Wednesday, November 30, 2011


our life is really full right now. and we have so much to be thankful for. it's cliche to only be (or at least just talk about it) thankful in the month of november, but i guess if there is a month that helps us remember, then that's great. i think since we've been going through stuff we are fortunate to be reminded often what we are thankful for.

so this "stuff" that we've been going through is at times pretty darn crappy. sometimes if i think about what our lives look like "on paper" it can be pretty depressing. however, i don't spend most of my time being depressed. (by no means is this my doing or because of any mantra that gets me out of bed each's totally Jesus) God isn't going to allow that. there is something in the bible that says, "in all things, give thanks." so, does that mean "all things" = everything? i think it does.

does that mean that as i sit in my chair in an infusion room getting pumped full of a toxic chemical to give thanks? i think so. i'm thankful that my sweet and talkative nurse, amber, remembered my daughter's name and asked how she was doing (after only meeting me once before 3 weeks prior). i'm thankful for the smiling guy next to me who says hey and who makes no big deal that he drives to charlotte from atlanta every week so he can participate in a trial. i'm thankful for the opportunity to tell a nurse that what gets me through this is my faith. i'm thankful for the friends willing to rearrange their schedules and childcare to sit beside me for 3-4 hours.

does it mean that although i may never be able to have any more children to still give thanks? i think so. i am thankful for the surprise gift he gave me in little miss Charis Root who fills me with joy so many minutes of the day. i'm thankful that i am well enough to play with her and hold her and do bedtime with her and all the other things that take lots of energy to do with a 2 year old. i'm thankful that i get to witness her learning and growing as she tries out new words or tests her boundaries or observes her world and asks questions. i'm thankful to have been able to be pregnant and nurse at least for the time i had.

does it mean that after getting a Master's and job-hunting/networking for six months Adam is still working at a restaurant? i guess so. i'm thankful for the journey God has us on, but especially all that He is doing in Adam. it's amazing to watch my husband really hear from the Lord and live in the truth that he is His beloved. i'm thankful for the flexibility of his schedule that allows him to go to just about every appointment with me. i'm thankful that we are able to see God at work in the process and we aren't waiting for the job to happen to really experience Him.

does it mean that although my body may never look like the body of a woman again to still give thanks? yeah, probably. i'm thankful that God gave me a husband to love me in the midst of all this body issue stuff. i'm thankful that He still reminds me that i am created in His image. i'm thankful for the opportunity to learn more about what true beauty is and where it comes from. i'm thankful that sometimes i feel more brave than i did before.

does it mean that even though i was laid off from a job i loved i should still give thanks? yep, that too. i'm thankful for the way the Lord works even if it makes no sense at all to me. i'm thankful for the peace He gave me in the midst of my transition out of YL both professionally and personally. i'm thankful for the job i have now that puts me in the lives of a whole different demographic but still kind of doing relational ministry. i'm thankful for more time to be with my family and friends.

does it mean that i will apparently always have to be treated for cancer or at least live in the unknown of it's return (if it even goes away)? yes, duh. i'm thankful that God knows all that lies ahead for me. i'm thankful that for today i feel great and the cancer is responding to chemo and there is hope. i'm so thankful for hope. hope that there will be a day, whether it's on this side of heaven or not, that i will be cancer free. hope that in the midst of lots of uncertainty, God is the most certain thing in my life and He sure does love me a lot.

don't get me wrong...i'm not a "oh who cares about is so good" kind of girl. nope. i'm a realist who also believes in hope. is that possible? i realize that i have to experience the pain in order to experience the joy of thankfulness and gratitude. they sort of come together, like a package deal. but i get the whole, "in all things, give thanks." because even when there is some really crappy stuff going on there is always really good stuff going on. like this

and this

and this

and because we have some pretty amazing friends (and even some strangers) who are sending us to New York City for the weekend.
but most of all it's because God continues to remind us that yes, He is good, and yes, He loves us, and yes, we are His beloved.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

NYC or bust

we are going to New York City!!! i know, crazy. it's my own make a wish thanks to some amazing friends and even some strangers. and since there really isn't a real make a wish out there for adults with cancer, i'm thankful our community stepped in.

i knew i wanted to take a trip and have even felt "deserving" or "entitled" because of the 18 months we've had. when i was done with treatment and heading into my reconstruction we talked about doing something all-inclusive and tropical in the spring. but, my cancer came back and my reconstruction didn't happen and the treatment plan still feels a little vague. i'm not trying to be on the beach with this body right now. but i still wanted to take a trip with adam. especially now that the cancer was back. we needed a break and a little fun.

enter NYC. for some reason there was a buzz with NYC lately. i talked about going with some friends earlier in november but couldn't. then it felt like everyone around me had gone or was going. and i wanted to go too!!! (insert stopping of feet and other tantrum behavior) so in my head i started to plan the trip. i had decided we were going and i was talking about it a lot. of course it probably wouldn't be the best or even wisest decision considering our circumstances. BUT i kinda didn't care. i don't mean to be so brash, but look, i have cancer and damn it i wanted to have a little fun getaway with my hubby. plus i knew there were people out there that wanted to help make this happen. i would soon be blown away by those people. as i began to talk about this trip the excitement built and i became more determined. i just didn't know how it could happen. and i had to get adam on board. well, there were other people just as determined. i got ambushed one day by a couple friends...we were gifted with 2 flights and spending money. another friend booked our hotel and others have contributed to the spending money fund (which is good b/c i'm learning just how expensive nyc

we are so excited about this trip. SO EXCITED. we are incredibly humbled by the people who are making this happen. it seems kind of silly and like such a luxury. but i'm so very excited about this trip to the big city. we need a break right now...we've been doing this cancer thing for 18 months now and adam has been full on job hunting for 6 months. we were going to shoot to go in april but were encouraged to go during the holiday season. and i felt like treatment right now is predictable and i know what weekends i'm feeling good. so we picked the first weekend in december and found the flights and got the ball rolling. we've been asking for advice on things to do, places to see and where to eat. we are cramming as much into 4 days that we can. it's going to be so much fun. and i can't believe it's really happening. it's so incredible that people love us enough to help make this happen. we are so so grateful and so so excited!

so in a week we'll be walking the streets of new york city which will be filled with the magic of christmas. i hope we can do and see all that we would like. i know it's going to be great. i can't guarantee you'll see me on any morning show b/c i'm not trying to wake up early. and i don't think i'll miss waking up before 7am to the knocking of little fists on the door. but i will miss our sweet little lady.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

a year without breasts

i recently celebrated one year without my breasts. well, i wouldn't say "celebrated" exactly. mostly reached the anniversary of my double mastectomy which was the 18th. i have been thinking a lot about how to share this with the blog world. in the end i just want to make note of it and put it out there a bit.

once i realized how aggressive my cancer was and that i am the carrier for the gene (brca 2), i realized that doing the double mastectomy was an easy choice and pretty much a necessity. by then i had no attachment to my breasts. they betrayed me. i went into surgery feeling okay. i really didn't know what to expect.

it's been a year of lots of tears, some anger, lots of insecurity, and constant adjustment. i opted for delayed reconstruction, which means i would have about 8 months of living with this body and these scars. that 8 months has turned into a year and definitely longer with reconstruction not an option any time soon. this whole thing is complicated with many layers. boobs are everywhere. EVERYWHERE. and all women have some kind of issue with their breasts, whether they are too small or too big, saggy, lop-sided, or whatever. i have no breasts. just scars. and the surgery has made my body deformed in many ways. it's hard to embrace the body i have. sometimes i don't like what i see and i'm often afraid of what my husband thinks of it. but he's been the most supportive and amazing partner to love me and walk this with me. we miss my breasts.

i have spent a lot of time writing and backspacing. it's been hard to process and express how i'm doing. even though i needed this surgery to save my life, it's still a hard adjustment. it doesn't diminish the pain of losing my breasts...of feeling deformed and non-feminine, never being able to breast feed again, having no feeling, not being able to wear certain things. i want to learn to embrace this body because it's what i (we) have for now. i want to feel sexy and feminine in a world that says that can only come with breasts. it's not something i wake up and decide to do and it's done. it's a painful process. and it's a process i'm willing to walk. one thing that has inspired me for a while now is the Scar Project. i was able to do my own photo shoot with a local artist recently and it was definitely amazing to feel beautiful and brave as i am.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

48 hours

it's clear that we've been through a lot and have a lot going on. at times it can be completely overwhelming. but most times i feel God in this with us and if i'm honest i'm wanting Him more than the stuff that would seem to make our lives a little easier right now. it's the idea we long for His presence more than His blessing? look, sometimes i'd like His blessing or an easy fix, but in reality that doesn't sustain me like He does. and He still gives us His blessings through His provisions and our incredible community.

so, recently i had an overwhelming 48 hours and it had nothing to do with a scan or directly related to cancer. crazy, i know. on saturday i opened up a letter from my COBRA saying that my benefits have been terminated effective 09/30/2011. needless to say i freaked. i knew it was a stretch, but i still called them. of course they are closed on the weekend. i was seriously in a panic. my first thought was how could this happen b/c i had done everything right...filled out the right paperwork and all that stuff. apparently my premium hadn't been paid. (side note...i qualified for financial assistance through Carolina Healthcare Systems and they were responsible to pay my premium for 3 months) so, here i was..COULD.NOT.DO.ANYTHING. that's a hard place for me to be. i had to let it go and i prayed a lot. A.LOT. i knew that God was in this, that He cares about the details of my insurance. BUT i was struggling to see the purpose in this. i wanted to send out a mass email asking friends to pray but felt the Lord calling me to come to Him. so i did. that night of sleep was fitful. every time i awoke it was on my mind so i cried out to God lots. on sunday morning i shared with my prayer group what was going on and cried. i confessed how anxious i was and freaked out. i can honestly say that i've never felt this way about a scan or test, which seems crazy. so why was this making me come undone. my friends prayed for me and i must say that i had a lot of peace on Sunday. but by monday morning the anxiety was was the day i could make the phone calls.

i called the insurance people first. here is the thing...they don't send you a notice letting you know you missed a payment. that would make too much sense. they send you a termination notice. so, you've missed the grace period and are SOL basically. the woman said that it was my responsibility to make sure it got paid and if we could prove it was a mail issue then maybe they could reinstate my benefits. otherwise i could write a letter of appeal which "doesn't normally work." after i hung up with her i felt helpless. so i called the carolinas healthcare (CHS) people and left a message letting him know i was freaking out. then i went to yoga. that was a good decision. i had to still trust God in this. after yoga i called my friend, adam, at CHS and he let me know he'd been researching my case to figure out what went wrong and spoke with the insurance people asking them to reinstate my benefits. he was super apologetic and very kind, taking full responsibility on their end. i was a mess and sobbing on the phone with him. while we were talking he got a call from the insurance and he came back with "i've got good news..." a peace washed over me and i held my breath as i waited to hear what he had to say..."they are going to reinstate your benefits." he wanted to let me go so he could discuss all the details with them.

i have to say just like that i felt lighter and more at peace. which i had to investigate some. God had purposely allowed me to spend these 48 hours in fear and anxiety defending all the things i had done right. but it didn't matter that i'm administratively gifted and was able to find this assistance and fill out the appropriate paperwork. it wasn't about what i was capable or able to do. if i'm not trusting God with all (ALL) the details then I'm missing what He has for me. it's crazy how i could go from such despair (i know that sounds dramatic, but homegirl needs her benefits right now) to peace. i have been fooled to think that i'm so "easy going" about this process. of course i trust God. yeah i don't worry much. but send me a letter like that and it all falls to pieces. especially if it's steeped in what i've done. i'm good at doing stuff and i do it well. it doesn't matter what i do if i don't trust God. and i mean really trust Him. with all the details, including insurance. He cares about it all. that's just how much He loves us.

That afternoon I got a note from an old friend with a passage from Psalm 107:6 that i really thought was fitting: "Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress." and that is exactly what He's done.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

2 going on 15

i've needed some time before i do this post and still i'm not sure my heart is in the right place. as we approached Charis' 2nd birthday i did a lot of reflecting and "i can't believe" statements about our little lady turning 2. Two is official. She's not a baby anymore but a little girl who interacts and thinks and makes decisions. I reflected on God's timing and gift of our little lady in our lives. I reflected on how God knew exactly what we needed and maybe even wanted at a time such as this. she was such a good surprise. but now that it's been 2 years i can't still be shocked by the surprise. yet it has been a full 2 years. in the time since Charis was born we've been through so cancer diagnosis and treatment, adam finishing grad school and his thesis, me getting laid name the big ones. and although God has met us in each struggle we have found the most joy in our little lady. i keep thinking about how part of her name means "that which affords joy." it's so true. most of the time. being a parent is hard. not that i thought it'd be easy. i think it's more of a challenge for me some days when i'm physically tired and need a break but can't really take that break with a now 2 year old. or the fact that she has a total mind of her own. she can disobey now and rebel and whine. and it feels like she's been doing that a lot this week. it's been a full week...her big bash, my birthday, a poopie mess, then a medical procedure. and i'm just feeling extra tired and less patient this week.

how did this birthday post turn into a you know what fest?! goodness.

i've been thinking about how i want to celebrate her in this birthday post. i haven't really come up with anything profound so i will just celebrate all that she is doing and all that she means to us.

- she is talking up a storm. i feel like in the past month she has "bloomed." it's crazy what we get a front row seat as she learns to use words. words that she may have been hearing but stored away for later use. or long complicated words that she is willing to try out now that she is more comfortable with language. or words that elicit a response from us. i am constantly fascinated by this and it usually snaps me back to the reality of what a joy she is to us.

- when we went to New Orleans a couple weeks ago we visited the Aquarium for the first time and it was so cool. she breezed by most of the wanders that we saw but would sometimes stop to explore the creature behind the glass, especially the penguins. it was a super fun experience.

in a fish tank with daddy

touching a stingray

kissing a penguin

not sure about the birds

- she is still potty training. we've had a handful of accidents lately and she often fights going potty. i'm sure this is part of the process. sometimes i'm just ready for the day that she can totally go on her own. but i am thankful that we are out of diapers and only have to deal with dirty pull-ups at sleep time.

"building" blocks just to knock them down

- she is still an awesome eater. now that she can identify food or see it's color she takes a bit more time to warm up to somethings, but she always comes around and digs in. while we were in louisiana she had fried catfish and samosas. i am always thankful that she is a good eater and willing to try stuff.

sitting on a stool with her hair clipped back like a big girl

- i was a little nervous about the time change because most of my friends say it messes their kids up. but, i am happy to report that she slept until 8am on the morning of the time change. which makes me thankful that she is a good sleeper.

playing shape sorter with pap pap

- we had our first poop disaster this past week. on my birthday if you really want to know. i laid her down for a nap and was going to head to my own bed for a nap when i heard her calling "mommy." i did what i always do and ignored her until there was a pounding on her door. she was clearly no longer in bed. and what i walked into was a total mess...poo all over her hands and leg and carpet and floor and back of her door and the toy in her hand. before i put her in the tub for a while i obviously took some pics. it was a mess. i guess she didn't get the memo that it was my birthday.

what poo?!

- charis is keeping us busy. she loves to play with her new big blog legos...she says, "play blocks mommy." she loves to read books and recently asked for a "story" as if she knew some books tell a story and some just show pictures and silly rhymes.

sometimes sleeps with her books

i've prayed a lot for patience this week. i've always lacked it. our little lady is pretty persistent and will keep asking for something. it's silly when i try to explain why she can't have it or mommy can't get it while she is driving. even still she asks. so i see how easy it is to give in and so many times i want to. but by then i get to the point where i have to stand strong myself just to prove a point perhaps. maybe from the beginning it wasn't a battle worth fighting but i'm too far deep in my fight to give in. and so is she. so we are figuring out the whole discipline thing and setting up boundaries and all that stuff. and some days are harder than others.

was trying to get a pic of her slippers but i love this laugh

my prayer for Charis is that she will know Jesus. that she will desire to know Him from an early age. i often pray for the friends she will meet in her life, that they will point her to Jesus. i pray that God will protect her from mean girls, bullies and boys. i pray that she will be a part of a community like the one we are right now...a community that loves her, challenges her, supports her, encourages her and always reminds her whose she is...a dearly loved daughter. i am always asking God for guidance as He has chosen us to be her mom and dad. i can't do this without Him. i constantly need wisdom, patience, kindness, gentleness, grace and love. i am thankful and humbled to be her mom. i wouldn't trade the hard times for anything because i know it's part of the process. i'm thankful to have Adam beside me in this. my hope is that Charis will always know how deeply loved she is, not only by myself and Adam, but by her creator. she is fearfully and wonderfully made (ps. 139)

here is to another year of adventures with our little lady!! i will keep you updated on them.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

bugga bugga

i am not a party planner. i don't have the gift of cuteness and matching. i sometimes get overwhelmed with making sure all my different friends are feeling comfortable and having a good time. but this was different. our little lady was turning 2. i'm not totally into big gigs for little kiddos. they can get so crazy and expensive. but after my cancer came back this summer i decided i was going to have a party for her big day. i remember sitting in church and thinking i don't know how many birthdays i'll be here so i want to make sure i make the most of each of her birthdays while i am here. i know that might sound morbid, but a cancer diagnosis changes one's thinking. so, the planning began for her "bugga bugga birthday party." at her age she isn't "into" much but she likes bugs, or "buggas" as she calls them. we wanted to invite our friends; the many people in our community that are walking this road with us and who love Charis. they are helping us in so many ways. in this season of life it is taking our village to help raise our little girl. and we are so thankful.

the little bugga ready to party

jada & jocelyn having a snack before guest arrive

back to the the bug theme was easy enough. enter Oriental Trading. that place is crazy and has anything and everything. i got lots of fun bug stuff. i decided to do a craft table with bug stencils and stickers, markers, crayons, colored pencils, and tissue paper butterflies. as well as a sandbox with plastic bugs called the "bugga bugga hunt." a pinata filled with bug finger puppets, wind up ladybugs, squish bugs, butterfly rings and of course candy. we also have those plastic balls (like old school ball pit at play places) and those were a hit. my friend Jen's sister made some fun bugs and signs. i made a pin the dot on the ladybug game, which we never played. i think because the rest of it was such a hit. with these and a big yard i was hopeful it would be a fun party.

the yard set-up

friends at the sand box diggin for buggas

camden and wade working hard on their art

david going back up the rollercoaster

we put charis down for her nap and starting setting up the party. the best part about this is that i was not stressed at all. i was excited to celebrate our little lady with our friends. i wasn't worried about much else, which was such a gift. i could just let go. and enjoy.
our friends started arriving and before long the party was in full were drawing, coloring and making tissue butterflies or digging for bugs in the sand or diving in the balls or riding on our little coaster or just running around being a kid. it was great. and one of the high lights was when the pizza came (charis loves pizza). we ordered it from Jet's pizza and the delivery guy came dressed up in a was awesome. but i'm sad to say i don't have a picture of it. it was unbelievable. we had pizza then super yummy cupcakes then did the pinata in the dark. kinda forgot about that whole gets dark early business. oh well, it was still major fun and the kids loved it.

the lil bug loves her pizza

singing happy birthday to charis!

sweet paige on the Rody

the sweet sorrells girls

The highlight for me was seeing our little ladybug (yeah, i dressed her up for her birthday) play with her friends and squeal with excitement and say, "happy birthday" or "two!" she was so cute. i think she had a blast. i know, i did. and i was really proud of myself for pulling this party off and being able to enjoy it.

loving her cupcake!!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

my little treat

i am not creative but i wish i was. i love seeing handmade costumes and maybe one day i'll give it a try. but until then i'll buy them on the cheap. so this costume was the best 2 bucks i've ever spent. she wasn't sexy. she was so incredibly cute and scrumpteous. and she caught on fast to taking free candy from strangers with a "trick or treat" and a "thank you." (does anyone else think that is so weird?)

we went to our friend's neighborhood where there was a firetruck led parade, then food then trick-or-treating. charis loved all the kids in costumes, especially a little girl dressed as a spotted dog.

in her car, ready to go!

eating a little snack before hitting the houses

testing out the goods

we tried for a shot of the 4 of us

camden giving charis a high 5

we got back to courtney's house and while her kids dumped their candy to sort their goods charis was more interested in camden's toys. and let's just say she hasn't asked about her candy since then.