Monday, January 6, 2014

Keeping the Light On

A few days ago I was watching a bit of the Colts vs. Chiefs game with my hubby. Jared mentioned that I should be a fan of the Indianapolis Colts. I looked at him in question while he explained that Coach Pagano is also a cancer survivor. He then shared these videos with me...

While watching, the thought kept going through my head about strong people becoming stronger. What really makes the difference between those that shrink from their difficulties, get angry and even blame others for their lot in life while others grow stronger, more loving, happier. Coach Pagano is one of those that became stronger and even motivated others around him in the process.

From Wikipedia...
Pagano was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia[4] in September 2012, and took an indefinite leave of absence of his coaching duties. He then underwent three months of treatment at the IU Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis.[5] On November 5, doctors announced that Pagano's cancer is in remission. To support Pagano, two dozen of the Colts' players,[6] and two of their cheerleaders,[7] shaved their heads as part of a movement to support Pagano known as "CHUCKSTRONG". Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians led the Colts during the next 12 games. Pagano returned to his head coaching duties on December 24, 2012

Keeping the light on. That's a big key in the fight, whatever that fight may be. It was a friend and fellow coach who had the idea to keep Pagano's office light on while he was away but it was only an example of the light Pagano himself was keeping on. He wasn't going to give up and let cancer win. He had daughters weddings to dance at and trophies to win with his team. There was reason for him to live.

I've seen some give up those things most important because they were offended by someone or because life just wasn't fair, or what ever the reason. They just didn't keep the light on.

To me, keeping the light on isn't about living at all costs. It's about living for the right reasons even if that means dying. Having had doctors tell me that I had limited time to live gave so much clarity to life. Dying wasn't the worst thing that could happen. For me, life is about securing what was most important, despite how tough or unfair it may seem.

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I believe that through sacred covenants, or promises made with God, I can be with my husband and my children for eternity. Jesus Christ made it all possible through His perfect life, suffering for our sins, death on the cross, and His glorious resurrection. That is the light I keep on. It is a choice, one I hold to with all I have.

What light do you keep on?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Whole Tree of Faith

Time for a more Christmasy post of sorts. I was just thinking about an experience in early November that describes well where I am at with my faith and thinking. Faith to us is an action word. It's not just believing, it's acting on that belief, even in the face of difficulty.

My mom has been in the process of moving to Texas where my dad has been working for quite some time. I am so happy for them to be together as they should be. Part of the move preparation has been clearing out the house and putting it on the market. One of the things I was able to inherit was her beautiful Christmas tree. She has had it ready for quite some time for us, but we just hadn't gotten around to going to pick it up. Finally one day Amily went out to get it. She had driven the truck to school and the deal was that she had to wait around for Kyra to finish with play rehearsal and bring her home. With free time on her hands, Amily decided to go visit grandma out in Paradise. While she was there, they loaded up the Christmas tree. It's a very solid, heavy tree that comes in the typical 3 pieces.

All loaded up, Amily headed back to the high school to pick up Kyra and head home. Once home, she backed into the garage to unload the tree. Out came the base, the center section, and the...the top of the tree...well, it wasn't exactly there. In fact it was plain MIA. The phone calls started and my mom was out looking for the tree top along the road to see where it had blown out.

Now let me back up a bit. This same time, we had been getting bad news after bad news. I still wasn't feeling that great, so that seemed to overshadow everything. We then were getting the reality of health insurance and doctor bills mounting above and beyond what we had anticipated. To top that off, Jared found out that his job (and ultimately our health insurance)were not so secure. He could lose his job just as the holidays were beginning. The kids were getting sick and hurt every time we turned around it seemed. With each bad event that came to light, I was beginning to feel like Job. I hadn't lost my family and friends, but otherwise I was dumbfounded as to the challenges mounting.

I was anxious to get the tree, the tree would fill a need. Our previous artificial tree had all but died the year before and we had gotten rid of it with the hope that we would pick one up with an after Christmas sale. We never found one that we liked and figured we would just have to buy one when Christmas came around again. Well, here we were, looking at Christmas upon us and definitely not feeling like we had the money to spend on a brand new tree with the bills growing as they were. When mom offered us her tree, I was ecstatic. We would have a tree!

I had just come home from the cancer center for my weekly treatment when I found Amily with the truck backed into the garage. I was excited to see that the tree was home, and quickly found out that only 2/3 of the tree had made it. I couldn't believe it. The top of the tree was gone!! How? Why? I just had to sit back and laugh. It was all I could do. I said a little prayer at that point trying to gain some understanding as to what was going on. Really, on top of all the other issues we were going through, something this simple had to go wrong too?? I wasn't about to "curse God and die" as Job was being told to do. Not over and artificial tree, not with the bigger issues that hadn't driven me to do so. If I hadn't yet, I wasn't starting now. So why this trial too?

Mom didn't find the top in her searches. We had other things going on and weren't able to go looking ourselves right away. Before we were able to, a snow storm hit. There was no point in going to look until it started to melt.

A few days later, Jared, Tia and I decided to go for a ride and find the top. I prayed before we left, shared my feelings, asked to be led to where it was, and off we went to find it. All the way out to Paradise we looked....nothing...not a hint of pine along the road or in the ditches. Jared turned around and headed back towards home. Tia and I kept looking. At about the same moment we both though we saw something. The road to Paradise doesn't have a shoulder and not much of a safe opportunity to turn around. Jared drove on to the High School and did a u-turn to go back and look again. As he was turning near the school, my eyes landed it couldn't be...pine boughs. I pointed to the end of the high school parking lot to a small pile of snow, debris, and small pine boughs.

We drove into the parking lot and I jumped out, gingerly with sore hips, and pulled the tree top out of the snow. It was the same type of pine as our 2/3 of a tree at home. We found our top! I asked in prayer with real intention of finding the missing part. I had full faith that we would be lead and acted on that faith. And there it was!

Once home, the top was a perfect fit. Our tree was whole. But more importantly, my faith was whole. I don't know why all this had to happen. But I do know that all trials and problems come to an end eventually. When the event comes to an end, what we are left with are the consequences of the choices we've made. If we "curse God and die", we are left to pay the consequences. If we hold faithful and endure in righteousness, we are left with stronger character, understanding, and faith. We are better prepared to face future challenges and bring about much righteousness.

The tree is up and decorated, filling our home with the Spirit of Christmas. I can sit back and enjoy knowing that there is a story of faith in this tree. For years to come, this tree will not only be a symbol of eternal life through Jesus Christ, but also enduring in righteousness and acting in faith. It all brings a very Merry Christmas.

Why So Happy?

I've had some thoughts my mind has been pondering much of late. I've jotted them down here and there in a journal of sorts, but I got thinking that I needed to write them out in a more detailed form here on my blog. Maybe in my efforts to record my learnings and ponderings, someone else can be lifted.

Many friends have asked how my family and I stay so happy dispite the trial we are facing. It's a simple answer really. Jesus Christ. Because of Him, whose birth we celebrate this time of year, there is purpose to every experience, every trial, every joy.

Jill, a friend of mine here in our neighborhood, shared part of a poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning entitles Aurora Leigh

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware.

These burning bushes are trials. But they are not hard times alone. They are afire with God. There is purpose to the experience. I know the reason I am here on this earth is to learn things that I could not learn any other way. My ultimate goal is to become like God our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Trials, burning bushes, are opportunities to do that learning and growing. As I keep the perspective of my burning bushes, they become holy places to me. I symbolically remove my shoes, knowing that this and any other trial have a sacred purpose.

By keeping the sacred purpose in perspective, the burning bush becomes a source of growth, of greater light,of peace, and even a source of joy. The trial becomes a source of joy. Yes, I said that, a source of joy.

That is where the smile comes from. That is why we as a family can be so happy, so peaceful.

In the coming posts I will share in more detail how this is happening in our lives. I will share stories and truths that mean so much and bring this peace and joy in celebration of the birth of our Savior.

Monday, August 12, 2013

What Can I Do To Help?

So many of our friends have expressed love, concern and a desire to help us in some way. I am so grateful for all the dear friends and family that have reached out to us. Thank you, thank you.

Those of you that really know me, know that I am not good at asking for help. Many of us are that way. We really are doing quite well right now. My health has actually improved some. The medication I am on for my liver is improving how I feel day to day and the medication for the cancer has not caused any side affects. My only struggle currently is the pain in my left hip. If I am on my hip for too long the pain will increase and I know it's time to lay low for a while. I will begin radiation treatments in the near future to help with the pain.

But there are some ways we do need help. The first one helps us personally. The second helps everyone who will ever be touched by cancer.

Way To Help #1
One of the biggest stresses beyond all that comes with being sick is the financial burden that being sick places on the family. We have some dear friends that are putting together some fundraising efforts in our behalf. Your support of those efforts would be greatly appreciated.

The first fundraiser is a yard sale to be held on Saturday August 24th. There is also a silent auction in the works. If you would like to contribute items to be sold, would like to help in the effort, or have other ideas, your help would be celebrated. Our amazing friend Stephanie Strawn is working hard to pull this all together. You can contact her at or 435-760-5065.

Way To Help #2
Cancer has affected too many for too long. The last few years our family has been involved with the American Cancer Society in helping to raise money to find a cure with Relay For Life.

ACS has launched a new effort in the fight. This time it's not about the money, but the information. Remember when the connection of smoking and lung cancer was made? That was a study headed by the ACS. This fall they are launching another study... Cancer Prevention Study-3 or CPS-3.
"The goal of Cancer Prevention Study - 3 (CPS-3) is to better understand the factors (lifestyle, environmental, genetic) that cause or prevent cancer and, ultimately, to help eliminate cancer as a major health concern for future generations. Men and women between the ages of 30 and 65 who have never been personally diagnosed with cancer and are willing to make a long-term commitment to the study can participate."

The goal is to have 300,000 participants across the country. Your help is needed. For more information and specifics about the study go to the ACS Website. There are 6 locations and times throughout Cache Valley, as well as sights across the country to sign up as a participant.

Thank-you for any help you are able to give.

Monday, August 5, 2013

It's Not About Time

Earlier this year, our Bishop spoke about the principle of possession verses becoming. Satan's plan is about possession. He wants to possess us, in that he wants us to follow him. He wants to control us and bind us slowly with a flaxen cord. He wants us to focus on possession as well. It is so easy to get caught up in the worldly race of trying to possess more and more, to spend all our time with worry of how to make more money to have nice things, to have more money for a nice life, more money to have more than our neighbor has. When that is our focus, Satan has taken possession of us.

But the plan of our Heavenly Father is about becoming. We are to become like Him and our Savior Jesus Christ. This isn't through a forced plan. We choose what we want to become. Each day is a choice. Each day we determine our reaction to life, and those reactions determine how we are becoming. It is all within our power to choose. Are we choosing to become more loving with those around us. Are we becoming more refined, less focused on the worldly pursuits. Are seeking for the kingdom of God here in this life? Are we seeking to help others, even while we ourselves might be facing something difficult?

Becoming. It's all about becoming.

But over this last month, and really the last few days, I've had to repent. I've thought I was doing a fair job at becoming. The worldly things are not a strong desire for me. But I realized that there is one worldly possession I have been holding on tight to. That is the possession of time. I've wanted to have more and more and more time left on this earth. I've wanted more time with my family, more time for school, more time to become a teacher and to have my own classroom. I've wanted more time to see my children grow and begin their own families. I've wanted more time with my husband to grow old together in service and memories. Not one of those things is a terrible thing. Each one is really about becoming. Each one is still putting the Kingdom of God first, in my own little sphere of influence. But my attitude was wrong. The time I have left on this earth is a worldly possession. It is not a possession that I am ultimately in control of. That belongs to my Heavenly Father. It is up to him on how much time I am given here. And when that time is through, all will be in His hands. My husband, my children, everyone I care about will be in His hands and will be cared for.

For me, it is about becoming. I will live the time I have left focused on those things that matter, knowing that my days will not be numbered less. I will be a fighter. I want my children to see me fight. I want them to see that their mother was strong and didn't back down. But I fight to continue to become. I fight to become stronger, not to try and change the time my Heavenly Father has for me. Time is not in my hands, but my attitude about time is.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Additional Diagnosis

I met with the liver specialist yesterday. I really like her despite the bad news she had to give me. My sister joined me for the adventure and helped make a very hard day much enjoyable.
I found out I have PSC or Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis. It is an autoimmune disease where my body is attacking my liver, causing my liver to harden with scar tissue. There is no real treatment or cure. The only option is a liver transplant on down the road, for most patients. But I've never been like most patients. Due to my cancer diagnosis, I am not a candidate for a transplant. The anti-rejection drugs that are prescribed for a lifetime following transplant surgery would cause the cancer to grow rapidly. PROGNOSIS If all goes well and the cancer treatments play well with my liver, I have 7 years give or take a few. This would at least let me see my children grow and possibly go on missions, marry and maybe even begin their families. It gives me more time than we first thought. I have more time to spend with the love of my life and make memories to carry on into eternity. When we received the cancer diagnosis I wasn't settled. I felt empty and a bit lost. It wasn't what I was being prepared for. I knew it was bigger. I knew there was more. When Dr. Hatch gave me the rest of the story yesterday, it all felt right and complete. I finally felt settled and peaceful. I am grateful to be living a life with an understanding that even when told officially by a doctor that "I am dying", I can feel peace. I can share peace with those around me and live what life I have left with joy. Not just happiness, but joy. I am at peace.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Battle:Round Two

Well, it's back to blogging. Blogging again with the initial purpose that created stubborn-strong to begin with. The cancer has returned and it's time to battle again. The road to discovery began about a month ago. I started not feeling well when I ate, no matter what I ate. I then started itching head to toe. But of course, I would just tough it out. Whatever it was would run it's course and be gone soon. While dealing with these symptoms, I got word that a cousin had passed away in California. Ignoring what my body was doing, I headed out to be with family and help in any way I could. The symptoms came with me, although seemed to take a backseat. A tender mercy from the Lord as I was able to enjoy the time with family and assist anywhere I found a need. Once home from the trip, the symptoms escalated. Of course that was right during the 4th of July holiday and I wasn't able to get into our family doctor until the following Monday. By the I had become quite jaundice and extremely itchy. I had blood work done that day which led to an ultra sound, more blood work, CAT scan, trips to Salt Lake, MRI, liver scan, a liver biopsy and doctor after doctor reading what was going on in my insides. During the quest to find out what was wrong with my liver, one set of doctors noticed a lytic lesion on my left hip. The hip lesion took me back to my oncologist and more blood testing, another biopsy, and eventually a PET scan. DIAGNOSIS: I have metastasized breast cancer in both hips, the base of my neck, and a number of lymph nodes in my chest cavity. TREATMENT Not surgery. Not chemotherapy. At least to begin with. Because the places are quite small, we are starting with cancer suppressing drugs. If the drugs work and the marker numbers remain stable or decrease the same treatment will continue. If the marker number increases, it's back to chemo. The good news. There are little to no side affects with these drugs. The bad news...I'm living with cancer. Living with pain. Living with the knowledge that at any time, my new normal can change and send life into a real battle....a battle for my life.