Tuesday, March 27, 2012


i like words. mostly, i like to talk. so, indirectly i like words. it's adam who's the real wordsmith in our family. i mean i like to write and talk and all that, but i wouldn't say i'm good with words. shortly after my diagnosis in the summer of 2010 (sidenote: really bizarre to refer to it as something that happened almost 2 years ago), i started writing more. i have always gone through phases where i like to journal, but there are huge gaps of time among those. i think i felt like i wanted to soak up everything we were going through. or rather, record it. whether for myself to look back on or something to leave. my writings and musings have lessened as we continue to walk this road. for whatever reason. some of my writing is more specific, like letters to Charis. and sometimes i still rant/ramble. there is a lot to write about sometimes....stupid things people say or processing not having breasts or taking note of my heart during this time. recently i went through my "cancer ramblings" folder and found the document "words." these are a list of words that were not a part of our vocabulary (on a regular basis) prior to June 2010. i'm still building on it, but it's interesting to me to see that in a moment when your life changes, so does your vocabulary.


Home health care nurse






Genetic mutation


Prosthetic bra




Inductive chemotherapy

Triple negative





Tram flap

Free flap

DIEP flap



radiation oncologist


estrogen cream







node involvement

blood work


clinical trial

study drug




second or additional opinion

young survivor

pleural effusion

finish strong

final wishes


cancer center




Thursday, March 22, 2012


i've had a lot on my mind lately. one of those subjects is babies. it's always been so interesting to me the idea of "family planning." there are people out there who "plan" for a baby and it happens just as they plan it. there are people out there who try and ache and yearn for a baby, never to be able to get pregnant or experience loss after loss. there are people out there who don't try and get pregnant by surprise. we fall into that last category. we had been married less than 3 years when we got pregnant with Charis. and (AND) we were using a condom. (ps..no such thing as safe sex, kids). the pregnancy was a total surprise and really hard for me to process. my "plan" was to wait til we were married at least 5 years, after Adam was out of school and we were more financially and vocationally stable. so much for that plan. and as i soon found out God had another plan for us that has been a lot better than i could ever imagine.

about a year before i got pregnant i became real friends with Jen Hunt. in that year she shared a lot about her desire to have babies, her ache when friends got pregnant, and gave me a bit of a glimpse into what it was like to long and not have these longings met and in the midst of it watching others grow their families. i learned so much through this friendship. and when i got pregnant, she was my first thought. i was devastated to have to tell her. fortunately, at the time i was seeing an amazing counselor who knew Jen and was able to help me share our news with her. she was the first person we told and it was so hard. i mean, it can still bring tears to my eyes. i know that God is the one who is ultimately in control of the whole baby thing, but it's hard to tell a friend who has been longing and trying for years that you a) weren't trying and b) using a condom and still got pregnant. it's something that deepened our friendship. and i think through this i've developed a tenderness towards other women and friends who long for a baby and/or who experience the loss of miscarriage.

fast forward....after charis was born adam and i started talking "family planning." we kinda felt like now that we had a kid we should probably "plan" for the next ones. you know, how far apart do we want them? when should we "try" for the next one? how many kids do we want? and stuff like that. we hadn't made any decisions considering she was just a baby, but we got the conversation ball rolling. then, THEN, i was diagnosed with breast cancer. to say this tabled our baby/family planning discussion is an understatement. having more kids was clearly not an option as i began treatment. but it was something to think about...do we freeze eggs/embryos before treatment? timing didn't allow us to do this. do i consider getting my ovaries removed b/c i have the genetic mutation that increases my risk of BC recurrence and ovarian cancer? still got them and not ready to get rid of them yet. will my period ever come back if i even ever get off chemo? it did briefly when i finished my first chemo and this was glorious. but with back to back chemos there is a chance i will be thrown into early menopause. this would suck.

so, now charis is almost 2 1/2. i figured by now we'd either have a second or be on the way. this is not an option for us. fairly early on, maybe after my first round of treatments when we thought i was done, we'd get asked about wanting more kids. it still felt like something we couldn't know. of course we'd love to have more kids. but at that time i was waiting on my period and about to get reconstruction. then cancer struck again. the thought of babies or growing our family is beyond back-burner conversations. but it's on the forefront of my heart and mind. people who have kids charis' age are having their 2nd or 3rd child or planning to have more kids. that would be us. friends who are longing for kids are struggling to either get pregnant or have miscarried. this breaks my heart. the Hunts are weeks away from making the adoption of their girls official. this brings me such joy.


i am in a weird place. we clearly aren't trying to have kids. a) kind of impossible without a period and b) not smart during chemo. but i want more kids. i've never miscarried so i don't know that pain personally. i'm not technically infertile but i am because cancer/chemo has caused me to be in early menopause. so, i feel like i can relate to my friends who are trying and longing and not getting what they want...a baby. even though it's different. then, there is the whole cancer thing. even if i can't physically have a baby we know there is adoption. but is that even a wise decision considering i have stage 4 breast cancer? probably not. growing our family right now doesn't even seem like an option. but that doesn't take away the sadness i feel. we actually have a boy name picked out. i loved loved loved being pregnant and would do it a hundred times (like that one lady on tv...ick). i want charis to have siblings. recently she's been talking about brothers and sisters. so then i'm like, "maybe she knows something we don't." as if my kid has some intuition. that's just crazy. one thing that is really cool is that she will have unique sibling-type relationships with so many friends' kids b/c of what we are walking through now. she spends so much time with other families while we go to Duke and appts and other stuff. especially at my friend, Courtney's, who has 3 kids. adam often says that one day she'll talk of her memories of having two brothers and a sister. i think that's pretty cool. and i'm so thankful that she gets to be with these other families and experience sibling-hood.

minutes after birth...bliss

something i learned in counseling and through telling Jen about our pregnancy with Charis was that it's possible to be sad and feel joy at that same time. that's just crazy. and honestly, i've learned that more and more as i walk through cancer, said good-by to sydney, walk through miscarriages with friends, celebrate pregnancies with friends. it's becoming a part of my life. living in joy & pain simultaneously. i love love love the pregnant belly. i am beyond excited for my friends who are growing a baby. that is a gift to me. i ache for my friends who are trying and longing and experiencing the pain of loss. God is giving me unique perspective because of my experience. it's such a tough subject to talk about. it hurts a lot when all you want is to get pregnant and can't but it seems like everyone around you is (especially at our somewhat fertile church). :) i'm thankful for my friends who are tender towards my position as they tell me about their pregnancy. i'm thankful for my friends who are willing to share their pain of loss and longing with me. and if you want to know a secret, i'm holding onto a pretty big hope that i will be healed and able to get pregnant again one day. i'm serious. and i know it's possible. and i also know if it doesn't happen i will be okay with that. i am thankful for the surprise of Charis. it became evident pretty early on that she was so meant to be born into our family. she has brought us "grace" and "joy" in the midst of so much pain. i mean, she is just freaking awesome. i'm thankful i got to experience pregnancy and her birth too...both of which were amazing.

me @ 40 weeks...love this

so i'm navigating through some strange and lonely waters. i know i'm not totally alone. i'm just trying to process yet another thing that pops up in my heart. babies.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

"that's me"

how cute is that face!
remember when i used to do those monthly charis updates? yeah, i've been a slacker. so, this can be her 28 month update! she is up to so much and constantly amazing us. we are learning how to parent a two-year-old as she is looking for autonomy. we are trying to figure out what battles to fight and which ones to let go of. we are trying to figure out discipline. holy moly this is tough. i mean if she asks for time out does that mean it's no longer working? hmmm....

she said she was drawing "america"

- she is a talkasorous-rex! especially in the car. we both feel like her vocabulary has grown so much in the past few months. i remember keeping track of her words then her mini sentences. now she's just talking a lot and using words that i don't remember "teaching" her. It's as if she has this storage compartment that everything we say goes to then she starts to use them as she makes connections. i think this is why i studied child development...it's fascinating for sure. so let's just focus on her talking:

she's into saying things like, "it's not pasta, it's noodle" or "it's not home, it's house" or "it's not mommy, it's Amy" and recently "it's not Ju-Ju, it's Julie" (referring to my sister who she's always called ju-ju and still refers to the twins as "ju-ju babies."

ju-ju babies

"that's me." when she burbs or passes gas she really does say, "that's me." and she'll also say excuse me but "that's me" is pretty funny. recently at church she told the dad helping out that she passed gas. that is my girl!!!

recently when we went to Blowing Rock we decided to drive at night, so i got her up around 10p and we went to pick up Adam from work. she woke up saying, "we go get daddy for work and go for mountains." (she uses "for" instead of "to" a lot). and was in a good mood. i still thought that since it was late and dark she'd sleep. nope. homegirl was a broken record singing every song in her repertoire which becomes one big song of "twinkle little start...ABC song...jingle bells...jesus loves me...the God our Father prayer...where is thumbkin..." it's like we put her on loop. who needs a play list?! it's definitely super cute but at one point after the 6th "how you today mommy?" i just about lost it. she was fine to lower her volume and just enjoy the ride.

so cute in her robe

- i feel like she's totally coming out of her "shell" and let's be honest the shell wasn't that intense, but her look/stare is. usually if people (friends or strangers say "hi" to her she just stares at them). while in Boone she went up to 2 different strangers, grabbed their hand and said, "i'm going to get my daddy." that was when we were in a coffee shop and she was being hilarious. we got her some "coffee" (i.e. warm apple cider) and she was in heaven sitting with us drinking coffee.

me and mama

- she is a pretty amazing little girl. we do know what a gift she is to us and to others. she's been spending the night with different families on a weekly basis since the New Year and hasn't batted an eye. i love love love that she is obedient and good and a joy for others. i'm just saying she might be more obedient with them than with us...you know us parents bring out the "best" in our kids. :) i sometimes wish i could get inside her little head and see what these experiences are like and what she thinks of them. it's a gift to us knowing she is safe and loved and also being enjoyed as God created her to be. it would have been so much harder to make the weekly trek to Durham if she was a mess and threw a tantrum every time we left her. we are so thankful for the many many friends who have taken her into their home as one of their own. i mean, it makes me want to cry. she will know she is loved and that is because of the community God gave us.

my favorite pic of her and daddy

- she is still TWO and does all the normal 2-year-old stuff. like "nnnnnnnnnnnnno!" imagine a wind up here as she says the "n" sound. and she wants to do everything (everything) herself. we are trying to balance encouraging this and making it okay and appropriate to ask for help. she has to give it a good try before she asks for help. but it's important for us to find a balance there b/c being independent is a part of my story and i want Charis to be okay with needing help and others, but especially Jesus. look where i'm at and i'm finally free in that need. she likes to say, "top it" (stop it) a lot but we are trying to turn that into "friendly words" like no thank you. discipline is hard. i'm sure there are tons of books on the topic but that's just overwhelming. i just pray constantly for God to guide us in our parenting. so for all of you that don't see her cry or throw a fit...she does. she goes to time out. she hits us. she talks about her offense after it's done and i'm not sure that is pride or humility. it's hard to know what they "get" at this age.

you can't tell, but she has tevas on

- she still eats really good. but i feel like it can sometimes be hit or miss. or if something doesn't "look" good she won't try it. that's new and must be part of growing up. i mean i sometimes do the same thing.

"i drink it."

- she loves loves loves to read. she could seriously sit for like 30 minutes or longer reading. she especially loves her Jesus Storybook Bible, as do we. sometimes that is my only time in the Word (sadly). but each story points to Jesus and i need that reminder daily. but she'll read anything. even magazines. which i have to be careful b/c she is not ready for the trash mags. but on the way home from Duke i was looking through one so she asked for a magazine. fortunately i found this YMCA camp guide. but after about 5 minutes she asked for the "magazine with the girl on it." yikes! (you never see the words "good clean fun" on People or US)

reading her magazine

- we are noticing that Charis is noticing that i'm sick. at the ripe age of 28 months she is more aware. so, when i'm tired, laid out, sick or sad she is somewhat in-tune to that. we are a little sad about this b/c we've craved her innocence and oblivion. she is really sweet though. she knows we go to the "grocery story to get mommy's medicine" a lot. when i cough she asks, "are you okay?" usually when i get back from the doctor she'll ask, "you feel better, mommy?" and if i cry she isn't afraid and comes and hugs me. i love that. we are just figuring out how to allow her to enter this with us.

it's taken me so long to post this b/c our life has been crazy these past couple weeks. but i've totally been wanting to share some Charis happenings with you b/c she is so fun and a lot of work. we enjoy her so much and sometimes we have no idea what we are doing. i think even since i started this post a couple weeks ago she's already talking so much more and doing more on her own. tonight she really wanted to put her pjs on "by myself." this is a touchy area for me, so i was trying to dignify her desire to try and ability to get dressed. i had to figure out how to gently guide her without doing it. and we did it! she was so very proud of herself. and i was too.
we both got i-phones last month, which have actually be great for the commute to Duke. and for taking pictures. all these pics are from our phones. i'm obsessed. well, i hope you enjoy some of Charis.

"heytell" on her phone