Archive | March, 2011


29 Mar

Today we are celebrating the birthday of my first-born son. Never a dull moment with this one around. Over the years, I’ve learned a few things by being this kid’s mother. One of the most significant lessons he has taught me is how to deal with whatever unexpected surprises life feels inclined to sling my way. I didn’t used to like dealing with stuff like that. But I’m pretty good at it now. I’ve had a lot of practice, thanks to my son.

When he was a preschooler, my son wrote a story. (Okay, I might have helped a little bit). We called it “Elf-Control” and it was published in MomSense magazine. It’s a very true story and I believe it gives an accurate glimpse of what life has been like here for these past 17 years. In recognition of my son’s birthday, I’d like to share his story with you.


Cats don’t like dogs. I figured that out when Daddy put another dog in our back yard. Mommy calls it a stray, but I call him Bo. My cat, Toonce, doesn’t particularly like my Lucy-Dog, but she likes Bo even less.

The trouble all started when I saw that the dogs were looking bored. I offered to take them for a ride—in Mommy’s car. Of course we never got out of the garage, but it was still great. Bo chewed up the gear shifter while Lucy-Dog sat in the back seat eating Mommy’s favorite Twila Paris CD. My job was to flash the lights and honk the horn. Bo and Lucy loved it! Mommy apparently did not. She charged into the garage and started hollering and waving her arms. All that carrying–on scared Bo, and he peed in the driver’s seat. Mommy ordered us all out of her car, and as I walked past her, I covered my bottom just in case she was thinking about a spanking. But she just closed her eyes and started mumbling about elf-control. I figured it was best to sneak away while her eyes were still closed.

The dogs seemed disappointed that the car ride had ended, but I thought some water play might cheer them up. If only I had a swimming pool… I went to the far side of the house, turned on the hose water full blast, and let it run. Meanwhile, I was going to tell Mommy I was sorry about her car, but I accidentally stepped in doggie poo-poos. When she discovered I had tracked poo-poos into the house, she started talking to herself about the elf-control again, and I figured it was best to go back outside.

I decided to check on the water. The back half of the yard was now a large pool. I couldn’t have been happier. I stripped down and went skinny-dipping. But Mommy got suspicious when she looked out the kitchen window and saw Bo chewing on my Batman underwear. She ran outside and started hollering and waving her arms again. All the commotion woke up my cat Toonce who was snoozing in my tree-house which was now surrounded by water.

Now there’s one thing I know for sure, and it’s that cats don’t like water. I put my toy fireman hat on Bo’s head and we waded through the water to the tree-house to rescue poor Toonce. But Toonce evidently didn’t understand the rescue plan, because instead of coming with me and Bo, she leaped onto the only other dry thing – Mommy – who was bent over trying to shut off the hose water. Bo must have thought it was a game, because he started nipping at Toonce’s orange tail. Never before have I seen Mommy with a spitting ball of fur stuck on her back.

By the time it was over, we were all wet and muddy. Mommy was not smiling, so I reminded her about the elf. She looked confused. “You know, the elf!” I said. “The elf who always makes everything okay again after little boys mess up.”

Finally, Mommy smiled and gave me a hug. She explained that God is the one who makes everything okay. Because God gives mommies lots of self-control, especially for days just like today.


Like I said, never a dull moment here since the day God blessed my life with my wonderful son.

Happy Birthday, Kyle.


Live Now

25 Mar

Three girls lost their mother today. She died this morning. From breast cancer.

It all started with a suspicious mammogram. It looked like cancer. But because the girls’ mother was young, the doctors decided it was unlikely that she could actually have breast cancer. They were wrong.

The breast cancer eventually metastasized to her lungs, her bones, and finally to her brain. That’s what cancer does.

We don’t all survive this disease.

I read a quote today by folk singer and song writer Joan Baez. “You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die, or when. You can only decide how you’re going to live now.”

Today was the first day of spring break for my three children. We had a fun day together, full of goofy laughter and good times, as it should be. I am well aware that I can’t choose how or when I die, but as long as I’m still here, I’m going to live my life and love my children and enjoy each day the best I can.

That’s how I am living now.

From Ashes to Beauty

20 Mar

Yesterday was a first for me – my very first book signing event. Fresh pink flowers, fancy little pastries, a book store full of family and friends, and a stack of brand new books. I still can’t believe the name on the cover is mine.

As one of my friends hugged me in that crowded store yesterday, she said “From ashes to beauty, Jill.” And I nodded. I knew what she meant. She has been with me on this cancer journey from the beginning. Although yesterday was a day of celebration, she remembers just how ugly this journey was when it began. Ashes, mourning, despair. A happy ending seemed unimaginable. Little did we know then, that this journey would eventually lead us to this book store celebration.

Lots of people have held my hand on this journey. Some were with me from the very beginning. Others have joined in along the way. I couldn’t have made it without any of you. And I can’t ever thank you enough for all of your prayers and the endless encouragement and love you have so generously lavished upon me and my family.

I usually don’t mess with New Year’s resolutions. They just don’t make sense to me. I mean, if I want to resolve something, why wait till the New Year? But this year, my friend Karen suggested trying something different – a one-word resolution. Perhaps you’ve heard of the idea. As I understood it, the resolution is summed up in one word. Concise. To the point. I liked that. After giving it some thought, I decided my one-word New Year’s resolution for 2011 would be renewal.

This is the year in which my cancer treatment, God willing, will at last come to an end. I am anticipating a time of restoration, a renewing of my body, mind, and spirit. That’s right, a year of renewal. I’m ready for it.

From ashes to beauty.

Bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of despair.
Isaiah 61:3

The Roses

8 Mar

Yesterday evening, my husband Dan came home with a dozen beautiful red roses for me. I know. He’s wonderful, isn’t he?

These aren’t birthday roses or anniversary roses. They are celebratory roses. We are celebrating the release of my new book – Mammograms, Mastectomies, and a Spiritual Makeover.

The lovely scent of the roses reminds me of another time Dan came home with a dozen red roses for me. It was four and a half years ago — the day I was told that I had breast cancer.

I remember that first sleepless night after receiving the awful, incomprehensible news. At my request, Dan put a soft night-light in our bedroom, because I needed to be able to see the roses. All night long, I stared at the vase of roses setting on my dresser. Shocked and overwhelmed, not daring to think about my diagnosis, I filled my mind with the deep fragrance and beauty of those roses.

What a journey these last few years have been. How amazing that God loves us so much that He reaches down and takes something as devastating as breast cancer and brings something good out of it. I could not have imagined it four years ago. But this is what God does best, isn’t it? He gathers up all that is bad in our lives and offers us redemption.

He can make everything beautiful, in its time. Even cancer.

Almost There

3 Mar

A few mornings ago, after my kids left for school, I dragged myself to the couch, wrapped a blanket around me, and curled up into a ball. “I can’t do this anymore,” I whispered to my husband. He gently put his hand on my shoulder. “Yes you can,” he said. “Only four more months to go. You’re almost there.”

Mornings are always the worst. The miserable side effects from Tamoxifen hit me the hardest then. Nausea, joint aches, fatigue, and more. Seems like this last stretch of treatment is the toughest. New and annoying side effects keep cropping up, and the old ones seem to intensify. I’m not sure if this is the cumulative effect of ingesting a harmful substance every day for four and a half years. Or if maybe I’m simply running out of endurance.

Tamoxifen is not a nice drug. It has the potential to cause nasty things like blood clots, strokes, and heart disease. It can even cause another type of cancer, but the doctors tell me not to worry about that because it is a more survivable kind of cancer than breast cancer. Yeah, I’m not going to worry about that at all.

I’ve been fortunate. None of my side effects have been life-threatening. So far. Every time I complain to my oncologist about a new lousy side effect, he always tells me the same thing – “No one has ever died from (insert latest side effect). Keep taking the Tamoxifen, Jill.” And so I do.

I’ve been taking it every day for four and a half years now. Five years is the limit. They figure at that point, the benefits stop outweighing the risks.

Only four more months to go. I’m almost there.