Beach time!

Beach time!

Friday, February 15, 2013

My story

Some of you I have known for many years, many of you I have met in recent years, and perhaps some have stumbled upon my blog without ever having seen me. Being the 1 year anniversary of my diagnosis, I thought I would tell my story from the beginning. Feel free to indulge me for a moment. But even if you don't, this is probably as much (if not more) for me than anyone else. Cheap therapy :)

I felt a strong conviction in November of 2011 to start a blog that would explore the "fear" verses. I delayed it for a bit, thinking it would be slightly egotistical to write a blog (assuming anyone even noticed it). After a week or two, I literally could not shake the compulsion to write. Now, I have never been a writer outside of the obligatory research and writing assignments I was forced into by my teachers and professors. But, I wrote anyway. I figured if no one read it, then it would be a good exercise in bible research for me and a way to keep my thoughts organized (unlike my sermon notes that I find in random places). I knew that my writing was completely ordained by God because I would sit in my sun room at the computer with only my bible and many times had no ideas or prompts for the day's topic. I generally started at night when the house was quiet and would begin by praying for guidance and wisdom, feeling the weight of my assignment. Then I would begin to research and write, write and research. Finally I would read the words I had been given, usually knowing it came straight from God's heart.

We made our way through the craziness of the Christmas season (shopping, family events, and THE tornado) and settled back into normal routine in January. About the 3rd week in January, I was getting ready for school one morning and was running late to meet my car pool buddy (nothing new, huh Keshia?) but as I got dressed, I noticed something unusual. A large mass on the top part of my chest that had not been previously noticeable was all of a sudden protruding. I quickly decided it was nothing, made a mental note to call for a yearly visit that was due anyway, and went to work. I will fast forward through several boring doctor's appointments where I was told it was nothing, possibly injury based (huh???), and would probably go away on it's own, and that we would recheck in 6 months. I really struggled with this. I prayed about not wanting to blow something out of proportion but also knowing I needed to take responsibility for my health. I insisted on a biopsy (and kind of felt like I was being high-maintenance by pushing for it). The day of the biopsy was a bit rough. I came home and was in the bed for a couple of days while I recovered. I went back to work on Monday and was uncharacteristically laid back about the whole situation. I really never allowed myself to consider a possibility of anything other than a benign mass. After all, I had been told that there "was almost 0% it could test positive for cancer". I was scheduled for my appointment on the 16th of February but the office called me in a day earlier than planned. Even that didn't worry me. In fact, I told Jeremy not to come and that I was just going for a check up. Thankfully, he ignored me.

As we sat in the exam room for an extended period of time, I considered for the first time that perhaps all was not ok. The doctor and her staff were in deep discussion outside the door and the office was quiet. As she came in, I could see distress in her eyes. She then said the words I never expected to hear. "I'm sorry, Laura, but you have breast cancer. We are completely shocked." I looked at Jeremy, his eyes closed and his head leaned against the wall, and I couldn't think. Couldn't breathe. We were given a ton of information, more than we could process, and eventually walked out to the car. We had driven separately as we had both come straight from work, and drove home in a daze. Jeremy made some phone calls initially but I just was frozen. He got the boys who were being kept by a friend and met me at home. We put the boys to bed, who were unaware at this point, and called a small circle of family and close friends who prayed for us and cried with us. We told our sons later the next day about my diagnosis. Our oldest son who was 9 at the time, broke down into a heart wrenching sob. We all held each other, prayed, and then got some ice cream. :)

The next few weeks were a blur. I was quickly scheduled for surgery. My tumor concerned the doctor because it had an extremely high proliferation rate, meaning it was growing way too fast. More than 3 or 4 times what would be "normal". My surgery went well and there were no further complications. From there, we met with my amazing oncologist who sat with us for 3 1/2 hours one Friday evening and went over my treatment plan detail by detail while I scribbled notes. My fear of having to have chemotherapy was at this point a reality. I would have my first chemotherapy treatment a mere 5 days from then.

Jeremy and I (thanks to helpful grandparents) went away and had a quiet weekend in Atlanta together, not knowing what the next few months would be like. We wanted to take advantage of me feeling well before I started treatments.

I was scheduled for chemo that Wednesday. As I walked into the infusion room, I didn't know what to expect. Most of the people in there were elderly. A few even made comments about me being too  young to have to be there. Overall, it was ok. I was able to work for the next couple of days but was really feeling rough by the end of the day on Friday. So bad that Jeremy had to come and get me from school. I spent the weekend in the bed. I would come to learn that these weekends were emotionally the biggest struggle for me. The medicine I had to take for the side effects made me sad and I was already sad from not feeling well. These weekends were dark times for me. I generally turned off my phone and laid in the bed for several days, while my sweet family cared for me.

About a week and a half after my first treatment we had our spring break. I was feeling good and decided to take the kids to the Tellus Science museum for the day. Earlier that morning, however, I noticed that my hair had begun to fall out dramatically. By the end of the day, I had been to my hair dresser and was sporting a scarf where my hair had been. Once that was over with, I felt like I could breathe deeply again. I don't think I realized how heavily the anticipation and dread of losing my hair had been hanging over me.

The next couple of months felt like they would never come to an end. Finally, I finished my school year and got to spend some time with my sweet friend, Ginger, who came into town to go with me to my final chemo treatment on May 23rd. Several weeks later, Jeremy and I were able to take a trip to the beach in celebration of the end of treatment, thanks to the offer of a free beach side condo for a week. Praising my God the whole time, my family was able to laugh together, rest peacefully, and recuperate from a physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion.

Shortly after our return I began radiation treatments. For me, these were simple and straight ahead. I suffered little to no side effects and my energy began picking up throughout the summer. I was blessed by a new job that turned out to be a whole 4 minutes away from the house God had for us when we had to move out of our home in August. I completed my radiation treatments on July 31st-one day before I reported to my new classroom!

I knew throughout this year that I was never alone. Even in my darkest moments, my God was there. He walked before me in this and He walked beside me the whole time. I will never be able to adequately express my thanks for those of you who chose to love us through this. So many of you helped us care for our boys, cooked countless meals, or laughed and cried with us. I don't think I even know how many of you stood in the gap for us and prayed diligently.

I am feeling so great these days. I have begun running again and we are eating with purpose to optimize my health. God is still God and God is still good!

Thank you for sticking with me on this lengthy blog post and for sticking with me in general. Love and blessings to you.

Love, Laura

This is the evening that I had my head shaved
Love from my little guy

Final treatment/ "chemo party" with Ginger
Our portrait of hope
First chemo treatment-all smiles!


This was kind of cool. I submitted my picture to be used on a Dove ad on Times Square.
They chose my picture and sent me a photo of the billboard. My 3 seconds of "fame"!

My precious 11th/12th grade small group had Disciple Now shirts made in my honor. They say "I will praise you in this storm." This was my very first treatment weekend and I was so sad to miss out.


Beach fun!

Beach fun with my sweet hubby :)

The beginnings of hair growth! Nathaniel (our 7 year old) called this my "hamster hair"

Healthy Laura