Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hello Drains..we meet again!

Well, I have been out of the world for several days and it is good to be back. So thankful Josh was able to update you all during my surgery and hospital stay. As you know, it all happened so fast, so it has been a whirlwind. I don't know why God had things happen the way he did, but I know He is trustworthy. I am so thankful I was able to have surgery on Tuesday and He got me in as quickly as possible. One of my good friends, Christi, immediately texted me after knowing I was going into surgery and she affirmed me by saying that she was thankful I did not have to wait or be anxious and the Lord was getting me to surgery ASAP, for both my body and mind. That was so true!

Overall, the surgery was a lot better than I ever expected. My chest is not sore, not even one bit. It doesn't feel like anything happened in my chest. My back is the only thing that is sore and I can feel it getting better each day. I really think this recovery will be fairly easy. I do have four drains though- 2 in my back and 2 in my chest and they come out at my right side. I have not missed these drains one bit and I am reminded by having them again! They aren't draining very much, so I am hopeful that many if not all can come out Thursday at my check up appointment! It is just simply impossible to try to conceal them. At church Sunday, I wore a black, long, somewhat baggy dress and I still had "growth- looking bumps" poking out through my clothes. Sooo attractive:)!

As Josh told you all, we walked into Tuesday's appointment not knowing when or if we would have surgery, but mostly knowing we would. They were trying to get me on the schedule for Wednesday and were having trouble getting me on the schedule. I didn't eat or drink just in case they wanted to take me back for surgery on Tuesday, just to be safe, and I am so thankful I didn't. After trying to get me on the schedule, the PA walked back in and said, well since you haven't eaten today we are going in for surgery today- NOW. Josh and I looked at each other and were like, "Ok, let's do this." The Lord had prepared our minds and hearts for this possibility and I personally was not thrown off my by the immediacy of the surgery. I truly think the Lord knew it was best for me to have it that day, as my heart and mind would be more guarded. I don't think even an hour passed from the time we were told I was having surgery that day to being put asleep. Another upside of an emergency surgery- no wait times- I just went straight back!

When I woke up,  I was hot and slightly nauseous, but nothing compared to last time. Ms. Tammy and my mom were able to come in that night and I really don't remember much else from that night. I do remember waking up and telling Josh that I really didn't feel that bad. My drains were huge up until the time I left. I am still not sure why they were so much bigger than my mastectomy drains, but they said that the bigger drains have more of a suction on them. They were so heavy. Getting me out of bed was quite a challenge with IV's, drains, a foley, bandages and keeping my gown on:)  I had 3 nights in the hospital, which overall weren't too bad. The nights are really the worst, because it feels like someone is coming in there every 30 minutes. It was nice having Josh there with me at nights, but I felt so bad for him with all the commotion in the night. Thankful he is a hard sleeper.

I had some really great nurses: Brenda, Andrea, and Sharai. Sharai was one of my nurses after my mastectomy, so she remembered me from April. My respect and thoughts of nurses is so high and well-thought of. The things that they do, see, and deal with each day is overwhelming. I know that nursing is not for me...you have to be so patient and tolerant and skilled in so many ways! I was so impressed with my nurses and their care for me. Thank you nurses for all you do. I have never truly valued your career until I have seen what you guys do day in and day out. THANK YOU!!

Each day Dr. Villa and his PA Alisha would come and check on me, and they were so pleased with how I looked. Every nurse that saw me would comment over and over again on how great I looked. The surgery could not have gone better, and I am ready to be feeling like myself again. I have the best plastic surgeon team ever. We were all so disappointed that my expander became exposed. We were all hoping and believing it wouldn't happen. In the doctor's office on Tuesday, when it had been confirmed it was exposed and surgery was going to happen, I couldn't hold back the tears any longer. Once again, tears coming, when I least expect it. I always make my PA Alisha cry, and I just love her. So, there we were, all in tears.. Josh, me, Dr. Villa, and Alisha. I love these people. Then of course, Dr. Villa, reassures me that he will take the very best care of me and I will look wonderfully. Even though we are in Houston, we have built a "medical family" that we couldn't imagine being anywhere else. They have gone through the ups and downs with me and truly care about me. We are blessed.

My pain has been completely manageable. The last 2 days, I have just taken my pain medicine before I go to bed. The main reason for this is that I have been having nausea and stomach discomfort with my pain medicine. I have felt much better since I have reduced my pain medicine, but of course have a little more pain. It just really isn't that bad. I have been so pleasantly surprised with the way I feel. The Lord is so good to me.

So, now we will start expanding similarly to what we did after my mastectomy. They decided to put an expander in instead of an implant to remain as conservative as possible. By being able to gradually stretch my new skin, we would make sure that everything looked great before my final surgery. So, I should only have one more major surgery when they do final reconstruction on my left breast and switch out the expander for an implant on the right side.

I will go to Houston on Wednesday night to be there for my appointment Thursday morning. I should start getting expanded on my left breast and have them evaluate my right. Not sure if I will get expanded yet on that side though. Also, my first 3 month oncology check-up is coming up. My appointment is on next Friday, August 10th. As far as I know, no tests will be run, but I still want to pray for a wonderful appointment outcome. Cancer- free for the rest of my life.

As I've told you all before, my type of breast cancer that I had is called "triple negative" and is most likely to recur in the first 2 years and possibly the first 5 years. If a survivor makes it past these markers, their chances of survival are great. I by no means am hanging on to these "statistics", but it does make me want to turn 26 and 29 really soon! I am continuing to meditate on scripture and believe I will live and have a long life. I still need you all praying so hard for me, especially until I meet these milestones. So, you may be thinking, so you want me to pray without ceasing for 4 more years?? (since I'm on the edge of my first year) and the answer is YES! YES! YES!!! I am depending on it.

Please pray for my check up to go great on Thursday, that I will continue to feel better and better, that I will look better and better, and I will have a great first oncology check up on next Friday. Cancer-free in Jesus name, for all of the rest of my days. Nahum 1:9.

Here are some pictures from the hospital and my surgery from last week. So thankful for my husband, my mom, and Ms. Renea that were there with me as I recovered. They all completely dropped everything they were doing and came to be with me. I wasn't very fun to be around either- drugged up and typically having things done for me. So I am so grateful for my wonderful family. I am one blessed girl. Below are my pics from last week's surgery.

I believe this was on my last day. I was walking around pretty well and those drains were so heavy!!

Walking some laps around the floor with one of my nurses, Andrea

When Josh saw me for the first time after surgery. So pitiful!

Before surgery!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Going Home Today!

This morning at about 7:45 Alicia came in and checked Aly. She said that the skin looks good and is very pleased with it.

About 8:00 Dr. Villa came in and said the same thing. We will be back in Houston next week for a checkup but we will be coming home today.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Day 2 1/2 After Surgery

Today seemed to go good for Aly. She walked around quite a bit. She was able to get her IV removed and is taking her medicine by mouth now. She just took another round of pain meds at 10:00pm. The main source of buzzing and noise making from the previous nights is now gone.

The machines that monitor Aly's breathing and administer fluids and pain meds beeped on and off the whole night. They are now gone.

Today Aly was able to take a shower which that process in itself may have been one of the worst things I think a patient can experience. A nurse comes in and gives Aly a shower. So we are in a hospital shower room that even as nice as this place is it still isn't big enough for 3 people. Aly sits there while this nurse removes the bandages and showers her.

There have been a few moments through this process where I have truly thought that it was unreal. That moment to me was about as much of a personal space violation as you can experience as a person. Having been in surgery, then stuck in a bed for two days and then on top of that the nurse is showering you. I struggle the most at those moments for Aly, those are the moments you are not prepared for. Pain is somewhat a part of a normal life but some of the things that happen are so far from what any person should have to experience. Those moments are de-humanizing. Not sure if that is an actual word but that is the best I could come up with.

Aly ended up being completely unhooked from all machines so it makes going to the bathroom easier, eating easier and just more comfortable to be sitting there.

This week has been a test. When we realized what was happening to Aly's skin on Sunday/ Monday we were wrecked. We knew that something was going to happen that wasn't planned and for us that was not ok. I know for me since we had been home for about a week I had been desperately trying to figure out and ask God to show me what our life needed to look like from here on out. So much of our life is dictated by what we do for a living. That is what for Aly and I had dominated our schedule and our conversations. This next season for us will not look the same. The trick is figuring out the balance God wants for us. I had spent almost 7 solid days in the woods working and most of those days asking God to show me what does balance look like for Josh and Aly Taylor. My version of balance had not been good enough. My version of balance kept my mind on most everything other than hearing God and living what I heard to my wife and in my life.

 We have taken practical steps to change this. We have changed the time we go to bed, the time I wake up. Being overly intentional about giving time to sit when nothing else can be going on and read, pray and then truly listen for and to God. At 5:00 am there is nothing I can do outside, it's simply too dark. In the past when life got interesting or things got tight I begin to dig in and work like a dog. I looked at life problems as production problems. Cancer can't be outproduced. Chemo can't be avoided by buying another flip property or putting on a great fundraiser. For once we were facing something that took our "bucket" of life and picked it up and just dumped it out on a table. That was not a pretty table, I promise.

For me this kind of came to a head when I heard Pastor O'Neals sermon on Fathers day which was about Wounded Warriors. Men are not trained to ask for help, especially not emotional and spiritual help. That would be classified as weak and failure. Only problem with that theory is the B-I-B-L-E. In one of his points in the message it says that "Failure to acknowledge our woundedness will result in us never stopping the bleeding".

I had finally reached a point I wasn't willing to bleed anymore because I was affecting Aly and that wasn't something that was ok in my world. About a month ago I had what I have described as being as close to a mental breakdown as I can have. I simply didn't have the ability to finish anything that was frustrating. Not a physical labor or time issue but anything that required repeatedly addressing a problem and seeing something through. I felt like I was drowning. The next week I listened to Pastors sermon which we had missed while in Houston. My honest thought was that I was at a point where I was willing to tell other guys that I wasn't ok, I truly believed I would get no response. I thought it would be the classic how are you doing? I would answer, I am not ok and then they get the dumb look on their face and you can see they are kicking themself for asking because all they wanted was oh yeah life is great.

Literally the first time one of my friends asked me I told them I was not ok and that person not only continued the conversation but continued to let me know they were behind me. This process has been repeated with probably 5 other guys and all of them have continued to speak life to me. Most of them looked at me and said they were either in the same place or had been at some point. They are not speaking "words of wisdom", they are praying over me, quoting scripture over me and Aly. I have been a different person, husband and friend the last 30 days. God gave me the ability to lead Aly. I just wasn't giving him the ability to lead me. I am not done with this process but I am fighting tooth and nail to change the course of where we were headed before October 17, 2011.

We truly felt in our time back after radiation that we were beginning to create our new normal. So when this happened and happened so fast beginning Sunday when we realized there was problem this took our breath away. Monday was a rough day knowing we were coming back and then Tuesday certainly piled on after that. It was a low.

Brokenness isn't weak. Brokenness is admitting a need. If you wait to admit your need when God literally breaks you I can promise you it hurts worse and takes longer. You bleed longer and then you have more blood to clean up.

There's my sermon, I bet you guys have missed these "moments with Josh", well Aly is out of commission so I got a little bit saved up and you just got a piece of my preaching. That's me preaching at me.

Aly and I look forward to being home. We love you guys and continue to be so blessed in the midst of this war.

Walking around, eating and hopefully showering

Aly is feeling ok today. The pain is up a little bit from yesterday but she is able to eat and drink so that is an upgrade. The things we are still waiting on is for her IV to be removed and she will then take all medicine orally instead of through the IV.

Once she has the IV out she can shower which she is excited about. At this point the hospital experience is getting old. Aly is walking around well and we certainly hope that if all goes well she could go home tomorrow if not Saturday.

Hope all of you are doing well, we miss you already.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dont Challenge my wife, she will beat you.

This morning Dr. Villa came in and talked to Aly and checked her out and thought everything was looking great. He then proceeded to tell Aly there were 4 things she had to do in order to go home....how silly of him. He said she had to be able to walk around, use the bathroom without the Foley (catheter), take pain pills orally, handle normal diet. At 1:31pm I received a text that said, "got up and walked around, foley taken out. love u". She also ate her favorite pasta from Ruggles green tonight so tomorrow all she has to do is take pills orally and she will have completed a 4 day process in .......1 day.

These doctors will soon figure out setting goals for Aly Taylor is like dangling steak in front of the starving.

I was sitting in Aly's bed with her just before her last nurse visit and she looks at me and says, " i don't see why we won't be able to go home tomorrow".  Just another day in the life.

Day after surgery #2

Aly says she is feeling ok but that her right side where the work was done is tight and sore. Not sure I can make it make sense but just imagine one of your back muscles being pulled around and secured to your chest. Without feeling it myself I'm assuming that it is just incredibly tight and then she has to lay flat on her back all night.

I don't imagine that helps. These hospital beds constantly adjust with air to prevent bed soars, that equals a permanently rolling water bed.

Aly can have water now and some kind of soup. She says that she is feeling better after that.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Out of surgery almost going to her own room

I am in here with Aly in the room where they take her to recover.

A minute ago the nurse told Aly that she couldn't have any water until tomorrow. Aly sounds like a emphazemic smoker and try telling them you can't have any water.

Well we are now in our room. Same floor as after the mastectomy.

Aly says she is feeling well. The hot flashes are not near as bad as last time.

I am done for today. I will update tomorrow at some point. We have the best friends in the world. You guys continue to blow us away. Know that it isn't taken lightly and is fuel for us.

Surgery right now.

We met with the doctors this morning and plans have changed. The spot on Aly's right breast had started at the size of a pencil eraser and today it is the size of a quarter and the tissue expander is exposed.

We spent about an hour talking through all the options of what to do and when to do it. The best they could come up with is to replace as much skin as they can with healthy skin and muscle from her back. The PA had just finished with all the paperwork and had left and then came back in and clarified that Aly had not had anything to eat or drink since midnight.

Aly had decided to not eat or drink just in case this happened. I believe my wife may literally carry on conversations with God.

The surgery will be 4-6 hours and Aly will be in the hospital for 3-4 days after surgery. The reason for the long stay is that they separate the muscle going from your shoulder down to your pelvis and they move it to create a healthy area for the expander and permanent implant to go. The only thing they do not cut is the blood vessels connected to that muscle. I believe the vein is called a thoracic vein (not sure) and what they will monitor so closely is to verify that the blood supply to the muscle and skin is not compromised.

Easiest way to tell you is draw a () that is 5 inches long, turn the point of that clockwise to 2 o'clock and that is the shape, size of skin they will move to cover the area that has failed. They will take that skin under the uncut skin and bring it back out at the breast and secure it to the other skin.

We are waiting right now for them to call her back to the OR. Take that back, we are now back here.

I will update later.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Heading back to Houston tonight...

Hey guys,

I wanted to keep you all updated on what is going on with me. So the skin that looked like it may be dying has continued to get worse. Today it looks like the expander is about to be exposed and my Physician's Assistant believes it will be exposed very soon, if not today.

So, we are heading to Houston tonight and will see her first thing in the morning. My plastic surgeon is out of town, but will be back tomorrow night. She is conferring with him so they can come up with a plan on what needs to be done to get me back healthy. It looks like I will have the back-flap surgery on Wednesday or Friday...just not sure what day just yet. I should find out tomorrow and I will let you all know.

I have been given much peace about the surgery and my whole situation. God has really worked on me emotionally this weekend and reminded me to trust him. I am thankful that he prevented this from happening during radiation, because my radiation would have been interrupted. I have wondered, why now? Because if something were to go wrong, it "should" have happened earlier, but I believe he was shielding me from interfering with radiation.

There are many benefits from the back flap surgery. My breast will look much more natural and the chances of long-term success with no complications are very, very high. I am not sure on this, but it looks like they will be doing final reconstruction on my right side. Because I was already fully expanded, they should be able to put in my final implant and I should be "done" on that side, so that is a plus. Had I not been fully expanded, they would need to put an expander with the back flap and then exchange it later. They may still need to do that, as I will gain more information tomorrow, but I think they will be able to go straight to an implant. So, if we go through with the back flap surgery on the right side this week, only one breast will be operated on come December or January, so that's a plus too.

We are choosing to see the positives in the this and trusting the Lord 100%. He sees the whole picture when I can see just what's ahead. I will not worry about tomorrow, for today has enough worries of its own!

Matt. 6: 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

When I had an ultrasound back in January and there was no change in the lymph node size, I was a little discouraged. One of my wonderful friends, Kelly, texted me that the end of my story is healed and whole. Even though that ultrasound wasn't the news I wanted to hear, I had to focus on the end of the story. That is what we are doing now. The end of my story is a cancer-free life and reconstructed breasts that look as close to my old self as possible. Thankful for people that remind me of this.

So, Josh and I are heading out tonight. Please pray for our minds to be guarded and for the Lord to give us peace and joy. Please pray for my doctor, Dr. Villa, and his P.A. Alisha as they discuss what is the best option for me. Please pray that my surgery is as painless as possible and I will have full strength in my back where that muscle is removed. Also, pray for a wonderful, long-lasting outcome! 

I will update tomorrow as we know when surgery will be and what exactly will be done in surgery. Thank you all for praying. Oh, and here is a picture of what we came home to last week. This absolutely made our night. As we pulled up to our house, it was decorated with balloons and had a huge fruit basket waiting for us. The Remsbergs and the Borders welcomed us home with the biggest smiles on our faces. As we pulled up, Josh said, "We have the best friends ever." It's true! Here is a picture below:)

Friday, July 20, 2012

We're home! Well, sort of.

Yes, we are home and radiation is over. I am so, so thankful. My mom came in for my last treatment and we had a great time celebrating with the Stanfills. When I woke up the morning of my last treatment, I walked out of our bedroom to full-out celebration decor by Erin, Ms. Tammy, and my mom. They stayed up the night before and decorated everything for my last treatment. Even the outside of their house was completely decorate for me. We miss them so much already! We ate with the Stanfills after my last treatment and, as always had a wonderful visit. There is no way to repay them for all they have done for us!

 Josh, my mom, and Erin came with me for my last treatment and it was great. Just like normal and then got to bring them all in to ring the bell. My radiation team was so sweet and one of them, Sally,wasn't even working on my last day, but came in to see me ring the bell. She brought her beautiful daughter, Natalia, with her and she was so sweet. I couldn't have asked for a better group taking care of me! When I expect myself to have emotion, I typically don't. I thought when I was done with treatment I would burst into tears, and I didn't. I guess when it's expected, it doesn't feel genuine to me. Then I will cry randomly in a doctor's office for a check-up! I just am sometimes surprised at my emotions:)

 My skin from radiation is doing ok. When Dr. Storm saw me the last time, he said that my skin was at the peak of my response. The radiation did more to my skin than what he really wanted, but killing skin cells that deep means in theory killing any lingering cancer cells, which aren't even there in Jesus' name. All of my skin is beginning to peel which isn't the prettiest picture, but it is encouraging to see what skin lies beneath the ugliness- pretty, white, soft skin:) I'm feeling much better and I am still hopeful for healthy skin and tissue. It has been a great week back home as we are trying to adjust back to somewhat normal life. It has been weird, and then there are days where it has felt great. We are trying to somewhat "lay low" and seek God of how he wants us to do life now that we are here. He is revealing much to us, and we are thankful. We still need much prayer though. Thank you for the prayers--for both Josh and I.

The reason I wrote that we are home (sort of) is because we headed to Houston late on Wednesday night. I noticed a dry spot on my right breast, which is the side that wasn't radiated, and a scab came of a couple of days ago. I completely thought it was just dry skin. I showed it to Josh and he suggested I contact my doctor about it. Well, that led to emailing a picture, and them wanting me to come in and take a look. So, we got in Wednesday night around 1am to be there first thing this morning at 8. Yes, we are a little tired! Well, they looked at me Thursday morning and were concerned that my skin was under a lot of stress from the expander, which can sometimes lead to skin dying. If this becomes worrisome enough, it can lead to a removal of the expander, or a need to do an immediate back flap procedure. They are hopeful that it was either just a scratch or just a signal that my skin was under too much stress. They took out 100 cc's and wrote me prescription for a special cream that should help with the healing. I will be back next week for them to start expanding the left side and they can re-evaluate how it is looking then. We are praying and believing that I will heal up just fine, but still a little frustrating to be back in Houston so soon. I know God knows what He is doing! Trusting Him at all times. We cried some on Thursday just talking about how when life starts to feel a little normal, we have a hiccup. God has brought us through so much and we know He has us in his hands. Even though we are dealing with this issue, it isn't cancer-related, and for that I am grateful. I think it is harder on Josh because he just hates to see me have anything that is termed a "problem." I have to remember this is cosmetic and I know my beauty and worth is found in the Lord. I don't know if I have ever really grasped that or known what it meant until my body has been "deformed" after surgery and losing all of my hair on chemo. That can make you feel ugly if anything can! Until we find our beauty and worth in the Lord, we will never be satisfied with our beauty and bodies. These reconstruction issues will just be another hurdle we will have victory over!

 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

 Please continue to pray for us though. Sometimes I can really feel like a broken record, because I feel like I am always asking you guys to pray for something. I can feel redundant, and I wonder if those reading this, especially non-Christians are thinking, "Here she goes again, blah, blah, blah..." But I won't stop. This is what I have done since the beginning and we have seen the fruit of so many prayers. And, it's what God tells us to do. Please pray that we do not have to take my right expander out. Dr. Villa jokingly said that it would be a "reconstructive failure" if we had to do that and of course we don't want that. Please pray for my skin on the left side (radiated skin) that it will heal and be healthy. You all know I don't want to have to do the "back flap" procedure, so please pray I don't need to. Above all, pray that the reconstruction is the best it can be for me long term, even if that is the back flap. To look as closely to my old self, and above all healthy skin, with no complications- whatever procedure will need to be done. Please pray for Josh and I as we are figuring out our "new normal" and for my life-long healing! Praise the One from whom all blessings flow! I love the song ,"Bless the Lord, O my Soul"...especially the line that says "For your goodness I will keep on singing, 10,000 reasons for my heart to find." His goodness and blessings are all around me. I will not focus on the things that aren't good, but the things that are. And I know even the "bad" is not meant to harm me, but eventually for my good! I have so many reasons to sing and be glad!!

"And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them."

Romans 8:28 

I will update next week after my Thursday doctor's appointment. Love you! Here are some pictures from my last and final treatment!!!!!! Praise Jesus!!!

This was sweet Erin hanging decorations for me to wake up to on the last radiation day!

All of us after I rang the bell:)

With my awesome radiation team: Andrew, Sally and Natalia, and Huma


 Just one of the many outside decorations on my last day:)!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

I rang the bell on Thursday!!!

I will post a full blog in a few days, but wanted to post the video of me ringing the bell. The people in the background are my radiation team, Josh, my mom, and Erin (whom we've lived with for the past 6 weeks). I am DONE with cancer treatment. Praise the Lord!!

I love you all. Praise Jesus!

Monday, July 9, 2012

July 12th is in 3 days!!!

Wow, our last week in Houston is here. I knew these 6 weeks would go by fast, but wow, it really feels like we just got here. We have enjoyed Houston, the Stanfills, and just having quality time together here. We've grown to like Houston, but we are ready for family and friend time, no traffic, and we are ready to quit church hopping. It seems like we have been to a different church each week since we have been in and out of Houston. It  has been great to experience other churches, but makes me so grateful for Family Church. Only 3 MORE TREATMENTS! My cancer treatment is coming to an end.   A huge part of our journey is almost over. All glory to my healer and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The Lord is so good to me and just so amazingly faithful. We've had a great last week/weekend, and we have spent a lot of time with others which has been great. We have had dinner with the Stanfills several times and also gotten to see a few people who we haven't seen in a really long time! My cousin Josh works with his youth group at his church in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Well, they were in Houston last week putting on VBS camps for kids in Houston. He asked me a few weeks back if I would be willing to speak to their youth group one night when they were in Houston, and I said, "Yes!" I've never spoken to a big group outside of a school setting, so I was very nervous, but it was a great experience. God has saved me and healed me for many reasons- some I will never know, but I do know that one of those reasons is for me to tell my story and share God's goodness and the miracle He has done in me. So, I am praying that doors continue to open to tell my story and give testimony of my healing.

Rev. 12:11 "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.

Speaking to his youth group went really well, and I wasn't as nervous as I thought I would be. The hardest part of all in telling my story is editing it. If I told of every amazing thing God has done to prepare us for this journey, as well as every amazing thing He has done along the way, I would speak for hours and hours and hours. So, it was greatly shaved down, and then we had a question and answer session that was really neat. My Josh helped me out tremendously and answered many of the questions that were directed toward him and our marriage. I pray that our story, even though ours has to do with cancer, can be relatable to so many regardless of their circumstances.To recount all God has done, and all we have been through is overwhelming. Not even so much in the sense of overwhelming of all we have been through, but all He has brought us through- THAT is overwhelming.

It was also great to see my cousin, Josh and get to spend some time with him. We don't get to see that side of the family too often since they live in New Mexico, so when we do, it definitely is a treat. My aunt and uncle from Albuquerque are coming to visit next week in Monroe so we are excited to see them too!

I also got together with a friend that I met during chemo this week. When I was in about my 5th week of chemo, I was coming back from an ultrasound, and I saw a girl who had her scarf tied really cute around her head, and I asked her about it. That brought about more conversation and we got to know each other throughout our treatment process. She was stage 1 and had a terrible time with the chemo. We would get chemo on the same days and saw each other often. She had a unilateral mastectomy and we have kept in touch, as she was a little ahead of me. She is due to have her reconstruction on the 16th of July. Irena is so great, and we had a wonderful lunch together. Josh came and joined us at the end of our lunch, and Josh and I had a good talk afterwards. He just brought to my attention the bond that breast cancer survivors have that is just so special. He said that it is so neat to see two people at completely different stages of life and feel so connected. If someone was not "versed" in breast cancer language, they would have no idea of most of our lunch conversation. She just turned 40 and also has Dr. Litton as her oncologist. Since Dr. Litton specializes in young breast cancer, it is really neat to find other young breast cancer survivors, and even more neat to have the same oncologist. Because Irena didn't have to have radiation, she is almost done with everything! I am so thrilled for her and I definitely have made a life-long friend.

We also got together on Friday with Brandie and Mark. I wrote about Brandie a while back. She and her husband were following our blog and stopped us in the MDA waiting room a few months ago, as they recognized us from the blog. She is also triple negative for hormones and was 36 when diagnosed. She was 9 months pregnant and had a c-section to have her baby so they could start chemo immediately. She also has a two-year-old little boy. They are so sweet and down-to-earth. She is on the same regimen of treatment as me, although I don't think she will have to have radiation. She was diagnosed at Stage2A and just started her first FAC treatment. She was just starting to feel a little better as the first week on FAC was coming to an end, but it was so great to see them. Her 3 month old baby girl, Virginia, was able to come too. Although I have gotten to know several other breast cancer survivors and those undergoing treatment, I haven't had much involvement with anyone else that is triple negative, so that is a major blessing. We had a great lunch with them all and it is like watching myself just a few short months ago. One again, our talk about breasts, wigs, scarves, symptoms, fears... those conversations are pretty invaluable. We also share stories of amazing things people have said to us, as well as terrible things people have said to us. Brandie shared a top 10 list of things to never say to a breast cancer patient- so true and funny to say the least. I pray that her seeing me with my hair growing back and God's healing in my life brings her encouragement and leads her to even more fully rely on the Lord. So thankful for others like Brandie and Mark.

I remember when I was first diagnosed, I talked to Ms. Joy Macmahan, who is a 5 year + breast cancer survivor. I believe it was the day after I was diagnosed, and she said, "Well, you have just become the member of a new family. I know it was a family that you would never want to be a part of, but you are in a family." That is so true of breast cancer survivors. I have felt that this week, and I know as I meet and get to know others, it will be even more true.

We also had a great weekend in Lake Charles this past weekend with our friends, Kase and Kelly Gonzales. We mostly just hung out and laid low, which was so great to do. There aren't many people that you can just sit around with and enjoy your time so much, but we can with the Gonzales'. They are so special to us, and we had a wonderful time with them this weekend, seeing some of where they have been over the past year. Kelly is such a special friend to me and was one of my first friends I made when I went to LSU during undergrad. Her phone calls during my treatment and even now are LIFE to me. I love her with all my heart! I am so blessed with many friends, but I have a small group that are what I believe God wants friendship to look like. I am reminded constantly that I am in the minority with such amazing, Godly friends. These last 9 months would have looked and felt so different without them. So, to get to spend an entire weekend with one of them- perfection!

My skin is suffering quite a bit, but I am still having faith it will be healthy once all this is over. I have little blisters in some spots, which is quite uncomfortable, but just part of it! Please pray that my skin will recover to complete health and that I will not have discomfort, pain, or irritation. I know that if I ask for anything, and believe I have received it, it will be mine. I am strong!

Joel 3:10 "Let the weak say I am strong."
Mark 11:24 "Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them."

Josh and I have talked much over the last past week of how things will and must be different when we are back home. Dr. Litton has told me and the other young ladies to continue doing what we were doing when we were on treatment, because we did so well. Well, I worked part-time, wasn't in class as much, ate very healthy, and rested alot. In August, I will start back school and work, and I am somewhat nervous. School will be 2 days a week, but work will be each day. I am trying to find a balance, and I really need prayer concerning it. We not only want to spend our time differently for spiritual purposes, but I want so much about my life to be different. I truly believe that nothing I "did" caused cancer, but I do not think it would be wise to go back to doing everything I did "pre-cancer"--Which is why I have changed my diet, and I know I need to change much of my lifestyle. I have always been a very laid back person and would not consider myself "stressed" by any means. There is much research that shows being stressed or leading a stressed lifestyle can contribute to breast cancer and/or reoccurrence, so I of course will be trying to eliminate stress. I'm still not sure what that looks like. I am praying that the Lord will show me what that balance is. One thing we know and have committed to is that things will look different for me and for us. I am thankful the Lord has opened my eyes up to these changes, and I am trusting He shows me how to make them. Please pray that God will direct me as I change much about how I live my life. Here are some pictures from last week. The next time I write, I will be done with treatment!! All glory to God!!!!

Dinner with the Stanfills

Holding sweet Virginia at lunch with Brandie and Mark

Me and Irena

Me and my Kel