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Tarah is 3rd from left

a PINK Christmas

…we had one last year as my great-niece, Reese, arrived on December 10th. We celebrated the month with PINK everything! What a PINK celebration that was!

But for The Powell family this year their PINK Christmas is has a different focus …but it’s not stealing their JOY!

 BREAST CANCER

…those words that just make you shutter when you hear them. Especially if you’re a vibrant 27-year-old wife and mother.

A few short weeks ago, Tarah, found out she had cancer and she is journaling her journey through this dreadful disease.

I’ll be sharing this journey as it unfolds…

and you will be amazed at her attitude, her faith, and her courage. She is as beautiful with her shaved head as she was with her full head of hair – and her smile will not be made into a frown.

Please pray for her and her family – they are expecting a MIRACLE …will you expect one with them?

THE BEGINNING OF MY STORY…

It’s occurred to me that many of you may not know the story of how I found out that I have cancer and I thought it might be informative and a little therapeutic for me to get it down on paper.  First, I’d like to say “I’m sorry” that this is just now occurring to me and as such has likely left many of you guys that are close to me in the dark.  And being the awesome friends and family that you are, you don’t want to ask me in case it might get me upset.  I’ll take this opportunity to say that I do not have ANY problems talking about what I’m going through.  Even if you just wanna call me and cry and say “This sucks.”, please do.  It helps me too. 

So, around Halloween, I started noticing a change in my right breast; a little discomfort, a little swelling, nothing major.  I thought it was just a new PMS symptom that my late-20s body may be going through.  I even googled it and found out that a lot of women have a complete change in their PMS symptoms in their mid-to-late-20s.  I talked to my husband and my mom about what was going on, both of whom said that I needed to go to the doctor – what would it hurt to ask?  So, the 2nd week of November, I went to my OB, who sent me in for an ultrasound.  The radiologists and my OB thought that it was an infection, and put me on antibiotics.  (Come to find out this is an extremely common mis-diagnosis for this particular kind of cancer.) A week later, I went back to my OB because the pain and swelling was just getting worse.  This was at 3:45pm on Thursday, November 18th.  She sent me over to a general surgeon for a 2nd opinion on whether or not it was an infection.  After a small procedure with a very large needle, he determined that the only course of action was to go in for a biopsy the following morning: a mammogram was out of the question because of the pain and the swelling, and  another ultrasound wouldn’t tell us any more than the first one did. He was very good at explaining the whole of the situation. He said it’s likely that it is some kind of abscess, but he needed to get in there and biopsy some of the inflamed tissue to rule out the possibility of breast cancer.  Because of my age and the complete lack of breast cancer in my family history, my chances were about 5% or less that it was cancer.  This was about 4:30pm. He ticked off the hospital staff and my insurance company by scheduling the biopsy for 8:00a.m. the following morning.

I left his office, called my husband and my parents, who left Dallas immediately to drive 5 hours to be with me that night and during my surgery. 

Luckily, both of my parents and my husband, and some of my wonderful in-laws were with me in the hospital when I woke up from surgery.  With my husband on my left, my mom on my right, and my dad at the foot of the bed, they told me that it was cancer.  I have no idea why, but I thought they were kidding.  That was my first thought.  Then I looked in their eyes and knew that they weren’t.  

The rest of that weekend was a blur.  I made phone calls, wrote e-mails, requested prayer from everyone I could think of and got some from people and places all over the world.  Over it all, God gave me a peace just as He has every day so far that HE is not only in control of this situation, but HE wouldn’t have let this happen to me if I couldn’t handle it.  This wasn’t a shock to Him…to us, yes…to Him, no.  He has been planning for years for me and my family to be in a place where we CAN handle this.  So many things that have happened to us over the last few years that have not made sense to us have just been stepping-stones to getting us where we needed to be.  Now, it’s, like, “Oh, that’s why you wanted us to move down here!  So that we’re 40 minutes from the best cancer hospital in the world! Gotcha!”

The next week was a blur of doctors appointments, pathology reports, PET/CT Scan, and Thanksgiving! Monday morning before I went to meet my oncologist, I received a call from a very close pastor friend of my family’s.  He told me that he’d been praying all weekend for God to give him something to say to me and that morning, He did.  He told him three things: 1 – I’m not going to die.  2. – I’m about to go through 10 months of a very difficult journey, and 3 – at the end of that journey, I will know what God’s purpose is for my life.  The comfort I’ve gotten from these three things are inexplicable.  I had faith that God was going to take care of me, but it’s always good to get a confirmation on living.  And, he let me know that it even though it’s going to be a rough 10 months, He will be with me every step of the way. I went to meet my oncologist right after that phone call, and she gave me the partial results from the pathology report that had come in so far: Stage 3. She lined out a course of treatment: about 7 months of chemo, then surgery, about a month to recover from that before about six weeks of daily radiation treatments. In other words, about 10 months of treatment.  This was Monday, November 22nd.

Given that it was Stage 3, my odds for it reoccurring in the first 5 years after we beat it this time, were about 80%.  For this reason, doctors suggest having a bilateral mastectomy, and possibly a hysterectomy to bring those odds down as far as we can.  But, after those 5 years, if it doesn’t come back, I would have been considered cured.  So, I figured, “Ok, we’ll just pray for that!” After my PET/CT Scan (on Wednesday, November 24th) and the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I went in for a follow-up with my oncologist to go over everything in more detail now that we had all of the test results back.  She told me that when she went in to do her own study of my PET/CT results with her radiologists, she found that the cancer had spread to some lymph nodes that the initial radiologists missed.  We knew that it had gone to some under my arm and towards my other breast, but they were fairly “typical” for this type of cancer.  The ones that she found it in, however, were not.  Essentially, the only way the cancer could have gotten to these lymph nodes is through the blood stream, and once cancer travels that way once, it can again….and again….and again.  This bumped me to Stage 4…and, there is no Stage 5.  This means that no matter how long I may be in remission, it can always come back, and the odds of it coming back are closer to 99-100%.  So, now, God’s got a SERIOUS miracle to do!  When God heals me completely, there is not going to be a single person who can doubt that HE is the one who did it! 

 

We’ve gotten a 2nd opinion on my current course of treatment, and have gotten confirmations from two expert oncologists that I am currently undergoing the most aggressive form of chemo there is.  I also have an appointment in January to double-check the results of my PET/CT Scan to see if we can get a second opinion on the 3rd or 4th Stage. 

My cancer is Inflammatory Breast Cancer.  I just turned 27-years-old, have no family history, and did nothing in my life that could have caused it. It’s an extremely aggressive form of cancer that grew from nothing to over 5cm in something like 2 months, and I can literally feel it battling against the chemo every day.   It’s a random genetic mutation that happens to, apparently, 3-5% of the female population, and I just happen to be REALLY unique!  🙂  I may have to wait a few more years to get “reconstructive surgery”, I may not be able to have any more kids, I may have to go through this again one day, but I have a God who loves me, who knew that this was going to happen, and who prepared me for it in every way He could.  I have a wonderful husband that God tailor-made for me, the perfect little 3-year-old boy who reminds me every single day to laugh, and a family who loves me and supports me and will do anything in their power to be here with me. 

Things could be SO much worse!

Tarah

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America’s Obesity Problem

…Is it a Problem for the Church? (Part 1)

I have to say that I was absolutely intrigued with the reality show, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.     

Image by ‘scandic hotels' from Flickr Creative Commons

 

The show came about because of one concerned pastor in Huntington, West Virginia. He was traveling and noticed that in the malls of California and in the beach area…everyone seemed thinner than people back home. As the thought weighed on him, he decided he was going to address the subject of obesity and what a serious problem it is with his congregation.     

A few days before this West Virginia pastor was planning to convey his message on obesity, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study naming Huntington the fattest city in America. It declared nearly half of the residents in the area to be obese…Yes, nearly half. This city of 50,000 lead the nation in heart disease and diabetes. I’m not making this stuff up.     

The concerned pastor gave an invitation to be a part of their own Biggest Loser and asked people to join in. They started working out, started having healthier Wednesday evening fellowship meals, and the local radio station started running the story…ABC, CNN and the national wire picked up on what was going on…and Jamie Oliver heard about it over in England. (Oliver is known as The Naked Chef for his clean way of preparing food that is “naked” without additives and preservatives, but fresh food.)     

Jamie teamed up with ABC and traveled with a film crew to start a food revolution in the community of Huntington.     

When I watched the first episode of The Food Revolution I have to say I sat in disbelief of how families actually eat…and every day…and the school lunches were totally scary!     

I sat and listened to this concerned pastor and wondered why I have never, no not one time, heard a pastor address any food sins. American’s are abusing their bodies with food more than ever before…and we don’t address it in the Church. (All cases of obesity are not caused by gluttony – there are sometimes health-related issues involved.)    

Image by ‘Streetfly JZ' from Flickr Creative Commons

 

Should we address the sin of gluttony in our churches? I mean, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity is the number one health threat facing Americans today.     

“Don’t drink too much wine and get drunk; don’t eat too much food and get fat. Drunks and gluttons will end up on skid row, in a stupor and dressed in rags.” Proverbs 23: 20-21 The MSG
 
As the show goes on I am going to dig deeper into this crazy food obsession that we have…and especially as Christians! I mean, we do know how to eat…that’s for sure! Potlucks after Sunday service, donuts and coffee during Sunday School. We love our weekly dinners as a church family…but is all that a sin?

…hang with me…and we’ll look closer at this American epidemic.     

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