05 December, 2012

This is my catch-all blog post.  A lot has been happening and I haven't written about much, so today's post is going to be about a myriad of things.  In my last post, I mentioned that I applied to Starbucks, and am now announcing that I've been hired! I had training all last week and officially started working on monday! It's pretty fast paced and will take a little getting used to, but so far I love it and have been having a lot of fun (and a lot of coffee (: yum)!

I visited Atlanta a few weeks ago and had a wonderful time!  I stayed with friends Maureen and Katherine and spent a day with each of them.  I also spent a day with my dear friends from Blueprint Church and a day at the Georgia Justice Project, where I used to work.  My roommates were pregnant when I moved home from Atlanta, and during this trip I got to meet their sweet baby girl!  The time was short, but sweet, and I was able to spend time with everyone I wanted.  And I welcomed the crisp fall air and gorgeous autumn leaves that are so rare here in southern California.
Chattahoochee River
My beautiful friend Katherine
We celebrated Thanksgiving with family at our house.  I spent all morning cooking mushroom thyme gravy, pumpkin alfredo pasta, and basil pesto rolls.  Then the majority of our family members came over for dinner -- fifteen people in all!  After dinner, we have a tradition of going to the movies.  This year, we saw Lincoln, which was very good, but also very long. If you The following morning was spent at breakfast with friends followed by a hike along the beach in Torrey Pines with my family.
There is so much I am thankful for this year!  I am thankful to be cancer free and healthy! I am thankful to have had the love and support of friends and family! I am thankful to have had an amazing doctor and to have had an extremely treatable type of cancer.  I am thankful to have health care.  I am thankful for a new job! And more than anything, I am thankful to have a God who is faithful, even through the darkest of times.

If you remember back to my birthday, I made some resolutions for this year.  I've posted about a few things, but I've been busy with more than those! So here are some of the things I've been doing...

Craft Project #1: baby burp cloths
As I mentioned earlier, I met baby Mia for the first time during my trip to Atlanta.  I wanted to give her parents a gift, so I made them some burp cloths.  They're simple to make, but adorable!  All I did was cut out rectangles of cute cotton cloth and of terry cloth, sew them together, and add some topstitching. Easy as pie! And a nice, simple project to start out with.
The finished product
Documentary #1: No Impact Man
This is the story of a New York family who decides to live as eco-friendly as possible for an entire year.  They abandoned cars, made zero trash, and even turned off the electricity.  It's about minimizing our negative impact and maximizing our positive impact of the earth.  I really enjoyed this documentary and would recommend it to anyone interested in environmentalism.

Documentary #2: One Nation Under God
This film follows four Christian college students as they road trip around the US, meeting new people and asking them their views about God.  While it was interesting to hear what people had to say, there was no real point to the film.  I've heard their second documentary, Beware of Christians, is much better and am going to watch it next.

Book #2: The Gospel of Luke by William Barclay
I recently started reading this Bible commentary along with my regular Bible reading and really enjoyed the added insight it provided.  However, Barclay's writing is outdated and he seems too confident that his view and interpretation of scripture is the right one.  I doubt I will read another one of his commentaries, but will definitely continue reading commentaries on a regular basis.

Book #3: An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor
I really enjoyed this book; this was the second time I read it.  It discusses ways to make every day tasks into spiritual practices, observing the work and glory of God in what may seem at first to be mundane.  If you are looking to lead a more reverent life, I would definitely recommend it.

Book #4: The Princess Bride by William Goldman
The book is exactly like the movie, but it gives a little more background and depth to the characters.  What can I say? It's a classic!

Something New #3: Brussel Sprouts
We never had to eat brussel sprouts as kids.  I heard rumors that they were the worst food known to mankind.  They have a reputation worse than broccoli.  So that's probably how I made it all the way to age 24 without having ever tried them.  Well, we went out to dinner for my mother's birthday to a charming restaurant in Ocean Beach called Bo-Beau.  I was feeling adventurous, so I ordered the crispy brussel sprouts, and oh-my-goodness they were absolutely delicious!  They were drizzled with apple cider and topped with cranberries, hazelnuts, and goat cheese.  Brussel sprouts have overcome their infamy and now are one of my favorite vegetables. Yum!

Something New #4: Green Tea Latte
Now that I work at Starbucks, I have the opportunity to try a lot of new things!  This week, I tried a green tea latte. My coworker told me it's an acquired taste and she was right. I didn't like it too much, but people order them often, so I am determined to give it another try. I'll let you know how it goes the second time around.

Health Change #3: Use All-Natural Toothpaste
As I've mentioned before, I want to eventually switch all of my products to all-natural ones in attempt to be in contact with unnatural chemicals and artificial substances as little as possible.  So I was excited when our grocery store started carrying Tom's natural toothpaste. Unfortunately, after using it a few times, I realized it doesn't leave my mouth feeling clean and minty afterwards.  So I was even more excited when I realized that our grocery store also carries Burt's Bees natural toothpaste.  It seems thick and goopy compared to other toothpastes, but it makes my teeth feel clean and leaves my breath sufficiently minty.

Health Change #4: Use All-Natural Shampoo and Conditioner
I've started using a new type of shampoo and conditioner.  It's called Gud by Burt's Bees. The scent I've tried is called orange petalpalooza and it smells delicious! It's all-natural and makes my hair feel really soft.  I've tried other brands of natural shampoo, but several of them didn't leave my hair feeling clean (like Nature's Gate).  I'll have to see if I still like this shampoo after my hair gets longer, but so far, Burt's Bees has left my hair feeling nice and clean.

I've recently started what I would consider to be my most ambitious resolution: reading the New Testament in 24 days.  I'm about eight days into the task and let me tell you, it is a lot of reading! It's taken me about three hours each day. But it's worth it! Not only am I reading stories I've never read before, but I'm understanding familiar stories in their greater context.  I also am beginning to see the big picture of the Bible as a whole.  I have a lot of questions about things I am reading, but this has made me excited to read my Bible! I'll give you another update on this soon!

I hope all is well with you!

18 November, 2012

Book #1: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Ever since I was in high school, numerous people have told me I would enjoy this book, but I never took the time to read it.  The movie recently came out and, because I wanted to see it, I decided I'd better hurry up and read the book (I used to think it's better to read a book before seeing its movie counterpart, but I've recently changed my mind on the matter).  Anyways, all this is to say, I finally decided to read Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
It's the account of a boy named Charlie's freshman year in high school.  He's somewhat of an outcast, but soon makes friends with a group of rebellious seniors who expose him to all sorts of new experiences.  Most of the story seems to be a pretty accurate example of what a fifteen year old might endure in high school and several parts of the book resonated with my own memories of what high school was like.  However, the main character's internal dialogue and external actions seemed a bit contradictory.  Charlie seems bright-eyed, earnest, and naive, but doesn't hesitate to partake in violence, underage drinking, and use of several different drugs including marijuana and LSD. While I'm sure there are high schoolers who involve themselves in these things, and while I acknowledge the power of peer pressure is sometimes underestimated, I don't find Charlie's combination of innocence and immorality to be founded in reality.

The book deals with several serious issues such as depression, physical and emotional abuse, death of a loved one, suicide, and sexuality.  I think it is extremely important to discuss topics such as these, especially at a time in life when people feel so vulnerable, and I applaud the author for making an effort to acknowledge these issues.  However, the book provides absolutely no suggestions of dealing with these issues in a healthy way; the characters instead turn to the aforementioned unhealthy (and often unlawful) activities.

I saw the movie a few weeks ago with my friend Lamia.  We both really enjoyed it.  I would definitely recommend the movie over the book.  The movie focuses less on Charlie's psychological issues and instead seems to be about a group of misfit kids who don't have to endure high school on their own because they have found each other.  And the film has great music (I'm a sucker for a movie with a great soundtrack).

Overall, I think I enjoyed the book, but would suggest that one should be very intentional in who they recommend it to.  It might provide the gateway to discussion of some difficult topics, but should be paired with materials and discussion addressing healthy ways to find healing.

02 November, 2012

Health Change #2: Use All-Natural Face Wash

Happy November!!

I had my 3-month check-up on wednesday.  I can't believe it's already been three months since my last doctors appointment!  Everything went well with my check-up, but I am still having some weird things going on with my body.  I asked my doctor about them and she said because of the chemo and birth control (I was on it while I was getting treatment, but am off it now), my hormones are going a little crazy.  So basically, it's like I am going through puberty again... lucky me...

Because of this, I am having a minor case of acne, which brings me to today's health change: use all-natural face wash.  As I said before, my theory about health is that we need to maximize good stuff, minimize bad stuff, and get the right amount of exercise.  In order to do this, I want to make sure that chemicals and unnatural substances come into contact with my body as little as possible.  Not only does this include processed and genetically modified foods, but toiletries and cleaning products as well.  So in attempt to put this into practice and control my teenage-like breakouts, I got a new face wash.  I used to use neutrogena's acne bar, but it's filled with all sorts of chemicals and things I can't pronounce.  But they've recently come out with a new natural line, so I decided to try their new natural purifying facial cleanser, which boasts "No harsh chemical sulfates, parabens, petrochemicals, dyes, or phthalates."  I haven't been using it for too long, but I'll let you know if it successful it is in handling my puberty problems.
My first health change was to make sure I take my all-natural vitamins every day.  Unfortunately, my body now associates taking pills with being sick and having chemo, which it does not like very much at all.  So usually after taking my vitamins, I feel nauseated, and sometimes even have to throw up.  I told my doctor this and she suggested that I switch to gummy vitamins for awhile until my body begins to disassociate pills with sickness.  So now I have a dilemma because I really want to make sure I am getting all the right vitamins and minerals that I need, but I also really want to make sure I am not putting unnecessary chemicals in body too.  Do you think anybody makes all-natural gummy vitamins??

I've been pretty busy lately.  I've been working a couple days a week, and that's going pretty well, but I wish I was able to work more hours.  So I've applied to Starbucks and am really hoping to get a job with them.  Unfortunately, it seems like nobody in the area is hiring, but I guess I'll have to wait and see.  I've also been busy applying to grad school.  I've been studying a lot and finally took the GRE last friday.  And I got better scores than I was expecting!!  Now I just need to finish my personal statement, which is a lot more difficult than I thought it would be, wait for my professors to return my recommendation forms, and then submit everything.  Then I get to wait.  They only accept about ten people into the program I want, so please be praying!!  I'm also getting ready for my trip to Atlanta!  I leave on wednesday and I can't wait to see everyone!!

I hope you all are doing well and are enjoying fall!

15 October, 2012

Health Change #1: Take My Vitamins Every Day

In the health and diet section of Barnes and Noble, you can find a book justifying just about any diet you could possibly think of (eating only cottage cheese, low carbs, high carbs, no meat, only meat, only grapefruit, etc.), all of which contradict each other.  I've come to believe that information on most aspects of health is this way -- saturated with conflicting theories.  I have tried to research what caused my cancer, in hope that I might be able to fix whatever was wrong, help my body reach optimum health, and prevent my cancer from ever coming back.  Not too surprisingly, I found numerous books and articles that all say something different.  But pretty much everybody agrees on some extremely basic principles.  Now I know this isn't very scientific, and I don't have any medical studies to back this up, but my super simplified theory which condenses all the things I've heard, read, and learned about cancer (or really any health issue other than things that are genetic) is that it's caused by the perfect storm of a combination of three problems:
1. not enough good stuff
2. too much bad stuff
3. not enough exercise (or sometimes too much exercise)
So the steps I am taking to get myself back to health will all address one of these problems.  I will attempt to fill my body and environment with good things, rid it of all the bad things, and make sure my body is getting the appropriate amount of exercise to keep me healthy.

My first step toward health addresses the first problem.  In order to ensure that my body gets enough of the good stuff it needs, I am going to start taking multivitamins and supplements every single day.  I took a few vitamins and supplements before I got sick, but stopped when I was diagnosed because it was just too much to add to the other fifteen or so pills I was taking every day.  Since I stopped treatment, I've gotten a new vitamin regimen and have been taking it every once in a while, but usually forget.  Now I am going to make it a priority to take them every single day.

The new vitamins I am taking are called Vitalizer by Shaklee.  As I am also trying to put as little bad stuff in my body as possible, it was really important for me to find vitamins that are all-natural instead of synthetic.  I was relieved when I found out about the Shaklee Corporation, which helped pioneer the nutritional supplement industry and has been making all natural supplements for over fifty years.  Their products are 100% guaranteed to have no dyes, artificial sweeteners, or toxic ink, all of which are unnatural and common in multivitamins.  The vitamins I am taking include 80 different nutrients, including all eight B vitamins, all seven omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, and 26 different antioxidants.  (I sort of sound like a commercial, don't I? But that's because I really like them!)  Shaklee guarantees that if I take these vitamins every single day for thirty days, I will feel better and healthier.  So check back in a month and I'll let you know if they work.  You can check them out yourself here.
I've also accomplished a little bit of my goal to try 24 new foods this year.  For my birthday, my parents got me the ice cream maker attachment for my kitchenaid stand mixer!  So in anticipation of the impending fall, I christened it by making pumpkin ice cream.  While I have had pumpkin ice cream before, I've never had homemade pumpkin ice cream, so I'm going to count it as trying something new.  You can call it a cop-out if you want, but twenty-four is a big number!  I used the recipe that came with the ice cream maker and, while it tastes delicious, it turned out really rich and rock-hard.  If I make it again, I will definitely used a lighter cream than the suggested heavy whipping cream.  And does anybody know how to make it softer but not melty?  I had to use a steak knife to chip a few pieces off!
I also tried pecan pie for the very first time.  I've never been a fan of pecans and had avoided it in the past, but it was the first rainy day we've had in months and my friend Jared made a homemade pecan pie, so I gave in and decided to try it.  And I actually liked it!  I still don't like pecans and it definitely wouldn't be my first choice, but alas, pecan pie and I are no longer enemies.


06 October, 2012

Yesterday was my birthday -- the big two-four! Thank you so much to everyone for the birthday blessings and warm wishes!  Last night, I went out to dinner with my parents, aunt, and cousins, then went back to my house for cake and presents.
As a birthday present, my parents got me
tickets to see The Head and the Heart!
I rarely drink alcohol, but decided to
have a fruity girly drink for my birthday.
The birthday cake my aunt got me.
Thanks Aunt Paula!
I went up to visit my brother in Carpinteria last weekend.  He had gotten me a turntable as a cancer-free present, and while I was up there, we went to the record store and he bought me an amp.  So yesterday, my parents and I went on a search for a new stylus and a pair of speakers so I could complete my setup and listen to some music.  My parents can't comprehend why in the world anyone would want a record player, but they've been helping me nonetheless.  I love it because it gives me an excuse to listen to old jazzy music that I would never buy otherwise (I'm currently listening to The Mills Brothers).  Anyways, all that to say: it's a great birthday present!

As most of you know, I've had a rough year.  I've never been happier to welcome my birthday and say goodbye to a year as I was this time.  I feel so blessed to have made it to this birthday!  Having cancer made me realize that I really want to live life fully and passionately instead of wasting the time I have.  To help me do that, I've made a few resolutions for my 24th year.

1.  Complete 24 craft/diy projects:
There's just something about making stuff that makes you feel good. Nothing beats the feeling you have when you put in hours of hard work and actually end up with something tangible at the end of the process.  So I've decided to consistently make stuff!  I'm already planning a quilt as one of my first projects.  My parents gave me a gift card to Joann Fabrics for my birthday to start me off and I can't wait to get started.

2.  Watch 24 documentaries:
My best friend Katy and I love watching documentaries and discussing them together.  Even though we live more than a thousand miles away from each other, we decided not to let that hinder our discussions.  So we've started a documentary club where we will each watch a documentary and then discuss it together on skype.  I'm pretty excited about it and decided to make dedication to watching documentaries one of my resolutions.

3.  Read 24 books:
This one is self-explanatory.

4.  Read the Old Testament in 24 days
5.  Read the New Testament in 24 days
When I was in Atlanta, I was blessed to be a part of a church that truly sought to follow the Lord in every way.  A few months ago, John O., one of my friends and a pastor at that church, admitted that he had difficulty reading his Bible consistently.  So he set out to read his Bible from cover to cover.  He knew that if he prolonged his quest over a long period of time, he was likely to never finish.  So he decided to read the entire Bible in 30 days.  And it changed his life.  You can read about what he learned by clicking here, here, and here. Now I'm someone who tries to read at least one chapter in my Bible every day.  At that rate, it would take me about four years to read the entire Bible.  While I think it's good to look at the scriptures slowly and in-depth, I think it's an easy way to lose the big picture.  John O. points out that one thing we lose is the fact that the Bible is first and foremost a book about God.  As of late, my heart has really been aching to know the character of God in a deeper way.  So, inspired by John O., I decided that I too would try to read my entire Bible, but in 48 days.

6.  Try 24 new foods/drinks
I'm always up for trying something new... well, mostly.

7.  Implement 24 health changes
I've been reading a book called "Sleeping Naked is Green," by Vanessa Farquharson, in which a she decided to make one new eco-friendly change to her lifestyle each day for a year.  Many of the changes she made were also incredibly good for her personal health.  I'm ready for my body to be as healthy as absolutely possible, and decided to make my changes all focus on my health.  And if she can make 366 changes (it was a leap year), then I can at least make 24.

Putting this list on my blog is less for the benefit of letting you know what I'm up to, and more for the sense of accountability I feel after publishing something that others can see.  As the year goes on, I'll try to post on all of these things in hopes that it will actually help me to get things done.  So there you have it, folks!

22 September, 2012

Hello friends!  Sorry it's been so long since I posted last!  I've been pretty busy...

My family and I went on a two-week vacation in Alaska!  We flew into Anchorage and rented an SUV so we could drive around the state for a week.  Our first stop was Denali Park.  We got there in the evening, drove a few miles into the park, and hiked around a beautiful river.  The next day, we embarked on an eight-hour bus ride into the park (four hours there and four back).  We saw a ton of caribou, a dall sheep, three bears, and we were lucky enough to see Mt. Denali (the highest mountain in North America, and the tallest mountain in the world from base to peak).  Only 30% of people who visit the park get a glimpse of the mountain, and we just happened to make it into the 30% Club!

Kevin, Denali, and Me

Beautiful Denali
We then headed to Fairbanks, with the hopes of seeing the aurora borealis.  While there, we went hiking, explored the Museum of the North, saw the Alaskan Pipeline, and saw two moose.  The second night we were there, we all went to bed and then got up a few hours later to check if the northern lights were out.  To our surprise, they were stretched across the entire sky!  It was one of the most beautiful and amazing things I have ever seen, and was definitely the highlight of our trip!

Aurora Borealis
After Fairbanks, we spent a few days in Talkeetna.  While there, we took a flightseeing trip in which we flew around Denali and landed on a glacier.  It was absolutely beautiful to see the mountain from the air, and a crazy experience to land in the middle of a snow-covered glacier, surrounded by giant peaks.  After our plane ride, we decided to take a train ride on the Alaskan Railway.  The train we took is the last operating flag-stop train in the world.  For several families, the only way to get home is to hike or take the train.  When they decide they want to get on the train for a ride into town, they put up their flag and the train stops to let them on.  It was a completely unique experience that gave us a peek into a lifestyle completely different from our own.  And the trip was made memorable by our quirky conductor, Warren, who made the journey complete by talking up a storm, making us laugh, teaching us all about life in Alaska, and even handing out prizes at the end of the trip.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime train ride that I will never forget.

Denali from the air
Our plane on the glacier
The teeny tiny plane in the middle of the
photo puts the size of Denali into perspective

Warren's Train

The next day, we drove back to Anchorage, turned in the rental car, and embarked on our cruise ship. We spent the first few days at sea, eating at the numerous restaurants, enjoying the various activities, and simply relaxing.  I decided to take part in a week-long scavenger hunt in which I had to answer trivia questions about the ship, collect random items (such as a red sock and en empty root beer can), and get the signatures of different people aboard the ship.  There were about ninety tasks in all, which gave me something to do while aboard.  As part of our journey, we sailed through Glacier Bay, which was incredible!  We saw several instances of calving, where large parts of the glacier would fall off and crash into the water below.  The most amazing part was the sounds it made, like thunder, a crash of drums, and sometimes even like a creaky wooden door.
Kevin and I in Glacier Bay

Our first port was Skagway, where we rented a little green jeep and drove into Canada.  We drove into a little town called Carcross (short for Caribou Crossing), which is located in the Yukon Territory.  It was originally established as a gold mining town during the gold rush.  So of course, my dad and brother decided it would be a good idea to try panning for gold.  Unfortunately, they didn't find anything, but it made for a fun experience anyways.

Kevin panning for gold

The next day we docked in Alaska's capital city, Juneau.  Kevin and I took a little shuttle to the Mendenhall Glacier which, like everything else we had seen on the trip, was beautiful.  We hiked out to a waterfall and threw rocks at some icebergs.  Then we decided that we wanted to stand on an iceberg.  Unfortunately, none were close enough, so Kevin rolled up his pants, went into the lake, and wrangled one to the shore.  I can now officially say I've stood on an iceberg.  While we were waiting for the shuttle to pick us up and bring us back to town, we saw a mama bear cross the street about twenty feet away from us.  She had a huge salmon in her mouth that she had just caught in the nearby stream.  About a minute after she crossed, her two little cubs scurried across the street to join her on the other side.

Our third port was Ketchikan.  Jealous that Kevin and I had seen bears so close up, my dad decided that we should go searching for bears.  We took off in a tiny plane with just our family and the pilot.  We flew for about a half-hour into the wilderness and finally landed on a small lake.  The pilot rowed us to shore with an oar and let us out right next to a river that was full of salmon, making their journey back to the place of their birth.  We waited for about an hour and saw three different bears fishing for salmon.  It was little frightening to be so close to these huge wild animals, but that just made it even more amazing.

Our last day on the ship, I turned in the findings from my scavenger hunt.  I am proud to tell you that I won, and my prize was a bottle of champagne!  We disembarked the ship in Vancouver, BC, where we rented bikes and rode around Stanley Park.  It was a great ending to a great vacation.

Fun sculptures in Stanley Park
The trip really gave me some closure to the previous season in my life, and now that I'm back home, I feel that my life can really get back to normal.  I started a new job this week!  I'm working for a company that runs the fundraisers at middle and high schools.  My job is to go around to different schools, collect the orders and money from the students, give out prizes, and do some accounting to make sure all the orders are correct.  It's been good so far, and it's great to have something to occupy my time!  I've also started studying to take the GRE again, which I'm hoping will help me get into the graduate program I want.  Anyways, all that is to say: life is good!  I hope all is well with you too!


18 August, 2012

Lots has happened since my last post.  I had my port removed.  When I had my port implanted in February, the anesthesia didn't work and I felt the entire procedure.  Unfortunately, the same thing happened this time, but I hardly even cared; I was just glad to get rid of my port, which had caused me trouble the entire time I had it!

As I mentioned in my previous post, my doctor found a pulmonary embolism, or a blood clot in my lung.  To make sure the clot dissolves and to ensure that another one doesn't form, my doctor put me on an anticoagulant called coumadin for six weeks.  It takes a while for the medication to get into my system and for them to figure out exactly what dose I need, so in the meantime, I had to take painful shots twice a day.  The doctors originally told me I would need to take the shots for five days, but they tested my blood and the medicine wasn't in my system yet.  When they told me I needed to continue the shots, I broke down and cried, right there in the doctor's office.  This was very uncharacteristic for me, as I usually am not a crier, but in this case, I'm glad I did.  I think the doctor felt sorry because she told me I could take the shots once a day instead of twice.  It's taken three weeks to get my correct dose figured out, so instead of having ten shots (twice a day for five days), I had twenty-three shots!  But I am glad to report that I am now on the correct dose of coumadin and no longer need shots.  I have about three more weeks of taking the medication and then hopefully I'll be done with all my medical issues!

On a more positive note, I had an ice cream social to celebrate being cancer free.  Thanks so much to everyone who came!  I also had several friends tell me they were eating ice cream in my honor from across the country.  And my cousin Kristie made me a batch of adorable cookies that she sent from NYC.  You can check out her website here.  It was so great to have a celebration, which finally gave me a sense of closure regarding my battle with cancer.  I finally feel like life can get back to normal and I can begin to move on.

Katherine, Adam, and Maureen celebrating in Atlanta
I'm also excited to report that my family and I are leaving our house at 4:00am tomorrow morning and heading to Alaska for two weeks!  This will be our first family vacation in six years. I cannot wait!  I'll be sure to tell you everything and post some photos when I return!


26 July, 2012

This has been a busy week for me.  I got my blood checked, a PET scan, and a CT scan on monday.  Yesterday, I met with my doctor for the results of the scans and... I'M CANCER FREE!!!!  Praise the Lord!! Technically, I'm "in complete remission," but I think it's much easier to just say I'm cancer free!  So that means I can stop taking all of my medications and can stop going to the doctor three times a week.  Instead, I'll go in for a check-up once every three months for two years, then every six months, and eventually just once a year!

While everything on my scans looked good in terms of the cancer, they found a small pulmonary embolism.  My doctor thinks what happened is that a small blood clot formed at the end of my port and then travelled into my lung.  This can sometimes be a big deal, but it's not in my case because it hasn't affected my breathing and I haven't had any of the symptoms.  However, in order to make sure the clot dissolves and that another one doesn't form, I have to get shots twice a day for ten days and take blood thinner pills for six weeks.  Then hopefully all of my medical issues will finally be behind me!

Anyways, even though I'm not one-hundred-percent healthy, I'm still cancer free! So I'm having a party as a way to celebrate and to thank you all for your support!  If you said even just one tiny little prayer for me, then you have been a great support and I want you at my party! Unfortunately, most of you live in other states and won't be able to make it, but please know that I am more than grateful for all of your support these past months! I am incredibly blessed to have such wonderful friends!! But if you live in or near San Diego, I hope you can make it (email me if you need directions)!
I am getting my port removed on Monday, so please pray that everything goes well! Also, please keep me in prayer as I deal with this pulmonary embolism.  Thanks again for all the support you have given me! I couldn't have made it through this without all of you!

"For I will restore health to you and heal you of your wounds," declares the Lord.
- Jeremiah 30:17

10 July, 2012

I had an amazing time in Oregon!   The highlight of my trip was witnessing my dear friend Brett get married to his sweet bride Laura.  The wedding was beautiful and anyone who attended would have no doubt of Brett and Laura's strong desire to dedicate their lives and their marriage to God.  Brett and Laura, I wish you infinite happiness in your life together!!
The beautiful bride and groom
Heidi, Me, Brett, Lanae, and Amy.
Brett was just a tiny bit excited...
The whole gang
Spending time in Oregon was so much fun and really allowed me to feel as if things were back to normal.  I drank coffee, read, relaxed, and spent time with good friends, just as I did when I used to live there and before I got sick.  I attended my very first rodeo in the small rural town of St. Paul, which has a population of 354. Needless to say, it was a very interesting experience and, since I didn't have boots, a flannel shirt, or overalls, I hardly fit in.  I had a lot of fun, but don't think I'll be visiting too many rodeos in the future.

I spent the 4th of July with my good friends Lanae, Julianne, and Amy, all of us decked out in red, white, and blue.  We started off the morning with coffee and a pancake breakfast in the park, then watched a pie eating contest, and of course, stopped for another coffee break.  Lanae and I then tried to make a red and blue cake, but it ended up being pink and green because we didn't have enough food coloring.  But cake is cake, no matter what it looks like, and ours was delicious!  We then ventured into downtown Portland to watch fireworks over the Willamette River.
Julianne & Lanae
I found myself with plenty of time to read during my trip.  I read a book called Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer.  It's the story of a nine-year-old boy named Oskar whose father died in one of the world trade towers on 9/11.  It follows Oskar on his quest to find meaning and closure in his father's death.  The book displays a side of pain and suffering caused by violence and war that we don't often see, and gives hope that these wounds can be healed.  As a pacifist, I appreciate Foer's willingness to expose the horrors of war seen from all sides (he tells the story and heartache of a family in Dresden, Germany and of a woman in Hiroshima, Japan during WWII), and it makes me want to seek peace all the more.  In case you couldn't tell, I really enjoyed it and would highly recommend it.

I was in Oregon for about a week and had so much fun!  I am so thankful that I was able to spend time with a ton of different friends from college.  It was such a blessing as I haven't seen most of them in over a year.  My trip allowed me to realize that I really am done with treatment and, although I did feel sick a few times, I truly feel that I am beginning to wrap up my experience with cancer.  I am relieved and overjoyed to be able to say that! Praise the Lord!!  I do still have a PET scan in two weeks, so please keep me in your prayers!


26 June, 2012

I had my final chemo exactly two weeks ago; praise the Lord!!  I spent a week feeling nauseated and fatigued, and then, as usual, started to feel better but became neutropenic.  My mom gave me one shot a day for four days, which bumped my white blood cell count back up to normal.  I'm hoping and praying that was the last time I'll have to endure those painful shots!  In about a month, I'll have a PET scan and two CT scans to check that the chemo really did work and to see if I am now cancer free!  In the meantime, I should continue to feel better and better.

And I already am feeling a lot better!  I get tired out pretty easily, but, because I've been cooped up inside for the past four months, I've been trying to keep busy regardless.  I was able to go to our church's get-together at the beach last week.  I spent a beautiful day at Balboa Park for my Dad's birthday.  I've also been able to hang out with several friends.  I went to my best friend Katy's birthday party, had dinner with my fourth-grade-best-friend Becca, and had coffee with a friend named Rachel, who I haven't seen in a few years.  I'm extremely happy to be able to have a social life again!

Now that my chemotherapy is over, many people have been asking me what I plan on doing next.  Before I got diagnosed with cancer, my plan was to begin grad school this fall.  I was all set to enter the Peace and Justice Studies Master's program at the University of San Diego, but now that the time has come, I know I am not physically or mentally prepared to start grad school.  So I deferred my acceptance for a year with the intention of beginning the program in the fall of 2013.  However, my recent experience has made me wonder if I might want to pursue a different career path.  I've been looking into a joint Master's of Social Work/Master's of Public Health program at San Diego State University and thought of possibly going into Oncology Social Work or pursuing something related to public health.  I plan on applying to the program early next year, and making a decision about what program I actually will do when the time comes to decide.  If there's anything these past four months have taught me, it's to take things one day at a time.  Our own plans are unreliable because we are not in charge of life; God is.  James 4:13-15 says,
Look here, you who say, "today or tomorrow we are going to a certain city, will spend a year there, carry on business, and make money."  How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow?  Your life is like the morning fog -- it's here a little while, then it's gone.  What you ought to say is, 'If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.
I can safely say that this year has been absolutely nothing like I planned it.  I'm going to attempt to live my life in the way these verses suggest, not making certain plans, but leaving my life open to the possibilities that God may have planned for me.  So maybe I'll go to grad school in a year, but I'm not positive.  I have several ideas of things I want to do in this next year, but am trying to remember that nothing is certain.

I'm leaving for Oregon on friday and will spend a week there with several of my college friends.  We are also planning on taking a family vacation at the end of August.  Besides those two trips, I have no plans set in stone.  I know I need to get a job and think it might be fun to be a barista for a while.  I also would love to travel this next year if it's a possibility at all -- and if God wills it.  I've been feeling a lot better, but definitely don't feel healthy.  So for now, I will simply take things once day at a time, focus on trying to become as healthy as possible, and see where God takes me.


"Every day of my life was recorded in Your book.  
Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed."  
-Psalm 139:16

12 June, 2012

I had my last chemotherapy treatment today!  Yay!!!  I feel terrible, but it doesn't even matter because I won't have to go for chemo again!  I just have to get through these next two weeks of feeling sick, then I'll be on my way back to normal!  I am so eager to be healthy again, so I am ecstatic to put my last chemo behind me!!  I'll have another PET scan and some CT scans in six weeks and will then meet with my doctor to go over the results.  So please continue to keep my health in your prayers! And thank you so incredibly much for the love, prayers, and support you have continually given me!  I wouldn't have made it this far without you!

Getting my last chemo!
"Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promises is faithful."
- Hebrews 10:23

08 June, 2012

Last week was a rough one.  I had chemo last tuesday and then began taking my new anti-nausea medication.  Not only did the medication not work, it seemed to make things worse.  I spent a lot more time sprawled out on the couch than usual.  My brother came down to visit for a couple days.  We attempted to go out for dinner last thursday and I felt so terrible that I had to have my dad drive me home before we even had a chance to order.  Thankfully, the nausea has gotten a lot better these past few days.

Unfortunately, I've come down with a bad cold.  There's really not much I can do about it except drink lots of water and wait it out.  So please be praying for me to get better so my final chemo won't get postponed!

While Kevin was here, he wanted to try on my wig (who wouldn't?).  He looked amazingly ridiculous, so of course our mom had to take a picture of the two of us -- Kevin with long, dark hair, and me with the scraggly hairstyle of Charlie Brown's friend Linus.  I knew what I looked like; I had gazed in the mirror every day for the past few months.  But it wasn't until I looked at the photo of myself that it hit me how sick I actually looked.
Kevin and I

Linus, my doppleganger.
I've never been one to wear a lot of makeup or spend hours in the bathroom doing my hair, so I was surprised at how much the appearance change of these last few months has affected me.  It's strange how much our appearance can influence the way we act and feel.  I realized at a young age that if I spent all day in my pajamas, I felt sick, frumpy, and lazy.  And these past three months, that is exactly how my hair has made me feel.  The first few times I wore my wig, I suddenly had more energy and confidence and felt a little more like I did before I got sick.  With the thin, scraggly hairstyle I've had as of late, I definitely have not felt like myself.  So after church on Sunday, my aunt chopped all my hair off with the kitchen scissors... and I love it!! I feel so much better!
Aunt Barbara giving me a haircut

But regardless of my hairstyle, I know that God "knit me together in my mother's womb."  He intricately created each and every one of us.  Yet I know so many beautiful women who doubt their beauty and value.  The reality is that we fail to realize the extent of God's love for us.  While my brother was home, he introduced me to a great organization called Wonderfully Made, whose mission is "to help young women discover, strengthen, and reclaim their true value and worth."  Please take a few minutes to watch this short video they created.  And my prayer for you is that you will begin to know the intimate love God has for you.

"Oh Lord, You have searched me and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
You perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
You are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue,
You, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before.
You have laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Where can I flee from Your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, You are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, You are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there Your hand will guide me,
Your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, "surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,"
even the darkness will not be dark to You;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to You.
For You created my inmost being;
You knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from You
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in Your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are Your thoughts, oh God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand --
when I awake, I am still with You."
Psalm 139:1-18