Last time I had a hair update was in February! Heres a collection of photos showing off my hair since then:

March Maddness: Only photo I can find of myself from March, and I remember it being March cause I watched basketball with these lovely ladies. I really really hated my hair during March, maybe thats why there isnt a lot of photos.
(8 months post chemo)

Beginning of April: holding AnnaGrace
(9 months post chemo)

Same day as above photo – got my first real hair cut post chemo. Jon made it look fantasic and I have yet been able to recreate it
(first haircut 9 months post chemo)

Beginning of May (port removal day! 10 months post chemo)

May, very first time I put my hair in a headband! I thought it was so ‘big’
(10 months post chemo)

End of May. The headban became my go-to style since I really dont like the short hair and I semi like it this way. Until Jon told me I cant wear it in a headband everyday otherwise my bangs will grow in a way I wont like.
(10 months post chemo)

End of May, pulled back in a headband and beach wind blown! So curly!
(10 months post chemo)

Only photo from June I can find with my hair NOT in a headband, and its just because we are fresh from getting our hair trimmed and Jon did my hair.
(11 months post chemo)

Beach blow curl in July
(12 months post chemo)

Whew, that is a lot of ME in one place. Slowly, my hair is growing back, not fast enough for me of course. It will take years for it to be the length that was post treatment (and I just had chopped it off to my shoulders then, which I would be happy to have now!). And with it being curly/wavy, its a whole new hair to get used to and know what to do with. With it being curly/wavy it makes it shorter than it actually is, making the hair growth process even longer. Trying to be happy to have hair, but I just really hate how short it is. Thankfully I have sweet friends who constantly tell me how much they like my hair. Its still very soft to the touch too!

“Thats the thing with cancer – the plans you made before your diagnosis are still in place. Some of them you have to cancel, but others you can keep. Having cancer does not mean your whole life stops. You simply adjust or modify your plans.”

‘Its Not About the Hair’, Debra Jarvis

In the mist of radiation, you may have noticed a tone around here: sorrow and lament. Of course one who is going through cancer treatment would not have to give answers as to why she’d be writing about such subjects, it’s more of a, of course she is. For me, there is a deeper story behind those emotions.

Most of you probably dont know know this, but at the start of 2013, Jason and I we’re trying to get pregnant. A whole two months into trying is when the lump was found and things suddenly changed. The week we got diagnosed I was late and it made my doctors nervous that I was pregnant. So, on top of not yet having answers to what it meant for me in having cancer, there was a tiny chance I was pregnant. Women have been treated for cancer while pregnant, but you cant not be as aggressive because of the baby. After a blood test confirmed I was not pregnant, we could relax on that front.

When you are first told you have cancer, especially when your 31, you have a lot of decisions you have to make right away and quickly. One of them was, did I want to harvest my eggs in case chemo harmed them. We decided that was not the route for us. It was another procedure Id have to go through and its crazy expensive. We had talked before cancer came into our lives, that if we couldnt biologically have a child, we would adopt. We’d rather spend a lot amounts of money on adoption over harvesting eggs.

Fast track a bit – going through chemo – I couldnt think of the idea of carrying a child so it was not near the for front of my mind like it once had been not long before. Once I started to feel like myself again, and near the end of radiation, I started to think about having a baby again. Suddenly I realized, what if chemo had damaged my eggs? What if I couldnt conceive a child because of the chemo? It felt taken away from me even though it was a choice we had made. At the end of radiation is when I was told by my doctors to start taking my estrogen blocking oral medication -tamoxifen.

What does tamoxifen have to do with being pregnant you may ask. One of the receptors of my cancer was estrogen positive. Tamoxifen blocks those cells from reproducing (which is what cancer cells do). It doesnt keep my body from producing estrogen, just blocks it. If you know much about pregnancy, you know that you need estrogen to carry a child. Basically, if I were to get pregnant while taking tamoxifen, it would terminate the pregnancy or be really risky for both me and a baby. Originally when I was told this is part of the whole package of cancer treatment, I would be taking tamoxifen for 5 years. Even with that news, I wasnt thrilled at all for trying for our first child at age 36. Of course now, there has been new studies shown that women, especially as young as me, should say on tamoxifen for 10 years. That would make me 41 when I stop taking tamoxifen – definitely not when I want to have a baby.

There has been mixed thoughts on whether women can stop taking tamoxifen for a few years to get pregnant, have the baby and then complete the rest of the years left of taking tamoxifen. This actually was my plan when I started taking tamoxifen. Its a really risky move and not something ether of my oncologist where on board with me doing. Jason did not want me to go off it ether because it highly increased the chance of reaccourance. I was bound and determined to do this, because having a baby was the plan. Cancer was not part of the plan and cancer wasnt going to take away a dream of being parents from us.

Now that treatment has completely come to a close, my tune has changed. I realized how really risky the idea of going off tamoxifen really is. I do not want to go through the year that we just had of treatment again. I got my port out and its not going back in! It doesn’t however, change our desire to want to have a child in our family. My emotions have been very sad this past year, start of the year especially. As time has gone on, I wouldn’t say it’s gotten easier, just different things trigger sadness for me. When people ask how life is after cancer, I’m not really sure how to answer. I should be happy, I beat cancer after all. The life that I wanted, a good thing, has been shaken. We hope, pray and surround ourselves in community that offer us encouragement as we think, pray and gather information of what adding to our family now looks like after cancer treatment.

It’s graduation time once again, a bittersweet season for me. While Im so excited for these Seniors to embark on their new adventures as high school graduates, I always get sad to have to say good-bye. Yesterday, I was at a graduation of a private Christian school in town. The service was very sweet and in the middle of it, a women gave “Message to the Graduates”. I knew this women, she was a small group leader in our high school ministry for a few years. I dont know her well, but I did know she used to have cancer. In her message to the graduates, she shared how after her last scan, 5 years post treatment, there was no sigh of cancer. She felt this weight even though you’d think she’d be light with the news of yet another clear scan. Her weight was that she heard so many stories of others who didn’t have clear scans. As she shared this story, I held back my emotions.

Just this past Wednesday I was talking to a parent after youth group. His wife died three years ago of breast cancer. She left behind two teenage daughters, both who I knew from youth group. As he talked to kept telling me how proud of me he was and how much my hair had grown, I couldn’t help but feel guilt. Guilt that my treatment worked and hers didn’t. That Jason and I went through hell but at least I made it through. He and his girls had to go through the hell of cancer treatment and still loose their wife and mom. I wanted anything to not be in that conversation, not because of him or not wanting to hear his story. No, Im all about hearing people’s story, but I just simply didnt know what to do with this feeling of guilt.

Back to the graduation service – I was on the edge of my seat as she share about feeling guilt after a clear scan. She went on to say that her ongologist told her something that has stuck with her since she asked her question of this weight she carried around and didn’t know what to do with. He told her that her story was grace. I sat in my seat, trying to process this. Grace. I know grace. And as she went on to tell the graduates how much of what they have been given is because of grace I sat there thinking. I was given grace, that is why I am still here. Thats why the treatment worked for me. But I couldn’t help but not be completely comforted by this. I got grace, but those who died from cancer, didn’t? I know thats completely simplistic and not at all what the speaker was saying, but I sit here now feeling more guilty. Why did I get grace and others don’t?

Talking to a friend (also an elder at my church) who was in the crowd at the graduation, he asked me if her message hit home. I told him it really did, espically this week because the concept of guilt is a new struggle Im having post treatment. That I didn’t know what to do with this feeling, that because Im healed, I was given grace. I even asked him “So does that mean other people who die from cancer didn’t receive grace?” I love that he didn’t try and give me an answer. He responded with his feelings, that he felt guilt that his family has never had to walk through cancer, so he can relate to my feeling. While of course I wish he had an answer to my whys, Im thankful he shared his feelings instead of giving me platitudes. Often times in the church we given each other bible verses or truth, reminding each other of the goodness of God. Which is well intended most of the time, but its not that I don’t believe God did in fact give me grace. I completely agree that its because of grace I am here today. That, however, doesn’t make it any easier to the question of “Why me and not someone else?” So while God is good and He is sovereign and His ways are not our ways, doesn’t make it easier. When we give those easy, happy answers, it feels like we push a side the feelings we have because we should find joy in what God has done. I think we often forget that God created us with human emotions. And that it is okay to feel guilt while holding onto God’s promises. And maybe, just maybe, this side of heaven we are simply not going to have an answer to our whys. Which is madding of course, but I wish I had more conversations like the one I had today. Where we sit with one another, in our feelings, as uncomfortable as they may be.

Today was the day my surgeon told me the bandage could come off! Yesterday the surgery site kept stinging a bit, which I wondered was my skin pulling at the bandage more than the actual cut. Removing the bandage was no small feat (think a heavy duty clear giant band aid coming off) but I’m happy to have it off!


As you can see, my skin isn’t all too happy with the bandage coming off. This redness is from hours post taking the bandage off too. There are stitches under my skin but the strips are to stay on until they fall off on their own (which is about a week to ten days). They are only a little itchy but not bad at all! I plan on using oil to help heal the scar once the strips fall off. Still very weird to not have a bump there anymore! I am still feeling great and haven’t taken any meds since being home. Always thought I had a low tolerance for pain, but maybe this past year has build that up in me.


Hard to tell from this photo but my hand is super bruised and a bit sore! I know I have tiny veins but the guy who put in my IV (they put it in your hand for surgery to keep the IV tube out of the way as much as possible) told me he’s been doing IVs for 40 years. I told him I had high expectations then. Needless to say, when I watched him (my how far I have come) root around under my skin trying to catch my vein, I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty. Hopefully that’s the last my veins will have to see of needles for a while though!

On the way to surgery, ready to get my port out. Pointing it out for the last time!

I went to the same surgery center as I did for my lumpectomy. Everyone was very nice, asked me all of the many medical questions. I had zero nerves while they prepped me with an IV. I asked a lot of questions about “local anesthesia” because I knew it would be okay but was unsure. They told me I would be taking a little nap, just not as deep as full anesthesia. I was down with that description!

I walked back to the OR with the OR nurse and anesthesia nurse, in my surgery outfit. Red hospital socks, blue cap, hospital gown, and of course giant boxer shorts underneath. The boxers were comical because they are so large. One size fits all sort of a thing.


Once in the OR I was asked to place myself on the table and the anesthesia nurse told me he’d be starting a drug that relaxes my nerves. I told him great, would he tell me when he’d starts the meds for my “nap” and he said he would. The room started to spin a bit from the drug so I told him I was going to close my eyes. I opened them next as they woke me up asking me to move from the OR table to a rolling table. Apparently, I was told later that I asked my surgeon if we were going to start right after they woke me up. I don’t remember asking him that. Wonder what else I said in the OR without knowing it? I remember everything else once leaving the OR, so needless to say I’m a huge fan of local anesthesia. Same effect as full on anesthesia but way easier recovery.

this is how Jason found me when they brought him back to my recovery room. Finally got my snack of goldfish crackers and I’m bundled in blankets because it was SO cold back there

As I waited in recovery, with many foot surgery patients around me, I watched a half hour go by on the clock. I was very alert and aware that most everyone around me was getting a drink and a snack. It seemed to be very busy and a little bit short staffed. My nurse told me she hadn’t forgotten about me. She was impressed with how ready to go I was. Telling you guys, love local.

After laying there with those awesome compressors on your legs to help with circulation that feel like a massage, for what felt like no time at all but it was about 45 minutes according to the clock I walked myself with my nurse close by to the bathroom (the key to being released). I needed no help (last time I totally did) and was ready to go. But I was put in a recovery room and I saw a Sherlock magazine which I quickly took to read as I was just sitting there. Jason came in shortly and we waited for them to remove my IV needle and go over recovery at home instructions.

Now I am home taking it easy even though I feel perfectly fine. One of my students, Allyson, brought me a Guava Gulp smoothie. She is always a lovely person to be around. Had a California roll has my first real food of the day. My head feels a little bit heavy and tired but over all I feel really good. Haven’t needed any pain meds, just keeping the surgery site iced. Felt where my port used to be and there is no bump there! Feels weird to not feel a bump.

The end is officially here. Can’t believe my last surgery is behind me.Thank you for your warm thoughts and prayer for me today. It went so very well, better than I thought.

Tomorrow is Port Removal Surgery Day! Last official day with my port. I remember before getting my port I was really nervous, almost scared about getting one. Felt robotic in my mind to have such a thing put into my body. My friend sent me a video of a girl dancing around to Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” while on her IV pole clearly in a chemo room, to help normalize the idea of a port. Jason’s coworker who is also undergoing cancer treatment told him she loved her port. Felt strange to love such a thing.

Once my port was in, I could not stop singing it’s praises. After just a few treatments I saw women who didn’t have ports in the chemo room and I would think “they SO should get a port so they don’t have to have their arm poked so much.” I thought I’d be embarrassed by my port, planning on wearing scarves or clothes that covered it. But that was not the case at all. Even lately I have been sporting tops that shows my port. Not that I am going to miss it once the port is gone, just have gotten used to it over this past year. The feeling of it under my skin when I touch it’s bump will no longer be there. Just a straight scar line, reminder of this year of treatment and how helpful the port was to me.

My surgery is at 2pm. I arrive for prep-op at 12:45 and can’t eat anything after 3am. Not even water, so pray that doesn’t get to me too much because I love food and not the kindest when I am really hungry. Pray for Jason as he takes me, for his nervous as I’m in surgery (which the actual surgery is only about 20 minutes). I’m a little nervous because this is the first surgery were I wont go completely under, just doing local. I’ve been told I won’t remember anything with what they plan to give me, but I’m worried I will. Thank you for your love and prayers. Cheers to no more port!

This is Watts and me, comparing ports. He just finished his last in hospital treatment for his cancer. But he has a high fever so he’s back in the hospital until it goes down. I’m sure it’s disheartening to be back so soon after saying good bye to over night stays at the hospital. Please keep Watts and his family in your prayers that his fever goes down and they can return home once again!

Friday was my last regular appointment at the cancer center. I took in the scenes around me while waiting this last time:

Lots of bald folks here today. These are people. Kinder spirits. Pray for this hard time, that is temporary, but it’s a constant reminder that they are really truly sick.

Waiting to get my vitals taken, a clearly newly dignioised lady was called back. 7 family members came with her. Love seeing that kind of support but chuckle a bit at the sheer number of people.

Two gentleman walking around the waiting room passing our drinks and snacks. Many people do small things like this here, which has always been so huge to me. Little kindness goes a long way.

When they took my blood, they my arm stuck instead of my usual finger. Did you know when they take blood from your finger or arm (or port) they only test for certain things? One of the many things I learned through process. Plus, your blood is a dark red when taken from my port.

The PA tells me that my next appointment is in October. She comments on how quickly I’m getting my port out, “You wasted no time, love it.”

As I walk out of my last regular appointment, I don’t look back on the place I’ve been coming to daily then weekly then every 3 weeks. With a bit of a bounce in my step, thank Jesus for such a place, but so glad to be having it behind me for a while.

Well, I certainly meant to post this update much sooner than now, but I had my last treatment this past Friday April 4th! It was a very good day indeed, as I said good-bye to the chemo room and rang the bell for the third and last time.

(I really dont know what to do after ringing the bell and everyone is LOOKING AT ME. Its very sweet and I love that ringing a bell is a thing, but man I dont like the attention and it clearly is shown here.)
(First treatment April 5th 2013 and Last treatment April 4th 2014)

My sweet friend Hannah (mother to Watts) came with me and I showed her around my cancer center. She was interested in watching the nurse access my port. Love when any of my friends come with my to treatment, but its a bonus when they are interested in the medical side of things with me. We meet with my oncologist, where I was informed I have a follow up appointment to this treatment in three weeks with her PA. I thought I would not be coming back to the cancer center till 6 months from now so that was a bit disappointing. Reason for the appointment was to makes sure all my counts are good from Herceptin, as they have done every three weeks so I should of known. In 6 months my oncologist says I’d get a mammogram, which I have had two of them before and they always have to do other testing because my breast tissue is too dense (cause Im young as are my breast ;)). I guess if they cant get a good test from that, I’ll have to do other test (MRI maybe?). I also got my port removal surgery on the calendar – May 1st! After that day, I really feel like all this cancer stuff will be officially behind us.

Part of the reason I have been lacking on the updates is because this is a busy time of year for youth ministry and I just love being a part of it all (especially since I missed so much of this time last year). This includes our Spring Break mission trip to Jamaica that we are leaving for this Saturday morning. A few weeks ago I got fitted for a sleeve for my arm (that is still tingling). The sleeve is to help prevent lymphedema and I am to wear it when traveling on an airplane and doing anything repeatedly with that arm. Also I’ll still have my port in, and that is completely exposed when wearing my bathing suit, which doesnt really bother me, more funny than anything. Plus I will have to alert TSA that I have a port, which is a new experience. Hopefully that doesnt slow the screening process down at all! Also, my radiation oncologist told me to make sure to put a high SPF sunscreen where I was radiated otherwise a square will appear. She shouldnt of told me that cause I kinda dont want to put sunscreen on so I can see this square! So we shall see what happens in Jamaica. πŸ™‚

Ive mentioned before our dear friends the Van Patters, whose son, Watts, is under going treatment for leukemia. They got diagnosed just mere months after we did and they have a much longer journey ahead of them. Almost one year under their belts, two more to go. Watts is doing well, hitting milestones and responding well to treatment. While our cancer journeys are very different, we also have similar things to connect on, mainly, being even more aware of the brokenness of this world. Michael wrote a beautiful song called “Our Song in the Night” that is perfect for this lenten season. Yes, I am sharing another song with you all, but I find myself repeating beautiful pieces like this one often these days. I hope you find comfort and hope in this song like I do.

You can listen to it here

Our Song in the Night by Michael Van Patter

In the darkness, can you hear us?
When the night comes, are we alone?
Have you forgotten all of your children?
When we remember you we groan
But our hearts cannot be silent

God, be our song in the night
when the light is gone
God, be our joy, be our strength
Be our sheltering place
Our song in the night

We are broken– are we forsaken?
Has your love gone down with the sun?
And your mercy through all history,
Is it abandoned and undone?
Oh our hearts cannot be silent

“Man of Sorrows”, what a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Jason made this amazing video of them telling their story too.

Friday was my second to last treatment of Herceptin! It was a busy day, because after spending my morning at the cancer center we had a Lock-In with the youth group I had planned to carry out. Thus has been my life since summer, juggling the doctor appointments while doing what I love, youth ministry. image
Daylight savings time did a number on me last week, so I was pretty tired going into Friday morning. Not waking up early enough to make myself some breakfast. Thankfully, the chemo room offers peanut butter and graham crackers along with hot tea. I had my breakfast of champions as I watched my newest favorite show “The Hour”. Thats Freddie you see in the picture above, one of the greatest characters the British have given to the world. I waved a lot to the familiar faces of the nurses I used to see weekly and now every three weeks. Strange how they have been so consent in my life during this past year, and now they will suddenly no longer be after April 4th.

Tis the season of Lent and my church is doing a beautiful series on Lament. Emotionally, as I have said before, is currently the hard part of this cancer journey. Theres much to celebrate at the end of treatment, but there is much to grieve as well. Last week, first Sunday of Lent we sang a new song called “Come Lift Up Your Sorrow” in which I promptly cried my way through. In my life after cancer class, the counselor who leads it said “Grief is apart of the healing process” which I know to be true as a believer. It was nice to hear such a powerful statement outside of the church too. Healing, a good thing cant happen without, what is viewed as a bad thing, grief. Here is the beautifully written song:

Come Lift Up Your Sorrows by Michael Card

If you are wounded, if you are alone,
If you are angry, if your heart is cold as stone,
If you have fallen and if you are weak,
Come find the worth of God
That only the suffering seek.

Come lift up your sorrows
And offer your pain;
Come make a sacrifice
Of all your shame;
There in your wilderness
He’s waiting for you
To worship Him with your wounds,
For He’s wounded too.

He has not stuttered, and He has not lied
When He said, “Come unto me, you’re not disqualified”
When your heavy laden, you may want to depart,
But those who know sorrow are closest to His heart.

In this most Holy Place
He’s made a sacred space
For those who will enter in
And trust to cry out to Him;
You’ll find no curtain there,
No reason left for fear;
There’s perfect freedom here
To weep every unwept tear.