Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Kids


Okay I am laughing right now at these pictures because my kids are such rag muffins! I have absolutely no energy to get them ready or even bathe them. McKay does it and I usually muster up the energy to do it on Sunday before church but that's about it. Good thing they're cute no matter what. I did trim Cash's hair a tiny bit so now he just has a mullet and not long bangs AND a mullet. Whatever.

Father's Day was Sunday. McKay is the best dad. I wish I could just somehow arrange for him to have a full day of golfing, friends, his favorite food and total relaxation, but that wasn't possible this year and I tried my best to make it a normal Father's Day but I was so tired by the end I pretty much wanted to die hahahaha. Jax made the cake. He was so cute. He has learned all about patterns this year at school so I thought this would be an easy cake for him to put together and he did awesome. It's been so sunny and so the boys have played outside a lot. It's the perfect time of year for chemo to start because I can either just sit in the driveway and watch them play or on days that I am really tired (like today) they can go to grandma's pool and swim- which isn't much different than what they would regularly be doing. I just want to make everything as normal as possible.

At the beginning of all this I decided that I wasn't going to use the word "cancer" around the boys. I just felt like they were too young, and that Jax would hear stuff from other kids or adults that would scare him. Without really thinking about it, I made a pretty sudden, firm decision that we were not going to talk about it with the kids. Well, as time has gone on I started to feel like everything that's been going on needed a little more explanation than "the doctors had to take something out of mom's body." Jax is so smart and I really think he could sense that there was more going on than we were letting on. There is this girl I follow on Instagram who is in remission- but went through chemo and everything while her kids were little and cute like mine- so I sent her a quick message asking her how she explained everything. She said to use the word "cancer" and tell the kids they couldn't get it. After reading that advice I was still a little weary of it. I decided to just kind of go with the flow and try to pay attention to what I thought would be best for my kids. McKay and I talked about it and both felt open-minded about whatever we were prompted to do, but neither of us felt adamant about having "the conversation" at any given time.

Well, the other night McKay was putting Cash to bed and Jax and Jonah were downstairs with me on the couch. Jax started taking about the thing that the doctors had to "take out of my body" and I just nodded and said something like yep, they had to take it out. And he goes "what was it?" I didn't panic, but I said a silent prayer to Heavenly Father asking for help. I think I said something like What? to buy myself a couple more seconds, but Jax insistently responded, "what did the doctors have to take out?" I said, have you ever heard mommy say the word 'cancer?' And he nodded. It was kind of like a relief. I think that the word had been going in and out of his brain for a while and of course he had to have heard us use it taking to each other or other people. Anyways, I said something like, Jax, do you know how when you get the flu, sometimes you get a runny nose or a bad cough, or you can even throw up? And he said, "ya." And I said, well, did you know that if we didn't sometimes ask for the doctors help it would be really hard to get better and people have even died from the flu? But because we have doctors, they can help our bodies get better. He nodded and then I said, that is what cancer is like. Mommy had cancer in her body but it's not like the flu, it's not something you can get. But I needed the doctor to get it out so I could get better. Sometimes doctors can't get all the cancer out of people's bodies, but the doctor got all the cancer out of mommy's body with Heavenly Father's help. He was totally fine and seemed like he understood finally what had been going on. Then I said, And now the doctors are going to give me medicine to make sure the cancer doesn't come back but it's going to make me look funny. It's going to make something fall out! Do you know what it is? And he goes, "Your hair!"

I am so surprised at how much he has picked up on and so glad we talked about it. My biggest worry was that he would go to school or church and someone would say, "well my grandma died from cancer." So that's why I compared it to the flu as a way to explain that any type of sickness can be bad without a doctor's help. I hope I said the right things, but I felt like it was right. We ended the conversation laughing about how funny I would look without my hair and then I asked him if he had any more questions. He goes, "Ya...if I swallow a cherry seed...will a cherry tree grow inside me?"
Anyways- I think we're all good now! :)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Where healing comes from


I was reading this talk from President Kimball today on administration to the sick and I want to always remember this part I read:

"It must be remembered that no physician can heal. He can only provide a satisfactory environment and situation so that the body may use its own God-given power of re-creation to build itself. Bones can be straightened, germs can be killed, sutures can close wounds, and skillful fingers can open and close bodies; but no man yet has found a way to actually heal. Man is the offspring of God and has within him the re-creating power that is God given. And through the priesthood and through prayer, the body’s healing processes can be speeded and encouraged. Again, how grateful we are for the skill and patience and understanding of our great men who are trained to give us such marvelous service."

Ever since I saw the picture above, I have loved it because it depicts so beautifully how I feel. Throughout this entire process I have felt so much gratitude for doctors and scientists and their sacrifice and dedication for all they have learned. I even had a cheesy moment where I was driving through the University of Washington district and thinking about all the up-and-coming doctors who were in medical school and all they would do for the world. But still, I know that no knowledge would be available without inspiration from and the guiding hand of our Heavenly Father. I just keep being reminded that He has power over all things. And I think that truth can sometimes be read with a bit of misunderstanding and even resentment. I've thought more about people without religion than I ever have before because I can't imagine how anyone could go through a hard trial without the knowledge  that they are a child of God. It would just be so hard. And confusing! And dark. I think that some may be put-off by the belief that God is over all, because without a true understanding, it would seem as if we are puppets on a string. Or it may seem that by following God's laws, life is restricted. Or even the belief that there is only room in God's church for a certain type of person. None of that is true. 

I have come to realize that God having power over all things gives us more agency, room for progression, limitless knowledge, boundless blessings, and miracles within reach. Heavenly Father wants to bless us. He wants to reveal things to us. He wants us to gain more knowledge. More understanding. And I have found that when I ask for a small portion of guidance, I am given to more generously than I would ever ask for. I have never really studied the New Testament but lately I have felt drawn to the Savior's life specifically so I have been reading in the Bible. Miracles were constantly preformed by the Savior and most of the time followed by a request to the recipient to tell no one. I understand now that one of the reasons for that is because the Savior wanted no recognition. He never boasted. He only wanted to bless the people around Him. Something else I noticed in I think every miraculous account, is that the recipient had to ask. That is the same for us. We have to ask and God is more than willing to bless us. I feel that He is eager. He is waiting. I don't believe it's always in the way we hope, but I do believe that if it's not, it's in a better way. 

This feels like kind of a stupid example to put out there, but I remember one of my brothers falling so hard for girls he dated. He would get close to them so fast and from an outside perspective, it was easier to see that there may be a better choice for both of them. We would have lots of talks and he would struggle imagining someone better for him (if that were right) and I always told him that whatever level of happiness he felt with that person at that point in time, he would feel an even greater level of happiness if God's will for him was different. I think that's true in all cases and I think it parallels prayer and when we ask for things. 

True, lasting healing, in every definition of the word, comes from God. There are abilities He has blessed every one of His children with, whether faithful or not. But it really helps to have faith because then you can know and understand even more. There are more blessings available to you. There is more guidance. And more miracles- because miracles come through faith  

Sunday, June 11, 2017

"This world"


This week was eventful. I had one or more doctor appointments every single day except for Thursday (yes, that's including Saturday and Sunday)! It's kind of creepy to have to walk through a hospital parking garage in Seattle on a Sunday morning. Let's just say I walk-ran and thought someone was going to grab me and pull me into a van the entire way to my car. The best day of the week was Friday. My grandma took me to the wig place (where they make wigs out of your own hair) and then we went shopping for "cute chemo clothes" that I wouldn't feel frumpy in. It's true, it's a world I never thought I would be a part of. I was kind of dreading the wig appointment honestly. I have been fine about my hair, but pulling up to a building that was drab and in a business park is not quite the same thing as going to a salon that smelled like shampoo. You walk in and go to a back room that's full of sewing machines and hair (not on people's heads!). There was a salon chair so that helped.
Anyways- I sat in the chair and Kurt (who will make it) made me feel totally comfortable. He showed me what he does and different options, etc., but he asked all about me- about my kids, how I found my tumor and we just chatted. It was so nice. I felt totally at ease and totally excited. He showed me lots of before and afters and I'm not kidding- most people looked better with the wigs he made than with their own hair. As we were leaving, I thanked him and told him I would call him and how great it was to talk to him about everything. He said he was glad it made it easier and told me that "this world" is a place no one should have to be. I've thought about that a lot these past few days.

I've been going to appointments at three different places in Seattle- there is the SCCA (Seattle Cancer Care Alliance), UWMC (where surgery and the trusty ER is), and another University of Washington specialty clinic. At each place I kind of felt like an outsider at first. I remember going to SCCA when I was 18 with my mom right after I found out I had the BRCA gene. I was a senior in high school and about to go to college and I just looked around at all the people with chemo scarves on and felt grateful that I would never really be a part of it. I went there occasionally for scans, but never really felt like I belonged there and was happy I didn't. Then in April when I had my ultrasound I kind of hated everyone at that place. It sounds dumb but I just felt like they were bad luck- even the receptionists who checked me in. I felt like that until I sat with a physician who told me that the mass was positive. And then she held my hand and told me she was Catholic and that she would pray for me and light candles that weekend. Really soon it started to feel like home. The same is true for everywhere I have gone. The SCCA has a waiting room with huge windows that overlook the city of Seattle and there are chairs all along the window facing it. Most of them are just normal chairs but there are like three lazyboy loungers and there is one I always sit in if I can! I have read my scriptures in that chair, drank nasty CT contrast crap, and waited for appointments. I love the receptionists. I know them now. And I love the nurses who check me in and the doctors who talk to me. Tomorrow I have a minor procedure at the specialty clinic and my scheduler from SCCA left me a long message wishing me luck. I was sitting in a room getting an ultrasound the other day and there was one doctor at the monitor, one at the computer, and another observing and I just felt so much gratitude for people. People who dedicate their lives to this- who not only study and practice, but care for others. Comfort them, love them, advise them. Help them feel happy and taken care of and healthy.

The first time I went to the specialty clinic (more on this later), I was sitting there pretty out of it on drugs. It was like right after my surgery and I definitely went there two days in a row without showering in the same outfit. A nurse was sitting with me and asking me questions, and she said to me something like "This is fair game. I'm asking you stuff, you can ask me stuff. Anything about my life. I'll tell you anything." She told me she was Catholic and about her family. She had never had kids, but had a nephew who was moving across the country who was her "little boy." She said "What I'm about to do never leaves this room..." and she took my hand and gave me a Catholic blessing. Around Easter Jax came home from preschool with a cross necklace. McKay and I were kind of cracking up because it was his favorite thing to wear for a while. We believe that it's important to focus on the life and ressurection of Jesus Christ, not His death- so we don't really wear crosses or display them in our homes or churches. But he goes to a Lutheran preschool and loves his necklace so I couldn't tell him he couldn't wear it. Anyways- I have thought a lot about that these last couple months because I have felt united with so many people through faith. Most of the people I have talked to don't believe the same things I do, but most of them believe in Jesus Christ and in the power of prayer and it's made me realize that witness of Christ are everywhere. I've never been the best at baring my testimony, especially in one-on-one situations with someone I barely know- but some of my best examples lately have been those of other faiths and I am grateful for them.

I feel like I'm rambling- usually when I'm writing a blog post I kind of have an idea of the beginning, middle, and end- and I feel like this is kind of a mess. But what I am really trying to say I guess is that I am grateful to be a part of this world. You would think that a cancer diagnosis would kind of kick you into gear spiritually. I have had days where I have been really kicked into gear. My perspective and focus is in line with things eternal and things of the world don't matter at all. But some days, I still struggle with keeping that focus. I get distracted with stuff that doesn't matter. That is not bad, but not the best. Stuff that's temporal or material or of no worth in the grand scheme of things. But all of this has given me a glimpse into something better. How to serve better because of how people have served me. How to be a witness of Jesus Christ better. How to love other people better. What to say. How to comfort. How to be grateful and how much there is to be grateful for- because there is so much. There have been a few times when I have wondered why I have to go through this trial. Isn't there another way to learn the things I have to learn? But I have realized that for me, there's not. This is the only way for me. I need this to learn. This has added substance to my life. It's promoted growth. It's fulfilled me because I'm learning. I'm being refined. And that's the point of life. Not everyone gets a glimpse into this "world," but I am so grateful that I do. I'm becoming someone I like better than the person I was before.

And though I am grateful for all the people I have met and things I get to experience, I am grateful most of all for Jesus Christ. It's because of Him that this can be happy. Because of Him, there can be hope. There can be prayers offered to a Heavenly Father who is listening. There can be comfort felt and sadness and worry extinguished. There can be light in a place that so many people feel only darkness. His guiding hand is in all things- from advances in modern medicine and surgical procedures to the gentle peace that has surrounded me during my most desperate prayers. I can find gratitude and knowledge and goodness and light in this world, all because of Him.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Why we never have to feel lost


A while ago I was on Facebook and I saw something that made me sad. Someone I know who is sick, announced that they were going to try something new for their treatments and said they hoped it was right path. It just seemed like a shot in the dark. Like trying to get to the end of a maze with your eyes closed. Like trying to get to the end of a maze that your life literally depended on...with your eyes closed. Mostly I just pictured a person standing in the middle of a maze with like six different paths and trying to pick the best one. Is everyone sick of me talking about mazes? haha

ANYWAYS. I thought back to all my most important decisions. I have never made one alone. With some of those decisions, I have picked a path according to my own knowledge or choice. Or according to advice from people I know or love. Or according to what I thought would give me the best outcome. But doing that alone would be like standing in the middle of a maze and randomly picking a path. So with those hard decisions, first I picked, then I prayed. Then I started walking. This is not to say that I think we should be completely sedentary until Heavenly Father tells us what to do. I remember reading something about when President Eyring visited the missionaries in the MTC. One of his most-asked questions was something like "How do I know if what I'm doing is right?" And President Eyring said- you just get off the couch and start doing something! You will feel if it's right. If it's not, redirect. 


I have thought about that so much in my life. There are lots of decisions I just make, obviously. But some decisions I can confidently admit I just don't have the knowledge for. I don't know the big picture. Like who I should marry. I needed to feel right about that. Or big questions about our family or about McKay's job. Or how to be a better mom to my kids. Or what is smart medically to do to my body. There are just some things I don't know. I need help. I need further "light and knowledge." And when I saw that on Facebook I was so grateful for all the experiences in my life that have guided me to the knowledge I have now of a Heavenly Father. I am His daughter. I am on the earth but not alone. Things here are hard sometimes. We need help and we can get it. I wish everyone on the earth knew that and felt that. It makes me sad to see people around me feeling sad or lost or hopeless. Life doesn't have to be like that. We never have to feel lost. 


"We were not placed on this earth to walk alone. What an amazing source of power, of strength, and of comfort is available to each of us. He who knows us better than we know ourselves, He who sees the larger picture and who knows the end from the beginning, has assured us that He will be there for us to provide help if we but ask. We have the promise: 'Pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good.” 

-President Thomas S. Monson

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day 2017

A few months ago I was teaching Sharing Time to the Primary kids. I don't even remember what the topic was that day, but at some point during the Sharing Time I was baring my testimony about Heavenly Father's love for the children in that room. I was telling them how He knows them more than anyone else, even more than they know themselves- then I began to say the Heavenly Father loves them even more than their parents loved them, and I couldn't bring myself to say it. I stopped and flipped a few words around and ended up saying something else and then I concluded my testimony.

I remember being really little and having Brother McCord home teach our family. He came every month. Sometimes when he came we sulked a little walking to the living room. We knew we were in for a long and well-thought-out lesson. We always ended up enjoying it though and I still remember little details of his lessons even though I was so little. I remember him once testifying of God's love for us and telling us that Heavenly Father loved us even more than our mom and dad loved us. When he left that day I was a little mad. I couldn't comprehend anyone loving me more than my mom did- even Heavenly Father.

Today I feel differently about that. Today I think that if I could choose three things for my kids to learn and know with a surety throughout their entire lives, one of them would be that they have a Father in Heaven who loves them more than anyone on earth or in heaven. That though I love them even more than I myself can begin to comprehend, that their Heavenly Father loves them even more. I think that with that knowledge, they could get through just about anything. They could face trials and know that they are for their good. They could rejoice in accomplishments and opportinities and know who to thank. They would know that they have two well-meaning, imperfect, very grateful earthly parents who love them more than any other thing on this earth and though they can sometimes more tangibly see and physically feel that love- that they have a Heavenly Father who loves them even more.

I'm lucky to have a mom who has always made sure we know she loves us unconditionally. Our relationship with her has always been pretty unique because no matter what we did, what we were thinking about, what we were wondering- we could always go to her. Our questions or desires or need for love would always be reciprocated with even more love. It's one of the reasons i've always felt secure. I've always felt confident. I've never felt alone and always felt loved. Because of my mom and with her help I think I can get through just about anything. She knows what to say and knows what to do. But this year I am learning why we need to believe in a love that is more. A love that is all-knowing. Because only Heavenly Father knows what we need in our lives to become more like Him. And with a testimony of His perfect love for us, we can be assured that those trials are completely for our benefit and learning and will eventually allow us to experience even more joy.

So I hope my kiddos know that they have a mom who loves them more than I know how to put in to words; but still, a Heavenly Father who loves them even more.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Grace


Throughout the last month- I've only had two real big breakdowns: one right after the ultrasound that showed a mass while we were waiting to go back for the biopsy- and two, last night.

We had gotten home late, put the boys to bed and I felt overwhelmed with everything that was unknown. Would it come back. When could we have another baby. How could we have another baby. How hard will it be to have another baby. Why when I had a body that could so easily get pregnant and carry a healthy baby did I have to deal with a disease that made that process so much more complicated and even dangerous. What if I would have been more in tune with the spirit years ago. Could that have changed things or prompted me to be more preventative earlier?

The night was long. Jax talked in his sleep and the boys all woke up early. McKay, who was up with Jax left for work exhausted and I got up and though felt better than I had last night, knew I needed a perspective realignment. As I've talked to people throughout this experience, some well-meaning people feel the need to give me justification in feeling like this is really hard which I think can be a natural tendency. After reassuring them that I feel peaceful and calm and that things will be fine, they respond with, "I know, but this is really scary." Or  "but this is a really big deal." Of course I know that logically, or from a medical standpoint, yes, this is a really big deal. It's "scary." But how grateful I am for the very real and tangible lightness I have felt throughout this entire burden. So much in fact, that i'm not even sure I would call it that. My very favorite response to my news was a friend who relied, "...onward and upward!" Rather that viewing this trial as a state of arrival, as something that's final- that changes everything for the worse- that's "me" now, I like to think of it as a stepping stone- a building block- a mountain to climb that when conquered will leave me stronger and capable and confident that through the enabling power and grace of Jesus Christ, I can do all things.

This morning Jax went to a friend's house and honestly it was just what I needed. I'm having a hard time keeping track of tender mercies like that- friends who offer to take a kid or two just when I need it, babies who fall asleep just when I need them to, dinners in my freezer, etc. There have just been so many of them. But this morning there were several. Jax left and Cash was ready for a nap and as he fell asleep in my arms, Jonah came into his room and silently played under his crib. (If that's not a miracle, I don't know what is!) I had time to read a talk given my Sheri Dew at a Women's Conference a few years ago- all about the grace and enabling power of Jesus Christ (among tons of other wonderful counsel and teachings). But she explained grace in a way that clarified it for me- as something that allows us to feel peace, or "lightness," or hope (I now substitute this word when I read it in the scriptures with "assurance") or even joy, during times that would otherwise be really hard. Through grace, pain or hurt or regret can be completely taken away. Grace enable us to do things we could not do on our own. We have access to that grace through Jesus Christ.

There have been so many time in my life when I'm going through something hard and I scour conference talks or the scriptures with a specific subject in mind- thinking that I know already what I need to hear or learn, and if I could just find that thing, my problems will be solved. But this one I am going about differently- and I am starting to understand like I never (really) have before that the entire gospel is centered around Jesus Christ. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I used to compartmentalize everything: missionary work, charity, the Atonement, family history work. I think I have read a talk or a passage of scripture in the last month that references almost any topic I can think of. And you know what I'm learning? Everything is possible because of the same person: Jesus Christ. And everything we do here on earth is for one purpose: returning to live with our Heavenly Father.

I have been given packets of information regarding cancer, what they think my stage is, etc. Family has sent me articles with information. I haven't read anything. Strength for me doesn't come from information or knowledge of science. It comes from faith and total assurance that what I've felt in peaceful, sacred moments will come to pass. I love this quote I read this morning from Sheri Dew,

"Sometimes we think that the world around us is what is real—but this world is so fake, so much of it. What’s real is our Father and His Son, the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ and all the power available to us to help us do what we came to this earth to do."


It's how I feel. Yes, the reality is that there is cancer in my body. It's my mountain to climb. But that reality is nothing compared to the power of Heavenly Father. Will He just take it away? Will the cancer just disappear? I doubt it. But I learned a long time ago that His plan is always better than mine and have felt a miraculous ability to continue on with my life despite that reality. And that's something I know I could never do on my own. It's not just a hopeful feeling. It's not just a thought. It's tangible. It's a change of mind and heart. And it's the grace of the Savior. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Always


I spend so much time during the day hoping to remember specifics- Jonah's chubby face and the way his lips move when he talks. His high, sometimes piercing voice. The way Jax looks at me when he wants to show me something- adamant and frustrated if I don't look right away. How creative he is. Always building or creating or planning. Cash's hands and knees moving across the hardwood, usually accompanied by whining and reaching little arms- up to wherever I am.

By the end of the day I'm exhausted. Usually regretful. Usually going over like a million things I could have done better. Usually debating how i'll spend the next three precious hours before I go to sleep and soon woken again by a gentle cry or the sound of three-year-old feet padding across my bedroom carpet. I'm usually brain dead. I don't want to think. I have all these plans during the day- plans of stuff I'll do when the kids go to bed. Getting organized. Getting stuff in order. Doesn't happen. I can't think.

But I am always fulfilled. Always. Every night as I sit on the couch exhausted, regretting, hoping, brain dead- whatever. I am always so fulfilled. And grateful. So grateful that every morning I wake up to the sound of my children (whatever sounds those may be). And that I get to spend my entire day  feeding them, cleaning them, teaching them and hugging them, kissing scrapes and pouring milk and breaking up fights. Walking up stairs to look at lego towers and buckling little car seat straps over tiny chests. Feeling arms around my neck and fingers on my face and playing with their hair and lips.

Jax was so cute yesterday. Yesterday was May 1st and I said, Jax! Do you know what today is? It's May day! We can pick flowers and leave them on people's porch and ring their doorbells and run away! That was in the morning. A little while later the boys were outside. I was kind of going in and out and I heard our doorbell ring. I opened the door and saw little purple flowers on the porch. I brought them in and didn't think anything of it because Jax leaves me little surprises all the time. Anyways- much much later, McKay got home and Jax told him that it was May Day and that he left flowers for me on the porch because it was May Day.

Jax and Jonah are so funny lately. They fight A LOT. But they love each other A LOT. They are both in soccer so today we practiced in the front yard. Jax was going "easy" on Jonah. Jax could have played soccer for hours, but Jonah got bored and wanted to ride his bike. It is so fun finding out what they love. Jax is so into building, creating, working on specific skills, being a leader. Jonah loves cars, planes, being active. He takes all my tupperware round lids and makes them into frisbees. Both boys love music. Jax can play by ear. Both boys love books. Jonah's favorite book is I Spy. He could play for hours.

I don't hate it that they are growing anymore. I used to have such a hard time with it. Now I just enjoy every single day. I love watching them learn. I love learning what they like. I love how different they are. I love love this time of my life. I am so grateful I get to be a mom.
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