Four weeks post mastectomy

Hi! I just realized I never followed up on the BRCA FAQs! Blurg! Sorry, that's me sometimes... most of the time.. completely forgetful. For example, towards the end of the school year when things were ramping up for end of the year activities, I forgot to pick my kids. Yes plural. Kids up from school. Twice in one week. Don't worry, they forgave me. 

Just like I eventually remembered to drive the 2 blocks to get my kids, I will remember to answer all of your BRCA questions! 

But for now I will update you on my progress! Today I am four weeks recovered from my preventative double mastectomy! Some new developments are 

 

1- I am back at work!

I am a stay-at-home mom of four kids ages 2-7. They spent three weeks in Dallas with the grands, and last Sunday they were released to come home! The Dude went back to work on Monday, so I was back to work as well. I was super ready to have them home, but maybe not so ready for their noise and mess. Isn't that just how it goes.

 

I'm like, please bring the hugs and kisses and cute drawings but go ahead and leave behind the wet clothes on the floor and dumped out shampoo bottles and the newfound freedom to tell me 'no' back a grandma's house. mkay? 

But they really have been pretty good and very helpful and not at all whiney about not getting to go anywhere all week. Probably because the grandmas kept them very busy! {I keep saying 'the grandmas' because both my mom and my mother-in-law live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and were able to split up the three weeks amongst themselves. Plus, they are friends, so I didn't have to coordinate where and when the kids would be at each house. I basically just dropped them in Dallas and let them figure out the rest!} 

2- I tried out driving!

The doctor cleared me to drive at my last appointment, but we just hadn't gotten around to it yet. So this weekend I drove to the mattress store. Random, I know. And then I took two kids with me to small group with my church on Sunday night. Monday I drove quite a bit. To the doctor's office and back, and to my daughter's softball game and back, and today my arms were pretty sore, so I tried to take it a little easy.

3- I cooked dinner!

I have been unbelievably spoiled by my church family. They brought us meals clear up until last Friday. That is almost four straight weeks of homemade deliciousness. Seriously, the women at my church can cook. It was fun to be surprised every night as to what we were eating. I especially loved all the variety of dessert! At one point my counter looked like an all-you-can-eat dessert buffet. And so we did. 

Which explains the need for #4.

4- I started walking! 

I have a lovely walking trail about a block from my house, so Monday I got up early and walked the whole thing. It took me about 30 minutes and my back was pretty sore afterwards and I nearly lost an eye swatting off all the mosquitos, but I did it!! However, this extra activity contributed to my fatigue today I believe, so no walking today, just resting mostly.

So that's wat I can do, now I will talk about how I am healing up. This would be the point in the blog post where fathers, sons, and the especially squeamish might want to exit. Thanks for coming!!


Okay- now we can get into the real girl talk. haha. I have had several people ask me if I have any chest at all, or if I am completely flat. I will address this in the FAQs, but just to set the record straight, I do have a chest right now, similar in size to what I had before, but so much different. Right now I have implant expanders installed which help stretch out my pectoral muscle which is now on the outer edge of my chest as opposed to under it. The expanders sit really high, are rock, and don't move at all. I feel slightly like an engorged robot. 


My scars are healing up nicely. They are still quite dark, but I'm sure that will go away with time. My stitches has dissolved. I was gifted some frankincense essential oils which I have been using on the scars, and actually my entire breast to encourage healing. I'm pretty new to oils but I have some really knowledgeable and generous gals in my corner and they gave me several leading up the this surgery. 

My energy level is super low right now, not at all what it was before the hysterectomy. But I trying to remember that I have had two major surgeries in two months and I need to be patient and give myself time to heal. 


Thank you all for coming along on the journey with me - it means so much to me that you are here. I can't wait to see what 6 weeks post-op will look like!





two week post-op recap {my bra story}

Hey night owls! It is 11:30 pm here. I wish you could come over and have a snack with me and I could just tell you all of what I am about to type. One thing about me, I really like to talk. I will talk anyone's ear off who is kind enough to listen. I have had several sweet friends come by to chat, check in on me, and even fold my laundry mountain. And when they are here I literally talk non stop from when they step in the door until they leave. Maybe it is because I have a lot to say, not necessarily valuable things to say... but things nonetheless. But It is probably because I am spending the bulk of my days alone right now. Two weeks and 4 days ago we took the kidlets down to Texas to spend some time with their grandparents while Cameron and I talked my double mastectomy. I have written previous posts about why I needed this procedure and how everything has been going up until this point. You can find all the posts related to this topic in the tab "BRCA1- MY STORY" under my photo on the right. 

It's been pretty tough not having them around, I would say that maybe that has been the hardest part in this whole process. Not that I don't ever want to let them love on their grandmas for a couple days, but come on, three weeks is a little much. It has been SO quiet in the house. And Cameron and I had to admit to ourselves last night that without our kids, we are pretty boring. 

But, a big but, I needed them gone. To rest and to fully heal, physically and emotionally. I would not have been able to provide for them even their most basic needs the last two weeks. So we sent them to some people who love them to the moon and trust me, they weren't suffering. 

 

I have had a lot of recent questions about my progress, so I thought I would share some details. 

WARNING: THE EST OF THIS POST CONTAINS GRAPHIC INFORMATION ABOUT MY SURGERY AND RECOVERY. IF YOU ARE SQUEAMISH, OR MALE, OR BOTH YOU MAY CONSIDER EXITING NOW. 

 

Okay, sorry for that unexpected public service announcement. I would just hate for someone to be reading along and suddenly be very uncomfortable. lol. 

So, we left off last Monday before my post-op appointment and I left you all on pins and needles wondering if I would get my drains out. Well, to my surprise, I did! I hardly drained at all after three days, so I was pretty sure we had botched the whole operation. But my doctor said that due to my age and health, I just don't have much extra drainage and they were fully expecting this kind of healing. 

Getting the drains out was super strange. Keep in mind that I don't have much feeling. In fact I am still almost completely numb today. The nurse told me to take a deep breath in and hold it. Then while I was holding my breath she would pull out the tube. And when she had the tube out she would tell me so I could let my breath out. It felt like... well like someone was pulling a tube out of me. Which was really strange because that isn't a normal sensation. My left side is a little less numb, so that one hurt a little, but just at the surface, skin level. 

The minute the tubes were out I felt like a new woman! It was quite freeing. 

Successes from last week was still slow going, but I decided to start trying to put some clothes in the wash, which I was able to do. I could also put dishes away and load the dishwasher. I can pull normal shirts over my head now, as opposed to zip-up hoodies or button-upshirts. I can open the house and car doors. I am completely off of pain medication, Demerol and Advil. I am sleeping through the night, in my own bed laying on my back with two pillows! 

But some things are still difficult like twisting off the lids of jars, laying on anything but my back, and stretching a sports bra on over my head, and eating an entire pan of brownies. Notice I said difficult, not impossible. 

 

I did get some great news from my surgeon, the pathology from my breasts that was sent into the lab at time of surgery to biopsy for any latent, sneaky cancers can back clear! Praise Jesus, we beat it! That was the whole point of this so I am super happy! My friend told me that we have a name, people like me, we are called PRE-vivors. Because we survived the cancer before we got it. I like that. 

 

I am really doing very well, much better than I ever expected to be at this point. I truly believe that God has honored the prayers of all of my friends and family. So much scripture was prayed over me. It is stunningly remarkable, God's lovingkindness in both the big and small things in life. 

 

Today I had another couple appointments, one to check in with my beast surgeon to see how I am healing, and she said everything looks great! Then I met with the plastic surgeon for my first fill. Remember, I have tissue expanders in my chest right now. I describe them like deflated basketballs. They have a port in them, just like the air port on a basketball. The doctor uses a magnet to find the port so she knows where to place the needle. Then she places a needle and fills the expanders with saline, about 50-100ccs at a time. 

So this afternoon my friend took me to my appointment because something came up at work with Cameron. I was excited to have her along because she is a PA student, so I felt like she would be interested and not at all weirded out, and she is super sweet and just a lovely, kind person to have around! 

So the doc filled me up a little bit, I got 50ccs today, and she said I could expect to have a dull muscle ache for about 48 hours. And I do. I am actually pretty sore again and I'm not sure I will be able to lay down in bed tonight, it might be back to the faithful electric recliner. Right now my back is what aches the most. The muscles in my chest which are being stretched over the expanders are pulling my shoulders forward and I am trying hard to fight back so that I'm not a hunchback when this is all said and done. But I think that is contributing to the pain. I also was very active today compared to all the sitting, reading, and computer tinkering I have been doing. Today I went to Target, to my appointment, did a little shopping in Wichita with my friend, and helped Cameron stain the bunk beds he made for the boys. It's nice to be able to do some things again, but my energy level is super low.

 

Today after my appointment, the Dude and I had plans to leave straight and go to Dallas to see the kids and spend the Father's Day weekend with our dads, but because of the issue at work, we have to wait until the morning. I'm a little disappointed, but I am just so happy that we will get to see those sweet faces and hug them TOMORROW!! I know that I can now take care of at least their basic needs, and they will be greeted back home with a pile of outdoor toys to keep them happy at home for a few more days. 

 

I am working on a FAQ post concerning everything that's been going on lately concerning BRCA. If you have a question, leave it in the comments and I will try to answer it! 


Thanks for coming along and loving me through this process. I am thanking God for YOU!!


~Elizabeth








Wrecked by the life and death of Elisabeth Elliot

Wrecked by the life and death of Elisabeth Elliot

My husband came home to me staring at the computer screen. He knew something was up right away. 

Elisabeth Elliot died today, I explained.

An hour later he sent me this article written by John Piper. If you are interested in what I have to say, please go read what he had to say about her and then come back, or be sure to read it when you are finished here. 

I spent the next 20 minutes bawling on the bathroom floor like I had just lost my best friend. My sweet husband consoled me the best he could, probably thinking I am going mad. After all, it's not like I spouted her as my favorite author/speaker. I didn't even talk about her much, maybe a handful of times in our 9 year marriage. 

So why did the death of this woman wreck me? 

I'll try to explain it to you as I sort through the feelings myself. 

I was in a particularly impressionable time in my life, probably age 14, maybe as old as 16. I was pretty boy crazy and silly. I didn't take much seriously. As most kids raised in suburban America with zero hardships, I didn't have to.

I recall one day sitting on the bus next to my best friend, asking each other random questions to pass the time. "What is your deepest, darkest fear?" she asked. I closed my eyes and thought seriously for a moment about what would completely destroy me. 

"My biggest fear," I began, "would be to get everything I ever wanted. I great husband and a lot of kids, a super happy family, and then to lose it all like in a fire or something. And then be left alone."

As the months went by I started getting into a little bit of trouble with my friends and lying and toilet papering houses and sneaking out of sleepovers... it was escalating pretty quickly and the people in my life who cared about me most took notice. 

Someone, I don't remember who, gave me a copy of Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot. It was a popular book among the older girls in my youth group at the time. They all were pretty much in love with Elisabeth Elliot, so it was trendy enough in my Christian sub-culture for me to pay attention. 

I opened the book and read it cover to cover in one sitting. Then I started over and read it again. This time more slowly, deliberately taking time to let her straightforward words about her dating relationship with her husband Jim sink in.  

I had never heard an older Christian woman admit that the "young love" struggle is REAL. She was honest about, well, passion. But she offered no excuse for silliness and distraction from the only thing our passions are worthy of, our Lord Jesus. 

Her words in that book ripped straight through my flesh and settled deeply in my heart. And not just for me, the book was catching fire among some other girls I knew and they tutored me in the truths presented there and set me on a straighter course. 


The is a flame burning in my heart for world missions. It was lit by my God who saved me and who is the hope of the nations. This flame, burning on a low heat, was ignited by The Elisabeth and Jim Elliot story. Hers was the life that first exposed me to what true missions work is. Or rather what I often forget to this day, what it is not. Glamorous, easy, a vacation, sure of success. The way the Elliots viewed their call to missions was a chance to die. 

And he did. 

Jim Elliot was speared to death by the unreached people group he worked hard to reach. 

If I were Elisabeth, with a 10 month old baby in the middle of the Ecuadorian jungle with savages who just killed my husband, I would leave. 

But Elisabeth listened to the call to stay. She belonged wholly to her Savior. This champion of purity, a woman who loved her husband so passionately, who experienced a union so sweet, and entered into the mission field with the man God had joined her together with was now left alone. In the blink of an eye at the edge of a spear.

But here is what is so amazing about Elisabeth. She knew what she knew and she did not waver, even in the most tragic circumstances. What she knew is that those people, the savages, had never heard the name of Jesus. And more than she needed a husband, they needed a savior. She was not being a hero, she did not flaunt her strength and sacrifice. She merely loved the people who God created, the people among whom he would be named. She loved them and they met her savior. 

It's probably one of the most remarkable stories a young woman can hear if she will listen. Elisabeth's testimony changed my life.


So why am I wrecked? Why am I having trouble rejoicing with my fellow believers at her homecoming? I am rejoicing for her, but I am mourning for myself, for who I am and for who I want to be. 

At the news of her death all at once a sea of emotions flooded in because now that she has been removed, who will take her place. I know that many women now stand on the road that she fearlessly cleared for us. Many women teach truth body to other women. And for that I am thankful. But I just haven't ever come across anyone quite like Elisabeth. 

Bold, honest, no excuses, but kind, and humble, and so wise. Who will stand in the gap?  I feel at such a disadvantage in our culture. Can a woman rise up from 21st century America of the caliber of Hannah More, Amy Carmichael, or Elisabeth Elliot?


With all of our distractions, is there even one whose first love is Christ and whose first aim is his exultation? Is there any wife who would lay down her fear, her grief, her marriage, for the cross?

Is there any mom who would brave the little years, single, in the jungle among savages for the cause of Christ so that he could have the prize for which he died, the inheritance of the Auca people? 

Honestly I feel too much my own weakness and pull to popular culture to be sure that the answer could be yes. But even so, I believe in a God who works in hearts and lives for his glory and our good, and if he wants to raise up another champion he will, or perhaps he will use the collective voices of those touched by the testimonies of these champions to deliver the message together.

Her death today awakened in me the desire that was born half my lifetime ago, to be a woman pure in heart and passionate for the Lord Jesus. I will rise up and fill the gap right here, right now where I am. Prayerfully, I will resemble the strong, humble, woman versed in truth and confident in Christ, will you stand with me? 



one week post op update

On any given Monday morning in June you can find me with my four kids running around town, maybe to the store, or on a walk to a park or nature center. We would be making plans for lunch with friends and a quiet afternoon rest followed by a water fight in the back yard.

But last Monday, the first day of June, looked a little different. At least for me. My kids were still owning their warm summer morning, but this time with their grandma as I was wheeled into my second surgery following my BRCA diagnosis in November. 

 

 

Last Monday, one week ago today I was in the operating room for my bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. Thankfully, this event had been saturated in prayers from my church family, and my family and friends. I felt calm and assured, and Cameron kept the mood light. I was thankful to be headed into the operation with a clear handle on what life would look like afterward, I felt prepared. 

About four hours later I woke up in my room. I don't remember much, slipping in and out of thick anesthesia. But as the minutes ticked by I remember my first coherent thoughts. 

-I can't breath. 

I could breath, but I could not take a deep breath. I was laying flat on my back with what felt like concrete blocks sitting on my chest.

-I could not move

This was not an exaggeration. I felt paralyzed, I could not even lift my arm off of the bed. I had oxygen in my nose to assist my shallow breathing and my nose was itching, but I could not lift my arm to scratch it. Later, a nurse came in and told me to roll over. Roll over??? Was she nuts? No. I told her sternly. I am NOT rolling over. Thankfully she didn't make me.

-I wanted to cry

But I didn't, because I knew it would hurt. 

About an hour passed, maybe a couple of hours, and I finally woke up enough to realize that I would probably be more comfortable if I could scoot up in the bed so that I could elevate my head and wouldn't be lying flat on my back anymore. But I still felt paralyzed. So two nurses came in and grabbed the four corners of the sheet I was laying on. I remember pleading with them to go slow when they counted to 3 and quickly slid me up the bed. I heard myself make the strangest pain-induced groan. And then it was over and I was instantly 100 x more comfortable. I'm thankful they didn't go slow. 

 

The next morning was remarkably different. My pain was now under control and I had function back in my arms. I could scratch my own nose!! Cameron sent rapid updates to family and friends on my progress. 

-She can lift her arms!

-She is sitting on the side of the bed!

-She just stood up!

-She took a walk around the room!

-We are going home after lunch.

At about 3pm Tuesday, we were back home and I was sitting in a borrowed electric recliner surrounded by pillows. I have been in this recliner for about 23 1/2 hours of every day for the past week. I have been on constant round-the-clock pain meds, Demerol and Ibuprofen, which have kept the pain at bay. Mostly what I experience is a strange numbness and a tight feeling. It feels like I am wrapped tightly in bandages, but there is nothing there. The expanders are big and hard, It feels like they half of them are in my armpits. I can feel pressure, but otherwise there is no feeling yet. I also have two drainage tubes, one on each side (I was expecting four, so this was a pleasant surprise). These tubes are annoying and totally gross if I think about them too long. 

I have far more function than I thought I would. I can take a shower and wash my own hair, I can open the refrigerator and put on my own socks, all things I thought would be impossible in the first week. I still need help with lifting things, reaching for things, and twisting things open like jars or door knobs. 

I have a follow-up appointment with my plastic surgeon today in which I am hoping to get my drains removed and to come back with a good progress report. I am happy to report today that the pathology reports on my breast tissue came back cancer free! Praise the Lord for his lovingkindness!

I want to close up this report with some encouragement. When I first was faced with BRCA, I confided in my closest friends and family, but hesitated to open up to the church, let alone the public. I didn't want people looking at me and thinking about all of my personal issues, like new boobs and menopause... but as I walked this road I knew it would be nearly impossible to face without being open and honest with the community of believers that I do life with on a daily basis. 

The Christian life is not meant to be lived in isolation. God designed it for fellowship. Fellowship with Him and fellowship with other believers. If I had kept quiet with my situation and foolishly, stubbornly, and pridefully tried to tackle this on my own, I would be far worse off. By opening myself up to the love and service of the church, I have experienced love and healing on a level I had not known before, in spirit, body, heart, and mind. 

Our church family has blessed us with meals, lawn care, essential oils, daily fun gifts to make me smile, and countless Bible verses to keep our eyes on Jesus. I can't imagine how this would have gone without them. 

So, if you are facing BRCA, or cancer, or any other challenge, open up to your church family. Live your life in community with other believers and be blessed. 


You can follow daily updates on Instagram @gracefullhome 

My deepest thanks to you for your prayers on my behalf and praise to God for his provision and lovingkindness. 



perfect peace

People keep asking me how I am doing. I am trying to be honest. I am good, I am still thankful, still hopeful, still confident in the path we have been brought down, still going through with it. But I am anxious. 

My proflatic bilateral mastectomy is in 5 days and it is looming over me a bit. I find myself thinking while I am driving or emptying the dishwasher, or folding laundry, or hugging my children squeezing them tight, "I won't be able to do this in a week."

If I let myself dwell there, I get a little scared, and overwhelmed. But I've been thinking about this verse for a while now.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you. Trust in the Lord forever.”
— Isaiah 26:3-4

It's that simple really. Trust in the Lord, keep my mind focused on him, and there will be peace. 

Some practical ways that I have been keeping my mind stayed on him:

-Start each day with the word of God. Not Instagram, not Facebook, not the weather. Just turn on the light and open the Word. John is my book right now with Psalms sprinkled in.

-Memorize key passages. I have been blessed by so many people with verses that have encouraged their hearts that they pass along to me. 

 

I have each of the verses that I am given written down in a spiral bound index card notebook. It fits in my purse or stands up on my counter or dryer. I like to work through verses while I am washing dishes or folding laundry. 

The Lord is my strength and my shield. I thrust Him with all my heart. He helps me and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in song of thanksgiving.
— Psalm 28:7
When doubts fill my mind, when my heart is in turmoil, quiet me, and give me renewed hope and cheer.
— Psalm 94:17

- Open yourself up to encouragement from the body of Christ. I had a friend say to me yesterday, "i love how you are still here during all of this." What she meant is I am still available for playdates, coffee hour, and girls nights. I have not shut myself off from the rest of the world just because I am going through something. This accomplishes multiple goals. By opening myself up to people and being vulnerable, I am opening myself up to love and encouragement and genuine friendship. And it helps me to get my mind off of the looming event. When people offer to pray for you, say yes. When church members offer meals and friends offer babysitting say yes! Remember, these people are serving the Lord by serving you. Let him be glorified through the selfless act of the giver and the joyful heart of the recipient.

but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
— Isaiah 40:31

- Focus on a good thing that you can do for someone else. Sometimes it seems as though I am going through this alone and the whole world is in hyperdrive all around me. Which to some degree is true. I may be down for a few weeks, but the rest of the world keeps operating at break-neck speed. But instead of wallowing in lonely despair, I try to think of ways that I can use my situation right now to encourage someone else or to meet a need. It could be something as small as a hug and a prayer, it could be cutting some fresh roses from your garden and leaving them at a friend's office, or it could be making your husband's favorite dinner. It can really be anything, but it has to be for someone other than yourself. God never said "look out for #1 and make sure everyone else does the same!" He said, "Count others as more significant than yourselves." Act kindly and thoughtfully towards others and then pray that it is the love of Christ that is compelling you and shining through you. 

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 4:5b-7

 

Even after just recounting my list of ways to keep my mind stayed on Christ, the better I feel. I have more energy, a light-heartedness returns to me, and I am truly at peace. This list is not to make anyone feel like a failure, like they are not measuring up. Truly, this list is just how I abide in Christ. He has done all of the work to be accepted by God for you. He did is all You couldn't add anything or take anything away if you tried. So if you spin your wheels tonight trying to be better, trying to love him more, sadly you missed the point. Rest in the finished work of Christ. 

And I will lead the blind
in a way that they do not know,
in paths that they have not known
I will guide them.
I will turn the darkness before them into light,
the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I do,
and I do not forsake them.
— Isaiah 42:16


If you are hurting tonight, if you are anxious, of you can't sleep, stay your mind on God. Trust Him an peace will be ours. Not an artificial peace, a fleeting peace that falsely promises health wealth and happiness, but a peace that passes all understanding, the peace that comes from knowing that God is good, and that he loves his children, and that we may suffer all kinds of hardships in this life, but he will never leave us or forsake us. He will be with us to the end. 

When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
— Psalm 61:2
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at al times in every way.
— 2 Thessalonians 3:16