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A Lot has happened in Two Months

What has happened in the last two months? More than you can even imagine.

When you have cancer, you never really know when things are going to get crazy. Well, for me, that happened (again), in late November and December.

You see, I had been having pain in my reconstructed hip and then an infection started to show up.

This was new, odd, and completely unexpected. After all, I had my hip reconstructed six and a half years ago, in August 2011 (you can read more about that here).

My surgeon did an MRI in November to see if there was anything else going on and, thankfully, the results were that there was some inflammation. The surgeon aspirated it and sent that off for a biopsy and it, too, came back negative (yea again).

In December, after several rounds of antibiotics not really working, the surgeon decided that it would be best to “go in and clean it out.” It meant a trip to the hospital and a “small surgery” that would only take about 30 minutes.

On December 9th, I arrived, completely at ease, because the MRI and the biopsy had both indicated that this was nothing more than an infection, and the “small surgery” would fix everything.

That surgery did take only about 30 minutes. However, what the surgeon found when he got in there was that my entire prosthesis was infected. After much deliberation about how to proceed (I will spare you all of those details for now), it was determined that my prosthesis (all of them, after all the original surgery was much more than just a hip replacement).

The morning of December 14th I went back to surgery. This one was much longer than the “small surgery” by several hours. Afterwards, I had nothing holding my hip together anymore.

The human body is an amazing thing. I left the hospital on the 18th of December (got to spend Christmas at home with my wonderful daughters) on a walker. I was putting about 20% of my body weight on my leg, and my surgeon was/is hopeful that I will build enough scar tissue and muscle to be able to walk with a cane.

January came and I was back to physical therapy. If you want to see a physical therapist at a loss for words, tell him you do not have a hip anymore and that you have a goal to walk with a cane.

I started going to PT three times a week, and have now graduated to 2 times a week. Each time they introduce a new exercise, they ask if I think I can do it or not. My response is always “I’m willing to give it a shot. If it doesn’t work, I will let you know.”

In the midst of all of the physical therapy, it was also time for my regularly scheduled scans. This article does a great job of explaining the roller coaster ride of living from scan to scan.

I am happy to report that “it was just an infection” in my hip, and all my scans showed that I am STABLE. I will continue with PT, stay on my current medication that has kept me stable for over four years, and continue to live joyfully until the next scan.






Becoming a Social Introvert

I am the first to admit that I am an Introvert. Some people may think of introverts as shy, but that is not exactly the truth. An introvert recharges oneself by being alone, while an extrovert gets energized being around people.

I have been an introvert my whole life. I like small groups as opposed to large ones. I can get almost a claustrophobic like feeling when I’m in big groups. It’s not that I don’t like people. I do, but as an introvert, I can feel overwhelmed and extremely drained after being around too many people.

I started reading Micheal Hyatt’s book ‘Your Best Year Ever’ this month with my church Life Group. We all took his Lifescore quiz. Not surprisingly, one of my low scores was Social; I scored a 5 out of a possible 12. I already knew this about myself and before I even took the quiz, I had already planned to work on being more social (not a resolution, but a promise).

But when you are an introvert, how do you suddenly become more social? That was the question.

My answer: Being social does not mean I have to go out in big groups. Instead, I can be more social by being more intentional about planning a lunch with a friend. Or by having a few people over for dinner. It does not mean that I have to go to 6th Street in Downtown Austin on Friday or Saturday night.

Over the past 18 months, I’ve learned that just because you are an introvert does not mean you don’t want to be around people. I live by myself and find that I actually need to be around other people – just in moderation.

[A short side note for those of you who aren’t around me much, I had to have surgery in December for an infection and currently I am unable to drive. I am having to rely on friends and family to take me to doctor’s appointments and physical therapy.]

I have found that I have really enjoyed the conversations in the car going to and from appointments. This is my social time.

I also learned that I don’t have to leave my house to be social. And, no that does not mean Facebook, Instagram and SnapChat. It means I can have friends come to my house and just hang out. We can order a pizza and catch up or watch a cheesy Hallmark movie.

As I was thinking about how to improve my social skills this morning (especially as an introvert), I realized that some of my friendships were like my house. I used to be the person that would not let someone come over if the house wasn’t spic and span. I was putting on a happy face, clean house style, for friends to come over. But in a true relationship/friendship, you have to be willing to share the messy stuff (even if the messy stuff is just the dishes from lunch still on the kitchen counter). Just like a dirty house, I can’t hide my imperfections from true friends if I want to have real relationships.

I am fortunate to have many friends who have seen my imperfections and brokenness and still want to come over to sit on the couch, eat pizza and maybe share a bottle of wine.

Cheers to this Introvert learning to be more social in 2018.





Butterflies, Miracles and God’s Timing

Do you believe in Miracles?

A few days ago I was doing the weekly maintenance on my hot tub. There were several butterflies flitting about the yard. Butterflies have always been my sign from God, and I have extended that to J.R. the past months. I asked God (the butterfly) to land on the hot tub side so I would know it was J.R.

I’m always looking for signs that he is watching over me and happy with the choices I’ve made since he has been gone. When you have made all of your decisions together for over 20 years, you still seek reassurance from the one you used to make all your decisions with.

I waited and waited. Sure that it would eventually land on the hot tub, but finally, I had to leave. As I walked away I knew it was J.R., in true J.R. fashion, the butterfly continued to flit around and land everywhere but on the side of the hot tub where I asked it to land. All our married life, he did things on his schedule and not on mine. It was a constant frustration for me while he was alive. Now, all I could do was laugh, knowing how much he knew it irritated me.

I realized that this was not unlike our prayers with/to God. God does things on his own timeline. We may ask for something, expecting it to happen on our timeline. But God’s time is infinite, unlike ours. So when He does things on His timeline, it may frustrate us that it is not done as quickly as we would like. When a prayer is answered it may not be in the way in which we expect it, but He is taking care of things in ways we cannot comprehend or understand.

I have been reading some blog posts recently where the author was asking God for miraculous healing. In one post, the author had a long list of friends or family that he was asking God to heal. In another, the author was the one who had asked for the healing. In both of the posts, the authors “received” miraculous healing.

I admit I have a hard time with these posts. In my days of self-doubt, it makes me wonder if I don’t have enough faith. Do I not ask for healing in the “right way”?

I know that there is nothing that is going to bring J.R. back to life. I have asked for healing, for myself, for my husband before he passed, for my dad before he passed. While I do not claim to have received a miraculous healing (I still have Stage 4 Breast Cancer), it is a miracle that I am still here 7 years after my Stage 4 diagnosis (14 years since my original diagnosis).

It occurred to me as I was reading these blogs and thinking about the butterflies that were flitting around, that these authors were not writing to me. I was not their intended audience. Much like the disciples who wrote to different audiences, I too, am writing for a different audience.

I’m not going to claim miraculous healing. I am going to claim that God has done miracles in my life and now it is time to honor those miracles and live a life of purpose – to glorify God in my own way and by sharing my story.

MBC – a glimpse at just one day

I want to give you a small glimpse into what it is like to live with Metastatic Breast Cancer or MBC (also known as Stage 4 Breast Cancer).

Time stands still while you are waiting for a phone call

I try not to let MBC control my life, but there are some days when I just can’t help it.

I’ve had MBC since 2010. Since then I have had scans every 3, 4 or 6 months.  More frequently at the beginning, and then the doctor started to spread them out as I became “stable” with no signs of progression. The scans are so routine, that when I call to schedule them, I sometimes have to help the scheduler understand how to get them on the schedule in the right order (you know, because if you have to get more than one scan done, you want to get them all done on the same day so you don’t have to go back another day).

A couple of weeks ago it was time to have my scans done again. I have had so many of these scans that I should be a member of a frequent scanner plan (too bad that isn’t a thing, I’m sure I would be eligible for my free scans by now). I go in like a pro. I’m dressed so I don’t have to change into a gown for the scans. I schedule the CT for first thing in the morning because it requires me to fast (no eating or drinking for 6 hours before).  The total bone scan requires an injection and a 3-hour wait before the actual scan begins. This gives me time to go get breakfast after the CT is done and then still be done with the scans before I’ve lost the entire day.

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Ours not to reason WHY – Alfred Lord Tennyson

Early on in our education, we are taught to ask the questions (especially when writing) – Who, What, When, Where and WHY.

If you are a storyteller you need to be able to share all the information (and if you are a dramatic storyteller, you know when to best share each of those ideas) to those listening or reading. If there is no WHY, then what is the point of the story?

If you are a scientist, you are driven by the WHY. Why does something happen the way it does? If I do this other thing will it change the way that happened? If so, then WHY?

And if you are a 2-year-old, you constantly ask WHY? So much so that the parent’s response may come back as “because I said so.”

But as a Christian, if you ask WHY, you are likely to not get an answer. You may get other people’s opinion and/or told to “look to the Bible”. But does that really ever answer the question WHY?

I heard a great line by a presenter in a bible study I am taking. I’m not sure the exact wording, but it was something like this:

You can’t ask WHY or you won’t be able to HEAL.

Believe me, there are thousands of times I would like to ask the question Why.

  • Why do I have cancer?
  • Why did it come back?
  • Why did dad get cancer?
  • Why did he have 3 types of cancer?
  • Why did J.R. get cancer?
  • Why am I still here when they both had such a shorter battle?
  • And the list goes on…

One thing I have learned on this journey of mine, I will not have an answer to these questions. I do not know, nor will I ever know what caused my cancer. And in order to move forward, I have to be OK with that.

Friends and acquaintances are sometimes shocked that I can get up and face the world each day. How do I do it? (Oh, yeah, I forgot that one at the beginning).

The HOW lies in not dwelling on the WHY.

This is not a debate about whether God caused the cancer, or if God could have taken the cancer away.

No, this is more. This is about believing and trusting God to be present in my life. Through the good (there was lots of that) and the bad (there has been lots of that, too) God is present, He rejoices with us and He mourns with us.

I don’t know why bad things happen, we won’t likely ever know. But through Faith, I can HEAL and face today, tomorrow, and as many days as I have ahead of me

October is not happy Pink Ribbons for everyone

To lighten the mood some during my rant. You can’t help but smile when you see a bunch of puppies and kittens.

This is my annual Rant about October.


There, I said it.

Fall used to be my favorite season. While I still love the idea of Fall – the cooler weather, the football games (at least college games) and the changing colors (if I were to go visit friends where that actually happens) – the month of October is dreadful.

It all started in October of 2010 (because I was naive and bought into the pink ribbon stuff when I had “Beat Cancer” the first time). If you have read my blog, you may already know that in October 2010 I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer – in other words, the breast cancer that I beat in 2003, came back and now had made its home in other parts of my body, in my case in my bones.

I get tired of all of the Pink Hype that we are bombarded with during the month of October. For those of us living with metastatic breast cancer, every day/month is breast cancer awareness. I live with the treatments, scars and side effects on a daily basis.

This year October has been harder, and it is only October 3rd. The week leading up to October had several anniversaries – the anniversary of learning my husband had Stage 4 Renal Cancer, the anniversary of a close friend’s death, then turn the calendar to my husband’s birthday on October 1st (without him here to celebrate), and now I face October 8th and 10th – the anniversaries of my diagnosis of Stage 3 and then Stage 4 breast cancer.

It feels like I can’t get out from under this cloud, as someone said to me on Sunday “The hits just keep on coming.”

Then there are the “encouraging” posts on social media like “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% of how you react to it.” – yes, I saw this one twice in the last 3 days. I think I have done a pretty good job in the reacting to it most of the time, but there are days when the 10% hits you harder than others.

People are always asking me how I am doing. And if I’m honest…I’m tired. And I’m tired of being tired. I would like a vacation from it all, but unfortunately, we don’t get a vacation from these kinds of things. We just have to learn how to get through them until we can see the sunshine again.

I’m really good at putting on a mask when I am outside the house, but at home, especially this past week and this week so far, I’m having a hard time finding the joy, but I am continuing to look for it. I put up some Halloween decorations around the house to get into the “spirit” of things.

All this to say, be gentle with those around you. Some may just have a mask on, but if you look closely enough you may see the crack in the mask. Give them the hug they are afraid to ask for. Show them that they are loved. It may just be the thing that gets them through the next rough patch.

P.S. My heart is broken for the people of Houston, Florida, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Las Vegas. There are no words


By the Grace of God

Around us every day, God is working to make something beautiful out of something that may not have been so beautiful to begin with. But do we recognize that is what is happening?

As many of you know it has been a rough few years. I was retelling my abbreviated story to some folks the other day and once again I was told how “strong” I was.

I will be honest with you, I don’t feel strong most of the time.

I’ve been trying to work on a book and have been struggling with the common thread. Obviously, the book it about how I got to where I am today, including the hills and the valleys.

I’ve been asking God to help me discern how to tie it all together. This morning as I was tossing and turning in bed unable to sleep I was thinking about the comments that I have received over the past two years (well, probably longer than that, but let’s just go with two years).

I’ve been told I’m strong. I’ve been told how much God is with me. I’ve gotten blank stares of disbelief and been asked “How do you keep going?”

Last night I heard a friend say she gets by “by the Grace of God.”

And while that is true, it may not be what you think.

The Grace of God is not just mine to use to get by. Instead, I get by because of the Grace extended to me by my Friends and the people that I have surrounded myself with.

If there is one thing I have learned through all of this, man was not made to get through life alone.

The Grace of God has been shown to me by the actions of those around me. One definition of God’s Grace is “God’s love in action towards men who merited the opposite of love.”

I will be the first to tell you that I am not the easiest person to be around, especially while my husband and father were fighting for their lives. There were/are days when the pain is more than I want to put up with. But God continues to show Grace by sending people to surround me and show love in action.

That is what is meant when people say “By the Grace of God.”

I am thankful every night that God continues to bestow his Grace upon me. I hope you will see where God is bestowing Grace upon you.




A few year’s ago I used #TodaysAwesome in my Facebook Page. It was to remind me, and those that follow me that there is something awesome in every day. Sometimes we just have to look a little harder.

This morning I realized that I had not been using that hashtag ever since life took a little wind out of my sails (OK, it took a lot of wind, but you know what I mean).

I started this blog to write about my cancer journey, and over the past two years, it morphed into several things along the way.

When it comes right down to it there are lots of blogs about cancer. And yes, I do consider myself an expert at least about my cancer and my husband’s cancer. The last year I have touched on grief which, unfortunately, I have become an expert on my own personal grief as well.

But my original intention (even when it was the story of my cancer) was to be an encourager. To encourage those that have cancer to live life to the fullest. To not let cancer beat them, at least mentally.

That is half the reason the blog is called BuiltaLife (yes, my last name is Builta), but beyond that, I did not want to sit back and let life happen to me. I wanted to build a life that would show those around me that cancer is not going to win.

So today I am making it my goal to get back to looking for the Awesome in the Ordinary. To find that little glimmer of sunshine and to remind myself every day there is something awesome all around us if we just look for it.

Where did you see Awesome today?

Why? Do you know your Why?

Know your Why.     Arghhhhh, I hate that 3-word sentence.

My sister in law sent me a video this week. She was celebrating her birthday. WIth the video she commented, “let’s all have a year of focussing on the Why instead of the What.”

Honestly, I didn’t even want to watch the video at first.

I have struggled with the word WHY for a very long time.

If you have ever done multi-level-marketing (MLM) then you already know that every Leader/Enroller starts with “What’s your WHY?”

And while I have many blessings in my life, I have never found a WHY compelling enough to be successful in any of the MLM’s I’ve been involved with (some of them I am still a ‘valued customer’ and love the products). [And please, if you are reading this, do not reach out to me about any MLM, I’ve decided that is not the way I want to use my influence or my energy even if you do have “THE BEST PRODUCT EVER”]

God’s Will


This past year my struggle with the word WHY has been because of the death of my husband (and my father). I had to quit asking myself things like “Why am I still here?” “Why have I lived almost seven years with stage 4 cancer?”. Inevitably it would lead me to “Why are they not here?”


I have come to accept that I cannot understand God’s reasons for the things that happened the last two years. But this morning as I write this post I noticed a small book a friend gave me a couple of years ago ‘Why? – Making Sense of God’s Will’ by Adam Hamilton. Chapter 3 is entitled “Why Can’t I See God’s Will for my Life?” and the cornerstone verse is Colossians 1:9


Below is the video. I did finally open it and I’m glad I did…

Wow. That was powerful.

When you know your Why your What becomes more impactful.

I’m still struggling with Why, but I know when I find it I will be unstoppable.

Have a great day!

Grief – 10 Lessons learned this year

Grief – 10 Lessons Learned

I can’t believe it has been a year since losing Dad and J.R. In some ways it feels like yesterday and in others, it feels like a lifetime.

What have I learned about grief in the last year?

  1. Grief is like nothing you have ever experienced. Unless you have lost someone very near to you, you will not understand the depths of grief from losing a spouse, a child or a parent.
  2. Your grief is not going to look the same as anyone else’s grief – and more importantly, that is OK. Many people will empathize with you and your loss. They will have grieved for the loss of someone they loved. Some may have found themselves in the pit of despair, while others may have bounced back to life within months. I promise to not judge your grief if you promise not to judge mine.
  3. You cannot push grief to the side. It will come no matter how much you want to ignore it. You must let it happen. One of the best books I read was “You Can Heal Your Heart” by Louise L. Har and David Kessler. One of my favorite quotes from the book is “The only way out of the pain is through it. You must feel it, but not stay in it or live your life from it.”
  4. It is ok to enjoy life even in the midst of grief – it means you know you are still alive.
  5. Joy is a choice. Grief can make you feel like you will never find joy again. But if you make the choice, you can find joy. At first, it may just be in small things like the smell of freshly baked bread, over time you will begin to notice a change in how you see things.
  6. Finding joy and looking for joy does NOT nullify the feelings you have for your loved one. In fact, it honors them. In his last letter to me, my husband told me to find a reason to smile every day. Seeking out those opportunities to find something to smile about is honoring him and the love we shared.
  7. Grief has no time table. You cannot place a deadline on grief. It will continue to be there as you learn to navigate this new you. After a time it may become easier (you may not find yourself crying every single moment you think of them), but it will always be a part of who you are becoming.
  8. Friends. You need them in your life. On days when you don’t think you can move forward, they are there to help you either get up and get out. or sit with you while you cry.
  9. Life continues whether you want it to or not. Some days it feels like you are watching the world through a telescope. Watching through the telescope it is hard to see the world turning and life moving on. When you look away from the telescope you realize that your friends have returned to their normal life and it is hard to realize that you, too, must move or you will be trampled by the overwhelming sense of loss.
  10. Be gentle with yourself. I’m still navigating the grief. Some days are better than others. This week, the first anniversary, I realize that there are still many raw nerves exposed that can be set off by the slightest thing such as a memory, a song, or a picture. I’m learning to be gentle with myself at both ends of the pendulum – when the raw, grief nerve is touched and when I find joy in the small things around me. Both are honest, justifiable, understandable responses to living.



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