I choose joy

Mar 23

Three spots, people.

We have three new spots, three new metastases.  I say “we” because that’s how I feel.  I’m the one they measure and weigh, but we’re all in this together.  I have no illusions that I’m doing this alone.  (Thanks be to Jesus.)

This means my current former treatment isn’t working to control my cancer.  It means that Dr. Wonderful did lots of clicking on his computer to change my upcoming protocol.  It means I start a new drug soon: they call it the smart bomb because it injects a chemotherapy agent directly into cancer cells without affecting the healthy cells.  It means I get to keep being normal Jen–I’ll keep looking and feeling normal: no hair loss, no fatigue.

I have two lymph nodes that are measuring cancer, and another maybe-cancer spot in my lung.  The details of the spots don’t really matter: Dr. Wonderful filters the information from the scan and translates it into treatment.  He’s got the medical science side of this covered; God’s doing his thing and I trust His goodness always; I’m here to focus on health and joy.  We’ve all got our roles, and I choose joy.

I’m present today, as Jen.  My Jen-ness is intact.  We’re changing drugs: this could be the one that keeps my cancer under control for years.  My God could decide to swing me back to No Evidence of Disease (NED) status with a flick of His finger.  Cancer free.

So.  We can worry, whine and wail.  Or.  We can smile, enjoy and do today well.

I left the oncology office, and I went to the grocery store.  That’s what normal moms do for their families.  I wanted to be Normal Mama.  Tonight, I went to book fair.  Because Maren wanted desperately to go to book fair, and it felt good to be Yes Mama tonight.  Everyone knows that Yes Mama is waaaay more fun than No Mama.  Brad and Greta and Maren and I all went to book fair because we felt like being together.  The four of us ran laughing and shrieking from the school to the car because it was sleeting/hailing/raining on us and we don’t like to be cold and wet.  We also dropped my bad-noise-making car off at the auto mechanic because that’s what normal people do.  Our evening was, if anything, bizarrely run-of-the-mill.

We got home from the book fair and Greta was so tired she asked to go right to bed.  Her new book made her so happy, and happy G equals happy me.  She was cuddly and snuggly in her very best 3-year-old way.  She curled up with the four-foot tiger Brad got her for Valentine’s Day, and it made me smile.  I’ve gotten so many smiles out of that darn tiger that I never would have bought for her because — hello, it’s a giant stuffed animal, and clutter, and storage.  But Brad bought it for her (and a giant bear for Maren), and they both LOVE them and the whole thing just makes me smile.  I know what a thrill it is to get ridiculous gifts from your father as a little girl.

Maren curled up with her book fair book and a spoonful of peanut butter and finished six chapters.  She’s seeing Brad and I interacting normally tonight, and, once she groaned at the news that my cancer is back again, she shook it off and is having a great evening for a seven-year-old.  She is in the zone where she gets lost in books and she was trying all my old tricks and sneaks to stay up later tonight to read.  Tonight I grinned, winked, and said, “Yes, love.  One more chapter.”  She beamed … up past bedtime and reading … I hope that she is always thrilled by such honest pleasures.  She’s pleased there’s not an immediate consequence to today’s revelations; I’m still home, no hospitalizations, no chemo, no drama: I get to be normal for her.

Brad and I sat on the couch, planning logistics and details for an upcoming weekend trip.  We love adventuring together.  He high-fives me as we talk.  We review the status of Maren’s art project; I’ve sent emails, he’s helping her get deliveries ready.  There are no changes, no urgencies, no upheavals that are happening as a result of today.  Our lifestyle is one we committed to a while ago: we do today well.  We both enjoyed our quiet evening, talking together as the kids are in bed, sitting and reading/writing, and comfortable closeness with the man I love.

All-in-all it was a good day.  I don’t have the time, or the patience, to have bad days.  My day is what I make of it, and that’s why my resolve to Do Today Well is invigorating.  My friend recently boiled down life’s problems to “time and money”: the two most valuable resources.  I say nay, the richest and most valuable resource is love, and I am awash in it…

Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  –Matthew 11:28


  1. Lisa Smith /


  2. Lori6NV /

    You inspire with with your positivity dear friend. I’m fighting hard against being angry tonight – angry that you and your sweet family have to keep fighting this fight. But instead, I’ll hold my babies a little closer — because it’s what you would do. “Stand firm in your faith; be courageous; be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13.

  3. Janya /

    I have so much love for you and so few words to capture what a steadfast and insanely beautiful inspiration you are. I will never forget the first time I met you…so cool, so calm, so groundingly lovely and doing so…darn…well. You are the wellest of the well and you are doing a bang-up job of this thing called life. xoxoxoxoxoxoxo Janya

  4. I am truly in awe of your strength and resolve… and yet it is completely unsurprising at the same time coming from you.
    My fingers are tightly crossed for you that your new treatment will indeed keep the cancer under control for years and years. And may those many, many years be filled with tons more happy, normal, love-filled moments.

  5. Ben Powell /

    Dearest Jen

    I am forever in awe of your strength and positivity, You are really an inspiration to us all. With all the love in the world; Australian family is thinking of you and yours.

    Love Ben, Mitch Ian and Allanah

  6. Jules /

    You are simply awesome, Jen! We should all be so lucky to have your strength, determination and persistence! Thinking about and praying for you and your everyday!

  7. Ginger /

    Choosing to relish in the good stuff…you know what’s important! Thanks for reminding us all! You are helping us all to DO TODAY WELL! (((hugs)))

  8. Malia /

    Praying. You got this.

    Psalm 138:3

    “In the day when I cried out, You answered me, and made me bold with strength in my soul.”

    Matthew 19:26

    “But Jesus looked at them and said to them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’”

  9. Sheila Los /

    Sending my prayers of strength your way Jen! You Do Today better than most that I know.

  10. I read those first few lines and wondered if somehow your blog had posted an old status… but no, it was the correct date. And then I was overcome by your positivity, your commitment to Do Today Well and your determination to choose joy. Because of your focus, I will be able to focus my prayers to a loving God tonight.

  11. Thank you. We all. ALL. Must choose joy. Praying and thanking dear mama!

  12. Laura A. /

    You’re absolutely right, you’re not alone, we’re all near and far, virtual and in real life helping you carry this, cheering you up and praying with you. Xo

  13. Lindsay l /

    My initial reactions are to want to just swear(lots- which I totally did),ask the why question over and over, and pray. But I will chose to trust God, and His goodness and follow your example by living well today. I’ll continue to pray for strength, wisdom, more time, etc.

    Words cannot describe how your faith impacts us all. I am so blessed.

    “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”–Romans 12:12

    Much much love to you.

  14. Neecie /

    Your writing sends out lots of love and we are all Reflecting lots of love back at you. Wishing you a beautiful normal every day.
    Neecie and Leo

  15. Lisa Marker /

    Thank you for sharing. For teaching us all how to live better, be better moms. Praying daily.

  16. peggy /

    Admittedly a few choice curse words escaped my lips when I read, “three spots, people”…after all it’s been scientifically proven that using swear words releases endorphins that help calm us down in stressful situations. But I wasn’t surprised. Cancer is an insidious disease. It loves to lie in wait and pounce just when its reoccurrence is least expected. I also happen to personally know your Dr. Wonderful…who just happens to be brilliantly wonderful…so you’re right to choose joy and to continue being “normal mama”. You’re on a first name basis with God, you’re surrounded by Earth and Heavenly Angels…all you need do is continue to “Do Today Well”. You are awash in love…revel in it!♥p

  17. Aimee Madding /

    I can bear witness to your “run-of-the-mill” family night. Your ability to “do today well” for yourself, friends and family in the face of adversity is inspirational…you’ve got this!

  18. Bonnie J /

    I recently was listening to The Message radio station and an artist told a story. She had said to her dad, “this is a bad day for me.” her father corrected her and said No, it isn’t your day it is the day the Lord has made. Let us Rejoice and be glad in it. You do this so Well Jen!! Today IS the day I choose as well. Praying for you that the Lord guides your steps moment by moment, gives you peace and Hope in the future. Love you beyond measure “sister”.

  19. Charity Buchanan /

    I don’t even know what to say. I have never met you and yet you inspire me to want to be a better mom, wife, teacher, person. I only hope that whatever challenges get thrown in my path, I can tackle them with a fraction of the grace you exhibit. I will continue to pray for you and your family.

  20. KellyE /

    Continued prayers for you, your family, your doctors, the “smart bomb” and all who surround you. Thank you for sharing and for being who you are. You are such a strong example of God’s love beaming out into this world.

  21. prayers to you, and your family.
    I just began reading your blog, and then my daughter Dottie told me she was in a young women’s support group with you. I find you blog informative , and very insightful. I am learning a lot about the process, some I need to know some I am scared to know.
    But it is about the journey and I am going to embrace your journey with you.
    I so embrace my daughters journey though this, and her concern is me embracing my journey as well.
    Love and light , Sharon

  22. I like a couple others immediately cursed, asked “why?” Then stopped myself and said, just read. You are a strength that is so powerful you not only hold up yourself and the close people around you, but also all of us! Your determination to do today well own crosses my mind when I feel like things aren’t going right. I think of you often and try to look at a situation differently almost like “how would Jen see this” or “choose the happy like Jen”. You my dear are an amazing woman, with an amazing family! My words do not do justice what I feel in my heart for you [all]. Love and prayers!

  23. Laura /

    When we were kids I always wanted to be just like you, red hair and all. The happiness, positive attitude and ability to make even average days fun and memorable that shines through your words and actions now were all evident back then. I have followed your blog from the beginning and you continue to move me. I find myself still hoping I can find the strength to be just a little bit like you- your faith, approach to life and the example of how you are raising your girls is inspiring. I pray for your healing and your daily “memory making.” Laura Bobinsky (Reitman)

  24. Alicia /

    Oh, Jen, I miss you guys so much! You write so vividly that I feel like I got to spend the day with you :-). Thank you for that.

  25. Jessica /

    I met you at the I Have Wings conference last year. You are such an inspiration and I love hearing about your progress. I am so sorry about your news, but you continue to inspire and take everything in stride, which is amazing! I will continue to pray for you! I am Stage 3 and cancer free to my knowledge. It has been about 1.5 years since my diagnosis. I have Lymphedema in my chest and aches and pains that I can’t explain, but am otherwise happy and healthy. I pray it stays that way. Take care!

  26. Nikki /

    Love you Jen. I have ‘Choose Joy’ tattood on my wrist for myself, but now it has you all wrapped up in its ink. I will be praying for you until the ink fades. 47 plus years from now. Xoxo

  27. Becky Palmieri /

    You inspire me, Jen! Please know that I have been praying for you in that stranger-love fashion 🙂 I’m bummed that I failed to check my email this weekend to learn of your gathering. I would have attended and enjoyed carving out some time to get past the “stranger” part. I hope it was a sweet blessing to your soul!

  28. Karen Almand /

    You are simply amazing my dear! I continue to pray for you often even though I have not commented lately. God is indeed doing wonderous things through you-thank you for your joy. I will smile and laugh in honor of you today 🙂 Carry On Warrior-ya’ll have got this!

    Karen from Memphis

  29. Julie /

    Tears streaming down my cheeks as I read this…I love your spirit. I am always your brave warrior from the north…prayers will keep coming. love you and your family to the moon and back. Smooch.

    Jim and Julie

  30. Darlene /

    I asked myself “why”. I feel so bad that you are going through this and Brad, Maren, and Greta can’t technically do anything except give you love, and hugs.

    You are so SPECIAL, and INSPIRATION

  31. Marion /

    Oh Jen, so sorry to hear this. I will continue to pray for your healing and peace. You are a gift to me and so many with your faith and your outlook on life and love. I have been following Matthew Kelly, especially this lent. He talks about living the “best version of yourself”. You surely live that way and inspire others to do the same. Hugs.

  32. nancy /

    You are loved. So loved.

  33. Tonja Hemmerick /

    Yesterday as Dr. Cody entered the 1:1 room prior to my chemo. he must have seen the stress radiating from my eyes, and I voiced my concerns of this nasty virus that has decided to settle in my lungs. Than after I spoke with you, and it threw me off guard by your recent scan results. Going to bed last night with my prayers and the words of Dr. Cody ringing in my ears. I felt an overwhelming peace come over me for you.
    Dr. Cody voiced to me something to the tune of, “you continue to live life and staying busy and getting through all your up coming events, and I will look after the cancer.” Then the will power and FAITH you demonstrated yesterday I had this inner peace that all will be good with you. This newest treatment will possibly be your “magic bullet”.
    The way I see it we are on a win win team. Having the two most powerful physicians in our boxing corner. The almighty physician and the expertise tools he has equipped our amazing Dr. Cody with.
    Keep the Faith…much love;
    All things are possible with FAITH.

  34. Genora /

    Keeping you and yours, always in my prayers.

  35. Megan /

    I’m not sure how I found your blog, Jen. I’ve enjoyed reading your words and as a Mama of 2 littles, I’m inspired to enjoy every day.

    My heart sank when I read your words today. I wish you didn’t have to fight right now. I’m sorry. I hope you can feel the full force of all of US out HERE, praying for you and your family.

  36. You set the tone – your family read your cues. I will be praying not only for the magic bullet, but for the grace required to soak in Christ’s love in the midst of it all.

  37. Newbyfriend /

    I am sorry that you have to go through this. When I first read today’s blog I cried, no fair! Then as I reread it, I got strength from you! You continue to teach us all how to live, to chose how to live. None of us know what is ahead but we know that we have today, it is a gift. I am glad that you, Brad and the girls know how to live well and enjoy each day. You are
    God’s voice to the world! Thank you

  38. Meggie /

    love you.

  39. Michelle /

    How is it that you mange to walk this Earth as a superhero in disguise? You flit, and float, and swirl around us all lifting us from our sorrows and frustrations bringing us light. You have no idea how inspirational you are as you continue to “live normally”, “choose joy”, and “do today well”. You drape your cape around your family and friends and embrace them and they feel your love. What lucky people they all are! Keep fighting those villains and be sure to call on us when your “cape” needs a patch.

  40. Eloise /

    You rise above bad news with such grace and positivity – we are sending you strength and overwhelming love and support. You are doing each and every day well…
    Lots of love,
    Eloise and Brett

  41. Kathi /

    No no no no no….that was my first response. Then I continued to read your blog and I am in awe of your faith. I want to be like you in so many ways….you’ve caused me to change for the better. Sorry to miss the gathering. I pray it brought balm to your soul. Know that you, Brad and the beautiful little girls you love will be covered in prayers to the Father. “But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.” Jeremiah 17:7

  42. Shannon Weiss /

    Sending extra prayers and hugs. Enjoy your little trip! Xoxoxoxo

  43. Lauren /

    Thank you for choosing joy and reminding me to do the same. Praying for you and your sweet family as you tackle this next hurdle.

  44. Kelly Raulin /

    Amazing-that is what you are. Choosing joy clearly reflects in your husband and your girls. I’ll be thinking of you and sending strength your way.

    Love, Kelly