- Breast Reconstruction, Boy Momming and Believing God

A Flurry of Pink – A Breast Cancer Awareness Month Tribute to Brooke Walker

A Flurry of Pink – A Breast Cancer Awareness Month Tribute to Brooke Walker

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and guest blogger Dee Dee Parker graciously accepted my invitation to write a tribute to her daughter Brooke. Brooke touched many lives during her long breast cancer battle and Dee Dee tells her story beautifully.



Photo Courtesy of Dee Dee Parker

Brooke Walker

Along with the beautiful hued leaves of bright crimson, butterscotch, and chestnut, October brings on its crisp air, a flurry of pink. Magazines are full of heart-warming stories of cancer survivors. Shops along village and city streets are displaying merchandise adorned with the familiar pink ribbon.

It is breast cancer awareness month.

My introduction to breast cancer came while I sat rocking on my farmhouse porch enjoying a glass of sweet tea.

The phone rang—“Mom, I’m at the hospital and was just told I have breast cancer. I am having a biopsy in a few minutes.”

My world turned upside down as my thirty-four year old daughter, Brooke, went on to say that the technician said her films and scans showed an extremely large mass.

Brooke was alone. I was terrified.

A few days before, Brooke had discovered a lump in her breast while showering. She went to the doctor and was told it was nothing to be alarmed about, but would be sent for tests to put her worry at ease. She also had experienced leg pain and had been put into strenuous physical therapy. It was a true miracle that none of her weakened bones had broken.

After the biopsy, my husband and I, along with her husband, Trey, met at the oncologist’s office to get the results. It was the worst-case scenario—stage four with metastases throughout her body. Her full-body scan looked like a Christmas tree lit with strings of bright lights. The tumors were in most of her bones and some of the organs.

Brooke was given less than six months to live.

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Breast Reconstruction Thoughts – Kerry Brannan – Twice Diagnosed with Breast Cancer

Breast Reconstruction Thoughts – Kerry Brannan – Twice Diagnosed with Breast Cancer
Welcome to Breast Reconstruction Thoughts at Life Reconstructed. Each Tuesday this fall, I am featuring a woman who has undergone a single or bilateral mastectomy. Most have also had breast reconstruction, but some have not. Some entered this world through cancer, others due to testing positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation which highly increases their chances of a future cancer diagnosis. I hope their words bring insight and encouragement.

Photo Courtesy of Kerry Brannen

I have not met Kerry in person, but once you’ve gone through breast reconstruction, you feel a certain connection to others who’ve experienced the same thing. I’m thankful she was willing to share from her experience, and I hope someday that I might have the opportunity to meet her face-to-face.

Name:  Kerry J Brannan                

Family:  Husband of 39 yrs, 3 adult daughters, all married, 9 grandchildren (6 girls, 3 boys)

Occupation: Homemaker

Hobbies/Interests:  Music (play piano), currently LOVING an acapella group called “Home Free”

Diagnosis: Multifocal DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) 20 yrs ago (L side).  Micro-invasive ductal carcinoma 3 yrs ago, R side. 

Age at Time of Diagnosis:  1st -39;  2nd– 58

Type of Reconstruction: 1st –  none, mastectomy only;  2nd – bilateral reconstruction with silicone implant

Profile Questions

What was your initial response to your cancer diagnosis?

Annoyance, determination to do research well, ask every possible question

How much time passed from your mastectomy through completion of reconstruction?

Just over 9 months – I delayed some parts of it to fit my schedule (with doctor’s approval!)

What was something you found surprising or unexpected about the reconstruction process? 

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Flip Shots – How YouTube is an Answer to a “Mom Prayer”

Flip Shots – How YouTube is an Answer to a “Mom Prayer”

It has long been a prayer of mine that God would make me aware my children’s gifts and talents. And that He would help me to be a dream cheerleader not a dream squasher. I used to watch my friend, Cinnamon, (yes that’s her real name) and think, “She’s got this mom thing figured out. I want to be like that.”

When my boys were just toddlers, I watched her let her 15-year-old daughter play in a band. She invited that band to practice (drums and all) in her house. And she supported them when they sought out coffee houses and other small venues at which to play. She knew her daughter’s gifts, and she encouraged her to use them. Today that grown up daughter is one of my favorite guitar playing vocalists on the planet.  (If you follow this link she might become one of your favorites too 🙂 – My Redeemer Lives)

You may watch my Owen’s two minute Flip Shots video above, and think, ‘Oh that’s cute or funny or whatever.’ But let me tell you what I see.

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Breast Reconstruction Thoughts – Rachel Akslen – BRCA2 Positive

Breast Reconstruction Thoughts – Rachel Akslen – BRCA2 Positive
Welcome to Breast Reconstruction Thoughts at Life Reconstructed. Each Tuesday this fall, I am featuring a woman who has undergone a single or bilateral mastectomy. Most have also had breast reconstruction, but some have not. Some entered this world through cancer, others due to testing positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation which highly increases their chances of a future cancer diagnosis. I hope their words bring insight and encouragement.

Rachel was one of my closest college friends, and we’ve stayed friends for 20+ years. When I met her, her mom was dying of breast cancer. She later found that she had a very high likelihood of getting cancer as well. I remember when she went through her bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction. It seemed so foreign and scary to me. Little did I know then, that about 4 years later, she would be my mentor as I went through the same process. But God knew, and I’m so thankful for the gift she is in my life.

Name – Rachel Akslen

Family – Husband Eric & 4 kids – Clara – 14, Jairus – 11, Ellie & Kaylee – 9

Occupation – Busy mom & part-time accountant

Hobbies/Interests – watching movies, reading, baking, watching kids play soccer

DiagnosisBRCA2 positive, prophylactic bilateral mastectomy & oophorectomy

Age at Time of Diagnosis – 35

Type of Reconstruction – expanders & silicone implants

Profile Questions

  • What was your initial response to your cancer diagnosis or to finding out you had the brca1 or brca2 gene?

I actually felt a lot of relief to finally just know & to have the ability to do something about it instead of just feeling like ticking time bomb.  There were also a lot of tears mostly when thinking about my kids & knowing that there is a 50% chance I have passed this on to each of them.

How much time passed from your mastectomy/bilateral mastectomy through completion of reconstruction?

About 5 months

What was something you found surprising or unexpected about the reconstruction process?

I didn’t realize how much you use your chest muscles & that pretty much every movement would hurt.  I also didn’t expect to have so much trouble sleeping & for so long.

What was the hardest part of the process?

I think the hardest part for me was the sleep deprivation.  I have learned that I am a much different person when I’m so over tired.  I’m not very patient with the kids & am just crabby.  It also made it easier to feel sorry for myself & question my decision.

Do you have a piece of advice for women who are just beginning this journey?

Find someone else who has been down a similar road to talk to & ask very frank questions to.

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Lasagna, Volleyball, Breast Cancer and Trusting Jesus

by KimHarms 2 Comments
Photo Courtesy of Raub Photography

Photo Courtesy of Raub Photography

After I was diagnosed with breast cancer, food started landing on my doorstep. Lots of food. Sometimes there was a person at the other end of the casserole and sometimes the meals just magically appeared in the big blue cooler outside the front door. My family appreciated it all. (Even if some of it pushed the boundaries of our boring Harms tastebuds.)

One of the first meals we received came from a group of high school girls from our church. Just a week or so after my diagnosis, these lovely girls came to my door bearing lasagna and cookies and I’m-not-quite-sure-what-to-say-to-someone-with-cancer smiles.

I took the casserole and the cookies and thanked them. Then I said something deeply meaningful like,

“Hey, I’ve got cancer, but at least I don’t have to cook.”

I’m pretty sure that just served to increase the awkwardness of the already uncomfortable moment.

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Breast Reconstruction Thoughts – Cathy VanMaanen

Breast Reconstruction Thoughts – Cathy VanMaanen
Welcome to Breast Reconstruction Thoughts (a profile series) at Life Reconstructed. Each Tuesday this fall, I will feature a woman who has undergone a single or bilateral mastectomy. Most have also undergone breast reconstruction, but some have not. Some entered this world through cancer, others due to testing positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene which highly increases their chances of a future cancer diagnosis. 
Each woman will tell us a little bit about herself and her experience. I hope their words will serve to bring encouragement to those who need it, and enlightenment to those who haven’t walked this path.

My first guest is Cathy.

Photo courtesy of Cathy VanMaanen

Name: Cathy Van Maanen

Family: 3 adult children, Alex, Erica (& husband David, Kristyne & Jake), Anna

Occupation: Librarian & children’s theater director

Hobbies/Interests: books, walking, movies, my grandkids

Diagnosis: I had stage 1  Breast Cancer, originally diagnosed as Ductal Carcinoma In Situ.  After a lumpectomy it was determined I really needed a mastectomy. A tumor was discovered and removed during the lumpectomy, but the margins weren’t clear so we proceeded with the mastectomy a few weeks later.

Age at Time of Diagnosis: 40

Type of Reconstruction: TRAM (transverse rectal abdominal muscle, tunneled under the skin to form new breast)

 

Profile Questions

  • What was your initial response to your cancer diagnosis?

Fear for my kids. They were 9, 8, and 4 at the time of diagnosis.   I had been widowed at age 35, and at the time of diagnosis had recently remarried.  (Yes, the 4-year-old was born shortly after her father’s death.)  I will never forget my 4-year-old daughter’s comment while we were driving down the street.  “Sorry you got cancer Mommy, and I hope you don’t die, but at least I got to know you.”  Now that’s a wake-up call.

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Say No to Fear and Yes to Freedom – A Guest Post By Cathy Baker

by KimHarms 0 Comments
Say No to Fear and Yes to Freedom – A Guest Post By Cathy Baker

Cathy Baker is a writer friend I’ve never met. Funny how this crazy online world works. 🙂 She blogs at Cultivating Creativity and her second devotional book, Pauses for the Vacationing Soul: A Sensory-Based Devotional Guide for the Mountains, just came out this week. I’ve had the privilege of getting to know her to through our connection at inspireafire.com., and I’m honored to share her guest post here on Life Reconstructed today. If we allow God access, He will reconstruct the broken parts of our lives, and that is what He is doing with Cathy. He’s helping her say no to fear and yes to freedom. Read on, she’s got good words to say.- 



Say No to Fear and Yes to Freedom

Fear has plagued me since an automobile accident over three decades ago.

Its invasion began soon after the accident when I refused to get on a highway. Driving or riding, it didn’t matter. Like a disease, the fear began spreading into other areas of my life. Within a matter of years, I was afraid to drive or ride over bridges, through tunnels, or busy roads. Our lives, unlike the fear, became very contained.

I’ve missed out-of-town birthdays, trips to my husband’s hometown in DC, and early on, even a few family beach outings. Truth is, I’ve missed out on much more but even I can’t bear to admit how much. Guilt clings to fear like a well-fitted backpack, creating a heavy load for anyone to carry, especially a Christ follower who has taught adult Bible studies photo by Kim Harmsfor over twenty years.

I know that love casts out all fear and that fear is not of Him. At one point, I considered stepping away from teaching because guilt constantly whispered how can you call yourself a Bible teacher when you struggle with all these fears? Recognizing this voice was not from God, I sought counsel from a wise friend and scholar of the Word. He asked, “How would a good father respond to your fears? Would he banish you from his home or heap guilt on your already weary soul?” I drove home with a fresh appreciation for my good, good heavenly Father and moved forward in many ways.

Over the years, I’ve kept a journal of God’s faithfulness. When a difficult trip came up, I wrote it down. Sometimes the sentence was as simple as Lord, help me drive to the grocery store in the storm. Every time God chose to miraculously clear the skies or the roads, I gained confidence. And on those days when the skies refused to clear or a kiss from the bumper from behind left me rattled, I found comfort in knowing God was there, allowing it for my ultimate good.

A year ago, in an effort to move closer to our grandchildren and to the mountains, we decided to leave our beloved century-old home and the city we’d lived in for twenty-five years. Leaving everyone and everything I knew to move an hour away (which was approximately 55 minutes outside my comfort zone) required a tremendous step of faith. We found a home that sat on four acres with a spectacular view of the mountains. The only downside was the drive to civilization.

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Breast Reconstruction – Thoughts From Women Who Have Been There (a profile series)

Breast Reconstruction – Thoughts From Women Who Have Been There (a profile series)

On Tuesdays, starting next week, I will begin featuring profiles of women who have undergone a single or bilateral mastectomy. Most of the women to be featured have been through reconstruction of some sort, and a few have opted to go flat as it’s called in the breast cancer world. There’s no right or wrong answer, but it’s a decision all of us in the “mastectomy club” have to make.

Breast Reconstruction Photo by Kim HarmsThese profiles are not meant to be exhaustive interviews. Instead they will highlight some key parts of the process, providing insight and encouragement to women who have unwittingly found themselves in the bizarre world of mastectomies and reconstruction. It’s a heart-breaking, weird, scary, challenging, and for me at least, faith-deepening experience. If you are a new member of our club, I hope the words these women say help you feel less alone.

My desire is that these profiles will also be educational for those of you who have not been on the receiving end of the statement “You have breast cancer.” I pray you never hear those words spoken to you, but I can almost guarantee that at some point in your life someone you love will.

If you or someone you know of would like to be a part of this series or would like more info, please contact me through the form below. (If you don’t hear from me within 2 days, email me at kimharms@rocketmail.com.)

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When Cancer Pushed Me Out of the Boat and Into the Water

Photo By Kim Harms

I’m talking about cancer and water and sinking and faith strengthened by a stormy sea at inspireafire.com today. You can start reading here and follow the link at the bottom to the rest of the story.

 

When you pass through the waters I will be with you. Isaiah 43:2

The image of water was a big deal to me during my cancer year. The power. The tranquility. The danger. The beauty.

Cancer was my water. Fear-inspiring, yet fused with the beautiful. So hard, yet covered by a peace I cannot explain. The water was rough, but Jesus was constant.

One night long ago on the stormy Sea of Galilee, Peter jumped out of a boat and began walking to Jesus. He sees a man walking toward him on the water and says “Lord if it’s you, tell me to come to you.”

In her book, Crossing the Waters, Leslie Leyland Fields describes Peter’s walk like this.

“He walks atop the waves anyway for a few steps, but fear opens his eyes and ears too wide. He hears the wind; he feels the water at his ankles. He knows this is impossible-and he sinks.”

Whatever it is that got him out of that boat, he did it, and the most dynamic personality among the disciples took his first steps on water. But then his circumstances got the better of him.

When I think of Peter, I’m reminded of my rough waters turned serene.

I didn’t jump out of the boat into the storm like Peter.

I was pushed.

Follow this link to the rest of the story – When Cancer Pushed Me Out of the Boat and Into the Water

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I Found My Breast Cancer Story on Rise and Soar Above the Cancer Valley

by KimHarms 6 Comments

Photo by Kim Harms

Look what I found in the big wide world of the Internet while doing a little writing research – my story on author Shirley Corder’s website. I remember when she requested my cancer story for her Testimony page, but I don’t remember ever seeing it after if was published. What a fun little surprise.

Things like this make my heart happy. It’s a boost of encouragement from God through my computer screen. He’s like –

Hey Kim, I know that sometimes you think you’re losing your mind with this whole writing thing and that you should give up and  apply to make pizza at Caseys, but I have you right where I want you. Trust me. Besides, remember that time you got a job at Piccadilly Circus in high school and you messed up two pizza orders on your first day and then quit? You’re a great girl and all, but you’re not really cut out for food service. I created your brain for the keyboard, not the kitchen. Stick with the words. Love, God

 

 

 

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