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12/02/2016

Would you change anything?

Apparenty movie watching has had deep impact in me these past days. 
I actually don't watch much tv and can't stand watching new movies right now, but loved this one.
I am sorry that once again I must give a spoiler alert on one of my posts, but this one needs to get out of my head in written form. 

Spoiler alert. If you haven't watched the movie Arrival and don't wish to know the end, walk away. 

I must say i never knew a trailer could be so misleading. The trailer makes you think the movie is about an alien arrival and the search for the reason of their coming before responding with hostile action. Are they here peacefully? Should people try nuking them even though they haven't made any action that merits that? I love these kinds of movies, the intriguing, intellectual kind. But this one had a component that hit me real hard with the two things I've struggled with this year: the loss of a child and cancer. The movie starts with Amy Adams' character remembering joyful times with her daughter and later remembering the untimely death of this child in her early teens to cancer. 
I really think the trailer should give a hint to this because a parent who lost a child and wanted to go to watch an alien movie to blow some steam will walk out of this movie seriously troubled. 
After these opening scenes, she tells of the day "they" arrived, making individual matters go to the backseat. She is a linguist specialist and is summoned by the military to meet the aliens in an attempt to try to communicate and understand the reason of their arrival. 
Throughout the process of learning their language, she keeps having flashbacks of her daughter and their moments shared together. 
In her final encounter with the aliens, she has mastered their language and makes an astonishing question: Who is that child? 
You realize until this point that she is not having flashbacks but flasforwards. The alien explains that mastering their language gives a person the ability to see the future. 
This is a shocking revelation. Amy's character knows that if she has a child she will lose her to cancer. She keeps having flashforwards and learns that when she reveals to her husband that she knew all along thier daughter would get cancer and she decided to have her anyways, he leaves her. 
At the end of the movie she poses a question: If you knew, would you change anything? 

I couldn't stop crying thinking how I'd feel if I were in her shoes. How would I be able to enjoy a moment with my daughter knowing she wouldn't be with me for long? I would cry every time I see her. There is a scene where Amy's charcter tells her daughter she is unstoppable. The girl smiles, says "I'm unstoppable?", and hugs her mom. I would literally break down. 
I was watching the videos Kinsley's mom had been posting of their time in Disney. Kinsely had the time of her life. Her smile goes from ear to ear. I don't know how her parents do it. How do they enjoy time with their little girl with the knowledge this is probably the last time she'll feel well? I can't even write that without starting to cry. 
Yesterday I was telling a friend I don't live my life as if cancer is gonna come back and claim my life. I live as though I am completely cured. If I live this way and cancer does come back, I would have lived my time left much better than if had lived in fear and hopelessness.
I admire Kinsley's parents deeply. 
In a sense, it is better to know time is ticking and we need to make the best of our little time here.
A conscientious sense of our mortality shows us the nonsense of our time usage. All that time amassing money and possessions instead of amassing great relationships, moments and memories, love and laughter.

But instead we live in the era of information to use that precious knowledge to continue our selfish ways. Nowadays, a parent can know before hand if their child will be born with a birth defect or down syndrome. Instead of using that knowledge to prepare for this child, they choose abortion. 

What about my personal story? 
I have breast cancer caused by my genes. My cancer is hereditary. There is a 50% chance either one of my daughters got the gene from me, and if they did it gives them an 85% chance of breast cancer and 40% chance of ovarian cancer. If I had had knowledge of this gene in my body before having children, the doctor would have suggested I get my embryos screened for the gene to avoid passing this malignancy unto another generation. You could think there is nothing wrong with that, but would those children be Emmalee and Kaylee? Would I risk changing that in my past and not have them specifically? Those toes and fingers, eyes and smiles, voices and personalities?

The movie hit me hard when I remembered something I said when I learned how dispiriting my diagnosis was: I wish I had not become a mom. I said this thinking how awful it would be to orphan my girls so young and how I had always wished they didn't grow in a broken home. I take that back. If I hadn't become a mom they wouldn't be here. Those toes and fingers, eyes and smiles, voices and personalities that drive me so crazy wouldn't be here. 

I don't know if I could do what Kinsley's parents do knowing what's to come. 
And in my case, I don't want to go. 
And I remember One Who prayed like me not to have to take this cup but let His Father's will be done knowing what this will was.
Have you heard the story of the One Who knew and didn't change anything?

Matthew 16

21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Jesus knew He would die for our sins. He also knew that through His death He would become the lamb of God to clean the sins of whoever believes He is the Son of God and offers forgiveness of sins for us to spend eternity with Him in Heaven. 
I wouldn't change getting cancer if that has allowed me to tell His message to more people. 
We avoid heartache because our concerns are merely human concerns. 
Most of us are not willing to accept that heartache is part of our journey.
There is heartache even in the good marriages.
There is heartache in parenthood. 
There is heartache in compassion and opening our hearts to those around us in need.
It is heartache that makes me pray for Kinsley each day and makes those who read my blog pray for me.
And all that heartache only has purpose if you bring Him glory.

All we have is today anyways; live it right.
Would you change something? 
I would tell you to change yourself today and live for what is worth living.

Check out these gorgeous little ladies I wouldn't change one hair of or one day spent with them.









11/08/2016

The House of Mourning

I went on a date with the hubs Sunday night to watch Doctor Strange. I am a huge Marvel fan, and an even bigger Benedict Cumberbatch fan, so I was really excited about the merge of both. I was not expecting to leave the movie theater with a lesson on life and death. I mean, it's a Marvel movie, for crying out loud. Most people will overlook the lesson or not grasp it completely, but my current situation makes me more attune with these themes.
Today I am specially sensitive to these topics. Today I found out the little four year old girl I've been desperately praying for, Kinsley, is probably not going to survive her liver cancer. The third and last chemotherapy had no effect on her tumor, and she can no longer receive radiotherapy.
I had not cried for her thoroughly until I was in the radiation machine getting my fifth session. I remembered her mom posting how scared Kinsley felt all alone in the radiation machine that she needed to be sedated. This time around, her cancer had spread to her lungs and sedation was not an option. She was so brave learning to stay still alone in there at such a young age. I should know, I am aware of how Emmalee would act having to be left alone and immobile in such a position and place. Radiation greatly reduced her tumor between her lung and heart making her heart rate and breathing normal again allowing her to sleep. This will allow her to make a make-a-wish trip feeling strong and healthy. She will recover from the side effects of her treatment before her tumors overtake her health and later her life.
I tried not to move during my session while the tears made my eyes itch and my breathing became uneven. I sobbed soft "please Jesus, in your name, please" as I prayed for her cancer cells to just die. It happens. Cancer cells have figure out a way to outlive cellular expiration, but there have been cases where the cell just autodestroys. Doctors can't explain those cases. I thought of writing to her parents asking if they could do immunotherapy. Then I thought of my own cancer and how everyone keeps suggesting treatments like I haven't researched everything possible I can do. These parents most definitely have researched everything they can do to try to save their baby girl.
"Why? She is just 4."
I couldn't help it. I questioned.
I recently learned from my study of the book of Job that Job questioned God and even after that God affirms that Job did not sin.
I found it strange finding my mind going back to Doctor Strange. (Ha! strange, Strange)
Spoiler alert! Don't keep reading if you haven't watched the movie and don't wish to know anything that happens.

Here is Team Kinsley's photo. 
The Ancient One has taught Doctor Strange many lessons on the multiverse, astral projection, teleportation, opening portals, using the force and what-not. He reads a whole library on mysticism that would be hard to understand for pretty much everyone. At the end, the Ancient One explains the arrogant and brilliant Doctor Strange he has yet to learn the most important and simplest lesson of them all:
"It is not about you."

Life on this Earth is not about us.
What does that mean?
I don't know.
It probably means something different to all of us.
I do know one thing: it is true.
And she ties it with the reality that is everyone's inevitable end: we all die.
And somehow, she asserts this is what gives meaning to life.
I'll come back to this.

Everyone likes to think of destiny when thinking of finding their spouse or making that dream trip.
However the truth is we are destined to die.
Not only are we destined to die, but the day has been set.
The Bible says our days are numbered.
How can death give us meaning?
And how can we make this inevitable event a part of our life?
This brings me to the book of Ecclesiastes:

Ecclesiastes 7
2 It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting; for that is the end of all men, and the living will lay it to his heart.
3 Sorrow is better than laughter, for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.
4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
...
14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider this: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.

I often wondered about this passage.
How can it be better to be in the house of mourning? 
We have been thoroughly studying the gospel of John in our home church,
I've read the words "Whatever you ask in my name you will receive" many times. 
My father-in-law reminds us that verse has second part "if we ask according to His will."
I pulled a Gideon on God. 
I came to my room and asked God to prove Himself to me, prove that verse is true and we shall receive what we ask in His name.
I prayed, asked, begged with all my heart "In Jesus' name, give Kinsley a miracle. Make this last chemo work."
How could this not be in His will?
I thanked Him because it seemed He had answered. 
And now it turns out He hadn't. 
Only radiotherapy worked and thus only her tumors on the left shrunk while the tumors on the right side grew. Now she has reached the permitted amount of radiotherapy and has been sent home to live peacefully until her tumors grow again. 
Why? How is this better than the house of mirth?

I go to the only answer I have for everything that happens; I give thanks. 
Gratitude and peace are not exempt from tears. 
I think of Giana and Bailey, who are forever with me and a part of my heart. 
They wouldn't be had they not been called home. 
They changed me. Their lives changed mine forever. 
Thousand miles apart and never having met, two girls changed my life for the better. 
They make me appreciate each day, pray with passion, remember them with joy, stay in awe of how they were able to touch my life and the repercussions they will have on those that surround me, on how I view and treat my daughters and my husband.
I was in their house of mourning and took them with me forever. 
I think of my own journey. 
It astounds me that so many women are praying for me passionately never having met me and how many are touched by my story transforming their own, making us one. 
That is the way death has meaning. 
It joins us. 
It is part of all of us. 

My favorite verses from John this time around were these:

John 17
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one,Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

It makes me sick to my stomach how this is not true amongst my brothers and sisters in Christ.
I'm sick of seeing the division between us.
These are from Great Commission Church, these are from Impacto Church. 
These are from Hernan, and these are from Home church.
These celebrate Halloween, these are against tattoos and dating. 
Ugh, it's revolting. 
I want to see unity in the body of Christ. 
I love that Christ has merged my heart with Giana and her dad, Bailey, and now Kinsley and her aunt and the many ladies in my Mundane Faithfulness Community. 
There is so much mourning in that community I sometimes can't bare it. 
My pain is but drop in some of their never ending oceans. 
My heart breaks so many times praying for these women I will probably never meet. 
Yet God has joined us because of our pain and suffering. 
He has made us part of each other because our suffering has opened our hearts to so much compassion. 
I am grateful Kinsley is feeling better and will have a nice Thanksgiving and Christmas. 
I will pray for her and believe for her the same way I have decided to pray and believe for myself: I will pray and beg and cry out to the Lord for healing and a miracle and believe He is able and will answer until the day comes when or if He says no and calls us home. 
I am so glad her life can have so much meaning and worldwide impact even though she is just four. 
Our days were numbered. 
Some have less days and are leaving a greater footprint on this earth than some who live to old age. 
Some had purpose and gave God glory with their little numbers than others did in a whole lifetime. 
What are my numbered days on earth compared to eternity?
I leave you with this poem;

I walked a mile with Pleasure;
She chattered all the way,
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say
I walked a mile with Sorrow,
And not a word said she;
But oh, the things I learned from her
When Sorrow walked with me!
Robert Browning Hamilton

10/25/2016

Dear Emmalee and Kaylee



Dear Emmalee,

Oh my sweet girl, you are growing up so fast. I know I probably say this in every one of these letters, but it is so true. You are such a cute, eloquent young lady already. You say things like "that's incredible", "Mission accomplished" when you picked your toys, and "That is fabulous" when you do a craft with mommy. You are so funny. You makes us laugh so hard with your wit and logic. I love seeing the big sister you have become to Kaylee. You still fight and most of your discipline has to do with you punching your sister, but it has gotten better. You now play with each other most of the time, and just fight from time to time. It used to be the other way around. You are still struggling quite a bit with understanding that "no is no." You usually try to negotiate a yes, cry until you get your way, or repeat your request incessantly. Unfortunately for you, mommy is feeling much better and will not give in to any of that. Also unfortunately, you inherited my stubborness and you are taking a while to understand "no is no." Mommy is doing her best to be patient. I am not always loving or patient when I discipline you. I always say this to you as promptly as I can, but I will say it here again; "I am sorry for those times." I really try hard not to let the fact that you are my firstborn be a reason to "use you as practice guinea pig." I pray, try, read, seek advice, and all I can to do right by you. But mommy is learning, so I thank you for your love for me even with my many shortcomings.
Lately we've been having a sort of romance. You can't see me without giving me a hug. I mean every time you see me: when I come out of the bathroom, when we cross paths after lunch, when you come out of your bath, every time you see me! You just want to spend the day with me snuggling. And it feels wonderful. Every time you hug me, you bury your face in my chest, or my neck, or my face and I feel this undescribable, warm feeling spreading to my entire body giving me goosebumps. I love that you do this even after I've lost my temper with you. Your love is so unconditional and pure. You hug me this way even after I have disciplined you and you are still crying from your sore hiney. I know this romance won't last forever, but I am so grateful I get to share this love with you. I get to experience your tenderness and sweetness like no one else will.
Last night we were watching Disney's The Good Dinosaur together. I can see how much your logic and undestanding has developed. You kept asking where was Arlo's father and why he was always crying when he thought of his dad. I couldn't bare explaining to you what death is again. I tried when Alee died. I cried in secret praying you don't have to know what it's like to grow without a parent, especially without a mom. I found comfort that if you did, you would have so much love around you. This are hard things to talk about, but I have shared a wonderful love and romance with you that has filled these days with much more joy than I could have ever imagined. Mommy is doing much better thanks to you. You are so willing to caress my head and my legs when I am not feeling well. You are helpful with your sister, and you have grown inmensely in obedience. I love you, my crazy girl. I love waking up to you calling out for me. I love working out with you each morning doing our kids aerobics. I love teaching you new things and watching how smart and beautiful you are growing.
Love, mom.







Dear Kaylee,

Oh my lovely girl, how do you stretch my heart to new extents for so much love to fit? I have a feeling you will be my little singer, even with your low tone voice. I actually love that your voice is so distinct from most girls your age, and I feel it will give you a very unique singing voice as well. Regardless of your singing voice, you enjoy it and you do it unbashfully, and I love you for it. You wake up to mommy asking you if you want to take a bath, to which you jump joyfully and instantly. You always ask for bubbles, but you are more understanding when mommy daily says no. You and your sister have a new obsession: Paw Patrol. You want to watch it everyday, all day long. Mommy has to make sure you don't and have some play time. You learned recently how to pedal but are still struggling with steering. You love to jump the rope and follow your sister around. You also love to play alone. This is something only you do, as your sister never played this independently. I tell your sister that I try not to have her as guinea pig, but you two are so different you are also a guinea pig. Sorry. I love to see your make believe games at such a young age. You grab your toys and talk to them (in whatever language you are using) and make them interact with each other. It truly amazes me. Your main struggle is not screaming your bloody, shrill "no" when you don't get your way. You have also benefited of mommy's improving health and the fact that she is diligently giving you discipline for each of those ignominous "no!" Instead, mommy is teaching you to say "thank you." When your bath is over and you feel like yelling that "no" when mommy says it's time to get out, mommy tells you to say "thank you" for the lovely bath. You are slowly learning and are slowly becoming more complacent. You had a harder time saying "sorry" when mommy told you to apologize for any wrongdoings. Instead, you used to give us this clenched-fist stand, cold grimace, and "you are dead to me" glance that left us feeling dumbfounded. I am happy to say that look of yours is now a rare occasion. It used to be the other way around. You still have a disproportionate preference to mommy that leaves daddy feeling left out. This is specially hard on him at nights when he tries to comfort you and you keep crying "mommy." You compensate him with the big smile, hug, and the loud "daddy" you give him when he comes home (If you are not entranced watching Paw Patrol). You laugh the most with him. You have these games where he drums over you and you laugh and keep requesting "otta vez" (again). You are in the age where you are not as cuddly as you use to (and your sister went through this stage), but you like to have me close.  You still come over to grab my hand to take me close to where you are playing, at least where you can see me. That is enough for you. You love taking bike rides and walks with mommy and Emmalee to visit the neighbor's dog Mila. You aren't a social flower like your sister, but you are learning how to befriend others. I love watching you with your friend Romina, Anne Marie, and Andres. We are learning numbers, colors, and shapes. You have such an amazing spatial intelligence. You are great with puzzles. You have the patience to try things on your own. You are truly a wonder and beauty. I am so happy you where God's completion to our family. I still feel you would have been the most loving, cuddly big sister. Who knows? Maybe God still has that instored for you. I truly hope I can continue to watch you grow and learn, and keep loving you more each day. Thank you for filling my days with love and laughter.
Love, mommy.



9/22/2016

Understanding Suffering

The image is still fresh in my mind. 
The young boy has fairer skin than his father and light blond hair like his uncle Ditto when he was a baby. He looks like a mini Rodolfo. His sisters can't stop touching mommy's belly. 
He would be due this November. 
I would be preparing the baby shower. It would be a Teddy-moonlight theme. I would already have all the decorations done. 
We would worry of what now seems like the "little things": a place to live, money to sustain ourselves, stable jobs, will the girls go to school?, will I be able to stay and homeschool?, can five live in a single room?, will we ever sleep again?, how do we manage with three kids under 3?

We would seriously lose sleep over these worries, yet thinking about it makes my heart jump. 
I have a hard time letting this image go. I am not grateful this isn't my reality. The heart understands not what it wants. 

I have been stripped naked from pride. 
I have never been vain with my looks. The few physical things I liked about myself were my perfect eyebrows and my low-maintenance, shinny, long hair. I still have my perfect profile nose. 
I do pride myself of a beautiful singing voice. I've been unable to sing for a month now from the damage from chemo, and the radiotherapy will further hurt my lungs and throat. 
I pride myself of a sharp mind. Well, my brain cannot even tolerate to focus enough to watch a movie, let alone read anything. Don't ask me anything; my answer is always "I don't know." 
I pride myself of having a "biblical worldview" on family, not desiring treasures from this world, but desiring to fill my quiver with as many arrows as I could for His Kingdom. I feel the same disapppointment in myself I felt when I couldn't bring Emmalee through natural birth, limiting the number of children I could have. Now none of it matters. Nothing I pride myself in matters with God's plans for me and how He wishes to use me. 

A friend recently asked if I thought God has prepared me to walk such a hard road. My answer was yes. When asked why, I. was surprised that I had a reason for that answer. Several months before my cancer my heart was in true angst for the Syrians. The Syrians are constantly on my mind and prayers. My husband would find me hiding in the bathroom crying my heart out from reading the chemical attacks on August 2013, the drowning children and mothers trying to flee to Europe, the homeless chidren facing a harsh winter to closed borders, the little girls being sold as "wives". I recently wrote on Facebook that my hard was nothing compared to the hard of millions. Some think I say this to be strong, but I really mean it. I can talk about the Syrians for hours and I choke back tears thinking about them right now. I also prayed in tears many nights for Giana's life. I feel a knot in my throat just thinking about her. So why did this prepare me for my hard? 

One thing people want to know is "Do you still believe and trust in God?" I find this question odd. I understand that many people turn from God if they're faced with such hard, but this people that claimed to "believe" in God did so in world where such hard already happened; it was just not happening to them personally. Was He not God when others' little children die of cancer? Was He not God when babies had to be dug out from colapsed buildings due to war while losing their parents to the explosion? Can we see such pain in the world and not make it our own? Is that why you can claim to believe in God as long as it is not happening to you? And if does happen to you you'll curse God, but you didn't curse Him before when it happened to others! I think I would prefer an atheist who denies God because he sees suffering in the world, than a "christian" who would deny God because he is suffering. 

We were promised suffering. 

John 16:33
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

I guess I was prepared because I suffered with others' sufferings. I had cried many miscarriages before my own. I have cried babies lost to SIDS, accidents, cancer. Suffering is not new to me. If anything, it's strange when it's my own. I am so grateful it is me walking this hard and not a loved one, my suffering seems mild. The only time cancer truly makes my heart angst is when I think of the pain my girls and family would suffer from losing me.

Suffering has such a beautiful promise for our faith.

Raomans 5:3-5
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

James 1:12
12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

How can we, then, believe in a God that allows such sufferings, and in His sovereignty, even brings them about in our own lives? I recently answered this question to my brother with another question. Do we really believe what we claim we have believed? Do you really believe that Jesus came to earth to die for you so that you may go to Heaven and be with Him when you die? Because personally my answer is yes, I understand my suffering is temporal. What is eternity compared to this life in this earth? Have I not been promised a new body in a new world? Has my Lord not promised to have a home waiting for me that He has personally prepared? Did He not say He Himself would dry the tears from my eyes and there would be no more pain? I believe. I believe my Sammy is already there waiting for when we meet. I believe my suffering, even if it would end in the least desirable outcome, is and would shape my family's life and faith forever as it has mine. If anyhting, suffering just makes me feel closer to Christ.

1 Peter 4:12-13
12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
1 Peter 4:19

19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.


And so I praised God for ridding me of pride and self-righteousness. 
I praise Him for having my baby safe and sound with Him.
I beg Him to give me a grateful heart for what was not.
And I pray this suffering makes me a woman of faith, which has my heart desire since I was twelve. 


7/29/2016

Dear Emmalee and Kaylee, choose your husband well!

Dear Emmalee and Kaylee,

My sweet girls, yesterday I was praying for the men that will be your future husbands. As I prayed for the qualities I wanted in these men, I realized your father checks every box, so I wanted to tell you what I have with your father. You see, my sweet darlings, I don't know if I'll be here when you are old enough to start having romantic feelings. I pray you can be like me and wait until you are old enough to open your heart to someone else. During your teenager years you will think you have intense feelings for a guy and think he is "the right one." Please wait until you are at least 20 to make this judgment. I am so glad I did, and I am sure you would too. If I would have ended with the guy I thought was "the one" in my youth, this letter would be a lot different.
Because your father is the only man I have ever been with (I mean the guy was my first kiss when I was 21 years old), I don't know what it's like to have a bad relationship.
I don't know what it's like to have a guy break my heart. I know what it's like to have a guy know what he wants and be willing to do whatever it takes to get that girl. Your father waited almost three years for me. I'm not saying make a guy wait that long, but make him work for you. You will know you are valued. I don't know what it's like to have a guy break up with me, be unsure of "where this is going", ask for space, or think we need to see other people. Your father had only eyes for me. He was 19 when he told his father he was going to marry me, worked the next years towards that, and married me when he was 22.
I don't know what it's like to be on an estranged relationship where we don't care of the other's interest or are not engaged in what happens in our lives. Your father wants me to go everywhere with him: to the stadium, even out with his guy friends. He always wants me there with him because he says he enjoys it more with my company.
I don't know what it's like to have a man treat me with harshness or coldness. Your father is the most loving, caring, sweet man in the world to me. He makes sure I know how beautiful I am to him everyday, even though I am bald and breastless and definitely look sick and tired. Your dad has the greastest heart of a servant. He will wake up every day at 3 am to massage my legs and back if I am in pain, just the same way he did when I was pregnant with you, Emmalee, and you, Kaylee.
I know what it's like to have a man that takes my hand when I am scared and tell me everything is going to be alright, hold me in his arms when I can't sleep and wake him up for this sole reason.
I know what it's like to have a man that will pray for me. When things get tough, your dad's first reaction is to start praying. He begins every prayer by thanking God for this day. I love that about him.
I don't know what's it's like to have a man not be an active participant in everything that happens to this family. Your father didn't leave the wedding to me. He wanted to be a part in choosing the decorations and helping me make them. He was involved in my pregnancies, going to every appointment, touching my belly to feel you move, making me feel like a fool because only he could make you out in the ultrasound. He was being active in choosing your crib, clothes, and decorations. He is the most loving father to you, girls. He is involved in your discipline and your upraising. He has watched every Peppa Pig and Pocoyo episode available with you.
Sweet girls, please make sure you choose a man who is just as great as your dad. Make sure whichever man wants to date you comes get your father's permission first. And if your father doesn't deem this young man worthy, wait until this man makes himself worthy before your dad's eyes or walk away. Trust me girls, your dad will have your best interest, and he will know best. It is why God gave you such a father.
I hope you wait and live your lives like I did, never knowing what it's like to have a guy treat you with disrespect or diminishing you. Your father has always treated me with kindness, respect, and patience. He puts my needs before his and has never demanded anything from me. You see, my sweet girls, marriage's purpose is to show God's glorious relationship between Him, the groom, and the church, His bride to this world. When I was a newly wed, this is what impressed me the most: that your father's love for me made me aware of God's inconditional love for me by the mercy He had for me in giving me such a man.
Make sure you find this kind of love and this kind of man.
I will always be there with you, no matter what happens. Remember that mommy doesn't want you to settle for anything greater than the love she and daddy have. I love you my girls.

Dear Emmalee,
My gorgeous, brilliant girl, how did you grow so amazing?
You are my personal nurse, and I could have not asked for a better carer.
You come to me every morning asking if I want my meds, and you give them to me sorted from biggest to smallest. If anyone is talking too loudly or making noise, you make sure to shush them and tell them mommy has a headache. You are so considerate to me.
I am dazzled by your intelligence. Everytime grandpa Edgardo comes to visit he asks for a kiss, to which you always reply "later." You are not fond of kissing grandpa Edgardo's bearded face. Last time he came to visit he asked you if you wanted him to give you a small guitar. You jumped in joy and said "yes." He then told you he would give it to you later. You asked why, and he said that is what you always tell him. We all thought you wouldn't understand what he was talking about and that he was joking. You immediately stood up and kissed him. We had such a good laugh.
You have the most amazing vocabulary for a three year old, even in English. Your phonics is shear perfection.
You have grown to be such a great big sister. You are always taking care of your sister and don't mind when she copies everything you do. You just have fun with her. You teach her to get off the street when a car comes through. You grab her hand and bring her back when she won't hear mom.
You love to sing and have learned so many songs you'd embarass any child in a nursery.
You want me to watch you do everything you do: ride your bike, play on the ipad, take a bath, brush your teeth, put your clothes on or off, draw or color. It's all "look at me, mom, look at me." I love it. You only ask that to me.
You love making new friends and are quick to start playing with new kids.
You love your grandma Linda so dearly. Last time I allowed you to get in bed with me because you had been sick all day. When you woke up in the middle of the night, I started caressing your hair and telling you to go to bed. You thought I was your grandma Linda and said "Grandma Linda, you came back from Panama." It was so endearing that you miss my mom that badly.
You are all about moving to Panama. "When are we going to Panama? Are you better to go to Panama?" You just dream of Panama. Soon, my sweetheart, soon.
I love you, beautiful. When I ask why you are so beautiful, you say "Because I am Emmalee."
So cute. When asked what is your name you say "Emmalee Zelaya Ulloga Maradiaga." That last one was your grandma's doing. She wants you to carry her name. She is trying to steal my spot in your heart. You are much too clever for us. Grandma taught you to point at her when she asked "Who is your love?" When mommy asked you pointed at me too. So I asked who was your first love. You said "Both." Clever, clever girl.
I love you forever.

Dear Kaylee,
Oh my sweet, sweet girl.
Thank you for craving mommy's touch and arms above all else's, even though mommy has been spending such little time with you. I love watching you grow, but you are growing so fast. You and your sister are already wearing the same shoe size. I didn't believe it until your father put your foot and Emmalee's against each other.
You have a better grasp at sharing than your sister, since you've had to share since you were born. However, you have become very possessive with your quilt. You know how I always call you my little Linus. Well, now you definitely are.
You are struggling with your terrible twos, and daddy has had to give you plenty of discipline.
I have seen it is having a positive effect as your are learning to be more obedient.
You still are my audicious, intrepid little monkey. You are specially fearless in water, contrary to your sister. You just love taking baths. If you see mom or dad, or anyone for that matter, taking a shower, you start taking your clothes off. Emmalee still doesn't know how to take her shirt off, but you don't let anything keep you from crashing a shower.
We were visiting some friends the other day and the couple's teenager daughters were looking after you and Emmalee. One of the girls came down stairs to tell me one of my daughters had seen the bathtub and was taking her clothes off saying "bath! bath!". I immediately knew she meant you. We couldn't dissuade you from the bath, and you ended up splashing in a stranger's bath.
It was so funny.
You love to go everywhere with your sister. If you want to go outside, you start calling out loud "Malee! Malee!" until your sister agrees to go with you or you stay with her in the same room. I love it when you play hand in hand. I've only been able to record you playing that way once. You two always stop whatever you are doing when I get the ipad or phone out. You kill me!
I've been trying to record you singing your favorite song "Elefante" (whose real name is "Paradise" from Cold Play). You call it that way because of the music video. So far you've stopped singing the moment I try to record and have left me frustrated in my attempt. You really like Cold Play, by the way. Only you are a two year old with a favorite music band.
I love that your animal sounds are so accurate. Your dad can't help laughing out loud when you are asked to do a chicken and you make a rooster sound, complete with the raising of the head to finish the last "cuckoo doodle doo." It is super hilarious. Your monkey sounds are spot on, but you love making an elephant sound, even though you barely can.
Your latest obsession is elephants. You want to look at elephants in books, in songs, in movies, everything. I've been wanting to get you a stuffed elephant, but we are moving to Panama soon and it is not logical to get more things since we need to actually get rid of everything. You finally payed attention to a small stuffed elephant from your baby swing, but your best pal since your Toy Story Jessie doll lost her head is a small basset hound plushie that actually belongs to me. You take him everywhere, making me very nervous because I still view that dog as mine. We make sure not to lose it as you ask for it to go to bed. I can only imagine the disaster not knowing where that dog is would be during your bedtime.
I love you forever.

Love you, my girls.
Yours, Mommy.











7/20/2016

A History of Pain

I'm sleeping.
My mind is in that half asleep half awake state where it knows it's sleeping.
I am dreaming of my days in Jafet, my youth group. I am hoping I don't wake up.
But then I hear a voice...
"You have to eat, baby; you haven't eaten in two days and you are declining." my mom says. She wants to take me to get hospitalized.
I'm fully awake now and the pain train arrived. It came rushing in voraciously to every corner of my body. Only when I am asleep I escape this reality of hurt that is now full on my reality.
"Why did you wake me?" I cry. "Why? I am in so much pain."
Mom rushes to the pharmacy to get some Ensure to make sure I at least get some nourishing.
I lay in bed not even able to cry. My eyes shed scales instead of tears and the skin around my eyes is burnt and cut.
I can't scream in pain either. My throat is damaged from throwing up and from the dehydration in my mouth and the burning in my esophagus from all the meds.
I'm terrified of eating. Everything I've eaten the past four days cramps my stomach adversely and sends me running for the toilet writhing in pain.
The pain is so unbearable my husband brings a hot water bag to put in my stomach every few hours. He always warns me of not putting it to my skin that hot, but I never listen. I already have burn marks on my belly.
I usually reject pain medicine and take it only when I can't stand it no longer. This time, I've been popping pain killers earlier than the recommended 6 hours. They help me go to sleep again.
I haven't seen the girls the past four days. I make an effort to lay in the hammock in the yard to at least see them play. Kaylee lays with me and falls asleep. Poor baby has missed her mom badly. Emmalee is happing asking me to watch her ride her big-girl bike.

I am so grateful my husband insisted on purchasing this hammcok
 a few days before my chemo round that left me broken.

The nanny moves Kaylee to her bed and my husband is massaging my legs.
I'm drifting back to sleep.
"Thank you, Lord. Make me sleep. Make me sleep as long as possible. Make the days go by asleep so I won't have to face my pain again."
It started raining. I feel some drops falling on me. If I say something, my husband will move me inside. I can't move. If I do, I lose the sleep spell. I lived this woken moments just to get back to this state; I can't lose it. I can't lose sleep's grip and relief from the nightmare that is being awake. The sleep spell wins and I fall asleep. "Thank heavens."
I wake up. The pain jerks me out of sleep.
"What time is it?" I ask hoping the day moved forward and it's closer to being over.
Turns out I only slept 20 minutes.
My heart sinks in dismay.
Mom and Rodol take me to the hospital to meet with the oncological surgeon to talk about my next surgeries.
The wheelchair ride is enough to leave me nauseated.
It feels like my insides are battling to become my outsides and I am a second away from bursting.
The hubs keeps massaging me while waiting for the doctor.
I want to scream and cry, but I can't.
I just utter a soft "Help me."
"Help you how?" my mom asks. "Do I take you to ER. What do I do?"
"Help me. Help me. Help me. Help me. Help me. Help me. Help me." I sound like a broken machine. I am a broken machine.
I fear the doctor will be late like all doctors are. The doctor arrives five minutes after that thought.
He is taking forever talking my medical history with my mom.
"Just give me something. Treat me! Treat me! Treat me!" I'm yelling in my mind.
Finally I let go an audible moan.
He listens and finally agrees to give me a pain patch for oncological patients.
"Thank God it's not something injected or intravenous."
I ask my mom to run to the hospital's drugstore to purchase it.
They didn't have it. Only special pharmacies carry it.
We go to one but the prescription the doctor gave us is incorrect.
It should be a special green form that authorizes such strong narcotics.
At this point I am telling my mom I am willing to try Marijuana.
The pharmacist knows my mom and can clearly see I am a cancer patient in desperate need of pain control. He agrees to sell it.
For such a "strong" narcotic, I was expecting relief. The pain no longer feels like it's going to kill me, but it is still there, the hurt.

To the Cross, Linda! You must take it to the Cross.

Isaiah 53:2-8
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.


When I was little I always wondered why God couldn't find another way to save us that didn't include Jesus suffering. I understand a little better now. Jesus not only knows what I am going through and has lived more pain than I have, He did so to understand me and really hold me. He did so for my sake. Oh beautiful Cross to run to!
Last night I was thinking how His mercies had been renewed in my day with such a day. 
Then I walked across the room and saw Emmalee sleeping soundly on her bed. Her blanket had fallen so I picked it up and tucked her in.
I walked towards Kaylee's bed. She is sleeping with all her hair in her face. I move it back to reveal a gorgeous, peaceful sleeping face. These are my mercies. I must seek them in dark days. 

I thought of the grieving Dad who lost his precious daughter. What are his new mercies from God each day? He was created to live in mercy, hope, and above all love. God's mercies to him sit next beside him in his living and also grieving wife that holds him. I pray he finds mercy, hope, and love in the memory of his precious, the hope of his Almighty, and the love of his wife and family. 
We can't live in pain. We learn to live through it, but we must strive to have mercy, hope, and love be what we live in. 

I pray your pain takes you to the Cross too.

Here is a video I made for my husband for our 6th anniversary. Excuse my recording ability. I had just had chemo and did this on Garageband on my ipad.


7/12/2016

My heartbreak at the Third Chemo

It's time to update ya'll on my cancer progress.
I don't know why I've been avoiding this post.
It may have something to do with having to share of my heartbreak, which makes me relive it.
Anyway, here it goes.

Chemo session number 3 was brutal.
I attribute that to a few things:
1. Heartbreak
2. Anxiety
3. Bad diet and exercise (attributed to the heartbreak and anxiety)
4. No mental preparation.

One of the things I mostly pride myself during these past months of world-changing news and lifestyle was the fact that I, after battling for 30 years, had finally stopped biting my nails. I mean, I even stopped before losing Sammy and after cancer news, surgery, and first two chemo rounds.
Chemo number two was wonderful. The side effects were minimal. I got to share time with new friends, Nory and her daughters.
And then it all spiraled down so fast I found myself unable to control my urge to bite my nails during a barbecue at a friend's house infront of all my friends.

We had a terrible loss.
We had a rat visitng the garbage in our backyard. My father-in-law uses a deadly mice venom that attacks the nervous system which has no cure or antidote. He thought he controlled where the poisoned food was. He did not take into consideration where the rat would move this food.
Our dear Alee ate some and lost her life after a two day battle. I'm just happy Kaylee didn't put anything in her mouth. Can you imagine? I've since asked my FIL to change his methods to less dangerous. This is the second pet in his house to die of this reason.



At 1:00 am I woke up from her unusual barking.
I found her with my father-in-law trying to calm her. She was convulsing.
I begged him to take her to the doctor's. She came back at 2:00 am with a catheter to give her an inyection if she convulsed again.
It was reckles of me to care for her, but I couldn't stop thinking of my girls losing their beloved puppy. At 3:00 am she puked which made me really happy. After this, she started regaining strenght and even seemed normal. I cuddled her all night until at 6:00 am she convulsed again.
I rushed to wake my FIL to give her the shot. Emmalee woke up at around this hour when I came out of the shower.
"Go back to sleep, baby. It is still not time to wake up," I said.
"It's ok, mommy. You don't have to play with me. I'll just go outside to play with Alee," she replied.
My heart broke so badly.
"Alee is very sick, Honey."
I had never seen that worried look in her eyes.
"Is she throwing up?" she asked.
Poor thing still had her food poising fresh in her mind.
"Yes, baby. She is."
"I want to see her."
At this time, Kaylee also woke up and asked in her lovely toddler voice "Onsta Alee?" (Where's Alee).
I knew Alee was still sedated from the shot, so I took them both to where she lay and allowed them to pat her once.

At 8:00 am she was taken to the vet.
The vet said that if she didn't stop convulsing, he would have to sleep her. I asked him at 1:00 p,m how she was doing and he said she had convulsed two more times. He said that as long as she was sedated, she was not suffering and we could wait one more day.
I called the next day with no hope in my heart.
And then the doctor gave me great news: Alee had not convulsed since I had last called.
We could pick her up and bring her home.
I was so hopeful I brought Emmalee along to pick Alee at 1:00 pm.
At the doctor's office Emmalee did what she had always done when someone was near her precious puppy: She introduced her.
"This is my sister Alee," she would tell those entering the house with Alee jumping at them, and she did with the people on the vet's office too.
My heart was breaking more.
She loved her "sister"
The doctor instructed me to bathe her and try to get her to eat.
I gave her a warm bath and tried to feed her some chicken.
She wasn't having any, so I went to blend it to feed it with a syringe.
When I came back with the food, Alee started making a noise like a cry and threw up blood.
We rushed back to the vets. Emmalee was upset she couldn't come with.
The doctor said it was probably due to a med he had given her and gave her a countering shot.
I left feeling it was not the last time I would see Alee.
As I was leaving, she gave me this look like saying "Don't leave me." I hugged her and told her she'd be fine, that we were both going to fight and survive this.
I called at 5:00 pm and the doctor told me Alee had passed. Turns out that when I left, she couldn't breathe, so the doctor had to intubate her. When he did, she started spouting blood everywhere. She had severe internal bleeding and nothing could be done. She had died shortly after I had left.
I tried to explain her passing to the girls.
I sat them and told them their puppy was not coming back. They didn't understand.
Kaylee kept asking the following days "Onsta Alee" and Emmalee kept telling people her puppy was at the doctors, even though I kept explaining she was not and was not coming back, The girls didn't seem much affected.

It was until we went to my friend's barbecue that I knew how Emmalee felt. My friend Meli had a puppy that resembles Alee a little. Emmalee grabbed the puppy's blanket and put it around the puppy. She hugged her close to her face and whispered to the dog: "Don't eat anything bad. Don't throw up so you won't get ill like Alee."

The girls with Mely's dog October 2014



I went to the kitchen and cried my eyes out. After dinner, I couldn't help biting my nails despite my husband's complaints and demands of me stopping.

Around that time, Emmalee has been coming to my bed each morning asking me if I am sick.
I tell her I am, but that I will get better before her birthday.
To this she always gives the same reply: "And then we'll go to Panama?"
Sweet darling dreams of going to Panama. She can't see a plane go by without telling me that's how we'll go back to Panama.

I had a yeast infection, which both my oncologist and my gynecologist said would be common during my cancer treatment. I went to have it checked and used the opportunity to get a pap smear.
The test came back with an Atypical squamous cell (ASCUS) result. The gynecologist sent me the result via Whatsapp with a recommendation to get a colposcopy. I googled colposcopy and read it is biopsy to find if I have cervical cancer. I broke up in tears and panic. Crazy panic! I call my mom with desperate tone that left her worried sick. "Tell me where to go, which doctor?" I asked. She sent me the name of an oncologist-gynecologist and my husband rushed me there. I entered his office in tears. He tells me not to cry. He looks at my results and examines me. He tells me he has 30 years of experience and promises I do not have cervical cancer. He even says the ASCUS will probably go on its own and the other gynecologist should have never done the pap test with an active yeast infection. He is very reassuring, and I leave his office in peace after moments of complete despair. He will see me again before my fourth chemo to repeat the pap.

The lady at the public hospital that schedules the appointments had given me the wrong date for my appointment. The doctor's note said the appointment was for the 13th of June and she gave it on the 15th. The 15th was when I was supposed to have my chemo. Nothing could be done. I would have to go to the appointment on the 15th to get the prescriptions for the third chemo and have it moved one day to the 16th. When I got there the 15th a sign in my doctor's door read: Doctor Pineda incapacitated; go get a new appointment. I went to this heartless lady to ask what I could do. She said my doctor was sick and was giving appointments until the 20th. "What about my chemo? I should be getting chemo today!" I pleaded. "I can't do anything. Go ask oncology pharmacy," she replied as if I had told her I wasn't getting my flu med without even squinting.
I started crying and went to oncology pharmacy.
Normita, head of the pharmacy, told me not to cry because she would help me get my treatment. She checked my blood test and said I could receive chemo. She said she would get the prescriptions from another doctor and I could have my chemo right away. She even got me an appointment with this doctor so that she could write the prescriptions for my fourth chemo because it was unlikely that I would get an appointment with my doctor before that time.
I was not mentally prepared for chemo that day, though I was very happy I would not be delaying my treatment a single day.

The horror! This chemo round felt like fire in my veins. It stung badly. By the end I begged the nurses to let my husband in to tend for me. "Caress my head," I asked. He was caressing it with one hand while holding his phone with the other. "No Honey, put that thing down and caress me with both hands. My head is on fire."
The effect was immediate and relentless. For the first time since surgery we had to move the girls to sleep in my in-laws' room. My headaches and pain were so severe I was making the bed shake. When my husband couldn't find a way to comfort me or make me stop moaning and shaking, he hugged me tight and I could feel him crying.
After this, I got an infected abscessed toe for no reason, and a weird inflammation on my left arm. I thought it was lymphedema so I wore my arm compression sleeve. Turns out it wasn't lymphedema and the sleeve made the swelling worse.

I went to the oncologist-gynecologist appointment for the pap test. My mom was in town at this time and came along. He became very worried because my arm looks like bacterial cellulites. He told me I need to see an infectologist right away and I need to be on antibiotics for my toe as well. He won't be doing the pap test until I am better. He urged me to see my oncologist. I told him he is completely booked at the public hospital after his sick days but I was able to get an appointment with him at his private practice later that day. While he was talking to me, I asked my husband to go see if he can get an appointment with an infectologist in the same hospital ASAP. My husband was able to get me an appointment for 3 pm that day, but I have to be at the public hospital at that hour to see the new doctor to write my fourth chemo prescription. I begged her secretary if there was another time the doctor could see me, but she said no. I went back in with the onco-gyn who was doing a check up on my mom. When we come out, the secretary (bless her heart) rushes to meet me to tell me the infectologist will see me right away. He had finished with his morning patients early and wanted to help me out.

The infectologist happens to also have a dermatologist specialization so I beg him to treat my toe. He told me my toe was too swollen and the anesthesia would not hold and I would be in a lot of pain. I told him I didn't care; I was willing to withstand the pain. If that toe was not treated I wouldn't get chemo. He agreed to treat it. I asked Rodolfo to take off his belt so I can bite on it. I was glad I did. The anesthesia shot was terrible to endure. Mom said the doctor used plenty to spare me from the pain of draining the abscess. He did well as I felt no more pain as soon as the anesthesia's effect kicked in. He says my arm is not cellulites but an allergic reaction to a bug bite. He gives me prescriptions for antibiotics that will cover both my arm and toe.

After two doctor's appointment that day, I went to the public hospital to see the new doctor for my prescriptions for chemo #4. She was late to her afternoon appointments because one of her patients passed away. I was supposed to go in at 4 pm, but at that time she was on the patients of 3:00 pm. It's 5:00 pm and my appointment with my primary oncologist is at 6:00 pm. I beg the next patient to let me in as I am just going in to get prescriptions because she is not my treating doctor. He agrees (bless his heart) and lets me in. We make in time for my 6:00 pm appointment.

Dr. Pineda checks my blood work and my arm and toe. He says my arm was an allergic reaction but it could easily turn to cellulites. He tells me he wants to move my chemo two days back. I don't even argue with him. I did not feel mentally, emotionally, or physically ready for another round. The two days could get me closer. My heart was heavy; my body was broken. I was also able to tell him my BRCA 1 came back positive. He tells me when need not worry about that right now and I follow his advice.

It was such an exhausting day I barely held my head up to go with mom to my grandma's house to cut a cake for mom's birthday. Mom's birthday was the next day, but she was going back to Panama that day as well. She comes into my room in the morning. I am so beaten I can't hold my head up. She prays with me before she leaves for the airport. I barely get a "happy birthday" out before she is gone and I drift back to sleep. This was a Tuesday. Chemo #4 was on Friday.

I am happy to report Chemo #4 was almost as good as Chemo#2. I had minimal to cero side effects. I finished my last session with Doxorubicine and Ciclophosphamide, which possed the greatest threat to burning my arm if they permeated my veins. My right arm is aching terribly from the inside burns in my veins. I think I did better on Chemo#4 because I was mentally ready for chemo, had had more days to rest, and was recovering from lossing Alee. Also, I did more exercises and coupled it with better dieting. I will let you know of my diet in an upcoming post.

Thank you for reading my cancer journey. Thank you for keeping me in your prayers.
Please pray for a serious case of insomnia I'm experiencing right now.
Pray for tolerance to the new diet which has depravation symptoms.
Pray for some neuropathy symptoms I've been experiencing. These scare me because I will be starting my next four chemo sessions with Docetaxel and Carboplatin which are more toxic and produce more neurological side effects. These scare me the most as they take months after chemo to cure or can become permanent damage to my nervous system.
Pray for my cognitive function. I can barely think straight or remember anything.
Pray for my heart. I've been experiencing clinical depression due to being sleep deprived and from the never-ending fatigue. I am not taking meds for this as it is still not serious.
Thank you once more.