September 2015 archive

Seeing Stephanie: Looking In The Mirror After Cancer

0208

Have you ever looked in the mirror and cried because of what you saw? When I first lost my hair, I would look at my reflection with tears streaming down my face. I would try to utter a word in an attempt to recognize my voice and confirm my identity. I couldn’t believe that it was me, Stephanie, in the mirror. It didn’t look like me. It barely resembled me. But it was still me. For months I saw a weak, sick, and (dare I say) unattractive person looking back. I looked neither feminine nor masculine. I was balder than bald with not more than a few hairs gracing my body. My face was swollen and discolored. I was embarrassed of my appearance. However, after receiving my pro card for fighting cancer not once nor twice, but four times, my perspective of my reflection changed. Rather than seeing a weak girl in the mirror, I saw a strong one. Instead of seeing sickness, I saw survival. I went from trying to hide my bald to embracing it and wearing it as a badge of honor. Bald became beautiful to me in more ways than one, yet I still didn’t quite see myself.

It took months and maybe years to fully embrace my new look. There were days where my reflection wouldn’t affect me at all, and others where I avoided the mirror at all costs for fear of who was looking back. As a woman, my entire life had revolved around beauty. Society told me that I had to wear a certain size, look a certain way, and have gorgeous hair to boot. Not only did my body physically change through treatment, my hair soon began falling from my head, and I felt far from beautiful. I grieved the appearance of who I once was. I felt that I lost her. I tried wigs in an attempt to bring her back, yet it was never the same. I couldn’t find Stephanie. She was no longer there… Or so I thought.

There came a moment when I realized Stephanie wasn’t a look. Stephanie was a person. She was a woman of character and integrity. She had a personality. She was more than a visual. This revelation allowed me to cope with my bald head. I began looking beyond the bald, straight into my eyes. I could still see a faint whisper of Stephanie through the glimmer of blue into the windows of my soul.

Though I accepted my new look, I longed for the day when I would easily find myself in the mirror once again. I impatiently awaited her arrival with each passing treatment. I wanted my hair, brows, and lashes back. I wanted my face to return to normal. Not only was I fighting for my life, I was (silly as it may sound) fighting for my reflection. Cancer has a deep and profound effect on one’s identity. I know I’m not alone when I express my grief over the transition of my appearance. Losing my hair was an outward representation of the war being waged within my body. It was a visual reminder of my mortality. I prayed not only to survive cancer, but also to not die without hair.

After four treacherous, exhausting, and desperate battles against this disease, I have come out on the other side. I dare not say that I have won, for the implications that arise when those who pass away from cancer are far too hurtful. Let me add, those who have died from this disease did not lose. Too often we hear that someone has “lost” their fight against cancer. What a deeply wounding word to place over someone’s life (and death). Please stop saying it. For reasons I may never fully understand, I have survived this disease thus far. I am now fifteen months cancer-free, and my hair has had nineteen months to grow. It’s been emotional seeing Stephanie return to my reflection. Glorious. Sweet. Incredible. Breathtaking. Emotional. As they did when I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror, tears appear on my face again. Not for the loss of something, but for the gain of something greater.

Hindsight is always 20/20. In the midst of our struggles it is difficult to see the entire picture. Due to circumstance, our blinders prohibit us from having a 360 degree view of our life. Not until we walk out of the rubble do we have the opportunity to reflect on the battle. I’ve had time, as each scan returns clear, to see how far I’ve come. Just as I watched Stephanie fade away, I’ve seen her return. My hair is nearly to the length it was when I first heard the words, “You have cancer.” I’m blonde again. My lashes and brows are full. When I look in the mirror, I don’t have to try so hard to find myself. I see Stephanie immediately. But it’s not just Stephanie that I see now. I see strength and victory. I see power and humility. I see joy and unending hope. I see deeply rooted faith. I see a survivor.

Though you may not see yourself right now, know that you are more than just a visual. You are not weak. You are not ugly. You are strong, and much braver than you can possibly comprehend. I encourage you to look beyond your reflection. Your hair will return and you’ll recognize yourself once more. Though your outside reflects your struggle, it also reflects your survival.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (MSG)

“So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.”

Every Day is One Day Closer to Meeting You

DSC_0895

To our precious babies,

From as early as we can remember, we have dreamed of you. We have dreamed of what you would look like, how you would act, and who you would grow up to be. Since childhood, your mom has always dreamed of being your mom. Of holding your hand and kissing your owies. Your daddy has always dreamed of you too. Of teaching you right from wrong and how to fly fish.

You see, Mommy and Daddy have a very special story. There was once a time when your mommy was very sick. While Mommy and Daddy were scared, they looked to God and together, they fought really hard. Mommy knew that she had to be strong, not only for Daddy, but for you too. Daddy was always by your mom’s side taking care of her. He never gave up on her.

But then, a miracle happened. God healed Mommy and she wasn’t sick anymore. Mommy was healthy! But her sickness kept you from growing in her tummy. God has picked a very special woman whose tummy you will grow in. She will care for you, tend to you, and even long after you are born, will forever love you. God will give you to her, so she can give you to us. You’re the greatest gift she will ever give, and the greatest gift we will ever receive.

So, we are looking for you. We don’t know when we will meet, but we trust God. We know of His faithfulness and in His timing, our meeting will be perfect.

We look forward to you being a part of our family, our next miracle.

With profound love,
Mom and Dad

DSC_0931

Matt and I are overjoyed to officially announce the beginning of our adoption journey! Yesterday we received wonderful news that I continue to remain cancer-free. By God’s grace, I am a walking miracle. Given a less than 20% chance of surviving one year post diagnosis, I have beaten the odds. It’s now been over three and a half years, and I am fifteen months cancer free.

After careful consideration and fervently pressing into God, we feel like now is the time to begin the process of building our family. Adoption has always been a calling on our hearts, long before cancer entered the picture. Through this disease, God has revealed to us that this is the path He has laid out for our parenthood. We trust His timing, His plans, and most importantly His sovereignty. We look forward to this coming season with excitement, anticipation, and wonder.

We are blessed to have a worldwide support system, and thank each of you for following our journey and standing firm in faith beside us. We ask that you continue to petition on our behalf. We ask that you pray for our children’s birth family. That our child’s birth mom would feel the overwhelming presence of God in her life-changing decision. We ask that you pray for the agency we have chosen to work with. We ask that you stand with us in faith and expectancy of the miracle story God will continue to unfold. 

We also ask for your encouragement and financial support, as you feel led. Our journey of building our family through adoption will be expensive. There will be agency fees, home study fees, and legal fees. We believe that God will provide, as He has always provided for us in our greatest moments of need. Matt and I have set up an online fundraiser for you to donate to assist in our family building. Please know that your donations will fully go towards the funding of our adoption. 

From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you. Thank you for believing in us. Thank you for cheering us on. Thank you for being our pillars of strength. Thank you for celebrating this new season with us. Stay tuned for updates in our process. We look forward to sharing new developments. We hope someday you will be able to see our children and know that you played a part in bringing them into our family.

Please visit our YouCaring online fundraiser to donate today!

DSC_1107

1 Samuel 1:27 (MSG)

“I prayed for this child, and God gave me what I asked for.”