thank you

I just want to send a simple thanks to everyone who has reached out to me after my post yesterday and throughout this journey.  I am so amazingly blessed to have so much support and encouragement.   Writing has always been an important outlet for me and I appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts, fears and dreams with you.   I am trying really hard.  I went for a long walk today and felt good.  But, my lower back has really been bothering me and I can’t help but think it is more cancer.  I have to learn to live with this fear and find courage and strength in the face of the fear.

I have connected with a group of young women living with metastatic breast cancer through a Hope Scarves supporter and friend also facing this disease.  Knowing there are other women out there trying their darndest to live each day to the fullest and enjoy the joys each day brings covers me in comfort.  But, I also see how much fear and anxiety this new normal holds.

I feel like I take 1 step forward and 2 steps back.  But, I know I just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other as I embrace this new reality and learn to live in joy instead of sadness.  In hope instead of fear.  In faith instead of agony.

I will never be able to respond to all the calls, emails, texts, messages – but please know I appreciate your kind words of encouragement so very much.  You are all too kind with your gushy compliments.

with hope,

broken and rebuilt

When I got the news about my pathology in 2007 I was standing in the McWane Science Center parking deck.  I heard the words “cancer has metastasized to your sentinel lymph node” and I felt my world crumbling around me as I felt our unborn child kick inside me.

I would never say something like “cancer was a blessing because all it taught me.”  I would much rather have continued to live my wonderful happy life with my cute husband, great job, wonderful friends, aspirations and dreams.  Life was wonderful and then we got cancer.

But, then after a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, stares as a young bald pregnant woman, delivering an adorable baby, more chemo, a double mastectomy and reconstruction.  After loosing my husband’s father to cancer, my husband being transferred to a new state, selling the home that was my creative outlet during my treatment, leaving all the friends who helped us survive cancer.  After all that.  We lived!!!

We learned how to put the pieces back together and I realized that my life and our family’s life had so dramatically changed because of this that I started Hope Scarves.  I had the guts, determination and drive to take this scary time in my life and turn it into something positive.  And it caught on!  The organization grew from me sending out scarves from our spare bedroom to an international nonprofit organization with three part time staff people in 2 years.  It touched people.  It helped people. It brought people hope.  And it brought me hope.

And we lived our life. It wasn’t that Bennett never knew his mom before cancer.   I am me because of all I have faced.  We lived the last 6 years in pure joy.  We embraced each day to the fullest, we laughed and joked and dreamed.  Each day!  I didn’t live in fear of a reoccurrence.  Even when I watched other people face cancer for a second time or learned of people who died.  I was so full of hope.  I lived each day to the fullest and I really believed we had fought our fight.

But then, I found myself in a parking deck again.   This time with a stage 4 metastatic diagnosis.  These past days have been darker and harder than the first diagnosis.  The words terminal.  The lack of set “course of treatment.”  The different opinions from doctors and one doctor in particular who took away my hope when she told me she thought my disease would progress quickly.

I have never been broken. I’ve been sad… my first love dumped me (and left me with his gross pet snake), my grandfather passed away and I can’t hear his funny stories anymore.  I’ve been stressed and overwhelmed.  But, I have never been broken.

This week I broke.  I was so overwhelmingly sad that I physically couldn’t stop shaking.  I could not eat.  I was in the hospital twice.  I could not look at my kids without crying.  I couldn’t talk to my friends because the jealousy I felt as I listed to laughter in their house or saw their smiling pictures on facebook was too much.  I couldn’t go about my life because it all seemed so damn unfair. Life was moving around all around me. Yet, mine was over.

I have terminal advanced stage 4 breast cancer.

But, if I had let the diagnosis of breast cancer 6 years ago ruin my life – look at all I would have missed.   I 5303cad98b5cd33417c33403took that diagnosis and scary time in our life and turned it into something positive.  I am a mother, a wife, a friend, a daughter and more.  These are roles I cherish with all my heart and have brought me so much joy.  I started Hope Scarves – through which I have been able to pass along the determination and strength that was first given to me when I needed it and in doing so have fulfilled more professional aspirations and connected to more amazing people than I could have ever hoped.

So, what do I do with this new reality?  I choose to take it as the next turn in our adventure.   I have to.  Instead of being sad because I can’t just stress over carpool routes and orthodontist appointments.  I have to recognize that I have one amazing and fabulous life to live.  And I am living it.  Right now!

I don’t know if this cancer will progress quickly. I might have one year, 3 years, 5 years maybe even more… people do it. There are some really smart people out there investigating new medicines and treatments right now.

I do know that someday, sooner than I wish, my amazing children will have to say goodbye to their mommy (hopefully by then they just call me mom).  I might not live to fulfill all the wild dreams my cute husband and I have for each other. But, this can’t be what I focus on.

I have to focus on putting as much of me into the people I love as I can while I am here.   Loving as deeply as I can right now.  Laughing with friends, breathing in the fresh air, loving and living and embracing each amazing day.

It is not easy.  I am still mad and sad and angry.   But, I also have faith and love and determination… and hope.

Today, I choose hope.

Love is in the …. ER (or I mean AIR)

When I wake up I have a moment right before I open my eyes I can remember the deep happiness we used to have. I wake up feeling strength in my body. But, then I raise my head and the reality comes pounding in. This morning I tried to walk my shaking body into the bathroom but I was so weak that I passed out. I just couldn’t stop shaking and felt like laying on the bathroom floor for the day seemed like a great idea. Jay contacted Dr. Williams and he said I needed to get to Emergency. I was thinking that was overreacting, but once I got there and they started the fluids I was so relieved. Everything checked out fine – just dehydrated, exhaustion and fatigue from radiation. I guess I REALLY need to be patient. Because trying to be strong is really hard when you are weak physically. I am going to just take it day by day. Hoping for strength and appetite and energy soon! Once the fluids gave me a little boost I was determined to make it back to Bennett’s Valentines party (which he was really disappointed to hear we might miss). Figured, I was looking for laughter so might as well go to the happiest school on earth – Second Pres Weekday School. I loved the chance to be there and see him so, so happy! I am feeling ok now. I can’t get off the couch, but I can go through Bennett’s Valrntines party box with him and snuggle with him and share some LOVE! Hold you loves close today on Valentines and always my friends. Love is so strong and beautiful. I hug my lovies with a new sense of how precious these moments are. big love!! Lara

Hard couple days

It’s been a rough couple days.  The worst yet actually.

I think it is a combination of factors – first I was coming off such a high from Atlanta and thinking I was feeling good and getting back on track with life and Hope Scarves. Feeling an enormous about of hope that I was going to be strong and fight this for a long time.  Then, we went to Vanderbilt for a 3rd opinion and the Dr. there basically kicked me in the gut and threw my hope out the window.    She is clearly an expert and very knowledgable, but she shared information with us in a very matter of fact way that didn’t leave much room for hope.  She explained that she thought my cancer would progress quickly and does not have much chance to remain stable.  She explained treatment options and clinical trials.  But, believes things will progress as opposed to staying stable or not growing as we are hoping.  I physically felt my body crumble.  I couldn’t breath.  I couldn’t think.  I couldn’t move.

Driving home from Vanderbilt I just cried and cried and cried.  How dare she take away our hope?  This little glimmer that, sure I have metastatic disease in my bones.  But, maybe, just maybe we can stop it there.  We can find the right combination of hormone therapies, complimentary medicine, exercise, faith and positivity to just keep that cancer at bay.  For a year… for 5 years.  For 10 years!  She doesn’t know!!  How dare she take away this chance.

Following this appointment I went into physical and mental shock.  I haven’t been able to eat, sleep or do much of anything for 2 days.  I am physically weak, shaky, devastated. I also think I am having some drug related symptoms that are making me very ill.  This is the first time I have been in a seated position today.  But, I am seated.  I am eating an apple.  I am listening to the “healing sounds” pandora station and I am crawling out of the hole she kicked me into.  Hand over hand- clinging to little knobs of hope.  and being gently pushed up by our loving family, dear friends, faith and a deep seeded sense in my being that I have time left on this earth.   I will be well again. I will dance and sing (way off key), laugh, travel, and maybe even run.  She doesn’t know what this cancer will do any more than anyone else – so to say it will most likely grow quickly is her opinion (how ever expert she is).  I have an opinion too and so do my rockstar doctors, Dr. Williams and Dr. Harvey and we are going to leave room for hope.   And if she is right…. and it does grow quickly.  We are going to fight it.

So, if you have called or emailed or sent meals or gifts this week.  I’m sorry I haven’t responded. I will hopefully regain my strength in the coming days as my body adjusts to all the medicine, heals from the radiation and rests from this past weekend.   I might even shower… tomorrow.

Please pray for peace in my heart and head.  For calm and a sharpened focus on hope.
with hope,

pink and powerful

For those that know me… they know I’m not really all about the “pinkness” that comes along with breast cancer. However, this weekend I was tremendously proud of the pinkness.  I was honored to become a “Pink Power Mom” through the KidsII Foundation.  KidsII is the third largest manufacturer of kids gear – bright starts, baby einstein, oball, taggies, etc… Their foundation selects 8 moms each year who have faced breast cancer and are doing something positive to help others in the same position.   I met 6 amazing moms all doing creative and meaningful work all over the country.  One of the moms passed away before she could accept the award.  But, what a remarkable person she was.   The weekend was hard for me because at times I found it hard to “Celebrate.”  Unlike the other honorees – I can’t say I beat breast cancer anymore.  I am fighting it.   I am fighting hard.

I came up with a new perspective over the weekend.  For me, it’s not about life after cancer or life beyond cancer (which I used to say all the time).  But, Life OVER cancer.  There is life in the middle of cancer.  There are precious moments of life every day- from a child’s hug to laughter with friends.  This is what I celebrate.  and fight for.   I also came home from this weekend with a renewed commitment to see Hope Scarves grow in capacity and awareness around the country.  I want so badly to feel well enough to see this happen!  I love sharing our mission with others and seeing people excited about our work!

52fa5c49ca16b4c435eb3b79Most of all, we enjoyed the weekend in Atlanta as a family!  It was also bennett’s 6th birthday weekend.  So, we had LOTS to celebrate!  KidsII pampered us with gifts and treats all weekend. I think the boys were expecting turn down service last night with chocolates on their beds… ha!  The boys did the aquarium, legoland and ordered room service.  We had a babysitter Sat. night to attend the Pink Power mom Gala to accept a $5,000 check for hope scarves!

Today we are headed to Vanderbilt to meet with a doctor who specializes in metastatic breast cancer in young women.  I love my two rockstar doctors, but we are hoping to get additional information and input on the best next steps to fight this.   I’m exhausted and really missing life as we knew it.  We were supposed to go on a ski trip next week, I am supposed to be training for the mini marathon.  I am supposed to be going to the Young Survivors Conference in Orlando next week to share Hope Scarves.  Or not.  I guess right now we are supposed to fight cancer.   That’s the thing… you never know what twists and turns lie ahead of you on your journey.  It’s just the way you face your journey that matters.   I am trying hard not to mourn the life we had or be jealous of everyone moving forward in their lives.  I am going to focus on LIFE OVER CANCER.

I know there is much more to this journey.

with hope,