Holding Space

With Shelly Vaughn


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Grandma

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Here she is- the woman with a heart of gold who I love to look up to- my Grandma. I’ve mentioned her several times in these posts and I wanted those of you who didn’t know her to see what she looked like. But more importantly, to hear the story behind the picture this past week.

Monday was the Great American Eclipse. As with most science-related phenomenon, the Vaughns were fully prepared to witness it and experience it as a family. While sitting outside, staring at that golden sun (through our eclipse binoculars of course), I thought about my grandma. The golden hue of the sun is comparable to her heart in raising 12 kids and loving about a billion grandkids after that. She also frequently sang “You Are My Sunshine”… and all of us grandkids sang the song at her funeral.

In the middle of sitting outside Monday afternoon, one of the girls went to get the mail and there was a card from my Aunt Cindy in California. She wrote in the card “…wanted you to have this picture along with all my love and all of hers.” The same moment that I was thinking of this woman, I get a photo of her and me together with a message of her love. What a beautifully timed moment! Thank you God for that perfect timing. And thank you Aunt Cindy for sharing. Days like Monday are really cool!


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Deep Waters

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The girls went back to school today, starting 2nd and 4th grade this year. As the beginning of school marks the end of their summer break, I reflect back on what this summer has been like for them. I was so concerned that my issues would hinder their fun or make their memories of summer 2017 boring or miserable. Thanks to all of you who helped keep them entertained, and brought meals to us so that we could have more “down time” with them, I would say we collectively made their summer break pretty fun for them. It’s part of why I love this amazing group of people- not just holding space with me through this, but being part of the community/family keeping my girls playful and innocent.

There was one change with the girls this summer that I got to enjoy just recently. They have been to several big swimming pools this summer and had been telling me how well they can both swim now. It wasn’t until last week that I felt well enough to get out of the house with them and watch them swim at a friend’s house. They weren’t kidding. They’re swimming in deep water; jumping in without fear; and doing the handstands, flips, and underwater tea parties that every young girl should spend hours doing. It made me remember doing all of the same things with my sister, cousins, and friends every summer. It also made me think back to several years ago when we were members of Waterworks pool. The girls were both much younger and leery of the water. They would stand on the edge and hesitate to jump in the pool into my arms as I waited in the water. I knew they were safe no matter what, but they couldn’t feel it until they were actually in the water with arms around my neck and feet tucked around my waist feeling safe and secure again… and able to smile.

I can relate to that now in a different way. A cancer diagnosis suddenly threw me into water that I wasn’t ready for. It was so deep and frightening. My head barely stayed above the water at times and for a while I panicked- floundering around, reaching for anything around me to make me feel safe- just wishing I could be in a different place where my feet could safely touch the ground. But when I calmed enough, I could feel God’s arms right there. He was standing in the pool just waiting for me to realize He’s there to keep me safe in His embrace. To hold me in the deep water when I cannot stand on my own. So I feel Him now. I know He’s there. And I feel almost safe. Not enough that I’ve taken a breath and allowed myself to fully relax in His arms. (I don’t know when that will happen as I’ve heard from several survivors that the fear of recurrence is strong for a while.) But I feel like I’m getting so much closer to that now that I have the “all clear” from pathology. Honestly, I’d still like to be out of the pool watching from a chaise lounge as I sit poolside eating grapes in the warmth of summer. But you know what, I’m learning that I don’t get to choose where I want to be. But I can choose to trust that God’s got me no matter where I end up. 💕

“…You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand
And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine…”
– Oceans (Hillsong United)


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Kindness

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When Rob and I were at the U2 concert last month, this poem was one of several writings that scrolled on the screen before the concert started. I love it! And in light of last weekend’s chaos in Charlottesville, this seems like a great time to mention kindness. People navigate their own sorrows in many ways, and you never know what the person beside you is living through. We’re all in the middle of this mix of sorrow and kindness… one we can control and the other not-so-much. So let’s thrive on the one we can control and express it as often as possible. Do it today!!

… Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

– Naomi Shihab Nye – Kindness


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“It’s all gone”

“It’s all gone.” Those exact words came out of the surgeon’s mouth today when I asked him if he can definitely say if there’s any cancer left. I know he hinted at it during the last appointment, and I knew that the pathology report was suggesting that, but he never actually said the words. And I was scared to even ask because every other person I know with cancer doesn’t/hasn’t gotten a direct response like that. But I asked, and he said “It’s all gone”, and for the first time I actually let the joy and relief that comes with those words enter my being and feel it from the inside. I don’t know how to explain it. Like I knew it intellectually at the last appointment, but today I FEEL it… I FEEL free of cancer and he confirmed that it is gone!!! I cried, the nurses cried, and they sent me home with cupcakes.   It’s also easier to react to such good news now that I’m further in my recovery from surgery.

Along those lines, I’m continuing to recover well. My incisions are healing incredibly well. The surgeon was impressed and said, “I’ll do surgery on you any day.” The infected drain site is finally starting to look better, though is still the most uncomfortable part of this.

I started physical therapy this week and was totally impressed. The PT talked about things we’ll do to prevent lymphedema (swelling in the arm that happens when lymph nodes are removed and worsens with radiation.) She’ll also help me work on increasing range of motion with my right arm. And will help with reducing scar tissue and increasing skin movement around the incision sites. She was extremely knowledgeable about post-mastectomy needs and I’m looking forward to working through this with her. It feels good to know I can now be a little more active in my recovery instead of passively enduring stuff that is done to me.

(I still have radiation that will start in a few weeks… and I’ll keep you all posted on that as it gets closer. The dr said that radiation helps reduce the long term chance of localized recurrence. As much as I wish this was totally done, I’m willing to do another step if it means preventing this in the future.)

It’s been a good week and an especially good Friday! Also, I’m writing this as I watch the girls play “Just Dance”… that’ll put anyone in an amazing mood!   Love, Love!


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I wonder if he knows…

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I wonder if he knows…

How much I love just being by his side.
That he’s my best friend.
How much I love feeling his hands holding mine.
How bad I feel that I made him a caregiver, but how impressed I am at how well he does the job.
How I appreciate all the adventures we do together.
That I wish our life wasn’t in this place, but there’s no one I’d rather have helping me get through it.
How well he predicts what I need- sometimes even before I know it myself.
That a vow 14 years ago was so much more than words- and I’ve witnessed him living it out in amazing ways.
How I’ve smiled in my half-sleep state, too tired to get up or say anything, as I’ve heard him make our kids laugh.
That I trust now more than ever, that he would be an amazing father if he had to do it alone.
That I couldn’t be winning this fight without him.
That he stole my heart when I when just 15 yrs old… and he still has it today.


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Recovery

Yesterday was August 1st… mark that in your calendars as one of the best appointments so far!!! My prayers for healing have been heard and answered. First of all, I got my drains out which was a huge relief. And the surgeon said that’s the fastest he has ever taken them out of someone (just 6 days).

We knew during surgery that there were cancer cells found in one of the sentinel lymph nodes (which is why they removed a whole cluster of them after that). I still don’t know how many more were removed, but he said there were only “isolated tumor cells” in one of them, which is technically still considered negative. No other lymph nodes had any sign of cancer. He said it was because the chemo was so effective in killing the cancer in the lymph nodes. And the original tumor had shrunk to 1.2 cm. All margins are clear, which means there were no cancer cells near any of the edges of what was removed.

With the mastectomy and lymph node removal, they basically got all the cancer OUT of me!!!! It feels so good to know it’s gone!! I’m healing well, the incisions look good, and I have another follow up next week. I’m in a lot of pain today from where the drains came out… my tissue had already started adhering to the drains, so it ripped a little when he removed the drains. I’m taking pain meds to manage that pain for now and hopefully it will be better in a few days.

I will still do radiation as is protocol for treatment. That will happen in about 5 weeks when I’m healed from this. It’s the last big step for this time period (as reconstruction will happen next year).

My mom was here to help a ton last week. And we’ve had a lot of help with the girls and visitors to the hospital (thanks, Lisa GonidakisCindy Hastings WinterBrittany ArmstrongAmber Pierce NormanHannah SpringerKeely A Smith-JividenCinnamon Leonard, Becky Kearns, and Doug Gates.) I also had my own personal nurse today to help with changing my wound dressings (Kelly Dawn Hobbs) . It’s times like these I realize how wonderfully God has paved the way ahead of me… all the people He has placed in my life and ready to help when I need it. Thanks for all the prayers… please keep them coming for comfort as I continue to heal and pray that the pain subsides. Thanks everyone!