A New Path For Me….

11 Aug

I have been posting things for the past few months about a heart tugging…and I am feeling that God is leading me down a somewhat new path. I have ironed out 99% of the details so I feel I can share my thoughts and dreams now.

On our vacation in Jamaica in 2015 I had some breast implant issues due to the pressure of the airplane.  I was in touch with Dr Appel from Jamaica and was checked by a doctor in Jamaica each day after being put on an antibiotic. I was so thankful to have a plastic surgeon that shares his cell phone with his patients! I started asking some of my Jamaican friends at the resort some breast cancer questions such as; how women in Jamaica get mammograms, what happens when they find a lump, what about radiation and chemotherapy? How long does it take to get results of a biopsy? How does that work and who pays for those treatments? What happens to marriages and relationships post cancer and mastectomy? Needless to say their answers broke my heart like nothing I had felt before.

Later in 2016 a friend of mine asked me if I could do anything in breast cancer community, with $10,000, what would it be. Without thinking my answer was “to help women in Jamaica.” Terri wrote an amazing essay and submitted it into a Pursue Your Passion contest at her company RSM. They gave away 9 $10,000 awards and her essay won one award! We couldn’t believe it. YIKES! We were then faced with trying to do this work in another country without knowing what we were doing. Well, as you guys know, if you follow where God leads you –the doors open. We found ourselves in Jamaica in June 2016 providing 200 free mammograms to women, needed ultrasounds, and direct rides to the hospital for an immediate appointment with a doctor. Now for Jamaica, the immediate doctor appointment is the most amazing part of the story. We also paid for a luncheon for 20 survivors who help other women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. Kind of like the Reach to Recovery teams in the US. We wanted these survivors to know they were appreciated and loved – all the way from America.

My heart was full leaving Jamaica in June 2016 – but I knew what we provided was a drop in the ocean of need. Beginning in 2017 I kept having these “what if” moments. I call them knocks on my forehead from God. Every time I had a thought my immediate rebound thought was “I cannot do that” or “how in the world would THAT work?” …finally I wrote a list of what I needed to do and what would have to come together and the external “what if” questions began. I asked the Jamaica Cancer Society – “what if”…. I asked Novlene Williams Mills “what if”…I searched my heart and soul and prayed and listened. I knew I would have to get help pulling this off each year – but this is what my heart continued to push for. I was having lunch with one of my beautiful survivor friends in March. She told me that she always wanted to do something to give back in the breast cancer community – but not directly with patients – she wanted to be on the early detection side. Sitting there at lunch that day my mind and heart clicked when I heard what she was saying and I knew that I needed to confide in her what my mind had been chewing on. I am known for introducing and connecting survivors with each other, with volunteer opportunities, volunteer positions, and resources, but at that moment my mind flew to what I was planning…..Jamaica. Early detection in Jamaica. I told her what I was thinking and how I was trying to work through the details and without any doubt she looked at me and told me she was IN. I felt an immediate relief because I then knew I was completely on the right track and not trying to do something because it made me feel good or because I THOUGHT it was right. Signs like this made me know I was on the right track and my motive was in the right place.

So the planning has begun and the pieces have fallen into place…most of them anyway. We are working on the very last piece over the next few weeks, but we are moving forward.

So my news is that we will be going to Jamaica in 2018 and providing 100 mammograms and needed ultrasounds to put another drop into the ocean of need. I am so excited and my heart knows that this is what I am supposed to be doing for outreach outside of my physical area I live in. I will continue to do what I do here in Charlotte and this will be my annual work in Jamaica. I will be meeting with the Jamaica Cancer Society soon and then we can move forward and get our plans worked out. I think they are very excited…..and I know you notice a theme – I do everything I do for the American Cancer Society who is a global partner of the Jamaica Cancer Society. These are organizations you can believe in.

I am very humbled to announce that Novlene Williams Mills (the Jamaican Olympic runner who happens to be a breast cancer survivor) will partner with us again. You know what her answer was to me? “Yes, anything you need. I am in!” How blessed am I that a famous Olympiad would answer a heart call from a regular old girl like me – twice!?!

More details will be coming as our plans unfold and of course, I will blog the best I can from Jamaica next summer. In 2016 it was hard to do due to wifi issues and how long it takes me to write. But I will do my best!

But, for now…my heart is open and I feel like this is where I am meant to be…maybe everything that has happened to me up until this point has brought me here, to this path, to help these precious women, to help with early detection, and as I do this – maybe it will make some of you a bit more aware of your own breast health and getting your mammograms. If I can go to Jamaica for mammograms – you can certainly go down the street for yours.

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The Test Results Are In!

10 Jul

After my blog post about finding two lumps and having a biopsy done with a marker placed, I was overwhelmed (and very grateful) for all of the messages, texts, calls, emails and mainly prayers, that I received.

I am happy to say that my news is great news. The lumps are cysts surrounded by necrosis….NO CANCER. Never have I been so happy to hear I have dead cells, or flesh, rotting in my body! To say that I am relieved is an understatement.

That blog post got over 2,000 views in the first two days and the views were from, in order: The US, The UK, JAMAICA, The Netherlands, Italy, Canada, Ireland, Israel, Australia and Germany. It’s crazy to think that these blogs travel so far and so fast….BUT one of the best parts about my blog post is news I heard today. One of my friends, a close one, who has had a double mastectomy, was moved by my blog post. So moved that she did a self exam and found something. She already has an appointment with her doctor to have her “something” checked out. So, once again, have you had your mammogram? Do you need one? Is it that time? Are you doing self exams and do you know your breasts? Yes, I am talking to YOU. Please, please, please, take this seriously…and if I went through all of that, and my friend has an issue, and my blog post encouraged her to do a self exam – then every second was worth it. Every. Single. Second.

Thank you for the prayers and all of the love – I couldn’t ask for better traveling companions. You all stand by me, pray for me, call and hold me up every step of the way and I am humbled and grateful. More than I could ever put into words.

Thank you so much!

The Coolest Thing Happened

2 Jul

The night of my last blog post I got a text from our friends that we met in Jamiaca last summer. They are the ones who got engaged in front of us – and I was carrying her engagement ring that evening and didn’t even know it. Remember those lovely people from SC? We went to their wedding a few weeks ago and I have to say that God certainly blessed us with some amazing friends last summer in Jamaica. So back to the text. Pat was texting me about my blog post and asked if we needed some smiley faced visitors this weekend. I told her that we had tickets to see Edwin McCain at Isle of Palms near Charleston for Saturdaty night and we would be staying overnight there and coming home Sunday. I jokingly said you could come to Charleston with us and see Edwin too – no pressure. Hahaha. A moment went by and she said they were going to Charleston. In my poor broken chemo brain I thought to myself ‘ oh my gosh, she forgot she was going to Charleston and maybe we can see them while they are there’. Then we texted about our hotel and boom the next thing I knew they had tickets to see Edwin also. It took me a moment to realize they were going to Charleston to be WITH us. Who does this? What amazing friends! We texted all morning Saturday during our travels and ended up meeting for lunch with perfect timing. We had a great lunch , walked around Charleston, had drinks on a rooftoop bar with an amazing view, went and checked in, got ready, had dinner, saw Edwin and his full band, went to sleep LATE, got up, had coffee, went for a fabulous seafood lunch on the water, walked and shoppped and then Kev and  I came home. Phew. It was a whirlwind day and a half – and I am still in shock that these two would drop their plans and their lives to meet us in Charleston to make memories and support us. I absolutely know, without a doubt, God placed these two in our lives last summer for the long haul. Tammy and Gary too.  There are six of us. Tammy and Gary just happened to have Tom Petty tickets in Philly and they weren’t ditching those to come to Charleston. (I am soooooo just rattling your bird cage Tammy! We love you guys and missed you so much). Friends for the long haul. Friends no matter what. Friends for the good times and the hard times. We all have both – so get your friends ready because regular  old life is a roller coaster and you will need them beside you. I have been blessed with so many friends. You all just have no idea. And to say I am thankful is an understatement. And remember too – you get to be one of those friends to other people too. 

So, other than a fast two days laughing, making memories, sharing rum punch drinks, listening to great music, and sweating our butts off in Charleston- I am good. I am holding firm that this biopsy is going to come back clear and my heart has been filled with many texts, FB messages, blog messages, voice mails, prayers, phone calls, and love. You really do see how much you are loved when the potential crap may hit the potential fan. 

So Pat and Glen – thank you for taking the time and making the effort – to show us some amazing friendship and love the last two days. You have left forever memories in my heart and soul forever. And I do mean forever.

 

Hate to announce this in a blog post. But….

30 Jun

Hi friends. I am only posting this because I want you all to stay diligent. Survivor or not – stay diligent with knowing your breasts. 

The other night I was in bed watching tv and resting my back. Not sure why but my hand went up to the area between my beast and my lymph nodes. And I felt something. I felt around some more and I felt something else. My heart and stomach sank. But wait – maybe that feels like that on the other implant area too. Poke poke. Prod prod. Nothing. Back to the other side. Yep. Two lumps.  Needless to say I went on Laura Overload and got my appointments made pronto. Once  you have a mastectomy you cannot get mammograms anymore so I was scheduled for an ultrasound today. I was really nervous this morning. A lot of memories came flooding back and as I was leaving the house this morning and driving I couldn’t help but know that the next time I entered this house – I could be a whole different person. Emotionally anyway. Maybe. Maybe not. I went to the Novant Breast Center in Ballantyne for my appointment. They were so nice there. The tech doing my umtraosund found the first lump. Measured it. Clicked pictures and worked and worked to find the second one. She could feel it with her fingers but couldn’t find it easily with the machine. I kept thinking about how triple negative breast cancer hides. I silently prayed for the doctor to see whatever he needed to see and for God to reveal everything. The tech left the room to get the doctor. He comes in – what a super nice man. He says your lump is definitely a cyst. It is clear. Has round edges. No worries. It’s a cyst. Possible necrosis. But please show me where the other lump is. So I showed him. He felt it and got that machine moving. He had the tech moving my arm for me so my muscles wouldn’t be working and then he saw it. He took photos. Did all kinds of maneuvering with that machine and went into the regular stuff. I cannot get a good enough view. It seems to be imbedded in tissues that have necrosis but I just don’t feel comfortable not testing this. So…..can we do a biopsy? Today? Gulp. My thoughts went back to my biopsy at Charlotte Radiology 6 years ago. Sure. I say. Better to be safe than sorry.  He goes into the possibilities of rupturing my implant. Infection. Blah blah blah. Then he tells me they are placing  a marker. And how he hopes that won’t make me uncomfortable because it’s close to the chest wall and there is little flesh there. Wait – a marker? A tumor marker? Another BIG Gulp. Ok!  Let’s do this.

Kevin comes in from the waiting room and meets the doc and asks questions. I am still in shock. An ultrasound and boom – a biopsy right then. Last time I had to wait TWO WEEKS for my biopsy. That was torture. This is BAM –  get it done. 

So thats my news. This has been a busy week – found two lumps. Had one verified it’s a cyst and one biopsied. I am on ice. Resting. No lifting. No pool.  No beach. Not a lot of anything for 5 days. The good news is that since I don’t have feeling in my breasts and area surrounding, the ice packs don’t bother me. Not the test results I envisioned and hoped for today but so thankful Novant can do a biopsy on the same day they think you need one. Thankful for my boss who is super understanding and super supportive through all of my health drama. Thankful for my friends who right now have their heartbeats going 150 mph and who I know who’ll keep me lifted through this weekend and part of next week until we get the results of this biopsy. Please keep my kids and Kev in your thoughts and prayers because you all know this is hard on everyone. Not just the survivor. 

Be diligent with your health my friends. For my survivor peeps – keep an eye on your breasts whether they are homemade, handmade, made from cloth or gel, fat or whether they are already gone. Keep your hands aware of what they feel like and what’s normal and what’s new. My little sacs (that’s for you Nancy H) are tiny.  I think they said 4 and 5 mm. Super tiny. So If the tests comes back not so great – at least it’s early. Super duper early.  And that in itself is a blessing. I personally am voting for two cysts and no visits from Mr Lumpcake. 

Have a wonderful and safe July 4 weekend. And I will take any prayers you all can lift.  

Courage and Strength

29 May

My post today is about courage, strength, and faith. Not for the men and women serving in the military – although it could be. Not for my friends battling cancer – although it could be. Not for my friends who wear a blue uniform to work every day – although it could be. Not for my friends dealing with loss – although it could be. This post is about loss – but it’s also about strength, faith, and the never-ending goodness of our God. This was on my daughter’s FB this morning and it mirrors what a lot of my younger friends deal with while going through chemotherapy and after. They say you might not be able to have children – but you might! I have seen girls who have! So…this is for you and for all of the girls who deal with miscarriages and infertility. There is hope. There is good that comes out of darkness. There is a silver lining to the storm.

Morgan’s words:<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0; URL=/?_fb_noscript=1" /

4 years ago we felt like it was time to start a family. We found out we were pregnant. We gathered our families for a surprise dinner. A week later I developed a subchorionic hemorrhage. God took our baby to heaven. The doctor gave me 2 choices to avoid infection from the hemorrhage: a D&C or Misoprostol to spur on labor. I picked the pills. Just 5 minutes after we were told that our baby was gone, we walked out of the office and took the elevator to the second floor to visit a friend who had just given birth to a healthy baby. I ended up in the ER from the Misoprostol. That weekend and the next 8 months were the most painful times I have ever experienced.

Exactly 365 days later. We went to the same doctor for our anatomy scan with our second pregnancy. The doctor confirmed that our healthy baby was a girl, which solidified the name we had chosen: Haley Grace.

Tonight I went into Haley’s room when she was sleeping, picked her up out of her bed, and rocked with her. I prayed for her feet, that she will always walk in God’s will. I prayed for her heart, that she will develop compassion for people and a deep desire to chase after the Lord. I prayed for her brain, that she will yearn to learn more about the God who created her. I prayed for her eyes, that God will protect her from the worldly temptations that surround us every day. I also prayed for us, that we will be patient with her and that she will see Jesus in us.

The end of May will always be a difficult time for me. I am reminded of my very dark depression following the loss of our first baby. I am also reminded of God’s faithfulness to answer prayers that align with His will. God creates the best beauty from the most terrible ashes and refines our hearts in the process. For all of you dealing with miscarriages or infertility, there is a beautiful light at the end of the tunnel. The God that created you and knows your heart is carrying you through.

Words cannot tell you what it was like to watch my girl struggle with this miscarriage and the months that followed. But God is in the business of healing broken hearts and fulfilling His promises. If you are a blog reader of mine I posted a few blog posts during that time – you can search back to May 2013 and read them…but seeing her words today brought to the surface again the strength and courage Morgan (and Mike) had during that time. If you are facing these issues – there is hope!

 

The Mother’s Day Reveal

14 May

For those of you who do not understand this post, please go back and read the post from yesterday.

In the past few years the Reverse Mother’s Day surprises have been – staying overnight in the mountains and taking a sunrise trip over the Blue Ridge Mountains in a hot air balloon. Going into the Wind Tunnel and having a big Mexican lunch (after the wind tunnel), taking a helicopter ride over and around the City of Charlotte – also with a big lunch, the Nascar Driving Experience – everyone drove their own car except me, I did the ride along…this also included a big lunch! Last year we were supposed to get tattoos but my kids could not agree on whether they wanted to get one, have theirs touched up, watch me get mine….we went back and forth and back and forth until I finally gave up. When they are ready to get tattoos again, they have a prepaid voucher to do so. And that’s the day I will get a pink ribbon on my ankle to match Morgans….

So this year we are going to spend the night at the beach….we are going to get there early enough for a fresh seafood feast- Kyle and I LOVE crab legs, and then we are getting to get up the next morning and take a 4-5 hour sail on a chartered 43 foot sailing yacht! I am so excited!!

Morgan and Kyle you can help sail the boat as little or as much as you want to. You can also just rest and relax and enjoy the views as we depart the marina and head out of the Cape Fear River Inlet through the Western Bar Channel out to the Atlantic Ocean. Depending on winds we will either sail along the coast of Oak Island. Along the way we will have beautiful views of Caswell Beach and Oak Island Beach as well as the open Atlantic Ocean. This trip will head out into the Atlantic and you will see the water change colors and possibly encounter some wildlife like dolphins!

I am excited to be back on the water with both of you and I am excited to spend this time with you guys. Happy Happy Reverse Mother’s Day….I hope you enjoy your surprise. Love you!

Woot – cannot wait!

Another Reverse Mother’s Day – For My Kids

13 May

Please read this post so you will understand my post tomorrow. This is a re-post from a few years ago explaining our Reverse Mother’s Day…our Backwards Mother’s Day…our Mother’s Day For My Kids:

THIS IS FROM MAY 2012 – one year post cancer: For the past few days I have been wondering how to write this post without sounding like a bragging, conceited, arrogant Mother. But, here goes. My children are absolutely the best thing I have done in my life – hands down. They have both grown up to be loving, caring, responsible, God-loving, hard-working, happy people. Ending up with two kids like this was not my doing, this was only possible with the help of God and the many people who supported me, and loved me, through my single-Mom days. Those days were long, they were busy, and they were hard; but they were the best days of my life. Life was so different back then, just the three of us, living on a limited income and crazy schedules that included youth groups, Bible studies, competitive cheering, soccer, baseball, and basketball. Not to mention their school and my full-time job that included a commute of at least two hours a day. I look back now and wonder how in the world I did all of that, by myself. Those were crazy days. I think the best thing I ever did for my kids was getting them involved in a church that they loved and this included the kids that surrounded them who were busy lifting them up instead of pulling them down. We didn’t have trouble with the police, drugs in the house, or drama between my kids and “boyfriends or girlfriends” during the years my kids were growing up. I was very fortunate because my kids always gravitated toward other great kids and I know this helped keep our lives on track and our drama level low.

Mother’s Day last year was a hard and sad day. I missed my Mom terribly. I even looked like my Mom (bald and gray), I was in terrible pain from the chemo, and I felt like a bag of yuck. Last year I promised my children that this was the last year for “bad” Mother’s Day days. We didn’t really celebrate Mother’s Day while they were growing up because I was still missing my own Mom terribly and now I realize that I took that celebration from my children, and myself. Last year I realized this had to stop. I want to celebrate being a Mom and I want to celebrate having the best two kids God lent me to raise for Him. I want to celebrate all of the moments in life that I have been blessed with, post cancer. I want to enjoy every moment that I am fortunate enough to have, not just Mother’s Day.

With all of that being said, I look back over my years as a single parent and some of the best memories, of just the three of us, involved doing something new and fun; swimming with sting rays in the Cayman Islands, Kyle whipping people’s butts in ping-pong on a cruise ship, having Mo’s hair braided in the Bahamas, all three of us having fabulous moments in Disney World in 2000 and 2003, snorkeling in the Caribbean, or just playing at the shore in North Myrtle Beach. A few months ago I realized how hard it would be to figure out something new and fun but this adventure also had to represent a new way to celebrate Mother’s Day, sort of like “a new day” mentality. In 2011 we saw that the three of us truly are fighters, and survivors, wound tightly to each other by memories of some pretty darn hard years of living life, crazy busy, and alone. In 2011 I also saw courage in the eyes of my children as they watched me during the lowest point in my life. There were days that I didn’t think I could get out of bed one more time, have anymore treatments, or have one more surgery. But there they were – cheering me on. Brave. Solid. Loving. My reason to fight.

Morgan and Kyle, you guys are my heart and soul and I could not be more proud of the people you have grown up to be; who you are, what you stand for, what you do for other people, and how you love me. I cannot wait to celebrate this years Reverse Mother’s Day with you. because I look forward to spending time with the two most special people God lent me to call “my own”. I hope you are both happy with your surprise!! I love you both the mostest – Happy Mother’s Day – your surprise will be announced tomorrow.

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