Tuesday, September 27, 2016

INSPIRING WOMAN {Jourdyn Pitcher}

This months inspiring woman is Jourdyn. 

She is definitely one of the most incredible people I have ever met. I worked with her while she was going through her treatment and she always had the biggest smile on her face and was so positive. Honestly, if I hadn't already known she was going through cancer I never would have guessed it. She has such a strong spirit and amazing attitude. When I found out she wouldn't be able to have children of her own my heart ached for her. Being denied such a special gift is something that would be so incredibly hard to deal with. Her and her husband have decided that they are going to grow their family through adoption. Please share her story so we can help them find their child. She is already the most incredible mother to her students at school. She deserves to have children of her own. 

Here's her story...

April 17, 2002 is a day I will never forget. It is a day that not only changed my life but altered my future. Life has definitely been full of surprises. It was pretty normal until the spring of 2002. I had spent most of my life growing up in the same neighborhood in Sandy. My dad was offered a position for a new job and we were told that we would be moving to Cedar City. I wasn’t too thrilled. All I knew about Cedar City, was that it was our last stop to go to the bathroom before we made it to my grandparent’s condo in St. George. I soon found out that the Lord had a plan for our family’s move that summer. As summer ended, and we settled into our house, and my freshman year of high school started. I was able to make some more friends. Life seemed pretty great! I had good friends, my family was loving our neighborhood, and I felt like everything was perfect. Boy, was I WRONG!

It all started when the month before I felt a strange lump under my arm. I had been a pretty healthy kid up to that point, so I didn’t think anything about it. I continued on with the activities that any 14 year old would do, hanging out with friends, family and I was involved in extracurricular activities. As time went by the lump started to become bigger and it hurt. I pointed it out to my mom, and after hearing everyone’s ideas on what it could be, we decided to go to the doctor. By the time we went to the doctor it was the size of a bigger marble. He thought that it was probably an infection and he said that he would put me on antibiotics for 10 days. We didn’t make it to day 10. After about a week the lump had tripled in size. We immediately went back in to the doctor and he said that he was scheduling me for a biopsy the next morning. I remember being afraid about what was happening. I felt alone and unsure. Growing up in an active LDS home, I asked my dad if he would give me a blessing to help calm me down. He asked one of our neighbors to come over. I still remember that blessing as if it was yesterday. In the blessing my dad said that I would be able to face the challenges that were ahead of me and that I would endure. In my head I was thinking WHAT?! I will be able to endure? What was going to happen tomorrow?

The next morning I went in for my surgery. We had family down since it was my little brother’s birthday. I was in a small post op waiting room. I still remember the frog eyes everyone had from the crying that had taken place before I came out of surgery. Surrounded by my family, Dr. Stults told me that I had cancer. I think at first it was one of those out of body experiences. I remember crying at first. Then as tears seemed to fall from everyone’s faces, I thought about the blessing my dad had given me the night before. I thought about how in tune he was to what Heavenly Father needed me to hear. I have had many blessings in my life, but this one not only saw me through my almost 15 years of treatment, but through all other trials I would face.

I went to Primary Children’s Medical Center a couple of days later. I had a central line placed in my chest and began my first round of treatment before I even work up from anesthesia. There were times I thought, how am I going to do this? I thought sometimes what did I do to deserve this? As time went on, I realized that this wasn’t a punishment. It was just something that I was going to face, and it was a test of my faith. During this time I went through pancreatitis, allergic reactions to blood transfusions, and infections in my central line. When all of my treatment was finished 64 weeks later, I was so ready to get on with the rest of my life. Imagine my shock when I went up for scans less than 3 weeks after my last treatment to find that my cancer had been found underneath my other arm. I was devastated. I couldn’t believe it! How was I going to do this all again? Then I thought back again to that blessing. I knew that the Lord would not give me more than I could handle. I saddled back up and prepared for the next chapter in my cancer journey.

This time it would be a completely different ball game than the time before. I would be receiving high dose chemotherapy, total body radiation, and bone marrow transplant. Due to one of my chemo treatments, I got a fungus in my right lung. The damage could not be fixed and it was decided that I would need to have my right lung removed. After going through this I had been preparing for my bone marrow transplant, but before I could, it was discovered that this same fungus had spread down to my left kidney. I would have it removed just days after attending Prom.

During this time of my radiation and my bone marrow transplant, I had some very spiritual experiences. I was able to grow in my faith and I learned how thin the veil is. I grew quite close to a special little girl named Anna. She and I were both getting treatment at the same time. Unfortunately, Anna passed away. After coming out from a surgery, my mom said that I was calling for her, as if I had just been with her. I may not remember everything that was seen, but I know that I was very close to her sweet little spirit. I remember one night specifically. I had been so depressed during my transplant and thinking, what is going to happen to me, what if I die from this?

Still being a young teenager, I was not equipped to handle all of it. All the loneliness, pain and anguish I felt, I said a silent prayer that the Lord would protect me and that He would allow me to live. I sat and cried myself to sleep and then I felt as if someone was sitting right next to me. I felt a warmth that I could not deny. I felt the Spirit confirm to me the things I had been taught all my life, that the Savior is real, the plan of Salvation is real, a life after this one is real. From that moment I knew two things. Heavenly Father loved me and He was aware of what I was going through, and he wouldn’t leave me alone. The other was that, I knew whose I was and where I would go if anything happened to me. I was cancer free after my bone marrow transplant until the summer before I was to start college at Southern Utah University. I cried and then just as I had the first two times before, I felt the love of my Heavenly Father envelop me and I knew that everything would work out. It was decided that there wasn’t a whole lot of options for me because of having only one lung and one kidney, as well as all the other side effects that high dose chemo had caused, that I couldn’t do this with full dose chemo anymore. I was put on a small weekly dose of chemo, I continued to do this even as I served my mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I was so blessed to be able to serve in the Independence Missouri Mission. I was able to have some of the why’s answered of going through cancer, confirmed to me. There were so many people I met that had been impacted someway by this disease. It was during this time that I realized that the trial of my cancer was a blessing in disguise, and not only meant for me but to give me the experience to help others face their battle as well.

After I came home from my mission in 2012, I was a bridesmaid at the wedding of one of my friends from my mission. It just so happened that my future husband was a groomsman. We dated for a year and then we were married in the St. George temple in June of 2013. Both Cody and I always wanted to have kids. This was hard for both of us because due to side effects from my treatments, I wasn’t able to have children. Both of my ovaries had been absorbed through my chemo treatments and there was no possible way for me to be able to carry a child of my own. Although this is something I had known about since I was 15, the full understanding of what this meant for my husband and I, was a very painful and tender realization. It was a long process for me, of trying to understand why this was happening. I am a good person, I thought, I would be a good mom, I have made good choices in my life, I have already been through so much! Each time, I watched as friends and family announced that they were pregnant. Facebook pages seemed to be source of depression, as people posted their happy news. I was so happy for them, but each time my heart would ache, as I would find somewhere alone, and quiet, I would fall apart and cry out of sorrow for what I longed to have but couldn’t. I listened to women around me complain about their pregnancies and morning sickness. I thought, I would give anything to be able to get pregnant, and all you can talk about, is how you can’t wait till this part is over!

It was one day as I was listening to a song by Katherine Nelson, called What’s Mine is Yours that I realized everyone has trials. In the song she talks about the heart ache that all women feel when they lose something. In the song it talks about a young soon to be mom who loses her baby, a young girl placing her baby for adoption, and a couple that receives her baby. I realized that each side of the experiences in this song, impact each person deeply. Then I thought back on a fireside I would give for EFY’s on my cancer. In my talk I said, “It would be foolish for me to think that all the trials I would ever have in my life would all come to me before I reached the age of adulthood.” Adoption was something that we had talked about when we got serious, but after we were married, I met with my doctor who said that In vitro was going to be very difficult for my body because of all it had been through. We went to the temple to try and seek direction in what we should do.

As I was in the celestial room, the answer came very clear to me that adoption was how we were always meant to grow our family. My husband Cody and I have been taking an adoption class online. One of the ladies that was a speaker in the class made a comment that all children are borrowed from God. I loved that because it is true, whether we gave birth to that child or not, there is truth to this message. I have learned to rely on the Lord in a different way than I ever did when going through my cancer. My faith has again been put to the test. One of my dear friends, Steve Hodson, gave me a motto at 14, which now hangs in my classroom. He told me that attitude is everything, if you think you can do it, then you can. Just as I learned with my cancer that these things are meant to give me experience, I know that through our adoption process, I will learn that all things come in the Lord’s timing but that while we wait he never leaves us alone!

My message to you, is that whatever you are going through, know that there is a purpose for it, a loving Heavenly Father cheering you on, and loved ones to support you through it all! My testimony has grown in ways I never imagined. Even as I have written my story down, I see the Lord’s hand in my life and I am reminded that He has already helped me through so much! I may not have kids of my own, but I am able to impact the kids in my classroom every day! One of my students from my first year was helping me pick up pinecones that kids were throwing in front of the school. As he and his friend helped me, I asked him how 5th grade was going. He said it was good but that he missed 3rd grade. I told him that his class was a special one, because they were my first set of kiddos. He turned to me and said, “Mrs. Pitcher it was a special year for me too!” I started crying and gave him a hug!

It helped me to see that the Lord provides us opportunities in unexpected ways. Life is full of surprises, disappointments and sheer joy! In my EFY firesides I would give, I talked about the saying that life hands you lemons so why not make lemonade. The trials that we face are lemons. We can sweeten the trials by turning them over to Christ. Although he helps us through them, that bitterness from the lemons, is not meant to be taken from us entirely. We are meant to go through them, to gain understand and learn to rely on the Lord. That is the purpose of this life for us to live! I hope that in sharing my story you will be able to look at your own life and find the tender mercies that are given to us amidst the sips of trials we face.

Follow our story at www.pitcherperfectadoption.blogspot.com

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

INSPIRING WOMAN {Christie Perkins}

This months inspiring woman is Christie Perkins!

She was nominated by Nicole Sanders. She sent me a beautiful email that I would like to share... 

"There is a woman I would like to bring to your attention. Her name is Christie Perkins and she is absolutely incredible.  She has 4 little boys ranging in ages 14 to 4 or 5. She has been through breast cancer and was in remission but just recently found out that it has return and has spread.  She now has stage 4.  She has a blog where she shares her thoughts How Perky Works.  I'm not a great writer and I'm definitely not doing her justice, but she has positively affected my life and the lives of the young women she serves in our ward (including my daughters).  She has an infectious laugh, a beautiful smile and a positive attitude that never stops.  She has used her experiences to inspire others and has chosen to make the best out of each day.  We recently had a ward fast for her and the spirit in the room when she bore her testimony of how everything would be okay was palpable.  Her and her husband were the ones giving comfort to us instead of the other way around.  They have said anything that helps you understand the atonement and brings you and your family closer to Christ is good.  I would love to see her recognized for the good she has done for so many."

This was my first time meeting Christie and I could immediately tell that all the things Nicole said about her were true. She is so positive and has such an uplifting spirit.

Here is her story...

I had my whole life planned out. I was going to wear crinkle top polyester pants and have 88 blazing candles on my last birthday cake. It’s all I ever wanted to be when I grew up- an old woman.

For some reason, it’s always been my magical age: 88.

It’s not so much about what I would be but who I would be. All of life’s lessons would be wrapped up in a neat, wrinkled, little old lady package. I wanted that. I wanted to be a lady beaming with wisdom, insight, and experience. I wanted to grow up to be my very best self.

And I knew age would give me that, even if it came with memory lapses and dentures.

I told my Heavenly Father my life plan. I wanted to write books, give sermons, and change the world. I wanted to be there to pick my kids up when the world scrapes their knees. I wanted to see my children cross personal oceans and discover promised lands. I wanted to help my husband grow lilac bushes that mimic decade distant floral perfume (because I won’t let him plant granny bushes while I’m still in my youth).

But for years I felt there was a trial coming. I’ve known it for most of my marriage. But a little whispering told me that regardless of my plan, He had a plan for me. Maybe there was something more for me. More, not less. God was kind and prepared me and my family for this trial.

Out of the blue, my kids started praying that we would know what to do when times were hard. They prayed for this every day for about a year.

I wondered what they meant by that.

Then in May of 2013 my life took a turn. I was diagnosed with invasive ductile carcinoma with lobular features. In a nutshell, I had two types of breast cancer. I was 34 years old. Though I believe I had the best possible doctors, my mastectomy revealed a remaining cancer finger and a report that cancer had spread to my lymph nodes: which means it could have travelled anywhere else in my body.

So the doctors were very aggressive with my chemo and radiation and felt that they got it all. They did all that they could over that year. I lost all of my hair, taste buds, and energy but I was on the road to better days. Or so we thought.

After treatments my focus on life was more driven. My hair grew back in (even though it reflected a hyper poodle) and I was enjoying cheesecake again. I started a blog about the goodness of life and highlighted parts of my cancer journey. I spoke at several group gatherings. I watched my boys learn important life skills, and I even I visited hospitals and kissed more abrasions than I ever had with my kids. Life was good.

But about 18 months after my last treatment, a constant and gradual decline in energy and a lump in my neck and on the back of my head revealed that cancer had returned. In February 2016 I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. My cancer was traveling with an illegal passport. You see, I was on a drug that was supposed to stop the cancer from growing at all. The doctor was in disbelief.

Meanwhile, my cancer was living the dream, vacationing to various parts of my body: the center of my chest, my lymph nodes, a ribcage, a vertebrae, my right arm, and my right hip. But, all of the spots were small. So that was very good news. We could get a grip on this.

Though this news was tough, I had a logical explanation for all of this: God has a plan for me. And because my plan isn’t His plan doesn’t mean I don’t feel His love. Not a chance. I am blessed with a strength beyond my own. I know this because just before I was diagnosed again my 5 year old started praying for strength.

And I feel it daily.

He is near. His angels cushion my pain. And at diagnosis I felt an overwhelming peace that no matter what happens it will all be okay. I trust in His plan for me.

In just 5 short months after my second diagnosis, my cancer blew up. I now had cancer on every vertebrae and several more lesions in my premium cancer locations. But a miracle occurred. By the next PET scan it showed that my lesions in my spine were healing and the lymph nodes were mostly resolved.

God does have a plan. And I walk everyday with full trust in that plan, whatever it is. My gift is today and I am fully aware of that. He is loving and kind and he never leaves us without heavenly help.
Cancer is shaping me exactly into who I wanted to be. I’m gaining compassion, patience, and appreciation for bad days because I know it amps up the good days. I get my granny naps in and I enjoy other people’s lilac bushes.

Cancer gave me so much more than what I lost. What a gem. It gave me perspective, more valuable time with my family, and a messy house. It helped me see and love the value of today. Today is my gift. I stand in awe with every sunset the beauties of the day, the tough ones and the good ones.
I may never get my crinkle top pants. Who knows? I might. But, just because life doesn’t go the way you planned doesn’t mean that it won’t all work out. Cancer has given me oodles of gifts and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The things I have learned about myself and especially my Heavenly Father are things that are far more valuable than a comfortable, perfect, life. And somehow in all of this I believe he is making me into the best person I can be.

His plan is perfect. I understand that my own life plan lacks the perspective my Heavenly Father has for me. I fully trust in him.

Because, you know what, I have full confidence that His plan is better. And I’m not going to battle with that.  

Thursday, July 28, 2016

INSPIRING WOMAN {Janna Davidson}

This months inspiring woman is Janna! She is going through something that seems unbearable and yet every time I have been around her she is always smiling. She is truly one of the most positive people I have ever met. She is fighting a battle that is bigger than herself and she fights it for those around her. For her children, her husband, her family and friends. She won't give up and that is truly inspiring in itself. 

Here is her story...

I have always been a firm believer that Heavenly Father would never give me more than I could handle. I believed that until last fall. 

October 5th, 2015 my life changed forever. I found a lump in my abdomen. It wasn't painful and I wasn't worried. I work at an OBGYN clinic so I had my doctor check it out. He thought it was just a large ovarian cyst. Who knows how long I would've waited to go into the doctor had I not worked there. He did an ultrasound the same day and clarified that it was a large solid mass. I got a CT scan and was told it was a 16 cm ovarian tumor. It was large. I was referred to an OBGYN oncologist at St. Marks hospital a few days later. She was amazing and calmed my nerves. We were told best case scenario, she would remove the tumor and it would be benign. Worst case scenario, it would be cancerous and we would take it from there. 

I had surgery on October 15, 2015 to get the tumor removed. I was calm and joked with everyone we came in contact with. We had named the tumor Dwight because he was about the size of a small baby. I reminded everyone that I wanted a picture of the tumor that was making me look 6 months pregnant. I was sure the tumor was benign and I would be okay. There was no way the Lord would give me more than I could handle and I knew I couldn't handle a cancer diagnosis. 

My surgery was longer than expected. The OBGYN surgeon got in there and removed the ovary that had been over taken by the tumor and saw something she never expected. She called in a colon/rectal surgeon to help her beyond this point. They found cancer. They found a lot of cancer. They removed part of my large intestine, my appendix, ascending colon, along with my left ovary, uterus, fallopian tubes, and biopsied 15 lymph nodes. The tumor had also grown to 20 cm in less than 10 days. My surgeon was so focused on the cancer she found that she never took a picture of Dwight, but she told me she did spank him. 

I woke up to the news that I had cancer but it wasn't ovarian cancer. After pathology came back it was officially diagnosed as stage 4 appendiceal adenocarcinoma - a rare and aggressive appendix cancer. This cancer is not curable. I will be on chemo for the rest of my life. I was heartbroken. How could the Lord let me get cancer, let alone stage 4 and so rare. I knew as soon as I got the news that I wanted a blessing. So the night of my surgery, even though I was still super groggy, I had my husband get a hold of my uncle and aunt that live in Sandy and he came and gave me a blessing. My husband, brother and aunt were all there for the amazing blessing that was given. Through my uncle, the Lord told me that I was going to live a long and healthy life and that there was still much for me to do. Heavenly Father was in the room with us that night. Everyone in the room could feel the peace of his presence. I knew that everything was going to be okay. 

I was in the hospital healing for a week before they let me go home. I missed my kids horribly and couldn't wait to get home. I got home to family and friends who were already up and running with taking care of us. Meals started coming in, kids were being watched, and a fundraiser was in the works along with a gofundme account. The community rallied around or little family. I had never seen anything like it. The Lord knew what was around the corner and knew that we would be well taken care of. 

It was at this point that I began having nightly conversations with my Father in Heaven. I have always prayed, but I have never been a good listener. I started sincerely pouring my heart out nightly and throughout the day, more than once I got answers and peace. He knew my fears and desires and calmed His child. I didn't tell God how big my cancer is, I told cancer how big my God is. 

I met with my oncologist on November 2nd. He was exactly the type of doctor I needed. Once again Heavenly Father was watching out for me. We came up with a plan for chemo and started treatments towards the end of November. I didn't get a prognosis. I didn't want one. How often are doctors right anyway?! Best news of that visit was that I wasn't going to lose my hair. Cancer + Chemo= bald heads. That is something I always believed. I was relieved there was a chemo that I could keep my hair while getting treatments. Heavenly Father knew I needed to keep my hair. 

Round 2 of chemo was the beginning of December and I got pretty sick. I couldn't keep anything down and everything I ate made me double over in pain. I was at the cancer center everyday for fluids and labs. I never thought chemo would make me that sick. I was mad. How could this be happening? Heavenly Father had told me I would live a long and healthy life but how could I when chemo was making me this sick. I felt like this was more than I could handle. Then my friend sent me an article about how the Lord will give us more than we can handle. That is the time that He carries us. He asks us to carry all that we can and He will carry the rest of the load. I was finally starting to understand. Come to find out it was most likely a virus and not the chemo that was making me so sick. I finally started to feel better the beginning of January. 

I got 6 rounds of the first chemo when we did another PET scan and were told that the cancer was growing and the chemo wasn't working. We started a second type of chemo that had the dreaded side effect of hair loss. It took me a really long time to come to terms with losing my hair. I felt like my hair defined me. I wasn't going to let chemo take my hair from me, it was going to be on my terms so I decided we needed to have a hair shaving party!! We had a BBQ and a piñata!! What's a party without a piñata?! That made the initial shock of losing my hair not so bad because everyone around me was bald. Friends and family both joined in the shaving and we had quite the pile of hair when all was said and done. It was when everyone's hair started growing back in that it got hard. I felt very vulnerable having no hair. Everyone can tell you that you look beautiful but if you don't believe it yourself, no one can make you feel beautiful. I was doing relatively fine until my eyelashes and eyebrows fell out. I looked like an alien. I hated looking in the mirror before I penciled eyebrows back on. I am just now feeling good enough about myself to go out of the house without a wig but not with out eyebrows. 

After 10 rounds of the new chemo, I started to feel something wasn't right. I talked to the PA at the cancer center and we got another PET scan. Sure enough, the cancer was growing again. One thing about this cancer is it is as stubborn as I am. 

I have had 20 rounds of chemo and have just started my third type. It is called FULFIRI (full furry) and it better work as good as it's name. I feel good about this chemo. I go in every other week for IV infusion and then leave with a chemo pump that is hooked up to my port that pumps chemo into my system for 46 hours. I get to wear an awesome IHC fanny pack with the pump in it. The side effects aren't awesome with this one but on a good note, my hair is growing back in. 

I have grown so much over the past 9 months. My relationship with my Heavenly Father is stronger than ever. I know that He is aware of me. I have learned that there is nothing more important than the here and now. You never know when it's going to be your last day or the last day of someone you love. I hug my kids a little tighter and a little longer. Don't procrastinate letting those around you know how much you care about them. I have also learned that I have a huge support system. People I know and those I don't. There are good people in the world. We hear so much about the bad, and not enough about the good. I am so fortunate to have such amazing family and friends. Life is never what we expect it to be. I have learned that we just have to roll with the punches and rely on Heavenly Father and those around us to hold us up when we can no longer do it for ourselves. I don't know if I'll be around for driving, first dates, graduations, missions or weddings. I don't know if I'll ever meet my grand kids here on this earth. I do know that the Lord has a plan and it's going to be okay. Even if it's not okay, it's okay.

The Lord has given me more than I can handle and that's okay.