Posts Tagged ‘husband’

Comfort in Unfamiliarity

(Guest post by Matt)

I write this blog post at Stephanie’s request while sitting in a vast expanse of a waiting room. This is not the usual waiting room I write from on surgery days. In fact, this isn’t even the usual hospital that I write from. Today’s surgery is taking place at a different location than the others, because today’s surgery is in a different part of Stephanie’s body.

To catch up those who may not know, Stephanie’s most recent CT scan revealed something on or near her left adrenal gland. This comes after months of thinking we were out of the woods with surgeries. After getting the results, Stephanie and I consulted a friend from our church who is a pediatric urologist. This led us to a referral to another doctor, who is regarded as the top adrenal surgeon in the state of Colorado. After meeting with him, the decision was made to get into the operating room soon to remove whatever this mass is. As I write, Stephanie’s patient number is still green on the board in the waiting room, which means that she is currently in the operating room having it removed.

Another surgery is not what we wanted. It’s not what we expected. Nerves get heightened with each surgery that happens. We are both over it, and we never want to have to step foot in a hospital again. But at the same time, we know that God is still good. We are still believing in miracles. We’re believing that whatever this thing is that is on or around her adrenal is benign. As scary as it is, we still have faith.

One of our friends from church told us something a couple weeks ago that still resonates with me. She said that God has provided a stage through Stephanie’s story and, because of that, people are watching. It’s one thing for the miraculous to happen when no one is paying attention, but it’s quite another for God to show off when people are paying attention. That’s what we are believing. We believe that no matter what happens, God will show up and show off to proclaim His name to people who may not know who He is.

Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement. Keep them coming, because there is power in prayer. We’re believing.

Mark 5:36 (ESV)

“Do not fear, only believe.”

Pruning What Doesn’t Belong

A fourth surgery in less than three years? No problem. In fact, I told my doctor if he needed to cut me open from my shoulders to my knees, I wouldn’t care. Just get the job done. Remove what doesn’t belong.

Last week Matt and I drove to a meeting with our newly appointed team member. A urologist, who happens to be the top adrenal surgeon in the state. He’s one of the many doctors on our team who helps navigate and combat this dreaded thing called cancer. I currently have a gynecologic oncologist, radiation oncologist, general oncologist, and now a urologist, among the slew of techs and nurses helping as well. Adding a new doctor to the team is always met with some hesitancy (on my part), as I become comfortable with those who have treated me over the last couple of years. My team of doctors and I have grown as a family. The hospital where I have received 99.9% of my treatment is a second home.

Adding a new doctor is like welcoming a new in-law to the family. Will I like him/her? Is he/she going to be able to keep pace in our conversations? Can I see myself spending hours and hours with this person? Can I place my trust in this person’s hands? As my medical team has become family, it’s quite entertaining to see what role each of them falls into. The one who is like an aunt whom you can cry and laugh with, and tell your darkest secrets to, all the while feeling great comfort. The epitome of a distant uncle who awkwardly hits it to you straight and leaves you hanging mid-air wondering what he’ll say next. The sister figure who has your best interest in heart, but doesn’t mind telling you the truth when you need to hear it. The cousins who greet you and play catch-up for the mere minutes you have to see them. Every person on our team fills a role in our medical family. Each one serves a purpose and is vital in my fight against cancer.

Though we’ve only met my new doctor once (on our four-year wedding anniversary, might I add), I can confidently say that I trust him. Matt and I both do. He is smart, professional, and compassionate and, after our meeting with him, we are ready to move forward in the next step. As I’ve mentioned HERE, I have a tumor on my left adrenal gland. The CT and PET show “activity” in the mass, however, based on its location, there is not 100% certainty that it is malignant. From what our doctor discussed with us, we know that adrenal masses happen and are often completely benign. Of course, based on my history, we have to be cautious. Caution and cancer go hand in hand.

Upon having our conversation, my doctor, husband, and I decided it’s best to proceed with surgery to remove this unlabeled mass. Usually, there is talk about doing a biopsy whenever a spot shows up on my scan, but it’s quickly ruled out. This time was no different. For a minute we passed over the idea of taking a biopsy of this tumor, but the risk of spreading the cells (cancer or not) is too great. IF it happens to be malignant, we don’t want  it to spread and wreak havoc elsewhere in my body. This is a disease you don’t want to piss off. Therefore, I’m going under the knife once again.

This will be my fourth major surgery since diagnosis. At this point, I like to consider myself a professional. I’m not concerned. In fact, I would rather be cut open to remove the entirety of the unknown intruder cells as opposed to just peeking through the door, taking a piece, and testing them. My scan is showing something that shouldn’t be there, and although it may not even be cancerous, I don’t like things where they don’t belong.

Pruning is a must in all areas of our existence. While I have undergone surgery to remove malignant masses in my body, likewise I have undergone metaphorical surgery to remove toxicity out of my life. We often hear certain things being compared to cancer. “He is a cancer in the group. He pulls everyone down with him.” Nothing about cancer has a positive connotation. It is the worst of the worst. It will destroy you from the inside out. Ridding ourselves of cancer and its metaphorical meaning is vital to live a healthy life. We prune gardens, cutting back the weeds to allow flowers to blossom, and likewise we should be pruning our lives.

Is there an area of your life that is so full of weeds, it’s taking over your world? Are the weeds drowning out who you really are? Have you ignored the weeds, hoping that they’ll go away on their own? We must cut back what doesn’t belong and rid ourselves of what shouldn’t take residence in our lives. It could be a toxic relationship, hidden addiction, or unhealthy patterns. We all have areas that need to be pruned.

Just as surgery hurts, pruning hurts as well. Removing what doesn’t belong will cause pain, and that’s often why many people avoid it. But once the weeds are removed, the blossoms can thrive. Though we are believing this mass is not cancer, it still doesn’t belong. Therefore, this coming Monday (6/16), Matt and I will venture into the hospital once more to do some pruning. The doctor believes he can perform the surgery laparoscopically. If this is the case, my recovery will be much easier. We are confident in this process, and are expecting wonderful results.

Please be praying for myself, Matt, and our newly added team of medical staff. While I receive all of the fun parts of surgery (sedation, pain medication, and doting nurses), Matt sits in the wings for hours awaiting the results.

While we prepare for pruning, ask yourself what needs to be pruned in your life?

pruning quote for DMD

John 15:2 (ESV)

“Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

 

 

Caregiving: A Perspective From Both Sides of The Coin

(As featured on Cancer Knowledge Network)

Most of you know me as the writer in our family. Little do you know, my husband is talented in written form as well. Recently, Matt and I were asked to co-write an article for a Canadian publication. We were invited to share our perspectives on caregiving and the vital role it plays in one’s journey through cancer. I was, and still am amazed at my husband’s words. They have touched my soul, just as I know they will yours…

Stephanie (Survivor):

A cancer diagnosis never affects just the person afflicted with the disease. Though the doctor found a malignant tumor growing inside of me, she might as well have told my husband that he had one growing inside of him as well.

In June of 2010, I walked down the red-carpeted aisle of an old, spacious, and magnificent cathedral to marry my best friend. From our second date, I knew he was the one I would spend the rest of my life with. We shared laughter, adventure, and innumerable conversations. He stole my heart and has protected it from the moment it entered his grasp. Within weeks of meeting each other, we fell in love and began planning our future – when we would have children, where we would live and raise our family, even the color of paint we would choose for the walls of our dream home. We had life figured out and were valiantly prepared to take on the world together, hand in hand.

One and a half years later our plans were derailed. At the age of 25, I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer. It was as if the canvas we had sketched our dreams on was wiped clean. The plans we had set forth were redefined and put on hold. We soon entered into the gates of Cancerland and were quickly thrust into an unknown arena. Decisions had to be made, and treatment began immediately.

Through multiple surgeries and treatments, recurrences, and cancer-free scans, my husband has stood firmly by my side in every moment. He has courageously taken the role as my caregiver, and has sacrificially offered to help with my countless needs. Not many realize that I am not the only one in this fight. My husband is firmly planted next to me on the front lines. When I rested in hospital recliners receiving treatments, Matt sat on the uncomfortable chairs beside me without complaint. When I was weak and pitifully sick, he would assure me and rub my back in comfort. When I had moments of depression and couldn’t battle fearful thoughts, he would encourage and pray for me. He shaved his head when I lost my hair so I wouldn’t feel alone. At my weakest, my husband mustered up strength and bravery to help me through. All without second guessing or complaint.

I’ve often shared that the role of a caregiver is equally as important as the patient fighting cancer. Though I was the one ingesting toxins to battle the disease within me, my husband fought just as hard behind the scenes, making sure I could withstand the fight. He has sacrificed so much just to care for me. His patience, concern, encouragement, compassion, and love have altered the way I fight cancer. I am stronger with him beside me.

He is my guardian. We fight this disease together.

Matt (Caregiver):

Have you ever seen the movie The Bodyguard?

Kevin Costner is a total badass in that movie. I watched it a lot when I was a kid. He ran around, protecting Whitney Houston from stalkers and bullets. He was a hero. I wanted to be a hero.

I can’t say I was fully prepared when my life started to parallel that story. My wife was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer over two years ago. When we got the news, I knew that the roller coaster ride would soon commence. Life would never be what it once was, nor would it play out in the way I had intended. Instead of buying a house, a car, and having kids, we would be shuttling off to surgeries, chemotherapy treatments and radiation appointments, all the while keeping track of our mileage in hopes of writing the expense off on our taxes.

Let’s face it; in reality, I’m not fending off over-obsessed fans or valiantly diving in front of bullets (thank the Lord). My role is more concealed. Instead of being front and center, I’m like the Kevin Costner waiting in the wings, keeping an ever-watchful eye on everything that’s going on. And unlike Kevin Costner, there’s not a whole lot I could do except be there. I can’t make the disease go away. I can pray, and I can be there whenever my wife needs me. When my wife was sick in the middle of the night, I was awake with her. When she was too weak to get out of bed on her own strength, I helped her up. When all she could or wanted to do was lay on the couch, that’s all I did, too. I instantly became a professional chauffeur, personal assistant, and expert dog taker-outer. If I wasn’t at home or at the hospital, I was at the pharmacy, standing off to the side while the staff gathered up the hundreds of dollars worth of home injections and pills that I didn’t have the capacity to afford. As a caregiver, you do whatever it takes.

In those times, I’d often think back to the day I married Stephanie. “For richer or poorer… In sickness and in health.”

So this is what that meant. This is what I meant.

Being a caregiver is not a glamorous gig. As a caregiver, you hold down the fort. Your partner is down, and it’s all on you now: the house, the kids (or, in our case, the dogs), the money, the bills, making sure your family is fed, that they have a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs… and the whole “giving care” part. That’s your job now. Your job is no longer just your job. You will lose sleep. You will not be able to do some of the things you used to enjoy. You will sacrifice your own health to ensure the health of your loved one. And you will need never-ending amounts of grace and forgiveness.

You will do all of this, and you will likely not be recognized for any of it. You will feel left out. You’re in the wings, remember? When things go bad, prayers and support are 99.9% directed at your loved one. When things go well, congratulations and well-wishes will also be 99.9% directed at your loved one.

You’re the unsung hero, the bodyguard. Stay out of the way and save the day.

Often times, my wife gets told that she is someone’s hero. Nearly every day, she hears that from someone. People lavish her with praise, saying she inspires them. They want to make sure that Stephanie knows how much she means to them.

For me, my wife is the one telling me that I’m her hero. When she is everyone else’s hero, I’m hers. She sees what I do, the sacrifices I’ve made to make her as comfortable as possible as she fights the hardest fight of her life. She appreciates me. That’s awesome. That being said, if you know someone who is a caregiver, tell them how you feel about them. Do you appreciate them? Tell them. It’s amazing what encouragement can do. For every person you know who is faced with cancer or some other life-altering affliction, there is also someone in their corner who, if you’re honest with yourself, you likely have never noticed.

No one is meant to fight alone.

Philippians 2:4 (ESV)

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

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30 Days

30 days until the beginning of a new voyage.

Arising while the sun is still in slumber.

Lacing up shoes and adorning the best running gear.

Treading outside, nervous, and anxious for the impending event.

Venturing into the heart of the city.

Gathering alongside the thousands expected to join the expedition.

Stretching muscles in preparation.

Swimming through the crowd of camaraderie.

30 days until we hear the starting signal and launch ourselves into the unknown.

30 days until our very first 5k race!

Holy crap.

Hot Chocolate Race

Proverbs 16:3 (MSG)

“Put God in charge of your work, then what you’ve planned will take place.”

Faithful Friends and The First Season

Alongside us on this crazy roller coaster through cancer, two of our dearest friends have been planted. They have joined us at appointments, surgeries, chemo cocktails, and numerous cry sessions. They have held our hands as we have ventured into the unknown, and have triumphed with us in the victories. We have worshiped together, prayed for one another, and celebrated several occasions. God brought this passionate, genuine, selfless couple into our lives at the very beginning of this battle, and we can’t imagine having forged our way through it without them standing firm and rallying beside us.

He is a photographer and life-journalist by hobby. He resembles Jesus not only in his physical appearance, but also in his character. Selfless, compassionate, humble, generous, loving, and prayerful. His laugh is contagious and you’d be lucky to catch it. He is a gentleman. A leader. A father. A Christ-like friend. A true blessing.

She is a dancer. Hip-hop, ballet, contemporary, and jazz. A real-life ballerina. She has a heart of pure gold. She is a friend to hold dear for a lifetime. She speaks encouragement, life, and wisdom. Her gentleness, selflessness, and caring demeanor uplifts and offers strength. She is a mother. A hospitable host. A faithful friend. A prayer warrior. A true blessing.

These two have offered shoulders to cry on, words of encouragement, and a multitude of cries to Jesus upon my behalf for healing. They have documented our journey and brought life to a sometimes dark situation. Through photographs, videos, and sound recordings, they tell our story. They have blessed us more than they could possibly know. Today, we share a taste of what they have captured since diagnosis.

Get your tissues ready. If this video doesn’t move you in some way, you might want to check your pulse. This montage captures a glimpse into this battle. It begins at diagnosis in January of 2012, and ends in August of 2012 on the last day of my first season through treatment. At that time, we thought I beat it entirely. Little did we know, we had another year in the trenches. Through hair loss, weight gain, and several firsts… enjoy.

Stephanie Madsen | Cancer Survivor from Mark Nava on Vimeo.

Proverbs 18:24 (MSG)

“Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family.”

Cautiously Optimistic

Scans are scary. And the week before and after are often anxiety-filled whirlwinds.

I received a CT scan a couple of weeks ago. You might remember that directly following my November surgery to remove the softball-sized mass, the tumor was sent to pathology. There, it was cut up into several different pieces and tested with various types of chemotherapy drugs. Results showed that some chemotherapies would work, while others were proven to be ineffective. There’s a catch, though. Three of the drugs shown to effectively eradicate my type of cancer, had already coursed through my body during my first season of treatment. Clearly they worked while swimming through my veins, but once I completed the regimen, the monster came out of hiding and grew once more. One of the drugs proven to be ineffective is what I am currently taking. Apparently several doctors don’t hold tight to the results of these biopsy tests. Therefore, my doctor suggested we stick to this proposed type of chemo and get a scan after four of my six scheduled rounds. So, with these rounds of chemo, it’s been trial and error. Let’s see if it works. If it doesn’t, let’s test something else. The longer I’m in this game, the more I’m learning how common the “trial and error” approach actually is. After all, there are no cures for cancer. I suppose it all really is just a guessing game. Unnerving to say the least.

As always, I was a bit on-edge the week leading up to my scan and the week following, while waiting for results. These scans show exactly what kind of game cancer is playing in my body. It’s not a “pass” or “fail” conclusion. It’s “live” or “die.” Often cancer doesn’t show symptoms and can only be detected through these methods. And considering I was technically prescribed a chemotherapy regimen that pathology showed to be ineffective on my type of cancer, my nerves were shot while awaiting the outcome. I ask for a large dose of grace from my dear husband during these times, as he often gets to experience the roller coaster of emotions that surround these scans. Add being menopausal to the mix, and you’ve got a pretty gnarly version of me. Oh…Menopause. I’ll save that discussion for a completely different post.

Last Thursday , I went in for another dose of chemo cocktails. That morning I knew my doctor would probably discuss the results of the CT scan I had received the week prior (3/8). I felt ready. I was ready. In my heart I was at peace with whatever the outcome. The waiting is the hardest. I just wanted to hear the results…good or bad. Before I was even able to speak with my doctor, my chemotherapy nurse walked over, papers in hand, and opened her mouth to speak. I don’t think I’ve seen my husband so nervous in my life. He was literally at the edge of his seat in anticipation. After a confusing introduction and with all eyes on me at this point, my nurse placed the papers in my hand and asked me to read the bottom line. “Impression: 1. Normal CT of the abdomen and pelvis.” So what? What exactly does that mean? As I asked my nurse these questions, she happily proclaimed that the scan showed no evidence of disease! The sigh of relief that Matt released at that point nearly brought me to tears. Sometimes I don’t realize the enormity of his love for me. At that point it was clearer than ever. What a vivid testament that my husband is in this by my side; From beginning to end. The results don’t just mean something to me. I’m not the only one affected. I know these things, but often I get trapped in my own head. Trapped in my situation. When the truth is, it’s our situation. I’m honored and blessed to have such an incredibly strong, faithful, loyal, and committed partner.

Clear CT scan results! (March 2013)

Clear CT scan results! (March 2013)

A “normal” result is a positive one. We are celebrating this news. However, I have received this outcome on a scan before. In August after my first season of treatments, I was also declared “cancer-free,” and you can read about that HERE. My attitude in receiving good news has changed since then. Afterall, I did have a recurrence three months after a similar declaration. Cancer came back after I had excitedly celebrated it being gone. Therefore, we rejoice in this news differently now. While we are very relieved and elated, we are cautiously optimistic. Just because I received a clear scan, doesn’t mean I’m forever done with this beast. And, it was only a CT scan which is localized to one area of the body; Different from a PET scan that tests your entire body for malignancies. We are optimistic and thrilled, yes. But we are cautious. We don’t expect cancer to show itself in my body again, but according to this disease, we can’t throw the idea completely away. I don’t think I’ll be fully able to relax and rejoice until I hit remission…in five years. And even then, it will be hard work to trust that I won’t have to deal with this diagnosis ever again.

Some cancers can be eradicated with surgery. Some with chemotherapy. Some with radiation. I’ve had all three types of treatment several times, and the monster continued to lurk and cause havoc. For now, it is gone. I’ve only got one more chemotherapy session in a couple of weeks and I’m happy. But to blissfully believe that I am forever done with this season would be foolish and naive. Cancer plays dirty. It doesn’t play according to our rules. It has none. However, to counteract that thinking, I believe in a BIG God that performs BIG miracles. The fact that cancer has no rule-book doesn’t mean that it can’t be righteously defeated. Statistics don’t mean a thing to me. My God writes my life, not statistics that some analyst wrote down. No matter how awful this Neuroendocrine carcinoma diagnosis may be, God can erase all of that. He healed people all throughout stories in the Bible, and continues to perform jaw-dropping healings today. I am believing that I will be another testimony of being healed and cured. I have faith that He will permanently remove any malignant particle from my body. I am believing that He has filled every single microscopic cell and that cancer will no longer reside in my life. While I stand cautiously on the results of this scan, I will continue to stand firmly on my foundation…on my God. I will continue to wait for His results.

James 5:10-11 (MSG Version)

“Take the old prophets as your mentors. They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God. What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You’ve heard, of course, of Job’s staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.”

In Sickness and In Health

Today is either a Happy Valentines Day or Singles Awareness Day. For both parties: those who have found their forever love, and those who are still searching for it… Share your heart with those you care about, regardless of your relationship status.

Blessed.

Blessed. (June 2010)

While February 14th is a made-up holiday that our country feels obligated to spend money on chocolates and gifts, Matt and I still enjoy celebrating this day in some way. I challenge each of you to do the same. Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not suggesting that you go out and spend money that you may or may not have on someone you may or may not truly love. My challenge to you is simply sharing your heart to those in your life who mean something to you. Write a letter. Make a phone call. Send a text. We’ve all heard it several times, “You never know what day is your last…”, and it’s the truth. My husband and I take this sentiment to heart. And frankly, this began well before my diagnosis. We never leave a conversation over the phone without saying, “I love you.” We never walk out of the house without saying, “I love you.” And it may sound weird, but we always end an argument by saying, “I love you.” We don’t want our last conversation to be one that we haven’t shared our love for one another. Every single day, I know how much my husband loves and cares for me, and he knows how much I love and care for him. There will never be a moment that either of us questions that. I encourage you to live in the same way. You don’t have to have a spouse in order to share your heart. Do you care about a friend? Tell them. Do you appreciate your family? Tell them. Do you adore your spouse with every fiber in your being? Tell them.

madsenwedding-83

Love and adoration. (June 2010)

This will be Matt and my 5th time celebrating this “holiday” together, yet he is my valentine every single day. I adore this man. He has guarded, honored, loved, and tended to my heart since I gave it to him in 2008. He has loved me unconditionally no matter how much I may complain, no matter what my body looks like, and no matter what I do or don’t do. His love for me is selfless. He is the leader of our family, the calm in many of our storms, and the strong rock that I can lean upon. His character is outstanding and deserves applaud. He is level-headed, compassionate, strong, loyal, patient, and he finds a way to make me laugh every day. He treats me better than I often deserve. He makes sacrifices in order to assure that we are happy. He works his butt off to provide for our family. He is my best friend. The one I laugh and cry with, the one I share secrets with, and the one person who has never left my side. From before diagnosis through this very day, he has remained steadfast and faithful to our vows. This diagnosis has only brought us closer together, and has grown our love and affection for one another in ways I never knew possible. My diagnosis is scary, let’s face it. And although he has the chance to run away and find a healthy and fertile woman, he doesn’t. Because I am his woman. This journey has never been an easy one, and it often gets harder each day, however, we have committed to be in this adventure together, and no disease will ever change that. He is truly the man of my dreams. The man I always dreamed about and prayed for, but never imagined marrying. I am eternally blessed.

This morning, I reflect on the vows we promised each other more than two and a half years ago. They remain the same today and forevermore…

June 5, 2010

Vows. (June 5, 2010)

“You are my best friend. Today I give myself to you in marriage, in the presence of God, family, and friends. I promise to stand by your side in sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow, as well as through the good times and the bad. When life seems easy and when it seems hard. When our love is simple and when it is an effort. I promise to love you without reservation, comfort you in times of distress, encourage you to achieve all of your goals, laugh with you and cry with you. I promise to cherish you and always hold you in the highest regard. I look forward to raising our family and building our relationship under the care and guidance of God. These things I give to you today, and all the days of our life. I love you.”

Matt, I adore you. Thank you for standing by me through the easy times, and the most recent difficult times. Thank you for being my guardian. Thank you for continuing to take care of me, and making sure that I am alright. Thank you for firmly planting yourself by my side through this diagnosis and the slew of surgeries, treatments, and hospital visits. Thank you for believing that I am still beautiful, and thank you even more for telling me every day. Thank you for being the servant-like leader that God has called you to be, and for guiding us on the path that He has prepared for us. Thank you for your never-ending encouragement. Thank you for your unconditional love. Thank you for providing for us, and doing whatever it takes to keep us afloat. Thank you for the many sacrifices you make to ensure that we are happy. Thank you for your unwavering patience, your listening ears, and your words of wisdom. Thank you for continuing to put up with me. Thank you for believing in my healing and sharing that you are proud of me. Thank you for praying with and for me. Thank you for protecting me with strong and gentle hands. Thank you for never giving up.

Swoon! (June 2010)

Swoon! (June 2010)

I honor you. I respect you. I’m proud of you. And, I love you. I always have and always will…LINABEW.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (The Message)

“Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always ‘me first,’
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies…”

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.”

The Best is Yet to Come!

Angie Austin doing what she does best!

Angie Austin doing what she does best! (January 2013)

Yesterday was a blast. As most of you know, especially if you read my last post (“On the Air”), I was invited to be on “The Good News” radio show with Angie Austin on 810AM KLVZ. I can happily report, that while I was fairly nervous beforehand, once Matt and I entered the studio, my nerves slipped away. Angie is an amazing, friendly, and talented woman who helps usher you into fearlessness and allows you to feel extremely comfortable. I felt entirely in my element and had a wonderful time sharing my journey with her and all of you loyal listeners. Thank you to those who tuned in live; I hope you could hear and sense my hope and joy throughout our conversation. For those who were unable to be near the radio or computer and for those of you who are out of town, don’t fret! Below I will include the link to the podcast of our lovely chat, so you can hear it as well.

Enjoying the show! (January 2013)

Enjoying the show! (January 2013)

As I’ve mentioned before, I truly feel one of God’s purposes for my life is to publicly share my testimony through my diagnosis. He has given me this adventurous tale for a reason, and I know that He has called me to read it like an open book. It has begun through the words here in this blog, and is spreading to many other media outlets. I’ve got to be honest, I never pictured this for my life. (But who does?!) Frankly, I never pictured my life to be anything like it has been since January of 2012. Yet, while my husband’s and my dreams were vastly different than our current story, we are thankful. God has opened our eyes to so many opportunities we never imagined would exist. He has harvested wisdom, strength, passion, peace, vision, and purpose in our lives. I am thankful He is the gardener of our souls.

Stephanie live on air! (January 2013)

Stephanie live on air! (January 2013)

Once the interview wrapped up, pictures were taken, and we began our walk out of the broadcasting building, I had a deep sense of knowing that this is where I am supposed to be. A few months ago, when I felt God calling me to rise up and share my story more publicly, I would be lying to say I wasn’t afraid. I would be lying to say I didn’t doubt His plan. I would be lying to say I trusted that He knew what He was doing. After all, I never pictured being a public speaker in all my life. Yet, as Matt, our dear friend Audra, and I walked out of the building yesterday, I had another moment where it was as if God himself was telling me, “See?! This is why. Trust me.”

Stephanie and Angie in front of the infamous "Crawford Broadcasting" sign. (January 2013)

Stephanie and Angie in front of the infamous “Crawford Broadcasting” sign.       (January 2013)

Some have never experienced a moment in time where they knew what they were doing was inherently right. But those who have, know exactly what I’m talking about. In that very moment, I knew I was walking directly on the path God has paved for me. Everything clicked and a new confident passion arose in my spirit. I am now, more than ever, excited for whatever and however many interviews and media outlets He brings my way, as I know it’s His intention to receive glory through my testimony. God is BIG, and it’s exciting to see Him putting all of my life’s puzzle pieces together. I look forward to the many opportunities that will arise in these next few weeks, months, and many years to come. This is only the beginning… The best is yet to come!

Feel free to listen to Angie and my conversation by clicking HERE! If you have trouble, feel free to go to Angie’s PODCAST list, and click on “The Good News” recording for Tuesday, January 22nd.

2 Corinthians 12: 7-10 (MSG Version)

“Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”

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