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Worth Mentioning….

Well I couldn’t let May 2019 come and go without mentioning a few things……

May 1, 2019 marked 2 years since my initial cancer diagnosis. Isn’t that crazy? Two whole years? It almost seems impossible!

And I know this is going to sound crazy……but when you have spent a year or more in the fight of your life…..with a calendar full of doctor’s appointments, tests, chemo, radiation and who knows what else…….you grow to be thankful for those days of no appointments. And suddenly, the days turn into weeks and even months. Can I tell you that I was blessed to go from December 18, 2018 to May 7, 2019 without a single doctor’s appointment! Can you believe it??!! That is a total of:

  • 140 days
    • … or 20 weeks 
      • … or 4 months & 19 days

Four months and 19 days away from Duke Cancer Center. What a blessing! I had my diagnostic 3D mammogram done on May 7th. The technician took the first set of film…….sent me out to the waiting room…….called me back for more pictures at my incision site……and sent me back to the waiting room. Eventually they called my name, handed me a sheet of paper with my results on it and said I was free to go……all was well! ūüôā

Here’s the actual note from the radiologist:

The lumpectomy site shows no mammographic evidence of recurrent malignancy. There are no suspicious masses, calcifications, or other findings in either breast. 
Impression 
No mammographic evidence of malignancy. RECOMMENDATION: Mammo Diagnostic in 12 Months is recommended for both breasts. The exam was electronically reviewed by a staff physician. The patient has been or will be contacted. BI-RADS: 2 – Benign

Praise God! I was elated that everything checked out fine! Then, the next week on May 15th, I had my 6 month follow-up with my surgeon. Again – all good news! Halleluiah! And she asked if I would be okay if she put me on a 12 month follow-up plan. Are you kidding me?! Heck yeah, I’m okay with that! God is so good!

Now, the next appointment I have on the calendar is a follow-up with radiation-oncology, but that won’t be until September……so I get yet another break from constant doctor’s appointments. God is good!

This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of hearing two friends share their testimony at a local church. Talk about God-signs and God providing. Their story is quite powerful. If you need some encouraging today – take the time to listen to these testimonies and see just how intricately God handled all the details to have these two lives intersect and how that intersection become a truly life-changing encounter! Here’s the link to the audio file!

http://theresabaptist.org/media/613539-2531467-1880572/message-of-testimony

Today, I had the chance to sit and visit with a friend who was recently diagnosed with cancer. As awful as it is to hear the word cancer, I was blessed to be able to just sit and share the good, the bad and the ugly of a cancer diagnosis…..but as we were sitting down having lunch, I told her that she probably couldn’t see it now……but when she has hear treatment behind and life back to normal…..I assured her that she WILL be able to look back and see how this crazy cancer was much more of a blessing than a curse.

Last night I was talking with my pastor after a meeting at church…..and I told him that if I could design my perfect “job” – it would be one in which I could be a cheerleader and encourager for others going through their own cancer battles. I just think that would be pretty awesome. I was so blessed with people taking me to treatments, sending cards, texts, meals, etc. I just want to pay that forward and do the same for others walking down that scary path. I’m a good listener, a really good talker, an excellent driver, and I’m not such a bad cook……there are many ways that I can pay it forward, and I am going to do that every chance I get.

Today, while visiting with my friend, she shared with me that we were both in the same place a few weeks ago – and it was before she had shared with anyone about her diagnosis. She felt sure I caught her staring at me – but truthfully, I didn’t notice. She told me today that she was looking at me, knowing that I had recently been through a similar fight, and she was encouraged to see me out and about and just living life. She said she told her husband if I could do it, she could too! And she’s exactly right! She has a great attitude and she is going to show cancer a thing or two, I’m quite sure!

When I visit with folks who have recently been diagnosed with cancer, I love that I can offer them a copy of my book as a form of encouragement. I honestly love gifting the books – I feel like that was one of the main reasons God laid it on my heart to publish the book was to share with others and offer encouragement to them.

My book is now available on Amazon in both the traditional print/paperback book and it is also available on Amazon Kindle! https://www.amazon.com/s?k=temporary+lumps&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

http://amazon.com/author/sonjavaughan

Tell all your friends! ūüôā

Hope the rest of your week is fabulous!

Sonja

Luke 1:45 New International Version (NIV)

45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!‚ÄĚ

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How we got here…

This is the post excerpt.

On April 18, 2017 – my life was pretty normal….well, there are those that would argue that I’ve NEVER been normal, but…..anyway, I had an appointment for my yearly OB/GYN visit. ¬†During that visit, I mentioned to my doctor that I had been experiencing some “tenderness” under my left armpit area. ¬†I really thought the underwire in my bra was causing it (probably due to a FEW extra pounds I’d put on) but felt it was worth mentioning. ¬†After several attempts to locate the area of my “tenderness”, the doctor found the culprit, a lump. ¬†My doctor was optimistic it was merely a cyst, due to the feel of it, and the fact that it was tender (everyone will tell you that cancer is not typically painful). ¬†He sent me for a mammogram and ultrasound to determine what it really was. I was able to get an appointment the same day. ¬†Mammogram appeared to show a cyst, while the ultrasound did not appear to show a cyst. ¬†The only way to know for sure was to do a biopsy. ¬†I was scheduled to come back in a week for a biopsy on April 26th, 2017. ¬†During the biopsy, the doctor saw yet ANOTHER mass that had not been apparent on either the mammogram or ultrasound the previous week. ¬†She biopsied BOTH spots. ¬†The next 5 days were truly the LONGEST of my life…..waiting to hear the results from the biopsy. ¬†A phone call from the radiologist on May 1, 2107 confirmed that the biopsy results showed both spots tested positive for CANCER! ¬†Seriously? ¬†How can this be? ¬†How can I feel totally fine and healthy and have cancer? ¬†The pathology showed a Stage 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma – the mass measured 2.4 cm. ¬†I was blessed immensely and was able to see the surgeon that same week on Friday, May 5th. ¬†After consultation with her, I opted to have a lumpectomy + radiation in hopes of riding myself of this beast. ¬†The lumpectomy was scheduled for Thursday, May 25th. ¬†Surgery went well, recovery was great. ¬†All that was left was to wait AGAIN for the pathology results that would let us know if we got clear margins. ¬†A call from the PA on May 31st indicated that the doctor had NOT been able to get clear margins (the tumor was larger than it had appeared on the scans) and cancer cells were found in my Sentinel Lymph Node that was removed during surgery. ¬† The tumor was shaped a bit like a sea urchin – with tentacles going in many directions. ¬†Clear margins were achieved on 3 sides of the tumor. ¬†Next we waited for radiation and medical oncology to review my pathology and recommend to the surgeon whether or not they needed to remove any additional lymph nodes when the re-excision surgery was done. ¬†Oncology recommended NOT removing any more lymph nodes – they would just target them with radiation. ¬†Surgery was set for June 8th, 2017. ¬†The surgery was successful and clear margins were obtained. ¬†Next up were visits with medical and radiation oncology at Duke University Cancer Center on June 14th. ¬†The long and short of it is that I will be needing 12 doses of chemo (4 doses of CEF or FEC – it’s a combination of 3 drugs Cytoxan, Epirubicin and Fluorouracil) followed by 8 doses of Taxol. ¬†Once chemo is over, I may get a mini break and then start radiation. ¬†They have recommended 6 weeks of radiation at 5 days/week for a total of 30 doses of radiation. ¬†Doing a little bit of math in my head (which is NOT my strong point) it quickly became obvious that I would spent the majority of the rest of 2017 at Duke Cancer Center. ¬†While it’s not the Ritz Carlton or as exciting as an all-inclusive vacation – I am oh so thankful that Duke Cancer Center is less than one hour from home. ¬†I am very fortunate to have such a world-class facility right in my back yard.

Thursday, June 15th CC and I spent over 1.5 hrs with the oncology pharmacist at Duke Cancer Center. ¬†She went over the first chemo regimen that I will be doing (CEF or FEC depending on your preference…..same drugs either way). ¬†She also spent a lot of time talking about the side effects and everything they do to try to minimize any nausea, sickness, etc. ¬†It was a very informative meeting. ¬†She sent me home with printed calendars with treatment days listed, when to take meds, what to do in event of fever – you name it, she prepared us for it. ¬†She said her goal was to make this treatment as boring as possible and hopefully to keep me as healthy as possible during this.

I am scheduled to have labs done and port put in on Monday, June 26, 2017 and I will start my first dose of CEF on Wednesday, June 28, 2017.

Pshew…..ALOT has happened since April 18th.

I have been journaling this mess since it started. ¬†Mostly because it was therapeutic and also because I wanted to be able look back on this and see all the ways that God blessed me in the midst of all of this “chaos that is cancer”. ¬† I’m not a very private person – I probably “overshare”…..but I truly felt like the more people that knew my story, the more people that I would have praying for me and the better off I would be. ¬†So this blog is my attempt at sharing my story. ¬†The highs and lows……the pretty and the not so pretty. ¬†If sharing my story encourages JUST ONE woman to get her yearly breast exam, then it will not be in vain……or if it encourages another breast cancer warrior who is fighting this same fight alongside of me, then I will count that as a blessing as well.

This much I know is true…….God’s hands have been oh so apparent during EVERY. SINGLE. STEP. of this story so far. ¬†It’s amazing just how many times HE has shown up and shown off and given me that not so gentle nudge letting me know that HE is right here with me and my family as we navigate the days ahead. ¬†I intend to give HIM all the glory for the big things and the small things. ¬†Having a cancer diagnosis truly changes you in an instant. ¬†Your attitude…….your outlook…..your priorities……the ability to discern what things really matter and what truly is insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

So…..that’s where we are right now. ¬†Here’s to kicking this cancer right where it hurts! ¬†And the good news is – these were just “temporary lumps”…..the real “lumps” have been removed from my body (Praise God) – but this cancer WILL NOT define me. ¬†This chaos that is cancer is just a “temporary lump” along the course of my life. ¬†I’m going to look back on this adventure one day and say “you know, it wasn’t ALL bad”. ¬†I just met a new friend this weekend – she is a breast cancer survivor (just finished up her treatments around Thanksgiving 2016) and she said to me “the treatments were long and tough some days, but I was tougher”!! ¬†I plan to look back on this mess and say the same thing…..that, with God’s help, I was tougher than all the surgeries, doctors appointments, lab work, scans, treatments, etc. ¬†Stay tuned to hear me make that same proclamation!

**Disclaimer** for those that don’t know me personally, let me issue this disclaimer. ¬†I have a pretty warped sense of humor…..and have been known to make jokes about this cancer. ¬†It’s not meant to be rude – it’s just who I am. ¬†Laughing is much better than crying……and I’m choosing to laugh my way through this mess every chance I get!

Thanks for taking time to read my blog. ¬†I pray that you’ll hang around with me for the rest of this ride and celebrate with me when we get to the finish line!

Blessings to you!

Sonja

 

 

A Little Hiccup

It sure has been quiet around here for the last week or so. I am MORE than ready to squeeze that young’un of mine…..they are wrapping up their trip today with a stop at Victoria Falls (one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World). Can’t wait to see pictures of the falls for sure! Tomorrow, they start the LONG journey home. Pray for safe travels, on-time flights and no missed connections!

Several months ago – I noticed a small but crusty scab on the left side of my chest. At first I didn’t think so much of it……but after awhile, it didn’t appear to be going away, and it was often painful to the touch. And ohhhhh was it itchy. I’d catch myself scratching it in the middle of the night.

I was able to get an appointment with my dermatologist, who checked out the area and felt that it needed to be biopsied. She took a sample of the spot and sent it off for testing. They called me a week later to inform me that the spot was a squamous cell carcinoma. Since my breast cancer was in my left breast, and this skin cancer was on my left chest area – my first question was “are these related”? The dermatologist quickly let me know that they were two completely different types of cancers and totally unrelated to each other. She did, however, ask me if I had radiation as part of my treatment. I advised her that yes, I had 31 rounds of radiation. She advised me that it was possible that the skin cancer was a result of the intense radiation because at the end of the day, radiation burns are basically a really bad sunburn. Go figure.

My doctor said that the skin cancer needed to be removed and I had two options. They could do it in their office. They would remove the skin cancer and send off for pathology. If they got clear margins, all would be fine…..but if they did not, I’d have to come back and repeat the process. Option #2 was to see Dr. Jonathan Cook at Duke who specializes in MOHS surgery. Basically, you go to his office prepared to stay as long as it takes. He removes the skin cancer, sends you back to the waiting room and the lab runs the pathology while you wait. If he gets clear margins the first time, then they can stitch you up and send you on your way. If not, then they bring you back in and continue the process until they get clear margins.

For me – it was a no brainer. I’d prefer to have it all done in one sitting and not have to wait weeks in between for results, etc. I personally knew of several folks who had been to Dr. Cook and had excellent results. I was also advised that he was booked 3-4 months out so it would be awhile before I could see him. That was okay – I would just have to wait.

Imagine my surprise when Dr. Cook’s office called me last Friday to schedule my appointment and say that they had an opening on Wednesday at 10:00 am. I would have to rearrange a few things on my calendar, but I was willing to do that in exchange for not having to wait 3-4 months for an appointment.

My neighbor went with me to the appointment. My appointment was scheduled for 10:00 am and goodness there was a ton of folks in the waiting room. Some coming in for their first appointment, some coming for suture removal or check ups. I sat and watched patients come in and out of the waiting area. The nurse came by later and advised me that they were running about an hour behind schedule, but they would get to me as quickly as they could. ALL OF THIS had been plainly spelled out in the paperwork the doctor’s office sends. They explain that waiting is part of the plan. Dr. Cook does not rush with his patients. He treats everyone as if they are the only patient he’s seeing that day. It’s difficult for them to predict how many folks each day will need to come back for a second (or third) excision – so you are advised early on to come prepared to stay all day (or as long as it takes). For me – the possibility of having to spend the entire day there was not a problem. It was more than a fair trade-off for being able to get everything taken care of on the first go round.

Eventually, it was my turn to go back and have the procedure. The nurses and staff were excellent. Dr. Cook came in and introduced himself and asked me if I had any questions about the procedure. He also wanted to emphasize to me that this skin cancer was in NO WAY related to my breast cancer. He looked at the spot on my chest and said it was definitely a squamous cell carcinoma, but he would take care of it. The nurses numbed me up and got me prepped and literally in a matter of minutes, Dr. Cook announced that he was done. The nurses dressed the site and I went back out to wait.

It was after 3:00 pm when the nurse called me back for the results. As soon as I got through the doorway, she said “good news – he got it all on the first attempt”. Praise God! After a few pictures for their records (they take ALOT of pictures – before, after excision, after sutures are in place). Next they put me in a freezing cold room and stitched me up. Dr. Cook did most of the stitches under the skin with just a few top-stitches at each end. I was a bit taken back by the size of the excision but thankful that it was officially removed from my body.

Last night, CC told me that Dr. Cook had called him about 7:00 pm to check on me. Seriously? Who does that anymore? He wanted to make sure I was doing okay. Wow – we were both blown away that after a full day of surgeries (goodness knows how many) that at the end of the day, he took the time to call his patients to make sure all was well. That right there is extra-special in my book. Thankfully – I’ve had no pain. There’s some tightness in my chest from the stitches – but no pain at all.

So if you find yourself needing an awesome dermatologist who specializes in MOHS surgery – I would highly recommend Dr. Jonathan Cook. I’ve seen lots of his work – and I think he’s secretly a plastic surgeon as well. He does some pretty work.

Blessings!

Sonja

Psalm 56:3 New Living Translation (NLT)

But when I am afraid,
    I will put my trust in you.

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So I Did a Thing

So this past week, I did a thing…….on Wednesday morning, I drove my 16 year old son to RDU Airport and sent him off with 2 other youth and 6 adults to Zimbabwe, South Africa.

He’s flown plenty of times – and he’s travelled without his parents before – but he’s NEVER……EVER travelled 8,000+ miles from home!

In the good ole’ days, you could go with your family member to their gate and say your goodbyes and watch them walk onto the plane and then take off to their destination. Not so much anymore. For starters, the airport was PACKED at 5:00 am on a random Wednesday. Who knew?! And by the time the group checked in, got boarding passes and headed to the line for security – the line was incredibly long. Three of us parents stood in line with the group as long as we could…….and then we stood and watched them go through the security checks…….and then they were gone……out of sight…..and on their way. I couldn’t leave the airport just yet though. My biggest fear of this entire trip was knowing I wasn’t going to be along to keep up with his passport, boarding passes, money, etc. I texted Hunter quickly and said “send me a picture showing me your passport, etc in your hands” – and he immediately responded with this pic!

I’ve Got it MOM!!!!

And just like that, the group was on their way to JFK in NYC and then they headed to South Africa……a mere 15 hour plane ride. With the travel time, connecting flights, and time difference – it was 1:30 pm on Thursday before I heard from him again. Talk about a long day and a half! We knew they had landed safely because we tracked the flight online – but I sure was glad to hear from him via text and to also get to talk with him – even if the connection was spotty, at best.

So what’s my kid doing in South Africa? He is traveling with our pastor and his wife, and 4 other adults from our church along with his youth friends, Jackson and Melissa. Our church has partnered with Zoe Empowers several years ago – and we’ve been supporting “working groups” of orphans in Zimbabwe and this trip was to go and meet with the groups, learn about the different ways they learning to be self-sufficient. “Zoe Empowers equips orphans and vulnerable children to overcome extreme poverty by addressing multiple barriers simultaneously.” So what’s my kid doing in South Africa? He is traveling with our pastor and his wife, and 4 other adults from our church along with his youth friends, Jackson and Melissa. Our church has partnered with Zoe Empowers several years ago – and we’ve been supporting “working groups” of orphans in Zimbabwe and this trip was to go and meet with the groups, see the different ways they are learning to be self-sufficient. They will be able to see first hand, how the Zoe Empowers model is changing lives not only socially, but also economically and spiritually too!

‚ÄúGroups that are visited perform much better. Your encouragement lifts the heads of orphans and their businesses thrive.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄĒ Reegan Kaberia, Chief Program Officer

https://zoeempowers.org

Zoe Empowers was initially started in 2004 as a Christian response to the humanitarian crisis left in the wake of HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa. Zoe Empowers website states that over 380 million children are trapped in the cycle of poverty. Zoe gives these orphans a “hand up” rather than a “hand out” – and empowers and equips them to overcome the cycle of poverty. I strongly urge you to check out their website to learn more about this awesome organization https://zoeempowers.org

So, since our group arrived in Zimbabwe last week, they have been spending time visiting the 1st, 2nd and 3rd year working groups over there and spending time encouraging them, loving on them and learning how they are supporting themselves. Hunter says some of the areas they are visiting take an hour or more to travel to (by bus).

Hunter says the power goes off at their hotel each night around 10:00 pm. You may have heard about the rolling blackouts that Zimbabwe is experiencing this year. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-zimbabwe-economy-power/power-crisis-turns-night-into-day-for-zimbabwes-firms-and-families-idUSKCN1UR4SA

One day, while Hunter was explaining to me about the different “households” – some are all orphan children, some may have a grandparent living with them – but to hear your teenager say “mom, it’s like they’re missing a whole generation – the parents”. That’s hard to wrap your head around……..an entire generation of the population there is gone!

The group has been sending pictures – and the one thing that quickly caught my attention was the fact that ALL of these kids were smiling…..not fake “posed” smiles – but real, authentic, genuine smiles. These kids have very little by way of “possessions”, they are orphaned and living in very sparse conditions – but these kids are genuinely happy.

Our group was told that many of these kids have probably never seen white people before! Living in the USA – we are accustomed to seeing people of all nationalities on a regular basis!

One of the adults said to me via text today that every one they had encountered in Zimbabwe had been so dang sweet. Not just a few – but everyone!

There’s part of me that sad that I’m not with our group and experiencing this first-hand…….but then it’s also pretty cool to be able to allow Hunter to experience this on his own without mom or dad around. I am confident we won’t pick up the same kids at the airport on Saturday. There’s no way a trip like this doesn’t change you! I’m so thankful they were given the opportunity to be a part of this life-changing trip.

“S” Therapy

salt….sand…..sea….sunshine….sunsets….seafood….surf…..sandbars…..sleep….sailing….simplicity…..sunrises…..shore…..storms…..serenity…..swimming……sweating….spiritual….spontaneous….surprises….shells…..

boat time

Yep…..this vacation has been awesome and full of lots of “S” therapy.

Lots of rest, relaxation, no agendas……just flying by the seat of our pants.

Two years ago during vacation, I was enjoying every minute of it knowing that I would be starting chemo once I returned. Two years. It seems like forever ago and then again it seems like it was just last week.

It’s so crazy how I can look back now and see that cancer never really “had” me. Cancer took a year of my life – from diagnosis, to treatment and recovery. I could be pissed that I spent a full year of my life here on earth battling that mess……or I could be grateful that I ONLY spent one full year of my life fighting it. Perspective……..it’s all about perspective.

Coming to the beach sparks so many memories now. Savoring all kinds of foods the week before chemo began, cause who knew how things would taste afterwards. Spending that last week with my two best guys…..just the three of us, before our lives turned upside down. Learning to slow down and really “live” in the moment. Sitting and staring at the ocean and being reminded with each wave or change of the tides, that God was and is in control. It reminds me of where I was…….and just how far I’ve come…..by the grace of God.

The ocean gives me pause to relax…….reflect……recharge……redirect…..remember……

For me, the ocean brings a lot of healing. Spiritual, physical, mental and emotional healing. My Papa always said that “salt water cured everything”. He was right on the money! That salt water combined with the ocean breeze in your face, well, that’s some awfully good medicine! For just awhile, the ocean allows me to escape the rat race……the hustle and bustle of the daily grind…..and just be at one with God and his beautiful creations.

I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with some great friends in the area as well…..it’s always so delightful to catch up with them. I thank God for placing these wonderful folks in my life. None of our meetings were by chance – but rather, intricately designed by God – of that I am sure.

Hope you enjoy these pictures of my “S” therapy…….

cloud over Beaufort Waterfront
the best first mate
low country boil
dock at night
wicked clouds in the area

I threw a handful of books in the car before leaving home. I had a few friends that I wanted to share copies with, and I had the pleasure of visiting two local bookstores in the area and left copies of my books with them. Who knows……perhaps there’s some folks down east who need to be encouraged as they embark on their fight – whatever that fight may be.

My book, Temporary Lumps, is available on Amazon, and it’s also now available as an e-book.

link to Temporary Lumps on Amazon
sunrise at the marina

Sending lots of prayers for some special friends are now in the middle of their own cancer battle. I hate hearing that word! But I know that God will guide each of them and give them “just enough” to get through each day. Much love to all of you!

Here’s hoping you take time for some of your own therapy……whatever that looks like for you. Take some time to sit back, relax, and enjoy God’s creation. You will be glad you did.

Blessings,

Sonja

Jeremiah 31:35 New International Version (NIV)

35 This is what the Lord says,

he who appoints the sun
    to shine by day,
who decrees the moon and stars
    to shine by night,
who stirs up the sea
    so that its waves roar‚ÄĒ
    the Lord Almighty is his name:

Spring is in the Air

So it’s been a minute or two since I last posted. It seems that there just aren’t enough hours in the day! Life has been great – and quite busy, but that’s a good thing!

In my last post, I talked a lot about “living” after cancer. And while every day is not full of unicorns and fairy dust – they are not all bad either. I didn’t intend to sound as if I were complaining – but rather just being honest about the difficulties of some days. Thankfully, there’s plenty of good days sprinkled in that I can focus on those days instead. I wasn’t posting those things for sympathy or pity – but rather to give you an honest look at a day in the life AFTER cancer!

This has been the craziest few months. Literally, after boat loads of doctor’s appointments after doctor’s appointments…….I am ELATED to report that I have not had a single cancer-related doctor’s appointment ALL YEAR! I find myself constantly checking my calendar because it feels sooooo weird to have so much time in between appointments – but that is a GOOD thing! I made it until last week without a trip to ANY type of doctor in 2019, but I did have an eye exam last week. Gosh, it sure is nice to not have weekly appointments any more! My next scheduled appointment is in May and I have a mammogram followed by a check-up with my surgeon. I’ll take it!

So we had big celebration earlier this month. Hunter celebrated his 16th birthday on March 14th! I simply cannot believe my “kid” is old enough to be driving. He got his license on his birthday and has been loving the freedom that comes with being able to get himself where he needs to be. I’ve prayed a lot – asking God to keep him safe – and for him to make good decisions and look out for the other crazy folks on the road. It feels weird NOT having to take him to school, or to scouts – or anywhere. But I do love that he can now run errands for me if need be. I’ve got a feeling he’s not going to LOVE the running errands part – he’ll just have to suck it up!

Last weekend, I was invited to Rocky Mount to share my testimony at Englewood UMC’s Spring Tea. It was a lovely event with lots of vendors, wonderful testimonies and music and a delicious meal. God was surely present that day and while none of us knew what the others were speaking on……it was awesome to see just how God took care of intertwining every detail from the testimonies shared to the music selection for the event. Just one of those times when all you can do is just smile and shake your head and said “I KNOW that was YOU God” because there is no other explanation for it!

Here’s a picture of the beautiful backdrop for the event. “Spring with me to the Lydia’s Sisters Tea”.

The room was decorated beautifully. Gorgeous china adorned the tables along with tea pots filled with fresh flowers. What a wonderful day sharing God’s blessings with a room full of sisters in Christ.. I am very thankful to Amy Quigley for inviting me to come and participate in this annual event. I am always happy to share my story and tell of all the wonderful ways God blessed me in the middle of my cancer chaos. I give Him all the praise and glory for my healing and feel that it is my duty to share with as many people as I can!

I’m excited to share that I’ve been asked to participate in Piedmont Community College’s “Step Into the Arts” event next Friday, April 5th. I’ve been invited to do a book reading and question and answer session and I’m super excited to participate! This will be a first for me – but again, I’m excited to share my book and my story any way that I can. If you don’t have anything on your calendar next Friday evening, come on out to the Kirby Cultural Arts Complex and join us!

So as you can see, life around here is pretty busy……. but I wouldn’t want it any other way. And no, I am not on the go all the time. I am extra thankful for the one day each week that I have off from work. Most weeks, I take that day to just rest and relax and take care of odds and ends around the house. I am pretty dang good at resting (if you don’t believe me, just ask my husband)!

Today was one of those “rest” days! I rested up most of the day in preparation for a “girls day” date with my sweet young friend, Hollyn. Hollyn knows I don’t get to do “girl stuff” very often, (being the mom of a teenage boy)……so she recommended that we have a “girls day” and get our nails done and hang out……and we did just that. I picked her up after school and we headed to Tricia’s for a few iced coffees. Next we went to the nail salon where she got a manicure and I got a MUCH needed pedicure. We did a little shopping in town and finished up our date eating Mexican food. YUM! What a delightful young lady and what a fun outing. We decided we MUST have these dates more often!

I love that my friends children feel like they can talk to me and share what’s going on in their lives. I also love that my child feels the same way about my friends. It can’t be easy being a teenager in this day and age – and I am thankful that our “village” that is there to help them navigate the rough waters.

So here’s wishing you a strong finish to your week!

Blessings,

Sonja

Proverbs 27:9 New International Version
Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.

Rainy day thoughts….

Well, I don’t know what the weather is like where YOU are……but here in NC, it’s rain, rain and MORE rain. Goodness. I read a Facebook post last night that said….. “This rain is getting Biblical. Animals are pairing up and I feel the need to buy a boat .”

So what to do on a lazy, rainy Saturday? Well, it seemed like the perfect time to share a blog post.

Big news on the book front. I will be having my second book signing on Sunday, March 3rd, 2019 at 1792 Beer Co at 106 N. Main Street in Roxboro, NC from 2:00 – 4:00 pm. I’m so excited that Zack and the folks at 1792 are allowing me to use their wonderful space to share my book! Books and beer – what better way to spend a Sunday afternoon, huh?

If you haven’t gotten your copy of my book yet – here’s the link to Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Temporary-Lumps-Journey-Perseverance-Triumph/dp/1791379184/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=temporary+lumps&qid=1550945610&s=gateway&sr=8-1-spell

If you’re local, you can pick up copies of the book at Truth Books & Gifts at 201 S. Madison Blvd, Roxboro, NC.

From the very beginning of this blog, I said that I wanted to be as open, honest and authentic as possible about my cancer and treatments, etc. Sharing all of that – especially while in the MIDDLE of the fight, was never a problem. Now that I have celebrated my 1 year anniversary of COMPLETING my cancer treatments and my life is back to “normal” (whatever the heck that is)……I feel that I can speak candidly about the past year.

***FULL DISCLOSURE – I am speaking from my own PERSONAL experience…..in no way am I trying to say that this happens to EVERYONE or that OTHERS will feel this way……I’m simply sharing what I know to be TRUE for me.***

For me – the 12 months I spent “fighting” my cancer (surgeries, chemo, radiation, follow-up appointments, etc) were much easier than the 12 months AFTER finishing up my treatments. How’s that, you ask? Well – I knew what I was battling. We determined what/where the cancer was…..we developed a plan of action…..and we went to battle right away trying to destroy the nasty demon that had invaded my body. My doctors were able to give me a heads up on what was coming, how my body may react and what they would do to help me through it.

So after chemo and radiation, I started on a 10 year relationship with Tamoxifen – the hormone therapy med prescribed to me. I went from spending MONTHS being cold and wrapped up in a blanket to feeling like a volcano within 24 hours. Honest to goodness…..I started having hot flashes THE VERY NEXT DAY once I started taking Tamoxifen. I remember one night sitting at the dinner table…….and a hot flash came on from out of nowhere……I was sweating bullets and literally feeling like I may pass out. Apparently I looked awful as well because Hunter was like “mom, are you okay”? And so it began…….random hot flashes both night and day. And they say I need to take this drug for 10 years? Lordy!

Then came the joint pain. Again……compliments of tamoxifen. One day I was fine……then I sat down on the couch for awhile and when I tried to get back up later – it was horrible! My bones/joints hurt all over……and when I walked, I truly looked like I might be 100 years old. And just like that – the joint pain and stiffness became a regular part of my life.

I had pretty severe neuropathy in my hands and feet during chemo……and I’ve been taking vitamins/supplements for the past year in an effort to eliminate the neuropathy. Crazy – I seem to have it worse in my left foot than anywhere. What does neuropathy feel like? Well, for me – it feels like my foot is numb while at the same time feeling like it may be frost bit (as if I know what that feels like – but it’s what I IMAGINE it would feel like). For instance, on this cold, rainy Saturday – my left foot is giving me a fit. I have cabin socks on my feet trying to keep them warm – but honestly, this is going to sound CRAZY – I have found that the BEST relief for me is to rest my foot on the back of our dog, Bella. The heat from her body warms my foot right away and offers me so much relief. So if you ever see me with my foot on/under the dog, you’ll know I’m trying to doctor on my neuropathy.

As far as my hands go, the most challenging thing for me is picking up small things or getting change out of a cash register/money drawer and using a computer mouse. The tips of my fingers are constantly “numb” feeling, but I don’t really notice it anymore. But when I’m trying to get change for a customer from the money drawer – and it takes 4 tries to pick up the pennies – it gets a little frustrating.

I’ve been back at work since August of last year. I’m working at an insurance agency 3 days a week. I work every Thursday evening (from 3:00pm – 10:00ish) at the Old Country Club Steakhouse – as a hostess/cashier. So I basically have 2 days a week at home. I’ll be honest with you – most often, I’m happy to be at home on those days off. I have found that it truly takes me using those days to “recover” and “recharge”. And plenty of times on my days off, I literally do NOTHING. I was beginning to think maybe I was just lazy or unmotivated – but Thursday night when I was working, I talked with a friend and fellow survivor and she said she experienced the very same thing. Her friend said “some days she acts like her butt is attached to the chair with Gorilla Glue” – and I just laughed and said “YESSS _ THAT’S IT EXACTLY!!!!” I find that on the days I feel good, I try to pack in as much LIVING as I can, because I know that it is most likely that I may have a day (or 2) of just being exhausted and doing NOTHING.

By far, the absolute WORST part of all of this is CHEMO BRAIN and the lasting effects of it. It pisses me off ALOT – but mostly when I’m at work – and my brain knows what I want to say – and it’s all right there – but somehow the connection between my brain and getting the words to come out of my mouth – there’s a HUGE delay at times and it completely infuriates me. Like when my boss asks me to quote some insurance for Mr. Johnson. And I spend an hour or more typing his name NUMEROUS times into different applications…….and a few hours later my boss asks me for the quotes on Mr. Johnson and I completely draw a blank……like who in the hell is Mr. Johnson? I know it makes me look like an idiot!

Or when we’re all in the kitchen at home cleaning up after dinner and I attempt to say to my son “hand me that” (and I want to say TOWEL)…..but instead I say “hand me that…………that……..” and I’m looking straight at it and know what the crap it is but the word just won’t come out of my mouth. Finally, I give up and say “hand me that damn blue thing right there”.

Please don’t think I’m confessing all of this for any sympathy or pity……I’m not. I’m just sharing this information to explain why FOR ME – LIVING after cancer has been much harder than FIGHTING the cancer. And I realize that may not be the same for everyone. And I know that others have expressed the same sentiments to me as well. Maybe it’s because I don’t KNOW what to expect.

But I don’t tend to talk about this often. It’s just the way it is…..and I understand that it’s the cards I’ve been dealt. At the end of the day, I’m very thankful to have won my battle with cancer and still be here! It’s all about perspective…..and I choose to continue to see the glass as half-full!

For any other cancer survivors out there, I’d love to hear your take on “life” after cancer. I know everyone’s experience is different – but your experience is valid, no matter what your experience.

So I hope you enjoy this lazy, rainy Saturday. I admit, I’m still in my PJ’s, bundled up in a blanket on the couch……with my foot on my pup…..enjoying some down time! What are you doing today?

Blessings,

Sonja

2 Corinthians 12:9 New International Version (NIV)

But he said to me, ‚ÄúMy grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.‚ÄĚ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ‚Äôs power may rest on me.


Gentle Nudges

Hope everyone has been doing well and staying as dry as possible. The weather in our little corner of the world has been dreary and quite WET for some time. The sun actually peeked through the last few days and boy was that a welcome sight! Winter is definitely my least favorite season!

Life has been busy…….but good. It really hit me a few weeks ago that my life is about to change pretty drastically in the next few months. Hunter turns 16 in March…….and I’ll officially lose my full-time status as taxi driver. I’ll be honest – it’s bittersweet. I’m happy for him because I know he’s ready for this next stage in life – and even though it’s been a minute…..I remember how excited I was to get my license! And even though I’m not a fan of mornings – I’ve found myself really taking advantage of these last daily drop offs……..knowing full well that I’ll miss this more than I want to admit. It might not seem like much – but those are some moments to cherish on the 10 minute car ride to and from school. I don’t even want to think about how quickly these next few years will fly by. I guess it’s just that “season”. First comes high school, then drivers license, followed too quickly by graduation and college. Oh goodness – I guess I better buckle up and just enjoy the ride (from the passenger seat no less)!

When I last posted, I blogged about my first book signing event. It was a fantastic turn out and I have been asked several times since then if I’ll be doing another book signing. I do plan on having another one at some point – I just need to work out a date and location. My thoughts are to try to do one either on a weekend or in the evening in order to give folks a chance to come outside of working hours. As soon as I get something finalized, I’ll be sure to spread the word.

Our local newspaper had a reporter at my signing to cover the event. They did an awesome article in the paper about the book and the event. Pretty cool, huh?

So a few weeks ago, I received a text from Phyliss Boatwright. Phyliss was a former staff writer for our local newspaper and she currently has a weekly radio spot on WKRX 96.7 called “Turn the Page” where she reviews books that she has read. Imagine my surprise when Phyliss wanted to ask me some questions about my book and feature if on her show! I was completely blown away!

Phyliss was kind enough to send me the audio file so I could share her review with you. I have to pinch myself every time I listen to this!!!

Phyliss Boatwright’s review of Temporary Lumps

I have truly been blessed and completely overwhelmed at the phenomenal response I’ve gotten from my book. It still doesn’t seem “real” in many ways.

So we indulged ourselves with a long weekend away last week and spent it at our little place at Beaufort, NC. It’s always a good time to be at the beach – even in the winter!

I packed a few books to take with me because I wanted to give some to a few friends down there……but I intentionally packed a few extra “just in case” – because, well, you never know.

We made a trek to TJMaxx while we were there……that’s always a MUST for me and Hunter! I found a few things I needed and as I was in line checking out, Hunter called me and asked if I could meet him in the back of the store when I was done. I checked out and went to find Hunter and quickly found myself standing in the check-out line AGAIN with him. While we were waiting, I saw a lady several people behind us with that tell-tale “turban” on her head. Immediately I thought, “I’ll bet she’s going through chemo”. Hunter agreed with me that she had “the look” – and he immediately said “Mom, are you gonna give her a book?” Of course, I thought that would be awesome – but I was a little hesitant just because I didn’t want to insult this lady if she just liked wearing turbans!

We checked out and walked to the truck and Hunter asked AGAIN if I was going to give this lady a book. I said “YES” and he grabbed a book and we trekked back inside TJMaxx waiting for her to make her purchase.

When she finally came outside, I approached her and asked if she was going through treatment and she confirmed that, indeed, she was. I told her I was a survivor and told her that I’d like to share my book with her in hopes of encouraging her along the way. We exchanged a bit of our stories and crazy enough, we both had the same type of cancer (Invasive Ductal Carcinoma) and she was doing 10 chemo and 30 radiation treatments (I did 12 and 31). We chatted a while longer and then I hugged her and wished her all the best. I know I’ve said this 100 times before……but this “bond that is breast cancer” is a real thing. You can meet a perfect stranger in a store and leave feeling like you have a new friend.

So……yet again……God was working in the background. He gave me a nudge to pack extra books……and (thankfully) I did…..truly not knowing “why”. But honestly, I never would have imagined that I would have been giving a book to a complete stranger at TJMaxx!!

Those that know me – know that for YEARS I’ve said that when I was asking God for advice, I didn’t want him to answer in a whisper or a gentle nudge – I wanted a blinking NEON sign saying “Yes, Sonja” or “Not now, Sonja”. I wanted loud, clear answers. I’m learning, however, to listen to those faint whispers or gentle nudges.

I also need to say a huge “THANK YOU” to my publisher, Michelle Owens at Writer Book Publishing. She has been a God-send. Another one of those ways God was working in the background and I’m so thankful she was willing to work with me to turn this dream into a reality! Michelle was open and honest with me from the get go. We just kinda “clicked” on that first phone call, and the rest, as they say…….is history! She was approachable, extremely responsive and really made me feel like my project was worthy of her time. If you need a great publisher – she’s your girl! I can hook you up for sure! Check out her website below!

https://www.writerbookpublishing.com/custom-publishing1

And a huge thanks also to Andi Carlton – my artist extraordinaire who created the cover art for my book. I cannot tell you how many compliments I’ve received on that cover! I’ve also fielded lots of questions from folks wanting to know if the tattoo was real (and if they could see it) and if those boobs were really mine! Dream on, right?

Here’s wishing you all a great week! And be aware of those “gentle nudges”…..you never know what God might be doing behind the scenes!

P.S. Рyou can find my book, Temporary Lumps, on Amazon!

https://www.amazon.com/Temporary-Lumps-Journey-Perseverance-Triumph/dp/1791379184/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1548819046&sr=8-1&keywords=sonja+vaughan

Blessings,

Sonja

Deuteronomy 4:12 New International Version (NIV)

12 Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice.