Kim Harms

Life Reconstructed


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Backpacking and Breast Cancer

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I posted the following statement on July 18, 2016.

We cancelled our plans for a family backpacking trip to Colorado this summer because a backpack and chest expanders are a bad combination. (Just wearing a seat belt across my chest right now about drives me batty.) Next summer the Harms family will be climbing some mountains.

On July 11, 2017 we climbed a mountain. Well, kind of. We climbed most of the way up a mountain in Byers Peak Wilderness in Colorado. We camped by Horseshoe Lake 11,200 IMG_6535feet above sea level where we were secluded from the world (except for one other family and their 4 alpacas 🙂 )

It was fantastic.

I love backpacking with my family. Something about all of us doing a challenging thing together brings me great joy. I love the taste of  Mountain Meals eaten out of a bag while sitting on the ground, and I love relaxing by the campfire together before retiring our sore bodies to our tiny little tents. I could do without the middle of the night trips to the outdoor loo, but I guess it wouldn’t be backpacking if I didn’t have to pee outside. IMG_6542

The Gift

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, our friends/tax guy/realtor Chris and Tami Hicks offered us a week of their timeshare. Not only did they offer it, they made sure we took them up on the offer by reminding us every month or two that they wanted to give us a vacation. So thank you Chris and Tami for the condo with a view of the Rockies, and for helping me accomplish a goal.

We had a fantastic week of swimming, rafting, hiking, eating lots of junk and relaxing in our own personal hot tub room.

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An Easy Section of the Hard Trail

My boys might say that rafting or cliff jumping was their favorite part of the trip, but for me it was definitely the backpacking.

Goal Achieved

Last year at this time I was recovering from reconstruction surgery #2, and dreaming about the day when I might be able to extend my arms over my head again. This year I strapped on a 20 lb. backpack and climbed a mountain.

Last year going for a half-mile walk with Corey was a grand accomplishment. This year I hiked for hours on what alltrails.com lists as a HARD trail.

Last year I had no feeling in my alien breasts. This year…still no feeling 😉 (A relatively small price to pay to rid my body of cancer.)

But that’s not really what this is about. This is about living the life God gave me to the fullest.

Last year that meant a lot of resting and letting other people take care of me. This year it means checking the goals off my Post Cancer To Do List and hopefully encouraging other women who are in the midst of hard things.

Backpacking is my last checkmark.

List complete.

I guess it’s time to write a new one.

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When I Was Scared by Lewis Harms

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I go through all the boys notebooks at the end of each school year and keep a sampling of what they’ve done. Lewis’ stories often inspire laughter. But this rare gem brought tears.

I was scared too, Mr. Lewis.  And what I wanted most in the world was to protect you from the fear I was feeling. I wanted to kick that fear and the cancer right out of our house. But I don’t have that kind of power, and the best I could do was to let you see me take my fear and put it in the hands of the one who can take fear away. I placed it on that alter every morning, and at least a hundred times each sleepless night. And I know that you saw God at work in me as I wavered and struggled to land on the side of trust.

In hindsight, I can see that it was a good thing that God had us all work through the fear instead of immediately and miraculously removing the source of it the first time we asked.  Because through it, we gained a true raw story of God’s faithfulness right here under our own roof. A story we can remind ourselves of the next time something scary walks through our door.

God is good. God is faithful. And perhaps he is closest when we are scared.


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Without the Hard Things

Given a choice between the hard things and the easy things, I’d pick easy. But sometimes God doesn’t let me choose.

One year ago today Corey and I faced a really hard thing. A 5-hour surgery to remove my cancer and my breasts.

I remember it with an ache in my heart. But right beside that ache there is joy. JOY. Because God is good and the giver of the good things. Even in the wake of bilateral mastectomies and reconstruction.

  • The good thing of experiencing  peace that passes all understanding deep down into my bones as I was poked, prodded, injected with blue radioactive dye and wheeled around the hospital before surgery. I have felt the peace of God many times in my life, but never have I experienced it like that.img_20160225_181228780
  • The good thing of Corey sitting beside my bed that first night in the hospital, holding my hand all night long, as I slipped in and out of sleep. (Seriously, the man pulled the recliner right up beside my bed and sat close enough to hold my hand for the entire night, only releasing his grasp to scratch the incessant itch that I could not reach at the end of my nose.)

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  • The good thing of my boys visiting me in the hospital because they needed to see for themselves that I was going to be okay. (My boys, and my mom who brought them to see me, are the best. Also, Carter and Owen have each grown like a foot and turned into man creatures since this photo was taken.)
  • The good thing of the hazy, nearly silent, but super-naturally peaceful hour with my bff, Marti, who came to sit with me while Corey met a friend for lunch, so I wouldn’t have to spend one minute of my hospital stay alone.
  • The good thing of the 20-something nurse who, at the end of her shift, said to Corey and me “You guys are so cute. I just had to say it.” (And we are cute, darn it. She was speaking truth.)
  • The good thing of the release nurse saying “You have a very nice husband; how he takes care of you. Not all husbands are like that.” (Truth again. He’s the real deal.)

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And look at us now. Because of what we endured together, this year’s family photos will probably always be my favorite. (Plus I think we would make a sweet Under Armour ad.)

I believe what it says in the book of James, that every good and perfect gift comes from above. From my father in heaven. I also believe that sometimes those good and perfect gifts can only be delivered through the hard things.

So I will endure the hard things. And I will find joy in the good things that saturate the hard things in light.

 

 

 

 

 


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Breast Cancer and Tree Houses

One year ago today I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Today Corey and I closed on our tree house. (Sometimes I name my houses 🙂 )

These two things don’t seem connected, but they bookend a chapter in the same story.

Building/Moving/Selling/Moving is woven into the fabric of our family life.

Many of our decisions are weighed on the moving scale. When we build, I choose finishes and fixtures more for resale than for my preference. We base furniture purchases on three things: style, comfort and weight. If it’s too heavy, it’s not worth moving no matter how beautiful it is. And that 2011 family vacation to Colorado? Postponed for a year because it collided with a closing date…

The Harms family moving plan going into 2016 was to list our pi house (314 Centennial) in June. Then I got cancer and all plans for every part of life were put on hold while Corey and I brushed up on our knowledge of useless facts by playing Trivia Crack in Medical Clinic waiting rooms.

By June I was feeling pretty good. The cancer was gone. I didn’t need chemo. And I was in between reconstruction surgeries.

And I just wanted to be normal again.

Normal to me included listing our house. So that’s what we did.  img_20160617_124656627

When we were preparing to put our house on the market, we decided that we were ready to get off this moving rollercoaster. We wanted to find a place or build a place that would be permanent (well maybe not permanent, but closer to permanent than we are accustomed to.)

So Corey was like, “What do you think about buying a duplex on main street and living in it for a couple years while we wait for something we like to present itself?”

I am not opposed to adventurous housing scenarios, but within two seconds of walking in the door of the duplex with our real estate agent, my response (internally) was a resounding “No Way. Uh-uh. Not Ever. My husband has lost his mind.”

When I got home, my prayers went something like this. “Please Lord, don’t make me move into the house with overflowing poop toilets and grease dripping down the walls.”

We all know how that turned out.

God has a sense of humor, and he moved me into the place with the overflowing poop toilets and the grease dripping down the walls. Thankfully, the poop and 95% of the grease img_20160708_195421724_topwas gone when we moved in. I eventually captured my hubby’s vision (I usually do. Sometimes it just takes me a while.) And together we spent a month gutting and remodeling the place before moving in.

The original plan was to live in our newly remodeled duplex for one to two years. For a variety of reasons, we decided not to build this time around, so Zillow became my friend. In the mornings I made my coffee, did my devotions and checked my Zillow for new listings. (You see, I got on board with moving into the duplex, but I just wasn’t convinced of the two year plan.)

One day this fall, Zillow was good to me.

Listed was an in town acreage with a house hidden back in the trees, smack in the middle of the neighborhood most of the boys’s friends live in. (Did I mention it comes with a tiny house by a ravine?) Be still my heart. img_20161215_141100758

We looked at the house that day and made an offer (that was accepted) that night. Corey really liked the place. I really LOVED it.  And the boys immediately started making plans for ziplines and trails through the woods.

But some issues that turned up on inspection made it very clear to both of us that we couldn’t go through with the purchase.

That was hard. I so very much wanted that place, but I knew that God was telling me no.

Fast forward two months. The price has gone down and some of our concerns have been resolved. We began negotiating with the seller again and came to a price we could agree upon.

It turns out God wasn’t saying no. He was saying wait. The waiting part was key, because without it we would have missed the sweetest part of the story.

Because we were totally flexible on the moving date, we left it up to our real estate agent and the sellers.

The date picked? January 20.

When we told the boys about the closing date at the supper table, Owen said, “God knew he was going to do that, didn’t he?”

Yes buddy. I have no doubt.

One year to the day after receiving the hardest news of our lives, Corey, Carter, Owen, Lewis and I are walking through the doors of our tree house.

God, in his lavish love was like, “See guys? I took care of you through the hard stuff and now I am giving you this gift.”

That’s who God is. He is healer. He is sustainer. He is a father who loves to give his children good gifts.

 

 


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Thanking God (and John Piper) at Inspire a Fire

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The topic at Inspire a Fire this month is thankfulness. Many of you have already read this letter I wrote to John Piper, but I felt it worthy of being my “thankful” post this month. I can’t read it without an overwhelming feeling of thankfulness and love for my Savior who cares for me in such amazing ways.

An Open Thank You Letter to John Piper


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Checking Things Off the Post Cancer To-Do List

Just before my exchange surgery in July, I posted 6 things I planned to do with my post cancer-invasion self. So here I am to brag that I’ve accomplished all but one 🙂 (Backpacking requires some wilderness and a trail, both of which Central Iowa is a little short on, so that one’s gonna have to wait.)

SLEEP

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I am a lover of sleep. I’m neither a night owl, nor an early bird. I’ve always been the girl who could happily go to bed at 10 and sleep until 9 given the opportunity. But things changed in January when that darn tumor freaked my body out. Sleeplessness kicked my butt for months, and Netflix became my middle-of-the-night companion.

But, alas, my beloved sleep has returned to me. My body has healed, and I can finally lie on my side again. Most nights I even spend the whole night in my own bed. (That $600 IKEA futon is getting slept on more often by teenage boys than by me. And I’m fine with that.)

HOLD SULLY

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Holding this little man makes me so very happy. Do you see that sweet sweet face? Just looking at his photo is making you happy, isn’t it? You’re welcome.

RUN

img_20161022_125025I started running again in September, and our whole family loved enjoyed tolerated running the Pumpkin Relay at Center Grove Orchard this year. Sometimes you’ve just gotta make your kids do stuff they don’t want to do. It’s one of the most important rules of parenting. Suck it up Harms boys, this is good stuff.

HUG MY HUBBY

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If a picture is worth a thousand words then the first 3 for this one are obviously “We are dorks.” I leave the other 997 to you.  Regardless of our dork status though, that is a hug. And that’s a big deal.

LIFE

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I am definitely doing life. I’m making writing plans for the coming year. I’m running again. I’m cooking again (though I don’t understand why that has to be part of life). I shot some guns. I played in a wave pool. I slid down a water slide. I beat Corey in mini-golf. I strapped into a harness and did a high ropes course. I watched my boys play football. And now I’m counting down the days to a family vacation on the beach. (It’s 16 by the way.)

Oh, and I moved. Because doing life in the Harms house includes moving. We moved into residence #10 (in 18 years) in August, and now we’re hanging out in a duplex on main street waiting for the next step in our crazy life of rotating houses to present itself.

I fear some of you may think I have a terribly mean husband for making me move so soon after the cancer.  To set the record straight, he is truly the most loving, caring, selfless guy I’ve met in my entire life. And if I’d requested it, we’d have stayed put for as long as I needed.

But here’s the deal. Sometimes sticking with your plan is what makes you feel normal. Before cancer we had planned to list our house this year. And by summer, I felt like was ready to handle it.  The purging. The cleaning. The packing. The moving. In some weird way, all of these things factor into me feeling normal.

Cancer knocked the wind out of me, but I’m breathing again.

And I am busy loving my life.


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Free Mastectomy Pillows and Seat Belt Cover Port Protectors

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My mom and her friends are continuing to make armpit pillows for mastectomy patients and have added port protector seat belt covers for chemo patients. They have shipped these all over the US this fall, and through their act of service to others I’ve been able to have some lovely email conversations with women who are making their way through breast cancer.

These pillows and seat belt covers are FREE. If you are interested, leave a comment below or send me an email at kimharms@rocketmail.com.  All mom needs from you is a name and a shipping address.

“Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another…” Romans 13:8