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September 10 update

I never intended for this blog to end up like this. I wanted more than to just be updating you on my cancer diagnosis and treatment. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be working in much  more than that in the weeks and months to come.  We have friends and family all over the world and it just seems like the easiest place to post all of the information that I want everyone to have. If you’ve been a reader for some time, I hope you’ll understand this shift in content.

9/10 update:

I want to thank all of you for praying for us during this challenging, and often overwhelming journey we have been on. I wish I had time to respond to each of you individually with my gratitude, but we have had such an overwhelming response from those who are praying for us and offering support, that it just wouldn’t be possible. Please know that I read each and every comment that is left on Facebook, here, and Instagram.

~ Friday I had an ultrasound to look at the lymph nodes that were found to be questionable on the previous MRI. The radiologist said that the lymph nodes looked normal and no biopsy was needed!!!

~ Friday evening I received a phone call from my oncologists office that the Dr. had some sort of personal emergency and had to leave town (Doctors try not to do this kind of unplanned thing, so I knew it was a big deal) and that I was being transferred to another oncologist in town. That was quite a bit of an unexpected shock, especially since we are still in the planning stages for my treatment.

~ Saturday evening my parents arrived!!! This trip was one that has been planned for a few months and we are thankful that God orchestrated it the way He did.

Most of you have heard the news, but just in case you haven’t, Michael was selected as one of the Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2014. Basically, this is a career achievement award. The award is given to only 12 enlisted Airmen each year for the entire Air Force – several hundred thousand people are eligible each year. The award is given for excellence in leadership, outstanding job performance, personal achievements, and community involvement.  I have said it before, but I am incredibly proud of Michael.

Michael and I are invited to Washington, DC later this week to attend several events that are set to recognize these 12 Airmen and the amazing accomplishments they have achieved. We will spend a week in DC touring, attending galas, meeting dignitaries, and enjoying ourselves. My parents will remain in Alaska with our children.

We have been blessed to spend the last few days exploring Alaska with my parents. My dad and Michael even got to go on a halibut fishing trip – and caught their limit! 

~ Monday I had another MRI to look at the unidentified area found on the last MRI. This time the MRI also included a biopsy. The pathology results should be available later this week.

~ Tuesday – Michael and I met with the new oncologist (Dr. S). We were not disappointed! She pretty much laid out the same game plan that my previous Dr. had. It was such a relief to be essentially getting a second opinion that was exactly the same as the first one. There were only a few slightly minor differences (mostly personal preference) in her plan of attack.

The tentative plan:

I mentioned in a previous update that the original doctor didn’t think I would need chemo prior to having surgery. Due to more test results received and several tests that are outstanding and will take several weeks to have answers, the plan is now for me to receive chemo treatments at the beginning of treatment.

The goal is to keep the original tumor from growing any larger (and possibly decrease its size) while we obtain all the other answers we need to make an informed surgical decision. Due to my other medical issues, we are trying to minimize the number of surgeries I will need.

I will see a genetic counselor today (Wednesday) to get the ball rolling on BRCA testing, along with some other, more minor tests. Once the tests are approved and the samples taken, these results take about a month.

Today, I will also have a CT to get a baseline on my heart. Then will have further CTs along the way to make sure the chemo isn’t causing any damage to my heart.

On Thursday Michael and I travel to DC and will return home on the following Thursday evening.

On Friday, the day after I return, I will have a colonoscopy to make sure my colon is healthy enough to begin chemo.

And it looks like the following Monday, I will begin chemotherapy.

That’s as far down the road as we’ve gotten. It’s possible something could change while I’m away if Dr. S gets some further results or news she isn’t expecting, but she doesn’t think that’s likely.

Chemo definitely isn’t something I ever considered for my life, but I’m learning to deal with the idea of it. It is a type of treatment that can cause fatigue, nausea, vomiting, hair loss, nail changes, and a few other less common side effects. At this point, I definitely don’t know how it will affect me, but I’m learning more and more to be OK with whatever happens. Truthfully, I’m still struggling with some aspects of it.

Your prayers are still appreciated. We serve a mighty God and it’s never too late for a miracle in His timing.


Continuing On

The view from our front porch - Alaska!

I’ve experienced that moment where you realize that life goes on. I have heard people refer to this when facing a life changing situation, but had never felt the impact of such a realization.

It’s true though, in the midst of really trying to wrap my brain around this diagnosis and what it might mean for all five of us, especially in the near future, I realized that life doesn’t simply stop. Itgoes on. Everyone else around me has continued on with their normal lives, and really, that’s what I would expect. I’m certain many have remembered to pray for us, thought about me, and others have even already provided tangible support, but no one’s life has stopped – including my own. It’s an interesting scenario, or maybe even epiphany would be correct terminology. Regardless, life is continuing on.

In reality, I’m doing pretty well. Definitely having moments of sadness/anger/doubt/{intense} other emotions, but generally speaking, I’m faring well.

After meeting with the oncologist on Monday, Michael and I are encouraged! He had some additional pathology results from the biopsy available and they were “good” results. These results show him that the tumor is likely a hormonal type cancer, not aggressive, and also won’t require chemo prior to surgery.

I will have an MRI tomorrow (Friday) morning and then will meet with him again on Tuesday for those results and to discuss further planning.

I’m also physically improving from the ulcerative colitis flare. This flare has been very rough and I’m just getting to a point where I am eating normally again and able to mentally tolerate the idea of food. I lost quite a bit of weight and had a very difficult time stopping that loss, even under my doctor’s care. However, I’m happy to say that I’ve seen a good amount of improvement in the last several days and finally feel like I’ve turned a corner. This is important because me being sick from the outset can potentially cause my treatment to be different or have a different effect than intended. I spoke with my GI doctor yesterday and he was encouraged at the progress and said I sound right on track for where he wanted me to be.

I don’t say this enough, but Michael is a rock star! He is taking great care of me and the children. His superiors have given him the OK to be available for me and the kids as much as he needs to be. It is a huge relief to know that he has transferred some of his responsibilities at work to others during this time and he can be available whenever I need him. I am incredibly thankful that he trusts God and looks to Him for guidance and direction. I could not imagine going through this without such a loving, compassionate, giving, husband. He’s a keeper, for sure!


Important information about my heatlh

Dear family and friends:

I realize that a mass blog post (though some of you have already seen this information in an email or on Facebook) isn’t the most personal way to inform everyone of some important information, but we decided since we have loved ones all over this world, this would be the best way to get the news out all at once so that everyone has the same information.  I’m sorry for not calling some of you, please don’t take it personally, just know that sharing with the ones I have has been incredibly difficult.

What we need you to know:

The short version – on July 9, I found a lump in my left breast. I have since had several exams, a mammogram, ultrasound, and biopsy performed.

On August 12, I received the biopsy results and was diagnosed with invasive mammary carcinoma (breast cancer).

At this point, we do not have a lot of other information. We don’t know how or why this happened to me at such a young age, or what stage or level of invasiveness we are dealing with. We do know that some sort of surgery will be required, but because we are awaiting some test results and an MRI (hopefully in the next couple of days), we haven’t developed a plan yet.

Many of you are aware of the other health issues (ulcerative colitis*, clotting disorder) I face, as well. These issues will impact my treatment, but we are uncertain yet, as to what impact they will have.

I’ve already seen several doctors, but I am scheduled to have a consultation with a hematologist/oncologist on August 25 where we’ll likely find out a preliminary assessment of what kind of treatment I’m looking at.

* During the last few weeks I have also been very sick from an ulcerative colitis flare that was caused by the stress of this diagnostic process.

BUT, I’m going to be OK! This diagnosis isn’t the death sentence it used to be. Modern treatment has afforded patients a 90%+ long term survival rate and I fully intend to be in that percentage!

What I/we need from you:

I need “normal” from you. I’ve cried plenty of tears and felt sorry for myself enough for all of us! I’m sure I’ll have more of that for myself.

I don’t want you to act like nothing is going on – I’ll probably talk more about it as I have information and can broach the subject without completely losing it. I want as much of my normal life as I can have in the midst of all this crazy.

Check on me! But, don’t let me have too many pity parties. Don’t commiserate with me or let me lead myself down “those” rabbit trails. I need you to help me keep my own mind under control.

There might come a time when we need meals, babysitting, or some other tangible support. Offer! I might not know what I need and your suggestion might just be what gets us through that moment.

We would love your prayers and support. Our children know what is going on and will need to feel like their lives aren’t falling apart because mom is sick. Pray for my strength to endure whatever it is God has in this for me. Pray for each person who will be involved in my care (doctors, nurses, medical staff, etc.) that God would impart wisdom and compassion to them.

Also? Please remember Michael in your prayers. He will be bearing quite a weight in this. He is devoted to seeing me through this and I know he’ll be a rock star at it!

I’m not really in a place at the moment to be able to answer many questions, because I don’t even have half of the answers I’d like to have. I really want to be open about this and I want it to be “public” information (because, honestly it will help our stress levels to know that everyone has the same information). That being said, unless information comes directly from me, Michael, or my parents, please refrain from speculation, forwarding, or reposting.

Your support, encouragement, and prayers will be very valuable during this time.

With love,

Laura, Michael, Jacob, Eli, and Rachael


It’s been an interesting year so far for us!

Late last year, we found out we were likely moving to Alaska in the spring of 2014!

I’ll keep a long “red tape” type story short and tell you that as of May 20, 2014, we are now living in Anchorage, Alaska!

It was a long journey to get here (the actual journey/travel, paperwork, planning, and emotional toll) but I’m grateful for this new duty station and the new adventures this season of our lives will bring.

We decided shortly after we learned that Alaska was on the horizon that we would take an epic trip in conjunction with our move – and boy did we! We visited family, historical sites, had many fun times, spent LOTS of time squished in the van, and many nights in hotels along the way.  But it’s not something we’ll ever forget that we were fortunate enough to do.

Some fun stats:

~ Days of travel: 39
~ States visited: 18
~Miles driven: 6,800
~ Hotel rooms stayed in: 11
~ Days spent on ferry: 3
~ Hours spent in the van: 100+
~ Number of times I told a child to STOP doing something or to be quiet: 4,763
~ Days since we’ve had a home to live in: 54 (and counting – we don’t move into our rental until July 1 – we are currently in temporary lodging on base)

I did keep a travel journal (there seem to be some photos that aren’t showing up on the site, I’m working on getting that fixed) of our trip and have finally finished uploading the photos and events. You’re welcome to have a look and read about our journey!

Also, while I will be forever grateful for this opportunity, it was hard. There were several times where I wondered if we’d made a huge mistake by committing to having all 5 of us confined to such a small space for so many days. Though we did our best to allow the children time to run around, goof off, and generally be kids, it was tricky to navigate having very little personal space or alone time. The van was packed beyond belief (as you’ll see in one of my travel entries near the end of our trip) and anxiety was high at times. As difficult as some days were, I don’t regret having made this journey. It’s something that most people never get a chance to do, and I definitely don’t want to take that blessing for granted.

Mothering Teyond the Trenches

Alternate title: “Mothering is HARD”

This is for all you mamas out there in the trenches of mothering littles:

A few days ago I had a pretty awesome realization while I was showering. Isn’t that always how it works? I seem to do my best thinking in the shower! I was retracing the morning’s events. My husband was away and the children and I hadn’t gone to church because the weather was a bit precarious and our street hadn’t been cleared yet, nor had our driveway been plowed.

After breakfast, I told the kids (ages 10, 7, and 5) I was going to shower and gave them some basic instructions to just “play,” but no electronics were to be used. Then I headed upstairs.

An hour and a half later when I finally got into the shower, it dawned on me that I hadn’t needed to redirect anyone, nor had I heard any bickering, and even though the kids were being quiet, I wasn’t fearful that they were into something they shouldn’t be!

So, why did it take me an hour and a half to get into the shower? I had cleaned up my room (we’re moving soon, so I have been purging), played some words in Words with Friends, chose my clothing for the day, and even deep cleaned my bathroom (except the shower which I always tackle while I’m in there showering).

I know you’re wondering, “Where’s she going with this?”

Mamas – I KNOW what you’re doing now is rough (and that’s probably the understatement of the century). It takes every single ounce of energy you have, every single day of your life, to be a mama. There are babies to nurse, toddlers to chase, and preschoolers who think they know everything. I know how challenging and utterly draining it can be, even without any added circumstances. I see that some of you also have the added challenges of a child who seems to NEVER.SLEEP. Or maybe it’s a child with a challenging medical or behavioral situation. Or any of the other individual challenging aspects of mothering. There are also all the many other facets to life outside of being a mother.

However, I also know how rewarding it is for those little people to call you “mama”, trust you, and rely on you (even when you don’t see it in the moment – or even in an entire year) and would not change a minute of every circumstance I faced during those years.

I get it. I’ve been there in the trenches right along side you. I have followed in the same trenches many mamas carved out before me and I won’t be the last to trowel out my own space in those trenches.

Here’s what I really want you to know. You are not alone and you will, in fact, make it through this season. You (and yes, your children too) will make it into the next season of life mostly unscathed, with the wisdom that comes from those years you spent on your knees in those trenches! That next season of life? Oh it will be fraught with more demanding circumstances, but they’ll be a different sort of experience.

Your babies will still need you, but they won’t need you in the same sense. They’ll be more self sufficient, needing less of the physically draining personal care. They’ll sleep normal hours (mostly), they won’t need you to read everything to them, get them snacks, or wipe their bottoms. But, mama, they’ll still need you.

They’ll need your heart. They’ll need your strong faith in God’s sustaining love and salvation. Your grounded, Biblical worldview. They’ll need you to be consistent in pursuing their heart and training them in love. And even your forgiveness – probably often.

If you’re still in those trenches, hang in there because this work that you’re doing is one of the most important things you will do in your life. You’ll emerge from that trench with more wisdom and love than you ever imagined. Let our savior wrap you in His arms and carry you through. I’m seeing those trenches from the other side and they don’t seem quite as deep as they did while I was traveling through them.

Side note: I have words. Lots of words to write to you. I’m just not sure I’m ready or able to make it a consistent thing yet/again. Those heart needs I spoke of above, they’re real and very present in my current season of mothering. I hope to be able to share more words with you soon.


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