BuiltaLife

Offering hope to those on the path behind me

Tag: #metastaticbreastcancer (page 1 of 2)

What I learned creating an online dating profile…

Recently I set up an online dating profile. It was an attempt to entertain a friend who was dying from metastatic breast cancer. She was outgoing and full of life, and she had been suggesting, in her own unique way, that I should put myself back out there.

I didn’t take it seriously but I shared some stories and pictures with her and a couple of other metastatic friends (wow there are some interesting people on dating sites). She passed away not long after that.

I kept the dating profile up and was intrigued (in more of a research kind of way than an “ohh, he would be nice to date” kind of way) by the kind of men my profile was attracting. 

I ended up deleting the profile after about a week.

A couple of weeks ago I decided maybe it was worth trying again and one of my daughters “helped” me create a new profile. I will be honest, I have not found anyone that I am ready to date but I have found that reading other people’s profiles and then swiping left (or right on occasion) is more entertaining than spending the evening scrolling Facebook. 

What I learned about myself (and others) through online dating:

  • I’m not sure I’m ready to date (or if I will ever be ready to date);
  • There really is someone out there for everyone or every type; and
  • Creating a dating profile is one of the best ways to figure out who you really are. Not necessarily for finding a date. It is a way to tell your story.

Since I haven’t “dated” in 30 years, this was a completely new experience. I never used an online dating site before and it is rather intimidating.

How much do you put on a profile and how much of your story do you tell? Everyone is different, there are some that will post one picture and 3 lines of “description” – if you can even call it that – and others will write a book.

Not many men write “seeking a widow who is living with metastatic breast cancer” in their profile. In fact, about 80% (yes, I made that number up) want a woman who is physically fit, loves to bike ride, goes hiking and/or dancing every weekend, and “takes care of themselves mentally and physically”.

For those who follow my story, I thought about writing “likes short walks on flat surfaces” on my profile but since I have been working out and increasing my distance on walks I decided to let it go (although it still gets a good laugh in my circle of friends).

So how much of my story do I share? After reading what these men really want, I started to delete the online dating app. I mean, I am happy with where I am in my life; I have good friends and 2 great kids.

Will I keep swiping left/right or will I delete the app? Only time will tell. But after 4 years (yes, tomorrow, July 24th will be four years since J.R. passed away), I believe if you don’t have a story to tell by the time you are in your 50’s (yeah, I’m not embarrassed to say I am 54 years old) have you really lived? I’m going to own my story.

Like everyone who has Disney+ I recently watched Hamilton. The last song in the musical is “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” 

Our stories, or our experiences, are those things that have shaped us into who we are right now, as well as allows us to grow into who we are becoming. 

In order to love who you are you cannot hate the experiences that have shaped you - Andrea Dykstra

A friend sent me this quote from  Andrea Dykstra this week and it completely resonated with me. “In order to love who you are you cannot hate the experiences that have shaped you.”

If you have ever lost a loved one, you can relate to how that experience can shape you. I have moved beyond the anger phase of grief, at least mostly – there are still a few triggers that bring that anger to the surface but I have finally allowed myself to feel the anger then move forward again. I have found that if I try to bury the anger it just tends to linger longer (probably true in a lot of situations). 

We each have a story. Some are more interesting than others. And it may have taken me a few years, some therapy, and finally listening to what God has been telling me, but I have reached a place where I can Love who I am because I do not hate the experiences that have gotten me here. 

During this pandemic, I shared my story with my church family, and recently I was asked to share my story with another group. God has been nudging me to tell my story (well nudging may not be a strong enough word, but you get the picture).

As I think about the lyrics from Hamilton, I want to be the one to tell my story. I am the only one with the unique perspective of having lived every part of it. My story is still being written but that makes it that much more interesting.

I may not find someone on a dating site who is looking for a widow living with metastatic breast cancer, but I am comfortable owning my story and telling it to others.

Who is going to tell your story?

“And when you’re gone, who remembers your name?

Who keeps your flame?

Who tells your story?

Who tells your story?

Who tells your story?”

Goodbye Ann…Another friend lost to Metastatic Breast Cancer

Beth, Cathy, Ann and KIm attending Art Bra Austin 2019
L to R: Beth, Cathy, Ann and, Kim at the BCRC Art Bra Austin 2019 Fundraiser

This week I learned a new term. Anticipatory Grief. You may have already determined that anticipatory grief occurs while a loved one is still alive, but their death is imminent. 

This would have been helpful information 4 years ago as we watched JR and my dad both slip away. It certainly helps me understand the anger I had during June and July 2016. 

I learned the term this week while attending an online Breast Cancer conference hosted by Living Beyond Breast Cancer. There was a session called “Coping with Collective Grief” and the speaker, Kelly Grosklags, spoke about this “new to me” term. 

It helped me understand my feelings this week (as well as those feelings from 4 years ago). You see, today we lost another to Metastatic Breast Cancer. A beautiful, fun, brilliant, witty woman gone too soon.

I met Ann while attending a support group for women with metastatic breast cancer at the Breast Cancer Resource Center.  She was everything I am not: outspoken and loud. Not in an obnoxious way.

She had a sharp wit and a sense of humor that you couldn’t help but love. After going to meetings for a few months I became friends with Ann, Beth, and Cathy. Sometimes we would go to lunch after a meeting, go out for drinks or just sit out on my patio and enjoy a beverage and snacks (pre-Covid). 

I loved talking with Ann, she had stories that could make your belly hurt from laughing. Or she could bring you to tears. 

We have known this day was coming ever since she decided her body was tired from treatments. But until last Tuesday I was still in denial. I had seen her a couple of times since March (on Zoom calls) and she was holding her own. 

But when the text came last week to come see her it seemed urgent. When we arrived she was in bed, no energy to get up and the spark in her eyes, while still there was just a little dimmer. 

Thankfully we were able to see her while she was still coherent enough to recognize us and even engage for a bit. And for that, I will be forever grateful. 

Having watched JR go through the process of dying, I knew when I left that her time here was short. And I was glad I had dropped what I was doing to go spend a few hours with Ann and my other “bosom buddies” Later that week we received an update on her caringbridge site that she was not receiving any more visitors and she was sleeping most of the time. 

This week I have been anxious every time I open my email. Anticipating the final journal entry. Today, it came.

You will be missed, Ann. I’m so glad I got to know you, even if it was through this damn thing we call metastatic breast cancer

Cancer, Grief, and COVID19 – The Isolation Trifecta

Isolation. A feeling we most certainly can all understand in our current circumstance. #StayHomeStaySafe #CoronaVirus #COVID19

It seems every post on social media these days is a reminder of what is going on in the world. And rightfully so. Everyone is scared and feeling the walls closing in.

Cancer

When I was first diagnosed with cancer in 2003, I was not prepared for the feeling of isolation. Even when people were surrounding me, there was still that feeling of isolation. The words “you have cancer” floated around my brain constantly. And while others tried to share their own experiences with cancer, this new path was one I had to walk alone. Don’t get me wrong, my husband and many friends were there. But it felt like I was running a marathon by myself and they were all on the sidewalks, behind barricades cheering me on. The treatments were mine alone to bear.

In 2010, when I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, the feeling of isolation came back with a vengeance. This time the isolation was more tangible. I was unable to walk because of where the cancer had attacked. My husband would get me situated on the couch or in one of the recliners before he would leave for work. At lunch, either he would come or he would make arrangements for a friend or family member to come over and keep me company for a while. But then it was back to work. I was alone, while the kids were at school and he was at work, left to wonder what this new life was going to look like.

For me, metastatic cancer came with a new set of physical challenges. But also mental challenges. At home with nothing but time on my hands, I discovered the average life expectancy was 36 months after being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer (thankfully I have far exceeded that life expectancy, but I had no way to know that at the time). Friends and family once again rallied around us, but the isolation sat heavy in my soul.

Grief

Similarly, when my father passed away and then four days later my husband passed away, I was surrounded by friends and family. There to lift me up, to give me a shoulder to cry on, or to make sure that I had food to eat. But again, it was the times in the middle of the night, when I was unable to sleep that I found so isolating. Even going out with friends was hard. Most of my friends are happily married. I never felt more isolated than going to dinner with a group of happily married couples when I was now a widow. I have gotten better at being in those situations, but there are still times when that pain of isolation will rise up and make me understand what I lost when I see the looks that pass between husbands and wives who have known each other for decades.

COVID 19 – The trifecta of Isolation

In some way, I feel like I have been in preparation for the isolation brought on by COVID. But, it is just a little different. This one is being felt by everyone in some way.

And yet, even this new circumstance brings about a different feeling about grief and isolation.

During each of the previous life events, there were people around me. Helping me. Comforting me. Bringing me meals, sitting with me at doctor’s appointments, in the hospital, at the funerals, driving me to appointments, cleaning my house. They were sharing in my isolation as much as I would allow.

COVID 19 has reignited the feeling of isolation that I have struggled to overcome in the last few years. The isolation and grief from a cancer diagnosis, to loss of my father and my husband.

I have discovered I have a love/hate relationship with social media. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are my connection to the outside world right now, however, the posts also remind me of the other things I have lost: my husband; my limited mobility (makes it really hard to do things I used to be able to do easily), even my healthy immune system.

Thanks to my metastatic cancer and a compromised immune system, I have not left my house, other than to take the dog for a walk or go to my oncologist appointment, since March 18th. Days upon days of no contact with friends and family except via phones/computers.

The physical isolation is hard. But the reminders of the emotional isolation of past experiences is like ripping a bandaid off a wound that hasn’t finished healing.

If you, like me, are feeling the isolation from cancer, grief, or COVID I have found the following help me get out of my isolation funk:

Papers burning in fire pit
After writing down the things causing anxiety, burn them and let them go
  • Keep a pen and paper or some kind of notebook on your nightstand. When I can’t sleep it is usually because I need to process what is going on, no better way to do that than to write it down.
    • If what you have written is something you don’t want others to read, I have also found that burning the pages in my fire pit is very therapeutic.
  • Go for a walk or run (I don’t run, but you might enjoy it)
  • Find a good exercise video or sign up with a virtual trainer (I just signed up with Camp Gladiator for a 6-week challenge – all classes are on Zoom). Sweating out the frustrations has always helped reset my mind.

What have you found to help you not feel so isolated?

Good News – it needs to be shared not just during a pandemic

Tell me something good! (Who remembers Shaka Khan signing this? Because everyone has heard of Shaka Khan after Season 3 of The Masked Singer)

We seem to all be looking for the good news these days. If you don’t believe me, just ask John Krasinski. He made a video about “Some Good News” and he even speaks with his friend Steve Carell which made us all happy. If you haven’t seen the video, click here (I promise it is worth your time).

This week I also shared some of my own good news. And for those of you who follow me, yes, it has to do with my latest scan results.

I shared this post on my personal Facebook page.

Even though I shared this news during the #StayHomeStaySafe pandemic, I was still shocked at the number of likes and comments I received.

Granted, people are usually happy for me when I post good news about my scans. But this week I heard from people who I haven’t heard from in years even though we are friends on Facebook.

It doesn’t bother me that most people on my friend list don’t comment on my posts. I have close to 500 “Facebook friends”, but honestly I probably interact with about 75-80 regularly. I usually receive a lot of likes when I post good news regarding my cancer. But this time I got over 150 likes and about 50 or more comments.

After 9 plus years of living with metastatic cancer, I understand not everyone is as concerned as I am about my latest scans, especially since I get them every 3-4 months.

Since last June my two previous scans had both shown progression. The results from my latest scan showed some of the spots from the past 2 scans were actually smaller, which means the new medication is working. Yes, I am doing my own happy dance (I even pulled out Just Dance 2016 on Xbox to do some at-home exercise – whew, it’s a good thing no one is recording that).

I would postulate good news is not just what we need today, but we need to do a better job of celebrating good news on a daily basis. Now and going forward.

So tell me something good! I really do want to celebrate with you.

Own Your Story – the chapters already written AND the chapters waiting to be written

“Like the story you’ve been given because it’s not going to change” 

I was listening to an interview recently and the interviewee (Sally Clarkson) made this comment. (I’m not going to lie, I have never read anything by Sally Clarkson, but I subscribed to her podcast after listening to her in the interview. I loved her energy and her insight.)

At first, I was like “Yep! Own it!” 

Then I let it percolate some more. 

Did you ever read those books as a kid (or maybe played the computer games) where you had a choice about how the story would go? Every choice you made in the book or game, would determine where the story was going to take you. Every time it could be different based on the choices you make.

Those books/games mimic life. Every day I get the opportunity to make choices that help determine where my story is going. 
While what Sally said still resonates with me and I do (mostly) agree with it, I also believe my story is not fully written.

Sally is right. The past chapters of my life are not going to change. Even if I don’t like it, I have to own it. I was dealt a hand that if I had not gone all-in (in life and living), I would have folded and walked away from the table. But life is a precious gift, not something to walk away from.

The more I pondered this quote, it reminded me of a book by Adam Hamilton that I read several years ago. “Why? Making Sense of God’s Will.” There was a subsection in one of the chapters titled “Is the Story of Your Life Already Written, or Is It a Work in Progress?”

I was going through a tough time when someone gave me this book. After reading it, I wrote my own interpretation about God being “The Great Architect” – I would post a link but it was on another platform that I don’t use any longer so here is an excerpt:

My interpretation, after reading the book, is that God has a blueprint.  I’m not an architect (nor have I played one on TV as the old commercial goes), but I do know that a blueprint is a plan, a starting point.  Thinking in terms of building a home, it is easy for a new homeowner to think “oh, I would like to be able to put the refrigerator over there” after seeing the walls go up.  A thought like that can have several different impacts to the architect.  If you put the refrigerator there, we can’t put the sink here and the stove won’t fit there.  The cabinets that were ordered may not fit.  Or perhaps while looking through design magazines the excited homeowner sees a new design that they want to incorporate. While these changes may seem small to the owner, the architect is behind the scenes adjusting the blueprints so that the new homeowner’s vision becomes seamless. In this scenario, I am the homeowner and God is the architect.  Decisions by me, or even by those around me that may impact me, or perhaps even a force of nature like a tornado or fire, change the plans.  God takes the decisions/events in our lives and makes adjustments to the blueprints.  It is our choice to look at the new blueprints and decide if we like the new design.  God can take the challenges and the decisions that may not have been in the original plans and turn them into something beautiful. Every day the new blueprint is placed before us, we have to make the decision to accept the changes or throw them out.

(P.S. This was written many years ago and instead of editing I am reposting an actual excerpt from the original post)

So, yes, I do agree with Sally that we must embrace the story that is already written. But I believe I also have the chance to embrace the story that is still being written and make it even better than the one in my rearview mirror.

Are you embracing the story that has been written? How are you embracing the past to write the story that is yet to be written?

A daily reminder to Choose Joy as I start each day

My house has one of those weird art niches. It is in a strange place. Only I see it regularly.

There is a small alcove that leads to the master bedroom. The niche is directly across from my bedroom door. Unless someone intentionally steps into the alcove, no one knows it is even there.

I’ve never really known what I should put in the niche. I’ve tried several things, but nothing has ever truly resonated and I am always looking for the next right thing to inspire me.

Recently I made a big decision in my life. Making the decision released in me the chance to rediscover who I am.

I’m not going to lie. I am not a minimalist. I have a collection of penguins that rivals the Antarctic (well, maybe not, but you get the point). I like to see things that remind me of who I am and where I have been. Yes, Marie Kondo, these things do spark Joy in me.

When I was moving things around in my garage in an attempt to organize it (still a work in progress), I found a small display shelf that was my husband’s. I had been searching on Wayfair and other sites for shelves that would fit inside the niche and there was one just sitting in my garage.

Choose Joy Niche
A daily reminder to Choose Joy

I started gathering small things from around the house that as Marie Kondo says, “Sparks Joy”. A clock my grandfather made for me, a Choose Joy sign I made at a lettering class with some friends, a few penguins, a butterfly watercolor that I made at another class (can you tell I’ve been exploring my creative side?), a frog made from one of my husband’s shirts after he passed away, a ceramic horned frog a friend gave me when I was accepted at TCU, another TCU stuffed animal, and a collection of fly fishing ties I received when I went on a retreat with Casting for Recovery.

Each morning when I walk out of my bedroom I see these things. They remind me where I have come from, who I have loved, and that I am still a work in progress like the butterfly.

Finally, I am reminded each morning to Choose Joy.

How do you remind yourself to find Joy every day?

Is “Living a Great Story” enough to make the story worthy of sharing?

“You should tell your story.” I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard that. 

But what is my story and who really wants to hear it? More importantly, what can people learn from my story?

I have been hesitant to take the next step as far as writing a book or searching for places to speak about my story. In my head, I don’t have the answer to the questions that I think people want to hear.

  • How do you get up and face the day?
  • How can you keep a positive attitude about life and what’s around the next corner?

 If I don’t have a good answer should I stand in front of people who are looking at me expectantly and just shrug when the questions start?

This past week I had to fill out an application. I was applying to be a model for the Breast Cancer Resource Center’s (BCRC) annual gala/fundraising event: ArtBra Austin

One of the questions asked the applicant to write a brief bio (in 3rd person). I stared at the screen for a solid 15 minutes. I started to write something and then hit the delete button. Then I did it again. And again and again. I finally texted a friend who was also applying and asked what she wrote. As most people would, she started with “xxxxx was born and raised in such and such, Tx”. She went on to say where she went to college and what kind of career she had. 

I started typing “Kim was born in Germany”. Delete. 

“Kim was raised in the military”. Delete

Was that really the story I wanted to say in my bio? I had to discern what really makes Kim, well, Kim. What would an audience want to know about this woman walking down a runway, in a bra, with a slight limp?

Obviously I had breast cancer because you can’t be a model unless you have been a client of the BCRC. But what else makes me unique? Do they want to know the details of the limp – thank you metastatic breast cancer. Or that I have been metastatic for 9 plus years?

After much consternation, I decided to briefly state that I have been metastatic since 2010 and then wrote about my daughters (no explanation of the limp but that’s another story). I followed with a quick sentence about finding new opportunities to express myself through writing. (I mean I am trying to tell my story through this blog and I have a very rough draft of my first attempt to write fiction). 

When it was all said and done, I was not pleased with the bio but it was sufficient for what I was doing. But once again it got me thinking about what is my story and who really wants to know more. 

Live a Great Story Sticker
#LiveAGreatStory

If you were to drive around Austin, you might notice stickers on cars or even signs around town that say  “Live a great story” (you can learn more about that here). I love the simple, yet profound, words. Although I’m trying to tell my story through words, I realize my story is not about cancer or grief. My story is made up of so many more things that have helped shape who I am and how I have persevered through some of the ugly to continue to have the opportunity every day to “Live a great story”. 

My story is still being written. Maybe not eloquently. But every day I can get up, be present and ask “what will I do today to continue the story of Kim?” And maybe I don’t have to have the answer to those questions. Maybe by seeing me “living a great story” it is enough to encourage those on the path behind me that sometimes just getting up and being present is enough. And maybe, it will give them the strength to ask themselves “What can I do to continue my story?”

Now excuse me while I go order some of those stickers to remind me and those that I encounter to “live a great story” 

Bucket list memories – who are the memories really for?

Do you have a bucket list? My guess is you do. Most people have ideas and dreams of things they want to see or accomplish before their time is up. I even wrote a post about bucket lists before my husband was diagnosed with cancer.

I have some items on my bucket list. But lately, I’ve been rethinking my idea of a bucket list. I still want to do some of those things in the link above (yes, I still want to go to the Ellen show and fly on a private plane). However, instead of making these memories for myself, I have come to realize it is the memories we make with our loved ones (be it family or friends) that will be how we are remembered.  

A year after JR died my oldest daughter graduated from college. To celebrate the fact that we all made it through the toughest year of our life the girls and I took a cruise. It was a time to get away from everything. What we discovered (aside from the fact that my snoring had gotten really bad) was that we weren’t really “cruise people.” I wanted to go on a cruise because it had been on my bucket list. JR had planned a cruise for our honeymoon, but plans had to be changed and he promised me for years that he would take me on a cruise one day. Unfortunately, that day never came and I shared this bucket list item with my girls instead.

If you were to ask the girls if they liked it they would say no. However, we did make some good memories on the trip. Like the boat ride where the dolphin played in the water beside us. Or their excursion at Roatan where they played with the monkeys. The mysterious midnight WiFi that brought us text messages even though we didn’t upgrade to the WiFi package. Watching Moana on a big screen at midnight in the middle of the ocean. And even the day we stayed on the ship when most got off (definitely one of the better days).

This weekend my youngest jokingly (but seriously) suggested I take her to Vegas to see the Jonas Brothers. She turned 21 last year and she just graduated from college a semester early. At first my reaction was “I don’t really want to go to Vegas”. The last time I was in Vegas was on my honeymoon. It would be bittersweet to go just a few weeks after what would be my husband and my 27th anniversary. But the more I have thought about it, the more I realize that I should go and make memories with her. Because when we are gone, the sweet memories are what get us through the days of sadness. And who better to make memories with than those you love the most in the world. 

So I’m going to dust off my bucket list and figure out who wants to make memories with me – memories that we can share now and they can use to reminisce when I’m gone (don’t worry, I don’t think that will be anytime soon – I have lots of items on my bucket list and adding more every day).

God’s gentle reminder to take out the trash

If you are new here, welcome. Several years ago I was talking with God. I wanted a sign, kind of like a hand signal, to remind me that He is around me and in control. Like a lot of conversations, I tried to lead it in the direction I wanted it to go. I was determined my sign would be a ladybug. I think I had just read a book where a ladybug was present at many crucial times. But as I was telling God I wanted the ladybug to be my sign, He gently whispered in my ear “Butterfly.” I really didn’t want a butterfly because it sounded so cliche. But there it was. And now, God’s sign to remind me that he is here with me and in control is the butterfly. What does that have to do with a rainy Friday in January, you ask?

Lately, I have been feeling a little out of sorts. Recently, the medication I take for metastatic breast cancer had to be changed because of some slight progression. I am still getting used to the new side effects from the medication which has not exactly been a joy ride. In addition, it is the height of Cedar season in Austin, and with an immune system that isn’t quite as strong as years past, I am struggling with allergies.

Today, God reminded me He is still with me and in control…

Friday is trash day. Last night, in the rain, I was taking the trash can out to the curb. When I pulled the can away from the wall, I noticed something on the wall. I didn’t think much about it. Mostly because it was 10 PM, it was chilly and raining and I just wanted to get the trash out to the street. I had procrastinated earlier in the evening, and then it started raining, so I procrastinated some more. Since it was raining, I knew I just needed to get the trash out and I would have time in the morning to get the recycle out.

In my neighborhood, the trash pickup comes earlier than the recycle. This morning, even though it is still chilly, I caught a break in the rain to get the recycle bin out to the street. I noticed, again, that there was something on the wall behind the trash and recycle bins. With a little more light this morning, I could see that it was a butterfly.

Butterfly
A gentle reminder from God

I don’t know about where you live, but in Austin, Texas you don’t really see a lot of butterflies in January.

There it was, attached to the wall. A butterfly. A gentle reminder from God. Nudging me to move the trash out of the way.

I have all sorts of trash that I allow to pile up. Whether it is my diagnosis and the recent progression, the loneliness of being a widow, the cedar fever, disagreements with friends over small things, or just plain old procrastination – be it taking out the trash or working on my book. All of these things pile up and I find myself separated from God.

But God always finds a way to reveal himself. Today it was ever so gently by placing a butterfly on a garage wall behind a trash can.

What kind of trash do you need to move so you can see God at work in your life?

Where will you be in 10 Years? Reflections on a Decade

10 years…one Decade…Gone in a Flash

I could never have guessed 10 years ago, on the eve of a New Decade what the next 10 years would bring.

What have I learned in 10 years? Just like the Bertie Bott’s Beans in the Harry Potter books, you never know what you are going to get. I have learned to enjoy the highs and use the memories created sitting at the top of the mountain to get through the lows of the valleys. I’ve also learned that friends are there to help carry you when you think you can’t go on anymore and will help you look to the next mountain top and remind you of the view that is just over the hill.

Where will I be in 2029? I have no idea, but I plan to try to capture as many highs as I can before I get there and focus on those when (not if) I find myself in a lowly valley…

Here’s the highlight reel of the last decade…

At the end of 2009, I was married to my best friend. We had 2 beautiful daughters – one in High School and the other in Middle School. Cancer was in my rearview mirror and my husband’s business was beginning to find footing.

2011 Rose Bowl Champs – TCU

2010 – Hello Cancer, my old friend (not really, but it is definitely a constant companion). If I’m honest, I should have been diagnosed much earlier in the year, but October 8th was the date of the Stage 4 diagnosis. Definitely not one of the highs of the year (or the decade). The year brought lots of pain (from the cancer metastasizing in my bones) but we ended it on a high note (thanks dad and Judith for the trip to the Rose Bowl and thanks TCU for the win! #gofrogs).

2011 – Cancer was still the highlight of the year. Since the metastasis practically destroyed my left hip, there were many trips to San Antonio to meet with an orthopedic oncologist. And in August 2011, I spent 2 weeks in San Antonio rehabbing from a surgery that made me feel like the bionic woman – lots of metal in my hip, but it didn’t give me any superhuman powers like leaping over buildings or running as fast as a train, but I was able to walk again by the end of the year.

2012 – Seemed like life was settling back into a routine. Nothing exciting happened. But after the past 2 years, we were fine with no excitement.

2013 – Our oldest daughter graduated from High School and got accepted at my alma mater to study Athletic Training. Super proud frog mom moment.

2014 – Still riding a roller coaster, but the drops are getting smaller and the hills not so large. We learned to live with the cancer diagnosis and even began to think we had it somewhat on our terms. The medicine I was taking was keeping things in check and although I had a minor setback with my hip (unexplained pain after many, many tests). I was stable as far as cancer goes and was still here to watch my kids grow up.

2015 – Cancer once again took control of our lives. Only this time it was my husband and not me, I was still stable (not sure how with all of the stress, but thankful nonetheless). J.R. had not been feeling well for months and on September 22, he ended up in the hospital with a diagnosis of Stage 4 Renal Cancer. Friends and family rallied to support us during this time. My daughter and I even got to welcome in 2016 at the Alamo Bowl. One of the all-time greatest bowl comebacks in history. TCU defeated Oregon in one of the craziest games I’ve ever had the opportunity to see in person.

2016 – We had some highs, my youngest graduated from High School, but mostly the year took its toll on our family. My dad, who was also diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer in September of 2015, passed away on July 20th. My brother and his family had made the trek to Texas to see everyone and I’m so grateful that he was there that week. July 24th, exactly four days later, my husband passed away. The rest of the year is a blur. But, with the help of great friends, we managed to get my youngest daughter moved into her college dorm and she began her college career.

A fresh start in a New Home #BuiltaHouse

2017 – I #BuiltaHouse. – we always talked about building a house, and in March 2017 I moved into my new house. It was bittersweet and I told friends it was an anniversary present (I closed on March 1st and March 6th would have been our 24th wedding anniversary). My oldest graduated from TCU and got a graduate assistant job at Angelo State University (my husband’s alma mater!). The year did not end so well, as I spent 10 days in the hospital and had to have all of that beautifully rebuilt hip removed due to an infection. Once again friends and family rallied to get us through Christmas and the coming months.

2018 – Hey, I’m walking again. No one saw that coming. Who walks without a hip joint? This girl, that’s who. Other than learning to walk, 2018 was a pretty mellow year, but again, didn’t I deserve a pretty mellow year after the rest of the way the decade had gone?? I think so.

2019 – This was finally going to be the year. I was walking, my oldest finished graduate school and got her first “real” job, and my youngest graduated from college a semester early. Unfortunately, cancer had decided it was time to flex its muscle again and after 7 years of being stable, I had some new “spots” show up on my scans, one in June and a couple of more in October.

2020 – I will be welcoming the new decade in with some new medication to try to get back on the stable train. Fingers crossed that we can find a medication that will be as successful as the last one. I plan to finish writing a book I started in 2018 and find as many mountain top views to enjoy as I can.

What are your hopes and dreams for the roaring 20’s?

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