Posts Tagged ‘husband’
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!
Proverbs 16:3 (MSG)
“Put God in charge of your work, then what you’ve planned will take place.”
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.”
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)
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.”
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. (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.
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…
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)
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…”
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.
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)
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.”
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. 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.”
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)
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)
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)
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.”
Who ever said, “Third time’s a charm!”? What a load of crap. Okay, okay…maybe it’s just my situation. Losing my hair for the third time is so not charming. At least not to me. My husband has a different perspective, and while I understand and am grateful for his outlook, I still hate that I have to lose my locks again. In his words, “Seeing your hair fall out is a sign that the chemo is working in your body!” True, babe. Very true. Although I was
liking loving my short locks, I can’t argue with my husband’s perspective. It’s true. And it’s right. And yes, I am extremely thankful that my chemotherapy treatments are doing something.
Photos courtesy my husband, right before he shaved it off. Check out how long it got!
Rewind…Happy New Year and belated Merry Christmas! What a fabulous holiday it was. Following my first treatment, I prayed each day that I would feel good on Christmas, and lo and behold…I did; Hallelujah! Matt and I were able to fully enjoy time spent with each other and our family and friends, and cancer was not invited to any of the parties!
Last time I posted was a few days before Christmas, on my first day of this season of treatments. I was unsure what to expect with these new drugs and regimen, and was a little nervous on what side effects I would experience. Oh boy, did I experience the gamut! Before I get to the enticing details of rashes, nausea, and flu-like symptoms, let me update you on my proposed treatment schedule. This round of treatment will consist of a few different drugs. One type of chemotherapy combined with a “booster,” and a shot the following day. By “booster,” I’m referring to a drug that coincides and works well in promoting the effects of chemotherapy. In essence, it cuts off the blood vessels that cancer needs to survive. While I’m on board for that idea, I am apprehensive about the possible and rare side effects that this booster causes. “Rare” doesn’t mean much to me anymore… I have a “rare” cancer with a “rare” recurrence, and have already experienced “rare” side effects. Booya! In yo face, statistics.
I will receive chemo once every three weeks about six times. That is very different than my last schedule of three days in a row every three weeks surrounding six weeks of weekly chemo combined with daily radiation. (That was a mouthful and a LOT of treatments!) I am thankful that this regimen is so different. It allows me more time to recover and to have more good days. In fact, this first time on the new drugs, I only had one week of feeling awful, which has left me two weeks of feeling pretty great. Feeling good for two weeks is a blessing, folks.
Besides simply having to continue treatment, the biggest things I loathe are the shots I have to take after each and every chemotherapy session. These shots are similar to what I had to self-inject last time around. They help stimulate my white blood cell growth, however, they are slow-releasing. Therefore, I feel sick and gross for a longer period of time. I have developed a love/hate relationship with these injections. While they help increase my white blood cells, they really put a damper on my body and mood. I, however, am thankful that they exist, because without them I could not continue to receive chemotherapy.
Curls for days. January 2013.
If you haven’t already, buckle up. Here comes some truth. And it’s not going to be sugar-coated. I mean, come on… you know me by now, right?! I felt like utter shit after my first round of this new treatment. Ugh. Horrendous. Chemo itself already makes me feel awful, but combined with this new injection, I was bed-ridden for about four days. Most people enduring cancer treatments often find it hard to describe what they feel like after each cocktail, and I am no different. My best description is this: Imagine having the worst case of the flu. Complete with fever, stomach ache, diarrhea, and constipation (believe me, it’s possible). Add to that a grueling headache that won’t go away, severe body aches, and skin sensitivity. Mix in a weird and itchy rash on the tops of your hands. And, to top it off, throw in a semi-truck running over your hips, pelvis, and lower back. All that makes for a wonderful chemo-filled sundae topped with some Neulasta sprinkles. And no, I did not get run over by a semi, I was being descriptive. My husband will argue that it’s exaggerative, but I stick to “descriptive.” Needless to say, I felt dreadful, filthy, exhausted, lousy, horrendous, and gross. And like I’ve mentioned before, when I’m not feeling great physically, it takes everything in me to stay positive mentally. That first week, I truly felt defeated. There’s no other way to say it. My dad always tells me, “You’ve got to remind yourself that it will get better. You know that by now. If you can get through this week of feeling crappy, you will eventually feel good again!” He’s right, but damn, it’s hard to accept in the midst.
The good news is, Dad is right. It does get better, and it did. I began to feel better Christmas morning, and it has continued through today. Having good days really is a blessing. I have been able to cook, clean, and take care of my husband and our home. In addition, we’ve been able to enjoy time together and with family and friends. I am thankful for every good day that God gives me. Each good day allows me to fully enjoy the life that God has breathed into my body.
As we are all familiar with, my hair falls out when I receive chemotherapy. The fact that I am receiving a different drug does not change that. In fact, this time around, my hair began to fall out sooner than expected. Usually it takes two weeks (to the day) to fall out. This time it began to fall out a day before expected. I chose to take my husband’s perspective on this one and say, “Chemo must really be working!” Nevertheless, losing hair still sucks. For some reason I thought maybe this time would be no problem, but I was wrong. This is the third time that I have lost my hair, and again, third time is NOT a charm. It was almost harder this time than previously. Losing my hair is a visual reminder for me that I am actually fighting cancer again. When I had my new hair regrowth and was going through my first chemo session this time, I was still able to style my curls and was subconsciously fooling myself into believing, “I just go into the doctors every now and then.” Now that I am losing my hair I think, “I just go into the doctors every now and then… for chemotherapy to fight cancer.”
Check out that texture!
Frankly, I really began to love my short hair. I’ve heard many times that chemo can cause a person’s hair to grow back differently- texture, color, thickness. I can attest, this is true! Mine grew back extremely curly! Before I first lost my hair in March, it was slightly wavy. It could be straight, and would also hold a curl very well. However, it was processed (I wasn’t a natural blonde, believe it or not) and therefore most of the natural wave had been reduced. The hair that had begun to grow back since my last treatments in August was extremely thick and full of tight curls. It resembled the texture my hair was when I was a toddler, before hair color, flat irons, and blow dryers. Losing the locks that I loved was hard. Hair regrowth helped me see that I was really done with treatment, that I was cancer-free. Hair loss forces me to see that I am back in the game. While it’s easy to host a pity-party (which I’ve already done some), I am confident in beating this thing again. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’d rather be alive and bald, than dead with incredible hair. And while we’re being Positive Polly, I’ll add… I truly adore my new blonde wig. It’s the first time that I’ve felt like me in a long time. It’s nice to look in the mirror and see my hot blonde self smiling back.
Ultimately, my hair will grow back. For now, I’m going to embrace being baldalicious and kick cancer’s ass for the second time. Pretty soon, this stupid, little, annoying bug called cancer is going to run away, begging me to stop torturing it.
Joshua 1:9 (MSG)
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
It’s me again! Stephanie is back and ready to update y’all! But before going further, let me first take a minute to applaud my incredible husband for keeping my readers informed through the entire surgery process. Doesn’t he write wonderfully? I’m pretty proud of this man who I get to call my husband. He’s a total stud. He continues to be by my side through the highs and extreme lows of this adventure…and all the while, keeping you in the loop! I’ll save all the details about him for another blog post, but for now, let me get you up to date.
My stay in the hospital was exhausting. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. It’s been about eight days since I was discharged, and I just now feel like I’m settling into the groove. I was discharged the day after Matt last posted. Like he mentioned, my medical team discovered an alarmingly low heart rate and irregular heart beat, and wanted to dig deeper. Easy enough for them…they didn’t have to undergo those insane tests. Once we changed floors and got comfortable in our new room, I was immediately hooked up to a heart rate monitor. This allowed the nurses to watch exactly what my heart was doing at all times. In addition, the following day, an Echocardiogram was ordered. This test is a Sonogram for the heart and monitors the natural rhythm to determine if my organ is functioning properly. Once that was complete, I was transported to the radiology department to receive a PET Rubidium scan and another CT scan. Long story short, I hope I never have to receive another Rubidium scan. Ever heard of a stress test? That’s exactly what it is. Except, nowadays, instead of having a patient who recently had surgery walk on a treadmill, we are placed in a PET scan bed and injected with a special medicine that acts as stress. Oh. My. Stressed is an understatement. I’m always timid to put exact details of scans, tests, and procedures on here for everyone to see, because my intentions are not to scare you. My intentions are truly just to inform. If you get scared, I’m sorry.
To be honest, once this “stress medicine” was injected, I rapidly felt my heart rate skyrocket. I tried not to panic. I took deep breaths and prayed the entire time. For about five to seven minutes, I experienced what I think most heart attack patients may experience. My chest hurt. I felt as though my heart would beat out of my eyeballs and right into my lap. I was sweating. And all I could do was pray that it would be over soon. I’m not a drama queen folks, but I can admit, I did pray… “Lord, please don’t let me die.” Yes, it was that bad. I had tears streaming from my eyes when I was placed back in the wheelchair to be taken to my room again. Once the doors opened and my husband laid eyes on his obviously distraught wife, I could see the anger begin to overflow. I could imagine exactly what was going through his head, and picture it to be something like this: “What the hell did you do to my wife? Why is she crying? I’m going to make you pay!” Once he understood that I was alright and would give him the details when we arrived back at our room, he calmed down. While he has a tendency of being over protective, I am so grateful that I have a husband who cares so deeply about my welfare.
All that to say, my test results came back fine. They did notice the irregular beat and low rate at which my heart was functioning, but it wasn’t alarming. They ordered these tests to rule out blood clots, and that’s exactly what they did. I was free of any clots, and frankly, free of all tears as well. Because I was unable to ingest any solid food or liquids the day of my tests, I was starving when I got back to my room. It was already around four o’clock, and I had nothing in my system since the previous night. All I wanted was some french toast, fresh fruit, and a big piece of cake. And, because of my sweet nurse, I got exactly that! She quickly dialed the cafeteria, and might as well had said, “You better get that food here in two minutes, or else!” Again, I am very grateful for the strong team God continues to place in this game. To add, all of my nurses during my four-day stay were amazing. God placed each and every one of them on my path, and they were each perfect for the job. I really like to form relationships with my caretakers in the hospital, and did just that. I’ve left wondering how they are doing, and look forward to possibly seeing them again someday…Under different circumstances, of course!
Currently, I am still very sore, bruised, and swollen from surgery. I have a total muffin top beginning at my scar line. My belly just hangs there, and it’s extremely unappealing. Good thing my husband loves me regardless! I am finally able to move around without excruciating pain, and am starting to function a little more typically. Matt no longer has to physically help me in and out of bed, and that is a huge victory! I visited my General Oncologist today and after checking out my scar, he was shocked at how quickly I’m healing. I’m young, fit, and strong…what can I say? I also have an army praying for a fast recovery. God’s got me on lock-down. At my appointment today, we discussed the next phase of treatment. Chemotherapy. We talked about which specific chemo drug all my doctors agree on administering, and the schedule at which I will receive it. Before posting concrete plans, I need to confirm with my Gynecologic Oncologist that this is what she would like to do. Most likely she is on the same page, and in which case, I will begin chemo next week. Again, until everything is solidified I can’t be specific as far as how often I will receive doses or how long this next phase will last. However, I am so ready to get this train rollin’! Chemo cocktails never sounded so good until right about now. The waiting and in-between is really the hardest part.
For those who have followed my story, you know that God is the One for big blessings. He hasn’t ceased dropping down those gifts from above. Some, Matt has included in his previous post, and I’d like to reiterate that God is good. Here is why:
- When my Gyn Oncologist/surgeon opened me up in surgery, the tumor popped right up. It was completely encased in a mucus lining, therefore it was all intact. This is not the case for some cancers. Some tumors are not circular and are rather jagged, which makes it nearly impossible to remove the entire mass.
- Because of its mucus lining, my surgeon was able to remove the entirety of the mass.
- The tumor was not connected to my colon, and therefore I did not need any form of a colostomy.
- The PET scan immediately following surgery showed no signs of carcinoma anywhere else in my body.
- My surgeon was able to create an incision at my original hysterectomy scar line. In fact, she removed my previous scar, so now I only have one scar right above my pubic area.
- I am still alive and breathing. God continues to bless me with more days to glorify Him. Hallelujah!
This past week I have been recovering and taking it easy. My body is beginning to function normally again, which I am grateful. We continue to have wonderful support from friends and family, and at a time like this, it’s been extremely helpful. Like I mentioned, I’m finally able to be a little more up and active, and I even felt well enough to make it to church yesterday. I’ve learned that through the storm, instead of hiding out and suffering alone, it is better to surround yourself with joyful people. The most joyous place we enjoy is our church, in the presence of God and surrounded by friends. Needless to say, my spirits were lifted greatly by being in that environment yesterday. In addition, I’ve picked out a new wig! And let me tell you, she is gorgeous! Most know that when I first began this journey, before I lost my hair, I was blonde. Not naturally, but shhh. This time, I decided to go back blonde, and I have been gifted a stunning wig of human hair. Although I’ve been loving my short curly and wavy hair that has grown, I won’t miss it so much now that I have some blonde to rock!
Back to Blonde! Stephanie wearing her new wig. (December 2012)
At the bottom of this entry, I am including a link. A link in order for you to make a choice. As you know, I don’t like to sugarcoat anything, and have always remained open and honest. However, I do understand that some of my readers have sensitive stomachs, and for that I have chosen to create a clickable link so you are able to make the choice to view this image or not. This link is graphic. This link will show you exactly what is trying to take my life. This link might frighten you. Please don’t let it. This link is to a medical picture of the cancerous tumor my surgeon removed last week. You may wonder why I have a photograph of it. I want to see what is trying to ruin me. I want to see exactly what I am fighting so hard to defeat. I need to have a visual of the enemy; The enemy that is getting kicked around, poisoned, stomped on… and ultimately defeated. I feel the need to share this with you, so that you are able to see what you are praying against. I understand if you have a sensitive stomach and can not handle a medical picture of this nature. Whether you choose to view my tumor or not, I thank you for allowing me to be transparent and share the entirety of my journey through cancer with you.
Click HERE to see a picture of the cancerous tumor. (Graphic medical image)
John 10:6-10 (MSG Version)
“Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. ‘I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.’”
Last Tuesday, November 20th, I received a regular three-month follow-up scan. Typically I would have received a PET (full body) scan, however, our insurance is not cancer-patient friendly. Apparently, because my last PET scan in August came back clear of cancer, they deemed it unnecessary to cover any further PET scans unless a CT (localized) scan came back showing anything. Ridiculous, I know. Don’t get me started…frankly that’s beside the point.
I got a call from my Gynecologic Oncologist just two days ago, on the 26th. She immediately asked where I was, which in my heart, I knew was a bad sign. I was right. She informed me that my cancer has recurred. Dammit.
While we aren’t sure of the exact blueprints of this next treatment journey, I will give you as much information as we currently know. The mass that appeared in the CT scan is exactly the size of a softball. Yes, you read that correctly…a softball. Honestly, it’s one centimeter bigger than an adult softball. But that’s semantics. At it’s widest, it’s nearly four inches (9.8cm) in diameter. Shocking, I know. Clearly, this type of cancer is proving to be as aggressive as we were initially told. In August there were no signs of cancer, and only three months later, there is a beastly tumor the size of a softball growing inside my body. This circular mass has been located in the same general vicinity as my original golf-ball sized tumor. It is near my pelvic region, and close to my mid abdomen around my belly button. It’s closer to my left side, and I can actually feel it.
About one month ago, I began experiencing pain in this exact location of my lower abdomen. Because the doctors usually push around my stomach when I get any check-ups, I thought I’d give it a go. I definitely didn’t expect to feel anything. But I did. I felt a hard mass. Because having already battled cancer often tends to making us survivors paranoid and hyper sensitive to any changes in our bodies, I tried to brush it off as nothing. Three weeks ago, I had a regular three-month follow-up with my doctor and informed her about this sudden change in my body. She explained that based on how our intestinal tract works, it most likely was just a back up of stool and that she couldn’t feel anything during her internal exam. In fact, my pap smear results were normal. However, the pain continued and progressed. Days went by and the mass remained. I chalked it up to being constipated. Maybe I was just more backed up than I thought.
Now that the CT results are in, we can most definitely connect the pain and hardness to this mass that has been discovered. My constipation is also a symptom. While, we don’t know exactly where this monster is thriving, my doctors believe it’s getting it’s blood supply from my bowels. That means lower intestinal tract. Hence the constipation. This beast is sucking the life out of my lower organs. And, have I mentioned how huge it is? I’m still shocked.
Where we go from here is a little up in the air right now. Surgery, radiation, and chemo are all on the table again. It’s a matter of the sequence of these treatments in determining the effectiveness. Late yesterday afternoon we met with a General Oncologist that my Gyn Oncologist recommended we see. Once we met this doctor, we immediately adored him. God has sent us another key player for our team. He is a genius when it comes to chemotherapy. He knows all the different types of drugs and their side effects. His knowledge immediately put us at ease. In addition, he treats a lot of lung cancer patients. Most lung carcinomas are similar to my Neuroendrocrine cancer. He knows his stuff. All of my doctors do, and we are so grateful for that. After explaining to us what we were dealing with, he began to talk about treatment options. Surgery first, then chemo? Chemo to shrink it and then surgery to remove it? While my current three Oncologists (Radiation Onc, Gynecologic Onc, and General Onc) are well versed, they really want the opinion of another expert.
As most know, MD Anderson is the biggest and best cancer center in America. Through word of mouth and recommendations, we have learned of a special doctor in Houston who is the lead researcher for my exact type of cancer. He is continually studying how my carcinoma works and what the most effective treatments are. Therefore, we need to get to Houston to see this expert immediately. My Oncologists here agree that I need to get out there as soon as possible… Like yesterday. However, remember the hoopla with our insurance? Again, they deem it unnecessary for me to travel outside of our basic providers to receive a consultation or treatment out-of-state. Completely asinine. Essentially, they require that my doctors here call the authorization department of our insurance company and explain the urgency and necessity of this MD Anderson visit. Being fed up, I asked what it would cost to get an appointment without using our insurance and the receptionist answered, “$27,000.” Needless to say, we need insurance to agree to cover this out-of-state doctor’s visit. That’s a huge prayer request of ours right now.
Long story short, we need to get this ball rolling. This cancer is fast-growing and more aggressive than I ever imagined. I’m desperate to get this monster out of me. I want it gone, and I will do whatever it takes. I’ll go to Zimbabwe to receive a shot made from monkey saliva if I need to. Whatever it takes. And not to mention, this sucker hurts. We knew cancer was mean, but this is at a whole different level. My stomach throbs, and any time I touch it, it fires back… Umm, no sir. You will not win. We are going to poke, prod, cut, poison, and demolish you. Get the hell out of me.
It is imperative that I receive a PET scan in the next few days. Our team and I want to make sure it hasn’t grown anywhere else. They definitely want to check my lungs and my brain for any traces of malignancy. My team of doctors is having my case meeting today to discuss my situation and what the best course of action they believe will be. They are also going to conference call the doctor in Houston to try and see if any strings can be pulled for us to get in to see him. We could be going to Houston as early as tonight or the beginning of next week. I could also be in surgery as early as next week. And chemo might or might not start before then. Everything is dependent on my local doctors communicating with this Oncologist in Houston and getting on the same page. They understand the urgency of my situation, and are willing to do whatever it takes as well. We are all in agreement as far as getting this ball rolling as quickly and effectively as we can. We will continue to keep you updated as soon as we have a more solid plan.
Initially the news rocked us. I was deeply saddened and frustrated that we would have to go through all of this again. My husband was pissed. His anger was directed at God. “How could you allow this to happen again!?” But after a night of grieving, we woke up yesterday with a fire under our asses. My strong guardian of a husband, wrapped his arms around me and said, “It may sound weird, but I’m not scared at all.” And I feel the same. We aren’t scared because we are confident that with God on our side, we can beat this. We will beat this. I will be cancer-free again. And for more than a few weeks this time. I am determined to fight this battle and stomp on the enemy’s intentions. The enemy wants to defeat me, and there is no way we are going to let that happen. I’ve already told God that he’s going to have to drag me kicking and screaming out of this world. As incredible as Heaven sounds, I’m definitely not ready to make it my home yet. I’ve got way too many things to do on Earth. We’ve got babies to be had, memories to be made, and many more years to experience. Our faith is strong and our fire is burning. We know we are about to endure another intense and difficult battle, but there is nothing to fear. After all, “God has overcome the world.” Our victory is in Him.
Cancer will not win, because I will not lose.
Mark 4:35-40 (The Message)
“Late that day he said to them, ‘Let’s go across to the other side.’ They took him in the boat as he was. Other boats came along. A huge storm came up. Waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it. And Jesus was in the stern, head on a pillow, sleeping! They roused him, saying, ‘Teacher, is it nothing to you that we’re going down?’ Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, ‘Quiet! Settle down!’ The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass. Jesus reprimanded the disciples: ‘Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?’”