- Breast Reconstruction, Boy Momming and Believing God

In the Dead of Night – A Mastectomy Story by Jane DeShaw

In the Dead of Night – A Mastectomy Story by Jane DeShaw

2:36 a.m.

The February night is moonless, black, as you turn your head to the left and gaze out the second-story window. The limbs and leafless branches of the huge maple tree just outside are like cold, barren, groping arms, sinister in the streetlamp’s dim glow. Lying flat on your back in bed, each arm is propped up on a large pillow. Except for your elevated arms, you are nestled like a caterpillar in a cocoon. You would think this should make you feel safe and secure. You would think. Where did they put your breasts? Were they tossed in with pieces of kidneys, livers, and gallbladders, like a giant Cobb salad, to finally co-mingle as a giant heap of ash at the bottom of a massive incinerator? Are pieces of them floating idly in a formaldehyde-filled jar on a pathologist’s laboratory shelf?  Seems all the doctors—and there have been many—have admonished you to keep your stress level down.  You wonder if at some point one of them implanted an anxiety barometer inside you, with an alarm to go off to alert you if the level goes astray. The alarm goes off in you now as little prickles, like inside-out goosebumps, start to invade your chest and arms, followed by an intense heat, beginning in your face and exploding throughout your body. You try to pray.

3:03 a.m.

What are the odds of recurrence? You try to remember the statistics, but you know those are just numbers. You did all you could so it won’t return. But will it? In a few years, you’ll have to make a choice whether to continue taking, for five more years, the medication that is already decreasing your bone density and elevating your cholesterol level. It lessens the chance of it returning, but should you say enough already because of the side effects?

3:40 a.m.

You bend your legs up and down, one at a time, sliding your feet along the soft cotton sheet, wondering how long it will be before you can curl up on your side again. Did some rogue cell make it into your bloodstream before the biopsy? You never seriously thought in the past that you wouldn’t participate in new chapters of your son’s life…marriage, fatherhood, grannyhood on your part. Will it return? You stare up at the ceiling, teeth clenched.

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I Have a Literary Agent (I Pinched Myself and I’m Not Dreaming)

I Have a Literary Agent (I Pinched Myself and I’m Not Dreaming)

So this happened.

Photo by Corey Harms

I signed a contract with a literary agent. Not just “a” literary agent, but the exact literary agent I was hoping for. As of this week, I am officially represented by Karen Neumair at Credo Communications. And according to my contract, I am hereinafter called the AUTHOR. Oh boy. That word connected to my name is just about more than my heart can take. It’s a big deal. It’s a jump into my hubby’s arms and go out for steak at Johnnie’s kind of big deal.

 Photo By Kim Harms

Thank you Jesus, for signed literary agreements (and for husbands and steak too.)

Here’s a link to my AUTHOR (I like that word so much) profile at Credo.

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Our Family Goes Backpacking, But My Friend Tori’s Family REALLY Goes Backpacking

Our Family Goes Backpacking, But My Friend Tori’s Family REALLY Goes Backpacking

Last summer my family went backpacking in Colorado. It was just an overnight trip, and within 24 hours we had returned to civilization and were eating the biggest hamburgers we’d ever seen in our lives. It was just a sweet little trip, but because it was the final check on my post-cancer to-do list, it was a pretty big deal.

My friend Tori backpacks with her family. Like seriously backpacks. She goes on monster trips – 7+ days with no potty and no shower kind of trips. My max so far is two nights, and I don’t know if I’ll ever work up to a week, but maybe someday.

I try to emulate Tori in a lot of ways. We periodically get together for coffee, and I soak up all the wisdom I can in those few moments. I love the way she  parents her children. I love the way she adores her husband. And I love the way she loves Jesus. I want to be the mom who does the challenging adventurous things with my hubby and kids for the sake of family time and memory making like she does. 

There are things I really don’t like about backpacking  like mosquitos, sore feet and waking up every hour during the night to switch positions because the hard ground and my hips don’t like each other very much. But I tell myself, if Tori can survive the wilderness with her man and her children, well then I can too.

She took one of those monster trips last summer (a 3 week trip on the Superior Hiking Trail), and she recently blessed the world by writing about it.

Grab a coffee or a tea, find a comfy chair and take the time to read Tori’s story at Conversations at the Clothesline.  It’s a total of 13 posts, and worth every minute you spend reading. You will love how real and funny and humble she is. I don’t know if her story will make you want to go backpacking, but it will probably make you want to ask her to be your friend. 🙂

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How American Idol Cracked Open the Cancer Wound

How American Idol Cracked Open the Cancer Wound

You never know when it’s gonna hit. I haven’t even given cancer much thought recently. I just live and write and buy groceries and do boy mom things and complain about the nine inches of mid-March snow that the weatherman did not forecast.  And it’s good. I like this life God has given me. I’m happy. I’m content. I’m blessed.

But this guy named Brandon Elder walked into our living room via the American Idol try-out stage the other night and he opened up wounds I wasn’t prepared to revisit. This sweet 22-year-old guy started talking about his mom while Corey, Lewis and I sat together watching and listening. He talked about how she was diagnosed breast cancer. How she survived breast cancer. How two or three years later the breast cancer came back. How she eventually lost her life.

I could feel Corey begin to shake. He turned away.  Presumably so Lewis wouldn’t see his tears.

I kept my face focused on the screen, my lungs focused on breathing in and out, and my eyes focused on not welling over.

“Mom, how long has it been since you got cancer?”

“Two years, buddy.” Focus, Kim. Don’t cry.

“But when you get to five years, you are all healed, right?”

“Kind of. Five years is a big deal in the cancer world.” Darn voice. Stop cracking. Just breathe and speak.

“Well I think you’re healthy, and I want you to live a long time.”

“I feel the same way.”

Together we continued to watch American Idol until it was bedtime for Lewis.

As I leaned over his bed and scratched his back I thought about those tears I tried so hard to keep inside.  I’m not exactly sure why neither Corey not I wanted to cry that night in front of our little man. Maybe because we wanted him to see us as strong. Maybe because we weren’t prepared to think about cancer just then. Maybe because if we had given in to the tears we might not have been able to stop. Maybe because we didn’t want him to unnecessarily worry about things beyond his control.

Whatever it was, we went to bed with hearts that felt just a little too heavy in our chests. But it’s okay. Cancer is part of us. It doesn’t rule us. We don’t live in fear of it. Lots of days we don’t even think about it. But no matter where we go or what we do, it’s a weighty piece of who we are. Much like any other experience in our lives that reminds us that these bodies we live in are not immortal. But those heavy heart moments also remind us to lean into Jesus. The One who takes away our heavy and gives us His light. And anything that pushes me to lean into Jesus is a good thing, even if it doesn’t feel like a good thing.

I hope that though we don’t always want to show our unbridled emotions to Lewis, he is still deeply aware of our unbridled love for our Savior. And that though we are careful in the details we share with him, he is learning by watching us to lean into Jesus.

Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

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Always Adventure – A Spring Break 2018 Haiku

Always adventure

Mom life in a blink is gone

Breathe deep and jump in

 

 

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A Sobering Look at Metastatic Breast Cancer from Wildfire Magazine

A Sobering Look at Metastatic Breast Cancer from Wildfire Magazine

Last week I introduced you to Wildfire Magazine. This week I am directing you to a blog post I read there a while back.

I am forever thankful that the lump in my breast was right at my bra line, because I don’t think I would have otherwise found it so early. Though mastectomies and breast reconstruction suck, I’m also thankful that they were my course of treatment, and my cancer is gone. My chances of a second diagnosis are low, and I don’t live in fear of its return, but for some women it does return. That’s just reality.

There are many many women out there living with Stage 4 breast cancer. They will be in treatment for the rest of their lives. I found the following blog post at Wildfire educational and sobering, and I hope you will too.

10 Things Your Friend With Metastatic Breast Cancer Needs You to Understand Now

If you’re like me, you like concrete how-tos, clear directions, tried and true recipes, do this not that, that sort of thing. There is nothing so frustrating as wanting a map of a new place and not having one. That’s how I have felt the last several years when it comes to breast cancer awareness and Metastatic Breast Cancer. I want to know specifically how to be a good friend to those with MBC.

Lacking the map, I’ve decided to simply ask. So, recently I’ve spent a lot of time talking to women with MBC, asking how I — an early stager — can support & advocate for women in the breast cancer community whom have been diagnosed Stage IV. The women I talked to were very happy to help me and now I have for you (and me) this list.

1. Being metastatic is just awful luck, not something a person did or didn’t do. Many are diagnosed de novo metastatic, before they even knew that was a thing.

Continue reading – 10 Things Your Friend With Metastatic Breast Cancer Needs You to Understand Now

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Wildfire Magazine – For Young Survivors and Fighters of Breast Cancer

by KimHarms 0 Comments
Wildfire Magazine – For Young Survivors and Fighters of Breast Cancer

I’d like to introduce you to Wildfire Magazine. I came across it while doing some breast cancer research online, and it’s a fantastic resource. Real stories written by real women who’ve had a wide variety of experiences with breast cancer, from the early stages all the way to Stage 4.

This month’s theme is Infertility, and the magazine is filled with beautifully written, raw stories.

Next month, the theme is Body Image, and I am honored that I will have an article in that issue.

Wildfire is a wonderful community of women whose lives have been changed by cancer. And it’s led by creator and editor in chief, April Johnson Stearns, who made my day last week when she sent me a little gift in the mail – a copy of this month’s issue, some coffee and some chocolate (pictured above.)

I’ve added a link to Wildfire in the sidebar on my homepage.  Go ahead and take a peek.

 

 

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Trusting God in the “I Don’t Want To’s”

Trusting God in the “I Don’t Want To’s”

When I discovered a lump in my breast on January 9, 2016 (there are some dates you don’t forget), I opened a new Word document on my computer and started typing. The title of the doc? When You Think You Might Have Cancer. By the time I stopped adding to that document months later, it was 55 typed pages long. Add to that all the journaling I did with my handy ink pen and I have close to 80 pages of my cancer experience on paper. Yowzers.

This week will mark the 2nd anniversary of my bilateral mastectomy, and I’ve been reading and remembering and at times riding the wave of emotion. The following is an excerpt from my journal days before surgery. Reading it was a reminder to me that God often makes us walk through “I don’t want to” moments. The big “I don’t want to” was obviously the cancer, but along with that big thing were a million little things I didn’t want to do.

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A Love Poem for My Favorite Guy

by KimHarms 0 Comments

So Happy Happy Birthday

And Happy Valentine’s too.

I am far beyond blessed

that I get to do this life with you.

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Your Hurting Friend Might Need You to Clean Her Toilets But She Probably Won’t Ask

Your Hurting Friend Might Need You to Clean Her Toilets But She Probably Won’t Ask

I remember the day Carter started kindergarten. The eldest and most timid of my children, I can say with certainty his first day of school would still rank somewhere in the top 5 if he kept a Terrible-Horrible-No Good-Very Bad-Day list.

That was a long day followed by a long difficult year of adjustment. But he got through it.

I remember the day Owen realized he didn’t have super powers. It was a blow to his self-confidence when his dad broke the news that it was a remote control turning on the ceiling fan; not the super-spin motion created by Owen’s alter ego, Flash.

You can imagine his disappointment. But he got over it.

I remember the day Lewis’ buddy, William, moved away. My little guy was quite dejected. But he bounced back.

Maybe your life is kind of like that. No major life altering challenges, just little potholes in the road here and there. Aside from the occasional broken bone, bombed test or fender bender you’ve made your way through life relatively unscathed.

But what happens when someone you love receives the diagnosis they didn’t want? Or loses the job they loved? Or falls into periods of depression that leave them not wanting to get out of bed?

If you are like me, when those heartbreaking things happen to your friends, you don’t always know what to do.

When I don’t know what to do, I’m tempted do nothing.

When my friend’s daughter was diagnosed with cancer years ago, I didn’t know how to react. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to say. So I didn’t do or say enough.

In hindsight I would have visited the hospital more than one measly time. I would have sent her more cards of encouragement. I would have bought her Tirimisu and told her how often my thoughts and prayers turned her way. I would have. . .

I know my friend holds nothing against me. In fact we are much closer now than we were before her family started their cancer journey. And I’m guessing thoughts of how much or how little I did to support her didn’t cross her mind as she was swimming deep in an ocean she didn’t want to be swimming in.

But regardless of her thoughts and feelings, I know my regrets.

What if it was my child? What if it was me?

Two years ago it became me.

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