A good week

Sep 07

My most profound clue that I was feeling really good today was that I found myself taking everything out of my refrigerator and wiping down all the shelves and walls.  Halfway through I was like, what am I doing?  When did I decide to clean the fridge?  Yes, I accidentally cleaned my fridge today and had a profound moment while doing so.

This is my “good week”.  I’m off chemo this week (we’re trying for a 3-weeks-on, 1-week-off cycle if my blood counts will hold up for that schedule).  I wouldn’t say I’m wildly energetic (and I did just wake up from a nap), but still — a noticeable bump in the positive direction this week is a nice thing for me.


With my good week, I’m hoping I can impact more than my fridge for the better.

One of the first emotions I felt as I acclimated to becoming a member of the cancer community in 2012 was guilt.

Surprising, right?  It surprised me too.

Breast cancer and pink ribbons are so — dare I say — obnoxiously omnipresent that I felt guilty I had a popular, well-known cancer as I continually met (and continue to meet) people with lesser known diseases.  (As the years have passed, I’ve come to learn that there are many prevalent myths about breast cancer in society, especially about metastatic/Stage IV breast cancer, but that is not the focus on my mind today.  I will likely address that topic in October.)  Suffering from an “unknown” or less common disease, I’ve learned, makes the patient/family feel lonely and invisible in society.  So, when it makes sense, I try to support non-breast-cancer charities/causes if for no other reason than to show people I know that I care and to help them spread awareness about their condition.  I show support in various capacities: sometimes with my presence or dollars, other times with my attention or voice.

September is childhood cancer month, and the ribbon is gold.  In the time that I’ve been a breast cancer patient, I’ve seen children (children!) endure cancer treatment, and it is an entirely different point of view.  Several near to my heart have died.  Several are in treatment now.  Several are in remission.  As I watch children endure painful treatments and woeful statistics, I am grateful for my own Patient Zero status: I am the one who sets the tone because I am the one that carries the diagnosis.  I have so much compassion for those kids and their families, especially, of course, their mamas.  The organizations some of those families have chosen to champion their heroes are here:

St. Baldrick’s Invictus Fund

Dragonfly Foundation

Cincinnati Children’s Brain Tumor Research

I have multiple adult friends who have brain tumors and/or brain cancer.  Their preferred place of giving is:

UC Brain Tumor Center

In sharing these links, I guess I just want to zoom out, take the focus off myself, and love my friends.    My perspective is healthier because I have compassion for the families who have had cause to interact with the above organizations.

I am given so much I always feel indebted.  It’s a joyful burden, but Brad and I both feel that way: we want to be givers.

I was talking to a friend last week about the responsibility, weight and thrill I have before me this fall.  It’s the challenge of stewarding my time.  I want to give my “firsts” away: use my best hours to bless others.  What does that look like?  Other priorities I am choosing: redefining fitness in my current body and going to the gym, writing more, and investing in relationships.  We’re still fresh into the new schedule, so I am still figuring out what it looks like to have both kids in school full time.  I miss them, but I’m embracing the time.

Meanwhile, my loves seem to be thriving with their new grades, new classrooms, new teachers.  Greta thinks kindergarten is pretty much the best thing ever.  She has it all figured out (according to her.)   Case in point: after the third day of kindergarten, this was our after school conversation:

Greta: “Mom!  Today at lunch, I looked around and saw that some kids were getting stuff.”  She looks at me from under her eyelashes like she is telling a secret, “You know: stuff.”

Me: “Kids are getting ‘stuff’ at lunch G?  What does that even mean?”

Greta: “All kinds of stuff!”  She continues on, “So, I went up to like the counter area, and I typed in my number, and,” her face alights with immense joy, “I got an ICE CREAM BAR!”

Me, trying not to laugh:  “Whoa!  An ice cream bar?  They let you, a kindergartener on the third day of school, get an ice cream bar?”

Greta, shrugging like this is obviously the way kindergarten works: “Yes.  No one even told me not to.”

Maren, eyes wide, is watching this conversation take place.  She is horrified that Greta would take such liberty.

Me: “Well Greta, getting an ice cream bar at lunch is not going to be a regular thing, okay?  We eat healthy things for lunch.”

Greta: “What!?  Are you serious?”  She is very indignant and outraged.

Me:  “Do you know how many ice cream bars from school Maren has had in her whole life?”

Greta, turns to Maren: “How many?”

Maren:  “None!  I have never gotten an ice cream bar.”

Greta looks at both of us with disdain.  This conversation did not go as she expected.

Three days into kindergarten and she is already owning it.  (We’re now like two weeks in, but I thought it was a story worth sharing.)  I pray her confident spirit to always be with her.

Maren, too, is rocking fourth grade.  Fourth grade is the year in my own memory where I have more than vague recollections: I remember who my friends were, where I sat, and that I really had fun with my teacher that year.  It’s shocking to me that Maren is old enough where she will potentially have such detailed memories.  Her friend dynamics are shifting: I catch them sitting and talking rather than playing imaginary games that were prevalent last year.  I’m proud of her for pushing her comfort zone and working on her goal of expanding her friendship circles.  Her new teacher arranged for the two to have a special lunch together after an emotional day for Maren, and brought Maren a brownie to share during that lunch.  She’s in running club at school that culminates in a 5k race next month.  She’s officially better at piano than me by a longshot, and has her overhand serve down at volleyball.  Not only does she have homework, but often it requires the computer for logging in to school programs.  What sounds like a lot actually has a really nice flow; she is in charge of decisions about her schedule and commitments and is bubbling with enthusiasm for the choices she’s making.  I’m so proud of her.

Tonight we watched her serve at her first volleyball game of the season.  She has a habit of biting back a smile when she gets a point for her team.  She is thrilled, but is Maren-ish and quiet about her success.  Brad and I look at each other and grin because it’s this expression that makes her dimple pop more than even her regular grin.  It’s like she can’t contain the joy even when she tries.  That’s something I pray over her: that her joy would overcome her, always.



  1. I so love to read your posts Jen. They always make me stop and think in our fast pace life. They really make me appreciate even the small things in life. I wish we lived closer. I think our girls would be such good friends.

  2. Marlayne /

    Jen ~ All I can say today is: You’re Amazing 🙂

  3. Lisa Smith /

    Beautiful. xo

  4. Lori6NV /

    Your generosity of spirit is a blessing to behold. I always love seeing a blog update pop up!! Praying for you often.

  5. Mike Eck /

    I had a tough day yesterday and was feeling sorry for myself. You took the sting away and lifted me up. Blessings and peace.

  6. Lovely…I think G will be getting more ice cream bars..just sayin…thanks for posting…made me smile…all of it…love you!

  7. Jen, a friend turned me on to your blog. I’m going through treatment myself. I love the good days and good weeks! Thank you for your perspective and for taking the time to write. The tender vignettes about your girls are so sweet! I love the ice cream story — I wish I had been that bold as a kindergartener!

  8. So fun seeing you last night for Volleyball, the girls did so well!! The most noticeable thing about last night, Your eyes ?… Clear and bright!! Love your enthusiasm and felt blessed sitting next to YOU! Have a great day Jen, go out in the Lord’s strength!!

  9. Thanks for sharing your stories, Jen. It makes my day! Love you.

  10. Cindy Mitchell /

    You are awesome Jen, and so are your girls.. Oh and so is Brad..love your blog.. Stories for the girls to remember forever..