Friday, March 11, 2011

The Writing on the Window

So, on the day of my great meltdown this week (and subsequent blogging), I had two reminders that have helped me keep my sanity.

1. A dear friend's mother-in-law is gravely ill. Hearing stories of how difficult this road is for a family to travel, made me realize that there are worse things in life--worse, being losing someone you love or slowly watching that person's life slip away from you, when you are powerless to stop it.

2. I like to keep a verse written in big bold letters on my kitchen window. (You know, like with those round, white paint pens people use to write "Go Bulldogs #57!" on the back of their truck windows.) And, it just so happens, that about two months ago the verse I chose was Romans 12:12:
"Be joyful because you have hope. Be patient when trouble comes. Pray at all times."
I like God to give me signs, and this time it was right there on the kitchen window. If only all of life's answers came so easily.

(PS Yes, for those of you clean freaks out there who are taking notes, yes, you read correctly. It does mean I have not washed my kitchen windows in two months, which is why the photo is of some nice windows on an apartment building in London and not any of MY windows.)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Aftermath

What most people don't know, is that if you are blessed enough to survive the immediate medical crisis of cancer, you will still be reeling from its impact for years to come.

First there is the realization when your hair returns that people no longer treat you like you are special, and--much like after pregnancy--there is a certain loss that comes from knowing what it was like to be treated with favor and grace by total strangers, then returning to life as an Average Joe or Jane. You feel it in the way people look at you ... or maybe don't look at you, anymore. And it's very strange. (And somewhat difficult to describe without sounding like a narcissist.)

And then there is the realization that you just went through something really horrible. You've been stuck in survival mode for so long--because you are a SURVIVOR, for crying out loud--and then you realize that it's over, and you begin to see what it robbed you of.

Sometimes we don't see in the moment. But when it's over, the things that we lost to cancer become clear, and it's not just body parts. It's time. It's sanity. It's your memory. It's your ability to process information (thank you, Tamoxifen!). It's your ability to sleep at night. It's jobs. And sometimes it feels like everything.

Did you know that 40% of those who go through chemotherapy end up filing for bankruptcy within just a few years?

Did you know that once you have come out on the bad end of statistics, it's really hard to trust the doctor when he tells you that you have great odds?

Did you know that it's really hard not to blame everything on the one thing you can point to and say THIS, THIS is what changed my life forever?

Do you know what it's like to not be able to finish your breast reconstruction after a double mastectomy because you don't have the money for the giant copay it takes just to get the "icing" put on your "cupcakes"--to borrow colorful language from a fellow survivor. Because sometimes a new microwave or a transmission is more important than two pink circular tattoos that no one but you and your husband and your doctor will ever see.

Yeah, someday I'll get my areolas.

(When getting body parts back is on your long list of things that aren't likely to happen anytime soon, it's a little hard to describe the resulting frustration.)

And then there is the realization, if you survived cancer, that others don't. Others aren't lucky enough to go through the years and years of emotional, physical and financial aftermath. This is a gift. We get to live. Or maybe "live through it" is a better way of putting it.

And there is survivor's guilt. And there is a longing to help others, but a lack of awareness or direction in HOW to accomplish such a thing.

Once I got the courage to approach a woman I thought was growing her very short reddish hair out from chemo. Turns out, she just likes short hair. I can't blame her. She looks great. But asking someone if they've just finished chemo (and finding out they didn't) is just about as bad as asking a non-pregnant woman when her baby is due. (Insert reference to Brian Regan's "When's that BABY due?" bit.) It was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. She was gracious. But I'll never forget it.

So it sucks, to be blunt. I have invited Jesus into my pain, and he has joined me in it, but he has not chosen to deliver me from it, and that sucks too.

And today, I just felt the need express this pent up frustration and anger because it's real and it's life. I have always believed, no matter what painful thing I have experienced, that if nothing else (if nothing else) at least one day I might be able to comfort someone going through that same pain. So maybe somewhere out there is another woman who is also in The Aftermath. And she will read this teary blog entry and she will know that she is not alone.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Project Runway

I know it’s been a long time since we posted anything on this blog but I was excited to share this news story from our local paper about an event that Tamara participated in.

Before you click on the link, I just wanted to say thank you for your continued words of encouragement and prayer support for Tamara and our family. I am so grateful for her and continually amazed by Tams ability to live life to the fullest, especially after all that she has gone through over the past year and a half.


Redlands Daily Facts News Article

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tam's Surgery Update

Hi friends,

So as you all know, a year ago, Tam decided she wanted breast augmentation surgery and so she decided to get cancer, double mastectomy, chemo, go bald, have expanders put into her chest and finally yesterday, receive her breast implants.
Ok, not exactly how it went, but yesterday, she underwent a 2 hour surgery to continue her breast reconstruction process. She is recovering very well and getting plenty of rest (right now she's watching the classic movie The Breakfast Club directed by the king of 80's cinema John Hughes). Anyway, I digress. I just wanted to say thanks for thinking and praying for the bravest woman I know.

BeeTeeDubs...thank you Angie for hanging out at the hospital yesterday when you should have been in a meeting with Steph.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Where Does the Time Go?

I've been a busy bee the past few weeks. Truly, truly busy with more work than I have known what to do with at times. Which--as Nate reminds me when I complain--is a real blessing. To have an extra income right now is no small thing, as we weren't making it just two short months ago.

Yesterday, I registered at the hospital for my surgery on the 12th. I've never been so excited for a surgery in all my life. I'm sure I'll be horribly disappointed when I inevitably wake up in horrible pain. I mean, when these expanders were placed in December, I woke up convinced that my shoulder had been broken.
However, right now getting these tissue expanders out and having a few days to lay around and be spoiled sounds like heaven.
It is, today, exactly one year since my diagnosis. I remember at that very next appointment Nate and I asked my doctor: So how long will all of this cancer stuff take? And his answer was a year to 18 months.
At the time neither one of us really believed him. We had virtually no understanding of how complicated this type of reconstruction is. We thought, oh 7 months tops. We'll be done. And yet, now, it seems we won't be actually be done until December, if then.

Of course, this surgery next week is the last big one, but still. This is a lengthy process, that I totally underestimated, myself.

All the same, it's so wonderful to be one year out and to be healthy. My fears that I wouldn't live to see another year or that I'd still be fighting it were unfounded. Here I am 365 days later and I am--as far as we can tell or know--cancer free. It's a great thing to celebrate.

So, happy one year cancer-versary to me! Thank you, Jesus, for good doctors, good medicine and early detection!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter

Happy Easter, friends! Death, where is thy victory? Grave, where is thy sting?

This is a day we celebrate the greatest milestone of our faith, and lately I've been celebrating a much smaller and more personal milestone of my own, which really has nothing to do with Easter, but now is as good a time as any to tell you about it.

I'm thrilled (so beyond thrilled) to report that I have had my last saline injection for the tissue expanders in my chest. For those who haven't seen them ... well, they are a sight, unfortunately. Recently I heard a line in a comedy that describes me well right now.

Two men were discussing a woman's physique (ahem, i.e., that she was a little too well-endowed). And one man said to the other: "A body like that just doesn't look structurally sound."

That would be me. Not structurally sound. I've had a ton of pain the last month of this process as I grow more skin for the doctor to work with.

But the good news is that the tissue expansion is DONE. On May 12, just 2 days short of my one year mastectomy anniversary, I'll get these ugly squarish, uncomfortable tissue expander things out of me (hallelujah!) and they'll be replaced with small, silicone breast implants. (Sorry for the details, but everyone asks, so there it is.)

This surgery in May won't be my last surgery, but will be the last one I have to be under anesthesia for. So this is a huge milestone in the reconstruction process (which won't be totally finished until around Christmas).

I know you are probably thinking: "Isn't she done already?" But this is just a really long process, unfortunately.

Lucky and few are those who naturally have enough skin to go around. For once in my life, it would have really paid off to be chunky.

photo by Tim Snell (

Thursday, April 2, 2009

One more thing ...

Oops! Forgot to mention, I now have a paid blogging gig for a travel site called Uptake. I got the gig through the freelance site called, which I was hooked up with after being on Larry King. My first blog entry was published today: