MEET  THE AUTHOR

COLLEEN

Colleen is an editor and the author of In the Hands of a Fiercely Tender God and the children’s book on suffering, Out of the Shadow World (to be released early 2023). She enjoys dark-dark chocolate, side-splitting laughter, and half-read books piled bedside. She makes her home near Boise, Idaho, with her husband Eddie, their son Jeremy, and Willow the dog. 

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Writing Workshop this January

I’ve officially been off treatment for a couple of months, and I couldn’t be more grateful. This extended break has given me a chance to do something I’ve missed doing: teach writing! Below is information about the online workshops I’m hosting. My January Tuesday workshop has already filled up, so I’ve added a second workshop on Thursday evenings. Here are the details:

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woman in desperate and anxiety sitting alone
Cancer

To chemo or not to chemo?

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017, I was adamantly againstchemotherapy and resolved to heal myself with the help of an alternative doctor/clinic/protocol. I’d spent the last decade eating like a nutritionist (“let food be thy medicine!”), ridding my home of chemicals, and working with fantastic naturopaths. I knew firsthand the benefits of addressing disease systemically—not just covering up symptoms with meds. Surprisingly, it was my integrative doctor who convinced me that my unique diagnosis demanded chemo. She referred me to a top-notch oncology clinic AND a Chinese medicine oncologist. I’m convinced that I survived the rigors of chemo—and that it was so effectual—because I was so well supported by my integrative team! With my terminal diagnosis two years ago (what a miracle to write that! two years!!), I DREADED (and that’s an understatement) enduring chemo again—not just for 12 rounds this time, but indefinitely. So I resolved to find an alternative cancer clinic instead of spending my final days on the chemo torture rack. I ended up at a world-class clinic in St. George (10/10 recommend!), but the cancer was spreading like wildfire, and, once again, it was a naturopathic oncologist who convinced me that combining chemo with a rigorous naturopathic protocol would be the most effective means to battle my aggressive cancer. I’m grateful for both Western and alternative medicine. Alongside chemo, I’ve done everything from Viscum shots to colon hydrotherapy. I’ve had the best doctors in both worlds. But I’m even more grateful for the work God has done in my heart. I’m no longer “for” or “against” any approach to cancer treatment. I understand why some people swear by chemo and others refuse it. Some people are healed at alternative cancer clinics—others are not. And while I work hard at my health, my ultimate goal is not self-preservation but rather, making the most of the days God has entrusted to me, living and loving fully, whether that’s at an alternative clinic or in a chair in the chemo ward. And when I die, it won’t be because my treatment plan failed—but because my work here is done and Jesus wants me Home!

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Cancer

A story for kids (especially those who are hurting)

Several years ago I wrote a story for my son whose world had been turned upside-down by both chronic illness and my first cancer diagnosis. As a mom, I longed to create a gentle place for Jeremy to process his grief, so I asked God to help me do things like keep an open dialogue with him, create joy in our family even through the hardest days, and track down support for him within our community. I also wanted to address his suffering in a creative, disarming way, so I asked God to help me wield the language of story, putting words to those tenderest places of a child’s grieving heart. Even as I wrote Out of the Shadow World, I prayed it would care not only for Jeremy, but also for other kids who have been touched by cancer, chronic illness, and grief of many other kinds. While I’m not a child therapist nor am I an authority on kids’ suffering, my heart beats big to share the comfort our family has received from God through many years of walking together through various sufferings.** This story is one of the ways I can share that comfort—gently addressing themes of grief and pain and death through adventure, friendship, and a touch of zany humor. What a joy it would be to care for a child in your life who’s suffering right now. I’ve included Chapter One here so you can get a feel for the story. . . ~ ~ ~ CHAPTER ONE: THE CLIMBING TREE Pax Jackson was a ten-year-old boy who didn’t know if he’d make it to his eleventh birthday.  He had gray eyes, a bald head where thick curls used to grow, and a little more of his dad’s dark skin than his mom’s fair complexion. He also had a nagging cough that rattled his bony body and kept him up at night. Instead of shoving his homework into his backpack and rushing to catch the bus home from school that afternoon, he sat on the back deck of his family’s log cabin, dangling his feet over the edge and watching a fat lizard do push-ups in the warm sun. With the sound of his own wheezing loud in his ears, he didn’t notice the squeak of the school bus brakes on the street out front.  Jayni Suko was a petite ten-year-old girl with almond eyes and paper-straight black hair. Stepping off the school bus, she bent forward under the weight of a bulging backpack as she made a detour toward the house next door. She bounded up the driveway of Pax’s home and hurried around to the backyard.  “Pax!” Jayni ran up the steps of the deck, dropped her backpack, and sat down beside her friend. She studied Pax’s face. “We missed you at school. This a bad day?”  “Yeah.” A smile peeked out through the dark circles around his eyes. “What’d I miss?”  “Not much. Miss Halpin gave me your homework but said if you weren’t feeling up to it, don’t worry. She’ll help you catch up later.”  Jayni pulled two tattered textbooks out of her backpack and a few wrinkled worksheets and plopped them between her and Pax.  Pax only glanced at his homework, then turned away.  Jayni followed his gaze out over a sloping hill peppered with pine trees.  Jayni was the youngest daughter of the Suko family who’d moved next door to the Jacksons almost twelve years ago. The Sukos and Jacksons had become fast friends, and when Pax and Jayni were born two years later, the neighborhood had grown a little louder and a lot more fun. Jayni looked over at Pax. “You okay?”  “Yeah, I guess.” Pax’s voice softened. “I’m glad you’re here.” The friends sat in silence. The lizard darted away and disappeared under the deck. Pax took a deep, rattly breath.  “Do you think you could make it down to the Climbing Tree?” Jayni asked. “I can help you.”  “’Course I can, Spitfire. And I don’t need any help.”  Spitfire was Pax’s nickname for Jayni. He’d read it once in a book about dragons and knights, and it seemed to fit his friend who was as fiery and fearless as a dragon.  Jayni laughed as she hopped up. “I just have to be home by dinner, so we’ve got two hours. Let’s go!”  Jayni reached down for Pax’s hand, but he pushed it away, eager to prove he was stronger than he looked.  The two friends descended the deck steps and scampered down a small bank covered in crunchy pine needles. Their footfalls stirred the scent of a thousand Christmas trees into the warm spring air. Pax paused to catch his breath along the way. Ten steps forward, a right at the boulder, a hop across the stream—and there stood the Climbing Tree, like a giant with an oversized head of shaggy hair.  They’d discovered the enormous oak when they were just six years old, and they’d been returning ever since—to dream up stories, build forts, and talk about important kid stuff, like the proper ratio of ketchup to French fry. Sometimes on the weekends or holidays, they’d pack snacks and books and blankets, and read under the expansive branches till the sun got sleepy.  This is also where they’d had their biggest fight, the summer they were seven. And where they’d run to take refuge two years ago—on the day Pax got his diagnosis. Jayni beat Pax to the tree and lifted a thick, drooping branch high so he could pass underneath. But Pax grabbed the branch himself and waited for Jayni to enter first. She shot him a withering look but marched inside anyway. When Pax let go of the branch, it swished and thudded against the ground. Now safely beneath the canopy of branches, the children headed straight to their favorite spots. Pax chose a low broad limb and slung his body over it like a sloth, arms and legs dangling free.  Jayni

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Cancer

Cancer Updates 2023

September 21 (This was a brief update I posted on Instagram…) Okay, I’ve guzzled two cups of organic black decaf low-acid mold-free coffee and am ready to attempt an update. ? I’ll say it again: There’s no vocab for this journey, so I just kind of stab at words and pray they make a wee bit of sense. I’ve had only one infusion since April—due to my increasing intolerance of treatment + Long Covid + major dental work (chemo bullies teeth!). After months of prayer and anguishing through pros and cons, I decided in late July to end all treatment, at least for the foreseeable future. (When it comes to these decisions, it feels like your options are: “Would you rather jump out of a plane without a parachute or be thrown into the ocean tied to an anchor?” ?) I knew the odds were great that the cancer would take over within months, but I decided to cross that bridge once I came to it. However, as soon as I made my decision, the cancer made a comeback. I decided to do one more infusion, get a PET scan done, then make a revised decision based on those results. During the pandemic, I was asked before PET scans, “Did you recently have Covid?”—because Covid can remain in the lymph nodes and look just like cancer. Lo and behold, the “cancer comeback” was in fact Covid’s perfect mimicry. The infection I contracted June 1 not only was acting like cancer but also created a pericardial effusion (fluid in the sac around the heart that can lead to heart failure). What a rollercoaster this continues to be! I’m shocked and overjoyed that God continues to hold back the cancer in my spine, hips, ribs, chest, and lymph nodes! It’s also a heavy reality to not know what to do next: my body is intolerant of treatment, I’m utterly exhausted, and it’s complicated and even dangerous for me to get sick. I’m still on my rigorous naturopathic protocol. When my doctor said, “Whatever you’re doing, it’s working!” I laughed and said, “Well, I do rub castor oil on all my metastases.” ? (I omitted detailing my myriad other strange practices. Ha!) But I quickly added, “I absolutely believe God holds my days and his hand is on this cancer, holding it back till it’s time for me to go Home.” I believe that with all my heart, and in all the complexity and confusion of this journey, that is a solid truth I can rest in. “All my days were written in your book and planned before a single one of them began.” (Ps.139:16) One of my prayers is that I won’t make too much of terminal cancer—that I’ll be able to communicate the experience without magnifying it. My story is so much more than this suffering. But it’s a tricky balance, and I’m not sure I’ll ever get it right. I do know that there is so much life to be lived today, even within these physical limitations and deep weariness. There are fresh new mercies and undeserved joys wherever I turn. The pic above is one of those joys: two of my besties visited last month. ? Posting with the prayer that this will encourage some of you in your own hard… ~ ~ ~ August 30 “She smiles a lot. Her zygomat muscles are strong,” my dentist said matter-of-factly to his assistant. I lay there, mouth cranked wide open, as Dr. Jacobsen twisted and wrenched out a second decaying molar (compliments of chemo). “She must be happy,” his dental assistant chirped in reply. I nodded and caveman-grunted an affirmative. I am happy. But it’s a costly kind of happiness. I wish my mouth wasn’t out of commission. There’s a story behind this smile . . . ~ ~ ~ Elisabeth Elliot asked, What is the great symbol of the Christian faith? It’s a symbol of suffering. That is what the Christian faith is all about. It deals head-on with this question of suffering . . . Is God paying attention? If so, why doesn’t He do something? The subject can only be approached by the cross. That old, rugged cross so despised by the world. The very worst thing that ever happened in human history turns out to be the very best thing because it saved me. It saves the world. And so God’s love, which was represented, demonstrated to us in His giving His Son Jesus to die on the cross, has been brought together in harmony with suffering. You see, this is the crux of the question . . . It’s only in the cross that we can begin to harmonize this seeming contradiction between suffering and love. And we will never understand suffering unless we understand the love of God. (Suffering is Never for Nothing, pp. 13-14, 34) The past three months have been dark and heavy. I’ve been short on words. God has removed the intimate experience of his presence and let me grope in the darkness, clawing for grace to make it one moment at a time. It’s been physically grueling as well as psychologically exhausting. As long-term treatment’s ever-compounding side effects have demanded more and more of my body, I’ve grappled with the impossible decision, Is it time to end treatment since I’m becoming increasingly intolerant of it? How much more can I take? (By the way… I have a standup comedy bit for this: “Would you rather jump out of an airplane without a parachute or jump into the deepest ocean with an anchor tied around your neck? How to choose, how to choose…”) But facial muscles don’t lie. I do smile a lot and laugh almost as often—as many of you well know. 😉 (Fun fact: I was teased in elementary school for how much I smiled, and I’ve had many people tell me over the years, “I thought you were fake when I first met you” and “You don’t

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white petaled flower on grass
Weakness

A few thoughts on weakness…

Some days I resent not being further along in my growth and maturity. I wish I didn’t have such deep and long fault lines, such cyclical and haunting weaknesses. And yet—even as I grieve my weaknesses and the mess they make—I know I wouldn’t trade what I’ve experienced in Jesus for less brokenness. Would I really wish away the worst of me if it meant missing out on the best of him? It’s the fragility woven into every fiber of my being (mentally, emotionally, relationally, physically) that sends me running into his arms time and again—arms I fall into, saying, “Jesus, I can’t, but you can. I’m weak but you’re strong.” It’s why I’ll never stop desperately needing him this side of heaven. He knows that my need will press me further into him, into his arms that hold me fast. Colossians 1:17 promises that he will hold me together—he will hold all the details of my life together—and being held together by God is life itself. So how do I “run into his arms”? How do I find his strength in my weakness and experience him holding me together? Here are a few of the practical ways I do this: I make time to regularly meet with him in his Word.I make a habit of thanking him (even for the smallest things).I picture him both sitting on his throne (Revelation 4) and holding my hand (Psalm 73:23).I pour out my heart to him, telling him everything, unedited.I stay in close relationship with life-giving friends and family and a healthy church who point me to him.I memorize Scripture so I can hear his voice throughout my day, no matter where I am or what’s going on around me.I confess my sin to him.I ask him for what I need.I sing songs that wake up my sluggish heart for him. And when I can’t do any of these things, I simply cry, “Help!” And he has always, always answered that prayer. Generously. Stunningly. I’m posting this with the prayer that however broken or weak you might feel today, you will experience the strong arms of Jesus holding you together, and you will know the comfort and joy of his nearness. He is here, and his arms are strong. For further encouragement from Scripture: Isaiah 41:10, Psalm 73:23-24, Psalm 6:9.

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Beauty

Aging for the good of others

I grew up on the doorstep of Hollywood and Orange County, the beauty capitals of the world. When out-of-state friends visited, they were stunned by the “beauties per capita” of my neighborhood. I’m not sure if it was this saturation of perfectly curated faces and bodies, or a hardwired desire within me, but as a teenager I prayed, “God, please make me beautiful. Please. And if you do, I’ll use my beauty to glorify you.”  I laugh now at my young, self-serving prayer, but even to this day—on the cusp of 47 years old—I long to be beautiful. However, as the forties have proven, aging isn’t a kind process, and wrinkles don’t turn heads. Nor does a terminal cancer diagnosis filled with harsh treatments. My once firm-and-glowing skin has been replaced by the relentless effects of gravity, accelerated by years of chemotherapy.  ~ ~ ~  At 30 years old, my (not yet sagging) jowls almost dropped when one of my work colleagues, also 30, outlined her lifelong Botox plan to me. Botox was still the new kid on the block, unvetted, eyed with suspicion. I looked at my friend’s face—still glowing with youth—and grieved that she was so fearful of aging.  Little did I know that within ten years, Botox—and fillers and peels and the knife—would become as common and accessible as a gym membership, and women in their twenties would begin their muscle-paralyzing, face-altering regime in a race against time. I would watch countless actresses freeze their faces into expressionless but photo-perfect stills. I would also watch older Christian women suddenly look ten years younger, with plump cheeks and taut mouths. And I would look into the mirror myself and wonder, What if I could get rid of these sagging jowls and deepening lines? And what happens if I choose not to do anything and end up looking twenty years older than my peers? ~ ~ ~ Before my first cancer diagnosis at age 41, I was often told how young I looked for my age. I think subconsciously it made me feel special, perhaps even a bit superior, to look younger than some of my peers. But a five-year journey through cancer has changed all that: I’ve lost my head full of hair—twice—along with my eyebrows and eyelashes, healthy skin, and bright eyes. There have been weeks at a time when I’ve looked like an 80-year-old man. These losses have touched the very core of my identity as a woman, revealing just how deep my desire for youthful beauty truly is. I’ve alternately grieved and feared, felt shame and sometimes even despaired over my reflection in the mirror.  But my grieving has prompted me to pray a big prayer:  God, give me a beauty that doesn’t make sense to this world—a beauty that shines and even grows through all of this, and that ultimately points to you. When people see me, let them think, She’s not beautiful by cultural standards, but she has a compelling beauty—and I want to know where it comes from. Even as I’ve mourned the loss of my youthful features and the way chemo has hyper-aged my face, I’ve marveled to watch God answer my prayer in spades. He’s slowly been freeing me from my self-obsession, working miracles in my heart and forging a new confidence in me that literally shows on my face. He’s tenderly held my face in his hands and said, Those who look to Me are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed. (Psalm 34:5) ~ ~ ~ As I look to God, my face becomes more radiant and unashamed, and this results in a beauty that doesn’t begin and end with me. My face was created, with all its intricate muscles and movements, to be a powerhouse of joy, empathy, understanding, and love. In his book, Transforming Fellowship, Chris Coursey writes, In the Bible, to have God’s face is to have life, joy and blessing while the absence of God’s face is equated with death, abandonment and rejection. It is no accident that the face is where joy starts and stops . . . With forty-three muscles, the face is an ideal platform to convey our love and express our delight toward one another” (p.52).  Each of our facial muscles were designed by God for a purpose, and when they are working together for that purpose, true indestructible beauty results. It’s a beauty that is relational and others-centered. It’s a beauty that doesn’t walk into a room worrying, “What do they think about how I look?” but rather, “How can I connect with and care for them?”  Botox and fillers and peels and the like are not inherently moral issues (I’m not writing this article to convince you never to use them). But for me, they present three intrinsic problems: by altering my face to perpetually erase signs of my true age, I’m communicating— 1. “I’m not grateful for every year I’ve been given here. I’d like to pretend I’ve only lived 30 years instead of 47.” (In light of a terminal diagnosis, this feels almost tragic.) 2. “I’m willing to prioritize feeling better about myself at the expense of caring for the people around me.” 3. “This life, this moment, is what matters most.” With my remaining days here, I want to wield the power of my face for the good of others. I want to use every muscle and wrinkle and line to express compassion to a hurting friend, joy at seeing another human, even hilarity over the comedic aspects of life! I want my husband and son to see my love for them all over my face, to see how happy I am to be with them.  Can you imagine if we women leaned into this kind of loving beauty? What if we refused to live under the crushingly high standards society has set for us—superficial-beauty standards that require us to alter the very function of our faces to feel good about ourselves—and instead celebrated aged beauty, wrinkled joy, and faces that use all 43 muscles to love others? What if we chose

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gray soil pathway between grass
Cancer

Why hasn’t God healed me?

I used to think suffering was meant to teach me lessons—hard but good life lessons—and as soon as I learned what God wanted me to learn, my suffering would come to an end.  I see things so differently now. Suffering isn’t a classroom—it’s an invitation into the heart of God. The greatest thing I can do with my life is love God and love people (Matthew 22:36-40), so whatever furthers that goal has to, ultimately, be insanely good for me—and for those my life touches.  And in my own experience, it has been pain and grief and loss and long waits and distress and brokenness that have best helped me experience Jesus’ perfect love—and best enlarged my heart to love others in a way I never could have imagined twenty-five years ago. (We see this reality all over the Word. See Philippians 3:10 and Psalm 119:71 for starters.)  I haven’t effortlessly embraced hardships in my life, and I haven’t easily accepted cancer. Not by a long shot. After both diagnoses, I wrestled long and hard with God, with lots of sobbing sessions in the dark corners of my closet, processing with family and besties and counselors, searching Scripture and asking hard questions. Lots of sleepless nights grieving harder than I thought my heart could endure.  But if, for me, terminal cancer is the way into greater love for both God and people—then it is a gift, not a linear lesson to be learned as quickly as possible. My present suffering will only get harder and harder, and it won’t end until I die, but every day I’m pressed further and further into God’s heart—and that enables me to walk through “the valley of the shadow of death” with a God who also “leads me beside quiet waters” and “restores my soul” (see Psalm 23). Mysteriously enough, the process of walking with him through that valley and beside those waters is what teaches me how to better love and care for others.  God may heal me yet, but only if my healing presses me further into Love. Only if healing can eternally accomplish what terminal cancer cannot.  So my prayer has not been for a miracle, but for more days here to love God and love people, and I fight toward that end, especially for the sake of my husband and my son. The pressing question is no longer, “Why doesn’t God heal me?” but, “What if healing would rob me of a life of love?”

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Community

Dear Younger Self

Dear Younger Self—I know it’s cliché,But I would go back if I couldTo say: Make yourself small,Don’t resent being weak—Humility before GodWill set you free. Practice his presence:Listen and rest—A quieted heartHears his voice best. Don’t go it alone.Seek wisdom to knowWho to keep closeAnd who to let go. Gratitude strengthens.Counseling helps.Measure your beauty,Measure your wealth In joy,In friendshipIn laughterIn pain.In lossesIn crossesIn wakingAgain. Love as he loves you,Don’t fear what folks think.Forgive (you’re forgiven!),See what he sees. Don’t be surprised—More suffering’s to come.Grief will undo youAnd seem to have won…. But his Word will grow sweeter,His nearness will beYour joy and your good—Your everything. And when Death comes knockingYou’ll look back and seeLife had more purpose thanAll your first dreams. For each pain invitedYou into his LoveFurther and deeper And more than enough. (Written between March 2020 and Fall 2022)

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coming this october

31 Days of Hope, Honesty, and Encouragement for the Sufferer

coming this october

31 Days of Hope, Honesty,
and Encouragement for the Sufferer

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Cancer

Our cancer journey

If you know me, you’ve heard me say again and again, “Cancer doesn’t have the corner on the market of suffering.” Nor does cancer define me. (In fact, it’s one of the shorter chapters in my life’s story.) So I’m often hesitant to overemphasize or overshare details of it. There are many other kinds of suffering, some far worse than a terminal diagnosis. Plus, by nature I’m a private person (not quiet, but private!), so posting personal information online always feels like I’m high diving into a bathtub: equal parts scary and foolish. Anyone else feel me on this? 😉 But over the years I’ve learned that this online space can be a gift—a unique way to share the love of Jesus and encourage others. And because many of you are also walking through cancer (your own or your loved one’s), I think it could be helpful if I share a few more details of our journey with you. Reading others’ experiences with cancer has helped me over these years: to normalize some of the crazy, to validate some of the hard, to strengthen me for the next step. All that to say—I hope this summary of our cancer journey is helpful, not scary or overwhelming. I hope too that you can picture me sitting here at my desk with a mug of hot black decaf coffee, writing this account with miraculous peace, blown away by a God who has woven his extraordinary goodness into every dark detail and grief-filled day of the past five years. I’ll say it again: God never ever cheats his children—he always out-gives them. May you feel the truth of that even as you read this summary. ~ ~ ~ In July 2017, I felt a pea-sized lump in my right breast as I showered. After a long, complicated testing process, I was diagnosed with cancer (stage 2B, IDC, triple positive, Chek2) on November 7. A slew of appointments and scans followed, and we formed my treatment team (medical oncologist, surgical oncologist, reconstructive/plastic surgeon, integrative MD, and holistic oncologist). Three days before Christmas, I had my right sentinel lymph node removed and my port placed. (The pea-sized mass was now bigger than a golf ball.) Twelve weekly rounds of neo-adjuvant chemo (Taxol, Carboplatin, Herceptin, Perjeta) began January 12, 2018. In May, a few weeks after my twelfth and final dose, I had a double-mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. We rejoiced over the news that the cancer was gone, and I began maintenance chemo and hormone therapy. In October 2018 I had a follow-up corrective surgery, at which time my port was also removed. By February 2019 all surgeries and treatments were officially wrapped up, my hair was making a quick comeback, and I felt better overall. It was just 19 months from mass discovery to treatment’s end—and although I still struggled with chronic infections and some lingering side effects, I felt confident the cancer was gone for good. When I found a little lump on my neck in August 2020, my oncologist ordered a PET scan—which insurance refused to approve. A less comprehensive scan was approved instead, and the results came back clear. That was December 2020. One month later, I felt the faintest pain in my right arm pit as I applied deodorant—and a few weeks after that, my right ribs and hip began hurting. I initially assumed I’d injured them in a HIIT workout (hello there, middle age), but when the pain in my armpit grew into a palpable lump, I grew suspicious. We began the testing process all over again, even as our family packed to move out of state. Two days before our move, I had multiple lymph nodes biopsied—and one week later (5 days after we landed in Idaho), I received the results via a telemedicine appointment: the cancer was back. I quickly established with a reputable cancer center in Boise, navigated another insurance debacle, which pushed off all medical care for a month—but I eventually had a PET scan, and on June 2, 2021, heard the worst: stage four. Incurable. The cancer was on my spine, ribs, hips, and in my lymph nodes. Within weeks, it spread to my chest wall as well. The metastases were growing like wildfire, causing increasing pain that soon made it difficult for me to do simple tasks such as dress, walk, drive, and cook. I couldn’t imagine surviving even one year—though I was resolved to live fully every last day God would give me with my husband and son. In June 2021 I spent two weeks at an integrative clinic in St. George, where I was able to resolve some of my chronic infections, fortify my body, and find holistic support and supplements for the rigorous journey ahead. When I returned, I had a new port placed and chemo began (Taxol, Herceptin, Perjeta), as well as hormone therapy. With a few breaks along the way (since my body overreacts to chemo in a number of ways), I finished 12 rounds of Taxol in November 2021, then continued on Herceptin and Perjeta (often referred to as “maintenance chemo,” but technically immunotherapy). Because I was not able to tolerate hormone therapy—the goal of which is to starve estrogen-hungry cancer and thereby “buy me more time”—I opted for a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (i.e., they yanked out my ovaries and fallopian tubes, ha!) this past May, resulting in Instapot Menopause (thank you, Lis, for that term of perfection). In September, due to my body’s struggle to tolerate perpetual maintenance chemo, I took a month off (glorious, glorious month!). Currently I’m back to infusions every three weeks and I’m continuing my protocol of naturopathic treatments. (On a side note: many people message me with a variety of cancer cures, but I’m so grateful for and perfectly at peace with how God has led us to wed allopathic and naturopathic treatments for my body’s unique needs and cancer diagnosis.) God is graciously using these myriad treatments and daily protocols to

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Poetry

Merciful undoing

September 29, 2006 You use pain so wisely,With infinite care,Knowing right whereTo push and pull and tearAnd break and burnUntil I’ve finally learnedWith all my being to yearnFor You only. Merciful undoing:This pain sets me free.My blind eyes now can seeUnspeakable mystery—This death leads to life,No shortcut through strife;With my good in mindYou’ve afflicted me.

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person on cliff
Poetry

Mystery

June 14, 2022 Mystery— Living in theIn-betweenThe unknownThe not-yet Shadow, substanceLong and shortHandspan, breath…Infinite Holding on andLetting goOpen handedLingering Fragile, fearfulUnmoved, strongLaughing joyBitter drink Hoping long andgrieving slowSleepless nightsMercies dawn Straining forwardDoubled downKneeling, prostrateFighting on Misery andMiraclesHaunting hoursHoly days Pain and promiseLoss and loveBreathless, burdenedGreatest grace Past and futureEternal nowDeath is almostHistory In-betweenHere and ThereHe is foundIn mystery.

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