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Color.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that it was five months ago that I posted about starting my genetic testing… Oops! To say I was overwhelmed by the support and outreach about this testing would be an understatement.

Y’all have taught me so much through this. I’ve enjoyed hearing your stories, your fears and your questions. But what I’ve loved, is that they mimic mine throughout this whole process.

As you can obviously tell, my testing didn’t work out. Testing can cost up to $1,500 per gene (testing 24 -30 genes) and even though I qualified for the testing, my insurance wanted to charge about $3,000… Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly sold on that option.

To be honest with you all, I was embarrassed. Embarrassed that I’d written about this, talked with so many of you and yet had no answers for you or myself. I was discouraged to say the least. All of my fear and anxiety built into that moment and I was stuck with no answers.It felt like being at the top of a roller coaster waiting to fly down and then you wake up from your dream and feel empty or let down. You’re not scared or excited; you’re just there.

Five months later (and several vague snap chats), I’m so happy to share with you real updates. I was introduced to this company in California called Color Genetics. It’s an independent company that works with skilled physicians to do genetic testing. If you’re like me, words like “independent” in the world of genetic testing made me think $$$. Wrong. The test was $250.00. [By the way, this is NOT a sponsored post.]

How does it work?

You order the kit that includes a sample tube. You provide a saliva DNA sample in the tube. Activate your kit online and provide a family history of cancer. They provide you with a pre-labeled box to ship it back in. They test for 30 genes, including BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 (the breast cancer gene). They also test for the Ovarian Cancer gene — which if you know my story at all, you know that’s the most important one to me.I sent in the package this morning and once it’s been analyzed, they’ll email me my results.

As I type, I remember that last time I was writing about this. I remember the waiting room at KU Cancer Center. The people in there who reminded me so much of the battle my mom bravely fought but gracefully lost. I remember the feeling of pure fear at my core and the panic attack I had in the waiting room while my eyes filled with tears; and it still brings tears to my eyes. To know that these results could change how I see my future… How do you even begin to describe that? Powerless is a start.

But then I think of why. Why I’m doing this, who I’m doing this for and the impact this can have on my life and those around me. Through her own life, my mom taught me to use what I’m given and to never be a victim of what life throws your way. If I’m not doing that and talking about it, I’m just existing.

As soon as I have my results, good or bad, I’ll fill you in. Until then, prayers, well wishes or whatever you wish to send my way would be amazing.

 

Every Little Thing is Gonna be Alright.

Two weeks ago I met with my doctor to begin my genetic testing. So many people have come up to me saying they want to get this testing done or they know someone who wants to. I had a friend tell me she wants her mom to get it done, but her mom doesn’t want to know bad news might be coming her way. And I think people like her mom are exactly why I’m doing this. It breaks my heart that people feel scared. Fear is a terrible thing to live with, but fear of the unknown is unbearable. We convince ourselves that our “worst case scenario” is our “only case scenario,” and it’s not…

My appointment for my testing was at 9:30. I arrived early, and for 30 mins I was sitting in a waiting room that was packed with patients. Oxygen tanks, wheelchairs, face masks and bandannas to cover what chemo had taken from them. Badges of honor, I like to call them.  I’d been in a million of these waiting rooms before… but not for almost 10 years.

Grief may get better with time, but at what cost? Is it “better” because you start to forget the bad memories? Or is it because you start to forget what it was like to have them in your life? You never forget the person, what they mean to you, how much your entire heart loves and misses them. But if we’re being honest with ourselves… Do we really remember the sound of their voice, their laugh, their handwriting after 10 years? I listen to recordings and read old notes to still feel connected in a way different than “I miss you.”

I’m sitting in this waiting room with floods of memories from 10 years ago pouring out of my brain and into my heart. I started to panic. I was tearing up and feeling like a fool for having a panic attack in a waiting room with people who have actual battles they’re fighting every day. But even so, the painful memories were coming back, and I couldn’t block them out with the good ones. I kept thinking, I will do absolutely anything to not be sitting in this room in 10 years.

[And then they called my name.]

“So, what do you know about all of this so far?” my Dr. asked me.

“That I’m going to have the cancer that my mom died from,” I answered with tear-filled eyes.

She looked at me (after pointing to the tissue box on the window sill), let out a sigh and said, “No…not necessarily and we’re going to figure all of that out.”

Here’s the power that her knowledge gave me that day:

  • It takes 5 – 10 years for the blood supply and cell reproduction to malfunction and result in cancer. Cancer doesn’t show up over night.
    • THIS is why yearly check ups are so important. You’re not going to go in for one and 3 months later all of sudden have Stage 4 cancer. If they see something weird at the yearly check up, then they’ll monitor you closer than yearly.
    • This is also why they recommend testing you 10 years before you’re likely to get cancer based on age or family history. They’re trying to catch the cancer when it probably started to grow in that person.
  • The ovarian cancer gene is 5 – 10% hereditary.
  • If I have the gene, I have a 50% chance of getting the cancer, not 100%.
  • Having one person on each side of my family with this cancer doesn’t increase my chances. I’m still at 50%. Since I don’t have multiple people on one side of my family with ovarian cancer, it could mean that it’s not necessarily hereditary.
  • If I have BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 (gene names), my chance of breast cancer is 40 – 60%. My chance of ovarian cancer is about 40 – 50%.
    • There are several genes that contribute to ovarian cancer, but BRCA are very prominent.
  • There are a million other facts and figures she gave me that made me feel incredibly reassured.

My mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer when I was 8. They gave her 6 months to live and she fought for 4 years. That day, my doctor said to me, “You will never be in your mother’s situation. You will never be at Stage 4, because you’re doing it right. You’re starting so young, and we’ll be monitoring you so closely to make sure you’re okay, to make sure you have a long life.”

I couldn’t have paid her to say more perfect words. My greatest aspiration is to be like my mom, but my greatest fear is to fight her same battle.

I won’t know my results for 2-3 more weeks. But my “full body fear” is so much less. I know that the power of my future lies with God, me and my doctors,  not cancer.

Proverbs 16:9

“In their hearts, humans plan their course,

but the LORD establishes their steps.”

A friend surprised me the day of my testing with a note and a beautiful painting of my mom’s final words to me (below). In her note said she was praying for my test results, but that I would have faith in a good God rather than good results. I know that this journey probably isn’t one that I would’ve “planned for my course,” but it’s the one God planned. And that’s enough for me…

 

The Storm. My Purpose.

In forty-eight hours, I’ll be sitting in the waiting room to get my genetic testing done (see previous post to catch up). This testing will give me a lot: fear, worry, anxiety but most of all, it’ll give me answers. Answers that I’ve been waiting on for ten years now.

My last post on this received an outpouring of support from friends, family and people I never would’ve expected to pay attention to my words. I’ve been asked a lot about the process, my fears, my thoughts. And even though tears often fill my eyes when I explain my answers to their questions, I still feel as passionate about this as I did two weeks ago and ten years ago when I began this journey.

Every morning I listen to the radio as I say my prayers on the way to work. I find that starting my day like this gives me peace and purpose for my day. Purpose is something I think we all search endlessly for, in all aspects of our lives and the lives of those we love. Do we not pray for good jobs, good health, and if you’re like me, to just do something that matters? I think most of us have this longing to make a difference and have a meaningful life.

One explanation that I’ve always used when talking about losing my mom, and how that impacts my life, is that if I can change the life of one person because of her journey and her fight, then that’s why it all happened. Everything happens for a reason, for a bigger purpose. I have to believe that. I choose to believe that every day because I absolutely refuse to accept that my mom’s (and my own) journey is for nothing. It’ll change lives because she changed lives and because I will always fight for her story.

…And then I heard this verse…

II Corinthians 1:3-4

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

 I’ve never quite understood the why’s and the how’s of my journey; however, I knew in my heart I wasn’t meant to dwell on them, but to overcome them and help others. I could read that last part over and over again, “… so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

I titled these posts “The Calm Before the Storm” and “The Storm,” but this isn’t a storm, it’s a story, it’s my story. It would be dishonest to say that I’m not terrified, but there’s a calm that comes with knowing there’s more important things than our fear. So… as scared, worried and anxious as I am for my testing (in now 47.5 hours), I know that my purpose is as clear now as it always has been; it’s not fear and it’s not anxiety. My purpose is to live my life, to share my journey and to help others find the comfort to weather their storm (story).

The Calm Before the Storm.

The fear and uncertainty are the hardest parts. Although I don’t remember the words, I remember the day my parents told us my mom had cancer. When you’re eight years old, death is something that happens in old age or by a terribly sad accident.

…It wasn’t until years of seeing her fight that I realized

it wasn’t that far off from any of us…

As a sophomore in high school, I did a research report on Ovarian Cancer, and it was then that I realized the danger I was in of getting this disease. 50% was the number I saw. Fifty percent of women with a relative diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer will also be diagnosed in their lifetime. At fifteen, or any age for that matter, that’s a scary number to see. Your heart drops, your chest sinks, and at fifteen, I began to try to plan my life around the fear and panic of this disease in an effort to avoid the pain I witnessed as a child. I desperately don’t want to be a third generation to have kids who grow up without a mom.

With all that said, and being that my mom and my dad’s mom both passed from Ovarian Cancer; I’ve decided to undergo genetic testing on February 19th and share my journey with you all as I suspect I’m not the only one who’s undergone (or wanted to) this testing. The process is easy; a simple DNA sample will determine if I have the genetic mutations that Ovarian and Breast Cancer derive from.

I had a friend ask me last week what this test would mean to me and how I’ll feel about my results. My mom used to call me her “miracle baby.” In the deepest part of my heart and soul, I pray every day that I’ll be that miracle and not have the mutation. But as someone with so much family history, I feel as though it would be irresponsible for me to not know for sure whether I do or don’t have the gene.

– Hearing that I have the gene would be like hearing that I have cancer –

It’s a crippling fear.

As I began to explain that to her, tears filled my eyes like liquid memories of the hardest battle that I watched the bravest woman fight; my mother.

So I’m asking you all to join me before, during, and after my testing as well as any prayers you’d wish to send my way. Everyday I pray and focus on a verse my friend shared with me,

Psalm 112:7

“He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.”

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losing touch.

Last week, SnapChat removed the option for users to be able to see who their contact’s “best friends” were. People were outraged, girlfriends were jealous, cheaters felt free and I began to question…

If a friendship that I valued or loyalty that I trusted was based upon SnapChat best friends was really loyalty at all. Or friendship at all.

We live in a world where we validate ourselves, our looks, our bodies and our being based on likes and followers. Our generation longs to feel connected, but we don’t understand why we feel more disconnect than ever.

This video says anything and everything that I feel about the subject, and he does an incredible job appropriately shaming us.

it’s easy to fall in love with a memory.

The desert is a beautiful place to the untrained eye. Until a shift in the sand glides past you. It’s a snake. More than that, it’s a warning. Danger is coming.

I miss you already. I like you. I have no reason to lie to you. You have every right to ask. He’s a beautiful thing to the untrained eye. But his texts are a warning. Danger is coming.

And yet you don’t move. You don’t leave. You don’t save yourself. Something about the curiosity keeps you there. Curiosity killed the cat. But did it? Because, curiosity implies unknown. But we know danger is coming. We choose to embrace it. We choose the consequences.

We feel a part of us has broken off, is missing. Because we so deeply long to roll over and crash into their embrace and heartbeat, and not the empty pillow with the trace of their scent.

“I’m fine” spills out of our mouths before we can say what’s really on our brain. Because “I’m fine” is so much easier than “I miss you.”

The heart may want what it wants, but it craves what it cannot have. Craves what it knows will never fully belong to you. Craves what knows is no good for you. Craves what won’t come easy. We’ve trained it to be this way, to want these things. And yet, these things are the ones that leave girls falling asleep in the tears on their pillows. They chase these tears with vodka or Xanax and cover them with short dresses and higher heels. We sweat them out to prove something.

Prove something to THEM. When the only thing we need to convince is our heart. That we deserve more, need more, are more. Deserve more than once a week visits. Need more than “I miss you already” and “babe.” Are more than the girl waiting around for someone to realize.

So breathe and move on. Because the only thing more exhausting than his constant explanations, waiting on him to step up, and the one sided effort you put in… Is you trying to convince yourself you deserve more, when you already know you do.

Say a Little Prayer for You.

Now I lay me down to sleep

I pray The Lord, your soul repeat

Within my heart, throughout my life

In your image, I pray I’m like

Uniquely beautiful was her spirit

This prayer I pray, I hope you hear it

I hope you see me when I stand tall

And though I can’t see you, catch me when I fall

To fight your battle, I’d given anything

To feel your hug, see your smile, hear your laugh and to hear you sing

Sing me to sleep, like when I was little

You showed me pure love when you were your most brittle

And though you no longer walk among us

In the flowers we feel you sprung us

Sprung us from our mundane lives

We remember your strength and inspires us to thrive

Your mercy, your kindness, your grace

Are just just three of the beautiful traits we see, when we remember your face.

Opportunities Over Duties.

At the end, you want it all to have mattered.

The things you did, the experiences you had the places you went, the people you met, the friends you had and the ones you dismissed.

Yesterday I was chasing fireflies in my swimsuit with the smell of sunscreen on my skin still hot from the summertime sunshine. And today I’m stressing about money. Picking up a shift on my one day off.

The people who broke our hearts, and the ones we loved enough to endure the pain.

The friends who weren’t friends at all, but family.

Experiences that in the moment we forget to appreciate their beauty are far too many to count. Regrets add up, and mistakes seem to overshadow the little things we should take joy in.

Rejections that make us scared to take risks on the real things like love and adventure and life.

Like fireflies in the summertime moonlight, bonfires with marshmallows and being with the people who know you better than you know yourself.

Too busy to know the difference between life and routine. And we tell ourselves this is “growing up” or these are “responsibilities.” But what about the responsibility that we have to ourselves and to this one chance we get to live. Actually live. Really indulge in this life.

At the end, we want it all to have mattered.

Will it? Or will we overlook the opportunities for the duties?

Will we let the fear of life keep us from living it? Cause I already have.

“She is so confident.”

This is not about me. This is about being critical of ourselves and putting ourselves down while lifting others up.

This is an attempt to open no one’s eyes by my own.  An attempt to replace the word beauty with confidence. To replace imperfections with acceptance, and for tears to only be from laughing.

I would like to dedicate this post to all the 10 year old girls who think they need to count calories, starve themselves and take other measures. I was you, and I still am… But we don’t have to be.

The videos below are from Dove and Always, and they speak for themselves. It’s my hope that you watch them, and they open your eyes and give you chills like they did me.

 

 

 

 

I am less, and I am more.

Stop.

Stop what you’re doing, what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling. Silence. So quiet it’s deafening. Becoming a sound of it’s own. Takes the form of your heart beat. Thumping so loudly you feel it begin to shake you, to move you. And suddenly, your brain kicks in. Your conscience speaking so loudly, you forgot it lived inside you. So rapidly moving from subject to subject you start to feel anxiety rise up through your stomach and left stranded at your finger tips.

And in this moment of silence so loud, you think, who am I? Who am I, really? To myself. To my friends. To strangers. To the world. Am I what I want to be? Who I want to be? Or more importantly, who I thought i would be? 

And my answer would be…. No. I’m not who I thought I would be. 

At 20 years old, I am not who I thought I would be when I was a child. 

{I am less, and I am more}

I am less afraid of the world. Despite the many things that I’ve been exposed to, that have changed me. Could’ve broken me, but didn’t.We live in a mine field. Waiting to step on our own explosion, encounter someone that will harm us forever. More willing to embrace who and what I encounter. 

I am hungrier to accomplish my goals. To make something of myself and my name. To have power and prestige by the time I’m 30. 

I am quickly realizing that life is now. As I was child yesterday, until I blinked, and now I’m here. 

I’ve realized that moments in life are just that. Fleeting and slip out of our grasp before we even knew we had them. Someone told me they can tell I’m having the time of my life. How can I be having the time of my life and not even realize it? What a modern day tragedy that we can experience moments, and can’t realize the preciousness they carry until they’re gone. We close our eyes, take a deep breath, hoping somehow that will cement the moment in our brains for eternity. When three years later the crinkles on our foreheads appear as we try to remember that moment, the feeling it gave us. The crippling fear of realizing we can’t hold on to moments forever. We can’t stop time, and we can’t rewind.

Nostalgia. 

Will we ever truly learn to live every day as though it was our last, and not just make that quote our Facebook statuses? Never knowing the future.

…..the purest form of uncertainty…..

Will we choose the path of least resistance? Will we be able to live with our regrets? Or will we convince ourselves they’re just lessons learned.. 

An outer body experience, I step outside of myself to look at my life. I can see it in my eyes. In my actions. In my spirit. Hunger. Passion. Drive. Independence. Fighting for the life I’ve worked for, the life I want. The life I can’t imagine myself not having. Priorities have shifted like a California fault line, and I’ve adapted. Or have I caused this earthquake in the core of my being? I want success and honest relationships. I’m waiting on no one and nothing but myself and my destiny.

And I am beyond blessed to say that even though I do not experience every day as though it is my last, I am learning to appreciate the moments, these moments, that will soon be distant memories of the greatest time in my life. And the people I share them with. My people. 

{I am less, and I am more} 

So much more…

Are you?