Apr 06

My daughters are four years and two weeks apart in age.

It was four years ago last November that I received my Stage IV breast cancer diagnosis after they found a metastasized cancer nodule in the upper lobe of my right lung.  (November 2013.)

Note: A quick metastatic breast cancer awareness/education point: I have surpassed the median survival expectations for my diagnosis by more than a year.  In my population, I am considered one of the lucky ones.  However I am not cured nor has my prognosis changed.  My disease continues to progress; I continue to hope that I live a long life (50 years!) despite the odds.  The tension between being grateful for the miracle I am living and yet still wanting more is real.

Something I didn’t anticipate are the contemplative mothering musings that have crossed my mind with great frequency over these past five months. Greta is now six: the age that Maren was when I received that devastating diagnosis.  I find myself re-experiencing some of the feelings I had during those first life-after-terminal-diagnosis months as this six-year-old reminds me of moments and memories with that six-year-old.

It is amazing how the mind and memory works.

In November 2013, Brad and I dreamed together about how to make the most of my time which is really our time.  One of the first priorities was a Mommy-daughter trip with six-year-old Maren.  We knew that a Mommy-daughter trip with Greta was also important, but since she was only two-years-old, we wanted to wait on hers so that — hopefully — she would remember it.

With the help of some loved ones, Brad sent Maren and I off on a week long adventure to New York City for Maren’s spring break when she was in first grade.  Oh, the memories I have from that trip are robust and delicious! We rode in taxis, saw the citified sunset on a rooftop, ate at counters and in cozy booths, walked the High Line and Central Park, and conquered the subway.  A poignant moment of the trip was walking along the streets of New York holding hands; she looked up at me and said, “Mama, are you going to take Greta on a trip like this when she is six?”

I squeezed her hand, took a breath, and turned my face up to the sky to keep the tears that filled my eyes from spilling down my cheeks.  “Gosh Maren.  I hope I get to do that.”  I looked up at the skyscrapers above me and prayed as I spoke, “I really do hope.  I don’t know what is going to happen in four years, but I am really grateful to have this special time with you and I would love to have time like this with six-year-old G too.”  It was my skyscraper prayer: so hopeful, so ambitious, so daring, so fear-filled.

And often — very often over the past four years I have prayed for a special Mommy-daughter trip with Greta.  I had no attachment or plan or specificity or timeline attached to it; it was just something that I knew was a deep heart priority that Brad and I wanted to make sure I completed.

To my delight, Brad surprised me and G on Christmas morning with plans for our special trip: a trip to Orlando, Florida with freedom to plan some special experiences together.  (Brad is amazingly generous with us.) And thus with the help of some loved ones last week I had my Mommy-daughter trip with Greta during her six-year-old first grade spring break.

And I can’t stop thinking about that skyscraper prayer I offered with Maren the exact same week four years ago, and how I am so, so, so grateful for this life of mine.

A barely-dared-for hope realized is a humbling reality.  Hope is powerful.

In 2014, Brad joined us for the last weekend of our New York City adventure — two-year-old Greta stayed home because a toddler in NYC sounded like a disaster. We saw the musical Matilda, took a tour of the Statue of Liberty, and ate dessert at Serendipity together.  I am so grateful.

In 2018, Brad and Maren joined Greta and I for the last part of our Orlando adventure.  Ten-year-old Maren and six-year-old Greta were the perfect ages to take to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios (and Brad and I were equally enthusiastic.) It was a brilliant blend of quality time for all of us; I am so grateful.

I am so grateful and still so full of skyscraper hopes.


  1. Karin /

    I LOVE this story so much!! Praying skyscraper dreams to our God who is so high above. Thanking Him alongside you. ❤️

  2. I am always humbled by reading your. Blog. I become even more grateful for our family and the health they enjoy.
    You help me be more blessed than ever. You know my daiughter ,, she was diagnosed aboutthe same time.
    Thank you, I am sure I am not the only one who reflects upon their own life each and every time you write.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Keri Morlock /

    Hi Jen — you don’t know me, but I work with Brad. I read your blog often and am always humbled and inspired by your courage and the beautiful life you live with your family. I had lunch with Brad shortly before your trip — he was so excited for your adventure. I thought of you often last week and am so glad to hear it was a huge success and wonderful family time. Keep up the fight — I am rooting and praying for you.

  4. Patty Wheeler /

    You are a warrior!

  5. Kathi /

    Tears of joy for you as I read this. Amazed at your gift of writing.
    Continue with those skyscraper prayers. Each floor has
    An abundance of hope.

  6. Marlayne Skeens /

    HOPE ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❣️

  7. Love you and your precious family.

  8. Nikki /

    ?? My heart is so full of skyscraper hopes and prayers with and for you!! ??

  9. Kim Rourke /

    We too are feeling grateful and keeping our own skyscraper hopes!! You blessed us with this post!

  10. FRAN BROCK /


  11. Michelle /

    I love this!!!!! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  12. Dotti /

    Skyscraper Praying without ceasing!
    Looking forward to hearing about you and your family at 70! ?

  13. Alicia /

    I love this story.

  14. Marion /

    Oh my, reading this made me cry. You are such a sweet human and special mom to those girls. So glad you got a special trip and I have a strong feeling that you will have many more.

  15. Sharon House /

    The power of prayer and your unshakeable faith is amazing; I am amazed and humbled by you. You are one incredible woman.

  16. Shari /

    Wow, Jen! This is such a touching post. I needed several tissues:). You are such a wonderful mother to your sweet girls. I don’t know how you balance it all, but you are definitely an inspiration to me. I hope every one of your skyscraper dreams comes true.

  17. annie /

    What a wonderful recounting of your skyscraper week with your sweet family. Your blog feeds the faith of so many people. You have a gift and you are willing to share it. Thank you.

    Love & more prayers.

  18. Bonnie B Jackson /

    And the Lord keeps granting the Desires of your Heart♥️♥️ He is Faithful to do above all we ask or think. Love this post Jen, may more spoken and unspoken Dreams be granted to you and your blessed family.

  19. Your clear goals and vision never cease to amaze me. You live such a powerful balance of both huge hope-filled dreams and serenity-filled acceptance. #rolemodelforlife

  20. My sister and I just had the pleasure of meeting your mother Roz. She is an amazing, awesome nurse. She told us about the two of you so I had to check out your writings. My sister has stage IV rectal cancer and has been in a battle for the last year and a half. She has two daughters, 21 and 18 and a son who is 8. Reading your posts gives me hope for Wendy. She is strong, and determined and she has a lot to fight for. She and I have been able to make our sister memories and I hope that she has a long life ahead to keep making memories with her three children and her new granddaughter who will be here in July. I look forward to keeping up with your writings, they give me hope.