Holding Space

With Shelly Vaughn

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Another One Done

Another one done!! I was blessed with the company of Keely Anne Smith Jividen during treatment. And Rob was able to come near the end of it, too. Nothing new during the treatment… I was fairly comfortable again even with the ice packs. Dr. Rehmus (my oncologist) felt around my lymph nodes a LOT and said she couldn’t feel any… so we’re hopeful it’s out of there now, too! She’s happy with my progress, so I’m happy. As much as I wish I had more time between treatments to enjoy “good days” before the next one, I also like that we’re crossing these off the countdown relatively quickly now that’s they’re weekly. And although I was so confident that I had gained weight, I was wrong- down 1 lb today. But, I’ve got a nutritional plan for bringing that up for next week. So just give me a little more time. 😉
Thanks for all the texts and messages today. Your encouragement is so helpful in getting me through this. Love, love.
“The comeback is always stronger than the setback.”


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Chemo # 7…. check.


It was actually a nice afternoon to spend time with my friend, Rebecca. Still had to ice my hands and feet, but felt more comfortable than the last two rounds. I just couldn’t sit still and rest before, but I could do it today. Best news for today- I gained 2 lbs!!! This is the first day since my diagnosis on Jan 20th that I haven’t lost weight!! It’s amazing what can happen when you don’t throw up your food. Overall, this chemo drug is still not as harsh as the previous cocktail, so I’m very thankful. But I could use prayers for relief from the mouth sores (yes they returned) and for my fingernails (which are starting to get sore so they might not make through this unscathed). I’ll keep yinz posted!! Go Pens and go Cavs!!!

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Chemo #6… done.

My dear friend Tana Kura (Allie Armstrong’s mom for those who haven’t been blessed to know her yet) was able to join me for today’s chemo. It was nice to see her and see that some of the nurses remember her from when Allie was getting treatments there. Allie touched so many people and it doesn’t surprise me that nurses remember her… who wouldn’t?!
The doctor and nurses were very surprised that my neuropathy was so bad after the last treatment- one nurse said she’s never seen someone have such a strong reaction like that after the first dose of Taxol. Leave it to me to surprise the medical staff. So they gave me some Gabapentin to try this round… it’s a medication to take for nerve pain. I’ll also take ibuprofen around three clock over the weekend to try to keep the swelling down. Hoping those help. 🤞🏻
And the picture of the bouquets of flowers is one of the most thoughtful bday gifts. My coworkers each brought in a flower to make the bouquets, with a sweet personal message attached to each one. I’ve never even seen a bouquet so big and beautiful. I work with the greatest people!!!
Hope you all enjoy a fabulous Easter weekend! With tons of love…

“Storms make trees take deeper roots.”


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Today was the first of 12 weekly chemo treatments of Taxol. It’s supposed to be easier to tolerate than the last 2 months… I sure hope they’re right! I was nervous about the new drug and the risk of a reaction to it, but it went off without a hitch. The most common side effect of this one is neuropathy in the hands and feet. My oncologist does everything possible to keep it minimal and hopefully prevent it from being permanent. So she put my hands and feet in ice while I was getting the Taxol. It was strange, and uncomfortable- hard to relax like that. But if it helps, I’m all for it!
Another survivor friend came over tonight and it was good for my soul- relating to things only fellow chemo fighters with young kids can understand, and encouraging me by hearing of her life now after cancer. That will be such a wonderful time someday!
Rob got tickets for us to see a play in Cleveland tomorrow evening as an early bday gift for me. If you feel compelled, please pray that I feel well enough for us to enjoy the special night!
Sending love to the Caldwells in Strawpump (and those all over) as we remember my cousin’s bday who made her way to heaven after her own courageous cancer battle. So proud to share our mutual descent from that woman with a heart of gold. Love, love!



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He is breathing on MY dry bones…

It’s difficult to know what to say to update everyone in this post and how many details to share. This was definitely the worst round of chemo, even knowing what to expect and armed with my arsenal of remedies for side effects. I was physically and emotionally at my lowest and had a hard time coming out of it. Like, it’s been 13 days and today was the first that I can say was not miserable. Coming out on the other side of it, I can share some beautiful things. My parents and brother were all out here to help out and love on me when I needed it. It was so depressing to see everyone’s fun spring break pics while I was barely getting out of bed, but now I see the gift of timing to be able to send my girls to PA for the worst parts of it so they didn’t have to see me so miserable and just have fun with their cousins. I have seen the value of friends who know how to love me and encourage me through the worst of the worst. I cannot say enough about Rob and his ability to help me through this. He knows me so well- when to let me rest, and when to push me to get out of bed; when to make me drink an Ensure and when to just bring home a slushie (I still think I could live on slushies and applesauce at this point); when to call on my friends to come encourage me even when I thought I didn’t want to see people; and when to stop in the middle of life and give me a hug. The hug was very much needed on Thursday, when I learned that a friend fighting a different kind of cancer lost her battle. This disease is awful. And way too prevalent. This treatment is barbaric and ugly. I don’t want to do it, but it’s my place right now. And I’m floundering my way through it.
The picture I posted below was actually taken when I wasn’t feeling too bad yesterday. It was warm outside and there’s something so healing about breathing fresh air and hearing birds chirping around you.
I don’t write all of this to make you feel bad for me. But more importantly, so you know what this experience looks like. And to know how I get through it. The misery I felt this round definitely tested my faith, and will surely happen again (the testing, not the misery). But as sad and lonely as I felt in the hours of being up all night or soaking in the tub for comfort, I’m not alone. I have a God strong enough to get me through this when I can’t. Thank goodness, because I don’t know how I would do it otherwise. I heard the song “Oh My Soul” (the link is below) right after round 3 and played it repeatedly these last 2 weeks. There’s something so powerful in the lyrics:

I won’t try to promise that someday it all works out
‘Cause this is the valley
And even now, He is breathing on your dry bones
And there will be dancing
There will be beauty where beauty was ash and stone
This much I know

Oh, my soul
You are not alone
There’s a place where fear has to face the God you know
One more day, He will make a way
Let Him show you how, you can lay this down

I’m not strong enough, I can’t take anymore
(You can lay it down, you can lay it down)
And my shipwrecked faith will never get me to shore
(You can lay it down, you can lay it down)
Can He find me here
Can He keep me from going under

This is MY valley… He is breathing on MY dry bones… One more day He will make MY way…. MY shipwrecked faith…He can keep me from going under. I don’t expect to be shouting from mountaintops in a beautiful unscarred journey. But I will get through this my own messy, miserable, broken way… with Him.
(Side note: Just now as I went to find the link for the song, I learned that the artist wrote this about his own battle with cancer. No wonder it resonates so closely with my experience. Thank you, God, for knowing what I need to hear. And knowing it usually comes through music for me. And thank you, everyone who is reading this and part of this group, for holding space with me and reminding me of your presence even in my silence.)

Today, please say a prayer for the sister of my friend who is no longer here, and her family. Her sister has been a dear friend for many years and this is really hard for the entire family. God will know who you mean. The family could use some comfort tonight.


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Round 4 Is Done! (No More AC Chemo)


Round #4 is done. My sweet friend Carly drove into town from PA to be with me for it. The doctor continued with the changes from last time to slow the administration rate of the Cytoxan drug (which prevented headaches last time.) I have scheduled IV hydration again on Monday since it’s so hard to eat/drink on the weekend right after. The oncologist cannot feel anything! No lump, no change in tissue, and swollen lymph node!! Praise God! It’s so helpful to know that these horrible drugs are at least doing something. Carly and I had a beautiful discussion starting with her saying, “how are we even here right now?” I’ve been in the day-to-day mode for so long that I haven’t taken a step back much to think about where I am in all of this. And I don’t know how I got here, when 2 months ago this was nowhere near being on my radar. It’s hard to believe, but I’m sure glad I have such loving support from her and all of you to hold my hand through it all. Friends make the best therapists.

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Round #3 of Chemo


“Isn’t there supposed to be a tumor in there!?”…. those are the exact words my oncologist said when she felt for the tumor to do this week’s measurement! She was serious. I had to point out to her exactly where it was and she couldn’t even measure anything!! She was all smiles and happy with my response to the chemo so far. 🙂
The chemo is in so now we wait for the side effects. They slowed the administration of the one that gave me a headache last time, and I’ve already noticed difference. I should feel ok until tonight, so we’ll be able to celebrate Rob’s birthday. I have some different medicine to help with the bone pain this round, and already scheduled for IV hydration on Monday to help with dehydration that will likely happen tomorrow and Sunday. Feeling hopeful that these changes will make a difference and help me through this week.
Thanks for all the messages yesterday! Love, love. 🙂

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’ ”

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First Round


First round done!! I worked this morning to try and keep myself distracted, but how to you suppress the thought that your chemo treatments start that afternoon? (You don’t!) I was anxious beforehand and when we first got there, but once the medicine started I was ok. It didn’t take as long as I expected, accessing my port barely hurt, and I’m feeling ok so far. (The effects will start tomorrow.) thank you for all the cards, gifts, messages, texts, and prayers today. I love feeling the love!!