There is this time period between winter and spring that we no longer wear coats but just a sweatshirt for the chill. As a Southern California girl, a sweatshirt was my winter coat. These few weeks, were the days feel like my hometown, I long for full on spring. Maybe I’m trying to not let myself be too reminded of a place I love and miss still, almost 9 years later. Maybe I feel like Winter is trying to stay longer than welcomed. What I do know is that I’m tired of looking at the naked trees and soak in every Bradford pear tree that is starting to blossom. The slower season of Winter is drawing to a close and the business of Spring and Summer are upon me. I hope I don’t wish away these few in between weeks of perfect sweatshirt weather. That I’ll learn to venture out durning the sunny afternoon or learn to take chilly evening walks. Because all too soon the demands of the busy season will be here and it will be too hot out to be out. Welcome Spring, happy first officially day to you.
A month or so ago, my friend Hannah wrote some beautiful words that I keep rereading. They are in reflection of how far her family has come in Watt’s treatment of cancer. Ive often said how other’s words help me organize my thoughts and what my heart is feeling, these words by Hannah could of been my own:
“Life is mysterious and pain-filled and God works in ways that I cannot even begin to understand. All of this world is broken. He promises to make all things new but we only see glimmers of it now…and daily we live in the tension of knowing His promises and yet having to wait for their fulfillment. We often find ourselves busy and striving for an ever-elusive happiness when, in reality, most days we feel as if we are just scraping by with bleeding hearts and broken dreams. Our work feels futile more often than we want to admit, violence and war fill the headlines, and our babies get cancer. We feel we have to fight for hope, fight for peace, and fight for our very lives at times.”
This time last year, I was very sad. At the time I don’t think I even really recognized thats what experiencing deep down. Looking back now, of course I was. It was hard because I felt like I had to keep my sadness a secret in a lot of ways. From my friends who were having babies who I was so happy for, and wanted to show that, but it was so very hard. Not just them but others close to me that didn’t get why it was a daily feeling of its-so-hard. Going to Jamaica I was in such fear of what holding orphan babies would do to my heart when I desired for one my own so much. We were no where near starting the process to adopt as I was still in treatment with Herceptin infusions. I was crying all of the time, living on the edge of tears most days. Some people don’t know what to do with my sadness. I get that what Im going through is not easy and most people don’t know what to say. I started to feel like I was too much, my emotions where too much. Thankfully, close friends entered into the hard and the messy with me. They didn’t say much, mostly words of “Im sorry. Of course it hurts. Love you and this sucks.” No trying to make me focus on the good. They entered into my hurt and pain and were just there to listen to me be sad over and over again. I can’t tell you how much that helped me through those dark days of sadness.
Tuesday I was in Charlotte at a Sandra McCracken and All Sons and Daughter worship night. All Sons and Daughter’s songs very much have the them of brokenness. And Sandra, who’s had a hard few years herself, was singing songs of Psalms. To hear my favorite singer song writer sing songs of hope, such a testimony to God’s goodness. Really shitty stuff happened and yet her voice was strong with hope with those promised words God has given to all of us in the Psalms. Sandra lead us in a song called “We Will Feast in the House of Zion” in which the chorus goes:
“We will feast in the house of Zion
we will sing with our hearts restored
Two close friends have daughters who are 5 months, two weeks a part. These friends let me old their sweet babies a lot. I don’t have the words to tell you how healing for me now to hold them. This time last year, holding babies was too hard for me. Last Sunday I was holding one of them during worship, singing a praise to God while hold this precious gift my friend waited years for. It was such a redeeming moment for me. That I could hold a baby and feel so hopeful instead of sad. I knew that joy had to be the work of Jesus, it made no sense otherwise. I still have days where the desire to be a parent and not knowing when that will happen is too much to bare. A lot of times I do not know when it will hit me, it surprises me most of the time when it does. There’s that famous quote “Be Kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” I remember hearing that for the first time when I was bald and going through chemo. It was very obvious I was fighting a battle. Now that the physical edvience is gone, its harder to tell. The comfort I have, in the words that remind me of God’s goodness are often in the mist of the harder words. Broken. Bleeding hearts. Restored. Weeping. I wish we all could stop pretending that the brokenness of this world doesn’t effect us. How could it not? God is good and we get to be a part of his redemptive work in the brokenness. Joy happens in dark and light days. There is good in the dark as much as in the light. The two go hand and hand for me these days. All of this to say, Im grateful for the truth of these two women’s words on both the dark and light days.
This March 8th you can’t tell from looking at me that I was diagnosed with cancer two years ago today. I’m so thankful for this fact. To look at my hair, (though it isn’t long to me) so many people comment how long it is. Their way of cheering me on in how far I have come from my days of treatment.
People who I don’t see regularly still ask with a knowing “How are you? Everything still clear?” These people who ask, are the same who prayed for me so I know their question is well intended. Some days though, that question makes me feel fear, that it might come back. It’s when I’m the most reminded that I did in fact have cancer. Otherwise I don’t live in fear of it returning. Even taking my daily medication, it’s just become part of my morning routine, not a thought towards it.
I used to have angry conversations with my medication. That I was knowingly talking something that would make my body not have a viable pregnancy. You’d think I’d say wonderful things to that pill, that it was blocking what my body creates into cancer cells. Not once have I been happy to take that pill. At least now I don’t get mad while taking it. At the very most, I just get annoyed it’s chalky tasting. Deep down, parting through a sea of grief, I am thankful for tamoxifen and what future it does give me.
Two years out, my experience in the cancer world has made me a resource to many people who know friends who have been diagnosed with cancer or walking through it themselves. I’m happy to be that resource for others. To make good out of something that sucks, that’s redemption work right there.
Survivors guilt is something I don’t know truly how to process. Especially when a coworkers wife is taken far too soon due to cancer taking over her body. No one is thinking I should feel guilty for still being here while others are not because of cancer, but I do. I don’t even really have the words to share what this makes me feel because like I said, I haven’t really processed it to know. To say that God has me here for a reason, well that was true before cancer. Why do I receive medication that works and healing and others don’t? It’s the ultimate unfairness to me. And on this side of heaven, I don’t think I’ll know an answer that will comfort me in this guilt. I grasp at the mystery that is the promise that God is good and works all things according to His purpose. Still continue to learn how to hold sorrow and joy in the same hand.
Once again, thank you doesn’t feel like enough but thank you so much to our dear community of friends and family who still care for us. Who ask how we are doing. Who make sure comment on my hair. Who keep walking beside us.
My friend Emily wrote about 20 Things she learned in 2014. She does this each month, which I love this concept of looking back and remembering what you learned. Most of the time I dont think Im really “learning” anything, rather than being reminded of something. But really, thats totally not true. Thanks for the idea and encouragement to share what I have learned in 2014, Emily!
5 Things I Learned in 2014
Picking up another language for me has never been easy, so when I went on a missions trip to Jamaica in April where we stayed in a deaf community, I learned a little bit of sign language. With me returning there this upcoming April, I am refreshing my sign language and really love learning it.
2: I own the title of ‘foodie’.
This label feels a bit like calling myself a hipster, as in, you dont call yourself these things, other people call you them. Otherwise you think too much of yourself or something. I dont feel like Im an expert of food, but I do know what food I love and who in town has the best. Enough people ask us where to eat, so Im officially owning the title of foodie.
3:To make pasta.
Jason and I saved our credit card points for a food processor. Upon getting a food processor I went to Pinterest for the new ways I could now cook and the number one thing that came up was pasta recipes. Fresh pasta is easy to make, taste delicious and rather impressive if I do say so myself.
is the best unwatched show to come out of the BBC. Think The Office meets Mad Men. Wonderful characters and story-lines. Sadly, it was cancelled after only two seasons and it ends thinking there would be a third. Totally worth watching, which you can do if you have Amazon Prime.
5:I dont like to be silly.
Im not sure what it is in me, but its very hard for me to make a fool of myself. Even with people who I would say I am totally comfortable with. As I found myself in situations this year where I was to do something silly in front of people, I was like, uh no that’s dumb. It wasn’t until the Christmas dance for youth group where I ignored the part of me who said “Don’t dance, you’ll look silly” and danced. I realized that 2015 I may have to practice being more silly because its fun and good for me.
If you haven’t heard the news already, we are officially in the process of adopting. Currently we are in the mist of working on our paperwork (aka homestudy) and fundraising. I wanted to share the email I sent out to our family and friends that may answer some questions you might be having:
Why are you adopting?
You may or may not know, but we trying to add to our family months before I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now that the hard treatment has come to a close, part of the treatment package was to take an oral medication daily. This medication is called Tamoxfin, and while it helps prevent the cancer from returning, it also means if I got pregnant it would terminate the pregnancy and put my health at risk. When Jason and I talked about adding to our family with children someday, adoption was always a part of that conversation, this just speeds that process up as honestly the only option for us to add to our family. We are very happy to be growing our family through adoption.
Where are you adopting from?
We are doing a domestic adoption and with the agency we are working with, our child will more than likely be born in North Carolina.
What agency are you working with?
We are working with Bethany Christian Services, which is a nation wide (and international) agency. They have 3 offices in NC, our local office is in Raleigh, NC. We decided to work with Bethany because we have friends who went through them and had nothing but great things to say. Also, Bethany is a huge believer in counseling for the birth mother and is a life ling agency. Meaning, for the rest of the birth mothers or our lives, we can reach out for Bethany for anything related to adoption.
What type of child are you hoping to adopt?
We are hoping to adopt a Caucasian infant, 6 months or younger.
Whats your timeline?
Currently, we are working on a massive amount of paperwork that is called a home study. This paperwork and a home visit from a social worker has to be approved before we are a “waiting” family. This paperwork can take anywhere from 3-6 months (I am personally hoping to have it turned in and waiting to be approved by the end of January, but well see how everything goes). Once we are a waiting family, our profile book will be shown to birth mothers that share the same parameters as us when it comes to their adoption plan. We will create 3 books, one of each of the NC Bethany offices. How long we wait? We just dont know.
We also have a website for our adoption: Alisa and Jason are Adopting dot com where we’ll be putting our updates mostly. We are very excited to be adding to our family through adoption but have a very long road a head of us. Please keep us in your prayers as we go through this process. We are happy to share anything folks are interested about, so please feel free to ask us questions. Thank you who have already been so excitement and love you have shown to us, it means so much.
Whew. 2 months since I have posted. Time flys when your not in treatment. 😉 Also, this time of year is very busy for youth ministry with school starting and Fall Retreat to plan. November has been a little slower, which is nice but also a little strange after such a busy season. Here I am with a hair update since its been since July since I have shown how much it has grown.
(13 months post chemo/August 2014)
Not the greatest photo of the hair, but the only one of my in August and first time I felt like I had “bangs” and wearing my hair in front of my ears for the first time. These photos was taken on Senior Retreat and I wanted to steal that mustard blanket.
(14 months post chemo/September 2014)
This was taking at the start of October. Most of the time I wear my bangs pinned back because to me the bangs are just a little too short for me. Also, having curly/wavy hair, including bangs, I am not very good at styling them so its just easier. Also, that photos is strange, I know. I was buying mannequins arms for Fall Retreat. I love my job.
This photo was taken at my 6 month post treatment follow up at the end of October. My hair looks especially wavy here. (14 months post chemo/October 2014)
(15 months post chemo/November 2014)
This past weekend I had a little landmark of pulling my hair into a tiny ponytail! Nevermind that the top layers are not in it, a ponytail! Felt so nice to pull my hair back. Very soon all of my hair will be able to pull back into a ponytail.
(October 2013 vs October 20140
October of 2013 is when I stopped wearing a scarf, so its been just about a year of hair growth! Its longer than I expected it to be at this point. Im still learning how to style wavy hair. Some days I still hate how short my hair is but I love the curliness that I have gained.
“Faith is a way of waiting—never quite knowing, never quite hearing or seeing, because in the darkness we are all but a little lost. There is doubt hard on the heels of every belief, fear hard on the heels of every hope, and many holy things lie in ruins because the world has ruined them and we have ruined them. But faith waits even so, delivered at least from that final despair which gives up waiting altogether because it sees nothing left worth waiting for.”
– Frederick Buechner, Secrets in the Dark
Yesterday I returned from a few days away at the lake with a smaller group of Seniors. We got away to talk about leadership in the youth group, plan Fall Retreat and simply have some fun together. As much as I love the big events like Project Serve and Fall Retreat where there’s 200 of us, it makes smaller retreats like this one that much sweeter. Returning from this time away with 21 Seniors, I found myself deeply encouraged and full of life and joy.
Years ago, at the same retreat I had my first experience tubbing. It’s fun and scary all at the same time. I gave it another try and while I ended up, of course, falling out of the tube, I came out of the water with a smile on my face. As I climbed back into the tube, spent of energy from holding on for dear life, at the same time felt so full of life. Later I was highly encouraged by the students to jump off the 15 feet drop from the deck. It was thrilling to say the least. When I took a rest to dry off and let my body return from feeling like jello, it hit me. I was doing things I could never of dreamed of doing last summer while in treatment.
This thought, of being able to live life so full made me think why I was so happy with being able to tube or jump off a dock. Not only was I happy to be so active after last summer when I was zapped of energy, but it felt redemptive. A reminder that God is faithful. He brings life. I often feel Jesus be so close durning the hard days, that I’m almost surprised when I feel him so much on the full of joy days. It’s easier, to me at least, to draw nearer to God when things are hard. Good days? Easy to take credit of the happiness I feel, but as I sat on that dock, surrounded by students with such joyful hearts and so much laughter, I couldn’t think were else the joy I felt came from, other than from Jesus.