Holding Space

With Shelly Vaughn


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Moving Forward

Sorry it’s taken a while to update everyone. I do have some medical updates and the next steps of my treatment plan in place. First (the best news)- I got results from my MRI and it looks clear!! They cannot see any part of the original tumor and the lymph nodes look normal. So all of that horrible poison did its job!!

Moving forward- the date for surgery will be on July 26th. I have very mixed feelings about it, but confident that this is the best thing for me. About 6 weeks after surgery will be radiation, which will last 6 weeks. And then I’ll have phase two of surgery in 6-12 months, depending on how I’m healing from everything. It’s a longer, more complicated plan than I was hoping for. But it’s what needs to be done. All 3 of the doctors working with me (surgeon, plastic surgeon, and radiation oncologist) agree that this is the best plan to prevent recurrence, and I have a lot of years ahead of me to keep this away.

Physically, I’m feeling better each day without chemo. The mouth sores are gone and I’m able to eat most things. I have more energy than I’ve had in a while. My only complaints now would be that my fingertips (and a small part of my toes) are still numb and my fingernails are falling off. I’m also pretty sore every morning and my legs feel very tight. It feels like I worked out hard the night before, even though I haven’t. I’m guessing it’s just my body getting used to doing regular, everyday things. So if you’re looking for specific things to pray about, those would be good ones. All in all, nothing even close to how I was feeling the last few months, and that’s a wonderful thing!

I hope you’re all enjoying the warmth of the sun and the sound of the birds as much as I am. If you haven’t yet, take a moment tomorrow to soak it in… it’s a beautiful world out there!


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New Day

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It’s the first Saturday in months that I’ve woken up without the expectation of chemo side effects… and what a wonderful feeling! I still have some lasting effects that will take some time to resolve. It’ll take a while to build up muscle and energy again, but I’m already noticing a difference. And, as many of you noticed, I updated the cover photo for this group. Of course, it was intentional, because the fog has lifted and I needed something more representative of this next phase of this experience. The photo is a beautiful sunrise taken at Dolly Sods when Rob went backpacking there. There’s still a whole day ahead and what unfolds is still yet to be known. But it sure is beautiful to see the sun and know that the warmth and light will surely be in the future.


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Thankful

When I got home from my last chemo treatment on Thursday, I was surprised to see my dad, my sister’s kids, and my 3 closest friends from PA all waiting in the front yard for me- with balloons and signs and arms waiting for hugs. We spent the evening hanging out- reminiscing, catching up, looking at old yearbooks. It was the kind of evening where you wish time would stop so the night would never end. It was lovely and unforgettable. Thankful for such amazing love and support!


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Mo More Chemo!

Thursday was a big day… my last chemo treatment! I still have surgery and radiation ahead of me, so there’s a lot more to go. But chemo is supposedly the hardest part, so marking the end of it feels good!! The nurses in these pictures are such special people. The one in the picture with the cupcake was there for my very first chemo, my first Taxol chemo, and my final treatment. She’s great… they all are.


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Suffering

I suppose it would be natural for anyone going through a really difficult trial to wonder why it’s happening and to think about others who have gone through similar situations. These thoughts bring me to part 2 of my post from last week- to try and put into words some ideas about faith and suffering. I just need to preface this by saying that it is very rudimentary, but it’s therapeutic for me to write it. Besides, questioning/wondering is healthy in developing your own sense of purpose… right.
So why. Why does cancer even exist? Why is this so hard? Why do humans go through tragedy and suffering. These are big questions with bigger answers that I’m not going to be able to answer. But I’ve had a glimpse into this in a way lately that I haven’t had before. In simplest form- after time spent in suffering (on any level), you gain a better appreciation for the good things in life. Your perspective shifts. What used to seem mundane or unremarkable now brings deep joy and appreciation. These aren’t new, huge events around you. They are things around that might have been there all along, but in our fast-paced, technology-filled day-to-day it’s so easy to overlook them. That’s how it’s been with my experience through cancer, and I’m guessing with many other hardships that people go through. I don’t know if it’s the reason we go through them, but it is a benefit of going through them. I’ve never been so appreciative of sunshine, and short walks outside, of sitting with my eyes closed listening to birds, the delicious smells of food (that I couldn’t eat), warm hoodies, energy to get up the steps, flowers, the sound of rainstorms, warm baths, fluffy clouds viewed through a skylight, sitting by loved ones without saying a word, children giggling, wind on my scalp, hugs… lots of great hugs. I am so appreciative of these things lately. And I pray that I don’t lose this perspective of the simple beauty around me even as I come out of (and hopefully far from) this difficult experience.

Here’s the best analogy I can think of: Your bathroom light. it’s an average light that functions fine when you flip the switch on. For the most part, you probably don’t think twice about it. But it’s a different story in the middle of the night. You wake in the middle of the night and need to use the bathroom. After extended time in the dark, you fumble down the hall and reach to turn that switch on (just like you did earlier that day). But now the sensory experience of the light can be overwhelming. It’s the same light and wattage that your eyes perceived during the day. But when you’ve been in the dark for so long, that same light seems so much brighter. We suddenly have a shift in perspective that makes the light seem brighter… the light doesn’t change, but we do. Our suffering is the time in the dark. And after experiencing it, even a small amount of light seems so bright to us. So I encourage everyone this week to “look for the overlooked”- find those things that have potential to be bright lights. They may seem dim now because you’re not in the dark… but hopefully you can appreciate them anyway.

One other thought about suffering: I remember a quote from a show that said “someday this pain will be useful to you”. I believe that my pain has already been useful because of how it’s changed my perspective. But also in that it will allow me to help the next person- the next friend in need or person to get a cancer diagnosis. The next person who I may become close with because we can relate to each other through similar suffering. Some of my greatest comfort since January has been words of encouragement from other survivors. I hope I can be a source of comfort to others moving forward. Because maybe now, that is part of my purpose. Unexpected and undesired- but if I can bless someone in a fraction of the way I’ve been blessed through this, as a person more refined by this fire, then I’m all in. (see that… I even tied in a little Cleveland Cavaliers humor for you all.)


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Random Things

1- My mouth sores have improved so much over the last 2 weeks that I can eat a lot more foods now!!!  I gained 2 pounds last week!

2- My eyebrows, however, have taken a downturn and are suddenly getting very thin. And apparently, this is the year that thick eyebrows are making a comeback and all of the celebrities have thick ones… go figure.

3- Wonder Woman is amazing! The woman and the movie. You’ll walk away wanting to take on the world. Go see it.