Bilateral Pro-phy-WHAT?

 

Sometimes when unexpected news comes, it is shock that follows.

I experienced the feeling of shock at the age of seven, sitting on a couch in the formal living room in my childhood home when my mom told me she was sick.

I experienced the feeling of shock when I lost my mother to breast cancer at age fourteen.

I experienced shock when I sat in a genetic counselor’s office a few months ago and heard the words bilateral prophylactic mastectomy.

Bilateral Pro—phy—WHAT? 

Currently I am thirty-five, a pastor’s wife, and a mom to four kids under the age of ten. I am healthy. I just had my yearly physical and I had a clear reading on my latest mammogram.

When I was given the medical recommendation to have a preventative double mastectomy, it felt a whole lot like being thrown into a cold pool for a polar plunge. In many ways I felt like my head was below water and my extremities were paralyzed, unable to tred (breaststroke? not sure if that’s funny) in the waters where I had just been thrown.

Bilateral Pro—phy—WHY?

God has been preparing me for such a time as this. He has been writing a redemptive story for me in all of this, even from the time of my first feeling of shock at the age of seven.

Once I began to recognize the redemptive story God was writing for me, I was able to begin to tred water and think about the larger picture of bilateral pro—phy—why.

Why have all my breast tissue removed? Well, the PALB2 gene mutation increases my risk to 60%. One of my doctors said, “Rach, this is not a matter of if you get cancer, this is a matter of when.”

I have learned my mother’s cancer was unresponsive to treatment. And I have learned that the PALB2 gene is twice as likely to develop into the kind of breast cancer that does not respond to treatment. So this means this is not a matter of if I get cancer, this is a matter of when I will get deadly breast cancer.

A bilateral prophylactic double mastectomy reduces my risk of breast cancer from 60% to almost 0%. For me this means I am freed from the fear and anxiety I experience with each preventative scan.

Why am I choosing to have my breast tissue removed? I want to be healthy for my family.

Bilateral Pro—phy—HOW?

As far as I understand this, the bilateral prophylactic mastectomy will consist of two parts: the breast tissue removal done by a breast surgeon and the reconstruction done by the plastic surgeon. Step one: all my breast tissue will be removed and checked for any signs of breast cancer. Step two: in the same surgery a plastic surgeon will then begin reconstruction.

Reconstruction can be done in two ways: DIEP Flap where natural tissue is taken from another part of your body and moved to your breasts or implants. The DIEP Flap procedure is one surgery and a longer one time recovery. The implant reconstruction process is a shorter two part surgery and a shorter recovery.

After much consideration, at this time I believe the best option for me is to go the implant route. I have had four c-sections and I am not sure I can handle recovering from an abdominal incision at the same time as recovering from mastectomy incisions.

Bilateral Pro—phy—WHEN?

My surgery is scheduled for November 5th. I would appreciate your prayers as I adjust to this new normal over the next few months.

A bilateral prophylactic mastectomy may be a hard thing, but it is the right thing for me. I believe God renews us in the hard things . . . I believe He is good in the hard things . . . I believe He will be my help and my strength in this bilateral pro—phy—WHAT hard thing.

Back to School Dinner Organization Plan

This year I am working a tad more, I have four kids in school, two children on a soccer team, one child playing fall baseball, and one child in ballet. My husband is a busy pastor which sometimes gives us an unpredictable schedule.

When it comes to dinner time I need to be prepared or else I will up like the Michelin Man from eating too many delivery pizzas. Really. I love delivery pizza. My meal planning saves me from too much melted cheese and crust dunked in butter sauce.

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For the fall, I am working with this organizational plan for my family dinners.

My personal breakfasts will be protein shakes or eggs (my husband is sweet to make eggs for me in the morning) and my lunches will be spinach salads with a small amount of grilled chicken.

The Dinner Plan:

Sunday/Mondays: After church style meals with enough leftovers for Monday nights. We will have ballet on Monday nights in the fall right around our normal dinner time at 6o’clock on the dot so leftovers will be helpful.

I will rotate between:

Prime Rib or Pot Roast

Pork Tenderloin

Ham

Fried Chicken with all the fixings for my Kentucky husband

Meatloaf

Beef Tortellini Soup

You all… this gives me a six week rotation for Sunday and Monday dinners. 

Tuesday/Wednesday: Taco Nights and Leftovers

Every Tuesday I will toss enough taco meal meat into the slow cooker to have enough to eat on Wednesday night. We have soccer on Tuesdays and Wednesday nights are free so I will be looking forward to a hump day leftover night break. I will rotate between:

Chicken Tacos and Chicken Quesadilla Leftovers

Beef Tacos and Layered Taco Bake Leftovers

Pork Carnitas and Rice Bowl Leftovers

Ranch Chicken Chili and Leftovers

This gives me a monthly taco night and leftover rotation for four weeks. 

Thursday/Friday: Our Thursday and Friday nights will be a mixture of grilling nights and oven baked nights. I know we will have soccer and baseball on Thursday nights so I will need to get whatever we have cooking by 430pm. On the agenda for the fall:

Red Pepper, Garlic, and Lemony Chicken

Wicked Good Salmon

Ranch Flavored Salmon

Garlic Grilled Ribeyes

Smoked Tomato Mozzarella Ribeyes

Korean Style Ribs

Memphis Style Ribs

Adobo Chicken Thighs

Honey Balsamic Chicken

Citrus Balsamic and Basil Chicken

Chicken Scampi with Pasta with Leftovers Friday

Baked Ziti with Meat Sauce with Leftovers Friday

Apple and Bourbon Chicken Sausages (kids will probably eat hot dogs).

Saturday Nights: For the fall, we will have baseball games so I am going to try Sandwich Night and rotate through the following:

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Cheeseburgers

Grilled Chicken Sandwiches

Taziki Style Chicken in a Pita Pocket

Sloppy Joes

And this is the plan that will save me and my waistline from too much melted cheese and pizza crusts dunked in butter sauce.

Having a meals in your freezer is not about having a complete meal that is all ready to go. Meal planning is simply having an organized plan to save money and hopefully eat less melted cheese.

Wishing you the best this back to school season,

Rachel

What is Beautiful?

My four year old daughter thundered down the staircase and threw our large plastic paddle brush into the dining room. “I will never be beautiful,” she said.

“I can NEVER brush through these tangles in my hair.”

Her ringlet curls do make it difficult to brush through her hair and every day brushing is a battle. For a four year old, it must feel frustrating to try to brush through hair which always seems to be tangled.

Gently, I picked up my daughter, the brush, and dug down deep for Jesus and His compassion and empathy. I told her we simply needed to wash her hair and start all over again. As I washed her hair in sink, I talked to her about how beauty is not what is seen on the outside; I told my daughter that beauty comes from within.

What is Beautiful?

This is a question I have been struggling with in my own heart lately. As a girl who loves a cute dress, a fresh highlight, and has been able to give a good first impression with my outward appearance in seasons in my life, the news of the recommendation for a double mastectomy and reconstruction at the age of thirty-five has left me thundering down the stairs and throwing things into the dining room.

Emotionally my heart feels like hard-to-brush-through-tangled-up hair. This coarse feeling I have on the inside about beauty has caused me to take a closer look at how beauty impacts my personal story, what is the current cultural definition of beauty, and what is God’s definition of beauty from His Word. I have needed to go to God’s Word and wash out the untruth I have tangled-up in my heart with the gospel.

My Story of Beauty

As a woman who cares about what others think of me, I have found myself tangled-up in caring a lot about what I wear and how I look. In my story I have gotten attention for what I look like, compliments on my clothing, and affirmation about my outward appearance. This is a piece of my story I still wrestle with. Even after losing much of my youthful beauty after having four children in four years, the distorted desire to impress others with my outward appearance is a deeply woven thread in my story.

“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).”

Culture’s Story of Beauty

Our culture values beauty. Our culture sees beauty first. It is natural for our hearts to be attracted to beauty because God made things beautiful, but sin distorts our attraction to beauty. When our hearts desire being beautiful or seeking beauty more than our hearts desire the Maker of beauty we find ourselves living in a culture with an upside-down order.

This upside-down order leads to a never enough cycle of thirsty living. We feel never enough because beauty in itself can never satisfy, there is never contentment or peace in upside-down order. We find ourselves thirsty at a well that can never satisfy the longing we have inwardly. Inwardly we are made for right-side up order, to love God first and recognize all the things that are beautiful come from Him.

“ ‘My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water’ (Jeremiah 2:13).”

When I observe the world around me I see many of us women always working so hard to be beautiful. Outward beauty is highly valued in our culture. I am one of these women too. This upside-down order of seeing beauty before we see the Maker of beauty leaves us as women living with a distorted lens for what is actually beautiful.

The Gospel’s Story of Beauty

I have cried many tears over the past few weeks and I confess this has to do with the fact that my heart is tangled-up in a distorted definition of what is beautiful. I quite possibly love my current body and the way my current dresses fit more than I thought I did. Changing my body brings the weight of grief and sadness.

I have needed to take these coarse tangles in my heart to the sink of God’s Word, wash my heart with them, and start all over again; in the same way I washed my daughter’s hair in the sink and reminded her that beauty is not what is seen on the outside, beauty comes from within.

As a woman who professes faith in the gospel, the good news of Christ’s work on the cross, I have to unravel the untruths I have tangled-up in my heart about beauty. These untruths come from my personal story and the way I have observed the culture around me. Next, I need to be transformed by the renewal of God’s Word and the Spirit which transforms from the inside out. Finally, I need to walk in these truths with obedience to truth, the support and accountability of God’s community and their encouragement and love during this time.

God is using this chapter in my story to remind me that He is making me new (Rev 21:5), my body is a living sacrifice for His glory (Romans 12:1, Col 1:27), and yes outwardly I am wasting away, but inwardly I am being renewed day by day (2 Cor 4:16).

Before the foundation of the world God has been preparing me for this chapter in my story (Eph 1, Ps 139:16) and He has chosen this time in my life because I have wrestled with many of the coarsely woven tangled-up places in my heart. I have gone to the sink and started over. Over and over again, and I am surrounded by many people who know me, love me, will pray for me, and will remind me of God’s promises when I cannot remember them for myself.

What is Beautiful? 

Jesus is beautiful. He sacrificed Himself so many could have eternal life through their trust in Him and His work on the cross.

When I think with the lens of this gospel picture, a few scars and changes in my body feel insignificant compared to Christ’s sacrifice. I have a life giving opportunity though wounds and scars to live a longer life with my family and protect my children from the hard childhood story that still impacts my life today.

Trusting in God’s promises is beautiful. God has been writing this story for me since before the beginning of time. He has gone before me and He is holding me. I simply need to trust in Him. The path may not be easy, but God promises that when we are weak, Christ’s power is perfectly displayed (2 Cor 12:9). I am a broken person and I feel weak. But it is Christ’s power that will sustain me.

God’s people are beautiful. Though it has been hard to walk through this publicly, it has been God’s people who have walked me to the sink of God’s Word and helped me unravel the coarse places I have tangled-up in my heart. It has been God’s people who have encouraged me and reminded me of His love and His promises during this time. I am so grateful for the beauty of His church.

I am beautiful. Not because of how I look on the outside, but because of God working in and through me on the inside. Behold, He is making all things new (Rev 21:5).

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

 

How To Respond To Teacher Welcome Letters

As a mom who was once a classroom teacher, I have been on a journey of learning how to come alongside the four public school teachers who love on my four children all year long.

I purchase everything on the school supply lists as well as the extras on the wish lists, but there is an extra thing I do that I wanted to share with all of you; as a former teacher and a sub who recently served in a two-and-a-half week long-term placement in kindergarten… teaching is hard… and teachers need reminders of parental love and support all year long. Teachers need to feel love and support not just in August and September, but in January, February, and March as well.

new heritage

When I receive the welcome letters upon my child’s placement, I usually respond with a note that I am willing to help in anyway I possibly can. I can cut lamination from my couch while watching television, make copies, change bulletin boards, coordinate parties, and even pray for my children’s teachers throughout the year.

I also respond with this list I have developed, revised, and revised again throughout my five years of being a parent with school-aged children:

What are your favorite things?
Birthday:
Birthday cake flavor:
Favorite flower:
Favorite candy:
Favorite gum/mints:
Favorite hand lotion:
Favorite homemade dessert:
Favorite drink (all):
Favorite lunch place (and even order):
Favorite dinner place:
Favorite sports teams:
Favorite date night spots:
Favorite places to take your kids:
Favorite color: 
Favorite drink from Starbucks:
Favorite kinds of teacher pens:
Other favorite teacher things:
Favorite scent at Bath and Body:
Favorite Yankee Candle scent:
Monogram:
Coffee Mugs or Water Bottles:

 

This list personally equips me, as a parent, to care for my classroom teachers throughout the school year. If I am at Starbucks on my way to school before my volunteer slot, I try to remember to bring something in for my classroom teacher as well.

If I am stopping in to help make copies and I know my classroom teacher loves Diet Coke, I drive thru McDonalds before I go to the school.

When my family and I show up at Meet the Teacher, we always try to bring something off of the teacher’s favorite things list.

Then I share this list with others.

As a public school family, we are just a small piece of the larger classroom community. It takes the whole classroom community to love and support a teacher. Sometime in September, I take the above list once it is filled out by the classroom teacher, and I share it with the whole class along with a Sign Up Genius link for families to sign up to bring in a small treat for our classroom teacher every other Friday. This is a small way we can show our encouragement, love, and support for our classroom teachers who love and support our children every single day.

When it comes time for Christmas gifts and End of the Year gifts, the above Favorite Things List comes in handy too!

My hope is this Favorite Things List will equip you to love your teachers all year long and not just during back to school time. Teachers need our love and support all year long. They support our children all year long and this is a small way we can show our continuous appreciation.

What Would Mom Say?

A few days ago I went to a genetic counselor to update my preventative care plan for my PALB2 gene mutation. A PALB2 gene mutation is the third most high risk gene mutation for breast cancer, directly after the BRAC1 and BRAC2.

I was expecting to hear that I needed to keep up with my current plan: six month rotation between 3D breast mammograms and breast MRIs, but instead, my genetic counselor recommended a double mastectomy and a referral to a breast surgeon.

This recommendation comes from new research since the time I had my gene testing three years ago, as well as my family history and my mother passing away from breast cancer when I was so young.

I am still spinning from this news and quite scared. I am thirty-five years old and it seems quite drastic to have a preventative double mastectomy.

My husband and I have always agreed that we would do whatever was necessary for me to live the longest and healthiest life possible, but honestly I am struggling with this news. This was not in my big picture plan for this year.

As I have struggled with the news, I have thought about my mother. In 1990, if she would have had access to gene testing and preventative care, I think she would have done all she could. And if she was still living, seeing me mother my four children with this option to prevent myself from the years of chemo, radiation, and sickness she personally went through from the time I was seven until she passed when I was fourteen, I think she would say, “Why wouldn’t you spare yourself from what I went through?”

I am wrestling with what is biblical in my double mastectomy story. This is a pill very difficult to swallow. I trust God and I believe in His promises, but I am still unsure of what faith looks like in this situation. It feels so much more gray than black and white.

If you read this, please pray for Michael and I as we discern what is best for our family. I think Mom would say I should walk though this double mastectomy story for my health, my husband, and my family.

I am a hot mess of tears and emotion. I believe God is good all of the time, and I believe He is writing a good story for me. Thank you for being alongside me on this unexpected journey.