three more scars

I’m up to eight scars. Two drain tube scars, one on each breast, one port scar and now three more on my stomach.

I obviously haven’t blogged much lately. I didn’t realize how much time I used to have, when my kids were in school and I was taking it easy because I was in daily and weekly treatment.

After radiation, I started working, traveling and then the kids got out of school. And my parents live with us. So there’s a lot of hustle and bustle in my life right now. I love it. I’m thankful for it.

I was actually slightly relieved that I was having surgery because that meant that I’d get knocked out by anesthesia for a few hours. And then I’d have to take it easy and recover. I LOVE moving at the pace I’ve been going, but slowing down has its perks. For example, it gives me time to write. I’ve missed this. I’ve missed sharing with you.

So, before I get completely distracted, I’ll tell you I had my ovaries removed. In cases when women find out through genetic testing that they have the broken BRCA gene (the breast cancer gene), they will most likely have their ovaries removed. BUT, I have not had genetic testing. I don’t know anything about my genes. I do know that I don’t have any immediate biological family members who have had breast cancer. So, I’m not in a huge hurry to get genetic testing.

So, why did I get them removed?? A few months ago, I was suspicious that my ovaries might be producing estrogen. Estrogen is like food or fuel for my type of breast cancer. So, we no likey estrogen in my body. I was taking estrogen-suppressing pills daily and monthly shots in my stomach (big ones that required a shot of lidocaine prior to the actual shot). But, it seemed like things were getting back to normal. So the doc ran some labs and sure enough, I had more estrogen in my system than they felt was good, so an oophorectomy was recommended. (So now you’ve learned a new word. An oophorectomy is the surgery where ovaries are removed. Only ovaries.)

So, yeah, this surgery is not to be confused with a hysterectomy. I only need a week to recover. And honestly, after about 24 hours, I’m doing pretty well. Just feels like I’ve done 200 sit ups. But, I’m bloated so it looks Iike I’ve never heard of sit ups. It’s an outpatient, laproscopic procedure. My doctor was awesome. (Dr. Bailey over at MN Oncology!)

I’ve come a long way. I used to be so scared of needles and IVs. Anything medical seemed like a big deal. Now, it’s like whatever, cut something else out if it means I get to hope for another six months. 

I generally only plan on six more months. And even that seems generous. I’ve outlived some perfectly healthy, really beautiful people. Even healthy children. I don’t feel like I deserve to live. But, I want to be here with my friends and family. And, I know if God takes me, I’ll want to be there even more. It’s a strange place to live in your mind.

There’s a video of Kara Tippetts where she says it best, “I feel like a little girl at a party whose dad’s asking her to leave, and I’m throwing a fit. I’m not afraid of dying. I just don’t want to go.” I think of that line at least once a week. It resonates with me. As I kiss my children on their heads, I always inhale their deliciousness and exhale a prayer request for “more time”.

I’m telling you because I know you’re wondering what it’s like in my head. I know you’re wondering how much time I have left. I’m wondering too.

Right now, I feel like I might live a long life. But, I don’t know anything. I know I have a 50% chance of the cancer returning in the next five years. And I know that if I make it to the five year mark, it will go down to 20%. And it will never go below 20%. And I also don’t really care about numbers, because, before my diagnosis, statistics were in my favor. And now they are not. So…whatever. God knows. And no one is getting out of here alive.

So, I plan for six months on the calendar. And I live like I have a million tomorrows in a sense. For me, that means, I don’t mind spending time shopping for school supplies. And I have no guilt about working 20 hours a week (I LOVE it). It means that I still like cleaning my house and planting flowers and being normal. But, it has changed me in ways. I hug more, say “I love you” more freely. As a mother, I am driven to leave a more defined legacy of who I am. And I have an intense drive to show our kids the world and give them lots of memories.

I’ve had a few friends (cough, cough, Amy and Helen) remind me of Sara Groves song “Less like Scars”. It’s not my favorite tune, but I love Sara’s music and her lyrics are right on. It seems like a fitting note to end on.

From “Less like Scars”

It’s been a hard year
But I’m climbing out of the rubble
These lessons are hard
Healing changes are subtle
But every day it’s
Less like tearing, more like building
Less like captive, more like willing
Less like breakdown, more like surrender
Less like haunting, more like remember
And I feel you here
And you’re picking up the pieces
Forever faithful
It seemed out of my hands, a bad situation
But you are able
And in your hands the pain and hurt
Look less like scars and more like character 

And just for some bonus fun, here are some pictures. Top left is me in a puffy, air-filled hospital gown pre-op. Bottom left, is me looking as amazing as ever with that signature post-op glow! And on the right, I’m a lot more chipper because Molly came to visit and laugh and cry with me the night before she and her family embarked on their move to LA. This was close to midnight (after surgery for me and last minute cleaning and packing for Molly), so don’t judge the bags under our eyes!!! 


6 thoughts on “three more scars

  1. Sheesh Jenna. Just when I think I can’t possibly look up to you more, you write this and I’m like, I wanna be like her. No matter what. I love you. Thank you for giving us another peek into your thoughts.


    1. Dear Jenna, We are the Suydams, of the home in Jackson Hole Wyoming that you and your family stayed in for your trip to the Wild West in August 2015. We read your note in our guest book and were so moved. We just wanted to say that we are sending our warmest thoughts to you and your family. We understand too well how facing such trials makes you, as you said in your note, appreciate the little details and the bigger pictures. With warm thoughts,
      the Suydams (Robin and Jenny, Suydam cousins)
      December 2016


  2. Pheww!

    I didn’t know all of this when I saw you today, but I’m sure glad I saw you!

    Sending love – praying that the rest of your lady bits won’t miss the ovaries too much and that you will feel well and healed very soon!


  3. You are really something. You make me realize how very lucky I am. You are Stong person and I admire you. Much Love!!!


  4. Hi Jenna,

    I left a comment many months ago– I’m a friend of Jessica Hillstrom’s, and I have Stage 4 breast cancer. I’ve been following your blog and it makes me so happy to read your words. You’re a good encourager, and so much of what you say is in my head too.

    I also had Dr. Bailey do my surgery (hysterectomy) a year and a half ago. I LOVED her. She’s awesome.

    I also think of that Kara Tippett line (about leaving the party) all the time. All the time. She’s amazing, her book has inspired me to live my months and years out with as much grace and courage as I can muster.

    Much love to you and your family, from a stranger who is rooting for you to keep on keeping on for lots more years!



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