Monday, March 31, 2014

Whistle Down the Wind


One year ago today, my sweet Grandma Betty returned to Heaven.




















She died on her 80th birthday.

Something the mortician of over 50 years said he'd never had happen before. And it also happened to be Easter Sunday. A beautiful coincidence. Or was it coinicidence? You can call it that, but I think the Heavens opened, the stars aligned and angels gathered around because a wonderful woman was valiantly returning home after a very beautifully lived life. A job well done.





























It was a very bitter sweet day to say the very least. She was no longer in pain, no longer suffering, but the world had just lost one very bright, optimistic and loving woman.

It also just so happened that the day we got into town to celebrate my grandma's legacy almost one year ago, a tiny new and very precious life was brought into the world. My nephew made his entrance and I was able to snuggle Baby Brent just hours after he was born.

Coincidence? Maybe. But I often wonder if Baby Brent and my Grandma knew each other, even if just for a moment.
















Life, to me, is amazing.  

I cannot believe how fast one year has flown by.

But at the same time, I cannot believe how much I have missed my Grandma. We were very close. I miss her jovial laugh. I miss her millions of questions that usually started with a "Well... what's up?".  I miss her feisty spirit. I miss watching her light up around Little Dude (I swear to you, no one was as enamored with him more than she was. The moment he was born, he had her heart). And I miss the exuberance she had for life itself.

My grandpa walked to her grave a few days ago and with tears in his eyes and streaming down his cheeks he said,

I miss her so much.

We all do. Life just isn't the same without her.

She loved the arts. She loved musicals. No one loved life more than she. She always said that when she passed away, she wanted a special musical number given by her family. Nothing sappy. Nothing somber. Something to celebrate.

And so we gave her that.

At her service and in her honor, my dad played the guitar and the three of us  (Little Dude, my dad and I) paid tribute to my Grandma and sang a song that has warmed my heart for as long as I can remember, Whistle Down The Wind. 

This is a song I have sang to Little Dude since he was a newborn. This is his lullaby. I still sing it on the hard days. I still sing it on the good days. We sing it together. It's a very special song. And now, whenever I sing this song, I always remember my sweet Grandma Betty and the wonderful woman, example and friend she was to me.

I love you forever and always Betty Jeane!





























Because the song Whistle Down The Wind is such a marvelous and touching piece, I uploaded it for you. Please watch and listen to the words. Promise me you will? It's such a meaningful song. It brings me to tears every time I hear it.

I know you'll love it! This is my gift to you on this very special day.





Whistle down the wind
Let your voices carry
Drown out all the rain
Light a patch of darkness
Treacherous and scary

Howl at the stars
Whisper when you're sleepy
I'll be there to hold you
I'll be there to stop
The chills and all the weeping

Make it clear and strong
So the whole night long
Every signal that you send
Until the very end
I will not abandon you my precious friend

So try and stem the tide
Then you'll raise a banner
Send a flare up in the sky
Try to burn a torch
And try to build a bonfire

Every signal that you send
Until the very end
I'm there

So whistle down the wind
For I have always been
Right there

Friday, March 28, 2014

They Said This Would Happen





























When I was in the hell of it (and for many years after actually), it seemed impossible for the day to come when I wouldn't prepare myself for, let alone mourn and remember, my "discovery day".

I had two discovery days and they were both equally horrific for me, for different reasons.

February 18th, 2010

March 24th, 2010

Both were days that felt like they could have destroyed me.

But guess what?

While I remembered February 18th this year (I truly wonder if I will ever forget that day?), March 24th just whizzed by me and it honestly didn't dawn on me until this morning while I was on my walk.

I forgot about it. Completely.

They said this would happen. 

They said this day would become an "interesting memory" instead of the dreaded day that my life shattered. My counselor and other friends have been telling me that it is possible, and boy, does this feel good! This is the first time in 4 years that I didn't prep for the day, commiserate so to speak, and feel like a dark, gloomy cloud, was hovering over me.

One small step forward.

This is a monumental step.

Liberating.

FREEDOM!

It DOESN'T have to hold me captive and dictate my whole life anymore.

Yes, it was bad. Yes, it was tragic. But it doesn't mean that I can't move on.

They were just days, after all. Just days. And the way I see it, they are now days that I can use to try and make my life, and that of family, and all those around me, better.

I grow from deep roots.

I can fly.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Spring/Summer Must Have: RISE ABOVE BRACELETS!





























As you all know, I am a BIG believer in rising above!


The non-profit I run, The Togetherness Project, is now selling the most FUN and SUMMERY BLING! Because our motto is "TOGETHER WE RISE ABOVE"we thought brightly colored bracelets with the words "Rise Above" would be a perfect everyday reminder that no matter where we live, what our story is, or where we are in the process of healing, we ALL have the ability to rise above the unexpected hardships of life!


These will seriously make the sweetest gift to (ahem, first and foremost) yourself, as well as ANYONE going through a difficult time (or any time for that matter). Because let's be honest... we've all got stuff... and we all have the ability to RISE ABOVE! 

So TREAT yourself today and buy one for you, your friend, your mom, your sister, your neighbor, your cousin, WHOEVER, and remind her that she is more powerful, capable, and beautiful than she knows.

TO PURCHASE A BRACELET:

  • email us at info@togethernessproject.org
  • tell us which color and how many you'd like (A,B,C or D)
  • provide your Paypal email address so we can send an invoice 
  • provide the shipping address you'd like the bracelet(s) shipped to


Thank you so much for supporting our cause and for RISING ABOVE with us! We are ALL in this together! 

(Stock is limited... so buy them while they're HOT! :))

*And a wonderful thank you to my friend Nicole at Nikki G Designs for hand making these for us. Every single one is stamped with love :)

**All proceeds will go to support our nonprofit organization: from giving scholarships to women, to conference funding, or to our free communities (which we will be announcing soon), every little bit helps and we can't do this without your help! So THANK YOU!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Feel Better Challenge (Week 4)

Okay Challengers!

How are you doing?

I fell off the band wagon for a few days while I was in Utah and let me tell you something, I ate a TON of junk during my grandpa's birthday retreat. Acccck!  BUT, I believe in all things moderation and so, I am back at it and am going strong and I'm not feeling any guilt. LIFE HAPPENS!

So here's what I've been up to!

I have a new album that I am basically obsessed with and it makes my workouts go so fast :)





























I see the most lovely flowers on my walks! Totally brightens my day!


How are you holding up? Are you feeling better? Don't forget that it's never too late to start this little challenge! 30 mins of exercise 5-6 days per week and then, whatever else you think you'll need to just feel better. Mine includes eating better and ditching the soda.

Instagram your photos to #feelbetterchallenge. It's SO fun to see all of you and I LOVE being motivated by you!

KEEP, KEEP, KEEP IT UP!

Happy Wednesday ;)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

My Name is Sarah and I Have Truly Felt the Healing Power of Forgiveness



*DISCLAIMER: Please remember the purpose of this series is to open our hearts, to support, to love, and to grow, even among our hardest trials. Sarah's story may hit close to home, however if you choose to continue on please recognize the strength, vulnerability and absolute bravery it took for her to share this. We are all in this together and I feel it an honor that Sarah felt safe enough here with me, and amongst all of you, to delve into and share the most challenging, sensitive and scary parts of her life.*


It was May and the weather was absolutely perfect. It was not too hot and definitely not too cold. I was a mother of two children and working part-time at an airline that I had been with for almost 5 years. I had a great job, wonderful friends, a loving husband, and a beautiful life with the normal ups and downs. Everything was going great and smooth, so, why was I about to make the worst mistake that would alter not only my life, but the lives of my family?!
My Name is Sarah and I had an affair...






















It was not planned and it was not something that had ever really crossed my mind before. But, something happened on that day in May that changed my life. I met a man and committed the most vile act a wife and/or spouse could do. I can't tell you what I was thinking because, to be honest, I wasn't thinking. I wasn't feeling... anything. My body was numb. I felt as though I wasn't even there right after it happened. I couldn't believe what I had just done. I was already feeling like the lowest low and I could not go back home to my husband and act like nothing had happened. I was searching my brain on what I should do and all I could think was is this even real life anymore?

My Name is Sarah and I became a liar...

I didn't know what to do, but I knew I could not go back home and act like everything was fine and nothing had happened. I came up with a lie. I thought I would just tell it once and we could all go on living our lives. But, I was wrong. VERY wrong. I decided coming up with a story that I was raped and attacked while running was a better solution. I mean, I was a runner, the weather was perfect for running, and it just seemed like a good solution at the time- especially if this story was going to get me out of admitting the truth. I honestly believed I would be able to go on and live my life and not feel the impact of the lie. I had never been more wrong in my life. What I had thought would be telling my story once, turned into something I had no control over anymore. It was no longer in my hands, but in the hands of investigating police officers and detectives. This lie had soon got hold of the media's attention and everyone was on the lookout for this "rapist". I never disclosed the information of the actual guy I had met. In fact, I did the exact opposite... I explained the details of this male as different from actual guy as I could. That way there would indeed be no tracing back to him. I was taken to the hospital to be treated and to do a rape kit so they could try to find DNA and pin a match. 

My Name is Sarah and I have hit rock bottom...

Sitting in the hospital, being treated as if I were an actual victim instead of a liar, made me realize that what I had once thought would be a little lie to cover up an affair had very quickly turned into something so out of control. I had no idea what was going to happen now. It was out of my hands and it was then that I realized I had to keep living this lie. If I come clean now, how would I explain this? How would I have anyone's trust? But, I knew what I had to do... I had to just go with it and keep this lie going all in order to not get caught.

My name is Sarah and I wanted to die...

It was in the hospital that night that I decided I wouldn't not be able to keep this lie going. What had I done? Why would I continue to lie over and over to everyone asking me questions? It seemed like I had to repeat my story 20 times that night to different nurses, doctors, police, detectives, and counselors. Why could I just not brave the courage and tell one of them the truth? I couldn't or I wouldn't is a better way to say it. So, I resorted to taking pills. I would try to numb my pain and hide behind the veil of pills. I would take whatever I could get the doctor to prescribe me... I was going through anti-anxiety medicine like it was candy. But, not for the reasons my doctor thought it was, but because I was afraid of getting caught in my lie. It was just easier to kill the pain with pills than to come out and talk to someone about it. My lie had been going on for about 3 months and inside I was dying. I was not there at all for 3 months; not mentally, physically, spiritually, or emotionally. I was killing any type of feeling I could have with pills. I didn't want to feel, I didn't want to live. But, I so badly NEEDED to tell someone that it was all just a lie. None of it had happened. But, at this point, who could I trust to confide something so big? How could I be strong enough to tell them the truth? Up until this moment, I had lied to everyone I came in contact with. 

I decided I would try to come clean. It was TIME to come clean. I could not live like this anymore and decided I would talk to my counselor I had been seeing for 3 months. I was going to do it, but when it came down to the moment to actually open my mouth and try to tell her, all that would come out of my mouth was, "Can I have a glass of water?" She gladly said yes, and I grabbed my bottle of pills and downed about 20 different pills from pain medicine to anxiety medicine. I wanted to die, but I didn't, and neither did my story.

My Name is Sarah and I got caught in my lie...

I would love to be able to say that I finally came clean and admitted to everyone that I was lying in trying to cover up my affair, but that's not what happened. The investigators had called me in to talk. They had found out it was a lie and they had talked to the man I had relations with. THEY KNEW... They knew I was lying and I was scared. I was so scared about what was going to happen, but inside the feeling of guilt, living a lie, and living in this hell I had put myself in was lifted. I no longer had to continue lying or carry this burden around. 

I was finally free. 

The one thing I was worried about now was the judgement I would receive for lying... but, that is better than dying inside.

My Name is Sarah and I have truly felt the healing power of forgiveness...





























My lie had been going on for 3 months, so needless to say when the truth came out, I lost a lot of my friends, I quit my job, and was scared my husband would leave me. But, for some reason beyond what I can even put into words, my husband has stood by my side. He was hurt, but this was something he was going to see through to the end with me. I am eternally grateful to have such a loving partner and best friend to hold my hand through it all. It's a hard thing for my husband to be able to forgive me, but I honestly believe that forgiving myself through this and being able to come to grips and rise above it has been my greatest challenge of all. It is hard to believe at times that this is still real, but this is my life and these are the decisions I chose. So, now I am rising above and dealing with the situation the best I know how for me.

My Name is Sarah and this decision has changed my life...

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my decisions were not smart, but I can say I've learned and have grown from them. We cannot run from our demons. They are not going anywhere and when we build up walls, or lie, to make them go away they will still be waiting for us in the end. We MUST be faithful, true, and honest in all of our actions and words. We must not dwell on the past because it will only push us into a dark place. We need to keep our focus and move forward and become the best person we can become. It is still an everyday struggle for me as I worry if someone will recognize me from the media or recognize my name, but it doesn't matter. We ALL make mistakes and it is what we do to try to fix those mistakes is what defines us as a good person. What I did was not good, but that does not make me a bad person. I am making right with my wrongs and I am coming to peace with these bridges I have built with my lies.




















My Name is Sarah and I am grateful...

I am grateful beyond words for being able to share my story. I'm so grateful for my few, but true friends who have stood by my side through this experience. I'm grateful for this blog and to have women so humbled from their own experiences that they can share their stories.

I am grateful for my loving Heavenly Father because in my darkest nights He would carry me to see the sunrise of a new day. When no human eyes could see the hurt I was going through, He lifted my load and He carried ME! Without my Heavenly Father I know I would not be here today.























**Remember the purpose of the "My Name is" Series is to open our hearts, to interact, to uplift, to support and to grow. Sharing the truth and her perspective here today took much bravery, vulnerability and strength from Sarah and even though I am confident in the tender and compassionate nature of the community here, I'd like to reiterate that only uplifting and healing comments are welcome. Comments will be moderated.

*Sarah, what a blessing you are to me. I have read your story. Over and over. I have been on the other side of this... and it is incredibly difficult for everyone involved. But I wanted to thank you for being so beautifully brave. Thank you for reaching out. Thank you for sharing your story of choice and accountability, as well as reminding me of the opportunity we ALL have to make right with our wrongs. I am in absolute awe of not only your strength, but that of your husband, too. What a miraculous gift true recovery and healing is. May God continue to bless you, your husband, and your sweet children as you continue on this journey.  All my love and support to you and yours... 

(Read more about the "My Name is" series and the stories of other inspiring women, HERE)


Monday, March 24, 2014

Please Tell Me I'm Pretty!


Seth is not a man of gushy, lovey dovey, over-the-top words. 

I, however, am all about them. I want them, I feel like I need them, I give them, and I think it drives people nuts.

But you know.... It's just me.

While I absolutely crave words of affirmation from Seth, he shows me his love differently. He doesn't compliment very often. He doesn't go on and on about things. Instead, he expresses his love for me through his actions, by being present, by being steady and supportive, consistent and predictable. When I really think about Seth and the man he is and his ability to love, I shouldn't complain whatsoever... but.... buuuuuuuut.... sometimes I wouldn't mind if he got all word gushy on me.

Tell me I'm cute.

Tell me I'm pretty.

Tell me all the reasons you love me, darn it!

BECAUSE I WANT TO HEAR IT ALL! :) :)

So... we've had some tearful heart to hearts about it as of late. Obviously I don't demand words, but Seth knows of their importance to me and I know of the things that are important to him. We're working on being better, together. As we finished our most recent conversation about precisely this (just last week, mind you) he said:

"I understand why you feel the way you do, I apologize that there are times you feel that way, and I will consciously make an effort to be better in that regard."

Well, bless his little heart! He is trying!

In fact, three days ago, I sent this picture to Seth showing the cabin my family and I were staying at in Sundance, Utah (he couldn't make it because of work)

"Wish you were here!" I said.





























"Me too. Have fun!" he replied.

We didn't talk about any of that the rest of the evening.

Well the next day, I got a totally random text from Seth that said:

"You look cute in that fireplace picture BTW :)"

I wrote back:

"Uhhh.... thanks.... but that's not me babe... it's my sister!"

I immediately called him and we about DIED from laughing so hard. I mean the one time he texts me out of the blue to tell me I look cute, he's inspired to do so because my SISTER looks cute! We chuckled about it and then I realized....

It's the thought that counts, right?? :)

Just a silly little story for a Monday morning. A total roast on me... ha!

**Has your husband/boyfriend ever done anything like this? Where he's tried to do something really sweet and thoughtful and it then backfires? They sure make for good stories so..... DO SHARE! :)



Sunday, March 23, 2014

Simple Things on a Sunday: STEPS






















Steps. 

We all take steps. 

Every day, we take steps. 

We step toward love. We step toward happiness. We step toward goodness. We step toward life.

Many steps are easy. Effortless. And we revel in the wondrous places our steps have taken us.

But many times, we are forced to step into untraveled territory. We step toward uncertainty. We step toward our deepest fears. We step toward things that hurt unlike anything we've felt before. We step toward things that feel like they could, quite literally, be the end of us.

Our steps determine where we go- to the happiest of places, to the most unbelievable of places, to the most beautiful of places, to the most devastating of places and even to the places where we never thought we'd be, or where we'd end up. And sometimes our steps are intertwined heavily with things that are completely out of our control.

Those steps are unimaginably hard. 

But as I've been thinking today, the most intriguing part about steps is that they are never ending. We will always have more steps. We don't have to stay stuck in the agony. We don't have to stay stuck in the unmapped, scary places. We can move FORWARD. We can always move FORWARD.

Taking steps can be scary.

Taking steps can be risky.

Taking steps can be exhilarating.

Taking new steps can be life changing- in ways you never thought possible.


In just a few short days, I have taken some pretty rewarding steps.  May I share them with you?

On Wednesday night, I stepped into a restaurant and was surrounded by a dozen different women. Almost ALL being strangers to one another, it was amazing to see the conversation flow with ease. No story was alike. No situation was the same. We were all COMPLETELY different and yet, I think it's safe to say that we all left with a new friend, if not more. Raw, open, REAL conversations led to the most unique of friendships. After sitting at the restaurant for 5 HOURS (no joke!), I think it's safe to say that we had a really enjoyable time with one another :)

Steps matter.























Then, on Saturday, I stepped into the Utah Coalition Against Pornography's conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. There I found that I was able to talk to, hug, and cry with old friends, new friends, and even the parents of my friends who happened to be there instead. I sat with some of the most wonderful women at The Togetherness Project's booth who keep me grounded, who give the best advice, and who care about the mission equally as much as do!

It was amazing to hear each of these women speak of what The Togetherness Project is, and what it means to them. I felt so much passion, and COMPASSION from everyone in attendance. Good work is being done. All around us.

Steps matter.





Also, while we were here, Little Dude and I stepped into an old familiar home, with old familiar faces, and spent a moment catching up, reminiscing around a fire and talking about "steps" so to speak with some of our most cherished friends. Friends who have been with me from before the beginning. 

We talked about how sometimes our steps make no sense whatsoever. How sometimes, if we think too much about certain steps, our minds will likely implode. But we also talked about how insanely grateful  we are for those specific steps. BECAUSE MY STEPS MAKE ME, ME. And I would never trade them, for anything. Because I would have never stepped here. Knowing what I know. Doing what I'm doing. Loving and living for the people I care about most.

Steps matter.






























Every step matters.

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step."

Well all step at different paces, for different reasons, and we will all continue on our own unique journey's, but with each and every step we take, I am confident that we are that much closer to becoming an even better, more courageous, classy, dignified and beautiful version of ourselves.

And for that, I am grateful my steps. Every. Single. One.

They are shaping me.

I may stumble and fall and back track at times, but I am growing from the many, many, many, steps I have taken: for they are changing me for the better.


***What steps have you been taking lately and what do the mean to you? Whether they are scary steps, risky steps, happy steps, rewarding steps, sad steps, whatever, I'd really love to hear! 
Please share if you feel so inclined because I learn so much from you :)


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

GIRLS' NIGHT TONIGHT!



I made it to Utah and boy am I excited to be here!  Surprisingly enough, I missed these majestic mountains!  But more than the landscape, I am really excited to back because I get to see some of my favorite people tonight!

It's a GIRLS' NIGHT and I hope you'll join me!

If you're planning on coming, please read on :)

The point is to branch out a little bit more and meet new friends.  Even if just one of you show up, I will BE THERE and we will have a great time!  However, since I'm hoping and planning for more, and a diverse group at that, please remember that not everyone coming will be in the same situation as you.  Some women will be genuinely happy in their marriages/relationships, some may be struggling in that regard, some are divorced, and some have never been married.  We all have a story, and our stories will vary, but that shouldn't stop us from meeting and sharing and befriending. That being said, I ask if you come, please ensure to let a willingness to get to know other women accompany you to the par-tay. Because that's the WHOLE POINT! 

So! Get dressed up in something that you're comfortable in and COME!


WHO'S STILL IN? 


****If you ARE COMING, please confirm by saying so in the comment section below! Even if you have text me, emailed me, or said so on FB or Insta, PLEASE LET ME KNOW HERE so I can get a final headcount in one place.  It's too confusing to have people commenting in so many different places.  I can't keep it all straight :) THANK YOU!**** 

Make sure you let me know so I can get enough seats. I'd rather have too many, than not enough... so err on the side of caution and if you think you're going to come, please say so! ;)

p.s. if you're already my in-real-life friend (from work, church, wherever!) and you want to join the fun- PLEASE DO! Don't feel silly.... JUST COME! :)



HERE ARE THE DETAILS:

Cheesecake Factory
6:00 pm
6223 S State St #2001
Murray, UT 84107

(I'll be waiting in the foyer of the restaurant- most likely in my deer shirt. YAY!)


Here are some pictures from one of the previous girls' nights back in 2012. Believe it or not, I met every single one of these ladies through this very blog and emailing one another.  How amazing is that?  And  to boot, they are some of the most amazing women I know!
























Also, to my Feel Better Challengers:

Keep posting your progress to Instagram (#feelbetterchallenge) and let me know how you're doing. I love seeing all of you participating because it helps keep me motivated.   Last week I did good... ahem... okay, more like decent... lol... we've been ill (ugh, it's just sort of lingering) AND we had company all last week.  BUT.... I am getting out way more than I ever did before and let me tell you something, I AM FEELING BETTER!  I'm walking and biking and I haven't touched a lick of soda.  Yay for me!  Now, cookies on the other hand.... ummmm.... my father in law made and surprised me with my favorite cookies ever.... and you know, it would have been offensive had I not eaten them :)

To a new week!

XO

See you TONIGHT!

Don't forget to COMMENT BELOW if you're COMING :)


Image Credit




Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My Name is Jen and I Have Brain Cancer

My name is  Jen  and I have brain cancer.  



It was a typical August in Arizona…sweltering and I had just finished at the gym and headed over to the grocery store to buy the food I needed to make dinner.  I grabbed my cart and pulled into the produce section with my list pinched between two fingers of my left hand, I pushed the cart with my right.  Without warning my hand dropped my list and I felt a little dizzy.  "That was really weird,"  I thought to myself.

I decided to sit down on the floor as a precaution.  I did not want to faint and had no clue what was happening.  I worried that I might be having a stroke because two days earlier I had had a simple outpatient varicose vein surgery. I called my husband, Matt, and told him what was happening.  

“We are going to the ER.  Do not move, I will come and get you," he said.  


“Are you kidding me?” I replied.  “I do not need to go the ER.”


Matt called my sister and asked her to come over, while in the meantime left my eight-year-old son in charge of his four younger siblings including his 4 month old brother, and picked me up in 5 minutes.  As we drove to the ER, I kept telling him I thought he was overreacting, but Matt would not budge on this decision.  We were going to the ER.

When we got to the ER they took me back for tests almost immediately, which should have been my first clue that I should be taking this seriously, but I was pretty focused on the “side effects from the varicose vein surgery.”  I had a CAT scan and an EKG and they decided to admit me based on a “mass they thought they saw in my brain, but were unsure,” I was still unphased.


The next morning I had an MRI and an EEG.  The neurologist on staff walked into my room.  You could tell he was about my age and a father.  He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said…

"You have a mass in your brain.  It is a tumor.  We believe it to be malignant."


WHAT?

NO.

“Do you mean cancer?” I asked him.

“Yes.”

I screamed.  I cried.  I cried so hard.  I sobbed.  I called my sister and cried and she screamed and cried.  I called my dad and he cried.  This is not happening.  I have FIVE babies.  I have FIVE BABIES.  They are so little.  My newborn won’t even know me.  I cannot have cancer.  I cannot have brain cancer.  I cannot die.  I’m not ready to die.  I am 33 years old.





















The neurosurgeon on staff offered to operate.  “I can operate tomorrow if you’d like me too, but I’m almost guaranteeing you’ll be paralyzed on the entire left side of your body when the tumor is removed.  It is on your right motor strip which controls all motor skills on the left side of your body.”


Ummm.  No thank you.  See you later, buddy.

The sweet neurologist on staff got me a “golden ticket” fast track appointment to see Dr. Nakaji who is one of the best neurosurgeons in the world.  It is a true miracle that we live 40 miles away from one of the top 5 neurological hospitals in the world.  I do not believe it was a coincidence that we chose to live in Phoenix when Matt was choosing dental schools all of those years ago.

Dr. Nakaji promised me the moon and the stars.  He removed about 90% of the pyramid shaped, golf ball sized tumor and I have very minimal “weakness” on my left side.  He saved my life.  Official diagnosis: Anaplastic Astrocytoma Grade 3.  Grade 3 is bad, but not the worst.  I had a seizure in the grocery store, not a stroke.  The seizure was caused by the tumor.























Radiation and Chemo followed brain surgery.  Brain surgery was a piece of cake or maybe it was the rockstar surgeon who performed it?  Whatever the case, I recovered in 2 days and didn’t take any pain meds.  Radiation and Chemo were another story.


Radiation started about a month after surgery and I went Monday thru Friday for my 15-minute sessions.  I was told radiation is easy.  It is easy to lie there and feel nothing, but radiation is the farthest thing from easy.  It took a couple of weeks to set in, but once it started getting tough, it got bad.  It kills the unhealthy and healthy cells wherever it is radiating (my brain.)























In the state of Arizona, you cannot drive if you have a seizure.  You have to be “seizure free” for 90 days so a friend or family member would take me to radiation everyday.  I was also on chemotherapy during radiation.  When you have brain cancer, chemo is in the form of a pill and is called “Temodar.”  I took it every night of my 6 weeks of radiation and one week per month for a year following.


By about week 4 of radiation, I couldn’t do much of anything anymore.  My days consisted of laying in my bed, getting up to go to radiation and straight back into bed.  I couldn’t walk down my hallways.  If someone came to the door and I actually made it, sweat would run down my back as I tried to look normal and carry on a conversation.  I used to run marathons and now my skin was gray, I dropped 20 pounds, my hair had fallen out, I couldn’t stand up straight, but worst of all, my babies were growing up without me.

They would run in my room and touch my face and say, “mommy is sick” and tell me they love me and run out.  I have countless pictures of my baby curled up next to me, resting his head on my chest.  I didn’t have the strength to hold or care for him, but somehow he still knew I was his mommy and wanted to be near me.























My biggest fear in life has always been to die young and leave my babies without a mother.  My mom passed away when I was 16 and it was so hard.  I could not believe I was facing the same situation with my own children.  I was beyond devastated and constantly crying.  I felt like this was the end of my life.  I was so weak physically and mentally.


I spent many hours on my knees begging and pleading with my Heavenly Father.  I begged Him to take away my cancer.  My prayers were long and tearful and it took many months until I realized that I have to let this go.  He has a plan for me.  When my mom suddenly died and left behind a husband and 3 little girls—it was horrific, but we are okay.  We were able to pick up the pieces of our lives and put them back together again and all turned out okay.  






























As hard and as painful as it is to imagine my children on this Earth without me raising them, I know, I KNOW it is Heavenly Father’s plan for me AND for my children.


My name is Jen and I teach my children to have courage.  My kids know I have brain cancer.  They know there is a pretty good chance I am going to die young.  The doctors give me 3-5 years to live.  To be honest, I laugh at that statistic, but you never know.  No one ever knows.  I could die in a car accident tomorrow, which is why I live each day to the fullest.  Brain cancer has given me a second chance in life.  Not many people will ever have a top neurosurgeon look you in the face and tell you that you have 3-5 years to live and that is the best he can give you.  Whether I have 3 more years or 30 more years, I have to make them count.

This is my life.  No one else is going to live it but me.  These are my 5 kids and we only get one chance to do this.  It is important that I teach them the values, principles and strength I want them to have.  I believe that families are forever.  I am so thankful to know that even if I die soon, I can be with my family again someday.  The comfort and strength my Heavenly Father gave to me during this trial and each day cannot be measured.  I would have never made it, but I did and I am.

My name is Jen and I am conquering brain cancer.






















**Remember the purpose of the "My Name is" Series is to open our hearts, to interact, to uplift, to support and to grow. Jen will reading the comments and I know that she welcomes your love, words of encouragement and support.  Jen also has an amazing BLOG where she documents her story of faith, bravery and her incredible fight for life. 

*Jen, the one word that floods my mind right now is... remarkable. You are REMARKABLE. In nearly every picture on your blog (before surgery, after surgery, and during treatment) and every time I have ever seen you in the last 16 months since living here, you are smiling. You are SMILING and you are happy and you are running marathons again and you are LIVING your life with such positivity and class. Thank you for inspiring me and for teaching me that I have to make my moments count. Every single moment counts

(Read more about the "My Name is" series and the stories of other inspiring women, HERE)


Jen's Photo Credits:
Nicole Hammontree Photography
Megan Papworth Photography 
Maggie Holmes Photography


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