The science and the faith

May 08

Today I started my radiation therapy. I will receive treatment every business day for the next ten days, which means I finish radiation treatment the day before the girls’ get out of school for the year. The timing has worked out — albeit with my next three weeks of May being ultra-booked.

You can pray for our household: it has been an emotional month for several reasons, not the least of which is my cough as a visible reminder for Brad and the girls about what we are facing. The other element is the practicality of running a household: my capacity has dropped quite a bit — and it will continue to decline as I inevitably succumb to the extra side-effects and the logistically appointment-heavy month.

It was a frustrating circus of phone calls to get the insurance approval for this one. The insurance company made a mistake on my intake forms, the doctor’s office was getting a different story from what they were telling me, and it’s ironic because — with my diagnosis and coverage — it’s really a rubber stamp: I’m not “deniable”. (For this I am extremely grateful and lucky.) After ten phone calls from Nice Jen, I blew up at them this morning and cried. Approval came through less than an hour after that, and my treatment started this afternoon. I’m not sure what positive life lesson to take away from that process. Nice doesn’t always work, I guess. Badass gets things done.

One of side effects of radiation will be mild skin irritation: I’m getting arc radiation which is easier on the skin that tangential radiation I got the first time. So this redhead shouldn’t get blisters or burns. Hopefully this holds true. The other major side effect is fatigue. I laugh at this because I am wondering what more fatigue even feels like!? There are probably a whole bunch more side effects, but I don’t read too far down on the page anymore. I used to read the forms on my treatments, but I quit doing that a couple of years ago when I was casually reading over it in the infusion room while waiting for my drug and read, “May cause tooth loss.” TOOTH LOSS? Are you kidding me? The last thing I needed was to be test-wiggling my teeth for the next three months since the risk of that was super-super low but they still have to put it on the paperwork. So, I don’t read the papers anymore; I trust my team to analyze the risks.

The science of the radiation is fascinating. Since I’m getting “arc radiation” this time, you nerds who are reading may have inferred that the laser beams that are pointed at me move in a 360 degree circle. For treatment, I lay in a mold from my lower back to the top of my head so that I am in exactly the same position each time. There are Sharpie marks all over my chest for the beams to line up. I am laying horizontally on a plank, if you will — like a pirate ship — and the machine that shoots the radiation beams at me rotates around me vertically like the hands of a clock. As it moves, there is a two foot plate with glass pointed at me, within the plate there are lead bars that direct the radiation and they are are moving in and out to allow the radiation to reach certain areas/depths and restrict it from others. The tiny lead bars are measured to the millimeter and I can’t even imagine the math and the calculations required for this treatment. It is brilliant. The hope is that the radiation will interrupt the growth of the cancer and Dr. Smart is hopeful that I will get some symptom relief in my lungs.

My faith, a nudge from God, and intuition brought me to this point today of starting this radiation. On April 4 when Brad and I reviewed my last scan with Dr. Wonderful, I asked him about radiating some of the stubborn spots that are continuing to grow. I just felt like I wanted another player in the game. Dr. Wonderful didn’t have confidence that was a good idea, but suggested the bronchoscopy to see if a source of the cough could be identified. Once we had the results of the bronchoscopy, it became conceivable to have radiation treatments because we had better imaging and more information about the targets. The consult with Dr. Smart affirmed all this and he set the plan to target the cancer. So now, almost a month later, here I am getting the radiation treatments I had intuited, but it wouldn’t have been possible with out all three of us: me, Dr. Wonderful, and Dr Smart. I am an empowered patient and my doctors listen and advocate for me with a ferocity that is unparalleled. I just feel radiation was to be part of the plan, and given the worsening cough and breath over the past month, I feel God had a hand in leading me here. I have the peace of knowing we are doing absolutely everything we can. I’m grateful I listened to the prompting I felt, and I’m grateful I was heard and validated.

Throughout this month and indefinitely, my chemo will also continue.

I picture chemo killing cancer cells, I picture God killing cancer cells, and I picture radiation beams killing cancer. It’s all in the mix. I’m all in for the science and the faith, and I feel grateful that I have a mind and heart that are completely simpatico on accepting both.


  1. Dave /

    Praying, praying, praying! Cancer cells gone in Jesus name. 50.

  2. Tiffany Wellinghoff /

    I’m ALL IN on the science and the faith too, my friend! Thankful for your intuition and your team of doctors, and most of all our God.

  3. Melissa /

    Praying for you. I don’t know how I found your blog or when. But I have rediscovered your writings recently and They are beautiful. Thank you for so selflessly sharing your life with complete strangers. This stranger will hold you in her thoughts and prayers. Continue to be strong. You are not alone.

  4. Conni Carlson /

    Jen! So happy to hear you are moving forward with the radiation. Prayers
    It “does the job”!
    As an aside? There is a cream that helps prevent the
    Radiation from burning your skin. If memory serves? It is called
    BIAFINI(?) … ask about it. I am not positive
    Of the name but Dr. Smart may be able to help.
    Love you?

  5. Marlayne /

    ✝️?✝️?✝️ Dear GOD, Mercy & Grace ✝️?✝️?✝️

  6. Kim /

    Faith and science have always been a powerful powerful combination. Praying for you.

  7. Amber Hahn /

    We are still with you, reliving your first house with Brad, our church family, and all of our leaps of faith. We are sharing more too with everyone we encounter because you have taught us to share emphatically. Praise God!

    We have so many fun, inspiring life details to share with you guys whenever we run into you again . . . a road trip to Cincinnati to show the kids where they used to live and go to church, a Badger game, a Packer game.

    Here’s a teaser . . . after leaving P&G 10 years ago, I now get to work for Divine Savior Healthcare 😉

    Love you all!
    Amber, Brian, Sydney, Carsten, Morgan

    • Brad /

      Amber, thanks for the message! We are way overdue to see you guys. Lots of good memories … time to make some more ?. Hopefully we can make it to Madison sometime soon.

  8. Newbie friend /

    You are teaching all of us about never giving up! I am so proud of you and praying that you tolerate this radiation as well as you do everything else. I’m still praying for the miracle that God will erase it all.

  9. Another Jen /

    So so many good thoughts coming your way…

  10. Jennie Williams /

    Praying for you and your sweet family, Jen.
    –Stranger-Friend in Newnan, GA ?

  11. Shannon Weiss /

    Sending love and continued prayers to you all! XO

  12. I’m praying in Va. Kay

  13. Shari /

    Praying that the radiation does it’s job. Also praying for you to feel as well as possible throughout the process. Love to you and your family.

  14. Another Jen /

    First time replying but a faithful reader.

    I am laughing right now because I can always look to your posts for myself to be a better person. I hope that sounds inspiring and not selfish!

    One day over the winter, I had left a quote from Mother Teresa on my counter at home and opened my work email to find an equally inspiring phrase in your words. I jotted the sentiment down and pinned it above my desk. That happens a lot.
    So here I am looking at your next nugget of wisdom to send me forth into the world: Nice doesn’t always work, I guess. Badass gets things done.

    I love you.

    And pray for you and your family. Always. Even when I don’t post.

  15. Kathi Roth /


  16. Amy S /

    Jen, I continue to pray for you. You got this. And, yes, badass does work sometimes. You are quite the fighter. 🙂

  17. Melody A. Smith /

    May God continue to nudge and place his healing hands upon you!

  18. It’s off color but the SNL weekend update skit with Amy P and TIna Fey comes to mind. “They say she’s a bitch. And you know what, they’re right. And so am I. And so is she. Because bitches get things done. Bitch is the new black!”

    Sometimes honey doesn’t work and you have to use wit and force. Glad it worked in your favor!

  19. Cheryl Todorov /

    Sending warm thoughts and prayers your way.♥️

  20. Carol Hover /

    Praying so hard for you and family Jen. God does listen!

  21. Cindy Mitchell /

    Jen, May the Lord be with you to give you strength and let the radiation stop the growth.. Prayers always.. You are an amazing woman, mother, wife and a true blessing to so many of us.. Sending hugs my friend..

  22. Thanks to you and your positive outlook, I always and forever think of chemo and radiation as weapons used to beat cancer. It has influenced my prayers for you and and for others. Tonight I’m praying for you and your family as you power through a difficult month. May your soul be refreshed as you rest your body.

  23. Another Jen /

    Praying for success with the new treatment combo. I’m picturing a medical “jab, jab, uppercut” type of scenario – which seems to fit the “badass” conversation. 😉 I just love your heart and your words. Thank you for sharing both.