who is All Knowing :). He is always wanting us to grow closer to Him so we can have happiness, so He may not always answer our 'Why?' questions right away. Trust me, I'm still asking and honestly, that question not being answered has actually drawn me closer to God over these past few months. It's been a good thing. So I may not know the answers to my questions, hey there may not even be an answer or there may be multiple answers. All I know is that I took the steps needed to end my night on a good note, not a bad one and that’s what really matters. Getting out of our funk mood in whatever healthy way possible...mine was a good cry, a trip to the mall, and remembering why I go to hear the good sermons that get you through Life and out of funky moods. :) So tonight, I’ll take my box of Cap’t Crunch and head to watch yet another episode of the old Beverly Hills, 90210 and laugh while I reminisce on my past in the 90’s. And I thought being a teenager my life could not get any worse than the boy who didn’t call me or my pager getting taken away! Oh to be young and naive again :) Never did I think this is where I would be at 26.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A letter from Coach Dad

So it may just be completely mental...but I'm feeling awesome these day! I think it has to do with no more treatments, but also with the fact that I live in Ohio where the weather is crazy and I had cancellation and delays this week! We had Monday off, went to work Tuesday, Wednesday was another snow/ice day, Thursday I worked, and today was a 2 hr delay. I feel so rested!! It feels wonderful!
So the plan is this. Monday, February 7 I have to go in to get my blood work done, and then I have my appointment at Cancer Care (back to my chemo and oncologist office) February 8. At that time, we will review my blood work and my current side effects and symptoms and then schedule my scan to hopefully show no more cancerous activity in my body. Then, I go back to my radiation oncologist February 18 to check in with them on my radiation side effects. My swallowing has actually gotten much better! Not much holds me back anymore besides breads and carbs. Still a little hard to swallow those. My chest isn't as red as it was, and like I said, with all these delays/cancellations and no more radiation, I feel so much more rested! Life is good!

Last weekend, my dad wrote this to me and I wanted to share it. I'm so humbled by his words and how he feels...he makes me feel like my Pursuit was worth more than just a journal for me and place to let you know the latest...he's a great dad. And who knows, maybe he's right... :)

A Look Back at This Season and Forward to the Future – by Coach Dad

Hello Me Lorla,

I have timed this letter to coincide with your treatments being over and we await hearing the test results showing that your cancer is in remission. I have two areas I want to share with you at this time.
The first is that I cannot find the right words to express what your blog has meant to me and what I believe it has meant to you and to others. It was a perfect answer for all of us in so many common ways and diverse ways at the same time. You have taken a gift from the Giver and made the most of it.
Your blog title “The Pursuit” I waited until now to look up in the dictionary for the complete definition and it just told me: 1. act of following 2. carrying out 3. an occupation. I want to share my quick take on each of those. “Act of following” to me means you stayed the course and followed God talking to you throughout this. “Carrying out” to me means you kept the blog going with your spiritual, emotional, and personal insights as if it were your mission. “An occupation” to me means about the only way to fulfill this is to begin looking into avenues of utilizing this gift of communication you have with your writings. I believe the signs are really here for you to be thinking about this.

The second area is maybe hard for you to get your mind around but it goes like this. In my iTunes Library I have my 180 favorite songs like we all do but I have always used song titles to get points across or to make jokes with. Not only song titles but sometimes song lyrics I also use. About two weeks ago I was simply looking at my list and all of a sudden all of my thoughts turned to you (like usual these past months) and how the song titles (or sometimes the song’s lyrics) in some way reflected your thoughts, your feelings, yes - your blogs! Some of these listed below I smiled at, some I laughed out loud at, and sometimes they almost brought tears to my eyes but it was like the names of these songs (again, sometimes the lyrics I knew to them) were indicative of what has happened to you, and all of us, since this cancer fight started.

Here are the artists and song titles (okay-okay- I know they are dated ) as I thought about “The Pursuit” and the path you have been on these past months. They are in no particular order except they are the song titles that really caught my attention for different reasons at different times. So, a season in review:
ABBA: Knowing Me-Knowing You, Foreigner: I Want to Know What Love Is, Hugo Montenegro: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, Willie Nelson: Always on My Mind, America: Lonely People, Bee Gees: Stayin Alive, The Moody Blues: I Know You’re Out There Somewhere, Bruce Springsteen: Glory Days, The Brother’s Four: Nobody Knows, Josh Groban: You Raise Me Up, Diana Ross and the Supremes: Reflections, Aretha Franklin: Think Elton John: Candle in the Wind, Elvis Presley: You’ll Never Walk Alone, Four Tops: Reach Out and I’ll Be There, Elvis Presley: Can’t Help Falling in Love, Rod Stewart: Find a Reason to Believe, Whitney Houston: I Will Always Love You, Kool and the Gang: Celebration, Glen Campbell: The Impossible Dream, The Lettermen: I’ve Had the Time of My Life, Joe Cocker: With a Little Help from My Friends, Billy Joel: The Longest Time, Journey: Don’t Stop Believin, Louis Armstrong: What a Wonderful World, Simon and Garfunkel: Sounds of Silence, The Chiffons: One Fine Day, Neil Young: Heart of Gold, U.S.A. for Africa: We Are the World, Cindy Lauper: Time after Time, Jim Croce: Time in a Bottle, The Grass Roots: Let’s Live for Today, Ben E. King: Stand By Me, Bon Jovi: Livin’ On a Prayer, and last two are very fittingly from Jefferson Airplane: Miracles, and Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.

So, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ is what I think our bracelet’s “Never Give In” is all about. I remember in your blogs and at our kitchen table discussions over these past months we talked about how we truly believe that attitude and Faith play such a monumentally significant role in sickness and in health. That leads me to the next part now.
In closing, I was trying to think of how to finish this letter to you and well, you know how these things work I think, all of a sudden I had a memory of something that gave me an insight on how to close this.
A few years ago something was very clear to me after some 30 years. When we lived on Richie Ave. down three houses from us were two pretty old brothers living together in their twilight years and the one was a retired preacher. In the neighborhood we called them the “Baker Brothers” because that was their last name and they were always together sitting on the porch, riding in the car, or taking walks. On several occasions when we were talking I remembered the preacher saying to me, “Never forget: What the mind can conceive, and believe, it can achieve” and then he always smiled as if everything is that simple. From that time forward I had always looked at it as a “power of positive thinking” example and then I realized it may be something else sometimes so let me explain...
Like I said, I finally got it a few years ago but all of a sudden right now this all flashed back to me. To me it meant that what a mind oftentimes can “conceive” is really the voice of God talking to you. When it says to “believe” it is because of your confidence due to your deeper Faith in God that keeps everything on track to be accomplished by “following and carrying out” the mission you heard. And when it says you can then “achieve” it is that part of the definition of pursuit where it says “an occupation” and people have been God’s disciple throughout this whole mission. Now, look back at the last two sentences of the 3rd paragraph of this letter. My feelings then were that you have a gift of writing and how it is even clearer to me now that there is more reason for you to think and pray that although this part of cancer may be over, your mission to write may not be.

That is the part Laura that is clear to me now. I believe that with your Faith and your talents, God has opened channels for you to share His Gospel and Your Life with your testimony in ways that reach others now and forever. Serving God is an honor, and those that do that in special ways like you do can also say it is a privilege.

Love Ya Forever Me Lorla,
Coach Dad

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Road to Radiation...WE MADE IT!!!

1 Corinthians 3-4
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."

Wow, I made it. I MADE IT!!! I am D-O-N-E with treatment for cancer people. DONE!!! I have waited so long for this day, and I’m so happy to celebrate this day! I got a beautiful flower arrangement from my husband at work, I love how he wrote "We said 'for better or worse' and we stuck to it" have no idea how amazing this man is to me. So amazing that while I was writing this blog, he came in with a surprise M&M smorgasbord! You know I love surprises and M&M's are my fav, so he mixed up a couple different packages of M&M's and its a surprise every time I pick one up! Will it be peanut, dark chocolate, peanut butter, regular, or pretzel ones?! I LOVE IT!! And to top it off, I get a stunning necklace to remember this triumph and my Pursuit so far. Then I see my texts and FB eyes are about ready to burst! And we also went to Old Barn Out Back with my parents tonight, making it a full circle…that’s where we went the first night back from Iowa when I told my parents face to face that I had cancer, and that’s where we celebrated tonight making it through all the treatments. I’m not out of the woods yet, still got scans, blood work, and doc appointments before they give me the word I desperately want to hear, but making it this far is DEFINITELY worth celebrating!

Radiation is done! Have I said that yet? ;) My final thoughts on radiation can be summed up in one word…routine. I had to go everyday at 8:30 in the morning and although it wasn’t that big of an inconvenience in my life, it wasn’t a convenience either. Walking in everyday and seeing the same people got routine. How many times can you ask someone how they are doing and have it be genuine when you have seen them 5/7 days of the week? I usually answered with good, because I knew the next question was how are you feeling? That’s when I would say no better, but no worse. It was the same routine everyday…walk in, tell them my date of birth, change into gown, wait for them to set up, take me back, line me up, treatment on chest is done, turn machine upside down, treatment on back is done, put your clothes back on, and your done. The only other time it was different was when I would see the doc on Mondays. That’s when I would spend a few extra minutes in the machine because they would take films and make sure I was still lining up ok and blasting those cancer cells away! And the radiation doc sees so many patients that it was just more of a routine. I’m just glad I’m done!

My biggest recommendation after looking back through radiation treatment would be to take the second half of radiation treatments off work. I’m glad I still did work, because I’m stubborn and really wanted to prove that I could do both. But now looking back, I wish I would have taken the second half off because I drained myself. You all know how I like to be social and not miss a thing, but something needs to go because work, social life, and radiation is draining. Something else I'd say is, don't stop talking about 'it'. This time around with treatment, I acted like nothing was going on and I tried to live life as normal as possible. But I think that was the most draining part about it...telling myself I was ok all the time when really what I needed was more rest and to just be open about how radiation sucked. I just talked openly with my dad last night about how hard it really was, how I felt like I was just a number sometimes, and how I really want to eat normal again (however swallowing seems to be getting better not worse!)...but also how proud I was that I made it through and showed my strength when it's easy to give up. I did good and I know I was strong, but in all honesty, I’m in for a good cry here soon. :)

So as I was leaving radiation today, I heard my Jason Marz song ‘I’m Yours’ and I walked out with a smile on my face. :) And after I went back to my awesome chemo nurses at Cancer Care to get my port flushed (and had a very strange man rub my head), I heard this song from on the radio. I've heard this song a hundred times before, but the words hit home this time.

There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose
Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb
The struggles I'm facing
The chances I'm taking
Sometimes might knock me down
But no, I'm not breaking
I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I'm gonna remember most, yeah
Just gotta keep going
And I, I got to be strong
Just keep pushing on

This was definitely a time in my life where I have appreciated the climb. I have grown throughout this experience with treating cancer. I am a different person. I came out of this cancer life more confident in my inner self and outer beauty. I look over the last 7 months and see a girl who was strong enough to get through cancer, but now I see a girl who is strong enough to get through LIFE. Now my Pursuit isn’t over yet, treatment is over, but I have about another month of doctor appointment, blood draws, and scans (they wait a few weeks to do the scans to make sure all the radiation is out of my body ) I have about another month of my Pursuit blogs left. I promised I wouldn’t stop writing about my journey until I heard the word remission...and I won't. However, I can see the end…and it looks pretty amazing. But you and I both know, Life can change in a moment. So here's a great big celebration hug from me to you, saying THANK YOU for all you've done to help me so far...just a little bit further to go...

P.S. I ran out of shampoo today for the first time in about 9 months. Funny.

Your day has come to strike the bell!
Your silent heart has much to tell
And much to toll this proud new day
Treatments done you’re on your way

-Johns Hopkins hospital radiation floor

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Road to Radiation...Almost There, But then what do I do?

I asked AJ what happens to me after this is all over. I mean this cancer life is all I've known for the past 8 months of my life. He said that I turn back into a pumpkin. :) Huh?? So does this mean that I have been in my happy beautiful, Cinderella state? Not physically for sure! But emotionally, spiritually...maybe I have been given a certain amount of time to be living in this dream like state of new ideas and passion. But my time is running out, it's about midnight, and this Pursuit is almost over. How do I go back to being a pumpkin again? I'm a little worried about what's to come once I reach my destination point. And that's when I asked Andrew who my fairy godmother is, he said my fairy godmother is Jesus. Jesus, so I shouldn’t be afraid of going back to the world I once knew because I have a fairy godmother who looks after me, and is there to bring me right back to my beautiful state again by just calling on Him. So I’m not going to worry how this pumpkin turns out, because my fairygod mother is pretty righteous, and as long as I have Him in mind, I am serving a purposeful life.

So when I am a pumpkin again, what is my specific purpose in life? I know that for the past 8 months my purpose has been to fight off the cancer cells in my body and do everything I can to remain healthy. But what's next for this pumpkin? There has to be more to life than to just simply indulging in it. What is my purpose to fulfill? I know that we are all given a purpose here on earth by God. And that we do not know what it is automatically when we are born, although I wish we did because it would be much easier and faster to fulfill. But only God knows the purpose. And something I struggled with this year, especially when it was a scary road for Little Miss Miracle Paislyn, was how long we are given here on this earth to fulfill the purpose God intended for us. And really, who are we to say what the purpose is and how long on earth we have to find and fulfill the purpose intended for us? It's God's design, not ours. Some of us only have days on this earth to fulfill the purpose God put us here for, and some of us have 95 years, like Alice Horton. Yes, Days of Our Lives, Alice Horton…otherwise know as Gram. Here is something from my journal I wrote back in June when I thought about purpose.

June 25, 2010
Alice Horton died on Days of our Lives today. I have waited 15 years for this day. Wondering how she would die and how they would portray it on Days. They did a good job. The day finally came. I wondered why I haven’t thought about how I would die for 15 years. Maybe it was because I felt my life wasn’t as significant enough as Grams. She always had the right words, did so many good deeds. Now here I am, 26 with cancer. And for the first time in the one week that I have know I have cancer, I have thought about dying more times than I thought about Alice Horton dying. If I died tomorrow, did I accomplish my mission here on earth? Did I fulfill
THIS mission the way it was supposed to? So far, no. Not Like Alice Horton would.

I know that we have been called to do different things. And sometimes we may not understand them. Like me being a teacher. I don’t know why I’m a teacher. I want to be a singer, a nurse, or a marine biologist. But those are not the talents that God gave me. So even though I may not understand why I was given these talents, they are God’s to use for His glory and to fulfill His purpose for me. And who knows, this may not be the only place He wants me. What I really know is that we have one main purpose here on earth. It is to glorify God in all that we do and share His unconditional love with others. So even when I go back to being a pumpkin, I may not know what my purpose at that moment will be, but as long as I keep my focus on God, I'm pretty sure my purpose will become clearer and clearer.

I also think that by using the talents we were given, we can share them and inspire others to find and use their talents too. All of us can be an inspiration. You do not have to be as great as Gram to be an inspiration. There is not a certain quota you have to make that I’m aware of, that makes you an inspiration. If you have made a difference in one persons life, you are an inspiration. All of my thoughts throughout life and in this blog have come from inspiration from somewhere. A book, a movie, people around me, they all gave me some sort of inspiration to a new thought in my head that led to the words in this blog. Like Andrew and our pumpkin conversation...that led me to think, what really is my purpose after all this is over? I am so happy that I allowed myself to be opened up enough to gain new insight into Life. So I may have aged like ten years on the outside and inside my lungs from this treatment process, but my mind is still young and strong! So for my future, I’m still in debate about what my purpose here is. I like Andrew’s idea where we save up enough money to buy a place in the Virgin Islands and then invite our friends to come visit and show them some of God’s most beautiful scenery. How's that for purpose?! :)

Thank you to all who supported Paislyn through the benefit. It was a great success and it showed that people are truly gracious and giving to those who are suffering or are in need. I've learned throughout my own sickness that many times people don't know what to do or say because they just don't want to say the wrong thing. This was a perfect way for people to show how much they care.

The Metzger family and their Little Miss Miracle.

Aunt Alli to Paislyn and I at the Playing for Paislyn Benefit. I have know the Kirkendall family since 6th grade and have been lucky enough to remain friends with this amazing woman.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Road to Radiation…Traveling on the Road Less Taken

"Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness."
Lamentations 3:22-23 (NKJV)

-Thank God I get a new chance every morning. Even with failure and sin, it says that as far as the east is from the west, so has He removed our sins from us.

So I usually take the safe road. The road that everyone goes on so I don’t stand out. I’m not sure I want to take that road anymore. I feel like throughout the past 7 months I have found my voice. I’m ready to just be me. I hope you’ve seen me, and I hope you like me! If not, I’ll just say a big oh well, and move on…cause that’s me right now. :) I recognize that we all live life differently and who are we to judge each other? My true judgement comes the day I see God and He gives the final verdict. So on my new adventure to try new things…I have to get a lot better at dealing with failure! I have recently found out that I cannot bowl above a 100 and I cannot go out of my bubble and pick a new entree at a restaurant that I like yet. I can’t read my bible everyday, but I’m a really good catcher-upper, and I can’t keep Cooper from chewing on things (see pics below). I've had many successes too, and I'm glad each morning is the start of a new day...a BRAND NEW DAY. Not just for my new adventures in failing (that is just so funny to say), but for sinning too. I remember what my fourth grade Sunday school teacher told me about sin. She said that because Jesus died to take all our sins away, each time we confess our sins to God, it's like a Post-it note. He writes it down, then crumbles it up and throws it away. And you start new again. Oh thank you God, you must have had me in mind when you came up with that idea! ;)

I’m also taking the roads less traveled and stepping out of my comfort zone, going against the flow of my natural instincts and starting new opportunities for me instead of waiting for them to come. Like getting more involved in my church than my comfort zone allows and thinking more about school and mommyhood and so much more. Some of these roads will lead to failure and I actually like it, because it proves to me that I’m not perfect at everything (most things, but not everything ;) haha JUST KIDDING!! I’m ok with failing, because I am human. And all humans are not perfect. People are different and show different talents AND THAT’S OK! I'm going to start accepting me everyday for who I am, push myself beyond my boundaries...then see where it takes me...Hollywood maybe??...No, I like the Virgin Islands much better ;) I've had experiences in life that have shaped and molded me, and that's what this new adventure is all about. So I am going to fail this year by taking the road less traveled. I’m sure that the successful people in this world did not get where they are without failure. Do not be afraid of failure either, I’m telling you, you are not perfect and you will fail at some things. Mine happens to be bowling and keeping my dog from chewing so far :) But I'm making great memories in the mean time! And know that your life will be broadened and changed by both your successes AND failures! So don't be afraid to try new things either. You can let your failure make you or break you. I chose to let it make me now. I’m going to start failing, that way I can start living. J.K. Rowling said that if you have not failed, you have lived too cautiously. At that point, you might as well have not lived at all.

Psalm 73:26
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

Not the way to get a peep toe shoe...but gosh darn is he cute!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Truth behind the Mask

This was my Grandpa Paul's idea for a Pluggers!!! He sent it in to them in October and yesterday it got published!! Good Job Grandpa!!

I’ve been wearing this mask lately I feel. Although I go to radiation every morning, I act like it doesn’t really exist in my daily schedule. Like it’s not a part of my day. I go back to work and act like everything is fine in my body. But my dramatic act finally caught up with me. Although I thought I was strong enough to take on this world like a healthy human being again, I had to make the decision to take a break so that I can be stronger in the end. I stayed home the past two days from work because the radiation has finally gotten to me. I am so tired from not sleeping and my throat is so sore that I'm on a soft food/liquid diet. I saw my doctor on Monday and my CBC counts were off. I mean, we are still attacking the cells in my body and the healthy cells are trying to reproduce as quickly as possible, but with me being so tired, I’m not doing justice to my body by working so hard at work and not having enough time to rest at home. Also, I have been feeling the scratchy throat/hotcold chills/cough bug a little bit too, so I have been increasing my vitamin intake to fight off any bug that may be in this body! So far, they have worked and I have not felt any worse. Actually, I have been able to sleep so much over the past two days that I actually feel rested and am able to try work again.
So in all honesty, the past couple days I’ve been kinda sad. Not depressed, just the sad you get when you remember you have cancer. I’ve gone so long without these emotions because I’ve felt better, my hair is growing back, I've almost felt 'normal', and I've worn my mask of strength and then all the sudden, the mask comes off and there I am. Feeling broken and sick again. I hate this part of cancer. Now don’t get me wrong, just because I wear my mask doesn't mean I don't think about cancer everyday. But I do think about it more when it takes me down and I have to fight to get back up. It’s hard to believe that there are people out there who go through this emotion everyday, knowing they won't get better. And how I'm wishing to just be done with all this, they are wishing they were me, being able to count down the days until radiation is over.

No one wants to die from cancer. I knew I didn’t when I heard it. I have too much to live for yet. I have to be a mommy before I leave this planet. There is no way I was put here on earth to not be one before I die. Its still hard to believe that I got cancer. Its not exactly what you put in your 10 year plan. But I made it through. Sometimes I try to imagine what it would be like if this cancer took a toll for the worst…when you stop responding to treatment. When you know you really do only have a limited time left. It makes me come back to reality and see how blessed I am to have a second chance. How do you say goodbye to the people who love you? How would you tell your mom she is your best friend and that it's ok because she has two more beautiful daughters to have as a best friend? And how would you tell your dad that you know he’s the only man who would ever go the extra mile for you, like giving you an Indian hankerchief as a little girl who had bad dreams and telling her it will take all her bad dreams away if she just holds on tight to it, so now it’s time to just relax? How do you tell your sisters that I was so glad I had 26 years with them, because the last 6 have been the best ones yet? How do you tell your brother he is possibly the funniest, yet softhearted person I know? How do you tell your friends and coworkers that they made the cancer battle so much better from all of their help and support? And how do you tell your young husband, that he came at just the right time in my life to save me and give me a life worth living? That he was the only one who knew how to love me in just the way I needed to be loved? And that its ok to find love again, although you know I'd be insanely jealous from heaven :) Wow. What we don’t say to the people we love most is what they need to hear the most, huh? I luckily, do not have to have these face to face conversations yet. Because I am on my way to remission. I’m not ready to go yet, so thank you, thank you so much cancer, for not taking my life. I have so much more to do.

I don’t want to ever forget this journey, because it is too remarkable to forget. It made me get things together and start doing the things I only dreamed about. Like buying a boat and getting a dog. Cancer has given me the go-ahead to live out my dreams. We are going skydiving and running a marathon this year. We signed up to run the marathon on Oct. 16, 2011 in Columbus for the Nationwide Better Health Marathon, a Leukemia and Lymphoma team are apart of this marathon. Hey did you know that the winner from survivor, Ethan Zohn with the curly hair had Hodgkin's Lymphoma like me? And that his all started with a rash like mine too? He started living out his dreams and ran a marathon. And if he can do it after cancer, there is no reason I can't. And I’m thinking about going back to school. You'd fall off your chair if I told you what I'm thinking about getting my masters degree in. :) I’m taking risks for the first time and stepping out of my comfort zone. The Lord will bless what he see’s fit in my new steps of life. But more than anything, I want to beat cancer hard core, so that I wasn’t a life spared for no reason. I want my life to have meaning. So far, I think I’m living out my dreams with meaning. I just have to keep my dramatic role as Laura and not try to hide from the truth, and my role is I am Laura and right now, I have cancer…so I need to rest a little more than usual. :)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Road to Radiation...still driving...still tired...but not slowing down!

So I got some bad news…I got shot down once again to be in Oprah’s audience. :( I can sign up each month to be selected at random, and still never get picked…I swear the sign up is rigged! ;) Ok, it’s not the worst news ever, but I only have a couple months left to see her show live!
In reality, I’m so sorry I haven’t been writing as often. I’ve been like a zombie being back at work and when I get home, my body usually has the energy to only do a few things. And I’m pretty sure you all would want me to eat and bath myself before writing a new blog ;) When I was off work dealing with chemo, I had time to rest and time to write. But now, I feel like I have time to work, make a meal (I hate that it takes an hour longer to make a meal than just running through the drive thru! But this is us making a healthier lifestyle so that we can live a longer life without high cholesterol ;) rest, and by the end of the night, there is no time for writing before my bed time. I relate this to how our time with God can change in different seasons of our life. I heard on the radio today a lady saying how before kids, she was able to spend time in the morning with God in devotions and prayer. Now with kids, she has no time in the morning and basically just gets in a popcorn 'please God help me' prayer in here and there. And actually, I think that is ok because God sees that in this season of life, it may just not be as feasible. Now, I don't think it's an opportunity for a break from God, it's just finding a new time to do saying your prayers in the shower to save time:) I just really want to keep telling you everything I’m processing still about Life and just wish I had more time and energy to do it. But I promise, this Pursuit is NOT done's just a season of life right now and I will finish what I started. I know my energy level will get better after radiation is over…Just 7 more treatments left! I can do this! I can finish this treatment and this blog!

I survived my first full week back to work, and I can’t believe I did it still undergoing treatment. I’M A SURVIVOR, I’m not gonna give up, I’m not gon’ stop, I’m gon’ work harder!! ~Courtesy lyrics of Destiny’s Child and my eighth grade lunch table! But really, I’ve been struggling a lot with sleep lately. It was easier during Christmas break because I was able to relax and feel rested and rest when I needed to. However when I’m at work, I can’t exactly crawl to the Book Center and curl up on the bean bag chair and take a snooze. This type of tiredness is something I can’t explain either. I’m so tired, but I just can’t sleep even though I want to. So the nurse told me to try Benadryl (I was given that during chemo to help me sleep off some nausea) before bed because my body needs sleep in order to heal. I really don’t want to get sick because of not getting enough rest. And trust me, the first sign of sickness, I’m not afraid to call off work. Been down THAT road before ;) I’ve also realized that even though I still have the ‘Cancer Card’, it doesn't prevent 'life' from happening and there are still trials in EVERY part of your life. I just need to remember James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. Remembering this helps me know that through all the trials of life, it is there to help me grow and mature. And I am surely growing! And I just love what a coworker of mine does to relieve stress..she says 'Breathe in Jesus...Breathe out broken laminater' Boy, do we get heated sometimes and just need to breathe in the good and breathe out the bad! I love it and have been doing a lot more Breathe in Jesus lately to keep me from snapping!

So even though I’m exhausted from lack of sleep and radiation, it's not as bad as chemo so I haven't stopped being social because I don’t like to miss out on an opportunity to learn something new :) So last night, to celebrate working 5 days in a row (in the Groman house hold, we celebrate and say cheers for any occasion around here ;) we went to Red Lobster with another couple. Great to get away from my Ensure diet (I lost some weight and this helps keep my immune system balanced) and to have friends who cheer me on during my cancer battle and celebrate even the little steps…like going to work for a full week! And I got to go to Courtney’s baby shower today, she made me a beautiful quilt last month, and this week I am celebrating Chloe's 5 birthday tomorrow, I am going to dinner and a movie with some friends, going to a new church class (glad to get back into something again after my last girls session and small group ended in December), working for Playing for Paislyn benefit on Friday night, having lunch with the one and only Miss Alaina on Saturday, and then having radiation and teaching on top of it all! Oh Lord give me rest and strength cause I’m not about to slow down anymore ;) 2011 is here…and I’m not stopping!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Road to Radiation...HALF WAY DONE!!!!

Thought I would give you an update since I am HALF WAY DONE with radiation!! :) All I can say is… side effects have definitely kicked in! Once again, just like my hair falling out, they said two weeks and it was two weeks! I am a one track mind with this radiation right now. I am so tired I can’t begin to think past the next minute it seems. I am now half way through radiation and I feel like a fried egg…both physically and mentally. My chest is beat red from the radiation. I look as red as the first day in the Caribbean without any suntan lotion on. And what’s weird is that the skin doesn’t hurt, it’s the tissue underneath that is sore. Andrew said it’s because those muscles are pretty burned too. The inside of my chest feels like it would if you would touch a sunburn…know that feeling? Not comfortable…but my vitamin E lotion and hydrocortisone is doing wonders to keep my skin as good as it can be right now.
And my brain feels like a fried egg too because I am so tired. I feel like ‘chemo brain’ has set in again at times. I’m so forgetful that I have to write a schedule of my lessons to teach on the white board to remind me what I’m doing…because if I didn't, I would get up there and forget what I was going to do! And then yesterday, I was at Wal-Mart after work, dead tired and the check out line was so long, so I sort of leaned on my cart with my arms and chin…and literally my eyes were so heavy I was about out! Thankfully a coworker was there to ‘wake me up’. Can you imagine how funny it would have been if I DID fall asleep?! Imagine...I fall asleep with my head resting on my arms, close my eyes and fall asleep. Next thing I know, the cart flies forward and I fall face down on the ground!And I’m so tired, I may have just laid there and not even waken up! Haha :) What a laugh...Gotta have humor during this time! I got home that night by eating a Snickers bar to keep me awake…oh did that feel like golf balls going down my sore throat! That’s not getting any better either…bummer, really another two weeks of this?!

On a better note, I hear from so many that I look so much better because of the color I have back in my face…I’m serious, chemotherapy really does drain all of you…even your color! And I am a pro at wearing hospital gowns modestly without tying them in the back ( I just can’t seem to get the hang of how you tie behind your back), and since my hair has grown back, it now parts on the OTHER side. Totally weird! I went to school without my hat on this week and one student said, ‘Hey Miss Laura, you’re wearing a wig!’ Too funny how preschoolers think! And I have the sweetest little boys in my room. I wore my new pink hat as I walked into the building and this little boy said, ‘I like your new hat Miss Laura.’ And right before Christmas break I had another little boy tell me I looked pretty in my white hat. Gotta love those little ones.
So lets just say we will see where this Road to Radiation will take us…once again it could be very interesting! I’m willing once again to be opened up and used through our sufferings to gain new insight. It really just amazes me how things are put into perspective when you are sick…and that's something else other people keep reminding me of and I have to do better at reminding myself...I'm still sick. That's why I'm still getting treatment. I have to remember that I can't do some of the things I used to do yet... especially at school. But I did ask Dena for a little break today! I really try my hardest, but it takes a lot of energy to do my job, and I just don't want to let the kids down or make them suffer from me being sick. But I have learned that I need to speak up when I need something and I'm proud that I did today instead of trying to keep going when there was just no more gas in the energy tank left. :) Thank you to Dena for letting me take my 5 minute breaks when I need it so that I can rest and regain some strength. Preschoolers can be intense man! And thanks to all of you for the continued prayers of healing :)

And...Paislyn's Benefit 'Playing for Paislyn' has been reschedule for Saturday, January 14th at 7:00 at Lima Community Church of the Nazarene - 'The Axis' building (2945 N. Cole St. Lima, OH 45801). There will still be live music and a silent auction with GREAT stuff. ALL of the proceeds go to the family to help with medical bills, and trust me...they aren't cheap. Thank you for supporting this awesome family and I'll SEE YOU THERE!! I'll be at the Silent Auction booth...this time without my white hat :)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A New Year. A New Perspective. Welcome 2011...and my 100th blog! Now that's just crazy.

The happiest man alive can look in the mirror and see himself exactly how he is. -J.K.Rowling in Harry Potter

I thought I should do something awesome, memorable, exciting to bring in the new year after the year I just had. And when the formal wear-fireworks over the lake-champagne and dancing kinda night didn’t happen, I was sad at first. But then I remembered this is my Life. I heard somewhere that life is 10% what happens and 90% how you react to it. Looking at a situation from a different angle can change the whole perspective. So instead of moping about my New Years Eve being spent at home, I reacted by making it as great as it could be at home. And was one of my best new years yet!
I was on the porch all night with my husband as we had conversations and shared our highs and lows of 2010 around a bonfire (it was unseasonable warm this year, high of 62!) with wine and celebration cigars. I realized that’s us. And that’s our life right now…it was amazing how content I was with our formal wear exchanged for sweatpants and our champagne in a flute glass was exchanged for a bud light and a wine bottle :) How I reacted to the 10% of what life threw at me gave me a 90% exciting memory that I will never forget! We of course watched the ball drop and kissed our way into the New Year...oh and it was the best kiss I've had in months…Andrew surprised me and shaved off his moustache :) I've realized that if you want something exciting to happen, YOU need to make life happen, even when you don’t want too. Very rarely will life just happen...McDreamy won't magically appear at your door, A million dollar check won't appear in your mailbox, and riverboats and dancing on New Years Eve must me made by plans...things like that just don't fall into your lap when you live in Ohio. If I wanted a grand New Years Eve Party, I probably should have planned a trip. But sometimes, you get lucky, you make the best of a situation, and you actually have one of the best nights ever. It was a perfect ending to 2010...

So I’m not sure if this is really a resolution, but I want to learn more discipline in 2011. Throughout my life I have usually always gotten what I wanted. I had the means to do it and the drive to get me there. But lately, cancer has given me a reality check that I am not invincible and I can’t do everything so easily. However, I don’t expect people to do things for me either, so that’s why I want to learn discipline. If there is something that I really want to do, I will do it. You can say you are going to lose weight this year, but if you don’t want to do it, you simply won’t because you have not learned the rules of discipline. For me, it took getting sick to learn the rules of discipline…I’m learning right now by not being able to eat what I want because of radiation. I can choke down a hamburger if I really want to, but that doesn’t do any good. I feel awful afterwards and about choke myself in the process. Now if I chose something like soup that is less tasty to eat, I actually feel not only physically better, but mentally because I just beat myself at my own game. I feel more confident in myself because I had discipline when temptation arose. Do you realize that if we instill disciple in our lives, our potential is limitless? If I have the right discipline instilled in me, I will be able to be a healthier Laura by eating better foods. And I will be able to run that marathon because of the discipline it takes to train for it. And by demonstrating discipline, I will gain more knowledge because I will read my bible instead of watching another mindless show on cable.

I’m going to work on being Laura this year. Laura. Not trying to be someone else or live their life because I think its better. I want to be the same Laura that you would see on the street, at work, at the store, at church, and at home. You see, its hard to have 2 faces. To be one person at home and walk out the door to be another. So just be you. To make your mark on this world, you have to be yourself…and for me the person I want to be will take more discipline. Now, I may fail at this, but being afraid of failure will get me nowhere in this Life (that's for another blog though :). So just be confident in yourself, because it’s contagious and more people will notice and remember YOU than the person you want to be. I want more for me and I want it to be because I was disciplined enough to get it. This quote is what I strive for...
The happiest man alive can look in the mirror and see himself exactly how he is.
-J.K. Rowling in Harry Potter