Thursday, November 17, 2016

INSPIRING WOMAN {Kendra Leavitt}

Meet Kendra, 

she is this months inspiring woman. Her story is near and dear to my heart. Watching my sister go through infertility and the adoption process changed me. It brought sadness but then incredible amounts of happiness. Now going through infertility myself I truly understand the heartache it brings to your world. Kendra's story is one of hope, and it is truly beautiful.

In life, there are fewer things more disappointing than plans not working out.  Failure for a plan to develop leads to annoyance, which can lead to despair.  How many phrases are dedicated to help allay the feelings of disappointment?  “You have to roll with the punches,” “it’s always darkest before dawn,” “when God closes a door, he opens a window.”  You know how sometimes when you repeat a word in your head over and over again, the word begins to lose its meaning?  I feel like it’s the same way with some of these phrases.  Over the past three years, my husband, Ian, and I have been on a journey filled with consistent optimism, but staggered by heartbreak.  Long days of hard work and faith followed often by tears and doubt.  We had amazing support from family and great friends; we were also lied to and cruelly manipulated.  Through these three years, Ian and I have walked through fire together.  We lost nearly all semblances of personal space and privacy; we worked through hundreds of pages of paperwork and legal pulp; we drove thousands of miles, spent thousands of dollars, all for the chance at turning the hope people kept telling us to keep into a reality.  It was in the middle of nowhere, on a hot June night, where we finally found our seven pound miracle.  I am writing this story not for pity or to commiserate, but to expound on and rejoice in the one thing that kept us going throughout all our setbacks: hope.  

It began in college, living in duplexes behind an Albertson’s grocery store.  I lived with three other girls, about a five minute drive from the campus of Southern Utah University.  I was only eighteen, and in my first year away from home.  Next door lived a group of four boys, and we all quickly became friends.  One of them was Ian Leavitt, who was a bit shy and reserved, but very sweet.  It was clear early on that he liked me, and I’m not ashamed to say that I took advantage of his crush.  He’d help me with homework, car trouble, or just bring me something I was craving.  Perhaps most nobly, he moved my harp to and from concerts, without complaint. I soon realized that I had developed feelings for him too, and we decided to spend as much time together as possible. On September 11, 2010 we were married for time and all eternity in the Manti Temple. It is my favorite temple. It’s like a castle, and all girls are princesses. 

After a whirlwind wedding, we moved into a small apartment in central Cedar City.  It was on the bottom floor, in the back of an old building. Natural light was scarce, and at times the place felt like a cave.  We didn’t want children right away since we were both still in school and only working part time.  Children weren’t allowed in our apartment anyway, so we had no choice but to wait.  When I graduated in May 2013, we started thinking about starting our family.  Our apartment started to seem too small, so we decided to begin searching for a home.  We were lucky enough to find a house in a great neighborhood where we could finally start our family.  

Ian and I had been living in our cute home in Cedar City for about six months. We were hoping to fill it with children.  It seemed like so many people I knew were able to get pregnant the instant they decided to have children.  Surprise pregnancies also seemed frequent.  So when a few months passed by, and I still wasn't pregnant, I started to worry.  I went to see a gynecologist who had me tested for endometriosis.  Results were inconclusive, but he still thought that was the problem.  I had really terrible cramps during my period, which seemed more severe than other women.  I was tested for everything under the sun, often enduring embarrassing and painful exams.  I figured it was worth it if I could be able to have children. 

Since I showed no signs of infertility, our doctor suggested that Ian be tested. His testing was consisted of one test, which made me jealous.  Ian didn’t have to be poked and prodded. From the test, we learned that there was no problems with Ian’s sperm count, and the sperm’s mobility was also fine. The problem was in the morphology of the sperm.  In other words, the sperm were shaped in such a way that it was difficult for them to move correctly, which made it difficult to reach my eggs.
It all seemed to make sense! It’s amazing how simply finding the reason behind a problem can give you hope.  Our doctor assured us that although conditions were not perfect for conception, there was still a good chance that we could still have a baby.  With the new information, our doctor recommended that we try a few rounds of IUI (intrauterine insemination). An IUI is a procedure where the doctor takes the sperm and puts it in a centrifuge in order to isolate the sperm cells.  He then takes the sperm cells and, using a giant syringe, inserts the sperm into the uterus.  This needs to be done at a very specific point in a woman’s menstrual cycle. This puts the sperm in a position to go where they need to go, which was especially helpful in our situation. 

Ian and I were very careful in following the steps leading up to the procedure.  On the 16th day of my cycle, we had to go and pick up a sterile specimen cup from the doctor.  We would then set an appointment for the procedure.  One of the stranger things about the IUI is that we needed to collect the sperm specimen before we came into the doctor’s office.  It was a little uncomfortable at first for Ian to have to do this, but we just had to remind ourselves of our final goal.  After we had the sample, we would carefully drive to the doctor, where the whole thing could come together.  We tried this procedure three times.  We followed the directions given to us extremely closely, making sure to get every small detail perfect.  It never worked.  

At this point, Ian and I learned valuable lessons in how to react to difficult news.  By all accounts, the IUIs should have worked, as there was nothing too misaligned to prevent us from having children biologically.  Yet here we still were, childless, and running out of options.  This was a very difficult time, especially for Ian.  We both struggled with feeling inadequate, but it was hard for Ian not to blame himself.  We learned to rely upon each other’s strengths, and we took turns with one feeling down, and the other being the motivator.  It was during this time that Ian and I realized we had decisions to make. We had heard options about In Vitro Fertilization, and were encouraged by some of the success stories.  We also knew that uncertainty still would be present with IVF.  Additionally, the procedures would be even more expensive and invasive than our previous IUIs.  Our other option would be to adopt a baby, which would be more a sure thing than IVF, but would open up a unique set of challenges.

At a funeral for Ian’s cousin’s miscarried baby, I had the prompting that adoption was what we were meant to do. I told Ian of my prompting, but assured him that if he wanted to try IVF first that I would support him. Ian took a few months to ponder. Ian has always been more analytical and less spontaneous than I am.  I guess that’s why we fit together so well.

Later that year, we attended a sealing for another cousin to his wife and son in the St. George Temple.  Again, I got a strong feeling that we should adopt. If I wasn’t meant to feel my child growing inside, me then I wanted to experience personally what this darling family was experiencing. Again, I told Ian of my prompting. He surprised me when he quickly said, “Let’s do it.”

I’m not exaggerating when I say we started researching how to adopt the next day.  I’m the kind of person that when something gets on my mind, I want to get it all taken care of as quickly as possible.  I read all the content I could from any website and testimonial I could, and I hassled Ian to do the same. At the end of November 2015 we announced that we were on our way to St. George to start our new adventure. 

The first step in any adoption is to complete a home study.  Most adoption agencies won’t even begin to work with you unless your homestudy is complete and valid.  In order to complete a home study, you have to work with a licensed social worker.  We were lucky enough to have an extremely nice and capable social worker named Jill Valentine very near to us.  Ian called to set up an appointment to get things started.  That first meeting with our social worker was emotional. I wasn’t prepared for it. She asked very personal questions to get to know and assess us. We must have said something right, because it was obvious that she made us a priority.  She helped us finish our home study by February of 2016 and by March we had an adoption profile with I also started working with a wonderful woman with Heart and Soul Adoption Agency. She would let me know when there were birth mothers looking for families to place their children. 

Over the next few months, I did everything I could to stay in the adoption network.  Whenever I found out a birth mother was searching for a couple, Ian and I would discuss about whether or not we should pursue.  We were active in sending our home study and information to multiple mothers, hoping that we would be the ones they trusted with their baby.  Unfortunately, we did not have much success.  Several times, we would hear that the mother chose another family, or that they were not interested in us.  This was difficult to understand at first, but sometimes you just have to accept a problem without an explanation.  This was a very big decision for the birth mothers, so everything had to be perfect for them.

May 19th, 2016 began as a day just like any other.  Ian was at work when I got a phone call from Rachel, our adoption rep.  She told me that one of the mothers we had given our information to wanted to speak with us that night.  This had never happened to us before.  We didn’t know what to expect.  That evening, Ian and I sat together and waited for the phone to ring.  After what seemed like hours, we finally got to speak with the mother, and after a few minutes of conversation, she informed us that she had chosen to place her baby with us!. That was such an emotional and exciting day. We had never gotten this far! The birth mother was due September 22nd with a baby boy. We already had a name chosen, Henry, and I quickly fixed up our guest room so that it would be his nursery.  With a lot of help from family and friends, we were able to transform our home to be baby ready.
Of course, that happiness was short lived. About a month later, we were having a hard time communicating with our birth mother.  I had become pretty good friends with her, and was texting her back and forth for a few weeks after we matched.  When she started to not respond to my texts, I became worried.  Ian told me not to worry, as she was probably busy, or lost her phone.  That did little to help me, and my worries continued.  My fears were heightened when the adoption agency asked me if I had heard from the mother at all.   It turns out nobody knew where she was, and she wasn’t responding to anyone’s attempts to locate her.  I worried myself sick, as Ian did his best to stay positive.  When we finally did restore contact with her, I would soon wish that she stayed silent.  Things started getting very strange.  She even informed us that the baby was a girl and that the baby would be born in October rather than September.  This was our first indication that things may not be as they seemed a few weeks before.

Our adoption agency prepared an apartment for the mother to live in, rent free, so she could live close to medical care during her pregnancy.  The only stipulation was that she needed to travel from California to Utah, and the apartment would be hers.  For the birth mother, it seemed like everything that could have gone wrong went wrong in her attempts to get to Utah.  Her car would break down, she would need to stay in a hotel, she needed to go the doctor, etc.  One thing after another.  For each of these issues, she would always ask for money.  After a while, her stories would start to contradict each other, saying she was in California one minute, and Mesquite, Nevada the next.  She told us once that she was living in her broken down car in Mesquite, never mind the fact that it was 120 degrees in Mesquite, and no pregnant woman would ever resort to that.  After weeks of back and forth we came to the conclusion that she was lying to us, and she likely couldn’t be trusted.
Together, we and our agency decided that if our birth mother would move closer to the agency in order to give birth to the baby, then we would still adopt her baby. She made it more than half way. More bad communication. More lies. For the sake of moving on with the story, our birth mother did not make it to the desired destination. 

Ian and I were heartbroken. I prayed, searched the scriptures, and cried my soul dry.  Ian stayed strong, but I could tell he was empty.  We rarely talked, and mostly stayed home.  I couldn’t understand why this was happening. How this was happening. We were so close, and all our hard work looked like it was paying off, just to be shattered right in front of us.  It felt like we would never recover from this one.  It felt that way until Monday, June 20.

Ian, his sister, his sister’s husband, Ian’s mom, and I were sitting at Ian’s grandpa’s home talking about how we were planning to match with another mom. We had no idea about the timetable, we just decided that it would be easiest to move on, any way we could.  We had been ranting about our failed birth mother, which helped, but was probably not the nicest thing to do.  Maybe a few hours later, I received the text that would change our lives.  It was Rachel, our adoption rep, and she told me that a baby girl was born the day before in a small town in Western Kansas, and that if we could get there by tomorrow, she could be ours. My heart starting racing! This was it, I knew it immediately.  Soon after, we received a call from Rachel, giving us more info on the baby and her birth family. 
I knew right away that this was our future.  This was our baby, and we had to get home to pack.  Ian was more cautious.  He says it was the shock of things happening so fast, but I know he wasn’t exactly sure whether or not this baby was meant for us.  We decided to do what we had been taught to do whenever we faced a tough decision: pray. Ian led the prayer, asking if this was the baby meant for us.  I knew the answer as soon as Ian began crying.  Ian is a very emotional person, but he rarely cries, so I knew this was a special circumstance. When I asked him what he felt he said, “I guess we better go buy a ticket to Kansas, because this little girl needs us.” We quickly made travel arrangements, tried to sleep for a few hours, but failed miserably.  We woke up the next morning, showered, and were on our way. I could hardly focus. I was going to hold my baby. My baby. Our baby. 

We began at around 4:30 am, drove to catch a shuttle in St. George, took the shuttle to Las Vegas, and caught a flight to Wichita.  After getting to Kansas, we still had to make the four hour drive from Wichita to Liberal.  We rented a car and began the long drive.  Driving in Kansas is a lesson in patience itself, as there is absolutely nothing to see.  It’s flat and yellow.  When we finally pulled into Liberal, we were exhausted to say the least. Not only were we traveling, but we were also trying to take care of the legal side of the adoption and stay in contact with our family all the while. It was a long day. It was worth it.

After buying a car seat, we finally made it to Southwest Medical Center where our baby girl was waiting for us. It’s a small hospital, so we found the room easily. We asked a nurse if we could go in. The nurse checked with the birth parents and we were then allowed to see our baby girl.
I thought for sure I’d cry. It seemed like I had been waiting for this forever. It’s still hard for me not to tear up when I think about it, but at that moment all I could do was stare in wonderment. She was beautiful. So much black hair! Perfectly content in her birth daddy’s arms. Birth mom was sitting on the hospital bed enjoying the quiet scene.

I can’t remember too many specifics other than Ian quietly asking, “Is this her?” I mumbled something about her being beautiful, and then birth daddy was putting Isabel into her new daddy’s arms. I just kept staring. The mother had already named the baby, and asked if we would be keeping the name.  We said that we weren’t sure, which wasn’t completely true.  We had a name picked out from even before we were married.  In that hospital in Nowhere, Kansas, I was finally holding Isabel Marie.

Ian being the sweetheart he is, held Isabel for only a few seconds before he asked if I wanted to hold her. As I held her the five of us started to get to know each other. It was a reverent moment that I will never forget.  I felt right away the love for this little girl. She just slept.  I stood in the presence of this sweet little baby, and felt so much gratitude for so many people.  
Maybe twenty minutes passed when birth mom suggested that Ian and I have some alone time with baby girl. We had a wonderful half hour with our sweet girl. I started sending photos to and talking to my family through Skype. I couldn’t stop looking at her! 

Our plan was to pick her up from the hospital and take her to a nearby hotel to wait for more information from our agency and our lawyer.  Ian and I arrived to the hospital too late to take her with us, but the nurses asked us to spend the night with baby girl. I was so happy! I kept telling Ian that I wasn’t leaving her.

The following day was long. There were a lot of legal details to take care of. Isabel’s social worker, who was an incredibly sweet and helpful lady, stayed for a few hours to ensure that Isabel came home with us. There was a lot of paperwork needed for both us and the birth mother, and we ended up spending almost the entire day in the hospital. 

After the fiasco of the alarm going off (and the elevators not working) due to improper removal of Isabel’s foot tracker, we were headed home. It was around 10:00 at this point, and it had been as exhausting a day as the day before. One of the nurses helped us down to our rental car to make sure that everything was okay with our car seat. Before we said goodbye, the nurse told us that she and the other nurses had a strong attachment to our little baby, and were so happy that we were able to take her.  She started crying as she asked if she could say one more goodbye to the baby.  It was then I knew that Isabel would be a special sweet spirit.

It might seem that our story is finished, but there’s still a little more. We now were waiting in Liberal, Kansas for one of two things: there was one other potential birth father who needed to sign away his paternal rights so we could finalize the adoption in Kansas.  The other option was to wait for the Interstate Compact. The Interstate Compact is an agreement between two states (in this case, Utah and Kansas) allowing the family and adopted baby to travel home. 

Initially we wanted the Interstate Compact so that we could finalize with family in Utah. We’d have to wait six months before we could finalize, but it sounded like a happy moment that we wanted to share with everyone.  The longer we waited the more we realized that not only would it be quicker for the birth father to sign, it would also mean that Isabel would be legally ours sooner.  No more waiting. No more worrying. We changed our minds. We started working toward birth dad signing.  We wanted to get home.

We were in contact with our attorney and agency the entire week. Yes, we were in Kansas a whole week. It was the longest week of our lives. We tried to make the best of it, but there are only so many things you can do in Kansas with a newborn baby.  After, a couple days in Liberal we were told to go back to Wichita, where the finalization would take place. It’s also a bigger city so we felt less stuck.  We saw that sights of Wichita, including the first ever Pizza Hut, which was really exciting for Ian.  Turns out it’s only a small house on the campus of Wichita State University, and they don’t even serve pizza there anymore.  

Anyway, the weekend passed and still no signature, so we sent paperwork for the Interstate Compact. We were able to attend church that Sunday, and were overwhelmed with the kindness of the members in Kansas.  There truly are good people all around the world.  Monday morning came and with it a happy call from our attorney that he had received birth dad’s signature. Our attorney was so amazing. He had scheduled a court meeting with the judge on that same day, hoping that we could get everything taken care of. We met with Judge Rumsey for maybe ten minutes, waited around a few hours for the paperwork to go through and were finally given the all clear to return home.  
We didn't leave until about 2:00 in the afternoon. Because Isabel was so little, we were not able to fly with her, so we rented a minivan, and trucked it west toward Utah.  Ian fell in love with the minivan, saying that it was like driving a couch.  We made it to Colorado Monday night, slept at the Holiday Inn, and made it the rest of the way the next day.  Isabel is a born traveller! She mostly slept and only cried when she was hungry or when she forgot we were there. (It broke my heart to hear that cry). We pulled into our driveway in Cedar City at about 7:00 pm, and Ian’s mom was over about two minutes later. Our yard was in the process of being decorated and we soon had family and friends over to finally meet nine day old Isabel Marie. 

This journey has been so emotional, but I wouldn't have it any other way. We’ve been through such difficult trials, many of which I didn’t know we could overcome.  We have met some amazing people along the way who have helped in indescribable ways.  We continue to get so much support and love from friends, family, and neighbors.  These people have forever changed us.  Through this experience, Ian and I have grown closer not only to each other, but to Heavenly Father as well.  The adversity we faced seems like nothing now that we have our miracle. We are so happy.  Isabel Marie Leavitt is our greatest adventure.

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.

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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.