Tag Archives: Journey

How Did My Breast Cancer Affect My Husband?

Me with my wonderful husband at Paige's wedding, January2010
Me with my wonderful husband at Paige’s wedding, January 2010

Being a caregiver as a husband

Cancer – When we first heard the news one thing I remember is that my oldest daughter (21) came to me and asked, when is mommy going to die. During this time when we heard the “C” word it was a death sentence. Although we were a strong, faith filled family we believed that God was in control of everything in our life. But for some reason it seemed that Cancer was something outside of that layer of faith.

There were times I encountered different people who had this disease and I remember laying hands on them and praying for them. But now the disease is in your life and for some reason it was harder to find the faith I had praying and believing for others.

What did I learn?

Through this experience I learned more about my faith and myself that I would have never known without this encounter. I use to think I know what people went through but I had no idea. Looking back I see that the caregivers go through a different emotional experience than the one that has the actual disease.

Cancer was something that brings out all the different emotions out of your spouse. Although her faith was strong there were times that she showed her real feelings. Being the husband you are the one person on this earth that she can confide in. Of course she tries to never show this side of herself to anyone else; to the outside world she tries to be strong and brave.

I would have different people come to me and ask how your wife is doing, which you would expect. That would have been my question but now I add, how are you also doing? Just remember that Cancer has a major impact on everyone in the family and it changes your life.  It is up to you if this change is negative or positive.

Added Responsibilities

Trying to carry the load of all the different family issues that needed to be completed along with my work responsibilities created an overwhelming state of mind at times.  This is such a difficult time and if you let it, it will consume your thoughts and pull you down. Stay as positive as you can. If you start thinking about all the negatives you start asking why and then the blame game starts. As men we have the tendency to try to figure everything out and if you get caught up into this process it will show in your attitude.

Your life will also change and your responsibilities as a husband will expand into areas that you are not used to. As the husband you need to try to stay strong for not only your wife but also your kids. This is not something you cannot do alone, you need the guidance and direction from the Lord and you must take time to get along and pray and ask God for help. It is not wrong to ask him why and express your feelings but know he is a loving God and He is the only one that can help you during this time. You may also need to find a man friend you can talk to outside of your family. This person should be a good friend and hopefully be someone who is spiritually ground and is of strong faith.  They must be someone you can trust and confide with and take time to fellowship together. Go have breakfast, golfing or fishing, just find the time to just meet and talk. .

As the head of the house the man takes pride in being the provider but with a sickness of this magnitude, we need to now change our mindset. I researched and read what I could but it never prepared me for what I was going to encounter.  There were people I ran into at work and in church that were facing the same situation and in two of the cases the husband refused to accept the cancer and they got bitter.

I found that when a man encounters this type of news it does one of two things. They accept it and try to do their best to adjust their life and it moves them closer to God. Then there are those that go into denial and blame God which drives them away from the one source they need. They go into denial and with this attitude it creates a non-supporting role and causes more tension on the whole family.

Be A Good Listener

I am not saying you need to be super spiritual and that you will be perfect in handling everything that comes your way.  Just do your best and be supportive and encourage her, There will be times she will say things that she does not mean but learn to just listen and not try to correct her or give advice. This is something I still have a hard time trying to do to this day. Just be there and listen to her. Hear what her needs and wants are and ask how you can help. Do not force your agenda on her, let time take its course. She is processing and dealing with heavy stuff, so don’t try to understand everything. We would not know until we were walking in her shoes. Show patience, humility, compassion and Love.

The most important thing you can do is to continue to lift her up in Prayer and be a positive conduit feeding your surroundings with words of encouragement. Find the best out of your situation and meditate on those things. Believe that God will move in your situation and you “Will Conquer Cancer”.  Doug

I hope Doug’s insight will help others who may be on this journey.

I invite you to follow me of Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/laurasjourneyofhope.

Be Blessed.

Laura

How Do You Tell Your Story?

My first locket... Blessed, Hope, Cross, Pink Ribbon, Pink Heart
My first locket…
Blessed, Hope, Cross, Pink Ribbon, Pink Heart

I tell my story in many ways. This is how I began to tell my story.  I hope you are encouraged by my story.

On December 26, 2008, my life changed forever.  I was 47 years old when I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.   I did not think this would ever happen to me. In all reality, it did.  By the time I was diagnosed, the cancer was Stage 3a and Grade 3, a very aggressive form of cancer.  The silver lining in all of this is that it was triple positive cancer.

When you receive a diagnosis of cancer, your life changes forever.  From that point on, you are known as the one who has cancer.  Some people deal with it by talking to everyone about every detail.  That just wasn’t me.   I prayed, spoke as if I was already healed and immersed myself in worship. I am a woman of faith and I put my trust in God to bring about His divine will.

It took years for me to be able to talk about my diagnosis and progress without tearing up. Eventually, I  became the principal at my own school.  I began to share my story with those who needed words of encouragement. Inner healing began to take place every time I reached out to help others.

During that time in my life, Origami Owl Custom Jewelry found me.  With the assistance of one of my teachers, I designed the locket in the picture above.  Wearing my custom locket gave me voice when I had no voice. I chose each of the charms because they have special meaning to me:

  • Pink Ribbon – Symbol of Breast Cancer
  • Cross – My hope is in the Lord.
  • Pink Hope oval – I was speaking ‘hope’ over my situation. (positive attitude)
  • Sparkle Pink Heart – I love anything pink and sparkly.
  • Blessed Plate – I am blessed.

In October, 2014, I began to share my story through my Facebook page and on my blog.  The purpose for my Facebook page is to: inspire, encourage and empower. I recently reconnected with Origami Owl to discover that their Mission Statement embraces the very purpose I started my Facebook page.

“Our mission is to be a force for good; to love, inspire & motivate people of all ages to reach their dreams & empower them to make a difference in the lives of others.”

I recently became a designer with Origami Owl to tell my story and to continue to be a force for good, inspiration and to make a difference in the lives of others. Every story is unique and important. YOU are important. How do you tell your story?

As my story changes, so does my locket. I have added... Designer Charm, Blog, Hope (script) Also, I put all charms in a heart locket because the cause will always be close to my heart.
As my story changes, so does my locket.
I have added… Designer Charm, Blog, Hope (script) Also, I put all charms in a heart locket because the cause will always be close to my heart.
Heart locket-different angle
Heart locket-different angle

I invite you to visit the Origami Owl Stories page to read more stories. http://www.laurasjourneyofhope.com/origami-owl-stories

Be Blessed.

Laura

Road Trip to the Carolinas

A long weekend, beautiful scenery and good friends are a great combination for a road trip.

The pictures tell the story. However, I do wonder about the names of some wildflowers. Maybe, you can help me out.

Beautiful mountain view.

Beautiful mountain view.

Carolina Chicadee Please let me know if we identified him correctly.

Carolina Chicadee
Please let me know if we identified him correctly.

Wildflowers Please help me out if you know what these are.
Wildflowers
Please help me out if you know what these are.
Love this bush growing wild. It appears to me a mini rose bush.  Please let me know if it is something different.
Love this bush growing wild. It appears to me a mini rose bush. Please let me know if it is something different.
Gorgeous reflection of the dock and trees on the pond.
Gorgeous reflection of the dock and trees on the pond.
 Beautiful picture of an antique tractor riding cycle mower.
Beautiful picture of an antique tractor riding cycle mower.

Sunlight as it shines on this barn. If you look closely, you can see a cow and a few goats.

Sunlight as it shines on this barn. If you look closely, you can see a cow and a few goats.

Good friends
Good friends

It was a busy couple of days and we had so much fun.

Take pride in how far you’ve come and have faith in how far you can go. In all of life’s craziness, remember to enjoy the journey.

I invite you to follow me on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/laurasjourneyofhope.

Be Blessed.

Laura

Keeping It Real

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I’m just keeping it real.  How is it going with your gratitude journal?

I have been keeping my gratitude journal since May 1st.  On April 30, 2015, I invited you to join in. So, how is it going?

I am journaling (writing my thoughts) right before I go to bed because it helps me focus my attention on the good things that happened during the day. I don’t really like to use the word journaling because for some that is the first roadblock and you might say, “I don’t have time for that.” or “I can’t add one more thing.” However, we all have 24 hours in the day and I encourage you to:

  • Take 5 minutes to reflect on something that you are thankful/grateful for and write it down. (beginning or end of day)
  • Make time for yourself.
  • Take time for yourself.
  • Keep it easy. (start with 1 thing) You don’t have to write a long list. Just start.

I said that I was just going to start with one thing and I ended up with 3 things on some days because once you recognize the positive things in your life, you will begin to see more and more positive and focus less on the negative.

Here is my journal from this week.

My personal gratitude journel
My personal gratitude journal

You can see on Mother’s day Sunday, May 11, 2015, I wrote:

  • Call from my girls
  • church
  • nice day

Okay…overall nice day.  I spoke to both of my girls on the phone. I could focus on the fact that one of my girls lives out-of-town and the other one works Saturdays and Sundays and always has since she had children. I’m keeping it real! That is very painful but I can’t change it so I accept it and focus on the fact that they called me.

Monday, May 11, 2015, I only have one thing written down, “finish 1st draft of e-book”.  I was working on the first draft of my e-book until about midnight and I was just thankful to complete it before my deadline. (You can be looking for the release of that book in the next couple of months. It is about my journey through breast cancer as a working mom, wife, daughter and believer.)

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015, was a banner day because I wrote 4 things.  I was so excited that my physical therapy for my wrist was good. Sure it hurt but he said that the joint is becoming more flexible. (Thank you, Jesus.) A highlight from that day is watching my grandchildren and Wyatt actually kissed me goodbye, That’s huge. Also, I connected with a friend who I hadn’t spoken to in a while.  We get so consumed by technology that we forget the value of a real conversation.

 You can see from my entries that I’m just keeping it real, nothing fancy.

So how is it going? Post in Facebook comments or on the blog comments.  I want to hear from you.

Be Blessed.

Laura

Art From The Heart

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I was at the clinic earlier this week and I dropped by the chemo lab to say “Hi” to the nurses. I recognized at least 5 of the nurses. They are truly caring individuals. The nurse who gave me the best advice during chemo has moved and no longer works there. That advice was “Don’t be a hero.”

I noticed that some new ceiling tiles were painted. I found out that cancer patients and their families painted all of the ceiling tiles. When I was getting my chemo treatments, I sat in a recliner with my feet up and listened to my praise and worship music.  When I opened my eyes I was staring at the ceiling, a ceiling of ‘art from the heart’. What an inspiration!

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Ring The Bell

During my visit, a patient completed her last chemo and got to ring the bell.

RINGING OUT Ring this bell Three times well A toll to clearly say My treatment is done This course is run And I am on my way
RINGING OUT
Ring this bell
Three times well
A toll to clearly say
My treatment is done
This course is run
And I am on my way

I had tears in my eyes as her husband took pictures of her ringing the bell and pictures of her with the nurses.

I remember that chapter in my life…that feeling of relief.  As I moved to the next chapter in my life, I became more grateful and thankful.

Now I am going to add a ceiling tile to the collection of ‘Art From The Heart’.

Be Blessed.

Laura

Enjoy The Journey

Happy New Year!
Happy New Year!

I prefer to set goals rather than the traditional resolutions because I am constantly striving to improve.  I am a goal oriented person and set daily goals for myself.

The year 2014 was full of 1st’s for me:

  • Resigned my position with the local school board after 23 years of service.
  • Prioritized my family over work.
  • Became more involved with my grandchildren.
  • Started the ‘Laura’s Journey’ Facebook page to encourage, inspire and empower others.
  • Started http://www.laurasjourneyofhope.com as a blog.
  • 6 year breast cancer survivor as of 12-26-14

2015 will hold many more firsts...some I don’t even know about.  My goal, not resolution, is very basic. My goal is to be healthy: body, mind and soul.

Body…I have been eating clean since July 1, 2014.  I have room for improvement in this area.  I am walking my first 5K, Race For A Cure, this month.  I hope to walk many 5K’s for different causes in 2015.  This time, I walk for all who are fighting breast cancer.  I walk to celebrate all survivors and to remember those who lost their battle to this horrible disease. It will be the first time that I will be recognized as a survivor.

Mind…I want to continue to fill my life with positive influences and have the courage to leave the negative influences behind.  The words you speak over your life are very telling.  When my girls were little, I would speak into them positive statements..

  • when you go to college…not if you go to college
  • when you get a car…not if you get a car
  • God has your plan…don’t worry
  • also, you could be president if you wanted to…

The world was open to them.

Soul…For me, this is my most important area.  I want to spend more time in my devotions seeking God’s direction. I want peaceful relationships with those in my inner circle.  Finally after 3 years, I am making progress toward peace with my dad’s death.  I was going to go see him on Saturday but he died on Monday.  I missed my opportunity. (This also comes under ‘mind’) For me, my soul still aches from that decision but I know he is in heaven.

Take pride in how far you’ve come and have faith in how far you can go. In all of life’s craziness, remember to enjoy the journey.

I invite you to follow me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/laurasjourneyofhope.com.

Happy New Year!

Be Blessed.

Laura

SURPRISE! RBW Celebration!

As I drove to work, I was mentally preparing myself for the emotions of the day.  I received the great news from the ultrasound but only Doug and I knew about that report because we wanted to wait until after the surgery.  In less than 24 hours, I would endure six hours of surgery that would require three specialist.  Today, I channeled my positivity to reflect on just how grateful I was for the staff at RBW.  I wrote the staff a letter so that I would not need to say any goodbyes.  I was not pleased to miss that last three days of school but you do not argue with doctors and I learned that my health was more important than my job.

Since the staff found out about my diagnosis when they returned to school in January of 2009, they continued to support me.  The first time I wore a wig I was so self conscious and they acted like it was no big deal.  When I had to wear my favorite fuzzy hat to work, they made me feel accepted.  They provided meals every Thursday for at least five months and my family looked forward to Thursdays.  My mom and I were just talking about that last night.  It was a much needed night off for the care givers not to worry about food. Every now and then, grade levels and individuals would give me care packets, gift cards and cards of encouragement.  They loved me through those difficult months and always treated me kindly.

Real men do wear pink!
Real men do wear pink!
RBW fabulous 'lunch bunch' looking good in pink!
RBW fabulous ‘lunch bunch’ looking good in pink!

When I got to school, I noticed one pink shirt, three pink shirts, grade levels of pink shirts and eventually realized that they all wore pink shirts on my last day.  It brings me to tears 5 1/2 years later as I write this blog.  I was surrounded by support and kindness every day.

After dismissal, Mrs. Ward, Principal, told me that she needed me to go with her to the Computer Lab.  She was quite convincing so off we went.  We did go to the Computer Lab and walked straight through to the back door of the Media Center where the entire staff had gathered and made a tunnel of pink to welcome me as I entered the room. (That was a tradition I brought to the school when I came years before.  On the last day of school, the staff gathered to make a tunnel for the last bus students to walk through as they boarded the bus.  The students always loved it.)  Needless to say, I was so overwhelmed.  As I looked around the room, there was a sea of pink.  The staff was wearing pink shirts, holding pink balloons and wearing surgical masks. It was an amazing show of support.

'tunnel of support'
‘tunnel of support’
Walking through the 'tunnel of support'
Walking through the ‘tunnel of support’
RBW staff...all in pink with their surgical masks
RBW staff…all in pink with their surgical masks

My birthday is in July so we gathered to celebrate an early birthday featuring my favorite colors: pink and yellow. They arranged for me to have a month of birthdays so that I would have a card to open every day during my recovery from surgery.  They also made a money ribbon because they knew I hadn’t been able to go to the beach during chemo and that was and still is one of my favorite places to relax.

My favorite wig and all three special cakes
My favorite wig and all three special cakes
Happy Early Birthday
Happy Early Birthday
Favorite colors...pink and yellow
Favorite colors…pink and yellow
It's all about the 'PINK'
It’s all about the ‘PINK’

Kindness, gratitude, compassion and joy surrounded me that day.  A journey through breast cancer or any other illness changes you.  You can allow it to change you for the good or you can become bitter.  It’s not easy!  Healing takes time.  Believe me…CANCER SUCKS, but life goes on and happiness is a choice.  I choose to be happy every day and I choose to SMILE!

I invite you to follow me on Facebook @ http://facebook.com/laurasjourneyofhope.

Be Blessed.

Always Hopeful

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My spirit had been renewed by some quiet time with God and the hummingbird visit.  I only saw them one more time after that day and haven’t seen them since.  I was moving on to finish my mean chemo by May 5th and then on to surgery.

Final Two Chemotherapy Treatments

I made it through my seventh chemo, 4/21/09, and my eighth and LAST chemo on 5/5/09. I had the same routine where I saw Dr. Wonderful (Hematologist-Oncologist) first and then off to the chemo lab.  My appointments were still on Tuesdays and I tried to work the rest of the week.  By Friday, I needed my pain medication. By the time I was near the end of my chemo, Doug, my husband, drove me to work most Mondays and Fridays.  I was physically weak and exhausted but I made myself go to work because I wanted to keep the same routine.  My last Taxol/Herceptin chemo was on May 5, 2009.  I still went to the chemo lab weekly for Herceptin.

Preparing For Surgery

At the last two appointments with Dr. Wonderful (Hematologist-Oncologist), I was given specific directions to begin taking B6, B12, Vitamin E w/o Selenium, Calcium and Vitamin D.  My vitamin D levels were very low and they needed to increase before I could start radiation.  Over the next 9 months, I still needed an Echocardiogram every 3 months because Herceptin could damage my heart.

After a final consultation with my team of doctors, Breast Surgeon, Plastic Surgeon and Dr. Wonderful, I decided to have the following procedures:

  • partial bilateral mastectomy, to include lumpectomy
  • lymph node dissection, right side
  • port insertion, at which time the PICC would be removed

The surgery was set for June 3, 2009.  There was no negotiation even though that was the last week of school.  The surgery needed to take place in a timely manner. My health was more important than the job.

Encouragement

My morning devotion on May 8, 2009, three days after my last chemo, was just what I needed to hear at the time.

From My Utmost For His Highest by: Oswald Chambers

“Entrust yourself to God’s hands. Is there something in your life for which you need perseverance right now? Maintain your intimate relationship with Jesus Christ through perseverance of faith. Proclaim as Job did,  ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.’ (Job 13:15) …even when you cannot see Him right now and cannot understand what He is doing, you know Him.”

Those were powerful words of encouragement because I didn’t understand why I was in this situation but I knew God was with me every day.

I invite you to follow me on FB at: http://www.facebook.com/laurasjourneyofhope

Be Blessed.

Saving, Making and Leaving Memories

I was feeling great.  It was spring break and I only had two appointments that week.  I went to meet with the plastic surgeon who would eventually collaborate with the breast surgeon. Yes, another female doctor.  My entire team were females. Also, I needed the good chemo, Herceptin (Trastuzumab).  Herceptin targets HER2-positive cancer cells and can stop or slow the growth of those cancer cells. I was so blessed that this chemo was beneficial to my recovery.

Saving memories

I drove myself to chemo and wore my fuzzy hat because I didn’t want to put on a wig that day.  I wanted to be comfortable. After chemo, I went to Michaels looking for an idea to help organize or save all of the cards that I received since my diagnosis.  (I totally forgot about doctor’s orders not to go to the store.  OOPS!)  In January as people began to find out about my diagnosis, I was inundated with cards.  It was such a blessing.   I dated each card and put it in a basket and now the basket was overflowing.  People began sending cards, emails, letters and handwritten notes.  As I walked around Michaels, I found a scrapbook that was perfect.  It was very plain, no plastic sheet covers or leather binders…just basic.  I chose one album and then I went to pick out some background paper. One thing led to another and I ended up with scrap booking paper, prints and solids, cute stickers and jeweled stickers that were words of encouragement.

Scrapbooks my own way
Scrapbooks my own way
I just glued background paper down and then glued the cards in by month. Nothing fancy.
I just glued background paper down and then glued the cards in by month. Nothing fancy.
From my week in the hospital
From my week in the hospital
This is a page from September when I was driving to radiation every day. Sometimes a devotion page really applied so I included this one from September 10th.
This is a page from September when I was driving to radiation every day. Sometimes a devotion page really applied so I included this one from September 10th.

OOPS! I wore my FUZZY hat to the store

Did I mention that I was in Michaels with my fuzzy hat on?  I surprised myself by wearing it in public.  I got a few looks, a few avoidance moves but I just smiled and walked with confidence.  I was grateful to be feeling so good and driving myself that I didn’t care about my fuzzy hat stares.

How to begin?

When I got home, I began my project.  First, I glued the background paper on the page and then glued the cards down.  All of my January cards filled the first album.  Highly emotional and full of gratefulness, I just cried.  To think that so many people took the time to reach out to me brought me tears of joy.  As I looked at the pages I filled in the empty spots with the stickers I had purchased, words of encouragement.  I went back to Michaels the next day and bought 3 more books so that I would have the same style of book to continue this project.

Leaving memories for my girls

This was a fun way to record my journey and it became very therapeutic as I took time to read each card as I put it in the album.  In addition, I wanted my girls to have something from my journey because I didn’t know what the future would hold.  You can see from the pictures that the January book has a cute ribbon to hold it closed and the other books don’t.  I had to keep it simple.

The main victory in all of this was having the courage to go to the store in my fuzzy hat…even though my doctor wasn’t happy that I exposed myself to all of those germs. I hope you enjoy the pictures.

I invite you to follow my Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/laurasjourneyofhope

Be Blessed.