- Breast Reconstruction, Boy Momming and Believing God

KimHarms

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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How to Encourage Family Members or Friends who have Cancer

by KimHarms 4 Comments
How to Encourage Family Members or Friends who have Cancer

 

I met author Shirley Corder (virtually, not physically) after my Aunt Connie gave me her book Strength Renewed to read during my breast cancer year. A breast cancer survivor, she graciously provided this post insightful post for us today. 

***

When I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer with glandular involvement, I found my family members and friends reacted in one of several ways.

1) There were those who rose up and said, “We’re here for you.”

This included my family members who lived at home, and I hate to think what my year of cancer treatment would have been like without their support. But it also included many of my friends.

The evening following my surgery, I had so many visitors it was embarrassing, so I did what all post-operative patients are allowed to do and went to sleep on them! Once I returned home however, the visitors spread out, and it soon became evident those who were going to truly support us through the time. And there were a good number of them, for whom I praise God.

2) Others, including family members, didn’t cope well.

In at least one case this was because the lady had lost two family members to cancer, and couldn’t handle a third. She didn’t live in our town, but kept meaning to answer my email. However the days went by and, believe it or not, she forgot I had cancer! A couple of years later, during a phone call, she realized what had happened, and was mortified. How could she have forgotten me during that time?

On my side, I was confused that she didn’t reply to my email. She wrote to me, but it was as if she’d never heard I was ill. Only after we opened up the subject, years later, did I understand what had happened.

3)  A close family member had just moved to a foreign country across the globe.

She had tiny children and was already stressed to her limits trying to adjust. She didn’t forget—she wrote and emailed me whenever she had the chance. But her comments showed me that although she hadn’t forgotten my diagnosis and treatment, she didn’t have a clear understanding of where I was at. That hurt me, and I took it to mean a lack of interest. It couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Months later, a psychologist gave me this explanation: She had so much going on in her life, she couldn’t also cope with someone she loved dearly who had cancer and whom she couldn’t visit. Her subconscious mind created a “mental cupboard” in order to protect her emotionally, and whenever she received news from me, she skimmed through it, then stored it in the “cupboard”. When she sat down to write to me, she couldn’t bear to re-read my emails so answered it from her “filtered” memory. When I heard this explanation, it helped me so much and alleviated the hurt I had felt.

4) Others didn’t know how to speak to me or act around me, and so they kept away.

They were dealing with their own shock, and they didn’t know how we were coping. I wish they’d sat down and spoken to me. Perhaps they thought I wouldn’t notice their absence, but I did.

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5 Breast Reconstruction Gifts

5 Breast Reconstruction Gifts

Every woman is different and there are a lot of varieties of reconstruction surgery, but the following are 5 things I greatly appreciated while walking down the road to reconstruction. If you have a friend who’s going through this bizarre and challenging life circumstance, she might appreciate something from this 5 Breast Reconstruction Gifts list.

A Sherpa Blanket

Sherpa blankets are super-soft, ultra warm blankets that you can just sorta hibernate in. My friend Marti gave me one, and I called it my magic blanket. I slept with it for months. Even when I finally went back to my bed after a couple months in the recliner, I slept on top of my bed covers and under my magic blanket. My children have since claimed this blanket for their own. 🙂

Food

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

Best gift ever really. Bake her casseroles or give her gift cards to restaurants. Anything that takes away the stress of “what am I going to feed my family tonight?” Our deep freeze was so packed with meals that I didn’t have to cook for more than two months. Some of the meals we received tested the range of our bland Harms family taste buds, but all that food was an amazing gift.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries Delivered to Her Door

Some of my friends had chocolate covered strawberries delivered to my house. Why is this such a good gift you ask? Because it’s extravagant. It’s one of those things a girl like me would never do for herself. But it made me feel loved and valued. And eating chocolate covered strawberries for breakfast was pretty darn sweet.

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These 8 Little Words are Pushing Me Persevere

by KimHarms 2 Comments

Photo by Kim Harms

The flowers are gone, but I’m keeping the card forever.

The writing part of my life was challenging this fall. I diligently researched and interviewed and wrote and worked on a lot of things that have yet to come to fruition. So many hours of brain-power with so little to show for it.

Between September and December, I submitted a lot of work (devotions, articles, queries) to various places.

From those submissions I’ve received:

  • 9 rejections (3 came in one day)
  • 6 pieces still under consideration
  • 2 “resend this to us in a few months” emails
  • 3 Acceptance emails (3 of 20 sure things, Ugh) (not counting newspaper articles)

I was also contacted by Woman’s Day Magazine for an article they were doing on forgiveness and spent several hours answering a list of questions. I  meticulously reread and edited it to make sure my thoughts were clear and accurate. They later decided not to use my input.

In addition to actually writing, I’ve put hours and hours and hours into the technical side of this website knowing that my time put in would not have a monetary value. And I still get super frustrated with it because it just doesn’t like to cooperate with me.

On top of all those things,  I’m working on a big project. A book. My first. I have a completed proposal, three chapters and lots of research done, but felt God leading me to wait during the fall months. Every time I wanted to push ahead on it, He pulled me back. “Wait, Kimberly. Wait.”

Oh my goodness, waiting is so hard. And writing so much and getting paid so little is so frustrating. Sometimes I just want to go be a greeter at Walmart because I think I could handle saying hello and putting stickers on people’s return items, and I think they’d probably pay me for it.

One day in December, when I was feeling particularly disheartened about my career choice, I kind of fell apart on Corey. He thought we were gonna have a relaxing little sit in our hot tub, and was met with my emotional chaos instead. (Sorry Honey.)

The next day I received a big beautiful bouquet of flowers and the card pictured above.

To Kimberly, A woman of strength, courage, capability and worth. Love, Corey

My hubby is a man of few verbal words and even fewer written words, so the value of each drop of black ink on that tiny little card is immense. If he can watch me work my butt off for pennies and still believe in what I’m doing, then I need to shift my perspective, stop focusing on the world’s version of success and trust the path where God is leading.

Though, if at the end of that path I found a bigger paycheck, I wouldn’t complain. 🙂

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Body Image After Breast Reconstruction (Walk With Me Podcast)

Photo by Kim Harms

Sometimes it’s hard to look in the mirror.

I had the opportunity to talk with Tori Haverkamp several weeks ago about body image and learning to live with my altered form after a bilateral mastectomy and breast reconstruction.

There are so many pieces that come into play when walking through breast reconstruction process, but body image is not something that I thought I would struggle with at all.  As it turns out though, losing a piece of me changed the way I looked at myself.  And it kind of broke my heart.

But God is good, and he continues to stay close to me and bring healing to each and every piece of me that needs his touch. If you want to hear my story follow the link below to the Cornerstone Church Walk with Me Podcast .

Body Image after Breast Reconstruction Podcast

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5 Most Meaningful Books Read in 2017

5 Most Meaningful Books Read in 2017

 

Warrior In Pink

Warrior in Pink, Author: Vivian Mabuni

Vivian’s cancer story is different than mine, but the beginning in much the same. As I read the first couple chapters of her book, I was right back in those first days, remembering the fear, the sadness, the helplessness, the desperate prayers. . . Her words, though hard to read, played a role in my emotional healing. That, along with her willingness to be open and raw in the telling of her cancer story and the God who brought her through it, put this book on my favorites list this year.

Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal, Author: Michael Kelley

This this book played a role in giving me permission to grieve the loss of my breasts. Pretty weird, considering it’s a book about a father walking through Luekemia with his little boy, but this statement stopped me in my tracks.

“We often think about the grieving process exclusively in terms of people. You lose someone close to you, and you lament that loss in personal and profound ways. But the same process happens, I believe, to other areas of life, too…in the end, grieving is about loss and finding your way through life without the thing that’s not there anymore.” Michael Kelley, Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal

This book helped me grieve, but is about so much more than grieving. It’s about living with the things God allows in our lives. It’s about watching for the bigger things God’s doing when we think He might be letting us down. It’s about learning to live through the pain, when what you want most is for the pain to just go away. It’s about the battle to trust God, when what you want to go to your room, shut the door and never come out again.

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Reassurance of Normal

Reassurance of Normal

 

Corey is my best friend, but I had the opportunity to spend a morning with my girl BFF last week. She’s the one who shares my disinterest in girly things like shopping and jewelry. The one who has navigated boy mom world with me from day one.  The one I call when my kiddos do something amazing like backflip off a picnic table. And the one I call when this job of “momming” is knocking the wind out of me. She’s a gift.

I’ve even shown her my bare chest. I know that sounds so weird and wrong, but stick with me here. I live in post-breast cancer world, so my normal is no longer a normal person’s normal.  When you’ve had your breasts removed and rebuilt, and you’ve had a stranger tattoo on them to provide a sense of normalcy and scar coverage, you just want your best friend to see them and say “You don’t look weird.”  And then you laugh together over the fact that you seriously just flashed her. And then you pause in the somber reality that it was a malignant tumor that brought you to this strange place.

I’ve found that since this whole cancer thing happened, there are moments I just need reassurance that I am normal. I need assurance from Corey that I’m beautiful. And I need assurance from my friends that I’m not a weirdo.  Don’t we all need a cheerleading squad sometimes?

Enveloped in support of those who love me, I need to plant myself firmly in God’s word which tells me I am created in His image. And I need to trust that even with a slightly altered body, I am deeply cherished by the God of the universe. Click To Tweet. And I need to believe that He works good through the hard.

Maybe your life has been altered in some way by cancer, and maybe not. Regardless, we all walk through hard things. Don’t be afraid to lean on those who love you.(This likely will not require you to flash your BFF.)  And more importantly, don’t discount the God who brings beauty from ashes. (The One who can take your broken, unnormal self and make you whole.)

 

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 61:3

 

 

 

 

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