A break down of the four of us

Apr 12

I tell you, it has been a weird week people.

Last Monday I got great news: the tumors are shrinking.

Cue the happy dance and glee, right?  Right!  Of course: frolicking and toasts commenced.  Celebration.  WOO HOO!  Period.  It is a relief, a breath of hope, a change in trajectory.  It is good with an ache in the word.  I’m grateful.  I’m amazed, and I am grateful.

One-by-one we are all mentally trying to wrap our brains around this.

First, it was Maren; with our toasting glasses still in our hands, she wanted to know if this meant shrinking tumors would eventually be gone-forever tumors.  As in, no more cancer, no more cancer treatment.  It was oh-so-hard to know the right thing to say in that moment, but we’ve opted for medically-statistical-truth for her, so I gently told her that the expectation is that, “No Sweet Heart.  This is good news because it means the cancer is not taking over my body.  But the medical team all believe that this will work for a while but that the cancer will eventually grow again.”  Will it grow?  Will it disappear?  We don’t know.  My heart bursts with pride and pain as she assimilates into our new normal along with us.  On this night hope triumphed in her: her dimple flashed and her eyes were bright with joy.  Our message to her beats consistently: we have circumstances (some good, some bad) to accept, we have a God who loves us, and we trust that all things will be made good.  Maren is navigating challenges that far exceed what I would choose to ask of an eight-year-old, but she is growing her own gumption, courage, wit, and strength as she lives.  She is exquisite, truly.

Brad — my knight who thrives on optimism and best-case-scenarios — has been tempered this week too.  Joy first, for sure, but it is restrained.  He knows the reality of the chemo on me and his love for me is such that he is having a hard time watching me.  He alone sees me in the quiet moments.  He asks to know how I’m feeling and keeps asking because he really cares. He promises me I’m not whining when I tell him, “I’m tired,” and “I’m tired of being tired,” for the six.hundredth.time.  There’s brutal beauty in my not hiding it from him.  Truly I try not to “hide” it from anyone (helloooo internet over-sharing), but when I am out-and-about in my world, I have my Fun Jen hat on.  She’s a lot more fun to take places than Tired Jen, so my quiet energy buffering and planning takes place mostly in the quiet of my happy places in my home.  I really am authentically Fun Jen when I’m out, but — dang it — I work for her in the quiet.  Brad loves me so well in whatever literal and figurative space I’m in at that hour.  He is my defender, my guardian, my hero.

Personally, my brain is whirling and I, frankly, feel entirely discombobulated.  I’m big on being intentional, focusing on what I can impact, and making positive choices.  I have (I think) a solid understanding of who I am, but I am processing a lot of thoughts, swirling feelings, and legitimate limitations as they evolve.  It is a lot.  I’ve had a series of occasions over the past weeks where I’ve behaved like and felt like a schmuck–LOL, even moreso than usual, anyway.  I need the grace, time and patience to Do Today Well.  Do This Ten-Minute Window Well is also a very real thing because some days are long.  Do This Board Game with Greta Well.  (Rest).  Do This After School Round Up Conversation with Maren Well.  (Rest).  One way to explain it is that I’m “smaller”; I have less of all the activities that make me feel like Jen.  And, even when I’m not “doing”, I feel like I have the flu most of the time and I don’t often wake up rested or energetic.  So the challenge is both simple and complex, as all good challenges are: be Jen.  There’s ferocity in the fight.  Thankfully, I am fierce, and I fight for good in every aspect.  Despite all the challenges I’m trying to explain to you above, I feel I am living a rich, full, beautiful and brilliant life.  Today, yesterday, tomorrow.  Boom.  That’s me being fierce.  I’m joyful.  I’m happy.  I’m good.

Greta is our sweet comic relief.  She doesn’t understand the depth of our circumstances so we all get a break in a way when we focus on her.  In her small-but-growing world, she is loving and beloved.  She is thriving in an independent and service-oriented streak around the house, which is such a blessing.  Right?  What four-year-old gets up before Mom and big sister and proceeds to make breakfast for the two girls?  Yogurt, fruit, and an un-toasted mini bagel is her go-to menu.  It’s not normal, but it’s something that she started doing a few weeks? months? ago, and she delights in it.  I don’t spend too much time wondering whether she’s overburdened or taking on too much responsibility because she exudes such joy in her effort.  She’s proud of herself, I’m proud of her.  Her fashionista trends continue: after her breakfast, she spends many minutes in her closet sampling different mis-matches.  Thankfully, this month, she has begun putting the clothes not chosen back in the cubbies.  This is big, people, this is big.  Her random plentiful affection, her service, and her gusto add much dimension to my days.  She is oh-so-luminous.


This post is real and it was hard to write because I think it shines on the dark side of our story–not dark as in bad, but dark as in unseen or hidden.  The light is brilliantly cast in the first-response, the face-value, the shiny report, the regression.  (And cue the spotlight please: da-da-da-DUMMMMM REGRESSION!  WOO!  THIS CAN NOT BE WOO HOO’ed ENOUGH!)  The dark side is the rounding out of the whole story: what it looks and feels like to walk our life out.  Today I lit up the whole 360 picture (I hope).  I hope that our family continues to be known as adventures, problem solvers, givers, Jesus lovers, relationship dwellers, joy seekers, and inspires others to do the same.  Highlighting our challenges — even challenges during the best week of our year — is vulnerable.  I hope that you see our goodness far, far outshines our challenges.  I’m proud of us.  Thanks for reading: for knowing us, for praying for us, for serving us, and — most of all — for loving us in your way.  We are blessed.


  1. Lisa Smith /

    Thank you Jen for taking the time to share, to thoughtfully and comically consider rounding it out for all of us- your village of readers, praying friends and stranger friends alike. I continue to celebrate remission with you, Brad, Greta and Maren. I LOVE LOVE LOVE your motherly, adoring love of your girls and I celebrate the joy of motherhood with you as well. May you feel lifted into our prayers and in our love and admiration pelting you from near and far. Lord have mercy on Our Jen in her still quiet moments at home, where she FIGHTS this fight for 48 more years.

  2. Thank you Jen for being YOU. I am so blessed by the Christ in you. He is teaching me to DO TODAY WELL in my 10 minute moments (that are so easily overlooked). You make me pay more attention. Your humor and vulnerability bless me. Love you my friend.

  3. Marlayne Skeens /

    Good morning sweet Jen ~

    You are such a bright beacon sharing your ups, downs and everything in between ~ I can relate to Brad and his feelings as he watches his wife and children go through this journey ~ I know my journey isn’t like yours; however, watching my husband go through Alzheimer’s and now needing to be placed in long-term care isn’t the journey that we (just like your family) ever thought we would have to face ~
    * In the face of hard journeys, GOD is there ~ Feeling HIS Love & knowing we are never alone ❤️
    * Thank you for letting us in your world with all your Grace ~ May the sun shine on your face today & the dance stay in your heart ?

  4. Julie /

    You and your family are loved by us for sure. Your honesty is appreciated and makes it real indeed. You are admired for sharing it as it inspires me and zillion of others in their day to day challenges and the reminder to do today well. You have always rocked in my world and your honesty and the lovely way you express it is one of the many reasons I love you. Of course I can’t help but love the 4 of you! Sending you lots of loving positive vibes…

  5. Dan Saxby /

    Ecc 8:15. God is good. Celebrate!

  6. Susan in New Mexico /

    I read each and every one of your posts. You write with such passion and honesty that it pulls me into your world as if I am actually living there with you. Most of the time I do not reply. I feel like I can never find “just the right words”. I am in awe of you, your family, your faith, your dealing with reality. I feel sorry that you have to go through all these things you’re going through. On the other hand, God has carefully chosen you and given you special gifts that allow so.many.people to see the light of Christ in you. I’m not surprised by this post. There is no way that you can be “up” all the time, with or without cancer. Your family and all of us out here are so blessed to have you in our lives. You remain in my prayers and I look forward to reading your posts for MANY more years to come!

  7. Jennifer /

    The way your goodness shines on with fierce intention is a true inspiration. Thank you for sharing a little bit about your dark moments too – I hope the burden is lessened somewhat in the sharing. I lost my mother to cancer when I was 8 – I remember her every single day and try to honour her in how I live my life. The village of support, honesty, care, compassion and fun that you have encircled your girls with is a testament to your shining light. Sending all my wishes to you – for energy, for health, for joy.

  8. Kim Rourke /

    Exquisite was a word you used for Maren, and it resonated with me in thinking of all of you. Your life is a far cry from exquisite, yet you find a way to make it so. May Gid bless you and keep you as you do even one minute of your day well.

  9. annie /

    I appreciate the difficulty in balancing your brutal truth with your hopeful journey as a mom, a wife, and a woman of faith. It can be very hard to do and sometimes it even feels like it’s more than a real person can do. It’s a comfort to grab on to Romans 8:28, knowing that God works for the good of those who love Him. I have clung to that verse myself when life seemed to go completely sideways. Turns out God keeps His promises

    I love to see your spirit of gratefulness and joy but I am also aware of the challenges that cancer brings. It is an unavoidable part of the story and you share it with sensitivity and grace.. I hold you up in prayer whenever God brings you to mind.

    Peace to you.

  10. Darlene Cliff /

    The world, your Maren and Greta and Brad are all better because they have you. I all the years I’ve known you, there is always a smile, there is always someone you put before yourself. Your world can’t help but loved you with everything we’ve got. Your immediate family and extended family feel your are the most beautiful soul. We love you for you.

  11. Darlene Cliff /

    The world, your Maren and Greta and Brad are all better because they have you. In all the years I’ve known you, there is always a smile, there is always someone you put before yourself. Your world can’t help but loved you with everything we’ve got. Your immediate family and extended family feel your are the most beautiful soul. We love you for you.

  12. Mommaj /

    This is life in All of its frailty – highs and lows all rolled into one Fragile day undergerded by the Lord and His mighty power to Save, Protect and Love. ONLY He can give us the strength to live moment by moment during the seasons of our LIVES that come unexpectedly and can have the ability to linger. Our Joyful strength and endurance can only come from our intimacy with the Lord. We Thank the Lord for His care for you, Brad, Maren and Greta…. It’s a privilege to be able to see you and serve you so that you can Do Today Well!!! WE LOVE YOU JEN ??

  13. How difficult it is to continue on without an end in site to the hard season – for all of you. Thanks for your transparency, praying that you all continue to have the ability to find the pace that allows you to keep pressing on together and to know that there are throngs of witnesses cheering you.