I sit down to write and, again, wonder why it has taken me so long. Some days it’s because I feel like there’s nothing to say, other days it seems like there’s too much to say and it overwhelms me, and then other days I just forget. But, there’s not a single day that goes by that I’m not thankful for those of you that check here for updates, text to check in when I haven’t posted, or get the emails so you can participate and pray. Every time someone asks me about how I’m doing, my typical response is twofold: (1) our God’s got us and (2) our friends are amazing. And that “friends are amazing” bucket is much broader than the kindness of those who meet the physical needs of bringing meals, mowing our yard, doing our laundry, writing notes, coming to visit, or babysitting Lincadinc. It means more than you could know that people just care, read, and pray. So, again, we thank you. From the bottom of our PINK HEARTS. You provide a lot of rest for us when we are weary.
As for updates, I have a few items in a wide range of possibly-interesting to possibly-boring but here’s what’s on my mind this Saturday:
1. We had a much-needed reprieve from doctor’s appointments this past week. Didn’t have a single visit to Baylor or fill out a single form or undress and change into a hospital gown or weigh or give blood or say, “Jennifer Clouse, spelled with a C, checking in for my appointment with Dr. Of The Day.” And life almost seemed normal. Except for maybe the bald head, only having 3 eyelashes left (not an exaggeration – there are 2 on lower left side and one on lower right!), a staph infection that has finally lightened up on my lip but now moved down to my big toe, an unexpected throw up in the parking lot of Starbucks, and a “someone please come help me day” where Gigi, Scott, and my mom came to the rescue and I slept almost all day. I’m thankful for medicine and friends who provide rest for the weary when needed.
2. However, as great as it is for me to have the help with Linc, we can tell that the constant revolving door of friends and family has taken its toll on our little man. During the week before last, he had 6 different babysitters in 7 days. And as it happened, most of those were folks who hadn’t kept him before. So, no matter how great I know my friends are, it’s just a lot of change for the little guy. Last night, when Gigi came by our house, he started crying. She sweetly and immediately picked up on his fear and responded by saying, “it’s ok little man, you’re staying here and so are your parents …” And he knows her very well. But it’s not as life should be when you have a new person in your world and house almost every day for a week. We’d love your prayers for his stability and security. He needed a rest from doctor’s appointments too.
3. Instead of appointments, it was great to have more time with Linc and friends this week. Lots of pools and water were involved to try to survive the heat. [On the topic of heat, I’ll admit that I’m seeing more perks of being bald as the temperatures rise. I can take multiple showers a day without the hassle of hair. It’s pretty fabulous. And you get in and out of the pool and are completely dry in minutes. Also fabulous. Now back to fun with friends … ] In addition to our regular playmates, we got to see Juan and Angel, Gigi’s former foster boys, this week and their 3 brothers (they also have a baby sister). With so many kids it takes 2 cars so Gigi and I went to pick them up together and took them to Travis’ 4th birthday party on Monday. And they got to come back on Thursday for more pool and play time. We had a little baseball in the front yard and Scott gave a golf lesson in the backyard. I love and miss them so stinkin’ much I can’t stand it. I was thankful to have more flexibility this week to help Gigi with the boys instead of needing the help myself. Angel (second from the right in front of Gigi) is most keenly attune to what’s happening with me. Every time he seems me, he asks if I still have “that thing” (and touches my port) and then this time he was so intrigued with my hair and wanted to touch my head (and after he asked they all wanted to feel it so I’m sure we were quite a sight of 2 white girls with 5 hispanic boys rubbing my head in Walmart). Then, when he went to the bathroom at my house, he came out and announced to me and all of his brothers that “I saw Lulu’s hair in the bathroom. Wanna see?” Lots of cuteness.
4. We also finished swim lessons for Lincoln this week. I use the term “swim lessons” loosely since one of the major objectives was to blow bubbles in the water and Scott thinks he regressed during the 2 weeks. Scott also almost drowned him by dragging him under water unknowingly as he walked to the edge of the pool for his glasses. Note to Scott: the football carry doesn’t work well if there’s water up to your waistline. Linc didn’t seem to mind or even cry. But, besides all that, it was good for us to be together as a family and fun to join the Dawkins family at our neighborhood pool every afternoon for last 2 weeks of lessons. Walking home from lessons one day (the park is at the end of our street and about 5 houses down), I commented to Jenn that it wasn’t such a good look for a 40 year old to push the jogger and cruise home in just her swimsuit just because I didn’t want to put my coverup over my wet suit. And she reminded me that the swimsuit may be the least of my concerns because baby, bathing suit and bald head are really quite a sight. Why was I worried about the bathing suit when more folks are staring at my head?! Maybe not a bad strategy as a diversion from the rest of my partially clad body? We decided that maybe I should have worn really sporty suits to swim lessons and acted real intense about Linc’s development and maybe they’d think I’m a competitive swimmer her shaves her head instead of a cancer patient?!
5. Speaking of bodies, we’ve made a decision about surgery. It’s been a good, sanctifying process for me and I’m thankful for many of you who have prayed for us. As we met with doctors and were given the option of a lumpectomy or mastectomy but were told that I’m an excellent candidate for lumpectomy because my tumor is on the ‘outer right quadrant’ which is a great location for the possibility of minimal deformity and it appears to be shrinking from the chemotherapy. So, as we talked to other physicians, there were a couple of recurring questions/conversations that helped drive our decision. The first issue is related to fear. One doctor summarized it by saying “if you’re gonna lay awake every night worried about whether or not it’s come back, maybe it’s best to have a mastectomy.” Thankfully, that’s not us. And, secondly, do I have the BRCA gene that would increase my likelihood of recurrence? Nope. Thanks again, Lord. And, lastly, statistics about recurrence and survival. The lumpectomy (when radiated) has the same survival rates as a mastectomy. And, though I would have loved to avoided the radiation component because it’s every day of the week for 6 1/2 weeks (ugh!), the lymph node involvement won’t give me that choice. So, as another surgeon put it, “it’s a decision about how long you want all of this to continue, you might just be ready to be done and head to the beach.” Scott was nodding adamantly at that point. So, at the end of the day, for us, the only reason for the mastectomy (and much more extensive surgeries and recoveries over the next few months) would be the “boob job and tummy tuck perk.” And, I’ll admit, it was quite tempting. And, if I’d had any good medical or emotional reason for the mastectomy, I wouldn’t have had any qualms about the benefits of reconstruction. But, for me, at the end of the day, the mastectomy decision would be entirely vanity and body image driven. And, for a girl that has battled against both for most of my adult life, it just didn’t seem wise to go down that path. If the doctors are wrong about the size of the tumor and how much they need to remove or if there’s significant deformity due to radiation (which is known side effect for some women), we will re-evaluate. But we felt like it was a lot of surgery requiring lots of recovery and lots of support from others and lots of time away from Linc … primarily for vanity reasons instead of a known medical need at this point. Though I have admittedly liked the upside potential, the Lord has graciously affirmed my decision in my heart. I feel like He’s reminded me of verses like “all things are permissible but not all things are beneficial” (1 Corinthians 10:23) and “charm is deceitful and beauty is vain …” (Proverbs 31:30). And, given my struggles with body image and years of slavery to food, exercise, and what I saw in the mirror, I’ve learned how easily enslaved I am by the pursuit of perfection and, instead, want to learn contentment with the body God gave me instead of using cancer as my excuse for plastic surgery. Scott agrees wholeheartedly and has been a great sounding board and truth-teller. He’s been a ‘less is more’ proponent from the beginning and hasn’t thought it wise to elect for more surgery than necessary at this time. He also felt like plastic surgery could be a slippery slope for me (in my thoughts even if not actively pursued) and thought we should be hopeful for good results with the lumpectomy rather than assuming worst and pursuing mastectomy prematurely. Then, as we wrapped up our conversation, I said, “I think we are making the right decision for my heart but I’m just a little sad about giving up the bons of perkier boobs and a flat tummy.” His response: “I get that. But isn’t that what bras and exercise are for?” Deep and compassionate thoughts from the husband of the breast cancer patient?! Like I said, he’s a truth teller. And I’m thankful. He’s been great to keep me grounded and my priorities and motivations in check. I’m glad our decision is made. More rest for the weary mind.
6. I’ve cried twice recently because of total strangers. Sometimes, people’s kindness to me is just overwhelming. And the tears aren’t because I’m sad but because of the tenderness in other folks and how God reveals His kindness through them. One was my checkout lady at Target and the other was a fellow bald man at Einstein’s. All the man said was, “you know, when I was a Marine, we always said ‘bald is beautiful’ … and I really think that’s true on you.” I was sweaty in running clothes so I don’t think it was really about the physical aspects of beauty but I’m continually reminded that folks are drawn to weakness and want to “encourage the fainthearted, support the weak and be patient with them all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). His words were gentle and kind and just felt like his way of giving me a big hug. As I’ve written before, baldness begets kindness – and it refreshes the weary. At the same time, the stranger that pulled up to my house and said “morning, sir” as I watered flowers today could have caused me to cry for other reasons! However, it made me laugh. Being mistaken for man was a first. Thankfully. And I don’t know what got into me but I just smiled and said, “ma’am, actually.”
So, that’s enough to wrap up some highs and lows from the last week or so. I’ll let you decide if it was more boring or interesting. As I said at the beginning, it had potential for both.
Thanks to y’all for “not growing weary in doing good.” Your kindness, prayers, love, and service to our family revives our souls, refreshes our hearts, and gives rest to the weary.