Hamster wheel

Jun 12

When my parents dropped my middle sister and I off at summer camp for a week in the ’80s, she had to buy my baby sister a hamster as a consolation prize.

We must have been pretty awesome to be around if Baby Sister got a pet as compensation for missing us.  Ha!  (Actually, the truth is my middle sister is the nicest ever.  I, however, was pretty mean to my siblings.  To their credit, they have (mostly) forgiven me.)

Yesterday we dropped Maren off at week-long summer camp, and Brad, Greta and I all wanted to stay there with her because it looked so fun.  It’s what I like to think of as old-fashioned summer camp: zip lines, horses, water slides, the camp blob (google it if you don’t know what that is), no technology allowed, a dining hall, campfire every night, and making friendship bracelets.  Camping runs deep in our hearts.  My grandfather was a camp counselor in his youth, some of my aunts and uncles still go camping for as many of their vacation days as they can muster together, and my generation maintains the strong ‘live outdoors’ genes of our people.  We thrive on adventure.    Maren is having an awesome time as I type, and we are having extra one-on-one fun with the G-meister at home.  Also, to be clear, Greta is absolutely not getting a hamster.  Or any pet at all.  Don’t get any ideas people.

Continuing to work backwards, on Saturday Brad and I took advantage of the girls spending the day with my sister.  He and I cleaned the garage together, an epic feat.  Kind of like the villain in Harry Potter (He Who Cannot Be Named), our garage has been in a state of chaos for literally years (The Problem Area of our house).  We hauled out All The Things, we hosed down the garage, we took many, many things to the curb postitioned next to a large “FREE” sign, and we put the essentials back in.  I even took down and washed the blinds on the windows.  Brad even did the dry-wall repairs necessitated by Flood #3 from a few years ago.  He’s awesome.  ‘Twas a good, big project to swipe off the To Do List.

On Friday, I had an unusual day: my regularly scheduled PET scan happened.  It was scheduled earlier in the week,  but it was cancelled at the last minute due to equipment malfunction (super frustrating for me and my fellow metastatic friends for whom these scans determine our treatment courses).  It was the nurse in the PET department, a gentleman I see quarterly, who took it upon himself to offer me the first canceled appointment that came across his desk rather than making me wait several weeks.  I am so blessed with my team; they are exceptional.

PET results, delivered after business hours by Dr. Wonderful himself because he knows I hate to wait for results, were similar to last time.  We have small/slight progression: two spots in my chest are notably bigger, according to the scan, therefore the current chemo regimen is not keeping it controlled, thus we have to change treatment protocols again.  Dr. Wonderful is carefully working his way through the toolbox and is trying to keep me on chemotherapy drugs that can be paired with Herceptin.  I am in the chemo chair now, and I am dripping in the new drug.  I pray that this may be the drug that will give me forty-four more years.  Please, Lord please.

Progression is not what we want.  It feels a bit like a hamster wheel of routine: frustrating, monotonous, never-ending.  Try a drug, adjust to the side effects, scan, fail the drug because it doesn’t stablize/regress/eliminate the tumors, repeat.

In the very same breath, I very much hope to be on that hamster wheel for a good long time.  I welcome words like ‘undramatic’ and ‘never-ending’ with regard to my cancer treatment.  Minute increase in tumor size is significantly better than dramatic/rampant/dynamic growth in tumor size.

I just have have to make sure I have the right perspectacles on to view my situation in the best light.  It is a blessing to receive the treatments and to feel very little cancer pain (most of what I deal with this mitigating side effects from the treatment not the disease).

My tumor markers are down (a good thing) and my cell search number was zero (yay!)

I am quite the anomaly that my disease continues to progress, yet not enough to do me more harm.  As I said before, having the right view makes all the difference; I am strategically counting and treasuring my blessings.  I refuse to give attention to the negative.

Please pray for my fifty year miracle.  Please pray that this combo would be one that would regress and/or stabilize the cancer.  Please pray cancer does not cross barriers (out of cells/organs/vessels, etc.).  Please pray that I can focus on the good, and that my hamster wheel journey would be filled with blessings.  Please pray that I would do a good job of living my priorities and that I would be the best Jen I can be.

**With Maren at camp this week, I did not discuss cancer with her before I left.  Please remember: if your kids interact with my kids we really value your discretion and partnership in helping all our kids navigate my health situation with truth but on their own terms.  Our continued preference is to NOT have other children bring up cancer (or related topics) in the presence of my children.  I welcome any questions you might have, but not in the presence of my children.  A simple instruction from you can go a long way towards helping this mama out.   Thank you of your understanding with this!

**I really didn’t tell anyone my results until this blog.  They gave me Benadryl with this new drug which means I am far less efficient because I all I can think of is sleep.  Thanks for the grace.


  1. I’m praying for you, Jen.

  2. Tina /

    Praying for you and Brad and the girls and your wonderful team of nurses and Drs. Prayers all the time for healing and strength! Love from all of us! XoXoX

  3. Susan /

    Praying for you and your loved ones.

  4. Christin /

    As you listed your prayer requests, I prayed them! Thankful for “unending” and “mundane” as well. Fifty more years, God, fifty.

  5. Julie /


  6. Lisa Marker-Robbins /

    Sending many prayers that you RUN, Jen, RUN on the hamster wheel and a myriad of other places. You are so very much running the race before you with grace, courage and inspiring all of us along the way. XXXXX

  7. Marlayne /

    Big Hugs 🙂 Big Prayers 🙂

  8. Melissa Pizzato /

    Love you Jen and am hoping and praying this new chemo drug works wonders for you xxx You are always on my mind and forever in my heart! Stay strong and positive xxx

  9. Nancy Zwolinski /

    You are always the best Jen you can be. Thank you .

  10. Prayers, prayers and more prayers. Xoxo

    P.S. I’m sure Maren is having a wonderful time at camp! Please share her experience 🙂

  11. Jennifer /

    Sending prayers – for your health & healing, for cancer regression and the miracle of 50 more years, for your strength & positivity.

  12. Mommaj /

    Thought it was time for a new scan….. Praying Jen for successful outcomes!! 50+

  13. Kathleen Roth /

    Fifty is Nifty…….Father we come to You lifting Jen
    High above our heads to You for healing, for strength
    For joy, for endurance. Sustain and add to her years with her precious family
    We thank You for the gift she is to everyone.
    Hugs friend❤️

  14. Tiernan /

    Jen, do you know the poem “Be the Best of Whatever You Are”? You obviously already have the concept down, but your mention of hoping to be the best Jen you can be, plus Maren going to camp, made me think of it. I went to camp for seven weeks every summer when I was growing up and absolutely loved it… and the camp’s motto was “Be the best of whatever you are,” from this poem: https://www.great-inspirational-quotes.com/be-the-best-of-whatever-you-are.html. Praying that this drug combo works and that Maren has a wonderful time!

  15. Laurie Stokes /

    I’m on a social media site (that’s a rarity for me) but the Holy Spirit has had you on my heart all week- praising God nothing has grown significantly. Continue to cry out to Him for complete healing manifested physically. I second what nancy Z said – you are the best Jen ever!!! You amaze and inspire me sweet girl. Continue to be in prayer for all you asked.
    Love Laurie

  16. Elisa Dailey /

    You continue to amaze me Jen! I will pray for all the things u requested!
    Thank you for making me want to be a better person !
    Love you!

  17. I’ve never appreciated a hamster wheel until now. Thank you for the specific prayer requests, it is so helpful for my prayers for you and your family. I want to be praying for what you specifically want! (And oh, yes! 50 years!!)
    It’s hard for me to believe that Maren is old enough for sleep away camp already. I hope she’s had a fabulous week!