Thursday, August 8, 2013

Where God Guides, He Provides

Our lives have been on a roller coaster for oh so many years. We have had the ups and the downs and when it really got wild we had the upside-down loops that made our heads spin. Every day has its surprises and we are never bored with what comes up.

I shared before that my mother has been diagnosed with bone cancer. The agony my heart has felt over the thought of losing my mom has been torture. Every two months she has a test and every two months we have heard disappointing news despite bone strengthening treatments and daily oral chemo. We heard: the cancer has grown, they found another cancer site or on awful days we heard both. Our hope for good news was fading but I was reminded that “a certain darkness is needed to see the stars.” I am not going to lie; we were beaten down as we sat in the conference room at the cancer center waiting for Mom’s results this last month. As the results were read our jaws dropped. For the first time in over a year we were hearing good news in the fight against cancer. Mom’s cancer had stopped growing and there were no new cancer sites anywhere in her body. What a relief! We are safe for two months until the next scan. I am thrilled about this news but I am also very aware of the threat cancer still has on her life.

Lately, I have been feeling stuck; stuck emotionally between the most incredible experience in my life and between the heartache and fear that I feel for my family. On one hand my heart hurts and on the other hand I have so much to be joyful about. What joy? Let me share my amazing news!

Kirk and I are pregnant! After three years of waiting we are expecting our miracle baby! It was quite the road to make this pregnancy happen but oh was it worth it. Between the fertility costs and the hormones I was taking, tensions were high, but my husband survived like a champ…let’s see if he survives the first few months of caring for a newborn! Many times I find myself smiling simply because my fairy tale is coming true. Our baby girl, Yes! I said girl, is due in November and as she grows I find more and more to thank God for. I also want to thank all of you who have supported us through prayers and donations for fertility treatments. Without your help our growing family would not be possible.

Our roller coaster that we call life never ceases to shock and amaze, but even with all the twists and turns we always know “where God guides, He provides”. I for one am forever grateful for His trials and provisions. For every setback and disappointment God has blessed us tenfold.

“Let your past make you better, not bitter.”

Love Always,


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Isn't it funny how…

I truly thought my nights staring into the darkness of my bedroom ceiling were a thing of the past. I was enjoying not having anything to write about on my cancer journey blog but here I am in the wee hours of the morning just trying to make sense of it all.

My mother was diagnosed with bone cancer. She was told that it is incurable and that she has two years to live. Her doctor also explained that with bone cancer she will experience excruciating pain until it eventually takes her life.

Please tell me how I am supposed to handle this. I am at a loss. I don’t know what I should be doing or how I should be acting. My body is numb. I can’t sleep. I find myself lost in a sea of hopeless fear. My mind is filled with “what ifs” and nightmares that leave me feeling so very alone. Will we never be out of cancer’s hold on us? Will we never find our freedom from its grip?

My mother is the most important woman in my life. She was my first friend and has always been my best friend. Her courageous spirit and strong convictions have constantly set her apart and I strive to be like her in any way I can. I have been told that I am just like my mother and I can’t tell you how honored I am to be compared with such a pillar of strength and beauty.

My life changed direction the second I was told of her devastating diagnosis. We were set to move out of state in just a matter of weeks. All our belongings were already in storage and we had leads on apartments and jobs. It was our dream adventure and it was about to begin. Isn't it funny how one sentence can undo years of planning. Yes, I am grieving my lost adventure but would I choose my adventure over time spent with my mother? Absolutely not. Of course my mother being the woman she is begged us to reconsider giving up our adventure. How amazing and selfless is she that she would rather us achieve our hearts desires than us be with her in her time of need? She will always put her children’s wishes over her necessities.

So now I just wait. Wait for the growing anger and anguish to surface. Wait for my mother to get sick again. Wait for my family to fall apart. Wait for the next bomb to drop. What more can my family handle? What more can my heart withstand?

Please pray for my family in this time of uncertainty. We desperately need God’s comfort and his understanding. Thank you for your continued prayers and support. Your unwavering love for my family is such a relief. It is so wonderful to know we are not alone.

Love Always,

Friday, October 12, 2012

Cancer is a gift…a gift that came with no receipt

I was reminded the other day how the journey of breast cancer has molded me into the woman I am today. My husband and family tell me there is a new woman that stands in front of them and I would like to believe that is true. I can think of cancer as a gift in some ways…mind you, I did not think a cancer diagnosis was a gift at 24 years old nor did I think it was a gift when I was going through treatments and I have to say I didn't think much of it when I was finally cancer free and done with doctor visits. However, there came a morning when the fog of sickness and despair lifted and I found myself breaking away from the footsteps that I had been walking in before my gift of cancer was given to me. My eyes were opened to a new way of life. A life where the possibilities are endless!  A life where my family and I always come before social standing and financial gain; and where I choose more happiness. I never want to look back at a year of my life and say all I did was work long hours, take for granted the people I love and miss out on opportunities for adventure. I want each year to be better than the last. Visiting new places, meeting new people, helping those who are hurting, reveling in each glorious day and experiencing all that God created us for!

I have those goals but it is sure hard to stay focused and keep my eyes on the prize! Recently, I was involved in a car accident where I was rear ended. I have been in serious pain even with therapy three times a week. If I am not careful I can find myself being grumpy about how terrible my day is and taking my frustration out on those around me. That’s when I have to yell at myself, "Whoa Sister!, You think neck and back pain are bad? Do we not remember what kind of pain we were in for the last few years? Take a look around you and let’s get back to knowing that each day is a present from God that He doesn't have to give us!" I have a choice to be angry that I only had two months of feeling great in between cancer and a car accident or I can choose to ask God to help me with my pain so that I can enjoy what He has for me. I choose God with a side order of healing!

Sometimes it is so easy to remember that cancer straightened out my priorities and that my mind is focused on what it should be. In August my family went on a cruise to “Celebrate Life!" Both my mother and I have struggled with breast cancer and this is the first year in four years that all of us have been healthy. On the cruise we created so many memories that will be remembered forever as well as the hilarious stories that will be told at family gatherings each year. Cancer is horrible don’t get me wrong, but if cancer can make me never forget that family is everything than I can at least be grateful for the lessons God taught me from it. I don’t wish trials on anyone, but when trials come your way never ever brush aside the amazing gifts you can take away from them.

Love Always,

Please enjoy this video "Celebrating Life"! 
This is my family's Caribbean cruise vacation! 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Complete Cancer Remission

Today was my three month check up with my oncologist at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. I have been officially done with ALL cancer treatments since February so I am in complete cancer remission!

As I was walking through the lobby at SCCA I had a skip in my step. This appointment was different. I wasn’t looking down at the floor feeling tired or sick, I wasn’t listing all the concerns in my head that I wanted to bring up with the doctor, but instead I was holding my head high as a smile beamed across my face. For I, Sarah, had beaten this cancer that stood between me and life. I had fought and I had won.

When I was filling out my paperwork for check in I loved that I was able to cross out all the meds on my file and not replace them with new ones! It also tickled me pink when my doctor said she didn’t recognize me when she saw me down the hall. She has only known me when I have been sick so here’s to looking healthy! My blood work came back perfect and my vitals all were normal so I am so happy to say I don’t have to go back for 6 whole months! I have been going to Seattle for oodles of appointments for the last few years so this will be a wonderful change...especially on the gas budget. Goodbye SCCA and UW until the end of the year!

Yesterday I was surprised by friends and family celebrating my victory over cancer. My heart melted as I was showered with love, kindness and “girlie” presents. My mom and Miss Sherri spent hours preparing finger foods, decorating with bright Spring colors and creating gorgeous flower arrangements. I will never forget walking in the door to find smiles in every direction! What a wonderful way to celebrate a new chapter in my life. Thank you to everyone who helped make me feel special on my very “special” day.

The Lord has restored my health and strength and I will give Him praise all the days of my life!

Love Always,

Thursday, May 17, 2012

I was asked a question...

I have been attending a cancer survivorship series on Thursdays. The men and women that surround me each week are truly amazing. Everyone has a unique story of struggle and disappointment but one similar strand of truth can be found in all…each one of us chose to fight and we came out victorious against an attack on our lives. I am proud to stand with these “warriors” and I am also proud to say I am one of them. I have to admit that when I walked into the first class everyone’s face said that the high school volunteers were down the hall and that I was definitely in the wrong place. Quickly after introducing myself I found that I am not alone in trying to find my way after being diagnosed with cancer. I have people who “get” me and I in return “get” them.

This week’s class is about finding hope and meaning so for this week’s homework we were asked a question that has had me stumped. We were asked to bring an object that symbolizes something that has meaning in your life; it must be something you can hold in your hand and it can’t be a picture. If you already know what you would bring just after reading that question you certainly have life much more figured out than I do. I have been walking through my apartment opening drawers, looking in boxes just searching for something that symbolizes importance in my life. Day after day I continued to search and came up with nothing. I felt defeated until I stopped and took a moment to think about it. What if something that has significant meaning in my life isn’t a trinket from the past but wouldn’t it make more sense if that meaningful object is something I use and see every day? I sat down and looked at my empty palms trying to imagine holding something and a smile stretched across my face. I turned my hands over and there staring back at me were two meaningful promises. On my right hand a ring that I have had on since I was 19, a promise ring. On my left hand a ring that symbolizes a promise but it is a little more meaningful. My wedding ring symbolizes the loyalty of my best friend. The best friend that stood by me for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer and in sickness and in health and trust me in the last two years we have seen worse, poorer and sickness. We are hopeful for the next few years we will see the better, richer and health parts. Can I get an Amen?

I felt pretty happy when I had finally found my meaningful object but something else was tugging on me. My heart was telling me that there was another object that held meaning and hope and that it was right in front of me. The only problem with that thought was that the only thing right in front of me was the TV. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing something so I stared into the black screen for a few minutes and it wasn’t until I gave up and started to get up that I finally saw what I was looking for. As I started to move I saw myself in the reflection and another smile stretched across my face. This time my meaningful object wasn’t something I could hold in my hand but the meaning and the significance was off the charts. Me, myself and I. My life has meaning because I am still here. My life has hope because I chose to conquer over a cancer diagnoses and continue to live out the life that God has given me. If God was done with me He would have brought me home and since He didn’t I must still have value here and I must still have a purpose. I am a woman who symbolizes meaning and hope! I am a walking billboard for God’s love and redemption. I still don’t like everything that cancer left in its wake but I can think of my scars as badges of courage and strength. Yes, I wish they weren’t there but each scar is a constant reminder of my incredible journey to becoming the woman who God destined me to be. 

Love Always,

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sarah's New Youtube Video...

Click here to view Sarah's New Youtube Video! This is her journey with breast cancer and her victory over it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cancer's Aftermath...

We cannot win if we refuse to fight –Beth Moore
I listened to these words from a Beth Moore study in April of 2011. I not only believed in them I acted upon them since at that time I was fighting for my life as I battled stage 3 breast cancer at the age of 24. I battled hard, I fought with every ounce of strength I had and by golly I did win the physical fight against that horrible cancer that invaded my body. I am physically free of the death grip cancer had on me but now what am I left with?

After I had finished 18 weeks of chemotherapy treatments, a double mastectomy surgery, and 30 radiation treatments I was suffering with severe pain for eleven months that could not be explained by any of my specialist doctors at Providence Cancer Partnership, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance or the medical team at University of Washington. On many appointments I felt passed around from department to department because I was their medical mystery patient that no one knew what to do with. It felt as if every drug was tried…at my expense no less, but nothing seemed to help the pain that never ceased and caused me to stay in bed more often than not. I was on many harsh drugs including a very dangerous drug that temporarily affected my heart function. I was told on more than one emergency room visit that if I continued this drug my heart would stop and I would die. Fear had had its hold on me like I had never known. In January I stood my ground and told all my doctors I wanted off ALL these drugs and after extreme opposition from each doctor I started to taper my dosage of each one. It turned out I was having an allergic intolerance reaction to a daily chemotherapy drug. After three days of not taking the drug called Tamoxifen my body started to feel something that I had not felt in years…comfort! No more pain in my hips, my knees, my back, my neck and also no more headaches or nausea! I had a new lease on life. Each day I have more energy and each day I feel like I am in my twenties and not like I’m in my nineties. I was now feeling physically better than I had ever felt in the last two years but something started to happen.

I have now realized that while I was fighting the physical war that was raging in my body, in order to cope, my brain locked away the emotions that I couldn’t deal with at the time. My brain started repressing mental pain, fear, depression as well as many disappointed goals and dreams. Picture a hurricane destroying everything in its path while you have locked yourself in a safe place to weather the storm…when the physical storm is over you venture out of your safe place and the reality of the destruction is finally upon you. I weathered the physical storm of cancer and now I’m venturing out to see what it really took from my life emotionally and physically. All I can think to call it is cancer’s aftermath.

My cancer aftermath began when I started having flashbacks. My mother was diagnosed with stage 4 incurable breast cancer shortly after I had my reconstructive breast surgery. I have tried to be brave and not let anyone know about the fear and anxiety that was growing inside when I went to her first chemotherapy appointment. Only a year and a half earlier I had been in that same chemo chair, in the same building, on the same floor, in the same room, with the same nurses and receiving the exact same chemotherapy drugs. I would watch each drip of chemotherapy “poison” enter her I.V. and hate would rise from a very hurt and very dark place. Many times during treatments I kissed my mother’s cheek and told her I was going to the restroom just to escape the panic that was about to erupt in me…I would find a quiet place in a deserted hallway and cry tears of fear and guilt. Fear because I am so afraid that cancer could take my mother away from me and guilt because I am not strong enough to push through my own emotions and be there for my mother no matter at what cost. My body is afraid that going back to those cancer treatment rooms means that I will get sick again so to protect myself my mind and body revolt. Very quickly the memories of the chemotherapy side effects come rushing back. My mind panics and wants to run but where? My mouth begins to taste metallic and my stomach begins to sour. I have read plenty about these happenings and many doctors call it Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

I can admit that I am hurting emotionally and that I have a reason for this anxiety but there is absolutely no way I’m leaving my mother to fend for herself at chemotherapy treatments or doctor appointments so the only thing I know how to do is to just get on my knees on days when I know I will need help and ask God for strength and peace…there is nothing else I can do.

After going through any traumatic experience people are not the same when they reach the other side. Most of my family and friends look at me and say I’m the same Sarah I was but I know the truth. Much was taken from me. Not just from my physical body but from my heart, my mind and my soul.  My self-esteem hit rock bottom and still is not in a healthy place…it may seem like nothing has changed for those around me but I learned early on to wear a mask that hides the tears, disappointments and the ugliness that I feel inside and out. For many months I tried not to look into mirrors because I didn’t recognize who was staring back at me. Even now I don’t recognize the tired and weary eyes, bright pink scars and pale skin. Who is this woman who is staring into my eyes searching for something familiar?

Cancer stole part of my womanhood and it has been stripped away from me which makes me feel very self-conscious…did I just say that? What I am eloquently trying to say is I feel ugly. I hide myself in layers so people won’t see what I see…a woman who is desperately trying to find inner beauty that could maybe wash away some of the outer ugliness that I see and feel.

All I’ve ever wanted to do was be a bride, a wife and a mother. I was the fairytale bride who married her best friend who is in fact my prince charming and I am living out being the best wife I know how to be but I am struggling with the choices I have to become a mother. I have BRCA 2, a cancer gene that makes me have a predisposition to having breast cancer and ovarian cancer. My children will have a 50/50 chance of receiving this gene. I already had embryos when I found out about my gene but we have the knowledge now that those tiny embryos can be tested for this life threatening gene so in reality I do have the ability to stop this gene dead in its tracks and end with me but am I doing the right thing? Should I just not have children because they still could possibly have cancer by some freak accident? Do I just leave it up to fate? Or do we use the technology that God allowed us to create? The trials of having breast cancer personally as well as watching my mother go through it 3 times have been the hardest things I have ever had to do. Do I want to subject my children to this? Am I being selfish wanting to be a mother? I would never forgive myself if I could have done something to save my child’s life and I didn’t act when I could have.

My disposition in life has changed. I’m a glass half empty kind of girl now a days; as situations present themselves I immediately prepare for the worst case scenario in order to protect myself. It is dark and twisted I know but I’m trying to change. I guess I just constantly blame myself for everything. I understand I didn’t choose to have cancer and it isn’t my fault that it turned our lives upside down, but I blame myself for money troubles and for losing 2 years of our lives when we were supposed to be traveling to Russia, Paris, Africa and wherever the wind blew us. I feel like it is my entire fault for Kirk and me not to be able to have our children the regular way but instead putting ourselves in $10,000 of debt just to try to have our first child. Sometimes I cry at night thinking Kirk would have been so much better off without me, I’m so incredibly happy and grateful God gave us to each other but I love Kirk so much that I hate to have to see him hurt and struggle so much to make our dreams come true. I feel as if I am defective and a burden. We went to the fertility clinic this last month to see how the chemotherapy, medical scans, and other medications affected my fertility and the results were not great. In 2010 I had way above average levels of fertility and now in 2012 my levels are on the very low side. It was great that we chose to create embryos because they might be our only way of having children. We are just faced with the mile high wall that is in front of us: raising 10,000 to try for our first child and 4,000 to try for each of our other 3 children. God will provide I just know He will. He just has to.

Will I ever be able to live up to be the woman that I once was. Will I ever be the same? I am not whole anymore because of cancer and as life goes on I’m finding more and more that it is still taking. I pray in time I will become whole, find myself beautiful again and completely triumph over cancer physically and emotionally. God can renew and restore me please pray with me that He will have favor on us.

Love Always,