Thursday, September 19, 2013

Because it CAN happen to you.

Cancer is not something that I ever thought would wreck my life. It was never on my radar as something that would happen to anyone in my family. It was always something that affected someone else. I never in a million years would have predicted that my mom would have been diagnosed with any cancer- much less a Stage 4 cancer that would take her life in two years- before her 50th birthday.

And then it did. 

Now, cancer is something I know endless information about. It is something I have researched, something I have obsessed over, something that has completely altered the course of my life. Cancer is now something that not only affects my life- but my children's. I now have to look at life my with cancer in my radar. 

And it still completely surprises me, because cancer was something that would 'never happen to me.'

My mom was 47 when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. She had no family history, little to no warning signs, and was too young to be screened. (Colon cancer screenings generally begin at 50.) By the time we found her disease, fighting it was often like taking a water gun to a wild fire. 

I will never understand why things happened the way they did, or why she was taken so soon by something so seemingly out of the blue. 

But, I do know that this doesn't have to be everyone's story. It doesn't have to be mine, it doesn't have to be my babies', it doesn't have to be yours. 

I could go on for days about the importance of screenings and early detection. My mom didn't get a chance to do either of those things- and they truly, truly save lives.

The other thing I know, is that cancer research is key. It saves, lengthens, and enriches lives every. single. day. Although, there is no 'cure' for cancer, I got two more years with my mom because of advancements that were made in the last 10 years. The American Cancer Society is doing a historic study that will enroll 300,000 people and gather information about cancer over the next 20 years. The thought of the information that can be gathered from that many people gives me chills. 

The Midland American Cancer Society is participating!! They are looking for people 30-65 who have never been diagnosed with cancer. All you have to do, is give a blood sample and then complete questionnaires that will be mailed to you over the next 20 years. Please, please consider contacting them at 1-888-604-5888. For more information, visit http://www.cancer.org/research/researchtopreventcancer/participate-cancer-prevention-3.

Do it. For me. For you. For this guy.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

2 months

2 months has gone by since I talked to my mom. 2 months since I called her on the way to Target. 2 months since I worried about her cancer. 2 months since she badgered me to send a picture of Owen. 2 months. 2 months that have been the longest, shortest months of my life.

One of the things I loved about my mom was that she always bought all the magazines- ALL the magazines- and she saved them for me. Magazines are something I rarely got to splurge on when Ryan was in PA school so I always looked forward to the stack she saved me. I miss her- and her magazines.

This last week I splurged on a People and in it was an article about a mom who lost all three of her girls in a tragic car wreck. She had written a book about her loss- and her girls. She talked about how terribly hard it was to write- how hard it was to remember. She said she did it because she wanted people to know them. She wanted people to know their life and for them to be remembered.

A thing that scares me the most is that Owen won't remember. He won't remember how he was the light of her world, how she wanted him to love the Rangers, Cowboys, and Mavericks more than most things, how she sang 'My Only Sunshine" to him as she rocked him. He won't remember- and it kills me.

I realized as I read that article that even though it hurts me to talk, write, and remember. I have to. I have to so that he will know her.

I felt this way about her funeral too. I didn't want it to be a generic funeral. I wanted it to be her funeral. I wanted people to know her. This is the letter I wrote that was read.

Dear Mom-
One of our last conversations, you told me you regretted not ever going to back to college to be a teacher, but as I reflect back on your life. I realize just how much of a teacher you were. Over the years, you taught me a lot of things, things that you realized and things you didn’t. I’ll probably never be able to recount all the things you taught me, but a few do stick out.

You taught me how to be brave. Over the past two years, I held your hand through numerous surgeries, procedures, blood draws, and scary talks with doctors. As I think back on those times, I think you held my hand more for my benefit than your own. You faced so much with such a courageous spirit, it made all of us brave too. 

You taught me how to find humor in situations, and that its ok to laugh through the tears. We had a lot of smiles and laughs during the hardest times, and most were jokes you made at your own expense. Your “cancer jokes” were just another way you took care of us.
You taught me how to make a bed- the right way. I didn’t appreciate this until much later in life, and I’m hoping one day Ryan might learn too. 

You taught me how to be selfless. Over the years, I have witnessed you help so many people, and there’s likely many I didn’t witness. It’s not that you helped that sticks with me now- it’s how you helped. You helped immediately- without weighing the options for yourself first. You just helped. No questions, no thoughts of yourself- just helped.

You taught me to love to read. My whole life, you told me of the great adventures in books. You taught me to appreciate the ’smell’ of a good book and the joy of a library. Oddly enough, the only 5 minutes of the day Owen sits still is while looking at books and it makes my heart smile that maybe he got this from you.

You taught me you don’t have to be on the birth certificate to be a mom to someone. Anyone, who walked through that door, you loved as your own. I complain a lot about being an only child, but the truth is that you were a mom to many.

You taught me how to love without abandon. When you loved someone or something – you loved fully. You loved without expectations.

Mostly, you taught me how to be faithful. I watched as you were so faithful to people, even when sometimes it wasn’t reciprocated. You were faithful to your word and someone on whom countless people could depend. You were a faithful employee for 18 years. You were a faithful wife for almost 30 years. You were even faithful to the Cowboys, Rangers, and Mavericks though they failed you often. Most importantly, you were faithful to God when He let you walk such a tough road.  You were faithful during the marathon chemos, the sickness, and the fear. You even remained faithful when you knew He was taking you too soon, and encouraged everyone else to as well.

These lessons, although no substitute for the teacher, will be my guide as I try to walk out the last thing you taught me- how to deal with the loss of my mom. You walked this road before me, and knew how hard it would be. So you knew your last lesson for me had to be to take it-one day at a time. Every one of those days will be spent loving and missing you, and hopefully teaching Owen some too. 

Even though writing it was terribly hard, people left knowing her better. I want that for Owen too- and for her. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Writing

Tonight I looked back on this blog. I looked back to get information for the baby book I am just now filling out for my 16 month old son. (Slacker mom of the year, I know) I looked back to be reminded of his happy moments, milestones, and pictures. ( The whole 2 months I recorded.) I looked back for joy, and instead was slapped in the face by my anguish.

The last blog I wrote was on anguish and joy. I wrote it during what I thought were some of my hardest days- days of uncertainty and fear.  I wrote it on January 25th, and less than 2 months later- I lost my mom.

Writing has always been somewhat cathartic for me. I'm not someone who can write well or even correctly. I'm also not someone who can write off the top of my head. The last time I wrote in this blog, a friend sent me a text about it and my response was that I apparently can only write while in super emotional states.

To say that I am in a super emotional state right now would be the understatement on the year. To say that I am wrecked- a mess would be almost close to covering it. So it would make sense that writing should bring me some sort of peace or calm, but instead I have avoided writing like the plague. (Its even one of my assignments for my grief counseling- whoops!)

I have avoided it for all kinds of reasons like- fear of being judged. Grief is this funny tightrope. I spend half of my time worrying that if I am a crying mess, I will alienate those closest to me and people will tire of my dramatics, and the other half worrying that if I smile or laugh too much people will wonder how I could forget so soon. I know this is all crazy, but so is grief.

 I think another reason is because the state I am is so personal and vulnerable and messy. To be honest, another reason is blogger drives me nuts.

But I think the main reason is because it hurts.

I hurt. My heart hurts, and writing about how much I hurt- hurts.

But I'm slowly learning, that avoiding the hurt doesn't make it go away.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Anguish and Joy

My mom has been diagnosed with Stage IV cancer for almost two years, and it sucks. There is no sugarcoating, there is no silver lining, it just sucks. Period. The roller coaster of chemos working and then not working sucks. The sickness sucks. The worrying sucks. You pretty much get the drift.

Its been a long two years of a lot of emotions, but as I sat in the Beth Moore bible study I'm doing on Wednesdays, she used a word that describes the one I have felt most often through this ordeal. ANGUISH. Although, I probably would not have come up with this word on my own, it struck such a chord deep within my soul. It so perfectly describes the heartache I have literally felt as I have been a passenger on this roller coaster. As I have attempted to hold my moms hand as we go through the ups and downs, I have felt much anguish.

And can I be honest- I have let it overwhelm me, consume me. Recently, we have been given more bad news. The chemo is not working- again. The difference this time is- we've done all the standard options. ( We are currently in the process of exploring experimental treatments.) As I processed through that- anguish took over and brought its good friends- hopelessness, fear, despair, bitterness, and just plain out pissedoffness. (Clearly a made up word.) I have spent much of the past two weeks, in just such an angry state- one I clearly feel I deserve to be in and one I was just ready to settle in. I was just FED UP.

But, like any other 'good' Christian I know, I continue to go through the motions, continue to go to my bible study that I am just not in the mood for- fully expecting just to go, sit, listen, leave, and still be mad.

So imagine my thoughts as she began to describe the very feelings I have been fighting, but she tacked another word onto it- JOY. She talked about the intertwining of the two, and even gave an example of a time in her life where her family was dealing with anguish and the Lord gave her her first daughter, who brought unspeakable joy to her life in the midst of unspeakable anguish.

It was like listening to her tell my own story.

If you know me, you already know this story, but I need to write it, I need to be able to look back in the midst of my anguish and see the truth from this story.

When my mom got diagnosed, Ryan was finishing up his last year of PA school. Everything was going according to 'plan.' Ryan would graduate, we would both work a year and reboost our savings, and probably try to get pregnant sometime that year. But the day she got diagnosed, we walked out of her hospital room and I looked at him and he knew. He knew I needed to experience all of those things with my mom. I needed to be able to call her and ask questions, needed her to be a grandmother, needed her. He knew, and he pushed all his 'plans' aside right there in that moment without taking the time to think about the budget or plan. With a simple, OK, that was that- we were going to start trying.

Here's where things get a little TMI for a blog- but I'm banking on my lack of posting meaning a lack of readers. Everything I knew about trying to have a baby meant it would take some time. During this time- Ryan and I were not even  living in the same place. He was doing a rotation in Plainview and I was spending a lot of time at home with my parents in Snyder. Clearly- I knew that was not conducive to making a baby either, but about a week, maybe two, after my moms diagnosis Ryan and I met for the day at our apartment in Lubbock. I had taken an ovulation test, so I knew I was ovulating, but was not expecting anything in the first month, especially given that we saw each other one day that month.

Two weeks later- I took an early pregnancy test just in case- and it was positive! Our minds were blown, but honestly until I sat and listened to Beth Moore this week, I really chalked it up to the birds and the bees.

But not anymore.

The Lord, in His Sovereignty, knew the anguish we would walk through. He knew the despair we were facing. He knew, and He sent us joy so that it would not overwhelm us.

He sent us Owen.
He sent me Owen.

I have cried more tears than I have ever cried, but I have also smiled more smiles and laughed more laughs at my sweet baby boy.

I have felt the most anguish, but also the most joy. At the same time. If I'm being completely honest, I often feel forgotten by the Lord during this journey- where is He? Why is He not taking care of us? But, He is- in His own way. He gave us unspeakable joy to accompany our unspeakable anguish because He cares and I needed that reminder this week and will probably need it again.
video


Owen's giggles will serve as a reminder that He does see and He does care even when it feels like He doesn't- even in the midst of my anguish. He gave me that because He knew I would need it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Owen's 1st Birthday

Our sweet baby boy celebrated his First Birthday on December 27th. We were lucky enough to have Daddy home with us so we had a fun day full of firsts for our sweet boy.

We started the day off right by trying out some donut holes.

We followed up all this fun with a family lunch date where Owen got his first taste of pizza. (and mommy left her camera at home)
 
The excitement didn't stop there. Owen got his first haircut on his birthday too!
 Thank goodness for puffs, he did great!
 
We ended all of our excitement with some fun presents.


Such a fun family day celebrating a year that has flown by!
 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Identity

Ever have one of those church sermons where you are pretty sure there have been cameras in your house monitoring your every move so your pastor can find a good topic? Like he is zeroing in on your forehead the entire time? Last night was that for me, but here is what generally happens. I generally think, "Wow, this is exactly what I needed to hear." I think about it and talk about it with Ryan on the way home, but then we get home and life happens and babies need to be fed and husbands apparently need clean pants in order to go to work, and I forget. I forget the feelings that stirred up inside of me as I sat and listened. I forget all of the things I wanted to remember, and life goes on. It goes on unchanged. So this is my attempt at not forgetting, at actually processing past the pew...chair.

Lately I have felt....restless, unsatisfied, and insecure. This confuses me because I am doing exactly what I have always wanted to do, my husband loves me despite myself, I have amazing friends who truly care, and we are comfortable in our home and with our life. But I haven't been able to shake these feelings.  I have been thinking that maybe it is my lack of a 'job' to identify myself with or maybe living in a town with so much wealth makes me constantly crave more or different or maybe just being a silly girl in general. So, I do what any other crazy person in my situation would do, I jam pack my schedule with anything and everything I can find. I think that the answer must lie in this- clearly I am just not BUSY enough. Genius, right?! Well that didn't work so then I think surely if I have enough friends or if people like me enough, then I will feel better. So, I begin second guessing my conversations, over- analyzing everything, and trying to be the biggest people pleaser in America. Go figure, this hasn't worked either ( and has probably made me more annoying to the people around me in the first place!) So, then I talk myself into medicating myself with things. Maybe if I had more 'brands' or if I didn't drive my old, rusty car from high school- or if I actually put some effort into getting dressed or could carry off a trend to save my life. Yes, this must be the answer, but instead it is just one more car on the Crazy Train that is headed absolutely nowhere.

So obviously I have been stuck on this, panting and huffing, trying to keep up,  and I am tired.

Thank God (Literally!) for my divine appointment yesterday.

Identity. Mine's pretty jacked. First, our pastor asked who we found our identity in, the CREATOR or the CREATED? Well, well, well.....

Then he defined a Misplaced Focus as basing our identity on what we DO, what we OWN, or who we KNOW. Well, duh, Beth.

He obviously had many more points to go along with this sermon, but for me this was it. This was the ticket I had paid to get on my Crazy Train. I am spending so much time worshiping what the created thinks of me that I am willing to seek my identity in these things rather than Him. To make matters worse, I actually care more about what these things say about me that I do what He says.

 He also made the point that until we learn who we are in Him and accept it - we will never be satisfied. So its not going to matter how crafty I try to be, or how nice I am to my friends, or how funny I am, or what kinds of mom I am to Owen, or wife to Ryan, or how well I deal with my mom's cancer, or how much stuff I have. Most of these things are certainly not bad things, not things I should not want to be necessarily. But they should NOT be my focus. They should not be the end all when it comes to who I am. Putting my focus on these 'good' things will leave me on the Crazy Train and I am ready to GET OFF!

(And you want to know the kicker of all of it? Pretty sure I already am putting all of this onto my child. My sweet baby 7 month old! I already see myself misplacing my how I focus on his identity, wanting to get caught up in the things he does or has or how he acts instead of pleading to the Lord that he looks to HIM for his identity. PUKE.)


He finished off the sermon with an amazing list of who we are in Christ. Things he said we need to DECIDE to believe. Things I need to reflect on and remind myself of DAILY. ( Who am I kidding, probably HOURLY!) Things that I need to set my heart and eyes on.

Ok, there is my emotional spew for today. I'm not even going to act like I may blog more often or make excuses for my poor grammer skills. Ha!

Monday, March 19, 2012

One Year Later

It's been one year. One year since we got news that changed my life forever. One year since one of the absolute worst days of my life. One year. On one hand, I feel like its been forever, on the other it seems like just yesterday. My mom and I often refer to time as B.C. (Before Cancer) and A.C (After Cancer). Sitting on my couch today, it is hard to remember those BC times. I've grown, learned, and changed a lot in the past year. I don't want to forget the lessons I've learned this year because they were learned with a lot of pain and heartache. I don't want this past year to be in vain. With that said, here's some things I've learned this past year.

1. Life is short. Period. Whether you live to be 100 or you get cancer at 47, it doesn't seem long enough. It's not long enough to love those you love or do things you love. Do those things ever really get old? Good thing we've got eternity.
2. It CAN happen to you. If you are like me you think nothing like this would ever happen to you. If you asked me a year and a week ago if my mom would (or anyone in my family really) have cancer I would not have believed it in a million years. Things like that didn't happen to me. They happened to other people, people I read about, people I watch on Ellen, other people. Not me, not my mom. But then it did happen. We don't have cancer in our family. She didn't have a lot of risk factors. It just came out of the blue, like a brick wall. I don't say this to scare anyone, but I do say that in hopes that people will be smart about it. It could happen, so get screened, get checked, and for goodness sakes be careful with those tanning beds! (and don't even get me started on cigarettes)

3. When you tell someone you will pray for them you should. Common sense, right? Sadly, I was guilty of saying this and then often forgetting. It wasn't until I practically wanted to beg everyone I saw to pray for my mom that I got the true disgrace my actions were. I found myself wanting to ask every person who said they would pray," Really, will you really do it because we really need it." This of course was based on my own actions and a lesson I learned the hard way. I will never be able to thank everyone who has prayed for us this past year adequately or apologize enough to the people over the years I failed in this.

4. You don't have to actually beat cancer to be a survivor. Ok, this is going to be a soapbox one. It really irks me that often in order to participate in the survivor walks or events you have to actually be in remission. My mom may still be fighting, but she is surviving everyday. She is surviving blood draws, chemo, chemo side effects, the list could go on. But she is surviving. Ok, rant over.

5. Life can be a terrible mess, and be beautiful at the same time. I found out I was pregnant a little under a month after we found out about the cancer. We originally wanted to wait to start trying until the summer, but everything changed the day we found out. I felt an urgency and thankfully Ryan understood it. So basically, the entire time we have been dealing with cancer, we have also been dealing with a baby, something ugly and horrible and something beautiful and innocent, something that takes life and something that starts a new one. Talk about a contradiction, right?! On one hand it was a little insane to deal with everything with pregnancy hormones (poor, poor Ryan), but on the other it gave us something happy to talk about, something to dream about, something to have hope in. Owen has been the biggest gift of all this, and he could not have come at a better time.
6. You really do get enough strength. Growing up in church, I've heard a thousand times about how the Lord will give you enough strength for what you are dealing with. Last March, I found out my mom had Stage 4 Cancer and said goodbye to my husband for 6 weeks a week later. I then had to balance working, helping with my mom, and my first trimester. All I wanted to do was sit in a corner and cry each day, but I did have enough strength. Often it was only enough for that day, but it was enough. It definitely was not my own strength. No way.


7. There are still good people in this world. I will never be able to repay people for their kindness this past year. We have been showered in prayers, kind words, and good deeds. People have brought food and books. They have sent cards and facebook messages. They have listened as we have cried. They have allowed us to get our mind off of cancer occasionally. I have learned a lot about how to love people that are hurting by watching how many of you loved us. It's been messy. It's been hard. But people have stuck by us during the worst of times and I will never be able to adequately express how much it has helped.
8. I am in control of nothing. I have a pretty type-A personality. This is a lesson I did NOT want to learn. I still don't want to learn it. I still struggle with it daily, but cancer is a heck of a lot bigger than me and my endless to do lists. I can't plan it. I can't change it. I can't control it. Still learning this one. (and still not enjoying learning it) This may be why I undertook planning a huge suprise party in the midst of my already crazy life. I got to control something, and thankfully she WAS suprised.

9. My husband is a saint. What a year it has been for Ryan and me. We have dealt with cancer, Ryan moving for a total of 12 weeks, pregnancy, graduation, job hunting, house buying, moving, and having our sweet Owen. I have handled most of these like the basket case I generally am, and he has to live with me! Poor, poor Ryan. He has been more than a husband this year. He has been a listener, a source of advice, an encourager, a provider. He has been understanding and flexible. He has been there for not only me, but for my family as well. He has been a human kleenex and too many of his shirts have been ruined by mascara. He has listened to numerous freak outs and quieted my fears. He has been so much to me this year. SO MUCH. I would have never survived the past year without him. Seriously, he deserves an award, or at the very least a beer.

10. My mom is the strongest person I know. Period. She's been through it all this year. She's been through surgery. She's been through a cancer diagnosis. She's been through colonoscopies, pet scans, and MRIs. She's been through scary doctor visits. Shes been through marathon chemo sessions. She's been through two chemoemobliztions. She's been through more blood draws than I can count. She's been through the side effects. She's been through all of this, and she is still going. If that's not strength, then I don't know what it. I am proud to be the daughter of such a strong woman.

This is definitely the short list, I didn't include all the things I learned about cancer. I didn't include cancer markers, reading scan results, how to deal with chemo, what to do with PICC lines or all the other countless things I have learned in dealing with this horrible disease. I didn't include these things because I don't think they are really the lessons worth remembering. I hope those are lessons that I can one day forget, and that you never have to learn. But I never want to forget the others. I never want to be who I was before. I want this year to count for something.

With all of that said, here is where we stand currently. Last Wednesday, we all traveled to Lubbock to meet with mom's dr. to discuss her latest scan result. Basically, we started a 6 month round of chemo last April. It was very successful...at first. It did shrink the tumors down dramatically, but it reached the point of maximum response before it got rid of them completely. We then took about a month off and then traveled to Baylor to do a chemoembilzation in which they inserted a catheter into her liver and directly inserted chemo. We took another month off after the first one and then did it again. We rescanned in January and were devastated to find that these time consuming, painful procedures did not show signs of working. In fact, in the time we took of to do them, most of her tumor grew back and she also have a lymph node in her chest that was now affected. We came back to Lubbock and started a new chemo regimen. At first, it did not seem like it was working either. However, her markers began to dramatically drop after about 2 treatments. We received newest scan results this past Wednesday, and her tumor is responding again and was down about 50%. Praise the Lord! We still have a lot of cancer to beat, but it was a good day. We did however receive the bad news that our doctor is leaving Covenant this summer. We are waiting to see if he will still be in Lubbock. If not, we will be exploring options elsewhere. (This makes me a nervous wreck!) We can still use all the prayers we can get. Please pray for healing ultimately, but also for chemo side effects, perseverance, hope, and the doctor situation. We seriously will never be able to thank you all enough.


On one hand today is a sad day for me. I am sad that we are still dealing with this. I am sad that my poor mom is still sick, but on the other hand one year ago today I didn't know if we would make it a year. But we have, and for that fact alone today can also be a happy one.