big words, acronyms, and an amazing God (by Judy)

May 5, 2011

Sometimes I think I live my life lately with big words and acronyms:

– metastatic/metastasis
– inflammatory
INR
– CBC
navelbine
herceptin
coumadin (or warfarin)

etc. . . . .

It can make one very weary.

*sigh*

So how does one cope?

People who are living with a terminal illness cope in different ways. I’ve realized lately that, while I know about my disease and the facts about it, I do better if I don’t read or research about it too much. I guess I’m a head-in-the-sand coper, someone who needs to shut it out of her mind . . . as much as that’s possible anyways.

My faith helps me a great deal. My church family prays for me, family and friends pray for me, and of course I pray for myself. I believe in the power of prayer, and I also believe that so much of my illness is out of my hands. I want to live a long time, but I don’t know if that will happen. On the other hand, it might happen. I simply don’t know, and I put my faith in God. It’s then that I cope the best, when I put my faith in God and lean on people who believe in me and are pulling for me.

This past weekend I went to the Women of Faith conference in Columbus with six women from my church. It was an amazing, uplifting two days. One of the speakers was Angie Smith whose story can be found at the blog Bring the Rain. In short, she and her husband were expecting their fourth child, another girl, and found out during her pregnancy that their future daughter had severe health problems and wouldn’t be able to live outside the womb. That daughter, Audrey Caroline, lived two hours after she was born. I tell you, there wasn’t a dry eye in the auditorium when Angie told her story. At any rate, she ended with a statement that I don’t think I’ll ever forget:

I have a hard story, but I have an amazing God.

I related. Not in the same way as Angie or other women who had experienced the same or a similar loss could relate. But that statement resonated with me:

I have a hard story, but I have an amazing God.

So true, so very true. I do have a hard story . . . . but I also have the same amazing God.

And He gets me through the days . . . when I let him.

Readers . . . I have a hard story, but I have an amazing God.

And when I realize that, when I can live that, I know that no matter what happens, I’ll be OK.

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Cross-posted to Just Enjoy Him.

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50 and happy (by Judy)

April 22, 2011

Today I turned 50 years old, I have Stage IV Inflammatory Breast Cancer, other health issues possibly caused by or at least caused in part by the cancer (diabetes, blood clot) . . . . . and I’m happy.

I know those things don’t always go together; in fact, they haven’t always gone together for me. But, I have so much love in my life, so many incredible friends, family members, and a tremendous church family. I have the best son in the world. They lift me up, my faith lifts me up, and I feel extremely blessed and lately very happy.

I am LIVING. I might be living with cancer, but the key word there is LIVING. LIFE. I may have a scary diagnosis, but I also have an awesome oncologist, so many people praying for me, and a faith that builds me up. I have no idea how much time I have on this earth, but I’m going to squeeze as much LIFE out of it as I can.

In spite of the cancer and the other medical problems, I feel incredibly blessed.

LIVING and BLESSED = a happy heart.

That’s all kinds of WIN, in my book. 🙂
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Cross-posted to Just Enjoy Him.


last night’s benefit (by Judy)

April 17, 2011

My heart and soul are full-to-bursting and my mind keeps going so my sleep has been restless (the steroids probably don’t help, but anyways . . . ). I wish I could bottle these feelings and share them with all of you, with all of my loved ones — and my loved ones are many. In spite of the cancer, I am blessed beyond belief. Beyond words. God’s grace was in the room last night, in every person who was there and those who couldn’t be there but were there in spirit, in all the wonderful people pulling for me, praying for me, giving of their love, time, and energy to help me.

The benefit was a success. If you want to look at it in purely monetary terms, people are generous and the money will help so much with what insurance doesn’t cover for us. However, it was about so much more than money. It was about love and people being there for me, people showing me how much they care (again, whether they were there in person or in spirit). Amazingly incredible people who show me time and time again that I’m loved, that they care about me, who exemplify God’s grace.

There are, of course, many people to thank, and I’m sure I’ll forget some. I apologize in advance. The two women who thought this up, H and K, also did much of the work to make last night so great. My sisters, J and M also helped and were in charge of the raffle items. Speaking of the raffle items, all the people who donated items (and I can’t remember all of them here) were generous to do so and I appreciate them so very much. MB did a great deal of work pulling the event together, and her husband S helped quietly behind the scenes. The Campus Preschool staff, including MS, JB, and SG also helped with the benefit. C and her husband G who helped spread the word where I work. Fazoli’s for catering the event. L for coming from Michigan and B for coming from Connecticut. And of course, everyone who was there, physically or in spirit, who lifted me up and made me feel extraordinarily loved. I’m sure I’m forgetting people and I apologize for doing so.

I think the “high” from this will last for awhile. I can only thank everyone who is pulling for me, everyone who shows me their love, and God for his infinite grace. I’m tired, yes, but I’m happy.

So very happy.

Thanks to all my loved ones. I love you all.
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Cross-posted to Just Enjoy Him.


children with cancer (by Judy)

April 16, 2011

(First, I need to say that I’m not talking about Energy Boy; I don’t want to upset any of our loved ones.)
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When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s hard being a mom with cancer, particularly an aggressive cancer or a cancer at an advanced stage. We worry about our children — how is this experience affecting them? Will it change them? Will they never be quite as innocent as other kids who don’t face such troubles in their families?

And then there are the really big worries: Will I be here to raise him? Will he ever remember me when I wasn’t sick? Will he get as much mommy time as he needs before this disease takes me?

It’s a heavy burden, but I know there are heavier ones. My cancer is the worst thing that’s happened to me, but I know without a doubt that if EB had cancer, that would be even worse. We don’t want our children to feel pain. I wouldn’t want him to have to go through chemo or radiation or surgery, as I have. Yet, some children DO go through some/all of those, and perhaps even more painful stuff. We’re blessed that EB is very healthy right now and I pray that he stays that way. I don’t know what it’s like to be a mother whose child has cancer, but I can imagine somewhat.

Yesterday I received a very nice email from Ryan Stephens, the Marketing Coordinator of the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center. I’m going to quote some of his email here.

Hi Judy,

Because of the way you’re able to bring Energy Boy and Absent Minded Professor to life on your blog, while also detailing your own cancer journey, I thought you would be a great advocate in helping us share the story of Matthew Rager – a 9-year old glioma brain tumor survivor – in hopes that other parents will feel empowered in the fight against childhood cancer.

I work at the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center where Matthew received his proton radiation treatment and his mother Denise wanted to share their story, of struggle, advocacy and courage to offer support and hope to other families facing cancer. Their story, told by Denise through a video essay will premiere April 16th in New Orleans at the annual Mom 2.0 Summit (on Twitter @Mom2Summit or #Mom2Summit). The video will be available on YouTube for everyone to view and share immediately after the premiere. I’ve included you in an exclusive group of people who get to see the video a day early in case you want to share it on your blog after the premiere tomorrow.

I hope you’ll consider sharing their story and video on your blog (or via Twitter) after the premiere — as you will no doubt influence the lives of those who now or might some day need to make a decision for themselves or someone they love.

Please let me know if you have any questions or would like more information on proton therapy. In the meantime, more information can be found here: http://mdanderson.org/protonforkids

Thank you for your time!

Ryan Stephens

I watched the video, twice, and cried like a baby both times. I related to the mom, for even if my son hasn’t been through what hers has, I think on some level, many of us moms have secret worries and fears about “what if . . . . ” happens to my child. I wanted to embrace this boy, this family, and then cheer them for what they had been through, what they had endured.

I love this video. It’s a very touching story of a boy’s journey through cancer. And not just his journey, but his family’s journey, and what they’ve done to help others afterward. Mostly, it’s a video about hope, and hope is nothing to sneeze at, my friends.

Please watch Matthew’s story. It will make you want to hold your child(ren) a bit tighter today.

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Cross-posted to Just Enjoy Him.


Protected: nice write-up for my benefit (by Judy)

April 13, 2011

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a wonderful charity for breast cancer patients/families (by Judy)

April 6, 2011

I couldn’t sleep last night. For the first time in a long time, it was out of excitement rather than being sick, worried, scared, etc. I was happy. Lying there in the dark, I found myself smiling. SMILING as I was trying to sleep. Imagine that!

Yesterday was, as founder of Little Pink Houses of Hope, Jeanine Patten-Coble wrote in a blog post, A Big Day. A Big Day for LPHOH and A Big Day for recipients of the May/June beach weeks that LPHOH granted to some applicants.

I know. As I said in my previous post, I’m one of the recipients of a free week at the beach with my family, a week to rest, recharge, and reconnect. A week to meet a few other breast cancer patients/survivors and their families. A week to go to the place I love most in the world, THE BEACH, which gives me the rest and relaxation no other place does. A week to, as much as I can, forget my troubles and sink them into the warm sand of the North Carolina shore.

Patten-Coble is a breast cancer survivor herself. LPHOH is something she created after her own bout with breast cancer. Patten-Coble had a dream to do for others what helped her during her time with breast cancer, take a week at the beach, relax, and unwind. Patten-Coble has done the proverbial taking lemons and making lemonade out of them.

LPHOH is a new charity, and this year marks their first year of beach retreats for some breast cancer patients and their families. I know there are tons of good charities out there, but if you’re looking for someplace to put a few of your hard-earned dollars, if you’re looking for a way to help breast cancer patients, this is a charity that’s very deserving.

God bless Jeanine Patten-Coble and her dream. God bless her for not only having a dream, but for making her dream a reality. I consider myself incredibly blessed to be one of the first recipients of a beach week in North Carolina in just a little over a month. I am OVER THE MOON with joy at this news. My family and I are getting a vacation that we wouldn’t be able to afford if we were to try to pay for it ourselves, and we are grateful, extremely grateful.

And blessed. Thank you, once again, LPHOH, for this blessing. You are a blessing in our lives and in the lives of other breast cancer patients and their families.

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Cross-posted to Just Enjoy Him.


It Can Happen to You

February 8, 2011

My dog Sophie sat under the kitchen table for years, with great, unflagging optimism. I would marvel at her evergreen hopefulness, as she would lie belly-down on the hardwood floor, looking up with patient brown eyes at the underside of the table on which that night’s dinner lay. Years of evidence to the contrary, she would wait perfectly still for that magical moment when the pork chops would levitate from the table, hang in the air for a few seconds, then drop to the floor with a juicy thud. Sophie’s eyes said it all: “It could happen.”

Then one day, it did happen.

My mom had come to San Francisco and wanted to go shopping at Union Square. She put a pot roast in the oven, turned the heat to low, and said it would be fine for a couple hours. Long story short, we spent more time than planned downtown. When we got back to my flat on Cesar Chavez street, I ran up the stairs to try on my new shoes while Mom ran up to check on her pot roast, which by now had been roasting for six hours.

“I think it’ll be ok,” she said, placing her smoking, ruined dinner on the table. Sophie took her position underneath and waited.

As Mom muscled through the hard crust of what now looked like a hockey puck, the entire “roast” flew off the serving platter. Sophie sprang. In what seemed like a slow motion slam dunk, she caught the “roast” in her jaws before it even hit the floor.

Victory comes to dogs who wait. Not often, but it is a possibility.

Which, finally, leads me to a point. And that point is that you can go through a mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation and reconstruction and still find love. I know because it happened to me.

I had a very supportive boyfriend through it all. He waited for two years for the glorious outcome of my reconstruction. But unlike Sophie’s prize pot roast, the outcome wasn’t so good, so he split. “What a dog,” my friends exclaimed. Not so. I got a lot out of that relationship, and it slowly and painfully led me to my current one.

I won’t detail all the bad Match.com dates that came between the two. That’s for another post. What I will detail is that during that time I waited with great hope and optimism for that one man who would see beyond my physical and emotional scars and see something else. Fear, sometimes. Resilience, maybe. Unflagging optimism, for sure.

That relentless optimism and a wholesome faith in my God, led me to my man. A list of adjectives cannot begin to describe his goodness, but I can’t resist: Bighearted, honest, compassionate, generous, patient, understanding, forgiving, funny, uncomplicated, complicated, deep, basic, true. We got engaged in Kauai on January 12. He just wags my tail.

For all you girls out there wondering how you’re gonna find love after cancer, remember this: It does happen. And it can happen to you.