Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I have not written in some time because we have been happily busy raising 5 puppies.

Our two shelties, Stradivarius and Mandolyn (Strad and Mandy) had the puppies on May 19th. I can honestly say I am amazed by the dam's instincts when it came to handling the birthing process. She had each puppy in her dog crate and then spent time nursing each one before moving on to the next one. She would carry each puppy over to a kiddie pool we had set up as a bed, drop it in there and then return to her crate to have her next pup for one on one time with the newest born. She has known throughout exactly what to do. How can anyone believe that instinct, creation, the world around us is all one big cosmic accident? It boggles my mind. Intelligent design no doubt exists. For me this is just one more bit of proof (among many) for it. Hope you all are enjoying the summer as much as we are! Lots of love,


Thursday, May 13, 2010


Yesterday one of my girls flew past me and dropped something on the counter. "Here's the glove, mom!" she yelled, not skipping a beat and racing out the back door. I was in the middle of cooking dinner and looked over. Then I had to sigh. This was the same glove she had asked me to get for her yesterday. It was a winter glove already packed away in the basement for the season. She wanted to use it to dig in the dirt. I had told her then that she would have to put it up after she used it. Rather than just put the glove back where it belonged, "Here's the glove, Mom," apparently was her way of trying to get me to do it for her. I poked my head out the door (and for what seemed like an eternity) nagged and eventually threatened discipline on her until she finally put it away.  Yes it seems like an awfully big deal over a little glove. It would have been SO much easier just to take care of it myself, but it was the principle of the matter.  I thought to myself, "What do I need to do to empower my children to take care of their things, to be proactive and think ahead about things. Then I had a revelation.

How much am I (and many people) like that? How often do we not just want to pray and all of our messes, chores, and problems just be cleaned up for us.

That day I had been to the doctor and had a bone density test done. The doctor said I have the bone density of someone in their 50's and a condition called ostepenia which is a precursor to osteoporosis. My hip is the worst area. She said I'd be heading for a hip fracture if I didn't do something soon and she put me on Boniva. Apparently the chemo can really deteriorate your bone quickly. And I have a weakness for diet cokes and my small bone structure just made it all worse. So here I go again, feeling guilty just like I did when I first got diagnosed. It's my fault. I've drunk too much diet coke.  Never mind the things I did right like work out all through my cancer treatment.  I just saw a nutritionist recently who told me I was eating too much dairy.  None of that matters. It's just how it is. I just wanted to throw up my hands and say "Haven't I taken enough pills for a woman not yet 40? Lord knows between the two of us Randy and I have seen 5 doctors just this week. I honestly wanted to pray for the Lord to just magically take it away because I am tired of dealing with all these little problems. I wanted to ask, "Is there some lesson here that I am just not getting? Is there something I should know? What am I doing wrong, Lord? Why won't all these little problems just GO AWAY??!!'

And these are little problems I know. Then you feel guilty for being frustrated by the little problems. As if that will help. NOT. The good news is that the bone loss is reversible. I just need to do something about it. I need to get empowered. So while I am working to get my kids empowered, I am working to get myself empowered too.  That's the lesson here. That's the revelation. And how lucky am I to have the chance to do something about it. So the diet coke is being banished from the house. I have to take a pill once a month. The number of workouts per week will have to increase even more.  Yet another learning and growing experience in more ways than one. I am SUCH a work in progress, but I know that means He has good plans for me. Lots of love,


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bunnies Everywhere- Updated

Today I am meeting my friend Amanda Gillenwater in a parking lot to hand off to her a bunch of bunnies that I have picked up. Why? It was the wish of a little girl named Samantha. I have mentioned her on the blog before. She battled cancer and went to be with the Lord almost 5 months ago now. It was her wish that bunnies be given during the Easter season to children who are in the hospital and are battling cancer as she did. Here is a link to her web page. http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/sammiehartsfield. Amanda wanted to do this not only to honor Sammie but to encourage her grieving mother.

And so with a car full of bunnies,  we are passing it on. I am constantly amazed by the little things that make such a difference and can touch so many people's lives. So here's to Sammy and all the bunnies being collected in her name.

Update: Amanda contacted me last night and told me that the local Walmart on Millertown Pike had given 100 bunnies to the bunny drive! When we got there this morning there were 125, plus the ones she had donated through friends!!Yeah!! All together (with our four kids/great helpers in tow) we dropped off 200 bunnies to the hospital this morning. Amanda's goal had been 175. The rest will be given to children visiting the ER over the Easter weekend. We'll have pictures to follow.  What a blessing this experience was on our hearts. Lots of love,


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ouch! Smile! Ouch! Smile!

This sounds like a weird topic heading for the blog I know but that is how I have been feeling lately.

Things still are going well. I go weekly for my expander fill ups. Laura and Leslie go with me. They hang out in a corner of the room playing their hand held video games while I lie down on a table. There are two nurses (one on either side of me), both holding a big syringe with a long needle. They inject me on both sides simultaneously and I find myself (as I have many times in the past) admiring the lovely ceiling above. The whole experience is rather surreal. I have lost count now on how many times I have had a "fill up."I have had it pretty easy with the expanders and no complications thus far. The expanders can move around alittle and one is partially under my left arm. It is now pressing on the same nerves that bothered me when the cancerous lymph node was still around. It doesn't hurt, just tingles constantly like whenever you bump your funny bone. My chest feels heavy especially when I lie down on my back. It feels like my back muscles must somehow be connected to my chest muscles because I get neck, shoulder and back discomfort every fill up. Please understand I'm not sharing all this to complain.

 As I've said time and time again, I have been so fortunate. I guess I just feel it's important to share what it is like, this getting back to "normal" and the way I once was. So that's the "ouch part." It's all part of the journey. And the getting back to normal is the "smile" part. It's knowing the end of it all is in sight. I talked to my doctor about reoccurances last week and told her I'd been worried about lots of aches and pains lately. She said if the cancer comes back it would not be "the achies" but "the ouchies." My ouchies are more like "achies" and I will take those any day. Lots of love,


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

More Young Survivors Conference Pictures

Here are some more pics from the Young Survivor's Conference I attended in Atlanta. Aren't the women beside me from the Thompson Cancer Young Survivors group all beautiful? Who would have guessed looking at us what we've all been through. What an amazing group of strong women. They are all such a huge source of inspiration to me. God bless the 900 survivors that were at the conference and all the others that are out there!!

Monday, March 1, 2010


I have just returned from the Young Survivor's breast cancer conference in Atlanta and it was truly incredible. I was there with my sister and niece as well as a bunch of sister survivors from the Thompson Cancer support group. Here's a picture of our support group.

The conference was truly a blast...so educational and inspiring. There were more than 900 women there who had felt what I've felt and experienced what I've experienced in the bc battle.

In addition my sister Shannon and niece Heather and I had some adventures around the city of Atlanta. There was a crazy new GPS system to get used to, the Hard Rock Cafe, the Phipps Plaza Mall with $3000 purses in stores like Saks 5th Ave, Versace and Valentino which took window shopping to a new level. There was lots of laughter, lots of hugs, lots of memories made.

At the conference I attended seminars on triple negative bc, clinical trials, and nutrition. All of them were very helpful. I picked up lots of great goodies to give out in my chemo kits. I met two authors, both of them mothers, who have written inspiring books on bc. The first is Lori Sorbo who wrote Eleven Years Later. She has battled 5 different kinds of cancer in the last eleven years. The second book is called A Mommy Can Love You From Anywhere by Jenny Sugg. I picked it up to give to the family of a sister survivor who couldn't make it to the conference.

Sadly I received word today that this member of our Thompson Cancer group just passed away. I first met her at the Women's Expo in March. She amazed me on that day by her spirit and faith. For many months afterward she would encourage us other survivors at our support meetings even in the midst of what she was facing. Here's to Missy B., a sister survivor in the truest sense. Lots of love,


Friday, February 19, 2010

Time Marches On


In the last two weeks we have experienced two funerals and a death on each side of the family. They are just another reminder of how precious life is. Time is truly marching on. I used to take it for granted, but I don't anymore. Breast cancer has made me feel old, but I am trying to combat that feeling by eating better, exercising and following through with my weekly reconstruction expander "fill ups."

Through it all Laura and Leslie continue to be real troopers. They have decided the apple cider at the plastic surgeon's office is the best anywhere and don't seem phased by all the needles and injections. The last time one of them complained about a boo boo (that could not been seen with even a microscope) I pointed out the scar crossing half my back. It not only stopped the whining, but they were also quite impressed. I do believe they think I'm as tough as Rambo. I've had some qualms about showing them these things. I have found though that there are alot of life lessons that can be learned from it and that my girls, for their age, are far stronger than I could ever be.

Just this week I have connected with three more breast cancer patients, one of them I believe was a Godincidence.

The middle of last week I decided that my hair has grown out long enough to have a haircut. In the midst of all the sadness we've been dealing with I decided to call the girl who had cut my hair for some 20 years and schedule an appointment. The last time I had seen her was late last January when she had given me a short haircut in anticipation of my first chemo treatment. Well imagine my surprise when she called back and said she had gotten home that evening from a lumpectomy. She too has breast cancer. Of all days to call, that was the day I called. She is doing great, but once again I have experienced a coincidence that I don't believe was a coincidence.

Next weekend my sister Shannon, my niece, and I are headed to Atlanta for a breast cancer conference of young survivors. I have been looking forward to it for a couple months now. Please pray that I can make the most of the opportunity and get lots of great information to pass along to others. Thanks for continuing to cheer me on. Lots of love,


Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Black Cloud


I always try to focus on the bright side of life, but I would be lying if I said the last few weeks have been easy. Oddly enough the surgery which I mentioned in the last post was really a very minor thing. I have been sore, but that was expected and I was able to resume normal activities within a week or two.

What's been hard is the illness and the loss we have experienced so much recently. My uncle suddenly died a week and a half ago.  My whole side of the family went up to Johnson City last weekend for the funeral services. Recently there have been a couple accidents in the family and both of Randy's grandmothers have been seriously ill. One is having pacemaker surgery on Monday and the other is now gravely ill. Sometimes it seems like too much to bear. It feels like there is a black cloud that has descended over us all in the past year, a plague of sorts that just won't go away.

We know these loved ones are saved, but the loss and illnesses are still so very hard.

About a month ago our pastor preached on heaven. He talked about some pretty radical ideas...that heaven might be on a renewed earth and not a spirtual realm...that we might have physical (though new & perfected) bodies....that we might use some of the technology, hobbies and skills we so enjoyed on earth. This was not your stereotypical description of heaven with everyone wearing white robes and strumming harps. Our pastor referenced a book called Heaven by Randy Alcorn. We began reading it about three weeks ago. Randy and I have talked about how that was another Godincidence.

I so long to encourage my children and family members through all of this, but the truth of it is that I am tired...so, so very tired. On top of it all, the back of my neck has been hurting. It is probably just stress-induced, but it has brought those old fears of reoccurance to the forefront again.

I know my uncle is in a better place. I know Randy's Mamaws are being showered in prayer and in God's hands.  We are in so many ways so truly blessed. I just really want those clouds to part and the sun to shine through again.  Lots of love,

Monday, January 25, 2010

Reconstruction Junction aka "Look Out Bionic Woman! Here I Come!"

Hello dear family and friends!

Tomorrow morning I am having my first reconstructive surgery. I am a little nervous, but also excited. Alot of people I've told about reconstruction automatically assume that it is just breast implant surgery, but it is not. That is a later surgery.

Tomorrow's surgery is the first of three surgeries and the most complicated. The surgeon will take skin and muscle from my back and transplant it over my left chest to "rebuild" it. As I understand it, the radiation and scaring has damaged my original skin. By replacing the skin they can implant a temporary muscle expander which will have to be injected with saline on 6-7 different occassions to fully stretch the skin. I have surfed the net doing research so I know what to expect with the scars when I come out of surgery. It seems a bit morbid I know but it did serve me well last time with the mastectomy and prevented some of the initial shock. Plus I have already had the muscle expander put in on the right side so I know what it feels like and will only have one side affected this go around. 

As I picture myself on the operating table one funny thing is I keep having the themes from those 70's shows 'The Six Milion Dollar Man" and "The Bionic Woman" running through my head. Obviously there is no comparison here but it has made me laugh.

Laura and Leslie are up at Aunt Mitzi's house. It is strangely quiet around here and we miss them, but Randy and I are thankful that they are safe, happy and having lots of fun.

I really appreciated everyone's comments about my cancerversary in the last post. I have decided to celebrate it each year by dropping off a care package at the cancer ward where I was treated. It seems like a fitting way to celebrate. I am mailing out two today. One to a bc sister and one to a child with cancer.

It is so nice to be getting on with life. I have become quite the organic eating, vegetable-chopping chef around here. I hope to participate in the Knoxville Covenant Health 5 K coming up late March. We are planning family trips again...looking ahead to the future while still enjoying the moment. Despite the fact that I was diagnosed with cancer and Randy with diabetes this year, I actually have aspirations that I will be "better than I was before....better, stronger, faster."  When all this is said and done, maybe I will be healthier.  I may be only 5 feet 1 inches tall but every bit of me cries out, "Look out Bionic woman! Here I come!" Lots of love to all,


Friday, January 15, 2010

My 1st Cancerversary

Saturday January 16th is my first cancerversary. It will be a year ago from the day when I was officially diagnosed with breast cancer.

A doctor actually looked me in the eye on January 7th of last year and told me I had it, but I didn't officially get diagnosed until the test results came back on the 16th.

January of last year was truly the most awful month in my life. Ironically, it was also the most miraculous month of my life. It was when things were the worst that I felt God's love and presence the most.

I have a friend whose house burned down a few weeks ago, two days after Christmas. She said whenever she gets frightened or worried about where they are going to live day to day and how they are going to get by she can immediately feel a presence intervene on her behalf. She described it as an invisible hand that comes between her and those dark emotions and holds them back just when she needs it. I thought that was such a beautiful description.
January 16 will always be my cancerversary. I would like to mark it by doing something special and meaningful every year.  A few weeks ago I read a story in the newspaper about a woman whose son died long ago. On the anniversary of his death, she goes and visits his favorite park. She's been doing it for 30+ years. I would like my cancerversary to be like that.

Hope the new year is being as good a blessing to you as it is to me. Lots of love,


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wanting Justice in a Fallen World

Last night I couldn't sleep because I was so mad.

We have two toy collies. They are confined to the yard by a pet fence. Monday morning a big German Shepherd wandered onto our property and attacked our 11 pound male named Stradivarius. (Our little dog with the big heart and the big name). Strad is the sweetest dog. He always lets our female Mandy eat first. When the girls were little they used to give him rides in a little doll stroller.

Around 8 a.m. we heard a commotion. When we opened the door Strad bolted inside, bleeding profusely. I saw the other dog leaving our property and heading down the street. He had ripped a hole in Strad's side. As you can imagine this was quite a traumatic sight for Laura and Leslie. I was pretty sure though it was not life-threatening, so I reassured my girls and we rushed Strad to the vet. She confirmed he was the victim of a dog attack. He was kept at the vet's office all day while she gave him anesthesia, performed surgery, implanted a drain and stitched him up.

When we got home around 10 a.m. the dog was still wandering the neighborhood. I called my next door neighbor who also has dogs to warn him about it. I had a very clear description of the dog, including the width and color of his collar. It turned out my neighbor's son had seen that dog wandering around in our yard before dawn and he knew who it belonged to. It belonged to a relative of his who lives on a neighboring street. The dog had chased his sister in law and bitten a total of 3 people in the neighborhood recently. The owner had been ordered by the court to keep the dog on a leash or in a fenced in yard. He had basically boasted to my neighbor that he let the dog out at night anyway because "no one is outside after 10 p.m."

Strad stayed all day at the vet. Following anesthesia and surgery they stitched him up. Fortunately no vital organs were injured. He came home with a drain sticking out of his side and stitches with a scar over 4 inches long covering an one side of his body. He couldn't walk at all for 24 hours. We have thus far had to pay $350 and have at least two more follow up visits to remove the drain and the stitching. I anticipate we'll end up spending at least $500 total.

And the owner's reaction to the news when his relative called him and told him what had happened? He didn't care. In fact he got mad that my neighbor told us who the dog belonged to. I called the police and filled out a police report. The policeman visited the owner and warned him about keeping the dog restrained. Then he told me unless I had witnessed the attack there was nothing he could do. He said next time if the dog ventured onto our property we had the right to defend ourselves and shoot it. And that was the best advice he could give. No consequences for the owner who violated the court order. No restitution. That was it.

My kids are now afraid to go outside. Every time I open the front door I find myself looking anxiously around to make sure that dog isn't around. There are at least three toddlers in our neighborhood. I am concerned for their safety too. My kids are asking me if someone is going to punish that owner or if he is going to pay our vet bills. When I told them I didn't know they said, "We need to call Judge Judy."

Right now all I can tell them is that "what goes around comes around" and "you reap what you sow." It doesn't alleviate the anger but I know it is a true principle. I don't know how some people live with themselves sometimes. At least we can sleep well at night. Now that is a blessing. Lots of love,