Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Would YOU Do Chemo?

I consider myself a pretty open person when it comes to different medical therapies. I will give most anything a chance until I research it and find proof that it is a bad idea. I research a lot of alternative cancer therapies and I've read a lot of stories with both positive and negative outcomes of these treatments. Before I found out I had cancer I always swore I would never touch chemo or radiation no matter what... I was determined to use natural therapies if I ever got diagnosed. I was certain that chemo/ radiation was completely unnecessary and I could cure myself.

Then I got diagnosed. Stage III/ IV colon cancer, they weren't sure which. I was still determined to skip the chemo and I said no to the recommended radiation pre-surgery. After surgery the diagnosis was changed to Stage II, thankfully. After some research I stuck with my decision to opt out of chemo, especially since my oncologist wasn't totally against my decision. While I would love to say I stuck with that decision because I was sure I could conquer the cancer with alternative therapies that just isn't true. They felt like they had gotten all of the cancer so I just didn't see the point in chemo. If it had been Stage III? I'm not sure what my decision would have been.

Over the past several years my feelings towards alternative methods has changed some. Mostly because of someone I know that has cancer. Like I said, I had always felt very strongly that chemo wasn't the answer, but many things have changed me. First, and foremost I might add, my husband. He had Neuroblastoma as an infant and was cured with chemo. I wouldn't be married to him without it, so how can I really be against it? Secondly, all of my friends I met at First Descents a couple of years ago. Almost all of them had chemo and it either cured them or at the very least extended their lives. I've seen it help a lot of people. Yes, I've also seen it not help people and yes I've seen the horrible effects it can have on people. But nothing is 100% effective. Alternative therapies certainly aren't. I have a friend who was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer over 2 years ago. She didn't have health insurance so she didn't have many options but she also made the decision not to do anything traditional. No surgery, no chemo, no radiation. She followed several well known alternative routes, like Gerson Therapy, colonics, lots of supplements, etc. I have never seen anyone so dedicated. She NEVER messed up, not once did she "cheat" or stray from her plan. Now, over 2 years later she is still following that plan. But now she has stage III breast cancer, possibly stage IV. Watching her get progressively worse as she does everything right naturally has really changed the way I look at treatments. If it works, it should be working for her. I could never be that dedicated.

I still believe alternative therapy has it's place in medicine. I love how the Cancer Treatment Centers of America incorporate naturopathic medicine into treatment in order to curve chemo side effects. Why doesn't everyone do that? There is no harm and it has been proven to help. But I've come to realize that no one method works for everyone... chemo doesn't always work, natural diet etc doesn't always work... every cancer is different and every situation is different. I can't judge anyone's decision regarding their treatment. I certainly wouldn't want anyone to judge me for mine.

So I'm curious... would you do chemo? Or would you ever not do chemo? Did you ever say you wouldn't do chemo and then changed your mind once you got cancer? Love to hear some feedback on this.

*Just as a note, I have met people who say natural treatment alone cured their cancer, just like I know people cured from chemo. I'm not against either one. I believe it is a case by case thing and a personal choice.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

When God Speaks

Since I just posted about our sudden and unexpected discussion about adoption, I felt I just had to post this as well.

I am not one of these people that typical sees God speak in crazy random ways. I know several people that do... friends or family that will call me to tell me how that had just had such and such problem or such and such conversation and then they go to church and the topic is 100% specifically about the exact problem/ conversation they had just had and they knew God was showing them what to do. I've always wished I had more of those moments but I just don't. There are only a couple of times I can point to where I knew beyond all doubt that God was telling me what to do and most of those moments were when I had cancer.

But this morning was one of those moments. And I just can't help but share it. Over this past week I have done little other than think about what it would be like to adopt a child. I've talked with 3 adoption agencies, watched YouTube videos, read blogs, you name it I've done it. I have so many questions and very little answers. One of the big questions I have is about how international children do post adoption, like years later, in their teenage years and such. I see so many people with little babies they have adopted from China but I never see people with teenagers they adopted from china 10+ years ago. Are those kids happy with their adopted families? Do they adjust well? Do they have anger problems? Trust problems? Do they love their parents or resent them? Like I said, so many questions. And I have had no idea how to get those kinds of answers.

We have been looking for a new church lately for various reasons. We visited this one church several weeks ago and we liked it but we hadn't been able to go back yet. This morning we woke up and decided to go and we even decided to try a couples class before the service. We are really wanting to meet some other people our age. Well when we got to the class we realized I had mixed up the class times and we were actually in the college class. So we scrambled and went to the only other couples class we saw for people around our age. When we walked in I felt incredibly out of place. Everyone was older than us, some even had kids with them, and we were clearly the odd ones out. I just wanted to turn around and run back downstairs but I knew that wasn't going to happen. So I'm sad to say I sat there just praying it would be over quickly.

But then this lady walked in and with her was her daughter, who was obviously adopted... from China. She was about 12 years old and as cute as could be. I thought it was kind of a weird for a 12 yr old to be in the class but I thought it was even weirder for someone to show up with their teenage adopted daughter for China when I had been just thinking how I never saw any older adopted children. But I just wrote it off as a coincidence.

Then they proceeded to the front of the classroom and sat down and I realized they were there to lead the class. The teacher then explained how they were there to tell us about the lady's journey to adopt her daughter over 10 years ago. She spoke of the poor village from which this little girl was from, and how her mother left her outside of someone's house when she was only 2 weeks old, hoping they would raise her. She told of the poor orphanage she was sent to where she spent the first 11 months of her life sleeping on the floor and being taken care of by 14 yr old girls. She talked about her love for this child and how her decision to adopt was made the same month this little girl was actually conceived. We heard about the challenges she faced when she brought this baby home and how they didn't connect for almost two years. But then we also saw how close they were and what a great relationship they have now. It was such an amazing story.

It was only about 2 minutes into their talk when I felt the waterworks starting. It wasn't long before I couldn't hold them back and I found my self trying to inconspicuously wipe tears from my face. I knew I couldn't look at David because I would either start crying more or I would feel super embarrassed. I hung on every word they said and just sat there wondering how in the world this could be a coincidence. It just couldn't be. Then when it was over, my husband put his arm around me and whispered in my ear that I should go talk to her before she left. I was really surprised to hear him say that since even though he has been open to talking about it he has definitely not been the instigator in this whole thing. I asked him if he was sure and he responded by saying that there was no way this was a coincidence and it must be meant to be. As soon as he said that I got up and left the room and waited in the hallway for her to come out of the class. When she did, all I was able to get out of my mouth was "hey I wanted to talk to you" before the tears just started flowing. I was crying my eyes out but somehow got it across to her in broken sentences that we were just starting to think about adoption. She immediately gave me her card and took my information and then also have me numbers for adoption attorneys and other agencies too. She was so sweet and she actually runs an adoption support group that I am sure we will join if/ when we begin the process.

I then continued to cry throughout the whole church service too. I can't even tell you why I was crying. I certainly wasn't sad. I almost think it was just because I realized how incredible the whole situation was. I just felt God the whole time and that feeling was just so overwhelming, but in a good way. And it hit me that maybe, just maybe, God has a baby out there for us. Maybe there is even a baby out there right this very moment. Or maybe there is a woman carrying our baby right now. God knows even if we don't. But I think it is now obvious that He is preparing us for something, whatever that is. I'm excited to see what unfolds.

When I checked my email tonight, there was a response from an adoption agency that I had contacted to see if we would qualify to adopt in Kazakhstan. I'm not sure why that country is in my mind the most, but it is. Has been every since I saw an Extreme Home Makeover episode about a family who adopted 4 kids from there, some who were missing limbs. In this email they told me that they had called their rep in Kazakhstan to discuss with them our cancer history and were happy to report to us that while many Asian countries will not allow a history of cancer, Kazakhstan isn't one of them. We qualify to adopt from there. Maybe that is why I feel so drawn to that country. Maybe it is where we are supposed to go. Maybe.

Doesn't this Kazakh baby just melt your heart??

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

When in the world did I grow up???

I literally NEVER thought I would be writing this post. And I have been sitting here for 2 days trying to figure out how in the world this happened. The topic of children had rarely been a conversation topic in our house unless it was to comment on how people get major baby fever, or how kids are so expensive, or how we are way too selfish to have kids. In other-wards we didn't bring it up unless we had something negative to say. We believed we were way too young for kids (even though I'm the same age my mom was when she got pregnant with me... 26) and we believed we would never be able to afford a child. Not to mention we love to travel and do what we want... both of which would change drastically if we had a kid and we weren't ok with that... hence why we felt like we were too selfish for children. We had no plans for kids. Not to mention after we got married we went through fertility testing and were told it would be nothing short of a miracle if we ever got pregnant. So the kids thing was put to rest.

This picture kind of sums up our interaction/ reaction to kids... this is us with our niece, Emerson, over 2 years ago.

But something happened this past weekend. I certainly can't tell you what because I'm still trying to figure it out myself. This past Saturday I found myself at Emerson's 3 year old birthday party at Pump it Up. There were huge blow up slides and play things that the adults could get in with the kids. I must admit, it was my first time at a little kid's birthday party when I wasn't a kid. All of Emerson's previous parties consisted of a bunch of adults so this was different. And I have to say I enjoyed it. And not just because it was fun to play around with the kids. There was a little girl there who had obviously been adopted because she was Asian and her parents weren't. I just sat there watching her and I had to keep fighting back the tears. This happens quite often when I'm around kids so I wasn't surprised... I guess it comes from being reminded that I will never bring my own biological child to one of those parties. But something was different this time. When I saw that little girl I began to not just be upset from the reminder that I can't have my own kids, but I began to realize I would be just as happy being the mom to that little Asian girl. All I had to do was lean over and tell David I thought she was cute and he immediately knew what I was thinking. I think partly because in some way he was thinking the same thing.

Then the next day we went to Emerson's first ballet recital. The little Asian girl was dancing next to Emerson. Again, all I could do was look at them both and wonder if this would ever be part of our life one day. Looking back and forth from Emerson to the other child I had mixed feelings. Emerson reminds me that our kids won't look like us like she looks like Meagan (my sis-in-law) and there is a certain sadness with that. And I wonder if our adopted kids would be loved like other biological kids in our family are loved (on both sides). But then I'd look at the other girl (I wish I knew her name) and I would think about the possibility of having a child from another country... and an Asian child is our top choice. I could picture a life with a little child like her. Watching her dance made me feel as if there would be no difference at all. And I began to think about how I really felt about having a child. 

And then that night I saw this picture my sis in law posted from the recital of us with Emerson.

As soon as I looked at it my first reaction was OH MY WORD, When did I grow up???!! This is the first picture I have looked at and thought WOW I actually look like an adult. And then my second thought was wow, we actually look old enough to be her parents. When did that happen?? I have felt 21 for the past 5 years. And then I realized that this coming Saturday I turn 26... like I said before, the same age my mom was when she was pregnant with me. And it hit me, all of a sudden, like a ton of bricks. I AM an adult. I am at the parent stage of life. I am not 21 anymore. I'm married, I own a home, and I'm only 4 years away from being 30. Now don't get me wrong... I'm not saying age is the reason to have a child. And I'm not saying I want a child because I'm getting older. But instead, I'm saying that I realized that I am old enough for this step. It made me realize that it's ok for us to think about children. And being around all of these children made me realize that I just might really want this... a family. Before I always felt weird even thinking about it, much less discussing it. Though I must admit it has been in the back of my mind for awhile... it's just at the front now.

I last night I brought it up to David. Something that was pretty hard for me to do because we kind of had a mutual understanding that kids were not something that we wanted soon. But I told him that I was interested in thinking about adoption and maybe going to an agency and asking questions and getting some information. Surprisingly, he was open to it. And not just because I wanted to do it. He said he had even been thinking about it too. So this is a total 180 for us. But it just feels right and it hadn't felt right before.

Last night after we talked I requested an adoption packet from a local agency. It arrived in my email inbox this morning. We have since emailed 2 agencies with questions and we have started discussing potential countries. Of course we aren't saying that we want a child right this moment. It might be 1 year or 3 years or even 5 years before we are ready, but we want to look into it and know what to expect. Plus we will have to save for several years before we can even afford it.

But so far we are interested in adopting from Kazakhstan, China, Thailand, Russia, Ukraine, or South Korea. But we still have to see where we qualify... some countries will disqualify you if you have had cancer. It is a super bummer because cancer causes so much infertility... adoption might be our only option! If we can't qualify to adopt a child we could be up a creek. 

Please pray for us as we prayerfully consider this step. It is going to be a difficult, emotional, and stressful process but if we are meant to have a baby God will provide one for us. Also, if you have any info for us please write me! We can use all the help we can get... this is so new for us!

Also, as a note, we aren't giving up the possibility of a biological child one day... there are still lots of tests we need to have done... but I believe I will want to adopt a child either way.

Monday, June 11, 2012

FDX Main Salmon River Trip

My summer is about to take a turn for the better.

No seriously. I feel as if I'm about to leave Alabama for the first time. That's how giddy I am.

In exactly 3 weeks and 2 days I will be flying to Denver, Colorado where I will be picked up by my friend Tiffany (aka Closer). Then the following day we will both be picked up by our friends Mike and Karson (aka Clicks and Johnny) and the four of us will drive to Missoula, Montana where we will attend a kayak camp with First Descents. This particular camp will consist of one week whitewater kayaking down the Main Salmon river in Idaho, complete with camping on beaches and awesome river-side meals prepared by some awesome FD chefs. *Sigh* My life is complete :)

You know how I said I leave in a little over 3 weeks?? Well you sure wouldn't know it by looking in my office/ guest room.

Last night around midnight I got super excited and just began pulling out any kayaking or camping gear I could find. My FD helmet, my GoPro camera, paddle top, boots, sleeping bag, backpack... only thing missing is my tent! It was then piled on my guest bed and there it will sit for the next 3 weeks and 2 days. And I just cleaned that room... oops :-/

Not only am I super excited about the FD trip but I am sooo looking forward to our road-trip as well! One thing I always wanted to do in college was take tons of road-trips with my friends but because I had my nose so far up a book I ended up only taking a couple short ones. So for me this will be the road-trip I never got to take as a college student. So watch out ya'll! :) And I will be with 3 of my closest friends from camp... it can't get better than that. 

While I won't be able to blog during most of the trip (no electricity on the river) I will journal and post my entries after I get home. 

Now I just have to figure out... how am I going to get through the next 3 weeks??? I'm like a kid before Christmas, I just can't wait!

Here are some pics of us all from past camps... love them :)

Johnny and me at FD2 Montana camp

Tomorrow and me from FD1 Colorado camp

Closer, Mudbutt, and me- FD1 Colorado

Hombre and me from FD1 CO

Cockpit and me- FD1 CO

Me and Pockets- FD1 CO- He taught me how to roll!

Me and Dogbite- FD1 CO- Awesome instructor!

The girls- FD1 CO

Our whole group- FD1 CO

I just realized I have no pics of Clicks!! Probably because he is always BEHIND the camera :) So thanks to Clicks for all of my awesome pics from camp!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

I Love Finding Inspiring People

In keeping with the whole "weightloss" and "healthy living" theme, there is a guy I want to make known to my readers (whoever you are) because he is one of the most inspirational people I have ever heard of. I wish I could say I have met him, but I simply ran across his website recently and I was just in awe.

His name is Kyle Maynard. He was born in 1986 a quadruple amputee due to a congenital disorder and his life has become something so huge, so incredible, there are almost no words to describe it. Instead of living defeated he pushed himself past every limit imaginable and literally conquered mountains.

He sky dives.

He surfs.

He is a championship wrestler.

He has broken weightlifting records.

And he climbs mountains. Including Mt. Kilimanjaro, making him the first person to "crawl" up the mountain.

He opened his own CrossFit Gym.

And he is a motivational speaker.

He meets with wounded soldiers, especially amputees, and offers encouragement as they heal. He speaks to high school students, colleges, and events all over the world. He released his own book in 2005 which instantly launched his speaking career. He is by far one of the most inspiring people I've ever read about.

How can I complain about my minor physical limitations when there are people out there like this doing 10 times the amount of things I have ever done?? The "if he can do it then I can do it" statement just doesn't seem like enough here... because he doesn't just do it, he dominates it, and he does so with humility, class, and compassion. I can only hope that I inspire even half as many people as he has. But that means that I have to lead an inspiring life first. And this is where I want to start. It's where I need to start. If I am not a healthy person then I can not do anything. If he can climb a mountain and beat world weightlifting records then I can get in shape and lose 30 lbs. 

What have I been doing sitting on my butt for so long?? I have been missing my life and I didn't even realize it. So thank you Kyle, for inspiring me to get back on track and begin really living again.

"Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting..... 'WHAT A RIDE!'"