“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”

Last Thursday, I was headed back to the hospital after work to be with Justin. I was on the elevator when I started up a conversation with this woman. We both got off on the cancer floor and she asked if I worked at the hospital. I told her that my husband was a patient here. She was heart broken to see such a young woman and her husband dealing with such a battle. I believe that God puts certain people in our lives at certain times, and I know this was one of them. We had a long conversation about our stories. One thing she said to me that caught my attention was “How are you not sobbing?  You are so strong. How are you doing everything?”  Hearing her say that really caught me off guard. I haven’t ever thought of myself as being strong through all of this. I think I do everything I’m doing because I have no other choice. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I owed my courage and strength to God. He is the reason I am able to get up each morning and out of bed. He is the reason I am able to keep doing my job. He is the reason I have so much faith.

I think I also owe my strength to the prayers people have been giving for us. I have mentioned this before, but I suffer from severe anxiety.  If I am left alone to my thoughts and my mind, I can easily head down the road to depression.  When something bad happens I automatically think of the worst possible thing and dwell on that thought. I remember my mom saying “Out of all my girls for this to happen to, Jenn is the worst one” She knew my struggle with anxiety and new this would be a hard struggle for me.

It has been hard to stay positive when I’m constantly battling my mind. I believe with my whole heart that because of those prayers I have been able to manage my anxiety. I think it’s a tender mercy that I haven’t fallen into depression. Usually anxiety and depression fall hand in hand for me.

           I remember about two years ago when Justin was starting his third round of chemo and he looked so sick. I had been sleeping at the hospital all week with him. I would go home during the day to shower and then come back afterwards. That particular day he could not stop throwing up. You could probably hear him dry heaving down the hallway. I was trying my best to stand by him, but I felt so helpless. I badly wanted to take his pain away. After he had settled down and fallen asleep I decide to go home to shower. I got in my Jeep and started to sob uncontrollably. I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t stop crying. The thoughts of “Why is this happening to us?” and “Why does he have to go through this” entered my mind. I went home and crawled into bed. I couldn’t move and I couldn’t stop crying. I had allowed myself to enter that dark world of depression. I laid in bed crying for hours. I knew I needed to get back to the hospital, but I could not move from my bed. I had never felt like this before in my life.

              I finally had this impression to call one of my sisters. I called her and when she answered I tried to calm my voice down so I could speak.  I said “I’ve been in my bed for hours and I can’t get out. I need to get back to Justin, you need to help me get up.”  She was able to talk to me and calm me down. After talking to her for a while I was able to get out of bed. She stayed on the phone with me until I got dressed and I was able to leave and head back to the hospital. After this experience I haven’t been to that place again. I think the thought of needing to be their for my husband, kept me from going back to that place and I was able to pull myself out. I know I need to be there for him and that I won’t do him any good if I’m depressed and filled with anxiety. I know that God was there for me that day, and I know that everyone’s prayers helped me stay away from that place. I have never felt the power of prayer so strong in my life than during this cancer experience.

    I will never doubt God’s hands in our lives. I will never doubt that he cares and loves each and every one of us. He is aware of me, he sends people into my life to lift me up and keep me moving forward. I am strong because of Him. I am strong because of everyone’s prayers; I am strong because I know I need to be there for my husband. I am strong!

IMG_5643

(During Chemo 2013)

I CAN-CER VIVE

I woke up this morning to Justin throwing up in the bathroom. So many horrible memories came rushing back into my mind of the chemo he endured two years ago.  In February when they told us they found a cancerous tumor I broke down into tears. I wept for many reasons, but I couldn’t bare the thought of him having to go through chemo again. I would not wish chemo upon my worst enemy.  I feel so helpless and wish I could take his pain away. Over those five months of chemo the life was slowly sucked out of him.  During the weeks he was admitted into the hospital my happy and outgoing husband changed. He slowly entered that dark world of depression and sadness. I had never seen this side of him and it was hard to watch.

    I would say one of the hardest parts of chemo is the mental battle. It’s hard to see the nurse come into the room put on a mask, gloves, and a coat just to give him his chemo drugs. When you see that happening you think, “and that’s going inside me?”

IMG_5073

(Chemo 2015)

I think I have forgotten what we are about to start again. I’m slowly starting to remember the bad things that come along with chemo.  Yesterday when we checked into the hospital to start his chemo, he already started to fight his mind. He hadn’t even started chemo and he was already feeling nauseous from the different smells of the hospital. The cancer Justin has is so rare we aren’t even sure if this chemo will work. I try hard not to think it, but I hope all this torture isn’t for nothing.

unnamed

(Chemo 2013)

I never really understood the cancer world until we were forced to enter it. I had heard of people having cancer and doing chemo, but you don’t really understand unless someone close to you has gone through it. I had no clue what all went into this world. When Justin and I hear about kids or adults doing multiple rounds of chemo or dealing with it for years, our hearts just ache for them. It really is not a happy place or thing to do. We made it through once, we will make it through again. We will do anything at this point to keep him on this earth, its just going to be a bumpy road to get there.

IMG_5079               IMG_5080

             Getting his port in. (2013)                        Getting his second port in. (2015)

“When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person that walked in. Thats what the storm is all about.” -Murakami

blog 3

Our journey with cancer started August 8, 2013. It started two months after Justin and I were married.  I sometimes look back on those two months before we found out. We had so much fun and we were so in love. It was that perfect carefree life that every new couple enjoys. I try not to think of that time often because it quickly turns into sadness. I sometimes feel like we were cheated of our newlywed stage of life.

I would be lying if I looked at others and didn’t envy their situation. They probably worry about paying the bills, or finishing school (normal life stuff).  But I come home and I worry and wonder if my husband will live. We hang out with our friends and act normal, but when we go home at night we go to a different world—a world of depression, anxiety, and the unknown. Everyone around us keeps on living their normal lives, but I’m still stuck in this world. I miss that carefree feeling we had during those two months. I will never feel like that again, I will always have that worry in the back of my mind. I will never be free of it.

I never thought Justin’s chest pain would turn into cancer. He was young and healthy, plus this stuff only happens to other people. This doesn’t actually happen to me.

Within days our life changed. We moved back home to Colorado to be closer to family. We went from newlywed stage to living with my parents within a couple of days. That was the day our lives changed forever. No going back to those carefree people.

God has a plan for us. I believe with my whole heart that he wants Justin and I to learn and grow from this trial. As hard as it is to look back at those two months and wish I could have that time again, I know we both will be better and stronger people because of this. God wanted us to be more than we were. The hardest part is trying to pray and learn what it is the Lord wants me to learn. I believe in God’s plan for me, I know there is a reason for everything that happens. I want to be that person God knows I can be and I’m trying my best to forget about those two months and focus on the now.

“I have chemo brain, what’s your excuse?”

Chemo not only affects you physically, but also mentally.  I remember when we were driving to the hospital for the last treatment in Justin’s first round of chemo and he was driving 15 miles under the speed limit. He mentally could not make himself get there. He has had two surgeries and numerous doctor’s visits since then and that first round of chemo still affects him.  Certain smells and foods still make him sick.

When he did that first round of chemo two years ago he had in-patient chemo. He checked in on Monday and checked out on Friday. It was hard for him to be in the hospital all week. You are constantly fighting your mind and trying to stay positive and it was easy for him to become depressed.  He was always anxious to get out and be done and when it came time to leave it could never come fast enough. No matter what he is in the hospital for, he is reminded of how awful that first experience was.

Last Saturday after his surgery Justin started pacing around the room until we got the okay to leave – something I saw many times on those Fridays two years ago as we were checking out of chemo.

“We must live by faith, not by fear” –Elder Cook

peter on water

I have a dark cloud that follows me. I love to be at work and hang out with my friends because during those times I forget the cloud is there. When the fun is over and I’m alone I look up and see the dark cloud still hovering there. The cloud is always present, bringing along anxiety and fear and reminding me that my husband has cancer.

I feel like I go back and forth between living with the cloud and living without it. It reminds me of faith and fear. I like to compare how I have been feeling with the story of Peter walking on water. Peter had so much faith in his ability to walk on water, that he actually did start to walk on water. As soon as he saw the waves and the storms around him though, he doubted himself and fell in. I feel like Peter in this story. When I pray and read the blessings Justin and I have received, I have so much faith. I know that Justin will be ok and he will be able to beat this cancer. But as soon as we hear news from the doctor or are reminded that this is a very rare cancer I start to fall back in the water. I start to lose that faith that I once so strongly had. I’m constantly switching back and forth between faith and fear. I don’t know how to push that fear away and live off the faith. I had a sweet friend take time out of her life to drop off a picture of Christ pulling Peter out of the water. I had never seen this picture before, but it changed my view on the faith vs. fear. Christ was right there to pull him up out of the water. I need to remember Christ will do the same for me each and every time I fall in. I know that he is there for me, to keep me on that path of faith. I need to not doubt and have faith.

“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.”

FullSizeRender (2)

I’m a planner and I like to know what will happen and how to prepare for it. I also struggle with bad anxiety, so before the surgery I had to think things through.

What will be the best possible outcome of this surgery?

The best possible outcome of this surgery would be finding liquid in Justin’s lung. The scans seem to show liquid, maybe it really is liquid.

Then I had to think of what the worst possible outcome would be.

The worst possible outcome would be that they would find the jelly looking cancer and remove it.

So, I thought everything through and put all my focus on those two outcomes. When the surgeon walked into our small room and explained what he had found, I never thought things could be worse than my worst possible outcome. Not only did they find lots of the jelly, they also found a hard mass up against his chest cavity wall. As the surgeon was talking and trying to explain what he found the room slowly started to shrink around me and the doctor’s voice faded away. Slowly my mind went in a million different directions. Will I ever be able to grow old with the man I love? Is it actually possible he can beat this unknown cancer? My mind took over and went into darkness. As soon as he left I could not hold in my tears any longer. That darkness consumed my mind and I could not get a hold of my emotions. Justin would be getting out of surgery soon and I did not want him to see me like this. My father offered to give me a priesthood blessing. As soon as he finished I was able to stand up, wipe the tears off my face and head towards the ICU. It was not easy walking into that room, knowing that we would have to give Justin the bad news, and that he would be the last to know what they found. Luckily Justin’s parents were there to help me give the news. As soon as we were done Justin made some joke and within seconds we were laughing and talking about something else. Later my dad said “how is it possible that he is the one lifting us up?” As soon as I am in his presence I feel calm and have so much faith- I think that is one of the many reasons he is my soulmate.

He is the strongest person I know.