Monday, October 6, 2014

Rainbow Nurses Make the Difference!

Hello Friends!
I know it's been quite a while since I posted ! Thank you to the many of you who continue to pray for me. I'm back in college, and am quite busy with classes.

I wanted to share a video that was done by Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital, where I was treated, based on my earlier blog post about nurses. Hope you enjoy viewing this!!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Scan Results!

Thank you for all the prayers. My scans came back clean, even showing some reduction in my lung damage.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. - Jeremiah 29:11

Here in this worn and weary land
Where many a dream has died
 Like a tree planted by the water
We never will run dry

So living water flowing through
God we thirst for more of You
Fill our hearts and flood our souls
With one desire
Into Your word we're digging deep
To know our Father's heart
 Into the world we're reaching out
To show them who You are

Joy Unspeakable, Faith Unsinkable, Love Unstoppable, Anything is possible

Just to know You and
To make You known
We lift Your name on High
Shine like the sun make darkness run and hide
We know we were made for so much more
Than ordinary lives
It's time for us to more than just survive
We were made to thrive

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

1Year Scans

Hello Friends,
Today I have my one year scans. Tomorrow I will get the results when I meet with my doctor.

I'd appreciate your prayers.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

National Cancer Survivor Day Musings

Today is National Cancer Survivor's Day. I thought I'd post an update, but when I went to my drafts I found this in there.  I wrote it about three weeks ago.  The hurt I felt then is gone now, but re-reading it brought a rush of memories of how I felt. Discouraged. Defeated. Just Down. While I realize that I have so much to be thankful for, I'm human, and don't always remember to "Give thanks without ceasing." My hope in including it is that perhaps it will give you a little better understanding into the life of Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) survivors. 

"This week is finals week.  I had a Calculus II final at 7AM Monday morning, a paper due Tuesday at noon, and then a Physics final coming up on Friday morning. 
I just got a grade back in Calculus...I went into the final with an A, but came out with a B.  Somehow that has really just got me discouraged.  It's really hard being a cancer survivor in college. Sometimes I don't know where to summon the strength to continue. I just want to throw in the towel. I never thought I'd cry about grades. I wasn't one of those obsessed bio majors (sorry guys). But I did last night. And this morning. And probably will again. It's one thing to get a not-A grade, because I've always known like maybe I could have worked harder, or not gone to that concert, or not watched that movie, or not done this or that.  But this time there is nothing to fall back on.  I did my very best. And it wasn't an A.  I have to remember that I'm much more than my grades. I beat cancer. Twice.
Sometimes I fall in the trap of comparing my current self with my pre-cancer self.  The girl who got all As. Who studied like crazy for a test. And aced the test. The girl who knew she could get in the college she wanted to if she worked hard enough. And so she worked really hard, and got into that college.  The girl who vowed to audition at that college's music school.  The girl who applied and received the scholarship she wanted. The girl who wrote on her Summer Leadership Seminar goals sheet that she wanted to a) Make the Dean's List every semester b) Be Valedictorian c) Give the commencement speech. That girl knew engineering was tough, but she was going to give it her all, and make it.
Sometimes that girl rears up in me. That girl who compares her 70 with her friend's 86, instead of being happy she was over the average. The girl who feels disappointed she missed points in the test where you had to memorize six full pages of information, instead of being grateful she got as many points as she did.  The girl who refuses to readjust her expectations.  The girl who wants to be able to both hang out with friends and study, and sacrifice the sleep. 
That girl is gone. I need to consciously remind myself to let her go. To push her away. I am a new person.  I have to remember that I can't do it on my own. Doing my best is no longer enough to get me to where I want to be in life.  I have to rely on God alone.  And it's a hard lesson to learn; I think as a human I want to do everything in my own strength, not God's. My life was miraculously spared by God, yet again.  I need to trust him enough to let him lead my life. I shouldn't seek to hold on to my past, but look forward instead.  But sometimes it is really, really, gut-wrenchingly hard. So is writing this. "

It's summer now.  June 1st to be exact.  They say hindsight is 20/20.  I got news for you-it is. I finished the semester.  I took my physics final, through my best friend a surprise graduation party, celebrated my mom's birthday (all in the same day) and jumped right into an internship at Swagelok.  It's been a busy few weeks, but I'm happy.

Surviving is tough, real tough. I think so many people think that you beat cancer, woot woot now you're life is perfect again, pick up where you left off. They don't realize that cancer leaves eternal scars. Some physical.  I still have lung troubles.  Even in this beautiful weather, I find myself coughing.  I get horrible vascular cramps all over my body.  Sometimes I can't sleep, or walk, or stand up because of the cramps. The slightest medical hiccup has my parents all worried about what could go wrong.  Some emotional. No, I'm not a psychotic wreck, but I will never, ever be the girl I once was. I hope my experiences have changed me for the better. I do have my moments of doubt though. I don't have patience for people who complain to me about what I now view as trite affairs or try to drag out the latest on the gossip vine. I'm fed up with drama. But I hope I've learned to love deeper. I hope I've learned that people are always, always, more important than anything else in life.

I hope I've grown closer to God. I think I have a bigger appreciation for my salvation.  Every day as I drive to work I am awed by the beauty God created. He could have made the sky plain blue. It isn't just blue.  It's pink and purple and orange and grey and black and so many other colors. The sun shines its rays in beautiful lines. Why would God care so much to allow so much wonder into our little world? And then I'm always reminded that he must care a great deal for our world, if he gave his only Son to save us from our sins. That takes a pretty big heart. And I know that he is beside me every day.  He gives me strength, when I ask for it. He brings blessings in my life, and has shown me favour, even though I don't deserve it. I was blessed to finish the semester.  My siblings, parents, and close friends prayed some decent grades into my GPA. Thank you for your prayers, which God graciously answered.  Sometimes I loose my focus on what God has brought me through, and end up discouraged.  But I have to remember that God is able to do exceedingly greater than I could ever imagine. He has plans to prosper me, and give me hope and a future.

Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome and power
Our God .
Water You turned into wineOpen the eyes of the blindThere's no one like YouNone like YouInto the darkness You shiningOut of the ashes we riseThere's no one like YouNone like You
Into the darkness you shiningOut of the ashes we RiseThere's no One like YouNone like You.
And if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop usAnd if our God is with us, then what could stand against? And if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop usAnd if our God is with us, then what could stand against?
What could stand against?

~Chris Tomlin

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Happy Easter (1Week Late...)

I hope all my wonderful readers had a very blessed Easter! I was quite busy around Easter, and didn't have a chance to post, and wanted to make a bit longer post, so I thought I'd wait a week!
This is the first Easter in the last two years that I haven't been on treatment, which is a huge blessing! This Easter I was filled with so much awe and gratitude for where God has brought me in this year.  Just recollecting a year ago...I was blessed to receive beautiful Easter baskets from the oncology ward, and feel the wonderful love of so many medical professionals.  I was in the midst of my BMT, and pretty sick! A year later, I'm at the tail ending of completing my third semester of college and nearing my 1 year scans! All day, I was just filled with so many thoughts of where I had been a year ago, and how much God had blessed me to allow me my life and to be with my family.

For those of you who don't know the true meaning of Easter, I can assure you it has nothing to do with bunnies and eggs! While bunnies and eggs give us some fun things to enjoy on this special holiday, there is so much more to the Easter story. 
Easter would not be possible without Good Friday, the day we remember Jesus Christ's death on the cross.  An innocent man, he was falsely accused and sentenced to death, to bear the punishment for our sins.  While many may wonder why is Jesus is God he didn't save himself, the Bible states that he choose to die for us.  How special to know that someone loved me and you enough to take away the punishment we so justly deserve! If Jesus had stayed dead, that would put him on the same platform as Buddha or Mohammed or St. Peter, or any one else.  Easter is the celebration of his coming to life again, which makes him God.  Without his resurrection, we wouldn't have a living savior to serve.

This Easter I was able to more appreciate his resurrection, than last Easter when I was focused more on his sufferings.  I'm so grateful to have had an absolutely beautiful day to spend with dear friends and my family!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Relay for Life follow-up

Thank you to my amazing Relay for Life team! Here is our team, by the numbers:
5th overall, out of 64 teams
25 official members, but many extras who helped out
$255-raised by Alex Bowers (the most raised by an individual on our team)
$16.35-raised by "Mr. Jug" at the Penny Wars
$91.58-raised by our three Mr. "Miss Relay" contestants- Cody George, T.J. Sae-Kho, and Matt Frantz
$307.64-raised by our on-site fundraisers-walking tacos and sale items
$545-received through our win of the "Luminaria Award" for bringing in the most new sponsors!
Plus all our donated tickets and merchandise!
Our cute little clowns with our beautiful team sign created by Rachel

Serving up a Walking Taco

The set-up, start-up, and encouragement team

Dan dunking Jess Miller from our team; the champion dunkee, she got dunked eight times during her 15minuted time slot!

Survivor Ceremony.  Survivors were invited to share their name, cancer and years in remission; we were also asked to walk the opening lap and kick off Relay 2014, as well as walk a survivor and caregiver lap after the ceremony!

Eliza and Ruth

Luminaria Lanterns line the track, honoring and remembering those who've fought cancer.

SOME...of the team! Many more to come later through the long night!
 Includes Noelle Weiser, Eliza Jacops, David Royak, Sharon Bernard, and Jess Miller

Themed laps through the evening! Crazy hat lap with Sharon and Jess, and 3-Legged Race with Noelle!

The Cakewalk-similar to musical chairs, but the winner gets the cake!
Ruth and Dad played, with Ruth winning a huge tray of cupcakes!
Survived cancer, now surviving and thriving cancer! At the beautiful survivor and caregiver ceremony, it was fun to meet other college cancer survivors!

Group shot with Craig, David and Eliza.  Pretty sure the guys are laughing at the girls...

R-Eliza doing the nerd/geek lap
L-Cody George and Matt Frantz ready for the Mr. "Miss Relay" pageant lap!
Matt was laughing a little hard at Cody, so he found himself in a dress as well...

Relay was a very long night, but so much fun! UAkron Relay raised more than $48000 to support the American Cancer Society! Also, a special thanks to Sharon Bernard and Alexandra Bowers for staying up most of the night with me, and to Alexandra and Ean Dickerhoof for coming back after only a few hours of sleep to help pack up and clean up!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Relay for Life!

Hello Friends,

This year I am captain of our Honors College Relay for Life team! I'm so excited to help out with this awesome event, which helps raise money for the American Cancer Society (ACS).  ACS provides so many materials and services to support cancer fighters, survivors, and caregivers, and we are trying to make sure they can continue to make these available for free.  Please check out my personal team page, and help our team if you are able!

For those of you local readers, please come out to the Relay for Life at the University of Akron, this Saturday, at 4PM-7AM Sunday morning! Our team will be selling walking tacos and Starbucks drinks, have an awesome auction and raffle, and have fun games you can play!

Here is a brief look at some of our prizes and auction items...a HUGE Thank You to all the gracious sponsors and donors!

Blossom Music Center (2 tickets)
Great Lakes Science Center (4 tickets)
Lake Erie Monsters (2 tickets)
Akron Symphony Orchestra (2 tickets)
E.J. Thomas Mama Mia! Gift Basket (2 tickets + CD)
UA Alumni Association (gift basket)
Chenoweth Golf Course (4some 18+Cart)
UA Campus Book Store (gift basket)
Insomnia Cookies (donation day)
Mustard Seed Market (gift cards)
Acme Fresh Market (gift card)
Sam's Club (gift card)
Downtown Akron Partnership (Downtown Akron Passports)
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (4 tickets)
Akron Rubber Ducks (2 tickets)
UA's Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society
UA's Society of Women Engineers
Tiffany's Bakery (cake)

And all our donors!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

BMT Birthday-my side!

So I'm sure most of you already saw my BMT Birthday post (as made by my siblings)! But that wasn't all my incredible family did to make the day special...
It really started Monday night, with Rachel helping me pick and coordinate a special outfit to wear.  And she also did a lot of other things, but I didn't know that yet!

8:45AM- Studying physics with my friend, when in the middle of a problem...
Ean: Hey, happy 1yr anniversary of your BMT
Jen:What??! *mind wondering how he knew-did I tell him, my blog, etc*not talking, just thinking
Ean: It is today, right?
So my lovely sister borrowed my phone and texted him to tell me...

2:05PM-In my car, checking my phone after my class
Mom(text): Where r u?
Mom(missed call)
Jen(calling Mom back): Hey (and other niceties)
Mom: Where are you?
Jen: Just finished up at Olin, coming to Honors.  Where are you?
Mom(evading question): Oh, okay.  Have a wonderful day, I love you (other mom niceties).
Jen(to self): I think they're at Honors. 

And so they were! With a HUGE platter of cookies, and a beautiful hand-decorated bunch of balloons! Their fool-proof surprise plan was coordinated with Sharon...who just happened to be in Cincinatti that day.  So I hadn't told her my schedule changes; so she told my fam where I should have been; I was not there; they called Sharon; she didn't answer (or know); they had to call me.  All's well that ends well. 
It was lovely to enjoy a little bit of a beautiful day with my family! I can't wait for Spring Break, when I can be with them 24/7!

2:15PM-Had cookies, met Craig, Dr. Mugler, Heather...walking to my next class
Mom: Did you see your blog?
Rachel: You shouldn't tell her! It's a surprise!

5:15PM-Finally at a computer-agenda:check blog! Surprised!!!!
Jen(showing Craig):Look what my family did!
Craig: You have the greatest family!

I think that sums it all...I do have the most wonderful, fun-loving, crazy, talented, and fantastic family in the world.  And there's no other place I would rather be than with them.  Love you all!!

And...a huge "Thank You" to all my wonderful friends who have wished me a happy 1yr BMT, either through texts or in person! I'm so blessed to have so many wonderful people to support and stand by me through thick and thin!
P.S. More pictures to be added, so check back soon!

With my family on campus!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Happy BMT Birthday!

Happy BMT Birthday Jen!! 

Can't believe it's been 365 days since your bone marrow transplant!

Here you are with mom and dad just before your transplant....

...and with all of us kids sometime after....
still smiling after all that puking!!

Here you are with Mr. Smiley, Daffodil, and Chuckles
(that is one creepy balloon!) 

Woo!! 100 Days post-BMT!! Remember that?!
Wishing you good health and good grades on your BMT Birthday.  We love you, and are so thankful for you.  I hope this day is very special for you :)
Ps. Thanks in advance for letting us "hack" your blog:) It was funnn! Hope you don't mind.
 Rachel, Joseph, Daniel, Ruth, David and John

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

God's Tapestry

You're an inspiration to me! I, and from what I've garnered, many other cancer fighters/survivors, here it often.  But so often, when someone says that to me, it's when I've been having a really hard time, so I feel anything but inspirational.  The more I thought about it, however, I realized that I do have a much different story than most "normal" people.  I didn't choose to have cancer, not once but twice; I didn't choose to loose my hair, or end up in the PICU, or have a BMT.  But since these different events have entered my life, I've become a changed person.  I'm not the girl I was in 2012 B.C. (before cancer).

I believe in God.  I believe that He is an omniscient, omnipresent, and all-powerful deity that controls the events in my life. I believe that He saw fit to allow me to deal with cancer.  I've heard people try to explain away my cancer many different ways... 
  • God only gives hard things to strong people that can handle it- Well I don't feel really strong
  • God only chooses the best-Really? Because I think He should punish some evildoers instead
  • God only chooses people who are faithful to Him- So follow God, and you'll get cancer
In short, I just attempted to say that there is no good explanation.  But the question still lingers, why does God, whom we associate with love, and peace, and good things, let bad things happen, especially to people who are trying to follow Him? This is an age-old question that has been asked, and why not? I've always known a "technical" answer: humanity has sinned from the beginning of time, (think breaking the 10 Commandments) so that ruined the perfect world that God created. 

Through my times of trouble, I thought a lot more about suffering.  Smokers get lung cancer.  That seems fair-cause and effect.  But what have little kids done to deserve leukemia? What did I do to deserve Hodgkin's, twice?! While I may look  like I have all the perfect answers and strength (then again, I may not look like it), I don't.  I've wondered why God let me have it. I've never gotten angry at God, just felt like He let me down. 

And then I realized He didn't.  God isn't asking me to go through something without providing me help and assistance.  How His heart must have hurt when he saw his son suffering for the world, knowing there was nothing that He, as God, could do to alleviate his son's pain.  I forgot that Jesus came to earth as a human; he experienced pain like I do! God promises to be there to strengthen and help me.  I've seen Him answer my prayers for physical relief.  But more than physical relief, He provides emotional relief.  My friend wrote this on a card for me: "Remember, God is with you...always."  I look at that every morning.  As a Christian, I know God is with me.  But always...that means no matter what or where, He is always with me.  I can rest in His promises to prosper me, and not harm me.  Sometimes its hard to believe that God will "work all things together for good." But I know that He always keeps his promises, and even though I wonder how this time in my life will work out, He already knows how it will!

I read an illustration that Corrie ten Boom shared when she spoke.  She suffered in a Nazi concentration camp, where both her sister, father, and nephew would die, because her family hid and helped Jews in their home.  She spoke about how our lives are like a beautiful tapestry.  If you look at the underside, it is a tangled mess of threads and knots.  Only those who see the top of the tapestry can appreciate the beauty of the weaving.  We only see the knots and tangles in our life, but God sees the top, and the beautiful tapestry that our life is being shaped into.   

My cancer has greatly changed me, I hope for the better.  I've learned to be more thankful for little things, like the fact that I get to finish a semester, or that I get to play the violin, or even that I could stay at home today, and not be in a hospital! I've learned to love a little deeper; for God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son...If God loved us enough to send His son to share in our sufferings, surely I can seek to emulate that love.  I'm learning to look beyond the outside, and see people for who they are and how they are individually hurting.  I'm not saying that life is a bowl of peaches.  Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been without cancer...would I be at a different college, would I have a different focus in life, would I have a different group of friends, and so many other questions. Whenever I get entangled in the different life I might have lead, I have to remember the tapestry of my life.  Maybe I was on a course to get a plain woven one.  Maybe my cancer is putting zigzag designs in it, maybe its adding different colors.  I don't know. 

Maybe you're experiencing troubles in your life.  All of us do, at various times.  All I can say is that I don't have a concrete reason why God allows suffering into our lives.  But I do know that He will not give us what we cannot use His strength to overcome.  If you don't personally know about His love and strength, please feel free to comment on my blog, and I will get back to you.  Thanks for reading.

P.S. Through this post I just wanted to share with you a few of the spiritual issues I've dealt with.  This is an extremely raw posting of what I've sometimes struggled with.  Thanks for understanding.