"It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn your statutes." Psalm 119:71

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Brand New Blog!

I am completely humbled by how many of you read what I write here. I am thankful for the prayers that are a direct result of your interest in my health.

It's time to end my cancer blog.

I've been scared to do it. What if the cancer comes back? What will I do without this emotional outlet?
But it's time.

I'm not going far, though. Please follow me to my new blog, Big, Fat faith.

In the meantime, here is one, last update on me:

I will see my oncologist and radiation oncologist next month and continue every 4 months until April 2012. Then I'll graduate to 6 month visits and those will last for a while.

I have (probably) 2 more surgeries and one more "in-office" procedure before my TRAM flap is complete. It's been more of a process than we expected, but that's only because my plastic surgeon is trying to give me what I wanted and I guess I'm a little picky! I've healed nicely from the first two operations and I'm happy to say I've lost the tightness and soreness in my ribcage that was my biggest complaint.

I will take Tamoxifen for a total of 5 years. It controls the estrogen in my body in an effort to prevent recurrence of my estrogen-driven type of cancer.

I meet people all the time who are current patients or survivors and I pray that the Holy Spirit gives me the words to comfort them like all of you and all of Angels in Action gave me for so long.

Micah is 4.5 and Caleb is 2.5. Terry and I hope to celebrate our anniversary in Vegas next April. We'll be married 7 years. I'm actively engaged in Micah's homeschooling and it's a wonder how God is moving in this experience! Terry and I are happy to be members of Copperfield Church where we've quickly planted roots that we hope God will allow to grow as our children learn to love it as much as we do.

We'll never be able to explain enough how these last 2 years shaped us. I never could have imagined the changes God would bring to our lives. It was hard at the time, but we see how God used the trials to accelerate our change and give us hearts for His people and His kingdom.

I'd love for everyone who follows or stalks 28cancer to follow me to Big, Fat faith. And I'd love any emails, too. bigfatfaith@yahoo.com.

Thanks for being part of the journey.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Prayers for Brandy

Brandy is just now out of her heart transplant surgery. She got the call last night at 6 pm and went in to surgery around 3 a.m. It's such a miracle and Brandy, who was smiling ear to ear when I saw her last night, is definitely being protected by God. You've been such fantastic prayer warriors for me, please take the time and pray for Brandy now, too.

-Pray that the transplant is a complete success and recovery is quick.
-Pray that her husband, Travis, and children, Connor and Becca, feel His presence and comfort.
-Pray for that family who lost a loved one. Pray that they know how much he or she gave and that they are blessed because of it.

When I walked into her hospital room she was all bright and shiny, grinning and laughing! It's unusual to walk into a hospital room and find someone in such good spirits. Unless they've just given birth. But, then again, last night was an occasion of new life, wasn't it?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Three Weeks Out

Hello!! I am officially three weeks out from surgery! And what a difference every week has made! It's amazing how God created our bodies to heal so quickly! 20 days ago I couldn't sit up in bed. But, today I dragged a chair across my living room floor.

I'm not exactly supposed to be lifting anything more than 5 pounds (thank goodness this is finally up from ONE pound a few days ago!) but it's really ridiculous to expect anyone to be able to go through a normal day and not lift 5 pounds. So, I'm relinquishing my "A+ patient" title and I'm unabashadly cheating!

Here's the lowdown:
Surgery lasted 10 hours, the first two of which I think were spent on the "precautionary" mastectomy on the cancer-free side. When I woke up in the recovery room, I saw my doctor through hazy eyes and my first spoken words out of anesthesia... well, they had to do with my anatomy and it might be a little too familiar to share here. The nurse standing near me at the time laughed, and I fell back into a druggy sleep that lasted several days. I have very little memory of any hospital days. What I do remember is regret. I was in a lot of pain and I kept thinking that I'd made the wrong decision. Unfortunately, my blood pressure really dropped the day after surgery and they started messing with my pain meds to rectify the situation and the result was blood pressure that never rose back to normal numbers, and no freedom from pain either.

I spent 5 days in the hospital, 2 days (is that right?) at Mel's to avoid my hyper children and the stairs leading to our apartment. Thankfully, we've had the most wonderful babysitter helping us these last few weeks, so I pretty much spent that first week at home in a stupor of drugs and naps.

Now, three weeks out, my pain is minimal, and I only really notice it as night when my stomach and the area below my ribcage is really tight. So, I'm not getting much sleep, which most of you will benefit from because sleep-deprived Sarah is a little goofier than normal!

I am half the size that I used to be in my chest. But surprisingly, I feel no different than before. Isn't it odd that it felt normal before my diagnosis, it felt normal after the mastectomy, it felt normal wearing the prosthesis, and it feels normal now being half of what I'm used to? What does that say about how temporal these bodies are? I'm glad I'm not overly attached to it!

So, in the end, we are going to have 2 more, small operations to sort of "tidy things up." The first of which will be a week from Friday. And, I have no more regrets because my plastic surgeon made it clear that implants would have failed because none of my skin that previously went through radiation was usable at all, and the doctors had to use all skin from my stomach on that side.

Thanks for all the cards, well-wishes and prayers! Pray that I can avoid lifting so we can make it through the recovery process smoothly.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

"Say What?" Part II

And now for the second edition of "Say What?"  (Which is all in jest, so please don't think I'm angry at any of the following people! I consider it a calling to get to tell my story of sickness and health and God's part in my life to anyone who asks. So I smile in response and then come here to rant, where it's safe and you won't judge me! :)

Before I could be cleared for surgery, I had to have a cardiac exam. My surgeons wanted to know that my heart could withstand the long time under anesthesia, etc. I showed up on the day of my "stress test" in flip-flops. And so began the drama of the day...

I know all of you are much smarter than me, so it might be hard for you to understand that when they told me I was having a stress test, I had no clue what that meant. They sent me home with instructions that told me not to eat after midnight and to wear warm clothes since the exam room is cold. They did not advise me against wearing flip-flops. But, my oh my, was I harangued for my footwear by the nurse who rolled her eyes when she told me I'd be running on a treadmill.

All the testing took about 5 hours in the hospital (which, by the way, I LOVE! Sorry, Brandy, but this place kicks St Lukes rear! It's beautiful and there are the prettiest stained glass windows in it!) and for 4.5 of those 5 hours, I was being poked fun of for showing up in flip-flops. Finally, while I'm on the treadmill and two nurses are laughing at me run in backless shoes, I say, "I'm in my twenties! Why in the world should I have knowledge of a stress test? I can tell you anything you want to know about cancer (I can't) but I know nothing of heart problems (thanks, to Brandy, actually, I do know some)."

During the day, I also had some classic "Say What?" moments:

1. The Negative Nurse
The nurse who was checking me in read my chart, and then commented on how young I was to be a cancer survivor. Wishing to nip that too-familiar line of talk in the bud, I said, "But I've been really blessed and I have a great family who have all been really supportive." And so she asks about my family. I say, "I have two little boys. I wanted a little girl, but it's a blessing I got my boys because they won't be at risk for breast cancer." She says, "Oh, but their daughters will!" I say, "Oh my gosh, what a negative thing to tell a person!" And she says she's not being negative, just realistic.

What's Wrong With That? I give her credit by assuming that she probably thought this was helpful medical information that I needed. But it's such a negative thought and something that would have been better left unsaid. Surely she must have realized how snarky she sounded. Rule of thumb: Only oncologists should speak of things like that.

2. The Blame Game
Next they sent me down the hall for blood work. I can't have blood taken on my left arm anymore since I had a lymph node removal and I'm at risk for infection. So I always have to direct people to take blood on the right arm. And I'm always frustrated by the next inevitable question, "Why?"

Really, I don't understand why the Phlebotomists need further information. I say, 'right arm.' They should say 'okie-dokie.' I've actually had a handful of medical professionals (not phlebotomists) ask to see my surgery site when I don't understand how it can possibly be relevant to their job. And this nosiness and pushiness by those in the medical field rubs me the wrong way. Back to the story: When I tell her that I've had breast cancer, she asks the same thing everyone asks: "Is there a history of it in your family?" (Why do people desire to attribute your disease to something other than chance? If they find something to blame it on, does it make them feel safer? As if they can avoid the disease by avoiding the assumed cause?)

I say no. And she says...

"You must have worn too much deodorant."

To humor what I assume is an odd attempt at hilarity, I laugh a laugh that is full of confusion and ends with a "Huh??"

She says, "Deodorant causes breast cancer. So if you have to wear it, you should only wear a little."

What's Wrong With That: It's extremely insulting to have someone try to blame you for an illness. My oncologist likes to say that, depending on what article you read, the sun, moon, and stars could be causing your cancer. The truth is we get cancer from plain ol' life. If blame must be assigned, blame it on Adam and Eve. Don't blame it on me!

3. The worst offender of all!
Ok, so I'm having an ultrasound of my heart. Adriamyacin, a drug I took during chemotherapy, can cause your heart to enlarge. So this very kind man who is probably around 45 years old, is using a wand to look inside my chest and take pictures of my heart. I am not worried in the least bit. My heart will be declared in superb condition and I'll get approval for surgery! I'm thinking these very things when this kind man stops in the middle of his story about fishing with his kids and says, "Do you ever have heart palpitations?"

"Um, no. Why, do you see something?"

"I can't answer that."

Ok, then why do you ask it?!  You know I won't get the results from a doctor for four days!

So, I am slightly more worried now, and it shows because the glowing green numbers of my heart rate on the monitor, jump up by about ten. It's a long appointment, and by the time it's over and I'm able to sit up on the bed, I've had time to calm myself and the fleeting worry is already gone. For the moment...

'Kind man' grabs my hands and holds them both in his. "Before you go," he says, "I want to tell you something someone told me when my daughter was very young. Spend as much time with your kids as you can. They grow up too fast and you don't want to miss any of it."

What's Wrong With That: Everything. And nothing. Ok, so if he'd met me on a train, plane, or automobile and shared this news, I would have thought, "How nice. How kind." But given the environment we were in and the fact that he had just been taking images of my enlarged, ready-to-burst, gonna-give-out-any-second heart, EVERYTHING was wrong with this! (My heart turned out to be fine so he was actually just trying to share some wisdom and it was just bad timing.)

4. My Eavesdropping Realization
I was at the hospital yesterday doing all my pre-registration stuff. I was sitting in a long waiting room, half hidden by a pillar, when a stranger near me started up a conversation with another stranger. From my hiding place I heard their entire conversation. Stranger #1 was waiting for his wife who was doing pre-resgistration for a back surgery she was soon to have. He was in his 70s, well-spoken, and from what I heard him say, I can assume he was very well-traveled too. He was worried about his wife and he shared his worries with Stranger #2. They both got on the subject of church and that made me smile. People are so passionate about their home churches, and these two were no different.

"You know," said the old man, "we've got a lot of friends in our church who are in their 70's and haven't had any health problems. None at all! Why, I've got a neighbor down the street who is 75 and she's never spent a day in the hospital! Except when she had her babies!" They just don't know how lucky they are! How blessed to be in their 70's and have had no major health problems!"

What's Wrong With That: Nothing. Really nothing. He was justifiable in his feelings of worry for his wife and wishing she were one of the lucky ones who'd made it to her 70's with no health problems. I only mention this conversation here because of its impact on me. Having just made it passed my yearly scan, I am once again invincible and I will remain invincible until about 2 weeks before my next scan is scheduled. And even though I can push worry aside in between scans, I've been face to face with my own fatality, and memory of that, awareness of that, are never too far below the surface. And so I hear this man speak of those lucky to be healthy into their 70's and all I can think is what I would have given to be healthy into my 30's.

And it dawns on me that in this area I might have more wisdom than this man who has lived more than twice my years. And at first I blanch at the thought. Wisdom comes from experience and I'd like to give my experience back. I want to sit at some old man's feet and say, "Tell me, sir. Tell me all the things you've learned from your broken hearts and all those miles you've walked." Truthfully, I've much to learn from men and women everywhere. But, I've got some experience, too. Namely, I've been taught to number my days.

5. The Woman I'll Never Forget
I've saved the best for last. I was in the cardiologist's waiting room when a man wheeled in a small, elderly, grinning lady in a wheel chair. He backed her up into the far corner of the room and then told her he'd be right back. She noticed me right away and loudly, from across the room, set out trying to nonchalantly deduce what I was doing in a cardiologist's office. I'm familiar with these type of questions from people who want to know your story. "What brings you here today?" "Are you at the hospital a lot?" Etc. She asked these questions in a loud voice, but a sweet one.

I politely answered all the questions, but without sharing my medical history. And so she made one final attmept to discover my ailment. It was a simple question that no one really asks. I hadn't even really thought about it until she said:

"And, Sarah, do you have a happy life?"

Well, yes, I do. I told her about God healing me, about my kids and how much I was in love with them. And I asked her the same question. "Do you have a happy life?"

"Oh, yes! I will turn 90 in December and we're planning a big party!"

She was one of the really lucky ones, I guess.

Friday, June 24, 2011

God Sends Us Some Mail

SURGERY IS SET FOR MONDAY!!! I am flabbergasted at how many obstacles we had to overcome just to get my surgery scheduled! Since about April I've been thinking: "After the surgery, I will..."

In other words, while I'm hoping that my recovery will be speedy, I'm expecting that life will be on hold for a while during recovery. So I'm glad to get the show on the road already, so I can be one step closer to back to normal!

Since I'll be spending the next few weeks in a sedentary state, it was extra wonderful to get to spend last weekend in San Antonio with my three guys. If you know us personally or have read the blog for a while, you know how we've made financial adjustments in the past months. And I wouldn't be honoring God if I didn't mention his blessing of this trip.

About a month ago I realized that Terry's 30th birthday was approaching and we weren't in a position to do anything extra special to usher him into this new decade. So I prayed about it. And over the next week, and in fact, beginning that very next day, we got three unexpected checks in the mail from various places! I was so excited when I finally got to tell Terry that I had a weekend in our favorite Texas town planned and that it wasn't happening because of anything we'd done. But rather, it was possible because of God! And in the end, doesn't all of our money come from God anyway?

This surprise blessing helped us understand better what God expects of us financially. If we try to give like He asks, we won't feel deprived (and 'try' is the key word- because although we've made adjustments, they've been small and we have a long way to go before we can say we're doing exactly what we should.). When you don't have mountains of money in the bank, you have the chance to give God so much more control. Maybe you think I'm silly for thinking God had a birthday present in mind when we got those checks. But I'd rather give God credit every chance I get!

All the glory is to God for working in our hearts to change us before we even knew what change we needed! I think it was in The Hole in Our Gospel where the author wrote that when he started to wonder how much money he had, he knew it was time to give some away. I hope we can feel like that some day. After seeing the way money came from The Church during all of my treatment, you'd think we had complete grasp over the fact that God will provide. But I still get really nervous where money is concerned. Like, for example, when our tire blew out on I-10 on the way home from San Antonio. It ricocheted up and hit the door so that the driver's side door wasn't able to open. And all I could see were dollar signs! I'm a work in progress!

Thank you, God, for small blessings, caring about birthdays, and teaching us lessons. And Happy 30th Birthday, husband!

Ecclesiastes 5
10He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. 11When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? 12Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep. 13(P) There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, 14and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Surgery Stuff

So much has happened regarding my surgery that I don't even know where to begin. Had I not taken so long to update the blog, this would be easier. But I've been hiding from my computer lately! Ok, here come the updates:

-I have a new plastic surgeon. If you asked my old surgeon what happened, they would blame me for a misunderstanding. I blame them for miscommunication. In the end, it doesn't matter. I left their office last week, upset about the likelihood of having to reschedule a surgery that'd been on the books for 2 months, and within 45 minutes I was meeting my new, beloved plastic surgeon, Dr. Rock. He's beloved because he saved me agreeing to cancel his appointments for June 27th and allow me to KEEP MY SAME SURGERY DAY! I loved him immediately! But, beyond his eagerness to help me out, he is also the most personable of surgeon's I've met with and explained the surgery in such a way that I was absolutely fascinated with the whole concept by the time I left his office!

Which brings me to the info everyone wants to know about-- My TRAM flap surgery! I opted not to have implants (an easy decision for me) because of 2 main reasons: 1.) Every doctor I spoke with said that they could guarantee that I would be back on the operating table about once a decade to re-do the implants. My goal is to get through this surgery and say goodbye to operating rooms forever, so I didn't like all the up-keep involved. 2.) The surgeons explained that 100% of women who get implants have a pocket of scar tissue that forms around the implant making the breasts hard. And due to my radiation, mine would be harder than most. Which would also make finding any tumors hiding in the chest wall (the most common place for recurrence) difficult which would possibly lead to more MRIs and scans, meaning more radiation, which is a big negative.

I am very excited about my TRAM flap surgery and I'm going to explain it in the simplest terms that I can. I know a lot of readers are in the medical profession, so I'll try to get this right: (Please don't be offended at the medical information shared below. Some of it is graphic or possibly too intimate a thing to share online. But it's my reality and because I've been asked about it so frequently, I'd like to share details.)

1. My general surgeon will immediately remove the right breast. They call this a prophylactic mastectomy since it's precautionary. This tissue will be sent off to pathology just as a formality.

2. My plastic surgeon will begin the same time as the mastectomy is being perfromed. He'll make an incision from hip bone to hip bone and pull that skin back. He'll seperate the tissue and muscle below my belly button into 2 sections. The tissue and muscle is cut-- the blood vessels are not.

3.Each of these sections of fat will be "tunneled" up through my body and placed into the chest area and molded into the shape of breasts. I can expect to be 5 cup sizes smaller than I am now. (That's a lot, right!)

4. They might have to use skin from my stomach to cover the new "mounds' as they're called. But, if you'll recall from my original post about my mastectomy, they left me with a fair amount of skin, so we'll see. There will be just skin covering this new tissue- none of the normal anatomical features associated with this body part will exist after this surgery. They can be re-created later, after surgery is healed. This is done primarily by tattooing.

5. It's also possible that they'll need to put some mesh over the wound in my stomach. This is to prevent hernias, which are the second biggest risk factor with this surgery.

6. The #1 risk factor is that the newly transplanted tissue won't live once the blood vessels are re-directed to go up, rather than down. If that happens on the operating table, they'll take the tissue back down to the stomach and see if it turns red again. If it doesn't, they close me up and I'm breast- and mound-less for a while.

7. The biggest perk of the surgery happens last- they pull the fat and skin above the belly button down to close the incision in my stomach, creating a tummy tuck effect. Yay!

8. I will get two drains below my belly button and one at each reconstruction site. They'll stay in about a week. I'm hoping for five days though, because I'd like them removed when I'm released from hospital. Don't know if y'all remember how big of a baby I was after I had my original drains removed, but I am dreading, dreading, dreading this part!

9. The average hospital stay is 4 days. I can't drive or lift more than 1 pound for 6 weeks. The Dr. says I should feel normal again after 3 months. He says that the time spent under anesthesia is directly related to how long it takes to gain energy back. My surgery should last around 8 hours.

BUT: I went to the Med Center yesterday and got some bad news. My name was no longer on the hospital's calendar for surgery on my expected surgery date, June 27th. Somehow my surgery got cancelled! Both surgeon's still have the day blocked off for me, and their staffs are, as we speak, trying to get me back on the schedule so I don't have to postpone surgery. Please pray that we can move ahead with the originally scheduled day!

Sunday, May 29, 2011


One of my role models is a woman named Tana who is the mother of a friend of mine. I haven't seen her or spoken to her in years. But she was one of my teachers in Missionettes when I was a teenager and she made such an impact on me that I think about her often when life throws me curve balls. Tana was always smiling, ready to help or offer encouragement, and she had this very peaceful attitude about her. As an unruly teenager, I looked at her and saw a very modest, Biblically wise person. But somehow, she never came off as judgemental, which, sadly, is how people who know their Bible as well as she, usually come off. Interestingly, Tana is also a cancer survivor. I don't know how far news of my recent illness has spread, so I don't know if Tana is aware of my blog or not (Are you out there, Tana?)...

But the reason I bring her up is because she said something to me many years ago, and I've been thinking about it a lot lately. It isn't going to be profound like you might expect after reading her glowing introduction. In fact, it's quite comical. Tana and I were joking about Harry Connick Jr. one night. I said I thought he was cute (still do) and Tana made a face and said that, to her, he looked like he'd fallen out of an ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down!

Now, this may be an odd thing for me to remember from 15 or more years ago. But because of Tana's serene and sweet nature, this zing at poor Harry"s expense has always been a favorite memory of mine.

I hinted in my last post that I've got some inner turmoil going on right now. I feel in the midst of a battle. And the best way for me to explain it, is to say that I'm falling off a tree and hitting every branch on the way down. It's a Tree of Pride. And God's pushing me off of it. But just one branch at a time. When I started praying for God to take my pride it was probably about three years ago. And I had no idea how far I had to go!

So here I am- falling off branches as the wind of the Holy Spirit moves, knocking my teeth on the bark, skinning my knees on the twigs, and the whole time, all I can think is, "C'mon! There's got to be a better way!" But I know there isn't. I know if God snapped his fingers and miraculously changed my heart and eliminated my pride and dependence on self, that He'd be robbing me of the lessons in the meantime. And He'd be keeping me from seeing the miracles in His methods!

The hardest part is that my enemy wants to keep me at the top of that Tree of Pride. He likes me there thinking that I'm in control; that my way's best. So, he's fighting my descent. And I feel it very acutely. I'm in the midst of a battle! Honestly, everything I touch lately has fallen apart and I've had to face down embarrassments and failures. I've been trying to do what God wants, and things haven't been working out like I'd hoped. And so I've been dealing with feelings of inferiority that I know aren't coming from a Godly place. I can see how Satan will win the battle if he gets me to pick up the reigns again. If he can get me to believe that things were going better when I was in control, then he gets his way.

But he forgot one thing. Satan forgot that my war cry is, "Here am I! Send me!" And so I will go where God wants and suffer failure in the eyes of humans, so that I can say to God that his opinion mattered more to me than my reputation!

What a high, high, humbling calling-- to know that God wants to prune you, to break you, to mold you so that in the end, you're something He can use in His Heavenly plans! When I get to the bottom of my current "tree," and I find myself lying with my back on the dirty ground, I'll sing praises to God! For then I'll truly be in a position to only look up! God, thank you in advance, for the day when my self-reliance is gone and I can be an open, empty vessel, wanting only to please You!

The wait is painful.
The fall is excruciating.
The fight is exciting! 
The glory is God's.
The challenge is for both you and me.
And the reward waits in Heaven!

John 15

The Vine and the Branches
 1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.    5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Ephesians 6

The Armor of God
 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

So, I made it through my annual scan and all the worry that comes with it! I can't remember if I wrote this on the blog or not yet, but dealing with this scan made me more frightened than I'd been even during the initial diagnosis. Hard to believe, isn't it? I think that the underlying reason is simple: Plenty of people are breast cancer survivors. Not that many are two-time survivors.

Which is exactly what I was thinking when, less than 24 hours after my "Clean and Clear" results regarding the chest MRI, my oncologist sent me off to get a back xray because of some chronic pain I've been having for three months. He said that he "gets paid to worry," and then told me that for someone my age, back pain should heal itself after so long. Which, in Oncologist speak means, "Let's rule out bone metastasis."

That was almost a week ago and I haven't heard the results of the xray yet. Which I think is good news. Although on occasion I think it means my file slipped into the trash and has long been forgotten!

Mostly, life in our house has been "too good to be true" lately. Which is both very good and very true. The way God shook up our beliefs and turned our outlook about so many things upside down has proven to be so rewarding! We still have slip-ups where we fall back into our old way of thinking, but that just makes me more grateful for those moments in the oncologists office when I feel "down and out." Those moments can be a real kick in the pants to remind me to re-gain focus.

I've been reading, Weird, by Craig Groeschel. And the chapter on "people pleasing" was both eye-opening and timely. Terry and I do look pretty weird to some people right now-- moving to a small apartment after selling a lot of our stuff, designating our money to strange, new places that we hope will further God's kingdom (which effectively tightened our budget in other areas, meaning we have to say "no" to a lot more social activities), etc. And making these weird changes has, at times, caused me to feel a little under-attack by well-meaninged people. Truth is, I've stayed up nights, racked with guilt over not looking like the "right kind of Christian" to other people. So, if you pray for me (and I hope you do!) add this to your prayer list: Sarah needs to worry less about pleasing people, so she can worry more about pleasing God!

A lot of these feelings stem from survivor's guilt. You know- God saved me from cancer for a reason-- now I have to live up to that potential. There's a tremendous amount of pressure that comes from that kind of thinking! Lately I've been feeling like I'm letting people down right and left. And maybe that's because I took too much on, too quickly.

But, I've got to point out (because I'm such a 'silver lining' type of girl) that all this pressure and judgement has made me turn to God more often and I've even started a prayer journal again. I haven't kept one since college, but these very lovely people, who read this very-unworthy blog, sent me a beautiful journal and I was inspired! Thank you so much Pauline, Estelle, Jimmy, and Peggy!

And thank you to everyone else out there-- all 3 of you readers who actually make it to the end of such long, wandering posts! There are times when I can't stand to think of writing about cancer or survivorhood. And then there are other times, like tonight, when I need to put my thoughts on paper and it's nice to imagine someone out there is listening!

Check back soon to hear my excitement over my reconstruction surgery being set! June 27th! So exciting!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Most Fun I've Ever Had Writing a Post

Scans are clear! Healthy! Cancer-free!

(details to follow, thanks for your prayers.)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Humor Me: An MRI Rant by a Future Nut Case

Have you seen the news about a 14 pound baby being born last week?

Today, during my MRI, I kept thinking of how much I'd give anything to be out of the tiny tube. I was longing to be doing something easy, like giving birth with no epidural to a 14 pound baby, while lying on a bed of nails and watching Jersey Shore.

Here is what an MRI tube looks like for a breast scan:

I really do understand that to many people, this is not a big deal. People like my husband. But if you, like me, are claustrophobic, then you can understand my disdain for this procedure.

I don't know why, but this time around was SO much worse than last year. I told two nurses that I was claustrophobic this morning, and also indicated it on the paper work I had to fill out. But, somehow, they missed that info and gave me just one Xanax and later told me that if I'd told them I was claustrophobic then I could have had more. Maybe last year's MRI wasn't so bad because I had more drugs. Ahh... drugs.

So, here's what happens during a breast MRI.You have to lie face down on top of a board that has two holes. Since this is a breast MRI, I'll let you use those Sherlock Holmes skills of yours to deduce what these holes are for.

So, once you're positioned on the board, they cover you with a sheet because these types of rooms are always cold! Then they push a button that slides you into a tiny tube and they tell you that you are not to move an inch for 45 minutes.

Now, I do know that people have MRI's done all the time with no problems. I am just not one of those people! They are just not my thing. In fact, I really thought I was going to lose my mind near the end of my 45 minutes today. The machine makes an awful banging and beating sound while it's gathering images. So, imagine lying really still, face down with your head in a hole, your chest in a hole, your arms above your head, and a panic button in your hand. Then imagine that a sink begins to drip, a toddler bangs incessantly on a pot with a spoon, a tv is left on and tuned to a snowy channel, and all of this is at a noise level that's so loud that they have to put ear plugs in your ears. That's an MRI.

The thing that sent me over the edge was an unlucky timing of a hot flash. I have gotten used to hot flashes in the months I've been taking Tamoxifen. They pass within a few minutes and I've found that the best way to get through them is to stand in front of a fan or grab a cold drink. So there I was today, just lying there, panicking and imagining that if I had to stay inside that little tube for only 3 more minutes, I would officially lose my mind and then they'd lock me up in a padded room where I'd never get out and my claustrophobia could really take over and eliminate any remaining brain cells within my already warped brain. 

Only, I couldn't throw the blanket off of me like normal, or ask Terry, "Run, turn on the fan!" I had to lie there and feel my skin melt off of me and drip down into those humiliating holes that were in my board. (Slight exaggeration. Slight.)

 I did try to distract myself. First I tried to pray but I kept hearing Pastor Larry's sermon on prayer in my head. And, I'm sorry, Pastor, but I just have a really hard time praying without saying "just!" (If you don't go to my church, you won't get that. And I'm not gonna explain it either. Hey- if you want in on the inside jokes, you'll just have to come to my church!)

So then I tried to play the movie Dirty Dancing in my head. Cause, you know, after prayer, Patrick Swayze is the next best thing (again, I exaggerate). But I couldn't get the order of the movie right and my brain kept jumping scenes (it must be time to have 'the time of my life' again!). So then I abandoned that and my brain began to turn to mush as I tried to settle on a topic...

I need to add some Boyz II Men to my IPod. Takes me back! Go to the end of the road! Ooh, you know what, let's not think about anything that has to do with 'end of the road'... Maybe Terry will take me shopping after this. Hmm... what is it about medical procedures that suddenly makes me so materialistic? Hope my boys' future wife's won't be materialistic. Well, just materialistic enough to want to go shopping with their mother-in law-sometimes. Maybe Micah and Caleb will marry Hazel and Annabel. Then I can go shopping with their mom. If I don't get out of this flippin' tube soon I'll scream! Maybe I'll just scream in my head and see if that helps. AAAAAGGGGHHHHH!! agh. AGH! Nope, didn't help at all. When will it end? I can't take it. Why am I here? Think of the boys... ok, that's better. I see big blue eyes, toothy smiles... Ok, maybe I can go one more minute...  

And just when I think I can't handle it, I've got to push my panic button, the tears are right there, bubbling below my eyelids, I hear a magical voice say, "Ok, you're all done!"

Then I got dressed and walked around with a huge red circle on my face from the compression of the padding around the hole my head was in. And that red circle stayed for over an hour. Which is nothing compared to the scarring I feel inside after that MRI.

(Ok, I'm done ranting. It's over now and I've got a whole year to go before I'll have to do it again. (And by it, I mean the MRI scan, not the rant. I make no promises about future rants!) And all joking aside, please pray for CLEAR scan results!!! Jesus, I just want to avoid recurrence!)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Puzzle Pieces

"The tortures occur. If they are unnecessary, then there is no God, or a bad one. If there is a good God, then these tortures are necessary. For no, even moderately good Being could possibly inflict or permit them if they weren't." --C.S. Lewis

Two years ago I was asking God to send something big my way so I could participate in a grand plan! These days I ask God to keep me from running and hiding under the bed. But, never-- Never, Ever-- have I doubted that my good God in Heaven had good things for me.

It's like I'm putting together one enormous jigsaw puzzle. The puzzle of my life. And I know what I would like the end result to be. And I can ask God for that when I pray, but I know that His plan will work out more splendidly than my own. But for some reason, I still keep picking up wrong pieces and trying to jam them in where they don't fit. My clumsy hands are trying to finish the puzzle quickly so that I can sit back and say, "Hey! I got it! I see the picture, now!"

In all likelihood, God hasn't even gotten all the pieces on the table yet. He's still crafting His artwork and laying the design and I'm too anxious to stop and appreciate the beauty of each piece. And here's the really interesting thing: How great would a puzzle be if it were a picture with only one color? How good is any artwork that doesn't incorporate varying shades and shadows? My puzzle won't be good without the dark pieces. In order for the whole thing to look right, there have to be dark pieces.

I can't be what He wants, or go where He wants, without those varying shades.

After I was diagnosed I used to keep a score card in my head. I'd tally how many "points" 'cancer' racked up on any given day. If, at the end of the day, 'cancer' had made it on the scoreboard, it was a bad day for me. Today my score board looks different. I keep adding up points in favor of cancer. Cancer taught me this today... Point. Cancer made me aware of that... Point. Cancer opened my eyes... Point.

My tortures, in the grand scheme of things, have not been so awful. But God allowed me to see things from a dim perspective so that I might really know how it feels to be at rock-bottom. That's wisdom I needed in order to finish my puzzle.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Say What?

I've got my yearly breast MRI scheduled. I'm not totally fond of tight spaces, so the MRI is pretty scary in and of itself. Not to mention that the original MRI results last year were the turning point in my diagnosis. It's really a good thing that I'm not superstitious at all because this looming appointment will happen on...

Dun, DUN, Dun...

Friday the 13th.

The significance of the date escaped my attention until I relayed the info to my mom and she said, "OOH, Friday the 13th?"

While pointing that out was probably not the smartest thing to tell a person who's anxiety is already a bit high about a medical test, it is, sadly, far from the worst things people have said to me.

And surprisingly enough, it's those in the medical profession that, unknowingly, make the biggest snafus.

-Many times those taking notes for doctor's files will say, "So you had chemotherapy?" I'll say, "Yes. And then radiation." Their eyes get big and with a surprised voice they say, "Really?! Chemo AND radiation?!"
What's Wrong With That?: All I hear is "Whew, you nust have been pretty bad off! Do you have a good life insurance policy?"

-Which brings me to another point. I did have people inquire about my life insurance policy merely days after my diagnosis.
What's Wrong With That?: Duh.

-One time I was talking to a nurse about my risk for lymphedema. She shrugged off my risk and said it was unlikely unless I had positive nodes. I say, "I did have positive nodes." To which she somberly replied, "Oh... Well it really only matters if it was a lot. How many did they remove?" I say, "Ten. Out of which, three were positive." She says, "Whoa, that is a lot!!"
What's Wrong With That?: I hear: 'Yep, you're totally screwed. Better read up on lymphedema now...'

-Then there was the man at HEB who, after discovering my diagnosis, (this was back during treatment) said he'd just had a family member pass away from breast cancer so he'd be happy to pray for me.
What's Wrong With That?: While most patients are not ignorant of the fact that they have fatal diseases, it's probably not too smart to remind us of it.

-And one of the most frustrating things of all is when a person-- doctor, nurse, layperson, whatever-- says, "And you're how old?!" after hearing of my cancer history.
What's Wrong With That?: While it is perfectly ok to be surprised by a young, seemingly healthy person's history of disease, it really doesn't help anyone to let your surprise show. It makes us feel like a freak of nature.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Everything You Never Wanted to Know About My Food!

All of my many dietary restrictions have made me an awful chef! I can't make anything decent without covering it in cheese or cream! But, I'm trying!

It's funny because if you didn't know me, but just read about me on paper, you'd think I was a hippie! I eat mostly organic foods. I get all of my meat, chicken, pork straight from a farm. And I (am going to) homeschool my kids. All that's missing is the tie-dye! (And, as pointed out by Emily in my comments, I forgot to mention that I used cloth diapers!)

No, really, we've been struggling to figure out just what this new way of eating and grocery shopping (we have huge grocery bills lately!) is going to look like. Right now I get about 20% of my groceries from Amazon's subscribe and save site. Another 10% from Yonder Way Farms (leave a comment or email me if you want info on them). All my produce comes from Whole Foods. And mostly everything else comes from Kroger.

I'm trying to lean more on herbs and spices to flavor my food, rather than the aforementioned dairy products. Eating "lean" is definitely a good thing, but the priority in our house isn't thinness. We want health and want to avoid toxins. We want the vitamins and antioxidants found in fruits and veggies. (I know that most people will tell you that they eat enough of these, but I was shocked just how few servings I was getting when my nutritionist had me write down what I ate for a week.)

While I am not even close to eating no processed foods (that dependency is too deep-rooted!), we do limit these foods now. I still have ketchup, mustard, salad dressing, cheese and lunch meat in the fridge. And I eat a lot of Annie Chuns, which are all-natural, and minimally processed- but still processed!

Refined white sugar is one of the biggest no-nos in our house. The other day, Justin asked me what I had against sugar! After being raised around and the Imperial Sugar factory (my dad and grandpa were employees there) I'd feel guilty if I said I had a problem with sugar! Afterall, all my childhood memories were paid for with sugar!

But, my history of PCOS, a disease nicknamed Pre-diabetes, along with my knowledge of the many studies that suggest that cancer feeds on sugar, leaves me avoiding the white stuff at Kroger and reaching for, er, different white stuff at Whole Foods.

Stevia and Xylitol are both approved for me by my nutritionist. Xylitol is slightly better for me and significantly more expensive. But it's an expense I've learned to accept and for now, we're an 80% sugar free home. (The kids still get snacks that have organic cane juice, and Terry still drinks sodas (althogh he's cut back a lot!)

A few weeks ago I spent $250 and 5 hours baking wheat-free, sugar-free pancakes, blueberry muffins, strawberry-vanilla muffins, cornbread and brownies! I made huge batches and froze them. After going so long without any baked goods it was nice to fill that "need" with something healthier. I used things like almond flour and brown rice flour. The brownies were the best! We've also been making our own popsicles and icecream! Delicious!

After five hours in a hot kitchen, my legs were tired and I was all hot and sweaty. But seeing Caleb lick the bowl made it all better!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Yes, Jesus Loves Me

I watched a family gather in a hospital waiting room on tv tonight. And for one fleeting second, I almost envied them. They had complete and total need for God in that moment while they waited to hear if their daughter lived or died. Their predicament is not enviable but their proximity to God is.

I can identify with the author of the famous "Footprints" poem. When we can't walk on our own, I believe God carries us.

One year ago I began a journey.

I still walk that path. But I'm a different traveler today than I was back then. God carried me through the worst of the trail. Through the twists and turns and thickets. And then he laid me on my feet, below the sunshine. And now my biggest duty is to embrace all those things he whispered in my ear when he carried me. To look to eternal things and remember the pain and brokenness that drove me to so intensely seek my Savior.

If I look different to you today than I did 365 days ago, it's only because the Holy Spirit shines more brightly now that I've given him a bigger home in my heart.

It's been one year, and for the time being-- today and maybe tomorrow, too-- the sun is shining. And I can say again-- and truly mean it-- Here am I. Send me. Even if it's painful. Because when I am weak, then He is strong. Because, yes, Jesus loves me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Blessings Upon Blessings!

We moved about a month ago. It was a decision made following much prayer. Once we were sure it was where God was leading us, we got excited about it! We had an idea of what this new phase of our lives would look like.

And then God went and fulfilled his Word. He did immeasurably more than we could have asked for! Not only, are we enjoying living in this new place, but God has made it better than we ever could have expected!We're holding on to this period of blessings as tightly as we can! We're in a richly exciting phase of life and we're so humbled and grateful for God's never-ending fulfillment of promises!

One of the greatest blessings we've received came most unexpectedly. Terry and I were treated to a weekend at the Houstonian Hotel and Spa! Two very special people treated us to a bed and breakfast package (beautiful breakfasts in bed Saturday and Sunday!) and they also covered the cost for me to get a facial and a massage!

I waited for my massage in the "Tranquility Room" in the dark, on my own private chaise, cup of strawberry water in my hand, sparkling fire in the the fire place. I was overwhelmed by the generosity of these two

It was a wonderful weekend that Terry and I really benefitted from. As plain ol' tired individuals, and as a married couple who just hadn't had too much time to be married this past year.

This was the view from our room.

It felt like we were in the wilderness, but we were right in the Galleria area!

We read by this beautiful fireplace one night for a few hours. It was very peaceful.

You can take the girl to a classy hotel, but that doesn't make her classy! This is a photo of stairs that led directly from the hallway near our hotel room, to the parking garage. You were supposed to take the stairs all the way to the ground floor and then take a separate staircase up to the different levels to get your car. Instead, Terry and I jumped that wall right there every single time. We kept thinking people were going to see us and think we were breaking in to the hotel or something!

A view of the grounds. I got to walk around the beautiful property a a bit before my spa treatments. 

More of the property.

My cute hubs.

Thanks again for the so special weekend away! And thanks, also, to the people who helped take care of our kiddoes while we were gone. It was a rejeuvenating weekend that we benefited from so much! Thank you for being givers!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Look Back

Well, I've been busy doing a lot of fun things since my last post. I will catch you up on the blessings we've been experiencing. Not a day goes by -- really, not A DAY!-- when either Terry or I say to one another, "It's just a blessing, straight from God!"

I will share all of those wonderful things with you soon. Today, I just wanted to make note of an experience I had yesterday. It was significant for many reasons.

I'm approaching my one year anniversary. I was inducted into the 'cancer world' at the end of April 2010. It was a wild ride, a crazy year, and quite the experience. Most days I look back on it and I'm very grateful. I believe I've gone through a 'sifting' period and I've come out the other side better!

I was reading Beth Moore last night and she wrote about how the enemy likes to attack when we're really improving our faith. God was definitely doing some cool things in my life a year ago. Opening my eyes about a lot and drawing me closer. I don't know if my illness was an attack or just an unfortunate part of life in a sinful world. But, I'm blessed that God held me close in 2010 and never allowed me to feel alone. And now, not even a year later, most of it feels like a lifetime ago. A blurry memory that will always give me chills. And hopefully, always remind me to get on my knees.

I opened a spiral yesterday. I needed to write something down and I grabbed the closest paper to me. I opened it and read in my sweet hubby's handwriting:

4/18 last cycle
4/19 lumpectomy
4/21 1st oncologist meeting
4/28 MRI
4/30 Portacath, Mastectomy, Node Dissection
5/6 drains removed, 3 of 10 nodes positive
5/7 PET scan
5/11 Dr. Heyne follow-up
5/20 1st chemo
5/25 ER- 101.7 fever, shortness of breath, chest xray, blood work. Negative.
5/27 discharged, white blood down

That's where the dates stop. Because, really, that was all the hardest part. Nothing was ever scarier than my MRI news. Nothing was ever harder than my first chemo and subsequent 3 days in the hospital.

I know many of you think I'm naive to hope that this is the biggest trial I'll ever face. Maybe you're right. After all, time wounds all heels. And I've got lots more time left.

Thank God for 2010. The year God changed my life by saving it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Prayer for Wisdom

How do you even begin to choose a surgeon for reconstruction after mastectomy? I can't help but think that my outcome could be vastly different based on this choice. How to pick the right one? It's a long procedure with at least two different surgeries. I'm getting anxious and I want it done soon. But with whom?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Doctors on top of doctors!

(Side note: Who said it? Popular tv character responds to "I've been seeing girls on top of girls," with "Are they end to end or stacked like pancakes?")

My doctors aren't end to end or stacked like pancakes. But they are covering my calendar. I've got 8 doctor appointments in 7 weeks. It's about as fun as trying on bathing suits. It's plain ol' awful! It's stressful to have to arrange babysitters and switch up my schedule to accomodate so many appointments. And each doctor's office is an unwelcome reminder that my life isn't the same anymore.

I just got a call from the nurse at my oncologists office. They just sent off a blood sample last week so when she said, "Hey, do you have a minute?" I thought "uh-oh." Turns out she just wanted to refer me to a neurologist, but for thirteen seconds, my heart dropped. Every doctor and nurse calling to speak to a patient shold have to say immediately, "Hello. I have no bad news."

Anyway, I'm seeing the neurologist to check out my still-persistent elbow pain. It comes and goes which leads the oncologist to believe it's nerve damage and not cancer-related. It doesn't really hurt that bad. If I wasn't in remission from cancer I would totally ignore it. I've lost the luxury to do that I guess. No wonder my insurance company doesn't like me. I don't just have to pay for cancer treatment... I have to pay to get every ache, pain, bump, and lump looked at "just in case."

BUT- I'm not so far away from being sick that I can really moan and groan over a few doctor appointments. I remember verrrry clearly how bad it was to be sick and seeing the doctor. So in the grand scheme of things, I can handle some trips to and fro the medical center.

So, goodbye! I have no bad news!

Friday, February 25, 2011

De-cluttering for Jesus!

I was in The Container Store a few weeks ago when I had a major "aha" moment regarding stuff. I was thinking about Reynosa, Mexico where I saw people living in tiny cardboard huts several years ago. They could have fit all of their possessions in one bag. Then I thought about the Africans I've been learning about in The Hole In Our Gospel. They have few posessions at all, spend their days walking miles just to get enough water for the day. Live on less than $2 a day. And if they had more money they'd likely spend it on prevention and a cure for AIDS. Not because it's the popular cause of the moment. But because it's what's killing their own communities.

I'm thinking all of these things as I walk up and down the aisles of The Container Store. These people have nothing. And here I am... in a store to buy stuff that can help me organize my other stuff. I bought three things, got in the car and promptly started crying like a baby. It just felt so wrong. I called Terry and was able to laugh at my outburst. But it was the final straw for me.

Everything I knew about money, giving, and the needy has been shaken up. God has been moving us in this direction for years now. Looking back, I can see the small, baby steps. He's been nudging us forward. Challenging us to look at our finances, our budget and weed stuff out. He's been calling us to give more. Yes, of time and resources. But also of money.

Last month we made the decision to move. In an effort to create more space in our budget for giving, we're downsizing to an apartment that's 2/3rds the size of our current house. We're losing a garage and a yard and an attic. So all of that stuff that piles up in these places has no where to go.

And our house has become a mass exodus of things on their way out. Plastic things, shiny things, handy things, useless things, pretty things, memorable things, "What is this and where did it come from?" things. And I've been doing a jig. I feel as good as if I were shedding pounds! Goodbye stuff! Adios materialism! Keeping up with them? Shoot, I dont' want to even resemble "the Joneses!"

I've been looking at my things differently. If it takes up my precious time to clean it, store it, maintain it, I want it out! I don't want to lose family time because I'm always taking care of my stuff. I don't want the funds for a mission trip or to feed a needy family to not be there because I had to have more clothes, more toys for the boys, or more dinners in restaurants.

The ideas and concepts from the Bible about giving and blessings-- those concepts that were repeated and reshaped in Radical, those ideas that were made poignantly clear in The Hole, are coming alive for the first time in my life.

I'm honored, humbled, and thrilled to be on the receiving end of this message from God. I pray that it's a permanent change and not a short-lived revival of sorts. Thank you for praying the same.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Good and Evil

There are two versions of the patient room in my oncologist's office. The one I lived in today was cheery, cozy, friendly, The light was yellow, the table was hard. Last year's magazines, frayed and pleasantly dog-eared. This side of the office is okay. It's the place where the people who know how to save my life are.

There is another version of this same office though. It's gray and hazy. I sit on the table but don't feel it. Pick up a magazine but don't read it. This office is filled with fog. Foggy memories, smoky black. Bad, bad stuff is floating in this room. It's the place where people tell you about percentages, side effects, and illness. It smells of tears and unlived years.

I am always aware of both offices. The safe side is unassuming, blank, sterile, not quite warm, but nothing to be scared of either. But just passed it I see the other side. Through "the looking glass" the gloom and fog is still there. Teasing me and reminding me that, try as I might, I cannot escape bad news forever. I'm not angry at this black and white version of the room. It has to be there. If it weren't there, if there were no danger, then the other version of the room, the one I'm presently in, wouldn't be as sweet.

Today I went to the oncologist for my three month exam. I didn't know which version of the room I'd be in. Bad news isn't the only thing that can push me from the real-life room to the imaginary, dreary one. My attitude and doubts can, too. God was with me today. As always.

I got only good news: Less medicine needed. Fewer scans prescribed than I'd expected. Go. Smile. Be happy.

And so I went. And I was.

Because God is merciful. And because I know. That even when things are good, and I'm sailing through life, shadows are never far away.

Lord, help me to remember the pain. Help me always be aware of how to share your unending light with those who still fear the night and don't yet accept that you are the way out.

John 14:6
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Where Should We Go?

Terry and I are looking for a place to get away for a weekend for our upcoming anniversary in April. I want a spa where I can get mani/pedis, massages, facials, etc. Terry wants to golf. Where should we go?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

To all the women who make me laugh, have my back, know my secrets, share my memories, hold my hand:

Thank you for being there for me. I am utterly undeserving of such a blessing as your friendship.

Where would I be without you?

Much love to you on Cupid's Day!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Be a Mary Not a Martha

I went and saw my best friends in the world a few weekends ago. We live all over Texas so we try to get together four weekends out of the year to catch up. They've been a part of my life for more than 10 years and they know me better than almost anyone.

I obviously really needed to see them because we had a really great talk one night. I had been getting a little suffocated by the pressure I was starting to feel. I know that anyone being moved by my story or my blog is actually being moved by the Holy Spirit. But I started feeling pressure to measure up to some pretty high standards. Most places I go, I'm not annoymous anymore. I'm "Cancer Girl." And I would be a failure if God didn't get the glory and the praise for bringing us through the fire.

See, I'm slinging around some pretty big words here-- "failure, pressure, suffocated."

Because of my experience, I've had a heart for those suffering. And I was being driven by a sensational need to help. When you're sick with something like cancer (for me anyway) everything is extreme. You are REALLY sick. When you rest you need to REALLY rest. When you cry, you REALLY cry. When you praise God you REALLY praise Him! I would be playing with my kids and think, "How much longer will I get to do this? How long will I be here?" And I'd use those feelings to make every playtime "the BEST playtime ever!" (Man, I'm I excited those feelngs are gone!)

And when everything is extreme, you get really, really tired. Which led to me feeling the need to crawl under a rock...throw in the towel...bury my head in the sand...leave town and never look back! Which in turn, led to a small breakdown with the previously mentioned group of girlfriends.

Thankfully, I've got some friends who are grounded in the Word and comfortable speaking when the Holy Spirit leads. They talked to me a lot that night. And I argued a lot.

But then Pastor Larry preached this past Sunday about finding space in your life. He defined space as "the amount available beyond what is necessary." He suggested that we be spending three to four nights at home each week. I remember thinking, "yeah, right!" But at the same time, I felt relief!

We know the world is "rush, rush, rush," but Pastor Larry pointed us to Romans 12:2- "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will."

And I was happy to be reminded of the story of Mary and Martha. Jesus comes to visit them and Martha gets busy with preparations- making everything perfect, cooking, cleaning. Mary sits at Jesus' feet to listen to Him. Jesus says to Martha (Luke 10:41), "Martha, Martha... you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her."

2011 is all about simplifying life in our house. A few months back we started talking about moving. With MUCH apprehension. Neither of us wanted to but we kept feeling God urging us to. Finally the pieces all fell into place, and our plan was confirmed by Sunday's message. We are downsizing- living space, "stuff", Terry's commute. All of it will get scaled back to allow more "space." And hopefully we'll all find a better balance and be able to give God more time! ...and avoid future breakdowns! ;)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


When asked what kind of food I wanted for a cancer-free celebration that Small Group was having for me, I jokingly answered, "French." And thus was born my SARAH COUPS DE PIED AUX BUTTES DE CANCER or SARAH KICKED CANCER'S BUTT PARTY!

We had ratatoille, Mijote De Poulte au Citron, chocloate fondue, cheese platters, baguettes, mousse, Beignets de Courgette, and a TON of homemade cream puffs and pastries! Dani scored big points by finding French organic soda!

I asked for a group picture before I had found a willing volunteer to take the photo for us. We're a very obedient group-- see how they stayed put "in pose" when I left the room to find a photographer?

Thanks guys for all the food, fun and encouragement!

I'm slightly biased, but I think our small group is awesome! Kim and Warren gave me a giftcard from Living Water International and I was so excited to visit the website and choose how to spend the money! I am so very blessed to have such thoughtful friends (who just happen to be awesome chefs, too!).

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Comfort from Others

Laura Shook's current blog called "Overload" explains how I've been feeling lately. She says her doctor said it was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Hmmm...


Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I had a dream last night. Kind of hard to explain. Put your "dreamcaps" on and suspend reality for a moment.

I was in a giiiiiiant room (so big I could only see one wall of it) that was holding an entire ocean and beach. I was with a lot of acquaintances, but no one I would consider in my "inner circle" of friends or family. The tides were pushing us along and everyone was in a hurry to get to the sandy beach, which was still miles ahead. I was holding to the wall, saying, "What's your hurry? Enjoy the ride!"
Now, it doesn't take any kind of psychiatrist to read into that dream, does it?

I don't like to say that cancer changed me. Because there are plenty of people who go through cancer and come out the other end pretty much the same, only balder. I like to think that God changed me. That I gave him control over all aspects of the cancer instead of being stubborn and clinging to my own sense of control.

I recently read a book called, The Middle Place, about a woman very near my age, my family-type, and my diagnosis. She remained firmly in charge during her breast cancer. And, so, she didn't ride the waves willingly, wondering what she could learn. In fact, at one point in the book she says to her husband, "Do you pray for me?" and he says 'no.' She says, "Yea, me neither."

If you can't find God when you're staring down the barrel of a gun, when can you find Him? God, I pray for our stubborn, self-absorbed society!

Thankfully, God helped me turn to Him again and again, rather than depending on myself. I don't know why I'm different. I'm just as stubborn and self-absorbed as Betty and Bob. I don't know anyone who can put themselves aside without seeking hard after God and asking over and over for your desires to look more like God's. You've heard me say it before, and I prayed it a lot. "God, I want to want what you want."
I don't know of any other way to stop being blinded by the world than to just ask God to show you-- even when it hurts. I learned a lot. And, yes, changed a lot. It was such a drastic change that I sometimes forget not everyone will immediately be on board with my new way of thinking!

I've got a "here and now" attitude. As in, I won't worry about tomorrow. God will take care of that. I'll, instead be concerned about those who are hurting today, those who need help today, those who can find joy today.

Matthew 6...

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ten Years

Ten years ago today, Terry reached for my hand during a church service and we made our relationship "official" with a prayer.

We'd been dancing around dating for a few weeks and during a "Great Escape" service in a Baptist church in East Texas we decided to date exclusively.

And thus began the ride of my life!

If you know a college student who'd like to meet a Christian guy or gal to date, or just needs to prioritize God back into their college life, send them to 6&West. The new college night in Northwest Houston. Their website says:

 6&West is a weekly worship experience for college-age students and young adults in Northwest Houston.

- A weekly event where we can join our voices, hearts and minds in worship and fellowship to form, well... the body of Christ.

- A place where students can feel free to invite their non-Christian friends to hear about the faith,hope and love we experience in Christ, and also have a little fun together.

- An event not affiliated with any particular church, but a partnership of Christ-followers from all over our community.

Tuesday nights at 7:00 p.m. on the campus of Copperfield Church.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Without Wavering

I've had mixed emotions since I finished treatment. In many ways I want to put all of this behind me and not think of it anymore at all. I'm so tired of doctors that I haven't even scheduled a consultation with a plastic surgeon yet. Even though getting the reconstruction will do wonders!

The truth is that most of the time I'm really, really ok with everything. But there have been a few hiccups along the way that have been frightening that many of you don't know about. I think I might have mentioned several months ago that I've got a large knot on my ankle. All of my doctors have done a physical exam of it and they all say its a ganglene cyst. And I'm sure it is. But everytime I see it, I think, "tumor."

In November my elbow swelled up and got really hot and red. I called the doctor and they said it sounded like classic symptoms of "lymphedema." So I worried for 24 hours until they could fit me in to be seen. Turns out I had the most unfortunately placed spider bite ever.

And then, the day before Thanksgiving all of those awful feelings came back when my oncologist was checking my mastectomy area and I pointed out a tiny lump I'd felt. I got more anxious by the minute as he took a long time to feel it. All the while, keeping his head turned away from me and saying, "Hmmm." He said it worried him and that I needed a fine needle aspiration of it as soon as possible. It was the day before a holiday so the nursing staff decided to try and be heroic for me and get St Luke's to fit me in to their schedule today. So I couldn't go home. I had to drive around the medical center for an hour while they tried to get me an appointment. In the end they failed. I desperately needed a second opinion. Lucky for me, my radiation oncologist is a Super Hero and I became his last appointment before Turkey Day.

I ended up having the FNA and, thank the Lord, the results came back negative.

Needless to say, it's been hard to forget my struggles and just move on with life. I don't worry about recurrence except for about 30 seconds every night around 9 p.m. The kids are in bed, the world stops rushing, the sun has set. I sit down to watch tv with Terry. I have an "oh yeah" moment where I think, "Yeah, everything felt too good. Things were going too well. I forgot to be worried there for 24 hours."

And then I smile, because I remember that my God told me not to worry. Simple as that. And so I will pray to Him and ask Him to help me with that. I'll ask Him to help me remember the words in Hebrews 10:8:

"Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful."


Without wavering.

And verses 35 and 36,

"Therefore, do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise..."

Saturday, January 15, 2011


No, it's not coming in curly.
Yes, I put blonde high-lights in it.
Yes, I feel like a boy.
No, I won't keep it like this. (Egads!)
Yes, I'm happy to have any hair at all!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

28 Things I Learned in My 28th Year


1. That it's really true when people say, "At least I have my health!"

2. That eating organic isn't just trendy. It's the wise thing to do.

3. That nurses and medical staff can make all the difference in a patient's experience. If you're in this profession, I hope you realize how important you are to the whole system. A non-condescending, non-judgemental nurse is a blessing! 

4. That I should never serve coffee at an event if I don't have any creamer. (Hey, not everything I learned is deep or cancer-related!)

5.  Praying for God to "break your heart for the things that breaks His" will be time-consuming and mind-consuimg. It will be painful. But it will be worth it.
6. That my friends love me a whole, whole lot.

7. That being a Christian doesn't mean continually working on yourself. It means continually looking outward and serving others... and letting God do the work in you.

8. That a car ride with loud country music and the windows rolled down is good for the soul!

9. That physical appearance amounts to nothing. And counts for nothing.

10. That when people don't help, it's mostly because they don't know how to help.

11. That even when a person looks fine and seems to feel fine, I shouldn't assume they are fine.

12. That I sholdn't take myself so seriously.

13. That hospital gowns are infinitely ugly.

14. That chemotherapy is a fantastic diet.

15. That almost nothing will make you feel more terrified than when you can't concentrate or think straight.

16. That it's too easy to live in a bubble.

17. That I would be lost without those people in my life who feel comfortable enough to say, "Shape up!"

18. That over-commiting yourself does not equal good service.

19. That to little boys, every toy can be a gun, and every activity will end up in wrestling.

20. That, despite all the good it's doing, Tamoxifen is an evil drug that will make me a sweaty, red-faced woman for the next five years.

21. That maybe it isn't a coincidence that the idea of adopting a child was always rolling around in my head.

22. That it is really, really true that God will provide.

23. That my husband has strength and staying power (thank God!).

24. That my biggest vice is watching The Real Housewives (any and all cities) and it will always make me feel better about myself!

25. That my number one job as a parent is to produce children who love Jesus and pick up their cross daily for him. My focus should be on teaching my kids to plan for Heaven, not a big career or a big house.

26. That a relationship with Christ apart from obedience and Bible reading is empty and unpleasing to God.

27. That whether sick from chemo or sore from surgery, a dirty dish is still a dirty dish and it will always bother me! 

28. That I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Phillipians 4:13

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Today I turn 29 and cancer-free.

What a difference a year makes!