Handle with care

I have never given much thought to the power that words and actions can have on one’s mental state. But as of recently, things that people have done for me or said to me have changed my outlook on my whole day (either good or bad). I know I need to depend on the hope that Christ gives and not let the words of others have such an effect on me, but I am human and they do. These are things that I would never have considered before, so I thought I would shed some light based on my recent experiences. Please don’t be offended! I am pretty skilled at putting my foot in my mouth myself, so I can relate!

1. If you have a story about someone you know with cancer… and they died… Don’t tell it to me!

Even if you find the story inspirational, (which it very well may be) I probably won’t see it that way at this point in my life. All I hear is that they had cancer and now they are gone. Maybe when I am further out from this disease, I can appreciate the story, but right now I am not in a place to hear it.

My radiation oncologist gave me some constructive advice. He said, “Your story is not their story.” My experience is not the same as anyone else’s and should not be compared to others.

He also told me that this is the one time in my life where it is acceptable to stop someone when they are telling me a story about their great aunt “what’s-her-name” who had a long journey with cancer that didn’t end well. He told me to tell them, “I’m sorry. I don’t need to listen to this at this time of my life.” I don’t know what it is about being bald, but everyone has a story about someone with cancer they want to share with me.

“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” Proverbs 12:18

I have found that cancer treatment has a huge mental component. I am fine 96% of the time, feeling calm and enjoying my life, but the other 4% of the time anxiety threatens to overtake me. Most of the time it is directly correlated to a well-meaning comment from someone. I would just encourage you to think twice before you share a story about someone else’s cancer journey.

2. Don’t tell them you know EXACTLY what they are going through because you once had a suspicious looking mole…

I’m not discounting that it was a scary experience, but I’m not sure you know the level of fear that comes from awaiting PET scan results to see if your cancer has overtaken your body.

I don’t even claim to know what another person with cancer is going through. Every journey is different and has its own struggles. Also, every person is unique before they are diagnosed with cancer, so of course they are not going to handle their journey the exact same way as anyone else.

3. Don’t ask what their prognosis is.

Nothing makes me want to vomit quicker than thinking about the different direction my diagnosis could have taken. I have been given a pretty great prognosis and I hate being asked about it, so I can’t imagine how unsettling it must be for the people who don’t have the best news to give. If they bring it up, great! If not, I would strongly encourage you to leave it alone.

4. SHARE your success stories!

I want to hear stories of survivors! I want to know there is life after chemo. I think of death and illness so frequently. I crave to know that life will begin again. So often we hear of the lives that cancer has taken and I think that sometimes it overshadows the MANY who have battled and won. It boosts my spirit to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I have had one lady who has been through a somewhat similar experience tell me that this is a season of my life and I will get through it. I know she doesn’t have a crystal ball but hearing these words empowers me to fight harder.

5. Send cards, encouraging texts, little gifts, ask how they are doing, and support them

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:11‬ ‭

There are 4 different women who send me a card every week, and I love getting them. Most of them say “still praying” which gives me such a mental boost.

I also have a few friends that text me every so often telling me they are praying for me or send me scripture verses they find encouraging. They remember what days my treatments and appointments are and text me to let me know they are praying or telling me good luck!

I have also received so many small pick-me-up gifts. Nothing extravagant. But it makes me feel loved and lifts my spirits knowing that I am being thought of. So, shower your friends or loved ones going through trials with these sorts of things.

Adam and Alli have been so supportive every step of the way. They have offered their pool multiple times; saying I can come relax and enjoy it anytime I would like. Alli even set up their loft as “sanctuary” of sorts for me to escape should I need it. She bought comfy blankets and put encouraging quotes on the walls and stocked the room with things just for me.

6. Don’t forget them

Cancer is a long journey. Mine is not nearly as long as other people that I know. Some people have years of treatment. I am almost finished with chemotherapy which has lasted 16 weeks. I have surgery in August, next 2-5 weeks of radiation, then two more operations to follow that. The road is long. I have been blessed with a wonderful support system who has been with me every step of the way and will continue to be with me, but I can see how it would be easy to forget that people are struggling. Once the shock has worn off from finding out that someone has cancer peoples’ lives go back to normal, as they should.

I would encourage you to check in on the people that you know with cancer and other chronic illnesses to make sure they feel loved and supported. This is an area that I have failed at in the past, but now I am more aware of it. My sister is very good at this. She calls me every day on her way home from clinicals to tell me about her day but I know her secret… she is checking up on me; making sure I’m ok. And I love her for that.

7. Be very careful about the phrase “I have some bad news.”

Do you really have bad news? Is it life-changing news? I have heard that phrase before, and it ended with a cancer diagnosis. So yeah, I get a little panicky when someone says they have bad news and it turns out Walmart was out of the brand of yogurt that they like. DO NOT start a conversation that way unless it is really bad news. I’m not sure when this little quirk will fade, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets this way after the experiences that I have had.

I also had about a month where the sound of my phone ringing sent me into a panic because it seemed every time I answered it someone was giving me bad news.

8. Have a conversation with them that has nothing to do with cancer

Talk of cancer, doctor’s appointments, treatment, and tests have overtaken my life. It is so nice to have a conversation with someone where they never mention cancer. I can have a conversation and escape my new normal. A few minutes when I can forget that I have no hair under my scarf or a port in my chest.

9. Make sure they have something to look forward to or a project to work on

This is more for a very close friend or relative. It helps knowing I have something fun to look forward to at the end of the week. Even if it is going out to eat, a concert, or getting a pedicure. I feel like it breaks up the monotony of dealing with the nausea, the bone pain, or the many of their side effects that accompany chemo.

One of my most enjoyable times since this ordeal started was towards the beginning when Robbyn was still in the NICU. We had a spur of the moment evening at my sister’s house where my kids and hers watched Beat Bugs episodes in a pile of blankets. Holly and I just sat there not really talking but enjoying their company. It was absolutely nothing life-changing, but I felt that for a few hours, that my life had some semblance of normalcy.

I have also found that working on projects helps to keep my mind off of stressors in my life of which I have no control. I have “remodeled” our mailbox and revived our front porch. Neither of these projects have cost very much or taken too much time, but they have served their purpose in keeping me sane! I like doing these projects and planning for the future. It helps me to see there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

10. Pray for them

It’s the most important thing you can do.

  • Pray often.
  • Tell them you are praying for them.
  • Have others pray for them.
  • Ask specifically what you can pray for.

I have friends who text or ask me in person what specifically they can be praying about for me. They pray for peace when I need peace or healing when I’m in pain. Knowing that they are continuing to pray to Jehovah-Rapha, “the God who heals,” on my behalf makes me feel so comforted.

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Ephesians‬ ‭6:18‬ ‭NIV‬‬

This list is not the gospel. Not everyone feels the same way I do, I’m sure. These are just some helpful hints from my experience, and if they can help someone else support a loved one with cancer or chronic illness, then it is all worth it.


Identity Crisis

Up at 5:15. Get ready. Get the kids ready. Drop them off at the sitter. Go to work. Pick up the kids. Clean up the house. Fix dinner. Give baths. Put the kids to bed. Repeat.

I was so busy. Running around with the kids, running errands, doing housework, and working 40 plus hours a week. Things have been so chaotic since we had kids and I honestly enjoy the chaos. And now…nothing. Since chemotherapy has such a significant impact on my immune system and working in the field of nursing is not the most sanitary of careers, I currently find myself jobless. No, I wasn’t fired, but I am on a personal leave of absence for the time being. My new job, it seems, is to attend an endless stream of doctor’s appointments and treatments. Jordan and I talked it over, and our number one priority is not our finances but instead, my health. We are not taking any chances. I have three sweet babies that need a mother, and I am concentrating solely on beating this cancer.

I have had a job since the ripe old age thirteen, and my first job was working the concession stands at the Babe Ruth Park. It was definitely not a high tech operation. There was no square app like every single trailer at the county fair has today. We were sans cash register. I definitely built on my math skills that first summer. “Oh, you had 3 hot dogs, 2 drinks, a snow cone, 3 candy bars, and a pretzel and cheese? Hmm… yes, let’s just call it 20 dollars.” Needless to say, I acquired not only better math skills but also people skills. I learned how to deal with angry customers who have been sitting in 105-degree weather, and now some dyslexic girl at the concession stand overcharged them due to her deficiencies with mental math.

Despite my rocky beginnings at the diamonds, I learned so much from my first job; like the value of hard work. My parents really instilled Colossians 3:17 into our hearts, ” and whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord, Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” They taught us that no matter what task we are asked to do at our job, do it to the best of our ability. We should do such a good job that others can see Christ through us…even if the job isn’t glamorous. Or should I say especially if the job isn’t glamorous? And I have always had a job since my not so glamorous snow cone crafting Babe Ruth days. I tried my hand at waitressing (Not a pretty sight for someone as clumsy as me!), ticket taking at the pool (Vampires like me can’t sit in the sun all day saving lives), babysitting, movie theater attendant, and student nurse. During college, I managed to work two jobs and still not fail out of nursing school.

I have always loved working. For me, it is fulfilling. My job makes up such a huge part of my identity. I mean, I spend most of my waking hours there. I enjoy every aspect; from feeling like I have made a difference in someone’s life to the comradery with my coworkers to the gigantic warm cookies in the cafeteria. (Can I get an amen from my surgery people?)

And now my life has taken a complete 180. When I look in the mirror in the morning, it doesn’t even recognize myself. My hair is gone, no unruly frizz and curls springing out of my head. In fact, no hair at all on my head. My eyebrows are much thinner and lighter than they ever have been. My skin is dry and cracked. Even though I feel great most days, I still look paler (as if that is even possible) with dark circles under my eyes. Is that from the chemo or the 3 children 3 years old and under? You decide. I see this very different person than I am used to greeting me in the Mirror.

I used to take ZERO medications and now this person I don’t even recognize needs a pillbox!!

I don’t have to rush the kids to the babysitter like I am used to; which is nice… but I feel like I am lacking the purpose and drive that I am so used to having. Every day is just a countdown. To my next chemo, then to my surgery, then to radiation. I feel as though I am just treading water until the next event in my life. I am so used to always being in a hurry with a to-do list a mile long. Now, I find myself wandering around Walmart to kill time.

Don’t get me wrong! I have loved spending so much time with my kids, and I have chosen to make the most out of this time I have with them. I mean, who else gets a maternity leave this long? I left my first two babies at 8 weeks to head back to work. I have been blessed with an entire summer to watch all three of my children grow and play. I am trying my best not to let this cancer take complete control over my life either. We go to the park, library, splash pad, and play outside quite frequently. We look like we have escaped from the circus anywhere we go, between the yelling and the general chaos that tends to accompany my family. However, I am not going to sit and sulk about my lot in life when I have babies that need my attention. My summer has been fantastic, and I feel the draw to being a stay at home mom that most mothers probably feel. It is just trying to adjust to this “new normal” in my life.

My recent identity crisis has caused me to evaluate my life, and I have realized two things…

Number one

I have always made excuses in the past for my lack of personal prayer and bible study time. “I’m too busy. I have to be at work too early. I was at work too late. The kids need my attention. The dishes need to be washed.” Sure, these are all real issues that come up, but somehow I still find time to troll Facebook or watch my DVR’d shows. And there are so many avenues to complete a Bible study in this era of technology; between the Bible app, Right Now media, and the Audible app just to name a few. I have the greatest teachers of our generation at my fingertips, and I don’t take advantage of that. The Bible app sends me a reminder every day which is a good wake up call for me. I can literally YouTube an entire sermon from Matt Chandler or Louie Giglio at any time, and yet I don’t. It feels like now God has heard all of my lame excuses and really freed up my time. There is no reason now why I shouldn’t be in my bible more than ever. It just a matter of making it a priority.

Number two

I have recently realized how much time we really waste worrying about our calling and spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 says, “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:”

….For those who don’t know spiritual gifts are often talked about in the church. Most Christians try to determine how God has enabled them to serve him and others. It can be the gift of preaching, teaching, generosity, hospitality, prayer, encouragement, listening, baking, manual labor…the list goes on and on. Basically what things you can do to further the kingdom of God….

Don’t hear me say that our spiritual gifts are not valuable. I just think we spend too much time “meditating on” and contemplating what they are when God just wants us to put our feet to the pavement and do his work. How did you find out what career you wanted to have? Probably like me… by figuring out what you hate or aren’t any good at. I knew I would never be called to the food service industry after holding the world record for breaking the most lanterns during my stint as a Cracker Barrel waitress. But I never would have known that had I not tried.

I think it is the same for our spiritual gifts. We are not going to know what area we are gifted in until we try it. How do you know you aren’t called to teach the toddler class at church until you have wiped the snot off of their tiny faces as they sing Jesus Loves Me with more passion than we sing in the service?

How do you know you aren’t called to lead a bible study until you dive into the word for deeper understanding not just to say that you finished your daily reading?

How do you know you aren’t called to service until you have seen the appreciation of an elderly church member after you clean out their gutters?

How do you know you aren’t called to cook until you lighten someone’s load by bringing a meal to a family whose mom is recovering from surgery?

Your gift does not need to be glamorous to make a difference in someone’s life. “No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty” (I Corinthians‬ ‭12:22-23‬) Even if no one notices what you have done: God does. And one day you will receive an eternal reward.

So stop stalling by saying you don’t know what God is calling you to do and volunteer to do whatever needs to be done. Think of all of the opportunities you are missing while you are trying to “figure out” God’s will. One of my dad’s favorite saying is “God can’t steer a parked car.” There is no reason why you can’t be praying for God to show you his will for your life while you are already serving others.


If you give a toddler clippers…

I’m sure you have heard it said: “You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” Well, that was definitely how I felt approximately 16 days after my first chemo. I have always, ALWAYS complained about my hair. It’s too curly. It’s too frizzy. It doesn’t cooperate. It’s a dull brown. Why couldn’t I have Holly’s shiny, perfect hair? My mom has told me my entire life, that if I have a problem with it I can, and I quote “Take it up with God when I get to heaven.” I must have complained too many times. I am now bald.

The purpose of the chemotherapeutic drugs is to attack and kill fast-growing cancer cells. Well, it kills all fast-growing cells in the body. And can you guess what some of the fastest growing cells in the body are?

That’s right.

Hair Follicles.

Honestly, losing my hair hasn’t bothered me too badly. For me, it is proof that the chemotherapy is working. I can’t see the drugs working on the cancer inside my body but I can see my hair falling out, and that is proof enough for me that treatment is working.

Maybe it’s all of the free time on my hands, but I can’t help but compare my diminishing hair to identifying a Christian in the world today. I’m not saying that I can tell who is and who isn’t christian. Only God knows who has truly accepted Christ into their heart, but there should be outward signs of an inward change. The world should be able to identify that we are Christians.

John 13:34-35 says,

“A new commandment that I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this, all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Just as hair loss is a byproduct of my chemotherapy; we should have byproducts of Christ living in us. These are characteristics that you have probably heard more than once: the fruits of the spirit. They sound simple enough, and yet we (or maybe just me) seem to fail to display these attributes daily. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

These traits are rare in the world that we live in. A world where we argue nastily with strangers in comment threads on social media. A world where we are in such a hurry all of the time we scream at the person driving the speed limit in front of us. A world we complain about not having the nicest house, or car, or phone when there are people across the world that would be ecstatic with a tiny portion of our material possessions.

If we can display the characteristics in our daily lives, we will stick out like a sore thumb. Just as I am a walking billboard for cancer with my very bald head, if we live in such a way displaying the fruits of the spirit, we will be a walking billboard for Christ in a dark and jaded world.

Don’t worry I was preaching to myself on that soapbox too.

Back to my hair; or lack thereof.

It is a bizarre feeling when your hair starts to fall out. It started out with my head tingling. (weird, but I could deal with it) The next few days it turned into a slightly painful tingling but still manageable. I had some options. I could pull my fairly long, curly hair out in clumps, I could cut it short, or I could shave it completely. My sister talked me into to cutting it short so that I had an idea of what it would look like when it came back in.

Exhibit A

I had my cute little pixie cut almost two weeks when one night while Jordan and I were watching tv, I had pulled and picked at my hair until there was a feline-sized ball of hair next to the couch. The painful but manageable tingling had turned into a feeling of someone yanking my hair out. It was giving me a huge headache… so I caved. It was an amazing and peculiar phenomenon; once my head was shaved the pain went away immediately.

One of my biggest fears going through this whole process is how to will affect my children. I don’t want them to see me as sick. I don’t want them to be scared or worry about their mommy. They are only two and three. Reed is a smart kid but still not quite at an age that he can grasp the whole picture. We have told him only that mommy has to take some medicine to make her better, but it will make her hair come out.

Much to my surprise, the kids haven’t been fazed at all by the Brittney Spears circa 2007 mental breakdown hairstyle. They look at me the same. They still want to cuddle with me. They do not seem the least bit concerned about my appearance. They know that I am still the same person that I was yesterday and the day before, and they trust that my love for them is the same.

If my children can trust me, a human who makes mistakes daily, so willingly, why do I have issues trusting a perfect God.

Hebrews 13:8 says “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” It doesn’t matter if my circumstances change. He still the same God.

I got a little bit ahead of myself. Let me rewind.

I decided I didn’t want to freak the kids out by walking in bald one day. We decided to let the kids be a part of my transformation. I was about to face the scariest part of my cancer journey. No, not being bald… giving my two-year-old and three-year-old a set of clippers and letting them help shave my head. I really wanted to try to make it fun. (I mean what toddler wouldn’t have fun when they are given a set of clippers and told to go to town)

The pictures that follow are not glamorous. They weren’t taken by a professional. I have no makeup on…holding my kids’ fruit snacks…in front of our bathroom. This is not staged to be Instagram perfect. This is documentation of our REAL life experience with cancer.

Jordan making the ceremonial first pass of the clippers

Ryanne’s turn!
Reed getting his turn. (Notice the bald spot on my right side)

The aftermath.

I would consider our head shaving party a success. The kids had fun!

Once we were done Ryanne even shouted it was her turn to shave HER head!

So naturally, we have locked up the clippers.


Chemo According to Kari

Chemo #1

This post is a little different. I want to explain my thoughts on the ins and outs of chemotherapy so far, especially for people who haven’t had much experience with cancer treatment before.

As a disclaimer: I AM NOT AN EXPERT. I am 100% sure this is not everyone’s experience, and all cancers are different!

***I repeat, I by no means consider myself an expert on the subject, this is just how my treatment have gone so far.***

Sunday, April 15th, we had Robbyn and Monday April 23rd I had my first chemo. It was the first out of 8 treatments. I go every other Monday; so it’s a total of 16 weeks for chemotherapy to be completed. I call them my chemo “on week” and “off week.” Basically, I get a dose of chemo on Monday and spend the next two weeks recovering until my next dose. The first four treatments that I received we’re Adriamycin (AKA the “Red Devil” because it is literally bright red and TOXIC, it even turns your urine bright red) and Cytoxin. The second half of my chemotherapy treatment will be a drug called Taxol; which I will start next week.

(That’s right! I’m halfway through chemo as of now!)

Below is a text from my brother’s good friend and coworker. As a cancer survivor himself, he has been a wealth of knowledge and support for us during this process. He sent this text through my brother for my first day of chemo.

My knowledge of oncology was very limited before I started this journey. Nursing school really only touched on it here and there. It’s astonishing how much I have learned over the last month and a half. In my limited knowledge of cancer treatment, I assumed I would have to sit there all day receiving my infusion when in reality that is not the case. It’s mostly a lot of prep work!

When I go in for treatment they immediately get my weight and labs to make sure I am healthy enough to get the chemotherapy that day. They check to make sure my white blood cell count is high enough along with a plethora of other labs.

After the labs come back, the oncologist looks them over and comes to examine me. She sees me before every chemotherapy treatment; listens to my heart and lungs, completes a breast exam, and asks how I am doing overall. (She is absolutely fantastic in case you were wondering!)

Once she examines me, she verifies that it is ok for the pharmacist to mix my infusion. The infusion is weight-based and made for me specifically, so it can’t be mixed until they know for sure I will be receiving it that day. Once pharmacy starts preparing the infusion, my nurse gives my “premeds,” which is a cocktail of long and short-acting drugs to combat the nausea that is caused by the Red Devil. Those premeds run over 30 minutes.

Next up!

The main event: my chemo!

The Adriamycin is pushed in 3 separate syringes over 15 minutes by my nurse. The cytoxin is next and it runs on an IV pump over 30 minutes. So its a ton of set up time for a short infusion! I usually get to the cancer center at 11:00 and leave by 2:30.

All of these medications go into my port which I had surgically placed the day of my second chemotherapy treatment. They can also draw my labs out of my port so I only have to be stuck one time. They kindly gave me numbing cream to put on it before I arrive, so it doesn’t hurt.

The port is quite possibly the greatest medical innovation in my opinion!

This is my port when it is “accessed” or being used.

One of the side effects of Adriamycin is mouth sores, so to combat that, the logic is to fill your mouth with ice chips to vasoconstrict (shrink the blood vessels) in your mouth to keep the medicine from causing sores.

So, I can’t talk very well while the medication is going in. Not to mention, I look completely ridiculous.

I’m not sure if it actually works or if the staff thinks it funny to watch me try to talk with a mouthful of ice.

Also, after the completing four treatments of this, I will never be able to eat ice chips again. I associate the taste with the horrible taste of adriamycin in my mouth. For the past week, it has tasted like I have a wet dollar bill in my mouth… mmm.

Another huge side effect of Adriamycin is a drop in your white blood cell count putting the body at increased risk for infection. I get a pump that looks like an insulin pump placed on the back of my arm. It has a medication called Neulasta, that automatically injects my arm 24 hours after chemo with a drug that kicks my bone marrow into overdrive to make more white blood cells.

I have to call if my temperature is above 100.9 because it is considered a medical emergency. My oncologist said she didn’t care if it was 3 am I needed to call her immediately. If you know me, I usually have to be on my deathbed to call for a doctor’s appointment, so this would take some adjusting to.

One more significant side effect of Adriamycin and Cytoxin is hair loss, but you will have to wait for another post to hear all about that!

As you can see from the top picture, the nurse is all garbed up head to toe with protective equipment. A gown, special chemo gloves, goggles, mask, and a special bag to dispose of it in.

It’s very comforting to know that the medication going into my body is that toxic!!

In reality, I don’t care what they are putting into my body as long as it kills the cancerous tissue.

I am also supposed to drink a TON of water. The goal is to keep hydrated and flush all of the byproducts of the chemo out of your system to make you feel better.

This is easier said than done when you are already queasy!

Just a word of warning: drinking that much water especially if you have just delivered a baby a week earlier, make sure you are close to a bathroom because your bladder has NOT recovered from childbirth.

I go back to the cancer center every Friday of my chemo “on week” to get a liter of normal saline to rehydrate my body. I don’t really notice how dry I really was until Saturday morning when I feel like a new person from the extra fluid.

I start Taxol on my next visit, and this regimen will be different. The Taxol is a 3 hour infusion. So, the prep work (labs, pharmacy, and exam) will be the same but with a longer infusion time. So, I am told I should plan on being there 5 hours. I haven’t quite figured out how I am going to sit still that long. All I can say is thank goodness for Netflix and my Kindle.

I cannot complain because God has been so good through all of this and my side effects have been so minimal compared to what many others go through. One nurse even asked if she could clone me! My nausea has been manageable and my white blood cell count has remained within normal range for the first half of treatment. I think most of my fatigue is due to the newborn and 2 toddlers at home!

Chemo #2

Chemo #3

Chemo #4 HALFWAY!
(Another chemo side effect: hyperpigmentation or darkening of my skin. Notice my knuckles)

I have been a nurse for 6 years and a student nurse before that for 3 years. Having no significant health issues my entire life, I have realized that I’ve never fully understood the impact good nursing care can have.

I have taken care of many patients and many of those were cancer patients, but being on the other side of the healthcare system now has turned my world upside down. I am seeing things from the patient perspective that I have never considered before.

Until recently, I had never been in the fragile position of awaiting critical test results, being unsure of my treatment options, or have very little understanding of the treatment I would be receiving. The teaching my oncology nurse has given me has been vital and could save my life.

Feeling the nurses’ genuine compassion and having them taking the time to ask how I am really doing, has made all of the difference. Seeing these nurses care for me makes me proud to be a part of the profession, and makes me want to work harder to be a better nurse and patient advocate in the future.

”Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, and patience.” Colossians 3:12


He is able. We are faithful.

Adam was still is Europe but sent me this prayer in the wee hours of the morning before we met with Community Breast Center. The day before we had received a very bleak prognosis and I was trying my best not to panic. I just kept thinking, “It’s in God’s hands.” I just want to stay in his will for my life.

Nevertheless, in the back of my mind, I could hear “What if God’s will is to take me home to heaven sooner than I planned?”

That was a possibility. It still is. It is for all of us really.

That is where the hope of salvation comes in. Not to be a Debbie-Downer but if you think you are making it out of this world alive you are going to be very disappointed one day!

That is why I feel so strongly about this blog. I am here to tell you if you haven’t heard it before, Christ died for you.

Yes, you.

And if you were the only one who ever accepted his free gift of salvation, He still would have died on the cross just for you and you alone.

As Adam said in his prayer, “We thank you for Jesus and the gift of eternity, and we hold onto that hope in the darkness of this world. The unfettered joy of knowing Christ has suffered so much more than this for us keeps our eyes fixed on you.”

Well, Tuesday morning came. We dropped the kids off at the babysitter and went to carpool with my parents. It was no surprise to find my mom in the kitchen doing what she does best, stress baking.

I was rereading a couple of psalms from my bible over and over again to calm my nerves, while Jordan and my dad ate an unhealthy amount of oatmeal cookies.

The breast center had called the night before and told us in addition to meeting the surgeon; we would also have an ultrasound of my armpit (to see if my cancer had spread), meet with a geneticist, the medical oncologist, and finally the breast surgeon. We had a full day ahead of us. Since the past Saturday, I had been keeping a little notebook full of doctors’ names, information, appointments, and many, MANY questions. On the way up there, mom and I added to our seemingly never-ending list of questions.

Once there, I was whisked from appointment to appointment. Every single person there knew who I was and knew the order of events for the day. They all called me by name and treated me like a person (a person who was scared out of her wits but a person no less). The only missing piece about choosing Community Hospital was I still didn’t have an OBGYN or a Maternal Fetal Medicine doctor at a hospital with a NICU.

We had called the office of the OBGYN and the Maternal-Fetal Medicine doctors several times trying to explain the situation, and the soonest date they had to get me in for an initial visit was two weeks away!

Well, my breast surgeon took care of that too. While I had the ultrasound on my armpit, a nurse came over to tell me that my surgeon had personally called and got me an appointment with the OBGYN that Thursday. I was really liking this lady already, and I hadn’t even met her yet. So the only piece missing from our puzzle now was a maternal-fetal medicine doc.

While that was being figured out, I still had a long day of information ahead of me. It was terrifying not knowing what kind of information bomb was going to be dropped on me next. Every time someone walked into the room I could feel my stomach drop before they even started talking.

Well, it finally happened!

I got my first piece of good news that week.

The ultrasound technician ran her pictures past the radiologist and came back to the room to tell me my lymph nodes looked clinically normal. Thank you, God!

Next on our parade route was meeting the medical oncologist. She came into our very crowded room (Holly had high-tailed it up from Cincinnati by this point and I had two nurse navigators in the room as well) and took me out to examine me in a more private setting.

After explaining how I found the mass for what seemed like the hundredth time that week, she proceeded to tell me that I had done a great job of catching this so quickly and she confirmed that my lymph nodes looked good on the ultrasound as well.

We rejoined the rest of my posse so she could go over a treatment plan. She had a paper in front of her where she wrote down the stage (2), the chemo drugs I would get and how often, the side effects, and then she very confidently circled the box that said cure! CURE!

We asked her many of the questions we had about how this would work with Robbyn still in utero. She explained if we couldn’t get her delivered within two weeks we would go ahead with chemo while pregnant. She went on to explain if we could get her delivered soon, then I could start chemo soon after. I asked her how soon that would be (the doctor the day before had told us 4 weeks) and she responded with “immediately.”

I need to tell you at this point it was at least 5 o’clock, and it was clear that everyone in the building was staying late to accommodate me, doctors included. Now, it was time to march this parade upstairs to the breast surgeon’s office.

She took Jordan, and I back to an exam room, and she performed a breast exam. (I had lost all concern for modesty at this point) She left my gown open and walked across the room and bent down to look at my chest squinting and bobbing from about 5 feet away. It was comical, to say the least.

She and I could both see Jordan looked very disturbed in the corner of the room and I wish I could have taken a picture of his face; it was priceless. She then said, “I’m doing this because nowadays almost all breast cancer patients are survivors and we want to make sure you look good when this is over.”

That was twice in an hour that I was told I would live! She also told me she called the maternal-fetal medicine doctor AGAIN and arranged for me to have an appointment with him the same day as the OBGYN (That Thursday!)

The meeting with her went very similar to the one with the oncologist. She explained my tumor pathology and staged me as 2B based on the large size of the tumor, and we would do 8 treatments of chemo over 16 weeks, double mastectomy, and radiation. She whipped through some more information, and when she got done, she asked if we had any questions. I looked through my list of questions, and she and the oncologist had answered every single one. Holly said “Look at your book. Did everything get answered?” This was the reason I wanted her here. She is my big sister and my forever protector. She is assertive and confident, two things I have always wished God had blessed me with. She has always pushed for me to be heard even when I don’t want to make waves. But her concern was unwarranted this time because both doctors had answered every single question!

Very few times in my life have I been absolutely sure of what God wanted me to do in a situation. To be fair, the blame should fall on me because as I mentioned have not been very good about giving God control and praying with the fervor I had been this week.

I felt this was God’s clear answer about with whom I should entrust mine and Robbyn’s care. Every single question or concern that I had was answered with confidence and clarity by both of my doctors.

God had directed us here.

As my mom said, God gifted these women with the intelligence and the drive to become doctors and prepared them with the knowledge and experience to provide me with the right care. Now don’t get me wrong, I know I’m not the only reason these women went to medical school, but I am a tiny part of a story that God set into motion years ago.

I have read and re-read the prayer Adam sent to me so many times on our short journey. Healing is in Christ’s hands. I will continue to hold on to that hope and that he will leverage it ALL for his kingdom and his glory.

“In God I have put my trust. I will not fear.” Psalm 56:4

He is able. I am faithful.

Our elevator selfie after we heard the word cure! I am the happiest person to ever find out they were getting chemo!


Decisions, Decisions

Baby, surgery, chemo? Chemo, baby surgery? C-section/surgery combo, chemo? Which surgeon, OBGYN, oncologist, maternal-fetal medicine doctor? Which hospital?

These are all questions I never would have dreamed I would be asking myself a few weeks ago.

I have always thought I was very good at multitasking. So God must have thought he would see just how good I really am.

Or more than likely He was trying to show me how weak I am and how much I should be relying on him instead of myself.

In addition to multitasking, I am also a planner. It drives my husband and most of my family members nuts. I want to know what time we are having our family dinner 13 days from now and what side dish everyone is bringing. Are we meeting at 5 or 5:30? It doesn’t matter I am going to show up at 4:45 just to make sure we are not late.

As any good planner would, I had everything for this baby scheduled out on my timeline. My other two children set up camp in my uterus and probably wouldn’t have come out until their 3rd birthdays had my doctor not evicted them. My due date with Robbyn was May 24th, so I fully expected to still be pregnant well into June.

I was on cruise control having passed my glucose test, genetic testing for baby bird came back normal, and I had all the girl clothes washed and ready. I just had to coast through this last 7 weeks of pregnancy to enjoy my last maternity leave that happened to fall in the summer months. (If my coworkers are reading this; I swear I didn’t plan it that way)

But after Friday’s groundbreaking revelation, my life was in complete and utter upheaval. All of my plans flew out the window, and the only things that mattered were getting Robbyn out safely and getting treatment started so that my kids still had a mom to sing them to sleep at night.

Enter Robb Barlow.

My dad and I have many similarities. We are antsy, most people can’t follow our train of thought, we have less patience than a toddler, we get fixated on problems, and we HAVE to fix said problem like 10 minutes ago.

My dad had talked with another doctor who was able to set me up with a different hospital in Indy early the next week for a consultation. This hospital thought they would be able to coordinate care between all of the different specialties my unique situation was going to require.

I was so relieved. Friday at 3:30 I felt like I had no solution to this problem, and now I had TWO options thanks to my dad’s Mr. Fix-it personality and my favorite surgeon. Now I didn’t have to just pick whichever provider would take my unique case.

Instead, I could weigh the pros and cons and make an informed decision. God bless Robb Barlow and his meddling ways (which thankfully I inherited tenfold.)

So what now? How would I know which provider to use? What if I made the wrong choice and the outcome was poor because of my choice?

This was the first time in my life that I decide to “give” God complete control over a situation. I had no idea which providers’ hands to place mine and Robbyn’s lives in. I had a grade 3 breast tumor.

For those that don’t know, grade 1 grows the slowest and 3 grows the fastest. Awesome, right?

So, time was really of the essence for me to figure out who would provide my care. I decided this was all so sudden and SO gigantic of a problem, that I would not be able to fix it.

Yes, in my control freak mind, I assumed that I was actually running the show, not God.

Sure, I pray, quite a bit actually, but most of the time, I already know in the back of my mind what decision I am going to make. I am just running it by God really quickly for formality sake. I mean can He really expect me to wait ten minutes for an answer?

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the lord with all of your heart. Do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

I had so many paths in front of me. So many different possibilities for how the next two weeks might play out. How would we coordinate all of these moving parts before this aggressive tumor spread too far?

Well, the short answer is…we couldn’t.

WE could not coordinate this monstrosity of a problem. WE couldn’t control the rate at which the tumor was growing. WE couldn’t make sure Robbyn was developed enough to be delivered early. WE had no control over how quickly all 8 of these new doctors could coordinate care to set a plan in motion. As much and Robb Barlow and I wanted to manipulate the situation to work in our favor; WE couldn’t.

God is sovereign, meaning he has complete and total control over every situation. I think He was using this to show me just how in control He really is and just how powerless I really am.

How else can we grasp the magnitude of how powerful God is except when we are at our absolute weakest?

In 2 Corinthians 12:9 it says, “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Had it been up to me I would have lopped my own breast off at work in an empty OR the moment they told me I had cancer. In my mind, everything would be ok if we could just control it, contain it, FIX it right now.

But I am not a doctor, and it was the weekend. The longest weekend of my life. And God was telling us to wait. He had a plan, and we needed to wait on his timing.

I don’t know about you, but it is very frustrating when God is trying to grow you in a spiritual discipline. Am I not patient remember? I get to movies AT LEAST 30 minutes before the previews start. And God was expecting me to wait until Monday morning to hear back from our second opinion provider???

Well, Monday morning came and as my mom and I sat at Cracker Barrel my phone rang…and rang, and rang. Literally, 7 different doctors’ offices called me within 10 minutes. They all had appointment times for me that week, and none of them conflicted with the others. I was scrambling to writes down all of this information as fast as I could and keep the 3 hospital systems straight. I had begged God ALL weekend for information.

It’s funny how God answers our prayers in ways we never would have imagined. Monday morning, I had more information than I knew what to do with!

I know that I am sarcastic. I personally think it’s one of my best features, despite what my husband might tell you. I also know that I am made in the image of God. This leads me to believe that God must be pretty sarcastic too! I pleaded for information and, now I had so much my head was spinning.

Disclaimer: For those of you following along, in two weeks’ time I had so many appointments, testing, and information thrust upon me, it is going to take a few more posts to catch you all up to speed on our current situation. So stick with me! I have SO much more to tell you!