About Me...

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In a nut shell : I'm a wife, a full time working mom, a teacher, a Star Wars geek, comic book nerd, Disney enthusiast, hockey Mom, a decade long breast cancer survivor, and oh let's not forget such a happy, sassy, southern mess!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Life Along the Journey


Life is an adventure, right? Of course it is! Seriously, life is constantly moving forward even if it feels as if you are taking 3 steps backward. The last few weeks have had me speechless, frustrated, and pulling my chemo curls out. Life, at times, can feel as if it has tossed you into a blender and pressed the puree button all on it's own. By the time you climb out, away from those whirling blades, your feet aren't exactly firm beneath you, are they? Nope, they are wobbly. Personally, I call them crazy legs. Yet after a while, once you have steadied yourself, your feet naturally start moving forward again.


When life has gone of course, and thrown a curve ball at your head, what can you do? Sure at first, you bob around, stumble and most times hit the ground with a loud thud. So then what come next? You are benched with a bag of ice, and told to wait it out. The waiting is the hardest part I think. No matter what doctors office you trek into, there is always a wait. Oh how they love to make you wait! Many times as a cancer patient you are simply waiting and waiting for tests and results. You are always on one end or the other. Either you are waiting to be scheduled or waiting for results to be received..Seriously, it is constant turmoil. The wait to find out if you are well or if you are going to face the beats' fire again can be overwhelming.


As for my own mind set, I try to wake up each morning holding onto my faith. I face this struggle every day and honestly there are times I just want to throw in the towel. Still even though I may feel like throwing myself into the pit offered by the enemy, I know my Lord is always there to catch me. I am far from alone in this journey. I may be constantly juggling my broken dreams, trying to read this road map while deciding which direction to go all at the same time, but I am not alone. Crazy huh? Yes, one word among many to describe this journey but at the end of the day I hold to the knowledge I am not alone. I have been given the love of my God, my husband, my children, good friends and wonderful family. Everyday I make my stand against this beast, I know I have a chance for victory with these dear ones beside me.


True there are those times when life is overwhelming and yes I want to give up, throw my sword down and surrender. But where is hope during those moments? Ah, hope is within me, pulling me back up, pushing me onward. Surrender? No way, I see Hope's light before me. Even when the rain is falling and the winds are blowing, I have shelter from the storm. The branches may fall at my feet, and I may see the waters rise before me. I may even feel as if I am going to sink, drown beneath the flood waters. But His faithfulness is constant and His hands, gentle and strong, always pull me up and out. Absolutely I may be battered, bruised and weary, yet I am still here am I not? This week alone I have had those moments, wanting to give up. I have just stood where I am,then moving slowly, kicking a can at my feet. Why here, why now? Have I fallen into the darkest valley? Maybe I just need to learn to hold the hand extended to me, and trust He knows where I am being lead?


Was I ready this week for my poor baby to be sicker than I have seen him in a long while? No, but yesterday Micah was diagnosed with Mono, just a week after Joshua was in the E.R. for IBS. Finally after 4 days of high fever, headache, weight loss, 2 doctors visits and 2 negative flu swabs we were given a mono diagnosis. Then just hours after later, Joshua bless his heart, starts panicking over all this "whirlwind" around me. He broke down crying. How as a mother do you comfort your child when you have no answers? All I can give Joshua is my own example of faith, strength and courage. Even in the mist of the battlefield I can and will continue to drop to my knees in prayer. Through example he can see my own peace and joy despite the carnage around me. My Lord holds my soul, my spirit in His hands. He will not abandon me.The waves may crash in all around us, but His fire will continue to burn within warming my heart. I will fall, and the world will break me many times in the coming years but I will still hold to both hope and faith. Of all these are the greatest weapons I have to offer my children.


As much as I may try my children overhear my conversations, take note of my appointments and watch me struggle with the IVIG weekly. My "surviving" breast has developed a new rash for the lack of a better word. Pain has followed this new development. I am worried, yet I can helpless to do anything about it. Tests are scheduled, all the right ones, still I am waiting. I am standing here watching the clouds rolling in, wondering if this is a mere thunderstorm or a hurricane? But worry does nothing but stir up more worry. So here I am, waiting. It is all I can do. I can't rush the waiting process as much I may want to.What I do have is a firm foundation of support. I have my circle of family and friend to lean on, to hold me up and wait with me. At the end of the day I will do so with the faith and courage my God has given me.


I believe life is about wondering through the wilderness.I also believe there will be many days ahead for my boys to learn to trust God. There are days to come when the wondering will seem unbearable. True to life's course suffering and pain will come. The sun will set and the night fall, but the sun will rise again. Our hope is great is it not? My prayer for both Joshua and Micah is this: I will not only teach my boys to stay strong, full of faith, hope, always offering forgiveness, but I will live as an example before them.


Christina

Friday, January 23, 2009

Falling To My Knees

Have you felt absolutely bleak? Just blah? As if all the lights have been turned off and the air has been completely sucked out of the room? Ever feel as if you are the last one to be rescued on a desert island?

There are times in this great battle, I simply fall to my knees. Vulnerable? Absolutely! Many times I am overcome by her stench as the beast circles. I can feel her intent as she waits to strike me down right where I have fallen. Oh the need to scream, yell, and cry is over whelming. How I long to just sit down on my fourth point of contact right where I am! My arms folded and my eyes squeezed shut trying to block out the scene before me. In those moments the pain can be very deep, almost scary I would say.


Honestly there are times when my eyes open wide and I can see such color, such merriment. Then I realize I am having a full blown, all out hallucination. Suddenly I am awoken from my stress induced slumber and I am amazed at all I see. Looking around I dare to wonder if I am stuck in Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium? The walls are covered in beautiful vibrant coverings. The wonders I see ! Stuffed animals dance around my feet, fish swim above my head. Everything looks so bright and wonderful, that is until the toys start to go insane! Bouncy balls, once still begin bouncing out of their bags and hitting me square in the face! Books fall out of shelves all on their own onto my feet while squirting water. The dragons who were friendly just a minute ago are suddenly breathing fire at my face! Then to top it all off toy planes begin to take Kamikaze runs at my head. Suddenly the walls begin turning black and gray, weeping no less. This sunny place where I once played has turned dark. A better than life statement I would say about how life can change in an instant.


During these times I feel somewhat closed in, aware of my own fear even as I curse myself for it. So what has gone wrong? Nothing concrete, as I still lay here in the bog waiting for news. I am overcome for the time being. Overwhelmed, confused, and weary are just a few words coming to mind at the moment. Life is not always roses and butterflies. Harsh, maybe, but simply put it is just the truth. What about hope you ask? There is always hope. I have and will never let go of hope. For hope is the light I see at the end of this tunnel. Am I losing my mind, or fallen upon my own sword? No, I just need a rest from all this weariness. It seems all the glum, the bleakness, the darkness of the enemies camp has snuck up on me. So I just need to sit, rest awhile and get my bearings straight. I am not lost, just checking my compass from a lofty perch. I will return to the battle front, sword in hand upon my steady steed when the sun rises.


This is the truth I share with you: Fear is a natural part of being a warrior, pink or not. Each time I push through a wave of fiery arrows I worry this may be my last stand. Every day I fight my way through this bloody field I am fully aware of the cost. Yet every day I continue to counter strike the beast and her consorts. My life is not my own. I know this all too well but I also know this, I am but a vessel of my Father's work. Even though I tremble, even though I fall I continue to keep my faith in my Lord. In my heart I carry His love for me. I know when indeed He does come to comfort me, to strengthen me. He will also come take me home someday. On that day I will be made whole. My missing breast will no longer be lost. My fight will be over, yes, yet I know the spirit of hope will live on. Others will take up my sword and continue to advance against the beast. I may lose my battle in the end, but the war will never be lost!


I may appear battle scared, and weary but one day I will be completely whole in God's sight. As breast cancer survivors and fighters we will rise one day, victorious. That is the goal is it not? So until that day comes, let the Kamikaze planes come, let the beast sharpen her claws! Without doubt I know when the last sword has been swung, we will have the hill, we will have the victory!


Christina

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Laura's Story





Dr. Chad Moutray's , My Life with Laura: A Love Story, retelling is moving. This is their story, both Chad and Laura's. This is Charlotte's legacy, a gift from her father in order for her to know her mother. So when I was asked to take part in his Blog Book Tour, I was eager.

I received my copy of Dr.Chad Moutray's memoir, My Life with Laura: A Love Story, on December 17, 2008. My first reaction was, " Am I ready?", Can I do this? For a day or two the book sat there. I sat there looking at it, picking it up and putting it down all while the most beautiful woman stared back at me. Still, I could not open it. Then when I woke up on December 19th I knew I was ready. I took a deep breath, opened My Life with Laura , A Love Story and began a journey I will never forget. I laughed, I cried and I shared her struggle. As a Breast Cancer Survivor, I understood what was in front of Laura. I knew the choices she was making almost too well. I knew I would have loved Laura. After all, she was and is in many aspects still a sister in arms.

Laura was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer in May 2007 just as I was in the middle of my own battle with Triple Negative. Laura was a fighter and a survivor, but Laura lost her battle in November of 2007 just as I was finishing my chemo. Still she left all of us a legacy of both faith and survivorship. Through Laura's own words I clearly saw God's love and His peace working through Laura and moving through her even as she was losing her battle with the beast. Laura was courageous in faith. She knew God's grace and allowed herself to be a vessel of strength for all of us to embrace. In this book My Life with Laura: A Love Story, we learn how to be brave from Laura herself. Laura was beautiful, courageous and a true fighter.

Laura had courage beyond most of our comprehension and understanding. She and Chad built a life together and made a family in the short five years they were given together. As I read, I found myself drawn into their lives and the love the two of them shared as a couple and as parents. I also found parts of myself in Laura and her story, just as so many of you will find as well. In my opinion I feel that's what makes this book, the telling of Laura's life, struggle, faith and ultimate death so real, so meaningful and so memorable.

It didn't matter how little time she had, Laura pushed forward and revelled in life, in her husband Chad and in their beautiful daughter, Charlotte. Her life was not lost without cost or cause. The cost was great as she left her daughter without a mother to tuck her in at night, kiss her boo boo's or see the woman she would become one day. But I will tell you this, in the telling of Laura's story, her journey shines as a beacon in the darkness for all of us who are left behind.

In My Life with Laura: A Love Story, Chad shares his journey with his wife, Laura, and her fight with Triple Negative Breast Cancer. Through bits and pieces of her own journal we get a glimpse into Laura herself in her own words. I was taken back as I read Laura speak. Death was a thought she pondered, as she hoped for life to prevail. In her journal Laura wrote, " I have a meaningful existence, I feel as though God is calling me to a higher level of His understanding." Then again she writes, " I will sacrifice my breast to save my life so I can live God's will in my life."

In Chad's telling, the reader is brought in on a personal level into the Moutray's fight. This is a love story, beautiful, tragic and compelling. It is a journey through beauty, joy and struggle. As I read this book I felt as if I were personally invested in Laura and Chad. I wanted things to turn out differently for them and for Charlotte. I cheered for her, felt for him and cried for their beautiful baby girl. I knew the outcome before I even turned the first page. Still the life, the hope and determination of this amazing young woman filled me full of hope.
My Life with Laura: A Love Story, tells of a strong woman who, as Chad says," always asked the hard questions. At one point, she asked Dr. Favret to tell her how long she would live." Laura had faith and she knew where her Hope ultimately lay. Laura's faith and love carried her through till the end. Her courage and strength resounded throughout each page and for those of us who have just now had the chance to know her, well, all I can say is, it is an honor.
Turning each page I gained a greater knowledge of Laura. It was as if I were truly there with the Moutry's on each vacation, holiday and even as Charlotte ate her first lobster. I both laughed and cried as I read Laura's words in chapter #30. On vacation in Aruba she now required the use of a walker. Laura was tired. She was in pain. Still she declared, " There was no way you guys were going to have fun without me." Chad goes on to say," That was classic Laura. Living a fulfilling life was more important than dwelling on the pain." These words really touched me. As both a wife and mother, living in the shadow of breast cancer, I understood the need to embrace the day and allow oneself despite the pain to imprint those memories upon her heart. I completely identified with Laura as began to feel her life was going in a different direction than Chad's. "She was the patient" and had to deal with fighting the disease every day Chad explains. "Her body was being taken over" by this cancer. As Chad continues to express, Laura had to answer to someone everyday as to how she was doing. I truly related to those words, especially when Laura spoke of feeling on her own with breast cancer. Of course this was not true as Chad writes. Of course, he was battling this beast too, just on a different battle field.

On Tuesday, November 13, 2007 both Chad and Charlotte lost their beautiful Laura, wife and mother. Chad sent this email addressed as "Heaven" just after Laura took her last breath. " My beautiful Laura passed away at 3:57 a.m. this morning after a long battle with breast cancer." Laura was gone, taken and placed into the arms of her Lord at the age of 36.

As my reading came to an end, I felt as if Laura was now a part of me and her family was a part of my own family. If you take nothing else away from reading this book, take this:"It is not length of life, but depth of life."~ Ralph Waldo Emerson ~ Laura knew this well. She left us all a life not only to remember, but a hope to live by.

Christina


You can pick up your own copy of Chad's book for $24. 99 (paperback) or download it for $5 at
You can also keep up with Chad and Charlotte( The Moutry Chronicles) via Chad's Blog at

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Screaming Tea Cups!



The sun rose today, and I am glad of it. Feeling the warmth of the sun I am reminded some things never change. We are in Gods' hands. So with that said, I am off the roller coaster ride and as my dear friend Morgen says, into the tea cups. You know the ones where you spin around crazily until you pass out? Maybe even get a bit queasy?Yep, those are the ones! With one exception, these tea cups, aren't the Disney version. Nope these cups are the kind to keep spinning and spinning with no end in sight. Cancer is no ones friend, so any new twists and turns on this ride should not come as a major surprise.


So I have exited the Boobie Cyclone Coaster and I am now spinning around, like a lunatic, screaming. My eyes are ready to pop out as I see the next spin coming my way. I definitely don't want to end up under the tea pot spilling out hot tea!My hands are covering my mouth, my eyes and trying to hold on for dear life all at the same time. So to answer your question, no my hands are not on the wheel as I am not spinning myself. Truth be told here the beast has joined me for yet another crazy day at Boobie Land. She is laughing, of course, enjoying herself, smiling, cheering me on, clapping as I bounce from one side of the ride to the other. What fun we are all having. Shes' even got a balloon and pink cotton candy waiting for me! (As if I could eat anything after this toss about!) Can't you just see it?


Things aren't as happy go lucky here in Boobie Land as we all would like to think huh? Life is not predictable nor is it guaranteed. So I am back to the waiting and probing. I am not in shock or denial this time. No, I am ready for the beast this time around. She may be lurking ready to lock me in here at her cancer wonderland, but I am prepared this time around to fight back. I have a plan, I am ready to deal with her mean natured offspring. I will not be in this spinning cup forever!


If you have not guessed by now I have news. My cancer is not back, it is simply toying with me yet again. My MRI seemed fine not showing a tear or rupture in my implant. But my oncologist did notice I do have a mass. She did measure and document the thing. I did not ask how big because I did not want to have anything more to ponder. After all how much thinking can you do while spinning in a tea cup? So I will be scheduled for the following:

  • Mamo of the right breast.

  • Ultrasound of both the left and right breast.

  • Blood work (markers). This is just part of my normal routine.

  • Surgical breast biopsy of the left breast.

  • Biopsy of yet another mass on my skull( they just keep coming back).

  • See a new breast surgeon to discuss removing implant.

  • X-ray of my rib (right side) because of the recent pain I have been having in the area.

Nothing big, just nerve racking. It will be a few weeks for all this to resolve itself, and still all may be well. It is just a lot to process and get done. God has not abandoned me. I am in good hands. I just need to hold on a bit tighter for the next month!

Christina

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Year, New Hope

Here I sit, looking back over the last few days oddly with a smile while shaking my head at the same time. This is the start of a new year, a new chance to live fuller, to shout joyously and dance around the room like I haven't a care in the world. 2009, let me just let it sink in...

Three years ago I was just starting out on my journey through breast cancer. I had no idea where I was going but I was going none the less. So here I stand, all this time later, and I am still here, still fighting. I am not hopeless, helpless nor am I condemned because I have been dealt a life changing blow. I am finally free, for the first time in my life, I was set free from all the chains keeping me on the ground.

Some would say I waited all my life for this journey, I would say I was being prepared, learning how to fly. Now, I can fly without hesitating. I am not the same woman I once was nor will I ever be the same woman again. I have changed, both inwardly and out. I can fly, rise off from the ground, defy gravity, even stand up to status quo. Now when my journey comes to an end I know I will have lived completely without regret.

I can see clearer than I ever have before. I am not defined by this outward shell, but I am defined by the way I choose to live in spite of this beast. Life has not been kind but God has been gracious. In allowing this beast to come my way He has given me friends I never would have known, adventures I never would have taken on my own. In all life's chaos, He has placed order. Where my sight was once cloudy, I have been given a new set of eyes, a new lease on life.

I have no idea what this new year will bring. Darkness, light, pain, sorrow, joy and beauty... no one knows. What I do know is this... life is beautiful, full of reasons to hope. I do not have a resolution this year. I do not plan to give anything up, no I plan to keep moving forward. So this year, this time around, I have a promise instead to offer up.

My plan, my promise for 2009 is this: I will continue my journey, not giving up, instead living each wonderful moment as it comes my way!

Happy New Year, and New Hope to one and all!

Christina