Holding Space

With Shelly Vaughn

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“I Believe In Santa Claus”

“And I believe that everything in life is what it’s meant to be
I believe there is a God somewhere although he’s hard to see
I believe I am so therefore I should do all that I can
To be a better piece in the puzzle of God’s plan.”

– from “I Believe In Santa Claus”

I couldn’t say it any better than Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. 

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So much Better

When your regular full-time work week includes squeezing in 6 appointments, it sure makes that week fly by. Everything is GREAT! The most important ones were the ultrasound of the “reactive lymph node” that’s been swollen in my armpit area and the follow-up with the surgeon. That lymph node has been bothering me since August and the previous ultrasound said it was”probably benign”. That was good but still a little unnerving because it wasn’t definitive and I could still feel the lump. This follow-up showed that it’s definitely shrinking and still looks benign. In the back of my mind for the last 2 months, I have been so worried that it was malignant and we weren’t doing anything about it. So this appointment made me feel SOOOOO much better. A biopsy had not been an option during radiation because of the high risk of infection, but my surgeon said that if the relief wears off and I start to worry again he’ll write an order to have a biopsy done anytime I want. And I may do that at some point if I do start to worry again. But for now, I’m looking forward to just giving my body a break and letting it heal with no procedures.

Another appointment was with my plastic surgeon who will do the reconstruction. We have a pretty good plan of what we’ll do to reconstruct (it’s called latissimus dorsi flap reconstruction), but that has to wait at least 6 months from radiation, so we won’t do that until early summer. He suggested that I get a second opinion because, as he said, he is very confident in the procedure he is recommending, but he wants me to be just as confident as well. The fact that he wants me to be so sure of it makes me trust him even more.

On Monday I will meet with my oncologist. I haven’t seen her since my last chemo treatment in June. We will very likely be discussing if /when I’ll need to take hormone blockers. And I have a lot of questions about current research to make sure this never returns. (I have a lot to say about that which will come in a future post).

My hair is growing in slowly… and wavy! This is a new look for me and I’m not loving it. But at least I’m healthy. I did a very brief PR piece for Akron Children’s last month with Holly Strano (from WKYC) which aired last week. Though my hair was shorter then, it was also less curly so it looked a little neater. It was a nice confidence boost in the middle of this- I may not look like myself but I’m thankful that manager and supervisor, Barb Kline, still thought enough of me to ask me to represent our department.

Getting ready for this amazingly sweet Christmas season. Hope everyone is enjoying it!

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So much food… so much love

We have had many local friends show love to us by providing meals and gift cards. (Someday I will eventually get caught up on “thank you” cards for all of you.) The time and money that we saved is immeasurable. There were many days that I felt too sick or tired to even think of food for the family. And there were other days that I felt pretty good, but because meals were coming I could spend time enjoying other things (like time relaxing or going somewhere as a family) instead of worrying about what to make for dinner that night. We will forever be grateful for everyone’s help with this. Our dear friend Jeanine Muller organized the “Meal Train” and kept it going for us when we needed it. This Tuesday’s meal from Jen Wedo included a beautiful bouquet of roses to mark the end of treatment. And tonight’s meal (the last on the schedule probably until reconstruction in the summer) was brought by Katie Ruhl and was surprisingly celebratory! Thank you to Katie for recognizing that this was worth celebrating- with sparkling grape juice to toast with the girls, a full spread of snacks and dinner, and delicious food to eat together as a family. We feel very blessed to have been shown love and fed by everyone so well over the last 10 months- our bellys and hearts are full. 


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Permanent Art

No better way to celebrate a milestone like yesterday than to mark it with some permanent art! 

I got an open heart on my wrist with a few layers of meaning in the small symbol. Love God, Love People. Colored in with the birthstone colors of Rob, Olivia, and Liana. It’s “open” to remind me how many people have opened their hearts to help our family get through this experience and to always have an open heart for others. And I got it on my wrist because that’s where everyone wore their bracelets to support us. So where yours came off, my mark went on… forever. (Side note- the owner of the tattoo shop heard why we were getting them yesterday and humbly offered to do mine for free… his own gesture of an open heart.)

Trisha showed up and got one too! A similar heart, also on her wrist, but open in the opposite direction- the other/opposite half of me.

And Rob’s… well it’s pretty much the best tattoo I’ve ever seen. It was like the grand finale of the night. Take a look and be inspired. It was the absolute perfect way to end a perfect day.

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Yesterday- 11/20. Exactly 10 months to the day from my initial diagnosis. I finished my treatments and walked out of radiation for the last time!
Today- 11/21. My first day without treatment. A new beginning of healing and recovery and moving on from this. No coincidence that it’s my grandmother’s birthday. I feel so lucky that I can celebrate her life and my “renewed” life in a special way this year. Miss you grandma. You made so many wonderful people to walk in the world. This year they all walked beside me beautifully. I can picture you sitting at the head of the table, eating saltines and chipped ham, wearing your humble smile as you watch everyone share love and define family in the most perfect ways. 
#caldwellsrock #peaceoutcancer #birthdays