Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Speeding Ticket Analogy and Ending to this Blog.

Once upon a time, (that seems like an appropriate beginning since this happened what feels like a very long time ago) I was going on a road trip to visit my sister.  I lived in Richmond, Virginia and she lived in Cincinnati, Ohio.  It would be about a nine hour trip - not including bathroom stops for my two little boys who would be with me.  The plan was to get up early and leave around 4:00 am or so, so that the boys could sleep most of the way there.  We packed the car, filled it up with fuel, said a prayer and we were ready for our adventure.  It was a very rainy morning.  I started driving and had just barely gotten through the city when I saw, in my rear view mirror, red and white flashing lights.  SHOOT!  In my excitement to get to my sister's house, I was speeding.  In the dark.  In the rain.  With my two little boys!  At first, I felt doomed that I had only been driving ten minutes and had already gotten a ticket and I still had nine hours of driving to go!  I would for sure have to go the speed limit the whole rest of the way so that I wouldn't risk getting two tickets on one trip.  And then I still had the trip coming back home!   As the rain pounded and the visibility got worse due to low-lying fog, a thought occured to me.  Just maybe that police officer saved our lives by helping me to remember to SLOW DOWN and to think a little more carefully about my journey.  We continued on our trip, cautiously, and arrived safe and sound in Cincinnati.  On the way back home to Virginia we had another early morning start.  The fog was so dense, I could barely see past the hood of my car.  With my two little boys asleep in the back seat, I remembered my lesson of the speeding ticket.  Slow down and proceed with caution.  Obey the rules.  I did not want to get another ticket or worse, have an accident due to my thoughtlessness.  We arrived home safely and I was grateful.

Fast forward ten years.

Life has been great.  I have a wonderful husband and five beautiful children.  We are finally settled in a wonderful neighborhood after so many years of schooling.  We have met amazing people along our way.  Things were great.  UNTIL.... at the (young) age of 37, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  SHOOT!  At first I felt doomed that I had only made it to age thirty-seven.  And if I have already had cancer, how was I going to make it another forty years?  I still have a family to raise and a long life to lead!
As I proceeded with my chemotherapy treatments, I realized how fragile and precious life is.  Taking care of my family took every ounce of energy I had.  It was my greatest desire.  I relied heavily on family, friends and neighbors to help when I couldn't do the task myself.  I am forever indebted to so many.  I felt amazing strength and love from my Heavenly Father.  As I laid on my bed too weak to stand, I remember looking over to my sweet, new born baby who was content and smiling, and I just KNEW that angels had been sent to care for her so that I could rest.  I cried.  I cried tears of sadness.  I cried tears of gratitude.  All I could do is whisper, "I Love You" and then pray that she knew and understood.  I know she did.

Going through this journey together, our family became more gentle and united and faithful.  I wanted to surround myself and my family by only good, happy things and people.  There is no time for negativity.  Life is too short!  After treatments, when I got my energy and appetite mostly back,  aside from having no hair, I felt like things were finally getting back to "normal".  I was busy again carpooling, making dinners for my family, taking children to various activities.  It felt amazing!  I have transformed my daily menu into whole foods.  I have picked up an exercise routine again.  I have learned so much!  My family has learned so much!  I know that trials are meant to strengthen and refine us.  I have learned that when things look like it is the end of the road, if looked at in the right light, you can see that it is just a little bump in the road.

It is easy to get stuck in routines and the monotony of life.  It is easy to complain.  It is easy to feel burdened and victimized, tired and worn down.  Now, after having gone through all of this, I understand more fully the importance of having opposition in all things and in free agency.  You can only appreciate the good if you have seen the bad and you can make the choice to learn from everything that comes your way.  Although I am far from a perfect mother, I find much more joy in running errands, cooking meals, changing diapers and potty training, My realationship with my Heavenly Father is much more real and sincere.  Scripture study and prayer is an important part of my day - not just an obligation. 
I am not the same person I was before having breast cancer and for that I do believe I am grateful.  I am much more aware of many things.
And so the thought occured to me,  I don't have to be sad, or worried about not making it another forty years because like my speeding ticket, as a little reminder to slow down and enjoy the journey, JUST MAYBE ... breast cancer saved my life.

It's Only Hair ... and it Grows Back!

Sunday, May 22, 2011


After I had my lumpectomy, I felt like the cancer was gone.  I knew I would be starting chemotherapy as an extra precaution, but I felt great even with the fact that I had just had a baby.  Chemo really brought the reality of everything front and center and it was hard, however, when I went off chemo, I thought to myself, "One more... maybe I just need one more treatment".  There was a certain sense of security being on chemo - which sounds rediculous, but there was.  I thought that after I was done with all of my treatments and radiation, that I would feel free and happy.  Surprisingly, I was wrong.  This was a difficult time for me and I had a hard time allowing myself to feel joy.  I know that to somebody outside of this experience would think that it would be easy to be happy and enjoy every minute after going through such a trial.  For me, it was not.  It seemed like anytime there was a reason for me to be happy, I would not fully allow myself to feel that joy.  I felt like if I did, that I was being over confident in my health and that everything could be snatched away from me in a blink.  It has been a couple of months of feeling this way and it was starting to wear on me.  I was probably a little depressed and had to do a lot of self talk in order to get though the day.  I wanted to put it all in the past and move forward, but IT IS HARD!  Way harder than I thought it would be.   Until... I had an epiphany.  I was driving home one day and I saw a beautiful, vibrant, double rainbow right over the area where I live.  I was stopped at a stop light and had a moment to look at the magnificent colors.  My thoughts were turned towards a loving Heavenly Father and the blessings that He has given to me.  I thought about His love and all of the beautiful creations that were created for us to enjoy.  Just as the rainbow represents promises and the beauty that can come after a rain storm, so is life.  Life was not meant to be easy, yet if we remember those covenants that we have made and endure through the rain storms of life, we too will be showered upon by the love of Him who knows us best and we can find JOY.  That is the word that kept coming to my mind.  JOY!  I knew right then that all of the previous feelings that I had been having were from the advesary and not from my Heavenly Father.  I am so grateful for this insight that was given to me. It has improved my outlook dramatically and I can finally allow myself to feel JOY without guilt, worry or hesitation.  I KNOW that is how Heavenly Father would want me to feel.

"Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that
they might have joy"   2 Nephi 2:25

I have started singing a little song to myself that makes me happy and giggle.  It is the theme song for Joy School - which is a homeschool/preschool that I did with most of my children.  The words are:

I've Got Joy

Oh, boy, I’ve got joy, I do, I do
It starts in my heart  and spreads to my head
in a minute or two
And did you know it can grow on my toe
and keep my knees so they don’t freeze
I feel so neat from my head to my feet
When I’ve got Joy.

Oh boy, I’ve got joy, I do, do you?
It starts in my heart and spreads to my head
in a minute or two.
But the best place it shows is below my nose
For a mile or two
I’ve got a smile for you
I feel so neat from my head to my feet
When I’ve got joy!
I’ve got joy, I’ve got joy.
 “Oh boy!"

Friday, May 13, 2011

Positive Energy!

 This was our third year as a family walking the "Race for the Cure".  It is an awesome experience to be a part of that sea of pink.  There is such a huge amount of positive energy there and you cannot feel sorry for yourself when you are apart of something so massive.   It is great!  I love all of the variety of people participating.  People in wheelchairs.  People using walkers.  Babies in strollers.  Young kids on their scooters.  Runners.  Elderly people.  Middle aged people.  People who are bald.  People with hair.  Everybody is there for one common cause.  TO HELP FIND A CURE FOR BREAST CANCER!  AND HONOR THOSE THEY LOVE!
When we first started participating three years ago, it was in CELEBRATION for a childhood friend of mine - my age!  Last year, while we were walking I remember seeing a young lady with her husband, baby and parents.  On her back was a sign that read, "In Celebration of... ME!"  I was so taken back by it because she was obviously so young.  Little did I know, that just one year later, I would walk and wear my own sign, my husband would wear a sign for his wife, my five children a sign for their mother, my brother and sister-in-law a sign for their sister and my parents a sign for their daughter.  (I know my sister was there in spirit and will be walking a 3 day race in Philly in October!)  I was slightly emotional.  Last month, my beautiful neighbor passed away after a 17 year battle with breast cancer.  I thought about her and her family a lot!  I also thought about many other people, some who are fighting their hearts out right now, some whom I have just recently met since my diagnosis, and some who happily wear the sign, "In CELEBRATION of ME".   There are so many brave people and there is always HOPE!

Our theme was:


It was a lovely day and I am so thankful to have been there with my family.  They are my treasures!
(p.s.  I have two more entry's for this blog and then I will be done.
I will try to finish this soon!) 

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Symbol of Hope

Last Saturday night we had a celebratory bon fire in our backyard.  It was wonderful!  We celebrated me not having to wear hats anymore - which really symbolizes SO MUCH!  It is something I have been looking forward to for a long time.   As we gathered around the fire, Lila had the idea that we could each put a stick into the fire and share something that we learned through this whole process.  It was so touching.  Everybody took a few minutes to think about all that has happened and then one by one shared something personal as they put their stick into the fire.  It was a very special moment for me and one that I will never forget.   Then it was my turn.  My "sticks" were three hats that I had worn - A Lot - while I was on chemotherapy and waiting for my hair to grow back.  The first hat was my pink night hat.  The second hat was a white, fuzzy hat that a friend had given me and my third hat was my black, fuzzy hat.  These are the hats that I most always wore - whether it was to bed, to church, the store, a friends house, at home, the temple ... these were the hats that made life easier for me at a very difficult time.  As I placed them into the fire, I shared with my family that I was NOT burning these hats out of anger, bitterness or revenge, but as a symbol of my hope for the future.  I was actually grateful for those hats while I had them.  They represent so much to me: humility, friendship, service, faith, gratitude, family, security, love, warmth.  I could go on.   Some days I have a tough time with what has happened and I have to talk to myself a lot to get through those moments.  I know I can't ever forget this experience - it is a part of who I am now - but I don't want to dwell on it.  I want to enjoy the present and look forward to the future.  That is what burning my hats meant to me.  Hope.
After I burned my hats, Talmage pulled out the sparkling cider that I was given when I had completed my chemotherapy treatments and finally, together, we toasted to each other and the future.  It was awesome!

And then of course we had to roast marshmallows! :)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Recipes for Life

After being diagnosed with breast cancer, I became keenly aware of what I was putting into my body.  At first I was afraid to eat anything.  This wasn't so great as I was 8 months pregnant, and my little girl needed some food!  I ate very little and it had to be nothing but a whole/super food.  (No sugar allowed!)   Well, I have relaxed a bit and do enjoy a goodie from time to time .... especially a piece of Dove's Dark Chocolate :)  But, my goal is to give my body all the nutrients it needs to be healthy.   So, I have kind of come up with a daily routine.  For breakfast, I most always have a big bowl of quinoa or oatmeal, an omelet or if I am in a big hurry, I will have a bowl of Cherrios with nonsweetened almond milk and a BIG (like have a little cherrios with your blueberries kind of big) handful of blueberries.  It is so yummy!   Thanks to my dear friend, I have also gotten hooked on "Green Shakes"  except for mine turn out purple because I add so many berries.  They are so delicious and you KNOW you are doing something great for your body!
For lunch, I most ALWAYS have a HUGE salad.  I can't believe how much I crave them now.  It fills me up all the way until dinner time.
For dinner, I am a little more flexible depending on what I make for my family, but I do only use whole grain pasta, bread, chips and tortillas now.  They have gotten so good.  I try to always have a salad in addition - even if it is just lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes.  I would say that my go-to ingredient would be BEANS.  Any kind of beans.  I love them and put them on everything.  They are so good for you, too.
I have felt a big difference in my body as I have become very selective about what I eat.  I know that I am giving it what it needs and that is a great feeling!  I love my body - every stitch of it!

Huevos Rancheros
Pinto beans, seasonings, poached egg, tomatoes, avacado and Cholula

Breakfast Shake
kale, cucumber, parsley, banana, triple berry mix

Cooked quinoa, unsweetened almond milk, fresh berries, chopped nuts
cinnamon and toasted shredded coconut.

Veggies about to be roasted

Kale, turkey, bell peppers, asparagus, cheese
tomatoes, green onions and Cholula

Romaine, Arugula, black beans, tomatoes, avacado, bell peppers, parmesan cheese
Dressing:  Fresh Lemon, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a LARGE clove of garlic, s&p.

"And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; and shall
find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
and shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint."
D&C 89: 18 - 20 (A revelation given to Joseph Smith on the Word of Wisdom - a health guide) 

Friday, March 18, 2011

My New Look and Some Wicked Fingernails

It's official.  I am DONE WITH HATS!  Sunday I went to church (at my home ward) without a hat on.  It was a great feeling.  Everybody was so kind and encouraging about my new look.  I really appreciated the genuine happiness and excitment for the point that I am at now.  It is really amazing when I look at pictures of myself when my hair was just first coming in (like just a shadow) and I can hardly imagine having such a little amount of hair - even though my hair is only an inch long now.  I am just so grateful and aware that these worries were taken from me while I was in the midst of it.  The Lord is so merciful.  There is no other explanation.

When I go to the store, I get a few interesting looks, but I am really alright with that.  I know that people have NO idea what I have been through and I have nothing to be ashamed of.   Actually, yesterday at the pediatricians office a nice man came up and told me that he really liked my hair.  A little strange, but I appreciated it.

I wouldn't really call myself a judgemental person, but now I really try not to judge people.  Everybody is special, everybody has a purpose, everybody has a story and everybody is a Child of God.

I wanted to add this picture of my fingernails.  Strange, huh?  This is how they looked a few weeks after my last chemotherapy treatment.  Each of the white stripes represents a treatment and the shock that it put on my body.  Thankfully, I never lost any.  The stripes are mostly out-grown now, thank goodness.  They are still a little bumpy, but they are close to looking normal.