Holding Space

With Shelly Vaughn

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This picture means so much to me. Last night I was invited to participate in a fashion show in my hometown of Greensburg. It was fun and different and a really great experience. This picture represents the part of the evening that meant the most to me. The girl on the left is Kelli Brisbane, who organized the show! She has such a sweet soul and she knew my cousin, Amy. My mom is next in the picture- one of the strongest survivors I know. Next is Wendy Bell. She used to work for the local news station in Pittsburgh… with Amy. Prior to the show backstage, I saw Wendy sitting in her dressing room and timidly introduced myself. I wanted to remind her that I had met her a few times back when Amy was sick and last saw her at Amy’s funeral. I said “I’m not sure if you remember my cousin, Amy.” She paused for not even a second, put her hand up to her heart, and said, “I will never forget that girl. How is her son, Michael?” She told a few stories about Amy and the impact she had on her life. She genuinely cared to know how everyone in the family was doing, especially Michael who she remembered holding as a baby when he started crying during the funeral. It felt so nice to talk about Amy again and hear others talk about her. It reminded me that my own struggles are just that- my own. And each person has their own. They may not seem comparable to each other, but the effect they have on our lives can be comparable. Wendy has gone through some very public struggles recently, leading her to reflect differently on life and family. Kelli has been through her own as well. Their struggles aren’t cancer, but they’re just as powerful in their lives. And they can be used just as strongly to shape these women into role models for others. The way we respond to the challenges we face can be such an opportunity to teach grace and love to others… and be a testimony of our faith in Christ. I pray that I can use my experience to show others how God has carried me through the fog… especially as I feel closer and closer to coming to the end of these treatments. And I feel so lucky to have had Amy as such a strong role model to me- in her life and especially as she faced her passing. Missing her dearly today.


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Race With Grace


Today I was able to participate in a 5K race for a wonderful organization. I walked it with the kids; and although I wish I could be in shape to run it, it was kind of nice to spend time walking the distance with loved ones. So representative of this experience for me- “walking the distance with loved ones”. 
We did have a few of the athletes on our team running the race- which were impressive. Way to go Rob VaughnAlicia HofmannSean DawsonLarry CaldwellMelanie WilliamsAdam Staller!
I’m exhausted tonight. But you know what- I’m exhausted because of a 5K! I used to be exhausted from walking upstairs. So things are looking up. And I’m super thankful that Keely A Smith-Jividen captured this special photo of me during the race. Looks like I’ve got some heavenly help shining down… ❤️

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No More Port!

Great news- I am getting my port taken out on Friday!! This Friday! Two days from now!! I’m so excited (if you can’t tell). I had an appointment scheduled for later in the month, but they called today to bump it up earlier. I know that treatment really isn’t done until radiation. But this port was so symbolic of the beginning of treatment… and the removal of it is symbolic that the end is near. That thing was my lifeline- I hate it and I love it all at once. I’m so glad to get it out of my body. OUT!! GONE!! Along with the cancer!
(Oh- and my return to work went well today. I had an appointment in the morning so it was a shorter day than usual. It was a nice way to ease back into things. And it was really great seeing my co-workers. Seeing them meant getting hugs from friends- which was actually really energizing and uplifting. I am thankful.)

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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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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!