Friday, December 20, 2013

Tis the Season for Giving

I was honored to get an email  asking me to come and share about Cancer, Chemo, and Care Packs with the fifth graders at Bethany Elementary in Oklahoma City. My cousin, well my "third cousin", but she might as well be my first cousin, is a 5th grade teacher there, and has been sharing my fight against  Ovarian
L to R: My cousin, myself, and a friend and
fellow Cancer fighter, Cindy Wales
Cancer with her class.

The word spread and interest was peaked
enough that the kids had a desire to get involved. They collected several donations to support Tenaciously Teal's mission to encourage individuals battling Cancer by meeting both their immediate and long term needs. Tenaciously Teal has grown through it's initial and primary endeavor to provide Care Packs to Cancer patients battling Cancer as a way to extend hope and joy to those in the midst of what at times can be a dreadful and terrifying battle.

My sister's passing out "Fight Like
A Girl" bracelets.
The Care Packs consist of items both myself and other patients have found beneficial in their fight against Cancer including; Gatorade, mints, Kleenex, hand sanitizer, Cheeze Its, Protein Bars, puzzles, Peanut butter, and note pads to name a few.  
Donations brought in by the kids, and
placed underneath the Tenaciously Teal Tree.

The fifth graders at Bethany Elementary not only blessed me today with their sweet spirits and kind hearts, there generosity will bless and bring joy to many other patients for months to come. Thank you Bethany Elementary for inviting me to share some of my own and Tenaciously Teal's story, and thank you for collecting items to fund the Care Pack Operation! It was an honor to be with you today!

More items for Tenaciously Teal's Care
A letter from Jack that brought me to tears.

Nothing better than being surrounded by so much love and joy!

As we snapped a few shots the kids starting holding up their bracelets
shouting "Fight Like a Girl"!

Christmas is a season for giving, in fact a GIFT is at the center of it all!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I've Had Help Fighting Cancer

When this day came I thought I would have something more profound to say. Actually, not much thought has gone into it, but as the one year anniversary of my major Cancer surgery approached I assumed there would be some sort of divine inspiration or maybe a specific feeling I would have as I looked back on a significant day in my life. One year ago today my oncologist removed more than most of my insides and worked for over eight hours to eradicate my body of Cancer that clung to me tightly.

On December 10th, 2012, the fight began, and a new chapter of life with Cancer was opened. I am thankful a year ago I did not know how the chapter would be written. Mostly because of the old adage "had I known then what I know now".. Lets just say had I known then what I know now another side of Tarah may have begun this battle, and on the wrong foot. More importantly I am thankful  I did not understand what this year would hold, because of the pleasantry in seeing how evil can be used for good.

After being diagnosed with Cancer, or any major disappointment in life, it's hard to be reminded of a world where evil seems so powerful. We've all been there, felt like we were at the losing end of a battle against darkness and indescribable feelings of helplessness, pain, sadness and maybe even anger commence, doing their best to consume you. I give full credit for overcoming, or at least not backing down to, Cancer to God, and the support that has graciously surrounded me. After my diagnosis and throughout this Cancer journey I have received cards, messages, and phone calls assuring me people were praying for me, and reminding me of the power of God's love. At some point in the journey I truly started to feel the obvious strength and power that came from the prayers I was receiving, and a time came where I felt I was called to use that power to spread God's love, which has led to the ministry of Tenaciously Teal. T. Teal, I am proud to say blossomed out of darkness, and I hope is a shining example of the good that can come from a desolate situation.

In examining my Cancer journey people may ask, "Why didn't your God stop you from having Cancer?" This is a tough question, and if I am being honest one I have asked myself. If I was pressed to answer I would say,  from the beginning we've all been given the ability to make our own choices, good and bad, and with the freedom of choice comes the consequence of evil in this world. On paper freedom of choice with the potential for evil or Cancer or suicide or depression or murder seems to be a hefty price for the simplicity of choice, however, with choice good and love shine more brightly, and the only way good can truly be in us and shine through us is if we freely choose it over all else. So, in retrospect I don't know specifically why God didn't stop me from having Cancer, but His good, His Light, and His Love shine more brightly because of it.

Friday, November 22, 2013

10 Things to Know About Losing Your Hair to Cancer!

The first moment feeling BALD!
Embracing The Awkwardness

One thing synonymous with Cancer is the infamous bald head, and when you are diagnosed with Cancer it is one of the first things you think about and plan for. Wig, scarf, and hat shopping commence, and you tell yourself really," its' just hair"! It's just hair, but society tells us hair and looks are important, and consequently we all have become expert judges in looks and first impressions!

After my Cancer diagnosis I beat my treatment to the punch and shaved my head to avoid clumps in the shower or wake ups to hair on my pillow. Shaving my head was one of the best decisions, and for me the decision was easy. It was a proactive approach to the inevitable and something I could take control of. Although follow through was not painless, and highlighted the reality I really do have Cancer, I would not trade my decision. It required a lot of adjustment and growth, which now allows me to share a few things I learned.

1. As I said, shaving my head before chemo was one of the best decisions, and I recommend it to other fighters. I invited close friends to my home, and have shared memories of triumph, tears, and a closed chapter of hairiness.
My 1st No Hair Pic!

2. Hair is not for spirals, spikes or looks.  It has one strategic purpose.. Keeping one's head warm! 

3. There is an art to wrapping up your head with bed sheets so breezes don't keep you up at night!

4. Many don't realize but hair on your head is not the only follicles to vacate...Cancer Silver Lining..  you lose all hair, and I do mean all of it:)

5. Your eyebrows and eyelashes are the last to go, but the first to reappear.

6. People will stare at you when you have courage to step out without the Comfort of Hair!

7. You Can Overcome the whispers and stares that come with being Folliclely Impaired!

8. It's okay to feel self-conscious or embarrassed just remember you are a Strong FIGHTER!!!

9.  Losing you hair to Cancer gives you the opportunity to realize every cowlick and awkward hair part, that has ever rebelled against you, is actually Quite Perfect!

My husband and I. 11-2013,
Working with
what I got!
10. Find a  hair stylist to help you through the Grow Back Stage.. dun dun dun.. Folks, It's gets Awkward! Also keep it short for a couple months so hair growth cycles can catch up with each other.

Ok + 1 More...

11. Hair grows back, memories and opportunities do not! Spencer Green once said (My Cousin, now an Angel, and Cancer Fighter) you should "Enjoy Every Sandwich",  Hair or No Hair!

My Cousin, who enjoyed "Every Sandwich" singing his hit..
 "Sweet Surrender"

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Chemo and Care Packs

Getting instructions from one of my favorite nurses, Donna. I have
been blessed to have so many wonderful nurses to care for me!
I  finished chemo #33 last Thursday, and again made the decision to spread joy instead of focusing on the "icky" affects of chemo. Tenaciously Teal (T. Teal) handed out twenty Care Packs on Thursday, despite a little bureaucratic hindrance. We are planning to hand out thirty more in November before we start spreading "chemo cheer" with cocoa, fuzzy socks, a mug and candy cane Christmas presents we have collected for.

Before my infusion, and after passing out Care Packs in the chemo center for those battling with no medical insurance, I went to the hospital floor where I myself recovered from Cancer surgery. This process has become routine, and I've never had any problems. This day, however, a nurse wanted me to call the volunteer coordinator who proceeded to call me into his office after I explained what I was doing. I was reprimanded for not checking with their office prior to handing out Care Packs, and so you can imagine the disgruntlement when he learned this was not my first time  at the hospital, not to mention the time when my husband, dressed as a gorilla, and accompanied me to  pass out Care Packs on Halloween:)

I know what your thinking, why would I just start passing out Care Packs without permission? But that's not the case. I was given the okay by the infusion center, and had the floor managers approval when visiting patients recovering from surgery. It's never easy to hear the words " You Can't", and to be honest I was discouraged, especially when I learned I must go through a series of interviews, screenings, and all Care Pack items must receive individual clearance before I can return.

Visiting with other patients receiving chemo
 It felt like a road block intended to discourage me from       continuing this mission, but ultimately it's going to take more than screenings to stop me from fighting to spread Light! Luckily none of this pertains to continuing to pass out Care Packs at the Cancer Center where I receive treatment, but it will prevent some patients from receiving a Care Pack and encouraging least until T. Teal can bust through some red tape!

If you haven't already liked us on Facebook do so to keep up with everything T. Teal is doing to spread hope and joy to those fighting Cancer! Find us at:

Continue to pray God will bless T. Teal and use this ministry to show His love for those enduring a battle with Cancer!

One of my new friends, Tom, we have gotten to visit several times
at the Cancer Center, and I enjoy seeing him each time! Tom is battling Pancreatic Cancer, and is a true fighter displayed by his constant smile and how he makes it to chemo every other week while continuing to work into retirement age!

Monday, October 28, 2013

I completed another round of maintenance chemo Thursday bringing me to 32 infusions, and one step  closer to being at "no chemo status". For those who are new to this journey I began chemo in January 2013, and will continue through April 2014. I think back to when my oncologist told me they were recommending sixteen months of chemo, and remembering I  had to position my hand so my mouth did not hang open the entire consultation. All I kept think was " sixteen months? Are you kidding me?". Sixteen months seemed like a lifetime especially when we are talking in terms of poison and its' side effects.
My beautiful mom, a Breast Cancer survivor herself,
always helps pass out Care Packs. We both learned
Thursday that T. Teal must invest in a cart.
 Care Packs are heavy!

 I have become  familiar with the chemotherapy center and processes; befriending those who are treating patients and others battling, supporting, and surviving the effects of Cancer. I've come to realize my battle is no comparison to the fight and endurance other survivors have courageously displayed. Thursday was a reminder of this reality; I met new friends who inspire me, reconnected with others who amaze me, and interacted with many who don't realize just how strong they are.

A fighter battling Ovarian Cancer for 7 years, and currently
undergoing treatment for her third recurrence. She lost her husband before
finding out about her second recurrence, and is a single mom. She's
a fighter, and inspiration to many. 
 I am so proud of the work Tenaciously Teal (T. Teal)  is doing  to connect and encourage those battling Cancer.  Thursday we went to a new chemo infusion center, and one reserved for those who don't have medical insurance. As one patient told me I am blessed to receive my chemo treatment at "The Taj Mahal", and  Thursday I saw firsthand the disparity existing in Cancer treatment. The chemo center we visited was cramped and seemed desolate. There were no windows, no fish tanks to find Nemo, it lacked tables with puzzles, magazines, hats, or bracelets, and no volunteers were making rounds pushing calories from a snack cart where the  snacks never change. In the chemo room we visited Thursday there was only  joy, courage, and smiles shining throughout a room that normally feels dark.
I wish I knew more of this kind man's story. I only know is his face lit up
 when we gave him a Care Pack, and he was extremely thankful!

 We also visited the hospital floor where I recovered from a major Cancer surgery in December 2012. At first the affects of being back on the same floor, and recalling the trauma I underwent was overwhelming, but quickly I learned I had come to where I was needed this day. After checking in at the front desk, one nurse told me to make sure I visited room 770. As I continued down the hall I realized we were quickly approaching  room 770, the same room I occupied for over a week. I knew immediately it was my room, because it backed up to the "pretty room". A room I learned despite how pretty it was it was a room you didn't want to visit. Through crying and screaming I learned it was not a room reserved for upgrades, but one created out of respect for those who had fought courageously.

A loving Cancer caregiver and I in front of the room
 I once fought in, and where a fight against
Leukemia continues.
With a knot in my throat, and a heavy heart, realizing someone again was occupying the pretty room, I knocked on the door to room 770. A young woman answered the door, and I quickly realized we shared a heavy heart. I gave her two Care Packs, one for her, and one for her young son, who battles Leukemia. Her son was receiving inpatient chemo infusions, and he was obviously very sick.

His eyes were rolled back with what seemed no ability to focus, and he was gaunt from the ailing and sickness that comes with chemo. I backed out of the room, giving a fighter his privacy, and told his mother that a lot of prayer had occurred in this same room just 10 months before when I laid there in a similar hospital bed. She broke down in tears, and she, my mom, and myself,  had opportunity to join hands and pray. Room 770 once again housed a moment where a little hope was restored, but this time in the lives of a different mother and Cancer fighter.

I continue to be blessed with what God is doing through the support of T. Teal! Thank you, to all those who are supporting this mission to spread hope and joy to those battling Cancer.
My husband Benjamin and I waiting to receive my chemo,
 and what appears to be gum on the bottom of my show :)
My turn for chemo after handing out Care Packs
Email me at
or Facebook Tenaciously Teal

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Til Death do Us Part

5 years of marriage, and 8 years of
togetherness. Here's to hoping for many more!
I was still suffering from the affects of my second surgery to rid my body of  Ovarian Cancer, which had deeply rooted itself  throughout my life, when I heard the sweetest words. The words were not new, they had been heard before, and they were definitely not glamorous.  The voice was familiar but infused with a new inflection of concern.

A concerned tone was certainly not new since my Stage 4 Cancer diagnosis, as I had heard it many times when those I loved grappled with the realization of how things change in an instant. It's the concern that comes natural when faced with the fragility of life, and realization no one is promised a chance to love those we care about least not here on Earth.

The voice I heard as I struggled to lay there was deep and handsomely gruff. As I heard this voice for maybe the millionth time it was in this moment I came to the full insight of just how lucky I was. I had not realized just how lucky I would become as I heard the voice first say " I love you" and exchange the vows "I DO", and " In sickness and in health" .

Those commonly exchanged words,  often said casually and with the hope that LOVE will be enough. They're the type of words said with anticipation that there will be no testing of  "poorer" , and God forbid" sickness"!

Hope and Love were not enough  to avoid sickness in MY marriage, and most would consider my husband and I to be unlucky to face such a trial. There was a time where I would whole-heartedly agree  we'd been dealt a forbidden "card", but recently I've pondered if we are actually luckier than most. Through it all maybe we have become more aware of what we have to lose?

The customary 1st dance 
Going back to the night I heard that familiar voice, things were looking better or as I heard him say, "we are coming out of the woods, but for awhile it was touch and go". My dearest friend from high school asked  " What can I do?", and the  voice replied, "When her belly hurts mint tea seems to help with the nausea, and  she needs a straw to drink it with. Oh and one more thing she likes tea best with this much honey,  and at night I give her a shot in the stomach at least for the next 30 days. She also needs a couple doses of Mira Lax and a Senna everyday, and I get up with her about every three hours to stay ahead of the pain. Don't worry if you need to do something different she'll let you know!"

Benjamin and I on graduation day. Two days after a chemo infusion.
He always said he'd cry if I graduated with my Masters from OU!
God blessed me with a husband that not only knew what I needed as I faced an uphill battle with Cancer, but also stepped up in times of trouble. And certainly when I wasn't so easy to love. Through Cancer I've learned that love is more than just words or a feeling. Love is defined through perseverance in times of trouble allowing for the opportunity to achieve deeper feelings that infuse our actions and reactions with love and kindness!  It is not through richer, or  better, or in health that we learn what it truly means to love and be loved. Instead,  it is through trials that insistently test our strength and determination that we come out feeling like we have the love movies are based on!

Benjamin and I the day before I graduated with my Masters in
Social Work, and more than  half a year through a rigorous Cancer battle!

I am so blessed that  Benjamin committed to me in marriage 5 years ago on 10/11/08, and has loved me  as we battled Cancer together. My hope is that we all know what it is to love and be loved!

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Day of Care Packs in Pictures

Jessica is the front desk manager at the Grace Stephenson
Cancer Center and she always greets me with a smile each time I go
to chemo.
 My grandmother just moved from Oregon to OKC,
 and has taken it upon herself to start helping me with the
 Cancer Care Packs. These care packs had an extra special "Nanny"
touch with teal ribbon wrapped around the green tea bags
 Cancer Care Packs

1. Gatorade
2. Protein Bars
3. Hand Sanitizer
4. Lotion
5. Note pads
6. Face Scrub
7. Chex Mix
8. Pudding
9. Green Tea
12. Chocolate
13. Crossword puzzles
14. Cheeze- Its
15 Peanut Butter
16. A handwritten note
When you go to chemo you can expect to get poked a
few times.


She didn't get that darn vein to "float" as they say, which means push
and hope it goes..
Looking away to pray!
Third time was a charm this go around. Chemo Tip: Drink
lots of water!

Each Care Pack has a hand written note included.

I never knew "Teal for Tarah" would grow into
"Tenaciously Teal" and I have the support and prayers
of so many to thank for that!

Dragging the chemo pole around and handing out
 Care Packs is the best
part about coming to chemo.

This is a special lady battling a rare form of Breast Cancer
She gave me some good advice about handing out Care Packs
at a chemo center she initially had to go to, and one reserved
for those without insurance. I am looking forward to visiting the infusion  center
she spoke of and spreading some more smiles and encouragement to those
who need to be praised for their FIGHT!

In the notes I typically try communicate to people that they are fighters
 just by coming to chemo, encourage them try and keep smiling, look for the Cancer silver linings,and remind them that
 somebody loves them!

Sometimes to keep fighting you have to look the other way
pray and think happy thoughts!

If you would like to help Tenaciously Teal minister to Cancer patients enduring chemo by providing them with a Cancer Care Pack please visit
Thank you also to Fishwater Tees for selling Fight Like a Girl Tees for Tenaciously Teal's Care Packs

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Daily Reminder

I haven't posted a lot recently because it is sometimes hard to believe what the last ten months has consisted of. I've had almost thirty chemo infusions, two surgeries, a handful of cat scans, numerous blood draws, and lived at times in the emotional turmoil that comes with Cancer. In the last ten months I've also learned the meaning of true friendship, experienced a mixture of fulfillment and inadequacy, and recently  re experienced the mundane daily aspects that get taken for granted.

As my strength returns, my hair grows back, and I continue to try and smile, the impact of the battle grows evermore distant, but a lasting mark still remains. It hoovers in my mind and in my heart, and it is the remnants of impact not only from Cancer but returning to the ordinary.

The battle not only continues for me as I return for maintenance chemo tomorrow, but for all of us who are fighting their own battles. Darkness shows up as fear, pain, heartache, failure, defeat, self-doubt, despair or even trauma, and unfortunately until we make it to Heaven not one of us can say our lives are free from such burden. In fact I know for myself at times that these feelings are given permission to rule over our lives, and we allow such control in our hearts, to lead to charge over our brains.

Our hearts and our brains are powerful. They can tell us " We are going to make it" or " What is the point?". My heart and my brain often play devil's advocate against each other. One moment it's " we got this" and the next moment I realize how enormous the obstacles in front of me are, and in the same breath how minute my problems are comparatively.

This started out as an update, and I've become sidetracked, so for those still reading I have chemo tomorrow, and will anticipate feeling pretty crummy the next couple days along with living with some severe joint pain until the chemo cycle repeats itself. I could fret over those symptoms, but I can also look forward to returning to work after I recover, and passing out Cancer Care Packs as I've done each time since I started this ministry back in February. I look forward to letting my heart lead tomorrow, and encouraging others who need a reminder that they are fighters

I'll leave you with this  verse of encouragement, Act 2: 25-28. " David said about him: I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices. My body also will live in hope because you will not abandon me to the grave Nor will you let your Holy One see decay.You have made known to me the paths of life. You feel me with joy in your presence.

Be glad, rejoice, and live in hope because He will not abandon you or I. God will make a path so we can be granted the strength to continue and FIGHT LIKE GIRLS!!

If you would like to assist with Tenaciously Teal's Care pack operation you can email me at or purchase a bracelet or shirt. All proceeds go to making Care packs to hand out in the chemo room.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Boomer Sooner & TEAL

Yesterday I experienced my first live opening of college football with around 100,000 other fans who congregated in Norman, OK. Taking it all in I exclaimed to my husband, "everyone not in team colors sticks outs like sore thumb". We both laughed about coming across someone not in their teams color giving it a, "come on man, get with the program." thought.

Now I have not always been a college football fan, so I probably don't have a lot of room to talk.  In fact, when I moved to Oklahoma twelve years ago I wasn't totally sure how the game was even played, and certainly didn't have so much OU gear.

Gaylord Memorial Stadium
covered in Crimson and Cream
Once in the stadium I was in awe of so many there for one purpose, and the roar of the cheers coming from 82,112 other fans inside what a hundred degree day had turned into one hot and steamy playground. I was taken back by the commitment of so many who had come together as a united front, and my mind drifted to the many others gathered in stadiums across the globe and still others who were hunkered down with friends and food in front of their TV's.
Benjamin and I in our Crimson
 and Cream at the OU game.

When it comes to the college football fan there is no doubt who and what they are cheering for, and wearing a specific color aligns you quickly with a team.  Over time, however, those who put on the colors again and again realize those colors, being a fan,  represent more then just a desire to win! Likeness in color  represents being a part of something greater than yourself, it represents family, embodies love, and maybe most importantly symbolizes unity.

 Since last November I have started sporting another team color, and I have definitely acquired a lot more of it! TEAL is the designated color for Ovarian Cancer Awareness, and SEPTEMBER is important because it signifies the start of college football but also represents Ovarian Cancer Awareness month!

There is power in teams, so I am asking my friends and family to come together and help spread the word about a disease that has been referred to as the silent killer. According to The American Cancer Society (2015), ONLY  15%  of Ovarian Cancer patients are diagnosed early, and a women's lifetime risk of developing the disease is 1 in 72. Early diagnosis is key, and helping spread the word by wearing teal throughout the month of September could save a life.

This month when you put on your fan colors also remember to wear your Teal, and symbolically stand in unity with the over 14,000 women who will be diagnosed this year and 22,000 who will lose their battle to the disease.

As much as your team needs you the fight against Ovarian Cancer needs you, so wear your Teal and spread the word! There's some teal at the link below, but ANY teal is better than no teal!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hi friends, I have exciting news!!! Fishwater Tees in OKC, which is a company that has great products that I love, has designed a special shirt in recognition of my fight against Ovarian Cancer. They are donating the proceeds made from the shirt to the non-profit I am starting: Tenaciously Teal, which will continue to focus on encouraging Cancer patients and providing them with care packs consisting of items geared towards their special needs. In addition to making care packs, TT will continue to raise awareness for female Cancers, and provide support to other who are fighting Cancer. I love the shirt Fishwater Tees has designed and feel so blessed they have decided to help us spread Light in the midst of darkness. Go get your Fight Like a Girl tee today, and help Tenaciously Teal spread some love!!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Miracles out of Heartache: I'm Heading Back to Work

Me in front of my new office, and putting on
a brave face before going into my second interview.

Cancer is not the first obstacle that has tested my hope and gladness this past year.  I have worked for child welfare for the past six years, and spent one year in child protective services, until they realized I was likely going to cry more than the kids  when they would have to be removed from their home, so they moved me to a job in prevention. As a prevention worker I worked with families to maintain their children in the home, and did weekly home visits with families.

I spent several years in the “field”, and saw a lot of dysfunction and heartbreak, and really started to become burnt out. I decided it was time for me to look at other options and so I applied for five promotions within child welfare where I could distance myself from being on the front lines.

 Every time I had an interview I entered with confidence that this was the job God had for me, because each opportunity progressively seemed to fit my skill set and needs better.

Well…although I consider myself an outstanding interviewer I was proven wrong time after time. God kept having to remind me that He had a plan for my future, and I had yet to discover it.
In between my second and third year of graduate school I came up with a way to improve the prevention model within child welfare.My administration liked the idea and so I spent the summer researching and writing protocol for the new program I had developed.

Last year, At the end of the summer, my office decided to expand the prevention program and hire a new prevention supervisor. Since I had worked on developing a new model for prevention, that my administration had been eager to implement, I had high hopes that I would be the most feasible candidate

My interview was a year ago almost to this very day, it was August 16th 2012. The interview went perfectly, and I had what I was told was a “Knocked it out of the park” performance.

After a weekend of anticipation, first thing Monday morning I got called into the office. I expected to be briefed on a transition plan for coming from out of the field and into a cushy supervisor position, but instead I heard those familiar words, " you did not get the job".

I had been rejected yet again, and I was furious. I was so mad that I wondered “Why I even served a God that seemed to not care about my needs, and what I wanted”. I mean my husband and I volunteer in leading children’s church every Sunday, we pray, we give, we seem to do a lot of things right…

The disappointment really hit me hard, and I spent a week at home moping and evaluating my options. I decided I could get one thing right, and so I finally made the call to a specialist for a third  opinion on what was going on with my health. I had struggles with pain, and undergone tests and minor surgery all with no avail to the problems I had lived with for several years..

From that disappointment, in the midst of feeling lost and abandoned I made a phone call that started a process that changed my life. In the midst of despair God led me to make a call that eventually led my family and I to a diagnosis of Stage IV Ovarian Cancer.
After the big disappointment with my job I didn't recognize Jesus walking next to me, and leading me to where I needed to go. After my second surgery I asked my oncologist how long I had before the Cancer would have taken me down.  She estimated that I had only weeks, maybe a couple of months, before my body began shutting down from being overburdened with Cancer.

This makes the crushing experience with my job that at first was perceived as abandonment a true miracle. If I had gotten that job I wouldn't have made that phone call to the specialist, and would have just kept going until my health completely suffered.

A few weeks ago I took a brave step in making a decision to return to work and enter the interview room one more time. After a lot of stress and two interviews I finally heard the words I had been longing to hear,  " you got the job"! I will start my new job tomorrow at DHS's state office where I will work on policy writing, training, and developing a new program to assist incarcerated women in developing transition plans for their unborn children. 

The opportunity is a true miracle, and in fact a much bigger promotion then any of the jobs I had interviewed for before. I challenge you today to look for the miracle that either have or will come out of the disappointment or trouble you are facing. Miracles don’t always happen as we expect them to, but in faith we know that God loves us and can give us hope no matter how troublesome the future appears. Choose hope and  believe that miracles can happen and will happen when you submit your life to God’s plan.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Advice for Conquering Cancer

 I've always thought  when a family is given a Cancer diagnosis God must consider see them as very strong, because it certainly takes great strength to  battle such an awful disease. A Cancer diagnosis affects and permeates throughout families, and members can expect to have difficult days, but should also anticipate happy and hopeful days. I believe if emphasis is placed on how Cancer can refine patients and families you will find countless, what I call, " Cancer Silver Linings".  Focusing on silver linings helps you enter and complete the fight better than how you began it, and I believe Cancer has the opportunity to bless families with an understanding that life is fragile, and filled with numerous experiences we often take for granted

Tarah with one of her nurses on a
tough chemo day. (May 2013)
Hopefully you will never be or have someone close diagnosed with Cancer, but f you find yourself in that position focus on these silver linings; Cancer affords families with perspective, and allows for insight into the futility of things great emphasis is often placed. For example importance of houses, cars, status, and appearance, but when fighting Cancer hopefully you can see how in reality these things are insignificant. Cancer brings with it realization that stress; conflicts, bad drivers, running late, work woes, and other problems, are moments we long for, along with health, but not things deserving the stress we have given them. 

During this battle,  I continually heard my husband say the only thing that matters is "you, God, and family/close friends, the rest we don't worry about". With our daily stress, and problems which seemingly compound by the hour, how can someone simply not worry, and how can I  put God and myself first? As I've battled and endured treatment for Stage IV Ovarian Cancer I've, not always successfully maintained my stress levels, but attempted to by reminding myself each day about what's important. For myself I found I can't simply think about what I am thankful for, because the mind is tricky. In the midst of attempts to remain thankful I get caught up in the worry we all succumb to at times, and often rightfully so.  To achieve a full spirit of thankfulness I've found writing down or saying out loud at least five things I am  thankful for each day has the ability to turn doom and gloom into a reminder of the blessings I've been afforded even when feeling crummy. Despite how bad things are, or how worrisome things have been, through thoughtfulness I was always able to find at least five things to be thankful for; the right nurse on a tough chemo day, family who sacrificed time to sit with me, doctors who invest their energy in research for a cure, and moments to appreciate my surroundings.
Sisters, Mom and Tarah
 celebrating being together and 
Tarah's graduation with her MSW (2013).

 Thankfulness is key, but in the battle against Cancer we also must learn how to prioritize things needing our attention,and letting go of things not within our power. We all want to be superheros, and in fact our society glorifies multi-tasking, perfectionism, and ability to blast on social media how well we maintain the superficial ease in presenting as a"Pinterest superstar".  

This, however,  is not the attitude or priorities conducive to fighting Cancer. My  advice for the fight is to learn to let go of valuing yourself based on the amount of tasks you can accomplish or complete, but instead learning to  reach out for help when needed, while valuing the community established from connecting with others. Underlying social norms tell us reaching out for help shows weakness, but I am here to tell you asking for help is a sign of strength and maturity. Not asking for help is as fear-based a decision a human being can make, and can lead you quickly in the wrong direction.

For those reading this who know someone battling Cancer, and are onlookers of the devastation, don't wait too long before you take action. Feel free to take it upon yourself to do something for someone who is struggling, because you are mindful asking for help is not always easy. Be thoughtful in how you proceed in helping patients and families, but don't be pushy, or feel accomplished by the simple extension of, "Call me if you need me". Patients and families don't need words or sympathetic smiles, they might just need a hug or a kind gesture.

Something I have learned the hard way in my Cancer battle is to not let myself sulk or feel depressed for too long. We all need a couple days every now and then to be sad, and rightfully so, but allowing despair to go too long opens opportunity for darkness to consume an individual. I suggest reaching out to someone before you start day three shrouded in despair, and combat  dark days with a game plan by asking family or friends in advance if you can call them when the roads gets weary, because weariness is a guarantee.

As you reach out to those around you I also recommend you find an organization who is serving people and communities encased in hopelessness from unfortunate circumstances. A study recently showed  humans who did something for someone else were overall much happier, felt fulfilled, and were able to readily change negative perceptions about their situations. I know Cancer is horrible, and it seems like the worse thing, but I promise with just a quick Google you will find someone else going through  more. For me, I focused on those who also were fighting Cancer, but had little resources or supplies for the battle. I was overwhelmed when I recognized there are people facing Cancer with no support, no money, no resources, and no healthcare, and in response have started the 501c3 organization Tenaciously Teal (Find us on Facebook). I know Cancer doesn't allow you time to do a lot, but as you fight to conquer Cancer find something to take your mind off yourself, and learn the fulfillment that comes from serving others with something as simple as a card. 

 Lastly, when you are facing a Cancer  diagnosis don't ask the question of WHY?, but HOW? How will you overcome Cancer? How will you and your family be better because of Cancer? How will you ask for help? How will you reach out and to whom? How will you learn from this? How will you prepare for the battle ahead? And How will you maintain a spirit of thankfulness? Realize a Cancer diagnosis does not equate to " the end",  your story is not is not over yet, and the beauty of your life stretches way beyond its' frame.
Tarah and her husband, October 2013.
Kept fighting and realize...It gets better!

If you or someone you know is struggling with a Cancer diagnosis please feel free to contact me at I will cry with you, direct you towards  resources to Conquer Cancer, and most importantly I will pray for you!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Many of you know I had the privilege of speaking at Brookings Church of the Nazarene in Brookings, OR. Brookings is located on the Oregon Coast at the edge of the Redwood forests of Northern California. My dad has been the senior pastor at this church for the last eleven years, and I have thoroughly enjoyed visiting and getting to know the wonderful people who call Brookings home. I spoke in all three services, and gained a new found respect for my father who preaches in three services every weekend . The video I have is from the third service I spoke in, so I was a little tired, and being the critical person I am I have not been able to watch the video, so I will let y'all be the judge. This is a glimpse at my testimony and my story in battling Cancer.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

This is 30!

Celebrating my 30th Birthday with my family.
Russy Warren (center) and my husband Benjamin.

I think thirty is that first big milestone birthday that really makes you stop and think. Lets face it with all those big teen birthdays we don't have brains that are developed enough to fully
My mom and I
conceptualize the life and years ahead. At sixteen all you care about is getting behind the wheel, and taking a good driver's license picture. Seventeen gives you the opportunity to buy a ticket to whatever movie you please, and eighteen gives you special permission to things and habits many wish they could have abandoned that same year. Twenty you have a false since of security in feeling like an adult, twenty-one is most often a blur, and by twenty-five high schoolers are starting to look like young-ins. And during the last four years of your twenties all you can think about is how much closer you are to being 30!

By the time you are about to hit thirty you are suddenly  way more aware of wrinkles that seemingly have begun to get deeper, and skin that just doesn't bounce back like it once did. As you reach thirty you also become more aware of  aches and pains you will have to learn to live with, as well as the reality that no beauty regiment is going to stop your eyes from getting dimmer and hair from getting looser. The joy, however, in turning thirty comes with security in the person you are becoming, gratification that comes with financial security and an established career, or at least a knowledge of who you are and are striving to become. As you reach thirty you are coming into the age where evaluation of your clothes, friends, and outings are necessary to keep from being "those people". Those people who are stuck in their desires to not get older and wishful thinking that you will always be granted another day or another year to get things right.

8yro and ready to dominate on
some Trick or Treating
As I celebrate my thirtieth year I believe because of Cancer I have a better grasp than most of the evolution this life takes us on. We go from thinking we will always have a tomorrow, to learning how fragile and futile this life can be, to hopefully wrestling with the desire to make something out of the life and days we are given, and ultimately realizing how silly some of those things were that we used to worry so much about.
Me at 1yro. Loving life with
not a care in the world.

With today being the beginning of my thirtieth year of life I can only wish that I would be blessed with another thirty years to get it right. Realizing that none of us are promised thirty more years I hope going forward to make the best of each day I am given until the promise of my death is fulfilled, and I can be rid of this tent that becomes more battered with each birthday celebration.

 Until the anticipation of  another birthday celebration is fulfilled I can only hope to be remembered as this at 30; A joy to my friends and family, an inspiration to those in need, an advocate for the oppressed, a do gooder, an example of God's love and grace, a woman who faced and conquered her fears, someone who aged with poise, and finally a lady who gave an all out effort to succeed despite the adversity that comes with each passing year.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

You Can't LEAVE It All Behind

Tarah asked me, her father, to share some thoughts with you...

This week has been one full of emotions for Marylynn and I. It started out by saying goodbye to a church family that we have loved for over 11.5 years—I have never lived any one place longer than Brookings, Oregon. Last Sunday morning at the Church of the Nazarene was one filled with love, and hugs, and laughter, and tears. My final message at the church went way too long, but I figured since it was my last Sunday, what could they say? The reality is that Brookings Naz will always be a part of us. After so many years of ministry, one could never really fully leave it all behind—nor would I want to. 

The rest of this week has been filled with house repairs, and packing, and taping, and packing, and taping, and... We're trying to get our home, that we have loved very much, ready for selling. Did I mention that we have been packing? It is a strange thing to try and put all our worldly goods into boxes. The stack of boxes we're slowly moving out to our shop keeps growing and growing. What a challenge! Every time you turn around you see something else and think, "I wonder if I've got a box that will fit that?" People have been generously providing us with boxes. They keep asking if I want more, and I tell them that I've not come to the point where I will "look a gift box in the mouth." 
If you've experienced a move recently, then you can really appreciate what a torture it is. The down stairs, where the girl's rooms were, is fairly well packed now. I've already started having my moments of tears. I am far too sentimental for this kind of stuff. (I tell people that I got my hairline from mydad, but my tear ducts from my mom.) It will be tough to leave it behind.

What emotion as we prepare to leave our little spot by the sea behind. Ten years ago we planted what looked like a tiny little twig behind our house. We planted it to commemorate the one year anniversary of Allison's death—Tarah's college roommate. Ten years later that little twig is taller than our house! Two years ago I buried Molly, the family pet of 16 years, at it's base.
That tree has deep meaning for our family, but It won't load on the truck.  It seems that while we take part of Brookings with us, we will end up leaving part of us behind. (Not to mention the fact that our daughter, Marla, and her husband Chris, will still be here. "Snif, snif" )

People have asked me why we would even consider moving from such a beautiful location. And indeed, Brookings, OR is one of America's best kept beautiful secrets. Many times, on my lunch break, I have ventured out across the church parking lot, crossed over Hwy 101, and made my way down to the shoreline for a quick walk on the beach. My computer is filled with too many beautiful photographs that I've had such a hard time figuring out which ones I should delete. I won't be able to leave those images behind.

Of course, Tarah is a big part of why Marylynn and I think we should be in Oklahoma. Her recent post has reminded us how very much we feel that we should be there. We feel that God has allowed us this opportunity to minister to the people of Bethany, OK.  Graciously, God is moving us so that we can be close to her and Ben. Our hope, belief, and prayer is that the cancer battle is ended, but only the Good Lord knows for sure. Of course, being close to Andrea and Evan is a bonus. For temporary residence we're actually going to be one wall away from the Mr. and Mrs. Mosshart, in a duplex. I suggested that we could cut a window between the units of the duplex, for better communication. Andrea nixed that idea, but I'm sure that Evan wouldn't have minded. It seems that, for a while at least, they won't be able to completely leave us behind.

Also, we are going because Marylynn and I have a shared confidence that we have been called to be the pastor and wife of the Lake Overholser Church of the Nazarene. The good people there have invited us to come and join them. And while saying goodbye to our friends here has been torturous, we are excited about the prospects ahead. One gentleman there asked me why I would leave all that beauty of the Oregon Pacific to come there. I responded by saying, "You can't save a beach." While I love my beautiful surroundings, I have to remind myself that it is all only temporary—people are eternal. They are the focus of my life's work.

This will be the fifth time that I will have lived in Oklahoma. I was born there while my dad was a minister on staff at Bethany First Nazarene. I ended up going to school there, and Marylynn and I have ministered there on two different occasions. All my life people have asked me where I am from. Being a pastor's kid, that was always a little difficult for me to answer. Born in Oklahoma, I spent my teen years in Colorado, but I've mostly lived in Oklahoma, was my answer to that question. Now, after over 18 years of the west coast, it turns out that I really am an Okie. I guess that I never really left it behind.

Our family covets your prayers while we are in this time of transition. We don't know what the future holds, but we can be confident that there is good ahead, because... The Lord never leaves us behind. "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Joshua 1:5

Oklahoma, ready or not, here we come.