Posts Tagged ‘adoption’

Hangovers and Television

Chemo effects have officially begun again. Oh, joy. For some reason these poisonous concoctions affect nearly everything in my daily life, at least for a little while. Could the reason be that they are actually poison in some form? I suppose. Annoying. However, I would much rather deal with these side effects and survive than not. You gotta do what you gotta do…to live.

This morning I’m experiencing the exact reactions that I get the morning after anytime I go in for chemotherapy. I call them chemo cocktails, so what better way to call the morning after, my chemo hangover!? Those who have never had the pleasure of ingesting these molecular-killing elixirs, can not truly understand this specialized hangover. It’s nothing like a hangover you elected yourself for by enjoying too many liquid grapes the night before. It’s not a hangover you can salve by drinking lots of water and taking a Tylenol. My face is flushed, my body is tired, my emotions are out of whack, and I’m exhausted with an edge of queasiness. My joints hurt. My bones hurt. My throat is dry. This hangover is one you’ve just got to push through. Fighting cancer doesn’t stop after treatments. You still have to gut it out while the life-saving drugs course through your body.

Seeing myself on TV is nuts! (January 2013)

On the nightly news! (January 2013)

Last night, sleep eluded me. And it’s partner in crime, Ambien, clocked out early. Yet again, I awoke wide-eyed and bushy-tailed at 3 am. After attempting to trick my body into surrendering to slumber, I gave in. No use. I was awake. So, what better thing to do than check my social media. Facebook, Instagram, my blog. The only negative is that none of you post anything in the wee hours of the morning. There wasn’t much to look at, and I wasn’t particularly in the mood to creep on anyone’s page. So, I decided to check our local news station FOX 31 KDVR and see if a particular interview from yesterday had been put on their website. After scrolling through stories of tragedy, death, and how auto-mechanics are ripping off customers (duh!), I found a story of hope.

For those who were unaware, one of our local news stations had asked me for an interview. This interview just so happened to take place yesterday, and aired four separate times last night. My apologies for not making y’all aware earlier. Everything happened so fast. I write bearing good news, however. Those that were at work, out of town, or who don’t have cable are still able to watch the segment. Below I will post the link to the interview that aired on FOX 31 KDVR and also on Channel 2 KWGN.

Yet again, God is making it apparent that my story is a big one. Never would I have thought that people would care to see my story through a cancer diagnosis. But, I trust that His plans are bigger and far better than my own, and I’m rollin’ with it. The segment is fairly short (long in news time), reaching a little over 2 minutes. Obviously I’m a talker, and the crew had to condense my monstrosity of words into a nice package, so not all of my message was shared. For those who have been introduced to my story fairly recently and are visiting my blog for the first time, whether you are undergoing cancer treatments as well, are struggling in other areas of your life, or just feel like some perspective, here’s what I can tell you:

Behind the scenes. Photo courtesy Matt Madsen. (January 2013)

Behind the scenes. Photo courtesy Matt Madsen. (January 2013)

My God is a BIG God. He determines my destiny. A medical diagnosis is not God’s diagnosis for my life. The medical statistics are not congruent to His statistics. I believe in miracles. I believe in healing. And, I believe in a miraculous healing in my body. Regardless of “poor prognosis,” only He will determine when I leave this Earth. And, I can assure you, He will have to drag me out of it kicking and screaming. I’m a fighter. I’m stubborn. I won’t back down from this annoying bug called cancer. As grammatically correct as I am, I will never capitalize that word; Unless it has the pleasure of being at the beginning of a sentence! This diagnosis of cancer will never rule my life. It will never define me. It’s only a part of my journey. And it will be a small portion in comparison to the multitude of years I will live.

For those fighting this disease as well. You can do it. More often than not, you just have to suck it up and keep battling. It’s a hard struggle, but you will discover more of yourself than you ever have. When you feel weak, know that our God is strong. He has not given this disease to you, but has allowed it. For what the enemy tries to use against us, God transforms into something miraculous and good. You will have hard days. You will grieve. You will cry. You won’t want to leave your house, let alone get out of bed. You will experience pain and heartbreak. BUT, you WILL have good days. Great days in fact. Life is put into perspective when you are fighting for it. You will laugh. You can experience joy and hope. This isn’t the end of the road. Certain things in your life will change, but you can continue to hold on to things that bring you happiness. There are people around you, whether you know them or not, who just want to help. Let them. And dammit, don’t give up. As soon as you resign yourself, it’s over. This is an epic battle. You are a soldier. You are on the front lines. And with your medical staff and The Man upstairs, you will crash through this diagnosis with guns blazing. Allow yourself to experience the rough days. Allow yourself to grieve and cry. After all, cancer is shitty. I give you permission to be sad, angry, hurt, and possibly devastated. Sometimes that’s all we need… someone to say, “It’s ok to cry.” However, once you’ve exhausted yourself from tears, pick your cancer-kickin’ ass up. On days that you feel well enough, get out of the house. Don’t isolate yourself. Enjoy the world we live in. Spend time with your friends and family. Go to a comedy show and laugh. Eat good food. Please, don’t let your diagnosis run your life. You are not a cancer patient. But rather, a person who just so happens to have cancer. And last but not least, fight hard. This disease is a jerk.

Feel free to view my very first television appearance on FOX 31 KDVR and Channel 2 KWGN by clicking HERE! And for those who are not so tech savvy, here’s the link: http://kdvr.com/2013/01/31/26-year-old-battling-cancer-urges-getting-life-saving-tests/

2 Corinthians 6:1-10 (Message Version)

“Companions as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us. God reminds us,

‘I heard your call in the nick of time;
The day you needed me, I was there to help.’

Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped. Don’t put it off; don’t frustrate God’s work by showing up late, throwing a question mark over everything we’re doing. Our work as God’s servants gets validated—or not—in the details. People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly . . . in hard times, tough times, bad times; when we’re beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; when we’re telling the truth, and when God’s showing his power; when we’re doing our best setting things right; when we’re praised, and when we’re blamed; slandered, and honored; true to our word, though distrusted; ignored by the world, but recognized by God; terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, having it all.”

Thank You, cancer

Four days and one year ago I was first diagnosed. I realized it was my “one year anniversary” by seeing another friend recently post about hers. We were diagnosed around the same time, yet have completely different stories. It’s incredible to me how one cancer diagnosis can be so different from another. And how the journey can take people in vastly different directions. The one thing we have in common throughout our adventure through cancer is our deep, passionate, and overflowing faith in God. No matter the treatment regimen, location of residency, age, or actual diagnosis, our foundations are the same. We both love Jesus and trust that He will carry us through this fight and heal our bodies. I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it: I can’t imagine not having my faith through this journey.

Without faith I would be unable to see the blessings that God has poured over my life this past year. Without faith I would be unable to find true joy in the midst of such sorrow and tragedy. Without faith I would be unable to hope for a better tomorrow. Without faith I would be unable to be genuinely thankful for this story God has given me.

This past year has been a roller coaster. It’s had its ups, downs, and twists along the way. At some points it’s been similar to the rides that take you forward on the tracks just to pull you backwards again. I’ve laughed and cried. And cried some more. I’ve had so many good days where cancer hasn’t been in the mix, and I’ve had several bad days where my diagnosis has slapped me in the face. I’ve felt victorious and defeated. I’ve been knocked down, kicked around, and beat up by the plethora of treatments my body has had to endure. I’ve become somewhat of a medical professional, and have knowledge of terms that never existed a year ago. Yet even though the adventure continues and is far from over, I still refuse to give up.

The beginning of the battle. Almost one year ago. Stephanie and Matt, February 2012

The beginning of the battle. Stephanie and Matt, February 2012

Many times throughout my twenty-six years I have wished to fast forward. Wished to see what was to come. Wished to skip the crap and get to the good stuff. Wished to see what we had planned. Yet, if God had allowed me to get a sneak peek a year ago, I would be terrified. I’d want to reverse. I’d want to go back in time and not have to face the future. And while there are still moments that I wish to see five years from now, I am reminded that God hasn’t given me the grace for it yet. He’s given me grace for today, so today is what I shall focus on. But, dammit…sometimes that’s just so hard to do! Most likely, if I had been allowed a peek behind the curtain in January of 2012 to see what the stage would unveil, I wouldn’t have been able to focus on the many blessings God had prepared for me. Most likely, I would have only seen the storms brewing. I would have seen a scary diagnosis, poor prognosis, sickness, pain, sorrow, grief, and exhaustion.

This year, the blessings have been abundant. I have grown tremendously. Spiritually. Emotionally. Physically. Dare I say, “Thank  you, cancer?”

First, I will tell you what I know. I do not believe God has given me this disease. Rather, He has allowed it. Anything good comes from Him…and disease is not one of them. Disease sucks. So, if it’s not from God, it’s from the enemy. The enemy will try every last effort to defeat your mind, spirit, and body. However, I also know that what the enemy tries to make bad, God will turn around and create good. I see it as Jesus saying, “Oh really? Ha. See what I can do with that crap!” And so I will stand firm in that as well. Therefore, dare I say, “Thank you, cancer!”

One year later. Stephanie and Matt. January 2013.

Without a diagnosis I would not have had 90% of the blessings I received this year. I would have been blessed, but differently. With this diagnosis, my husband and I have discovered a deeper love for each other and for our Savior. We’ve learned and are living our vows of “in sickness and in health.” We’ve discovered a deeper meaning of loyalty, compassion, respect, honor, and love for one another. In fact, I can adamantly say I am more in love with Matt today than I ever have been. I respect him more than anyone on the face of this Earth. He is an amazing man. These trials have only strengthened our marriage. So, thank you, cancer.

With this diagnosis I have become more passionate of self-awareness, and now understand my body from head to toe. If something feels wrong, something is wrong. Thank you, cancer. With this diagnosis, I have had the opportunity to meet a wonderful team of medical personnel, and have forged a bond that will last a lifetime. The nurses and doctors I see on a weekly basis have become dear friends of mine, and I look forward to every visit, simply because I get to spend time with them. Thank you, cancer.

With this diagnosis, I have fodder for a blog. And this blog has blown up and expanded in ways I never imagined. People from all over the world take time out of their lives to read the words I write. Many readers have shared their discoveries of inspiration and hope through this blog. And many have shared how my journey helps them through theirs. Thank you, cancer. With this diagnosis, doors have opened to dreams I never knew existed. My husband and I will now have the pleasure of a unique story to parenthood. No excruciating childbirth for me, hooray! We will be able to adopt children that are in need of a loving home. We have discovered a hope for our children that didn’t exist a year ago. So, thank you, cancer.

With this diagnosis, my purpose has been revealed. Sharing my adventure publicly is what I am called to do, and opportunities are presenting themselves left and right. Being on the radio was just the tip of the iceberg. Thank you, cancer. With this diagnosis, our church has become our family. We have been picked up and supported by our group of dear friends and Christ followers. We have unveiled a deeper meaning of “friendship” and “fellowship”, and are grateful to have them standing in support by our sides. Thank you, cancer.

With this diagnosis, our families and friends have become closer. We talk more. We spend more time together. We value moments differently than we did a year ago. Thank you, cancer. With this diagnosis, our community is coming together. One goal. One purpose. Thank you, cancer.

With this diagnosis, I am learning more about myself. I am stubborn. I am strong. I am a fighter. I look good bald. I am funny…Or so, I think. Thank you, cancer.

While I am thankful that my adventure through cancer has led to many blessings, I ultimately owe my thanks to God. With this diagnosis, love has blossomed, doors have opened, prayers have been answered, gifts have appeared, purpose has been revealed, and blessings have poured out. So, dare I say… “Thank you, God.”

2 Corinthians 1:20-22 (MSG Version)

“Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God’s Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident. God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete.”

Bittersweet and Thankful

Matt and Stephanie. (May 2010)

We’ve been waiting for nearly a year to hear the news. Are biological children a part of our story?

You can read about when we first had to make the difficult decision to either proceed with my hysterectomy, or to hold off and harvest my eggs here . Thankfully, we proceeded with the surgery and I am still alive today. Cancer-free, mind you. Because my Oncologist understood our desire for biological children, and because my ovaries had not been touched by this disease, she decided to transpose them to a higher location in my abdomen; she moved them with hopes that they could be protected from the harmful radiation procedures. Three months after my last cancer treatment, we were told I could take a blood test that would determine if my ovaries were still in working condition. I took the FSH/LH/Estrogen test last week and we received the results a couple of days ago.

“Your current FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) is at a 48.8. A normal FSH is less than 10, and an FSH greater than 20 is generally not recommended to use your own eggs to try to get pregnant. At a 48, it’s unfortunately pretty bad news. It looks like your cancer treatments had a very bad effect on your ovaries, which is pretty common. It looks like that is probably not an option now.”

For those who have been close to us through this journey, you know that we just wanted an answer. Is it a yes or a no for “bio-kids?” Regardless of the outcome, we wanted to know what path we needed to further investigate. Although it’s bittersweet, we are very thankful to finally have an answer. And God is still good. We now can focus more on the process of finding our children, and not on the process of personally conceiving our own. Adoption is a life-changing journey for all involved, and we have spoken about this option before we even got married. Adoption has always been on the table. To be honest, we thought it would be just that… an option. However, we have now discovered that God has intentionally called us to this form of parenting. Although our fertility nurse has told us that it’s bad news, we are choosing to see it as a blessing. Our story continues to have chapters that few people experience, and for that not only are we grateful, but we think it’s pretty cool, too.

Being grateful is a powerful thing. When you can look beyond your circumstances and see the gifts you’ve been blessed with, your life will transform. My husband and I are thankful that I am still here on this earth. Because of that, I can continue to be a loving wife and will still have the chance to be a mother someday. We are thankful that God continues to reign over our story and direct our path. We are thankful that we have each other and are confident that our journey to adoption is going to be full of joy. We continue to look forward to uncovering God’s plan for our lives, and we will never cease our praise for the wonderful things He has done and will continue to do. Even though our hearts were set, God knows ultimately what is best for us. And frankly, how awesome is it that we get to go down the road less traveled?!

Alongside our grateful hearts, we are still grieving. Through marriage you learn the differences between men and women, and this adventure has continued to shine light on that. As a woman, I think we generally process things a lot quicker. I have been grieving since the day my reproductive organs were removed. It’s gotten easier as the days and months have gone by, but there are still moments where I am sad that I will never be able to feel my child from inside my womb. Men take a little longer to process change. Matt has held on and believed with great faith that my eggs would still be alive and well. With this news, it has brought a finality to the hope he carried. For him, it’s almost as if the grieving has just begun. We ask that you continue to pray for peace and understanding in this time. We are in this together, and continue to cling to each other on this roller coaster through life. The fact still remains: Matt will be a daddy, and I a mommy; We WILL be parents. No matter if our children come from our bodies or from someone else’s they will still be our own. It’ll be a momentous occasion when we can tell our children how truly hard we fought for them.

Now that we know how we will have children, many are probably wondering when we will begin “trying” for kids. We are blessed to have several friends who have chosen adoption, or who themselves are adopted; therefore, we have many close resources to turn to. We will begin researching, learning, and gathering as much information about adoption that we possibly can. However, we have decided that until I reach my two-year mark clean and clear of cancer, children are going to have to wait a little while. After all, we want to make sure that our children get a healthy mom and not a sick one. Until we decide to be open for placement, we will continue to fill our brains with as much knowledge that can fit. We will attend seminars, information meetings, and read as many articles on adoption that is available to us. We believe that the more knowledge we obtain, the better the journey will be.

We have been praying for our children for years, and look forward to when God chooses to place them into our life. For now, He’s got them…And I feel confident knowing, He’s the best babysitter out there.

Psalm 113:4-9 (The Message)

“God is higher than anything and anyone, outshining everything you can see in the skies. Who can compare with God, our God, so majestically enthroned, surveying his magnificent heavens and earth? He picks up the poor from out of the dirt, rescues the wretched who’ve been thrown out with the trash, seats them among the honored guests, a place of honor among the brightest and best. He gives childless couples a family, gives them joy as the parents of children. Hallelujah!”

Living Life Scan to Scan

Today’s Check-up! (November, 2012)

I don’t want to be a cancer survivor living my life from one scan to the next.

After a cancer diagnosis it’s hard not to want to rush through the treatment and get to the finish line. It’s difficult to live life for today and not for the three months or two years from now. I would be lying if I told you I had never prayed and asked God to quickly speed up time and allow me to wake up cancer-free and in remission in 2014. I even said, “I don’t care if I miss what happens in these next couple years, just get me to the finish line!” It’s the truth. Like it or not. Now, of course I don’t want to miss out on any part of my life, but there have been times where the future looks so much brighter than the present. But is it really? We have no way of knowing, and that’s what keeps my dependance and reliance on God burning still.

Whenever I get in these little “funks” of wanting to push the fast forward button through life, my husband reminds me that we shouldn’t be living life scan to scan. That if I continue to keep blinders on and only focus on the two-year mark, I’ll be missing out on everything that is happening now. I’ll admit it, he’s right. I don’t want to speed through these next few years, because they are equally a part of my story as my declaration of remission is. As an avid reader, I think of it this way: If a book was missing two of it’s chapters, the story wouldn’t be complete, would it? The middle is just as important as the beginning and the ending. The middle affects the rest of the story, and if I were to speed through these next two years, my ending wouldn’t be the same.

I have begun reciting statements to myself everyday. No, I’m not referring to talking to myself (although, that does happen); I simply mean that I make an internal declaration daily. “Today is going to be a great day. I’m alive. I’m thankful. I’m living life for today, and I am cancer-free.” In good moments these statements are easy to repeat, however when my mind wanders down the “what-if” path, sometimes I have to work hard to convince myself. Remaining positive and truly believing that I am healed takes work but makes a huge difference in how I live my life. I am a believer of many things. Top of the list is Jesus Christ, and right below is that through Him I have been healed. Believing in anything takes a large amount of trust. To declare that I believe my body is cancer-free equally means that I trust that treatment has done it’s job. That I trust in the knowledge my doctors possess. That I trust that the surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation has run it’s course effectively. And ultimately, I trust that God works everything together for my good.

Today I am reminded why I should follow my husband’s advice and live life in the now and not the future. I had my first three month check up since the end of treatment. Now that treatment and doctors visits aren’t a daily or even weekly deal, walking through the halls of the hospital to my doctor’s office brings back a rush of memories, thoughts, and emotions. Because I have a heightened sense of smell and often tie smells to memories, the aroma of the hospital hallway that leads to my oncologist stirs up an avalanche of feelings. Frankly, I don’t like being there. Simply because that’s where I endured my vast hours of cancer-fighting procedures. My brain immediately goes into unsure and anxious mode. Luckily those anxieties diminish once I step foot into the office and am greeted by my wonderful team of nurses. Today’s appointment could not have gone any smoother. I absolutely adore my medical team. They have become a part of my family. Because I don’t see them as often as I used to, every time that I do, it’s like a family reunion. After catching up on the latest in each of our lives, we get down to the nitty gritty. The gloves go on (quite literally) and the games begin.

My oncologist did a pelvic exam, pap smear, overall body check, and blood draw. The blood draw was almost invisible next to the laughter that we were sharing in the tiny exam room; Who says a trip to the gynecologic oncology office can’t be fun? Once the gloves were off, she shared the news… Everything looks and feels wonderful! Not only does my body look and feel healthy, I’ve officially lost twenty pounds since my visit three months ago! She continues to be amazed at my recovery and resilience. What a breath of fresh air, and news that I definitely needed to hear. Another weight was lifted off my shoulders, and I can breathe a little easier now. I think that’s how it’s going to be for the rest of my road to remission…With every good appointment and clear scan, a little more is going to be lifted off my shoulders.

More of what needs to be shared is the reason behind the blood draw. Typically at this stage in the game, blood draws aren’t necessary. For me, because I have chosen to keep my port for a little while, I will need to get it flushed every six to eight weeks to prevent clogging. However, because I am out of treatment and resuming my daily life with no “issues,” testing my blood levels is no longer high on the agenda. So why did they take my blood today? They will be testing my fertility. Some of your jaws may drop because you thought that wasn’t even a possibility. And while I still cannot and will never be able to carry my own child, there still is a chance that I might have eggs. During my hysterectomy, my oncologist transposed my ovaries to a higher location so they could be out of the way of radiation, and also with hopes that my eggs could be saved through the brutal treatment. I like to joke and say, “Who knows? They could be in my armpits!” Probably not.

My doctors have informed me that I would notice immediately if my ovaries died or were affected in any way. So far, only a couple months passed where I was having minuscule, dare I say, “hot flashes.” Frankly, they were nothing like what those of you in menopause have shared with me. I was not ripping the sheets off of myself at night, and my body wasn’t being engulfed in sweat. My face would just get slightly flush every now and then. Not every hour. Not every day. These bursts of heat, as I’ll refer to them, have completely disappeared over the last two months. When I shared that news with my oncologist, with a smile on her face she hugged me and shared her enthusiasm. Therefore, because I don’t show any signs of menopausal symptoms, my ovaries could still be alive and well. And if they are, the eggs that are nestled in them could have possibly survived the storm. You can do the math. Eggs+Sperm=Baby. If my eggs are good, Matt and I will then decide if we want to harvest them and go down the In Vitro Fertilization route. Because we don’t have the results yet, I won’t get ahead of myself. But keep checking back for updates on the baby makers! My team has informed me that I should receive the results by tomorrow. For now, please pray that my ovaries are alive and healthy, and that we will find peace in the test results. We put our hope not in a scan or a test, but in Him.

Romans 8:26-28 (The Message)

“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”

“Someday You Will Dance Light-Footed”

I’m nearing my second to last treatment, and I can’t help but to be excited. My devotional today (Jesus Calling by Sarah Young) hit such a tender chord in my heart. I’ll share it with you…

“Keep walking with Me along the path that I have chosen for you. Your desire to live close to Me is a delight to My heart. I could instantly grant you the spiritual riches you desire, but that is not My way for you. Together we will forge a pathway up the high mountain. The journey is arduous at times, and you are weak. Someday you will dance light-footed on the high peaks; but for now, your walk is often plodding and heavy. All I require of you is to take the next step, clinging to My hand for strength and direction. Though the path is difficult and the scenery dull at the moment, there are sparkling surprises just around the bend. Stay on the path I have selected for you. It is truly the path of Life.”

God has given me such grace for this journey, and I can’t help but continue to take one step at a time and look forward to the future. No, this is not the path that I, nor my husband, would have chosen for our lives. But, I often find myself celebrating that His path for us is so much greater than we could have ever imagined. Like God tells us, life is going to downright suck sometimes; It’s going to knock us down and drag us through the mud. But all He requires of us is to have faith. True, unabandoned faith. Cling to Him for strength and guidance. If we do our part, He will do His. Keep climbing the mountain, because you are not alone. He is your hiking partner and coach. When you think your legs are about to give out and when you run out of water, He will restore you and quench your thirst. And keep in mind the final goal: to be dancing “light-footed on the high peaks!” What a great visual this devotion today has given me. It’s incredibly easy to slide into the emotional and mental pit and begin thinking of the horrible things that could happen. Friends, I’m not oblivious to the facts of my diagnosis. I am fully aware that I could very well die during this battle. But that’s not what I choose to focus on. In fact, like in this message by Sarah Young, God calls me to focus on something so much greater. Greater than I am sometimes able to fathom. And, by standing in faith and continuing to turn the pages of the story God has written for me, He will reveal the surprises He has prepared for me “just around the bend”. I welcome you to believe with me that I will be fully healed here on Earth. Believe with me that one of the biggest surprises He has planned for me is life, a multiplied family, and a story to share down here. Cancer will not overcome me. God created me for more than this.

I have such a burning passion and overwhelmed heart for children. Children of my own. And for most of my life I believed that my “own” meant flesh and blood, biological, from my womb. But as I turn these pages of the story, I learn more and more that my husband and I will walk down a path we never would have imagined for ourselves. Biological children might not be our story. However, they might be with the help of a gestational carrier. Truth be told, God only gives us certain pieces to the puzzle at certain times. It’s in His timing, not ours. Be thankful for that. After all, if He gave us the entire picture, would we need Him? No. I don’t ever want to wake up and not need Jesus.

I’m sure there will come a day where we decide to publicly share all of the details in our fertility adventure, but for now I’ll share a little snip-it. Let me first give you some recent history. Frankly, my husband and I aren’t sure what path to children God has for us. And, being the planner that I am, I SO wish I knew. I’d be lying if I were to say it wasn’t hard sometimes a lot of the time. I dream of children. I refer to myself as having “baby fever”. My husband has it too, just not as bad. Let’s just say he’s got “baby sniffles”. However, his subdued feelings are simply because he is looking forward to the time he and I will share as a couple once I defeat this thing. And, I agree, we do need time for the two of us again once the treatment battle is complete. So, to continue… Knowing my heart, a few weeks ago my oncologist informed us that there are a series of tests that can determine if my ovaries are still functioning. We immediately were overjoyed that we might know sooner than expected if we still had the opportunity for IVF and a gestational carrier (more commonly known as a surrogate, but there is a difference between the two). Needless to say, she ordered the test to be performed via blood draw. About a week later, we received the results. I can’t tell you how nervous we were in waiting for the outcome. This had the potential to significantly direct our path for children. However, God wasn’t ready for us to know.

The results came back with differing answers. Part of the test showed I was post-menopausal and the other part said I could still be ovulating. Don’t worry, you aren’t the only one confused! Essentially, it’s too soon to know what my ovaries are doing or not doing right now, and my doctor informed me that I could take the tests three months after treatment is complete for a more realistic result. My initial feeling, and one that still creeps up on me, is that of disappointment. We desperately want to know what direction God wants us to travel. Truth is, we are overjoyed with both surrogacy and adoption. However, we would have loved to have a more solid answer in order for us to fully embrace one option. I like to know things, and man, did I want to know how God would gift us with kids. But again, for whatever reason, He doesn’t want us to know yet. It’s all in His timing. He’s going to reveal the next step when He feels we are ready. I just pray we are ready soon!

My purpose in sharing our most recent fertility experience is to inspire and ask you to pray with us for the “sparkling surprises” in our future. Only God knows what they are, and we continue to pray and stand in faith that children are some of those sparklers. Clearly God wants me to focus on the steps laid out before me right now. Children will be in our future, but for now I still must fight. I’m not out of the battle yet. Hallelujah that I have God right next to me in this one. I am elated when I imagine myself currently forging a pathway with God up the mountain. My heart is overjoyed as I dream of the day when I will be dancing light-footed on the high peak…

Psalm 16:11 (ESV)

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Hearing His Voice in The Storm

Welcome to one of my more raw entries. My heart is heavy. And, dammit, my latest news really sucks.

Yesterday (2/3) my mom came with my husband and I to my radiology appointment. We arrived and, because the nurses were a little backed up, we had to wait for a while before getting taken back to a room. This gave me time to catch up on the latest “Cancer Today” magazine. I never knew these existed…now I do. Maybe I should subscribe? Maybe not. This extra time also allowed me to really take a closer look at who was walking in and out of the office. It wasn’t very comforting. All of the patients were older, and extremely skinny with sunken in faces. I felt so bad for them, but soon realized, that I was in their position now.

Eventually we were taken back to a small exam room, and after my nurse received my vitals and medical history, we were instructed to watch a video. I don’t think I’ve seen a more depressing film. Apparently, Mom and Matt didn’t think it was too bad, but when you have cancer, movies on the technicalities of radiation aren’t uplifting. This particular film was only 8 minutes long and explained what radiation is and what it does. It informed us about how long each procedure is, and some of the side effects that may follow treatment. Can’t I just get this crap cut out of me and move on?! Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

Following another pelvic exam (I’ve had 3 or 4 in the last 12 days), my mom and husband came back into the room joined by the Radiologist. He immediately confirmed that after looking at my PET scan results, my cancer has indeed spread. Yes Doc, so I’ve heard. Because it has spread, I have been restaged. This will happen a lot during this process. Currently, my cancer is stage 3. That means, it has jumped up 2 levels. That’s not good. Keep in mind, you only get 5 stages.

He continued on to inform me that the specific lymph node the cancer has attacked is on my left side, and contains a pea-sized tumor. Pea-sized doesn’t seem so big does it? It doesn’t matter the size, it matters the location. Lymph node. The lymphatic system. Lymph nodes are small filters all over the body. They are about the size of a grain of rice, but can not be seen by the naked eye. Lymphatic vessels connect each and every lymph together, therefore making the system a transportation route. I view it as a shuttle service. It transports white blood cells to fight off infection in other areas of the body. Ever wonder why the sides of your neck swell up and you can feel large knots when you get sick? Those are your lymph nodes working overload to get rid of your sickness. The lymphatic system is a huge part of the immune system. Apparently, these lymph nodes don’t recognize cancer cells, so they just store them in their pockets. This allows the cancer to grow, and have the potential to hop on the lymph-train to other areas of the body. In other words, because my cancer is in one lymph node, there is a now a higher chance for it to spread and attack the rest of me.

Obviously, although there’s a chance, it’s not an option for me. I’m killing this thing before it gets a free ride. This leads me to treatment. My surgery will continue on, no strings attached. My Oncologist will still remove my uterus, cervix, uterine wall, surrounding ligaments, and the inside of the top part of my vagina.  She will also remove the affected lymph node, and strip the others in the area. The item that has been added to the schedule has been radiation. The purpose in receiving this type of treatment is to make sure there are no more remnants of cancer in my pelvic/abdominal region. My schedule for this treatment will begin about 3 weeks after surgery. This will entail me going in every day, 5 days a week, for 5 1/2 weeks of radiation. In addition, I will be getting an injection of chemo once a week during this process. When radiation and chemo are combined, the success of annihilating the cancer is far greater. I asked if I would lose my hair. He said no, but that it would thin out. Sounds like the same thing to me, Doc. In addition, in the area of radiation, my skin will get very red and burnt- essentially, a really bad sun burn. I will get extremely fatigued, lose weight, and have the risk of getting sick. But if we are going to kill this cancer, bring it on. And, I won’t even have to work out to drop a few pounds! Keeping the positives in mind, folks.

Remember how you need your ovaries to produce eggs? And how I’ve previously mentioned that with my eggs we can have biological children through the freezing process? This option has essentially been wiped out. My Oncologist will move my ovaries higher in my body to try to get them out of the way of the future radiation. However, there’s no guarantee they will survive surgery, let alone radiation beams coursing through my body. My cancer is aggressive. It’s proven that it can and is willing to spread. After questioning my Radiologist about the possibility of stimulating and harvesting my eggs before surgery and radiation, he said it was okay. His words were, “It’ll take about 4 weeks for the eggs to be stimulated and harvested, and if that’s what you want to do, you’ll have to start right away. By right away, I mean tomorrow morning. You’ll have to go in first thing to start that process. I really wouldn’t wait more than a month to get your surgery and treatment.” What we heard in that was, “If you want your eggs, you need to GO, GO, GO. We don’t have much time to fight this before it spreads.” Comforting, Doc.

We left the radiology office, and I was in a bigger haze than I’ve ever been in in my life. My brain was about to explode with the abundance of the information just poured in. My heart was going to drop out with the overwhelming decision we were going to have to make. We only had the rest of the night to make this life-changing decision. My husband and I were fearful, overwhelmed, stressed out, and devastated. We were instructed to head over to my Oncologists’ office to speak with her about either canceling surgery or going forth with it right away. We arrived and she had already left. Not only that, but she wouldn’t be in the following day (today), because she was going out of town. Great news. Now, we had to make this decision without even consulting my Oncologist? She’s my main doctor, and her advice means a lot to me.

We headed home. Silence. No words. Just one million thoughts fighting for my attention. Do we go ahead with surgery and beat cancer first? Do we try to harvest my eggs and allow the cancer time to spread? Do I give the gift of biological children to my husband at the risk of my life? Do I fight for my life and consider adoption? These were the 2 choices. The only 2. For a lot of you, the answer is simple. Save your life. But for those who know the deep desire of having biological children, you may understand. Matt and I have always talked about and imagined what our children would look like. Would they have his wonderful thick hair? Would they have my blue/green eyes? Would they be tall like him? Would they have tiny toes like me? We arrived home and I collapsed into my adoring husband’s arms. The emotion and degree of the situation completely pushed me down. Tears of anger, sadness, fear, and doubt flooded from our eyes.

Soon, we were interrupted with a call from our fertility doctor. She had just gotten off the phone with my Oncologist and began to explain the imperativeness in beginning egg stimulation right away. She requested that I come in first thing in the morning. She informed me that my Oncologist, just like my Radiologist, said we have to get this show on the road now. We don’t have time to wait. If we want to retrieve my eggs before they are wiped out, we must act right away. This news nearly floored me. She was essentially telling me that I needed to make my decision now. I couldn’t do that. I will never make a decision, let alone one this enormous, without my husband. I told her I would have to call her back. She said she needed to get home before the snow hit, and would call me then. We were given the amount of time it took her to get home, to decide if we wanted biological children or not. Shit.

Here are our brainstorms during this time:

  1. All 3 of my doctors are saying if we are wanting to harvest eggs, we would have to do it immediately. And not immediately, as in Monday, immediately as in 8am the following day (today).
  2. Even if we were to successfully harvest eggs, that means we would have given the cancer 2 weeks to travel freely through my body.
  3. Also, we would have to freeze the eggs, find a surrogate, write up paperwork, fertilize the eggs, successfully implant the eggs, and have a successful pregnancy. That’s a lot.
  4. In order for any result to be positive, it is necessary that I live. My life is priority number one.
  5. Secondly to my life, we don’t want to bring children into the world to have a sick, dying mother. Our children need a healthy mom, and we must think of them regardless of who they are, where they come from, and if they are here yet or not.

Immediately we held each other and began to pray. “Lord, give us peace. Give us an answer. Let us know in our hearts what to do. Speak clearly to us.” We prayed and prayed and prayed, and pretty soon we were not crying out anymore. We were calm. God had given us peace. And, he had given us both the answer… My life. We must save my life, because without me, we don’t have any options. The first priority since diagnosis has been fighting this thing. Getting this beast out of me. Surviving cancer and moving on with our lives. Why should that change now? I have to be alive if I want children, regardless of if they share our DNA or not. Adopted children will still be our own. There will be no difference. We both felt such relief that God spoke directly to us in this storm. He calmed the seas just enough for us to hear His voice. I’m thankful for a God which with whom I can have a direct relationship with. Not many people understand that it’s that simple. God has led us down this path for His purpose. And, although its gut-wrenching at times, His purpose is ultimately for our good. Who knows what children He is going to place in our life? Who knows what children we will be saving from a horrible situation? We will still be able to tell our kids how hard we truly fought for them, and I so look forward to that moment.

I can end this entry by saying, this is good news. Sounds weird, huh? Remember, I am the one who said I was blessed to have cancer; You can’t be too shocked by what I say. The reason this is good news, is because God has given us clear direction on where to go next. I can’t imagine going through this without having Christ to pave my way. There would be no hope. With Him, there’s an abundance of it. He continues to give me strength during this process, and to Him be the glory. My view has not changed. I will fight this thing with an iron fist. I will kick cancer’s ass. Although it fights dirty, I will fight dirtier. I will live a long and fulfilling life, with a loving husband and children surrounding me. That’s not to say, this journey will be perfect. It undoubtedly won’t be. I will have good days and horrendous days. But, regardless of good or bad news, I will get through this. I know it.

James 1:2-8 (Message Version)

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who ‘worry their prayers’ are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think that you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.”

Finding Fertility

Matt and I never imagined having to involve someone else in the process of conceiving a baby. We’ve always dreamed it would be an act of our love for one another…just the two of us. Cancer changes a lot of things, doesn’t it? Even the most intimate parts of your life are affected.

Truth is, we were going to start trying to get pregnant in about a year. A month ago, I openly admitted to having “baby fever”. I’d been denying it too long. Matt has the bug also, he’s just better at controlling the urge than I am! Although, we frequently talk about having babies soon, we know that we want to wait for a little while. However, this could change as we get further and further into this battle. I do enjoy seeing my husband swoon over the infant converse shoes, which our children will most definitely be rockin’. That, and seeing him with kids, are two of the most wonderful sights for me.

It’s amazing the things you take for granted. It’s amazing the things that YOU want to happen in your life. Sometimes we forget that God’s got bigger plans. While, we do have free will and the incredible privilege of choice, He is the ultimate author. My husband and I had a pretty traditional plan… Be married for a few years, buy a house, get pregnant (when you’re healthy, you don’t often think that you’ll have to “try”), have 2-3 kids, and live a happy and fulfilling life. Even now, reality is we still will be able to do all of those “traditional” things, just in a “non-traditional” way. There will be several people involved in our process. Luckily, we will be able to preserve some  intimacy when we try to conceive. Because we have been stripped of the true intimacy of conception and fertility, the nitty-gritty details are going to remain sacred for us. Although, we may share a lot of the fertility process with some of you, in regards to posting all details for everyone to see, we would rather not. We want to hold onto as much as we can for just the two of us. After all, this will ultimately be a child or children we are talking about. And, you wouldn’t be there if we were conceiving the traditional way, now would ya?!

As far as blessings go. Holy crap, we’ve had SO many already in this process. When we hear “God goes before us”, it might not fully sink in, but for me it more than definitely has. He knew my whole story. He knew this would happen before I was even born. And although, He knew we would have a lot of mountains to climb over, He has continued to provide resting areas for us. With every day, and every appointment, and every test, I am discovering gifts along the way.

Here are some, just to name a few:

  1. I firmly believe that He was holding my cancer in one spot this whole past year. His hands were covering it for no one to see. He was testing me. He was making sure I would continue to press in and not give up. And frankly, He knew it would take me a year of fighting this unknown battle, to be trained and ready to withstand the truth. Praise God.
  2. Every single one of my doctors was hand-picked. From my Gynecologist to our fertility doctor. He has assembled the best team out there.
  3. Not only do I have the best team of doctors, but I am receiving treatment at one of the nations top facilities, Swedish Hospital.
  4. Though most may not know, the fertility center we are going to is one of the best in the world. Their patients include several celebrities and famous athletes. The main doctor can be seen on The Today Show and Good Morning America, among many others. 60% of their patients come from out of state, and 20% of those patients are international. God didn’t just move me here with my family 10 years ago, He moved me to the place where I could get the best treatment and care 10 years later!
  5. He has preserved my ovaries. They are unscathed. Which means, I am still fertile. I am producing healthy eggs. Matt is producing healthy sperm. This, in turn, means we are able to have biological children. Again, in a non-traditional way, but nevertheless.
  6. My cancer has been staged at 1b. Out of the 5 stages, this is the best. We caught this early enough that my chances for survival and full recovery are wonderful.
  7. Fertile Hope (The Lance Armstrong Foundation) knows about our situation, and will (most likely) cover all of my fertility meds. The medications are the most expensive part of the fertility process. And if, for whatever reason, they don’t, our fertility center has personally put aside medications for me. In fact, my nurse said they already have $1800 worth of meds, specifically for ME! I will never have to pay for any fertility medications, ever. Sometimes, having cancer pays off…

When people say, “Count your blessings”, you should. It doesn’t even have to be Thanksgiving for you to remember what you have been given! We are deeply blessed and have SO much to be grateful for. And, most of all, we are thankful for a God that’s got it all under control.

Our fertility process will be a long and extremely expensive one. However, at the end of this, our children will know how hard we fought for them, and that puts a huge smile on my face. In addition, we have tremendous faith that God is going to provide. As far as our process of fertility goes, we will have to freeze my eggs until we are ready to begin trying for children. Then, we will “fertilize” the eggs and store them, until we are ready to be pregnant. When I say, “we” and “pregnant”, it does not mean I will be carrying our baby(ies). God’s preparing a woman out there, specifically for us. He is preparing her heart, mind, and womb for this. And I am praying for her already! Maybe she’s a friend or family member? Only God knows. We were a little hesitant about the IVF process and what it all entailed, because of our strong belief that life starts at conception. However, in gaining knowledge about the procedures, God placed another gift in our path. We feared what might happen to embryos that aren’t used in this process. The good news is, they will notbe discarded, EVER. Hallelujah! What a sense of relief poured down on us, at hearing that news.Please pray that God provides for us financially, spiritually, physically, and emotionally. Also pray for our surrogate, who we believe might be closer than we could imagine. Pray that God prepares her heart, mind, body, and womb for this journey. Surrogacy is one of the deepest gifts a woman can give someone. I never knew or understood that, until now.

John 14:1-4 (Message Version)

“Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live. And you already know the road I’m taking.”