Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Life as we know it

Ok, ok, I have been a slacker lately at writing. But it's been super-duper crazy lately with summer winding down and school starting and the blog has taken a back seat. I have been catching up though, so read on to hear the latest happenings! I promise it's good stuff! ;)

For now, life is pretty good. Not without significant stress though. But all in all, I can't complain too much because I know life could be much worse. What makes me happiest is spending time with my family. Like for example, we had a little get-away last weekend to the mountains with some friends. We went to the Sawtooth Mountains, a couple hours from us, and enjoyed the sereness of the mountains, fresh air, and cooler temperatures. I am always happiest when I am in nature. All my stresses and cares just float away for the time being...

Please continue reading, I want to know that people still read this blog and follow my journey (and I'm not just talking to myself here! ;). It motivates me to keep going and helps me know that people still care...OH, and please comment because I know that most of you don't and your comments always make my day!!! ;)

Thursday, August 25, 2011


I'm going to be real here. Sometimes I feel all alone. I know that might come as a shock to all of you, but I'm just being honest. The truth is there are two sides to me--the side that looks and feels normal and goes about everyday life keeping busy with a smile on my face. And then there's the other side to me--the side that is scared to death of what might or might not happen in the future. The side that still thinks about the uncertainty of the future and what that holds for me. The fact is I am still a cancer patient and there are a lot of uncertainties. I know and realize that things can change quickly--in a blink of an eye. One day you're on top of the world, and the next you are wondering if you will make it to your next birthday. It is a crazy world to be in.

But I know that life is uncertain for EVERYONE. We don't know what our destiny is or what our future holds and we aren't supposed to. We just have to have faith that it will all work out in the end. It is harder to do that when you are facing a life-threatening illness because the fear of the unknown is magnified ten-fold and staring at you in the face everyday.

The thing is, I KNOW that I'm not alone, in the literal sense that is. I have an army of people behind of me--family, friends, church, community, etc. I also know that I have a Heavenly Father to rely on. But there are times, as I am "wandering inside my head" that I feel trapped. I feel like I can't breathe and the weight of everything lands on my shoulders again.

I think I do a pretty good job "faking it" to everyone around me. Not that I'm not happy, I AM happy. Very happy and very grateful. My life is stressful, but GOOD. I guess I just don't like to complain about my problems or seek pity and I don't want everyone know that I'm struggling at times and feel alone. You know the saying, "Fake it until you make it"? I think I have perfected that.

How do I get over feeling this way? Lots of prayer, pondering, and soul searching. I find that my best moments of reflection are on my bike actually! Just me, 2 wheels, and the open road, and I feel free. The weight on my shoulders suddenly doesn't feel so heavy anymore. I feel peaceful and serene and I am able to have clarity in my thoughts as I sort out my problems.

Life has been a juxtaposition of sorts for us the past few years. On one end, we have been extremely blessed and have seen the Lord's hand in our lives numerous times. On the other, it has been very difficult--we have experienced our fair share of challenges (even other than the whole cancer thing). I know life isn't ever going to be easy, but I woud like to have a little relief from some of these challenges. I want to feel like we are moving forward, and not "stuck". Every night I pray that I can remain in remission for a long time. I know that this disease is likely to come back, but I just want to buy some time.

I apologize if this post is different from what I usually write. But I promised myself when I started this blog that I would be real. I would show the strength, the vulnerability, the fears, the frustrations, and the joy in my life. And that, my friends, is ME.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Amy Dunn

Amy Dunn is a brave, courageous young woman who is a former Boise State soccer player, was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 Melanoma, and is in the fight of her life now. I was inspired by her story, but also by her attitude to take the bull by its horns. She has already started treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, AZ and seems to be doing well so far. Her and I have corresponded via email and on her Caring Bridge site (see below). My hope for her is to not give up no matter scary it gets and to face this "beast" head-on. I also hope that I can lend her comfort and support because I have been through it and I know what a rollercoaster this journey is. For me, having a few "survivors" behind me, who helped prepare me for treatments, as well as encouraged me, made all the difference. Now, I hope to do the same for someone else.

Amy is a fighter and certainly has all of Boise rallying behind her. BSU put on an exhibition soccer game for her recently which raised over $12,000 to help her pay for her medical bills. Awesome!!! We live in such a great community here where people want to help others. Please consider making a donation to help Amy pay for her medical expenses on this website: OR by even just sending her a note of encouragement on her Caring Bridge website:

Sunday, August 14, 2011

My Comeback

Since May, I have been preparing and training for a race--called an Aquabike. It is the swim/bike of the triathlon and is a 1 mile swim and 25 mile bike ride. Back in May, I looked up the fastest women's time from last year and told my husband that I wanted to beat that and take 1st place. (Am I crazy or what?!) I knew that it was ambititious, especially after the year I had with treatments and what not, but I really wanted to do it. I guess it was kinda like saying, "Take that cancer!" I wanted it by my own mini version of the Lance Armstrong story (emphasize MINI). And I am a competitive person who likes to win!

So, did I accomplish what I set out to do?? Of course I did, silly! I trained hard (but not too hard, thanks to the advice of my doc) and felt prepared at the time of the race. The week leading up to the race had it's challenges though--we found out 2 days before the race that we had lost over $2000 in fraud (long story, I'll spare you the details). I was so wrapped up in that those 2 days--filing police and FBI reports, gathering all my evidence, etc.--that my head was NOT in the game come Sat. I guess all that anger and frustration prior to the race paid off because I kicked some serious #$%!!! ;) My swim was under 30 min, which is what I wanted and even though my bike was a couple min shy of my bike leg goal, I still ended up finishing 1st place in overall female by a landslide---like 8 min. I was elated, no ECSTATIC that I did what I set out to do. It made me feel powerful and strong and more than that, it made me realize that we really CAN DO ANYTHING WE SET OUR MINDS TO. Like winning this race and BEATING CANCER!!!!

I have one more race in Sept that is a bit longer in distance. I'm excited! I figure, why not do this now when I'm feeling good and myself again? I don't know what a year will be from now and I'm trying to live in the moment. A big thanks to my #1 fan, Eric, who supported me throughout all the training. I couldn't have done it without him. And my kids who keep inspiring me to live life fully and enjoy it!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Climb to Conquer Cancer

I was asked to be the guest speaker at an event called, "Climb to Conquer Cancer" which is sponsored by the American Cancer Society and is a 3 mile hike up to Table Rock in Boise. It is similar to Relay for Life in the way that there are teams that fundraise for the American Cancer Society, but on a smaller scale. It is only a 2 year old event, but is growing.

For the week leading up to event, I thought long and hard on what to speak about. I didn't just want to share my cancer story. I wasn't sure if that would be memorable enough. I finally put it together though and since I had trouble uploading the video of my speech (our computer was having problems), I copied and pasted it below...

It was a great event and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to be able to share my story and motivate and inspire others to keep fighting and to never give up hope!

Lotoja is like Cancer
Several years ago I participated in a 203 mile cycling race called LOTOJA, which starts in Logan, UT and finishes in Jackson Hole, WY. It is a grueling race that you complete in one day, climbing over 7,000 feet in elevation. It is best not to ride this race ALONE-you need a group to ride with to “draft” in order to conserve energy. When I started the race, I rode with some other female riders who I had trained with. After the first 40 miles these ladies struggled to keep up and I had to make a decision- stay with them and sacrifice my pace, or find a new group to ride with. I chose the latter. I guess that’s the competitive side of me!

Fortunately, I found a group of men that seemed to fit my pace well. We rode the remaining 150 miles or so together, taking turns in the front “pulling” and then riding in the back “drafting”. There were several of us that had moments of “hitting the wall” which is basically when your body begins screaming at you that enough-is-enough, and it’s time to call it quits. It also didn’t help that we were riding against a headwind all day, which made it all the more difficult. It wasn’t until the last 15 miles to the finish line where I felt like I was hitting the wall. My legs were cramping up, my back and rear ached from being in the saddle all day, and even worse, I started feeling dizzy and was seeing “spots”. I wanted to quit.

Before I finish this story, what does this have to do with cancer or why I was asked to speak? Well, I am a Stage 4 cancer survivor!!!

3 ½ years ago I was diagnosed with Stage 1 Melanoma while I was 7 ½ months pregnant with my second child. 2 years later, the cancer came back into my lymph nodes and then 5 months after that, it metastasized to my lungs, landing me a Stage 4 diagnosis and only a 4 % chance of survival in 2 years. It was the most frightening time of my life. Exactly a year ago I started treatment in SF with an oncologist specializing in melanoma. It was a grueling year, but I finished treatment in June of 2011 and I can now say that I am in REMISSION! Am I out of the woods? Not by any means, but this is an important and difficult milestone to get to with Stage 4 Melanoma and I am grateful to be where I am today.

What got me through the past 3 years? My support group, which consisted of my husband, children, parents, extended family, friends, our church, the community, my doctors and nurses, even an acupuncturist and a hypnotherapist, and of course GOD who I give full credit to for my healing. But I am leaving out the most crucial person as my support-and that is ME! I had to believe that I CAN do this, that I have the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual strength and stamina to overcome a challenge like cancer. As you can see, I was blessed to have such a large support group and I know that not everyone has that. But though big or small, your support group is VITAL to your success in “conquering” cancer.

Now let me conclude my bike race…The last 15 miles of the race when I “hit the wall”, I didn’t know if I could finish. But my “support group” encouraged me, let me ride in the back so I could conserve my energy, and even pushed my saddle up the hills when I didn’t have the strength to do it. What also got me through those challenging last miles was knowing that my husband was waiting for me at the finish line! Miraculously enough, I finished the race in 10 hrs and 30 min. It was a big accomplishment and one that I will always be proud of.

As you can see illustrated from this story, like LOTOJA, you can’t “conquer cancer” ALONE. You can’t be an “island”. You need support. They are critical to having a successful outcome. It is amazing where that support can sometimes come from too-strangers can often rally around you-encourage you, pray for you, help you, and even empathize with you. I know that I wouldn’t be here today, doing as well as I am, without my support or “team”.

I also believe that it is key to have the WILL TO LIVE. Sometimes you have to find it, it’s not right there in front of you. For me, it was easy to find because I am a mom of 2 young boys, whom I couldn’t imagine growing up without their mother. And of course, my husband, who I didn’t want to leave without his wife. Keeping a positive attitude, not surrendering or paying attention to the statistics, being your own best advocate, and not giving up hope are all important to facing cancer head-on and hopefully conquering it.

Like LOTOJA, cancer isn’t a sprint, it’s a race of endurance. One with lots of hills to climb, headwinds at times, and even moments of “hitting the wall”. But I know with a little perseverance we can get through it. We are ALL strong enough to make it. I also think that our victory is sweeter when we have faced these “hills” or obstacles to overcome. We appreciate life more, we don’t take anything for granted, we learn to live in the moment, we try not to “sweat the small stuff”, and we find our inner strength and confidence through these challenges. I am grateful for cancer because it has given me a greater perspective on life and has made me a better person.

To end, I will leave with one of my favorite quotes by Martin Luther King: “We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.” There is HOPE for a cure for cancer. And American Cancer Society is helping make that happen. There are people who are beating the odds and are living miracles. We must never give up, we must never surrender, and we must always keep our heads up.