(This post is a little longer, but since I haven’t posted a real entry in almost two months I decided not to edit it down…)

No one really prepares you for the aftermath of cancer.  People have plenty to say and all sorts of advice when it comes to treatment options, doctors, surgeons, diet, medications etc. They are quick to tell you remedies to make chemo more bearable or giving you tips like: “use a lint roller and roll your head to help remove your hair.”  (Yes, I did that!).  But no one ever told me: “The aftermath of cancer is heavy and you will have much to grieve.”  When it’s all over the advice sorta goes silent.

I survived cancer physically.  But I know myself well enough to know that I am a “stuffer”.  I tend to stuff my emotions rather than feel them.  So when all of the surviving was physically over I knew I needed to make sure that I was ‘feeling’ everything properly.  I decided to go back to my Christian counselor I had seen previously a few years back.  At the same time Mark and I discussed that if I am having a hard time processing the last year at 38, maybe our 10 year-old might need some help processing it as well.  So Hamilton has also started seeing a Christian play-therapist.

A few sessions in, Dr. Julie assessed that I did not suppress or deflect the emotions of the last year.  That she does feel that I truly felt everything.  She even said ‘I think you are emotionally and psychologically healthy and stable’.  Ha!  I think my family might disagree with this statement occasionally, but it was so good to hear.  After I told her how much I was being cared for and prayed over by all of you – my Team AJ supporters – she said she truly felt that I was carried through this past year and upheld by your prayers.  You supported me so well and for that I don’t know how to adequately express my gratitude.

However, through the sessions, I pinpointed and had to walk through some of the sadness of the last year.  I had to individually grieve specific things.  However simple or ‘easy’ they seemed.  Some were small…well smaller.  The loss of my hair.  The loss of time with my boys, especially Garrett.  The loss of my body.  The loss of our dog (not directly related to cancer, but working through the ‘why God?’ was part of that). And they got heavier. The loss of my youth (going through menopause 10 years before all my peers) and reproductive organs.  The option of having more biological children taken from me.  The loss of my mentor, Regina, just 4 months before my diagnosis, who being a breast cancer survivor seemed to be the perfect person in my life to walk through this journey with.  (which was another ‘why God?’ moment.)  And some of the grief was just feelings.  Let me explain.  The loss of my confidence.  The loss of what I looked like for 37 years of my life.  Everywhere I looked in my house I see pictures of myself that don’t look like me anymore.  I go somewhere and talk to someone and have to reintroduce myself because they don’t recognize me.  I go home to Texas and people I’ve known for years walk right past me.  My identity was lost.

All of this is not something that I have dealt with and is now over.  It is all what I am currently dealing with and it comes and goes.  Grief is for sure like the seasons – sometimes it is bare, cold, and bitter and sometimes it is bright, flourishing, and new.  It’s a cycle.  One blurs into the other.  I have days where I’m so thankful and accept the blessing of my new identity, my new look, the new me, and actually appreciate all that has transpired over the last year.  And then, like flipping a switch, I arise feeling sad and frustrated and have to turn some of the old family pics around on the shelf because it’s just too much for that day.  And just like the seasons, one is not bad and other one good – they each are new and different.  So instead of looking at these changes in my life as bad I’m choosing to look at them as new.  That was a game-changer for me!

I don’t know why I felt compelled to tell you about this part of the journey.  I guess just to let you know that the physical stuff is over.  The surgeries are done.  The rehab is complete.  Nothing but check-ups and follow-ups are in my future.  But, the post-cancer emotions are real.  I know I’m not the only person in your life that has been touched with cancer.  So ask them how they are doing in the post-cancer realm.  Not just how they are feeling, but how they are handling the aftermath.  Still love on them.  Know that some days, something completely random, might just be the thing that makes them emotional.  And that same thing the next day may be the perfect thing that encourages them in the day ahead.

Life sure is funny.  It brings me to my knees daily.  But I know that all is well in the life that is tied and secured to the anchor of Christ.  My emotions may get rocky in the waves and wind.  The grief may rain down on certain days.  My vessel gets slapped around, but no matter what I know that I am safe, stable, and secure because I have faith in my anchor that is solid, trustworthy, and heavier than any of my woes (it will not slip or break down under whatever comes it’s way).

“Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.  This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.  It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.  Jesus has already gone in there for us.  He has become our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.”  Hebrews 6:18b-20 NLT

There is so much I could say about this verse, but I think I’ll just let it sit out there for you to read and meditate on and see what the Lord wants to show you.

Thanks for joining me on this journey and being a small part of it – or actually a large part of it –by carrying me through the past year.

And…may I ask…what are you tying your life to?  There is much in this life that can give us the feeling of security, that can make us feel solid and whole.  But I would suggest you look and see just how strong and trustworthy it is.  I encourage you to go through the process of moving your vessel to the one, true anchor!


The number one question I have received over the last year is actually an unfortunate one.  It usually starts with, “My friend”, or “My neighbor”, or “My father-in-law” has recently been diagnosed with XYZ cancer.  Then the questions come:  What were some of the things people gave you that were really helpful?  What can I do for him/her?  What can I give to aide with the effect of chemo?

As much as I love to help it’s strange.  It’s strange that I am now a ‘go-to’ person regarding cancer and chemo.  As much as I love to help it stinks.  It stinks that cancer is so rampant that it is effecting so many!

So I thought why not post something about it and then I would be able to point people to this post a lot easier than I could rewrite it each time.

First of all gifts for people diagnosed with cancer:  (These are things I found helped – remember this is my opinion and may not be a blessing to others)

  • House-cleaning:  My neighbors provided once a month house-cleaning for me for 8 months!  It was a huge blessing to my family.
  • Meals: I had a meal calendar that provided meals 3x a week for 8 months!  This was huge and allowed my family to eat a lot less fast food during this time.  Popular meal calendar websites that make this so easy are: &  If they don’t have a meal calendar or you live too far away to take a meal any restaurant gift card from Chick-fil-A to Chili’s to a steakhouse is very nice and helpful.
  • Yard Service:  If it’s during the season of high yard work providing even one month of yard care that mows the lawn and trims the bushes would be a huge help.
  • Carpool: Offer to help carpool children to and from school, PreK, and extra-curricular activities.
  • Snail Mail: Cards and packages were so uplifting to receive
  • Just Reach Out: If you can’t find a stamp just reach out.  Even a simple text message to say “I’m thinking about you today, how are you doing?” goes a long way!  All too often people think, “I don’t want to bother her” or “I’m sure she is sleeping” or “I know she has so many people taking care of her”.  Believe me: They want to be bothered.  Leave a message if they are sleeping.  They may not have as many people surrounding them as you think.

What about gifts if he/she is going through chemo?  I received two HUGE chemo baskets. (Here’s a picture of one of them) I actually brought one of them with me to each treatment.  You never know what you will want/need or how your body is going to respond to each treatment so it’s good to be prepared.  Here is what I would put in a chemo basket:

  • Bottles of Vitamin D, C, & E, Zinc, Biotin & Claritin (claritin actually helps with bone pain associated with chemo)
  • Bath petals/soap
  • Queasy drops/Peppermints
  • Hand sanitizer (multiple bottles for around the house – any visitors and family members need to be constantly washing their hands)
  • Pill Box (that has slots for 7 days morning and night)
  • Comfy PJs (or a gift card to Soma – they have the best ones and have great supportive camis and button down PJs for mastectomy patients)
  • Soft Blanket (it can get cold during chemo)
  • Mouth Wash (‘Prevention’ is a brand made specifically for chemo patients and helps with mouth sores)
  • Journal
  • Book: Chemo: Secrets to Thrive by: Roxanne Brown (can buy on Amazon – very short read, but lots of helpful info.)
  • Flavored bottles of water (chemo tastes like metal and flavored water is nice)
  • Water Bottle (preferably a glass one – I got a great one from Target) – drinking a lot of water during chemo helps it get out of your system faster and the side effects to not last as long.  (My cheer I would always say is, “Pee, Pee, Pee, Get This Chemo Out Of Me!”
  • Lemon Oil (I am a fan of DoTerra Essential Oils – I flavored my water with it and it’s a wonderful cleansing agent as well for your body)
  • Gripper Socks
  • Chemo Hats – the softer and more generic in color the better
  • Gift Card to Charming Charlie (or other jewelry/accessory stores) – when you lose your hair cute hats and long earrings become a girl’s best friend.
  • Zipper Pouch (think make-up bag) with the following ‘travel-sized’ essentials: chapstick, hand sanitizer, tissues, lotion, and tylenol
  • Gift Card to gas station (especially if they have to travel far for treatments)
  • Gift Cards to eat lunches and dinners (chemo can last hours and their infusion companion usually has to run out and pick up lunch and then you usually have to pick dinner up on your way home as well)
  • Adult coloring book and easy fiction reading (during chemo and the few days after you have a lot of down time resting where you don’t have much energy)

Obviously this is a lot of stuff and not all is necessary, but it is an extensive list that even one of these things would be a blessing to a chemo patient.

For the creative types:

  • A blessing ring: This was such a neat thing that I brought with me to all my treatments and still have hanging at my prayer desk. I’d read through the verses and pray for the people praying for me.  This is a picture of mine.
  • Personalized scripture bouquet: I was given this and have since given it to many others. Use the ‘find & replace’ feature in Word to replace the person’s name. Cut them out. Fold them up. Throw in a vase and tie a ribbon around it.  100ScripturePromisesDocument-Template
  • Fundraiser jewelry: Find a piece of jewelry you like on Etsy. Work with the creator and design something for the patient that means something to them. Take orders from their team of supporters and give the patient some of the proceeds. We did a cool pink leather wrap bracelet for a friend and they did a silver necklace for me.  Here’s a pic of the jewelry.

I hope this helps.  Feel free to leave a comment if there are other things you have given to friends that were appreciated or if you yourself are a survivor what you were given that blessed you during that time.


The Pink Affair

This past weekend we did something we haven’t done probably since our wedding: dress up and go to an event with a DJ and dancing.  Man it felt good and we had a ton of fun.

The event was called ‘The Pink Affair‘ and it was a Fundraising Gala supporting Turning Point.  Turning Point is where I went for all my physical therapy after my surgery and during all my cording pain.  It is a not-for-profit treatment facility just for breast cancer patients and was truly an amazing gift to me over this past year.

I wish I could have invited everyone (and flown in a lot of out-of-towners), but I chose to use it as a celebration honoring those friends that went over and beyond anything I could have asked for in how they loved, supported, and cared for me this past year.  We all got dressed up (and got to see our hubbies in suits), put on heels (oh my how my feet hurt!), met at our house for pictures (think prom), and drove to The Westin.

There was a live and silent auction (Two words: Puppy Party! – that’s an insider for those that were there) and then dinner and dancing.  It was a blast!!

I think it’s something I will want to go to for years to come to support this amazing organization that I would have survived without, but wouldn’t have been able to thrive without.  (Save the date next year: 3/24/18 – who’s coming with me?)

Quick Health Update

I know it has been way too long since I have posted and I do have posts coming, I promise, but for now I wanted to just give you a quick health update.

In December I had a PET scan.  Last week I had a mammogram.  Yesterday I went to my 3-month oncology check-up where she gave me the results of my scans.  My PET scan looked good – she wants me to have a follow-up PET in May.  My mammogram was clean so I’m on the normal yearly mammogram schedule.  Bloodwork all looked fine as well.

So overall, everything looked good.  I see her again at the end of May.  Her words were, “Just keep on keeping on.”  So…that’s what I’m gonna do.

Like I said – this is going to be really short.  I promise to write more soon.  Thanks for your continued love, prayers, and support.


So it’s started.  The ‘last year on this day’ events.

February 2 – Annual OB appointment where during my exam he found the lump and ordered a mammogram & sonogram.  I heard “I’m sure it’s nothing – probably just a cyst.”

February 4 – Mammogram and Sonogram on lump.  The doctor said it look very inconclusive and that she was ordering a biopsy.

February 5-7 – Mark and I went to a marriage retreat at Winshape Retreat Center.  It was a sweet time to be together before what would transpire the following week.

February 8 – Biopsy on lump.

February 10 – Received phone call from my OB that biopsy did come back as carcinoma.  Immediately called Breast Care Specialists and was able to get in at 7:30 Friday morning.

February 12 – Appointment with my surgeon at Breast Care Specialist – left with surgery plan and surgery date of March 24.  Later that day our house went under contract.

And then the craziness really began.  I think back about how I was feeling.  The unsureness (is that a word?) of everything.  I had 6 different appointments and/or procedures over the next 2 weeks: MRI, another biopsy, PET scan, multiple consult appointments, & genetic testing.  This didn’t include the house inspections and things that had to be done with the move.  As well as our dog was also diagnosed with cancer and she had surgery.  All within those 2 weeks.

And with each appointment came a wait.  The whole thing was a hurry up and wait scenario.  Hurry up and get a MRI done so we can see if it has spread.  Wait 3 days to get the results.  It looks like it is in the lymph nodes.  Hurry up and get a PET scan.  Wait 3 days to get the results.  Hurry up and get genetic testing.  Wait 3 weeks to get the results.  Hurry up and pack boxes.  Wait a month for closing on house.  Etc. etc.  All along you are just walking in a daze becoming an expert in a subject you once knew nothing about learning as you go.  Honestly, not really grasping the severity of the situation.  Throw on top of all of this normal life of raising three boys and the endless phone calls of talking to doctors and nurses and the insurance company and keeping my friends and family informed after each appointment.  My phone would be low on battery constantly.

A mentor of Mark’s told him, “You will find yourself living out Scripture that you only previously intellectually understood.”  During this time that I just described to you above Mark and I felt supported by our friends and family, but we also felt supported by the strong foundation that we stood upon.

Jesus spoke as recorded in Luke chapter 6 verses 46-49:

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?  As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like.  They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock.  When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.  But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation (Matthew 7:26 says “built his house on sand”).  The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”

Mark and I were smack dab in the middle of a flood, but our foundation was on THE rock.  We refused to be shaken, could not be shaken, because our house was well built.  We had dug down deep (and had to continue to dig deep throughout 2016) putting into practice his words, not just hearing them.  It was hard.  It is hard.  But man is it better than complete destruction.

I would think about the words to this familiar hymn a lot:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

We had hope.  Still have hope.  No matter what the outcome.  Hope comes from The Rock!

Are you digging deep to build a strong foundation?  Where are you standing on sinking/shifting sand that you need to start building your trust and hope on Him, the solid rock?

Medical Update

I wanted to update you on two things:

  • My foot:  I saw the podiatrist Monday afternoon.  It is healing, but I have to wear the boot for three more weeks.  Starting December 5 I can wear a shoe for 1 hour and then the boot the rest of the day.  If all feels well I can add 1 hour a day in a shoe until I build up to 8 hours.  If I have pain, discomfort, or swelling during this build-up process I am supposed to make an appointment where he will order me to have an MRI to make sure surgery is not needed.  Please pray against the need for surgery and that the Great Physician himself will heal me.  I am annoyed with the boot.  I’m just tired of having limitations at all.  I just want to be done.  I thought I would be done with recoveries, etc. by Thanksgiving, but it looks like I might just have to wait until 2017.  Bring on 2017!!
  • Oncology Follow-up:  I had my first 3-month post-chemo check-up with Dr. Zelnak, my oncologist.  They took a lot of blood work and I got those results back today.  They said all looks well and that all my levels look normal.  She has ordered for me to get a PET scan in December as a new base-line.  I will have my first post-cancer mammogram in February and then see her again after those results come in. (For those of you wondering – the mammogram is on my left side – I only had a right-side mastectomy).  At that time it will be a year since this all started – crazy!

Thank you for your continued prayers and support.  You have been so encouraging to me!  I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday this next week!

Results and Release

Thank you so much for your continued prayers and asking how I am doing.  I wanted to update you on two things.

First, I officially got discharged from physical therapy.  My cording issues are gone which is a huge praise.  I can go in for follow-ups as I feel that it is needed.  There is always a chance that cording can come back, but I don’t feel any of it currently.  I have mentioned before my physical therapy practice is called Turning Point and solely serves breast cancer patients.  They are a non-profit organization and so their love, support, and service to their patients is just more personal and real.  My sweet therapists (Grayson and Anita) have become friends and are very dear to me now.  If you are local to Atlanta, they are having a fantastic fund-raiser event called The Pink Affair (<– Click for details) in March.  We will be attending and would love to have you at our table.  I also was asked to write a patient perspective article for their monthly newsletter.  You can read it by clicking here.

Second, I got a call last Friday from Dr. Howard’s nurse (my GYN who did my latest surgery).  I assumed since it was a week after the surgery she was calling as a courtesy to check in on me.  Nope.  This is what she said, “I wanted to let you know that everything came back benign and negative.”  Insert chin drop and confusion here.  I had no idea what she was talking about.  I inquired.  She responded, “Well, since you are a breast cancer patient we check for traces of ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, cancer of the uterus, and even traces of carcinoma (my breast cancer).”  Ok, well that’s good to know.  I had no idea anything was even being tested.  I’m sorta glad I wasn’t anxiously awaiting results all week.  I guess this is something I should have assumed or known, but nothing was ever mentioned to me.  I thanked her.  Hung up the phone and sat down sorta in a stunned shock.  These are the things that still make me swallow hard.  It is still surreal that I am a cancer patient.  That my answer to the question, “Have you had any changes in your medical history in the last year?” is, “Yes, fought breast cancer this year.”  Or when the form asks, “Have you ever been diagnosed with cancer?” that I now check “Yes”.  It’s all a part of the new normal that 2016 has brought to our family.

Lastly, I have lots of follow-up appointments over the next two weeks.  Today, I had my annual dermatology check (they removed one small mole).  If you do not go to the dermatologist at least every 18 months (or have never gone) I would highly recommend it be something you schedule!  Tomorrow morning I have my 3-month check-up with my plastic surgeon from my reconstruction surgery.  Then in a couple weeks I have my 3-month check-up with my oncologist, my post-op appointment with Dr. Howard from this last surgery, and my follow-up with the podiatrist regarding my foot and if I get the boot off.  (I am able to walk on it now without pain, but too much movement or pressure is still painful).

I will let you know how the appointments go and if there is anything interesting that come from them.  I’m praying for them to be as boring and routine as possible!

This was a lot of boring news, so I’ll end with fun Halloween pictures of the fam.  Garrett refused to put his costume on so he wore Skeleton PJs.  Hamilton was Commander Cody and Luke was Captain Rex.  I have no idea who those characters are or which Star Wars episode they are in, but they both loved their costumes.  I hope you had a fun Halloween weekend whether you dressed up, trick-or-treated, passed out candy, or just stayed home and turned the front porch light off.  The weather here was beautiful (I wore shorts) and was an etched memory for our family.

Until next time…


And just to show my boys faces…