Thursday, September 12, 2019

I Am

We enjoyed a wonderful summer of good health, good times, and good memories. While I miss my work family and the joy and worth I received from my job, it has been a wonderful blessing to be a stay at home wife and mother. I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, and I am so grateful for this time with Todd and the boys while my cancer remains in remission. Being home has also allowed me to take better care of myself, which has been helpful for all four of us. We recently found out that I am approved for both long-term disability and Social Security disability. The provisions from those programs will certainly help keep us afloat financially as we walk through this cancer journey, and we are relieved to know I can continue to stay home and focus my attention on my health and my family.

The boys started back to school a few weeks ago. Joseph is an 8th grader and Jack is a junior. I miss their presence and activity in our home during the school day. I am a little lonely without them, yet I am still not up to much socialization with others. So, most days I stay home and fill my time with reading, Bible study, cooking, playing the piano, and catching up on movies and such. I’ve been trying to establish a routine that keeps my mind and body busy. Having too much down time is not always a good thing. Lately, I have been wrestling with depression, anxiety, and my identity. The person staring back in the mirror looks like a stranger, and sometimes thinks and acts like one too. Her hair is shorter. Her body is heavier. Her ears no longer hear well, and her mind is not as sharp as it once was. She used to be confident, employed and active. Now, she is insecure, sleeps a lot more and stays home. I don’t know this person, and quite honestly, most days I don’t even like her all that much. Bring back the ol’ girl that used to live in this house, I say! She had a purpose…and identity. But, this new girl…sigh.

A sweet friend of mine reminded me that each of us is constantly evolving. Her words comforted my weary heart and mind. I am not alone. Change is an inevitable part of everyone’s life, and so we all, at times find ourselves learning to adapt to new roles, new…identities. And, I think we can all agree that sometimes change is hard.

It doesn’t necessarily take a cancer diagnosis to make one struggle with their identity. Perhaps you are struggling to find yourself as the result of moving to a new town, starting a new school or job, divorce, losing a parent, child, partner, or job, etc. We all have a longing to be known and to be accepted. Yet, when we are struggling to know our own selves, how on earth can we to expect others to know us too?

Whatever circumstances you are facing in your life right now, if you find yourself struggling, like me, to figure out your identity and to love yourself for who you are – I am praying for you. I am praying for us. Life is hard.

This morning, I read and was encouraged by the following:

“But, our burdens can make us stronger and develop qualities in us that will prepare us for the future. We cannot be overcomers without troubles to overcome. Be true to God in the hard times because even the worst situations can make us better people.”

As I’m learning to adapt and accept my new self, I am thankful for a God who never changes, and who loves me unconditionally. Furthermore, He defines me. I can know who I am because I know who He is. You can know who you are in Him too.

Every time I share with you here, I do so in hopes of sharing my faith with you. In all I say and do I want to point the way to Christ. My life is certainly not perfect, but I pray my words are encouraging. Please keep lifting up me and my sweet family. We walk by faith along this slickery road of life. While I’m walking, I am going to keep reminding myself of who I am and will ALWAYS BE.

I am a child of God. I am chosen. I am loved. I am forgiven.
I am God’s workmanship and created in His image.
I am wonderfully made.

PS). I am putting together a playlist of songs to encourage myself and remind me who I am. I’d love your input on what songs encourage you and/or you feel I should include. They can be songs of any genre. My go to songs right now are: “Who You Say I am” by Hillsong Worship, “You Say” by Lauren Daigle and “Rise Up” by Andra Day.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

In Between

Shortly after my last blog, I had a breakdown. The stress and toll of cancer and treatment caught up with me. In mid-January, I reached a point where I could no longer deal with the stress on my own and confided in some wonderful medical providers to help. I have wanted to tell you this for a while, but struggled (and still struggle) to find the words. It is difficult and overwhelming to admit, to share about it, and to understand – much less try to explain. The breakdown came with a lot of self-shame, guilt and fear. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it came with a lot of faith, hope and love as well. Please bear with me. It is not easy to be so transparent. However, it is real and it is honest. Cancer is hard. Chemo is ugly. And, I am not the person I used to be.

Daily I strain to overcome the limits and damage cancer and chemo has placed on my body and mind, yet grant myself grace to accept those same limits and rest. It is an awkward balance. Every day is different. There are some wonderful highs and some very dark and sad lows. Some days I am able to be around other people and carry on an actual conversation. Other days, I can barely go to the store for a loaf of bread without a tremendous amount of anxiety or a panic attack. Some days I have the energy to do laundry, or drive across town. Other days, I have to take prescription medicine just to stay awake or function. Most days, however, I am somewhere in between the two extremes and learning to navigate and love myself along the way. Peanut butter cups seem to help. What? I have not lost my sense of humor, folks! And, I certainly have not lost my love of peanut butter cups!

Many of you have checked in, asked how I am doing, invited me to lunch, etc. I appreciate your love, friendship and encouragement immensely. I wish I had concrete answers to give. It is challenging to find the words to answer even the simplest of questions at times. And, in those times, I get incredibly anxious and overwhelmed. Please do not let this detour you from reaching out. You may not hear back from me right away, but know that I am so grateful for your thoughtfulness and I will respond or get together as I am able. As a side bar, I want to especially thank my Sunday school class for the prayers, uplifting cards and messages. I miss and love each of you so and look forward to returning to church when I am able. Social interaction is such a hard struggle for me. This is unfamiliar territory and I hope my ability to function in that regard will improve. I have been forcing myself, little by little, to get out and about and pray these baby steps will lead to greater strides in the near future. I am also seeing a counselor to discuss the stress and struggles. She is wonderful and I am thankful our paths have crossed.

My last PET scan was in April. Thankfully, the scan did not indicate any cancer growth. We are rejoicing that the chemo seems to have knocked the cancer down, yet we know it is merely a matter of time until the cancer begins to grow again. We live in the in between. We celebrate and savor the moments we are in, for they are the only ones guaranteed, and, we plan life in 3 months increments between scans. My next PET scan is in July. In the meantime, Todd and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary next week, and in June, our family of four will embark on a grand road trip together! I am also looking forward to playing golf with my oldest son, Jack and making homemade pizzas with my chef and youngest son, Joseph. I am so very, very grateful for my three guys who do life with me – Todd, Jack, and Joseph. I thank God for giving us the gift of each other. I love you with every ounce of my being.

For those unaware, in early May, I stopped working. I loved my job and particularly my work family, but as I continued to push myself to perform, the mental, emotional, and physical toll become harder to hide and my ability to complete tasks was waning. It is humbling to admit your limits and struggles. It is also scary, particularly from a financial standpoint. I could potentially lose all of my benefits, but Todd and I took this step in faith. Home is where I need to be, and we have peace in this decision. Presently, I am on family medical leave and will soon file for long-term disability and social security disability. However things turn out in the disability regard, we are praying for God‘s will to prevail, and the faith to accept whatever His plan may be. I firmly believe His will is always the best, even when/if it is not what I envisioned. He knows all of our needs and He is an ever-faithful provider. Though I would much rather have stopped working due to retirement or winning the lottery (hey, a girl can dream!) there is no denying that I have hit the jackpot in terms of being able to focus more on my husband and boys. Time with them is such a tremendous blessing and I am thankful for this opportunity in the in between to make lifelong memories and love them well.

Till next time,

Wednesday, January 9, 2019


Happy New Year, friends! I hope your new year is off to wonderful start. Ours certainly is! We are still reeling from the magnificent time we had in New York (details below). Additionally, I had a PET scan last week...the scan did not show any signs of cancer growth or progression! Praise the Lord! We are breathing some BIG, BIG sighs of relief. My next scan will be in early April, and every three months thereafter until the cancer is detected again. In the meantime, I am absolutely enjoying the break from treatment and getting stronger with each passing day. I still get tired easily, but I feel great. My hair is starting to grow back and I’m acclimating to having hearing aids. Some of you have asked if my hearing loss from chemotherapy is permanent…yes, unfortunately so. I can still hear though (even if it's not well), and for that I’m truly thankful! While I have significant general hearing loss, I also have a loss in clarity of sounds. As a result, much of what I hear sounds very distorted. As aggravating as that can be, it does make for some interesting conversations and lots of laughs. So, be warned, friends…if you have a conversation with me on the phone or in person, I may just put words in your mouth! HA!

Speaking of addition to new year’s resolutions, it's come to my attention that at the beginning of a new year some folks like to choose a word to focus on for the year. I’ve pondered what my word should be. So many words seem appropriate, but one stands above the rest. Hope. So much has changed over the past few months that some days I don't know if I'm coming or going. Yet in the midst of all the instability and uncertainty there is something that has not changed...hope. I have hope. Beyond that, who knows? I mean, life can change in an instant (for reals!)…for any one of us. We expect to pull out of our driveway each morning and head down the road to another mundane, routine day…but, sometimes, the road gets slickery and we find ourselves slipping and sliding down a path we never intended to travel. And, heck, perhaps never even saw coming. No matter what road we’re on though – there is hope - an unwavering, firm and secure anchor for our soul. The light at the end of the tunnel. Not dependent upon situations or circumstances, hope reminds us better days are coming and that they will come! For me, hope is faith. It’s love. It’s grace. It’s mercy. Hope is Jesus. He is the reason I can keep my head above water. He is my peace…the provider of my strength, and my joy. He, my hope, does not disappoint, and in Him I choose to dwell. I will not dwell in the fear of my diagnosis or of what may come. The ground is too shaky there, and it's awfully hard to stand on shaky ground. Hope...that's my focus. Hope steadies my stance. It's my word for the year, and Jesus, my hope, is my word and focus for life.

"In Christ Alone" - Lyrics by Stuart Townsend and Keith Getty
In Christ alone, my hope is found.
He is my light, my strength, my song.
This Cornerstone, this Solid Ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

As I mentioned above, we had a magnificent time in the Big Apple! We were able to visit NY for a few days right before Christmas and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. In addition to the Stella’s Wish Foundation, many additional people came together to bless our family and offset the costs of the trip. We are so very humbled and grateful for the kindness bestowed upon us. The Christmas lights and decorations in New York were simply beautiful! I loved seeing Times Square, Central Park, Rockefeller Center (and the gorgeous and HUGE tree there!), the Plaza Hotel, the Statue of Liberty, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, a Broadway show (School of Rock), and so many of the other sites I’d only prior witnessed on TV, in movies, or online. We feasted on pizza, hotdogs, and cheesecake, of course, and soaked up every bit of the sights, sounds and tastes of the city as possible! More important than the trip itself though was the gift of time with one another. That was the greatest and most wonderful gift of all. I cherish the moments, now more so than ever, that I am able to spend with Todd and our boys. So, THANK YOU for an amazing trip filled with priceless, lifelong memories and time with my family. Below is just a few of the photos from our awesome trip. 

May your new year be filled with all the joys, blessings and peace that Hope brings!
Much love to each of you - Angela

“And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” -Romans 5:5