Round Two: the real deal

Oct 03

I’ve been struggling to write, I think, because what I have to say is hard.

It is hard to have progressive cancer.  Wrapping my mind around it, sharing it with Brad, and walking my girls through it: it is freaking hard.  There is also my parents, sisters, family and friends, who love me so.  It is hard to cause them pain too.

There are so many more logistics and expenses to handle; the irony and the reality of this is hard.

It is hard to have the physical manifesting symptoms of the treatment — and still it’s not lost on me that it is the treatment that is causing my problems — the cancer itself is largely silent, hidden, anonymous, undetectable on the surface.  I visualize the treatment attacking those cancer cells every time I feel crummy (which is often).  The complication/infection I had after Round 1 really put a damper on what should have been the good half of this cycle; I’m optimistic that this will get better this round.

It is hard to have the mental ferocity to dwell in the positive elements of my life, of which there are many, but also many of which are suddenly out-of-reach.  I fight hard for joy, and I experience it daily and richly.  I do the work for joy because it is so worth it.  My winning strategy this week is to contemplate the five love languages: acts of service, gifts, quality time, physical touch, and words of affirmation — and I try to give something to someone else from each category each day.  It helps.  Serving breeds good things, and the goodness is exponential when it is hard won service.

It is hard to plan my life around what my body can do: the sphere is small.  I feel small, yet I know I am not.

People have asked what my predominant fight is — what is the hardest?  This week, it’s the loneliness. I’m not friends with anyone who is living these circumstances (and if I did we would be too tired to hang out with each other.)  (And please don’t pop in to visit me re: the loneliness.  I’m too tired.)

My village is the saving grace.  I asked for nutritious broth-based vegetable soup, and I think I have had seven people drop off full batches.  And I’ve eaten almost all of it because it’s the only thing I want to eat on this chemo palette.  And I’ve been able to eat lots of my veggie smoothies because some friends prepped freezer bags of batches that are ready-to-go.  As I sip, I know that I am fueling the good cells.

My lawn is mowed, garden beds weeded, and we haven’t even asked anyone to do it: it just gets done by people who anticipate our needs before we do.  On Day 1 of my first treatment, I stopped watering my garden and pot plants because I had zero capacity for things growing in soil.  By Day 7, it was sad to look out and see the wilting plants and know that I am missing out on prime harvest of my tomatoes for my Sister Sketti Sauce recipe.  A friend specifically asked if she could help garden, so she came over and stripped out the old and left me some fresh mums to view.  The dying garden that stopped fruiting when I stopped investing was kind of the super saddest metaphor for my role in this world… and so to have someone come tend it was redeeming on many levels.

Someone gave us gift cards to restaurants for our family, which will be wonderful because it saves all three steps of the food-to-table process.  Did you ever consciously realize that creating a meal requires three energy-consuming bursts?  Planning/Shopping, Prepping/Chopping/Cooking, Clean-Up are all tasks that I count separately.  Eating The Meal is really the only one that brings energy in the cycle, so I will indulge in the restaurant arena more than normal–thanks to generous folks.  Largely takeaway most of the time, because I am immunocompromised and need to avoid crowds.

We have worked out a carpool and playdate dynamic that is a win for the girls and a healthy balance for all.  I’m grateful for people who love our kids like their own.

For two years, the Pink Ribbon Girls sent cleaners to my house to take care of the deep-cleaning tasks.  I am so thankful for their services.  As of this summer, I out-lived their service amount dedicated to Stage IV Breast Cancer patients — which is a good problem to have!  Friends have stepped in and volunteered/insisted on cleaning for me.  I am so grateful; I am so humbled.

We buzzed my hair on Monday night; it was falling out fast.  This is my fourth time being bald.  Right after my scan four weeks ago I mentioned to my mom that I think I should get a wig for the girls’ sake.  I’ve never had a wig; I have an epic hat collection.  A wig would let me go in to the girls’ schools and appear normal, and save my almost-junior-high girl from having to deal with the fallout from having a bald mom and the looks/whispers/questions that she would inevitably get.  More villagers got wind of this comment and made me an appointment at a wig salon, and my mom and I had a surprisingly fun time picking out the right hair for me.  Shockingly, they had a great shade of red, and one that I can pull back in to a half-ponytail, so it feels like me.  I like it waaaaay more than I thought I would.  Brad and the girls like it too, although Brad says his absolute favorite look on me is “Badass Bald” — no hat and no wig.  Gosh I love that man.  This love of the bald head would be great for him to say, but I also one-hundred-percent believe it is how he really feels.  My favorite part of the new wig is that I think my big girl has said “thank you for getting a wig” to me at least eight times this week; I wore it for volleyball carpool on Tuesday.  I can tell her anxiety is piqued on lots of levels, and this tangible act and physical thing has done more to bring normalcy to her world than anything else I’ve done.  And it was someone else’s idea and execution.  Thank you.

I have good, big things coming up.  Not the least of which is the chemotherapy that dripped in to me today is now — prayerfully — wreaking havoc on the cancer cells in my body.  I get to rest and my village has granted me all the margin I need, and are serving me more than I deserve.  No text, card, comment, gift, or word goes unnoticed or unappreciated — so thank you for reaching out — I hope to reach back soon, but thank you for the grace in the meantime.

Tonight Maren asked to go to bed early (I know, I’m so lucky she’s so responsible.) I told Greta to read in her bed but she came down asking for Mommy snuggles.  We sat in my chair and she told me more details about her day.  She went to Wonderlab as her school special today which is basically a creative inventing lab; this is pretty much Greta’s love language.  Her favorite thing to do is raid the recycle bin and make complex moving-parts machines.  I love listening to her and hearing her take on the world.  The goodness is right there, always within my reach, always worth fighting for.

Thank you for your love and prayers and investment in us.  It is sustaining us and makes us strong in our weakness.


  1. Heather Rose /

    Here. Holding space for your journey. Holding space for your family.

  2. Karin Eppert /

    Sending more strength and more love and more hugs and more healing and more prayers. More Lord, MORE! Love you sister. ❤️

  3. I’ve been following your blog for 6.5yrs. Every night you and your family are in my prayers. I’m sending you all the love and good vibes that exist within my body. I know it’s lonely, but know that you are surrounded by love known and unknown and we’re all carrying this load together. Much love to you!!! Xoxo

  4. Jen Powers /

    Oh Jen Anderson. How we DO love you so. Deeply deeply so. Proud of you for receiving. Amazed at your tenacity of spirit to pour out love daily in the love language categories. You do the day well, the hour well, the moments well. And I love badass bald too.

  5. Diane Allen /

    You don’t know me, I’m from California. Your incredibly beautiful journal of your journey moves me deeply. We have 6 children and 5 and 1/2 grandchildren. Severe mental illness is our family’s challenge . I draw strength from your amazingly insightful writings!! Sending hugs, prayers, and good thoughts your way, as I have been doing for the many years you have been blogging!! You have SUCH A GIFT FOR CONNECTING WITH PEOPLE!! Lots of love. Diane from Rescue. Ca. ???❤

  6. Jen Powers /

    Oh Jen Anderson. How we DO love you so. Deeply deeply so. Proud of you for receiving. Amazed at your intentionality in loving others with your 5 love language categories EACH day, even when you are tanked. You do today well, hours well, moments well. And I too love badass bald.

  7. Sandi Meier /

    Praying for healing, strength, and peace that passes all understanding. Love to you and your precious family.

  8. Jane Powell /

    Ahh Jen, my darling niece. Words fail me.

  9. Nikki /

    ??? Sending you so much love from over here in Oregon. ???

  10. Shannon Kahrs /

    Just love you Jen!

  11. Praying Jen.

  12. Kathi Roth /

    Just sending a gigantic hug through this WiFi. Going to my prayer closet when twins go down for their nap. Lifting and raising you and your family up❤️❤️❤️

  13. Another Jen /


  14. Melissa /

    Just wanted to say I can relate to all of this. I have a 12 and 15 year old and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer 7.5 years ago at the age of 35. Many, many, many rounds of chemo later and I’m currently on a chemo break but in a holding pattern waiting for the cancer to begin growing again. It is so hard to continue choosing joy and gratitude when the fight is years long. So worth it, but also so hard. Praying for you today!

  15. Marlayne /

    Gentle Hugs & more Gentle Hugs ? You are Awesome❣️

  16. Donna /

    You are an inspiration to me. Praying for you and your sweet family.

  17. Newbie friend /

    Sending hugs my friend.

  18. Ione Timm /

    May God bless you today and always. I can only hope that you understand how the sharing of your journey has inspired me to find the positive in all that I do throughout each day. What a blessed soul you are!!!

  19. Sherry Stoffer /

    Jen you are an inspiring young woman. Our prayer continue to be with you and the family. May God continue to hold you in his hands! God Bless!

  20. Bonnie B Jackson /

    My heart is Full and my prayers directed your way!! Rest well Jen, you are loved and cared for beyond measure?

  21. Carol hover /

    Our thoughts and prayers are with you daily. Hugs and many blessings to you and your wonderful family!!

  22. Nancy McCarthy /

    I met your family at Cancer Support Community a while ago. I have followed you ever since. I sensed something very special about you and your family.
    I am moved by your beautiful words, more than you can imagine. I am praying for you and your beautiful family.?

  23. Natasha /

    I am praying your you and your family! Your strength is amazing and I know it comes from the Lord!

  24. Angela J /

    Thank you, Jen, for giving us tangible ways to love on people that we can remember for the future.

    Thank you, Jen’s village, for meeting so many of their needs BEFORE THEY EVEN HAD TO ASK. With joyful hearts, needing nothing in return. What an absolute, irreplaceable gift.

    May we all be a blessing to someone in need today. Jen, you have been to everyone who reads this (or any post, really).

    Hugs from Michigan,

  25. carla woelcke /

  26. Lisa Leaf /

    Always praying for you and your family. <3

  27. Susan Taylor /

    Loving you from afar. Your beauty and love shine through. I know your words are an encouragement to so many who are walking in similar shoes. I’m thankful your girls have such a rich support system but even that can’t completely do away with the pain of the unknown of this. You are an inspiration. Thanks for sharing your heart.

  28. Jen, thank you so much for sharing with us! Your words are rich, full of love and hard-won wisdom. You help me re-focus on the things that matter and gift to me the freedom/permission/inspiration to let go of the things that do not make positive impact on my life or the lives of those around me. And thanks to you and what you share here, I am able to pray specifically for you and others who are undergoing chemo — that the chemicals specifically target the cancer cells. GO! FIGHT! WIN!

  29. Malia /

    Thank you. Your words encourage and remind me to show up better for those in my life. Continued prayers.

  30. Rebecca /

    Sending you lI’ve my stranger friend. ❤️

  31. Denise /

    I am in awe of your strength, your determination to find the “joy”, and your willingness to share your “reality”. My heart goes to you in those “loneliness”
    times – they are fierce. Sending you so much love and strength for the “craptacular” times.

  32. Carli /

    Sending all the love your way. You are truly amazing. ❤️

  33. Melody A. Smith /

    Praying hard for the miracle for you … one day at a time, one prayer at a time … all in God’s time.

  34. Shari /

    Praying for the chemo to knock out those cancer cells. Love and hugs to you and your family.

  35. Jane & Basil Kanno /

    Jen, you and your family are such an inspiration of amazing strength, love, and humbleness. We have been praying for you since we met you & your wonderful family. Know you exemplify so much strength, faith and love. You got this! Know we send you and your darling family our love, good vibes, and prayers. You are always in our hearts and thoughts.
    -The Kanno’s

  36. Michelle smith /

    Praying for strength and healing in Jesus name !

  37. Marge Greene /

    You are a true inspiration……..thank you.
    Marge Greene, your mom’s American sister!

  38. Nancy J. Hillman /

    You don’t know me, but your mom comes to our bridge group as a sub and I am friends with Janet R. My prayer and thoughts are to you and your family.

  39. Susan /

    In times of strength and times of weakness, you “do today well” better than anyone that I have ever known in my entire life. You will certainly never know the extent of the positive impact that you have on so many people. Continued prayers for you and all of your family. Sending you a big cyber hug from New Mexico.

  40. Shelley Carter /

    I have been reading your blog for years, and praying for you and your family the entire time. My dad was diagnosed with cancer last year and I can’t tell you how many times I have thought of you as I work to support and love him during this time. Your voice has literally been in my head and has been such a gift. Thank you for sharing your story, struggles, quest for joy, and Godly path through cancer with the world. You are blessing more people than you will ever know.

  41. Emily Sommer /

    Praying for you, Jen.