Giving Life My All

Giving all of myself to everything in my life… God, my family, my health, my mind. This is my story… my ups and downs, struggles and triumphs.

Anyone interested in an update?

So it’s been a little while since I’ve written an update on things… and it’s been a little overdue.  This post is basically a strictly informal one… no fun pictures or anything to go along with it.

I’m guessing that if you’re here reading this, then you are wondering how my health is.  Well.. the cancer has spread but, thankfully, it has not jumped into major organs other than my lungs.  Several weeks ago, we had a whole round of images taken trying to pinpoint where exactly this sucker is attacking me.  It all started with swelling of my left knee.  I was convinced that I had fluid buildup above and around my knee.  Eventually, I couldn’t walk due to the pain.  We had an ultrasound done the same day we thought we were going in to drain my knee… but the doctor who was going to do the procedure had some not-so-great news that put a damper on that plan.  There was no fluid.  There were lesions… AKA cancer.  Cancer in my knee.  So random.  From my kidney to my knee.  But that’s the easy part.  I can handle cancer in the muscle on a non-vital body part.  What I wasn’t expecting… or what’s a bit harder of a pill to swallow is finding out from my PET Scan and CT Scans that I have cancer growing on my spine… specifically the T9 vertebrae.  This vertebrae is actually fractured due to the cancer which explains the pain I had been feeling right in the middle of my back for the past several weeks.  Again, I’m thankful the cancer has not hit the actual spinal cord/nerves… it’s just sitting on top of and in between the bones.  If it hits the spinal cord, I’ll start having numbness in my lower limbs.  We are all praying that this never happens.  My doctors didn’t waste time getting me set up for more radiation once this mass was discovered.  That was almost 3 weeks ago… and if you’re counting, that was round 3 of radiation.  I’m almost 2 weeks out of the last session and I have no idea if it worked on my spine.  I do know that it definitely helped my knee… so that’s a positive.

This week I’ll have a follow-up MRI on my spine to see if the radiation worked… and my right ankle that is swollen and hurts to walk on.  I’m still having pain on the T9 vertebrae which is not very encouraging but I’m hopeful that we at least stopped the growth where it is and can now allow my Immunotherapy drug to do its magic.  So overall… I’m feeling pretty good.  I’m living life day by day… taking the news as it comes.  My doctors are on the same page… day by day… new tumor by new tumor… my case seems to be unique to them.  The cancer has been unpredictable in where it will show up next so we are on a wait and see plan.  I’ll have chest, abdomen and pelvic CT Scans in a couple of weeks to check on all of my organs.  Until then… the MRI of my spine is up next.


The dreaded Chemotherapy…

Chemotherapy… I was hoping I would be able to avoid it.  Well, today we found out that’s not going to happen.  Every day is a new adventure with me and this cancer battle.  It’s unpredictable what’s going to happen next in terms of treatment and where it will show up.  It’s not easy… and if you’re a planner like me, it throws you for a loop.  I’ve learned to be pretty darn flexible during these past 10 months.  I’ve learned that I’m not necessarily in control of this cancer.  We’re chasing after a cure… we’re not ahead of it.  I just keep telling myself that we can do this… we can beat it… we HAVE to beat it.

Today started out with CT Scans of my chest, abdomen and pelvic area.  My doctor wanted to get a new scan before the surgery to make sure that none of the cancerous spots in my body had grown significantly since the last scans.  With the requirement of me being off of Immunotherapy drugs for 2 weeks, thankfully, he wasn’t going to blindly risk my health just to fix my leg.  After the CT Scans, we met with my doctor.  He had received the initial scans but not an official reading of the scans from a radiologist.  He went over them with us and, basically, showed us that all of the spots we know about in my body (the 2 tumors in my right kidney and the spot on the left side of my diaphragm) had grown slightly.  The spots that were treated with radiation (the one on my spine, the one on the psoas muscle, and the one in my lung) were all still shrinking or have stayed the same size.  Because the spots that haven’t been treated with radiation are showing growth while on my Immunotherapy drug, he decided Chemotherapy was necessary.  And in addition to starting Chemo, we will be postponing the surgery on my Tibia until May 16th.  My doctor wants to boost me with a round of Chemo before and after surgery to avoid not having me on some sort of treatment.

We’re not wasting any time either.  Tomorrow is THE day.  Chemo round 1.  It’s pretty darn scary knowing some of the side effects… nausea, vomiting, flu-like symptoms, decrease in white blood cells, decreased appetite, weakness, fatigue… and the dreaded hair loss.  I’ve decided not to try to save my hair with the new special caps they’ve recently invented/discovered.  Plus, this was such a quick, last-minute decision that I can’t order it and get it in time… 9AM Chemo infusion TOMORROW.  I’m mourning the loss of my hair now… before it even happens because I know it’s inevitable.  I’m worried about the boys and their reaction.  Liam won’t understand but Cayden will.  He knows mommy has cancer… and he’s seen cancer patients without hair.  This is going to be a reminder to him that his mommy is different.  I just hope it doesn’t affect him too much.  And I hope his classmates and peers don’t pick on him because his mom looks strange.  I’ll have to sit down and have a conversation with him about what’s going to happen when I notice my hair thinning.  Man does this suck.  I hate that my kids have to be dragged into this cancer battle.  On a side note, I already have one beautiful scarf that my mom bought me during one of her trips out here to help us out.  See… I was trying to plan for the future knowing Chemo was an option.  I’m going to try to rock the bald look as best I can.  And if I don’t look good without hair, I’ll invest in a wig or 2… maybe have some fun and try out different hairstyles and colors.

And so… the battle continues.  Another chapter is about to start in my story.


The MRI Results are in…

How about another update!  2 updates in less than a week!  I’m on a roll!

Wednesday was MRI day and WOW…. that was a long day.  The MRI of my spine and right ankle/tibia took a total of 3 hours!!!  3 hours!!!  It was so long they actually let me watch a movie as it was being done!  If you’ve ever had an MRI, you know that even just a one hour scan is long and rough.  With all of the banging noises and high-pitched tones the machine makes, it’s almost impossible not to walk out with a headache.  That night I received a text from my Urologist Oncologist (who was able to see the initial MRI scans) telling me to keep off my feet and use crutches to move around.  On a positive note, he didn’t mention anything about my spine, which to Greg and me meant there was nothing to be concerned about.  Thursday morning we met with my Radiologist Oncologist to discuss the results.

I’ve been to so many doctors’ appointments at this point that they all seem to blend into each other.  I don’t remember if the good news was shared before the bad but… there was good news!  Praise God, again!  There IS good news!  As I mentioned in my previous post, the cancer started growing on/around/in the T9 vertebrae.  We treated it with 10 sessions of radiation about 2 weeks ago and on Thursday, we were told that the radiation worked!  The cancer growth has been stopped on the T9 and T8 vertebrae… the tumor is dead!  It’s no longer a concern of my doctors.  The MRI also showed a new growth on the T1 vertebrae up near my neck… which again, I should’ve known something was wrong up there due to pain… but I’m stubborn and push through pain without thinking anything of it.  So the T1 vertebrae will be treated with a one time shot of radiation this coming Tuesday.  The doctors don’t seem to be as concerned about it as they were the T9… which I’m thinking means we caught it early enough to successfully eliminate it quickly.

Now the bad news.  There is cancer IN and around my right tibia down near my ankle.  The cancer is eating away at the bone and has eaten away so much of it that very little actual bone is left.  Both my Urologist and Radiologist are shocked that I haven’t broken my leg yet… hence, the urgency to stay off my feet and use crutches to get around.  My Radiologist thinks it’s only a matter of time before I break my leg either from my own actions or from the cancer growing so large that it actually fractures the bone from the pressure.  I have a couple of options to treat this one… orthopedic surgery or radiation.  My Radiologist is moving very quickly and seems very concerned that I will break my leg.  He immediately started calling 2 Orthopedic Oncologists to see me ASAP, and thankfully, we were able to get an appointment with one of them on Monday morning.  If surgery is the way we go, they will have to cut open the bone to scrape out the cancer, then rebuild the bone with plates, rods and screws.  Sounds super scary but I’d almost rather do that up front than risk breaking the bone and having to get the surgery anyway.  The bad news with surgery is that I would have to stop my Immunotherapy treatment during surgery and recovery… risking the cancer getting out of control and growing quickly in other areas of my body since it’s so aggressive.  The other option is radiation… which my own Radiologist didn’t sound to fond of.  If we do radiation, it could take weeks to work and it will not build up the bone that the cancer has eaten away…. so I’m still at risk of breaking that bone as we wait for the radiation to work.  For now, I’m trying to stay off of my feet as much as possible (which is super hard to do when you want to be active and have a family to take care of), and I’m just waiting for the Monday appointment with the Orthopedic Oncologist to find out our next steps.

On a side note… after 4 1/2 years of no cable, Greg and I decided to bite the bullet and get it!  The decision clearly came at a great time seeing as I’m going to be sitting for many hours on end by myself with this new Tibia issue.  TLC, HGTV, the Food Channel…. so many options and shows that I have been missing for years!  Say Yes to the Dress, Fixer Upper, Chopped, House Hunters… the choices are endless!!!

And on a final note… more prayers have been answered with the clear scan of my T9 vertebrae.  God is listening… He is answering as we ask.  My cancer is unpredictable and we can’t seem to get ahead of it.  We seem to be a couple of steps behind… but God is pulling me through.  Am I scared about where it will be next?  Of course!  Do I wonder why I have to go through all of this?  Yep.  Do I question what God’s plan is for me and this cancer?  Every day.  But I have to trust that everything will work out for His glory in the end… and I have to take every small victory as it comes… praising the Lord and the doctors working their magic.

And on a final, final note… here’s a picture of my family from Easter for your enjoyment. IMG_3642

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Say it with me…

Hallelujah!  Glory to God!  God, you are so so so good!!!!  AMEN!

If you can’t tell… I’m in a wonderful mood and I wanted to share with you all why!  Instead of waiting until February 9th to have my follow-up scan, I had my chest, abdomen and pelvis scanned this past Friday the 27th.  My doctor ordered a scan STAT because I’ve been having sharp, intense pain on my right side by the rib cage and diaphragm.  It hurts to take deep breaths, it hurts to change position from lying or sitting to standing, and it hurts to bend over.  Since this is the opposite side of my cancer, you can understand how I would be concerned.  It doesn’t make any sense.  My doctor thinks I possibly pulled a muscle along my rib cage since I returned to REFIT® before I should have.  He also thought I could possibly have a pulmonary embolism… blood clot in my lung.  So we had a CT scan done on Friday to see if there was a blood clot or fluid on that side of the lung cavity that could be causing the pain.

By Friday evening, my doctor had texted me.  No pulmonary embolism… AND…. the tumor and hematoma are STABLE!!!!!!  This means they haven’t grown since having radiation and beginning my Opdivo treatment!  You have no idea how ecstatic I was to hear this news.  As I told my Life Group last night, it’s like I have been given my future back.  It’s hard to accurately describe what it feels like to basically be planning on only being around for another couple of years to feeling like you were just given your entire life back.  It may seem dramatic… and I may be jumping the gun since this is just the first scan since having any sort of treatment… but I feel on top of the world… and as I have promised Him… I give ALL of the glory to this happening to God.  Every single prayer that was said has gone to helping heal my body and I am so so thankful for those prayers.  And if you are not religious, or do not believe in God, I ask that you at least consider that there is a higher being (God) who has a part in this.

A couple of months after I was diagnosed with Kidney Cancer, my mom told me about a new drug on the market that was just approved by the FDA called Opdivo.  It’s a drug that is mainly used on Lung Cancer patients but they have been finding that it works for some other forms of cancer as well, some Kidney Cancers included.  My cancer is unclassified… meaning they have very little research on this type of cancer and they have no research on cures or ways to treat it.  Basically, my treatment plan is a shot in the dark as to whether or not it will work.  Opdivo has been the 2nd drug that we are trying.  This cancer has gone from more than doubling in size in a matter of one month to not growing at all.  That to me is divine intervention.  He is the one who put everything into action and has made this drug available to me and thousands of other cancer patients.  And as of now, He has made this drug the treatment that works for my cancer that they have no idea how to treat.

So… we will repeat the scans in 6-8 weeks and I will continue Opdivo treatments every other week.  I ask that you all continue to send good vibes and pray over my family and me.  And if you have never prayed… or if you don’t believe in the power of prayer… I ask that you try it anyway… it can’t hurt but it can definitely help.


Such people will not be overcome by evil. Those who are righteous will be long remembered.  They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them. They are confident and fearless and face their foes triumphantly.   ~Psalm 112:6-8




So This Is Why It’s Called a Battle

I know now why they call it “battling cancer.”

It’s January 10th.  The start of a new year.  2016 is over… 2017 has just begun.  2016 was filled with so many things for the Davidson family… especially for me.  The first half was great.  Greg and I worked through some issues we were having in our marriage to come out the other end stronger and closer than before.  Liam turned 2 in March and continued to put smiles on our faces with his fun personality.  Cayden got to play in his first sport… T-ball… and loved every second of it.  I enjoyed teaching REFIT® at a local YMCA and co-teaching with a good friend at a nearby church.  Greg continued to excel at his job, consistently getting recognized for his work by upper management.  I stepped outside of my comfort zone and went on my first mission trip to Jamaica to help out less fortunate families.  And… Greg and I started thinking about trying for baby #3.

The second half was not so great.  Mid-June, we found out that I had a large mass in my left kidney.  At the end of July, I underwent major surgery to remove my kidney and the tumor that started climbing the walls of my Inferior Vena Cava.  August, we got the pathology report back confirming I have Renal Cell Carcinoma (an Unclassified version).  September, we took a family trip out to the Jersey shore and, during the same trip, met with doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in NYC about potential treatment.  October, Greg and I flew out to NYC again to have my first follow-up scans taken since the surgery.  A couple of days after the scans, we received horrible news that the cancer had grown beyond just the kidney and was on the Psoas muscle that sat behind the affected kidney.  At the end of November, we had another round of follow-up scans taken in NYC to measure possible growth, and got even more devastating news that the tumor had more than doubled in size in a matter of just a month and a half.  December, I spent 15 of 31 days in the hospital due to this cancer.

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Christmas Program at Cayden’s School

December was the month when I started understanding that what I’m going through is truly a battle, and that I’m fighting for my life.  The first hospital stay started out because my doctor here in Indiana wanted to get my pain under control. The pain that was in my lower back, through my pelvic bone and down my left thigh had become unbearable.  The day I was admitted was also the first day that my doctor decided to switch my Immunotherapy drug from Sutent to Opdivo.  We are praying that Opdivo is the miracle drug for me that will shrink this cancer.  The first night that I was in the hospital focusing on pain management, we had blood drawn and learned that my hemoglobin had dropped drastically to unsafe levels (7 g/dl).  What did that mean?  Well, it meant that my body was loosing blood somewhere inside my body and that I would need a couple of blood img_2246transfusions to get it back up to safe levels.  They rushed me from my comfy room at the Simon Cancer Center to the MPCU at University Hospital where they put me on bed rest, hooked me up to fluids, started a blood transfusion and monitored me as if I was a critical care patient.  Once my hemoglobin increased to safe levels, they sent me back to the Simon Cancer Center side of the hospital.  I would have 2 more blood transfusions during that 11 day hospital stay.  We did multiple scans and tests to figure out what was going on and, ultimately,  we found that the tumor had started bleeding inside of me, had created a large hematoma in my abdomen, and had pushed up on my diaphragm to the point where my left lung collapsed to half of its normal size.  Before leaving the hospital, we got my pain management under control with pain killers, started radiation treatment, and confirmed that the tumor was no longer actively bleeding but just “oozing” blood.  I underwent 2 weeks of radiation therapy and finished up the day before Christmas Eve.


Ringing the bell at my last Radiation Treatment

I was able to stay home to celebrate Christmas with Greg, my boys, my mom and my family who traveled to us from CT.  The holidays were a ton of fun but just a couple of days after Christmas day, I was back in the hospital due to fluid buildup in my chest cavity again.  During my 4 day hospital stay, they surgically put a catheter into my chest to help drain fluid from the comfort of my own home so that we could avoid additional hospital visits.


So…. now I’m back home… continuing my Opdivo treatment every other week… and fighting for my life.  I have lost 14 pounds since mid-December, mainly consisting of muscle, and have to force myself to eat every couple of hours because my treatment has caused me to lose my appetite.  The doctors have put me on a medication to increase my appetite but it’s still seems like a chore to eat.  Between hospital stays, blood transfusions, immunotherapy treatment, a collapsed lung, a large hematoma, a large cancerous tumor, losing weight, and having little energy to do much throughout the day… I have learned the true meaning of “battling cancer.”

The absolute one main thing that has pulled me through all of this is God.  I put all of my trust and faith in Him.  He has the power to calm my soul when I feel anxious and He has the power to heal me of this cancer.  Another thing that has helped pull me through is the love and support we have seen from family, friends, neighbors, and complete strangers.  We have been blessed by people surrounding us and people God has brought into our lives.  I want to thank each and every one of you who have donated money, sent gift cards, sent encouraging messages, sent cards in the mail and sent Christmas presents to us and our boys.  Every cent donated, gift given, encouraging word written has put tears in my eyes and a smile in my heart.  Thank you all… each of you is helping me battle this cancer in your own way.  Thank you!  Thank you!  A million times, thank you!


Words of Encouragement from REFIT Sisters

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Can I be real for a moment?

Going to try to make this one a quick post…

I just want to be real with everyone for a bit… not that I haven’t been real up until this point…. but things have felt pretty easy for me until a couple of weeks ago.  About 3 weeks ago, this pain that I’ve been having in my Psoas muscle leading from the bottom of my spine through my pelvic bone down my left leg has gotten unbearable.  I take Tylenol Extra Strength regularly now… 3 times a day.  The second the Tylenol starts wearing off, the pain starts coming back… hard.  If the Tylenol didn’t work to take away this pain, I don’t know how I would be able to function day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute.  My doctor prescribed me OxyContin but that actually works way less than the Tylenol.  He told me to up the dosage to see if it would work, but I’m hesitant to because I know how drugged up I feel on it and how easy it is to get addicted to this pain-killer.  So… I’ll stick with my Tylenol until my doctor says I have to stop because my liver can’t handle anymore.

I started treatment this weekend.  On Saturday.  My husband forced it.  Whchemo-pillsy would he have to force me to start it you might ask?  Well…. because I was scared.  I don’t know how my body is going to react to this drug.  I don’t know if it’s going to work.  And honestly, starting it made me feel like I was admitting that I still have cancer… and I had been in a bit of denial up until my last NYC scans.  So… today was day 3 on Sutent… my targeted chemotherapy pill.  I’ve had some typical side effects and it sucks.  About 30 minutes after taking it, my body temperature drops and I’m freezing.  Then a small headache starts and lasts for about 30 mins.  Then chills and feeling like I have a fever.  Then overall, feeling like I have the flu… fatigue, weakness, stomach cramps, diarrhea, body aches and pains.   And the scarysnuggles part is that it could get worse.  I could get sores in my mouth, blisters and rashes on my hands and feet, changes in my taste buds, nausea, bleeding, bruising, etc.  Yeah… this sucks knowing that I have to do this for the next 25 days straight… get a 14 day break and then start it all over again. I can’t be the mother I want to be.  I can’t be the wife I want to be.  I have no energy to cook.  I have no energy to clean my house.  I have no energy to interact with my kids other than by having them sit next to me and snuggle.  I feel horrible… and I feel like I’m failing my family.  I know this is a stupid thought… but I feel so useless and when your entire identity in your family is taken away, you feel lost.


But… I have to keep my chin up.  I won’t let anyone see me cry.  I’m trying to be strong but I break down when I’mnew-tattoo alone.  I honestly, truly am fighting for my life and it’s exhausting.  I pray that this cancer disappears from my body… whether it takes a couple of weeks, a couple of months, or a couple of years.  I’m desperate for this to be gone… and when/if it is, all of the glory will go to God.  He is the one pulling me through.  He is the one where when I’m in His house, I feel most at home and at peace.  If I could live in my church, I think I probably would because that is how calm and good I feel when I am there.  He is a miraculous healer and I have to keep reminding myself to trust His plan for me.


One Step Closer…

It’s been a little over a week since I returned from NYC to see my doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.  I loved returning to the city as an adult, with an apartment to stay at within the city.  I think I saw more of the city in my one week there than I did in several years of living just an hour and a half away.  Greg traveled with me, and my mom drove down from CT to meet us.  We stayed on the Upper East Side in a family member’s apartment.  We took the Subway everywhere… we saw (almost) everything…… Times Square, Rockefeller Center, One World Trade Center, the 9/11 memorial, Wall Street, Grand Central and two Broadway musicals… all the tourist-y things of course…. but we rode the subway like regular New Yorkers.  I love the city.  Next trip, we plan on seeing the things we didn’t get a chance to see this last time around… Battery Park, Central Park and maybe the Upper West Side.


View from the apartment


Of course, our trip out to the city wasn’t just for fun.  Like I said, some of my doctors are there and I was scheduled for my first MRI and CT Scans since the surgery.  We didn’t know what to expect, what results we would find but I had faith that everything would be okay because it is all in God’s hands and it’s part of His plans for me.  So I had my MRI and CT Scans of my chest and abdomen on Monday the 17th.  The follow-up to review the scans was the following day with my Urologist.  When they say Sloan Kettering is one of the best cancer centers in the world, they aren’t lying… and of course, my family made sure that I had one of the best doctors at Sloan Kettering.  Best Cancer Center plus one of the best Urologists at that Cancer Center equals sitting around and waiting for your appointment for 2+ hours.  Our appointment was at 2 and we didn’t actually walk in to sit down with my doctor until 4:30.  They have so many patients that they try to see every single day that they know they will run late with appointments every single day…. and that is 100% okay with me.  All of us are there for the same reason… we have cancer.  Some are farther along in their journey… some are at the end… some are just starting.  Why be impatient with the doctors there and the amount of time they want to dedicate to each patient?  They are all trying to help us… trying to cure us… trying to be sensitive to the emotions that come with a cancer diagnosis.  So MSK, it’s just fine with me if I have to wait 2 hours to see my doctor… I understand… and I appreciate the time and dedication you all have for your patients.

So back to the results… Tuesday the 18th.  I knew the scans weren’t clear from the moment my doctor started talking.   I could tell from his demeanor that there was something he was concerned about.  After trying to make us feel comfortable for a couple of minutes, he got down to the letting us see the actual scans.  They found a very small (5 mm) spot in one of my lungs and a shadowy “suspicious” area in the Psoas muscle that was located behind the kidney that was removed.  They aren’t sure what either spot is, but since I already have a cancer diagnosis, they have to be wary of it.  My doctor assured me that people walk around every day with “suspicious” spots and are completely fine…. the only difference is that since I have cancer, they take extra precautions.  They have moved me to a Medical Oncologist at MSK who will be able to help treat me from here forward.  On Thursday morning, we ordered a rushed brain scan to make sure my brain was clear before I flew back home to Indiana.  I’ve been having headaches for years… migraines and tension headaches that can last anywhere from a couple of hours to several days.  So…knowing that I have cancer, obviously, I was a bit concerned that the cancer may have metastasized to my brain which was causing the headaches.  Results came back on Monday after I returned home and (praise God) the scan was completely clear… absolutely no concerns there!  The huge weight lifted off of my shoulders after hearing the news was massive!  It made me feel like I was normal again… with normal headaches like everyone else.


Enjoying some time in Times Square

So… what do these results mean?  What are the next steps?  In short… more waiting.  I head back to the city on November 28th for another chest/abdomen/pelvic CT and MRI Scan.  They are going to be checking to see if either spot has changed in the past month.  They will likely biopsy the Psoas muscle to make sure the cancer didn’t spread there, and they will measure the size of the spot in my lung.  If either shows possible signs of cancer, they will start me on an immunotherapy drug.  No chemo… no radiation… no surgery…. just a pill I will have to take every day.  The doctors also mentioned that this is something I will have to monitor and manage for the rest of my life by taking some sort of immunotherapy drug while getting regular scans.  Seems like a small price to pay for having cancer.

We’re back home in Indiana now… returning back to normal life.  We just celebrated Halloween and we’re getting ready for Thanksgiving in less than a month.  I’m attempting to get back in shape but it is proving way more difficult than I thought it would be.  The Psoas muscle seems to be acting up, affecting the hip flexor on my left side… making it near impossible to do any strenuous activities and hindering me from getting back into running.  For any fellow REFIT attendees at Amy and Kelly’s class who would be shocked to hear me saying this… make no mistake, I am pushing myself beyond my limits in class.  I should probably be taking it way easier than I do but it’s so hard for me to do that with something I love so much.  I’m just praying now that I start feeling some relief in this muscle soon so that I can enjoy a REFIT Instructor Convention next weekend in Waco, TX.

I’m trying to enjoy life while I wait…. the little moments with my boys… the big holidays celebrated as family… the alone time shared with my husband we seemed to rarely have before my diagnosis… the church services and messages that are building up my character and continuing to give me hope for the future.  I’m soaking it all in… not taking anything for granted and trying to smile and find joy in the mundane.



So It’s Been a While…

It’s been well over a year since the last time I posted anything and it’s crazy how much has changed and how much I have been through during that time.  As I’ve hinted at before, I would not have made it through without leaning on God for strength.  One year ago, I was diagnosed with Major Depression but was suffering Clinical Depression that was spurred on by undiagnosed Postpartum Depression.  I was in a downward spiral destroying my life and my marriage until I was forced to face my demons by caring family and friends.  Thankfully, I have my depression under control with the assistance of medication, exercise, and faith.  I will speak with anyone who is interested in hearing more about this or who is thinking they might be experiencing depression.  Later posts may relate to this topic as it applies to my life… but I have done a pretty good job of taking care of my mental health with the help of my husband, family, friends, and God.



Playing soccer with some local children in Highgate, Jamaica



At the end of June, I traveled to Jamaica for a week-long Mission Trip with my church, Trader’s Point Christian Church.  It was an amazing experience, a huge wake-up call, and something I plan to commit my efforts to for years to come.  I hope to elaborate on this trip in a future post.  Just 2 days after returning home from Jamaica, I had a major medical scare.  A 10 cm mass was found on my left kidney.  It showed signs of malignancy but I quickly learned that kidney cancer can’t fully be diagnosed as such until the tumor is removed and the entire thing is tested.  So… on July 29th, I had an Open Radical Nephrectomy to remove my entire left kidney, left Renal Vein, left Adrenal Gland and surrounding Lymph Nodes.  During the procedure, my surgeons discovered that the tumor extended well into the Renal Vein and up the Inferior Vena Cava.  They made the decision during the surgery to open up my Vena Cava to remove as much of the tumor as possible.  The surgery that was supposed to be 3 hours long ended up taking 6 hours,  during which I had 2 blood transfusions.  At the end of the 6 hours, the Vascular Surgeon made the decision to close me up knowing he was not able to get all of the tumor out.  He scraped as much off the walls as he could, but he could not reach up beyond the liver.  So, they closed me up to start my recovery.  It’s been 8 weeks since the surgery… and although it has been rough, I have almost made a full and complete recovery.  My surgeon has been impressed with how well I’m doing… how quickly I was up and walking… and how straight I was able to stand just 2 days after surgery.  When I came home from the hospital, 4 days after surgery, I was doing full squats in my garden to check out what happened while I was away.  I definitely don’t advise everyone to attempt this at home if they ever go through a major surgery, but having been in really good physical shape, my body was conditioned to do these things naturally, without strain.  If there has ever been a time or reason for me to encourage people to take care of their bodies and to build endurance and strength, this is it.


Now… just a couple of ways that I have witnessed God in action throughout this ordeal…


When my doctors were getting ready to close me up, they spoke to my husband in the waiting room.  They had already explained the difficulties they encountered during the surgery and they had to brief him on rules and policies of the Intensive Care Unit.  They didn’t think I would be awake for a couple of hours and they were going to have to watch me very carefully to make sure I was okay from the major surgery I just had.  Thirty minutes after they rolled me out of the Operating Room to the recovery area, they went to get Greg.  They told him that I was awake and that he could see me.  He was a bit confused since he had just been told that it would be several hours before this would happen.  Beyond what everyone was expecting, I never had to enter the ICU.  My body was handling the surgery way better than the doctors could have predicted.  Greg walked back to recovery and was able to hold my hand and talk to me… although I have no recollection of this.  He said the first thing I said to him was “Is it over already?  That was quick.”  Just a couple of hours later, they rolled me into my own recovery room.


24 hours later, the nurses were ready to stand me up to move me from my bed to a chair.  I handled that easily and so, the next day, they wanted me to try walking.  When it was time to walk, I stood straight up with some help from the nurses and family and started taking my first steps.  The nurses were shocked at how I was able to stand straight up… they said most patients with abdominal surgery end up hunched over, holding their incision.  I, then, walked halfway down the long hall, turned around and walked back while holding Greg’s arm.  The nurses were impressed with that too… they weren’t expecting me to walk as far as I did on my first attempt.



Once at home, I slowly started gaining my strength back.  I used my leg and back muscles to do squats down to the floor if there was something I needed.  I went up and down stairs as necessary.  I tried to stay up and moving as much as my body allowed me to.  By the time I had my 2 week post op check-up, my surgeon was blown away by my recovery.  4 weeks after the surgery, I was flying out to NYC to meet with a Urologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.  I’m now almost 9 weeks out and I have returned to REFIT(R) classes once a week to continue building my strength and fitness back up.


Honestly, if there is one thing I have been unbelievably thankful for during all of this (other than God), it’s my overall great physical health.  I have no doubt that if I wasn’t as fit as I was when I went into my surgery, it would have been a much longer and tougher recovery.


Also… God’s work during all of this still amazes me.  A year and a half ago I became a Certified REFIT Instructor.  A year ago, I started teaching 2 REFIT classes each week at the Hendricks County YMCA.  Last winter, I added a 3rd class to my schedule.  Teaching 3 fitness classes every week forced me to keep my health and physical fitness in check.  Had God not put these opportunities in front of me during this past year and a half, I most likely would’ve decided to take a break with exercising.  God put these classes on my plate to help my body prepare for the battle it was going to have to endure in the future.  When I went in to have my Kidney removed, I had 2 Urologists performing the surgery.  There was no plan to have any other surgeons involved.  When they opened me up and discovered that the cancer had spread up my IVC, they knew they had to call a skilled vascular surgeon in to help clear the tumor.  God had Dr. Irwin working in St. Vincent’s that night… one of a handful of surgeons in the entire hospital who is capable of performing the necessary procedure.  Though he was not originally part of the operating team, God had him there at the hospital to join in to help remove more of the cancer.  I have been told multiple times by several doctors that this entire operation was a MAJOR surgery.  I have also been told multiple times by doctors that I am recovering way better than the majority of people.


One thing I can say with confidence through all that I have been through is that God’s got this…. and I truly do not believe I would be where I am today without Him having control over all of this…. it has all been years in the making.  My battle with Renal Cell Carcinoma isn’t over, but I have full confidence (with all of these signs from God) that this cancer will not end my story.



Love Yourself!

Been a while since I last blogged… so here’s one to health and happiness!

I think this is the first time in 4 years and 9 months that I am actually super happy with my body.  At that time, I had just finished up my second month of P90X and was down in Florida celebrating a friend’s wedding.  I felt like I was in amazing shape!  Lean… decently toned… healthy.  I ate well, maintained my 120 lb frame, and had no insecurities wearing a bikini on Miami Beach.  AND… no babies had been pushed out of that body yet.  Oh to be young again….

Florida, Oct. 2010 (Pre-Cayden)

Florida, Oct. 2010 (Pre-Cayden)

Then a month later, I got pregnant.  Let me tell you something…. I have body image issues… as most women do.  But I freely and openly admit it.  Do I like that I have it? No. Does it drive my husband crazy? Yes. Does it keep me striving to stay healthy and lean? Yes.  And is pregnancy and the weight gain needed to grow a tiny human inside me one of the hardest things for me to overcome and accept?  YES.  Don’t get me wrong… I don’t have issues to the point that I need to talk to a doctor… or I starve myself to hit some magical number on my scale (although, I do have a number in my head).  But when I look in the mirror, I don’t see what others see.  All I see are the flaws and areas that could look better.

11 weeks pregnant with Cayden

11 weeks pregnant with Cayden

1 day before Cayden arrived

1 day before Cayden arrived

I have now gone through 2 pregnancies and, wow, does my body look different.  I have 110% earned my battle wounds and tiger stripes from carrying 2 tiny humans in my small frame.  BUT 2 kids plus 4 years 9 months later and I’m officially back to my wedding weight.  Plus, I have way more muscle tone and definition than before.  I have made working out and eating healthy a lifestyle that I plan on continuing well into my senior years.  I told Greg the other night that I am excited to see what I will look like in 40+ years if I continue going to the gym and staying healthy… he told me to slow down and not age us that fast haha.  So that’s what I do… I make a goal… I stick to it… and I don’t stop until I hit it.  My original goal in August of 2014 was to transform my body from 4 months postpartum to a lean, healthy looking body in 12 months.  Anytime I struggled to get motivated to go to the gym, I remembered that goal…. 12 months… 3-4 times a week… 1-2 hours per day… cardio + weights.  For the past 7 months, I have also added in a fun workout one night a week called REFIT(R)… which I am now a Certified Instructor for.  More on REFIT(R) at another time and that awesome journey.

Not going to lie…. I’m finally loving my body… battle wounds and all.  I may not look amazing to others… but I feel amazing inside and out.  And now that I’ve started down this path, I don’t think I can stop.



Your body is a temple… treat it as one… love yourself… all your curves… all of your imperfections… and strive to be the best you can (if that’s what makes you happy).

Feel free to comment and/or ask me about my workout regimen!  I would love to help motivate you find a healthier version of yourself!

Thank you Lord for this body you have given me.  Thank you for the ability to move, to exercise, to be healthy, to dance, to sing, to run, to love myself.  Thank you!

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I’m a Mama Bear

I’m a “mama bear”… true, real, intense mama bear.  You can’t mess with my kids… for real…. you CANNOT mess with my kids because I cannot promise that I will not yell at or interfere with whatever is going on to hurt my kids.  I’m not saying that to be mean… and that is not my intent in the moment that I’m defending my babies… but I honestly, seriously, cannot say that I will control myself and not get angry/upset about whatever is going on.  I’m a defensive person, I protect the people and things that I love and I cannot sit back and watch those people and those things get hurt without stepping in and making every effort to make that hurt stop.  I’ve done it since I was a child… I did it in college… and I still do it today.  I’m a fighter… I’m strict… I set rules and I’m stern when I enforce them.  I don’t bend easily… and I find it extremely hard to change what is natural to me.


Several times over the past year, I have watched my oldest son get picked on.  From innocent teasing to straight up bullying.  If I’m there and I see it happen, I put an end to it.  My son is sensitive.  He’s slowly becoming the smallest in his class and the smallest of his friends.  While his mama is a tough cookie, he’s not-so-much.  I’m trying to teach him how to defend himself with words and actions (i.e. telling the bully to stop and walking away from the situation) and I’m so proud of him when he tells me that he walked away from someone who was picking on him.  He’s only 3 1/2 years old and he’s making amazing choices every day… including walking away from a fight.  The problem comes in with the other kids.  If my son is telling the bully to stop and trying to walk away but the bully keeps pulling him back in and hitting him, what can he do?  Eventually, I’m going to tell him to fight back if there are no adults around to help him… because that’s what I was taught and it was the only thing that made some of my bullies stop.


But for now, if I see a child picking on my child and making him cry… I will not tell my son to “suck it up” and “get over it.”  I will physically remove my child (as well as the other) from whatever is going on.  I might yell at the other kid (this has happened on more than just a couple of occassions) and I will tell Cayden not to play with those kids again if they are being mean.  If it continues, and he keeps getting picked on by the same kids, I will no longer allow my child to be friends with those kids even if it means I lose a couple of friends along the way.  While I can control who my son is friends with at 3 1/2 years old, I know this will not always be the case.  One day I will have zero say in who my child hangs out with and what he does with those friends.  My hope is that right now, while I still have control, I teach my child the difference between right and wrong… the difference between fun games and games that are hurting others feelings.  My children’s mental and physical health are my number one priority as a mom and I’m not going to put that in jeopardy because I’m afraid of losing friends due to my “mama bear” reactions.


I pray that God will always keep my babies safe, as well as all other people in the world who feel bullied… and I pray that I make the right decisions in raising my boys in this crazy world.  I also pray for those who are doing the bullying, that God heals their hearts and leads to a path of goodness, kindness and love.


****Typical disclaimer for me****

I’m sorry if this offends anyone that I know.  It’s not my intent to hurt others… just to get my voice and opinions heard.

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