Holding Space

With Shelly Vaughn


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Family Visit

This weekend was filled with visitors and smiles. My parents, Greg, and Ali came for the weekend to spend some time out here. We finally celebrated Easter with an egg hunt and scavenger hunt from my mom. We also rode our bikes to go geocaching at the local park. Olivia had a pretty good wipeout on her bike and has some battle wounds to prove it. But she has been super tough and will be fine when her scrapes heal. If you see her limping around for a bit, you’ll know why.

Part of our Saturday afternoon also included a visit from my Aunt Dolly Kelly, cousin Diana Raub, and her two incredibly sweet children. Ben is her oldest (almost 4) and is my new BFF. Katie is a 1 year old climber with a smile as gorgeous as her momma’s. Back on my birthday, Aunt Dolly sent me a card saying she had something to give me in person when she could come out for a visit. So she made the trek out here to deliver- complete with homemade brownies and apple pie to fill our bellies.

I cannot say enough how much love and support I have felt from my family and how much her gift means to me. It’s a homemade bookmark, given with the sentiment “for when you write your book.” Thank you for the encouragement, Aunt Dolly… I needed it.

As she said with her own handmade creation- there are things she wished were different, parts that she doesn’t like, mistakes that only she notices. But isn’t that so true about everything in life? In every circumstance, there’s a point with where you just have to accept where things are and realize that there’s beauty in the imperfections. I’m working on that…

 


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1st Neighbor

Sunday’s lesson at church was part of a series about relationships and marriage. We were reminded that with our spouses we need to love unconditionally… one way… without compromise and without expectations in return. When both people do this, it can be a beautiful relationship that grows in the image of God.

Mark 12: 30-31 says “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

I love that David A. Black encouraged us to make our spouse our “1st neighbor”.

This served as a poignant reminder of what a blessing it has been (and I don’t use that term lightly) to be the wife of Rob Vaughn. Thank you for being an incredible man of faith who has demonstrated this kind of unconditional love so vividly in the last year. I’m lucky to be your “1st neighbor”- a place in life I didn’t realize was going to be so special back when I was 15 and fell in love with you (with the long hair, rock and roll T-shirts, and wallet chain).

Tonight, he was recognized by his colleagues with a “Star Award” through the school district. Turns out, I’m not the only one who sees what a great man he is.  😉
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Life Lessons

It’s been a while… so I thought I’d share a few updates:

1- I’ve healed well from the cellulitis infection. My skin is back to normal, the swelling is down, and my doctor said my blood work is “beautiful”. There are a few things that put you at risk for developing cellulitis- tissue that’s been radiated; areas with poor lymphatic drainage; and tissue that has had cellulitis before.

So, yes, I have all three of those which puts me at a decent risk for developing it again. However, I know exactly what to look for and how it feels, so I know to call the doctor right away if it does happen again. She also prescribed antibiotics to have “on hand” in case I notice the slightest bit of it starting again. I’ll keep them with me if I go out of town or anything- so I am armed and ready to fight it if it happens. As she said, if I have the meds with me I’ll probably be fine and not need them.  🙂

2- I had a long conversation with my oncologist about the clinical trial that I was doing. The medicine I was taking (Everolimus) is technically a kind of oral chemo. It’s nothing like the IV chemo I took, and the purpose of it is to make sure my body doesn’t become resistive to Tamoxifen (the hormone blocker… since my cancer was the kind that fed on hormones). But one of the results of taking it is lowering my immune system- making me more susceptible to infection (like cellulitis).

I’ve been off that study drug since I was in the hospital and we talked about it at my follow up yesterday. She feels strongly that it is worth trying again, for the potential benefits it has to keep cancer away. So the compromise is that I’ll take half of the dosage I was taking. That way, I’ll hopefully still get whatever benefits it offers, without compromising my immune system too much.

3- An unexpected result of having cellulitis was my oncologist’s concern with how this would affect reconstruction. When I was in the hospital and it was severe, she recommended that I don’t have reconstruction… ever. She was very concerned about putting me at risk for another infection and my body’s ability to heal. She said “cellulitis scares me… and I’m a cancer doctor.” I trust this woman more than anything- she already saved my life once. But that was just about the hardest blow I could’ve been dealt then. For a number of reasons, it was so incredibly hard to hear that recommendation and made for a pretty depressing couple of weeks. However, at my follow-up appointment she said she was totally impressed with how my body healed and that reconstruction is not “off the table”!!! It may have to be postponed, and we’ll know more when I talk to my plastic surgeon (he has been on vacation). So I’m feeling much better knowing that reconstruction might have to be postponed, but not out of the question.

4- Most importantly- This week, my friend has had her world invaded with this awful disease. She’s in the middle of the storm right now with her husband and it’s pretty devastating. Please pray for her, her husband, and their two children as they learn test results and make treatment plans. God will know who you mean.

Ahhh- all these life lessons about patience and love and God and faithfulness. They just keep on coming…. so keep on loving each other through it all.


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Going Home!

I’m being discharged today.  😊 The antibiotics have worked well to treat the cellulitis. I haven’t had a fever since Tuesday. And the rib cage area is tender but not painful. Good enough to get home and take oral antibiotics to finish off the rest of this infection. I hear that’s it’s been warming up and today should be a good day to get home. Thank you for the continued prayers and messages and flowers (Mindy Brisbane Vickers, Carly Caruso, Megan Nagel). Thanks to Carrie King Donnell, Sarah King Cooey, Aubree Uhler, and Maria Hogan for visiting yesterday. And my favorite threesome came for dinner and to hang out last night. The nurse let Liana touch the buttons on my IV machine, which made her day!! (Thanks, nurse Julia.) Olivia did her homework in my bed.  😆
Much love to everyone. Appreciate what you have today.  ❤️


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Thirty-Eight

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38… I made it to 38!! And I imagine that every year I grow older will be just as exciting. After facing mortality at a young age, I can appreciate how special each birthday is… and I don’t think I’ll ever be ashamed to shout my age from the rooftops. I’m cancer free and happy to say goodbye to 37, which was not my favorite year. I did not expect to spend this day in the hospital… I was actually looking forward to having a birthday feeling normal again. Guess that will have to be postponed until next year.

Though last night was peaceful for me, it wasn’t restful. (And the giant bags under my eyes are proof of that.) I woke up to my birthday morning accurately feeling like a girl who laid in bed most of the night without much sleep. But as soon as I finished breakfast and got a shower, visitors started arriving and it was amazing. Michael Clay Donnell, Keely A Smith-Jividen, Alli Herren, Becky Lockhart Kearns, Aubree Uhler, Barb Kline, Dorothy M Caldwell, Tina Heiberg, Susan Carpenter, Cinnamon Leonard… thank you for taking time out of your day to visit. Spending time with friends, especially having conversations that made me smile and laugh, was exactly what I needed to make the time pass quickly and make me forget how tired I was. I feel so much better than yesterday. My side is still painful, but I don’t feel “sick” today with fever and nausea like I felt the last two days. I know the antibiotics are working. When my sister asked what I got for my birthday, I jokingly replied “cellulitis”. But you know what Amy O’Shea reminded me of- I actually got the gift of healing. God is healing this infection today… and that’s really the best thing I could ask for.

A special shout out to thank my brother for sending a cookie cake and to everyone who sent messages and phone calls to wish me a happy birthday. The research nurse here brought me a cake, too. And when the woman in charge of cafeteria orders heard it was my birthday she brought me a piece of cake with a candle in it (though we couldn’t light it). My coworkers sent a beautiful bouquet of flowers and I got cool plants from Alli Herren, Susan Carpenter and Rob Vaughn. I have a windowsill and a heart full of love tonight. Though this isn’t where I would choose to be on a birthday, it turned out to be kind of wonderful.

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Cellulitis

It’s so peaceful right now. 12:40 am in a strange place. I didn’t think I’d share this, but I feel compelled to write, so here goes…

I will be fine, but I was admitted to the hospital yesterday to treat cellulitis. It’s a soft tissue infection and I got it around my right rib cage, where I had radiation. It caused a high fever that wouldn’t stop spiking, and very tender skin. I need IV antibiotics to treat it, along with some nausea meds so I can keep food down and I will be here for about 3 days. I was so upset about it yesterday when my doctor told me and I realized I wasn’t driving out of that parking lot… I did not want to be here. How could I make it through all my treatments last year without needing to be hospitalized and now this?! This crazy infection that’s causing so many problems. Then Rob got here with everything I could need (his presence was the best) and he brought the girls up after they got home from school. They’ve never seen me in the hospital or with IVs or anything like this… and I think they were ok. They ran into some friends of ours in the cafeteria, so they came up to visit as well. I fell asleep a couple of hours ago and was just woken up to check my vitals. And that’s when I realized the amazing peace in this room. It’s dark, with the rhythmic sound of the IV pump in the background. The giant “Cleveland Clinic” sign is right outside my window and is as bright as can be. But the way the green and blue light creeps through the hospital blinds is kind of beautiful. And when I peeked out in the hallway, I didn’t see or hear anyone. (I’m in the “back hallway” of the oncology floor, which is good because it’s the same floor but not near the room where I remember Allie was.) Aside from the poor woman in the room next to me who has been hacking up something all night, it’s pretty quiet and cool around here. I’ll probably feel different tomorrow, but tonight- I’m ok where I am.


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Pink Sisters

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This weekend turned out to be pretty sweet! I was lucky enough to meet this woman, Sally Gary. She is a Christian and fellow breast cancer survivor. In fact, her treatment has been just about a month behind mine. Some women refer to us breast cancer survivors as “pink sisters”. It’s cutesy, and comforting to some. I don’t know how I feel about it. I’m not one to love labels anyway… and I do try to avoid defining myself by my breast cancer experience. But I suppose it’s a simple way to show comradery and connectedness during a challenging time.

Our church hosted Sally’s visit which included 2 nights of dinner and some excellent, loving discussions at church on Sunday. She’s an amazing woman and if you ever have an opportunity to meet her or hear her speak you should do it without hesitation. She’s an author, too, if you’re up for some meaningful reading in the future. Hearing her speak about sensitive topics within the church was something I have been craving as a Christian. I’m so thankful to be a part of a church family who welcomed the discussion. But even more striking to me was seeing how she has gracefully accepted her cancer experience and not let that overshadow other parts of her life. And she is one heck of a listener. Though she does not have young children herself, she seemed to understand how deeply my role as mother has affected my thoughts and actions through treatment. So I guess if we are choosing labels here, I do proudly call her a “pink sister”; lovingly call her “sister in Christ”; and humbly call her a “friend”.