Recent Cancer-related FAQs

Mar 08

Lately I’ve been asked the following questions by a few different people.  I thought others might be wondering too…

Um, you look great.  Do you still have cancer?

Thanks!  And, yes.

I have metastatic disease, or Stage IV breast cancer, or whatever you want to call it.  Dr. Wonderful is very clear in letting me know that whilst I can hope to be his patient for a very long time, I will be under the care of an oncologist for the rest of my days.  If I am to be cancer free, that will be a miracle from God.

Do you have any side effects from your current treatments?

I don’t have any direct side effects from the three drugs I get at the oncology office.  (Perjeta and Herceptin every 3 weeks, and Faslodex every 4 weeks.)  I *love* these drugs and hope I get to be on them for a long time!

I do have a lot of side effects from past cancer/treatment, most of which I’ve acclimated into my normal life: hot flashes, breast-less-ness, skin sensitivity, etc.

The one thing that bugs me consistently are my toes and toenails.  I keep getting ingrown toenails, losing a particular toenail, fungus, and infections.  Gross, I know.  (Sometimes I ask myself, “Why do I feel so compelled to overshare these details on the internet???”)  I had minor surgery last week on one toe, and am going in this week for a different toe.  You can pray for my toes.  However, if I had to choose one medical specialty for whom to be high maintenance (oncology, pulmonology, endocrinology, surgery, cardiology, or podiatry), I would absolutely choose the podiatrist.  Feet, shmeet.  I can handle this.

So, ah, this is awkward, but do you plan on doing breast reconstruction?

An interesting point about breast reconstruction that is not intuitive is that reconstruction is very different from a “boob job.”  At the end of reconstructive surgery you end up with numb mounds where your breasts used to be.  You don’t get back what you lost.

I’ve looked into the options enough to know which procedure I would do if I got it done.  I’d go for the deep inferior epigastric artery perforator (DIEP) flap surgery.  Since that is an unintelligible mouthful for most of us, I coined it the “whoop-dee-doo” surgery because the surgeon takes my “baby roll”, and moves it “up.”  This microsurgical procedure is cutting edge: it’s all my tissue and the net effect is a tummy-tuck turned breasts.  Like I said, whoop-dee-doo.  Magic.  It sounds pretty great.  However, at this time, I don’t want another surgery/hospitalization.  I’m busy living and momming my kids; I don’t want time away from them.

How are the girls handling cancer?

Oh, my girls.  I love them so much.  They’re awesome.  Neither of them remember life before cancer.  This past fall Maren had an Ah Ha Moment where she understood cancer and me and Stage IV and the whole deal.  I’m very Mama Bear protective over them, and it is a constant lesson to me to continue to hold them in my hands and raise them up to the Lord.  They are His children.  Greta gets a simplified version of the truth.  Maren gets the truth with a lot of prayer and attention to how we address it.

What does palooza-ing (from your last blog) really mean?

Stay tuned; I have a blog brewing on this where I’m listing out my paloozy thoughts.

Sometimes I want to scream that I am normal because the blessed perspective that I keep is hard-won; I’m normal, and this is not easy.  The cancer burden is one that I shift from shoulder to shoulder; I change posture and position to absorb the strain.  It’s hard, people.  But… it is okay; praise the Lord, I have the strength to do it.  He has given me the strength to do it.

The cancer, my cancer, is cruelly craptacular.

Palooza living is the counter-balance to cancer living.

It’s bucket list-y, dreaming, living-in-the-moment, adventuring, saying yes, and living out loud.


Feel free to ask any other questions…


  1. Lisa Smith /

    Wow. Thank you for sharing all this so we can pray more specifically. I love that momming is your top priority. LOVE. You make me a better mom and person every time I think of you. (Do you tire of hearing how inspirational you are?) I truly cannot find the words to demonstrate how enormously you have impacted my life with your journey. Love you Jen. Xoxo

  2. I love how how you lean into your faith and your language about readjusting to manage the burden of stage IV cancer is so powerful. My being is full of prayer for you to have many many long healthy years enjoying your family. The supercharged faith and joy you demonstrate is infectious – We all need more jenspective in our life!

  3. Patty /

    Hi Jen… Been following although I don’t always respond. You are an amazing young woman who I feel so blest to know and your strength gives us all strength. I don’t know if you truly realize how honored we all feel to know you. It is a privilege to walk beside you on your journey. I wish this wasn’t happening but I look at you as an angel and a teacher…no professor…as you have taught us all what is really important in life. Your Brad and the girls are blest beyond words and you make every day with them special. Happy Monday beautiful Jen. Much love and thank you!

  4. Newbie friend /

    I fully agree with Patty’s comments. I am inspired to “do today well” because of your encouragement. I will pray for happy feet!

  5. Terri K /

    Nicely done. I love the honest way you “put it all out there”. It’s very helpful to other cancer warriors, & it’s cathartic for you. I lost both breasts to cancer 15 years ago this past January, and at the time I went thru the same process in considering reconstruction. I knew that I could do it whenever I wanted it,& there was no hurry so I postponed it to live my life. I discovered that I did not miss my breasts in any way shape or form. I remained exactly the same person I was before the mastectomy. My wonderful loving husband treated me the same, my daughter & the rest of my family & friends did as well. I agree totally w/your decision to decline any elective surgery,w/all of its pain, recovery downtime, & possible bad side effects. In 15 years you will gain this same perspective, & I am looking forward to reading your paloozy narrative on it the future.

  6. peggy /

    Every blog you write is interesting. I didn’t even know I thought about the questions you just answered until you did! I so agree with Lisa ~ for us “regular” readers, you have impacted our lives by putting our “problems” in perspective and inviting us to choose to “Do Today Well”. I’m borrowing Ami’s word…I love your jespective on life! As far as reconstruction…those of us who have had many necessary surgeries, know that it would be just plain foolish to take valuable time away from the gift of “mommying” just for the sake of vanity. There’s always “tomorrow”…and maybe by then reconstruction methods will have advanced even further. If properly, fashionable clothes are the issue, gather up other young like-bodied women, form a company, and design clothes. There’s a real need for it. I look forward to the more detailed “palooza-ing” blog! ♥p

  7. Christin /

    Those were really helpful!! It really gives a direct window into where you stand…. and you stand beautifully!

  8. Annie /

    I am choosing to pray for your toes. Every day.