2015 Year in Review

Christmas#1

2015 has been an amazing year.

As a family one of the greatest joys we’ve had this year has been joining the Launch Team for Hartford City Church.  This is a new church plant of the Evangelical Covenant Church, East Coast Conference.  Our mission is to glorify Jesus Christ and bless the city of Hartford.  The vision of the church is to participate in and experience God’s Beautiful Restoration in Hartford, CT (and beyond), Isaiah 61:1-4 is our seed verse.

Esther is in 3rd grade and doing great!  She loves her friends and is kind and caring.  She and Naomi are on the same indoor soccer team this Winter. Her favorite part of this year was taking our various trips to Old Sturbridge Village, with family and friends.

Naomi is in 1st grade and is also doing fabulously!  She is more quiet than Esther but just as sweet and kind.  She loves playing soccer with her friends from school and town.  Her favorite part of 2015 was having a play date with her friend Cam.

Matt has seen a busy year for work but he continues to grow in his position at Aetna and has a great team to work with.  He began brewing his first beer in January and made a few more batches over the year.  Ever the connoisseur, he was pleased with some and decidedly unpleased with others.  May brought knee surgery to repair a ruptured patellar tendon (it had ripped off his knee cap).  Matt’s surgery and recovery have been smooth and better than expected.  2016 will hold a return to running and golf for Matt, as both were put on hold during recovery.

Carey began 2015 by finishing her radiation treatment in January.  Over the summer she finished her Herceptin infusions and celebrated one year of having no evidence of cancer (aka remission).  There have been some setbacks this Fall with reconstruction, caused by an infection that brought a week at Hartford Hospital and removal of the implant used to reconstruct the right side (cancer side).  This means that 2016 will be the year in which Carey finishes reconstruction.  In the midst of the Fall’s challenges Carey began serving with MOPS International (Mothers of Preschoolers) as a Ministry Coach, working to support and assist the MOPS groups across CT and into NY.  Carey experienced the support and friendships that come from MOPS groups and communities and is very excited to be beginning to give back to this organization.

We have certainly had our challenges this year, but we have seen God’s hand carrying us through each day and challenge.  As people seeking to follow Jesus we know that Life will always have challenges, they are what shape us and build our character as well as our hope.

Our prayer for 2016 is that God would continue to draw us close to Him, that He would give us the strength and grace to meet each new challenge.  Our world can seem so dark at times, whether it is the individual challenges we face or the broader global challenges facing humanity.  We pray that 2016 would be a year that brings Hope, that as we celebrate the birth of Christ we would be reminded of the Hope that He came to give us.  As we go into the new year may we love and care for those around us with strength, humility, and grace, just as Christ did.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Love the Penneys

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One Year

The past few weeks have been a procession of “One year” thoughts for me.  It was one year ago on February 17th that I first noticed a lump, closely followed by my appointment with my Dr, then mammogram and ultrasound, onto breast surgeon and wrapping up with my first biopsy.

Today, 3/4/15, marks one year since receiving the call with my diagnosis.  I will forever be grateful to Dr. Heather King, my breast surgeon, for preparing me to receive this call.  I remember precisely where I was, the chair by the windows in my living room, my friend Suzanne was over and we were sharing conversation and tea, or maybe coffee.  I remember the immediate feeling of peace that I had, I didn’t feel some huge sense of loss or fear, but more a feeling of surety.  Surety that while this would be a difficult fight it would be a fight that ends in life and hope.  I’m sure that I was also in shock, our brains are amazing in their ability to portion out stress in the midst of a crisis.  Even one year on I’m not sure that I’ve ever felt the entire gravity of breast cancer at one time.  And for that I thank God!

One year on, I’m facing fatigue from ongoing treatment and some of the side effects that go with that, both physical and emotional.  I’m facing frustrations that I’ve gained as much weight as I did in my pregnancies, but I will not be delivering a tiny human to jump start weight loss.  I’m facing that big huge unknown commonly referred to as “The New Normal”, whatever that means.  I am certainly shell shocked, following months of intense treatment, decisions, Doctor appointments, physical therapy, etc.  Things seem eerily quiet now, I’ve gone from more than five appointments a week to maybe 2-3.  I’m facing the uncertainty of “could the cancer come back?”.

One year on, I’m also facing Life.  Perspective.  Joy.  Freedom.  New friends.  Hope.  And this is where I choose to dwell.  To think of all the amazing women and men that I have met and been inspired by, fellow patients, nurses, technicians, doctors, staff, volunteers, everyone that participates in even the little areas of supporting and treating cancer patients.  I feel stronger, not because I did some amazing thing; I didn’t do anything spectacular, I simply showed up to my appointments.  But I do feel stronger knowing that I made it through the year, my family made it through the year.  We’re war torn, for sure, but I’m alive, we’re alive.  We faced a death dealer and said “Not today”.  We are facing our unknown future together and with a strength that we did not have a year ago.

One year on, I have felt peace, hope, joy, love, comfort, care, strength from God in ways more tangible than I ever could have imagined.  That sense of surety that regardless of what would or can, still, happen, my fight always ends with LIFE.  The countless people that sent cards, seriously SO many amazing cards.  The delicious meals.  The random cake balls and treats.  The prayer shawls and blankets.  The house cleaning help.  The childcare and playdates.  And the list goes on, these things often occurred at times when I or we needed encouragement and lifting.  Before we began treatment my father-in-law passed along a passage from the Bible that has been a constant source of encouragement, through chemo, surgery, radiation, and all the moments in between.
“When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.”
Isaiah 43:2

Thank you.  Thank you for the prayers, the cards, the gifts, the meals, the dusting, the childcare, the laughter, the joy, and most of all thank you for using your gifts to point us toward hope.  I could not have made it through this year alone.  We could not have made it through this year alone.  And we did not make it through this year alone, thanks for joining us for the ride.

A funny thing happened on the way to the biopsy

Here is the promised post about my biopsy fainting spell.

I had my biopsy on Friday 2/28.  It was an ultrasound guided biopsy, I knew the basics of what was going to happen.  An incision is made, probe goes in sucks out some tissue to test, and a marker is left behind to let any future radiologists know that the lump, mass, whatever was checked.  Then they use ice and pressure to stop bleeding.  All of this is done with a nice dose of local anesthesia so there is no pain.

I’ve had two kids so this should be no problem, right?

That would have been true if I had not had to go through the “informed consent” or if Matt had been with me for the informed consent.  When they took me in Matt was left in the waiting room with the assurance that they would “take great care of me”, I wasn’t worried because I knew what to expect.  We went through the changing of the clothes, an ultrasound to make sure everything was still in the same place, and then it’s time to get this show on the road.  I meet the Doctor that will be performing the biopsy, she is very nice, reassuring, and calming.

I’m going to pause here to mention that I am somewhat squeamish, not so much when procedures are happening to me but when I hear people talking about procedures.  There are a couple of others in my family, that will remain nameless, that also have a squeam weakness.  This was more of an issue when I was younger, as an adult I haven’t really had any problems, so to speak.  I’ve had two kids, two lipomas (little fatty polypy things) removed; I’ve bandaged my kids cuts and scrapes, and bandaged my own cuts.  I did not think that I would have a problem with this procedure.

So the Doctor began talking to me about how I was, what the procedure is, how long it will take, and so on.  Then she began talking about the very specific details of the procedure, let’s call them graphic details of the procedure.  I was doing fairly well through the first two thirds but as she began talking about the final steps of the procedure I felt the need for a little more air, and things began to get fuzzy.  I’m told that I was nodding away, as if in agreement or understanding, as I began to faint.  The next thing I know I’m laying flat on my back (on the bed that I had been sitting on) with my knees bent.  This was not a “Oh I feel dizzy let me get my head back” kind of fainting.  This was a “What the heck just happened?  Did I just hear music?” kind of fainting.  I actually think I did hear music, not the “go into the light” angel music that we hear about in movies but just a chord or two of more “regular” music.

At that point the Doctor was not as calm, she kept asking if I was sure I didn’t want to do the procedure at another time with some sedation, etc.  I, of course, insisted that ‘no this will be fine.  I want to get it over with.  Please don’t go into any more detail about the procedure.’ and ‘can I see my husband?’.

Matt came back and after a moment of panic realized that I was OK.  He was able to stick around through the rest of the informed consent (which was finished with fewer details) and then left for the actual procedure.  The ultrasound tech, Doctor, and nurse (that joined us after I fainted) were all great and the rest of the biopsy went with no problem.  The Doctor was concerned enough to give me her cell phone number and ask that I call or text her the next day to let her know that I was feeling alright.

So the moral of this experience is that Matt will be in the room when informed consent is given so that I can tune out if needed.  If anyone knows of a way to desensitize oneself to this squeamish passing out thing please let me know!!  I’m guessing the surgeries and treatment that lie ahead will probably help.

I hope you were able to laugh with us!

Love, hope, and laughter to you all!

Conditioning Treatments

A quiet house might be the nicest thing around.  I love when our home settles in for the night or the girls are out with someone other than me.

A quiet house might also be the most terrifying thing, for a mom, as was my experience this morning.  I was catching up on some emails while the girls played when I realized that the house was… quiet. (cue climactic horror movie music)

Worse yet.  Last time I heard the girls they were making their way towards the bathroom.  (cue shrieks of horror)

OK, so it wasn’t too bad, I got off easy this time.  They just got into my hair conditioner.  I’m pretty sure they each ate a little and they were using it like lotion on their hands.  When I told my eldest that it was not body lotion but more like hair lotion she promptly ran her hands through her hair.  Rookie mistake on my part, I should have known better.  My baby immediately copied her big sister.  So I have two little girls running around with some extra conditioner in their hair today and thankfully that’s the worst of it.  Phew!

Here’s to a noisy house for the rest of the day, except nap time.

2011!

Some days I can’t believe how time has flown.  I remember thinking when I was younger (like high school or middle school) that I would be 23 in the year 2000.  And I remember thinking how far away that seemed.  As it turns out it still seems far away, funny how that works.  One guarantee we have in life is that it will keep moving.  We’ll keep aging.  Our children (whether ours or those in our lives) will keep growing and learning new, exciting things.  Time is not a respecter of persons, it moves regardless of who we are.

So this year I hope to do my part to slow time down.  To savor the moments that I have with my kids, my friends, those around me.  To make the most out of the time we have not in a carpe diem can’t-say-no-to-anything kind of way but in a I-only-get-this-moment-once way.  Cheers and I hope you and your’s have a very happy and healthy New Year!

Christmas Past

Can you believe that Christmas day has past already??  I am a believer in stretching the celebration out so I like to be Christmas-y for a while after (and of course before).  We don’t typically celebrate the Epiphany but that is another good way to stretch the holiday.

Our Christmas was fantastic!  We got our Littles two Bitty Babies (1 each) from American Girl.  I am very impressed with the overall quality and the speed of delivery.  This was the gift I was most excited to give.  And boy, oh boy, were they well received!  Our eldest likes baby dolls and we had planned on giving her a Bitty this Christmas, but our youngest likes baby dolls even more and while she is a little on the young side (at least officially) we decided to do one for each.  It was definitely the right decision.  In only one had received a Bitty we would be in treaty negotiations for a long time.

Here are pictures of the Littles opening their babes.  Catch that joy!!

We could not get the box open quickly enough for her. Thankfully we didn't need a sawzall to open the box.

She really realy wanted me to see this fantastic gift! "Mommy, kiss baby! Kiss baby!"

Santa, shopping and garbage

What do Santa, shopping and garbage have to do with each other?  Nothing, really but they all happen to be on my mind now.

As of a few hours ago we are completely done with Christmas shopping.  The Littles and I ventured into the mall for two reasons this morning.  1) To visit Santa and 2) to pick up a few remaining items.  The Littles loved waiting to see Santa almost as much as seeing him.  They bopped around and played with the tree and the little toys they had in the line area.  Then we walked into Santa’s “room” and the bopping slowed.  They knew this was their big moment… or they just thought it was odd that this guys was wearing a fuzzy red suit and he was asking them what they wanted him to bring to their house.  The looks in the picture pretty much say it all.  No tears but there’s certainly some bewilderment.  This was their first visit and, in my opinion, it went great.  We didn’t make a big deal about it, Matt wasn’t actually there, the Littles had fun and we have some cute photographic documentation.

Now to the garbage.  Why?  Why do I always find things to throw away on garbage day?  I should specify, after the truck comes by on garbage day.  And these are not just some pieces of mail or some packaging.  Why are there always things in my fridge that look fuzzy funky that I miss when I do the “garbage night sweep”?  How exactly do I miss the funk that is right in front of my face when I do the sweep?  Please tell that I am not alone in this.  There must be fellow funk-missers in the world.  Anyone?