Morning snuggles

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There’s something about early morning. When the sun is still waking up and there is a chill in the air. The sky is lighting up with the promise of a new day and yet most of the world is silent. There is often a fresh morning dew and it truly feels like the opportunity for a fresh start, a new beginning, a clean slate.

This morning I woke up a little before Jacob and started puttering around the house quietly. Joe was already up and outside preparing for the day ahead.  I made some coffee and packed a lunch and when Joe walked inside we started chatting quietly. Eventually we heard a soft, “Mommom? Daddad?” We both turned in the direction and there was little man sitting up on the bed with a huge smile on his face.

We both went in and said good morning and instantly received snuggles.  There is nothing quite like morning snuggles. Little man hugs a little harder, a bit tighter and he smells like sweet dreamy sleep. His fuzzy hair is spread all around his head and he has Sergeant Snuggles tucked in close.  He wraps both of those tiny arms around my neck, tucks both feet around my waist and snuggles that head right in the crook of my neck. I can feel his heart beat and his breath softly moving in and out.

And he is (typically) so happy. He wakes up smiling big and ready to love on us with these big, soft, amazing snuggles.  It’s like he knows that there is no better way to start the day.  There is nothing quite as incredible.

Eventually he is ready to start the day and the chitchat begins as he tells us about his dreams and asks what today will bring. He wants to get down and start exploring, though he sticks close to our side. He is our little man, our dreamer, our adventurer and our snuggler. He is amazing.  And he is uniquely and perfectly him.

What’s your favorite way to start the day?

My reason for fighting

She awoke suddenly, the pain in her chest causing her to tighten her upper body to help alleviate the sharp pain. A few seconds tick by slowly and the feeling begins to subside. She waits another moment before loosening the grip her muscles have on her chest. Laying there for a moment as if frozen in time, she debates whether or not she should attempt to move her body in an effort to alleviate the pressure she feels across her ribs. Glancing at her water cup through the corner of her right eye, she decides on a short walk to stretch her body slightly and grab some water, hoping the extra hydration may aid in calming her muscles.

Ever so slowly, she moves her legs first, one at a time. As she shifts her body in preparation to sit up, the muscles across her left side tighten again and she stops moving to allow the pain to dissipate. She awaits a few seconds and slowly pushes up with her right arm, while keeping her left side as still as possible. Sliding off the side of the bed, her feet touch the floor and remain there for another moment to allow her body to adjust to sitting up. She reaches for the cup with her right hand, careful not to move her left arm, but the act of reaching causes her chest muscle to spasm again. This time she fights through the pain and grabs her cup and stands in one fluid motion, hoping to prevent another spasm as her muscles calm again.

She shuffles slowly to the kitchen, trying to keep her back as straight as possible as she walks. Reaching the kitchen without incident, she fills her cup and begins the walk back to her bedroom. The house is completely dark with night and she is careful not to bump into the toys that scatter the floor.

Entering her bedroom, she shifts to the left and stops suddenly as another spasm pulses through. The pain shoots quickly across the left side of her chest and down her arm. She clenches her teeth and waits for the muscles to calm again, trying to control her breathing. When she begins walking again, she uses the light from the window to guide her towards the bed. Setting the water down, she moves her body so it is facing away from the bed and sits on the edge. Taking a deep breath, she slowly shifts backwards while using her right hand to guide her towards her pillow. As she turns slightly, another shot of pain courses through her chest. She once again pauses and waits for the muscles to calm before moving. Her pillows are leaning against the wall, allowing her to scoot backwards a little more before leaning against the pillow. Her muscles begin to relax, allowing the pillows to support her.

She leans her head back and is grateful to only feel the pressure in her chest now and not the pain of her muscles stretching. Reaching slowly with her right arm, she grabs the cup and drinks down half of the water she poured. Setting it back down, she breathes in; careful not to pull too much air into her lungs so she doesn’t cause another spasm.

I don’t know how much more I can take. She thinks to herself, fighting back the tears that sting her eyes. She is wide awake now and knows that sleep will not come easily. What if this pain doesn’t stop? She questions, wondering if it will ease over the coming days like the pressure in her chest typically does. Stop thinking like that! She yells in her head. You have to do this! You have to push through the pain! She breathes in again and exhales slowly, wiping at her eyes.

Moving her head slightly to the left, she glances at the figures that lay beside her. Her little man is snuggled against her husband, his tiny hands laying against his chest as it rises and falls to the rhythm of a deep sleep. The starlight from the window cascades across the bedroom, allowing her to see their faces as they lay dreaming beside her. She studies them both, imaging what they are dreaming about.

My boys. She smiles to herself. My reason for fighting.

Reaching slowly to her right again, this time she picks up a book and attaches a nighttime reading lamp to the back cover. Clicking it on, she adjusts the light and begins to read. She loses herself in the story, while distracting herself from the pain.

My heart smiles

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The wind blew a heavy gust, which she welcomed under the warmth of the afternoon sun. The sun was falling from the sky but there were no clouds to hide its rays. As she walked across the wet sand, her feet sunk slightly with each step, leaving a trail of footprints behind her. Her footprints were not alone though. The indents in the sand next to hers were not nearly as big yet and didn’t sink quite as far into the wetness.

The smaller footprints come from the same place as the sound of the pitter pattering across the ground. Each step is music to her ears, pitter – patter – pitter – patter over and over again until there is a sudden stop. He yelps and reaches down to grab at the wet earth; taking up a handful of sand to grab the object that caught his eye. This time it’s half a sand dollar. He holds it up for her to see, a smile beaming across his face and his eyes shining under the sun. She smiles back and remarks excitedly as he places his treasure into the bright orange bucket.

He reaches back up to grab her hand again and she gladly accepts the offer. Though his hand is much smaller than hers, he holds on tightly as they begin to walk across the sand once again. The waves crash along the shore as they walk in search of more treasures. The water rushes up against their feet, trying to take back the sand as it moves out to sea.

A bird lands at the water’s edge, where it seems to merge with the sand. It squawks and wiggles its feathers in the heat of the sun, looking out at the water ahead. The little boy drops her hand and squeals again as he runs towards the bird. His pitter – patter is quickened and the shells in his bucket create a musical chaos.

She smiles to herself as she watches the bird taunt him, keeping just a few steps ahead. Finally the bird gives flight and the little boy stops and stares at the sky. He puts his hand up in the air and yells “Buh – bye!” as the bird soars away. He waits until she catches up and then takes her hand again, ready to find more treasures in the sand.

These are the days that make my heart smile, she thinks to herself as they walk along shore.

Saturday blessings

This morning I woke up grateful for a little man who loves books as much as me, an incredible aunt & (soon-to-be) uncle who made this alphabet book for him that he won’t put down and my wonderful in laws who invited us over for dinner and who support us always.

What are you blessed with today?

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#tooblessedtocomplain

Today’s firsts

When my husband and I bought our house years ago, I was super excited for each holiday in it. Since it was our first home purchase, I wanted every holiday to be celebrated within our walls. We hosted each event and took pictures of every detail to create a scrapbook of our first year. When our son was born, this first year of excitement was amplified. Every holiday we decorated, did arts & crafts and celebrated that it was the first of many to come. Each milestone brought pictures and smiles (and books!) and traditions that we were determined to create for our little man. All of the firsts were filled with pure joy and lots of passion. Each day felt as though it brought new excitement.

Though it’s still early in the day, today has been a great day so far! After surgery, I wasn’t able to do much. Each day showed improvement but in general, the everyday tasks were not possible. Thankfully, I have an incredible husband and support system that has continued to help throughout this journey.

Today though…today was a day of firsts for me.

  • I woke up in my very own bed. I have spent the last 2 weeks sleeping in the recliner in our living room. My sweet husband has spent every night next to me on our couch, often with little man snuggled in next to him. But not last night! I am still sleeping at an angle and mostly upright but just being in our bed was wonderful. I was surrounded by a sea of pillows, my warm comforter and my husband by my side. I was even able to get up into it and out of it all on my own!
  • Morning snuggles. Little man woke up in the middle of the night and Joe brought him into bed with us. After waking up this morning, Jacob cuddled up next to me and snuggled into the nook under my right arm. I haven’t had those sweet morning snuggles in two weeks. My goodness, how I missed them.
  • I unloaded the dishwasher. Though this is a relatively mundane task and often something I dread when coming home from work or waking up in the morning, I did this with a smile today. It is the little things in life that bring the purest joy and today’s joy had to do with being able to handle my own dishes.
  • I made breakfast – not just for me but for Joe too! Despite growing up with Chef Dad, I am not an excellent cook. Sadly the knack doesn’t reside in me, save for a few recipes that I have mastered over time. Today though, I made breakfast that consisted of roasted potatoes, bacon and eggs. Simple? Yes. Easy? Usually. The first I’ve made food for myself since surgery and therefore super exciting? Yes!

These firsts may not be things that I ever expected to get excited about but today, they made me smile ear to ear. I am tired despite the early hour and will probably go nap soon but I will enjoy this moment of progress for just a little while.

Today’s thoughts

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When I first started this blog, I didn’t know what to expect. I wasn’t sure how my posts would be received or if anyone would care to read what I had to say. I took the plunge anyway, knowing in my heart that it was something I needed to do. I have been pleasantly surprised by the continued positive response that I have received.

Today I noticed that my Facebook page has 250 followers. How cool is that?! This prompted me to look at the stats for my blog site and I was shocked to see them! Since starting this blog, I have had over 20,000 views and over 8,000 visitors – WHAT?! I never imagined that I would reach that many people or that so many of them would come back again to read what I have to say.

Though this journey was unexpected and has had its share of ups and downs, I am grateful for the experience and for what it has taught me along the way. I have grown in more ways than I can account for…as a person, as a wife, as a mother, as a daughter, as a sister, as a woman, as a friend.

Life does not always go according to plan and as a self-proclaimed controller (eek!), I have learned that there are some things that need to be left to God and others that I need to embrace & fight with all that I have in me. Knowing that I am now cancer free is a reminder that I have done just that.

Though I do not know what the future holds, what I do know is that I am grateful for today. I gladly welcome each morning that I open my eyes and have the opportunity for a fresh start to a new day. I am grateful for my beautiful family and incredible friends, who have loved me unconditionally throughout this entire journey. And I am thankful for the new friendships that have formed along the way. From within my community and across the world, people have continued to support me and share their love and prayers for me and my family.

My heart is full. To all of the people that have followed my journey, whether from the very first day or just recently, I thank you.

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The best day of my life…

Two months ago I woke up and wrote about having a song in my heart. Today, I feel a song in my heart once again. This one not only says that “it’s a great day to be alive” but also this is “the best day of my life” (by American Authors). I have had a handful of best days so far in my young life and today has now been added to that list.

As of last Tuesday, I am officially cancer free.

My anxiety was up a little today when I went to the oncologist for my pathology report. I have been praying hard but fear of the unknown is a scary fear. I mostly worried that the report wouldn’t be finalized yet and I wouldn’t have any answers.

One of the things that I love most about my oncologist is that he genuinely cares about me and my family. When he walked in today, he immediately asked me how I was doing and if this was my first trip out of the house. He was surprised to hear that I made it to the beach on Saturday and commented on how well I’m moving about post-surgery. Then, with a big smile on his face, he looked me in the eyes and said those magical words: You are cancer free.

Cancer free.

Say it with me – cancer free.

One more time now…I am cancer free!

The tears started immediately (and haven’t stopped!), as a huge smile spread across my face (also hasn’t stopped!). I don’t know that I have ever felt such a massive weight be removed before. Joe & I hugged and thanked him. He reminded me to rest up for a while and to not push myself too hard.

We discussed the pathology report in detail. The tumors in my breast (1 large and 4 smaller tumors) were still cancerous and rather large (even larger than the MRI suggested). The chemo treatment did not impact it as much as it typically does for my type of cancer and we aren’t sure why. There were a total of 22 lymph nodes removed and 3 of those were cancerous. BUT! They removed it all.

How do we know it’s all gone? My oncologist explained it like this: When the tumor is removed, a margin of the surrounding tissue (presumably cancer free / healthy tissue) is also removed. Think of the cancer like a tomato, with the surrounding tissue being the skin of the tomato. They want to ensure that the skin of the tomato is not broken. If it isn’t, meaning the margin is clear, then they successfully removed all of the cancer.

And they did. They successfully removed all of my cancer. It’s gone.

So today is an incredible day. The path forward is the same as it was, Herceptin for a year total, radiation begins next month and reconstruction 6 months after radiation ends.

Ya know why else today was awesome? I was able to hug my husband AND Jacob today to celebrate my cancer free news!

I’ll post an update on my recovery tomorrow (hint, I’m still feeling pretty good!) but for now I wanted to share this incredible news with all of you. Your love, support and prayers continues to give me strength and I couldn’t wait to share this excitement with all of you!

Here is our best “CANCER FREE!” face!  (Little man’s molar might be stealing some of the excitement.)

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Back to my happy place…

When going through chemo treatments, the days following each session were relatively consistent. I knew about which day that I would feel my worst, which I would start to feel better, when the metal taste began to disappear, when my appetite started to come back, etc. Each treatment I would focus on the recovery days; the good days where I knew I would start to feel better again. Having these “end” dates in my head helped me to focus on them.  They were my goal dates. I knew that if I could stay strong and get through the hardest days, that the good days were waiting for me at the end.  Every treatment has helped me to stay focused on the light at the end of the tunnel.

I wanted to take this same approach after surgery. I knew that surgery would be challenging and I knew the recovery would be long. But I also knew that I would eventually start to feel better, one day at a time. After chatting with a fellow survivor, who had surgery in December, I learned that she was at the beach within the first week after surgery. I don’t recall the exact day she went after her surgery but I knew that was the goal that I wanted to set for myself…a visit to my happy place.

I didn’t want to push myself too hard so I decided my goal was to be at the beach by Saturday. Even if it was for a few minutes and even if I didn’t get out of the car, my goal was to be there.

So today, that’s where we headed. It took some extra preparations but we made it!

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The beach continues to cleanse my soul and clear my head. It is my happy place and being there with people I love makes the day even more special.

It was a short visit because the rain met us there soon after we arrived. I am tired and sore from the little bit of walking that we did. But it was worth it. To feel the wind blowing, smell the salt in the air, hear the waves crashing and see the waves moving as they rolled up the sand…made for a perfect day.

I hope you all are able to spend some time at your happy place this weekend with people you love! 💚

Hope and faith

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On my last day of work before surgery, one of my office mates handed me a cross. Her husband hand made it and thought I would like it. This brought tears to my eyes for many reasons. One of those reasons is my recent visits to church. Another reason is that I do not own a cross. Our house was robbed a few years ago and most of my jewelry was taken. I had yet to replace my cross. This kind, thoughtful gift meant a lot for a lot of reasons.

I mentioned the other day that my anxiety is kicking in with my upcoming surgery. I was feeling really good about it until about a week and a half ago, when the pain in my lymph nodes and tumor started to intensify. There has been pain on and off for months, mostly around chemo days. The oncologist has assured me that, while it doesn’t always happen, it typically means the tumor is dieing.

Despite knowing this, the recent pain has unnerved me. I can feel it in my arm when I reach for something or pick up Jacob. It has created a fear in me, a fear that I have fought hard to keep at bay throughout this journey. What if the cancer is fighting harder than me? What if, despite all I have been through since August, it is spreading? What if I am losing this battle?

I have been hesitant to share this fear because I don’t want it to be true. I am hoping and praying that when my surgeon opens me up, she will find nothing but dead tissue and dead cells. I have been praying hard for this, yet the fear has remained.

At church today, there was a lot of discussion about revelation and the coming of days. It wasn’t quite the sermon I was hoping to hear, but God likes to throw a curveball sometimes. At the end of the sermon, the pastor mentioned that we need to pass our sins, our worries and our fears up to the Lord. Have I heard this dozens of times before? Yes. Is this new information?  No.  Is it what I needed to hear today? Absolutely.

So, today, I am letting go of this fear. There is, quite literally, nothing more that I can do prior to surgery.  I am letting go of my fear and my anxiety and handing it off. I feel better already.

Oh, and I am once again reminded that I truly am too blessed to complain.

Happy Sunday, folks. May your day be filled with sunshine and happiness, just like mine.

The coming days

As my surgery quickly approaches, the reality of what is about to happen is sinking in.  I am confident in my decision and feel that it is the right thing to do for me and my body.  I am as ready as I am going to be.  My house is clean, the laundry is almost done, the insurance calls are mostly done…now it’s time to wait.

Waiting is hard. Every snuggle, every hug, every time I pick up my sweet boy, a small part of me hurts for all of the weeks that I won’t be able to do just that. Each time I wash a dish or toss clothes in the washer, I feel bad that I won’t be able to help around the house while recovering.  It’s hard to think about just resting during recovery and not being able to contribute to the every day activities in our home.

I worry about the emotional impact surgery will have on me. It’s hard to know exactly how I will feel when I wake up.

Then I remind myself that I am doing this so that I can continue to live a long, healthy and cancer free life.  It will be a long few days but my life after will be longer. And that’s what’s important.

The next few days will be filled with family time. Snuggles, hugs, maybe a few belly laughs and beach…a little time together to soothe the soul before this next phase. Here’s to a great weekend, everyone!