Thursday, September 28, 2017

These past few nights I haven't been able to fall asleep easy. I get that restless leg thing, but instead of just getting it on the couch like I usually do,  I get it in our bed too! It drives me nuts. I can't get comfortable and it's especially frustrating because I just want to SLEEP. The night before last it was absolutely insane and out of control, but last night, it wasn't as bad. McKay and I had stayed up late talking until almost 2am. We finally had a night where one of us hadn't fallen asleep three hours before the other one- and we could just hang out. We had been talking until almost midnight and then McKay had to run to the store to get stuff for the kids to buy with their "conference cash." LOL. This is General Conference weekend (!!!!!!!!!!) Thanks goodness QFC is open 24 hours. He got home I think after 1am and then we talked a little more and went to bed close to two. I got ready for bed and I just started craving Jonah. I just wanted to cuddle him. It's funny because I have had nights where I am craving Jax or Cash or all three of them- and on one occasion I have actually just picked each of them up and put them in our bed all around me (McKay loved it!..haha) But last night I wanted to snuggle my Jones. I have really specific things with each of the boys that make my relationship with them special and different than it is with their brothers. Jonah is just my comfort-zone kid. When I had him, I was completely confident as a mom. I knew what I was doing and he was an easy baby. I have never really had a "challenging period" with him. He's just inherently sweet and comforting and cuddly and easy. He's my comfort zone. Anyways, I just needed him. So I went and laid in his bed and he kind of rolled and opened his eyed for a second and said "hi mom." Then he put his arm around me and went back to sleep. You never have to have sleepless nights if you have a Jonah. I love him so much.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Our Way/God's Way

Yesterday was my last dose of AC "Red Devil." This morning I could hear McKay get up with the boys and get them ready to take them to my mom's and my heart broke a little that they are used to waking up and leaving without even seeing me some days. It's weird because if the year-ago me could look into the future and see myself in the situation I am now, I feel like I would be screaming "ALI! BE TOUGHER. GET OUT OF BED. KISS THOSE BOYS GOODBYE." But I seriously could not even open my eyes! I am laughing a little at that and it makes me sad to because I am realizing that we do that to others all the time. Be tougher. If I can do it, she can do it! And we really just have no idea what's going on. People are just doing there best and that is one of the things I hope I take away from this forever. I hope it's like burned in my brain. Because people really are just doing their best.

On Easter, my dad gave me a Priesthood Blessing right before my surgery and one thing that was promised to me was that I would be able to continue in my service as a wife and a mom. Being the #1 thing I was worried about in the journey ahead of me, it brought me so much comfort. But on mornings like today, when I hear my husband shuffling to change my baby, get my kids dressed, and then strap them in the car and drive them to my moms without even seeing their cute little faces, it sure seems like like I'm not being a mom. I've had the same thought watching my husband and countless other people make us dinner day after day. I'm not really being a wife or a mom. But then I've had a thought, gently reoccur in my mine time after time, What defines a wife and a mom? How is it defined for me, and conversely, how is it defined for God? And that has made me think. Not only about motherhood, but so many other aspects of life that I feel have been riddled with so many worldly expectations, opinions from others, things we watch and perceive in our minds that we "should be," when really, I have never seen it written in the scriptures or spoken of at General Conference that to qualify as a good mom or a wife, you have to do "these things." Rather, I've read over and over doctrine concerning the Atonement of Jesus Christ. That we can try again and again. Or that we should "simplify our lives" (Sister Hinckley), or that we should "Keep trying" (Elder Holland) and "Do our best" (so many have said this). Maybe I am continuing in my role as a wife and a mom. Maybe right now that means that my role is to cuddle my kids. Play more on the floor. Teach them that we can do hard things. Teach them more doctrine. Be more gentle. Be more patient. Maybe my role as a wife is to listen more. Be willing to devote more time. Hold hands. Be a better friend. Offer more comfort. Be more grateful (as I'm sitting on the couch and watching this guy who just worked nine hours hold a baby, make dinner, bathe kids, wrestle them, read them scriptures, pray with them, and then put them to bed). Maybe those roles are defined differently to God than they are to me. And I think that they probably definitely are. Trials have a way of making us see things through God's eyes. Of taking us out of the world and giving us a new perspective.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Fourth of July!

Okay I am laughing because apparently I posted all these pics right after my last chemo but I barely remember doing it hahaha. Anyways- the Fourth this year was different and I want to say it was fun but honesty I had chemo on the 3rd and on the 4th I just sat in my mom's bed and she brought me food while the boys played. I don't even remember getting dressed and putting on red lipstick...???? Kind of funny. The boys have been such little troopers! They have been saying the funniest things. I need to do a whole post about the wig thing but they have been totally fine. They just think my head looks weird which HELLO it looks SO weird! This last Sunday I got all ready for church and looked like my normal self (pretty much, just don't look too close at my head! LOL) and after church I was like Jax, do you like when mommy has the wig on or off or do you not really care? And he was like, "I like it on!" Me too bud. We have this little neighbor girl who is nine or ten who lives across our cul-de-sac. This is going to sound so bad and I'm slightly disappointed in myself because one of my personal goals right now is to have the "tongue of an angel" (Elder Holland talk- so good) and be perfect in the way I speak of other people but this little neighbor girl comes over to me all the time when I am sitting in my camp chair like a redneck in our driveway and all I want to do it just be lazy and not talk to anyone and she stands by me and talks to me or just looks at me. It's cute and annoying. But ANYWAYS I went to Costco today with all my stuff on my head and then once I got home I just put on a beanie. My head is super sensitive right now. As I was unloading groceries she came out on her driveway and just stood there and looked at me forever! I honestly would probably do the same thing as a 10-year-old. But it made me want to just whip it off and be like hi! i'm bald!  LOL. I am not sad at all about it. Like at all. It's just more of a drag. Wigs are not comfortable and when I think how long it's going to take my hair to grow into something that is comfortable for me it's kind of daunting but right now i'm kind of like...whatever. I can work with it. 

When I was in line at Costco I saw a lady with a buzz. It wasn't like the kind you have done. It was like a post-chemo buzz. And she had this lady with her that had really thick hair for her age that was really cute with thick brown bangs and I was like is that a wig? And I wanted to try it on so bad because it was super cute. And then I saw the breast cancer ribbon tattoo on the buzz lady and I knew I was right. I can spot a wig and a chemo buzz anywhere now!

I just keep thinking about how dark this seems and probably is for most people. Cancer, chemo, being bald- all of it. As I was driving into the Costco parking lot I was thinking about it and I just had this huge swell of gratitude for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Nothing has to be dark! Nothing! Even in my hardest moments, it hasn't been dark. Sometimes they are hard. Sometimes I am kneeling in prayer and I'm worried about something, or need help, but I never feel darkness. I feel like a daughter asking her Father for help. And I feel like there are angels all around me. I just keep thinking about all the people in the world who go through hard things and I wish they all knew who they really were. I wish they had a testimony. I wish they knew that this life is to learn and do hard things and get stronger. And I wish they knew that they were never alone. The gospel is a gospel of optomism. And it's not naive optimism. It's wise optimism. We are here to have joy. We are here to have trials. They have to co-exist. It's possible. Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, we can feel proud of ourselves for doing something hard. Instead of wondering "why me?" we can ask How can I use this? What can I learn? How can this make me better? 

Okay I have to write down a couple things the boys have said that were so funny/cute- 

In church, Jonah saying super loud more than once "MOM TAKE OFF YOUR HAIR!"

Jonah always pulling my beanie down over my forehead and saying " I want your head to be warm!" 

Jonah has actually been SO sweet. My first Sunday at church after chemo I was so exhausted and just wanted to sleep during Sacrament meeting. Finally, I just laid on his lap and he put his little hand on my back and started patting it! He is so so sweet. Now all the time he tells me, "You can lay on me mom!"

Jax, when getting in trouble for not being reverent in Primary (doing secret handshakes with Luke) said I was just a "mean bald mom."

Today, the boys made a fort in the kitchen and I was sitting at the table feeding Cash listening to their convo inside the fort and Jax was telling Jonah... "If you went past space you could go to heaven...but heaven is in our hearts...that would be so cool to see Jesus but we can't cause he's a ghost. But if we die we could see our hearts. Isn't that cool that grandma Go Go is seeing Jesus right now?"

hahahaha looks like we have a lot to teach at our next family night! ;) Love those munchkins!

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
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