How are you smiling?

Today is Easter Sunday. A day when Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and how he defeated the power of evil by rising from the dead. Through his resurrection we have hope for a new life. A new, full abundant life. A life of love and freedom. A life of peace and joy. And it’s not just for the future in heaven but available to us right now…in THIS moment. It’s an awesome day!

A good friend of mine who I haven’t seen in a few weeks came up to me at church and told me I looked fantastic…like I am enjoying life. Laughing. Smiling. I said thank you and

A beautiful image by Jennifer Studio JRU

A beautiful image by Jennifer Studio JRU

we proceeded to catch up for a bit. We talked about life and I told her what has been going on for me the last few weeks. Her next amazed question

“How are you smiling?”

You see what I filled her in on is…my cancer might be back. A few weeks ago my Dr. confirmed there is something in my hip bone and I am currently waiting on the results of an MRI I had last week. I don’t know what it is. I know it is in a place where I feel something like a bruise but it has been more annoying than painful. The last few weeks have been a process of getting scans and waiting…waiting…waiting for results. It could be benign. It could be malignant. I don’t have any answers.

I wasn’t going to go public with this process until I knew more information and could tell a definitive story. Posting information like this makes people concerned and I don’t want to worry anyone unnecessarily.

But I was convicted this morning that I need to share this. Right now. In THIS moment. The moment where everything feels uncertain again. The moment where my tentative future plans are once again abruptly stopped. The moment in the midst of the fear and anxiety BEFORE I know what the path forward is. Because THIS is the moment where I experience the power of Jesus most profoundly.

When my friend told me that I looked fantastic and seemed happy…it’s because I am genuinely good. When she asks “How are you smiling?” I think of Philippians 4:7 which says “and the peace of God which transcends understanding will guard you heart and mind in Christ Jesus”. I can’t explain it. I just know I’m not faking it. There is a peace deep in my soul that can only come from God. I am always a bit hesitant to proclaim this because I know everyone has a different experience of God’s peace and I don’t want to say it always feels like this. I have been through seasons of grief and sorrow where peace was much harder to experience through the pain.

But, right now…for me in this incredibly difficult moment…God’s got me…and I can’t help but smile.

My future in this life is completely uncertain…thanks to Jesus my future after this life is solid.

So…How am I smiling? It’s Easter Sunday…He is RISEN…a better question is How can I keep from smiling?





Does time heal all wounds?

I have often heard “Time heals all wounds”. But does it really? Is it time or something more that heals wounds? I have become fascinated with how our body heals since cancer andTime heals wounds? especially since my accident in the lab 10 days ago. As this physical wound heals, I can see many parallels to the process of healing emotional wounds. But, no, time does not heal wounds. Allowing time for the “healing process” to take place is what heals wounds. These might look like the same thing on the outside but are very different in practice.

I am normally more of a physics girl and only tolerated the biological sciences when they were necessary for my degree. Recently, I have been more curious about what is happening “behind the scenes” in my body. Cancer was a wake up call that our physiology doesn’t always work the way it is supposed to and natural processes in our body can go haywire. Our bodies are extremely complex and the more I learn the more I am surprised that things don’t go wrong more often.

When we are physically wounded (wound: an injury to living tissue caused by a cut, blow or other impact – typically where the skin is broken) it kicks off a chain reaction of healing processes as our body’s defense systems turn on. I’m not going to go into it deeply but will give a brief description of each stage. If you are more interested this was a very straightforward explanation…plus a boring and informative helpful Youtube video here. There are 4 primary phases of wound healing:

  1. Hemostasis: (within minutes of the initial injury) Constricts blood vessels and stimulates clotting to stop the bleeding
  2. Inflammation: (typically up to 4 days) Redness, swelling, warmth, and pain are typical symptoms as the first responding white blood cells clean out debris and stop infection
  3. Proliferative/Granulation: (4-21 days) Establishes the frame work for new tissue and repairing the various damage (skin layers, other tissue, blood vessels, and capillaries)
  4. Remodeling/Maturation: (up to 2 years) Increasing the strength of the new tissue

2 years!! This is longer than I expected when I started researching. It has only been 10 Healingdays and the cut on my wrist is dramatically improved. It blows my mind that my body will keep working on the fragile new tissue to make it stronger for the months to come.

My body is not passively allowing time to pass but is moving through the healing stages by actively fighting bacteria, rebuilding new tissue and repairing damage. Healing starts with the first 2 intense and painful stages…follows with creating something new but fragile…and finishes with a strengthening stage. I believe we go through similar stages with emotional wounds and time does help in reducing the pain…but without some work in cleaning and removing bacteria we are at risk of an infection and will never be able to build something new and strong.

I will leave my rambling Monday thoughts there but will write more in the days to come.



Save our Brains

The Brain is the most important organ in our body and one that we, quite often, take for granted. It is the command center for absolutely every mental and physical function. I am able to type this blog post because a group of neurons in my brain are putting words together into ideas that hopefully make sense. 🙂 Some other neurons simultaneously break the words down into letters and send electrical and chemical signals to my fingers to type the appropriate keys on this keyboard. The human body is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.

May is Brain Cancer Awareness month and a message that I am happy to highlight on thisAlex Moore blog. Brain Cancer is one of the rarest forms of cancer so it doesn’t get the awareness it deserves. I have a friend from college, Alex Moore, who through his own battle with this disease has educated me on the need for more attention and funding.

He has also directed me towards which is a website designed to improve your brain function and has helped me make strides in my own fight against “chemo brain”. I imagine it is useful for anyone wanting to exercise this valuable asset.

A few interesting Brain Facts (For the full list go here)

  • The human brain weighs 3 lbs
  • There are no pain receptors in the brain so it literally feels no pain
  • There are 100,000 miles of blood vessels in the brain
  • The human brain has about 100 billion neurons, a stack of 100 billion pieces of paper would be about 5000 miles high.
  • Your brain uses 20% of the oxygen and 20% of the blood circulating in your body
  • Excessive stress has shown to alter brain cells, brain structure and function
  • You can’t tickle yourself because your brain can distinguish between unexpected external touch and your own touch

Fascinating right? Here are a few specific suggestions from Alex on how you can help spread awareness on this topic:

  1. An easy thing would be to sign this petition to create a brain cancer awareness postage stamp here. out brain tumors
  2. You can do something really cool on Twitter. If you Follow @EndBrainCancer…and retweet one of their tweets using hashtag #TuneIn2GBM Novocure will donate $5 to the Chris Elliott Fund (a charity that helps patients and families with GBM diagnosis and supports brain cancer research)
  3. You can friend Alexander Moore on Facebook…you can then take a picture of yourself wearing grey and tag him (or tag me and I’ll tag him 🙂 )…mentioning that you’re doing it for brain cancer awareness month. This actually really huge because if you do the math it will quickly reach thousands of people
  4. Go like the Operation: ABC “Annihilate Brain Cancer” page. It lists events around the country and tries to give a unified voice to the brain cancer family. (Oh yeah, they’re a family. You need everyone you can get to help fight this beast.)
  5. Find a local Brain Tumor run and sign up for it
  6. and are the most comprehensive websites out there about brain tumor advocacy and awareness and research.

I think it is important to highlight these things…because cancer is a sneaky disease and you never know when it might become personal.



Fit op weg

If you have been following along on our journey you know that through the course of my chemo treatments I have been participating in a “Fit op Weg” class…or what I have dubbed chemo-cise. They gave me a fitness test 11 weeks ago before my first infusion to assess my cardio capacity and strength. I was then given a workout routine to complete twice a week, designed with a goal of maintaining my current fitness level through the duration of my treatments. Well…their goal was maintaining…maintenance for me was the minimum. My goal was to get stronger.

I enjoy challenges and pushing myself to try and achieve new things. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s not but I always learn a hell of a lot about myself along the way. It’s taken some time to convince people in my life that I am “taking care of myself”. They are nervous that I might be pushing myself too hard and it’s a fair point. I have been known, on occasion, to sometimes push myself too hard but not now. I listen to my body and if I REALLY don’t feel well I will skip my class. If I’m just tired…I will make myself go because my body feels better after exercise…and then I will take a nap…and eat some chocolate. 😉

All of this build up was to say that after 10 weeks of chemo I was given another fitness test today and I have improved in all areas!! Yahoo! My aerobic capacity and ability to use oxygen (V02 max) have both improved slightly and my 1 time max leg press and leg curl both increased by 10%. Not too shabby considering that every 3 weeks I am recovering from a round house kick to my immune system. But now it means my exercise program just got harder…bring it on. 🙂



I will remember

Well I survived receiving another chemo infusion. They got the IV started on the first time again…yippee! I’m going to keep asking for that because it is a tangible answered prayer for me. And I decided that I was going to skip the dry Dutch bread and cheese that they give you for lunch here and bring my own fabulous baked sweet potato fries. It was entertaining to watch people try to figure out what I was eating, because of course I had a little ketchup with them being an American. And once someone finally had enough curiosity to ask they just couldn’t get their minds around it for a few reasons…it wasn’t a sandwich for lunch…there wasn’t mayo for the fries…and who eats ketchup? I had a quick conversation with them about how sweet potatoes are SO much better for you than normal white potatoes and they seemed interested but who knows if it stuck. All I know is that I was very happy with my lunch and that’s all that really matters. Today I feel pretty good, no nausea, and I’m now in the balance of trying to never get too hungry or too full…and hydrate! At any given moment I have no less than 5 cups scattered around the house with various levels of water, juice, tea, and coffee.

My spirit was down going into this round because we received some extremely bad news that is probably worse than hearing you have cancer. The details of this are not for public blogging but it’s enough to say we’ve got some other stuff to deal with. So I must have a great excavator in my life that just doubled the pit I am now sitting in but here’s hoping we have hit bedrock.

In the midst of all of this I have been slowly reading through a book given to me by my new pastor and his wife at Vineyard Groningen, The Blessing Book by Linda Dillow. The 2nd chapter of this book has been especially relevant to me. The one I want to share with you today is called “I will remember” and it’s based around Psalm 77.

Psalm 77
For the director of music. For Jeduthun. Of Asaph. A psalm.
1 I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
2 When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands,
and I would not be comforted.
3 I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.[b]
4 You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.
5 I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;
6 I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart meditated and my spirit asked:
7 “Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion? ”
10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.

11 I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

12 I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
13 Your ways, God, are holy.
What god is as great as our God?
14 You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.
15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
16 The waters saw you, God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
17 The clouds poured down water,
the heavens resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.
18 Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
19 Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.
20 You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

At this particular moment I feel like I am living in the first half of this psalm (vs 1-10). Where my spirit is grieving and weary. It is difficult to be comforted or to find the strength to carry on. Sleep is hard to come by and it is impossible to know what to do. Except remember. I will choose to remember the ways God has worked in my life and the power/miracles he has displayed throughout time. This is not overly spiritualized my heart is still heavy…but I know my God. I know he is the giver of life and redemption. I know he can move mountains and pray fervently for transformation and provision.  And with this remembrance comes the peace of knowing it will not always be this way.

Psalm 77 by Kristin Serafini



Let’s talk about boobs…

An interesting transition moving from the US to Europe is adjusting to the barrage of super sexualized images.  Boobs are everywhere. On TV and in advertisements but in general people here don’t seem to care. It is an accepted part of the culture and female anatomy that make them shake their heads at our “nipple gate” (Janet Jackson, Superbowl 2004) fascinated country. In a very broad way it can boil down to the history and foundations of the countries/regions. The US has a foundation in puritanical roots with religious refugees trying to escape persecution in Europe. So, we are hyper sensitive to sexualized images but since we haven’t had recent wars fought on our soil we are less sensitive to violence. Flip that around for Europeans…with world war I and II still within the last 100 years they don’t accept violent images as cavalierly as Americans do but a little extra skin and topless beaches? No problem. Again, these are sweeping generalizations but provide a bit of a foundation for the two perspectives. And I have had a crash course in the different approach to modesty as I have worked my way through the various medical appointments here. Let’s just say I’ve had to (ahem) embrace the phrase “This situation is only as embarrassing as I make it…because no one else cares.”

So what are boobs? They are these weird lumps of fat and glands that can have a hypnotic effect on men and can be taxing and terrifying to women. We enhance them, we flatten them, we push them up, we criticize them, we compare them, we can sometimes even name them, but ultimately they are designed for milk production…and unfortunately very frequently can cause big problems to our health. The statistics are now 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer within their lifetime. That doesn’t mean 1 in 8 women that walk into a Dr.’s office on a daily basis will come out with a cancer diagnosis but over the course of their life will be confronted with this disease. And it doesn’t always happen when you are older, or if there is a history in your family – obviously, that is why I am now writing this.

The question I get most often now from women is “How did you know? How did you find it?” Here’s the answer…I found it with a self-exam. I am a member of the Zeta Tau Alpha fraternity and our philanthropy is the Susan G. Komen foundation so I have been surrounded by “how to” do a self breast exam for over 10 years. Just because I know I should, does that mean I did regularly? No. Because I’m young, healthy, there’s no history in my family…blah, blah, blah. But I think the reason why I didn’t is because at some point I heard a damaging statement “if a tumor is big enough to feel in a self exam…it’s already too late.” So, I suppose I thought why bother. That may have been true years ago, but it is DEFINITELY not true now.

Our best defense is early detection, and I truly thank God for prompting me to check in February. There is a lot that can be done now. But you have to catch it. And the thing that regular breast exams give you is a reference for when things change. It was hard for me to do a self exam because my breast were naturally lumpy and bumpy and it can be difficult to know what is a problem. Check with a Dr. on what the normal state of your breasts is and then check every month to see if something changes. Because that is what I felt. Something different. Very different. A mass that I could move around. All I can say is that you’ll know the difference when you feel it (obnoxious right? Sorry) but you have to have the baseline reference to do it. Here is a link on the proper steps to perform a self exam…please forward to all the women you know and love.

Basic Steps for Breast Self Exam

Tips for Self Exam