Saturday, May 29, 2010

Between a rock and a hard place!

We did indeed have the third MRI scan on Tuesday despite the emergence of a migraine headache and all of the fear that was still in place from the last scan. When we got to McKay Dee, we were lucky enough to have the same nurse, Sue that we had the pleasure of meeting during the second MRI (the magnet is always on-- Sue!).

My emotions were high and the quantity of sleep low, but I felt loved and supported as I walked back to get scanned with Brenda and Justin at my side. Brenda was snapping photos and Justin was making sure that everything was just right (even though it was his birthday…and the reverse should have been happening). These things were comforting but I continued to feel sick at my stomach and pain in my head. The lack of control in my life and the outcome of the MRI were proving to be difficult to bear.

Like life, even when it is difficult to bear it often goes on anyway and so did the MRI. Instead of placing my face on the specially designed cushion, Sue took it off and stacked a number of pillows instead. It was far more comfortable! That comfort lasted about 1 minute until I was put into the MRI tube and felt absolutely stuck BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE. My arms were pinned above my head and I knew I was in that position for the next several minutes. Does the word claustrophobia come to mind? It came to me!

And like life again, just when you think you cannot handle a situation any longer, it is over and so was the MRI. Now, we just had to wait for 24 hours to get the results with Dr. Stinnett. I could not get the idea of being stuck BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE out of my mind. I thought about the cramped tube of the MRI; I thought about the confining situation that my mind was in with thoughts of the tumor; and I thought about the restricted and proverbial ROCK AND A HARD PLACE that my family has been in since the cancer diagnosis.

This feeling of being stuck and having very little control stayed with me through the night (my companion instead of sleep) and throughout the day leading up to the appointment with Dr. Stinnett. To be perfectly honest, the day was miserable…I was weepy and sad and pitiful. I had made the choice to focus on the negative. I was sure that the news from Dr. Stinnett would be bad and I was trying to prepare myself for the news, so that I could comfort my family and friends.

I walked into his office stuck BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE; battling with my circumstance and the emotions that were right on the surface. I was feeling the pressure and looking around the office at my parents and Justin, I decided to go say hi to Lisa before Dr. Stinnett came in to share the results.

She, of course was busy, busy in her blue Martian outfit and mixing the chemotherapy drugs for the souls who were hooked up in the chairs. I poked my head in the office and said hi with a smile. She took my smile as a sign that I had received the good news and she burst from the office and with a huge hug told me, “Congratulations!”

I hugged her back and looked at her dumbfounded. She tried to cover her excitement and stated, “You haven’t met with Dr. Stinnett yet have you?” I shook my head no, but the cat was already out of the bag and I began to question her about details. She told me that I would have to get the details from Dr. Stinnett because (with a smile) she was “already in trouble!”

I almost ran from the chemotherapy room back to the office and just about scampered right into Dr. Stinnett. He got a sharp look and said, “Did Lisa already tell you?” I smiled a big smile and said, “Yes, but she told me that I would have to get the details from you!”

He playfully acted dejected as we walked into the room and then broke into the news about the MRI. Simply put, he told us that the news was better than he could have anticipated. The tumor had indeed responded to the Taxol regime and had shrunk from a 7 x 4 cm tumor to a .8 x .6 cm. It had almost completely been obliterated!

I felt so happy…so free! For the first time in 5 months I felt myself take a deep breath in and soared with a new hopefulness. Justin and I were able to talk about some of the scary stuff that we had not dared put into words, like feeling like the first round of chemotherapy (the doxorubicin and cytoxin) was the real heavy hitter…the one designed to make the most impact, so when that had not effected the tumor we were both silently devastated. It was amazing that in an instant, in the reading of one report, the ROCK AND A HARD PLACE that I thought I was in had parted and given a little breathing room and I felt my more natural optimism returning. I knew that my Heavenly Father had blessed me as a result of many, many prayers on my behalf. I felt grateful!

When we got home, I went out into my yard because that is where I love to peacefully reflect and to my surprise Justin was directing my attention to a little plant that was forcing its way up through a tiny crack in a big rock. I smiled and we talked about being stuck BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE. I stared at that little plant for a long time and wondered about the lessons that could be drawn.

Like that little plant, there may be circumstances that are out of our control and the weight of the situation may even feel like a gigantic rock laying on top of us, but even with this type of pressure there is still a choice to be made. Will we be crushed by the weight of it all? Or, will we find a way to make the best out of the conditions that we find ourselves in? That’s the rub isn’t it? This lesson is not just about cancer or a shrinking or non-shrinking tumor; it’s about all of us and life. The difference is just in the details. We all have our own ROCK AND A HARD PLACE to deal with and when we do make the choice to follow the light and emerge through the tiniest of “cracks”, we are infinitely more compassionate and ready to serve those in need.

I will forever be grateful for this experience because I do feel like that little plant…a little bedraggled and worn… but I have been able to breathe deeper having weathered a part of this storm and I look around and I notice others in a different way; a far deeper way because I know that I am not alone in having felt stuck BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE. I know that I will not always be able to “see” the trial and struggle of my brothers and sisters, but I know now that I have the ability to sense and feel things for others at a new depth and have the potential for new understanding for those who are hurting around me. For this reason, I am truly grateful for my personal experience of being BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE.

Love to you all,


Monday, May 24, 2010


Graduation is in the air! We are receiving graduation announcements from family and friends and it always seems to be a time to reflect on my own graduation and other life transitions. Shockingly, for me at least, I have been a graduate from Layton High School for 20 years this week. There are parts my high school experience that feels like it happened just yesterday and I find myself eternally grateful for many of the wonderful friendships and experiences that have molded my heart, mind, and soul. Then there are other memories and experiences that seem like only a distant occurrence and hard to recall.

What is the difference between the two? My mind lands on the intensity of the emotions that surrounded the memory. Our minds are incredible instruments and can capture a moment in time that can be recalled for a lifetime and I can’t help but reflect on the times in my life when those special memories, with high emotions, have been recalled at a later time to help in another situation. Our minds and Heavenly Father work in amazing ways.

Just the other day I had a graduation of sorts as I finished my final round of chemotherapy! Much like I did in high school, college, and even my mission, I had been anticipating the end and excited to just be done, but unbelievably I had incredibly mixed emotions…not unlike my other transition points, but far more confusing…who has mixed emotions about finishing chemotherapy?

Luckily, I had about 7 hours to think about the confusion and high emotion and I think I have landed on an insight. As I looked around the room at the chairs, the inspirational words, heard the beeping of the chemo machine, and saw the sweet faces of loved ones, I realized that as yucky as the chemotherapy has been, it has become a ‘known’. There has been predictability in the chaos and I have known what to expect for the last sixteen weeks.

As I sat there thinking about the future, it became scarily apparently that at the end of my treatment that day, I was back in the realm of unknowns and my life would be thrown at the mercy of the next test, which by the way is the third MRI on Tuesday morning. I will let you know…

Though there is comfort in predictability, I have come to recognize that true peace comes at the end of a storm (Ether 12:6) when you land on the other side with new experiences and new insights! Heavenly Father loves us enough to let the storms come because he knows that we need them. It reminds me of Peter in the New Testament.

In Matthew chapter 14, Peter and the other disciples are caught in a storm and have been in the midst of the storm all night, valiantly keeping the boat workways with the wind and the storm (D&C 123:16) and it is the ‘fourth watch’. I can imagine that they were scared and tired and turning to the things that had brought them comfort in their lives, when Jesus appears and says, “BE OF GOOD CHEER; IT IS I; BE NOT AFRAID.” I don’t know the reaction of the other disciples, but Peter asked the Lord to bid him come unto him in the water (v.28), which he did and for a time Peter was walking on the water, “but when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:30-31).

I know that my family and I are caught in the middle of the ‘cancer storm’. I even know that Christ, like he did with the disciples that night, “constrained” me to get into the ship (Matt 14:22) and just like the men on that ship that night, Christ will come in the “fourth watch”, not in the first or the third, but the fourth, so that we can develop in the areas that we need to. I hope and pray that I can be faithful enough to simply ask the Lord to bid me come. Because in the question is found the veracity that in the waters of the storm lay the unknown, and in the unknown lay the answers that will calm my hurting (scared) heart.

I love that for a time Peter was in fact walking on the water. I love that this faithful man was human and when he saw the reality of the wind and the storm he was afraid and began to sink. And I love that Christ immediately caught a hold of his hand and let him know a saving truth, “Oh thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”

Christ mixes humility and grandeur; our humanness with His godliness. We will not make it through the storms of life by ourselves. We need Him! He is the only one that can reach out immediately and hold us and if we are able to do that, then we can indeed follow the Master and do what we were intended to do.

Our sweet nephews and a number of my Young Women will also be graduating. They will be hearing about the future that they can create, about the lives that they may impact, and the advances that will happen in the world that they live in, but what I know about them…about me…about all of us, is that it is about the decisions that we are making right NOW. As we are transitioning in this life, will we valiantly keep watch all the way to the end? That watch is NOW! It is happening minute by minute, and day by day. We must live in the here and now to experience humility and grandeur; humanness and godliness. And all of these things can be missed if we forget about NOW, so right now I am grateful to have graduated from Chemotherapy and with this insight, I am grateful to be back in the boat in the middle of the storm…For in Christ there is no need to doubt! 


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

These Chairs...

At my chemotherapy session last week I had another allergic reaction to the life-saving poison that was being pumped into my veins. With the reaction came all of the precautionary measures…pure oxygen, blood pressure cuff, the Taxol being stopped and another bag of Benadryl being added, then, only after the reaction had calmed, the Taxol was reintroduced at a much, much, much slower rate.

Given the protectiveness of the slower rate, I watched the clock circle its own face hour after hour and saw other patients come and go in the CHAIRS next to me. By the end of the day’s events, I had been in the office for nearly 8 full hours and my body felt weaker than any other point in my life.

Most people who have known me for any time at all realize that I have what is called a ‘patience problem’. My mind is always thinking of the next thing that needs to be done, or the next phone call that needs to be returned, or the NEXT THING period. I have a hard time being content sitting around, so you can imagine that 8 hours worth was enough to almost put me over the edge.

Along with the ‘patience problem’, I am definitely a creature of habit, and have established steady and predictable patterns as the skeleton of most of my days and the majority of the time I try to have the flexibility to let the meat of the day vary in the details, but suffice it to say I like routine, and the routine on that day in treatment had been altered in an uncontrollable way.

As a matter of fact, my life’s routine had been altered in an uncontrollable way, so when my nurse for the day was not Lisa (my angel) and her replacement wasn't able to get my Power Port to extract blood, I started to think about life and how different my life had become in the space of 3 months and I began to cry in a rather uncontrollable manner…to my embarrassment and frustration…I could not convince my tears to stop, much like I could not convince the cancer to just miraculously leave its host.

As the tears were rolling down my face, I was directed to try a different position in my CHAIR to get the blood to flow through the port, I was asked to turn my head to the right and cough while my CHAIR was completely extended backwards. Though the new position did not help the blood flow situation it did force me to not be so focused on my own CHAIR anymore. I realized in a new way that the room was full of CHAIRS!

This was an odd thought indeed as I had seen all of those CHAIRS for each of my treatments, but today was different; those CHAIRS became symbolic of all of the lives that they had held at one time or another. I was caught up in a series of thoughts about the stories held in those CHAIRS; the tears of joy and sorrow, love solidified or dissolved, life’s dreams extinguish or enlivened, relationships gained or rocked, and ultimately LIFE saved or lost!

Suddenly, my tears dried and I took a deep breath in realizing that no one consciously chose these CHAIRS and with that thought came peace (John 14:27). There is comfort and anxiety knowing that there are things that are OUT of our control, just as there is comfort and anxiety knowing that there are things that are IN our control.

My thoughts in regards to the CHAIRS we sit in did not stop with my session. The Monday that followed treatment, Denise and I went to Alpine Academy to speak with the girls who were pivotal in bringing about a successful evening for the Anything for a Friend event. These were the girls that many of you saw in the white shirts that descended on the Union Station and were found doing just about every task imaginable, from cooking and serving, to smiling and singing. They were incredible and we wanted to take a moment to share our sincere gratitude for their service.

I sat at the front of the room about to address the entire group when the idea of CHAIRS hit my mind again. I looked out on the group of my young sisters and realized that these CHAIRS also held in them stories of triumph and tragedy, love and loss, life healed or broken (Mosiah 23:21-22). And, again like the CHAIRS in the chemo room there were events in their control and things outside of their realm to change. I felt a great deal of compassion for these young girls, which lead me to talk with them about the power they do have…that we all have…the power to choose!

Pondering the concept of the power to choose, led my mind to the last group of CHAIRS that I would like to reflect on. These CHAIRS were found in an upper room at the Mount Ogden Golf Course on Saturday and were filled with some the bodies of those who made up the Organizing Committees for the Anything for a Friend event. We had pulled them together to tell them thank you and once again, I looked at the CHAIRS and reflected on the things I knew were going on in their lives, such as, crazy-busy schedules, disabled children, mental health issues, car accidents, failing marriages, and the death of loved ones.

These are not easy things, in fact they would rock a lot of people to the core and force them to focus only on their own CHAIR, and who would blame them, but I am so proud to report that there are people out there and there were people in that room at the Golf Course who chose to look beyond their own CHAIR and make someone’s life better. They all have things in their lives that are out of their control, and the thing that changed my heart was the fact that they recognized something that was in their control…they chose to serve and make someone else’s life easier. I watched their own burdens become lighter as they choose to lighten someone else’s load. What an incredible concept! What incredible examples they are too me!

Surprisingly or not, they were not the first; they were merely following the true example of Jesus Christ (Alma 7:11-12) who descended below all things so that He might comprehend all of the things that would bring pain to our hearts. If we can but realize that the difference between happy and unhappy people rests in the realization that there are things in our control and things out of our control. Happy people actively work through things that are in their control and find peace in knowing that Heavenly Father is in charge of the things that are out of their control. In this way, many people in this life, not only find happiness, but they find a special and unique purpose to their life.

Moroni 10:32: Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

I can truly say that I appreciate my CHAIR and the power of God because I have been able to truly appreciate the CHAIRS that others are sitting in. I hope will can all stand tall in the middle of the ‘uncontrollables’ in this life, so that we will have the courage to actively manage the things that are in our control. God bless you, whatever your current CHAIR may be and trust that Heavenly Father has a plan for you.

Love to you all,


“If we can get that witness for ourselves that we are his and that he loves us, then we can cope with and endure well whatever comes in the varied tactical situations of life. Another thing will happen: we will become much more aware of and alive to the many possibilities for doing good that are present in life’s daily situations.”

Neal A. Maxwell, September 1998

CHAIR in the chemo room!

‘Mom’s Heart’ Moment: That emotional day in therapy started out when I realized that the Mother’s Day tea party at Eli’s preschool was scheduled right in the middle of my treatment. We are lucky enough to have both of our mom’s here and so willing to pick up the slack. For this I feel really blessed, but that blessed feeling did not calm the hurt in my heart that I would not be able to attend with my baby.

His grandma’s brought him by to see me after they were finished and I started to cry all over again as he brought a zinnia, a letter, and a cookie. He was so excited and proud and loved him so much.

As fate would have it, I had the allergic reaction while he was there, so in the middle of not being able to breathe I was trying to motion to Justin to take him out, which he did. Life is mixed with ups and downs. Deep breaths and breathlessness. I am so grateful for the love and support I feel in my life.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Oversized Load

There have been a number of you concerned about my last treatment because I have not been able to update the blog. It is true that I had another reaction to the chemotherapy medication, but the reality behind my absence from the blog is that my computer has been sick and in the shop for repair. My computer is back and I am excited to write about some of the things that I have been thinking and feeling. Thank you for your love, care, and concern.

A number of days ago I was talking with a great friend about life and realized that I had really slipped into feeling a little sorry for myself. The reality about the situation is that Spring is my favorite time of the year; one in which I am used to working outside most of the day and I loving it! This Spring, of course, has been different than years in the past and I have been battling the nagging thought, “I AM SICK OF BEING SICK!”

As good friends do, she recognized that I was down and suggested that I bring the boys and go with her and her kids to their family’s cabin. I was only days away from my next chemo treatment and instinctively said, “I can’t!” She did not let me off the hook that easily and began to question my rationales. I soon realized that I had no good reason not to go and found myself getting the boys and myself ready for the trip.

The cabin was near Strawberry Reservoir and if any of you have driven that canyon it can be absolutely breath taking with the rolling mountains, steep terrain, and the mixture of different types of trees growing alongside each other. For a time, I was able to forget about the situation that I find myself in and just appreciate the beauty of nature that is all around us as a constant reminder of God’s infinite power, mercy, and love for His children.

The canyon, for the most part, is a two lane Highway with wicked curves and blind turns, leaving you at the mercy of the driver’s in front of you or your own patience. I had neither! In fact, the driver in front of us was going about half the speed limit because he was hauling an OVERSIZED LOAD. We were stuck behind him, as were a number of other less than patient people. My mind was of course caught up in a metaphor.
In addition to the OVERSIZED LOAD that we were “stuck” behind, we were driving by Strawberry Reservoir itself, which was still frozen over except for some slight melting around the edges. I couldn’t help but think about the weightiness of this cancer trial and the fact that sometimes it does indeed feel like an OVERSIZED LOAD. Initially, I took the thoughts as almost reinforcement for the way that I have been feeling and a justification for my lack of patience with the entire process. Then I realized that a loving Heavenly Father had a different message for me that day. He wanted me to see the journey for want it really was and what it could possibly do.

I smiled to myself while staring at the sign, “OVERSIZED LOAD” and my mind began to reflect on the certainty that this OVERSIZED LOAD had caused me to slow down and stay between the solid yellow lines of this trial, which has given me the opportunity to ponder God’s timing and God’s mercy. I think all of us in this life have OVERSIZED LOADS at one time or another… because it is vital for us to realize that we do indeed need the refinement that comes from being forced to slow down, reflect, and have glimpses of the potential Heavenly Father sees in us. This does not take away the weight or pressure of the load; it does not diminish the impact on the road we are traveling, but pausing can help us to recognize the blessings that are often found in unanswered prayers.

While the OVERSIZED LOAD did not magically speed up or disappear as I had originally hoped, it gave me the opportunity to look out on Strawberry Reservoir in all of its frozen wonder. I thought about how, like the OVERSIZED LOAD, this body of water was reflective of my feelings. The hope and faith I once felt before this trial has been incased in the solid and functional ice of a different knowledge base. Just like the ice fisherman, I have had to test my faith by walking on the frozen water and I know the things that I merely believed before are true and I know, just like the melting away at the edges, I will sequence through the hope-faith-knowledge cycle about other things in my life until one day I will have a sure knowledge of God’s individual plan for me. How can I hope for anything else? I am a blessed person.

My heart is drawn out in prayer for all of you that are carrying an OVERSIZED LOAD and are looking at your life as if the ice that has formed is a commentary on God’s love or lack of love for you. I hope we can all pause and take a good look around to see the beauty in our lives and the fact that the ‘ice’ of trial can bring us the sure footing of new knowledge. Life is not easy. It was never designed to be, but we can know and understand that Heavenly Father loves us completely and without strings—sick or healthy; fixed or broken; bond or free; sinless or willful sinner—He loves us. We are His children and He desires for us to be happy. I am grateful for this knowledge.

Love to you all,


‘Mom’s Heart’ Moment: Isaac was lying in bed with me the other night before bed. He looked at me and said, “You have no hair mom!” I touched his cheek and ran my hands through his hair as the conversation continued.

“I know Isaac”, I said.

He looked back with resolve, “Papa Ron cut it off…too short!”

By way of clarification I responded, “No honey it wasn’t papa. Mommy doesn’t have hair because we are battling cancer and the medication makes me lose my hair.”

He moved on, “Why did Heavenly Father give you eyes?”

“To see with!”

“Why did Heavenly Father give you a nose?”

“To smell with!”

“Why did Heavenly Father give you lips?”

“To kiss you with!”

“Why did Heavenly Father give you cancer?

I just hugged him tightly and said, “Because He loves me!”

Sunday, May 2, 2010

April Showers, bring…

This last week brought with it an interesting weather pattern. We went from 80 degrees one day to 35 degrees the next. The warmth of the 80 degree days sparked my tulips to open their pretty petals and say hello to the spring. They welcomed the tenderness of the warm weather for almost two whole days, smiling and fully open to the entire world, and then came the cold “wake up” call of the 35 degrees. That blast of cold came with a furious wind, slanted rain, and finally snow and hail.

I was watching the weather pattern and it’s devastation from the warmth of a friend’s home, when to my shock, I saw a bird battling its way up through the wind whipping on the ground. I continued to watch with interest and concern and was so happily surprised to see the bird, through a lot of hard work, use the power of the wind to glide in place and rest its wings. I couldn’t believe that this seemingly powerless creation had fought through the uncontrollable elements and found a place of peace and rest.

I kept watching the wise bird and my mind was caught up. I pondered some thoughts about my family’s current situation. Much like the plight of the tulips, just prior to the cancer diagnosis, I was enjoying the peace and warmth of a pretty darn easy life; I was not being tested in any arena and I was not complaining! When the storm of life hit, I stayed on the ground with the whipping wind for some time and tried to pull my petals in tightly, but quickly realized that as tight as tried to pull in, the cancer storm was still pulling and thrashing, and I felt like I was losing part of me, as the tulips had lost some of their petals.

Then, as tender mercies go, the Lord helped me to see things more clearly with the help of Justin, my family, and my friends. They were the “little bird” flying up through the wind and I realized that I could chose to fly instead of stay on the ground and be beat up by this situation. I could see that my loved ones were finding rest in the storm by being active and I needed that peace. Justin was actively finding the best doctors, while Brenda and Denise were already talking about the things they would be doing in support. Like shaving their heads!

I still could not figure out how I was going to find peace, so I prayed! And, just like the Nephites in the book of Alma (Alma 58:10-12), I was overwhelmed by my circumstance and prayed that I would be strengthened and delivered from the enemy that had come upon me. And, much like the Nephites, the “enemy” was not removed from me, but I was visited with assurances and peace, and I had an increase of faith and hope that I was not in this by chance. These people though their circumstance had not changed, took courage and were fixed with a determination to conquer their enemies and went on to fight and overcome the insurmountable. They beat the odds through faith in the Lord.

I know that all of us have, have had, or will have situations in our lives where we must find a way to fight our way up off from the ground and use the power in a positive way to give us some rest and perspective. It is fully within our grasp to find peace, assurances, and faith in the middle of the storms that are inherent in life. I hope that we can all be strong enough to battle the opposing reality; the reality that would have us remain on the ground, hunkered down, closed, and beat up. Because when we are listening to the opposition, we will never be able to be refined and renewed, and uncover the special mission that we are here to accomplish.

May we all choose to fly into the storm…that the “April showers” in our lives will bring about beautiful flowers!

“As the tree is fertilized by its own broken branches and fallen leaves, and grows out of its own decay, so men and nations are bettered and improved by trial, and refined out of broken hopes and blighted expectations.”

-Frederick William Robertson (1816-1853)



‘Mom’s Heart’ Moment: By way of background, Eli has been extremely concerned about the burning in my hands and my hair not growing back. He continues to be concerned about my hands as they are now peeling in consequence to the burning and he wonders, out loud, “Are your hands going to keep chipping to the bone?” I assure him that they will not but I am always amazed at the way little minds take in big stuff.

Consequently, Eli was playing Play dough with some friends. It was a big octopus and the Play dough was pushed through the holes to create arms and hair. I overheard him plea with his friends, “Hurray, hurray we have to make it have hair before if dies…You guys, come on it needs new hands or it will die!” The boys went on playing and I quickly went down stairs with tears in my eyes. It is very difficult to see my boys hurting and not have the power to make it better!