Friday, May 31, 2013

It has been awhile since I have written...which I would like to say could be considered a good thing. I have been busy living life! Praise the Lord for that. There are times when I am not sure what to write about on here now that I have shared my story, written many many posts of thankfulness, and wrote about my journey of healing. So I am thinking, just write about what I am doing now, which is living!

Still, I will write about my cancer story at times, because I am still walking through the healing that comes in the aftermath of any major trial.  Life is different once you have survived something like that.  Everything looks different, feels different, and you are changed somehow.  When I was sick, people would tell me that one day the whole thing would just be a 'blip' on the map.  I am here to tell you, it will never be simply a 'blip' on the map for me.  Should I be crying everyday about what I missed with my kids and how I suffered? No.  Should I spend every day running through a field of wild flowers with my hands waving in the air?  Um, no.  Maybe a little of both for me... a little grieving mixed in with a lot of joy and praise.  Surviving cancer is a funny that way.  Nothing is cut and dry, and that is okay.  So the healing continues and thank goodness that God is patient with me as I walk through it!

So, I must share that Jennifer Crook is amazing.  She is a photographer and awesome woman!  She took my sister's wedding pictures and did an amazing job.  Then, she felt led to give me an amazing gift.  She graciously offered her time and talent by doing a 'Victory Shoot' for me and my family.  It is a celebration of survival, and I am so touched that she would do it for me.  And  as you see, the pictures are absolutely amazing.  I recommend Jennifer Crook Photography to anyone who needs wedding, family, baby, kids pictures etc. ( She is truly good at what she does.  Below is really only a very few of the pictures she took for my family.  What an amazing gift!  Thank you Jennifer!

I hope ya'll are having a blessed day.  I am off to pack for the beach, why not? We just moved last week.  Seems like a good time.  Like I said, I am living life! Be thankful!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

my story

As we near the one year anniversary of when my battle started, many people are asking me to tell the story again..what really happened? Many people know bits and pieces, but have asked to know more. 

Better still, some have asked to share my story as a testimony to share how God helped me and my family through the hardships we faced in 2012.  I am happy to say that I feel ready to tell my story as a testimony of the amazing love, power, and grace of our Lord.  I consider it an honor to be asked to share my story. Lena Warnock, co-owner of Mattie Mae Designs, awesome mom and friend, and inspiring blogger has asked me to share my story of faith on her blog.  It has posted today, and I also wanted to share my story here.  Below is what I wrote for Lena, courtesy of ..

Love to all!

A story of faith.
I am a 28 year old, married, mother of two beautiful children. My Avery is 3 and little Owen is 1 year old. My husband is an amazing Godly man. I am also a Family Nurse Practitioner. Life is good..let me share my recent story with you.
 February 1, 2012 was an amazing day for me. For starters, I was 36 weeks pregnant. So imagine my surprise when a reassuring whisper in my ear woke me in the wee hours that morning telling me “he is coming today.” A voice I attribute to an angel or the Lord preparing me for what was to come. “He” or Owen William Liles was born later that day. He was a healthy, amazing little boy, and showed no complications from his prematurity. I went home and although sleep deprived, I began recovering normally from delivery.
Katelyn and newborn Owen
 February 29th is my birthday, yes my real birthday. Leap year actually came this year. My family was over at my house loving on Owen and celebrating my birthday. After nursing my son, I doubled over in horrible abdominal pain out of nowhere. Suddenly I hemmorhaged horribly. I called my doctor and she called in some emergency medicine to make the bleeding stop. She instructed me to call her back immediately and come to the hospital if it happened again.
The bleeding stopped immediately. My husband, Robbie, took the night shift with Owen so I could rest. At 5 am that morning, I nursed again and felt intense pain once again. I rushed to the bathroom and experienced a massive hemorrhage. This time was even worse. I lost so much blood that I found myself in and out or responsiveness.
My doctor said to rush to the hospital. I think I was afraid and in denial, because at one point I attempted to walk down the stairs with assistance but became unresponsive, so my husband called 911. Friends, in that moment I experienced an out of body sensation. In the stairwell I was able to look down at myself unresponsive and see my husband and mother panicking over me. It was a matter of seconds, and no, I did not see a light, Jesus, or any loved ones. As a believer, even in that moment I knew that I was not going to die, because my Lord and Saviour would have been waiting for me. He wasn’t calling me, so I kept fighting. I could hear everyone and would sing in my head to try to stay with it, even when I was not able to respond. At the hospital, it was determined that I lost 45 % of my total blood volume, almost died, had emergency surgery to make the bleeding stop, and was given 3 blood transfusions.
Let’s fast-forward a little. About 1 week later I was asked to come to the doctor’s office. My husband came with me. I noticed the nurse was skiddish talking to me. Then, walked in not one, but two teary eyed physicians, both of which are friends who I have seen patient with as a nurse practitioner. They proceeded to tell me that my cells from surgery looked abnormal and were sent to Harvard for further evaluation. There, they diagnosed me with Choriocarcnoma- a cancer that grows in the uterus after giving birth in about 0.02% of pregnancies.
I immediately met my oncologist who told me about the intense chemo that I would face for an extremely rapid and aggressive cancer. From there I was immediately take for CT scans which found multiple tumors in my lungs.
Here’s a timeline of events: I was diagnosed on Thursday, immediately forced to stop breastfeeding, met with the surgeon who would give me a port in my chest on Friday, was hospitalized Saturday for another hemorrhage, had surgery for my port Monday, and when I woke up, I received 3 more blood transfusions, and started my first round of chemo immediately.
Lena & Katelyn (with Owen) in July 2012.
 I faced 18 weeks, or nine rounds of chemo. I experienced chemo every single week, both inpatient for 2 days straight and then outpatient. I also underwent a total hysterectomy, which was extremely heartbreaking for me and my husband. I did not get a break from chemo to have surgery, I received chemo 3 days after surgery. I have been told that my chemo regimen is one of the top 10 strongest that there is. Due to the extreme poisonous nature of my chemo, I was not allowed to touch my children for 48 hours after each infusion. That was by far the most difficult and torturous part. We called the days that we could touch ‘snuggle days’.
Katelyn with Avery & Owen on rare “snuggle” days.
These were days that I could feel my soul healing. In the mean time, my daughter wore hearts that I had kissed with bright red lipstick, and I would be propped up in bed or in a chair to be near my babies. Many of you can understand the breaking of a mother’s heart to not be able to touch your own children.
 I won’t weigh you down with every chemo side effect because as you can imagine, it was horrible. Two of the most frustrating side effects were complete numbness for 6 months in my hands and of course, the unspeakable experience of my hair falling out and having to let my mother and husband buzz my head. Try explaining this to a then 2 year old. We made the best of the circumstances by wearing matching chemo scarves, and even princess wigs to match…mine a real wig and hers..Snow White.
There were so many uncertainties and changes in this experience, but the only constant was my ever-strong, ever-sovereign Lord and Savior.
I am thankful that in the dark nights spent in the hospital when I could barely walk or open my eyes, I could still feel God all around me and I could feel prayers whispered by so many on my behalf. I am thankful that He carried my family through these dark times, and protected my children and husband. When I would get home and lay on the floor so I could talk to Avery, she would tell me how beautiful angels are with their great big wings and pretty hair. She told me her uncle lived in heaven-an uncle whom even I have ever met. Faith like a child. God comforted my two-year-old even in my absence.
 Now I am completely healed, with a less than 1% risk of it ever returning. It is nothing short of a miracle.
Speaking of miracles, let me list a few for you:
 - if I had not gone into spontaneous preterm labor, the cancer could have progressed into my brain and liver before being discovered. Miracle.
- if I had not delivered Owen early, there was a huge chance that he would not have survived due to the cancer…only 20% live. Miracle.
- if I had not hemorrhaged, the cancer would not have been discovered until it was too late. You have to thank God when He reveals Himself ALWAYS, not just when He reveals himself in easy ways. Miracle.
- I could feel angels at my bed during treatment. Miracle.
- there is no evidence whatsoever of cancer scarring in my lungs. Miracle.
The Warnock family wearing their “Kick Cancer Kate” shirts – everyone wore them on the same day and took photos to post online as a sign of support and encouragement for Katelyn.
- Family, friends, and even strangers carried my cross with me through prayers, cards, gifts, and starting the “kick cancer Kate” movement!!! And it helped me “kick it” for good. Miracle.
- I am able to share this with you today. Miracle.
- I am healed. Miracle.
My last round of chemo was a mere 5 months ago. I am currently working through post traumatic stress for obvious reasons. God has given me wonderful family, friends, and counselors to help me with this. And I still fight physical side effects to chemo, but those little smiling faces keep me motivated to not give up.
And my hair? I’m like a chia pet! Grow baby grow!
Lena & Katelyn at a shower in January 2013.
Throughout this experience, I had and continue to have an overwhelming feeling of gratitude to everyone who has touched me and my family during this time. I also have a sense that no words could fully express my thankfulness. I am thankful for my faith, and for my heavenly Father’s presence in every happiness and in every struggle.
There are two ways people usually handle cancer. One is to become very angry and resentful, and the other is to be thankful to the One who carries us through our struggles. I choose to be thankful. God did not give me cancer and it probably broke His heart to see me go through this. Cancer is an evil of this world. God does not promise that this life will be easy but He does promise to be with us every single step of the way and that is certainly true for me. Cancer has afforded me the opportunity to reach out to others struggling with illness, battling alongside a loved one struggling, or challenged by their faith life. I have reached many people that I have never even met. I am thankful that God allowed me to bring comfort and peace to people in so many ways.
 I hope my story helps remind you to seek God at all times, in all circumstances without fear or hesitation. I am honored to share this with you. Be thankful!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Kick Cancer Kate

Oh I did. I kicked it. Picture this, I am in inpatient treatment and am feeling particularly weak.  This particular day I am facing serious doubt as to whether or not I am strong enough to keep fighting. I am laying in my hospital bed feeling so sick, and I decide to try to distract myself from my negative thoughts and doubts.  So I grab my Ipad and get on facebook.  (of course.. seriously it helped pass time!)

Friends, this particular day was the day that all of you decided to change your pictures to the Kick Cancer Kate sign...which I had never seen.  This is the day that you started posting pictures of yourselves wearing the shirts...which I wasn't aware even existed. This was a 'turning point' day for me.  My doubts were smashed, my spirits were lifted, and my heart was encouraged.

This was the day that I saw the army of people standing behind me and once again pulled myself up by bootstraps.  This was the day that people picked up my cross and carried it with me all over the country...and all over the world.  It was beautiful. 

I can't this of a single thing I could say or do to show my thankfulness and love for you all.  I did hear a song lyrics that I would love to share that pretty much sums it up.

"raise a glass to friendship and to knowing
you don't have to go alone
we'll raise our hearts to share each others burdens
on this road
with every burden I have carried
with every joy it's understood
life with you is half as hard
and twice as good"

-Sara Groves

Please forgive me if you posted a photo and it was not included below.  I tried to find all of them, but if one was missed, it is certainly just has special and just as cherished.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

I was diagnosed with cancer on a Thursday, met with a surgeon Friday, was hospitalized Saturday, surgery for port Monday, and chemo upon waking up from surgery. There was absolutely no time for me to process what was happening. Not to mention having a baby only 5 weeks earlier. So when I was sick, I did what anybody would do. I put on my armor and went to battle, waging absolute war against choriocarcinoma. And by the grace of God,I won that epic battle.

Now is the aftermath.

Now is the time to say "what just happened?" Now is the time to start processing everything. To say the battle is over for me would be untrue. Yes, the physical fight is over with the exception of chemo side effects. But now starts the emotional recovery, which for any person facing such serious circumstances is quite difficult. It is something that I am actively and prayerfully facing.

At Christmas I am reminded of so many things. You know, this sort of suffering was around at the time when Christ was born. Emmanuel. God with us. Does it ever make you wonder what Jesus thought about becoming like us? Did He ever think, I don't want to go down there, there is too much suffering, and yet I will have to suffer more than anyone has ever suffered?" I would have thought "you guys work it out down there. It's way better up here."  And yet, born in the purest of forms, in the humblest of circumstances, Jesus came to be with us and save us. Thank you Jesus, for facing the suffering without fear or even a second thought. And thank you for holding my hand through both physical and emotional trials.

Christmas is such a joyous time. Yet, troubles of the world like the unspeakable recent act in Connecticut seem to complicate things. My prayer for myself and for everyone really is that no worldly circumstances can take away from the spirit of Christmas. I pray that joy shines through like that great star on an otherwise dark night. And that when we see that star...we simply and humbly follow it out of the darkness and into the light.

I am thankful for that humble reminder.

And now..... our Santa picture. Because after speaking so seriously and thoughtfully, let's laugh together, shall we?

Be thankful.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Thankful for miracles

Thankful for Miracles

Surviving cancer was huge miracle for me this year. One that I will forever be thankful for and never take for granted. I did not think that I could feel any more blessed and then God amazed me once again.

Actually this entire blog was started to talk about my little girl, the surgery she had been through, and the surgery she would face. If you look at the first posting I talked about the horrible test she would have to endure. I showed pictures of her at every stage for kidney issues. The test that I was dreading had to be redone because my cancer pushed back her test till it was out of date. I was so upset about this. The surgery we were told that Avery would have to have this time included a major bladder reconstruction and would be a horrible recovery. I have prayed and prayed that God would please deliver my little girl from this.

And He did.

Once again Avery faced the VCUG test that was so hard for her endure. This time was every bit as difficult as the last if not more. But to the shock of her doctor, the test revealed an absence of any issues whatsoever. Her kidney reflux has literally disappeared leaving her body in perfect shape. She's completely healed and no longer needs any more surgery. In fact for the first time in her entire life she is no longer taking daily antibiotics. The doctor felt this was a miracle, and I couldn't agree more.

God is still in the business of miracles. This particular miracle is every bit as amazing as those we read about in the Bible. God heals the sick and comforts those in need. This year we are certainly a family in need. And we are certainly thankful for the miracles we have experienced more than ever.

Be thankful.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Thank for family- the out of towners

I am beyond thankful for my out of town family.  All of my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents live out of town. I have always wished that we could all see each other more often. Well, my illness afforded me that exact opportunity.  I consider this a true blessing.  I was able to spend time with someone from every part of my family...from Cleveland, Tennessee, Delaware, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and even Arizona. And my children were able to really get to know our family in way that would have otherwise been quite difficult.  I consider this a true blessing and one of the extremely positive things that came from the entire situation.

My family, the fact that you would drop everything and devote your time to helping me, Robbie, our kids, my parents, and my siblings makes my heart overwhelmed with gratitude.  It was an obvious physical support to us, but words cannot describe the emotional support that you gave us.  I needed to see your faces. And when I did see you, I felt myself rally to fight much harder.  I felt so much stronger because you were there for me.

And now, a word about each of you...although let's face it, I won't be able to do it justice!

Gram and Grandpa-

Oh my heavens, I love you! Thank you for coming to spend time with us. I love our talks and hearing your stories.  I love seeing you with my kids...and Avery talks about you all the time! That is a very long trip, which you happily made for me time and time again.  And thank you for checking on me so often. It really means the world to me.

 Grandpa & Avery finding animals in the clouds
Grandpa holding Owen for the first time

Mom, Rach, me, and Gram

The Menhinicks

Grandpa, me, and Gram

Giving my sweet Gram a hug
A. Deb & U. Russ
I love you crazy kids! I will never be able to describe what it means to me that you came to us pretty much immediately after I was diagnosed.  And when I hemorrhaged that weekend, you were at my bedside in the hospital.  Words can't express how that makes me feel.
U. Russ, thank you for calling and checking on me all the time and making me laugh. You are nuts and I love it!!!!!
A. Deb, the Mega-bus rider, thank you for coming twice to help us. Thanks for playing with my babies.  Thank you for sitting with me while I received a very difficult round of chemo. I needed you, and you were there... plain and simple. I am tearing up writing this to you. All I can say is thank you from the bottom of my heart. On a lighter note, you are now officially an expert colorer.... I should know, I've seen your work!
A Deb with Owen

A Deb and Avery
Aunt Nancy & The Wilson girls:
Oh Aunt Nance, my Dunkin buddy, how I love you. You are so much fun, and you crack me up.  I never knew that when I was just a little girl and I looked up to you....that as an adult I would still look up to you, but you would also be my friend. I love our talks, I love your honesty, and just having you around makes me so happy.  I miss you all the time.  Thank you for being there for me and encouraging me and my family.  So far, we have a stuffed duck, caterpillar, horse, and dog named Aunt Nancy.  I'd say that means that Avery loves you too!
Girls- I have absolutely LOVED getting to spend time with you recently. You all are so beautiful inside and out, and I feel closer to you than ever. I miss you terribly. Thank you so much for all of your support!
Owen loved his Aunt Nancy!

My friend

My gorgeous cousins
Uncle Bobby:
Alright Wardy, you're next.  I know it's not easy to be so far away, just like I know it's not easy to suffer so much....but you managed to come to help us regardless of your own health.  Thank you. I know that was probably tough, but I am forever thankful. Thanks for hold my mom's hand and sitting with me in the hospital... let's face it, scrabble and Uno are fun, but not in a oncology room. :)  My children love you.  Thanks for wearing 100 stickers on your shirt for Avery! One night in bed, Avery asked if Uncle Bobby wanted to come over and play.  I told her yes, he does, but it may take awhile for him to get here!! Thank you for being funny uncle, my old pen pal. I love you.
Aunt Joyce, thank you for your prayers and for always posting encouraging things for me and about me. Even from Arizona, I could feel your support. Thank you and love you so!
Uncle Bob and Owen

The Wards
The Hanna's:
Auntie, who zoomed here as often as she could in her speedy white car, thank you for being my wonderful Aunt. I love you so much. You are so amazing....and hearing your laugh in combination with my mom's 'hoo hoo hoo" lifted my spirits so much! My mama needed her sis and there you were! Avery loves her story book you made her. She adores you! We miss you so much. I know it was hard for you to leave each time, especially on the brink of unsettling lab results that last time, but I want you to know that when you wave your hands as if saying "stop it I am tearing up" makes me realize how loved I am. It was hard for us to let you go! Thank you everything you are to me. I love you from the bottom of my heart. Uncle Jim, thanks for sharing your wife with us so much! I know it takes support in presence just as it does at a distance.
And of course, my sweet cousins, thank you for lifting my spirits with prayers and enouraging words. I loved seeing you all, and miss you like crazy. You are precious to me!
Oh that laugh

The girls!

Avery & Auntie

Greg and Rachel

Carrie and I

The Alcock's:
John, thank you for taking such good care of the kids that Regenia could come help me all those times. And thank you for coming to Owen's dedication. It meant so much to me. Love you!
Regenia, how can I put into words what you have done for me? You were here immediately when I was diagnosed. You helped us all the time so we could sleep and focus on getting better.  You were there to keep me grounded and to listen.  I feel closer to you than ever. We have been through so much together. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, I love you so much my sister. And I love your precious children, who were just what my kids needed to feel normal! PS- we need to take more pictures together...I am discovering as I write this. Love you dearly!
Avery and Annabelle

Avery, Kathleen, and Annabelle

Regenie and Annabelle

Well, just as I thought.  I simply cannot do it justice.  This barely covers how I feel...but know that I am so thankful for extra time I got to spend with you all while I was sick.... it was a true silver lining for me. I love you more than words can say!
Be thankful!