Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hakuna Matata

“You cannot add any time to your life by worrying about it.”  --Matthew 6:27

            One of my favorite memories as a child is singing “Hakuna Matata” with my sister.  Boo and I loved singing Disney songs and this one was our favorites.  We really got into it too.  In fact, the endearing, yet embarrassing performance is on tape at my parents’ house (courtesy of my Uncle Scott and his video camera).  Those of you who are not Lion King fans, the point of the song is to have no worries.  “It’s our problem-free philosophy.  Hakuna Matata.”  Twice in one week I have been confronted by this same message, just not in the musical sense.  Evidently, I should start listening.
            At church this past Sunday, Matthew spoke out in the gospel about the futility of worrying.  I have been reading a book on my Kindle to read the Bible in a year and, oddly enough, this same gospel was my topic for this evening.  In Matthew 6:32-34 it states, “The people who don’t know God keep trying to get these things and your Father in heaven knows you need them.  Seek first God’s kingdom and what God wants.  Then all your other needs will be met as well.  So don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will have its own worries.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Now, I won’t pretend that I have seen a great light and will now never worry again.  Since I am one of the world’s biggest worriers, this would be laughable.  However, I must say that not worrying is something I want to work on.  I have been doing better at it tooJ  I may still worry about the big things, but have learned to let go of some of the small things.  It isn’t worth it to worry myself to death or stay up late because my house isn’t spotless.  I try to spend time worrying about things that truly matter.  And so, I will admit, my daughter has toys all over my living room floor.  I have not washed all the dishes in my sink.  I am quite certain that I have things in my refrigerator that should have already been thrown out.  I did not finish all of my grading before I left school.  I just put my clean laundry away that has been done since Sunday.  You get the ideaJ 
            I did spend quality time snuggling with my daughter tonight.  We also read books, played, and ate dinner together.  My wonderful husband brought me home flowers just because.  I got a massage to relax my hurting legs.  Finally, I’m taking time to write even though I could be doing other things.  However, those other things will wait until tomorrow and I trust that God will help me know when I do need to worry.  He hasn’t let me down yetJ  Hakuna Matata and Good Night!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Happiest Moments

“A daughter is the happy memories of the past, the joyful moments of the present, and the hope and promise of the future.” –Author Unknown

                OK.  I’m going to admit something embarrassing.  I have watched and actually (gasp!) enjoyed watching the lame Newlywed show.  Yes, I know.  Silly.  However, I am a huge game show fan.  However lame the game show happens to be.  One night, I was watching, while my daughter lay sleeping in my arms and the host asked the men the following question:  What would your wife say are her two happiest memories in her life?  Of course, every husband answered very cliché answers and all of them were correct.  They all said that the number one memory was the day their child was born and the number two moment was the day they got married.  For some reason, I’ve thought a lot about this question.  If I wasn’t thinking much about it, these would probably be my answers as well.  I mean, obviously, my daughter is the hands-down the best thing that has ever happened to me and my husband is just behind her.  However, now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I realize this answer is all wrong.  Now, don’t get me wrong, my wedding day is still up at the top of my “happiest moments” list—it was an amazing day and I’m blessed to have married a wonderful man.  However, if all of us moms are honest, is the day our child is born really the best “child” moment?  I was really happy the day Grace was born.  I finally got to meet my baby girl I had so impatiently waited nine very long months to meet.  However, I was also in pain, tired, and disgusting.  Not to mention the fact that Grace was also upset, tired, and pretty gross (however beautiful) herself.  Is that moment really better than the thousand moments since then where the two of us have been happy together and she has willingly shown her love for her mom?  I don’t think so.  So, I’m going to encourage all my fellow moms to think of all the happiest moments with your childrenJ  Here are some of my favorites:

1.       Grace has always been a momma’s baby, but has lately been more loving than ever.  She has gone from referring to me as “momma,” to referring to me as “mommy.”  Her favorite thing lately is to happily shout “Mommy!” with a big smile on her face, run to me as fast as she can, and give me a big hug.  That’s love. J
2.       My baby girl loves books.  While on Spring Break this week, she has become even more interested in them.  About forty-two million times each day (obviously an exaggeration, but there were so many times I can’t remember) she has picked out a book, brought it over, climbed in my lap, and insisted we read.  As a lover of books myself, not much makes me happier than the fact that my daughter loves them as well AND loves reading them with me.  I read, she turns the pages, and she happily points out whatever we are reading about.  Her all-time favorite topic- puppies and kitties.
3.       As all of you know, because of chemo, I had to have a quite the hair cut earlier this year.  I was TERRIFIED of losing my hair.  Sure, part of that had to do with some selfish reasons.  I don’t know any girl that dreams of losing her hair.  However, my biggest fear was how Grace would react.  My beautiful, sweet girl didn’t let me down though.  When I arrived to pick her up after the hair cut of a life time, I nervously called her name.  She acted as nothing had happened.  Smiled happily as she always does and yelled, “Momma!”  I did get a friendly head pat when I picked her up thoughJ 
4.       Another favorite moment has to do with hair loss.  Since I don’t have any, I often wear hats or bandanas.  Grace thinks this is so fun.  She often takes them off and puts them on herself or she wants us both to have one on.  Then we dance around and laugh.
5.       Another love that Grace and I share besides books is music.  Man does my kid love to dance.  She also loves when we dance together and so do I!  When a good song comes on, I pick her up and we dance all over the house, giggling as we go.
6.       Baby girl kisses.  Enough said.
7.       Each night before Grace goes to bed, I hold her in the chair and sing to her.  She cuddles with me.  Many nights she repeatedly says, “Mommy,” just to make sure I’m still here.  She’ll look up at me and smile every once in a while.  When she’s calmed down, I’ll sing her to sleep, always starting with “her” song, “Amazing Grace.”  My singing always relaxes her, and I love feeling her settle in peacefully against me, feeling safe and secure with her mom.
8.       Family time!  I love when all three of us are home and Grace will run back and forth between Josh and me making sure we are both giving her attention.  I especially love when she’s feeling particularly loving, and she’ll run back and forth giving us hugs. 
9.       I bought Grace a Little People house for Christmas, which came with a little family—mom, dad, and baby.  Grace loves babies and this is our little baby to take care of each day.  She’ll sit on the floor, pat beside her, and say, “Mommy!”  That’s my cue to join her so we can play house and take care of our baby. 
10.   This last one will sound weird, so wait for the explanation.  When my daughter is in her crib and cries out in the middle of the night for me, I love the moment I pick her up.  No, I obviously don’t love for Grace to cry, nor do I love for her to wake up in the middle of the night.  However, I love that moment that she knows I’ve come to “save her.”  Grace is a drama queen like her mom so she can REALLY wail.  However, when I pick her up and tell her that “It’s ok because mommy’s here,” she becomes instantly peaceful.  She hugs me like she hasn’t seen me for years and everything is right in the world once again.  I love that I can do that for her.
So, there are ten of my favorites.  If you’re a mom or, heck, a parent—I’d enjoy hearing some of your favorite moments!
Grace shouting, "Mommy!"

Friday, April 6, 2012

When Dads Become Grandpas

“A grandfather is a little bit parent, a little bit teacher, and a little bit best friend.”  -Author Unknown

            When I was little, I loved spending time with both of my grandpas.  They were the best.  My Mottaz Grandpa took me to the park every day after school.  We played with every swing, slide, teeter-totter, and monkey bar.  Despite the fact that he had a “few” years on me, he was right by my side the entire time, even on the biggest slide in the park.  He even played “house” with me on one of the enclosed pieces of equipment.  Afterwards, we’d walk back to my grandparents’ house for ice cream with Hershey’s syrup, where I’d make “soup” with my ice cream before eating it.  My other grandpa was a farmer, and the two of us spent lots of time outside on the farm.  We looked at cows, played with his dog Rusty, climbed in the hay loft, and sang silly songs.  While I had plenty of silly and fun stories to tell about my grandpas, my parents told stories about their childhood featuring different versions of these men.  Their stories weren’t bad, but they showed stricter, less childlike versions of the men I knew.  I never thought too much about the discrepancies in our stories until my own dad became a grandpa.
            Don’t get me wrong, my dad was an amazing daddy.  Yes, even at twenty-seven, I think of my dad as a daddy and not a father.  I say this because he’s such a caring, loving dad.  The word “father” seems sort of detached to me.  Detached is not something that would ever be used to describe Lonnie Mottaz.  However, while my father was very involved and made sure my sister and I knew we were loved, he also ruled our house with a kind of quiet authority.  He didn’t need to yell or spank to get a point across (You knew he was REALLY mad if he did those things!).  My father is just one of those wonderful men that commands respect and he got it.  He wanted my sister and me to have fun, but he was also strict so that we would grow up to be productive citizens. 
            Fast forward twenty-six years to when my daddy turned into the man my daughter lovingly calls “Papa.”  I didn’t know there was a force in this world that could turn my somewhat-reserved dad into the crazy, silly, goofy man he is now.  I sometimes tear up watching him play with my daughter because his love for her shines through in every single moment they share together.  Equally precious is the fact that she loves him with equal vigor. As soon as my daughter, Grace, sees him, everyone else ceases to exist.  She has eyes only for her Papa.  She will do whatever it takes to be in his arms, even it means literally jumping from the arms she’s already in.  And, trust me, Papa eats this up.  He only has eyes for her too. J

            This time around, Papa is now in the position where he does not have to worry about the responsibility of making sure Grace is a well-behaved little girl.  He doesn’t have to worry about that well-behaved girl turning into a smart and respectful woman.  That responsibility falls on my husband and me.  So, my dad is able to concentrate on making sure my daughter has fun!  My sister and I repeatedly roll our eyes and giggle good-naturedly as my dad does embarrassing things he would never have been caught dead doing when we were little.  Grace and Papa dance all over the house with their arms waving, singing at the top of their lungs.  Papa spends plenty of time crawling all over the floor, playing whatever game Grace so desires.  Even though he has always been someone who doesn’t like others touching his drink or food, he lets Grace eat right off his fork and drink his water right from his glass without hesitation.   Probably most surprising is the man that my sister and I named “Mr. Picky” when we were little, lets Grace get him and the house dirty, all in the name of fun. 
            While I have been repeatedly in awe of this transformation from daddy to Papa, I also love it.  I have never seen my dad happier.  Not to mention, anything that makes my baby girl happy makes this momma happyJ

Monday, April 2, 2012


"Obstacles are like wild animals.  They are cowards but they will bluff you if they can.  If they see you are afraid of them, they are liable to spring upon you; but if you look them squarely in the eye, they will slink out of sight."  --Orison Swett Marden

The past four months have been quite the journey.  In many ways it was been the worst time in my life, full of heartbreak and pain, surgeries and illness.  However, thankfully the mental part of that was mostly only at the beginning.  In other ways, this has been the best time in my life, full of more blessings than I can possibly count, more love than I've ever known before.

I'm over halfway done with chemo!  This Friday, I will be getting my sixth round, with only two more to after that.  I can't believe I only have three left to you!  It seems only a short time ago I was looking at the total eight, thinking I'd never be finished.  I was so scared the first time the doctor said the word "chemotherapy."  However, I've survived.  The first four I had two drugs together--adriamycin and cytoxan.  Nasty stuff!  The first one was the worst.  I was down for close to a week.  I was so nauseous.  The other three were better, but still felt pretty sick after each one.  At my last one, my doctor said, "You're done with the nasty stuff.  I think you'll do better with these last four."  I prayed he was right.  My last four are a drug called taxol.  I've only had one of these so far.  I was so scared before the first one because I was told that I could have a very bad allergic reaction, which, thankfully, I didn't.  I wasn't nauseous this time, but I had really bad bone aches a few days after treatment.  Every bone from my waist down hurt for days.  I'm feeling better though and ready for round six because that puts me one step closer to being done!

I've now had several surgeries, not all of them planned.  First, of course, I had my mastectomy in December to remove the cancer.  The surgery went well and they started reconstruction during the same surgery, putting in tissue expanders after they cut everything out.  However, I ended up with an infection in one and having to have surgery to get one expander removed.  I was devastated.  If I hadn't already felt awful enough about my current looks, I now had a lopsided chest.  I guess you should be careful what you wish for because my stitches weren't even out on that side when I developed an infection in the other side and found myself back in the hospital.  On the bright side, I am no longer lopsided.  haha  I don't look so pretty though without a shirt on though;)  My doctor wants to give my immune system some time to reboot, but this summer reconstruction will begin anew about two months after chemo is done.  Tissue expanders will go back in sometime in July, then my lovely plastic surgeon will switch them for something more permanent around October/November.  Guess I'll have an early Christmas present:)

Hair Loss-That was a big step for me.  No matter how many times you prepare yourself mentally for it, you're never ready.  The first time my hair started to fall out I was in the shower.  I stood there and sobbed. However, my biggest fear was not about how I'd look, but about how my baby girl would react.  Would she be scared of me?  Would she even know me?  But- I have realized through all this that I have the best, smartest, sweetest baby girl in the world (don't tell me I'm biased haha).  When I saw her the first time after leaving the hair salon, she simply smiled and me with her arms outstretched and said the best thing in the world--Mommy!  Since that hair appointment, I have had many people make me feel better about my lack of hair.  However, my daughter is still the best.  She rubs my head and smiles.  When I wear a hat or bandana, she wants to wear a hat or bandana.  Our favorite game involves trying them on and dancing around the living room together.  What's better than that? 

Now- the good stuff!  I have never felt more blessed.  I didn't realize how much good there was in the world until I had to deal with the bad.  I have had so many people touch my life in ways that I'll never be able to repay.  I feel gratitude that I'll never be able to adequately express.  For example, I have received probably over 100 cards.  Even though it's months since my diagnosis, I still get them.  People send me words of encouragement, prayers, and pep talks.  God must send them messages too because it always seems that when I'm having a bad day, I go to my mailbox and there's a happy card waiting for me.  Never underestimate the power of cards.  I did before this.  I want to send more cards to people now that I know the power they have.  These cards give me strength.  In fact, I often carry my big bag of them to chemo and look at them.  I think of it as carrying my prayers with me:D  Besides the cards, I have gotten countless gifts (which also always come at the right time), offers of help, put on prayer lists, etc.  People just keep on amazing me with their generosity and kindness.  My group of friends at work alone have done more for me than I can ever repay.  I can only hope that when all this is said and done that I have a long and healthy life to pay it forward.  

My husband--He is the strongest man I know and his faith in me has never wavered.  Even in the beginning when I was a hot mess as I learned to accept all this, Josh saw my strength and somehow got me to believe in me.  I still remember when I found my lump and was awaiting results of the biopsy, Josh said, "I can't promise it's not anything bad Sara, but I do know you'll be ok."  He believed in me.  He believed that even if I had a fight on my hands that I could conquer anything.  I'm not sure what I'd do without him.  He's been my rock.

My daughter--Ahh- my hope, my heart, my survival.  So many people have acted like I'm so strong for living my life pretty normally through this (or at least as normal as possible).  They talk to me like I'm some kind of hero.  What they don't get is that my daughter is the hero.  I'm merely doing what has to be done.  I have no other option.  There isn't any other choice but to get up each day and live life to the fullest.  My daughter deserves that.  My daughter deserves a mom who is active and who has a smile on her face.  She deserves a mom that will play and dance, laugh and sing.  She deserves home-cooked meals and a clean house.  She deserves a mom who loves her job and tries her best at it.  She deserves a mom who's also a good wife, daughter, sister, and friend.  She deserves a mom who will live a long life and be there for her.  She deserves a mom who is a survivor.  I do all this for her.  

And so, I will survive all this.  Come June, I plan to walk in the Race for the Cure as a survivor:D I will have my daughter, husband, family, and friends with me as we walk in that beautiful sea of pink.  I already have learned so much about myself, life, and the goodness of God and people.  I know I have many more lessons to learn.  I also pray each night that God will help me use this.  I don't want to be a hero, but I do want to teach, inspire, and motivate.  I want to give others hope and courage.  I want them to see God's goodness.  

Kids These Days

"Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them become what they are capable of becoming." -- Goethe

Here's an article I wrote that will be featured in the Alton Telegraph in the beginning of June.  It won me a spot as one of the paper's guest columnists for the year:)

Kids These Days

            “Kids these days.”  I can’t even count how many times I hear this age-old phrase or a similar diatribe followed by an “Ugh!”  It might explain a lot to know that I teach for a living.  It might explain even more if I tell you that I teach TEENAGERS!  Yep- every day I go to work at Alton High School and try to get my students to care about the written word.  You can only imagine what that’s like on some days. 
            As soon as people know you work with children, they feel the need to tell you what’s wrong with them.  I wish our school district got a raise for each time I have this conversation.  Me: I teach 9th and 10th grade English at Alton High School.  Response: I’m so sorry.  They act as though I’ve just announced that I have a life-threatening illness.  I can understand why.  Our students have a bad reputation.  Every day when I see my dad, he makes the announcement, “One of your kids was in the paper today.”  Unfortunately, this is usually followed by why he or she was arrested.
            I must admit, I have been right there making irritating, guttural sounds in the back of my throat as my co-workers and I watch yet another poorly chosen outfit (or lack of an outfit really) walk past our doors or when a girl was so mad about her referral that she tried unsuccessfully to slam my door shut.  I have had the students who blow up because they have way too much going on at home to care about metaphors and similes.  I’ve had students fighting in my class because they thought it was the only way to save face.  I’ve been cussed at, had a desk thrown in my room, and been swung around by my arm.  That only covers one year of teaching!
So trust me when I say that I get why adults roll their eyes or cuss under their breaths at some of the things our beloved teenagers do these days.  However, the people that don’t get over that initial aggravation and remember that students are people too are the ones who don’t realize who the students in our city really are.  I have always been able to look past my students’ faults to see the scared but beautiful people they hide beneath.  However, this school year has truly affirmed my beliefs, so I’ll use it as example. 
The year started out pretty normally for me as I juggled the responsibilities of being a good teacher with those of being a good wife and mother.  I had been blessed with a group of pretty good classes and was ready to impart as much knowledge as they would let me.  Everything continued to go as planned until December 5.  This was the day I was diagnosed, at 27-years-old, with breast cancer.  My whole world changed that day.
Much to the surprise of my family, coworkers, and friends, the next day I went in to each of my classes, sat up on my table, and said, “I have something important I have to tell you.  You’re old enough to know the truth of why I’m going to be gone a lot and you’re mature enough to handle it.”  And so began my tale.  I told them everything I knew.
These kids, from whom so little is expected, gave more than anyone could imagine.  They exceeded even my extremely high expectations of them.  The first day, they were somber.  However, they calmly asked intelligent questions and told me I would be fine. 
            As the days went on, I relied on my students for hope, and they have yet to fail me.  Before my surgery, they pumped me up with their words.  They brought me cards and pink ribbon gifts.  They added me to prayer lists.  They stopped by just to check on me and sent hopeful, encouraging e-mails.  They took my illness on with strength and courage that I haven’t seen in many adults. 
            The day I returned to work, I felt as though my heart might literally burst.  These students that people APOLOGIZE to me because I have to teach were all wearing pink.  Staff and students alike had declared that on that particular Monday, we were Pinkbirds for the day.  I’ve had a few moments since this diagnosis that I have felt that I’m going to be a survivor hands-down.  That was one of those moments.  With an entire school behind me, how could I not come out on top?
            Now, as I go through chemotherapy treatments, my Pinkbirds are helping me “soar above the rest.”  They continue to pick my spirit up when I am down through poems, kind words, love, and unfaltering faith in me.  So the next time you start to roll your eyes at a teenager, remember their strength runs deep and, while they may not know as much as they think, they know a lot about love, kindness, and hope.


"Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage.  The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict."  --William Channing

Here is something I wrote months ago, back in December.  This is after I was first diagnosed, before my first surgery.  It's a little rough and emotional, but I left it that way.  It's how I felt at the time.  I actually couldn't even reread it until just recently, now that I'm in a totally different place, both in my journey battling cancer and in my attitude about life.

            Despite the countless tales of people getting cancer, no one really believes that it can happen to them.  It is something we hear about in other people’s lives.  It is something that might happen when we’re older.  I was definitely in the group of people that believed these illogical ideas. 
            Ironically, when I found the lump that would change my life, I was the healthiest and happiest I had ever been.  I was twenty-seven-years-old and had lost eight-five pounds since giving birth to my beautiful baby girl.  I was happily married to the man of my dreams, had great friends and family, and a job I loved (none of which have changed).  I got regular check-ups at the doctor, dentist, and all other appropriate doctors.  I ate healthy and, while I didn’t exercise in the technical sense of the word, I spent all of my free time chasing my very active daughter around.  I felt great.
            Then, on November 13, 2011, I found it.  I was lying on the floor playing with my baby girl, Grace.  She had been repeatedly jumping on me, wanting me to catch her.  My hand happened to bump into my chest and I noticed an odd lump.  I didn’t think too much about it, but continued to play with Grace.
            Later that afternoon, my husband and I were headed out for the evening.  The lump was nagging at me in my mind.  I casually mentioned it to my husband, more to clear my mind than anything else.  I had just finished nursing three weeks prior, and assured my husband that it was probably from that.  However, it was still bugging me later that night.  Those who know me well know that I am a worrier.  By this I mean, I am an insane worrier.  I worry about things that don’t even mean anything.  Once I get something stuck in my head, I can’t get it out until it is solved.  So, when I was saying my prayers that evening, I prayed to God, “If this is nothing God, please let me stop worrying about it.  However, if it is something that needs to be taken care of, please let it bother me until I go to the doctor.”  God must have heard my prayers because that lump would not give me any peace the next day.  As soon as I had a free moment at work, I called my doctor for an appointment. 
            Since I had to wait a couple of days for my appointment and, as I’ve already mentioned, I’m a worrier, I felt the need to discuss my worries with a few close friends.  Everyone assured me that it was nothing.  “Most lumps are nothing to worry about,” they said.  “You’re too young for breast cancer.”  “You just finished nursing.  You can’t take lumps seriously after nursing.”  Although their comments made me feel better, I remained nervous.
            At my appointment a couple of days later, the nurse practitioner said the same things.  She felt pretty certain that it was simply a fibro adenoma.  However, she knew I was worried and took that very seriously (something I am ever so thankful for).  She made me an appointment for an ultrasound the following day. 
            The following evening, she called me with the results of the ultrasound—the lump was still “suspicious” (a word I have grown to hate).  She scheduled me with a follow-up appointment with a specialist. 
            Thankfully, the specialist got us in the following day.  She reviewed my ultrasound and gave me an exam.  However, she said the same things everyone else had said, “You’re too young.  I’m almost positive it is a fibro adenoma.  Nothing to worry about.”  However, she did want to remove it, as they can get pretty big.  I was scheduled for an excisional biopsy and went home feeling relieved. 
            I continued to feel better after I went home and researched.  I like to know everything so I went home and looked up everything I could on breast lumps, specifically fibro adenomas.  Everything I found was reassuring.  Most lumps were nothing, especially for someone my age.  Cancer tended to be immovable and hard, but my lump was movable and felt soft.  Cancer did not run in my family.  We only had a few cases that I knew of, and no one related to me by blood had breast cancer.  I was so happy.
            The excisional biopsy went well.  The surgery didn’t last long and I was home later that day with my baby girl and husband.  I felt a little dizzy and queasy from the anesthesia, but otherwise great.  The doctor had said everything looked great and she was expecting no surprises from the biopsy.  Someone would call me the following Monday to see how I felt and then later in the week the biopsy results would return.  No worries.
            Unfortunately, I did have worries.  I just didn’t know it yet.  I will remember December 5, 2011 for the rest of my life.  I had arrived home with my daughter a little irritated.  The doctor’s office had not yet called to check on my like they said they would and I hate when people don’t do what they say they will.  How little did I know how much I didn’t want that phone call.  As I came in the house, my phone rang.  It was my surgeon.  I didn’t think anything was off.  After all, they said they’d call about how I was feeling.  I should have prepared myself when the doctor asked if I was home, but I didn’t.  Then, she said those awful words, “I’m so sorry, Sara.  The biopsy came back and I have bad news.  It is cancer.  I really didn’t think it would come back this way.”  She told me she’d let me process this news and call me back in twenty minutes with more information.  I held it together until I hung up the phone. 
            My husband called at exactly that moment.  Maybe he knew somehow that I needed him.  He was on his way home.  I called my mom who jumped in the car and was at my house as fast as her car would carry her.  In the meantime, my dad arrived.  My wonderful family was already zooming in to my rescue.
All the while, I clutched my baby girl.  I sobbed.  Not even for me, but for her.  She was my first thought.  My heart broke in about a million pieces at the thought of my precious baby girl growing up without her momma. 
My mom and dad stayed with me until my husband, Josh, got home.  In the meantime, I learned that I had an invasive ductal carcinoma.  I had an appointment to discuss this further with the surgeon the following day. 
At that appointment, all I really learned was how much I didn’t know.  Even when she had taken it out, the surgeon had really thought it looked like nothing.  Therefore, all she had worried about was getting the thing out.  She had not taken a margin of healthy tissue, something that would now have to be done.  She had not worried about testing lymph nodes, which would now need to be tested.  She gave me options, all of which she said depended on further tests.  They would have to go back in regardless of which option I chose.  One option was to have a lumpectomy to remove the healthy tissue around the area that the carcinoma had been, followed by radiation.  The other option she gave was to have a mastectomy.  When I left the appointment with my husband, I was not much better than when I had come. 
I discussed options with my husband and family that night.  I also talked to my aunt, who was going through this same battle.  Everyone agreed that I should get a second opinion and everyone wanted me to go to the Siteman Cancer Center, which was the best in the area. 
The next morning, I talked to Siteman.  I was impressed right away, even before my appointment.  They were very on top of things.  They set me up with an appointment right away with a surgeon that specializes in breast cancer in young women. 
Upon meeting with her, we discussed my options once again.  However, she explained that breast cancer in someone my age is a monster all its own.  Since cancer tends to be more aggressive in young people, we would have to treat it more aggressively.  She recommended a bilateral mastectomy and she said the “c” word that I dreaded almost as much as cancer—chemo.  I cried, as I have done on so many occasions since I received my news.  I met with a plastic surgeon later that day to discuss reconstruction and made my appointment for surgery. 
My surgery is set for December 23, which is this Friday.  I’m doing better this week than I did last week, and I did better last week than I did the week I found out.  I had to make some decisions for myself and for my family.  It would be easy to throw in the towel and give up.  I certainly felt that way when I received the news.  However, I have a baby girl that I want to watch grow up, I have a husband who I want to grow old with, and I have family and friends who need me.  I had to wrap my mind around some things and change my attitude fast.  I won’t say that my tears are done, but I’m going to fight.
Although I’ve only had my diagnosis for a short time, I’ve already learned so much, both about myself and about others.  First of all, I’ve discovered that I am strong.  As much as I’d like to cry and as easy at it would be to curl up in a ball and cry all day- I’m not.  I’ve forced myself to be strong and positive for my little girl, my husband, my family and friends, and my students.  I have strengthened my faith in God and pray more than ever.  I have always felt that everything happens for a reason, and, while I don’t know the reason yet, I feel that God has big plans for me.  I will find a way to use this experience to help people and to show my daughter that, if you put your mind to it, you can overcome anything.  As my Aunt Pam (a teacher as well) says, “We are teachers.  Maybe that’s why we have to go through this, so we can teach people.”  And that’s what I plan to do. 
I have learned that I have to trust other people in my life to take care of things.  I do not have to do everything.  Others are perfectly capable of doing things the right way.  Long before I was a mother, I had a motherly attitude.  I’ve always taken care of people.  I know that I’m going to need help in this ordeal and I must learn to accept it with grace. 
Most of all I’ve learned that Charles Dickins was right when he said, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”  Although this is hands down the worst thing that has ever happened to me, I have never felt more blessed.  I have watched my bad experience bring out the very best in those around me.  I have been amazed at the kindness, generosity, love, and faith that people have shown me.  I have been showered with prayers, help, cards, and love, some from people I have never even met.  I have been mentally brought to my knees on countless occasions in the past couple of weeks and can’t begin to express my gratitude. 
I have been reminded how much teenagers can surprise you.  I teach ninth and tenth grade English and told my students right away.  I feel they deserve to know what’s going on, especially since I will have to be away from them at the beginning of the semester for a little while.  Many were surprised by my decision.  And yet, my students have handled this news with the grace and compassion of people beyond their years.  Students from my past and present have rallied around me to offer their support.
As I continue this journey, I have two requests for anyone who might read this.  The first is—do not suffer in silence!  I chose to tell people right away because I believe that I have to start at the top and work my way down if I’m going to beat this—so I needed prayers.  People can’t pray if they don’t know.  As I tell people though, I realize how many people are going through similar situations, yet suffering in silence.  Tell your story!  Make sure you are heard.  People will surprise you.  Their hope and love will help heal you.
My second wish is that you go with your instincts.  Like many awful things in life, cancer doesn’t care if you’re young or old, rich or poor, happy or sad.  I’m so thankful that I called the doctor when I did and that I was taken seriously.  Not everyone is that lucky.  Don’t “wait it out” just because you are afraid of the information.  Get any “suspicious” lumps checked out now!  Get regular check-ups.  And, most importantly, if you have a feeling something is wrong—make sure someone takes it seriously, even if it means getting a second or third opinion.
So, my journey continues later this week.  I will have a bilateral mastectomy and the beginnings of reconstruction.  Once I heal, I will have chemotherapy and possibly radiation.  It is my hope that at this time next year, I will be reflecting back on this time as a learning experience and counting my ever-growing list of blessings.  I hope to be cooking Christmas Eve dinner for my family and playing with my baby girl. 
I know that I will get through this.  And, when I do, I know it will be because of my baby girl- who will have saved my life.  If I had not nursed her, I wouldn’t even have known what was normal and probably wouldn’t have found the lump.  If I did not love her so much, it would be harder to fight.
It will be because of my husband and his unfaltering love, support, and belief.  If not for him, I would already have broken down.
It will be because of my family, who has surrounded me with prayers, love, and help.  If not for them, I would be nothing.
It will be because of my friends, who have stepped up in ways that I could not even have imagined.  If not for them, I would not feel comfortable enough to share my story with the world.
It will be because of my students, who have put their belief in me.  If not for them, I would not feel as strong.
And, oddly enough, it will be because of my faults.  I have always been a crazy, OCD worrywart.  If not for that, I would never have been diagnosed. 

I have a good friend who has bought me several of these beautiful little angels.  They sit on my counter as a constant reminder to pray and have hope:D <3


The true measure of a man is not how he behaves in moments of comfort and convenience, but how he stands at the times of controversy and challenges."  --Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hello everyone:)  Welcome to my blog.  I've had a pretty rough six months, but also a very blessed six months. It has given me a lot to think about and really gotten me in a writing mood.  Because of all this, I have decided to start this blog.

For those of you who don't know, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in December.  I'm still undergoing treatment.  I'm also the mother of a beautiful 18-month-old girl and the wife of a wonderful man.  I teach ninth and tenth grade English.  Finally, I have some of the most inspiring, wonderful people in my life.  It is from all of these things that I will draw inspiration for my writing.  Hopefully I can touch the lives of others like me.  I know from experience how nice it is to know you're not alone in what you're going through.  Thanks for reading:D