Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Summer Goal

Look at this hair!! Isn't it great?? And I have color again on my skin...its not pasty white anymore! This summer is just so different from last year. I am soaking in the sun like its never coming out again because I've been out of it for two I love laying out by my pool and I LOVE hot weather again. I am just made to live in the south, however I would really miss the Ohio seasons. I love the change too much to leave it yet, now Andrew on the other hand... :)
I have kept myself really busy this summer, not with chemo treatments, shots, surgeries, and sleeping, but with dinner with my sis's, lunches with friends, boating at the lake, weddings, birthday party's, celebrating our 2nd Anniversary, and much more! Andrew and I like to eat so last year for our anniversary, we did some fine dining in Cleveland, and this year we went to Ft.Wayne and ate some yummy calamari, duck, and creme brulee at a restaurant called Club Soda. I love getting dressed up and eating at a fancy restaurant. Its a big deal to us since fine dining in Lima is Red Lobster, go ahead and laugh.:) It made me wish we had restaurants like these in Lima, however what would we have to look forward too right? But the best thing about summer so far...we bought a new bike! Hey, it's all about Living right? Well, we have finally retired the old Shadow after 5 years and are ready to introduce this little Black Beauty to you! I LOVE our summer rides and give thanks to God for the many joys we are able to have in our lives! :):):)
Happy 2 years AJ! Thanks for never leaving when it gets harder than imaginable :)

Our new motorcycle!

I'd like to just take a minute and give some props to my chiropractor Dr. Thomas Jicha. He has a clinic here in Lima on Market street called Jicha Chiropractic and anyone who is in pain and needs a chiropractor who is knowledgeable to take the time to really listen and figure you out, he is your man. He has such a heart to help people and is so knowledgeable about the body and how it connects and can cause you pain. He helped figure out my Chiari problem six years ago, and was the very first person I went to for guidance in my nerve pain. I didn't even think twice about who to go to when my neurologist suggested the massage and electro therapy with a chiropractor. He even figured out why my two fingers go numb, its because of Thoracic Output Syndrome. I had no idea about this, but he was able to put it all together. So if any of you out there in Lima are in need of help, call his office and schedule an appointment. After my husband got hurt at work on a Saturday, he even went in on a Sunday to help him out. He is a wonderful chiropractor and a great example of what a christian man should be. Thank you Tom and Lindsay for all of your help over the last few years, and especially now as we try to figure me out once again. :)
So here is the latest on my health, the Lyrica isn't giving the kind of relief I would like, but the pain is nowhere near debilitating so I count my blessings everyday on that one. One side effect from the Lyrica is swelling, so I hope that goes down as I feel like I'm a whale right now (maybe that's due to my sugar high this summer too ;) And the chiropractic stuff feels great the day of my appointments, I feel I am finally put together right. But the next day I'm back to square one. :( I don't want to give up, it has only been a week. So I'm going to give it more time to work and adjust. The verse 'Let not my will, but Yours be done' is really starting to sink in. You know, pain can get you to draw closer to the Lord, maybe He's just waiting for me to draw closer. Alright God, I'm listening and I'm about ready to give the reigns on this situation back to you again.

So around our fire one night, I came to a conclusion about something in my life. My life isn’t perfect and I can’t make it perfect no matter how hard I try. I can get disappointed when things don't go as perfectly planned in my head (something that can drive my husband nuts!) Now, there needs to be some form of planning and expectations, however I’m going to try everyday to not let those ‘perfect life’ expectations take away from the joys I have in my life anymore. Because some of the funnest times I have are those when I didn’t have expectations...I just went with the flow. You’d be amazed at the surprises you get, the happiness you can feel, when you do something sporadic and just LET IT GO and live out those moments I would have missed if I went with my 'perfectly planned' plan! :) That is truly my summer goal this year, to really enjoy more unplanned moments in my Life because it goes by way, way, way too quick! So even though I have some great summer things planned, I'm also going to go with the flow and enjoy the sporadic memories that will be made as well!

Cooper went to the vet today and is in perfect health! His chewing is really starting to settle down compared to last year and he is really a joy to me! My bestie Alaina gets to share in my joy as she so graciously is watching him for a few days while we go on vacation...pray for her ;)
Cooper last summer with his puppy cousins...

And Cooper this year...he has grown quite a bit!

Thursday, June 23, 2011 new cocktail


So summer has officially started and I am in SERIOUS cleaning mode! I have so many plans for this summer it is ridiculous, but I wouldn't change it for the world because this summer I actually have the energy and strength to do chemo for this girl!!! WAHOOO!!! However I may be doing something equally worse, I am going through our dreaded spider-infested basement and actually putting things in labeled boxes and in new thing is order. For some reason I just have to know where everything is and I start to get anxiety if I can't find if anyone has seen my Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs book just let me know :) I'm also refinishing my grandma's dresser and headboard to match my mirror dresser, painting the bedroom, moving everything out of the spare bedroom, painting our trim and doors, and the list just keeps going and going! I'm trying to get everything done by the end of July so I can get back to the classroom in August to prep for next year. And I also have some fun vacation plans up my this is going to be a great summer!!!

So here is what I don't like to do in the summer...go to doctor. :( But in my life it seems like I go there as much as I go to the grocery store, so really its just a part of my life now. This past spring I have been going to physical therapy 2 times a week to help strengthen my back and relieve this pain I have had for years. In all honesty, it didn't help. And they didn't want to touch me either because they said I was a 'complicated case' and feared that touching my spine might cause more nerve damage. Just kinda a frustrating time and I was really ready to go back to my neurologist yesterday for the new plan of action. After evaluating me and talking with me, we have decided to up my Lyrica (relieves nerve pain) to 3 times a day, and actually try some sort of electrical therapy and massage therapy. Since PT and the ultrasound (heat that increases cell repairs and inflammation) didn't do anything to relieve the pain, she thinks this pain might be another referred pain from my cervical area that has all the problems (the stenosis, scoliosis, fused discs, degenerative discs, ect...) So she want to keep me on Lyrica which should alleviate the nerve pain, and see what the massage and electro therapy does. When I go back next month, and if things are still the same, we will have ruled most everything out and most likely its the syrinx (the cyst in the spine) that are the reason for the pain. At that point, the neurosurgeon gets involved. I'm not ready for that. I am happy with my doctor, even though she is another one who says that I am a 'complicated case' because of everything happening in my spine, she agrees to keep with me on this road that doesn't involve surgery right away. When I was really sick six years ago with chiari malformation, I about passed out at OSU medical center when my neurosurgeon looked at me and said 'I will clear my schedule, we need to get her fixed' and surgery was within weeks. There really wasn't any other option and he definitely knew best, because I have full function of my hands and legs today!

So I'll keep you updated on what this all entails. I'd really like your prayers, because Lyrica side effects include drowsiness and depression. Depression is the last thing I need. So please pray that I tolerate the pills enough to not be on an anti-depressant and that I can naturally be healed. Surgery is a last resort for me. I already have enough scars to tell a great story :)

Friday, June 17, 2011

A year ago today...this Pursuit began with a phone call

Here is a little video I made of this past year in a nutshell...

Hi friends and family,

What a year it has been, right? It was a year ago today I got the phone call from the doctor telling me I had cancer. Little did I know how much my life would change because of that phone call. But my life didn't change because of the cancer, it changed because of you guys. And your listening ears as I told my story through this blog. I heard once that you have to have a test to be a testimony. Well, my hope is that I am not just a one time testimony, but that I can be a living testimony. I don't think our lives should be easy, because we don't learn the important things in Life when it is easy. Through cancer, one of my fiercest battles yet, I learned true friendship, unending love, and that it's okay to be me...and share it with you. You guys have been my rock this past year and I hold this time in my life so close to my heart that it can never be ripped away. Thank you for supporting me.

I go back to my neurologist next week to see what the next step is in helping my spine. So I may pop back in once in awhile on the blog to update you all. This blog, my Pursuit, was my refuge during a difficult time in my life, it opened me up and gave me encouragement, confidence, and stability. It showed me Who my foundation is, and opened me up to show me a life worth living, and for that I am grateful. My only hope is that my life is one that is not not just keep taking breaths on this earth, but to actually LIVE while taking those breaths. Because as long as I'm Living…I'll have something to tell about :)

God Bless,

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Celebrating Relay for Life 2011

What a weekend! I have been super busy with friends and family this weekend (Relay, weddings, cookouts, physical therapy, birthdays, and boating!) that right now is the first chance I have to tell you about this amazing weekend I just had.

Relay for Life started last year for me when I decided back in August 2010 that I was going to pay the cancer world back for helping me live. So when Relay for Life was presented to me, it seemed fit for me to take on this challenge, especially this year. I had 14 wonderful people offer to help me out and be on my Team Pursuit to help with the raffle, walk at the event, and just be a constant supporter throughout this past year. Just like cancer isn't a piece of cake, the weekend wasn't either. After many hours of planning, the weather still got us (The old saying here is that if it's raining, it must be Relay weekend- its rained 14/17 years they have had it here). From rain in the morning moving our tent site to a different spot and a sudden thunderstorm taking down our tents, we had to keep using the old phrase NEVER GIVE IN and push on throughout the night. We were lucky though because it was still bright and sunny for the opening ceremony with the survivors lap and team recognition lap!

Here's some pictures to take you through our night...

~My 'official' Team- Ash, Dena, Joyce, Michelle, Andrew, Tim, Dad, Mary, Mom, Sarah, Me, Beth, Alaina, Jenn (and Krysti-but she was on the road) as well as many many others who helped me out along the way (a special shout out to Bev, Carla, Linda, Tara, Jayne, Julie, John, South and Apollo, and others who helped the team out too!)

~The theme of Relay was 'A night at the movies' and I got to walk the red carpet! I was privileged to do this since I had heard REMISSION only 1 day before :)

~ The survivors got to take the first lap around to start off the event!

~Here is my amazing support wouldn't have been the same without you guys!!

~Wow, what a moment I had that I will never forget. :)

~This man deserves more than a high five, he put up with me this year!

~Love you AJ!

~Getting our poster for the Team Recognition lap. We are a GOLD team because of how much we raised...keep reading and I'll tell you how much!

~Team Pursuit is in the house!!

~My team walking the track with me!~So here is our site themed "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly' at the beginning of the was a beauty! Lets say it is 'The Good' part of the good, the bad and the ugly...

~Then here is 'The Ugly' part. These are the clouds AFTER the storm hit...imagine what they looked like during! I have NEVER seen clouds move so fast, be so low, and seriously make me think that a tornado is coming! What was crazy was it looked like it was going to miss us, but in a matter of minutes, the wind blew it straight towards us and everyone had to get into the building for shelter because the strong wind starting blowing everything away!

SCARY!! ~Here's my 'The Ugly' picture. We lost two of our tents and could only salvage one. ~And after we found all of our stuff throughout the fairgrounds, we put it all back together as best as we could. Just goes to show you can plan all you want...but sometimes life takes a different route.

~At dusk, we has a remembrance service to remember those who lost their battle and honor the ones who are still alive. I lit one for you Aunt Marlyn, and in honor of you Sue, Kara, and Ginny. You all helped me this past year because you had the strength the share your own story with me :)~Oh yes, this was an ALL NIGHT event and some of us stayed til the morning hours...and I was the ONLY one to stay awake the whole time! Yes, I beat you too dad because you did shut your eyes a few times! ;) It was so crazy, in the middle of the night, I just walked and walked. Who knew where that energy came from! It was just the best place for me to be to end my Pursuit. It was almost a year to the day that this whole thing started, and to have that time to reflect as I walked was priceless.

~I tried to walk at least one lap with each of my team members so that I could tell them how much their support has meant to me. So here is a picture of my very last lap of Relay for Life 2011 in the morning...with my moma :)

This was quite the experience for me. It wasn't easy, I keep saying I missed the first 5 chapters to leading this team...but this verse stuck when I looked up verses about supporting eachother. Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it." Ezra 10:4 And we certainly fulfilled this verse!

What an experience to lead this team, support a cause which a year ago meant nothing to me, and to see true support. I'm not just talking about my team here, but ALL of you who either donated your time or money. As I sat on Monday night, and counted it all, I was in awe. Not because of the amount of money, but because of the tremendous amount of support written all over those dollars. I looked at it all, sat back, and felt completely humbled that you all would care so much about this cause to give so graciously without any question. Wow, it brings tears to my eyes. Thank you. You guys, with the $500.00 sponsorship from the Lima Fire Department, we raised ......... $6,510.00 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!That is HUGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My goal for our team was $3,000....if we raised that much, I was going to be ecstatic! Now I'm just over the moon!!!

At this point, I'm not sure if I will have my own team next year. Walking that last lap really felt like I had made it full circle and closed this chapter of my life. This year and this team was just so special, I was able to celebrate life with so many people I care about. I'm happy, so happy, and very content with my life at the moment. But I will still participate in another team next year and hopefully the Survivors lap again, and again, and again :) Thank you for taking the time to be apart of my life this year. From reading this blog to donating money to help others beat cancer. I keep using this word support, but that's truly what you all have done. Thank you for making Relay for Life a moment I will never forget. We succeeded my friends, not only at the event...but in beating cancer.

Make sure to check back on June 17, it will be one year since I found out I have cancer...and I have a little something special I've been working on to show you.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Relay for Life is literally right around the corner!

No time to explain!

Relay for Life is TOMORROW and there is still a lot for me to do...procrastinate, me?! :)

So if you want the scoop on if I'm in REMISSION, come see me tomorrow night at the Allen County Fairgrounds. Opening ceremony with the Survivor's lap kicking off the event starts at 6:00 pm, but you can come whenever you want. We are 'The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly' tent right next to the agricultural building. Fun stuff happening all night long! Live music, games and inflatables for kids, auctions, contests, food, and COME SEE ME could win a DATE NIGHT! I have dinner at Beer Barrel and 2 free movie tickets to give away and you need to come see us to enter! Also we still are having the raffle for the Hocking Hills gift card too worth $150.00!!! Get your walking shoes out too!

So come support the cancer world, my world, and you will not be disappointed :)

I'll have pictures up on Monday of the whole event and how much we raised to help out the cancer community...I am so excited! Please pray for the rain to hold off although I hear if its raining, that means is Relay weekend. They always get rained out!
Ok, Here I go....this is the event I've been waiting for all year.........wish me luck!!!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A song for Tomorrow from Laura Story.

Blessings - By Laura Story

Tomorrow is one of the biggest days of my life...I hear that I will live a long life tomorrow. I get to hear that I will live and have a second chance at life. To have my children, give back to the world, see my children grow and give me grandchildren, travel to my favorite place in the world, teach a hundred more children to play and learn, spend countless days smiling because of my many blessings, and I get the chance to share the grace of God and how it's impacted my life.

But, what if I don't hear this. What if I don't get the news I want to hear? Then, I'll still be okay, because this is not my home. You guys, God doesn't hurt us. He has us go through all our trials, to grow closer to Him. So that one day we know Him personally and not be afraid to die anymore. Because earth is not our home, Heaven is. I have faith, I believe this. I know though that God is not ready to call me home yet...He's not ready to have me home yet because there is still more I can do here on earth.

So with every fiber in me, I know I will hear Remission tomorrow. And to God be the glory for that. For showing me that even in the darkest times of life....they can be His mercies in disguise.
Thank you for your are such a blessing to me :)

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Gift that keeps on Giving!

I've been given some pretty neat gifts since having cancer...but this one is extra special...

Last Friday was one of the neatest days of my life. You know those moments when a soldier comes home to surprise their family and the family member is completely caught off guard and starts sobbing? Well, I kinda had one of those moments. My mother is retiring after 37 years of teaching (towards the end she became a building coach). Her school did a few neat things, but this one topped them all. The principle (one of my mom's good friends) called a staff meeting at 8 AM. They talked about a few things and then Amanda, who was wearing her pink cancer Survivor shirt, took the floor. My mom was caught off guard as she started talking about my mom and the ideas that had been floating around for what to do for her since she is retiring. They then thought about the hard year my mom has had with me and my cancer. She let everyone know first hand that when you get cancer, it almost effects the people's family more than it effects the cancer victim themself (and I would agree!).

So at this point, my mom is teary eyed and gets up and gives her a hug. She sits back down and Amanda explains that South Middle School chose this option instead of a physical gift. She then said that the staff at South chose to donate money and give my mom a check for a donation to Relay for Life in honor of me! My mom had tears at this point, but then it got better... Amanda said that there was a special visitor to help receive the check too. That's when I walked into the room and my mom saw me, put her head in her hands, and started sobbing like she hadn't seen me in years! I went straight to her and hugged her, and I have never had a hug so tight from my mom, ever! She was completely overwhelmed with Oprah terms - she had the ugly cry :) The whole place was teary eyed, as well as me, as we all saw my mothers pure emotions take over for her gratefulness to her staff and for them being so willing to help find a cure for cancer so that her baby girl can have a long life. As my mom caught her breath she just couldn't thank them enough for choosing this because this is a gift that keeps giving and is helping so many others as well as her own family member have a long life!

I'm so thankful to the South staff for doing exactly what my mom would have wanted. She is always helping others, and she said this was a perfect retirement gift...and me being there was icing on the cake! Thank you for thinking of this and including me in this surprise! It was a very special moment for my moma and I. My mother is the glue to our family, and she has held it together this whole year. But I'm glad I could surprise her, and catch her sincere emotion...she said it was about time she had a good cry over my cancer. :) That was definitely on my TOP 5 of neatest things to ever witness. My mom is amazing. She does not have a bad bone in her body and if I can be anything like her, I know my life will mean something because she has touched so many people's lives. And not only her, but my dad too. Both of their schools have graciously donated to my cause. And I believe that tells something of their character. They are good, hard working people. The best people to know and love. Anyone who knows them is privileged, and I'm just simply blessed to have them as MY parents. I love you dad, and moma - I would go through cancer all over again to another hug like I had Friday. I love you and YOU are special to so many...I hope you saw that on Friday for sure!

Thank you Apollo Career Center and South Middle School for your gracious support in finding the cure for cancer!!

-My mom totally surprised to see me! She said me being there, especially for this gift was just so special. Thanks Sue for helping set that up!

-Amanda giving my mom the check...thank you South staff for this gift to not only my moma but the countless others you are helping too! - My mom trying to thank people through her tears :)

Love you moma and proud of your 37 years of service to the Lima community. You are an example to so many. Love you!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Back to where my Pursuit started...Orange City, Iowa

Iowa 2010 - Where my Pursuit started...

Iowa 2011, A Year Later - I've come full circle...I get my results on Thursday :)


A week ago I was in Orange City, Iowa...

The place where 'it' all started.

If you remember about a year ago, Orange City was where I was headed when I found out I had cancer. Orange City was where I had my first sleepless night. Orange City was where I kept my secret from my family until I got back. Orange City was the start of my Pursuit. Orange City is a city I now hold a little closer to my heart because it was where I met this whole new family and support system...

Orange City, Iowa was where Andrew's mom is from and where Andrew's grandma still lives. It's a small dutch town full of tulips and small businesses. I saw this town for the first time last year and a cousin's wedding brought us back this year. It was a little surreal to be there this year. It really didn't hit me until I walked into Uncle Ken and Aunt Judy's house, the house where we stayed last year. I went to change my clothes for the wedding in the bedroom we stayed in last year...and I just had to pause. I couldn't help but remember that scared girl who slept in there a year ago. I remembered how Andrew literally took me in his arms in the middle of my sleepless night, prayed over me, and talked with me until the morning hours came. That was the place where I have never been more nervous and scared, because the only thing I knew about cancer was that I had it. The scariest word I could think of. I didn't know the stage, the treatment, the outcome, I didn't know how long I was going to live. I can honestly say that I was scared that night. But when I came back to the living room after I changed into my dress, where all the family was to celebrate the unity of Andrew's cousin Kyle and his fiancee Heather, I was reminded of how far I've come since last year. How each and every person in that room had such faith and prayed so hard for me, and here I am...a year later...still alive with a renewed spirit! How blessed I am to have a second chance at life and to have this extended family who took me in when they didn't even know me and start my Pursuit exactly on the right foot, with God as our refuge and strength. Who knew my strength would come from such a weak time in my life? This trip in a way was closure for me. I went back to that room a day later, and smiled this time when I left. I'm not the same girl that was there a year ago...

The trip was 12 hours and we stopped in Chicago for a little bit...Nope, I didn't see Oprah on the streets :(Tim, Beth, and the newlyweds Heather and Kyle, Andrew, and Me. Congratulation you guys! It was a beautiful wedding and reception...did you see the shine shine through the windows when he pronounced you man and wife yet? It was the NEATEST thing!!
This is a picture of most of the Kalsbeek cousins hanging out at the table at the reception. The last time we were all together was 5 years ago for Tim and Beth's wedding. We have added to the family since then...their family welcomed Me, Cory, Grant, and Heather with open arms and new grandbabies too- the triplets Hailey Emily and Addison, and Kamryn and Bryce. Wish we could all get together more often, this family is loads of fun!

A crazy story!! While we were dancing, we took a break and sat back down at our table when his cousin Kristine saw the next table's flower arrangement start on fire from a candle being too close! Good thing Andrew and Grant are both firefighters! They got up right away looking for anything to put it out (they had just cleared ALL our tables). It started quick and before we knew it, it was in flames and black smoke was pouring out. Andrew found a Mountain Dew and started pouring it on when another man from another table who had just gotten a bottle of water started pouring it on too. Grant and Andrew took the flower arrangement outside and saved the day. Thanks guys!! A funny face picture with Hailey
What the boys did during gift opening...a putt putt tournament :)
What was really neat was that before everyone left to go back to Ohio, Colorado, Wisconsin, and South Dakota, we all took a family picture with Grandma Kalsbeek. I can't wait to get it back and show you all this family who was there for me during a time when I needed a family the most... because mine was in Ohio. Thank you for your prayers and support this past year!! Your families hold a special place in my heart for taking such good care of me the first couple days when I found out I had cancer and was so far away from my own family. Love you!

Psalm 103:17 But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A quick update...

Hi friends this is going to be quick even though I have a million things to tell you mind is all over the place with the school year wrapping up and Relay for Life right around the corner. I'll have some time this weekend to catch you up on details :)

Here's the first 3 of a million...

1) I went to Iowa last weekend to my in laws wedding and it was awesome! I have pictures and stories to tell you all about!

2) Relay for Life donations are due soon! Here's your last minute reminder before I see you at the event next Friday!

3) I had my CT scan and lab work done today to see my cancer status and my sister even got to put in my IV! I get my results next week when I see my oncologist Dr. Powell at Cancer Care. still amazes me how fast time flies and that this life with cancer started almost a year ago....we've almost come full circle people!! Please start praying those results give me the word I've waited a year to hear...REMISSION!

Psalm 40:2
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.

My faith will not be matter the outcome.