Thursday, May 31, 2018

One year ago....(my cancer story)

One year ago today I got the call that I have Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.

It was never a matter of IF, it was always a matter of WHEN. 

When was cancer going to invade my life and how?  My maternal grandmother died at age 52 of cancer, and my mom died at age 50 of cancer.  I've lived my whole adult life preparing for this.  In spite of my efforts, exercising and keeping my weight down, it still came.

My initial thought was, "What are we going to do about our foster children?! I can't take care of them and myself." Yep! the foster story is one in itself for another time. Thoughts that followed were:  How is this going to affect the boys? Do I want to take chemo?  How am I going to fight this? Do I want reconstruction?  Is this going to be a financial burden? I felt very little shock or surprise.  If anything, I was just surprised it came in my early 40's. I anticipated it arriving in my late 40's because of the age my mom and grandmother died.

I was diagnosed on a Wednesday and the Nelson's left town for two weeks on the following Monday (a trip we'd planned 6 months prior). We left kicking and screaming, but gosh darn it we left!! The foster baby had just had a liver transplant only days before, the a/c in our house was out and the dog was sick. Because we have AMAZING friends, we were able to leave. The beauty of community and God's sovereignty, His grace and timing....I was able to collect my thoughts, be intentional about who I spoke with regarding the journey that was ahead of us, put together questions for the surgical oncologist, and pray for a wonderful home for the foster children.

We get home and the following day we meet the surgical oncologist. The genetic testing came back positive. Duh....I'm really grateful for the way medicine has advanced over the years.  Because of my genetic results, we decided to not only remove the cancer but include prophylactic surgery as well. The game plan was a double mastectomy/reconstruction, chemo + immuno therapy, and a hysterectomy over the course of a year. We learned what BRCA 2 meant, that I was Her 2 positive, and the cancer was estrogen fed. I put my boxing gloves on and prepared to get in the ring!

We were able to move the foster children to a wonderful home (crazy awesome), I've had three surgeries, a friend with me at every one of my chemo treatments, Meal Trains, I never had my hair fall out, experienced Race for the Cure with family and friends, holding the American flag with other survivors at one of the best Saints games ever, and a trip to Minneapolis to watch the Super Bowl - phew! - It has been an eventful year, to say the least!

"...let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith..." Hebrews 10:19-22
I've walked this journey drawing near to my God and Savior. I've embraced what is and have been at peace with the game plan. And I am more hopeful of my future then I ever have been!

I'm so grateful to Ochsner and the medical team that has loved and cared for me so well (and continues too). I am also grateful for my community that has held me up in so many ways.  And I'm grateful for my family who has been steady and faithful, right by my side.

 positive results after surgery!
 Katherine is one of many friends who were by my side during chemo treatments.
 Cat joined me for the Saints game!

 Mrs.Pat is one of many women I look to for inspiration.  She is a 20+ year survivor!

 What?!  You're sending us to the Super Bowl?! All expenses paid?!
Baby, its cold outside.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Laughter and Love

My youngest son adds much laughter to my life and he melts my heart with kindness as well.  You will see what I mean.  In his 2nd grade year for Mother's Day, he wrote this (Enjoy!)....

"My mom's tears of joy make me smile very brightly.  This berded guy tried to calm mom down.  She was smiling so hard that it almost made me blind.
I'm crying  realy loud for no reason.  I should be happy actully that I'm alive.  I hear these weird strangers saying awww.  I think that it's freaky.  Then after they say awwww, they start saying I'm CUTE!!  Firt of all, why do people think I'm cute when I have a stincky diaper?  Second of all, where to people get these words?!!
My mom's arms feel so good.  They're warm and soft.  They make me feel like I'm in heaven.
This white stuff looked weird.  Then mom was giving me it.  It was realy good.  This guy was  giving me green stuff but, It was horible.
I smell this thing thats disgusting.  Then, I knew that it was me!!  My stinky diaper.  I didn't care because my mom had a great smell.  I love being a BABY!!"

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


As I rummage through all my parents pictures, in hopes of consolidating, I'm enjoying revisiting my childhood memories.  I'm especially enjoying looking at my parents personal photos of their life before every having me and my brother.
When rummaging, I also came across about 6 index cards with writings from my dad, he tells a story about becoming a single parent.  I don't know why my dad wrote this, but I'm thankful I have this story articulated in his own little way.
What you'll see is regret, intentions, sweet times and hard times.  You'll also see death and a love for Jesus no matter the circumstances!
I love these two people.  I look forward to seeing them again, one day.

Being a Single Parent
"I became a single parent at 1:45 am on January 28, 1995 after being married for almost 26 years.  They were good years for my wife Betsy and I.  The Lord blessed us with 2 children, Ian and Allison, who will be 23 and 21 years old this year.
Betsy had been ill for 6 months before they diagnosed her with ovarian cancer.  They told us on January 2, 1994 and I will never forget Betsy's testimony to the doctor in telling him about her Jesus and how she was ready to die if that was His will for her.
From the day Betsy had her first surgery on January 22, 1994 till she died on that early morning in January 1995 there were dramatic changes in the life of our family.  I learned quickly that I had to play a much bigger role than I had been used too.  I also learned to be more attentive to Betsy's needs and to show more love than I had been used to giving.  I had taken my wife for granted for too long.
I had loved Betsy from just after we met in 1968 on a blind date, but now I realized  that I could possibly lose her in death.  I tried hard to make up for the years when I didn't convey to her my real feelings.
She noticed the extra attention she was receiving and used to comment on it.

Betsy went through chemotherapy for 8 months in 1994 and when the chemotherapy was finished she was worse off.  It was decided that there would be more surgery in October 1994.
The year 1994 had its good times.  Betsy and Allison used to talk a lot that summer and it was great to have the together.  In October, Betsy and I took a trip to Atlanta to the Stone Mnt. Highland Games.  We picked up Allison and Alf  and all went together.  We returned the kids to school in Birmingham, AL and Betsy and I headed for Mobile, AL and spent most of a day at Bellingrath Gardens, somewhere she always wanted us to go since we were married.

On October 24, 1994, the second surgery took place and she was so weak after surgery she never again ate solid food.  She could drink a broth and even a yogurt but that only lasted for awhile and then she stopped eating altogether.  Eventually they had to resort to feeding her intravenously   Betsy went through a very rough time which seemed to get worse every couple of weeks and January was very difficult even for those of us who watch her and help her until the Lord relieved her pain and gave her the peace that passes all understanding.
I will always remember the funeral service and the gospel message given before many unbelievers.  I have had many comments about the service and we will never know this side of heaven what affect it may have been on other lives."

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Food! Glorious Food!

A few new items in the pantry.....

coconut oil is a healthier oil to cook with.  It is also amazing how versatile it is.  Not only for cooking, but also used as a beauty product.....I found out about Hominy 'on accident', and can't believe I've lived so long without it!  It's a great addition, especially on 'Taco nights'..... Quinoa cooks like rice.  If you google it, you'll find a plethora of wonderful quinoa recipes.  So healthy for you and contribute to some delicious foods.....Lastly, kale.  Put it in smoothies, shred it in salads, cook it in your meals, etc.  Just use it!

Monday, February 4, 2013

My First Book Club!

I've wanted to experience a book club for a long time.  With a little more confidence and little less thinking, I finally stuck my neck out to see if a select group of friends would like to join me in a book club.  Delightfully, friends were up for it and so it was going to be.
Enjoying NPR on rides to and from my children schools, I learned of a book called, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie.  It is the author, Ayana Mathis', first novel and it got Oprah's attention.
Intentionally and proactively, I seek racial diversity, and with that comes a desire to understand the differences from one person to another.  I thought this would be a good book in understanding the african/american culture, particularly historically, and the effects it plays today.  When listening to NPR introduce the book, they discussed how in the 40's, people living in Georgia looked at Philadelphia as the land of milk and honey, the interview got MY attention.
I began to read the book over the holiday.  After the first three chapters I thought, 'Oh no!  What have I gotten myself AND others into?'  After the fourth chapter, I got sucked in.  When I got to the last three chapters, I made myself just get it over with.  I've never wanted to finish a book so bad.  It was very well written, BUT it was incredibly sad and it opened my eyes to a world that I had very little knowledge of.  In spite of the sadness, I was pretty confident that with this kind of book, a number of great conversations could come out of it.
For various reasons, the attendance of friends in the group went from seven to four.  (this was an exercise for me to let go of control, and to trust that it can be a good time even if it turned out to be only two of us!)
The hostess served mimosas, someone brought a quiche, I brought strawberries, and another brought donuts - off to a great start:)
How do I sum up the discussion?!
Let me first say that the discussion was enriching and I am a better person for it.  Listening to everyone share bits and pieces of the "baggage" they carry because of the family they grew up in, or hearing a dear friend share with me the reality of how black woman are still oppressed, and all of us discussing/wrestling with what compassion really looks like - I looked at it as a beautiful thing and was privileged to call these ladies, my friends.
Here are three things I wanted to target and what I went away with:
1.  Womanhood - we, as women, do not give ourselves  enough grace.  We cant always make decisions in the present based on mistakes we made in the past.  We have to look forward, not live in fear, and (most importantly) give grace.
2.  Community - Embrace it, enjoy it, and more then anything, seek to understand it.  Understand that the mom who is cursing at her kids (just maybe) had to take two buses to get where she was, her husband (just maybe) did not come home last night, and maybe this may be a generational thing where she has not had opportunity to see life to be any different.
3.  God - It is so important how we view God and the world we live in.  We live in a broken world, but have a God that truly offers hope.  But do we believe that?  Do we live that out?

Friday, January 4, 2013

All the Better for It!

"Too often the weakest thing about our faith is the illusion that our faith is strong, when the 'strength' we feel is only the intensity of emotion or of sentiment, which have nothing to do with real faith...Place no hope in...the inspirational preachers of Christian sunshine, who are able to pick you up and set you back on your feet and make you feel good for three or four days...Faith is much deeper, and it must be deep enough to subsist when we are weak, when we are sick, when our self-confidence is gone, when our self-respect is gone...True faith must be able to go on even when everything else is taken away from us." -Thomas Merton

This quote captures a great portion of my life in 2012.  Emotion, Faith, Hope, Weakness.  Here are some thoughts and reflections...

Emotion - I've taken a gazillion personality tests....o.k., gazillion might be a slight exaggeration, but I have had my fair share.  In most personality tests, they determine whether you are a thinker or feeler.  I don't only lean toward being a feeler, I'm like, 99.9% feeler!  I continually am challenged to embrace the way God has created me, but this year especially, how I am to thrive in the person I'm created to be versus survive.  You see, in the past, at times, when something would bring me to a place of sadness or anger I would then be annoyed at myself for feeling the way I did.  "How stupid I am!?  What is wrong with me?  I'm such an emotional basket case!  I'm a wimp!  Why is it so hard for me?  Get a grip!"  My feelings would then escalate and it would turn from bad to worse.  Now, I am thankful to be in a place where I see the value in respecting the feelings I have, giving time to them.  It has required me to be completely honest with myself in figuring out why I feel the way I do, to get to the real heart of the emotion.  In turn, I've had to battle some serious pride and a few other things {nervous chuckle}.  Embracing the process and the learning that comes with it is also something worth valuing.  We live in a society of instant gratification which is harming us on so many levels, and one of those levels is our emotional health.....AND remember, 'emotions are indicators, not dictators'.

Faith - I just recently finished the novel, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie.  At the end of the book it says, "Hattie believed in God's might, but she didn't believe in his interventions."  Boy, could I resonate with that statement a year ago!  Although, I would have said, "...interventions, or the lack there of."  And I certainly acknowledged His might, I was just scared to death of it and what else he had 'up his sleeve.'  My faith was SHAKEN!  My emotions were wild and raw!   I was mad, sad, broken, and a wave of hopelessness brought me the lowest I've ever been.  In perfect timing, in the mail, we received a publication from DTS titled, Drawing Near When God Seems Far.  It was no accident that it showed up at our door when it did!  In it were great articles, but even more, it mentioned some really great resources.  I immediately went into 'fighting' mode, my emotions were NOT going to get the best of me!  I took a drive to the book store, got some books, and retreated from life.  Sometimes you have to retreat....for an afternoon, a month, or maybe a whole season.  Christ retreated, so I figured this could be a good thing:)  It was a big step for me to retreat, but I was that desperate.  From the resources suggested, one book that especially spoke to me was, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by E. Peterson.  THIS is where I began to see faith for what God intended it to be, and not basing my faith on how I *feel* at the time.
In the book, E.Peterson says, "'Fear' God.  Reverence might be a better word.  Awe.  The Bible isn't interested in whether we believe in God or not.  It assumes that everyone more or less does.  What it is interested in is the response we have to Him:  Will we let God be as He is, majestic and holy, vast and wondrous  or will we always be trying to whittle him down to the size of our small minds, insist on confining Him within the boundaries we are comfortable with, refuse to think of Him other then in images that are convenient to our lifestyle?"
I certainly felt out of control, but in that, acknowledged God's control.  Prov 29:25 "The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe."  I'm not gonna lie,  it takes endurance to build back trust, trust in a God that says He is good and perfect but all around you feels hopeless.   If we really are to let God be as He is, it takes in Him, and what He can do around us and through us.

Hope - In hope, there is waiting.  Romans 8:24-25 says, "But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what he already has?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently."  In hope, there is the unknown.  I would read the Bible, and hold on to the promises....with gritted teeth and tight fist!  I wanted to hope with a sense of confidence, peace and joy.  I think real hope came for me in the stories of the Old Testament.  There was a time early in the year when my oldest son was sharing with me what he was learning about the Daniel story in church.  After we conversed about it, I pondered the story some more and it came to life.  "Yes, Daniel was rejected by man and God preserved him - AND the King finally fell to his knees in awe of God!"  There was Joseph and Jonah, Job and David, Rahab and Ruth.  Of course, we see the end to their stories.  In the midst of their stories is grief, confusion, frustration, doubt, and much more.  It took endurance, devotion, discipline...and hope in the journey for them.  The Old Testament is NOT boring:)  The stories came ALIVE this year like never before.  Just like faith, understanding hope for what it truly is, is essential to emotional health.
"Hope...going about our assigned tasks, confident that God will provide the meaning and the is the opposite of desperate and panicky manipulations, of scurrying and worrying" - Long Obedience in the Same Direction

Weakness - "There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven."  Ecc 31  There are times when we feel strong and there are times when we feel weak.  It's alright to feel weak at times, what matters is what we do with it.  I don't want to live hopeless, angry and anxious.  I don't want my identity to lie in worry all the time.  What good is that to myself or anyone else?!..... I love to be at a place now where I can reflect and see beauty in weakness.  My desire is to give God glory and to live out the life He has in store for me.  With that said, in my times of weakness I have experienced what scripture says, and that is that "He quiets us with His love" (Zeph).  Also, in some of my greatest times of weakness I have experienced growth/sanctification/transformation/renewal in my life.  I'm so thankful for (2 Cor 12)

A year of emotion, faith, hope, and weakness, and all the better for it!

 (Shout out!! - to a handful of friends that lent an ear, to my Dr. that HIGHLY recommended some medication to get over the hump:), and my 'rock'-a.k.a. my husband).

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Apple Pie!

This Thanksgiving morning (2012), I am thankful for my apple peeler-corer-slicer.
I'm also thankful for a bowl that once took residence in my mom's kitchen, and how it brings out a joy in me to have had sweet parents for a little while on this earth.
How can I not mention the cute "helper"?!  Both of my boys (children in general, for that matter) are SUCH a blessing and bring such a richness to life.
I'm thankful for apple pie.  Its fun to make, and it makes my husband happy:)
Lastly (but certainly not least),
I'm thankful for the Giver of Life and of ALL things. (Rom 11: 33-36)
that He places angels to encamp around those who fear Him (Ps 34:7)
I'm thankful that He takes delight in me, and quiets me with His love (Zeph 3:17)
that He holds me with His right hand,
guides me with His counsel,
and that He is the strength of my heart (Ps 73)
I'm thankful that nothing can separate me from His love (Rom 8: 35-39)

If you don't know the Lord as your personal Saviour, or struggle to see that that something that is so much greater then ourselves is a God of Love that wants to richly bless you with a peace that passes all understanding, I hope and pray that one day you will.

Much love and blessing to all -