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Give thanks, with a grateful heart


This Thanksgiving has a whole new meaning to me, as I am truly more thankful for every second of each day than I ever have been before.  I am thankful that on June 18th, I found my lump.  I am thankful that I followed through with seeing the doctor and took the proper steps to determine exactly what it was.  I am thankful for all of the nurses and doctors that saw me quickly and helped me start my journey to a cure.  I am thankful for my husband, my sweet Jett, my parents, my in-laws, and all of my family and friends who have amazingly stood by my side each and every day.  I am thankful for a God that is real and that has never left me alone and sustains me.  And I am thankful for His promises and for life.   A full life.  37 and a half years.

On July 12, the day of my diagnosis, I didn’t really know what this cancer journey would look like. I soon found out that the chemo part of the treatment would fall during the season of FALL. Hmmm… And guess what?  Fall is truly my most favorite season of the year.  Trying to think positively, I couldn’t help but think that college football would take center stage on TV, pumpkins, scarecrows, and leaves would be the decorations around town, the color orange (my favorite) would be shining brightly everywhere, and the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays would be just around the corner. Knowing all of this made the doom of CHEMO seem a tad brighter.  And a bright spot it has been.  With treatments on Friday, my Saturdays have been busy with a Clemson game to watch on TV almost every weekend, we’ve carved pumpkins, the color orange has consumed my wardrobe, house, and more, and now the holidays are here.  And I can officially see the light at the end of the treatment tunnel, with 5 more to go.   This season of my life has flown by.  Seriously.  I stand back and think about how fast this season has come and gone.  With these last treatments I've been super tired and I've had had a terrible numbing pain in my fingers, but all in all, those have really been the only two side effects from the Taxol, once the terrible reactions were stopped.  What a blessing that those ended and now we can start celebrating some as the journey is slowly approaching its halfway mark!  

As Thanksgiving approaches, I can’t wait to spend time with my family and eat delicious meals prepared by hands filled with such love.  My mouth is watering now thinking about the yumminess that's coming.  And for the exercising afterwards, as known as shopping on Black Friday, it's still

up in the air as to whether I'll go.  I love the crowds and the thrill

of a good deal but...the steroids will have to be working really well to make me go.  My stamina has diminished TONS in the last few weeks.  My doctor told me at treatment #11 that I would begin to really feel the exhaustion kick in over the course of these last five treatments and he wasn’t lying.  Just this week I felt a difference.  I did do most of my decorating so that I can enjoy the holidays.  But that about did me in.  





And then I tried super hard to wrap some Christmas presents on Sunday and got frustrated as my fingers just didn't work when trying to tie pretty bows and tags on, and I couldn’t do all that I wanted to do.  I had to stop midway through.  Not being able to accomplish all that I wanted to and more upset me. I've been told that I have to learn to ask for help and also realize that Christmas is still a pretty good ways away.  But...I like for everything to be just so, and yes I’m a tad bit OCD.  But the good news is that the shopping has mostly been done and the finishing touches will happen. I must be patient and I just keep telling myself the time will come.


When things seem to be falling apart around me and I feel overwhelmed…I try so hard to give it all to Him.  This week Jett was being a typical almost 4 year old, stalling during the "getting ready for school process", arguing over his socks, his shirt, the right jeans to wear, his stuffed animal that he wanted to take to school, and more.  He was just pushing my buttons more than normal.  I seriously stopped dead in my tracks, raised my hands and prayed.  I asked Jesus to intervene.  And He did.  Jett looked at me with this little sideways grin afterwards, and all I could do was cry and hug his neck.  Times aren't always easy and the Lord knows that when we are weak, He is strong and He picks us up.  This week, I was searching Pinterest for some fun things to do with my students and came across the most wonderful blog.  

www.christcenteredmama.com

Wow!  Just the title grabbed my heart.  The most recent blog post tugged at me and tugged hard!  “How to be Truly Thankful” was the title and here were the 4 main points:

1.   Lower Your Expectations

2.  Give Thanks for the Hard Things

3.  Be Humble Towards God

4.  Allow God to Use You, Even If It Means That He Will Break You

 

That last one knocked me to my knees.  I’ve been broken so many times over the last few months....just the other day when being a mommy was tough to living with cancer in my body.  But yet God has never given up on me.  I know that He's using me for great things and I’m thankful for his master plan.

Speaking of great things, yesterday, one of my best friends, Jane, drove once again from Georgia to spend time with me.  Even though we only saw each other awake for less than 6 hours, the time was just so special.  She loves our Lord and it shows.  She loves her family and it shows. She loves giving to others and it shows.  And she loves my family and I love hers.  I couldn’t wait to give her a bracelet that I had made for her that said “No one fights alone.”  That says it all.  Even being over 5 hours away, knowing that she is praying for me fervently and daily, means the world to this me.  A stroll around Target, a Starbucks in hand, Carolina Fine Foods hamburgers for dinner, PJ Masks on the TV for Jett, and just to sit on the couch with her was just what I needed for a Monday night after a long day at school.  A little Christmas present exchange of course had to happen, since we won't see each other over the holidays.  She gave Jett the most precious book called The Giving Manger.  It is a fun, interactive Christmas book that helps families focus on giving and the true meaning of Christmas.  With the simplest manger and baby Jesus, comes straw for the child to place around Jesus every time a good deed is done for others.  We’ll begin this very soon as it’s never too early to teach the importance of giving to others during a season where so many times we focus on what’s given to us, especially the little ones. 



 So thankful I am.  Ever so thankful. 

We hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving with those you love.  Hug every single person a little tighter this year.  Tomorrow is never promised.  



"For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under Heaven...a time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance."  Ecclesiastes 3:1,4







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Chemo #11


These song lyrics popped into my head this afternoon while waiting to see my oncologist and never left my brain while at the cancer center.  His presence was felt and my heart was filled immensely throughout chemo #11.  My platelet count was higher than it had ever been and how grateful was I to hear that news.  It seems like every single day kiddos are sick in my classroom or I hear about littles that have a bug in my Sunday school class or at Jett's school.  God has been so faithful in keeping my body well so that I can take the treatment each and every week.  And this week!  Whoa!  He showed out and prepared me well so that I could knock another one off the list! 
My sweet friend Brandi met me at the center so that we could love on one of our nurse navigators that was diagnosed just last month.  Sarah has worked with oncology patients for over 20 years, navigating them in the kindest way throughout the cancer journey.  And then bam.  She's diagnosed with BC, herself.  It's just crazy how so many people, right here in Greenville, SC, are hearing those words.."you have cancer."  Sarah's got a great attitude and we are proud to stand alongside her through every step of this battle. We had to get her a little something to hang on her door as she's fighting!  

The one Brandi gave me means so much and I never start my day without seeing it along with the precious messages written on the back from some of my dearest friends. 



Brandi is always just so thoughtful and today brought me the most adorable cuddle monster that you can heat in the microwave to take away those aches and pains I've been dealing with because of the Taxol.  I have a feeling a little fellow named Jett may claim him because he's so stinking cute.  When I lay down at night I usually have a heating pad or rice bag around my shoulders to help with the pain and that sweet boy always snuggles super close to feel the warmth.  And now he can share this little monster.  Now for the FIZZY bath bombs.  I'll hide them for and keep for myself.  

The last time I went for treatment they had a very hard time drawing blood so I was a little apprehensive about this.  But guess what...I drank tons of water beforehand and could've filled ten viles yesterday if I needed to so that was another huge blessing.  The last chemo day when it was just my daddy and I, he went back with me to have my port accessed and for the blood draws.  He saw the fear in my eyes when no blood would flow and when the nurse told me to start some deep breathing and coughing to help get it started, he thought I was in pain and it just worried him so.  He was tickled to know that this time was a piece of cake.  Water and prayers did the trick!  

J was with me every step of the way this time.  I missed him so much last week.  He's my candy getter, my bag carrier, my water, pillow, blanket monitor, and my heart and soul.  Today we took caramel popcorn to all of the staff at the cancer center to show how grateful we are to them.  From the secretaries, to the ladies in the lab, the nurses, doctors, and valet guys!  They are top knotch and we wanted them to know how thankful we are everyday for them, not just during this Thanksgiving season.   I wish I could do more for them, but a hug and some delicious caramel popcorn surely made their Friday a little sweeter!  

After treatment began and we were done with the scary   waiting period of the Taxol slowly being given, I was able to rest and fell asleep since I didn't any sleep on Thursday night again, due to the steroids.  The warm sun on my back, two of my favorite guys sitting near me, and after a foot massage, my eyes got heavy and I rested until the sweetest visitor walked into my room with the biggest smile!  Dr. Keith!!  I've mentioned her before on here but she's the wonderful doctor that I've gone to for years that brought Jett into this world.  She crawled up in my chair with me and gave me the sweetest hug that meant so much.  She's the one that told me the news of my cancer after fighting the battle herself not even 2 years ago.  She's been amazing during this whole trial, checking on me often, helping me choose doctors, answering tons of crazy questions when I call her, but also just easing my mind and seeing her bravery.  Walking alongside her at the fashion show was an honor just as it was to see her walk in the chemo pod yesterday.  She's a huge piece of the puzzle in God's masterpiece and I will praise Him because His works are wonderful.  

We have to remember that our Maker knew us inside and out before "one of them came to be".  Psalm 139:15-16 
We all have a purpose here on Earth!  Her purpose is BIG and tons love her as a doctor and as a wonderful person. 
So she left as the Taxol finished up, my nurse cut my hospital wristband off and I walked out of the center with the wildest and most appropriate shoes on my feet, and checked one more treatment off the list!  

My daddy likes to tell everyone that when treatments are over, they can't keep up with me going down the stairs, as I'm like a Tennessee walking horse-high stepping it out of that place like I'm on a mission.  I mean with fancy schmancy shoes like these who would'nt be running?  Nah!  I took the arm of my sweet J and carefully walked down the stairs with tons of gratefulness in my heart after a perfect treatment.  They take such good care of me but after a long day, I'm ready to be home. 

So this morning...after a good night's rest, I'm snuggled up by the tree, decaf coffee in hand (caffeine had to go-per doctor and nurses' ordered) and I'm enjoying a little bit of quiet/prayer/blogging time, thanking God for giving me strength, wisdom, love, and most of all courage. 
 
Love to all!  Remember to enjoy every single moment of this life God gave you.  Never be afraid to ask The Holy Spirit to fill you!  He will, as he's done for me many times.

Here are some upcoming prayer requests:
-5 more treatments 😁😁😁
-celebration day on December 22 as we celebrate NO MO CHEMO, HO Ho Ho (Christmas style)  around Jesus' statue at the cancer center with Santa and his elves!  All are welcome as we will ring the bells loudly and celebrate Jesus' upcoming birthday and wonderfulness!  Estimated time to be announced but will most like be around 4ish!  So dress warm and come celebrate!
-final MRI on December 28, praying for no residual cancer in my body
-surgeon visit on January 2 to set surgery date
-radiation to follow with 30 treatments
-the holiday season and that we never forget why we are celebrating 
-wellness for all and courage for those in many battles
-a sweet friend who will be having a mastectomy next week and those re-diagnosed that have been cancer free for years undergoing more surgery and chemo-my heart is just heavy right now for so many






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Chemo #10


Every morning going to school we say our daily prayers and sing Matt Maher's song "Lord, I Need You".  
The words are so powerful and I love belting them out and now so does Jett boy!  

Don't know if this video will play but it makes me tear up every time! 
Teatment #10 went well.  No glitches, but also not much rest like I so hoped for since I didn't sleep one solitary second on Thursday night.  The steroids are doing their job for sure, and making my mind run 10.000 miles a minute during all hours of the day.  But I'll take it and thank the Lord that it helps.   The nurses have got this thing down with the Taxol, so I won't complain but man....was I exhausted when I got home after a long Friday.  

My sweet daddy was my sidekick, as J had to work 😰. He's been able to make them all except this one and I have a feeling he won't miss another one if he can help it.  He's a hard working fellow and we are so thankful for his job, so it's hard to complain.  
Each week a massage therapist comes by and offers a foot massage.  This is such a treat and so relaxing!  Add a heated, massage chair to the mix and it's pretty comfy.  I just knew that I was going to be able to close my eyes for a bit after this but, I'm a lot like my daddy and like to know everything that's going on around me so that didn't help my ability to sleep at the hospital.  (And a little nosy😯)

The real sleep came when I hit our comfy bed.  Whew!  
The holidays are around the corner and I couldn't be more excited to get the festivities started!  


When I made an appointment for Jett to have pics made with Santa, it totally slipped my mind that I'd be laying in the chemo chair.  Sooooooo who comes to the rescue every single time?  Precious Ninnie!  She took Jett to visit the big guy in the suit and it's the real deal this year.   Jett is so stinking excited and talks about Santa's workshop and his elves constantly.  His list was straight from the heart.  And I'm thinking if he can continue to be really good, we may be a super happy boy on Christmas morn.  

Santa asked lots of questions, especially about PJ Masks but loved all of the cowboy ideas.  We will just wait and see what he surprises us with!  

Teaching him about Jesus' birthday and seeing how much Jett already knows about our Lord and Savior, just makes this Momma's heart beam.  I pray that he'll always know the real reason for the season.  But...believing in Santa is pretty special too!  The magic is silent.  You don't hear it-you feel it, you know, and you believe it.  At least we do.  

Decorating will begin today.  It's a little earlier than I usually go for but I want to enjoy every single second of the beauty of  small detail...the ornaments on the tree, the nativity, the wreaths and bows, but mostly  the little hands that will help make our house light up!  And I have a feeling that there will be some cactus sprinkled around in every room of this home.  Little did I know how a prickly little cactus would change my life, but bring so much joy at the same time.  


6 more Friday treatments to go.  Final MRI on December 28, and then to surgeon to talk surgery.  Knowing that I'm almost a third of the way through the process keeps my focus strong and am thankful everyday for God's love and grace that he bestows upon us.  Thanks for all your continuous support and prayers.  The weeks seem to fly by, but I'm getting closer to kicking this cactus that stuck me!  And what better way than to celebrate that and Christmas than with a "no mo chemo" celebration!!!  Plan on joining us if you will on Friday, December 22 around 4 pm, around the gorgeous statue of Jesus at the Cancer Center off Laurens Road.  Santa will be there, and we will ring our bells of joy, singing and praising our Savior, wishing him a very happy birthday!  

"Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth, peace and good will toward men."  Luke 2:14


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Chemo #9



My mom sent me this during chemo today as she was keeping our Jett.  And today was brighter and so EASY.  Now that they've got me figured out and know that I have to take the Taxol in at a slower rate, these next 7 should go smoothly.  God hears our prayers and He's just that awesome.  After teaching a half day, J and I jammed on our way to lunch to one of my favorite songs... Ellie Holcomb's "Find you Near".  The lyrics just move me to tears every. single. time.


This girl loves some country cooking so that led us to one of our favorite little "hole in the wall" restaurants, Memo's.  It's a meat and three lunch dive and it hit the spot.   A trip to the scale, blood pressure check, and blood work was up next, along with a visit with the nurses, and then chemo.  My counts were good and so infusion started promptly with a special visit from my friend Jenn.  She was diagnosed just 12 days after me and we've been in touch via Facebook ever since, checking in on each other weekly. We have a few mutual friends that brought us together but we've never met face to face.  Her story just moved me to tears today, along with getting to hug her neck.  It's just amazing how God has put these precious people along this road.  I truly felt like I've know her all my life and can't wait to see her again soon, hopefully not at the cancer center but for a nice dinner!  Friends don't let friends fight cancer alone so we're in this together and that makes things a little easier.J was my trusty sidekick once again, as he hasn't missed a single one.  He monitors the bags of meds and let's me know how much more I have to go.  He's just amazing and I know if has to be hard sitting there watching me go through all of this, but man he's brave and strong and so dang faithful!  He's always saying something to cheer me up.  

So the new policy is no more than 2 adults can come back with you and I think I'm partially to blame for this.  Whoops!  One nurse said to me once, "yeah you are the one that brings the party 🎉??!!" (With a little sarcasm.)  I didn't really like that comment because let's be real!  Getting poison pumped into your body is NO fun.  So why not have the people you love surround you with happiness in your little cubicle during this yucky time.  I've been blessed with many visitors who want to be there for support, who come to pray with me and hold my hand when I'm scared.  I know that it may get a little louder as we tend to laugh and talk a little too much, but I'm not loving the new rule.  We now have to take turns, 2 at a time, and that makes me sad but I'll listen.  I sure don't want to get kicked out!
Can y'all believe Thanksgiving and Christmas are around the corner?  It's time to put up the tree and wrap presents!  Ahhhh!  It's truly is my most favorite time of the year!  Good reads and decorating ideas were just what I needed and Erica didn't disappoint.  




She's been amazing too, always pouring out her love on me and others.  Today I shared Jenn's blog with Erica and she looked down at her wrist and said when I meet her, I'm going to give her this bracelet because it has the Bible verse she shared on it.  And then she took off her very own Tribe Cactus bracelet and gave her that one too!  Erica...I'll replace that one, sweet friend!  But y'all...that's what it's about.  Loving on others during the good times and bad.  And she's got the biggest heart I've ever seen.  She's my crazy friend and I just adore her! I mean who rolls your IV pump to the bathroom during treatment when you are loopy from tons of Benadryl, and buys you jeans and purses when out and about to cheer you up, right?? We speak the same language and I'm forever grateful for her and her family.

Before going back to get my labs, I read this amazing devotion that my cute friend Jen sent me. It was spot on and all about 🌵🌵🌵.  Here's three points that we can learn from the survival of a cactus and apply to our life when desert seasons come our way.  
1.  The word of God is our water. 
2.  When we aren't in the desert, we should be nourishing our souls with truth.  
3.  The armour of God is our protection.  


Take some time and read it!  
click here!
I'm looking forward to a Saturday of rest, with a little Christmas shopping at a local church, and some Clemson football.  Busy is my middle name and I have to tell myself to slow down sometimes.  When I feel good I take advantage of that time and I embrace those moments.  We're not promised tomorrow, next year, or even hours in between.  My goal each day is to live each second like it is my last.  I'm on a battlefield, fighting a big battle and my soldiers (you all) are precious to me.  My complete focus is of course to lean on God and win the fight.  So keep praying that I can do that, because I feel each and every one.  There is so much sadness that comes in life, but there is so much JOY too.  And that's what I try to embrace daily.  There's beauty in the desert.  Look for it!  

"Therefore as you received Jesus Christ the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, just as you weee taught, abounding in Thanksgiving."  Colossians 2:6-7


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Tiger Strong



October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month and I’ve always thought that the way it was recognized during football games across the country was very special. To see the coaches rock their pink athletic wear, to the players flashing their pink gloves and sweatbands, the cheerleaders with pink pompoms, and lastly to the pink balloons released sometimes, it makes me proud to see the love and support for those battling this disease and those that sadly lost the battle.  Never did I think I would be that statistic.  1 in 8.  Every single day I am in awe of the opportunities I have been given and the special friendships I have made from this.   Bon Secours St. Francis Health System has been unbelievable, every step of the way.  From having the upmost care during my pregnancy and delivery of Jett, to the day I met with my precious doctor who felt the lump for the first time, the mammograms, biopsies, and the minute I was told the news….their care has been TOP NOTCH.  So when they asked if I would be the team captain for this game, I of course accepted, proud to be their patient and on their healthcare team, as well as supporting Clemson. Never in a million years did I think my picture would be on the “big screen” in DEATH VALLEY.   But from the day of my first chemo when I learned about this special day in Clemson, I’ve been more than excited.  To share my story with lots of others, bringing awareness to breast cancer, and giving ALL the glory to GOD, was an honor and such a humbling experience.  The stadium, the university, the cute town, the whole place.  It’s special to me.  It’s not just where I went to college and made tons of memories, it’s not just where I received a teaching degree for what I love to do each day, it’s a place I’ve always loved and treasured.  It's a little bit of home to me. I remember KFC tailgates and sitting on the hill with my family as a small child, going to church on Sundays with sunburned tiger paws on my cheeks, and being told my hair was the color of “Clemson”.  Clemson is special.  They will always be my favorite team…winning or losing!  I’m ALL IN forever! 
 So for the game details...lots of my friends and family  met for an early tailgating dinner and drove into Tigertown.  Not a drop of rain fell on us as we walked into the stadium and to our seats.  The downpour began during the pregame show, but nothing could contain the excitement as I sang  "God Bless America", our National Anthem, and Clemson's alma mater at the top of my lungs.  When the team came down the hill and I saw Jett's excitement, I almost lost it. His little hands clapped so hard for a team that his mommy has talked and talked about.  For this was the first time that he and J had been in Death Valley with me.  But the moment that took the cake was when I was featured as the Spirit of the Tiger Honoree.  J's hand on my shoulder and hearing my story, took my breath.  It meant so much.  Winning the game was sweet too!  So I'll do as it says in our alma mater..."that the tiger's roar may echo, oer the mountain height".  I'll try my best to be strong like a tiger,  continue to fight,  and roar loudly God's name each day!  Thanks for all who came and endured the rain!  We love you all tons and it truly meant so much to have you in that stadium cheering "all in for Kristen".  






















Thank you for praying specifically for these requests...
Pray for Jett as he has strep.
Pray that J, my parents, and I stay healthy as we care for a sick little buddy.  
Pray that my counts stay up. 
Pray for the upcoming 7 treatments and that they go as smoothly as the last one. (Slow and steady wins the race!)
Pray for my doctors and nurses.
Pray for decision regarding surgery.  
Continue to pray for those that are being diagnosed and their upcoming road to survival! 

"Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do nor be afraid; not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."  Joshua 1:9


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