- Breast Reconstruction, Boy Momming and Believing God

KimHarms

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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Wallflowers and Wildflowers – God Created You With Purpose

Wallflowers and Wildflowers – God Created You With Purpose

“Why am I not more like her?” you think as she walks into the room. She is beautiful and poised and confident. Everybody loves her. You just know she was meant to do big things.

And then you step in front of a mirror and you see your mousey brown hair or your freckled face or your body shape that has always left you feeling insecure and your initial thoughts are reinforced. God obviously has awesome plans for her, but you were born to hide in the shadows.

You don’t even let yourself think about the possibility of big things. Instead you settle into your wallflower life believing that this is what you were made for. You were created to be the one who just hangs with the crowd; never stirring the waters, but never making your mark either.

It’s a lie.

 We girls often find ourselves so entranced by the world’s deception that we not only believe the lie, we think it’s good. We think it’s right.

But what if we choose to think differently? What if we choose to believe truth even when the voices in our heads try to convince us otherwise? So you may not be gorgeous by the world’s standards, and your presence may not command the attention of everyone in the room. But God did not put you on this earth to blend into your surroundings until the day He returns. He has blessed you with talents and purpose. The beauty of what God created you to be will become increasingly evident as you trust Him to use the gifts He’s placed in your very being.

You don’t have to be a wallflower. You can be a wildflower. Once wildflower seed is tossed on the ground it grows and it spreads covering vast areas of ground with brilliant colors.

So go ahead. Throw your seed on the ground. Ignore the loud deceitful voices and listen to the quiet one beneath all the rest of them. The one that never changes, but often gets drowned out. Click To Tweet The one that whispers, “You are loved. You are worth it. I have blessed you with a good and perfect gift. Toss the seed, and I will make it grow.”

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James 1:16-17 Do not be deceived my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

 

 

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Sisterhood by Marti Skow (The Girl God Gave Me to Do “Life with Boys” Together)

by KimHarms 3 Comments
Sisterhood by Marti Skow (The Girl God Gave Me to Do “Life with Boys” Together)
I met Marti when I was 36 weeks pregnant with my now 16-year-old. We spent 2 hours getting know each other in the back of an extended cab truck on the way to an office lake party (our husbands worked together.) We then spent a whole day on the beach just talking and hanging out. At the end of the day, when the sun was setting, I was convinced those 8ish hours passed in about 30 minutes. That’s how it is with best friends, and that’s what we became.
Today, I’m reposting the story she wrote a few years ago. We had been through a lot together up to that point, but now we can add breast cancer, some pretty intense spiritual battles and teen drivers (Eek!) to the list. We don’t see each other often enough, but we always pick up right where we left off.  I treasure her friendship, her humor, her humility, her love of Jesus, her wisdom. Every woman needs a Marti. 

~~~

Sisterhood (originally published in 2014)

by: Marti Skow

I’ve been living this life of “mommy” for over eleven years now. This past December, like an assault from an angry lunch lady with a greasy frying pan, I was whacked over the head with a revelation. For the past eleven years I’ve been putting up a fight to my own detriment. My mantra has been, “I can do it on my own. I don’t need help. I’m just fine. I’ll figure it out. It’s okay. I can do it by myself.” Repeat.

Well, I wasn’t fine. Not even close to a resemblance of fine. Pretty much the farthest thing from fine a momma could be. I was confused about pretty much everything there is to be confused about as it relates to motherhood. I felt lonely even though my Facebook page says I have 650+ friends. I planned, re-planned, scheduled and re-scheduled. I organized and tore apart. I budgeted and filled out spreadsheets, but at the end of it all… I was back to square one, not fine.

You see, for years I’ve tried to “fix” the parts of my life I could wrap my arms around. I can whip up an Excel spreadsheet and make a budget to save for the new “used” car Dave Ramsey says I can afford. I can meal plan a month ahead for the new sugar-free diet I’m putting my family on. I can try to shrink everyone’s waistline, including my own, according to my plan. I can synchronize everyone’s electronic devices to the same iCloud calendar so as not to miss a meeting, game, match, event or planning session.

So, as I spun myself into my own “I Can Do This Myself” frenzy I began to quickly deteriorate. Suddenly, my Excel spreadsheet, which I had tweaked only days before, couldn’t answer my questions about why my current vehicle wasn’t enough. My sugar-free diet didn’t give me answers for why I turned to a Hershey bar every time my stress level rose too high. My iCloud calendar didn’t remind me to look deeply into my son’s eyes before sending him into wrestling practice to tell him how proud I am of him. At least 500+ of my Facebook friends don’t even know my birthday.

Now this is the part where I get whacked by the pan.

I was sitting at a beautifully decorated table at my dear friend’s church. It was a few weeks before Christmas and she was scheduled as the key speaker at the women’s dinner. I’ve known Kim for the past 12 years and over those 12 years we’ve seen each other through thick and thin. I’ve seen her become a mommy three different times. And I’ve seen her through a miscarriage. I’ve seen her through mountaintop highs and deep, dark, low valleys. She’s asked me tough questions and I’ve asked for her forgiveness. We’ve walked this journey of life together, and I have been the better for it.

friends

It was during this dinner, as she was talking to a crowd of eager women, that I saw her through a new lens. I’ve always known her to be my dear friend. I’ve always known her to be someone I could count on through thick and thin. I’ve always understood the bond we share. But that night, under the soft glow of Christmas lights, I saw her as my gift.

Ladies, there are few people in this life who have seen my real ugly. The real, down and dirty, no holds barred, nitty gritty side of Martha Ann Skow. Kim has. There are few people who have talked me through tough decisions that I knew would be breaking my children’s hearts. Kim has. There are even fewer people I call to share the latest poop joke my youngest son has concocted. I call Kim. Immediately.

After my “revelation” on that cold night there have been some things that have changed inside of me. Through my new lens, I’ve realized that some of the items I’ve placed so highly on my list need to be drastically pushed to the lower rungs of the ladder. You see, it’s the relationships we’re investing in today that are going to carry us beyond a failed budget spreadsheet, a fleeting diet plan, an ever growing social calendar, and 660+ virtual friendships. It’s about getting down and dirty in this life with those God has gifted to us. It’s about getting real, sometimes real ugly, with those we’ve been blessed with. Entrusted to. It’s partially through these relationships that God grows us, molds us, and forms us into who He has intended us to be.

So, my advice to you out there in the land of the Webinets… log off, pick up the phone and meet one of your besties. Drive over there right now if possible and sit with her. Have coffee, tea, water, spritzers, Moutain Dew or kombucha with her. Laugh until you pee or cry until you shake. Whatever floats your boat. But please, I beg you, pull your nose out of that “How-To” book and “10 Step Blog” and find someone with experience, and a pulse, who can “Let’s Do” life with you. Life is not meant to be done alone. We were created to do this thing together. Now get going…. I’m serious!

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19 Ways to Love Your Wife

19 Ways to Love Your Wife

I’ve been on the receiving end of sweet selfless love since my wedding day 19 years ago. Corey has got loving me figured out. Want to make your wife feel loved? Read on. 19 ways to love your wife.

Date Her.

This is much easier for us now that our kids are older, but alone time is just as important when you’ve got toddlers running around. So put on a button down shirt, shave that scruffy face and take your woman out for steak. Or grab Hy-Vee Chinese and play board games in your living room. Or pack a lunch and go to a park. The options are endless, but they won’t happen if you don’t make them happen.

Love Her With Actions.

There will be times when more than anything in the world, you will want to carry her burdens. But sometimes you can’t. What you can do is hold her up while she carries them. Shortly after I was diagnosed with breast cancer, Corey showed up at home in the middle of the day simply to rub my feet and hold me while I cried. This is love in action.

Love Her With Words.

Tell her she’s beautiful. Sometimes we ladies need to hear it a million times to believe it. After my bilateral mastectomy, when the mirror spoke lies to me, Corey gently covered those lies with truth-filled words. Over and over and over he told me I was beautiful.

Give Her Flowers.

This is a no-brainer. I’m sure there’s a woman somewhere who doesn’t like flowers, but I haven’t met her.

Watch a Chick Flick.

We don’t watch a lot of chick flicks over here in boy world. But it’s a beautiful thing when Corey spends two hours with me eating popcorn and watching Jane and Mr. Rochester fall in love.

Teach Your Children to Respect Her.

We’ve witnessed a lot of kids sassing their mamas at social gatherings and events over the years, and Corey always seizes the moment to train my boys. The car ride home usually goes something like this. “You remember how (insert name here) was sassing back to his mom? If I ever hear your disrespecting your mom, you are going to regret it for a long long time. I helped bring you into this world, and I’ll take you out.” Your wife’s life will be easier if her children respect their mama, and you can play a significant role in making sure they do.

Eat Her Mediocre Cooking.

Unless she makes Tilapia that tastes like gelatinous lake water. Then tell you love her, and order a pizza.

Push Her Out of Her Comfort Zone.

If Corey hadn’t pushed me out of my comfort zone, I never would have hiked 11 miles to camp on a secluded beach and shower in a waterfall. I wouldn’t have spearheaded family backpacking trips to Northern Minnesota and Colorado. And I wouldn’t know the physical challenges that I am capable of enjoying and conquering.

Photo by Kim Harms

Our tiny tent at the base of a waterfall at the end of the Kalalau Trail.

Sacrifice Your Sleep for Her.

I had jaw surgery when we were dating and was left with a face shaped like a balloon and a mouth tightly banded shut. I sounded like Darth Vader when I breathed, and I honestly thought I might die if I fell asleep. So he stayed up with me all night in my folks living room. In my mind he was keeping me alive, but probably in his mind he was tolerating my insanity. Regardless, that’s the night I realized I was in love.

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