“Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul.”

There are two types of changes I have see while going through this cancer journey with Justin. The first way cancer changes you, is your physical appearance. Its hard to believe one horrible thing can dramatically change the way you look and feel.

Here are some picture before cancer came into his life. Justin loves to be outdoors more than anything. He lived outdoors and spent most of his time hiking, rock climbing, camping, or fishing. He was always super active and even played football and rugby in High School.

Through the years of cancer his strong and healthy body is no more. It has been especially hard to see him during this most recent hospital visit. Cancer took away his strength where he now has a hard time walking on his own. Cancer took away his left lung where he now needs oxygen support to breathe. I’ve seen cancer weaken a strong man who use to climb tall mountains.

 

This brings me to the second change cancer can bring. Cancer can weaken your physical appearance, but it can’t weaken your faith and spirits. Justin has never let cancer bring his spirits down. He has only become stronger in his faith since this journey started. I do believe trials are meant to shape us into stronger versions of ourselves. Even though these past three weeks have been so hard and Justin has become so weak, his faith has never been stronger. Cancer cannot take away what is most important to us and that is our relationship with the Lord, our faith and hope in a miracle, and our endurance to keep moving forward.

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“God doesn’t give us what we can handle, He helps us handle what we are given.”

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The human body is an incredible thing. I’ve come to realize this more during my pregnancy as I’ve seen it change and adjust to grow not only one baby but two. There are great days to pregnancy and not so great days.

Throughout my pregnancy Justin and I have had a running joke that he has experienced basically every symptom I’ve had so far. When I was sick in bed for the first 12 weeks he knew exactly what I was going through. When he was doing chemo certain smells would trigger nausea and he had no appetite. Just this week his feet have been so swollen from all the fluid retention. When I’m climbing the stairs and have a hard time breathing he knows exactly how that felt as well. I have babies pushing on my lungs and he has a tumor pressing on his. He really can understand a lot of what I have been feeling.

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I love pregnancy, but I’m excited to have my body back. I often find myself looking forward to my post pregnancy body. When I drop things on the floor or try to put my shoes on, I think about how I only have a couple more months of discomfort. I have an end date in mind and I know I just need to suck it up for just a few more months.

I’ve thought a lot about this as I’ve seen Justin suffer through his discomfort and the pain of cancer. I know by nine months my discomfort will go away, where Justin has no end date. He has had cancer for the last 4 years and each time he feels pain he doesn’t get the luxury of saying “I only have 3 more months and then I’ll feel better”. When I thought about it this way, it really broke my heart. He has been dealing with this for so long and he has not idea when the pain will go away. He always puts on such a great face and never complains.

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Since he has been in the hospital he started to get this horrible shoulder pain. We tried to find different positions to relieve pain, but nothing would work. He hates taking pain meds because of how they make him feel. He hates feeling tired all day and not being able to stay awake to carry on a conversation. He held off for about a week before he gave into pain meds. There was a day last week when his shoulder pain was so bad and there was nothing we could do to help him. We tried different strategies like putting a pillow under his arm or back. His dad even stood and held his arm up for almost an hour.  Anything we could do to help this pain go away. There was a brief moment I could tell he just wanted to cry out of frustration.  I couldn’t help but cry watching him in so much pain. I just wanted to take the pain away from him so badly.

We have talked a lot about our different roles in this trial. Would it be harder to be the one suffering through the cancer or the one who has to watch them suffer.  Justin has mentioned that he would not be able to watch me go through what he has experienced. I don’t think I would have been as strong as he has been. He never complains and keeps fighting. I think the Lord knows what we can handle and knew what part we had to play during this trial. Both roles have their difficulty, but it has never been so hard to watch him these past two weeks. He has assured me though that he wants to live and fight this, so we are going to fight.  I will help as much as I can and get him through this!

“Do we have the faith “not [to] be healed”” -Elder Bednar

I wanted to start by talking about the love we have felt from everyone. It has reminded me that we are never alone in this journey. So many people offering to stop by or bring food. Even just the comments of love and prayers have been so amazing. It really brings to light the scripture in Mosiah “..mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” We have felt that comfort and it has given us so much strength during this hard time.

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We have been through a lot with this cancer, but never have I felt so hopeless and low as I have felt this week. We came into the hospital last week on Valentines Day thinking we would be here a couple days to get over some virus, but each day came with more bad news. He started getting weaker each day and having a harder time breathing. Even though in the past I have had such great faith, it made it harder to keep that faith seeing him so sick. It’s almost like my hope is tied to his physical condition. So the days he was looking worse my hope seemed to dwindle. Then the days he was looking better my hope was stronger. How far will God push us in our trial and test our faith before he says, “it is done.” Have we not reached our limit yet? Have we not been through the worst of it? It’s getting harder and harder to keep the faith and remember that peace I have felt in the past. I need to disconnect my faith from Justin’s actual condition. I need to learn to have faith on my own no matter how well Justin is doing. I need to remember the peace I have felt in the past.

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            Through this whole cancer journey I have always been so faithful and believed things would be okay. It wasn’t until things got really bad this week that I started to think, maybe things aren’t going to turn out the way I hope they will. I find myself struggling to align my will with Gods, whatever that may be. I can’t imagine anything harder than to accept God’s will if its not what I want.   How do I align my will with Gods, but still hope for a miracle at the same time. I find it hard to balance the two. If I lean more towards one, does that mean I don’t believe in the other.

I’ve tried hard to focus on that this week. Justin and I had a conversation about how to accept Gods will whatever it may be.  On Tuesday we had multiple groups of doctors come in and give bad news after bad news. I had never felt so depressed and defeated. I think it really pushed us to think about that question “Do we have the faith not to be healed”  It reminded me of the time we found out Justin’s cancer had returned. I was so mad at God that this would happen. We had just survived cancer why would it be back, did we not learn our lessons the first time. I struggled and prayed and realized that I couldn’t afford to be mad at God because I knew if we were going to make it through cancer again, we would need Him by our sides. Justin also had a similar experience this week and we decided this is how we align our will with God. Whatever happens we will still keep God in our lives.

 

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I lay awake at night with anxious thoughts and feelings. I want a miracle more than anything, but right now I’m trying to take it one day at a time. My prayers have now been focused on Justin being healthy enough to get out of the hospital and be at the birth of these two babies. Thats what I’m praying and hoping for right now. A couple weeks ago we put the baby room together and I couldn’t find Justin. I texted him and he said he was in the baby room. I went in and he was just sitting on the chair staring at the cribs. I could tell he had been crying and I asked if he was okay. He said having the cribs up made it so real and he was so excited to meet them. I keep thinking about this story and I pray everyday that he can be here for the birth and raise these two boys.  I don’t know what will happen, but I’m trying hard to find that balance between Gods will and praying for a miracle. I’m trying so hard to strengthen my faith and not let fear in, but its been the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I’m taking it one day at a time and always praying for a miracle!

 

“It is in waiting rather than in the receiving that we grow the most.”

I just wanted to write a post and give an update on Justin’s health. I find myself struggling more than usual to stay hopeful. Its hard when the reality of Justin’s health is not good, but we have felt peace that everything will be okay. Its that battle of faith and fear which I constantly struggle with.

Justin had started an antibody drug that wasn’t as harmful to his body. The antibody isn’t made to shrink the tumor, but keep it from growing. Its not chemo which was great and Justin was especially excited to have his hair back . He doesn’t mind having a bald head, its once the eyebrows are gone that he feels like a cancer patient.  He did a couple rounds and it was working great.  We were excited because Justin had a little more energy. He went in for another scan a month later and thats when we found out the tumor had grown. The antibody drug wasn’t working as well as they thought, so going back on chemo was our only option. This was not easy news to hear and once again we get bad news and no hope. I feel like i’m drowning and just barley trying to keep my head above water. I try and stay hopeful and faithful, but each time we get bad news I stink deeper and deeper. When you have been knocked down so many times, it makes it that much harder to keep getting up.

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Nice head of hair!

We decided it would be good to start getting second opinions elsewhere and see what other doctors around the country have to say. Justin flew out to Indianapolis to meet with a doctor who basically invented the chemo that cured his first cancer. It was great that he was able to meet with him, but again no good news came from it. The doctor told us that their really isn’t any cure for his cancer right now. He also said that his body can’t handle chemo forever. There are a couple none chemo drugs he could try though and see if those work.  These drugs are designed to keep it from growing at a rapid pace. We also discussed the option of surgery, but told that wasn’t a good idea. They told him surgery would be pointless without a cure. The surgery would be very intense, having to remove the tumor and his left lung. It would be a hard surgery  just to have the tumor start growing again. So we seem to be running out of options and I find myself struggling to stay faithful.

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On top of all this, Justin has been sick for the past three weeks. He started coughing and then has had a  fever for the past week. He spent last  Wednesdays in the hospital all day doing test, but they don’t seem to know what is causing the fever. If his fever spikes again he will have to be admitted for further testing.

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Good thing Hiccup can give Justin company during all these sick days!

 

I feel so defeated by life right now. I just wish so badly I could take the cancer away from him. I don’t know how he continues to stay so strong, he is amazing. I find myself imagining life without cancer and how easy it would be. How nice it would be to live a life with out constant worry. I quickly change my thoughts when I catch myself thinking that way. Thats not my life and I need to learn to deal with the life I have been given. Sometimes I wish I could see myself the way God see’s me. He obviously thinks I’m a strong person because my husband has cancer and I’m about to have twins. (haha) I know I can do hard things because I’ve made it this far. I just need to remember that as I continue to move forward.

I’ve been very cautious to ask Justin for help during my pregnancy.  Most of the time he is in need of help just as much as I am. I think this was good for me and has helped me become stronger. Its also been nice at times because Justin can relate to a lot of things I have been experiencing.  When I had morning sickness he knew exactly how I felt. When its hard for me to breathe he also relate. I don’t have a husband who can help me a lot, but he can relate and understand what I’m going through at times. That has been a blessing.

I’ve been trying so hard to stay hopeful. I read a talk about how the Lord blesses us for our patience. There was a part in the talk that said “Patience means to abide in faith, knowing that sometimes it is in waiting rather than in the receiving that we grow the most.”  I have kept this in mind as I have wondered why we keep getting bad news when I have felt in the past that Justin would be okay.  I need to be patient, but also faithful as I move forward in life. We grow and learn in the waiting not once we receive what we want. I still believe with my whole heart we are meant to have these babies. I just need to remember what I have felt in the past and continue to have faith in those feelings as I move forward.

 

Two Little Blessings, sent from above. Twice the smiles, twice the love.

It was so much fun making this video and reliving everyone’s excitement over again. We got our first ultrasound at 6 weeks on September 5, 2017.  That was the day we found out we were having twins. We got a call from our fertility nurse right after and we had to confirm that we only put one embryo in. I still couldn’t believe that we had two babies. We did genetic testing on all our embryos which is why we knew the sex of the baby.  I called later that day and they confirmed that we put one embryo in and it was a boy.  So because the embryo was a boy and it split, they would both be boys.

    There was no way I could keep this twin secret from my parents. I needed to tell someone because I was kind of freaking out.  Justin had to go to work so we had to wait until that evening to call.  We told our parents we wanted to reveal the gender of the baby. They were thinking were going to say boy or girl and instead surprised them with twins. We didn’t tell them the gender until later, but that didn’t stop my mother in law and my dad from trying to get me to tell them. My dad would call me and say “how are the girls doing today?” just to try and trick me. So rude! 🙂

We really wanted to tell the rest of our family in person, so we decided to keep it a secret until we could all be together. It was the hardest secret to keep! It was hard not to say plural responses like “heartbeats” and “babies” when talking to my sisters. It took a lot of mental practice! It was totally worth the wait to see their reaction in person. The more people we told the more excited we got. We are so excited to meet these two boys in April!

Even bad times have good things in them to make you feel alive.” – Nick Hornby

 

We have been so excited to share our exciting news with family and friends. Its probably been the hardest secret we have ever had to keep. I love the quote above because we have felt alive and happy since we found out I was pregnant. We have been stuck in this trial of cancer for so long now, it was so great to have some good news in our lives. We have always associated doctor visits with cancer, so it was a nice change to be excited for once to go to a doctors appointment.

We started this journey over a year ago. I was able to get pregnant going through in vitro fertilization. It has been one of the hardest things I have ever gone through, but I’m so grateful I did. We transferred one embryo in August and were pretty shocked when we heard two heartbeats on our 6 week ultrasound. When the woman doing my ultrasound asked me how many embryos I put in, I freaked out thinking to myself “why is she asking me this?”  Sure enough we had two little babies on the monitor. My fertility doctor told me there was a 2.7% chance that embryo would split.  I’ve learned that no matter how hard you try to plan out your life, God will always have a different plan for you.  I’ve put a lot of trust in him and his plan for me. I believe with my whole heart these two little boys were meant to both come together at this time. I think knowing how rare it is for that embryo to split just confirms to me that this was meant to happen.  God is aware and watching out for us. I’m so grateful for that. We know that having twins will be hard, but we are excited!

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Starting a family was not an easy decision for us to make. We know its going to be hard, but we felt that we deserved some happiness in our lives. If we lived our lives waiting for cancer to be gone we would miss out on all the good things along the way.

“You were given this life because you are strong enough to live it”

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Justin started a new chemotherapy drug last March and has been on it ever since. This chemo has been preventing the tumor from growing, but does not shrink it. He has his chemo twice a month and goes to a facility in West Jordan. He usually goes in first thing in the morning and is there for five hours. We are grateful he doesn’t have to spend the night at the hospital. We are happy this chemo doesn’t make him sick. He does get really tired and his joints ache a lot. Justin will say, “I’m a 28 year old man stuck in a 70 year old mans body.” It hurts walking up the stairs and especially when he first wakes up in the morning.

     Justin decided to take a break from chemo during the winter. He was off chemo for two months and it was the best two months we have had in a long time. Justin was getting up early and going to the gym every morning. He was walking, swimming, and lifting weights. He was so happy to finally feel a little normal again. He obviously still has a really hard time breathing since the tumor takes up lung space, but it was still a great time. His hair started to come back and he was eating healthy and enjoying life.

     After those two months Justin went in for a scan to see if the tumor had grown or not. If the tumor hadn’t grown we were hoping to take more of a break. Sadly the tumor had grown and enough that they saw a significant increase in size. This was really hard news for Justin and I to hear. I guess we both knew he would have to go back on, but the time off was so nice. He started chemo right away and after a couple rounds it started to work again and stop the growth. The most important part about this break was knowing this chemo really works.

            Justins cancer is so rare and there isn’t much out there about it. Right now the only thing we know is this chemo is keeping him alive. Sadly this means he will basically have to have chemo forever. There are some options for other chemo drugs that he can try that won’t be so hard on his body. It’s always risky when you try a new chemo drug. If it doesn’t work that is time you have given the tumor to grow more, but you never know unless you try. We are hoping to find one that is easier on his body. Sadly there isn’t a chemo that we have found yet that shrinks his tumor, just keeps it from growing. As of right now he is going to keep doing chemo and we are going to move on with life. We will keep looking for new treatments and keep an eye open for new things, but right now this is what we are doing.

             We feel so blessed that he can still function and have a semi normal life. Justin works full time and really loves his job. On the days he has chemo he will get up early go to chemo and then go to work afterwards. He truly is amazing! We hope to move on with life and not let cancer hold us back. We feel blessed with how things have gone so far. Continue to pray that we can find a drug that will shrink his tumor. We are so grateful for all the prayers that are said for us each day. We would not have made it this far without them!

 

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Justin wearing his favorite shirt! If you know Justin you know he loves Ron Swanson and meat.

Every anniversary is so special because it’s another year I’ve had him in my life!

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As many of you know Justin and I were married for two months before discovering he had cancer. Today (May 24th)  marks our 4th anniversary and sadly cancer still hasn’t left us. Looking back on our wedding day, this is not how I expected my life to go.

We have found a way though to stay positive and keep living our lives. The future is unknown with something like cancer, you never take anything for granted. I sometimes wonder if our love would be as strong if cancer never came. Each day we can say I love you or hold each other at night is a gift. We never let anything get between us and remember that each moment is precious! That kind of love can never be broken and last for all eternity. You don’t realize how much you need and love someone until there is a possibility that someone could be gone. Every anniversary is so special because it’s another year I’ve had him in my life! Feeling blessed and grateful on this day!

“The Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease..” Mosiah 24:15

 “And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.”

Mosiah 24:15

I have read this scripture many times in my life, but it now has a new meaning to me. I feel that I can personally relate to this scripture. Cancer sucks, but how is it possible to feel blessed at the same time? Justin and I often talk about how lucky he has been during this cancer process. This new chemo has allowed him to continue  to work and go to school. He isn’t throwing up all the time and sick in bed. We feel like the people in this scripture, the Lord has eased our burdens. We feel so lucky that we are able to live a semi normal life with the burden of cancer.  Justin recently got scan results back and the tumor looked slightly smaller. Another example of the Lord given us strength to keep moving forward.

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4th of July

I felt prompted to write a blog after we went boating on the 4th of July. Justin continues to amaze me with his positive attitude. He does not want cancer to define him. He does not want cancer to hold him back. He continues on with life and never looks back. We went boating on the 4th of July and he proved cancer wrong. He had a fun day surfing and doing it all with only 1 and half lung. He truly is an inspiration!

My cousin Whitney made this awesome video of the boating trip!

“Cancer is only going to be a chapter in my life, not the whole story.” -Joe W.

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Chemo (March 2016)

Justin started a new chemo in February and it came with a lot of new stress and worry. It was really hard to have to stop the other chemo, but we had no other choice. I felt like we were starting from square one again. I have bad anxiety with each scan Justin gets. I can never sleep the night before. The day of the results I can’t eat, so much so that I end up making myself physically sick. With each new scan my mind takes me to dark places. I’m a slave to anxiety, it consumes all of me. I let it control my mind and make me believe things that I don’t want to think about. It makes each step we take with this cancer journey ten times harder.

Now that he is starting this new chemo my anxiety is on an extremely higher level than usual. We don’t really have other options after this chemo. I felt like the stakes were higher with this scan to see if this new chemo would work. The doctors wanted him to do two weeks of the new chemo before doing the scan. In my mind I pushed thinking about it aside until the last possible second. The day of the scan I could barely get out of bed without feeling like I needed to throw up. I still feel worried even though Justin has been feeling great lately. He felt like he could breath better and didn’t fee like he needed to sleep with his oxygen. Even when he tells me these things I still feel anxious.  Justin said that he would be getting a phone call with the results that day. I went to work but I couldn’t focus all day and wouldn’t let my phone leave my side. Finally around 10am Justin texted me “Just heard from them! No growth!” This is usually the point I am not longer a slave and feel free again. That pain in my chest is gone and I feel this weight lift from me. I felt so relieved that this new chemo was keeping the tumor from growing. They said it hadn’t shrunk, but it was preventing it from growing. That was good news! For a tiny moment I allowed myself  to imagine a life without the stress of cancer. Maybe someday things will be okay and we can just live our life. I just pray this chemo helps shrink it.

As of right now the doctors are planning to do this chemo for about a year. Then they will get together and decide where to go from there. The cancer he has is so rare that we are basically trying the “trial and error” option. Maybe the cure for Justin’s cancer has not been invented yet. We just don’t know what our future holds.

What we do know is that we want to move on with our lives. Justin will most likely go back to school and do chemo. Right now he does outpatient chemo. He goes in one day for a couple hours and then a week later goes in for another drug for a couple hours. He then gets two weeks off and does the same thing over again. This chemo has been a lot better on his body than the other one. He doesn’t get nauseous like he did with his first chemo. He gets a sore mouth and the nerves in his feet make them ache. We are grateful the side effects are not as bad as they have been in the past with other chemo drugs. We are trying to stay hopeful and positive. We are just trying to move on with our lives and live as normally as possible.

*Justin’s experience with outpatient chemo