Note: You will want to mute the music below prior to watching the videos.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Think Pink Survivors!

As many of you know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I have always loved the month of October, but now it holds an extra special place in my heart, especially since I have been affected by breast cancer personally. Not only have I been affected by breast cancer at a young age, my mom has also been down this road. By the grace of God we are blessed to be able to call ourselves survivors.

Throughout my journey with breast cancer I have felt my soul purpose was to empower other women to remain positive and not allow breast cancer to take their spirit. More importantly, I wanted all those reading this blog to be inspired by the grace and mercy of God and to see how He truly performs miracles and answers prayers. All we have to do is call out to Him.

As a way to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month, my husband, Ryan, and myself have created a new website, Think Pink Survivors, with a variety of custom-made products. These products are hand-made with compassion and love and each product is made using genuine leather. The possibilities are endless when it comes to colors, stitching, lacing, names, size, tooling, etc. Each product is made to reflect your personal journey with breast cancer. This is a wonderful way to help promote awareness and celebrate your life.

Let's Think Pink Survivors and be an inspiration to all women fighting against breast cancer!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Surprise from Ryan and Charley

This is no secret......I LOVE FALL!!! It is my absolute favorite time of year. I especially love decorating for fall. Each year I buy tons of mums, hay bails, cornstalks, and pumpkins and use them to decorate the flower garden in our front yard. There is nothing that says fall like some mums and pumpkins. I also enjoy decorating the inside of my house which is my project next week when Ryan is in Las Vegas. Yesterday on my way home I received a text message from Ryan telling me there a surprise for me in the front yard. I honestly was expecting a John McCain sign or one of those Huge Halloween Inflatables. I would not have been happy about the inflatable. Thankfully, Ryan knows me better than that. He actually went and purchased all my outside fall decor for me and arranged it outside in my flower garden. I was so happy to see that when I drove by. I had been worried about having the energy and the time to do that this year. However, I won't have to worry about it now because my wonderful husband took care of it for me. I have posted some pics for you and hopefully it will help you get into the fall spirit! Of course, Charley wanted to be a part of the pictures and show me how much she helped her daddy with mommy's "prise."

Then, as I walked into the kitchen the most delicious sugar cookies were awaiting for me and they were decorated with pink ribbons. I know, I have the best husband and your all jealous! Thank you Ryan for all you have done and all you continue to do. I appreciate you so much and love you more and more every day! Your the greatest!

My Beautiful Fall Display...Don't worry, we bring Charley in at night!

Ryan and Charley did a great job!!

They even got decor for my mailbox!

The Yummy Sugar cookies with pink ribbons!

Half-Way Done! Praise The Lord

Let me just start out by saying that yesterday was my mom's 55Th birthday! For this treatment, my mom and dad took me up to St. Louis and we had a GREAT time. My birthday had been last week so we decided to wait and celebrate as a family while we were in St. Louis. We enjoyed eating a great lunch at Fitz's on the The Loop Tuesday afternoon and that evening we took The Metro down to Laclede's landing for some sight-seeing of the arch and a wonderful dinner at a restaurant called Asia. I think since my trips to St. Louis have begun I have eaten there at least 5 times....maybe more! They really do have great food! After we got back to our hotel, we walked down to The Majestic Cafe and enjoyed Apple Pie and French Silk Pie. I have never been so full in all my life! My excuse for all the eating is that I won't eat much for the next week! Yesterday morning we headed back to The Majestic Cafe for blueberry pancakes and biscuits and gravy. Then, after chemo, we ate at the Wild Flower Cafe where we enjoyed BLT's and soup and salad. Yes my friend, we ate like Kings on this trip! It would have been a bit more enjoyable had we not been there for a chemo treatment, but needless to say, it was a great trip!

Well, Yesterday was my 4Th Chemo Treatment which means that I am officially half-way done with my treatments and all done with the first set of drugs. It really was a huge milestone. I have climbed the hill, hit the peak, and am now racing my way towards the finish line!!! Yea! I did meet with the doctor yesterday and there was a little bit of confusion. Throughout my entire treatment I have thought after the first four rounds my next four rounds would be with the drug Taxotere. When I was talking to the nurse yesterday she said that with Taxotere I would be put on an every three week schedule because the body cannot tolerate every two weeks. Of course when she said this I was devastated because I was counting on my last treatment to be November 19Th. In addition, Dr. Ellis had made no mention of this when I first met him back in August. He had clearly stated that I would be on Dose Dense Chemo which means that my treatments would be over the course of 16 weeks in two week intervals with a total of 8 treatments. The nurse was a little confused as to why Dr. Ellis would be giving me Taxotere rather than Taxol. Taxol is in the same family as Taxotere but works differently and can be given every two weeks. Since we were all confused, Dr. Ellis came in and cleared things up. He greeted me a great big hug and kiss on the cheek and proceeded to tell me I look beautiful. Everyone seems to be surprised by how well I am doing through all of this and I credit God 100%. Anyway, I will be taking Taxol every two weeks rather than Taxotere every three. Thanks Goodness....I'm back on schedule! So, if all goes well with the Taxol, my last treatment will be November 19Th. Yea!!!!

The negative about the Taxol is that it is administered over a period of three hours. The first treatment will actually take 5 hours. They administer it so slowly the first time to make sure you don't have an allergic reaction, which is rare, but could happen. The side effects seem to be less than with the first drugs I had. There is little to no nausea but your hands and feet can go numb for long periods of time. Weird. I guess there is no way to know how it will affect me until I have my first treatment. I hope you will all join me in praying for minimal side effects and no allergic reactions. My good friends Hilary and Doreen will be taking me to my next treatment so as least I will have some good entertainment during the 5 hours! Doreen is a nurse so that is an extra plus! I couldn't ask for better!

Before I left for treatment on Tuesday morning, this is what I saw when I walked into the bathroom. I thought I would share this with you! I think Charley could pass at Rambo's daughter. By the way, she put all those hair bands on herself!

Check back later for another update of my special surprise from Ryan and Charley when I returned home!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Great Few Days

For those of you wondering, I had an incredible 29th Birthday. I was showered with lots of cards, presents, and warm wishes. The best part of my day was my date with Ryan that evening. He took me to Ocean Zen and then we went to a movie. First let me just say that I am pretty sure the food I ate at Ocean Zen was by far the best food I have ever eaten in my life. It was so amazing! I want to thank everyone who called, sent a card, and wished me well on my birthday. It really made turning 29 such a special day in my life!

For the past week I have been battling a nasty cold. I kept thinking it was allergies until my snot turned green. Sorry.....but that's how I knew it was an infection. I woke up this morning with an incredible amount of pain on the right side of my face. That's when I knew that I was starting to get a sinus infection. Yuck. I called the Dr. on call up in St. Louis and within 30 minutes I had an antibiotic in my hand. Now that is what I call good medical care. Since I only take the antibiotic for five days, I am hoping to be over this nasty cold and feel great by my next treatment which is this coming Wednesday. Where has the time gone!? Next Wednesday will mark huge progress in my treatment schedule. First, it will be my 4th treatment which means that I will be 1/2 way done. Yay! Next, it will be my final treatment of Adriamycin and Cytoxin! Yay Again! Ryan will be staying home with Charley for the next treatment so please pray for the both of them as they enjoy the time together. My parents will be taking me up to St. Louis and my mom's birthday is actually that Wednesday. It will be nice to celebrate both of our birthday's. Please add safe travels to your prayer lists and that I would kick this nasty cold before then. Thanks and God Bless you all!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Brand New Year

Today I am 29. I don't think I have ever looked forward to a birthday as much as this one. I know that 30 is the "BIG" one for most people, but for me, it's 29. I have accomplished a lot in my 20's. For example, I graduated from college, I got married, I moved away for 2 1/2 years, I began my teaching career, I moved back to Springfield, I got pregnant, I had a miscarriage, I got pregnant again and gave birth to Charley Ryan, I ended my teaching career, Ryan and I started our own business, and.....I got breast cancer. Whew! I have been busy the past several years! Out of all the years in my 20's however, 28 was the hardest. I started 28 sick in the hospital with an unknown bacterial infection. Two months prior, my dad had been in the hospital for a week because of pneumonia. In March, Charley spent several days in the hospital due to dehydration from a nasty bug. Charley felt bad for being the only one who was sick so she was kind enough to pass it on to Ryan and I for several days. In May, I discovered a lump in my right breast. No big deal right? Wrong. Two weeks before Charley's 2ND Birthday I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Two weeks after Charley's birthday I had bilateral mastectomy's. In August I began chemo therapy and am almost half-way done.

Don't get me wrong, 28 wasn't ALL bad. Our family has some wonderful memories from the past year. However, age 29 has never sounded so "fresh" and "new" to me. Although I am starting age 29 in the same way I ended age 28, I feel an abundance of life ahead of me. I feel that God is going to do some amazing things in my life this year. I am so thankful for another birthday. Goodbye 28......Hello 29!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Calling on All Prayer Warriors

Hello Everyone! The past couple of days I have felt OK. I have been waking up really early in the mornings, which isn't so bad because it is very peaceful and quiet. However, I don't think I feel quite as good after this past treatment as I did with treatment number 2. Before I started chemo therapy, several people told me that after the third and fourth treatment, you sometimes start to feel worse because it starts to catch up with you. The good thing is, I only have one more treatment of Adriamyacin and Cytoxan and the I am half way done with my treatments. The next four will be a drug called Taxotere. I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to my last treatment in November. That last treatment means that my body finally begins to heal from all of this, I get new, softer boobies, my hair begins to grow back, I get the opportunity to be a better mom and wife, and I can continue to glorify and honor God by reaching out to others. I don't think that sounds so bad! As I do every so often, I would like to request a few specific prayer request for this week:

1. Please pray for strength in the coming days. My body is achy, my bowels are out of whack, and the fatigue is almost unbearable. I have had a dry cough for several days and the drainage in my throat is making it scratchy.

2. Please pray for patience. Chemo therapy does strange things to your mind and body. Please pray that I would be quick to listen and slow to speak. Pray that I would be reminded that Charley doesn't understand what I am going through and as much as Ryan is trying, it is nearly impossible.

3. Finally, next Thursday is my 29Th birthday! I never thought I would be going through chemo therapy at the age of 29. However, God is so good and my birthday just happens to fall during a week that I don't have treatment. Ryan and I have dinner plans Thursday and then we are taking Charley to see High School Musical at Little Theatre with our best friends Hilary, Kevin, and Zach! Thanks Rachel for the tickets! This birthday is so special to me in so many ways. I have beaten cancer at a young age and my life has forever been touched by the hand of God. Please pray that God would bring an abundance of strength and energy on September 18Th.

Thank you all for your prayers! Everyone of you reading this are incredible. I love you all and pray that your lives are blessed everyday by the grace of God!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Our Trip Home

Ryan and I enjoying lunch after chemo.

Yesterday after chemo, Ryan and I decided to stay and grab a bite to eat before heading home. I never eat anything during chemo therapy for fear of getting sick myself or someone else getting sick because of the smell. The nurses do provide little snacks if you need something to hold you over which is nice. However, the last thing I want to do is get in the car for a 3 hour drive on an empty stomach. Our hotel is in the heart of Central West End in St. Louis. There are so many quaint little shops and places to eat. For breakfast I enjoyed blueberry pancakes from The Majestic Cafe and Ryan had a Greek Omelet. It was so good! Then after treatment, we headed over to the Wild Flower Cafe where we sat outside and dined like true St. Louis residents. I enjoyed a BLT with a spinach salad and lobster bisque soup and Ryan had the fried calamari. We are working on getting away from fried foods and have been praying that God would give us more wisdom when it comes to our eating habits. If having cancer doesn't change that, I don't know what will. Here are some pics of our travels home.

Ryan enjoying the ambiance!

Me, enjoying the beautiful weather!

This is my first time out in public without my hat. Luckily we were just at some scary truck stop. I think I actually scared the truckers. Whatever works, right?

Another truck stop. At least this one had a pretty sunset in the background.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

3 Down......5 to Go!

Cheese! It's Treatment 3!

I am officially receiving my third chemo treatment as we speak. I was actually supposed to start treatement at 1:00 but ended up having to wait over an hour to see the Dr. so that put me behind schedule. Oh Well. I did ask the doctor today about my chances of reoccurance. She (the doctor's nurse) told me there is actually a program where they can enter in information about the size of my tumor, the type of cancer, my age, and lymph node involvement and then the program will give a percentage for reoccurance based on those factors. I chose NOT to have this done. I don't want my life to have a percentage tagged to it. The nurse did make the point that even if I had an actual "number" it wouldn't change my plan of action. I am doing everything I can to ensure that my cancer won't come back. Also, I'm not the type of person to believe that a statistic is the "end all, say all." God is using me to do great things, and this is just the beginning. I believe He is preparing me mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically for something big. As to when that door will open, that is up to HIM. My statistics show that God has healed me forever. I have seen Him answer my prayers and the prayers of others and I will serve Him and honor Him for the rest of my life. God is bigger than any percentage!

Just another day in my life!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Thanks Doreen!

One of the most amazing people I have met throughout my journey is Doreen. Doreen and I attend church together and I met her within days of my diagnosis. She, like me, was diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age. Early on in my diagnosis, I felt like a deer caught in the headlights. There were so many decisions to be made and not a lot of time to make them. However, my conversations with Doreen always led to reassurance, confidence, and hope for my future. I now have a picture of Doreen and her family on my refrigerator. It is a reminder to me everyday that I will overcome this obstacle in my life and that I will be whole again. My hair will grow back, my breast will be reshaped and resized, and I will live my life strong and healthy. She has become such a great friend and I thank God for her.

Last Wednesday, Doreen gave Charley a book titled The Hope Tree. It is a book filled with short stories written by children whose mother's have been diagnosed with breast cancer. The stories reflect how breast cancer affects a child and a family. The very first story is written by an 8 year old boy named Anthony. He talks about the day his mom received the news. He didn't understand why his mom had been crying all day. However, he knew something wasn't right because his house was utter chaos and it had never been that way before. Because of the chaos, he ended up eating cookies for dinner, his dad put the milk in the pantry, and his sister fell asleep that night wearing her tutu. This story was such a great reflection of how I felt in the days following my diagnosis. My entire world froze in time as watched the world around me continue to move on day after day. I couldn't even think about what I should fix Charley for dinner. Who knows, she may have eaten cookies herself a couple of nights!

Thank you Doreen for this book. It will hold a special place in my heart for the rest of my life. You have been such an inspiration to me and I thank God for our friendship!

Charley reading her new book.

Thank you Doreen! I love it!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

One Amazing Night

Last night I went with my best friend Hilary to a Women's Rally at my church. First just let me say that I LOVE MY CHURCH! I thank God for bringing me and my family to James River. Ryan and I began attending James River a little over three years ago. We have continued to find ourselves blessed time and time again. It feels so wonderful to walk into our church and feel an incredible amount of warmth and love. We have met a lot of wonderful people, including several who have had a huge influence and impact on my life throughout this journey. I truly love these people and thank God for bringing them into my life.

Last night at the rally, I was overwhelmed by the presence of God. There was a calling for women to be prayed over who were having trouble conceiving, women who currently had cancer, and for women who had survived cancer. I was touched by the number of women laying their hands on me and praying for strength and continued healing. As I have seen throughout this journey, the power of prayer is incredible. Time and time again I hear stories of miraculous healing and this continues to encourage me and remind me of how big God is.

I continue to get daily emails from people I don't know and from people that I do know telling me what an inspiration I am to them. I love knowing that God is doing a great work in my life and therefore will do a great work in the life of someone else.

This blog was created to document a part of my life that will soon be over with. When you hear you have cancer, the world stops. You quit doing things that you once enjoyed. Everything moves in slow motion. Making decisions don't come easy. Before I was diagnosed, I took a lot of things for granted. The things that were important to me, where things that did not matter. Things such as keeping my house in tip-top shape. Making sure there was not one dirty piece of laundry in my laundry basket....ever. Complaining about the things that I didn't have. God really taught me a lesson in that area. I love knowing that I am inspiring others. However, I am a work in progress. God continues to work in my life. I am learning everyday how to submit myself to Him and allow Him to take on all my worries, all my doubts, and all my fears. This doesn't always come easy for someone who loves to be in control. I am not any different from those of you reading this blog. When I was diagnosed I just made the choice to live my life differently. I knew I couldn't battle cancer alone and I knew the only person that could battle it and win was God Himself. It was at that point that I quit trying to control every aspect of my life and those around me. I do relapse every so often, but then somehow I am reminded that I don't want to live my life as I did before my diagnosis. If you will allow Him, God will make a profound mark in your life just as He did mine. You don't have to wait for a life-threatening diagnosis to change the way you live. I pray that each of you reading this continues to be inspired by just a regular girl who is not perfect, but who has chosen to allow God to do great works in her life. You too can be that person. God is so great and He wants to use you to further His kingdom. All you have to do is allow Him.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Scooter Babe

This blog is for my friend Mary in New York. Most of you reading this know that Mary and I became friends because she came across my blog and decided to email me. Our breast cancer journeys parallel one another. We were both diagnosed at around the same time, both had bilateral mastectomies, and are now both undergoing the same chemo regimen on the same day of each month. We are also both scheduled for reconstruction in December. Mary has been such a blessing to my life. I always look forward to her emails and she is always offering me words of encouragement. A couple of weeks ago Mary was kind enough to send me two bandannas from Orange County Choppers in NY. In case your not familiar, Orange County is where the American Choppers show on TLC takes place. Since Ryan builds custom motorcycle seats, this was an extra special treat for us because that is one of our favorite shows. If only those guys needed a motorcycle seat from Anvil Customs! I wanted to show Mary my appreciation by sporting the bandanna on my blog. Since Ryan doesn't own a motorcycle, I had to model on the next best thing......his scooter. Thanks Mary!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Meaningful Pictures

Hello Everyone! I hope those of you who saw the hair buzzing pictures haven't lost any sleep! I know there were probably several of you who were frightened, especially by the pictures of Ryan. I apologize. Things have been going fairly well. I definitely did better with this round of chemo. It didn't seem to be quite as hard on my body. I wouldn't say the fatigue was better, but the overall side effects did seem to be less. It's hard to believe that this time next week I will be getting yet another treatment. The weeks are flying by which is a good thing. However, Fall is my favorite time of year and I hate that it will be over with before I know it.

I imagine that everyone reading this blog knows someone who has been affected by cancer. Perhaps you have lived through cancer yourself. If so, then you know how cancer can get the best of you. I have chosen to remain positive and optimistic through this journey. However, that doesn't mean that I don't ever experience doubt, fear, or anger. Just last night I was looking at a picture of our family from Easter, 2007. Charley was nine months old at the time and our life seemed perfect. The picture shows a happy family with little to no concern. Less than two years later, our lives were flipped upside down. Pictures taken before June 12Th, 2008 appear differently to me. I am reminded in those pictures that I could never have prepared or known what was coming. I would never have thought that at age 28 I would be fighting cancer. Luckily, I beat it, even though chemo makes me feel like it is winning at times. When I look at pictures taken after that historic date in June, I see a family that has grown closer together. I see a husband that never thought he would watch his wife go through cancer. I see a daughter who will never know the sacrifices her mommy made so that she could see her grow up. And I see me. A mom, a wife, and a daughter who has more appreciation for life. I see a strong woman who is a fighter.

Pictures really do speak a million words.

Easter 2007

August 2008