Thursday, December 15, 2016

Savor the Season of Advent

"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." 1 Peter 5:10

This quote from 1 Peter greeted me this morning as I read the daily meditation in Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are, a beautiful book of 365 devotions which my dear friend Lisa gave me while I was going through chemo. That word "Savor" became my word of the year for 2015 as I prayed for a powerful and inspirational word that would remind me to focus on God's love as I live each day. The word has definitely lived up to it's meaning this past year and a half.

All through my treatments I was reminded to SAVOR each moment. Now as I continue to heal both physically and emotionally, I am reminded to SAVOR each memory and each present moment. God has made me stronger! With this new found strength I am learning to be still and SAVOR the many blessings around me. As people ask me, "Are you ready for Christmas?" I reply, "We are keeping it simple, so we are ready." When we keep it simple we are always ready. By keeping it all simple, we are then ready to focus on the true meaning of Christmas and savor each blessing.

God kept the birth of Jesus simple. Maybe that was to help us remember that we are to keep even the most special of holidays simple. I am taking a deep breath, and even in my strength, focusing on keeping the celebration of Christmas simple and focused.

I am grateful for the gatherings with friends and family that have already taken place and look forward to many more before the end of this calendar year. My boys have already begun saying that they can't wait for Christmas Eve/ Noche Buena, when our extended family all gets together at my cousin's house for an amazing celebration of the love we share and the love Baby Jesus brought to all of us the day he was born. I remember also looking forward to Noche Buena with much anticipation. We don't exchange gifts, but we give each other the gift of time spent listening and loving. We share food that has been specially prepared for the day/evening. We sing traditional Cuban and American Christmas songs. The kids display their talents for all to enjoy. We end the evening by heading to midnight mass or home, whichever each family chooses.

I believe that my Catholic Cuban family has taught me a valuable lesson many times over throughout life, SAVOR LIFE! God has confirmed the lesson by bringing me through  my many trials while realizing the blessings.

I pray that each of you will take time to Savor the blessings in your life every day! Appreciate even the hard times and look for the lessons God is providing. May the rest of this Advent season bring you a strong and beautiful perspective!

I continue to pray for all of you and especially those who are sick.
God Bless,

Saturday, November 19, 2016

"Blessed be the Lord, for he has heard the sound of my pleading; the Lord is my strength and my shield. In him my heart trusts, and I find help; then my heart exults, and with my song I give him thanks." Psalm 28:6-9

A dear friend referred me to this Psalm the other day when I was having a rough emotional day. Yes, those days come and thankfully go. I am realizing now that even though I am physically healed from cancer I must still work on the emotional healing. Every day I must trust that God is still taking care of the details of life within me and my family. Some days are easier than others. With the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays coming up I am excited and anxious at the same time about what I will experience emotionally. But, I know it is all in God's hands and thankfully the people/angels he sent me to support us while I was physically ill are still around us reminding us of his everlasting love.

It's funny, I remember when Peter and I were first married that he used to refer to times in life as being "BC" and "AC", "Before Cristina" and "After Cristina." Our relationship marked a monumental time in our lives through which we could identify time before and after. The same has happened with remembering life Before Children (BC) and After Children (AC). Well, now we have another time marker, "Before Cancer-BC" and "After Cancer-AC." I am super grateful that we even get to label present time as "AFTER Cancer."

Having completed my last Herceptin treatment and having had the port removed on Oct. 20th, we have already begun to refer to events in our life as BC or AC. It is amazing how one year of life can so clearly define what we were before and after. We are still the same people but we view life differently. We have been greatly impacted by the effects of deep faith and the effects of being loved so strongly and abundantly. We have a greater appreciation for the little things in life and for each relationship God has so graciously blessed us with. We are more sensitive in how we react to each other and to events. This can be challenging at times, but in the end it is better.

Here we are, Peter and I, about to enter building 631 at Gwinnett Medical for the last treatment. I remember vividly stopping to take the same picture on the day of my first treatment. I was wanting to mark time and have a way of looking back at that time BC. I think I was also afraid of how treatments would change me. Now, we have these pictures to help us mark the beginning of the AC time and a way to celebrate who we are now!

I have learned to stop and BREATHE in the midst of being busy, whether at work, at home or while working my business.  I am continuing to learn that I need to rely on others when I can't see clear or can't seem to catch my breath. I do not have to be the strong one all of the time. I can ask for help in all areas of life.

We were given the opportunity to stop and breathe and reflect and celebrate when we traveled to St. Simon's Island the very day I had my last treatment and had the port removed. My parents had been vacationing there, staying in a cousin's house, and invited us to join them for a long weekend to celebrate my birthday and the end of treatment. It was a beautiful way to celebrate and mark the beginning of the next phase of life. We had so much fun and were able to experience some firsts as a family. Here we are at our first lighthouse tour and enjoying a fun meal with mom and dad on our last day on the island.

We also enjoyed the splendor of the beach with its shells, sand bars and tide pools. So amazing!

I must admit, last year at this time I had a sense of surrender about me. I knew that I wouldn't be able to physically engage in "making the holidays perfect." We didn't even put out all of our Christmas decorations. I think we were even given a pass on preparing any food for Thanksgiving at my sister's house. I was given time to simply be and enjoy each gathering for its simplest purpose, to experience the love of those around me.  It was time to put all of the energy I had into supporting my body through the healing journey. How beautiful that those around me gave me that gift!

This year, I am having to really focus on keeping my new found anxiety under control as I already begin to think about the many ways I would love to experience this holiday season with my family. I have found that prayer coupled with using the essential oils very purposefully, help my body and mind to slow down and re-focus. However, since I experienced such a simple holiday season last year, I know that simple works and is actually more meaningful! There is no way I can possibly re-create the amazing sense of love we felt last year as people all around us showered us with love in so many ways. But, when I think about it, that is what we do each year as we go about putting pieces in place and making plans to celebrate Christmas. We are trying to re-create the feeling of love that Baby Jesus felt when he was born. And the beauty lies in realizing how simple it is to re-create that feeling. And the challenge lies in making that reality come true. So, I am challenging myself and challenging each of you to make this holiday season simple. In making it simple, focus on being and giving love to others. Let's focus on being kind, offering forgiveness, extending grace, truly being the hands of Christ so that others may feel His love. All of that can be done with a messy house and not so perfect gifts, but we must have a heart of love and gratitude. Preparing for Christmas is truly more of a spiritual exercise than a physical one. Do you have the support in place to spiritually focus on preparing for the celebration of Jesus' birthday? I can thankfully say that I do. This time "AC" is a blessing of being able to recognize the support that is all around me and being able to rely on you. It has become a time a of surrendering my plans to be open to God's plan in daily life.

Thank you for your continued prayers as we go through this time of healing emotionally! You are such a blessing to us and truly the best gift we could have ever received! On this Thanksgiving, we give thanks for each of you and the role you played in supporting us through my healing journey. I pray that each of you will realize the blessing of being loved and supported by those around you.

Much love to all of you! May this season of preparing and celebrating be a journey filled with love and peace!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms." 1 Peter 4:8-10

I have composed several blog posts in my mind and heart over the past few months. I can't believe the entire summer has gone by and I didn't post an update once. I will confess that part of me wanted to just pretend the whole cancer thing was one big nightmare. But I must be honest with myself and with you. The cancer "thing", the healing journey, has been one BIG blessing! Through this journey we have realized as a family how very blessed we are. So many have rallied around us both physically and spiritually. We simply cannot thank you enough!

Yesterday I was talking with Paul, our youngest son, and I was saying, what if we planned a party to thank everyone who has supported us while I was sick? He replied, "Mom, there wouldn't be a big enough place to fit everyone. Where would they park? How would we feed them?" I responded, "This sure is a great challenge to have, that we have so many people that love us and supported us when we needed it, that we can't even think of a place that would fit all of them. We are very blessed!" He said back to me, "Yes we are!" How beautiful for him to realize that we are not alone in life. We are surrounded by the body of Christ! Plans for the party are forthcoming.

We did have a very nice summer with plenty of time at the pool, visiting friends and family and just relaxing. One beautiful blessing that came to us this summer is our new dog, Brownie. While the boys and I were at our church vacation bible school (VBS) this cute little dog wandered up to the kids who were playing outside. One friend ran and got a kennel from her nearby home as well as a leash. After Animal Control checked her out we asked if we could keep her. So, now we have Brownie to love on and care for. She really has been a blessing to our family,

My treatments are almost over. I am still receiving an infusion of Herceptin, an anitbody, every 3 weeks. Thankfully there are no harsh side effects. I just get tired. The recommended length of treatment for this drug is one full year. So, since I began the treatment last October, I will receive my last treatment on October 20th, 3 days before my birthday. No coincidence! On the day of my last treatment, I will walk right over to the hospital and have my port removed! PRAISE GOD! I will then continue to visit my oncologist every 3 months for a year and then twice a year, then every year, and so on. We continue to praise God for the miracle of having NO cancer in my body when they performed the mastectomy. I am experiencing some neuropathy in my left arm, but using the essential oils has really helped with the discomfort.

I must get ready to go to work. I continue to work full time for Gwinnett County Public schools in the EL Programs Office, creating and providing professional learning opportunities for teachers of English learners.

I also continue to teach classes on how to use essential oils to provide a healthy life. I offer one on one consultations and set up booths at events as well. Please continue to refer people and events to me. I love this mission of empowering moms and dads to provide natural health care for their families in the home! Next week I will be heading to my 3rd annual doTerra convention in Salt Lake City, Utah. Only this time I have six ladies from my team joining me. I am so excited! When I went to convention last year I already knew that something was going on in my left breast. I figured it was something more than an infection. It was quite an emotional time for me. So, it will be wonderful to return this year feeling stronger and with a team of ladies joining me in the mission! I can't wait!

I pray that you will each feel peace today! Thank you for continuing to pray for my family. We are still healing.

Much love to all of you!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Almost done with radiation

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." - John 15:1-2

I love this image that God paints through his words in John's Gospel. God intends for every part of our life to bear fruit. But, being human, there are times where parts of our life many not be bearing fruit. The challenges we face can certainly act to prune our branches and assist us with bearing fruit in all areas of our life if we allow them to do so. Many of you have been God's angels in guiding me to allow myself to be pruned and to continue bearing fruit through the challenges in my life. Thank you!

Today will be radiation session number 22 out of 25. Tuesday will be my last session! My skin in the area receiving radiation is definitely "angry." It is very red, itchy and just uncomfortable. I am applying wonderful essential oils, shea butter, aloe gel, and a prescription gel called Radiaplex that the radiologist prescribed. I just need to be applying it often and I tend to forget. I do feel tired, but it is manageable so I continue to work full time. Pete and the boys are great about allowing me to just collapse when I get home. I tend to be asleep by 8pm.

We are thankful for this end of the school year! Ricky had a wonderful 6th grade year both at Regina Caeli Academy and finishing up the year at Trickum Middle School. We are looking forward to the award ceremony at Trickum Middle tomorrow, when Ricky will receive an award. He has done very well academically and is enjoying the adventure. Paul completed 4th grades at Regina Caeli Academy and had a straight As year!!!!! He received the award for the virtue of Fortitude for the 5th year in a row. He is definitely strong in his faith and in all areas of his life!

Pete was blessed by a quick trip to California to celebrate Mother's Day with his mom and a big birthday with his childhood friend, Will. Pete's brother, Mark, blessed him with the gift of the trip which certainly lifted Pete's spirits. We ask that you please keep their mom and dad in your prayers as Pete's dad, Chief, continues to deal with a degenerative nerve disease that is limiting his mobility. We are thankful that Pete's brother, Mark, is living with them to provide assistance and support.

We are looking forward to a fun summer of being at our neighborhood pool with friends. No doubt the summer time at the pool will feel different for me as I won't be doing as much swimming, but I sure will enjoy the socializing and laughing with friends as well as watching the boys have fun in the pool. The Navy is sending Pete to a conference in Tampa later in June, so the boys and I will join him for a bit of a vacation. We are hoping to visit family and friends in the area while we are down there.

I continue to ask you to please pray for my friends who are also on this healing journey as their body heals from cancer. Unfortunately I have another friend to add to the list, Beth Mappes. She was just diagnosed with stage 0 breast cancer. Thankfully her healing journey should be swift and complete, but it is disturbing nonetheless. Please continue to pray for my classmate and friend, Eva McGarity Ponder and for my colleagues and friends: Mary Walker, Victoria Webbert, Chris Starr, Ryan Otwell, Laura Tammaro, Joann Mueller, Gisela Polanco, Nikki Mouton, and more that I am forgetting but who come into my mind and prayers often. I also ask that you pray for the family of Richard Ferris, a friend from church who just passed away a couple of weeks ago after dealing with cancer for a while.

May God grant each one of you good health and peace and may you recognize the beautiful opportunities to be pruned and support others as they are pruned.

Here are a few pictures of recent events.
 My youngest brother, Mike, graduated from parametic and firefighter school in Gwinnett County, the county we live in. We are so proud of him! In the picture below, Instructor Tim Lister, whom I was in grade school and high school with, was one of Mike's instructors and has become a mentor to Mike. What a small world! We are thankful to Tim for the way he challenged and guided Mike through the program.
The boys and I had fun donning red noses! We look for every opportunity to have a good time. I'm so grateful for their happiness and fun spirits!
Peter and I had the opportunity to travel to Jacksonville, FL for the annual Navy Dining In function as well as two days of training for Pete. It gave me time to relax in a different environment and have some alone time with Pete. It was a much needed break from the usual life. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Radiation Begins

"Be still, and know that I am God." -Psalm 46:10

This past month has been one of "being still." Even though I was up and about quickly after surgery, I have had to be patient with my body as I continue to heal. I want to do everything I used to do, but realize that I need to give my body plenty of time to heal. So, once again, I am being taught how to be patient.

The other day while driving to a doctor's appointment, I was stuck behind a very slow driver. Ordinarily I would have changed lanes to pass. But this day I needed a small tangible victory in being patient, so I decided to just stay behind him. Ha ha. It did work. I felt victorious in practicing patience. : )

With each day I am given more and more blessings as I spend precious moments with Pete and the boys. I was blessed with a quick trip to Jacksonville, FL when Pete had to report for Navy training. I tagged along and was able to relax away from home and enjoy some yummy seafood meals. We also were able to attend a formal Navy dinner and get all dressed up. It was fun! The boys, meanwhile, were treated to a two day trip to Tybee Island by my parents. They had a great time being spoiled!

I am still on short term disability as the doctors would like for the one incision to heal before I go back to work. It is giving me quite a time. This the incision under my right breast which was reduced in size at the time that they removed the left breast to help me with balance. Please pray that the incision will fully heal quickly.

Yesterday I began the radiation treatment. The number of treatments in my plan was reduced to 25 from 30 since there was no cancer in my pathology report and I'll only be receiving the minimal dose. PRAISE GOD! The treatment is very easy. The whole thing just lasts 20 minutes and I don't feel a thing. I just have to be careful to take care of my skin in that area so that I don't develop a burn. The radiologist, Dr. Maxa, who is absolutely delightful and very compassionate, has warned me that I will likely just experience exhaustion after the second week of treatment. She explained that I will be most tired the last week of treatment and the week right after. The beautiful thing to me is that I will be all DONE with treatments just in time for the last day of school for the boys. YEAH!!!! I am looking forward to a fun summer with them.

We continue to be so very thankful for each of you and the support you have given us. We will continue to pray for each of you and our many friends who are also healing from cancer.

God bless you all!
With much love,

Saturday, March 26, 2016


"He has sent bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair." Isaiah 61:1-3

One week has passed since my surgery. We have all been surprised at how quickly I was up and about. I continue to get tired very easily but the healing process is definitely under way. I have had follow up appointments with both surgeons and both say I am healing beautifully.

We received GREAT news Thursday evening when my breast surgeon called to let us know that the pathology report shows that I am completely clear of cancer. They could not find any evidence of cancer in the breast tissue nor in the 9 lymph nodes she removed. We are amazed and so very grateful! What an amazing healing!!!!! We met with the surgeon yesterday and she explained that they are beginning to see this complete response more often with the new chemo therapy drugs they are using. However, we believe this was a miraculous healing. Let me explain.

Just one week before my surgery was to take place I was still not convinced that it was the right thing for me to do. I talked with several people including my doctors and asked them to convince me that I should have my left breast removed. The doctors' explanation for why the surgery should take place is that removing the breast and analyzing the tissue is the only way to prove that the cancer is gone. This is one area that I believe we need to make major advancement in.

So, I decided to go to my naturopath doctor for an additional thermascan in which, through an infrared scan, she can detect patches of heat which signify disease. She completed the breast scan and showed me how the left breast still showed evidence of cancer in two places. This piece of evidence helped me see that removing the left breast was probably the right thing to do to protect me from future recurrence of cancer.

Well, just a few days later our dear friend, Father Joseph, passed away after a long illness which began as Leukemia. We attended his wake the day before my surgery along with thousands of others.
I was praying for his intercession in providing me with healing grace, whether it be emotional or physical healing. After paying our respects to his body and praying for his soul, I asked Fr. Kevin, his brother, to pray a blessing over Peter and me. He did so right in front of Fr. Joseph's casket. As he prayed over us I held on to the scapular that Fr. Joseph had blessed for me to wear several months back. I asked Fr. Joseph to intercede for me.  So, when we found out Thursday evening, one week after that blessing, that I do not have cancer present, I really believed that Fr. Joseph had interceded and God had granted yet another miracle.

As we have called family and friends to let them know the good news the first question is always, will you still have to go through radiation? My breast surgeon says I will still need radiation. I am setting up an appointment with the radiology oncologist to discuss this further. Again, I am not convinced yet.

I'll be honest, my first reaction to the news was, "Great, so we removed my breast for no reason!" This had been my fear all along but also my hope, that they would remove the breast only to find out there was nothing to worry about. I did experience anger and great sadness. However, through the love of my husband and my parents they were able to fill me with hope and thankfulness. I needed to see the silver lining and they pointed it out to me. Now I am happy and can rejoice! Life will go on and I won't have to be worried about whether or not they got all of the cancer. Yes, I will be different physically, but the most important part is that I am different spiritually. I have allowed and will continue to allow God to mold me through this experience. I will continue to look to many of you for guidance toward God's will and support in following His will.

I thank you all for the prayers and that amazing support and love you have and are continuing to shower us with. Although painful at times, this has been an incredible experience to see how God showers us with love through each of you.

I ask that you continue to pray for several friends who are still healing from cancer: Eva, Jason, Victoria, Mary, Gisela, Ryan, Laura, just to name a few. I also pray for those who worry about cancer returning.

It is true that once you are diagnosed with cancer, life is never the same. But life can be better! It can be a good thing to be reminded of our mortality and our need to depend on God. It is good to be reminded that we need to treasure each day of life that God has blessed us with. And what better time to be reflecting on new life than through Easter time? I am so very grateful to be celebrating new life on this blessed Easter weekend when I get to see so many in my family and so many friends. I pray that you will each experience healing in your life this Easter. Ask God to show you where this healing is taking place. Be ready to experience the healing that God has planned for you!

Happy Easter to each of you!
With Much Love,
"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever." - Psalm 107:1

Friday, March 18, 2016

Surgery Update

Thank you for the many prayers today. Praise God all went well. The surgery only took 2 hours! I was up in my room by 2pm.

It's amazing how tired I have been and groggy from the anesthesia and pain medications. I am resting in bed with Pete sitting next to me.

I'll post more tomorrow when I feel more like myself.

Love to all,

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


"May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May you whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." - 1 Thessalonians 5:23

Just two days until I go through surgery to have my left breast removed, to have the cancer removed that is living in that breast and in the lymph nodes under my left arm. At times it is difficult to find peace of mind and spirit when I think about how this surgery will change my body. A dear friend reminded me yesterday that even though my body will change, my spirit doesn't have to change. I confessed to her that this is what worries me. I worry that this extreme physical change will somehow alter my spirit. But, I know I am surrounded by family and friends who will remind me to focus on God and to rest in his arms knowing that He will keep me whole. I will always be whole in His eyes.

This week our dear friend, Fr. Joseph Peek, passed away after a very long time of suffering physically. I have been moved to tears several times over the past years watching him suffer but still strive to live life to the fullest. Even in his quiet suffering he was impacting many lives and saving many souls. I thank God for his example. His sister, my sister-in-love, Christina, reminded me last week even through his physical weakness and "deformity" he still loved and was loved. He lived many years with open sores on his body and in much pain. He was sure to use it all for a higher purpose, God's purpose!

And so I am determined to use my experience for God's purpose. There is a reason I am going through this. I pray that my experience will bring others closer to God and that my suffering can be used to save souls.

Last week my dear friend, Sonia, arranged for a Mass to be celebrated by Fr. Michael Silloway in the chapel of St. Pius X Catholic High School, my alma mater, for myself and my friend and classmate, Eva McGarity Ponder. Several of our classmates and family joined us for a rosary and mass as we prayed for strength and healing. It truly was a vision of heaven to be surrounded by so many who love us and pray for us. I am so very grateful for our St. Pius community.

So, now, the practical news. I will be having surgery on Friday at 8am. The surgery should last about 4 hours. Please keep me and the surgeons in your prayers. I will actually have 3 surgeons working on me at one time. One will remove the diseased breast while the other two, who are plastic surgeons, will reduce and lift the right breast to help me with balance. (This is one of the silver linings.) I will hopefully be in the hospital just one night, but there is a possibility of staying 2 nights. Then I will recover and heal for 4 weeks. (This sounds funny to put a quantifiable number of weeks on my healing. I get the feeling my overall healing will take much longer than 4 weeks.) I actually hope to return to work in 4 weeks.

After I get cleared, I will begin radiation treatments to that left breast and armpit area. That will go on for 6 weeks, 5 days a week. I am hoping to be able to work through those treatments. We will see what God has planned.

In order to feel peace there is a need to rest. I am seeing that more and more. These next two days will be ones to reflect and rest. These next few weeks will be ones to reflect and rest as I heal. Be sure to send me your prayer requests so that may offer up any suffering for you.

Pete will keep the blog updated on Friday so that you all know how things are going.

Thank you for the continued support and prayers! I am so very blessed by each one of you. Remember to pray for Pete and the boys and my parents and siblings and close friends. This journey is hard on all of them. But, in the end, we will all be closer to God because of this journey and your prayers.

Please lift my friend and Pius classmate, Eva McGarity Ponder, in prayer as she heals from metastatic breast cancer.

Much love to all of you!

"We count as blessed those who have persevered." - James 5:11

Sunday, February 21, 2016


"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." Colossians 3:15

Peace is exactly what I am feeling today! It's funny how feeling healthy can lead to a feeling of peace. It is great to be eating normally again, even if the food doesn't quite taste the same yet. It is great to feel my stamina increasing and seeing that my skin is back to normal and that my hair is growing. My finger nails still look and feel funny but thanks to my Valentine I am going with mom today to get a manicure and pedicure. That should help!

I find it interesting that I equate peace with feeling physically well. I am realizing that it is easier to feel happy when I feel well. The only other time in my life that I felt as much despair as I did while going through chemo therapy is when I was in the midst of dealing with years of infertility. I remember days of hopelessness and sadness as I tried to come to grips with God's plan for our future family. My desire to have a baby was so strong and I felt it was deeply tied to what I felt God's plan was for me, to be a mother. How blessed we were when, after 10 years of marriage, God revealed that we were to adopt our first baby. How blessed we are to have Ricky as our son! Then two years later, after 40 days of paying very close attention to my physical health and following God's plan for eating, we were able to conceive a baby, Paul. How blessed we are to have Paul as our son! So, the past 10 years have been full of much peace as I realized that this was God's plan for us, to have two sons. I still longed for more children but truly felt that God was telling me that this was his plan for us. God has given me many nephews and nieces whom I love as my own and that I can shower with love. They are also part of God's plan for me and the love that I am to share as part of the ONE BODY of Christ. And I am so THANKFUL for each one of them!

So, today I find myself feeling peaceful again. I am feeling more like my usual self before the cancer was diagnosed. I am full of hope in light of the upcoming surgery and radiation. I know I will have some tough days of healing ahead, but I am ready! The only way I can feel so peaceful and ready to heal is that I am surrounded by the BODY OF CHRIST- ALL OF YOU! Your positive messages and inspiration lift me up on days I am down. You fill me with the love of Christ because you are His hands and his heart! Everyone, from the friends I have at Publix who greet me with a smile and a hug, to my friends at work who support me and hold me up as I work through the illness and healing process, to my family who never leaves my side, and my church family and RCA family who continue to support us, and countless friends from the schools I have attended and from other walks of our life who check in on us and support us...... I could go on and on. Every message I receive and every act of love that is shown to us is another way that God is reaching out to me to remind me to just be held and to feel His peace and rest.

Any time I feel pain or despair I continue to offer it up for those of you who are suffering either physically or emotionally. There are so many of you suffering through your own challenges. Know that you are in my prayers. May you also experience the peace that surpasses all understanding which only comes from Christ Jesus. May we, the Body of Christ, extend the love of Christ to you so that you may tangibly feel His love and peace.

I was given the beautiful opportunity to attend a morning of reflection for mothers of students at St. Pius X Catholic High School  and/or mothers of alumni and alumni yesterday as I was invited by my dear friends Sonia and Debra. It was a beautiful morning of fellowship with moms and grandmothers and a time to pray and reflect. We were reminded that in our lives there are seasons. We were asked to look at the list of seasons as listed in Ecclesiastes 3:1-22. As the speaker read through the long list of seasons she came to the one in verse 3, "a time to kill, and a time to heal." She said, "You aren't allowed to choose that one." And in my true spirit I thought to myself, "why not?" And sure enough, I found that is the season I find myself in right now. I never thought before that I would be in a season of "killing" but that is what I just went through as I put my body through chemo therapy to kill off the cancer. Now, I can move on to a time of healing when I will, with the help of God, build my body back up and strive to stay healthy. In verse 11 it says, "He has made everything beautiful in its time." God wants us to find hope and beauty in every season of our life, even when it is a "bad" season. Every season has a purpose. Our work is to identify that purpose and to share the lessons with others since we are ONE BODY. Our lessons can support others and lead them to their own lessons and peace.

Once again, I thank God for each soul that has accompanied me on this journey. Thank you for sharing your lessons and your peace with me. Thank you for praying for Pete, Ricky and Paul as they endure this journey by my side. Please also pray for my parents, Evelio and Rosie and for Pete's parents, Tim and Valerie, as well as my siblings and their spouses(Elena and Steve, Gene and Lora, Mike and Christina), as they endure this journey with us. Because I share such intimate details with them I think they are bearing a big burden as well. Please pray for their strength and peace.

Much love to all of you! God bless you!
"To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." Colossians 1:27

Sunday, February 14, 2016


"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

I have to be reminded of this often, the fact that the Lord has a plan and it is always a GOOD plan. In fact, it is ALWAYS the PERFECT plan, because it is HIS plan.

On our way to Gwinnett Medical Friday morning to have my port replaced, a song came on the radio, 104.7, the Fish, that truly comforted me and reminded me that all I need to do is rest and "BE HELD." The song is titled, Just Be Held, by Casting Crowns. Here is a link to the song:
I encourage you to listen to it. The line that comforted me greatly is "your life is not falling apart, it's falling into place. I am on the throne, stop holding on and just be held." I took some deep breaths and pictured the Lord holding me and carrying me through. I have to be reminded that this life is not for me to "figure out." My life belongs to God and He is the one with the plan. I need to trust Him and know that all things happen for a reason.

I KNOW that God has surrounded me with the people He is using to guide me, support me, and encourage me and my family. It is so beautiful to see how at each turn on this journey God provides friends and family who are available at the exact time we need them, even if just to pray where you are. We truly appreciate all of the prayers and many other forms of support you have all provided.

So, the port replacement procedure went very well. I am so grateful for the amazing medical team at Gwinnett Medical. On Wed. they found that I had a crack in my port line, when they conducted a port study with dye. That is considered a dangerous condition because the catheter line can break off and end up in my blood and they would have to get to it and extract it. So, they scheduled me for the next morning to have the port replaced. This time they routed the catheter through my jugular vein instead of going straight across like the last one. Apparently the line was rubbing up against my clavicle bone which is what has been causing the pain in my right shoulder that I have been feeling for the past month. This placement of going through the jugular has a higher success rate.

The procedure was outpatient, so I am home and doing well. Thank God for my "guys" and my parents who take such amazing care of me! Thank God for the army of people who are praying for us!

Speaking of plans, we do have a date for my breast surgery. I will be having the left breast removed on March 18th at East Side Medical in Snellville. At that time they will insert an expander as a "place holder" to keep my skin ready for the reconstruction that will occur after radiation. So, for those who like to know details, I will need 4 to 6 weeks to recover from this surgery. I will not be able to drive or do much of anything. I will have plenty of time to pray for all of you and am actually very grateful that the surgery is happening the Friday before Holy Week so that I can join my suffering with Christ on the Cross in a very tangible way!  Also, Pete and the boys will be on Spring Break for two weeks after my surgery so I will be well taken care of.

After recovering from surgery, I will begin 6 weeks of radiation which I will receive 5 times a week, Monday through Friday. Each appointment should only take 20-30 minutes except for Mondays when I meet with the physician, which will take an hour. Once radiation treatments are done, then I will go back for the reconstruction surgery in which Dr. Wang, my plastic surgeon, will take fat from my belly to construct the left breast. She will also take care to "mold" the right breast to match the left. They are being so careful to be sure that I feel comfortable about what will happen and with how I will look and feel afterward. I really appreciate that!

That is our "human" plan for now. In the end, I will work each day to trust God and HIS ultimate plan. I ask that you continue to pray for Pete as he juggles many "glass balls" in our lives right now. Pray for the boys as they continue to make sense of all that is happening. Thankfully the boys are very happy and have a great sense of humor. I just pray that their positive attitude continues.

I also ask that you add two friends to your prayers. Our friend Ryan was recently diagnosed with cancer. Please pray for him and his wife, Rachel as they search for the right medical plan for him. Also, please pray for baby Marisa and her parents Jamie and Michelle. Baby Marisa is in the NICU at two weeks old and is fighting for her life as she deals with lung and heart complications. We are praying for a miracle.
Thank you for your constant prayers!
Much love,

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The LAST Chemo Treatment

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:28-29)

This verse encapsulates exactly what this past week has been about for me. I was already weary going into my 6th and final chemo therapy treatment on Thursday, January 28th. But the beautiful side of things is that since it was my last I also went into it with excitement and optimism. I had HOPE! I had God's presence in my soul so I was at peace. I had the best nursing care around me so I was confident that all would go well. I had the best parents anyone could ask for by my side knowing that they would never leave me as the side effects began to affect me. I had my dedicated and loving husband and my amazing sons by my side to care for me each and every day of dealing with side effects. I had friends ready to bring meals and to provide support through flowers, visits, meals, and prayers! God had set up my host of angels to represent him on my journey. I am one BLESSED child of God!

Because of everything I just described above I have chosen the word "Abundance" as my word of the year to focus on. I didn't choose it because I need more in my life, but because I have so much that I want to be sure I acknowledge it and remain thankful for it. I also want to have an open spirit to welcoming abundance in other areas of my life so that I may share it with others. Peter and I have big plans for how we would like to share our abundance with others to further the work of Christ.

For the benefit of those who are not on Facebook, here are a couple of pictures from my last chemo treatment day. A tradition in cancer treatment centers is that when you complete your last chemo treatment or a significant treatment, then you are invited to ring the bell and they give you a certificate. They also allow you to have your family with you to celebrate the moment. I know it meant a lot to my boys to be there with me. As always, dad brought me the Holy Eucharist during my treatment and mom did not leave my side. Pete and the boys joined me toward the end of the treatment as they had school that day.

Just two of my favorite nurses, Jane and Jessica. I have about 10 favorites!

Before my 6th treatment, I had been warned by the nurse practitioner that works with Dr. Peacock, Warn, that this would be the worst one. Now I think he was just trying to build it up so that I would be pleasantly surprised at how easy it would be.  I have not felt near the level of exhaustion that I have felt with previous treatments. It may be that I am just so ready to move on with life that my adrenaline is helping me compensate. The nausea has been the usual and something I have had to stay on top of. I have had difficulty eating for a few days with a rawness in my mouth that made almost any food cause me to gag. But I am passed that now. I didn't even have the usual battle with diarrhea that I had with the previous treatments. This time it was a more mild case. OR maybe I am just used to it. I am dealing with the tenderness and at times pain in my fingers but I can deal with it. I am blessed to have been able to rest this past week and be with my boys and Pete. I am blessed to have the energy to take Paul to his soccer tournament this weekend and enjoy watching him play. AND I am blessed to have the presence of mind and strength to look at the weeks ahead and be able to make plans to share essential oils with friends and family as I so enjoy doing and to go to work with my amazing colleagues at GCPS each day.

Here is an update on what comes next in my treatment plan. I met with the breast surgeon, Dr. Yamaguchi, and with the plastic surgeon, Dr. Wang, last week. We have a plan in place for how the surgery will take place but they are having to decide on the actual date. We are hoping the surgery and reconstruction will take place the second or third week in March. It will take place at Eastside Medical as that is where they prefer to conduct this surgery. It will be a 7 to 8 hours surgery, quite complicated. Both surgeons will be working me at the same time as one removes the left breast and the other removes fat from my belly to reconstruct the breast complete with attached blood vessels. It is simply amazing what can be done to help a woman feel as normal as possible after losing a breast.
It will take me 4 to 6 weeks to recover, with no driving, lifting, cleaning, etc. That will be probably be the toughest part for me and for Pete as I won't be able to do much but rest, pray and heal!
After the recovery I will begin radiation treatment. I am meeting with Dr. Maxa, a highly recommended radiologist at Gwinnett, on Tuesday, to learn more about that plan of treatment. So, I don't have those details yet.

God willing, I will be done with these major treatments by May. Then I will simply continue to receive Herceptin once every 3 weeks until October to complete the full year of treatment. Phew!
So, I am already planning one HECK of a party for my 47th birthday on October 23rd. It will double as a way to thank EVERYONE who has supported us through this journey.

Of course, as I write this I am having to add some more friends to my prayer list who have recently been diagnosed with cancer. I ask you to add my friends Mary and Ryan to your prayer list as they begin their journey to full healing from this awful disease. And I ask that we all continue to pray for wisdom and insight as to how to PREVENT this disease all together.

Here are some fun pictures from my day yesterday as my parents and I took Paul to his first soccer tournament and then as I ended the evening with dinner with 3 of my favorite dudes!

Paul's first GSA Soccer Academy soccer tournament. Abi and Abu went with us to Gainesville for a full day of cheering. We even got to cheer on the Vivanco twins, Elijah and Nathan!

An amazing evening of laughing and fun with 3 fine young men: Ricky, Paul and Luke.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Uncle Fred

"I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly." (John 10:10)

My dear Uncle Fred went to be with our Lord on Thursday as I was receiving my last chemotherapy treatment. He now has new life and no need for his sick body. He fought cancer for 2 years ending up with a battle that was just too much for his body to handle. He had a strong faith and had prepared to die. He was predeceased by his parents and two sisters, Lourdes and Teresa.

That morning as mom sat with me in the cancer unit all we talked about was Uncle Fred, her baby brother, the youngest of 14 children of my grandparents. There was a definite worry going on that morning among her brothers in Miami as they could not get in touch with Fred. Mom was answering their e-mails and filling me in on what was happening. We did not know until later in the evening that he had died that morning, possibly as mom and I received the Holy Eucharist which dad had so faithfully brought to us. Later in the evening, as I ate my celebratory dinner with Pete and the boys, mom called me to give me the news about Uncle Fred. In a way, there was a sense of relief that his struggle was over. But then the thoughts of missing him began. He had such a BIG presence in our large family.

Uncle Fred and I didn't have much in common, but I have great memories of him playing with us as children. He was typically a very silly person who loved to have fun. He had nicknamed me and my sister, Cristina the owl and Elena the hippo. We called him Freddy the frog. The names came from watching the New Zoo Review on t.v.

At our big family reunion in Miami the summer of 2013 Uncle Fred and I had several great conversations on a deeper emotional level. He was reflecting on life as he had just received his cancer diagnosis and was facing a scary surgery. He had to spend most of the reunion being pushed around in a wheel chair as he had very little energy. Ricky took a liking to Uncle Fred and enjoyed pushing him around and getting to know him. Even in his weakness, Uncle Fred took it upon himself to shuttle family to the nearest basketball court for the traditional family basket ball game. He even had taken care of providing a couple of big coolers full of drinks for the players. He had great skill in taking care of others. He had a heart full of compassion and love for all around him.

We recently saw him and Myra, his wife, in the Keys when we all gathered for my cousin, Cristina and Hans' wedding. He had been very excited about that trip. It was great to see him again. I was able to share much more with him as we now had something in common, a cancer diagnosis and the medical jargon that comes with it. We compared our chemo therapy symptoms and how we overcome them. I was even able to share my oils with him. We were both there to enjoy family, breathe in some ocean air and enjoy the beauty of the island. We were both in need of some good natural therapy. Here is a picture of Uncle Fred with Ricky as we watched the traditional family basket ball game in the Keys.

His wife, Myra, and son, Kevin, as well as his brothers and sisters and many friends did so much to care for him. I pray for them all as they grieve. No doubt that his absence will be felt. It hurts not to be able to attend his funeral in Miami. I just can't travel right now since I just received treatment. There will be plenty of family representation. And we will pray from here. May his soul rest in peace! We love you Uncle Fred, Freddy the frog!

"If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation:everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new." (2 Corin 5:17).

Thursday, January 28, 2016

"Have no anxiety at all....." You all know this verse by now. I rely on it and God's promises daily.

Thursday, January 28th I'll be receiving my last big chemo treatment. This will certainly mark the end of the hardest part of my journey, but it is not the end. Please pray for me as I try to keep life somewhat normal for the next 10 days while I experience the side effects from the chemo. It will definitely be a little easier knowing that this is the last time I will need to experience all of those side effects.

In six weeks I will be going through the surgery to remove the left breast and reconstruct it. Then shortly after I will begin the radiation treatments. I don't have any details about all of this yet as I am just making the appointments with those doctors and specialists. I promise to keep you all posted.

Thank you to all of you for the amazing support you continue to provide! We truly could not do this without all of you praying and showing up to bless us with meals, your time and your love!

I was so blessed today when 3 different sisters in Christ visited me and brought me flowers. I do love flowers, but I love seeing friends even more! So I was doubly blessed!!!! The flowers will keep me focused on something happy for the next week and their love will be with me forever! Thank you Nicole, Jennifer and Christine!

The boys and I had a great time tonight making gift bags for the oncology nurses and staff as thank you gifts. We included samples of 4 of our favorite essential oils: Peppermint, Lavender, Lemon and OnGuard with some information about each one. Then we also added a sample of Deep Blue rub and the OnGuard toothpaste. These are all products that supported my body while going through chemo therapy! I am hoping the nurses will enjoy the products but also think about how they could bless patients and friends with these natural ways to support the systems of the body. They already know me as the oil lady and love asking me questions about what I am using for what. This will be fun tomorrow!
I will still get to see them once in a while as I continue with my maintenance dose of Herceptin, one of the chemos that I will be on until next October. I have to have it for a full year. Also, if I ever need fluids while I go through radiation, I will get to see them. They have become my friends and have been an amazing support!

This past week I experienced great pain from what I think was my port pinching a nerve and then causing me to tense up and develop sore muscles. I went 7 days with pain while visiting my doctors to get checked. They checked for a clot and the results were negative- thank God! Then my breast surgeon checked it all out and all she could think was that maybe I had the start of an infection so she put me on an antibiotic just to be safe. I told her I would do anything to make sure my last treatment was not delayed. Thank you to my amazing nurse friends, Amy, Julie and Melissa for answering my questions and even texting or calling me back to check on me.

Yesterday my sister in love, Christina, who is an amazingly talented physical therapist, insisted that I go visit her so that she could work on me. Well, after 30 minutes of intense massage/manipulation of my sore muscles I was already feeling stronger. She also taught me some stretches and exercises as well as good posture to help out. I was still experiencing sharp pain this morning on my way to work but at lunch I realized that the pain was completely GONE!!!!! She did it! I know that what she did to assist my body was the key. Every time she has helped me I have experienced quick and full healing! She is absolutely AMAZING! Thank you Christina! And thank you Mariana and Nina for making me laugh and for loving on me!

I had another very interesting experience last week. On Friday I had a transfusion. They infused 2 units of blood into me because my platelet and hemoglobin counts were so low on Thursday. I did feel better after the transfusion and since then I have not felt the intense fatigue I was feeling. That allowed me to go to work and will allow me to stay on course with my last treatment. At first I told the nurse I felt guilty taking this blood that could save someone's life who is in much more dire need. She assured me that this was a very important reason to receive blood. Again, thank you to the medical expert friends who counseled me as I made the decision to get the transfusion.
So, I am encouraging everyone to consider donating blood. It is actually good for your health to do so. Find a blood drive or call the Red Cross or a blood bank to find a way to donate blood and maybe even platelets. I am so grateful for the person who donated that O positive blood that was a match for me.

Ok. So, I may not write for another week since I will most likely be too tired to even watch t.v. Thank you for keeping us all in your prayers. I will be praying for each of you and your intentions.

I must also thank a very special prayer team of colleagues who are praying non-stop for me! Thank you ladies!

Much LOVE,

Thursday, January 7, 2016

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen!" - Ephesians 3:20-21

This is one of those Bible passages that makes me think of so many angles and so many blessings!

I'm sorry I have not written at all throughout the 12 days of Christmas. I had every intention of doing so but I have been sick and resting most of the time. On Christmas Eve Ricky came down with a cold with fever. Christmas day we were both sick as I had some pretty tough GI issues. Then I caught a cold which turned into a sinus infection which landed me in Urgent Care on Sunday. Now I am on major medications to kill the sinus infection and I can breathe and sleep again. There are definitely times to be very grateful for medical intervention and the amazing nurses, doctors, pharmacists and other medical staff who will even work on a Sunday to care for the sick. I also continue to give thanks for the gifts of the earth, the gifts from God, which continue to support my body through this time of healing in my body. #savorthegifts

So, let me fill you in. Friday, December 18th as I was leaving work for the holidays, a friend brought a Christmas card to me saying someone had anonymously dropped it off at her desk for me. I opened it up and found a beautiful note with a gift card saying, "This is for you to buy the boys' bikes for Christmas." How did this person know I wanted to buy bikes for the boys for Christmas? All I could do was cry the whole way home in pure gratitude for the amazing love and generosity this person was showing. I called mom on the way home to tell her what had happened and she said that I would not believe the amount of gifts an anonymous group had just dropped off at her house for our family. She said she was in tears looking at the room full of gifts. I truly did not know how to react. We usually keep Christmas gift giving very simple in our family. We realize that we really don't "need" anything and there are so many more families that are truly in NEED. We try to focus on the spiritual gifts of Christmas.

Well, the Tuesday before Christmas we took the boys to see Star Wars. While we were out, mom and dad delivered all of the gifts and placed them around our Christmas tree. When we returned, the boys were surprised and amazed as were we! We decided to let them open 2 gifts each day and then the rest on Christmas morning.

The very first gift Ricky opened was a certificate announcing that they had paid for 7 guitar lessons! He was so touched and excited! He realized how cool it was that someone went through the trouble of contacting his teacher and actually paying for the lessons. Wow!
Then Paul opened up his first gift and it happened to be the money to register him for Academy Soccer at GSA! WHAT???? This has been a dream of his for years. We had finally told him that we would put together the money to register him this year, but that was before I was diagnosed. So, we had been worried about how we would make this work. Even my mom was worried about this. So, for our family both of these gifts were a huge deal and had me in tears. What a blessing to see my boys and my family feel so BLESSED!

Each day the boys opened two more gifts and each time they were so overjoyed. Then Christmas morning we all truly enjoyed opening our gifts and feeling so taken care of, so BLESSED! There were even gifts for me and Pete. I could go through and mention each gift as each one was so very special from gift cards to clothes, to shoes, to video games and legos. The details were not lost on me. The wrapping, the bows, the beautiful Christmas cards that were attached were all so special.

I just HAD to know who did this for us! Well, mom let me know that the group was from work, from the C&I department. And then a few of the cards did say, "Love, your C&I friend." So, now I knew. And it was confirmed that I work with the most caring, giving and loving group of people that anyone could wish to work with. My Gwinnett County Public Schools Curriculum and Instruction Department friends had gone way above and beyond their calling as colleagues, friends and as Christian brothers and sisters. They had truly acted as the hands, and I will say heart, of God as they blessed us with so much joy. Yes, we really didn't need any of the material things, but the happiness they gesture brought to my family was priceless. The happiness came from knowing that a group of people cared so much about us that they gave from their heart. We have never been on the receiving end of something like this. My boys declared, "THIS IS THE BEST CHRISTMAS EVER!!!" For them to be able to say amidst mommy being sick is truly a blessing.

As a family we are committed to providing a Christmas blessing like that to another family next year. This is a lesson that will live in our memory for the rest of our lives. I also want them to know that my parents and my siblings, as well as friends who knew about the gifts were also very touched. This kind of act of giving has far reaching ripple effects. You brought joy to many at Christmas time.
Thank you to all of my "C&I friends!"

So, today, January 7, 2016, I will go in to the Gwinnett Cancer Center for my 5th round of chemo therapy. I am so grateful to only have one more round after this. My last chemo treatment will be on January 28th!!!!!! I just ask you to pray that my body will be able to deal with the side effects from these last two rounds. The latest side effect to creep up on me is that my finger nail beds are sore. I have always had very strong nails and I have been working hard to protect them from the possible side effects of the chemo that I was warned about. I was surprised to wake up one morning with all of my fingers hurting. After some research I realized it was another side effect manifesting itself. So, Pete has banned me from washing dishes and I am working to keep my nails healthy. I'll continue using the frozen mittens from Julie during treatment. And I know that with your prayers I'll be able to deal with whatever comes my way.

Please join me in praising God for the completion of treatment for my friend Nikki Mouton. She had her last treatment on Monday and will now move on to other stages of her plan for full healing. Nikki and I were just featured on Gwinnett's Relay for Life Facebook page as this month's Survivor Spotlight.
She is the heart of our C&I department and has been such a beautiful example to me and a wonderful support!

At the same time I ask you to add another friend to your prayer list who was just diagnosed with breast cancer. Her name is Mary W. I taught with her for many years in Gwinnett County.

Again, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the amazing support you are all providing whether through prayer, having Mass offered for us, providing meals, texting, calling, e-mailing, sending cards, etc. Thank you for praying not juts for me but for my whole family.

We are so very blessed and are sure to Savor each and every blessing! We hope you will do the same.

Much love,