What is this?

What is this? I don't really know, other then a continuation of my updates and writings that I was sharing previously on Caringbridge of this journey through cancer and now widowhood and single parenting.

Maybe it won't end up being anything at all, or maybe it will be a glimpse into my heart, my life, my current situation, my testimony.

Whatever it becomes, I am touched that you are interested.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A new year ahead

As we are about to enter a new year I have such mixed feelings.

Part of me is like, 'Good riddens year from hell'. But the moment that thought crosses my mind I am struck with the realization that this year didn't only bring indescribable heartache, it also brought indescribable love.

I don't want the year 2014 to always have this gut wrenching initial reaction. In reality it was bittersweet. It held the best and the worst moments of my life.

This year brought me the the greatest test my faith has ever seen. When everything in my world shook and fell, I discovered where I found my balance.

2014 brought both the first and the last memories of Brandon with our daughter. Dreams were realized, and dreams were shattered.

In it we made our final memories as husband and wife. It brought a new meaning to our vows we made over 8 years ago.

It showed me the strength in a 'village' of support, and humbled me by the love and selflessness of strangers, friends and family.

As I look ahead to 2015, I don't even consider coming up with a resolution this year. In years passed, successful resolutions were: to start recycling (2012), to continue making better environmental choices (2013), make better healthy choices (2014). But honestly, I just don't feel like giving myself any more challenges right now!

My Aunt suggested something she has been doing the past few years; choosing a word to inspire or direct your year. I like this idea.

Immediately the word PERSEVERE came to my mind. As I thought on it more I contemplated lots of other words, but this one just fits.

2015 will be a year of a lot of firsts. The first Wedding Anniversary, Valentine's Day, birthday, family vacation and so much more without Brandon. Aria's first steps, first birthday, and first words. Brandon's first Angelversary.

It's hard to face these events. But I'll do my best to focus on my word for this year ahead.

Persevere: to persist in anything undertaken; maintain a purpose in spite of difficulty, obstacles, or discouragement; continue steadfastly.

Maybe you'll join me in also choosing a word for 2015? I'd love to know what will be guiding you this year! Share in the comments below.

I wish you all a safe New Years, God Bless.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


I'm not the me
that I used to be
Because I became we
When we joined in unity.

Your soul set free
And we is just me
Half of a whole, you see
Because you completed me.

Til death do us part, to me
Is only the worldly,
Because I will love thee
Through all of eternity.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Providing in Perfect Timing

I've mentioned God's perfect timing numerous times, and I want to finally explain a little how I have seen His provisions come at just the right time. Sometimes it was long before needed by preparing my heart or my situation for what was to come, and sometimes it was in the 11th hour as I barely held on to the hope. Other times it took a few steps or a few thousand steps away to look back and see just how perfect His timing was. It really makes me wonder how many things big and small have such significance, but we are just too close this side of Heaven to see the beauty and intricacy of His plan. I truly believe we are blessed when God gives us eyes to look upon something and clearly see His divine hands at work. And yet, if we take the time to really look - His fingerprints are often right there, clear as day.

I thought to write of all the instances I could recall since our journey with the big 'C' started, but it just got too long.

So Ill just start with the summer of 2011 once Brandon was in remission. It was only 3 short days before my health started struggling. It took 8 months and numerous doctors to get a lupus diagnosis, and the next 2+ years of medication trial and error to get the lupus somewhat 'under control'. But God's timing allowed me to be the caretaker for Brandon when he needed it, then for him to be mine when I needed it. Yeah, I could look at it from a different perspective, as I did for quite a while, and say, 'What the heck God?!? First cancer, now Lupus? Why have you forsaken me?!' But instead I now see how merciful He was to allow one, then the other - not both at once, if cancer and lupus were both going to happen regardless.

Not only did God give us that gift of timing, but he also gave us a gift of empathy for each other through our health challenges. We often said that in a sense, both of us having to struggle with chronic illness was a blessing in disguise that brought us closer as a couple. We both understood the difference between 'being tired' and 'fatigue'. We both had limitations on our daily lives that many others just can't understand - especially at our age. And we never got resentful toward the other because of what we no longer could do. Instead we embraced it and invested in a comfy family room that we spent a lot of our 'illness' days just cuddling in together.

As we prayed about starting a family, of course our greatest concern was of Brandon's cancer returning. Every couple of months we would reevaluate. Is it time? No, not yet. Then suddenly we both knew it was time. At two years cancer free, and with the doctor's feeling confident in his response to the treatment, we felt God giving us the confidence to start the next chapter of our lives. As my father-in-law had said, we had lived in fear of cancer for so long, we were like turtles finally poking our heads out of our protective shell. In November of 2013 we were overjoyed to find out we were expecting.

As I look back now, this is precisely when Brandon's health started concerning us more then it had in the previous 2 1/2 years. The weekend before I found out I was pregnant we actually had an ambulance ride and hospital admittance due to what we thought was Avastin related kidney issues. (Probably was even though tests were inconclusive at the time.) Had this happened just a month sooner, we likely would have put our family planning on hold. But God's timing is perfect, and we believe that His plan was for Aria to be in this world, and worked everything accordingly.

God allowed for Brandon's health issues to be a nuisance enough that we pursued answers, but not so much that Brandon could not take care of me during my high risk pregnancy. I needed A LOT of help, and Brandon lovingly took care of me.

I am quite independent and don't like to trouble other people for something I am fully capable of doing myself, so Brandon enjoyed me not resisting his 'silver platter treatment' for once in our relationship. I didn't argue when he wanted to drop me off at the door, or carry things for me, or make me a hot bath to soak in.

I got to a point from about 20 weeks on where I only had about 2 hours of the day that I could be on my feet due to the lupus pain and fatigue. During this time Brandon drove me everywhere, ran all errands and selflessly cared for me.

In the last 3 weeks of my pregnancy I got a burst of energy and all the sudden felt great. Yes, nesting - but I also believe God's timing. In this time Brandon was actively pursuing answers to his not feeling well and had lots of doctors appointments, labs and tests.

When I was almost 38 weeks pregnant we got that horrible phone call that the PET scan showed activity, and just 4 days later Aria came along. And again, timing. If we had gotten the news any earlier in my pregnancy we would have started chemo and that whole process that was the first domino being tipped and Brandon would have missed the birth of his daughter from being bedridden or hospitalized. But God allowed for us to have that experience together. It didn't have to be that way, but I believe He blessed us with that gift.

Was my labor and delivery perfect? Absolutely not. Brandon was checked into the ER for the first 4 hours of my labor. But God had put it on our hearts to hire a doula for my labor, even though I planned for an epidural. Many doulas work primarily with non medicated births. So when Brandon was admitted downstairs, I at least had our doula, a familiar face, with me and I was not alone.

Once Brandon was released and able to join me, I had already had the epidural and was feeling quite good. I again feel this was timing. In the condition that Brandon was in, I don't think he would have handled seeing me in that amount of pain very well. I kinda think God spared him that with all he was already enduring, considering that he almost passed out a couple years ago when I had blood drawn and became a human pin cushion for the nurse. This was after his full sleeve tattoo, numerous surgeries and chemo; he was no wuss. But to see me in any pain or discomfort nearly broke him.

For a first pregnancy I was very lucky, with being in labor only 7 1/2 hours. Not many women go into labor from their water breaking, as I did, and I consider myself blessed. With both of our illnesses and the stress we carried with the devastating news it sure was amazing that we were not also enduring 18-24 hours of labor.

At this time we also did not know definitively the extent of the cancer. Brandon was scheduled for his biopsies the day I went into labor, and they had to be rescheduled. I believe this was God's unique timing as well for two reasons. First, we were able to experience the birth of Aria with the hope still that it may just be inflammation or infection. Second, Brandon was quite sore after the biopsies and had to recover for a few days after. It would have really taken away from our birth experience if he was in that much discomfort during my labor.

We had a few good days after Aria was born where Brandon was able to care for me and the baby, as a loving husband and father. He changed all her diapers for the first 3 days. For a few nights he also was able to help me as he had planned all along. When Aria woke to eat every 2-3 hours he would get her, hand her to me while I got myself situated, fill my water cup and make sure I had snacks next to the bed. After she was fed he would burp her, change her and swaddle her back up and put her to bed. He was so concerned for my recovery and keeping my lupus quiet he planned to do that as long as she was nursing through the night. I feel so blessed that God allowed us that time, if even just a couple of days to be parents together. I cherish those memories like gold. Oh what an amazing father he was.

Just days after returning home with Aria were the biopsies that left him unwell and unable to do much, and then the development of lots of symptoms leading up to that one and only chemo treatment.

During this God's timing also allowed my mom to be staying with us from the day after Aria was born through the week of the first treatment. Her help was so badly needed, and God knew that. As Brandon's family tended to him, my mom tended to me as I tended to our newborn.

Through each week, each new problem, each new level of care taking, God provided us all the perfect people at the perfect time.

God quite specifically timed my mom's multiple visits, including one arriving the day of Brandon's emergency surgery. The day we found out about the inoperable tumor. I didn't have to hear that news alone. I thank God for that.

When both of my parents came out once we moved to the hospice facility we thought we would only be there a week. But it ended up being twice that. Initially, my dad was going to come out after my mom due to work obligations, but my mom said she just knew he needed to be there right away. This again, was perfect timing. Though we all hoped that the miracle we prayed so desperately for would happen, arrangements still had to be made, we just hoped they wouldn't be needed. My dad was able to be my eyes and ears while out with my father-in-law, and just filter the needed decisions to me as I stayed by Brandon's bedside where he wanted me.

With a heavy heart I also think to the timing of Brandon's going Home. It was just as it was supposed to be. As much as I wanted to be by his side, in those 12 minutes I stepped away, he let go. I am thankful for that last gift Brandon gave to me, to not have to watch the life leave him. We had a beautiful last moment together that I will never forget. As someone told me, love held him back. He had to take that journey on his own. God knew.

As I look back over the big picture all

I can think is 'Oh how much God loves me!' He gave us so many blessings at the perfect time.

Many people have asked how I still have faith. How I can still trust God after He took a new father and devoted husband at just 33 years old. How I can call it 'Perfect Timing'.

Well, all I can say is it's HIS perfect timing. Obviously MY perfect timing would have played out with us raising two beautiful children together and dying in each other's arms in our 90's. But it's not up to me.

I guess I just trust in God's promises to us. And as I reflect back, I see how things could have been much, much worse.

The PET scan in February could have shown the recurrence. All this could have happened while I was pregnant. I could have had to bury my husband and then give birth without him to a daughter he never would meet. Aria could have had no pictures of her daddy holding her. It happens every day to people around the world.

I'm not saying that those people were not blessed-not at all. For whatever reason, that is God's plan for them and I'm sure He blesses them along their journey in unique ways to them. But for me, it just makes me feel grateful that I received the blessings I did among a terrible situation.

Things can pretty much always be worse. I guess that's how I'm making it through this, by focusing on my blessings and putting my trust in God to continue to provide what I NEED when I need it.

God has also given me a peace that this was always going to be the outcome. For almost 4 years I have agonized over 'What if we had just found it sooner? If we found it at Stage I, II or even III, we probably wouldn't be here.' But God had a plan. This always was it, even if we had caught it at Stage I. He gave me the gift of releasing those torturous 'what if's'.

There are so many other occurrences, big and small where things happened too perfectly to be considered simply coincidental. Often it was not something I could see in the moment. But having hindsight and taking the time to reflect on it has given me the ability to surrender this moment to God, knowing that though it may not always feel like it, He is always providing for our best interests in His perfect timing.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Field of Dreams

I sit here at our neighborhood park and playground. As I walked the familiar steps here I'm transported to a time long gone. Though, really, it wasn't so long ago, yet it feels like a lifetime away.

I sit on a bench overlooking a field where just months ago we sat and watched children playing in the grass, our hands resting on my belly feeling our daughter kicking, as if with excitement to join us in that dream.

Now, with Aria in the stroller and me on 'our' bench, I'm here today with tears streaming down my face as I realize that dream is gone. All my dreams look different now.  What was excitement looking upon this park, is now sadness.

Brandon and I also came to this bench as we processed the devastating results of the PET scan. And this open field was then images of daddy sitting on the bench, weak from treatment, but smiling with a heart full of gratitude at watching his girls laying in the grass. We were filled with fear and sadness, but hope for another remission and a chance to be a family.

Just weeks later I sat on this bench with Aria nestled in her infant carrier in the stroller as Brandon lay in a hospital bed. I knew then that I would soon be a widow and single mother, and I tried to envision what that would look like, just mother and daughter picking dandelions in the field. The thought that Brandon's heart was shattering thinking of the same. 

Too soon after that I walked with a friend to this bench when that fear had been realized. I cried as I let the hope of a different ending for our field of dreams slip through my fingers and drift away with the breeze. I held onto the hope of a miracle til the very end. So much so that as I walked back into the room that September 23rd and saw that Brandon's eyes had opened for the first time in over 36 hours my first thought was that my miracle was happening! He was waking up! God was bringing him back to us!

But then I quickly realized that instead he had opened his eyes to see Jesus, taking him home.
From this bench I can also look upon the hill with the cross, where the earthy vessel for Brandon's beautiful soul rests. I almost feel his presence more right here then anywhere else.

My tears will stain this place forever. I will always be taken back to the foot steps we took together along these sidewalks and the times we shared upon this seat. I don't know what this bench has in store for us in the future. Hopefully something beautiful. I like to think Brandon will see to it that it does.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

5 month / 10 week Update

Well, I made it through the first holiday.  In a way it was just another day. They all hurt without Brandon.

I'm glad Thanksgiving came first.  It's kinda like a baby-step into the holiday that's really going to hurt.  Brandon didn't care much about Thanksgiving, but oh how he loved Christmas.  He didn't really like turkey or ham or most of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes.  So it makes me really glad that last year I made a special beef tenderloin for him, hoping that it would become a new tradition, something for him to look forward to on Thanksgiving.  Who wouldn't want steak, mashed potatoes and brownies as tradition?!  And he did love it.  I'm so glad he had it that way once.

I sat in his seat at the table, just as I sleep on his side of the bed and sit on his spot on the sofa; because I can not bare to see these spaces without him.

My friend selflessly came from Florida to spend Thanksgiving in Colorado with me, sacrificing a holiday with her own out of state family.  How blessed am I?  Her presence was so needed this first time.  Additionally, countless friends extended an invitation for Aria and I to join them with their families for dinner.  I am so grateful that so many people care so much for me, making sure I do not feel alone or forgotten.

This was also Aria's first Thanksgiving.  Not that she really cared - milk is milk is milk, right? :)  But I put her in a cute little pumpkin top, and she sat in her swing as we all ate at my in-law's.

So far, the pamphlets are right - this gets harder, not easier.  Not that I expect to already be healing, more that it's hard to imagine that the pain continually gets worse and worse when it is already unbearable.  Yet it does.  As a dear friend of mine put it, "Ironically, the brain is wired to protect us from traumatic events. You're stuck in the weird grey that exists between your brain trying to protect you and it giving you passage to start healing."  And day by day my brain allows me to feel, process and attempt to accept this terrible reality.

I have started going to grief counseling.  I hope to make it a weekly occurrence once I get a firm child care schedule set.  It helps to be able to share the weird, random, and crazy thoughts and happenings with someone who can tell you that it's normal, and give advise on how to reconcile it in your head.

It's nice to know that loosing my car in nearly every parking lot is very normal for bereavement.  Suddenly not knowing where I am, even in familiar places, is nothing to stress over.  Forgetfulness, numbness, nightmares, only remembering the traumatic images - all normal right now.

I also have 2 widow support groups that I am becoming involved with.  So far, I'm the youngest in attendance, but I more or less expected that.  I look forward to getting to know the others.  My church once explained how we should go through life with one hand reaching ahead of us, holding on to those who have gone before us; and one hand extended behind, leading for those who will follow us.  Right now I really need those ahead of me, to give me hope that I will make it through this.  And someday I truly hope to be that for someone else who walks this difficult path.

This week and next week I am trying out some different local MOPS groups as well.  I really hope to find some fellowship with other moms in my neighborhood, and hopefully get some trusted referrals for part time in-home day cares or nannies.

So, yeah, I guess I would agree - I am an 'active' griever.  :) I need to stay busy.

And that leads me to the Aria part of the update!  She keeps me VERY busy.  Oh what a godsend she is.  I look at her and I just can not believe she is mine.  I watch her and have just the slightest understanding now how God loves His children so much.  And I see the special place in His heart that He has for young children.  Their innocence, their delight in learning, their complete reliance on their provider.

Maybe that last part is the key.  Complete reliance and helplessness.  Throwing up your hands and admitting that we need Him in every way.  I can say that I have never in my life completely surrendered everything to God and relied on Him to meet my every need, like an infant, until this season.  And allowing myself to trust Him, no matter what, has been a freeing experience.  It has not been easy, but I trust that He is sovereign, always.  Right now my eyes are on Heaven.  This life is my task, and Heaven is my accomplishment and reward.

Anyhow, back to Miss Aria.  She is just such a great baby.  Sleeping well, nursing well, and just too darn cute.  I think she may be starting to teethe. (Eeeek!)  I was hoping that wouldn't happen for a couple more months, but oh well.  I still think she is going to be an early walker and late talker.  She doesn't spend much time babbling, but always wants to be on the move.

She is the light of my life, my little side-kick and she and I will get through this together.

One day at a time, one tear at a time, one holiday at a time.

But with the presence of family and friends, and the prayers for strength and peace from so many-we made it through. Not without battle wounds, or without a tremendous sense of loss. But with God's promises held tightly in our white knuckled hands, we made it through.