Just Because

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When we met with the specialist in August, he recommended I start chemo right away. Then he said, "Three weeks after you start chemo, all your hair will fall out." (He's not one for sugar-coating.) So, as I sat in his office trying to process all the information about the tumors, my diagnosis, the treatment options, and the "non-curative"-ness of what I have, I also attempted to wrap my mind around the fact that within a few short weeks I would be completely bald.

Granted, in the grand scheme of things, losing my hair is a minor issue. I mean...it's just hair, right? It will grow back. But combined with everything else, it was a difficult pill to swallow.

As I mentioned last time , I've always had thick, naturally curly hair. While I have often longed for straighter, "simpler" hair, my hair is the outward feature people comment on most: "Oh, I wish I had naturally curly hair." (Trust me...it's not all that glamorous.) "I bet you don't have to do anything to your hair!" (Yes, if you consider applying a mountain of product to tame the beast "not doing anything," then sure.)

Hair collage

To make matters worse, after a 35-year battle, I had finally tossed the straighteners and flat iron and embraced my God-given curls. I even began to like them... a little. And I was just waiting for 80s hair to come back, because let me tell you, this girl can rock some big-hair-band hair (see middle picture above)!

The Many Phases of Chemo Hair Loss | thereisgrace.com

I didn't really intend to approach my hair loss in phases, but that's how it happened. And I think it made the whole process a little more bearable.

Hair-4Phase 1: Short
Going into my first treatment, I still wasn't sure what to do about my hair...face it head on and shave it all, or wait for the inevitable to happen? I had read that short hair is easier to manage as it begins to fall out, and that seemed like a logical first step. A good friend who is a stylist by trade came over one evening and gave me this cute new 'do! I loved it so much I was sad I hadn't done it months ago! (Thank you, Sheila!)

Phase 2: Thinning
True to my doctor's prediction, my hair started thinning a couple of weeks after my first treatment. Just a few strands at first, and I thought it would be a slow transition...maybe I wouldn't lose my hair at all. (I had heard of that happening.) It continued that way for several days. Then, suddenly it started coming out in clumps...HUGE clumps! It happened so quickly, I wasn't prepared to take the next step yet. Thankfully, I had plenty of hats to wear!

Phase 3: The Razor
The thinning phase didn't last long. Now I had reached the point I'd been dreading. I really wrestled with the timing of when to shave my hair. I wasn't worried about "looking different" or not having hair. I struggled with the fact that everyone would know what I was going through. I couldn't go to the store, or out to dinner, and pretend like nothing was wrong. Once my hair was gone, everyone who saw me would know I have cancer.

But I finally reached the point where I grew weary of sweeping the bathroom floor and vacuuming my shirt multiple times a day. I knew what I needed to do.

L: baldy, R: my look for the first time I went out without hair

My friend again came over and shaved what was left of my hair. Once it was done, I was fine. I could move forward and start thinking about how to work in all those fabulous accessories I had been collecting.

scarf2-aPhase 4: Scarves and Wraps
I quickly discovered that without any hair on one's head (or neck), one tends to get very cold...especially when one lives in Missouri...in October. For that reason, I prefer to wear hats that came down farther on my head. I also started wearing more scarves (around my neck or on my head) and head wraps.

My absolute favorite head covering for warmth and comfort is this inexpensive method (Seriously, if you know someone going through chemo, forward this video to her. It will change her life!):

Phase 5: Cranial Prosthesis
Yep, that is what it's called (especially if you get a prescription from your doc, which you might want to do for insurance purposes...just sayin'). I wasn't sure I wanted to get one (a.k.a. "a wig") because I had heard they are incredibly uncomfortable and unnatural. But on a whim a couple of weeks ago, Hubby and I stopped in a wig shop specifically for cancer patients. I decided to have fun with it, because honestly how many times in your life do you get the opportunity to try so many hair colors and styles at one time?

wig5aI finally tried on a cute little pixie cut that my husband swore was very natural-looking. It is eerily close to my original hair color, although not a style I would have ever chosen for my own hair. Still, I liked it. It's fun. It's cute. It's warm.

And bonus...I it looks great with a cute scarf tied around it!

So, if you see me out and about, chances are you will see me in a hat, a wrap, or my cranial prosthetic. 😉 Pretty sure you won't catch me walking around in my bald head, though...it's just too cold for that!

hope-cancer-250This post is part of the series, Embracing Hope. In the coming weeks, we'll look at why we can put our hope in God, how we put our hope in God, and what we can do when it feels all hope is lost. Won't you come along for the journey? Consider subscribing via e-mail so you can receive new posts delivered directly to your inbox! Simply enter your e-mail address in the box to the right. To view the entire series, click here.

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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When I told my two best friends I would have to go through chemotherapy, their response was, "We're throwing you a hat party!" (Well, that wasn't their initial response...it followed the shock, the tears, and the hugs.)

As the fashionably-challenged and accessory-deprived woman that I am, I thought a Hat Party was a great idea. I have always had very thick, very (naturally) curly hair. It consumed enough of my time and energy to tame the locks. So there was little time left to think of accessories like scarves and hats. I usually considered it a win if I left the house without looking like a bird had nested on my head. If I happened to have on cute earrings, too, well that was just a great day!

Facing the reality of chemotherapy, and the fact that I would (likely) lose my hair, I knew I would need to compensate the loss of my locks with some fabulous accessories. (And quite honestly, that would be a challenge for me!) But I knew some added accessories might lift my spirits and just might boost my confidence as well.

I mean, if you have to do chemotherapy and lose your hair, why not rock some fabulous hats and scarves with it, right?!

Hat-Party-1

Here are some tips that (in my opinion...as the guest of honor) made for a fabulous hat party:

1. Schedule a convenient time. This might seem like a no-brainer, but when you're working around a chemo schedule and the unpredictability of it's side effects, this is crucial. There's nothing  worse than throwing a party to lift someone's spirits then having the guest of honor miss because she is not feeling up to it. My party was several days after treatment. I was feeling much better by then and ready to get out of the house. If your guest of honor doesn't yet know how chemo will affect her, consider having the party before she begins treatment.

2. Choose a casual location. This is not high tea with The Queen. No one needs to feel pressured into a black-tie event, especially a chemo patient. Even if your guest of honor is up to coming, she may not be feeling her best. It might be all she can do to throw on her comfy jeans and a sweater. Let her off the hook and go casual.

My friends chose a coffee shop just off the square in my little town. It was the perfect combination of cozy and casual. No dress code required, but caffeine and brownies in abundance! (Oh, did I mention...yummy treats are a must!)

3. Set a tone in your invitation. Cancer is a touchy subject, and everyone deals with it differently. Some face it head-on with humor and sarcasm. Others might be uncomfortable at the very mention of it. Respect the feelings of your guests and your guest of honor. Use your invitation to give specifics and to set the tone for your party.

My friends and I tend to use humor and sarcasm as coping mechanism. At one point they considered titling the invitations: I've Got Cancer, Top That! (which I thought was awesome). However, they decided to go with: Hats Off to Cancer (also great and a little less in-your-face). They requested that guests bring a hat/scarf OR some dark chocolate (my favorite) as a gift. EVERYONE brought BOTH. My closet is full of hats and my freezer is now well-stocked with dark chocolate!! 🙂

Rockin' two of the hats from my party!
Two of the great hats I got from my party!

4. Be a gracious hostess. My friends did a great job adding little touches to the party that made everyone feel welcome. Beautiful treat bags were at each place setting when guests arrived. The hostesses provided thank you cards for me and had guests address the already-stamped envelopes, saving me time and expense later. Guests were asked to write an encouraging note to me in a keepsake journal. Each note meant so much to me, and I've gone back and read them over and over again. Every little gesture made for a great experience for me, as the guest of honor, and for each guest.

5. Be a good friend. My friends know me well. They tailored the party to me...right down to the dark chocolate. Does your friend love a big bash? Would she prefer a more intimate setting with a few close friends? Does she love brunch or is she more of a late-night coffee shop person? Think about her...what does she enjoy? What makes her smile? What brings her comfort?

Your friend going through a lot right now, both physically and emotionally. She needs the love of close friends and the comfort of their company. I'm so thankful that's exactly what I got from mine! (You all know who you are! ;))

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hope-cancer-250This post is part of the series, Embracing Hope. In the coming weeks, we'll look at why we can put our hope in God, how we put our hope in God, and what we can do when it feels all hope is lost. Won't you come along for the journey? Consider subscribing via e-mail so you can receive new posts delivered directly to your inbox! Simply enter your e-mail address in the box to the right. To view the entire series, click here.

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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I love when people find creative ways to solve a problem. And I especially love when creative businesses find a way to bring awareness to an issue and become part of the solution.

Businesses like...

trades-of-hope-logo-2013

In their own words, Trades of Hope explains...

We work with the artisans themselves and organizations that are helping women in  difficult circumstances. Some women have been rescued from sex slavery. Others  are raising handicapped children alone. Some are in war torn countries and  others have AIDS...They love their families and hope and dream  of a better life for them.

We are helping by marketing their products through the home party model, so  they can put food on their table, a roof over their head, get medical care and  an education for their children.

Doesn't that sound like a fantastic company? That's exactly why Coral Messar decided to become a Compassion Entrepreneur. Coral is not just a Trades of Hope Compassion Entrepreneur, she's also mom to my friend Lindsay. And she's giving away a beautiful Nepal Aqua Scarf  ($26 value) to one of you!

nepal aqua scarf
Nepal Aqua Scarf

To enter, simply visit the Trades of Hope website, have a look around at their fabulous products, then leave me a comment before August 23 telling me what your favorite item was. (The giveaway will end at midnight August 23.) There are other opportunities to be entered as well!

But you don't have to stop there.

You can make a difference through Trades of Hope by...

Shopping
Trades of Hope is not a charity. They are business women helping women. According to the TOH website, "We pay our artisans 100% of the asking price of their products so they can make a fair wage.  It is not until after we have paid the artisans and it is in our country that we add on the shipping costs and the 20% for the Compassion Entrepreneur and business expenses. This ensures that the artisans are receiving the price they decide on, which is a fair wage for their products."

You can make a difference for other women by shopping. Yes, shopping! By purchasing quality-crafted products for yourself (or as gifts) you can help women who are trying to make a better life for themselves and their families.

Hosting
You can be a part of the mission of Trades of Hope by hosting a party and helping create change in the lives of women around the world. See more details here.

Joining
"By  becoming a Compassion Entrepreneur, you can put food on your table while  helping a sister around the world put food on her table at the very same time.  Women helping women!" (taken from the TOH web site)

For more information, contact Coral through her web site or on her Facebook page.

Now, on to the giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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If you're new here, Friends on Friday is where I feature one of my fabulous real-life
friends who is making a difference in her world....

Friends on Friday

I am so excited for you all to meet today's Friends on Friday guest. You may not be familiar with the name, Madi Walker, but in our house she's kind of a rock star.

We first met "Miss Madi" (as she's known around here) a couple of years ago when she was teaching Little Miss's class at church. Little Miss adored Miss Madi, and as a young college student, she seemed to be the perfect choice for a babysitter. Was. She. Ever.

She's the type of person who....

  • Shows up to babysit with bags full of craft and gingerbread-house-making supplies.
  • Always stops to hug your kids at church no matter how busy she is
  • Sings to a frightened little girl at camp until the girl finally falls asleep (then writes a song about it)
  • Sponsors a girl through Compassion International , even as a struggling college student herself
  • Writes and records not one, but two albums before she's 22.

Did I mention she has a fantastic voice and a passion for singing about all God has done for her and others? So when Little Miss declares she wants to "sing like Miss Madi" someday, I think to myself, "Yes! Go for it!"

My kids love Miss Madi because her smile is contagious and she's just so much fun to be around. I love Madi because she is exactly the type of person (on stage and off) I want my kids to look up to.  I know you'll love Madi because she is incredibly gifted as a person and a musician.

Ladies and gentlemen, Madi Walker....

madi-walker
Little Miss and her hero, "Miss Madi"

I'm Madi. I am 21 years old- soon to be 22! My birthday is six days away, so if anyone has an all expense paid trip to the beach laying around, you know... 🙂 Speaking of the beach, I LOVE THE BEACH! It's my favorite place in the world.

Other facts about me: I work in the Elementary Department at my church. I have an identical twin sister, and I love chai lattes with extra foam. My favorite color is blue-any shade. Also- I'm madly in love with Jesus...and single. 😉

Madi's Latest Project: Names (released August 1, 2013)

Names
Madi's second album, Names, just released yesterday.

Names was inspired by everyday life. I am a pretty laid back person, and I was just thinking one day about why I want to sing. Really, it's the small (or big) every day moments that inspire me. My friends and family have so many stories and I wanted to write songs that would speak to them, but also relate to the rest of the world.

It's crazy how much humanity has in common- grief, hope, love, fun, life... So Names is a collection of story songs. The name of each person who inspired a song is printed beside the song title. It's been a super fun project, and I love seeing the way the Lord is using it in people's lives.

Order it now at www.madiwalker.com OR on iTunes!!

{The song "His Grace" makes me cry...every. time. That song along is worth the price of the entire album! ~Nancy}

Madi's Heart for Compassion (and a Girl named Edna)

Edna is a girl I've been able to sponsor over the last three years through Compassion, International. Recently, I got to go to Tanzania and meet her and her infant daughter. It was seriously the coolest thing I've ever done! It was so awesome to see her and her home and her baby- all these things she had written me about.

As amazing as it was, it was a heartbreaking experience because I had to leave her there. I know Edna has hopes and dreams for her life, but it is sad to know that she is still fighting poverty every day. Life for a single mom is not easy anywhere, but it's especially hard, and even dangerous, in Africa.

When Edna graduates the Compassion program (within the year), I am allowed to give her a gift of up to $2000, which would help her finish her education and get a good job. Her dream is to be a radio broadcaster; if she can get her degree, she already has a job offer in that field!

So I am selling T-shirts to raise money for her graduation present. Check them out on  my website!

Madi's Music
My ultimate hope is that through my music and my life people will find Christ. He is my purpose and my passion!! I also want people to be encouraged- to know they are loved and beautiful and worth it. Also I love to make people laugh and remember the simple joy of life! {Love that! See why she's a rock star? ~Nancy}

madi-walker-3

A Few of Her Favorite Things
1) Family! I have four sisters and wonderful parents. I love being around them, talking about them, and...well, being around them! I can't get enough!!

2) The ocean. I love pictures of it, songs about it- I love the way it smells and tastes and looks. I can just get lost watching waves come and go. I am a huge surf documentary fan, too 🙂

3) Music! Really- almost any kind (not a huge fan of scream-o haha). I like concerts that are just acoustics and not too loud. I love finding and listening to new music.

4) Traveling!! I would go across the country or the world- doesn't matter where! My favorite places I've been are Ethiopia and Nicaragua. I absolutely feel at home there.

5) Kids-all ages and sizes. Kids are honest and to the point. I love their compliments and criticisms. And I love that they call me Miss Madi 🙂

Want to learn more about Madi, or contact her? Here's how...

Visit her web site: www.madiwalker.com (Buy her album...and a couple T-shirts..and join the mailing list while you're there!)

Follow her on Facebook , Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube.

Or go "old school" and send her an e-mail at info@madiwalker.com.

Just in case you can't wait to click over and hear Madi's music, here's a little treat for you... (If you're reading this in e-mail, click here to view the video.)

Don't miss the other fabulous women we'll be meeting through Friends on Friday! Enter your e-mail address in the box to the right, and you’ll get new posts delivered straight to your inbox!

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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10. You can't remember the last time you weren't exhausted.

medium_4195379808

photo credit: tobi.mattingly via photopin cc

9. You have ever hidden in your closet to eat chocolate because you
didn't want to share.

8. You cannot for the life of you shed those last 15 pounds!
medium_485148794photo credit: Newbirth35 via photopin cc

7. You have convinced yourself (on more than one occasion) that Golden
Grahams are a perfectly nutritious and satisfying dinner for your family.

6. Fifteen minutes alone in the bathroom is like a slice of heaven.

5. You have ever threatened prayed, with a sincere heart and clenched teeth,
from the doorway of a darkened bedroom, "Lord, please help Little Johnny's
tummy, leg, nose, eyes, teeth and everything else feel better. Help him stop
moving and talking and go to sleep so he DOES NOT GET IN TROUBLE!!!"

4. You find yourself saying things your own mother said...
and they're starting to make sense.momism3. You have ever realized, while tucking your children into bed, that you did not brush your teeth (shower/eat/insert other vital activity here) today.

2. You have ever realized, while tucking your children into bed, that you
did not feed them dinner!

1. Despite the constant exhaustion, daily stress, recurring moments of frustration, and those stubborn, unwanted pounds, you are proud to be called "Mom" and are thankful for the little ones who do so.

IMG_1548

We may not be the June Cleavers, or even the Carol Bradys of our day, but we love our families, work hard to do what's best for them, and give it our all...even on 3 hours of sleep and 6 cups of coffee! So, here's a shout-out to all my fellow worn-out Mommies!

Happy Mother's Day!

"So let's not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don't give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith" (Galatians 6:9, The Message)
signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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bridge
Loves of my life

Sometimes it's nice to shake off the dust of our little suburban subdivision and set out to explore wide open spaces. A couple of weeks ago we did just that, taking advantage of a long weekend to visit family in the country.

We were blessed to have a beautiful day and spent most of it outside. Here is a glimpse into our fantastic day in the great outdoors. ...continue reading

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

Guess who's on Twitter now...yep, li'l ol' me!

twitter-bird-white-on-blueSome of you are probably thinking, it's about time! While others may be thinking, What in the world for?!

Let me just say, until recently I fell into the latter category. I mean, I understood the concept of "tweeting," I just wasn't really sure why I should do it (which is exactly how I felt about Facebook and blogging at one point, and now look where we are!) Then I came across a couple of articles that inspired me.

For those of you familiar with Michael Hyatt you know what fantastic business and leadership resources he makes available on his blog. I came upon two of his posts about his Twitter experience. In one, he explained the benefits of Twitter, and in the other was a simple step-by-step guide to getting started. That was enough to convince me to dip my toes in the water.

So if you're on Twitter, I'd love to "tweet" with you. You can follow me through the link in my sidebar.

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It's not too late to join the Thirty for 30 Challenge. Click here for more details.

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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I came across a post last week asking readers to comment and leave a list of their bests of 2012. That got me thinking about what I would consider my "bests" of this last year. It's been so easy to focus on the difficulties these last few months; it was much more refreshing to look back over the great moments of this year. So, as we close out 2012, here they are, in my opinion, some of the "Bests of 2012": ...continue reading

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Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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I thought I'd share some fabulous fall pics my very talented brother-in-law took on a recent camping trip. Enjoy!

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.

They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.

Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
--Psalm 19:1-4

May you take time this weekend to savor the splendor of God all around you!

Visit the rest of his collection here.

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signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.