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.


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.


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.


God's plans for me

It feels I've been doing this forever.
I don't remember what it felt not have both of my arms aching in pain.
I don't remember what I looked like with both of my breasts and a head full of hair.
I don't remember what it's like to yearn for more children and think they were in my future.
I don't remember what it felt being the caregiver, instead of being cared for.
And my mind is sudden to remind me it will still get worse.
Thoughts of dying keep haunting me, and the thought of recurrence and having to do treatment again has me wishing for it.

I had plans for how God was going to use me.
I wanted to be a missionary and even chose my career with that in mind, choosing a career that is very universal and mobile.
My plans changed to having a big family and homeschooling my six or more children.
We had a child in 2012, another in 2014, and were pregnant with the third in 2016. Things were going according to plan, except for some career and finantial setbacks; but we were not going to let that discourage us. After all, we walked by faith and knew God was greater than our finantial problems and would bless our growing family for His glory.
A week after announcing our pregnancy we lost my dear Sammy.
Three weeks later I found out I had cancer..

February of this year the girls and I visited my mom in Panama City. For some reason while being there I asked my mom to take me to have a mammogram done. I told her I felt something was "odd" about my left breast. She checked it with me and found nothing irregular. We decided that when I went back to Honduras I'd have a gynecologist check them because no one would do a mammogram on a 30 year old without reason. A few weeks later I got them checked in the same appointment were the doctor was informing me of my miscarriage. He cleared them.

A few weeks ago my mom came to visit me again. She was mourning that she didn't take me to get the mammogram. "We could have found it sooner and saved you from all this," she said. "Mom, God planned when we would find out. He was in control of that too. It is His plan that I go through this."

That was the first time it hit me. THIS was God's plan of how He was going to use my life. This is definitely Kara's influence in my life.
I saw a Facebook memory yesterday of me pregnant with Kaylee. I thought "That is how I should look right now, four or five months pregnant. That should be my life right now, not this. Not this."
This is how I should be.

I had a plan of how God was going to use me to spread the gospel through my work, through my children, but He was going to spread the gospel through my loss and my disease.

Would it be what I would have chosen for myself?

Oh, I think of Tony and Lois. I don't know them, but I have been praying for their daughter Giana for half a year. Giana was in a terrible car accident December 24, 2015. She succumbed to her injuries June 18, 2016. You can read her story here.

Tony has been very opened about his grief about losing his only child, his daddy's girl. The way Tony processes grief is supernatural. Here is an excerpt of one of his Facebook status which he got from the book "From Grief to Glory: A Book of Comfort for Grieving Parents":

"My love in Christ remembered to you. I was indeed sorrowful when I left you, especially since you were in such heaviness after your daughter's death; yet I am sure you know that the weightiest end of the cross of Christ that is laid upon you, lies on your strong Savior. For Isaiah said that in all your afflictions He is afflicted (Is. 63:9). O blessed Savior, who suffers with you! Your soul may be glad, even to walk in the fiery furnace, with the Son of Man, who is also the Son of God. Take courage. When you tire He will bear both you and your burden. In a little while you shall see the salvation of God.
Your lease on your daughter has run out; and you can no more quarrel against your great Superior for taking what He owns, than a poor tenant can complain when the landowner takes back his own land when the lease is expired. Do you think she is lost, when she is only sleeping in the bosom of the Almighty? If she were with a dear friend, your concern for her would be small, even though you would never see her again. Oh now, is she not with a dear friend, and gone higher, upon a certain hope that you shall see her again in the resurrection? Your daughter was a part of yourself; and, therefore, being as it were cut in half, you will be grieved. But you have to rejoice; though a part of you is on earth, a great part of you is glorified in heaven.
Follow her, but do not envy her; for indeed it is self-love that makes us mourn for them that die in the Lord. Why? Because we cannot mourn for them since they are happy; therefore, we mourn on our own private account. Be careful then, that in showing your affection in mourning for your daughter that you are not, out of self-affection, mourning for yourself.
Consider what the Lord is doing. Your daughter has been plucked out of the fire, and she rests from her labors. Your Lord is testing you by casting you in the fire. Go through all fires to your rest. And now remember, that the eye of God is upon the burning bush, and it is not consumed; and He is gladly content that such a weak (one) as you should send Satan away frustrated. Honor God now, and shame the strong roaring lion, when you seem weakest.
Should you faint in the day of adversity? Recall the days of old! The Lord still lives; trust in Him. Faith is exceedingly charitable and believes no evil of God. The Lord is placed in the balance your submission to His will and your affection for your daughter. Which of the two will you choose? Be wise; and as I trust you love Christ better, pass by your daughter, and kiss the Son. Men lop the branches off their trees so they may grow up high and tall. The Lord has lopped your branch off by taking from you . . . so that you would grow upwards, setting your heart above, where Christ is at the right hand of the Father.
Prepare yourself; you are nearer your daughter this day than you were yesterday. Run your race with patience..."

Tony is able to face such hard truths in the mist of his exceeding grief. He ceases not to seek God and glorify Him. He blesses my life in ways he can't imagine. But he would have not chosen to have his daughter's death be used for him to reach hundreds miles apart. It was, however, in God's plans.

Lately I just feel my only purpose in life is to grieve. I grieve Giana's departure as if it were my own daughter. I grieve the Syrians . I grieve the hardships my MFC Community on Facebook deal with daily: cancer, disease, death, divorce, pain... so much pain. I grieve the moms in Mommy Daily, another Facebook community, losing unborn children, infants, spouses. I cry for them all to the point I feel I am going to throw up and my heart will come out of my chest. Yet I feel I need to feel this grief. It brings me closer to being like my Saviour, Who grieves with us. If I feel my grief for strangers is strong, how great is His? He, Who knows them since they were formed, and loved them with the truest, strongest love known! This grief shapes us all and unites us in unexpected ways. It makes me grow in compassion and love for my neighbor like I never did before. 

How terrible it would be to go through this without purpose. How wonderful to have God use my loss and pain to spread His word and use me to preach to hundreds I would have otherwise never reached. I pray cancer doesn't kill me and I can see my daughters grow up, but I rejoice in fulfilling my life's purpose: to give Him glory, in whichever plan He has for my life. 




Community... in Honduras?

Really? Is it possible?
Living in the second most dangerous country in the world with two cities in the top ten for most violent cities in the world?
Please! That is something for first world countries where neighbors still get together without fear, where you have farmer markets, community fairs, and children in the same schools of the district, where people have good homes and good incomes, and do fund raisers and help each other. 
That is not something that happens in Honduras. 
Or does it?

I am overwhelmed. Overwhelmed!
How is it possible?
There is community in Honduras?!
Amongst mothers who have never met each other or crossed paths?
Who have never heard of me or know me?
Why are they rallying up to help and support me?
And in Honduras? 
It still leaves me dumbfounded. 

Meet Nory and #teamLinda SPS (SPS stand for San Pedro Sula).
San Pedro Sula is number 2 in the top ten list of most violent cities in the world. It is only second to Venezuela's Caracas. Number 2! 
How then are these mommies getting together to raise funds for a mom in a complete different city with the dangers of meeting out of their homes, with the hardship of leaving their kids with someone else or bring them along to the meetings. with their time constraints as working mothers, pregnant ladies, and/or with infants and toddlers?

Impressive moms in various TV stations.
 I don't know how they do it!

They worked hard and long.
 They made a bond and friendships that will last forever.

How beautiful is this picture of these moms praying?
 Most of them didn't know each other either before they became #teamlinda.

Busy moms making time to meet on weekends.

Celebrating in between meetings with all those kids!

They could have filled a stadium!

They thought of everything, even making this a family event.

The cool tshirts with #teamlinda's theme verse:
 Nothing is impossible for God.

All the gifts for the bingo were donations!
My new friend Mary sending her support all the way from Guatemala.
We are sending prayers for that precious in her belly.

#Teamlinda SPS left me baffled seeing how I knew none of them. NONE of them!
#Teamlind Tegus left me even more baffled.
Many of #teamlinda Tegus were also moms I had never met, but most were moms I did. What was baffling of that is that most were moms I have never had a deep relationship with.
I thought that, being Tegus my home town, the moms in the team would be my closest friends.
The friends I thought would say "present" were really not there, especially my single, non-mom friends (who you'd think have more time).
The people I thought would be there were completely absent, whereas the people I would have never thought would rally up for me where there and very present.
That has humbled me so much, you have no idea.
God has really showed me a lot through this experience.
I had left pride and prejudice (no pun intended) dominate me and my relationships and my views of others. God was so amazing to use this time to shatter that in my heart and mind and show me He is capable of using the least expected, even to be His hands and feet in my life.
I am crying as I type this.
I am so grateful when God goes ahead and just smashes my pride.
I am so grateful for the women that said "present" even when I have never been a good friend to them. I am so grateful they all did it selflessly as for the Lord, diligently for my sake.
I am so sorry I've been such a bad acquaintance (I wouldn't dare saying I've been their friend).
I hope I can make that right. I hope I can offer these women my friendship, even though I proved to be such a bad one.
I don't resent my friends who were not present. Sometimes you don't know how. And I don't know if I would say "present" for all of them. I am just eternally grateful many did for me and I am humbled deeply by that.

They got me on the newspapers too.

And looked good on TV too

My girls got to go to their first bingo.
It was the first for most of us. XD

How pretty were these?

Most gorgeous servers ever!

Check out my father and mother in law with their #teamlinda shirts.
Awesome friends and the world's best husband.
BTW, he is not wearing the designated shirt because I liked the
way he looked that night too much and asked him not to change.

I almost cried when I entered this overfilled food court. 

Emmalee got to help with the riffles. 

I got to share my story and the most important part of that story: His story.
 He filled that food court for His glory.
It had been a long time since I had the honor
 of worshipping Him before an audience. 
Thank you #teamlinda. Thank you for making #teamlinda and for putting up events I would have never been able to. I don't even start to comprehend how you did it, even less why you did it. All I can say is thank you for the love, the effort, the peace you granted me in the finatial aspects and the prayer aspects. Thank you to everyone who donated, attended, spread the word, bought tickets and shirts and caps, took your family to the events, posted photos, prayed long and hard for me, sent me messages and much love. I felt ridiculous entering that food court with all eyes on me. I felt like a celebrity, and that is just hilarious. Even my husband has been recognized a few times. A mom approached me in Pricesmart and said: "Hi Linda. We are friends... well not friends friends... from Mommy Daily." And I just went ahead and hugged her and started small talk with her and her husband. Mommies, that is so true. We are friends. YOU are my friends. You are my prayer warriors. A mom in one of the TV interviews when asked why she did all this for someone she didn't know replied "We are moms and that unites us all." Maybe that was the reason some of my friends were absent, and the ones I least expected said present. We are moms, thus we are sisters!

Thank you for living these verses:
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
Matthew 18:20

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.
1 Peter 3:8

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Colossians 3:14

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Romans 12:16

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1 John 4:11

How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!
Psalm 133:1

God was so amazing with me He brought Nory, #teamlinda SPS's head coordinator, into my life, 
We were so blessed by her visit with her beautiful daughters that my daughters are still mourning their departure back to SPS. Here is a beautiful picture of what the Lord united:
Nory with my best friends, my two moms,
and her two beautiful daughters, and me!