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


Great is thy faithfulness...

During the entire process of Chemo #8, this song was rolling through my head.  "All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided, Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord unto me."  Wow!  And that's all I needed!  
Starting the morning at school with a little bit of anxiousness on my heart, the secretary called down for all staff to take a picture for our PINK OUT for Breast Cancer Awareness Day.  When I rounded the corner and saw the crowd, my eyes couldn't hold back the tears.  My 2nd grade BCES team, staff, administration and all of my past and present parents have been so supportive during this time in my life.  Love abounds in that building, and I couldn't be more grateful than to work with such a precious group of colleagues. 
Testing and a little teaching came after this and then a delicious lunch before the poison went into my body to kill the mean cancer.  My dad and J were alongside me the whole time and I slept through most of it, surprisingly. I kept waking up to see them watching over me carefully but would always drift right back to a world of dreamland. I'm thinking my jersey must've brought some luck with me!  I mean my team did with the Natty, right??!!   

Doctor Dyar, my oncologist, came by to check on me and was pleased with how starting the Taxol at a slower rate made the reactions not occur.  We talked a little about my upcoming surgery and that should take place mid February.  But all in all, he was super happy with the progesss we've made and that there were no terrible side effects during this treatment.

So thanks be to God for this!  His hand was on me the whole time, giving me the peace I needed to rest, take the meds, stay calm, and walk out of the center with a huge smile of being halfway done.  I couldn't help but stop at the beautiful statue of Jesus our front once again and whisper a word of thanks. 

He's so good, ALL the time.
So now for today!  Jett's got a tummy bug and I'm just praying he'll perk up enough to make it to the big game!  Plans have changed and we won't be tailgating, but will be stopping by one of my favorite restaurants in Piedmont, Saluda Grill with a big ole' large group of my best friends and family for a dry tailgate meal before enduring the rain.  Like I said earlier, I may be soaking wet, alongside many I love, but that won't keep me away from Death Valley today!  
So if you are at the game in the pouring rain, cheer loud!  And if you are at home sitting in your warm, dry home....think of us and cheer for those TIGERS!  It's sure to be tons of fun!  

Thanks for all of your kind words and constant prayers. I just continue to stand amazed at how God has blessed me every inch down this road with HIS LOVE, HIS GRACE, and HIS MERCY.  

GREAT is Thy faithfulness , for sure!  

"Fight the good fight of the faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses."  1 Timothy 6:12



Look for the roses!

Chemo #7, last Friday, started with a precious visit from my friend Hollis (a breast cancer survivor, herself).  She came carrying the prettiest little pink roses and sent me the sweetest devotion about how just like leaves fall from trees, our life can seem like things are falling apart.but to always look for the roses around the corner.  God is so good to remind us that HIS grace and goodness still lie ahead in our trials.  I prayed that morning for an easy treatment and after yet another scare, the easy did come (later).  My mom was there for this one along with J and my daddy, and they all saw the reaction. I knew the seriousness when I saw the terror in my mom’s eyes as soon as it happened.  She said my face went from skin tone to blue in milliseconds, as the breathing became extremely hard, and then excruciating back pain.  The nurses were once again amazing, stopping the Taxol, which immediately reduces the severity of the reaction, and then waiting a little while before starting back at a slower rate.  The second start up went well and I actually slept like a baby through the last two hours of treatment-see that was the EASY part.  The steroids that I’m taking are keeping me up ALL NIGHT LONG on Thursday evenings so by Friday afternoon and teaching all week, I am exhausted.  Saturdays have been good days and it usually hits me around 4 on Sundays through Monday when my body aches like thick, mushy slime is being poured down my neck and back.  Mouth sores have been super yucky and thrush came with this treatment, making my mouth hurt like never before.  The nurses at the triage center are awesome with solutions to make this process easier with sending quick medications to the pharmacy for pick up.   It just seems like something else with each one but at least they have quick fixes that seem to work.  My eyebrows have started to deminish ever so slightly but thanks to this goodie, I feel like I look somewhat normal or some may think I'm wearing Halloween make up??? Ka-Brow is the Ka-Boom!  
 This week has been a busy one with standardized testing in 2nd grade, the Halloween excitement from my own little guy and 23 students, and planning for the Clemson game this weekend. I am over the moon excited about being in THE VALLEY with 80,000 of my friends and family who love our TIGERS.  Please pray for the rain to go another direction and for the day to be beautiful.  It is such an honor to have been chosen by Bon Secours St. Francis for the SPIRIT of the TIGER honoree and team captain for this game as we raise awareness for early detection in breast cancer.  I can’t wait to see the hundreds of pink balloons released as the most exciting 25 seconds of college football happens with the players running down the hill.  I know this moment will be emotional for lots, as so many of my friends and family know someone who has battled this fight and lost someone dear to them.  I hope you will join me, rain or shine, cold or hot, sopping wet or dry…cheer loud and proud and know that I love you all!  I’ve been practicing the C-L-E-M-S-O-N  T-I-G-E-R-S cheer with Jett.  He does pretty good with the letters, occasionally just saying his ABC’s within in, but he’s got the FIGHT, TIGERS, FIGHT, TIGERS, FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT.  And guess what!  That’s all I care about.  I'm a tiger alumni, proud of Clemson, and fighting for my life. 
So I keep thinking about those roses and how we need to look for the good in every situation…as much sadness that comes with rain, can also be a joyous time, surrounded by those who love you.  So that’s what Saturday will be…I may be soaking wet, but I’ll stand proud and know that sunshine will come one day. That my friends was part of God’s promise.  This poem has brought such peace and I’d love to share it with you…
God’s Promise (author unknown)
God never promised
A life without pain,
Laughter without tears,
Or sun without rain.
But He did promise strength for the day,
Comfort for the tears
And light for the way.
And for all who believe
In His heaven above
He rewards their faith
In his everlasting love. 
So look for your pink roses amongst the fall leaves currently falling…they just might be around the corner.  

Please pray for Chemo #8 tomorrow.  It’s HALFWAY TREATMENT DAY!  HOORAY!  

Pray for a beautiful day in Clemson on Saturday.

Pray for the remaining treatments and that slowing the Taxol down will continue to work and shrink the tumor

Pray for upcoming surgery decisions

Pray for all of my nurses and doctors as they’ve been amazing caregivers

Pray for my family and friends as they’ve stood by me and loved me through this battle

“May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 5:13



Pumps and Pearls

One word describes the PUMPS AND PEARLS nightaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhmaaaazzzzzzzzzzzziiing!  When my breast health navigator and now dear friend, Becky Steele, asked me if I would be in the fashion show alongside 15 other breast cancer survivors, I gladly said “yes”, and then thought, “wait, me!  A runway?  A fashion show?"  But if y’all know me well, you know that I love fashion, accessories, make up, jewelry, clothes, and well anything and any excuse to get “dressed up”.  So this was an exciting night that I looked forward to for months, knowing that my tribe would be there to cheer me on as I made my way down the runway.  As the newest member of the models, a 3 month survivor, I looked at the other ladies and gentleman in awe.  Their stories brought me to tears of how they had been cancer free for 5, 6, 14, and 35 plus years.  And the precious little girl that walked with Dabo’s wife, Kathleen Swinney, rocked that runway in honor of her mommy that died of this terrible disease.  That!  That right there made it all more real.  It is so important to help fund the research to find an ultimate cure to end this battle and WE need to do our part to educate others on early detection and more self exams.  Being 37 when I found my tumor, and not just ignoring the self “breast check” myself, truly helped me be able to quickly be diagnosed and given a plan to start this fight.   If my tumor had not been so large and evident, helping it to be so noticeable, I, myself, may have waited until I was 40 to have a mammogram.  Who knows what the future would have look like for me or if I’d even be here? Thanks be to GOD that I did feel it, that it is barely even there now, and I’m on the road to being cancer free.  I’m already dreaming of December 22nd, when I get to ring the bell for finishing my last chemo treatments.  I’m already thinking we may need Santa, his sleigh bells and maybe his sled to take us for a ride after this leg of the journey. 

So back to the spectacular PUMPS and PEARLS event....the keynote speaker, Claire Ripley was wonderful.  She’s endured so much and her light for Jesus is still so bright.
One quote she shared is above...."inhale---courage-----exhale----fear".
Courage and fear are two perfect words that describe me daily!  Jesus has given me the courage to be able to take these chemo drugs each week, face the side effects (TAXOL is easier, by the way!) and wake up each morning to tackle the day as a mommy, a wife, and a teacher.  But life is hard and keeping it all together is even harder.  I spend a lot of time inhaling, taking those deep breaths to give me the courage and strength to make it each day.  But the FEAR.  That’s there too.  Tons of it.  Although I can almost barely feel my tumor and how absolutely wonderful that makes me feel, in the back of my mind, I fear my upcoming surgery like no other.  I fear the chance that it’ll come back. And I fear that this disease may take my life early.  I trust Jesus and I know his plan is already written for me, but I just pray each day that he continues to give me the strength and heals my body completely so that I can LIVE, LOVE, and SURVIVE!

A special thanks to all of the people who helped make this event perfect.  I know everyone had a wonderful time for a great cause.  Save the date for next year, October 16, 2018.  This girl may have an extra special escort to walk her down the runway.  

I'm off tomorrow from school for fall break so I go in the morning for my 7th round of chemo.  After having dinner tonight with my sweet friend Angie, I felt my fortune was perfect and encouraging... 

Yep!  I'd like to think that God gave us two gifts.  One is choice and the other is chance. I'm choosing to live life, and taking the chance to make it the best. 

Please continue to pray for...
-the next chemo treatments (9 more after tomorrow)
-the Clemson/Georgia Tech game next Saturday, as I stand in as the team captain for breast cancer for ALL that have fought, won, and those who have sadly lost the battle 
-my family and friends who have been such amazing caregivers
-those who have been diagnosed recently and are starting the journey

Love you all!  

"The Lord is my light and my salvation-who shall I fear."  Psalm 27:1



Chemo #6

Chemo #6 started with a bang as I was given 3 rounds of steroids in a pill form before getting to the hospital, hoping a reaction from last time would not occur.  More premeds were given like Benadryl and MORE steroids, and I'm sure some other meds, so I was feeling pretty strange and a little drowsy by the time the Taxol started.  About half way through the IV drip, I got hot and began to panic a little as I thought an attack was coming on, but the nurse stopped the meds, gave me a minute to calm down, and we finished strong.  Real strong.  I was having terrible restless leg issues and could've kicked anything and everything that walked by me.  The massage therapist came in for a foot rub and then Jeremy continued which made things better!  My nurse  wanted to watch me for 30 minutes afterwards and that's when things got a little edgy.  This girl was ready to go!  J and my dad were my sidekicks, and they saw a side of me that I'm afraid to say wasn't so sweet and nice.  I literally almost ran ahead of them, flew down the stairs, as I couldn't get to the car fast enough.  I could've used super powers to fly out of that building.  They just looked at each other with a look of "who is this girl" and followed behind.  All I wanted was some Publix chicken wings, a shower, the couch, and to watch the game (which ended up making me even more irritated)!   This pic was before it started with one of Jett's Halloween prizes!  
So that was round #6.  I prayed for strength and God gave it to me in a mighty, big way!  Your prayers worked and the Taxol should be administered like clock work, so now 10  more rounds to go!  

Sweet visitors came and saw me before the mean streak came out, thankfully,  and brought me this beautiful canvas!  How talented is Madison?  Thank you all for loving on me during this crazy time in life!  

 My doctor and his NP that I just love stopped by for a quick check in.  I cannot tell y'all how it feels to be cared for by the best team in Greenville!  They truly care about their patients💗💗💗

So now for the weekend!  Woke up at 6 am, ready to start the day?  Could it be the steroids still?  I guess we will see!  I'm thankful to be alive and feeling good and just see God working in my life.  He truly is giving me the strength I need each day to wear many hats...a wife, a mommy, a teacher, a daughter, a friend....and so many more!  People always ask...how are you feeling? and my response is usually "every day is new day".  And it is!  More good than bad, and that's where I THANK HIM DAILY!  Lord, you are the one that knows our needs and our hearts.  Forgive me for being a little cranky on Friday the 13th.  Today's a new day so Happy Saturday y'all!  

Please pray for:

-my upcoming genetic counseling appointment 
-10 more rounds of chemo
-surgery decisions
-my family and all they do for this "roller coaster of emotions girl"

"The Lord is my strength and my song." Exodus 15:2



Hearing the news of having breast cancer was the scariest time in my whole entire life.  And the reaction that happened Friday night probably beat that.  I can remember it all so vividly, as I could feel my lips and head literally swelling out of control and the tightness in my chest.  Everyone kept telling me that all was going to be ok, and the nurses were rushing in with the oxygen machine and cutting the chemo machines completely off.  These exact side effects were told to me before we started the regimen, but I just knew that it would go as smoothly as the first four treatments did.  Wow!  That didn't happen.  But God was faithful.  A sweet nurse rubbed my hand the whole time, a doctor stood over me for a long while, asking lots of questions and making big decisions as to what to do next.  My best friend Erica kept telling me to breath in the calmest voice.  But the decision was ultimately left up to me.  Continue or go home?  That was a hard one to make but through prayer and Jeremy whispering the words "trust" to me....I told the doctors and nurses to "let's do it". They gave me more Benadryl and started the Taxol at a slower rate and everything went smoothly and no reaction occurred.  We shut down the cancer center Friday night, literally with no other cars in the lot, and seeing that Jesus statue lit up amongst the stars made me rest easy that we'd made the right decision.  I'm a fighter and with God by my side, the fighting is a little easier.  
It's neat how stories from the Bible are laid on our hearts and can bring us so much peace.  My mom and dad came over to spend time with me today as I stayed home from school and shared the story of Lazarus, Mary, Martha, and Jesus.  My parents' preacher shared this story with their congregation at church last night and mentioned how trusting in God is key in our daily walk.  My dad shared the story with me.  (Isn't he just the cutest sporting his #tribecactus bracelet and using his "Race for the Cure" glass?) When Jesus was told of Lazarus' sickness, Jesus didn't rush to him, he didn't even worry.  He simply trusted and prayed that he would be ok and he was in the end.  Jesus said "I am the resurrection and the life and one day I will cause all of those who believe in me to live."  Jesus was taken to Lazarus, who had been dead for four days, and Jesus raised him from the dead.  It's in times like this when things happen and we don't understand, we have to trust in His timing.  

So the extra dose of Benadryl after starting Taxol made me so sleepy throughout the rest of evening.  And of course all of the fluids being put into my body made for many bathroom runs.  Note to self:  never, ever, ever wear cute little booties to chemo!  They are not the best for high-tailing it to the bathroom with your bff and nurse, rolling your iv machine down the hall!  Ha!  And after all that medicine, a wheelchair to the car was inevitable!  My body just didn't want to move after all of that!  

So now we wait until Friday!  I have to go much earlier than last time because they'll want to give it more time to actually drip, I guess.  I'll also have to probably take some Benadryl before coming, but that's all up to the doctor which I'm waiting to hear from.  
The side effects from the Taxol have been nothing like the A/C.  It seems a little easier, so far.  I'm still exhausted everyday and my fingers hurt from the neuropathy.  I couldn't button Jett's little shirt for church which made me get upset, and the body aches are no fun. This too shall pass!  I'm living and that's what matters!  

Thanks for all of your comments and prayers!  You just don't know how much each little Facebook or Instagram comment means to all of us.  We all read them all...me, J, and my parents.  It's a mighty comforting feeling to know that so many friends,  family, and even people who don't even know me are praying for us during this journey.
Upcoming events to pray for:

Taxol #2 on Friday...pray it goes smoothly and my blood counts are good

Pray for all of my doctors and nurses, as they have been precious and knowledgeable throughout every treatment

Pray that my health is good for these upcoming events:  Pumps and Pearls Fashion Show on October 17 and the Clemson/Georgia Tech game on October 28

Continue to pray for my students as they watch me daily...word on the street is I have a wig and now I'm just waiting any day for one of them to ask me about it!  

Pray for my sweet husband and Jett and their continuous daily walk with me!  

Pray for my parents as they watch their daughter fight!  

Love to all!  

I said to myself "relax, because the Lord takes care of you."  Psalm 116:7


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