Sunday, December 9, 2012

The sweet sound of Grace

Greetings! This fall, like every fall, has been an adjustment and time is just flying by!  Going back to work after the summer off always is hard, but this year since I took on a new position, I found myself busier than usual, and I found myself consumed with work once again.  But I'm starting to find the balance in life again, but it's a work in progress...I'm a work in progress I've discovered! I really thought when I was young that by the time I was this age I'd have life all figured out...yeah right! ;) You really do never stop learning!  For the health side of things in my life, I don't go back for another cancer scan until February 2nd (yea!) and I went for my yearly OB/GYN appointment this past fall.  Since there is obviously no baby yet, she did some blood draws and found that I still have PCOS.  This doesn't mean that I can't have a baby (and I'm hoping I'm not part of the 20% infertility because of the chemo drugs used), it just means that when Andrew and I are ready, we will start on the fertility treatment road.  However before that starts, I wanted to get the ok from my doctor that I am 'healthy'.  I was losing some weight and having some stomach and chest pains, but come to discover it's probably just stress related and the pain in my chest could be the damage done from my radiation.  That makes the most sense since I've had the pain since cancer and it won't go away.  My cell count is still up and down all the time (cue in the flu a couple weeks ago and bronchitis this week :( ), so we'll just continue to monitor it.  So during this season, I'm just going to be thankful for the health that I do have and not worry about things so much.  In perspective, I am certainly blessed with the life that I have.  But I do want to get back to running and eating right...that's when I feel my best! In the mean time, I've done some pretty cool things and have actually marked another thing off my Remission Bucket List...I had a part in the Encore Theatre production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever!  Here's a few other things I've been up to the last few months...

The last member of this group is married off! Congrats Kayla! We now have a picture of all of us at each persons wedding :)

Andrew and I and our pumpkins from the farm this year...see how happy he is to take family pictures? ;)

Now this little bundle of joy is a reason to smile!!
I also did the Color Run in Cincinnati with some of the ladies from the fire department.  And the sponsor for the run was the Leukemia and Lymphoma perfect! And of course I had to get a pic in front of Bob's and the Great American Ballpark! Too bad the Reds didn't go the World Series :(  We were a little sad over here...oh well, there is always next year!

You started out white, but by the end, you were covered in colored dust!


Such a good time! Thanks ladies!

He is gonna be such a good dad someday :)

And...I was able to take a trip in October to see my sister in Mississippi! AND IT WAS A SURPRISE!  She thought it was just my mom who was coming out, but when we finally arrived at the airport (10 hours after our original arrival time!) I jumped out and hugged her and she was totally surprised...success! However, it was hard to leave my MaciMace, she has a way to love on you that just makes every care go away! Oh and...Julie is pregnant! Lil' 'Sippi will be here in May!

Andrew and I were lucky enough to be invited to a Masquerade Ball! We had a lot of fun with friends and dancing, and I love getting the opportunity to get all dressed up :)

Here is my momma and I at Encore...I encouraged her to come audition with me and she did, and got a part too!


And...My amazing, would do anything for me (even if he REALLY wouldn't want to ;) husband had a very small part it the play too.  They needed a few fireman for one small scene and the director's husband and a few others from the LFD helped out.  Thank you Andrew! Your part was the kid's favorite part! I was Mrs. McCarthy in the play, I'm dressed for the scene were I was baking/burned the applesause cake...that didn't take much acting at all ;)
This Pursuit after Cancer is certainly a whirlwind! You know when you are little, you have these ideas of what your life will be like.  But when you 'grow up', it's like BAM!...reality hits.  For me, I've realized just how small I really am in this great big world, having a family doesn't come as easily as the 'birds and the bees', and life really is so short, so enjoy it!  Over the past few months, I've had to remember what it was that kept me sane in this insane world. And what I came back to was the faith that I relied so heavily on during cancer, is the same faith I should rely on everyday, even when I'm not sick. And lucky for me, God was still there waiting for me. :) Just like the stars on a cloudy night when you can't see them, they are still there, and so is God. He never leaves you. He may let you go through the ringer, but it's just to get you searching for His grace once again. And that is something I have always struggled with, accepting God's grace, and man is it so sweet!  I get so concerned about being 'the best I can be', but really, if I start living up to the expectations that God has for me (not my own) and if start to understand God's grace a little bit better, this world isn't so scary and I may not be so stressed. If I instill a little more of Him (and a little less of me), I'm sure to find peace through His that's what I'm doing as I enter this next stage in my life. I'm only 28 with a long road ahead of me full of things I may not even imagine right now!! That is exciting, not scary!  So I'll keep living life for the future and continue to live and trust my life for an Audience of One.  Happy Holidays everyone!

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

All things must come to an end...even summer :(

Summer has come and gone once again and before I knew it, I hadn't updated this Pursuit in two months! I wasn't so busy that I couldn't write, but I was simply Living day to day, remembering what it was like to have a kind of life again that didn't surround cancer. And what I have come to find out is that Life is as good as YOU make what are you waiting for?! :) Ok, let me catch you up on the highlights of my summer...
June was filled with many days by our pool (before it turned on us! It's a long story that still doesn't have an ending...) with the kids and bonfires and many trips to Ft.Wayne to see my new nephew! Wow is Zeke getting super cute and so big already! Lots of precious time was spent with my nieces and nephews and my new honorary niece from my bestie! Andrew and I celebrated our 3 year anniversary by going tent camping by ourselves for the first time together too. I wanted to do the Smoky mountains, but 'someone' said tent camping and bears didn't go together very well. And since I REALLY wanted to tent camp with him, we went back to Hocking Hills. It was still a great trip with lots of nature and down time...I did learn a few things though...1) you can't have two leaders putting up a tent 2) If you hike in the evening, you better know where you are going 3) Canoeing works much better when there isn't a drought going on and 4) no camping trip is complete without pudgy pies! Andrew also spent a lot of time updating our house this summer.  He trenched the yard so that he could put in city water, he framed in the windows in the whole house but two rooms, we painted the spare bedroom which is now the 'kid's room' and den, he is currently putting up new soffit and this winter he is tackling the remodeling of the basement...I'm tired just thinking about it! 
Lets see what else this summer...oh, right before we went to Marblehead for our annual family trip we got hit by a really bad wind storm, 90 mph winds for about 30 minutes did some real damage around here.  We had a tree fall that took out our pole and we were without power for about 4 days and it leveled our garden (but I actually liked the simplicity life had again when we were without power).  But the garden still did pretty good this year despite the drought we had out here.  We were able to get corn, green beans, sugar snap peas, squash, zucchini, and tomatoes.  We had to transplant the peppers and they are finally taking off now!  The annual family trip to Marblehead was fun as always (the kids even went tubing for the first time!) and this year I actually went out on the boat with Andrew and the guys for some 'serious' fishing.  Go figure there would be a heat advisory that day and I wouldn't take any Dramamine...but we did catch 100 fish before we went in...well, I caught a couple before the heat started messing with me! There was also lots of tball games to go to, family baseballs games that got very competitive, dinner dates with friends, going to the Reds game to see Andrew and the other LFD present the colors on the field, and lots of time to relax by the pool, read books, and try out new recipes...still working on trying to get a souffle to turn out right :(  But as soon as August came, it seemed like August went.

Pool days with the kids at Aunt Laura's house! This is before the pool started giving us fits :(
Chloe inherited my grandma's vanity since we transitioned our spare bedroom into the 'kids room'.  She had one condition...we had to play dress up :)

Me and my niece MaciMase - she was born the day I found out I had cancer and she signifies so much to me! I hope one day I get the chance to tell her about all my adventures that started the day she was born :)
And she just turned two and has finally started saying my name so of course, she gets anything she wants with her smile and hugs!
I can never have too many nieces ;) Me and Alaina's baby, Kendall
Zeksters at 3 months! Loved spending time with him this summer!

Andrew and Scotty digging the trench for the new water line

Our corn after the big storm

Hiking in Hocking Hills

Our canoeing trip! Notice the pink canoe...if you rented this one the money went to breast cancer research :)

Zip lining from 85 ft up!
Andrew and I on our last day at the Lake House
Our last family picture where everyone lives in sister Julie (in pink) and her family are moving to Mississippi this week.  This is the first time our family has lived more than 10 minutes apart from each other, so I can't talk about it yet because I'll start crying, so maybe later I will :)

Andrew and the Lima Fire Dept presenting the flags at the Great American Ball Park!  Andrew is the one holding the American flag!

Looking good out there! Go REDS!

And this picture makes me tear up...we had a little accident at Aunt Laura's house a few weeks ago.  We were outside having a 'carnival' and Cooper was running with his frisbee beside the house and Liam ran out of the garage to look for him.  Well, they collided at just the right moment when Liam stepped out of the garage and Cooper ran into his legs, knocking him off his feet and his head hit the concrete.  No blood (thank God, I'm not good with blood) but lots of tears. I took him right home to my sister who is a nurse and after two days in the hospital for observation and CT scan, he has a skull fracture and concussion.  It will heal on its own with time, but the poor kid can't play soccer this fall. Talk about a sick feeling in Aunt Laura's stomach.  Luckily they are still friends :)

I felt like the first few weeks of August reminded me way too much of my time with cancer than any other time since I've heard remission.  I was at the hospital in the month of August about as much as I was there when I had cancer.  I count my many blessings that my visits were only routine ones, but the sickness still sits in my stomach for the ones I care about who were there for days at a time. Throughout those days at the hospital, my chest was heavy as I knew my 6 month check up was near.  For some reason this check up scared me.  My chest had been heavy for weeks and the weight I lost last spring just hasn't come back (and it should at least a little because I'm not watching what I eat as much as back then).  So when I was in the office waiting for results, I told Andrew that this would be a turning point for me.  I knew that if I heard that the cancer had returned, that God still had a story left to be told.  But if I heard Remission, it meant that it was time to keep moving on and leaving the cancer world a little further behind me so that I could continue on my next adventures.  The doctor confirmed from the CT results and bloodwork that I am still in Remission and am able to continue with my normal life :) The pain in my chest is a mix of things he said- I still have a tumor in there about the size of a golf ball, but it is inactive (no cancer cells).  Also the B chemo meds did a number on my lungs and this summer hasn't been exactly an easy summer for people who have lung problems with the heavy air and allergies.  And I already know that when I worry, I hold all my stress in my chest, so much that it can be suffocating at times! That's why I need to keep my stress level at a minimum too...easy to say, a lot harder to do (side note: keep reading at the bottom about an experience I had that helps me move forward after failures and stress :)  The only negative part about my 6 month check up was that my bloodwork came back to show that my white cell count was at a 2, that's pretty low so I just can't be getting sick or I will have nothing to fight it off!  That was really nothing new to me because my white and red cell count is always all over the place.  So I feel like it is back to the good eating I go to help balance out this crazy unbalanced body.  I go back in another 6 months for another check up so until then, my story continues as the Laura in Remission :)

But the best part of the visit, is that I left there feeling different this time.  Like cancer really was becoming even more of a memory than a part of my life.  Which just means that it is time to move on with the values that the cancer pursuit taught me into a new season of life.  Fall is coming soon and it holds a lot of new adventures for me and Andrew.  I'm starting a new position at the ESC this year and after 8 years, Andrew has no more commitments to the Army and in no way will deploy.  Which just makes planning for a baby that much easier than the last 3 years and goes to show that it's not always our plan, it's His. He knew what He was doing because having a baby and cancer would have really tested us.  I love being able to look back now and reflect on how and why things happened at a certain time because of how life is turning out now.  God will once again show us His perfect timing in our next adventures of Life. :)

But I want to leave you on this eye opening experience I had in June...
I learned something while I was at the Franklin B. Walter teacher's award banquet in Columbus.  An older lady with disabilities sang the national anthem, and she messed up the words a little.  Yet after she was done, she still asked the director of the banquet if she could come back and sing again the next year.  If that were me, I would have crawled into a hole from embarrassment.  But we could all learn something from her...I wish I had that kind of courage that when I make mistakes I am that eager to confess it and try again.  I continue to search for who this Laura after cancer is and if it can be anything like her, I'll be proud.  I want to take risks and put good things out there, even though it means that I'm not a perfect person.  But no one is.  I'm human and I make mistakes, but I'm a work in progress just like everyone else.  So here's my challenge to you...don't be held back by your mistakes in Life. Confront it, learn from it, and overcome it.  That way you can continue to live the life we were meant to live...and share your story too.  Jonny Diaz sings it best for me...
There once was a King who so burdened with grief
Walked into death so that we could find peace
He rose up with scars on his hands and his feet
By them we are healed, by them we are healed.

So praise God we don't have to hide scars
Yeah we know his are covering ours
Praise God we don't have to hide scars
They just strengthen our wounds and they soften our hearts
They remind us of who we have been, but not who we are
So Praise God we don't have to hide scars.

So with being a little over a year in remission now, I am still marking things off my Bucket List each time I hear Remission...and this time, it's Encore.  I'm hoping to make my theatre debut since high school in December :)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Celebrating my year of Remission

It's been a whole year that this girl has been in REMISSION!

At the 2012 Relay for Life
One year down, four more to go and I'll be cured from cancer :)
I really can't find a better way to celebrate my year free of cancer than going to Relay for Life.  How crazy is it that literally a year ago to the day I found out I was in remission and now I get to celebrate it at an event like this?!?!
Last year I had an awesome team and supporters that brought some tears to my eyes as I walked that survivor's lap this year and remembered how they gave so much to help me give back.  I then remembered how the tornado pretty much leveled our site and how we were all huddled in the agriculture building praying it wouldn't be ripped apart. :)  But it was still my very first Relay I ever attended and will now be a wonderful tradition that I hope I can continue to attend.  It was a big part of my cancer story.  Sometimes I wonder if my cancer story really matters, why I put a year of my life in such detailed writing and continue updates every now and then.  But after I read this from someone else's cancer story, it made me understand why I did it...

You must realize that just as virtually every person in the world is a unique individual, no two people given the same diagnosis will have exactly the same treatment, even from the same doctor.  Nor will their outcomes be the same.  So if your aunt or your sister, your mom or your neighbor had breast cancer, her story will be far different from mine....So why should another story be told? Because each one is unique and when the battle is won against the odds, the telling of it may give one other person the courage to face their own battle.'

So my story, my survival story, was told through a blog called The Pursuit and continued on to show that I'm not taking this life for granted.  I feel like I am able to wrap up this first year in remission and head forward with new goals.  I did a lot this past year...I tested my leadership abilities, traveled the country and beyond like crazy, encouraged my inner fine arts, unleashed my healthy beast within, tackled my health challenges head on, and challenged myself in ways I wouldn't think were possible...but like it says is true, God will never give you what you can't handle.  I've found that through different struggles this past year that time heals all wounds, prayers works in ways we might not see in the moment, and making a vow 'in sickness and in health' still holds true in health.  I'm glad that through the significant times in my life, like those with cancer, the first thing I leaned on way my faith...and that I am still leaning on that through the 'typical days'.  Through everything, I continue to try to deepen my understanding of God's unconditional love for me and continue to actively listen for what it is God has planned for me :)
Another little thing that puts this year into perspective (and hopefully the years ahead!) is a short conversation I had with my parents at my nephew's t-ball game.  I told them that I have a pretty amazing opportunity that could be coming up next summer, and when I explained it to my dad he said 'Why? The person over there isn't going to come up and ask you if you've ever done this, so why?' (side note: my Dad is completely supportive as you all know, he just likes to see the whole picture and this question was perfect :)  And my answer to his question was this simple...'It's not for them dad, it's for me.'  I've learned this last year that when you start living your life for you, you will find so much more satisfaction and contentment in this crazy world.  Cancer helped me to be more of that person.  So I look forward to this next year...may it be filled with challenges that will teach me new insights, happiness like I've never experienced before, and those quiet moments at the end of the day to thank God for another day to LIVE.

Monday, June 4, 2012

I'm a Warrior Chick...who just completed the Warrior Dash!

Remember how during cancer I was a Warrior Chick?? Well, now I completed the Warrior Dash...and it was an absolute blast! Ask me a year ago and I probably would not have said that.  But since I have been on this healthy eating/work out kick, I have had more energy and strength than I have ever had in my entire life! So why NOT do the Warrior Dash with some of the other strongest women/men I know?!  I mean if you are married to a firefighter, you have to be pretty tough yourself, right? So that's what we did.  Andrew and some of the other firefighters did the Tough Mudder (a 13 mile course where you run through mud and other insanely ridiculous obstacles) in April, so some of us wives did the Warrior Dash (with the great accompaniment of our handsome firefighter husbands too :).  Warrior dash is a 3.5 mile course that has lots of different obstacles, like climbing up walls, crawling under barbed wire, running through fire, and army crawling through mud, just to name a few.  It was a test of strength and mental toughness and we had an absolute blast doing this as a group.  The weather was great, the mud was gross, and I even have some warrior wounds from going through the creek and sliding off a rock.  Nothing too major though dad. ;) But I tell you what, after all of my health crap this past was powerful to overcome something like this.  I had some family members in a tizzy for sure, but I didn't care.  You live once, and now I have a memory (bib tag and medal too!) to look back on and see how much I have over come. Despite my fear of getting cancer and my neck and spine getting worse as I age, I won't let that get in my way of Living. You can not let limitations stand in your way.  You have to work to fight through them and keep going.  Maybe one day I will be in my wheelchair, but until then, at least I can say I had fun in the mean time!  You know this whole blog has been about a Pursuit...I'm finally living the Life that I was always meant to live.  And I couldn't be happier to take risks, succeed or fail, and then keep on God be the glory for this life after cancer.
“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 4:20
My partner in Life and I before the Dash

These five ladies are a force to be reckoned with!

After the Warrior Dash, a bit dirty :)

Another one of us after the race

The ladies and the gents'


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Just another day in paradise...

 Today is National Cancer Survivor's Day and I am so glad I am a survivor because I just came back from paradise!

Dreams Palm Beach Resort - Punta Cana

A palm tree that was right outside our balcony
Over Memorial Day weekend, one of my very first friends I ever had got married in the Caribbean!  I can honestly remember Mandy at my 2nd grade birthday party and us getting into trouble because of our blue mascara in Mrs. Cornwell's class, then in Mrs. Lane's class, and again in Mr.Renner's stories with Mandy go on and on throughout middle school and high school.  She then went to college in Missouri and our emails/calls and holiday Fat Jack's dates kept us in touch throughout the years.  I was so glad to be able to celebrate her big day as she married her love, Vince Chamov, in the Dominican Republic at Punta Cana.  Here's our vacation through some pictures...

The airport we flew into at Punta Cana.  The weather was perfect there, even cooler than it was in Ohio!
Oh yes, my adventure began when I found out there was a monkey on the my last day I finally found him!

Our tropical room in paradise
Our building where all the guests stayed

One of the MANY gorgeous views at the resort
Ocean front resort lead straight to the Caribbean!   The hours that we weren't on an adventure or doing wedding things, we were at the beach and pool!  I got some good sun, a little burned the first day...but I call it my base tan ;) 

My travel adventure buddy Kayla and I on the white sandy beaches!  

On our snorkeling excursion with like 35 others that were there for the wedding! This boat was a blast!

The view as we headed out on our Deep Sea Fishing adventure!


It's not a marlin like we had hoped for, but a Mahi Mahi will do!

Good Job AJ!  We named him Bo after a beer that's in the Caribbean

And then we ate him!  Josh and Andrew took Bo back to the resort's Seaside Grill restaurant and they cooked him and served us.  It was SOOO good!
Just another day at the pool with the ladies

The Conner/Chamov wedding on the beach
Where the wedding and reception took place...The Jellyfish Restaurant

A beautiful wedding!
Mr. And Mrs. Chamov!
The Lima boys chilling before the reception
A little cocktail hour before the reception

He thought he could crack a coconut I guess :)
My hubby and me of almost 3 years :)

In Bulgaria where Vince in from, they have a tradition of breaking bread at the reception, whoever gets the bigger piece is supposed to be the leader of the house.  I think it was a tie :)
Lots of dancing, lots of laughs, was a perfect night to end our vacation.
 We have this tradition among the 4 of us...we always get a picture of us as our weddings...

Here we are in 2008 at Tara and Josh's wedding

Here we are in 2009 at my wedding

And here we are in 2012 at Mandy and Vince's wedding...our last picture will be taken this fall at Kayla's wedding!
I can't wait!  :)
Everything went perfect for this trip - the whole itinerary was just filled with fun wedding activities and lots of relaxation.  I even forgot my camera so I thank Tara for loaning me some pictures and I'm glad I moved up to the age of smart phones...I got one for my 28th birthday :)  The only bump in the road was our trip back...without going into details (cause I'm over it now ;) our flight got cancelled and after one hour of sleep and many tears, I made it back to Ohio the next day in time to say good bye to my PM class on their last day of school.  I missed both of my classes End of The Year programs and was devastated.  But there wasn't anything I could do.  Well, the summer is finally here now and it's time for some more adventures to begin...Warrior Dash is tomorrow!