Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pioneering Spirit

I appreciate this time of year and I love the 24th of July, as we celebrate the pioneers coming into the Valley. The definition of PIONEER is a person or group that is the first to do something or that leads in developing something new. I have thought a lot about PIONEERS as of late and feel grateful for the power of newly tread water and forging through territory previously untouched, bringing to light a new way of thinking, feeling, or behaving.

A couple years ago, Justin and I were asked to help out with a simulated PIONEER trek experience for the kids in our ward. We were all asked to research out a name and be prepared to share the story. Unbeknownst to myself at the time, I was literally the product of those early PIONEERS as I discovered that Margaret McCann Porritt, my great, great, great grandmother, traveled with her three small children across the ocean (from England), and then traversed the plains with the Martin Handcart Company, where she arrived, tested and changed in the Salt Lake Valley with my great, great grandfather, Thomas Porritt in tow.

She endured many hardships, including the perils of single parenting, and losing one of her babies to the frigid temperatures on the trail at Martin’s Cove. She understood deeply the pain that can rush in to one’s life and the peace that can be found in the knowledge of and the active use of the Savior’s Atonement. She solidified her character as she weathered the ups and downs of her life. She did not ask for the pain, but endured it well. I am proud of her example and my heritage.

Over the weekend I was asked to participate in the 2010 Ogden Pioneer Days Rodeo—Tough Enough To Wear Pink night. When I first got the invitation, I thought it might be a prank and giggled thinking about me on the back of some nasty, dirty, spitting bull and trying to dust off a spot to sit just before being bucked off to certain injury! As it turns out, they just wanted to feed my family and I and honor me, along with 20 other women at the beginning of the rodeo (there was a little danger in the fireworks that were shot off right above my head!).

While at the dinner, I recognized Mrs. Butler, Jenny and Becky’s mom from high school. The ironic (or orchestrated) part of the story is that Mrs. Butler was diagnosed with breast cancer at the same time as my grandma Nelson, but her diagnosis was far graver than my grandma’s and I remember consoling Jenny and Becky as they were dealing with the probability of losing their mom and almost feeling guilty about my grandma’s more favorable diagnosis. As time passed and treatment decisions were made in both cases, the Lord’s will was made manifest…he took my grandma home and Mrs. Butler is in her 23rd year of survival.

Tears welled up in my eyes as I recognized her and realized that she was truly a PIONEER in the field of breast cancer and its diagnosis and treatment. I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude as we talked about her journey and the advancements that had been made on her back, as well as thousands of women that had come before. I was sitting there in the company of PIONEERING women that have made my personal journey much easier.

Despite my journey being easier, there have been tears and anger and disappointment. There have been unanswerable questions posed by my own mind, as well as by others. I have cried out from the depths of my soul, just as I am certain there were times for Mrs. Butler and my grandma Porritt where they cried out wondering how they could have ended up in THIS PARTICULAR SITUATION and the thing that remains, despite the pain is the resiliency of the human spirit; our innate need to conquer and rise above.

Mrs. Butler and my grandma Porritt decided that they would rise above the odds of their circumstances. They decided to keep fighting in the war, despite having lost some of the battles. I don’t think they were immune to negative thoughts or doubts, but ultimately made the conscious decision to fight.

I think about my grandma Porritt’s experience in Martin’s Cove when she had to leave her baby’s body in a shallow grave and just keep walking around the bend despite hearing the howls of the hungry wolves waiting for her departure and I feel compassion for her and I feel grateful for her PIONEERING spirit, that despite the hardships, she JUST KEPT FIGHTING, which was the sentiment reflected by Mrs. Butler

My mind reflected on this reality for all of us…WE ARE ALL PIONEERS of our own existence. We will be asked to break new ground and tread new water as we create our unique and special reality. We will all have hard and challenging days, mixed with triumphs and defeats. None of us are immune to pain, loss, or suffering, but all have access to the same heritage as children of God. We are His children and He desires for us to be happy. He sent his son as a perfect example, who offered a perfect sacrifice, so that we could indeed overcome the challenges of this world. I hope we can all find a quiet moment to honor our own experience, with its ups and downs, soaring moments and shortfalls and find ourselves like Mrs. Butler and grandma Porritt still FIGHTING

“Whatever our challenges in life may be, our burdens may become light if we not only believe in Christ but also in His ability and His power to cleanse and console our lives. Our lives are healed as we accept His peace.”

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Mom’s Heart Moment:

We were over at Justin’s brother’s house and the food was all prepared. All we needed was a prayer. Some of the teenagers ducked their faces while both of my boys gleefully volunteered! Uncle Matt selected Isaac to say the prayer, who then selected Aunt Sandy to help him with the prayer. Everyone, except for Isaac, closed their eyes and Sandy started to whisper the prayer into Isaac’s ear. He began to reflect what he was hearing and then shouted out, “There’s fire!” Everyone gave a polite gesture to quiet down and then he said it again. At that point we realized that there was indeed a fire on the stove as the corn was boiling over! Thanks Isaac and we thought he was just identifying the power of Sandy’s prayer!

Sunday, July 18, 2010


I started radiation last week, but not without some very interesting points of preparation, for instance, I was given an initial CT scan to map the area that would be radiated, a mold was made of my head turned to the left (keeping my jaw bone out of the radiation beam) and my arms raised above my head, clasped on posts near the crown of my head. When both of these steps were completed, the three lasers were lined up and I received three tattoos. OK, it really was just three small dots of ink, which will be a permanent gift of this process, but I call them tattoos to validate the pain that was motivated by the small pricks (just a side note—I have a whole new appreciation for people who have tattoos---OUCH)!

Once the CT scan, mold, and tattoos (who would have ever thought I would have a tattoo!) were in place I waited for about a week and a half for my radiation treatment plan to be generated by Dr. Harris and his staff and treatment to begin.

As has been the case on this entire journey, we feel so blessed with the caring staff of Gamma West. Dr. Harris, Kari (my sister-in-law’s best friend!), Robin, Andy, Justin, and Jessica make me feel almost lucky for the opportunity (ALMOST:)!). This particular “opportunity” will be 5 days a week for the next 6 weeks, but only entails a small percentage of my day.

Each day I drop Eli and Isaac off with a hug and kiss, trying to answer the questions about why I am going to the doctor again when I was just there yesterday and why do I have to go to the doctor when the bad cells are already gone? The questions continue until they see the sweet face and warm arms of one of the many caring women in the neighborhood, for which I entrust my most valuable parcels. Those same parcels have been loved and fattened up a little by the baking of cookies, cupcakes, and any number of other things that their old mom limits. In other words, this will be a great 6 weeks for the boys and I am so grateful for the kind and selfless acts of service from my friends!

I then make the short drive to Cancer Treatment at Davis Hospital in the Robert F. Bitner Medical Building, say “hi” and smile at Kari and Robin, change my clothes and get into what is called a “CAPE” (which made me giggle initially as I imagined myself as a super hero! The first day I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and realized…I was unquestionably not a super hero!).

The image in the mirror caused me to pause and the smile quickly faded from my face. Familiar tears filled my eyes as I stroked my head, and I took a deep breath in as a quick realization of the toll the last few months has taken on me physically, emotionally, and spiritually swept across my mind. The cape gaped open to reveal many of the scars of the journey on my body and the tears that rolled down my cheeks exposed my emotional and spiritual landscape that has been forever changed.

I gathered my emotions and the cape around me (as best I could!), and found a place in the waiting room. Andy soon appeared and we walked down the hall to the TomoTherapy room. I climbed onto the Tomo bed and Andy and Justin gave me the instructions that I would be asked to follow for the next 6 weeks. A tear escaped my eye as I was all alone and moved into the unfamiliar tunnel of radiation. I tried to find a place to orient myself and quickly realized everything looked the same, so I closed my eyes and my mind rested on the experience with the mirror from the dressing room and not just that mirror, but the crashing down of my favorite mirror at home.

Earlier in the week, the boys and I had been out running some errands and I came home to find the mirror in Justin and my bedroom crashed to the floor, its frame broken in several places. I sat on my bed and just stared at the mirror, with its broken corners and displaced iron works, as it rested on the floor. I felt sad!

In the tube, I couldn’t help but think of myself as that mirror, at one time, like the mirror, I was firmly positioned in my place…matching with all the surrounding “furniture” if you will! Then, with a single phone call, my world came crashing down and my previously well defined corners and ornamentation had been broken away. Despite the broken parts of the frame, the mirror was still intact and still served its purpose of reflecting an image back; that aspect of its nature had not been broken in the fall, just like my core nature had not been broken with the cancer call.

My mind immediately raced to fix-it mode and just like past experience, when I needed something fixed I always thought about my dad, who can fix anything! Imagine how blessed I have been to have this sweet, jack-of-all trades in my life. But, as fate would have it, my dad was out of town. There was no fixing of that mirror that day, but I was able to sit in front of the mirror and just think.

What did the image in that mirror really reveal? Do we take enough time in our life to really evaluate the image that stares back at us in the mirror? Or, do we check our hair, teeth, and make-up and never really take the time to really see our core nature?

I am grateful for the journey of this cancer treatment because it has given me that time! There is true power in really evaluating where we stand and what is reflected in our eyes (Matt 6:22-24). As I take the time and really see, I know there are things that I really like about what is reflected and there are undeniably things that need to change! I am grateful for the power of the atonement, that unbelievable sacrifice of our older brother, which truly covers that which has happened to us physically, emotionally, and spiritually (Alma 7:11-12). I am grateful for an earthly father who so closely emulates my Heavenly Father. In this, I am blessed.

I hope we can all take a little time in front of the mirror. Not to adjust our hair (for those that have it!) or grumble about some bulge here or wrinkle there, but to really look into our own eyes and evaluate our current station, that we may actively take part in the atonement of Jesus Christ and bring ourselves back into alignment with God’s will.

Love to you,


Mom’s Heart Moment:

I was out of town on a Sunday morning and the boys, Justin included, were fending for themselves. Eli was asked to get his church shoes, and he grabbed the shoes without shoe laces. Without warning, he marched himself down to my mom and dad’s house (2 doors down) plainly knowing that my dad could “fix him up”. He was truly surprised when my dad did not have spare shoe laces on Sunday morning, he reflected, “Papa can fix anything!” (an obvious strong mom influence).

As I stated earlier, I am grateful for my dad and I am grateful for a loving Heavenly Father that truly can “fix anything”. He desires for us to be happy and happiness comes when we align our will with His.

I will leave you with this thought from the Youth Spectacular at Weber State:

“When you look in the mirror do you see who He sees?”

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Road Trips

I have had a few road trips in the last few weeks. One was to Logandale, Nevada, another was to Park City, Utah, and the third was to North Fork, Utah. All of the road trips changed my mind and heart in different ways and all have had some very similar themes.

The trip to Logandale was in support of the second ‘Anything for a Friend’ event, which was held for Cher Freeman. She was diagnosed with breast cancer a few months ago and had no health insurance. The tiny community turned out in droves for her support! It was an incredible display of love, support, and encouragement.

The trip to Park City was in response to an invitation by a non-profit organization called ‘Image Reborn’, which was set up by a two time breast cancer survivor and is in place to help with those who are dealing with the effects of breast cancer and its treatment. It was also an amazing display of love, support, and encouragement on a smaller scale.

The third trip was with our family to North Fork, where we camped over the Fourth of July weekend. It was full of food, dirt, and good times, and it was also a wonderful display of love, support, and encouragement on a personal scale.

I have reflected in my mind how these three different road trips, each unique and particular in their own right have evoked the same feelings for me of love, support, and encouragement. Why do these three elements work together to bring relief? I think it is because they are the healing balm needed to overcome despair, hopelessness, and discouragement.

Many of us have asked the question, “Why does God permit suffering?” And “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Both of these questions serve to subjugate the inquirer and it makes perfect sense that the author of such futility would be Satan, the father of all lies, deception, and confusion.

So if Satan authors such questions and we put that on the table as a known, what is the answer to these pressing questions?

Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “…the tests given to us here are given not because God is in doubt as to the outcome, but because we need to grow in order to be able to serve with full effectiveness in the eternity to come…to be untested and unproven is also to be unaware of all that we are. To deprive ourselves of those experiences, much as we might momentarily like to, would be to deprive ourselves of the outcomes over which we shouted with anticipated joy when this life’s experiences were explained to us so long ago, in the world before we came here.”

It brings me a great deal of comfort to think about trial in this way! Heavenly Father already knows how it will turn out. He already knows if I will be valiant and brave or falter. He knows beginning from end, so the reality is that I am learning more about me and my abilities through trial. In that way, and quite possibly, only that way, I feel grateful for what I am going through and I feel blessed because of the love, support, and encouragement that I have received from those around me.

So what makes the road trips to Logandale, Park City, and North Fork connect in a related circle? It’s about the love and unconditional regard for another human being. I saw it with Cher’s friends and neighbors; I saw and felt it from the young survivors in Park City; and I was embraced by it in North Fork.

“…when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”
 (Mosiah 2:17)

I hope and pray that as we on the “road trips” of life, where ever those roads may lead, we can all see our lives and trials for what they really are and glean love, support, and encouragement from those who have been placed in our paths.

Thank you to all of you who have loved me, supported me, and encouraged me through this process. You have made this particular “road trip” unbelievable.

“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God.”

Orson F. Whitney