Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Father's Day Brad!

I want to tell my husband Brad what a loving, kind, charming, hard-working, silly joke telling and what a plain AWESOME dad he is!  I know his kids are suppose to give him a huge "shout out" on Fathers Day, but I have the proof in pictures and know that Joshua, Jenna, Sarah, Mariah, and Emma will love going down memory lane!

When Brad first became a dad he had twins! 
Here's Brad holding Jenna

Here's Brad holding Josh

Josh and Jenna at six months

Having fun with Josh, Jenna and Sarah

Spending time with Sarah

Brad and two month old Mariah

With Josh, Mariah, Sarah and Jenna

Emma's 1st birthday

Holding Emma all day at Disneyland!

Sarah's wedding

And by far the hardest working dad I know!


Saturday, May 9, 2015

I have Metastatic Breast Cancer

My daughter Jenna shared an article that best describes the type of cancer I have.  The type of cancer I have is called metastatic breast cancer. (MBC) I am also estrogen receptor positive. As this article describes, "most cultures focus on survivorship, [however] those with metastatic breast cancer who will be in treatment for the rest of their lives can feel isolated and misunderstood." This article describes best how I feel.

According to Mapes, "155,000 women and men live with 'mets', Stage 4 breast cancer that's metastasized, or traveled, through the bloodstream to create tumors in the liver, lungs, brains, and/or other parts of the body." Mapes also states that, "while treatable, metastatic breast cancer (MBC) is incurable [and] median survival is three years; annually the disease takes 40,000 lives."

Mapes also states that, "As with primary breast cancer, treatments for [MBC] can often be harsh and unforgiving. But dealing with an incurable illness and the side effects of it's treatments aren't the only burden that MBC patients have to bear. Many have to also educate others about their disease, explaining over and over, that no, the scans and blood tests and treatments will never come to end. No, staying positive and 'just fighting hard' isn't going to beat back their late stage disease."

Believe me, I'm grateful for the large support system I have.  Let me start with my husband.  He's always here for me and helps me whenever I ask.  My five children are helpers when I need them too and know how much I love it when they brush my hair! As a member of the Mormon church, I have an incredible support system through the Relief Society.  The Relief Society is the largest women's organization in the world!

Having MBC is pretty crazy, however, when my family, friends, and those who ask me how I'm doing really want to know, this article will help you to understand my answer to "How are you feeling?"

Yep, this is me.

Friday, April 24, 2015

CANCER: You can do hard things!

Back in December 2014, I was at Cardon's Children hospital with my daughter Emma. She was giving service for the kids who had cancer.  Meanwhile, while I was watching her sing "Let It Go" from the movie Frozen, a friend of mine came out into the hall and was surprised I was there. My friend told me to come and visit her son who was also at the hospital having surgery on his knee. So me and my husband along with my friend and her husband started having a discussion about how hard life can sometimes be. (At this time, no one knew I had cancer as I didn't want to tell anyone until the holidays were over.) While all four of us were in conversation, I remembered something I had done 30 years prior that was a hard thing I had accomplished in my life.  Now it was a choice I made on my own free will, but was it truly was an experience that would prepare me to face the hardship of cancer that I would have in the future.

On September 16, 1982 I embarked on an experience of a lifetime!  I chose to serve a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Yes, I'm a Mormon.  I'm sure most of you have seen the young men missionaries riding their bikes around with their white shirts and ties. Well I too served as a sister missionary for 18 months in Costa Rica and Panama.  In the beginning of my mission, I went to the Mission Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah, for two months to learn Spanish.  This is where you learn to speak a language you most likely have never spoken and you also learn to draw closer to the Lord spiritually.  We also spoke our new language 24 hours a day. Boy, that was interesting and fun! LOVED the MTC!  One of the traditions at the MTC is to take a picture of where you'll be serving.  Here's my famous picture!

Hermana (Sister) Pennington pointing to Costa Rica and Panama

I arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica on November 15th, 1982. I was 21 years old.  I thought I learned Spanish so well at the MTC. Guess what?  I couldn't understand a word anyone was saying! I thought to myself, "Will I ever learn how to speak Spanish?"  After a few days of orientation, I was assigned a companion.  Her name was Hermana Pinto. The word hermana means sister in Spanish. Just thought you should know that.  As missionaries, you are always assigned a companion that you stay with 24 hours a day.  I'm serious, 24 hours a day.  We work together as a team supporting and helping each other and helping those who want to know more about The Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I grew up in the deserts of Arizona. Arriving in Costa Rica was like going to heaven!  It was so beautiful and green! The people were so humble.  I have never seen poverty like that in my entire life. Living on dirt floors and washing my clothes in a river was definitely a new experience for me.  But I LOVED it! Except for one thing...I could NEVER get over how huge the cockroaches and rats were!  The insects that I saw were out of control!  Right in the middle of teaching someone, I would jump up and start screaming when a huge bug would come flying at me!  And NEVER wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom or you'll find all sorts of things crawling on the walls! Even though it was hard, I LOVED my mission! After about three to five months, with God's help, (and I really mean that) you learn to speak, read, and write the language you're learning fluently. I feel so blessed that I still speak Spanish today. Here is a picture of me in my first area Tibas, Costa Rica.  This is one of my favorite pictures.

Hermana Pennington

When you serve a mission, you serve in your area anywhere usually from two to five months. After serving in Costa Rica for three months, I was transferred to Las Lomas, Panama.  I'm talking pure jungle.  Pythons at night that ate the chickens, and rats the size of cats.  But I LOVED it! Six days a week you serve 16 hour days and live by very strict rules.  No dating, no music (gospel only) and pretty much no nothing. However, on preparation day (P-Day),  which was usually on Mondays, we took the time to write letters, wash our clothes, and buy groceries. Sometimes, we would do something fun like visit volcanoes or go hiking. One time I even visited The Panama Canal. At the end P-Day, we would have a district meeting.  Here is a picture of my district in David, Panama.  I'm the one in the center front with the almost white blonde hair. Everywhere I went people would call me "La Barbie." (Trust me, they wouldn't say that anymore, but it was fun at the time!)  One of my favorite areas to serve was Las, Lomas, Panama.  My companion was Hermana Sunilda Andreve. She was "mi companera de oro." (A "golden companion" means she was very awesome and we had tons of fun serving together!) I just wish I had a picture of her while we were companions!

David, Panama District

This was my Mom's favorite picture of me on my mission.

The Jungle.  Las Lomas, Panama

There is a story behind this last picture.  We would pass these cows everyday.  Then one day they wanted to charge us!  So off we ran as fast as we could!  Laughing our heads off the whole time! Luckily, they didn't catch us!

I later served with Hermana Frandsen (coolest sister ever from Firth, Idaho) in Panama City, then back to David, Panama with Hermana Parra, and then back to Heredia, Costa Rica with Hermana Anderson.  

The experiences I had on my mission were so amazing and at the same time so difficult that I knew there had to be a greater reason for why I went through such spiritual and yet such hard times. Sometimes, our life experiences and trials are so challenging that we think we won't survive! But we do!  We always do!  On that December day, watching my daughter sing to kids that had cancer and knowing that I, too, had to face my own battle of cancer, made me reflect back to my mission. That's it! My mission was a necessary experience that would prepare me to battle cancer. Being diagnosed with cancer would be one the most difficult trials of my life.  I then realized I could do hard things! All of us can!! You too will learn from difficult experiences in your life! Go forward with faith! Trust in God and know that anything is possible! NEVER EVER GIVE UP!!  

One more thing...This is my handsome husband who also served a mission in The San Bernardino, California Mission 1982-1984.  I just had to throw this in!

And my son Josh serving a mission in Fortaleza, Brazil  June2006-June2008

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

CANCER: Sometimes you just have to keep on going!

When I first find out I had cancer, all my future plans went out the door.  The truth is that you really don't know how long you're going to live.  Then the doctor starts telling you about all the extreme and unpredictable treatments you're going to have.  The fear of the unknown almost drives you crazy. The emotional aspect of having cancer is sometimes worse than the painful treatments you must endure.  You want your life to continue on as usual.  You just want everything to be normal and you know that everything is going to change.  But does life have to change?

On Monday, February 23, 2015,  I had to have an additional treatment.  This treatment had to be given through and IV for a duration of about 30 minutes.  My estrogen inhibitor that is suppose to stop the progression of my cancer causes severe bone deterioration.  The new treatment medicine is called Zometa prevents my bones from breaking but has extreme side effects. I will have to take this treatment every 28 days for the rest of my life. My daughter Sarah came with me to my appointment, as I didn't know whether or not I would be able to drive home after I completed the treatment.  After I finished, I felt just fine.  I even went to Costco.  My kids know that the day I can no longer shop at Costco is the day they better call Hospice!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015  was a different day.  Several of the side effects started to kick in and I felt as if someone had taken a bat and beat me over and over and I couldn't move a muscle.  I felt as if I had the worst case of the aching flu I had ever had.  Also, the joint pain in my body almost prohibited me from walking or moving about.  But still, there are others who have these side effects and even more.  I felt lucky.

My husband and each of my children have been a huge support for me and have helped me tremendously.  I don't know what I would do without them! I love it when Jenna comes over to visit with my three grandchildren.  They keep me moving and feeling young. My daughter Sarah who is an R.N. keeps my physical and mental health in check. Mariah always find the time to help me out no matter how busy she is in school and work. My youngest child Emma has taken a different approach about my cancer.  Even though she feels sad about my situation, she talks as if my future plans will remain the same and that life can keep moving on normally.  When I'm around her, sometimes I forget I have cancer.  I get up in the morning, take her to school, pick her up, take her here and take her there.

One of the things I enjoy doing for Emma is taking her to her various bookings.  I bet you'll never guess what she does.  She started her own business as an entertainer character.  She portrays the character "Elsa" from the movie Frozen and schedules her services for mostly birthday parties.  She looks exactly like Elsa! She even sings the song "Let It Go" at the parties. She does an excellent job!

Since Emma started her business, she had always wanted to make a music video portraying Elsa singing "Let It Go."  No one had ever made a music video singing "Let It Go" in real snow, with the real dress, with real hair, with real talent, and that looked EXACTLY like Elsa!  When I found out I had cancer, I knew it would be impossible to do what she wanted.  I thought I would be too sick to help.  No way was this going to happen.  Plus, we hadn't had any snow and I just wanted to give up.  Emma pushed on and paid for and ordered a new dress that looked exactly like the one in the movie. I mean exactly!!  She just kept going on.  Then it finally snowed in Flagstaff! (About three hours away.) My daughter Jenna texted me and said, "It's snowing in Flagstaff!!!! You've got to go and make the video!!!"

I called up my brother-in-law Brian Stewart, who has a degree in film, (how lucky is that!) and decided we would go up only two days after my treatment. This was the last chance we would have before things started heating up around here.  I do live in Arizona!  There was only one problem.  Two days after my IV treatment of Zometa, I still felt like I had the worst case of the flu EVER.  So I had to make a choice. I could lay there on the couch and dash everyone's dreams away, or I could keep on living my life normally and fight on through this struggle.  So I got myself off the couch and off we went to make the video! It took the entire day and we had so much fun!  We laughed all the way up and laughed all the way back!  Laughing is actually an excellent source of medicine!  No matter how difficult life can be, you have to keep on going and find happiness in the daily struggles of life. Don't let ANYTHING keep you down!

Drum roll please......!  Here is the music video of Emma singing "Let It Go,"  ENJOY!!

(And for extra fun you can listen to more of Emma's music at )

Friday, February 20, 2015

CANCER: Music heals the soul

February 20, 2015 was going to be a long day.  I woke up nervous about the thought of having another bone scan.  I felt nervous about having nuclear medicine pumped into my body. But that morning was different.  I started listening to my brother's music.  Most of you know that my brother CP died almost five years ago.  My brother is my most favorite male singer of all time.  He knew that I loved it when he sang.  Wherever he performed, I was there cheering him on.  He trusted me to sometimes accompany him on piano. Anything I could do to help him in his singing career I would do just for him.  After his death, I had a difficult time listening to his music. It made me so sad I could hardly stand it.  But slowly, I couldn't help but once again listen to his soothing and magical voice. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I felt his presence and love near.  When I listened to his songs, I started to feel peace and a healing to my soul.

I want to share with each of you some of my favorite songs that CP sang. He also has many other recordings that I will probably share in the future.

First, I love his cover of "Remember When It Rained" by Josh Groban.  Wait until he belts it out at the end!

Second, no one and I mean NO ONE could imitate Neil Diamond better than CP! Check it out when he sings his cover of "Hello Again" by Neil Diamond. You really won't believe it!

Finally, the last song he recorded was "I Know That My Redeemer Lives."  When my mother passed away of cancer exactly two weeks after CP died, we actually played this song at her funeral.  She always wanted him to sing this song at her funeral.

Music is a big part of my family.  As I prepare to start an additional treatment on Monday, February 23, I'm going to prepare my day through once again listening to my most awesome brother inspire me and help me endure what lies ahead.  Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Some blessings do come with cancer

One of the things I remembered most was when my oncologist said, "You need to eat healthy and exercise."  I thought to myself, "Oh dear, I'm going to have to make some BIG changes in my life!" When my daughter Jenna first heard of my cancer diagnosis, she came right over with a Huron Juicer 100 and convinced me that I needed to start juicing carrots, apples, and you name it. After she showed me how to use it, I slowly put the cup to my mouth as if she was feeding me poison and I REALLY loved it!  It tasted so fresh! Then I introduced all the different juices to the rest of my family and they loved it too!  The next big step was to eliminate most sugars from my diet.  This was kind of easy because sugar makes me sick anyway.  Now to think that I would no longer drink diet Dr. Pepper was too much to handle.  But I personally felt that soda should be eliminated from my life. Oh this was HARD!  I was even at Costco the other day and saw that they were selling 32 cans for only $5.99!!  But I just kept walking on down the aisle. (Even though I wanted to go back several times and put the case in my basket!)

Not only is eating a healthy diet important, but so is daily exercise.  I have to admit that exercising is not my favorite thing to do.  I do like a good game of racquetball (even though I haven't played for years) and I like to dance for fun with my daughters (which is very embarrassing when you catch them videoing you) but changing my exercise lifestyle is a must!  I can't do anything too crazy like trying to balance on a trapeze or Fencing because the treatment I'm on causes brittle bones. However, walking 30 minutes a day is definitely important. Who knows, maybe I can go back to Fencing one day. Hey, back in the day, I was a pretty good Fencer at BYU!

Isn't it interesting that sometimes we can have something hard happen in our life that makes us change for the better?  I feel blessed to have an excellent oncologist, surgeon, treatment plan, and now a healthier life style that includes eating well and daily exercise. Wish me luck!!

Freshly juiced carrot and apple juice!

Monday, January 26, 2015

CANCER: Daisy has truly brightened my day!

I love dogs!  I have had pet dogs throughout my entire life.  When my dog Bisky died last year, I swore (you can ask my kids) that I would never go through the experience of losing a dog again.  Off and and on my kids would say, "Come on Mom, we need another dog."  I would simply reply by saying, "I can't go through losing another pet again."  When they found out I had cancer, my kids came at me in full force and said, "Mom, you need a friend that will help you feel better while you're going through chemo, radiation, or other treatments."  I started to think that maybe it was time to have something that would love me unconditionally and help me through the rough times ahead. There are studies that show "...visits with animals may improve patient outcomes, decrease length of hospital stay, help with confusion, depression, and manage pain symptoms." I really believe this is true.  On Saturday, January 24, 2015, Sarah called me very early in the morning.  She said, "Mom, I found the perfect dog for you!  She's so cute!"  So, by the end of the day, we welcomed Daisy into our home!  My daughter Jenna said it best when she said, "Mom, for the past three weeks, all I could think of was cancer, cancer, cancer.  Now, I feel like there is something bright and hopeful back in our family again."  Daisy's breed is called a Morkie.  She's a Maltese and Yorkie mix.  CUTE!!

This is me holding Daisy.

The cutest puppy ever!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

CANCER: When things become tough, it's nice to know that others care

January 16, 2015 I woke up and remembered that no one had called me back from the oncologist's office to set up an appointment for my bone biopsy.  So when I called I was told, "we are busy and just didn't have the time to set up an appointment yet."  I said, "I have 4th stage breast cancer and I don't have the time to wait."  Within 10 minutes she called me back and had an approval for my bone biopsy.  Sometimes in life,  you have to be bold and stand up for yourself.  Sometimes, it can be whether or not you live or die.

January 18, 2015 was a very special Sunday.  Most of you might know that I am a member of
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Yes, I'm a Mormon.  One Sunday each month Mormons observe a fast day.  That means we go without food and water for two consecutive meals. Fasting should also be accompanied by sincere prayer. There are many different purposes for fasting. We can fast for guidance in decision making or fast for a family member that is ill. You can fast and pray for any reason you feel is important.  I have a large family and they wanted to hold a special fast for me on Sunday, January 18th.  This was so special to me. I felt so blessed. The strength and love I felt from this experience was overwhelming to me!

Later in the day, several women from my ward (a ward is a congregation of about 500 people) came to visit me and brought me a large beautiful basket filled with various items that were the color yellow. The basket was filled with lotions, cookies, candy, jewelry and so many other items to mention along with kindly written messages to help inspire me. I love the color yellow!  It surely did brighten my day!

January 19, 2015 Angie called me up and asked if she could bring by a plate of hot fresh cookies. Oh and they were delicious!  Thank you for being so kind! A few hours later, Erika brought by something that touched me deeply.  On January 20, I was going in for my bone biopsy and I felt very afraid for this procedure.  Erika, who made this cute wall hanging went to various women in the ward, knocked on their doors and asked them to sign this. Just look below and see for yourself!

January 20, 2015 I completed my bone biopsy with no pain! (Thanks to the amazing medicines they gave me through an IV!) Thank you Sue for bringing me dinner later that night!  And I want to thank my family for fasting and praying on my behalf.  It's nice to know that others care!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

CANCER: Not what I expected. But no matter what, I have to look at the bright side.

January 13, 2015 I had an unexpected appointment to come in and see the Oncologist.  So she walked into the room and asked me why no one was with me.  I said, "Just tell me."  She told me that the PET scan (which is a scan that shows if you have cancer in other parts of your body) showed that I have 4th stage cancer in my shoulder, hip, pelvis and spine bones.  I call these the "kick me in the stomach" moments.  All I could think of was when my mother had discovered she had cancer in her hips, she died six weeks later.  My entire body weakened within seconds and I felt as though all hope of a cure was gone.  She told me I would need a bone biopsy in my C7 spine.  Then I could no longer process information.  I had to get out of there.  I wanted to go home.  I couldn't bear the thought of telling my husband and children.  Everything had changed.  I walked to my car crying.  I called my cousin Catherine and told her.  We cried together.  When I arrived home my kids knew I had been crying and asked me what the doctor had just told me.  I couldn't tell them.  I just wanted my husband to come home.  He arrived in the next 10 minutes and I had to bear the news to him and my two daughters.  Since my husband heard of the initial news that I had breast cancer, I could tell he too was suffering.  I called his identical twin and asked him to come over and give my husband Brad a blessing of comfort.  His twin Brett came over and we all tried to console one another.  I have experienced many trials in my life, especially the death of my mother and three brothers, but I have never in my life felt so hopeless, scared, sick, and just plain freaked out in my life.  I went to bed crying and woke up all night wanting to throw up.  All I could think of was how much I loved my husband and children and the thought of leaving them was impossible.

January 14, 2015 was a morning I'll never forget.  After I dropped off my daughter at high school, I had a very strong impression to text my friend who's the office manager at my surgeon's office. I asked her if I could come in a talk to my surgeon about my dire situation. Before I continue this story, I want each of you to know that I believe that the strong impressions I often mention of come from The Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is a member of the Godhead and it will guide you, inspire you, warn you, comfort you, and bear witness of truth to you.  This is my belief and I'm so grateful for it.  So my friend that works at the surgeon's office told me that if I could come into the office within the next 45 minutes, that I would then be able to visit with the doctor.  First of all, that never happens.  I instantly felt blessed.  As I sat in front of the best surgeon EVER, she began to better explain the type of cancer I have.  First of all, when you hear the words, "4th stage cancer" that doesn't mean you need to call hospice in the next five minutes.  Many people think that it is the end of your life for sure.  This is not necessarily true.  There are four stages in breast cancer.  The 4th stage means that the cancer has metastasized or traveled to other parts of the body by way of the blood or lymphatic vessels.  Now let me tell you the bright side of all this.  My cancer metastasized to my bones, but not to the tissues such as my lungs, pancreas, etc.  This was actually good news!  Also, I tested HER2+ "for one such gene that can play a role in the development of breast cancer."  There are various options in treating this type of cancer.  Hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and radiation are the most common.  My surgeon continued to tell me that even though there is most likely no cure for this, she personally knows women that have learned to manage this type of cancer and have lived 15-20 years with "Boney Mets." (A short term for Bone Metastasis.) Individuals with diabetes must manage their disease.  My sister Serena has managed her diabetes for 34 years.  Now it's my turn to manage this 4th stage breast cancer to the best of my ability.  I know that anything is possible with the help of God, Christ, listening to the sweet whisperings of the Holy Ghost, my family, friends, and the doctors who dedicate their lives trying to save us from the despairs of disease.  Even though I'm not looking forward to the future treatments that await me, I'm going to do everything I can to survive this madness we call cancer.

"Your future is as bright as your faith."  Gordon B. Hinckley

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Cancer 2015: You don't have to be afraid.

January 9, 2015 was a morning I didn't want to face.  I had to go in real early and have a needle biopsy on my left armpit lymph node.  I was scared to death it would hurt.  I also had immense fear of my kids driving me to Scottsdale. When I'm in a car, I'm driving it!  I asked my daughter Sarah to drive me that morning because I would be taking medicine to relax me before my procedure.  Now let me just tell you something.  I was always the kind of person that thought I could tough out everything by myself.  Until the MRI machine was invented!  My surgeon suggested that she would prescribe Lorazepam for me so that I could feel more relaxed during difficult procedures.  So I gave it a try and I'm NEVER turning back!  There is no need to go into a procedure all freaked out.  Except for the fact that my other daughter Mariah that came along that day said I started talking in a Texas accent and talking rather loudly!  Whoops!  Whatever the case, you don't have to be afraid.  With loved ones surrounding you and a little pill of relaxation, anything is possible!

Later that night, just as Emma sat down to do her homework, the smoke alarms all went off in full force.  I mean deafness was upon us if we didn't run out of the house. Never mind we didn't stop to think that the house was on fire! (Which is wasn't) My husband was working late that night and I needed someone to come and help me somehow turn these crazy things off!  I felt an impression to call The Kishpaughs. So Dave and Lynn came over and solved the problem.  I then told them that I had breast cancer.  She told me that a good friend of hers had breast cancer and told me that she would have her call me.  So for one hour that night I spoke with someone that had endured much. She told me that I could get through this.  Looking back, she said that it didn't seem so bad going through Chemo.  She didn't have some of the side effects that others had.  She told me to rely on the Lord and pray about the different choices that would come my way.  Later that evening, I said to Emma, "I know why the smoke alarms went off"  She said, "Why?"  I said, "I needed to talk to someone that could help me better understand what I'm about to go through."  I call that a tender mercy.

Thanks Amber for bringing me beautiful flowers!

January 10, 2015 I received an awesome package in the mail.  My daughter Mariah bought me something really cool.  It's called The Breast Buddy.  A seatbelt cocoon to better cushion delicate mastectomy and breast reconstruction sites. Thank you Mariah!  That was such a kind thought!

I also want to thank Janet for bringing me a delicious dinner today!  One less thing to worry about.  And after having a little "breakdown," I want to thank my home teacher Brother Bryan and my ever kind, loving and patient husband Brad for giving me a blessing to endure another day.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

2015: I must beat this crazy thing called CANCER

On December 17, 2014 I found out something I never wanted to hear.  "I'm sorry Mrs. Haney, you have a mass on your left breast. But don't look at cancer as a death sentence."  My mind flooded with the thoughts of my mother dying of breast cancer, and her mother, my maternal grandmother dying of breast cancer.  My Aunt Nancy had breast cancer.  My mind is racing.  Wait a minute, I have five kids, I have three grandkids. How am I going to tell my husband? How am I going to tell my kids? I started to cry. I never cry.  You can ask my kids.  It's during the Christmas holidays.  I can't tell anyone.  It will ruin everything. With my report and films in my hand, I walked through the lobby crying and ran outside to the parking lot.  It was raining. It never rains in Arizona.  My mother loved the rain.  Then all of a sudden, I felt a strong impression to go back inside and take this information to a surgeon that would also soon be removing a tumor from my 17 year old daughter's breast. (You think that sounds crazy? Another daughter too had a tumor removed from her breast last year! Both their tumors are benign. Thank goodness)  I walked into the surgeon's office and much to my surprise saw my friend who happened to be the office manager ask me if I was ok and what I needed.  I started to cry.  She took me into the back and reassured me that everything would be ok.  Within hours I was scheduled to have a biopsy on December 26th, 2014.

December 26, 2014 was a painful day.  I gave birth to five kids and would gladly do it 200 times in a row than go through the pain I felt when I had my biopsy.  It felt like someone took a very sharp knife and sliced off my breast.  I will never do that again.  I'm not kidding.  NEVER!

December 29, 2014 I received a phone call from a nurse telling me I had INVASIVE DUCTAL CARCINOMA.  What? I really do have cancer?  What kind of cancer is this? The nurse told me that the cancer was in my breast tissue.  I became so numb that I could barely hang up the phone.  I started to cry. Me and my husband just sat there and said nothing.  He finally said, "We will beat this!"  I babysat my grandkids that night so that my daughter and her husband could celebrate their 9th wedding anniversary.  My granddaughter asked me why I had tears.  I just told her I had allergies.

December 31, 2014 I met with my surgeon. By the way, she's awesome! She went over all my options. Lumpectomy, mastectomy, bi-lateral mastectomy.  I barely heard the words chemotherapy, radiation, etc.  I felt numb.  She was so surprised that I hadn't told any of my family or friends.  I just felt like I need more information before I told everyone.  The time was passing by so slow.

January 2, 2015 I celebrated my 30th wedding anniversary.  My kids gave me and my husband a gift card to eat out and tickets to a comedy show.  I tried to laugh.  So much was going through my mind. I feel like the walls are caving in on me.  I'm confused.  Why me?

January 4, 2015 was one of the hardest days of my life.  With my children gathered, I had to tell them I had breast cancer.  I could barely speak.  I will never forget the look on their faces.  Complete sadness and despair.  I did everything in my power to be positive.  Together as a family we will beat this cancer.  We must!

January 5, 2015 I had to have an MRI in the morning and an appointment with the oncologist in the afternoon.  The oncologist told me that the MRI found another spot on my right breast and a deformation in my lymph nodes in my left armpit.  I need another ultrasound and a needle biopsy.  Can someone please stop all this!

January 7, 2015 I went to Ironwood Cancer Institute to have a PET scan.  When I walked into the building, it was packed with people everywhere.  Why do so many people have cancer?  No one looked happy. Of course they weren't! I wanted to run out of the building! I can't take this anymore!  I want to run away!!

I am a woman of faith.  Many people have told me that they are praying for me.  I can't even begin to tell you what that means to me.  Last night a group of young girls brought me dinner.  It was a hard day and I needed that.  What a blessing!  Even though I'm scared of the unknown, I feel at peace.  We don't get to choose the trials we have in life, but I know that challenges can make us stronger.  I hope that through my experiences, I can make a difference in someone's life that is also going through the madness we call breast cancer.  I want to live.  I WANT TO LIVE!

I love this picture of me and my mom holding my daughter Jenna. (April 1987)
I miss my mom.  I wish she could be with me during this difficult time.

Friday, January 2, 2015

What can we do to make our marriages work?

On January 2nd, I celebrate my 31st wedding anniversary.  Yep, I do!  Looking back on the last 31 years of my marriage I can certainly say that we've had both our ups and downs like any normal marriage would have.  We are also fortunate to have five children.  If you read in my "About Me" tab, you can come to know me and my family a little better.

Out of my five children, three are married.  The other day I was talking to my daughter Sarah and my son-in-law Jason who have been married for five years. I asked them what they thought makes for a strong marriage.  Some of their responses were as follows:  Being kind to one another, being faithful, giving service to each other, compromising, being generous, showing affection, being flexible and reasonable, being willing and giving, listening and communicating without interrupting each other, being honest, maintaining your appearance, praying together, having alone time apart, and learning the importance of "cutting the cord."  All these are ideas are fantastic and feel so blessed that Sarah and Jason are working together on building a strong family unit.  I can only hope that each of us will strive to have all of these ideas applied to our marriages.  Even after 31 years of marriage, I'm still learning to bind my marriage in eternal bliss!

Look how cute Sarah and Jason are!

It seems as though one of the occurrences of being married is having conflicts arise.  They seem to crop up every day. I strongly feel that one of the most important ways we can fortify our marriage is to resolve conflicts in a positive way.  Based on research from an article titled, "What makes Marriage Work?" by John Gottman, Ph.D., I would like cite information that I believe will help all of us continue to have a healthy and happy marriage.

According to Gottman, there are three different styles of problem solving that help marriages.

They are:
  • Validating:  Couples compromise often and calmly work out their problems to mutual satisfaction as they arise.
  • Volatile:  Conflict erupts often, resulting in passionate disputes.
  • Conflict-avoiding:  Couples agree to disagree, rarely confronting their differences head-on.
According to research, "all three styles are equally stable and bode equally well for the marriage's future."  Even though there are many different ways we tend to solve problems, Gottman found that "there was a very specific ratio that exists between the amount of positivity and negativity in a stable marriage [and] that magic ratio is 5 to 1.  As long as there is five times as much positive feeling and interaction between husband and wife as their is negative, the marriage was likely to be stable over time."

Also, most of us would agree that communication is essential to a long lasting marriage.  According to Gottman, "there are four disastrous ways that sabotage your attempts to communicate with your partner."  Gottman has termed these four ways "The Four Horsemen."

  • The First Horseman is Criticism.  So what is the difference between complaining and criticizing?  A complaint might be, "I wish you would help me clean the kitchen after dinner."  But criticizing is when you attack someone's personality or character and say,"You never help me clean the kitchen!"  Gottman states that, "It's important and healthy for a marriage to express anger and disagreement which will make the marriage stronger in the long run than suppressing the complaint. When criticism becomes so pervasive, it corrodes the marriage and then the next horseman arrives."
  • The Second Horseman is Contempt.  So what is the difference criticizing and showing contempt?  "Contempt is the intention to insult and psychologically abuse your partner.  Some of the signs that your spouse is showing contempt are: Insults and name-calling, hostile humor, mockery, and body language.  Sometimes when we show contempt we can't even remember a single or positive act of our spouse.  You have to stop seeing arguments with your spouse as a way to retaliate or exhibit your superior moral status."
  • The Third Horseman is Defensiveness.  "If you are constantly being defensive, you are adding more problems to your marriage."  According to Gottman, signs that you are being defensive are: 
  1. Denying Responsibility.  No matter what you are never to blame for anything.
  2. Making Excuses.  You claim that external circumstances beyond your control forced you to act in a certain way.
  3. Disagreeing with Negative Mind-Reading.  Sometimes your spouse will make assumptions about your private life feelings behavior, or motives.  When this "mind-reading" is delivered in a negative manner, it may trigger defensiveness in you.
  4. Cross-Complaining.  You meet your partner's complaint (or criticism) with an immediate complaint of your own, totally ignoring what your spouse has said.
  5. Repeating Yourself.  Rather than attempting to understand what the spouse's point of view, couples simply repeat their position over and over again.  Both think they are right and that trying to understand each other's perspective is a waste of time.  
Gottman states that "What's important to remember is that if you view your partner's words as information that is being strongly expressed, they are less likely to criticize you or act react contemptuously when disagreements arise."

  • The Fourth Horseman is Stonewalling.
One of the worst things we can do in communicating is to not communicate at all.  This is called stonewalling.  A study was done and found that "most men don't get physiologically aroused when their wives stonewall them, but wives' heart rates go up dramatically when their husbands stonewall them."  According to Gottman, "The fourth horseman need not mark the end of a relationship.  But if your interactions have deteriorated to this extent you are at great risk of catapulting even further down the marital cascade- becoming so overwhelmed by the negativity in your relationship that you end up divorced, separated, or living lonely, parallel lives in the same house." 

Let's not forget who we married.  Let's not forget our wedding day and the important vows we made to each other.  Even though times can be rather difficult, let's remember the love we have always had for our spouses and try to treat them with love, kindness, and respect.  Be willing to listen and learn.  Have compassion and understanding in times of need.  Treat others as you would want to be treated.  I want to come back next year and say I've been married 32 years and hopefully say one day that I've been married for 75 years!  Finally, I must say that I have the most loving, kind, generous, strong, and the most good-looking husband on this planet!  I love you Brad...