the best is yet to be…

Tomorrow is almost here. It seemed so far in the future for so long, but as it has gotten closer I have had many different emotions. I have known since my diagnosis in February that surgery would follow chemo. There were really no options to consider with chemo, I was simply told which drugs I would receive, but surgery was different in my case. I was given information and reccomendations, but the choice was ultimately mine to make. For months I have researched, prayed, and talked to doctors and survivors about options. Deciding between a lumpectomy and mastectomy was a daunting task for me, but God provided such wise counsel and guidance each time that I needed it. By the time I finished chemo, I knew which surgery was right for me and what surgeons I would use. Even though I’d had numerous conversations about it with Adam and my close friends/family, I still cried the day that I told my nurse practitioner for the first time that I’d decided on a double mastectomy. It became more real that day, and has each day since then.

It was no surprise that this was coming next, but accepting this part has not been easy. Although I had pages full of questions ready for the appointments with the surgeons, I still left feeling so overwhelmed and with even more questions. There was so much new terminology and information to digest. I had read about most of it already, but it was different now that it was really happening soon – to me. I wasn’t reading facts or hearing someone else’s experience anymore, I was being told what was about to happen to me. This all made me very emotional. I began to feel overwhelmed by the surgery itself – did I really understand the procedures? Was I ready? Then I became scared of the surgery – was I going to wake up? Up until this point in my life, I’ve only been under anesthesia a couple of times and the only surgery I’ve had has been outpatient with no hospital stay. Then I started thinking about what recovery will be like, what I can’t do, what kind of pain I’ll be in, and what I will look like afterwards. As I packed my bag for the hospital yesterday, I realized that I thought I’d be packing a bag like this one day, but I thought it would be when I was preparing to go to the hospital to have a baby. I’m not bringing home a baby though, instead I’m coming home with a different body. Yesterday was one of those days when the temptation to feel sorry for myself and wallow in self-pity was almost more than I could bear, and there were a lot of tears.

Thankfully I have a wonderful husband, family, and friends who push me to focus more on God and less on my circumstances. I will admit that some days I have done that better than other days, but God’s grace is always there when I need it most. Today I have felt such peace, and I am ready to face tomorrow. Adam and I went for a boat ride on the river this afternoon and I adored this time being outside and being with him. I realized then and there that God wanted me to stop being sad about what I was losing and the pain I’d go through, and focus on the fact that this surgery is one more opportunity He is giving me to fight cancer so that I can have more sweet moments like these. I am thankful that I’ve been given this chance to fight and I am trusting that He will take care of the rest.

Tonight I also received this sweet gift from one of my very dear friends that reaffirmed what I’d been feeling all day. I believe God knew what I had been struggling with this week and put it on her heart to choose this perfect message to reiterate to me.

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I have to be at the hospital at 7:00am tomorrow, and surgery will begin at 9:00am. It will last about 4 hours and I will have to stay at least 1 night, possibly 2. We will be wearing these shirts designed by a special young lady who is very near and dear to my heart.

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Thank you so much for all of the cards, texts, emails, and Facebook posts this week. They have lifted my spirits so much. As always, we are so appreciative of your prayers. I’d like to ask you to pray for a few things specifically for tomorrow:

— Continued peace for me in the morning and that I can focus on God’s faithfulness instead of my fears

— Wisdom and guidance for the surgeons, nurses, and the rest of the medical team

— No complications during surgery

— A clear pathology report that the cancer is gone, and no cancer present in my lymph nodes (which would mean no radiation)

— Patience, strength, and comfort for Adam, my parents, my brother, my aunt, and my in-laws as they wait at the hospital

— Comfort, peace, and minimal pain during recovery

— That God would continue this work in drawing me closer to Him and continue to get all of the glory for carrying me through this season

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Stumbling

I started writing this post a couple of weeks ago, right after my last chemo treatment, but I’m just getting around to finishing it. There have been some very hard days in these weeks following my last chemo. Even though I’ve been writing about them, I’ve been hesitant to post because I didn’t want anyone to worry or feel sorry for me. However, it’s a real part of this journey, the one that I felt called to share. As I read the following verses in a card I received this weekend, I was reminded that it’s ok to feel weak, and it’s important for me to share that side as well. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭12‬:‭9-10‬)

As I experienced the end of one stage of my treatment and began to prepare for the next, fear, anxiety, and sadness crept into my mind. I got stuck inside my head, started thinking way too much, and all of these thoughts led to a lot of tears. I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it and my talks with God consisted of pleading with Him to help me understand why I felt this way and give me peace again. Not only was I struggling with my emotions, but I was frustrated because I didn’t want to feel this way. I wanted to be full of hope, courage, and perseverance.

I was excited about celebrating the last chemo treatment with family and friends. The last time that I would have poison pumped through my body was a huge milestone in my cancer treatment. We wanted to celebrate this, as well as the fact that the chemo had been so successful in shrinking my tumor. I looked forward to being able to celebrate this ending with so many sweet friends and family who wanted to be there, but I was not so sure of how I felt about chemo really being over. I know that must sound strange. After all, why would I want to continue experiencing unpleasant side effects week after week? Chemo in itself is certainly not an enjoyable experience, but it became comfortable and familiar to me. With all of the change that was going on in my life since my diagnosis, this familiarity was welcome. It became my “new normal”. I knew that I would go in every other Thursday and Friday and be taken care of by one of my three nurses and that I would go in on Wednesdays in between for a follow-up with my oncologist. I knew I would see the receptionists upstairs, those who drew my blood and took my vitals, my oncologist, my nurse practitioner, and many familiar faces in the chairs around me. I was comfortable and SCOA became like a second home to me. How did that happen? I remember vividly the first time Adam and I pulled into the parking lot in February for my first consultation with my oncologist. The tears came as soon as he put the truck in park and it was time to get out and go inside. I did not want to go in there I told him.

Four months later, the tears came again, very unexpectedly, as I walked out. I went for my follow-up appointment as usual, but I knew I wouldn’t be back again in 2 weeks. It was yet another thing to celebrate! But even through all of the smiles and congratulatory hugs, my heart didn’t feel like celebrating, it just felt heavy. I went downstairs to thank my chemo nurses, since I had been so busy celebrating the week before I didn’t feel like I had adequately expressed my gratitude for all that they had done. It was very strange to me to walk downstairs and not wait to have my blood drawn, and then walk into the infusion room and not go sit in a chair. I looked around at everyone and again had that feeling that I’d had the morning of my first treatment, the feeling that I didn’t belong here. However, this time I was right. I really didn’t belong here anymore. I knew then that this part of my journey was over and this day ended up feeling more like the end to me than the last chemo. I had to fight back the tears as I walked out of the infusion room, back up the stairs, and out of those front doors.

This flood of emotion was completely unexpected and left me feeling vulnerable and insecure. On one of my hard days, I picked up the devotional Bible given to me by a friend at church. I had been very confused as to why I was feeling the way that I was and I had asked God to please lead me to something in those devotions that would help me find some peace. I came across one written by a woman named Joanne Arentson who had experienced emotions similar to mine when nearing the end of chemo. She likened the experience to a child riding a bicycle without training wheels for the first time with his earthly father running close behind him. She realized that the end of chemo for her meant that these training wheels were now gone but that she could rely on her Heavenly Father who was running behind her. It seems like such a simple and straightforward analogy, but I was so encouraged by it. Realizing someone else in my situation had those same feelings brought me immense comfort. I think that this is something we can apply to any new situation in our lives – we have to have complete trust in Him rather than relying simply on our own capabilities.

This devotional Bible that I was reading from has a special story.My friend bought it several years ago because she thought it was pretty (it has a pink embossed leather cover), not realizing that it was for breast cancer survivors. Soon after I was diagnosed, she gave it to me. At the time she bought it, we didn’t even know each other or live in the same city, but I am certain that God planned this  seemingly “accidental” purchase knowing that she would one day have me to pass it along to. This is just another one of the many ways I have experienced His amazing grace along the way! If you are going through breast cancer or know someone who has been diagnosed, this Devotional Bible for Women, NKJV: Pink Edition has many encouraging devotions and prayers.

This devotion also pointed me to Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Fearful, dismayed, and weak were exactly what I had been feeling, but this verse reminded me that I could rise above these emotions if I held onto those promises. He is with me. He is my God. He will strengthen and help me. He will uphold me. It is so easy for me, in times of change especially, to lose sight of this. Change has always been a challenge for me, whether I perceive it as a good or bad change. I tend to feel that in order to be successful in something that I need to be [overly] prepared for it. In order to feel prepared, I need to know what to expect so that I can then plan accordingly. That is where change poses a problem for me. I don’t know what to expect with the change so I can’t plan for anything. Without my planning, I don’t feel prepared and feel like I’m not going to be successful. Then those negative emotions creep into my mind. God is teaching me a lot about this through cancer. Too often I equate success with perfection and God doesn’t ask us to be perfect. He asks us to be faithful. I need to have faith in those promises that he gave in Isaiah 41:10. I need to put my faith in Him, not my planning. What if He would have told me last summer that this change was coming, explained every procedure and side effect I could expect, and then told me that I had 6 months to come up with a plan? Would my planning have made me more “successful” in fighting cancer? No. I’ve learned firsthand that no plan or feeling of preparedness can get you through life’s deepest valleys, expected or unexpected. Only God can do that.

I also wanted to share a snippet of God’s grace from last week. I was volunteering at Chick-fil-A with our church and was asked if I could stay an hour longer to cover for someone who was running late. Little did I know that the reason they needed me to stay longer was so that Kim Rich could get back to the restaurant with a special gift for me – a Chick-fil-A cow dressed in pink! She even has a head scarf like mine! Kim gathered all of us in a circle right in the middle of the busy restaurant and prayed for me. It was such a special moment and just what I needed to lift my spirits. I am continuously amazed at the people God places in my life and moments that He arranges. His planning and timing are so PERFECT!

Kim and I with my surprise!  July 7, 2015
Kim and I with my surprise!
July 7, 2015

Physically, I have been feeling great. I’m still experiencing the Taxol side effect of itching in my hands and feet periodically, but hopefully this will subside soon. I’m very thankful to be feeling more like myself on a regular basis instead of every other week. I will be having surgery in 2 weeks (Monday, July 27th). I will share more later, but I’ve chosen to have a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. Though I feel I have been stumbling a lot along this journey lately, I am holding on to Psalm 37:23-24 “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” Each day I’m trying to find my strength in Him and focus on these promises instead of all of the emotions I have about the surgery. If you could pray that I can continue to do that, I would appreciate it so much!

Closing the Chemo Chapter

I am finished with chemo! My 8th and final treatment was yesterday!
As I have been nearing the end of this phase of my cancer journey, I have been reflecting on all that I have been through and learned during this time. Two days after the nurse navigator called to inform me of the biopsy results, she called again to let me know what treatment plan the doctors had agreed upon when they met to review my case. They had taken into consideration all of the characteristics of my tumor from the pathology report and decided that chemotherapy should be the first step in my cancer treatment. I will not bore you with all of those details, but it truly is amazing what a specialized approach they are able to take with each person based on all that is now known about breast cancer and how different each case is. I processed this news with mixed emotions. I was glad to have a definite treatment plan in place and very thankful that the doctors had this option to help cure me, but I was terrified of losing my hair. That is another process in itself so I will save that for another post! I asked as many questions as I could think of at the time and then learned specifics when I met my oncologist for the first time the following week. She informed me that I would have 4 treatments of Adriamycin/Cytoxan followed by 4 treatments of Taxol. I would be able to have “dose-dense” chemo, meaning I would have treatments every 2 weeks. I realized this could be more taxing on my body, but I also knew it meant less time overall spent on chemo which was a positive. Since I planned to continue working full time, Thursdays would be my treatment days so that I would have the weekend to recover. I would need to have a port placed under the skin on my chest for them to deliver the chemo medications so that they didn’t have to start an IV in my arm every time. I had no idea what this was, so here is an illustration if you are as curious as I was –  Port Illustration . Mine is not very noticeable and is only a small bump.

Before port placement surgery March 10, 2015
Before port placement surgery March 10, 2015

I remember the first day of chemo very well. I was not anticipating this day with excitement, but I had not been dreading it either. You see, I spent the entire month prior feeling completely normal and well, but learning about all of the things that might happen to me once chemo started. Symptoms vary so much from person to person, even those on the same chemo drugs, so it was difficult for anyone to tell me exactly what I could expect, just many possibilities. I was just waiting for what I was told would help heal me, but at the same time make me terribly ill. I was relieved by the time March 19 finally arrived so that I would not have to wonder what it would be like any longer. I was also looking forward to having a more consistent schedule since ours had been so unpredictable and filled with so many appointments at different places with different doctors. Being the planner that I am, the idea of knowing my appointment schedule for the next few months put me at ease and made preparing sub plans easier for me (teacher friends, I am sure you can relate!).

That morning I got many texts, phone calls, and emails on our drive to South Carolina Oncology. I was feeling hopeful and positive when Adam and I checked in at the front desk at 8:00am. We then went downstairs where I waited with many other people to have my blood drawn. One of the first things that I noticed was how different I felt than everyone else this first day. I was so much younger. I also had a head full of long hair pulled back in a ponytail. I looked at everyone and wondered what kind of cancer they had and where they were in this process. They also looked at me. On the outside, I didn’t look like I belonged here, but on the inside I had the same disease threatening to ravage my body. I did belong here because we were all here to fight the same battle. After having my blood drawn, I waited again to to have my vitals taken. We then made our way into the huge room filled with rows of over 40 plush recliners. I felt the anxiety and fear growing stronger as I walked to choose my chair. I chose a seat facing the window, all the while trying to fight back the tears. I was terrified as I sat in that chair for the first time. My nurse was so sweet as she came over to access my port and through my tears I told her how scared I was. She assured me that it was normal to feel this way and let me have my moment to cry it out. This was not a chair or room I ever anticipated that I would be sitting in and as I sat down the reality that I was now a cancer patient hit hard. I tried to refocus my thoughts on God’s truths instead of my fear and kept reminding myself of Deuteronomy 31:8 “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” I also clung to Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” I was so fearful of what these drugs that they were about to put into my body were going to do to me, but I knew I had to keep reminding myself that God was right there with me in that room and wasn’t going anywhere. What a comfort it was to know I didn’t have to face this day alone!

First Chemo March 19, 2015
First Chemo with the blanket made by my coworkers         March 19, 2015

I felt much better once I refocused my thoughts and was ready to have my port accessed for the first time. It didn’t hurt like I’d imagined and I really only felt a little pressure for a second. The first couple of hours I received anti-nausea meds, steroids, and fluids. Adam and I talked and I wrote in my journal. I even graded some papers which amused Adam (but didn’t surprise him) because “Of course”, he said, “that’s exactly what you should be doing at chemo – being productive.” I will be the first to admit that relaxing is a struggle for me a lot of the time! When it was almost time for my first chemo drug to be administered, I received the greatest blessing when a dear survivor friend dropped in to see us. She had received the same drugs so it was such a comfort having her arrive just before the infusion started. God’s timing is so perfect! This first drug, Adriamycin, is also known as the “Red Devil” due to its bright red color as well as its very unpleasant side effects. My friend told me that she had been given the wonderful advice of instead thinking of it as the “Blood of Jesus” so that’s what I did. It has to be pushed into the line by hand slowly through a syringe because of the damage that could occur if it were to escape into surrounding tissues. I will never forget watching the fluid in my line change from clear to pink to bright red as it traveled up to my port that first time. Fear was creeping up again, but I prayed as I watched this that I would be healed by this toxic drug,  and I sang every hymn about the blood of Jesus in my head that I could think of! After about 15 minutes of that drug being pushed in, I was ready for Cytoxan, the second chemo drug in the A/C combo. This was dripped over a few hours and made me feel like I was having an ongoing brain freeze so the rate had to be slowed down a little. Finally by 1:30 I was ready to go home. They unhooked my line and taped the small part to my chest leaving the needle in so I wouldn’t have to be stuck again the next day when I returned for fluids. The next day I returned in the morning for fluids and the shot that boosted my white blood cell count then went in to work. I would usually start feeling the side effects from the shot (pain/body aches) night and they would last through the weekend. The fatigue and nausea were worst over the weekend also but by God’s grace I was always able to be back in the classroom Monday morning.

Chemo #2 with the Easter Bunny
Chemo #2 with the Easter Bunny                April 2, 2015
Adriamycin
Adriamycin #3                                                      April 16, 2015

After 4 treatments (8 weeks) with this first drug combo, I switched to the second drug, Taxol. This drug tends to have less intense side effects in terms of nausea, but has the potential to cause an allergic reaction when it is administered. I tolerated the first Taxol treatment fine with no reaction, but then it happened during both my second and third infusions. Thankfully, I had no reaction yesterday during my last treatment! I had asked many people to pray specifically for this. They were able to get things under control and continue at a slower rate both times but it was painful and scary so I was happy to skip that part! The side effects I’ve experienced with it have been bone pain in my legs the weekend after a treatment and neuropathy in my hands/feet, which oddly enough for me has presented itself as itching instead of numbness/tingling. Please pray that this ends as soon as possible in the coming weeks, it’s really no fun! I have been so thankful to not experience nausea though.

Hooked up to the monitors after Taxol reaction May 28, 2015
Hooked up to the monitors after Taxol reaction May 28, 2015
Rush's picnic
Rush’s picnic

Yesterday was such a sweet day of celebration and thanksgiving. So many family members and friends came to share the day and celebrate  with us. They brought balloons, Tiffany’s petits fours, an Edible Arrangement, and pink beads for everyone to wear. It was also Patient Appreciation Day at SCOA so we were treated to Bojangles coffee and biscuits as well as hand massages from an oncology massage therapist. We also received many thoughtful gifts from A “Tiny” Bit of Love, Inc. These family members of a sister who lost her battle passed out snacks, key chains, and handmade blankets to all of us. It was such a beautiful thing to see them loving on so many people in her memory.

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A “Tiny” Bit of Love
Beautiful blanket from A
Beautiful blanket from A “Tiny” Bit of Love

This chapter has been quite a challenge and there have been days when I have experienced physical and emotional weakness like never before, but the Lord has carried me through and has been so faithful. I am looking forward to feeling like myself again for more than a few days at the time and not having to schedule things around my “bad” weekends – oh yes, and to have my hair begin to grow back! However, I want to always remember all that I have learned through chemo  including trusting God completely and never taking good health for granted.

Before I rang the bell, I thought about this verse from a devotion sent to me yesterday morning. “Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” (‭Psalm‬ ‭95‬:‭2‬) I hope that my heavenly Father heard this bell ringing as my song of praise and thanksgiving! I am so thankful for Him carrying me through this part of the journey! Please keep the prayers coming as I make decisions and prepare for surgery over the next few weeks.

Chemo is DONE! June 25,2015
Chemo is DONE! June 25, 2015
After ringing the bell!
After ringing the bell!

Loving Me Through It

I was in the middle of writing a post about my last chemo treatment being next week, but then I heard a song last night as Adam and I were driving to a friend’s house. As soon as it came on, I said “Oh, I love this song!” and turned it up (which is quite typical of me when we are driving somewhere). Once I heard her words, I felt the tears welling up. It was dark so Adam couldn’t see this, but he instantly took my hand. I knew immediately that it was a song I liked, but it had been so long since I had heard it that I had not remembered what it was about. It caught me completely off guard but every word resonated with me and I felt like she was telling my story.

Today I watched the video (below) and it reminded me how incredibly thankful I am for all of the ways I have been loved through this trial. Philippians 4:19 says “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” I have seen this firsthand as He has provided skilled doctors and nurses, medications that are working to destroy this cancer, and financial blessings that have eased the burden of my many medical bills. God has also shown His unfailing love by placing so many people in my life to love on me during this season. My incredible husband has been there to listen and help guide me since day one. He was in the waiting room as I had the mammogram, ultrasound, and biopsy. He was sitting next to me on the couch the next day when I got the phone call. Although we were engaged, I told him I would understand if he didn’t want to go through with the wedding. He wouldn’t entertain that idea and on March 8 vowed to love me in sickness and in health, knowing that the former was coming before the latter.  At appointments he has carried my “doctor bag”, held my hand in the waiting room, and taken notes so that I could listen to what the doctor had to say. Every other Thursday, he has carried my “chemo bag”, purse, and water bottle as I get blood drawn and vitals taken before chemo. He has sat with me every one of these treatment days for up to 7 hours, and has even always let me have a bite of the bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit he gets from the cafe upstairs. He gets up earlier than he has to on weekdays so that he can tie my scarf before I leave for work. On weekends after chemo when I have felt the worst, he has cleaned and done laundry without ever complaining. He has cooked numerous waffles for me, my go-to food when I’ve been sick, and fed them to me in bed when I’ve been too weak to do it myself. He never pities me, but always listens to my fears and lets me cry. He prays with me, guides me, and leads me as we have tough decisions to make. He has loved, served, and suffered with me so well in this season and I cannot imagine what this journey what have been like had God not led me to Columbia 2 years ago and placed him in my life.

I am also thankful for my family who has been so supportive in any way that we have needed. Telling my mom and dad that I had cancer was by far one of the most difficult things that I have ever had to do. I am not a parent, so I don’t fully understand what they are going through, but I can imagine how hard it is to learn that your child is facing such a tough battle and to be afraid that you will lose her. I knew this before I made those phone calls which is what made them so hard. I didn’t want to cause my parents that pain. They have been so supportive and pray for me daily. Although I wanted them to see what chemo was like, I knew it would not be easy for them to watch those toxins be pumped into my body so I never wanted to make them feel like they had to be there. Thankfully I did not have to, as they both decided on their own that they wanted to be there. Even though they both live several hours away, they make the trip as often as possible. Daddy enjoys having a Reuben sandwich from the cafe at lunch and talking on his phone (shocker) when he is there, and mom likes to read magazines. They have loved me through this so well and I couldn’t ask for more. My mother-in-law also visits us and has a “chemo gift” for me each time. My nurse and I always get excited to see what it will be this week! Many other family members and friends have come to SCOA to share the chemo experience with us. Having company has made it a much more pleasant experience! I also have a couple of friends who unfailingly remember my treatment days and take time out of their busy lives to email me an encouraging devotion or scripture that is always exactly what I need to hear on that particular day.

Having cancer has made me much more appreciative of many things, one of those things being relationships. So many bonds have been strengthened and new ones formed. I have met survivors who have been sources of counsel, understanding, and hope. Each of these women has been such a huge blessing and helped me navigate this new world of breast cancer. Friends and family have been so generous with their time and resources. They check in on me on my bad weekends, cook dinner for us, and just take the time to spend time with us when I am feeling good. Since my time to feel good physically has been limited, I have learned to make the most of it and not take it for granted. They even generously donated to my Relay for Life team last month and have given us many thoughtful gifts. Each of those gifts, whether it be a book, restaurant gift card, or something else, has helped me in its own way and I am so grateful. My colleagues at work were so selfless in in helping me juggle everything to make it possible for me to still continue being there for my children. I have also been amazed at the people who have reached out to me, even those I haven’t been in touch with in years. Each time I read a message or pull a card out of our mailbox I am reminded that someone is praying, and there aren’t words to express how much that encourages me. I have usually been on the other end of those words, telling someone that I am praying for them, but now being on the receiving side I truly understand how meaningful that is. Even if you don’t know what else to say, the fact that you take the time to pray for me specifically and tell me that you are means so much more than you realize.

I have been so humbled by the outpouring of love during this season by the Lord as well as so many people. Thank you for loving me through this!

6.14.15

If Adam and I would have had things  our way, today would have been our wedding day. Soon after we were engaged in December, we began planning our big day. We decided to wait until school was out for me, and also wanted to make sure we didn’t interfere with football season. We spent the last week of my Christmas break choosing and booking vendors. 

In January, I went dress shopping and found a dress I loved at the first store, but I wasn’t ready to commit without looking a little more. We drove across town where I didn’t see anything that I liked, until the lady came to the dressing room carrying a dress from the window that she thought I should try. It was very similar to the one at the first store, and it fit almost perfectly. It was a new arrival and had only been tried on a few times, so she told me that I may want to consider just buying the sample. Perfect! Little did I know that this was just one of the ways God was helping prepare me for the change in plans that we would soon be faced with.

 Just a few weeks later, I got the phone call that changed everything. We really didn’t talk much about the wedding in those first days because honestly, at that point, I wasn’t sure that I would even get that opportunity and that was one of the most heartbreaking things for me to accept. I just prayed that God would help us figure it all out and that I could accept it either way.

The Monday after my diagnosis, we saw my oncologist for the first time and learned that my treatment plan would begin with chemotherapy – 8 treatments, every 2 weeks. We asked how long we could safely wait to begin chemo, in the event we decided to move the wedding up, and we were told 3 weeks. During this time though I also had to have surgery to have a port placed in my chest for chemo. We had a lot of decisions to make. We both knew a June wedding no longer made sense as I would be feeling the side effects of chemo and would also lose my hair within 2 weeks of my first treatment. So much had already been planned though and postponing the wedding until later wasn’t what either of us wanted. Adam was ready to be there with me every night and not have me staying alone anymore. We left the oncologist’s office that day and went to Mellow Mushroom downtown where we spent the next hours talking on the phone with vendors between bites of pizza. We set our new date, Sunday, March 8. We had no idea how we would pull it off, but we had 13 days to finish planning!

Those next 13 days are pretty much a blur. They consisted of days running from work to countless doctor’s appointments, scans, and tests. Nights were spent trying to learn about breast cancer, typing substitute plans for all of the appointments, addressing invitations, and working on all of the other wedding details we weren’t planning on tackling until the last month or so. 

The most wonderful part though is how God worked everything together for us in those 13 days. ALL of our vendors were able to switch to our new date, and our entire wedding party was able to do the same. We had decided on a honeymoon and were about to book it the week before my diagnosis but thankfully had not. We had all of the paper and digital file to print out invitations, but hadn’t done that yet either. My dress fit perfectly and needed no alterations other than a bustle. Everything worked out perfectly with the wedding party’s suits and dresses. The number of people who gave their time and resources when they heard our story was simply unbelievable. 

I wanted to write this post tonight to reflect on how perfect God’s plan and timing is. Even though we thought we had this day planned, God knew he had something else in mind. Our day was wonderful and so much sweeter having it His way, not to mention about 30 degrees cooler than it would have been today! Today we are thankful for 3 “extra” months together as husband and wife! 

   
     

The Next Step

Well, it has been nearly 4 months since my cancer diagnosis and I am finally taking the step to share more of my journey. I have felt God tugging at my heart for some time now to share my experience in greater depth, but this wasn’t an easy call for me to answer. I have always been a fairly private person and don’t enjoy being the center of attention, so the idea of taking these thoughts from the pages of my journal to a public audience really pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I have posted updates on Facebook about my treatment periodically to let friends and family know how I am doing and express my gratitude for the outpouring of concern and prayers, but I still felt there was more that I had to share. I had almost settled on a private blog, but then a conversation with Adam made me realize the importance of reaching others I may not even know. God’s plan is always so much bigger than we can even imagine, and I’m thankful for a husband who reminds me of that and encourages me to live boldly.

The name that I chose for this blog was inspired by the following verses that have been shared with me by friends. I have received many words of encouragement over the past few months, but these particular verses have reappeared many times in emails, texts, devotions, and cards. 

  • The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. (‭Psalm‬ ‭28‬:‭7‬ NIV)
  • Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.” (‭Isaiah‬ ‭12‬:‭2‬ NIV)

I am thankful for the perspective shared with me by a dear friend- this cancer journey is a part of my song, the song that will bring praise and glory to Him and allow Him to display His power through me. In sharing my experiences, I hope not to draw attention to myself, but to draw attention to who God is and what He is capable of. My hope is that this battle I am fighting may strengthen others’ faith and possibly encourage someone else facing cancer or another difficult trial.