Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mastectomy April 23,2012. One year ago today.

 So apparently Josh and I were posting on the blog at the same time today and didn't know it, so we just combined our two posts into one.


As I sit here today thinking about what we were doing this time last year I am in some sort of awe at time passing.

I just went and read the first blog post from this day last year and it is surreal to mentally go back there. I described the room we went in and then Dr. Babiera coming in and talking to us after her part of the surgery. 

This morning I woke up next to my beautiful wife's alarm going off. She left for work and school and I did the same. Even being the ones that went through it doesn't make it any less crazy. 12 months ago how different life looked. It was easy to concentrate on what mattered because it was in front of my face. 

Today at Chick-fil-A where I ate lunch all is normal. I sat there thinking if this is what is going through my brain right now I wonder what is going through some of these other people's brains. 

We are beyond blessed to be where we are in this moment but to think what has happened in the last 12 months since the Mastectomy is a bit overwhelming. Including the mastectomy Aly has had 4 Major surgeries that have drastically influenced our life and her well being. 

Today Aly wore a blue and white-ish dress and looked amazing. Needless to say as she left the house this morning I could not stop thinking how blessed we are that instead of being in a hospital bed this evening she will will come home and we will be in our bed in West Monroe, LA. 

We have a front row seat to God working on our behalf in Aly's body. 

Just for reminders- this is Aly right after her mastectomy. We could not cool her down. They wouldn't give her water and she was not feeling good. No fun this day.

This is one of my favorite pictures. She was sleeping so hard the glasses just stayed almost where they were. For weeks she had to sleep sitting up. 

Very quickly the smiling Aly was back, drains and all.

Today I also know there is a man in Houston, TX that is in the exact same spot I was last year. His wife or daughter is in surgery and he is just waiting. I don't know if I believed life would go on. Today though at about 6:30am Aly woke up and began what most people would consider a normal day. Life has gone on. We don't look, act, think or feel the same but daily we are trusting that God will fulfill his promise to us.

I continue to realize I am incredibly blessed to have Aly as my wife. I would sign up 100 times over with full knowledge of what we have been through. Aly's dogged determination which shows up in a daily walk with Christ that continues to push me to get closer to Christ has been much of the push that has enabled this version of the Taylor's to be where we are today.


I remember a particular beach trip when I was probably in about 7th grade and I thought my sister was gorgeous ( and I still do). I remember seeing her in her swimsuit and how she filled out the top perfectly. Me, on the other hand was as skinny as a rail and flat as a board. I remember praying, literally praying to God that I would have a chest like my sister. I remember my friend, Erin and I, getting training bras from Limited Too around this same time. I had NO business getting a training bra, but all my friends needed them and I wanted to feel older too. To me, it was a huge part of what made a woman beautiful, at that time.

It took me longer to develop than most girls my age. I always thought I was flat chested and saw myself as that. It was as if one day when I was in the 10th grade, I immediately had breasts! I didn't feel like the skinny, flat chested girl, but was starting to feel like a woman. I finally filled out bras, swimsuits, and shirts looked better on me. My body began to change and I definitely was not that 7th grade girl anymore. I remember my family asking me if I had taken Bloussant (remember those advertisements for breast enhancement?! ha ha) because it was as if I developed overnight. It definitely boosted my confidence- not only that I had breasts, but overall didn't feel like a little girl anymore. I knew even then that God saw me as a beautiful woman even before I "developed" but I definitely felt more beautiful with my new body.

So, fast forward to October 17th, 2011. I had been married for 5 years to Josh and we learn I have breast cancer. On October 18th, our doctor in town says that he would recommend a double mastectomy as quickly as possible. Those breasts that I had prayed for could be taken away. What I saw as beautiful when I was a little girl could be stripped away from me. I desired to me a wife that is talked about in Proverbs 5:18-20, and I felt that I could no longer be that.

Proverbs 5:18-20 
"May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.A loving doe, a graceful deer—may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love."

What transpired in the next several months was nothing short of God, my father, carrying me and reminding me how beautiful and precious I was. I remember sitting at MD Anderson and Josh and I talking about the possibility of having a mastectomy. Josh did not waver once about me having it done. I remember us both crying and him telling me, "I think I will be even more attracted to you. Every time we look at you, it will just be a reminder of what the devil tried to do and how God healed you." This was the beginning of me seeing beauty in a different light.

I spoke to the West Ridge Middle School FCS this past week, and I spoke a little on beauty and how God has shown me what true beauty is. It is not what I saw in my sister when I was in 7th grade, although she was and is beautiful. It is a pure and clean heart, with a gentle and quiet spirit. Sadly, it wasn't until I was forced to not have hair and the breasts that might "define" my womanhood ripped away that I learned what true beauty was.

 "Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious." 1 Peter 3:3-4

I have so many scars on my body. My 15 drain scars, my big lat flap scars on my back , my port scar, and many scars on my chest. I am reminded every day when I look in the mirror of where my true beauty comes from. I see where God sewed me back together and used what Satan tried to harm me with and turned it for His and my good. Not many people can look in the mirror every morning and tangibly see how God has saved them from death. For that, I am grateful. I am grateful that my heavenly Father finds me beautiful. I am grateful that my husband finds me beautiful. I am grateful that I can look at my scarred, broken, and imperfect self and know I am more beautiful than I ever was.

1 Sam 16:7 "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.”

Today, I remember how God supernaturally protected me from fear before and during my mastectomy surgery. I remember Josh and I not sleeping the night before. I was nervous, but not scared. I remember the plethora of texts, emails, blog comments, pictures I received the day of my surgery. I remember my family members and amazing friends that came to Houston for my surgery. I remember waking up feeling on fire and Josh putting ice rags all over me. I remember my mouth being so dry and Ainsley putting chap stick on me. I remember seeing a group of my friends and family once I was moved to my own room. I was so nauseous and wanted to thank everyone for coming, but just felt horrible. Needing help to do anything--drinking water, walking to the bathroom, getting my toilet paper, emptying my drains... It is a humbling experience to not be able to do anything for yourself.

I then remember coming home the next day--WOW God!!! I remember feeling a little better slowly. I remember really weird things, like my tank tops kept falling off my shoulders, because nothing was there to hold them up- weird stuff like that that I didn't even expect to happen. But most of all, I remember being thankful to have had no complications, and I knew we would soon get amazing results from the tissue taken from my surgery. I so longed for the day to deemed "cancer-free."

So, I will always remember April 23, 2012, as it was a day that I was face to face with what defines beauty. One year later, I am thankful for this terrible surgery. I am healed and it took this surgery for doctors and everyone else to have evidence of it...Another milestone reached, another day remembered, another challenge to take on. I am altogether beautiful.

"You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you." Song of Solomon 4:7

Some pictures from my mastectomy surgery, 1 year ago, below...

About to have my mastectomy surgery

Getting set up for the mastectomy

When I was finally brought back to my room. So nauseous...

This was the first time I looked in the mirror. My straps kept falling down. 
I also had to wear the tights on my legs to prevent clotting.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

It's still April?!?


Gosh. It is just the middle of April, and I feel like April should be coming to a close. In a way that is good, because things have been a little calmer for the Taylor's, but in a way, I am ready for April to speed by, as each month is a huge milestone for me.Still learning to live each day without rushing them by.

Here are some pictures from our Spring Break trip to the beach.

We had such a relaxing time. I am so thankful for my husband in many ways, but one of the ways is that he is my best friend- TRULY! We have so much fun together- whether it's doing activities, or just doing nothing, we just enjoy each others company. I am so grateful for that. We had a wonderful time at the beach besides....shingles. Yes, that's right, I was diagnosed with SHINGLES! Crazy huh?! While we were at the beach, I had lots of shooting pain, numbness, itching, burning, skin sensitivity on my back and side, then a rash on my back. We went to a doctor while at the beach, and we finally discovered it was shingles. This explains my massive headaches and a lot of the weird sensations I was having. I was of course relieved to know it was shingles, but just so mad and aggravated at the devil for using such crazy things to try and DE-rail me. Won't work. Won't ever work. Definitely put a damper on our trip though.

So, I'm getting over that and feeling much better, but still dealing with low back pain. Still struggling with this a lot, but God has given me much more peace about it. I have been exercising on a stationary bike and I tried swimming this weekend. It was like a child having to re-learn to swim, with my back muscles and chest muscles feeling so different. I'm sure it was funny to watch. Josh instructing me how to swim...my breathing like I had just swam miles...and the pool being 58 degrees. Funny to say the least. But we are learning and trying new things, so that I can still exercise with my back issues.

I learned that I passed my PhD comprehensive exams, which is huge for me, and am now continuing to work on my dissertation proposal. We will head to Houston in 2 weeks for my 3 month oncology check-up (April 29 and 30), followed by a reconstructive check up. Please be praying now that Dr. Litton remains unconcerned with me and my symptoms. We are looking forward to this Houston trip, as we will be able to go to our favorite Houston stops and see our Houston family, the Stanfills.

I am reminded of how small my problems are when the tragedy hit Boston yesterday. My heart has been broken for this city and those affected. Please join me in continued prayers of so many people who are hurting. I know what it is like to suffer, in a much different way, of course. But because I have felt devastation, I feel a connection with those that are devastated- no matter what kind of devastation they are facing. We need you Jesus.

 Please, please continue to pray for me. We will update after my appointments if not before. I have more peace about my back pain, but it is still hard to live in pain. I have been so blessed to not have had to live with a constant pain ever before. One of my amazing friends, Christi, sent me this scripture this morning:

"Consider it great joy, my brothers whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its COMPLETE WORK, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing" James 1:2-4

She text me this scripture and said that maybe the struggles and pains that I am still experiencing are a part of endurance doing its COMPLETE work. I want to be complete, lacking nothing, and this could just be another test of faith. I will continue to stand on my confession of faith of my healing, with pain or without. Striving to be patient, but of course wanting relief! I know the relief is coming. I've experienced bits of it and am trusting my back will feel much better soon. Thank you for continuing to join me in prayer.

My friends are incredible. I still get texts, emails, and phone calls from friends that lift me up and still understand I am struggling each day. One of my dear friends, Alicia, told me that she thought of me as she watched the Bible series on the history channel. On one of the episodes, it is the lady that touches Jesus' clothes and she is healed. (I missed this episode) Alicia said that Jesus grabbed her face and said "You are healed." She told me, "Aly, Jesus has held your face, looked into it and said, "You are healed."" There is no need to worry. This really challenged me, because if God tangibly grabbed my face and spoke those words to me, I wouldn't question...and that IS what he did. Oh the grace He has for me! So forgiving, so faithful, so true...

Thank you to all who continue to remind me of God's healing. In him I hope, trust, believe, and live.

Here are some pictures from relay for life that was this weekend. This is my 2nd year to attend this event. Last year, we went a week after my mastectomy and I had all 5 drains hidden under my baggy t-shirt. This year, no one is staring at me, I have hair, and a small t-shirt with no drains. Praise God! I don't know if I will ever be able to comprehend all that Jesus has delivered me from, but I will try!

Expectant for great doctor's reports,


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Pressing on...


So much has happened in the last few weeks. First off, the "Fight Like a Mom" event was amazing! Pathway Church in Mobile is an incredible church, and the ladies there were awesome. The event was great (Rhonda and her team are awesome, seriously!). We had great praise and worship, heard amazing (when I say amazing, I mean AMAZING) testimonies, we spoke, ladies prayed for others at the altar and left encouraged and uplifted. God definitely calmed our nerves about speaking. When we first tried to come up with what we wanted to share...it was well over 2 hours. We squeezed that down to about 45 minutes and took out HUGE parts. But we prayed that God would give us the words HE wanted us to share, and we feel He did that. The hardest part was the preparation as we had to re-live our toughest moments while sharing our story...God was glorified and we believe we obeyed him by sharing.

The women there encouraged me as much as I've ever been encouraged. One woman (who God miraculously enabled her to get pregnant) came up to me and said ,"God and I are carrying your burden for pregnancy. You don't have to carry it. I will be praying for you until we see that miracle baby." WOW..tears flowing.... These were the kinds of things that the women were saying to me. They were expectant for God to continue showing His healing in my life and speaking that to me. Just what I needed to hear. It really is true that when you bless others, you will end up blessed.

There were so many pictures and videos taken that night. Some of my awesome friends and family came to support us- Josh's parents, my mom and Mr. Joey, some of my extended family members, Margot, Ainsley, and my friends, Alicia and Erin surprised me!!! It was definitely comforting to know there were those in the audience who were not only supporting me, but who lived out this past year and a half alongside us.

I will post more pics as we get them, but here are a few from the "Fight Like a Mom" Event.

We have of course experienced attacks from the devil, which has been terrible. We believe this has much to do with our sharing our story on March 17th. Much back pain and head pain. You all know now that my brain MRI came back clear- praise God! I KNOW it was an attack from the devil, which just makes me so mad at him. It was a pain I have never felt before in my head...just to scare me and have me doubt. I continue to know I am healed,  and he just keeps trying to scare me. It is so frustrating to have emotions waver so much. I have to continue trusting the TRUTH and not my emotions. I am learning the the devil loves to attack me physically (with pains) and then my emotions. I am learning that often times sin starts with emotions; therefore, I can't trust my emotions- they can often lead to sin. The ONLY thing I am sure of is God and His word, so that is what I will hold to.

In the last few weeks, I have finished my PhD comps!!! I have yet to receive my grade, but I am so thankful they are over. I am still working on completing my dissertation proposal draft, but it is getting exciting that my PhD course work is almost done.

I am on my Spring Break and we are at the beach!!! Just Josh and I have come to the beach and I don't think I have ever needed a "get-away" more. I know there are people in the world that are struggling with things much more serious than we are, but to have a few days to rest and relax outside of our normal world has been such a blessing for the Taylors. We have a few more days here--rainy today, but rain or shine-we are thankful for time away. We are so thankful for the generosity of those who make this possible.

Last year for my Spring Break, we came to the beach and we have been reflecting on how much has changed since last year. I remember being so self-conscious with my bald head, no fingernails/toenails, and my port...this year, no one would even know I used to be sick...so overwhelming and we have much to be thankful for. We have been using this time to rest and to come up with goals for ourselves- with God, in life, in our relationships, etc...We are more determined than ever to be purposeful with how we live the life God has blessed us with.

I am still struggling with back pain. It is definitely getting better...Praise the Lord, but I have definitely been sympathetic toward those who struggle with back pain. It literally affects everything. I think it all started when I overdid it with my workouts. I have stopped exercising with my personal trainer and have been taking a "break." I have mostly been walking, riding the stationary bike, and stretching. For anyone who knows me, this has been SO hard. I love to be active and it has been a struggle to not be able to run and exercise like I want to. I know God is teaching me something through all of this. I am trusting and praying I can get back to being more active...just trying not to push it too much.

Thank you all for praying for me. Josh has been amazing these past few weeks. Praying for me when I've needed it (which has been A LOT), praying for me in the middle of the night, anointing me with oil, and continuing to remind me I am healed. I am so blessed. Our friends and family continue to stand in the gap for us.

While at the "Fight Like a Mom" event, we met another girl (Chastity) who will win her fight with breast cancer. I knew it was time to get rid of my wigs (I have two), so I sent her one of them, along with a breast cancer pin another survivor gave me during treatment. I was to pass it on to another survivor. So thankful to be able to pass these off, but it was definitely hard for me to do- a sign of me releasing my faith and pressing on to what's ahead. 

"Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead" Phil. 3:13

Here are some pics of me with my wig and the pin I passed on to Chastity.

This was a picture I took during chemo last year. I was so nervous to wear this wig in public. Now it's passed on to another survivor:)

Here is the wig and pin right before I boxed it up to send to Chastity. Won't ever need this again, in Jesus' name.

Beach pictures and "Fight Like a Mom' pictures to come. Please continue praying for my "pains" to go away, and for me to continue putting my trust and faith in God and His word.