All I Want For Christmas…

Awhile back, when my doctor scheduled my reconstruction surgery date for December 6th, one of my very funny friends (who shall remain anonymous) said, “Now you can say ‘All I want for Christmas is my two front teet.'”  First of all, no one has EVER accused my friends of being vanilla. Secondly, the rule of ‘just because you can doesn’t mean you should’ applies in this case.  But here I am now – with Christmas around the corner – and I finally do have my two new front teet.  And while I may not shout my friend’s poignant phrase from the rooftops, it really is all I want for Christmas.  Because to me that means I’m cancer free and (Lord willing) finished with this crazy journey that is breast cancer.  Thank you Lord Jesus.

Not to be outdone by my friends, my husband brought home these from the store a few days after surgery.


I’m not sure if the Tom Thumb worker just thought it would be funny to package grapefruit in such a way, or if someone really is that oblivious.  Either way, I want to meet the person who thought this was a good idea and slid it past the produce manager.

With all these jokesters around it’s sometimes difficult to remember that I actually just had surgery.  Thankfully, my most recent surgery (reconstruction) was the easiest one by far.  I can’t determine if it’s just because I’ve done this so many times now, or if it really was that simple.  I’m thinking it’s the latter.  My sister and I didn’t even have to think twice about what to wear in pre-op.  #weareprosnow






Seriously, though, I was literally up and around the day after surgery as if not much had even happened.  Yes, I was sore.  Yes, I was bandaged up. Yes, I had two drains (you read that right – TWO MORE DRAINS – shoot me now).  But the pain was so minimal and really the only inconvenience was having to sleep on my back again for a few nights.  (Luckily, I remembered how to do this from my post mastectomy days.)  It was like deja vu all over again without all of the pain and discomfort.

Another deja vu moment happened when I took off the bandages this time around.  I kept telling my friends I didn’t want to take them off because what was underneath was there to stay and I feared I may be disappointed.  Before now, I knew that I would undergo a series of surgeries, therefore nothing was permanent.  But NOW I knew that I was about to cross the finish line and there was no restarting the race.  Thankfully, my plastic surgeon is a miracle worker in the truest sense of the word.  Without getting too weird (too late, you say?!), everything looked as if it’s always been there.  I marvel at modern medicine and want to break down and cry when I think about how these surgeons can create something so natural & feminine that cancer wanted to ultimately destroy.

Stephanie and I were in Dr. Potter’s office for my check up a few days after surgery (he is also Stephanie’s surgeon), and I told him how grateful I was for this gift.  There are no amount of words that describe feeling “normal” again after having something so horrendous happen to your body.  Steph and I agreed that Dr. P got a little verklempt when we were thanking him.  Either that, or he had tears of joy that this dynamic duo wouldn’t be visiting his office every other week in tandem.  Regardless, I like to think his compassion matches his talent and he was truly touched by our gratitude.

Most of my days since surgery have been spent getting ready for Christmas, helping my boys study for finals (they tell me I’m only good at coming up with funny acronyms, though – beyond that they enlist the help of their dad), and watching my kids play sports.  I’ve said this before, but I will never take for granted being able to sit in the bleachers and have my ONLY care be if my kid has good sportsmanship.  What a gift.  (It also helps tremendously if you get to sit through approximately 6 basketball games with a friend by your side, however).


Ahhhh my kids.  A lot of you have asked how they have dealt with this whole cancer thing.  Truthfully, I don’t know how to answer that.  They are boys.  And with boys, sometimes all you get is an extra pat on the shoulder or one less complaint about carrying in the groceries.  I often think of my friends with girls during these times, and imagine adorable homemade cards or decorated houses in celebration of the finale.  Not that I want or need these things, but big events like this highlight the chasm between the sexes if you will.  The tradeoff is zero drama and a quiet house, though, which I have grown to love and appreciate through the years.  Unfortunately for boys and girls alike who are directly affected by this disease, the word ‘cancer’ is all too common.  It’s inadvertently woven through the fabric of conversation and becomes as normal as words like ‘school’ or ‘lunch’.  They hear it in the car, on the phone, over dinner, etc.  In fact, Stephanie caught her kindergartner singing in the car the other day, ‘You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Cancer…”  Yep, that about sums it up.

I will say, however, that my boys have witnessed the kindness of strangers and the love of friends in SPADES this year.  They have also seen Trevor and me depending on the Lord like we never have before.  And I know in my heart of hearts they will be better for it.  That, plus they now have no qualms about talking about the female anatomy.  In fact, do you know what kind of bees get scared often?  BOO BEES (courtesy of a certain Kraus boy).  In all seriousness, though, I have noticed that all three boys have been extra kind and loving since my last surgery.  It’s as if they now feel confident enough that I’m going to be okay so they are free to love again.  And there’s no better feeling that that.


My next doctor’s appointments are in January, where I will have follow ups with Dr. Grant and Dr. Potter.  I will also finally have the skin cancer removed from my leg on January 18th. Hopefully after that, I won’t see the inside of a doctor’s office for quite some time!

In closing, I want to say that while I am beyond thrilled to have all of this behind me, my heart aches for those still fighting this dreaded disease.  Not surprisingly, I have grown close to many undergoing treatments during my same timeframe.  It’s hard to explain, but you become part of a little club while in battle.  There is a certain tenderness towards your fellow soldiers, and a camaraderie that is second to none.  After my surgery, I almost felt like I walked out on the club.  And yes, in this case, that’s something to celebrate.  But I’m forever changed, and I want my fellow cancer fighters to know that I will continue to fight with and for you until we are ALL out of this club!  (Ladies, I feel compelled to encourage you to go get a 3D mammogram if you haven’t already.  We need more stories with good endings!!!)

This Christmas will be a very special one for our family, as you can imagine.  But I pray that it is a special one for your family as well.  The very best gift of all is the opportunity to have a personal relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Don’t wait until something challenging in your life happens before you take advantage of this one.  Merry Christmas to each and every one of you!  I hope you get all YOU ever wanted…I know I did. 😉

Until next time…much love to you all & make every day count,


PS: A HUGE thank you to the Sewall family for carting Hayes around AGAIN. I couldn’t do this without you!  And to my sweet Bible study girls…I love you more than words and appreciate all of the delicious meals.  And lastly, thank you to my sweet front porch friends who gift me often as well as the thoughtful friends who have sent me little surprises in the mail.  I AM SO GRATEFUL.

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. “  Isaiah 9:6

“Cancer is Good for the Closets”

That is what my friend Stephanie texted me yesterday as I was in FULL OUT NESTING mode.  I literally felt like the Tasmanian Devil as I cleaned out closets and threw away almost everything that was underfoot.  I had more energy than I’ve had in 6 months and could not stop.  I didn’t really think about why I was doing it, but after Stephanie texted, I realized that I was desperately trying to get everything in order before everything was seriously OUT of order starting tomorrow with my upcoming reconstructive surgery.

If you remember, Stephanie is my friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after I was.  Until now, I have done everything first and been able to coach her through the procedures, surgeries and appointments.  But because Stephanie didn’t have to do chemotherapy, she was able to finish her reconstruction process first.  She just had her final reconstructive surgery a week and a half ago (this involves removing the expanders and putting in implants).  Therefore, she recognized my crazy house cleaning because she, herself, had filled up 8 trash bags in her own home the day before she went under the knife.  So you know the saying, “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it”?  I would improve upon that by adding, “If you really want something done, ask a woman whose about to undergo breast reconstruction”.


(Stephanie and I today  – NOT AT THE SPA.  Just at a joint doctor’s appointment – not kidding – with our plastic surgeon.  #welovetheirwafflerobes)

As I’ve said before, I wouldn’t wish cancer on ANYONE.  But having a buddy to go through this with has been indescribable.  And in Jennifer’s absence, it was so sweet of the Lord to give me Stephanie who truly understands this journey so I don’t feel so alone.

Since my last post, I have several updates.  Specifically as it relates to HAIR.  Praise God and Hallelujah – my hair is slowly starting to grow back!  I honestly thought I would be the one calling the lawyer hotline on that commercial that says, “If you or someone you love has suffered permanent hair loss due to the chemo drug Taxotere, please call 1-800-IAM-BALD.”  I could not be more excited about this development.  And even though that means shaving my legs again, I WILL TAKE IT.

The one (gazillionth) thing I have learned is that I cannot compare my road to anyone else’s.  When I asked a few cancer friends about how long it took for their hair to start growing back, their answers varied from one day to two weeks post treatment.  Well, here I am at 8 weeks and mine is literally just now growing back.  EIGHT WEEKS.  Thank goodness for a book my sweet friend, Lezley, gave me called ‘The Silver Lining.”


This beautiful book was written by a breast cancer survivor, who also happens to be a nurse.  She was the ONLY one that mentioned it took her about 8 weeks to finally start seeing sprouts.  I held out hope SPECIFICALLY because of her.

I know people mean well, but unless they physically document their cancer journey (i.e. WRITE IT DOWN), I’m learning their recollection of events can be a little fuzzy at best.  Similar to childbirth or the first year of your baby’s life (sure, your baby recited the alphabet at 3 months), we might not should rely on our memories past the age of 35.  Just sayin’.

So for all of you out there reaching and searching for answers to compare to your own story, take everything with a grain of salt.  God made each of us so unique (Psalm 139:14), and what is one person’s experience may not be another’s.  It takes lots of patience to learn this lesson but I’m slowly getting the hang of it.

In a similar vein, a lot of people had told me they lost their eyelashes and eyebrows approximately 4 weeks after chemo.



Wouldn’t you know I got all cocky after 4 weeks and thought I had finally beat SOMETHING?  Well, two Sundays ago, my eyelashes and eyebrows began to fall out.  Not even kidding.  And let’s just say that before my hair showed promise and my eyelashes were simultaneously hitting the floor, there may have been lots of tears.  I think I’ve explained before that this process feels like someone is slowly stripping away your femininity.  It’s so bizarre.  To not have my chest, my hair or my eyelashes makes me feel like I’m pulling the opposite of a Bruce Jenner.  So I’m trying to tap into that patience thing again and realize this is a marathon and not a sprint (even though back in the day Bruce could have totally conquered either).


And because of the skin cancer debacle, I learned that my surgeon is ultra picky about increasing the risk of infection around surgery (so thankful for this – I’m not complaining).  As a result, I grew a little concerned about a horrendous cough I had a few days ago.  This cough had lasted for over a week and wasn’t letting up.  I tried to forget about it, but my mom and my friend Casey asked if I should let my plastic surgeon know about it.  Hesitantly, I called to see if the cough might be a concern with my upcoming surgery.  Unfortunately, it was a big concern.  They wanted me to go for a chest x-ray to make sure I didn’t have an infection.  I got a little teary because anytime you go for a scan or an x-ray, a part of you gets nervous that they may find cancer somewhere else (in this case, my lungs).  It’s part of the curse.  Trevor was quick to allay my fears, however, and the chest x-ray was clear!  The funny part was I had made plans with my friend Kathy for lunch that day.  She lives in LoveJoy so this had been planned awhile back and I was really looking forward to seeing her.  We were all excited to go try a new restaurant in town, but I had to text her and see if she could meet me at the ER instead.  You know you have a good friend when…


Lastly, with the upcoming surgery tomorrow, one question remains:  To Nip or Not to Nip? (Why yes, I went there.)  Dr. Potter, my amazing plastic surgeon, is so gifted and is able to create an actual nip using my own skin.  Y’all.  These things look real.  It’s truly incredible.  I really hadn’t even considered doing this until Stephanie endorsed the process.  Once I saw what they looked like, I realized it made the ‘girls’ seem real.  Like ACTUAL girls.  Not like I’ve-had-breast-cancer-and-this-is-what-I’m-left-with girls.  It’s totally the difference between the winners bracket and consolation bracket.  Anyway, I’ve spent the better part of a week polling my girlfriends about whether or not to nip.  The consensus is a resounding nip nip hooray.  Cons include I will now need undergarments as the nips aren’t operable (read non retractable).  But pros, as my friend Angela noted, are that I’ll always be ready for Mardi Gras.  So there’s that.  On a more serious note, however, I am really giddy about feeling like a female again.


I want to thank you all again for taking this journey with me.  It helps so much to have your encouragement, support and prayers.  Your love for our family is so evident in all you do and I wish so badly I could express my gratitude in words.  As for tomorrow’s surgery, I would appreciate your continued prayers.  I go in at 6:30am and the surgery is scheduled for 8:30am.  It is a day surgery, so if all goes well I should be in my pjs and my own bed by early afternoon.  The recovery from this procedure is not nearly as difficult as the one from the mastectomy.  THANK THE LORD.

In closing, I wanted to wrap up with the sweetest card & thoughtful gift I received from Kim.  She says it better than I ever could…



2017 has been a tough year for our family, but I love the reminder to remember all of the LOVE we have received instead of all of the pain.  Thank you, friend, for the gift of perspective.  I love you and all of our boys!


Until next time…much love to you all & make every day count,


PS: When Jen was alive, we started a tradition of decorating gingerbread houses with Amy’s kids, my kids and Lincoln.  Last weekend, we were able to get together and churn out some incredible houses if I do say so myself.  I would venture to say that the closets in these houses may need some cleaning out, however.