Saturday, February 20, 2021

Round 11

Same girl but not the same girl. Before cancer diagnosis/ nearing the end of treatment. Cancer has changed me. But something that hasn’t changed.... no matter how angry I got with God, no matter how many questions I had and how deep my doubt ran... God never left me. I felt like it for awhile. But it wasn’t true. Feelings don’t always tell the truth. Another thing that hasn’t changed.... I will spend the rest of my days here on earth sharing about the goodness of God even in the hardest moments of life, that God loves you infinitely more than you can ever know and that you don’t have to get “your act together” first. You are loved just as you are. And there is no better life than a life loving and being loved by God.

Peace out Radiation Oncology. After a great appointment today with no concerning things goin on down there! I am now on a “see as needed” schedule with *this* DR.

Bonus: seeing Kristin who literally got me through some of the hardest days early on. 

Thank you bags of poison for saving my life. 

And as much as I’m grateful for you- after one more date, I’m breaking up with you.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Round 10

For those of you who don’t know.... 10 rounds is a lot of chemo. 

Two more left.

I approach it with both anticipation and anxiety. Trying to learn to take it day by day. 
Recurrence is a real thing. Scanxiety is a real thing. Learning to live as a survivor is another hurdle to climb.... not make any easier by my Enneagram 6 personality.

Things I’m doing to prepare myself:

Setting up counseling again 
Getting a tattoo to mark this journey
Light exercise 
Lectio Divina and Quiet Time
Reaching out to others survivors 
Not googling worst case scenarios 
Planning a celebration dinner with my family
Going to Disneyland as soon as it’s available 
Giving myself time and space to recover and not pushing myself 
Continue taking meds for anxiety

Friday, February 5, 2021

What does being faithful in the little things mean? What about the big things?

I am married to one of the most encouraging people I have ever met. Tonight after being disconnected from my chemo (hallelujah) I got emotional (nothing new around here...I already was emotional but cancer takes it up a notch) 

I’d been diving into learning about World Cancer Day, connecting with new survivors online that weren’t freaking me out but encouraging me, looking for local Colon Cancer Awareness 5k fundraisers etc. Starting to prepare for “life after treatment” which if you can believe it is even more scary to me than being in treatment an Enneagram 6. 

Trevor said something about how the idea that if you’re faithful in the little things, God will trust us with the bigger things. We usually take that to mean, good big dreams we have or being patient for that breakthrough and trusting the process. 

But for me... it’s looked different. 

I had a miscarriage and it shook my core. But before long I was messaging with other women who’d walked through the same thing but had never spoken out. I began blogging about my experience and unintentionally became a safe haven for women to vent, ask hard questions  and feel they were normal. Going through that miscarriage was awful but choosing to engage and be brave with my story helped others. My friend wrote an incredible book regarding grief and loss of babies and I’ve loved sharing that resource with so many. 

I love teenage girls. I’ve loved mentoring them since I graduated high school. Whether one on one or in small groups. Providing a safe space to be themselves and explore who they are in Christ and have someone on their team who just wants to be there. I knew pregnant teen Moms were getting left out of these experiences so I dove in. I contacted our local homeless teen mom and baby house and began as a volunteer driver and eventually developed a mentoring program for the home. I’d meet a precious girl and her son here and we’d walk through a year of mentoring - highs and lows- victories and set backs and ultimately I got to watch her fight every odd against her to become an incredible Mom of two married to an incredibly supportive man. I spent several nights speaking at events, advocating for these young women, sharing their stories of hope and asking others to jump in and surround these families with love and care. Many would go on to volunteer in different capacities at this home. 

Trades of Hope completely opened my eyes to a new way of being on mission. Partnering with brilliant talented artisans and leveraging their gifts through my connections instead of just donating or giving handouts made me realize there was a better way to go about supporting  women specifically around the world. By using the method of selling their fair trade items to my friends and family I was supporting women and families all over the globe while also helping to support mine. I loved this idea so much I went to Haiti with Trades of Hope where I saw first hand how this type of system was impacting the lives of so many and this was just a few areas in one country. Trades of Hope is partnered globally. Ethically doing business and leveraging communities to be self sustaining, educated and most importantly helping children stay with their families. 
I came back from that trip and shared on multiple news stations, radio stations and hosted party after party at my home telling the stories, selling their goods and recruiting others to do the same. It’s not that they don’t have a voice, I was just helping to amplify them. Several signed up to work with Trades of Hope. While I’m no longer actively selling, I am still promoting their mission and good friends with the amazing founders of this groundbreaking business model. 

Going to Haiti is a major part of why we began looking into adoption. Here’s another way I can make a difference I thought. We can adopt a true orphan. Only God had other plans and instead of adopting we entered into the world of foster care (5 years ago this month). 

Our eyes were opened to the brokenness of the system and the reality that there were not enough homes for these kids. How could that be? Churches alone could provide that coverage but the church as a whole didn’t seem to be engaged and that bothered me. So I took my voice and began hosting get togethers at my home. Finding and printing resources, calling my DHS friends to come share. We started meeting at coffee shops and then I was asked to speak last minute at our denomination’s mission convention which then led to two years of breakout sessions at the convention where I shared about how the church needs to be filling this gap and all the ways someone can be involved. I preached a sermon at a sister church, and their church dove right in alongside their Pastor who was already deeply involved in foster care with his wife and continues to be a huge advocate for foster families and connecting the faith community to DHS.

Because of this, we saw many other families step into foster care in some capacity. Some became foster parents, some babysat or brought meals to families or created boxes for kids while they waited for a foster family to come get them.  

And then I got a wild hair and wrote a book. I wrote a book of encouragement for foster families based on my own experiences and the ways God brought me encouragement. I wrote it as a “me too” book instead of a “how to book”.
 I wrote and self published it and had a launch party and have received so much humbling and encouraging feedback from other foster parents who have found hope in my words. I get emailed almost every month that books are still selling on Amazon.

Every time God has placed something in my life, and I will say, all of the above things are hard hard things.... there has been a way for me to help others. I’ve been an advocate and a sounding board. I’ve shared my stories with the kind of vulnerability that makes me want to delete it all after posting only to get a private message about how much someone needed to read what I wrote.This is where I bring in one of my favs, Breñe Brown. Some of my favorite quotes that have helped empower me to share my stories for purpose.
Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It's about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.

Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness.

Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.

And so now I find myself here. Diagnosed with cancer at 36. Incredibly angry about it and not wanting to talk to a single person about it. Angry at God and done sharing any stories. I was in that space for a good long time. But there is something in me that cannot keep quiet (I used to get in trouble at school for this, but look at me now!) I began writing and sharing about the most traumatic experiences of my life. I didn’t sugarcoat a thing and I began to get messages of those who saw my story, went to the doctor after neglecting it and they caught polyps before they turned cancerous. My story shared may have saved others from walking this cancer journey and that right there was enough for me. To keep sharing, keep telling my stories as hard as they are. 
The saying “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” is a made up pharse. It’s fluff someone created that isn’t helpful. But something that is helpful is knowing that God does not abandon you in these things. I for sure thought I had been this time but I was wrong. God used people to showMe that. I also don’t believe God makes us go through things to prove a point or to make an example of us or purposefully put us through pain for any reason or any other thing like that. But I do believe, if I allow God to, some good can come from hard bad things. We live in a broken world and hard bad things happen but we don’t have to go that road alone. I will tell you that the only reason I’ve been able to walk though these seasons and turn them around to bring hope or light to them is because of the saving grace of Jesus. There is no other way. I could not do it. My entire hope is in Jesus. The hope of the world is the only hope I know to cling to. 
So yeah.... faithful in the little things and in the big things sometimes doesn’t look like what we expect. But for me, I will take my cancer journey and find ways to advocate, encourage, inspire, bring hope and maybe even write another book someday. 
And maybe you have a story to share that will be exactly what someone needs to hear. Maybe someone is waiting for you to use your voice. 

Resources mentioned:

Grace Like Scarlett- Grieving with Hope after Miscarriage and Loss by Adriel Booker

Edge of Wild: Encouragement for Foster Parents by Krystle Bowen

Breñe Brown Website

Trades of Hope
PS:Round 10/12 is done!