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Our young family battling stage IV breast cancer one day at a time
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How much is too much to ask for?

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No one knows when their last breath will be taken.  Not many people are given a time frame on their life.  When you are given a time frame, it makes things different.  Everything is different.  Every moment of every day is different.  I look at my kids differently.  I’m incredibly thankful for the time I’ve had so far with them.  I wonder how much longer I’ll get?  My hope is that it’s many years. 

The time I spend with Dusty is different.  Not that he ever got on my nerves, but let’s say if he did occasionally, he doesn’t anymore.  I’m just happy to be with him.  Things don’t annoy me anymore.  The moments I spend with my parents, family and friends is different.  I soak all of it in.  I’m grateful for it. 

I recently received a letter from a man at church who lost his wife to cancer.  I don’t think he’ll mind me telling you that his prayer to God was he would give them five more years.  Five more years.  God gave them five more years.  She was a wonderful woman. 

I’ve been given a year, but the five years has been on my mind.  Then I think to myself that I want more than five years.  I want way more than five years.  How much is too much to ask?  In five years Brooklyn will be almost 12.  Max and Samantha will be almost 7.  They have too much life ahead of them to spend without a mom.  Scrap the five years. 

Do I ask for ten years?  That puts Brooklyn at 16 (almost 17).  By then she’ll have survived middle school and have been through driver’s training.  Maybe she’ll have been through her first heartbreak (hopefully not) and had her first fight with her friends.  Max and Samantha will be 11 (almost 12).  I’m terrible with knowing what grade they’ll be in, but I would imagine it would be around the sixth grade.  Just beginning those ever changing middle school years.  They need a mom for this.  I need to be here.  Scrap the ten years.

How much is too much to ask?  I know that my days are numbered as are the rest of my family’s.  I believe I need to rest in God’s undying love for me and my family.  I know that His will is perfect.  I need to trust and be still. 

If you’re wondering, I’m not angry at God.  I haven’t been angry yet.  I’m tired.  I’m sick of it.  I’m sad that he chose this daughter of His to have struggles.  I do wonder why.  Why couldn’t it have ended with breast cancer?  That would’ve been enough for me. 

I never saw myself as a weak person, but that’s how I feel most days.  I don’t want to be the girl with reoccurring terminal brain cancer.  The one people give head tilt looks of pity to.  The one that all of these AWESOME people are organizing fundraiser events for.  I can’t believe I’m that girl.  I’m the girl who since on steroids for my brain swelling has gained another 10 pounds.  I am currently 35+ pounds beyond where I normally am.  I look in the mirror and don’t recognize myself.  I’m heavy.  My head is burnt from radiation and starting to peel.  Did I mention that my reconstruction surgery had to be postponed?  I barely recognize myself.  A tiny fraction of what I looked like 1 1/2 years ago is still there.  That’s hard. 

I want to  be the girl who organizes the fundraisers for someone else.  Who donates the $20.00 for someone else’s family.  Who gives all their pop cans and returns all of them (thank you Jen) to give the money to someone else’s family.  Who organizes a bake sale, jewelry show, repairs their van and so much more for someone else’s family.  It is so humbling to be where I am.  I am so thankful for everyone who has stepped forward and is working on or has already helped our family.  Thank you. 

I’m also scared.  Scared for what Mayo Clinic and Duke will tell me.  Will they offer a new treatment?  Will they offer surgery?  What if they tell me they have nothing for me?  Fear is from my enemy.  I know that God is better than any doctor on the face of this earth.  He is the only one who can cure my cancer.  No one else.  He’s it.  I need to trust that.  Put my fear away and rest in God. 

On a MUCH lighter note.  I can’t end this on a ranting pity party for myself. 

I did have a great Saturday making salsa with my friend Jill.  We planted some  (by some, I mean at least 10) tomato plants in my parent’s garden and we have tomatoes coming out of our ears.  So we made the Bazan’s Sweet Salsa recipe (thank you Lindsay).  If you want it, I don’t think she’d mind me giving it to you.  It was easy and it’s really good.  It’s sweet though, so it’s not a traditional salsa if that’s what you’re looking for. 

Second Time’s a Charm

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It’s happening.  My hair is falling out in clumps.  Yesterday Samantha was sitting in her high chair eating a snack.  I bent down next to her to pick up food off the floor.  She decided to reach out and grab my hair.  In doing so, she managed to pull a hand full of my hair with her. It’s not that hard this time around.  I feel like I’ve prepared myself to lose it again and my prayer is that this time it grows back.  They say with radiation it takes longer for it to come back compared to chemo and it may not come back at all.  Small worry in the grand scheme of things. 

My goal remains the same: Stay alive. Raise my kids.

Thankfully I passed my old scarves onto a friend who went through chemo last summer and she kept them.  Not only my scarves, but she passed on a bunch of new scarves too.  Thank you Amy!  This morning Brooklyn and I washed the scarves and hung them on the line to dry.  They looked so pretty I had to take some pictures.

The scarves have accumulated from friends and family and there is even a scarf that was given to me by a dear friend – Anita Geurink who brought it all the way from Beautiful Gate in Leshotoho, Africa!  It’s the blue scarf with cones on it. 



My Hair

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How many times have you been told you’re going to lose your hair?  It’s coming out.  Nothing is going to stop it and a very official person in a white coat has told you this and even gave you a time frame?  I have been told this twice. 

First time was June 2009 when I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer and I was beginning chemo.  It was going to fall out within two weeks and it will happen fast – within 24 hours.  At that time, I shaved my head during a thunderstorm at 4:00  in the morning. 

This time out of shear rebellion I cut it myself.  I’ve always wanted to try cutting my own hair.  Just to see if I could do it.  How hard could it possibly be?  I stood with a black cape around my neck, hair dripping down my sides and my hands working like Edward Scisscorhands. 

I was going mod.  Something edgy.  Fresh.  Off-centered (not Flock of Seagulls), but maybe something someone would want to emulate.  A look only a woman about to lose her hair would dare sport.  This is what I ended up with:


That’s right.  A dutch boy haircut.  Nothing edgy.  No off-set bangs.  Nothing crazy and fun and wild.  A plain dutch boy haircut.   Even my own daughter looks disgusted by it. 

I don’t have the chops (pun intended) to cut my own hair.  If you need an edgy, mod, fresh hair cut, do not call me.  I am not your girl.  But I tried it.  Attempted it.  Failed it.  And it doesn’t matter because it’s going to fall out soon anyway.

Now when I hear Brooklyn pray at night “Dear God, please don’t let mama’s beautiful hair fall out because it’s so pretty”.  I can’t help but wonder if God is cracking up and figuring out a way to let Brooklyn know He’s doing me a favor by letting it go. 


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My life has been hijacked.  A week ago Monday I was hanging out in Chicago meeting with my plastic reconstruction surgeon and finalizing the last steps before being rebuilt.  Then we went on to Shedd Aquarium and had a blast with the kids. 

Next thing I know, I’ve been derailed on an out of control track.  I went to Holland’s ER room for what I thought was a silly headache.  Got a CT scan, was told I have two tumors, was drugged and transferred by Ambulance to Spectrum where I was told the two tumors are actuallly six and I have maybe a year to live.  How did my life go from slowly going back on course to a “new normal” with a body that at least looked “normal” (boobs) to a complete turnaround where death is knocking at my door?!  This isn’t supposed to happen to people right?  Not at 33.  Not when they have three little kids who need a mom. 

My friend Holly sent me some very powerful words lately  I’m so thankful I got them.  I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing them with you:

Just some thoughts for you and some scripture:—  I want to encourage you in your thoughts and words because the bible says that ‘Death and life are in the power of the tongue; and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.’ Proverbs 18:21I always feel that this means it is very important the way we speak…..if God says in his word that death and life are in the power of the tongue then I choose to speak words of life.  I choose to speak life into this situation where doctors are speaking death.  I claim (by Christ’s healing power) that you WILL live, you WILL see your kids grow old, you WILL be healed.  What do we have to lose by speaking life into this situation?  Our tongues are powerful….speak life with it. 

Thank you Holly.  I will begin speaking life today.  All of you need to speak life with me today too.Thank you to Gregg and Monica for taking Brooklyn to the beach yesterday.  She had a great time and slept like a baby when she got home. 



Thank you

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Thank you to everyone who came to the worship service last night at Haven CRC.  My two Jill’s (friends) came to the hospital with laptop in hand (and chex mix of course) and we watched it on that.  I am grateful to have so many people lifting me and my family in prayers right now.  We need them.  Please do not stop.  I beg that God will erase these tumors so that I can live a long and full life with my family.  Thank you to everyone who has sent letters, cards, email, prayed for us.  Words cannot say enough.

I’m still at Spectrum as an inpatient and I have my first radiation treatment today at 4:15.  I don’t know when I’m going home, but I hope it’s tonight. 

Annointing with Oil

Our Pastor and a group of Elders came Saturday evening (7/31/10) to pray with us and also annoint me with oil.  This was so special and a very emotional moment. 

So tired

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Thank you for all the wonderful visits the past few days. All of the tests and meetings have caught up with me and made me very tired. Looking forward to an afternoon nap today, so we will not being seeing visitors for a few hours. God Bless.

Muffin Cups

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A lot has happened since I first met Heather, but I promised to tell you the story of how I met her and here it goes.

I was getting groceries at Meijer.  I went through the baby section to buy diapers and essentials.  Typically when I leave that section I go into the main aisle and continue to the pop, butter and yogurt section and weave my way to the front of the store.  This time, however, I didn’t go to the main aisle.  Instead I turned my cart around and found myself in the housewares department by all the kitchen gadgets (spatulas, measuring cups, etc).  When I realized where I was I bolted down the nearest aisle to move along with my groceries (time is of the essence).  The aisle I was cutting through was the cake decorating aisle and muffin cups caught my eye.   Plain white muffin cups.  I wasn’t planning on making cupcakes or muffins or had ever wondered where plain white muffin cups might be, but there I was staring at them nonetheless. 

I shook my head and moved on to getting groceries.  A few aisles into it I was looking for the semi sweet chocolate chips and I saw a woman bent down looking at something on the bottom shelf.  I heard a younger voice behind me say “no those aren’t the ones I was thinking of.  I know I got muffin cups somewhere here before, but I don’t remember where”.  So I turned to tell her how I just saw plain white muffin cups in the cake decorating aisle, which at this point, was right across from where we were standing.  As I turned to face her I noticed she was wearing a scarf on her head.  I don’t remember my exact words, because they just started falling out of my mouth, but I said something to the effect of “how are you doing”.  She looked at me like I was on another planet.  I said “I see you’re wearing a scarf.  I assume you have cancer?  Is it breast cancer?”  She confirmed it was and continued to stare at me like I was crazy.  She let her guard down as soon as I told her I had breast cancer and beat it last November.  We started talking, her mom started tearing up.  It turns out that we both have/had the same rare type of breast cancer – triple negative.  She had some questions and I answered them to the best of my ability.  I remember getting groceries during chemo and how it was a battle to do it so I told her I would let her get going, but that I wanted to encourage her and to let her know that she can do this and she looked good (despite how she felt).  

I walked away and as I continued getting my groceries I knew that moment could only have come from God.  There is no way I would have just started talking to someone I’ve never met with a scarf on her head.  Someone told me to reach out to her that day and I did.  I’m glad I did too, because by the power of Facebook it turns out she knows someone I know and now she and I are in a small little support group we started (I missed our first meeting because of my pesky brain tumors). I can’t wait to get to know her and the other girls in our little group a little better. 

There are no coincidences in life.  Especially with muffin cups.

Impatiently waiting

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Do you ever have anything that consumes your thoughts?  Something you can’t shake from your mind?  I wish I had something profound, deep, spiritual or thought provoking that consumes my thoughts, but I’m sorry to say it’s my upcoming surgery.  It’s always on my mind.  I’m anxious.  Nervous.  Excited.  I can say one thing – I’ll be happy when my boobs are attached to my body again.  Do you know how many times I’ve left the house and realized I forgot my boobs?  That is something I never thought I would have to think about. 

I try to think of every possible scenario and find a solution to it.  What if Dr. Song finds he can’t do the DIEP procedure because of my crash c-section?  How long will the surgery take?  What’s recovery going to be like?  Since I can’t lift for six weeks, what about my kids?  Will I be able to walk Brooklyn to her first day of school?  Will I be able to do laundry?  Will I be able to get groceries?  If I can’t stand straight up, how will I sleep?  How will I take a shower? 

Here are my solutions:  Dr. Song won’t know until he opens me up whether I have damage from the crash c-section.  There is a 90% chance that he will be able to do the procedure despite my medical history.  The surgery takes roughly eight hours.  I’ll spend about three days in the ICU.  Recovery is about six weeks.  I won’t be able to stand up straight or lay flat for two weeks.  I can’t lift for six.  I have childcare lined up for Max and Samantha – thank you mom, Jill and Kathy!  I am making freezer meals so my family can eat.  Since I missed Brooklyn’s first day of kindergarten last year, I will be there on her first day of school this year even if I have to crawl.  The laundry and groceries will get done and I’ll sleep in a recliner.  I still can’t stop my need for controlling things!

Information on Dr. Song

Information on the DIEP procedure

I am going to Chicago on Monday to meet with Dr. Song for my pre-op appointment and to meet with Anesthesia Department.  I’m making the most of it by taking Brooklyn, Jill and Avery along.  We’re going to the Shedd Aquarium when I’m done.  Fun!

I would like to think that cancer doesn’t exist now that I’ve beat it.  It’s still out there and still attacking young women/moms!  I’ve met a new friend at the end of my cancer last year who was just diagnosed at the time (hi Amy!).  I’ve been in contact with Lynette Bell who I know many of you are friends with or have heard of.  I met another young mom in Meijer a few weeks ago (hi Heather) who is going through the same treatment as I went through last summer.  How I met Heather is amazing and only something God could do.  Since this post is quite long I will blog about that meeting another time.  So now I follow their blogs and pray for them the same way people prayed for me.

Pucker up!

Pucker Up!Snacktime Maxblog-61310-samantha-with-juice-box.jpgblog-63010-3.jpg blog-61310-isnt-he-cute.jpgblog-samantha-61610.jpg

See You Later Mom

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I said “see you later” to my Mom this week on Father’s Day.  She passed away after a ravaging battle with Parkinson’s disease.  She was only 69.   

About a month ago, we were given word that she had only a few more days to live.  My Dad could no longer care for her, so we moved my Mom into the Holland Hospice House; her final earthly home.  There was walked with her during her final days (which turned out to be several weeks).  We talked, we laughed, we showered kisses and we cried.  I whispered sweet things into ears and held her frail hands.  Each day was overwhelmingly difficult, yet it same vane was a gift as we were able to say goodbye over and over again. 

Right after she drew her last breath Sunday night, a vertical rainbow appeared over the Hospice House.  As I drove over there to be with my Dad and family, I saw this rainbow for only a few seconds.  I was exhausted and dismissed this as an anomaly since it was not raining.  When I arrived, I heard that my siblings also saw this rainbow.  The staff tending to my Mom also witnessed it – a short vertical rainbow as my Mom rose to the arms of Jesus.   


Some may call the vertical rainbow a coincidence.  Others, like me, believe that it was a sign of God’s promise to His believers; a sign that He fulfills his promise for all eternity.


That’s why I can faithfully say “see you later” Mom.  I know that one day I’ll be in her loving arms once again. 


The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

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The Good

Things have been going well with my health lately.  My energy is back to normal and I feel like a regular mom with three little kids.  My range of motion on my right side has improved and with continued physical therapy I hope it gets back to the way it was.  I am anxiously anticipating surgery on August 24 at the University of Chicago.  Foobs here I come!

Another good thing is that Samantha was seen by Early On last week Thursday and they are done following her!  Diane from Early On has been following her since she was born to make sure she meets/exceeds her milestones and to watch for signs from her birth trauma – developmental delays, cerebral palsy, etc.  She has been on point this entire time and continues to be our little miracle. 

Brooklyn just completed Kindergarten and is looking forward to summer despite missing all her kindergarten friends. 

The Bad

Dusty’s mom has been at Hospice House for over a week now.  She is dying.  It’s an awful process to watch someone go through.  She is so weak and weighs only 70 pounds.  Please pray for her, Dale (Dusty’s dad) and the family.  Pray that she’ll have peace and be comfortable. 

The Ugly

Ugly…I don’t know what’s ugly, but I felt like it goes with the good and the bad so I had to include it.  If I had to pick something ugly I would say my hair.  It confuses me.  It challenges me.  It makes me laugh.  I don’t know what to do with it.  It’s super curly and thick.  It’s high maintenance.  I haven’t had a hair cut in over a year and I can start to see the beginning signs of a mullet forming so I think a little trim in the back might help (I’m coming Jenny!). 

It was a year ago on June 3 that I had my first chemo treatment.  I don’t ever want to experience a summer like the summer of 2009 again.  I’ll never be the same because of it – physically, emotionally and mentally.  As I like to say – it is what it is.  I’m glad it’s over and I’m looking forward to this summer. 

I’ll see you around…

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