Bryan’s Journey: Part Nine (Bryan’s Perspective)

Bryan’s Journey: Part Nine (Bryan’s Perspective)

*Bryan is going to continue his reflection on his journey today here on the blog. He finished his last chemo treatment the week of Thanksgiving, and is starting to get his energy and “normal” feeling back. His last PET scan showed that the areas previously showing cancerous activity remained clear (Praise the Lord for that!), although they are watching some things in on one of his lungs which may just be an infection/negative reaction to one of the chemo drugs that he received. Continued prayers would be appreciated as we wait to figure out all of that!

As promised, I wanted to continue with the detail regarding my journey.  My last post ended with the dark moments of June 2nd, where my diagnosis was officially confirmed by my amazing surgeon.  I ended that post at that moment given its weight for me personally in my time of grace thus far.  It certainly was simply the beginning of my grieving process as I continue to learn to deal with something that is generally not ideal.  Today, I want to continue the timeline as there was so much that needed to occur yet before even beginning my actual physical battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Friday, June 5th.  My first official meeting with an oncologist. I am almost ashamed to admit I feared this day would come in my life far before it actually occurred, I just didn’t expect it to be quite this early in my life (who ever does, right?).  Cancer is no stranger to my family and I’m sure almost everyone reading this can relate as it seems to be everywhere these days (Social media bias or true expansion in cancerous activity?  Perhaps this would be an excellent topic for a future post…), but there is something far more real when you are actually sitting in that chair with the oncologist addressing you.  I learned a lot at this meeting (I did my absolute best to do ZERO online research before knowing anything for certain and I highly advise this if you can enlist your self-restraint). We reviewed my likely staging, early indications showed a Stage 2 or 3, and I was further defined as a subtype “A” as I was non-symptomatic. This meant that I showed none of the typical physiological signs of Lymphoma.  The oncologist then educated me about the options to combat Hodgkin’s Lymphoma after a brief history of the disease. He explained that most likely we would use Chemotherapy, with the potential add an element of radiation as needed, based on the effect of the chemotherapy regiment.  I learned about several chemotherapy treatment options, ABVD, BEACOPP, Stanford V, all of which have been quite successful against Hodgkin’s Lymphoma since the early 70s (and earlier) especially with patients as “young” as me (although I fell in the “old” range for younger sufferers as it typically affects males aged 16-35).  I learned about the likely temporary symptoms — hair loss, energy loss, nausea, immune system weakness, neuropathy, and more.  I also learned about some potential long-term risks, sterility, being the most likely.  I thanked the Lord that I was already blessed with two beautiful children when we came to this point, which is yet another example of how God had this all planned out for me far in advance.  We also reviewed the potential to develop other cancers, Leukemia being the most common, but still quite rare.  The oncologist then explained that before committing to a treatment plan, I would need to complete a barrage of tests in a relatively short time period in order to properly confirm staging and to ensure my body’s ability to handle a plan that would include a chemotherapy regiment.  I was incredibly impressed with the bedside manner of this oncologist — you could feel his care and concern as we discussed every detail, no matter how important or unimportant it may have been.  He dismissed us to the nurse, and I arranged the previously mentioned barrage of appointments.

Monday, June 8th.  The “baseline” testing begins.  First up, a MUGA heart scan.  This was the simplest of the tests. A radioactive tracer is injected via IV and you sit for a while to allow it to get to the heart. Then you sit under the scanner as pictures are taken of your lower chambers of the heart as they are pumping.  The objective of this test is to confirm that your heart can handle the potential treatment plan.  I passed with flying heartbeats, and prepared for the next test.

Tuesday, June 9th.  This was the day of my Pulmonary Function Test.  This was actually quite a workout, even with my singing and running background.  The objective of this test is to establish your lung health, as well as a baseline for future follow-up tests.  In short, you hook up to a mouthpiece and perform several breathing exercises. Once I was done with the exercises (took about 40 minutes), I felt as if I had just completed Al’s Run.  I was rewarded with the knowledge that I would begin my treatment plan with “Rock Star Lungs”.  My confidence continued to gain traction after learning yet another area of my body was prepared for battle.

Wednesday, June 10th.  I arrived at the facility for my PET Scan at 7:15 AM. As I was about to have the radioactive tracer injected via IV the tech came in (Marcus was his name–one of the few names I actually recall from the baseline testing as I was stuck here for a while), and let me know the scanning equipment was not properly functioning (of course!) and they had the manufacturer on the phone attempting to troubleshoot.  While I was waiting, I could hear Marcus rescheduling all of the other patients for the day.  At first, I couldn’t help but think about the fact that there were all of these other people dealing with a similarly scary situation and now they would also have to deal with delaying confirmation of their battle with cancer.  Talk about adding insult to injury!  After a moment of empathy, my brain quickly refocused to myself:  ”if they are getting rescheduled before me, how long will I have to wait to get back in here?”  I got up and went over to Marcus, and asked if I could tentatively reschedule.  Luckily, he was able to get me in again just two days later, the same day as my final baseline test:  the bone marrow biopsy.  He then shared his doubt that the machine would be up and running today, so he suggested I head back to my day, and plan to come back in two days.  However, I had a followup with my initial surgeon (from my lymph node removal) scheduled in this same building at noon, so I offered to wait in the building just in case the machine was fixed.  He agreed, and I headed upstairs to my next stop, albeit four hours early.  I checked in, asking if there was any chance I could be seen early, and was assured this was unlikely.  So I decided to set up a temporary office site in the waiting area, and got to work.  I worked in the waiting room for about 4 hours — no word from the PET tech — but I did hear quite the barrage of stories from the other visiting patients.  My name was finally called about 40 minutes after my planned visit (why are doctors always so far behind?) and I walked in to meet my surgeon.  After some personal chit-chat, I passed my inspection as all looked to be healing amazingly well.

Friday, June 12th.  PET scan attempt number two and Bone Marrow Biopsy.  All systems were go on arrival for the PET scan, and Marcus successfully injected the radioactive tracer.  I was told to relax for 45 minutes or so while the tracer worked its way through my system.  After some forced medication, I was walked into the scan room.  The goal of this test is to establish the severity and staging of the cancer cells.  The PET scanner is much “deeper” than the CT scan equipment–while the CT scan is a “donut” type scanner at about 1 foot deep, the PET scanner is a bit more like a cave with openings on each end, where at times your entire body is encapsulated.  I was in the machine for about 30 minutes as images were captured.  Once complete, I travelled home and got myself ready for my afternoon Bone Marrow biopsy.  At this point, I’m beginning to personally feel a bit cavernous as I was unable to eat or drink anything for this procedure since 10 PM the previous evening.  I was quite nervous about the biopsy as I had heard many horror stories about the pain of this procedure and I am happy to report that it was better than advertised.  Outside of the discomfort after the biopsy procedure, the biggest annoyance during this procedure was the fact that there were several “students”  there to “enjoy” the process of watching a massive needle be injected into my hip bone area.

Saturday, June 13th.  My daughter, Madalyn’s, 3rd Birthday celebration.  This was quite the emotional day for me as all of our family was together in one place.  I thought this would be exactly what I needed as a distraction as I awaited word of our treatment plan and PET results.  I was strong as the get-together began, distracting my thoughts with pleasantries and conversations with people who I love the most.  However, as I began the prayer before mealtime, while saying words of thanks about our beautiful daughter and amazing family, I just couldn’t hold it together.  My fears and insecurity were as evident as the tears in my eyes. I tried to fight through it, but could not get any proper function out of my neck and mouth muscles, so I dismissed myself as someone else finished the prayer.  I escaped to my room upstairs, and continued my breakdown privately.  How could I be so sad at such a happy event?  As I prayed to God for strength in this moment, the answer was clearly given to me:  I was fearful that I may not see my little girl grow up.  I was terrified that I may not see Gavyn become a chivalrous man.  I was frightened that I would not be there to support my beautiful wife through many more celebrations and challenges.  So many deeply rooted fears that I had been ignoring and burying into the depths of my soul were excavated as I was surrounded by so much love.  My privacy was unexpectedly interrupted, but by someone I least expected for such a moment:  my dad.  I love my dad greatly, but he has never been one to show emotion.  Like many from previous generations, there was a massive attempt to never show weakness or emotion, and my dad typically demonstrated this knight-like armor of “cool”.  Not in this moment.  We shared tears and fears.  We shared insecurities that had never been verbalized between us since the early 90s when our family fell apart.  My stepdad joined the “party” after a few minutes, and furthered the depth of this moment.  Yet another “tough” man who rarely showed emotion, and we continued the “bromance”.  More fears.  More confidence.  More forgiveness.  It was a beautiful moment that I will never forget.  We wiped our tears and dusted off our smiles, and one by one, we re-joined the party to celebrate my daughter.

Wednesday, June 17th.  Treatment plan day.  This was my second visit to the oncologist, so my awareness of details was a bit less callous than my last visit.  As I waited to see the doctor, I watched as countless other patients waited in fear.  I took some time to “tour” the treatment area.  While it had a gorgeous view and lighting, all I could see were other scared patients, looking lifeless in chairs as they received treatment.  I noticed that the majority of people there were much more “experienced” than I was.  There was a black cloud of doubt in this room.  I had heard so many stories from staff and friends of how cancer patients and survivors were some of the most positive people they had ever met.  This was definitely not evident in my experience, neither in the waiting room or the treatment room.  I was guided to my meeting room, and the doctor shared the details of my PET results. In his opinion, I was confirmed as a stage 2A.  He then shared his treatment plan suggestion:  6 cycles of chemotherapy to begin on Monday, June 22nd using the ABVD regiment.  He shared the statistics on the survival rates using this regiment (generally in the 80% range).  He also proposed I have a power port installed on that same day my treatment would begin(more on this later) in order to aid in safe administration of the toxic mix.  I left with fears, but was happy to have an action plan with a generally positive prognosis.

Friday, June 19th.  In order to be certain of my treatment plan and options, I arranged a meeting with a second oncologist, a Lymphoma specialist with quite the list of accomplishments.  While I was incredibly comfortable with my first oncologist, I was not very comfortable with the facility, specifically in regards to the environment in the treatment room, but also in regards to some of the support staff I was supposed to be working with.  Initially, the second oncologist provided a less than stellar first impression (we waited over two hours to see him).  However, it was evident as to why this was the case pretty quickly.  His experience, knowledge, and focus were top-notch, and he also had some interesting research-based insights for us that were not shared in our initial meetings with oncologist number 1.  First, in regards to staging, he pointed out an area of my PET scan that was not mentioned in my first meeting with oncologist number 1 which could cause my staging consideration to be anywhere from a 2A to a 4A.  He actually showed me the PET scan images showing the extent of the tumors in my chest and neck area.  Although the technology amazed me, this was the first time I attached visual proof of my cancer, and could not believe the extend of the tumors.  How could I not have noticed this sooner when it was this widespread?  If my staging was a 4A, I would also have the opportunity to participate in a blind clinical trial, which would remove one of the more troublesome chemo drugs from the mix (Bleomycin) and replace it with a non-chemo drug (a drug that was able to differentiate cancer cells from healthy cells as defined by a cell marked with a trait referred to as “CD32”–which is found only in cancer cells) called Brentuximab.  As he described this new drug (only approved by the FDA since 2011), I was quite excited about the potential for a future without cancer.  I was currently scheduled to begin chemo with facility number 1 the following Monday — so just in case I selected facility #2, I scheduled my chemo to begin there for the following Tuesday.  As we left the meeting, we received a quick tour of the facility and I was very pleased to see that the treatment area was a series of private “pods” or private rooms–which was very valuable to me as I was completely uncertain of how my chemo experience would be.  If I was going to feel miserably, I would really prefer to experience my misery in privacy.  Each little area also had a television w/ DVD player, another nice touch to provide some distraction during an unpleasant experience.    I also noticed that many of the patients and staff there had a very positive demeanor.  Smiles and appreciation were obvious everywhere I looked, despite the internal fears and pain that may have been occurring.

June 20th-21st.  This was the weekend of debate, and it also happened to be Father’s Day weekend.  During a weekend in which I normally would spend reflecting on the blessing of my fatherhood, instead, my mind overflowed with treatment planning decisions.  Which facility should I work with?  Should I sign up for the clinical trial?  What if this non-chemo drug has an unknown long-term side effect that we have yet to learn about given its infancy stage?  How could I choose someone other than oncologist #1, who had guided me through my initial shock, confusion, and fears?  If I chose facility #2, would I be disappointing facility #1?  I turned to some visualization techniques per the suggestion of one of my mentors, and began picturing defeating this cancer, and picturing what facility provided the strongest visualization of success.  This exercise provided the answer I needed. No matter how much I felt connected to oncologist #1, victory seemed the clearest with facility #2.  I kept my appointment for Monday to surgically install my power port at facility #1, but cancelled my scheduled chemo treatment for that same day.  Knowing how stressed I was about the upcoming challenge, my amazing wife scheduled a massage for me this weekend as a bit of a “Father’s Day/Prepare for Chemo” surprise.  I think the masseuse would have needed a week to get the stress out of my body!

Monday, June 22nd.  Power Port Surgery Day.  Given the level of toxicity of the chemo drugs, and given my plan to have 6 cycles of treatment (12 total treatments), both doctors suggested I avoid IV injection, and instead install a Power Port underneath my skin, about 2 inches below my right collarbone.  This would provide excellent access to my bloodstream, and essentially eliminate any potential for severe skin burning during the treatment process.  At this point, I am beginning to feel like a seasoned vet when it comes to surgical procedures, so my nervousness factor had approached zero as I received my pre-operative “cocktail”.  However, as I approach the surgical area, the surgeon completing my brief procedure walked out with the power port and described the process one more time to Abby and I before moving forward.  My nerves began to run rampant as I saw the hugeness of this thing, it was far larger than I expected, and despite the best efforts of the “calming cocktail”, my heart began to pound a bit.  I looked at Abby, calmed myself, and decided that all I could do was trust God here, so I uttered a quick “let’s get this done”, kissed my lady, and got it done.  Once complete, I was the proud owner of an internal power port — massively protruding from my upper chest region (far more than usual due to swelling).

I was now physically prepared to begin my battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  I prayed for mental strength as I went to bed that night. I recall getting very little sleep and praying more than I think I’ve ever prayed before — for tomorrow was chemotherapy treatment number 1, and I wanted to be ready to conquer.

**More to come.

 

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Bryan’s Journey: Part Eight (Bryan’s Perspective)

Bryan’s Journey: Part Eight (Bryan’s Perspective)

Bryan’s Journey: Part Eight (Bryan’s Perspective)

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**My wonderful, handsome husband, Bryan, is taking over my blog today to write out some of his thoughts and feelings that he has had during this whole journey. I am thankful for his openness and courage to share his heart, even when it isn’t easy to deal with. Love you, babe.

Here I sit, patiently awaiting my medical activities for the day, and I can’t help but think back over the last several months of my life. A blur of events — I can hardly believe there actually was a “summer” this year, primarily because there has been a bit of a frigid and icy atmosphere surrounding my reality for the last few months. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am blessed beyond belief — and I still believe this wholeheartedly, in fact, more strongly than ever, but no matter how I look at the last few months of my life, two words come crashing into my mind: This Sucks.

As many of you know, I have been relatively silent regarding my current life battle — I’ve been using a bit of a “focus on silently destroying this challenge” mentality — but I am finding that inside, my thoughts are screaming to be released. This should make perfect sense if you even know me just a bit; I certainly enjoy a great conversation, especially when that conversation includes meaningful feelings that fuel one’s soul. So today, in what I fear may turn into a series of thoughts, I begin to unlatch my thoughts. I’m not sure what this will accomplish, but I yearn for two things

  1. To free my mind of all these pent-up thoughts/details/feelings
  2. To provide the potential that my suffering may be of service to someone else (thanks to my mother-in-law for sharing this vision with me!)

Today, I want to start by sharing a timeline of important dates, so that you might know what actually all went down over the last few months. If you find this to be dry, boring reading, please do not hesitate to click the “x” on the top right corner of the page but if not, let’s go back to the beginning.

Friday, May 8th. A normal day in my life (I can’t believe how much I long for “normal” these days!); I recall the day well. I had just completed an enjoyable effort of mowing the lawn, a favorite activity of mine as I have my favorite music on blast and it provides a break from the day-to-day efforts as a parent/husband/businessman. When I came back in the house, I took a minute to rest on the couch (picture me in full “hands resting on my head mode”) as I released my hands from my head, I noticed an odd protrusion on my neck, just above my left clavicle. Instantly, my reality turned from relaxation to curiosity. My lymph node was not happy and I immediately prayed this was not what my heart feared in that first moment. I tend to be a positive thinker and I believe this was one of the last truly positive thought moments I would have for several weeks.
Monday, May 11th. After a weekend of concern, I scheduled a walk-in appointment to have my doctor check out my lymph node — I had hoped it would “disappear” over the weekend, but unfortunately this was not the case. My doctor was not available on such short notice, so I saw his Nurse Practitioner. After the usual tests and questions, she hoped it was a simple infection, and commented that this was “the most impressive lymph node she had ever seen.” I scheduled to stop by later that week to follow up, gave some blood for further testing, and prayed.
Tuesday, May 12th. I had a previously scheduled checkup with my dermatologist due to my regular “skin issues” and the moment she saw the lymph node, I could see it in her eyes that she feared this was something more serious. I remember her asking if it hurt when she palpated it. When I said it did not, she was especially concerned. She definitely did her best to play “poker face”, but I have a bit of a gift in this area, and was certain of the depth of her concern. I let her know I had a follow-up scheduled with my doctor, and she asked me to keep her posted. The treatment for my skin issues she had planned would have to wait until she had more information regarding this lymph node.
Thursday, May 14th. This was the date I was able to see my primary doctor. The first thing he did was review my lab results — everything looked fantastic. He checked out my lymph node, looked at my labs again, and I remember exactly  the way he said “hmmmmm” as he mysteriously looked into my eyes. He shared a series of words and thoughts here, but one word stood out as he spoke.  This was the first time I heard “lymphoma” thrown out as a possibility. I can still see him saying that word in slow-motion today. He was suspicious, but was confused by my lack of symptomatic behavior. He ordered an ultrasound to take a deeper look and briefly prepped me on the process should this be an item that needed greater attention.
Wednesday, May 20th. This day marked my first visit to the clinic — this time, for an ultrasound. I really hoped this was the last time I’d be there. I briefly waited for my turn, and when I was called, I was met by a pleasant woman. I was instructed by my Doctor that they were trained to keep results from me, to preserve myself from unnecessary worry. I can still feel my heart beating as she thoroughly checked my neck area. It felt like an eternity. After completing the exam, I couldn’t help but ask, “I know you are trained not to say anything, but do you have any insights for me?” She replied, “All I know is you have several lymph nodes that are not happy campers.” My doctor called me a few hours after my ultrasound, and urged me to schedule a CT scan as soon as possible as he wanted to thoroughly see how far this “unhappiness” had progressed.
Friday, May 22nd. I arrived at the clinic for my first ever CT Scan. I had no idea how this worked, and was quite surprised when a tech delivered two cups of this disgusting liquid to drink. I actually thought he was kidding, but unfortunately he was not. I was then warned that while getting the scan, it may feel like I’m peeing — oh the joys of medical stuff (I can’t say I agree with this description)! The CT Scanning device was not what I pictured. I had envisioned the fully enclosed machinery I often saw in shows like “Greys Anatomy”, but was pleased to learn it was much less intense and was nothing but a small “donut-like” circle that moved and adjusted to take internal pictures. And then, the waiting began.
May 23rd – 25th. Memorial Day weekend. My doctor advised that I meet with a surgeon right after Memorial Day in case I would need to schedule a procedure to remove the lymph node so it could be properly tested to determine what this actually was. Likely she would be able to review the results with me as well as they would be available by this point in time. I scheduled a get-together with this surgeon for the following Monday. This was possibly the longest weekend of my life — very little enjoyment, very much stress and fear, not things I am used to feeling given my preference to enjoy every bit of life.
Tuesday, May 26th. This was the day I met with the surgeon. As Abby and I arrived for this appointment, I was met with uneasiness. Perhaps it was the heavy rain and cloud-cover or perhaps it was the cloud of hope that was slowly disappearing in front of my eyes. The surgeon was a pleasant woman, the kind of person I would envision having a beautiful chat with, but her first words shared were nowhere near what I’d want to be talking about: “Have you spoken with the oncologist yet?” There were more words shared after that, but I can tell you, my heart and mind were racing. She shared a written summary of the analysis of my CT scan, which was like a foreign language to me, but there it was, right at the end: “likely lymphoma”. These two words teased me for the next week. Why couldn’t it say “certain lymphoma” or “not lymphoma”? My surgery could not be completed for another week and until reviewing the chemical results of that biopsy, we would not be certain of anything.
Monday, June 1st. This was the day of my first surgical procedure (unless you count wisdom tooth extraction—which in my opinion was more like a “mob visit” than surgery). I was incredibly nervous for this day despite the fact that I was aware that this was very simple procedure. My lack of experience here left me keenly aware of each moment of fear. So many small details stick in my mind from this day: The warnings and the disclosures. The uncomfortable attire. The conversation with the anesthesiologist as he pumped me with the magic elixir. The discussion between the surgeon and the anesthesiologist—a regular conversation about scheduling-issues and casual friendly conversation. The lights above the surgery table. The conversation with the assistant’s… and then… nothing. Next thing I knew, I was awake in recovery, drinking apple juice and eating shortbread cookies. This idea still frightens and amazes me. What did I say? Was I funny? Annoying? I guess I’ll never know. 🙂
Tuesday, June 2nd. I remember having a particularly busy and exciting day at work, and when I arrived home around 8:15 PM, I was ready to rest and relax for a moment. As I sat down after helping get the kids to bed, my phone rang. I ran to our bedroom so I wouldn’t disturb the kids, and on the other end of the line was my surgeon. I’ll never forget the hope in her voice, almost an excitement in her voice, as she said “It’s Classical Hodgkin’s!” All I heard in that moment was, “I have cancer.” And as she rattled off statistics about the cure rate being 70% or higher, my heart and soul sank deeper than they had ever been.

I want to pause here because this moment in my life feels big — intense, an inflection point in the most meaningful of ways. As I pressed the “end” button after that phone call, I was encapsulated by darkness and doubt. I’m certain my wife could see it and feel it based on the look in her eyes. I have often been told that I have an amazing ability to affect the energy of a room, usually in a positive way, but in this case, in the darkest of ways. There were no words — just the embrace of a scared couple. That embrace was one of the most intimate moments of my life. I don’t think it was possible to be any closer, physically or mentally, to one human being. I think this was the first time I let tears out in front of Abby since the tears I shed as I saw her for the first time in her wedding dress — quite the paradox of moments — equally powerfully, but on opposite ends of the spectrum.

I have experienced darkness in life on a few occasions, but none that couldn’t be solved quickly with a smile, confidence, and prayer. This darkness seemed deeper, but as God usually has a knack of doing, it was pretty evident that through this darkness, a faint light began to shine.

**More to come. We would love continued prayers for health, energy and a lifted spirit for Bryan and continued health for our family as we enter cold and flu season (we really want to keep Bryan from getting sick!). Side note: our kids have been sick ONE time this entire last five months which is nothing short of God’s hand in our lives and protecting Bryan. He is SO faithful. Bryan has TWO treatments left and we are so happy that the end is near! Thank you for praying!

Necklaces!

Necklaces!

Alright, guys. I have been sitting on this “idea” for a while, but not anymore. It’s time to give this a go!

I have been making Madalyn bubblegum necklaces for several months, and I have really enjoyed the process and resulting pieces. (Below are a few of the necklaces I have already made.)

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And, of course, I have to post a picture of my cutest model wearing one of her favorite ones:

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I have thought many times that I should try making some necklaces, and selling them. Seemed like a logical idea to me!  But, there was something missing from that equation for me. Yes, I really enjoy making the necklaces. Yes, I love picking out the beads and styling them into the necklace. And yes, I think we can all agree, it would be nice to be able to earn something from selling these necklaces to family and friends. The part that was missing for me, is that I wanted to help someone in the process. I don’t just want a ‘business’ that benefits me. I really want to help someone else that needs it.

I am so beyond blessed. Even while Bryan has been going through this trying time, I feel so blessed, and I am so thankful that I have all of my needs more than met. There are people everywhere that need help, but when I attended the Influence Conference last month, God pulled at my heart and seemed to point me in the direction of the charity that the Conference was highlighting: Shama Women.

“Shama Women helps women living marginalized lives in South Asia find their identity and purpose through vocational and spiritual training. We work to equip, encourage and engage women both in South Asia and The United States with the desire to see lives of all involved radically changed. Shama Women is a cooperative effort of a well established church and charity registered in South Asia that has operated a vocational and theological training school which has trained more than 400 women over the past 10 years and The Cross Connecting Network, a USA based non-profit organization.”

We watched a video at the Conference of a woman sharing her experience in this country–I was speechless after watching it. The women in this country do not have freedom. They do not have opportunities like we do. They can’t drive cars, or go to the grocery store alone. Can you imagine living this kind of life? Their very lives are at risk each moment. What’s amazing is that Shama Women is helping these women learn sewing and cosmetology skills so that they are employed, and can earn a living from something other than prostitution or being forced to marry a man of a faith that they do not agree with. These women are able to hear about Jesus, and what He has done for them, and their lives can be completely changed. I can not fathom what life like this would be like, but I do know that I can help.

So, here’s the deal. I have made some necklaces, and I am going to list them for sale on my personal Facebook page, for the moment. Here are a few of the ones that are available:

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As things progress, I will determine the best method of selling these–so for the time being, if you are not connected to my personal Facebook page, you can email me at: simplybeingabby@gmail.com. A portion of the proceeds from every necklace I sell, will be donated to Shama Women.

My hands are ‘free’ and I can use them to help these women who do not have the same freedom. I can help give them the opportunity to hear about a God who loves them, knows them by name, and wants to welcome them into His arms just as I run into those same arms so frequently myself.

Quick Necklace FAQ’s:

*What age are the intended ages for these necklaces? These will fit baby through about grade school age. There is an extender on each necklace, so the length can be easily adjusted. (Note: Beads are a choking hazard, and like all other jewelry, necklaces may break if mistreated. Do not leave young children unattended wearing the necklaces.)

*Can the necklaces be shipped? I would be happy to ship the necklaces; buyer will pay the cost of shipping. Payment will be accepted via Paypal. Local friends, we can figure out a way for you to pickup your necklaces.

*I love the idea of creating custom necklaces — the options are really endless! Think birthday parties, Christmas, favorite Disney princesses, etc.

Feel free to email me with any other questions or inquiries!

xo,

Abby

Bryan’s Journey: Part Seven

Bryan’s Journey: Part Seven

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17

Bryan has three treatments left! Praise the Lord — seriously! The thought of only a remaining 1/4 of treatments left, is very exciting.

We were able to participate in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk, and it was an inspirational and emotional experience. Bryan did not attend the walk, given the amount of people who would be there, as well as his lower energy level, but I can tell you that he felt extremely loved and supported by the people who walked alongside us, as well as those that had donated to the cause. This walk will be one that we continue to participate in, and next year Bryan will be there walking with us!

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So awesome to see lanterns lit everywhere. I was brought to tears to see everyone supporting Bryan, and as the words played to “Fight Song”, I just couldn’t handle it. Bryan has been such a strong fighter, and even more so, God has been fighting on his behalf, and I am so, so thankful. The weather was perfect, and our team raised over $1,000 to support blood cancer research, which is what it is all about. Thank you to those that were a part of this night!

Bryan is still tolerating treatments well, but is more fatigued after each one. It takes him a little longer each time to recuperate, which is what we expected would happen at this point. He is otherwise staying healthy, which is a huge blessing in itself!

We would love continued prayers for Bryan, that he wouldn’t be nauseous, that he would have energy to continue working and doing things he loves, and that he would continue to stay healthy and avoid any cold and flu germs. Actually, prayers that our whole family would stay healthy, would be wonderful as it seems that if one of us gets sick, we all do. If you think of it, continue to encourage Bryan as well — cards and phone calls and texts have really meant a lot to him, and while we know the chemo is working (the biggest answer to prayer!), treatments are tough, and it is hard for him to not feel like himself. Thank you to everyone who continues to ask what they can do to help — to our neighbors who faithfully mow our lawn, to our friends who send us encouraging Scripture verses and texts, to our family who helps with our kids and brings us food, and to those who are faithful in praying. We appreciate you!

xo,

Abby

 

Looking for more?

Bryan’s Journey: Part One

Bryan’s Journey: Part Two

Bryan’s Journey: Part Six

The Influence Conference: Recap

The Influence Conference: Recap

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Let’s rewind to September of 2014. I was sitting at home with my four-month old baby, and my Instagram feed was flooded with pictures from the Influence Conference. And I so so SO wanted to be there! So much so, that I bought my ticket as early as I could for the coming years’ conference…and the countdown began. I am by definition an introvert, and so I wanted to find a friend who would be willing and able and excited to join me at the three-day conference this year. Luckily, I have a sweet, brave friend (Angela!) who was willing to go on a trip with me!

As the months turned to weeks and then to days, my excitement grew and grew. Not only was I going to have a chance to not be a “mom” for a few days, but I was going to have the opportunity to meet some of the bloggers and business owners I have always admired from a distance. I was going to be able to hear so many good speakers and participate in wonderful worship. This conference definitely did not disappoint!

I could quite literally write a novel about everything I learned over the course of last weekend. I was filled up with so much knowledge and wisdom and encouragement just from listening to the speakers. I was able to relax and re-charge as I spent time with like-minded women all striving to follow God’s calling on their lives. I was able to eat dinner without feeding my kids first (can I get an Amen!?), and just sit and have some great conversations.

There are two things, in particular, that I learned last weekend, that I want to share with you:

  1. I have influence right where I am. I don’t need to be the most followed blogger or the most successful business woman for God to use me right where I am. Maybe it’s my influence at home that is most important right now! I don’t need a huge audience. God has put me where I am for a purpose — a purpose that only I can fulfill. And I am going to stop comparing myself to everyone else! (Or should I say I am going to “try”?! Our world and social media make comparison so extremely easy!)
  2. My kids are not a distraction. They are my “tribe”, my little “disciples”.  I need to bring them alongside with me, as I live my life. As Lisa-Jo Baker said, “When you follow Jesus, your kids will grow up and know what that looks like. If you don’t teach them Who to follow, they will quickly follow someone, or something else.” I am a really goal-oriented person, and I often struggle being a stay-at-home mom, because I feel like my goals are sometimes put on hold. But what an important job I have right now — I am not putting my life on hold. I am bringing my kids along with me, so they know firsthand what it means to follow Christ. That is a job description that I can not take lightly!

Jess Connolly gave an amazing talk about how to demolish pretenses and strongholds in your life: “Our defeated pretenses become our ministry.” Hayley Morgan spoke about having an undivided heart: “God can sustain you. We need to clear things out so we can hear better!” Erin Loechner talked about how to “lean back” and recognize when you are struggling and how to deal with that: “We’ve been so busy painting portraits of perfection, whether online or off, that we don’t want to smudge our masterpiece of self-reliance.” Rachael Kincaid spoke about grace: “He is the key to an unlocked life. Grace and forgiveness are not unattainable things. Grace compels us to make a difference!”

I am still processing and reflecting on all that I saw and heard — it was a lot, but it was all so, so good. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to go the Conference, and I am thankful for all that I learned. (And, I have a HUGE list of books on my reading list!)

I have been a member of the Influence Network for about a year, and the value of the classes alone is definitely worth the membership! So, if you have been pondering joining, ponder no more — just do it. I promise you will not regret spending the $10 a month! On top of the benefit of one free class a month, you also have access to the Network forums, the opportunity to join a community group, and monthly member downloads, podcasts, etc. It is a really such a great community of women! You do not need to be a blogger, or business owner, or author. You just need to be you and know that you have influence right where you are!

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Ali Wren & Angela & Me

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Jess Connolly & Me

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Hayley Morgan & Me

Before I end, I just have to say thank you again for your continued prayers for Bryan. He has his 8th chemo treatment this coming week, so he will have four left after this one is finished. This has been a long, and tiring road for Bryan and while we are thankful that the cancer is gone, I know Bryan could continue to use your prayers as he finishes up treatments. They are exhausting, both mentally and physically. He could use continued prayer for strength, energy and that he stays healthy, in general as we approach cold and flu season. I am thankful that I don’t have a lot of updates to share and that the end is almost in sight — God is good!

xo,

Abby

Football Cupcakes

Football Cupcakes

I really miss blogging, so this is my attempt to come back for a bit and blog about something light-hearted…and since football season is upon us, so I wanted to share a quick and easy treat idea for the games!

**Before I move on with this post, I just want to say thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers as we continue to go through everything going on with Bryan. It seems we have sort of fallen into a little bit of a routine. Treatments are bi-weekly, and while the treatments themselves have become somewhat miserable at times for Bryan, we are so thankful that we can count down now. He has six treatments left, and so as of now, he will be finished the week of Thanksgiving — talk about a huge blessing to give thanks for this year! We still miss our normal social lives, and being careful around being around crowds has been a bummer as we have had to miss things we would have loved to attend. But, it’s a season of our lives right now, and the hope that life will resume as normal as can be after this is a huge encouragement. Your continued prayers especially on the days of his treatments and the few days following where he feels the worst, would definitely be appreciated! God has given us a wonderful community around us and we feel very loved. If Bryan could hug each one of you, I know he would!**

Bryan and I had a Fantasy Football draft over the weekend, and I wanted to make something football-ish for dessert. I scoured Pinterest for ideas, but nothing really struck me. So, I decided to give this easy treat a try!

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The frosting took a little bit of time, but less than I was anticipating, so I am still calling these easy. 🙂

What You Need:

  • Football Party Picks: Amazon (You can reuse these too!)
  • Frosting: I will post the recipe I used below, but you could use any frosting you like!
  • Green and Blue Food Coloring
  • Chocolate Cupcake Mix
  • Cupcake Liners
  • #233 Decorating Tip: Amazon
  • Decorating Bags & Coupler: I bought these at a local baking store a while ago, but you could buy on Amazon too.

Directions:

  1. Bake the cupcakes according to the box directions.
  2. Mix the frosting (recipe below) and color it green. Tip: Use both green and blue food coloring if you want a dark green. Mine didn’t turn out quite as dark as I wanted to, but that’s because I found the idea to use blue after I had already used too much green.
  3. After the cupcakes have cooled, use the #233 tip to make “grass”. Set up your decorating bag & coupler with the decorating tip. The best way to do this is to go on a straight angle and pull up quickly to make the “grass” effect. You can practice on one first to make sure you like how it looks…plus, then you have one to sample yourself. 😉
  4. Put in the football picks!
  5. Refrigerate. I refrigerated mine because the frosting I used was buttercream and it was starting to melt a little as I decorated. This would be optional depending on the type of frosting you decide to use!

Buttercream Frosting

8            tablespoons butter, softened

3            cups powdered sugar

3-4        tablespoons milk (divided)

1            teaspoon vanilla

Blend butter on low speed until fluffy for 30 seconds; add sugar, 3 tablespoons milk and vanilla; blend on low speed for one minute until sugar is incorporated. Increase speed to medium and beat about one minute until light and fluffy; add up to 1 tablespoon more milk if frosting seems too stiff.

I hope you enjoy this quick and easy idea to add a fun football treat to game days! We are happy it is almost fall and football season around here!

xo,

Abby

 

Looking for more?

Bryan’s Journey: Part One

Candy Cookies

DIY: Hair Bows

Bryan’s Journey: Part Six

Bryan’s Journey: Part Six

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(Photo Credit: Bryan took this picture last night — pretty great timing!)

I can not believe we are already at “part six” of this journey! I am just beyond excited to be able to share with you that Bryan’s PET scan came back completely NEGATIVE!!! There were NO signs of lymphoma! You guys — I can’t even type that without sobbing. I know that as Christians we say this all the time, but God is SO good. So, so, so good. And there isn’t even any other way to put it!

“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress. He sent forth is word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men.” Psalm 107:19-21

Throughout all of this, God continues to show me over and over again His goodness, His power, and His presence. I hate that it took something like going through this to strengthen my faith, but I know that is how He works sometimes!

Bryan’s treatment plan will continue on as planned — he will finish out his remaining eight chemotherapy treatments. *sigh* We would love continued prayer that he stays healthy, has minimal side effects and that he is able to finish up these last few months as quickly as possible! Please also pray that the kids continue to stay healthy, and that I am able to be whatever Bryan needs for me to be as we tackle these next treatments. Chemo is still really not fun, so we would appreciate continued prayers. We know God will continue to walk with him through the rest of this, but in the meantime, we are going to be jumping up and down and praising Him with all that we have!

Thank you for your love and prayers — we are so grateful!