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Wiggin' Out

Does anyone else have a week where they think to themselves, “gosh, can I please just catch a break?

Round 2 of chemotherapy hit me differently or maybe it’s because I was more prepared for what was coming- minus the pounding headache. Instead of being miserable and enduring the punch of the Red Devil on my own I used the resources I had to be more comfortable. Thank you, compazine and Crested River- Philotimo for helping with the nausea, body aches, anxiety and brain fog.

So there I was, feeling fine with the exception of the regular fatigue when, WHAM! We caught the bug. No amount of Emergen-C was going to help me stay healthy when my white count dropped to 3.9 and everyone in the house was running a temp, coughing and using mommy as a tissue.

Wait. It gets better.

Not only were we all sick, but our water heater malfunctioned meaning we were without hot water AND we had water in our basement.

Like seriously? Come on!

You’ll be happy to know that after a week of Tamiflu, cough syrup, gallons of orange juice and a visit from our plumber we are back up and running. Praise, Jesus!

But wait, there is more. I have more to be thankful for. You know how I always talk about practicing gratitude, well, even after a crap week I was still able to find something to be thankful for:

  • The bug hit us all simultaneously so our sickness wasn’t drug out for weeks.
  • The water was a quick clean up and stayed in the old cellar
  • The water heater only required a small fix (something with a pressure switch)
  • The opportunity to wear my wig to visit the Himalayan Salt Room in Mankato to help strengthen my immune system
When I was little, sick days called for snuggles at grandma’s and the Price is Right

Are you having a tough day or maybe even a bad week? Well, instead of wiggin’ out, write down 5 things you are thankful for. You have your own mountain to climb, but if you just keep yodeling, I know you will overcome what you may be going through. You just gotta stay positive.

Now it’s time to prepare for another treatment. Just thinking about it makes me anxious, but I have to remind myself that the bad days are only temporary and with each treatment I’m one step closer to being an OVERCOMER. (Is it May yet?) On the bright side, another treatment means another day hanging with the amazing staff and volunteers at the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute (NUMC), the hubby and my new chemo buddy, Andrea!

See, so much to be thankful for.

What are you thankful for?

Hugs, Sara

Seriously, if you haven’t hopped on the CBG/CBD bandwagon, contact my cousin, Shawn Weber at Crested River. He is so knowledgeable in the health benefits that CBG/CBD have to offer. #GONATURAL #HEALING

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It's Only Hair

What a beautiful journey! The path up my mountain has definitely been scenic and I can’t believe the wide range of beauty I have seen so far. The most beautiful part of this journey is all the love and support you have given to me and my family and we are so grateful. It’s your texts, prayers, good vibes, meals and everything in between that create a rainbow after a dreary day. (Wow, does that sound cheesy or what?!)

Today is one of those dreary days….

I can’t believe how much my hair started falling out after Round 2. I had hair everywhere, it was gross, but I’m still sad it’s gone. That’s right, it’s gone. Today was hair donation day. I’m sad, I’m teary-eyed just thinking about it, but thankfully there is a child with hair loss who is going to benefit from my donation. (I’m all about silver linings)

I was terrified of what Samuel would say when he saw me without hair, but the one who had a more difficult time was my sweet, Rowyn. She kept looking at me and asking where my hair was. How do you explain to a one and a half year old what cancer is and the side effects of chemotherapy? Que the water works….

I’m still processing, so hang tight, and maybe I’ll share more feelings or thoughts later, but for now… check out this brief video made by B. North Photography: #TeamSara

Bring on the wigs, hats and scarves <3

Hugs,

Sara, Tyler, Samuel and Rowyn

All the Feels

You guys, ROUND ONE is done and I’ve been enjoying my off week, but as I start planning (cause I’m a planner) for my next treatment on January 29th my stomach knots. I’m not looking forward to the nausea, fatigue, bone pain and the progression of hair loss, brittle nails and dry skin (just to name a few other side effects).

The Friday after my treatment was awful and I mean AWFUL! Thankfully I was able to re-read a text a dear friend sent to me. Be kind to and patient with yourself. Let yourself feel all the feels, to cry when you need to instead of holding it in, to rest when you just can’t keep going, it’s all going to part of the journey. I needed that reminder and after months of keeping it together, I allowed myself to feel all the feels.

When the waves are taking you under
Hold on just a little bit longer
He knows that this is gonna make you stronger, stronger
The pain ain’t gonna last forever
And things can only get better
Believe me
This is gonna make you stronger

Mandisa- Stronger

Sorry, Mandisa, things might get a little worse before they get better, but I love your enthusiasm and will continue to remind myself that this is making me a stronger, better version of myself. I will be an OVERCOMER.

Like I said, it’s my off week and I have never been more thankful for the days of feeling well. I did something I haven’t done since my surgery, something that makes me feel free and brings peace of mind. I RAN! OK, so it was more like a jog and it wasn’t for very long, but I did it and it felt so good!

I also had my first recheck with my oncologist. He had nothing but good things to say- my labs were stable, the side effects were to be expected and my attitude and outlook is something he wishes other had. He also had to remind me to not feel disheartened when my labs plummet and side effects progress, because that is likely to happen with this type of treatment. Sure it wasn’t all butterflies and rainbows, but I was on cloud nine!

Remember, when I said I’m a planner? I get anxious when I have to fly by the seat of my pants, but sometimes planning for the week ahead can alone cause anxiety. UGH! Here I was smiling and feeling fine then WHAM! I have another treatment, another 5-6 days of feeling like crap and my hair will start falling out soon. So naturally, I’m taking a few things into my own hands.

Saturday, February 1st is going to be a day to again, feel all the feels. I’ve invited our immediate family to come and join me for HAIR DONATION DAY! We are going to celebrate the fact that my hair will be used for a child with hair loss. It’s going to fall out so someone might as well get use out of it, right?! I’m excited– I am in control. I’m nervous-what are Samuel and Rowyn going to say, will Tyler still think I’m beautiful, how will I feel about myself? I’m sad– that part of my femininity will be gone.

Sorry, not sorry. This probably isn’t as chipper as my usually blogs, but I want to be transparent with you. As my friends, you get all of me, not just the happy, goal-getter side, you get the sad and anxious side too.

Now to finish like I always intend to, with gratitude. I want to again say thank you to everyone who has been so supportive for me and my family as we continue the journey up this mountain. Your smiles, texts, prayers, thoughts, hugs, cards, good vibes, meals and everything in between has been greatly appreciated!

Until next time and a new look. HUGS,

Sara, Tyler, Samuel and Rowyn

Accessories

Yesterday was a whirlwind, but I do have a take away.

What’s a person without their accessories?

When this whole process started the only accessories I would wear included necklaces and earrings and the occasional clutch. Nothing fancy unless it was for a special event.

Port Placement

Now my accessories include: an implant and expander, a port, a pink reminder sleeve and soon wigs, hats and scarves. (I just hope I can pull all of them off like my sister-in-law Ashlee . Seriously, I’ve never seen anyone wear accessories better!) Thankfully I ditched the 3 drainage tubes after surgery or I’d feel like Olivia Octavius from Spider-Man Into The Spider-Verse.

I’m all about silver linings and here are just a few: I’m one step closer to being an OVERCOMER. I am one step closer to saying so long, Breast Cancer.

Even though I feel like so much of me is gone, I’m still here. I’m still Sara and there is one accessory that will remain the same, one that I never considered an accessory. My Smile.

If any of you remember from my previous blog- Act The Way You Want To Feel... Application creates transformation. Studies show that artificially inducing a smile can prompt happier emotions. Now I just want to build on that…Sharing a smile is the easiest way to brighten someone’s day. So keep smiling and keep sharing your gift to others 🙂

Upcoming Appointments:

  • Wednesday, January 15th
    • 7:20- Port care
    • 7:40- Lab draw (port)
    • 8:20- Oncology appointment
    • 8:45- Start chemotherapy
      • Adria
      • Cytoxan C1 D1
  • Wednesday, January 22nd
    • 7:20- Port care
    • 7:40- Lab draw (port)
    • 8:20- Oncology appointment
  • Wednesday, January 29th
    • 7:40- Port care
    • 8:00- Lab draw (port)
    • 8:40- Oncology appointment
    • 9:00- Treatment
      • Adria
      • Cytoxan C1 D1

Sending you each a hug and a smile!

Sara

Cheers to the New Year

Wow, what a year! 2019 was a roller coaster year: Melanoma – Jamaica – Grandma’s Marathon – Larsen Bean Bag Tournament – Tiny House Adventure – Washington – Breast Cancer. There are so many other wonderful things that happened and for those moments of joy I am so grateful. Now it’s time to turn the page and begin the new year, a new chapter.

2020 begins with bang- I am officially a Certified Health and Wellness Coach and I received another map for my journey to overcoming breast cancer.

My final pathology result came in on the cancer tumor. The original biopsy showed that it was 18% estrogen positive (anything less than 10% is considered negative) but the entire tumor was tested and the estrogen came back as 5%– meaning it is considered negative. I am a triple negative (estrogen, progesterone and HER2), which means I will undergo roughly 20 weeks of Chemo.

As I am already 4 weeks post surgery, my oncologist would like to get things started ASAP:

  • Thursday, January 9th- Review with my surgeon regarding restrictions from the double mastectomy and the procedure for port placement.
    • A quick note on the expander: it feels like I have an 8 ball or milk jug in my right breast- it’s Hard, Heavy and Uncomfortable.
  • Friday, January 10th-
    • 10a.m.- Chemotherapy Education
    • 11a.m.- Echocardiogram
    • 12p.m.- SDS- port placement
  • Monday, January 13th- I get to go back to work!!
  • Wednesday, January 15th- FIRST DAY OF CHEMOTHERAPY

I don’t want this to sound glum, but ugh! Life before my diagnosis was so wonderful. Of course there were a few hiccups, but whose life is perfect? I realize now, looking back, I took so much for granted. I’ll give you just one example, my hair. I have literally tried almost every hair style and color– I would always say, “it’s only hair.” Well, now it isn’t only hair. IT’S MY HAIR and I won’t have any of it left!

Besides climbing that damn mountain, I have been working on myself and how I can become a better person, appreciate what I have been given and live my life to the fullest. Here are some of the golden nuggets I’ve picked up along the way (thank you Rachel and Dave Hollis, Trent Shelton, Mel Robbins, Holly Wagner and Lysas Terkeurst):

  • Embrace the chaos and choose joy
  • Practice gratitude
  • If it isn’t a hell yes, it’s a hell no
  • Protect your peace
  • Attitude is everything
  • Have faith
  • We were not created to solve all of life’s problems on our own

Again, I want to say thank you to everyone for your continued support, prayers, well wishes and good vibes. I appreciate the check-in’s, the surprise visit (Melissa Schneider), the giggles, the meals and EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING. It is with your support that I can become an OVERCOMER.

Hugs,

Sara (Tyler, Samuel and Rowyn too!)

Under Construction

Father,

This world is broken and broken things happen- yes. Even still, I can’t help but feel utterly shattered and disillusioned when heartbreak is part of my story. I don’t like this- I only like dust. But dust is one of Your favorite ingredients to use when making something new, and I believe You are working right now to do this very thing in my life. I know You will never forsake me, but that You will go to great lengths to remake me. Thank you.

In Jesus’ name, amen.

For those of you that know me, you know I want to climb Rainbow Mountain in Peru. Turns out God thought I should train on a different mountain before I make that kind of climb. Trust me, I’d take a 40 mile hike up a mountain before I’d go through this… without training… any day! 

I’d be lying if I told you these first few days have been a cake walk. All the books we read, like Cancer Hates Kisses didn’t even prepare us for the heart wrenching that occurred when Rowyn cried and asked for mommy to pick her up. I couldn’t pick her up, I couldn’t give her a big hug and make it all better.  However, Samuel has been so great and is showing understanding of mommy’s owies and that he needs to be gentle. He gives the best gentle hugs ever. I can’t believe how much love I have for those little humans and how hard it is to explain to them that mommy is in pain, mommy has owies, mommy has cancer.  Que the water works.

On a happier note, Tyler has been phenomenal! Seriously, the best! Like I’ve said before ladies. Find yourself a man who can give you a sponge bath and make you laugh at the same time. While Tyler was cleaning my right armpit (the sore one) he was wiping and getting clumps of orange goop (deodorant mixed with Betadine), “pretty sure you have something growing in there!” You had to be there to see the facial expression, but we laughed and laughed.

OK, now to continue to fill you on where I am at on this climb of mine. Drum roll please…. I AM CANCER FREE!!! It is gone! Wahoo!

Surgery went well, took a little longer than expected due to the margins being so narrow. I am missing a small chunk of muscle and I had a small chunk of skin removed to ensure clean margins. I also had 2 lymph nodes removed as they showed signs of being “hot”. (Which also means I woke up with 3 drains) Since there were those additional variables during surgery I do have an expander in my right breast and an implant in my left.  However, pathology reports revealed that there was no sign of cancer in the lymph nodes, praise Jesus… which means I shouldn’t need any radiation! So IF I don’t need Chemo, I will have another surgery in 4 months to remove the expander and place an implant. (Then I can really plan my Rainbow Mountain trip) The reason I say IF I don’t need Chemo is that the cancer will be oncotyped DX (genetic DNA testing on the tumor itself) to determine if chemo is required. The cancer is also Estrogen positive which means ovarian suppression, hormone therapy etc. is definitely in my future for at least 10 years.  THAT’S SOME MOUNTAIN… don’t worry, I’m not going to break out into the Hannah Montana song, but it is all about the climb…. and I got this, I’m just currently under construction.

Another funny to share with you. Never buy things the night after surgery. You may not remember what you bought, until the UPS man makes his delivery: pillows, a crock-pot, a scarf…. SMH!

Alright, back to serious business. THANK YOU! All of your thoughts, prayers, well wishes, food, flowers, texts, phone calls, messages, good vibes have not gone unappreciated! I don’t even know how to say thank you enough, but that’s what I got, THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING!

Next Appointments:

  • December 26th: drain removal
  • January 2nd: oncology-game plan, chemo or not?

 

 

IT’S CANCER EXODUS DAY!

And this mountain that’s in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

And through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
And through it all, through it all
It is well And through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
And it is well
It is well

So let go my soul and trust in Him

The fight. The climb. It begins today! I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t scared. I am scared. I am nervous. I am anxious… but I am also ready! All of your support, thoughts, prayers, well wishes, hugs and good vibes got me here and will continue to help me as I climb this mountain… I AM AN OVERCOMER!

QUE THE CONFETTI!

Remember, we live every day. Every day we should choose joy, search for the silver lining and celebrate the little things.

Today, I ask you to celebrate with me. So, put your party pants on, wear your #teamsara swag, throw the confetti, raise a glass, dance, do whatever it is that you do to celebrate… just celebrate! It’s Cancer Exodus Day!

*If you are interested in supporting me and my family as we embark on this breast cancer journey by purchasing a SHE’S AN OVERCOMER #teamsara shirt, you can do so here. Fight like a girl bracelets are also available, contact Sheri Madsen or Mikayla Bruggeman

Stay tuned for more updates: January 2nd, appointment with Oncology to review treatment plan following surgery.

Love and Hugs,

Sara

Thanksgiving

thanks-giv-ing (n) the expression of gratitude, especially to God.

Sure this past year I have hit my fair share of bumps in the road and you better believe it when I say I’ve got a few bruises too, but it has only made me into a better, stronger, more grateful version of myself.

I am thankful for my husband and our children, our amazing support group and prayer warriors, our family and friends, the four Santa ornaments on one Christmas tree branch, (“but mommy they match!”) and so much more….

… Like good news!

My lymph node biopsy came back and it is BENIGN! I still need to have my sentinel node biopsied during surgery, but this is a victory and I could not have done it without you- your positive vibes, prayers, words of encouragement and hugs!

I am grateful for you. Thank you.

From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!

xoxo,

Sara

I’ve been robbed

“Cancer robs you of control over your life and body. But it also teaches us that we never really had control in the first place. It’s humbling and empowering at the same time.”- Dr. Jordan

It’s been a restless week. A week filled with appointment after appointment. It’s crazy to think that I have lived with my diagnosis for 11 days and in those 11 days, I have had a breast MRI, a meeting with a genetic counselor, plastic surgeon and oncologist, another ultrasound guided biopsy and we found my biological father. MIND BLOWING!

Wednesday, November 20th. I didn’t have any appointments, I wasn’t waiting for any results, but my mind was still focused on too many what-ifs. On this day, I wrote in my journal, “I miss who I was before I heard you have Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.” I had a breast MRI on Monday and on Tuesday I was told that it appears that I have thickening in one of my lymph nodes, but we don’t know if the cancer is there or not, so I needed to undergo another biopsy.

For people who know me… I’m type A and a planner… so this diagnosis is driving me crazy! There are so many things that need to be done first before you can even get a game plan in place. Thankfully, I have a great team that is helping me navigate this process.

A quick recap of my appointments:

  • Breast MRI- Not sure how to describe this other than, as interesting, the noises that machine makes are obnoxious! I do need to give a quick shout-out to the two lovely women who assisted me with this exam as they were AMAZING!!
  • Genetic Counseling- One word, INTENSE. She needed to much information, but I guess it makes sense in the grand scheme of things. I will be undergoing a genetic test to review 47 genes to see if I have any predisposition to breast cancer or any other cancers…. BUT THESE CAN ALL COME BACK NEGATIVE… which means, I’m a fluke 🙂
  • Plastic Surgery- It’s a long process. I just want to leave it at that, but she did tell Tyler and I that when we first look at my breasts after surgery its going to be horrifying. I will be bruised, lumpy and uneven. (I will have an implant in the left and an expander in the right.)
  • Ultrasound Guided Biopsy- Well, I won’t know for sure if it’s in my lymph node until later today or Tuesday. So here I wait.
  • Oncology- Well, we know one thing is for sure, I will need hormone therapy as my cancer is showing that it is Estrogen positive. As for radiation, and chemotherapy that is still unknown. Once my results are back from the lymph node biopsy we can move forward…. but with more additional testing and more waiting.

Hurry up and wait. With all of the appointments and intake of information, I’m exhausted. I’m ready for bed by 8p.m. I sleep for a couple hours and then catch myself tossing and turning, grinding my teeth or waking up feeling absolutely sick to my stomach. It’s my anxiety… the what-ifs, the unknowns, the waiting and the wondering.

So it appears that I was robbed of my peace of mind, my carefree spirit, my free time and the runner in me…. but was I? It’s interesting how something like a diagnosis can help put life into perspective or awaken a side of you that you didn’t even know existed….

Did anyone else enjoy the beautiful weather this past weekend? I took my kids for a run… for anyone that knows me, you know I love to run. We didn’t go far, but you know what…. I was so thankful for the ability to run and run with my kids! Not everyone has the luxury of running or having children.

Among the temper tantrums and melt downs, there were also snuggles, smiling faces, and I love yous….I just chose to change my perspective to focus on the positive and feel grateful that for children, something as simple as a kiss and hug can make things all better! (I really do have super powers!)

As for the mountain ahead of me and my family, we are at the base and gearing up to make the climb. I am responsible for what I see…. is my perception fear and terror or is it telling me to slow down and embrace each moment with gratitude?

I CHOOSE GRATITUDE. I am thankful for everyone who is giving us their support, encouragement and words of wisdom. As Samuel would say, “HOLY BUCKETS!” You fine folks are amazing and appreciated! I will be fine. (I’m honestly not giving myself any other choice.) As awful as this is, it’s going to make me into a better person, I can tell already. God has a plan for me and I just need to be patient, listen and trust in the process. I need to keep up my positive attitude, lean on my support system, get comfortable asking for help, stay grateful and focus on what the future holds for me when I become…. an Overcomer.

Upcoming Dates-

Follow up with my captain, Dr. Jordan. December 5th. We will discuss the surgery and the landscape of the mountain ahead of me. (Seriously, when you doctor follows up with your oncologist, gets you your results as quickly as possible, shoots you a text to check in and gives you great words of advice, does it get any better?)

Cancer Exodus– Put this in your calendar folks. December 13th will be a day to celebrate, its the day we start showing this cancer who is boss!

Oncology appointment to lay out the plan of treatment- January 2nd

I found a lump

Never thought I’d find myself here. However, I feel like subconsciously… I knew. I was headed to Seattle, Washington to visit some family when we flew past Mount Rainier, when I lost it… I cried and thought, how amazing is this? I am just one tiny piece of the puzzle. How lucky am I to view something so majestic? I am not in control… I need to let go and let God.

I found a lump October 2nd, 2019.

November 4th I pointed it out to my doctor.

November 6th I had a diagnostic mammogram. (Thank you, Megan, for doing that for me.)

November 11th I had an ultrasound guided breast biopsy.

Here I am today (November 15th) one day after hearing the news, you have Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.

It’s been a whirlwind of emotions. But honestly, I’ve cried only once… right after Dr.Jordan so eloquently told Tyler and I of my diagnosis…. she mentioned things like Nottingham score, triggers, mastectomy, etc…. but it’s all a blur.

I now have a cancer coordinator, an oncologist, a plastic surgeon, a genetic counselor and so much more.

I have educated myself on what a Nottingham Score and Grade is as well as what my future may entail…. one thing I do know is this: those giggles we hear or those hugs we get at night mean so much more than you will ever know.

The saying you only live once is a lie… we live everyday. We die once.

Don’t take one thing for granted. Live life to the fullest, embrace the chaos and beauty around you, celebrate the little things and above all, LOVE and SUPPORT each other.

I am so blessed to have such a great family and support group… thank you ♥️

I am sure dark days lie ahead, but for now you will see me smiling and embracing this chaos we call life!

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