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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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Life Reconstructed

We live a construction life over here at the Harms house.

I’ve been watching my man build amazing things for two decades. But I never imagined there would be a point in my life when a piece of me would have to be physically reconstructed. That at age 40 my chest would literally be taken apart and put back together.

During that process of physical breast reconstruction, non-physical parts of my life were reconstructed as well.

Pieces of my marriage were taken apart and reconstructed.

Pieces of my thought life were taken apart and reconstructed.

Pieces of my self-esteem were taken apart and reconstructed.

Pieces of my sense of womanhood were taken apart and reconstructed.

And pieces of my relationship with my Savior were taken apart and reconstructed too.

The funny thing is, when my physical body healed, the feeling was gone and I was left with permanent physical numbness.

But as the non-physical parts of me worked through the reconstruction process, the depth of my emotions intensified. I now feel more deeply than I ever have before. I love my husband more. I have more confidence as the woman God created me to be. I find more joy in adventurous things. And I cling to my Savior with a new intensity.

Sometimes I miss the before-cancer me.  I miss life without hot flashes. I miss knowing my husband was the only person who ever got to see me with my shirt off. And I miss the naivety of thinking I’d live my smooth-sailing-life to old age and die on a porch swing with my Corey by my side.

But I don’t miss those things of the past as much as I treasure my life in the now. Breast cancer and breast reconstruction were the means the infinitely wise God used to get me to this place, and I choose to be thankful. Thankful for the trial and thankful for my life reconstructed.

I’m also thankful you’ve come along for the ride 🙂

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The Things My Eyes Can’t See

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I sat on the deck overlooking the Rocky Mountains in the cool of the morning. Coffee in one hand, Kindle in the other.

I’d been reading through the New Testament, but for a change of pace I downloaded a little vacation devotional from Amazon for our week in Colorado.

On our first morning in Granby, I read this prayer.

Heavenly Father, Awaken my spiritual eyes to see you fully, in all your glory. Give me discernment to see beyond what my physical eyes will allow. Amen.

The prayer struck me as odd considering I was getting an eyeful of God’s creation every time I stepped outside. It seemed to me that that should be enough.

But those words stuck with me, and throughout the week I found myself praying my own version.

Dear God, Help me to see what my eyes can’t see.

My eyes saw some beautiful stuff. Adam’s Falls. Horseshoe Lake. Alpine Ridge. The Colorado River.  Had I seen only those physical things, I would have arrived back in Iowa with a greater appreciation for the enormity my creator.

But I would have missed something.

The thing my eyes could not see.

The Rafting Adventure

A week before our trip, I contacted a rafting company about scheduling a family rafting trip down the Colorado River. The woman I spoke to was kind and promised to email me some info before booking our non-refundable Monday, July 10 excursion. I didn’t receive the email. So I called the company back. No answer. I called and I called and I called. Finally I was able to leave a voice message asking them to send me the info that I needed. No one returned my call. No one sent me any information. I was so frustrated. And maybe a little angry.

I finally gave up and scheduled with a different company for a date later in the week.

Then Monday morning (which should have been non-refundable-rafting-excursion morning) came. Along with it came a puking teenager.  No way was my 15-year-old getting on a raft.

Had our original rafting adventure been scheduled for Monday as I had hoped, we would have had to cancel, and we likely would have been out $400.

Seeing the Unseen

We ended up having a blast rafting a few days later when we were all healthy. We even got to jump off a cliff into the Colorado River.

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While we bumped along in an old school bus on some rough backwoods roads following rafting, my prayer popped into my head.

Dear God, Help me to see what my eyes can’t see.

And I saw it. I saw the thing that eyes can’t see.

I had been soaking up the gorgeous mountain views with my physical eyes all week, but my spiritual eyes were awakened to something just as beautiful. Maybe more so.

I saw God loving me, not in an “I created these mountains for the your viewing pleasure” kind of way, but in an “I even care deeply about the little details of your life” kind of way.

God knew my plans before I made them. He knew my kid was gonna start puking at 6:00 on Monday morning. He knew how terribly sad this penny-pinching mama would have been about a $400 loss. He even knew which rafting company was going to let my adventure loving boys jump off a cliff.

I am so very thankful for my physical sight. This Midwestern girl could stare at those mountains for hours. But I am even more thankful for spiritual sight that allows me to see the things my eyes can’t see. (Even if it required me jumping off a big rock into a cold river.)

The devotional I mentioned is called Pauses for the Vacationing Soul, by Cathy Baker (a fellow Inspire a Fire writer.) It’s just a tiny little ebook that I bought on Amazon. Its focus is the beach, but I made it work in the mountains 🙂 Well worth the 99 cents.

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6 Things Every Dad Should Know About His Daughter @ Inspire a Fire

by KimHarms 0 Comments

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Dear Dads, I don’t have a daughter, but I am one. And this list of 6 Things Every Dad Should Know About His Daughter is inspired by my experience.

1. She is paying close attention to you.

By the time I was four, I’d seen my dad build and fix a lot of stuff, so I was utterly disappointed when after I had a serious mishap involving a trampoline and a metal tractor toy, he wasn’t able to put my broken arm back together. Sometime over the course of two surgeries, a week in the hospital and four months in a cast, I realized that though my dad wanted to solve my problems, he couldn’t fix everything. If you show your daughter you are making an effort, she will notice.

2. Your presence matters.

Like a lot of dads, my dad wasn’t big on showing affection when I was growing up, but he was always there. Always. Every activity I took part in, no matter how boring or how long the drive, he was there. And his presence not only made me feel important, it made me try harder. So when you are physically able, just be there. Even if it means slipping into the back of an auditorium with your work clothes on.

3. She sometimes chooses activities based on how she thinks you will respond. Take notice.

Sure I had a crush on a guy on the wrestling team, but the real reason I took stats throughout high school is so I’d have a common interest with my dad who wrestled at Mankato State. It gave us something to talk about. Dad even took me to the NCAA Wrestling Championships and let his friend, who happened to be the Athletic Director at the University of Iowa, sneak me mat side to meet my favorite Division I wrestlers. That was a big deal for a 17-year-old girl.

To read the other three pieces of advice, head over to Inspire a Fire.

 

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The Funny Thing About My Inspire a Fire Posts

Inspire a Fire June

I’m beginning to think my posts at Inspire a Fire are working against me. 😉

Last month I wrote about our moving lifestyle. How it works well for us, and how I have learned to enjoy it.

But about a week after it posted, it hit me that we are about to do this thing again, and that we don’t know where we are going next. And though I’m ready for it, it didn’t stop me from having about a 24-hour period of some serious anxiety. I’m a planner. And planning for the unknown is a bit tricky.

This month my post is about marriage and choosing love when you are not feeling it. In it I mentioned that Corey and I have learned to argue better since breast cancer because we don’t want to waste our time letting things simmer when we should be dealing with them and moving on.

A few days before it posted, we had an argument.

Next month I think I’ll write something about beach front property in Hawaii and hope for the best.

Here’s a link to my June post:

Have A More Meaningful Marriage by Choosing Love Every Morning

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BOY MOM MONDAY – Proverbs 19:2 – ZEAL

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Proverbs 19:2 It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.

Zeal is a good thing. To be enthusiastic and passionate about a goal is a great first step. But if zeal is all we have, we won’t get far.

After I watched Florence Griffith Joyner break world track records in Seoul in 1988, my 12-year-old self was going to follow in her footsteps. I would be a runner, and I would run in the Olympics (forget that those Olympics sprinters are not white girls.)

So I went out of for track in seventh grade. I did zero conditioning beforehand, and realized that running fast is hard. I didn’t run track in 8th grade. But something in me still wanted to run, so I joined the team again in 9th grade and ran throughout high school. And I loved it.

But I learned that I had to add some hard work and knowledge to that zeal I had back in junior high. I ran all year long, not just in season. I worked out before school in the weight room and I got together with my relay teammates to work on hand-offs outside of practice.

I wasn’t the fastest girl on my team, but my zeal + knowledge + effort did earn me a place at the state track meet a couple times. I look back on my track experiences as my best high school memories, and though I’m no speed demon, I still enjoy a good run.

My hope for my boys is that they too will learn to match their zeal with knowledge and effort so they can accomplish the desires of their hearts.

Prayer

Dear God, Thank you for giving us each zeal for different things. I pray that those passions that are in my boys’ hearts will lead them to desire to learn and grow and reach their goals and that they will not become lazy and give up because something is too hard physically or mentally. Amen.

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Today’s Christian Woman Articles

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Until recently, many of the articles at Today’s Christian Woman were available only to TCW subscribers. But this week TCW unlocked all the articles on the website, so anyone can read them. Several of my articles were in the subscription only category, but they are now unlocked. 🙂

Below is a link to my Today’s Christian Woman writer page which has links to each of my articles. Check them out if you’d like.  And if you want to leave a comment or share them with others, feel free. Just please be more kind than the commenter who spent about 8 paragraphs telling me I’m a terrible parent and my kids are headed straight to hell in the fast lane because they attend public school. I can totally handle constructive criticism and I am fully aware that not everyone will agree with my choices, but that one made my blood boil.

If you don’t feel like reading my stuff, just go to the page and check out the photo that goes with my “Backing His Wild Side” article. Most of the photos that accompany the rest of my stories are canned photos provided by TCW, but that one is all Corey Harms canoeing down some rapids.

I kind of love it that there is a photo of my manly man in Today’s Christian Woman.

Kim Harms TCW Writer Page

 

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An Open Thank You Letter to John Piper

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John Piper speaking at Passion ’97. (Taken on my not-so-high-quality camera with real film that had to be sent away in a cute little black tube to be developed.)

Dear Mr. Piper,

It is 1997.

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Me and my 6 friends, ready to hit the road.

I am 21 years old, and I just hopped into a van with six of my friends to drive 17 hours from Ames, Iowa to Austin, Texas for the Passion ’97 Conference.

I have no idea who you are. Just a name and a photo. A middle-aged man who is going to teach me about Jesus while I enjoy some Texas sunshine and my break from college classes.

But God uses you for more than I anticipate, and after your Friday evening message, I do something I’ve never done before.

I call my dad at midnight and tell him I love him.

Like many people, I did not grow up in an overly affectionate family. The “I love yous” were experienced through action, but the words were not spoken.

This night they are. This night, January 3, 1997.

Fast forward two decades.

It is 2016.

I am barely 40, and I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer.

The fear, the uncertainty, the dread are overwhelming. I don’t doubt my Savior, but I do doubt my ability to make it through this big ugly thing.

It’s the evening of February 23, and my husband (Corey) and I are sitting at the dining table.

Surgery is in two days.

A music video is playing on Corey’s laptop. Shane and Shane singing words that remind me of the richness of trusting Jesus when he takes me to hard places.

And then you begin to speak over the music.

Directly to me.

Or rather, God speaks directly to me through you.

“When your mom dies, when your kid dies, when you’ve got cancer at 40, when a car careens into the sidewalk and takes her out, don’t say, “That’s meaningless!” It’s not. It’s working for you an eternal weight of glory. Therefore. Therefore do not lose heart, but take these truths and day by day focus on them. Preach them to yourself every morning. Get alone with God and preach his word into your mind until your heart sings with confidence that you are new and cared for.”

I am weeping. My head is in Corey’s lap, and I am weeping.

His arms keep me from falling to the hardwood floor while he shakes from weeping with me.

It is a holy moment.

This thing in front of us is hard, but it is not meaningless.

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Waiting for the surgery that would rid me of my tumor and change my body forever.

Over the next few months, we fight through the hard stuff. The scary stuff. The painful stuff.

And while we fight, we go deeper.

We feel sadness so intensely. We have joy so impossibly. We love each other so immeasurably. We trust Jesus so wholly.

We are coming out on the other side now. And your words have been proven true.

 “Every millisecond of your misery in the path of obedience is producing a peculiar glory you will get because of that.”

A peculiar glory.

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Healing up and hanging out with my hubby

I believe it.

I’m tasting it right here in this broken body of mine. Tremendous blessings that are a direct result of walking through the pain. But I have a feeling the full extent of that glory will not be realized until the day I fall, whole and healed, into Jesus’ arms.

Mr. Piper, you spoke necessary truth into my 21-year-old heart so many years ago, and then you showed up with truth again just when I needed it at 40.

And for that I want to say thank you.

Sincerely,

Kim Harms

(Here’s a link to the song that spoke to me – Though You Slay Me)

(Find some solid Bible teaching from John Piper at Desiring God)

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BOY MOM MONDAY – Proverbs 17 – Forgiveness

 Proverbs 16

Proverbs 17:9 He who covers an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.

Without forgiveness friendships become superficial. They become catty. They can even fall completely apart.

When I began dating Corey, I kind of dropped the ball on a friendship with a close friend. Where I used to eat with Rachel at our kitchen table, I now would head over to Corey’s apartment or go out to eat with him. My study dates with Rach became my study dates with Corey. And all the movie nights Rach and I used to have? Well, now I was having them with Corey.

Rachel could have gotten angry with me. She could have started talking behind my back to others. She could have given up on our friendship. But instead she confronted me.

After that confrontation, I could have gotten defensive. I could have gotten angry. I could have walked out on our friendship. But I knew she was right, and I knew I had to ask her forgiveness because I didn’t want to lose one of my dearest friends.

Asking for forgiveness is tough. I’m not a big fan of admitting I am wrong. But I did ask for Rachel’s forgiveness, and she readily gave it.

That was years ago, and Rachel and I only see each other once or twice year now, but we can always pick right up where we left off. And this year our friendship has taken on a whole new depth because of breast cancer. She underwent a bilateral mastectomy about four years ago, and she has been invaluable to me as I’ve been on that road this year.

I hate to think of what I’d be missing out on if I had let my selfishness ruin our friendship, or if she had chosen not to forgive.

As my boys grow into young adults and their friendships deepen alongside their voices, I hope they leave room for forgiveness. I hope they will value their friends enough to work out their differences and understand that covering an offense does indeed promote love, but excluding forgiveness can ruin friendships.

Prayer

Dear Lord, I pray that you will help my boys to understand the value of forgiving their friends when they have been wronged. That they will both offer forgiveness to others and ask forgiveness when it is needed. Amen.

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