Holding Space

With Shelly Vaughn


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Spring Update

I think this has been the longest I’ve gone without posting an update. Sorry, everyone. That also means there are probably a lot of random things to talk about, but I’ll keep it as brief as possible.

Physically I’m doing really well. At the end of January, my surgeon stopped adding saline to my expanders because my skin won’t stretch anymore. So the size I am now is about the size I’ll be forever- a solid B! I’ll take it!

As planned, I have to stay at this point for 6 months then have one LAST surgery to replace the expanders with implants. So that surgery will be on July 19th. That’s just about 3 months away. I can hardly believe that I’m just 3 months away from the last step of this!

I’m gradually getting used to this body now. My chest and back are uncomfortable all of the time, but usually not painful. The hormone blocker that I have to take for at least 8 more years still causes joint pain, so I feel sore and stiff a lot. I’m trying to stay as active as possible to help with that.

In the last few weeks:

– I had a follow-up ultrasound to monitor the reactive lymph node under my armpit to reassure me (again for the 4th time) that it’s not malignant.

– My radiation oncologist officially discharged me from her care.

– My general surgeon said, “although you’re the highlight of my day, I don’t need to see you anymore”! (Since I have some attachment issues, I asked if I could come back in a year just so I can hear another person tell me I’m healthy.)

– The lymphedema on my right arm/hand is not too bad. The reconstructive surgery broke up some of the scar tissue that was impeding the lymph flow. So now it’s not nearly as swollen. Three of my fingers are large and my arm gets tight and uncomfortable sometimes, but nothing that a night of wearing my compression sleeve/glove can’t help.

Personally, life continues to be a constant mix of laughs, joy, frustration, peace and two pre-teen girls. Rob is busy training for the Akron marathon in September. The girls are busy with school, dance, and friends. We’re getting out to enjoy the nice weather. Work is going well but busier than I’m used to.

I’ve had a couple of sweet days with extended family that I’ll always remember (Toya Groves and Pat Smith- thanks to both of you for two special days.) I’ve also been spending some unexpected time with friends from home- time that is always cherished.

All in all- life is good. Some days the sun is shining and we feel the warmth on our skin. Some days it’s harder to feel it, but we know it’s there because we see the light. One of the greatest blessings we have is the light from the son.

Happy Spring.


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Celebrate!

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

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Waiting

This whole experience in healing has been such a lesson in patience. And now has been no exception. I’m STILL waiting for radiation to start. On Aug 30th they said 7-10 days for my plan to be complete and treatment to start. I’ve called them at least once a week since then and they keep saying that my plan is not ready. So I wait. I don’t really want to start- mostly because I know it means I’ll be fatigued for so long. But I also want to start so that I can finish. This is the last of the big steps of treatment and I thought I’d be halfway done with it by now. 

With this unexpected extra time of feeling halfway decent, I’ve been doing some painting around the house- the trim, the wood paneling, and the mantle. It’s keeping me busy, but it’s rewarding. More importantly, it helps me feel like I’m not “wasting time” waiting for something out of my control.
I’ll keep you all posted…


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Healing and Work

I am continuing to heal well from surgery while doing PT to help with range of motion of my arm and lymphatic massage (to prevent lymphedema). This last weekend was especially pleasant because I was feeling well and we were able to get out and do some activities that felt “summer-y”- a day at Hale Farm, Stow Summer festival, and a picnic with friends. I love being able to enjoy times like these and so thankful for beautiful weather to do it. Tomorrow is a big day- I return to work after being off during this medical leave. I worked through chemo, so this shouldn’t seem too bad. But for some reason, I’m feeling nervous about it. I’m going back to do work that I love and be around people who are very supportive… it’s really the best case scenario. I guess I’m just nervous about the unknown- how will I feel by the end of the day? will I have the energy to do my job well? how will my radiation schedule fit into my work/home life schedule? I guess it’s the same as every step I’ve taken so far- I don’t know what it will look like, but I know I’ll be ok. But if you feel like saying a prayer tonight it would be appreciated.
Thanks, everyone.


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The Unmaking

“This is the unmaking.
Beauty in the breaking.
Had to lose myself to find out who You are.
Before each beginning,
there must be an ending.
Sitting in the rubble
I can see the stars…

…Only when we’re broken are we whole…

…I’ll gather the same stones where
Everything came crashing down.
I’ll build you an altar there
on the same ground.”

This song played through my head the entire morning of my first treatment. And I’ve listened to it every day since then… several times. I feel like “unmaking” is a perfect description of how I feel. For the first time in my life, I have very little control of my physical health. I have to follow protocol to have poison injected into me for 5 months. I have to feel fatigued and nauseous. I have to lose my hair and feel less like myself than ever before. And it’s all for healing. Every negative symptom shows me that the chemo is working and every healthy cell that is killed (“unmade”) in the process is beautiful in that it will eventually be replaced by only healthy cells. I’m feeling physically broken, but hopefully this is a temporary dark night before a beautiful new beginning. That my body will be “normal” again in the future, and can be re-made as a healthier altar where the Holy Spirit dwells to use me for wonderful things.