In-Loves

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These precious people are watching our munchkins this week.  Our boys call them Mimi and Papa J.  They are my in-laws, but Joan and I like to use the term “in-loves” instead.  In a previous entry I posted about my own parents and what a support and lifeline they have been during these past 8 months.  Mark’s parents, too, have been a huge help to us.  They are local to us so they were able to help during the immediate time from my diagnosis in February until my surgery in March.  Joan dropped and canceled a lot to babysit to allow me to go to doctor’s appointments (and still does).  Mark and his dad own a company together and his dad was so gracious and understanding with all the time off Mark took this year so I could have my husband by my side during the thick of it all.

I pray for my boys wives, but I also pray they are as lucky as I am with the ‘in-loves’ they marry into.  I know without the prayers, love, support, and care the Jansens have shown I would not have gotten through this year.

Reentry

I realize that there has been quite the lack of posts lately and I apologize for those of you wondering how I’m doing and feeling and what the latest is with my health.

After seven months of being provided at least three meals a week, my meal calendar stopped.  I can’t thank you enough for providing food for my family during this time.  It prevented them from going hungry and kept us out of Chick-fil-A every night.  It truly was amazing how you literally were the hands of Jesus by you preparing dinners for us.

So it was a bit of a perfect storm.  The same week the meals ended (which I asked for them to) was the same week we got Garrett back from Texas, the same week Garrett started school (he’s going two days a week to preschool), and the same week that CBS started back.  (I know I’ve mentioned CBS many times on here.  I don’t know if I have mentioned that I’m the Class Coordinator which means the start up process is one of the busiest times for me.)  I also thought it would be a good time to ween Garrett from his paci, start back Hamilton’s piano lessons, start Luke’s first season of TBall, and plan two birthday parties.  (Ever have one of those moments where you could pause life, hit yourself on the head, and say “What was I thinking?”).

I think I was so excited for life to be ‘normal’ again I jumped in on the deep end of the pool rather than slowly reentering on the zero-entry end.  Whew!  Today is the first day I have felt like I could take a deep breath and just float.  Thus, the reason why you are able to read a post from me.

I received my last ovary-suppression shot Tuesday.  I won’t have another one since I’m getting my ovaries out at the end of October.  I’m still going to physical therapy once a week.  My cording has come back with a vengeance – much worse than it was the first time.  They said it would take time for it to completely go away – so for now I continue with PT and my at-home exercises.  They also gave me a compression sleeve and glove to wear to try to release some of the tightness. Please pray the cording will release!

We are celebrating Luke’s 5th birthday this weekend.  Next week is Fall Break for my boys so we will be taking it easy.  We have family pictures scheduled and then Mark and I leave for our ‘Cancer Free Celebration’ trip a week from today!  I can’t believe it is finally here.  Mark surprised me and booked this trip soon after my diagnosis (8 months ago – amazing it’s been that long).  He would send me pictures periodically as encouragement and something to look forward to once all of this was over and behind us.  I hate I still have a surgery after we get back, but there is still much to celebrate!  Much to look back over and ponder on how far we have come in this journey.

I will make sure to post some pictures upon our return.  For now, I appreciate you reading and keeping up with me.  I am so blown away by your consistent care and concern.

Sincerely,

AJ

P.S.  I’ve been hat-free for a few weeks now.  It’s much darker than I thought it would be.  Here is a picture of Mark and me on our way to his 20th high school reunion last weekend.

I’ve Got My Baby Back…

…and all is right in our world again.

Here is the video of our reunion.


Thank you Jenny for bringing him back to us.  We loved having you with us – it’s been a long time since the two of us have had a slumber party.  Jenny and I have been pretty much inseparable for 21 years (crazy it’s been that long!) – she is a dear, special friend.


I also wanted to update you that my surgery has been scheduled for the afternoon of October 21.  I will have my ovaries taken out which will eliminate the need for the monthly shot.  I am okay and at peace with this decision and think it will be best long-term.

I am looking forward to starting back physical therapy tomorrow.  I am so thankful for Turning Point and absolutely love my therapists there.

I hope y’all enjoy your Labor Day weekend.  We will be celebrating Mark’s birthday.  Garrett’s birthday is also this weekend, but since he’s been gone the last 3 weeks we decided to celebrate him at the end of the month.  Didn’t want to miss his last weeks of being a toddler so we are pretending it’s not his birthday.  (Call me sentimental).

Love,

AJ

Tomorrow…

…Tomorrow.  I love ya. Tomorrow.  You’re only a day away.

Man, I loved that movie as a child.  I’m a sucker for all things Broadway, but Annie was my favorite movie as a child.  I would watch it, rewind it (gotta love VCR days), and watch it again.

Tomorrow, for us, is a day we have all been anticipating.  My sweet friend, Jenny Morgan, is bringing Garrett home.  Hamilton is asking if they can have some ‘just brother’ time tomorrow afternoon.  I’m thankful that (most of the time) my boys get along and that both he and Luke are legitimately excited to see Garrett and have

missed him tremendously.

Tomorrow, for me, begins the first day of our new normal.  I go to Dr. Mackay (my plastic surgeon) for my 3-week post-op.  He should release me for PT and to lift Garrett.  I go straight from his office to the airport.  Our reunion will put a bow on the end of my cancer recovery for me.  No more ‘not able’, ‘can’t’, ‘wish I could’.  No more watching someone else care for my child, having to refuse him.  It all goes back to as it should be – a mamma being a mamma.

I did get a phone call today that once you hear, “Ashley, it’s Dr. Zelnak”, stops you cold and puts a lump in your throat.  Dr. Zelnak is my oncologist.  She said my hormone levels are higher than she would like.  She wants my estrogen to be below 30 and I’m at 110.  She is changing my daily pill to something stronger, but basically it means that my ovaries are not fully suppressed.  I have a call into my OB/GYN, Dr. Howard, to inquire about getting my ovaries out permanently.  Dr. Zelnak is recommending it.  She insists it is an easy, out-patient, surgery with little recovery, but I’m waiting to hear from Dr. Howard.

On the eve of everything I was just talk

ing about, to hear the potential of another surgery and the possibility of more recovery that could remove me from my normal…well, I’m not going to think about it until I hear the facts.

In other news, Mark and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary yesterday.  We are trying something new this year with the boys: Awana.  They had their meeting last night (it’s $15 per child for the ENTIRE year – free weekly date nite or just sit in the car for 90 minutes silent or reading…ummm…yep, okay! Sold!  (Not to mention what they are learning while there is amazing!)).  Mark and I went to dinner to a fun local restaurant.  The last 6 months I got through still (somewhat) sain because of the man I’m married to.  There’s no one like Mark Jansen – he’s just one of the best you’ll ever meet.  He’s had to endure a lot – being the spouse of a cancer patient is no easy task.  Saying “yes” to that man, well – I’ve never regretted it.  He’s my best no-regrets decision I’ve ever made.

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Thank you for your continued prayers.  I will let you know once I hear more.

Love,

AJ

Welcome!

Welcome to the new site!  This website will be the place I post new updates concerning my health and life in general.  I’ve gone dark on social media for the next year and the helpinghands site has served it’s purpose regarding the care calendar, etc.  I felt it would be easier to move over to a site that does not require a user name to view thus making it easier to access and share.

If you were a member of the helpinghands site I have transferred your email to this site for you to receive email updates when I post.  You will get a confirmation email for you to confirm you want to continue receiving emails of my updates. (You can always reject the registration or unsubscribe if you wish).  If you were not a part of the original helpinghands site  you can put your email address in the ‘Follow blog via Email’ box at the top right corner of this page and click ‘Follow’.  You will then get an email with any update I post.

I have moved all of my previous posts since February to this site that you can access on the right – they are organized by month.  So I hope you will stick around on this journey with me – although chemo is over and I’m officially cancer free I know there is still much road untraveled.

I meet with my oncologist next week to get my second shot (the one that suppresses my ovaries to stop estrogen production) and have blood work done.  I also have my three week follow-up appointment with the plastic surgeon next Friday.  He will be able to tell me whether he thinks I need future surgeries as well as release me for physical therapy and normal activity (i.e. pick up Garrett).  Overall, I am feeling much better both physically and emotionally.

Speaking of Garrett he is doing great and having a wonderful time in Texas.  He even sent us a note in the mail.  We miss him much and we are all looking forward to him coming back next weekend and our days and lives regaining a little normalcy.

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My last post was pretty vulnerable and you were all so kind to write and respond with love and concern.  Your continued prayers are appreciated.

Love,

AJ

P.S.  With this new website you can still get in contact with me by responding to the email (that you will receive if you sign-up above) or you can comment at the very bottom of the page in the ‘Leave a Reply’ box.  I try to respond back to everyone that reaches out to me – I so love reading your feedback and comments.

It’s My Birthday…

…And I’ll cry if I want to, cry if I want to, cry if I want to.  You would cry to if it happened to you.

Are you humming this song from the 60s now?  I’m so thankful I had parents that played the oldies radio station growing up and I can have songs like this in my memory bank.  I need to play that station for my boys – I’m failing them in the history of good music.  (by the way the picture of my parents from the previous post was taken by none other than my almost 5 year old son Luke – we thought he did a pretty good job).

Ok – back to the crying during my birthday song.  (And yes I know the words are It’s My Party, but she does say in the verse “Oh what a birthday surprise” so I took liberty with the words for the sake of this post.)  I spent the last hours of last night and the first few hours of today crying.  Just could not dry it up people – the tears kept coming and the sweet birthday texts and facebook posts kept dinging on my phone.

Here’s the deal people the last 24 hours have been rough.  I told Mark last night I wish my birthday was next week, maybe I’ll be in a better place to celebrate.  But right now…ugh!  Just ugh!  It’s just a lot and it’s heavy.

The month of July was like a big ol’ torment.  I got the taste of my life being normal.  But now I’m back sleeping in my chair because it’s more comfortable than the bed.  It hurts to walk.  It hurts to sit up.  My bruises are purple and green.  The scars are big and messy.  (I thought I mentioned this, but maybe I didn’t, they used fat grafting on my sides so the bruises go around each of the sides of my waists in addition to my chest).  I never wanted plastic surgery.  Some people consider this a ‘bonus’ when it comes to breast cancer.  I don’t honestly.  I never would have gone to a plastic surgeon on my own.  I had to face time with my baby for my birthday – he even kissed the phone.  Oh my word the preciousness – and he’s so happy.  But that’s not normal people.  I have no hair and I’m just tired of it.  I’m tired of touching my bald head.  Yes it’s growing back, but I’m tired of having to match hats to outfits every day.  That’s not normal.  You are supposed to get dressed and fix your hair – not have to make your head match or coordinate with whatever you want to wear.  And as much as I wanted today to be about celebrating life, I just couldn’t get there.  I kept thinking about six months ago today.  I thought that this time, six months later, would feel better.  Would feel further.  And it just didn’t.

Didn’t – past tense.  Not doesn’t – present tense.

I decided to tell Satan to stick his pity party up his *** and that I was done with him stealing my joy.  And so I sat down and just started journaling, writing, crying like a baby and begging God to help me, to show up, to comfort me.  And here is what I wrote:

Lord I need your comfort and your help.  I need you to lift me up on wings of eagles right now.  So high out of this shadow; out of this pit.  I’m tired.  I’m tired of climbing when falling is just easier, but if I could climb onto your back fly out under the shadow of your wings instead.  Please Father.  Sweet Abba Father help me.

Isaiah 40:31 “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.  They will soar high on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  They will walk and not faint.” New Living Translation

 “But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired.” Amplified Version

Lord I needed this verse.  I needed it to refocus on the new life I have.  The new hair that is growing.  The new boobs that took place of the sick ones.  Celebrate new days as a survivor.  This being my first birthday after cancer.

Psalm 55:22 was my verse from the very beginning – still thinking of that Veggie Tales song.  “He will take care of you”.

Amplified Version “Cast your burden on the Lord [releasing the weight of it] and He will sustain you; He will never allow the [consistently] righteous to be moved (made to slip, fall, or fail).

1 Peter 5:7 “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” New Living Translation

Amplified “Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He care for you affectionately and care about you watchfully.”

Whew Lord.  Deep breath.  Hold my hand.  Help me take one step at a time.  I’m leaning on you Lord for support.

So there you have it.  Straight from my journal.  And I knew I had to share it with you.  I wanted his encouragement to reach out to you as well.  I feel lighter, not necessarily better.  All of those things are still my reality, but I’m not carrying them anymore.  He is.

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On another note I feel very strongly that the Lord is asking me to get off social media for a year.  One whole year…AAKK!  I will post occasionally on my Team AJ page, but my personal Facebook and Instagram page I will be going dark.  Birthday to Birthday.

I will continue posting updates on this public, easily accessible website since the care calendar time came to a close.  Please sign up to receive these updates to your inbox, I will slowly start migrating my health updates and posts to this site.  You can do this by clicking at the top right corner and putting your email in the blank under ‘Follow blog via email’ (if you are viewing this on your phone you have to scroll to the bottom).

Thank you for your continued prayers.

Love,

AJ

Recovering

Just wanted to let everyone know that I am doing well. I got my drain out Monday morning. I go tomorrow afternoon for a post-op appointment where Dr. Mackay will change my dressings and check my incisions and healing process.
Right now I am sore and pretty bruised. I’m hoping that Barbie is on the other side of this healing process ;).
I said good-bye to Mom, Dad, and Garrett today. They should be landing in Dallas about now. The first time Garrett was in Texas was over Mother’s Day and this time it’s over my birthday. I know it’s only three weeks, but the Mama tears are real and I will miss him and will miss being his caregiver. Appreciate your prayers all around that situation.
My parents have been wonderful these last 6 months. (Six months tomorrow that I got the call that changed my life). I know what it feels like to receive that call, but I don’t know what it feels like to have your child receive that call. And as much as this has been a journey for me and my family of five i know it has also been a journey for them. Their support and sacrifices have gotten us through this time. Thanks mom and dad – I’ll never be able to say thank you enough. I love you! Take care of my sweet G-man!
I’ll write again soon.
Love,
Me
P.S. Many of you may have joined this website more recently and not read all of my updates – you can always go back and read previous ones through the website. If you ever want to reach out to me you can just reply to this email.

Today…

Today, if I’m honest, I’m feeling pretty junky. I’m sitting in my chair in my room resting because I don’t have energy to do anything else. I’m achy. I doze in and out. It’s like the flu – but a lot worse.
BUT! You know what I just did? I watched church. It was so nice to just watch from my phone, in my chair, from the comfort of my own home no matter how uncomfortable I physically feel.
So why dont you watch too? If you aren’t attending somewhere already and you don’t know where to go look at the pic I posted. It has the web address and broadcast times (all times eastern) for the rest of the day. If you watch it reply to this email and let me know your thoughts.
But know this first…I love you!
Thanks for the continued prayers.
AJ