Friday, September 30, 2011

Meeting Baby Zuri

There is just something about the orphan crisis that gets me worked up. I just feel such a desperation to do something! And I love stories about people who are doing just that....something. And that is exactly what this post is about. This post is about an orphan who has a family now. It's about a love that could not be separated by half the world. And it's a post about sweet smiles from precious baby Zuri.

Monday night (past our bedtime) we went and welcomed home Zuri Birk. I mentioned her Mommy in a previous post. It was a wonderful night even though I had to push back my chemo and was up all night long. My sleepless night was worth it, because SHE IS HOME and SAFE and LOVED!

Enjoy some pics from that night courtesy of Daniel Davis.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pinterest makes me want to be a better woman...

I'm not a crafty person. But secrectly I wish I was. I want to be the person that comes up with cute crafts for my house. Decorations for each season. Little homemade gifts for parents and friends. Adorable little activities to do with my kids. How awesome would that be?

I can't decorate my way out of a box. No, seriously, I really can't. I don't have an eye for decorating, but I want to. I even watch hours and hours of HGTV and DIY to help me. I want beautiful, cozy, clean and modern, yet colorful rooms. Rooms that make people ooh and aah. I just don't want plain, boring, white walls, is that too much to ask?

I do not cook. Oh I make food, but I don't cook. I can read a recipe, but I don't have the gift of cooking. I want to be a good cook. The kind that loves to do it. I would love to make things from scratch and play with different ingredients. I would love to create beautiful meals that I could share with others. Just once I'd love to feel like a real cook with a meal I'd actually want to prepare for others.

I'm not fashionable. Nope not one bit. I wear a t shirt and shorts EVERY DAY. Even if I had all the money in the world, I would have NO IDEA what to buy or what would look good on me. I don't get fashion and am afraid that I'm passing this on to my children. I have no idea what it feels like to have someone compliment my clothes or ask me where I bought something. Maybe just once it would be nice?

I'm not crafty, or a decorator, or a cook, or fashionable and yet.....I'm obsessed with pinterest. If you haven't been on this site, stop reading and GO there NOW!

It is a fun site full of crafts, decorating ideas, recipes, and fashion. Just a place for the creative people in the world to share their ideas with us duds. And I love it. I haven't done anything with my new obsession, but it does make me WANT to do something.

With all that said. I did do one crafty, decorating, organizing thing last year and I wanted to share it with you. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my clever book case.

These book shelves are made out of metal gutters and attached to the walls. I'm in love with them because my kids can see all the book covers and it is easy to put away.
Are you a crafter, decorator, cook, or fashionista? If so, want to come over?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

My hero

This week was all about "rest". I was off chemo (doctors orders) and so I just rested all week. I cleaned like a freak (that's how I rest), played with the kiddos, went to the gym, and watched movies with my husband. Life felt normal, kind of....I still get really tired easily. BUT THIS POST IS NOT ABOUT CANCER!!!(I'm a little excited about that)

I've been overwhelmed lately (in a good way) by all the support I have received since being diagnosed. Long lost friends, acquaintances, Adam's co-workers, new friends from church, and even complete strangers have just LOVED on me. I am so blessed by this, but I'm still learning "how to do it". I get lots of emails, comments, and even texts about how strong I am and inspirational. I don't know how to respond to them.

Truth is I'm not strong. I'm not inspirational. I'm just n-o-t.

I am a normal, scared, weak, little girl who just loves Jesus. And without sounding too hokey that is why I'm able to do what I do. I'm strong because Jesus is strong. I'm not scared of the future because I have hope of life everlasting in Him. And I'm not mad that I have cancer, because I know that Jesus is perfect and so are His plans for my life.

BUT this post is NOT about me. It's about one of my HEROES.

A lady who is STRONG.

A lady who is INSPIRATIONAL.

A lady who also LOVES JESUS a lot.

Meet Sherry:
She's the hot one on the right side. That tall guy in the middle is Andy another great co-worker friend.

Sherry works at Gowalla with Adam. We like to joke about one of the first times we met. I just sat myself down right next to her and asked, "So, what's your story?". (Ha typical Jen) We spent the rest of the night talking life, guys, kids, adoption, and who knows what else. We were instant friends. She even talked me into doing a running group with some other Gowalla employees. (Ha that is NOT a typical Jen. I ADORE working out, but HATE running)

So why is Sherry my hero?

Well....first you need to...

Meet Zuri:
A-D-O-R-A-B-L-E! Am I right? Little Zuri lives in Ethiopia (for the moment). She's Sherry's daughter, and tomorrow morning Sherry leaves Austin to go to Ethiopia and pick up her daughter. In a little over a week, Mom and daughter will come HOME!

Sherry is my hero, because she heard God whisper, "Take care of the orphans", "Love the unloved", "Adopt a daughter from Africa, Sherry". And Sherry said, "YES, I will!"

Even when it didn't make "sense", Sherry said "yes". You see Sherry is single. Normal single ladies don't adopt babies from Africa. Sherry is the only income in her home. Normal people look at the cost of adoption and say "Nope, not for me. That is too expensive". Sherry is willing to open her heart, home, and life to a little baby she had never met. Normal single people just don't do that!

I hope that you are beginning to see that Sherry is NOT normal. Because of the love of Jesus, Sherry is obeying God's question; "Who will go?" "Who will love these babies?" "Who will love like I first loved?" She is amazing. And the story that God is telling through her life and her daughter is AAAAH-mazing!

Please join me friends. Pray for my amazing friend Sherry and her baby girl Zuri. I know that she is nervous. I know that she is scared. And I know that Satan is trying his best to knock my sweet friend down. But Sherry knows that the battle is already won, that because of Jesus we are adopted into the family of God. And because of that LOVE, Sherry can love a little baby the same way I love my kiddos. Sherry knows that adoption is the perfect picture of loving someone unconditionally. Sherry knows that her Heavenly Father fought for her life the same way Sherry has been fighting for Baby Zuri. And that soon she will hold that little baby in her arms FOREVER! Pray for my hero!

Pray for baby Zuri. Pray for health and an easy trip back to Austin. Pray for her heart to begin healing. Pray for the bond of mother and daughter to form. Pray for the details. Pray for sweet moments and for patience and peace for the not so sweet ones. Pray for the paperwork and passports. Pray for sweet laughs, lots of cuddling, and nights of sleep (for Mom and baby). Pray...Pray...Pray.
Tomorrow my hero travels to get her baby girl. And tomorrow a new chapter in the beautiful story God is writing about these two begins. I can't wait to "read" the next part, and I can't wait to get my arms around these two beautiful girls. I love you, Sherry! (and baby Zuri!)

I will be getting off a plane with my little girl. And she will be mine. Forever. Despite being scared, my heart is able to see the life of true joy this little girl is going to bring me. Yes, I won’t get to go dancing with my friends as much :) and I probably won’t get as much sleep. Sacrifices will be made. People are going to look at me funny. Dating will likely be interesting. There are going to be hard days, especially doing this on my own. But giving her a family, watching her grow, living life together and seeing who she turns into…this is what matters. I can’t wait. -words from Sherry's blog

Monday, September 12, 2011

A hard night with my first new treatment...

Today we started a new treatment round of chemo. I was excited about this. 1) Because I didn't have to go to chemo land everyday. 2) The dosage is 50% less than my iv fusions were last month.

But I was also pretty nervous and anxious. This time I knew how it felt to be on chemo and I don't like it all. I'm also scared about how long I will be on this drug. The goal is 11 MONTHS, and that is frightening.

God was faithful and kept me strong for those long 4 weeks both mentally and spiritually, but it was only 4 weeks long. So the question I kept hearing Satan whispering was "Could you keep leaning on him for 11 months or would you throw in the towel and quit?" I DON'T QUIT. But I'd be a liar if I said that I wasn't scared.

I had a wonderful morning. Got to the gym and although I am still tired and not 100%, I had a blast kicking butt at bootcamp. I took the kids grocery shopping and fed them lunch. I was on my game. Now I just had to go to chemo-land and learn how to give myself the shots.

Nurse walked me through everything and then gave me a test. I had to do the whole prep and then give myself the shot, while explaining what I was doing and why. I passed. Yippeee and was sent on my way. Every nurse there gave me encouraging words like; "You'll do great." Don't worry it might not be as worse". "You're tough".

I came home and slept, I wanted to give my body rest just in case. And just in case was EXACTLY what happened.

I woke up from my nap with chills (I know that this means a fever eventually), a headache, and aches. Not how I wanted the afternoon/evening to start. I took 2 Vicodin and found my spot on the couch.

6:30pm My chills got worst. I threw on 4 blankets instead of the 1 I had on already and got in the fetal position. My body chills were so bad that my whole body was convulsing. I was panicking a bit too. None of the other chemo nights had been like this. Mentally Satan was taking me down too. I could hear things like; "You can't do this." Too much pain" "Where is your strong God now". I silently prayed with tears streaming down my face, God is stronger! I need him now, cause I can't do this.

My sweet Adam saw that I was having trouble, but he had to get the kids outta of the house. Not only did they need to play outside, but I was getting more upset since they were watching me with big eyes of tears as I battled and battled. I was crying, shaking, having trouble breathing, and to my kids this must have looked frightening. This only stressed me out more, so my breathing started getting even worst. I didn't want my babies effected badly by this cancer, and I didn't want them to see their strong Mom be so weak.

I reminded Connor who was most affected seeing me like this, that God was strong and was going to help me feel better. But deep down I was having doubts. This was horrible.

8:30pm: Chills are worst, headache pounding, and a lot of trouble trying to breathe. I take 2 more Vicodin and call my Mom so she can tell all our friends and family in Oregon to start praying. The shaking is so bad that my teeth are chattering and body is starting to cramp up. I'm breathing really quickly and feeling a little out of control. I'm upset because I don't want to take anymore drugs, especially the ones that don't make me feel right in the head. I'm emotional. (and if you know me I don't get emotional) I'm scared and ready to quit already and keeping thinking THIS IS DAY 1. You have 100's more of these days ahead of you. Can you do this???

I start trying to get myself to settle down, if not then I was going to pass out. I start breathing slowly even though every breath hurts as my body shakes and convulses more and more. Still not a very high fever, and I AM FREEZING. I start saying out-loud; "You can do this, Jen." You are strong." Suddenly I have a moment of clarity which was difficult, because as I feel my body fighting so hard, my mind was weak very weak. "No, Jen you can't do this" I hear as a whisper, but this time a sweet whisper "Jen my beautiful daughter, I can do this." I begin to pray, "God, you can do this. Jesus my sweet sweet savior you can comfort me now." Friends start texting me with scripture and prayers and slowly I am feeling better mentally.

9:05pm My fever is climbing dangerously high. 104 then 104.5. We had to call the doctor then. He told us to take some more medications(funny how doctors can tell you to take more then the bottle says you can) and check the fever every 30 minutes. If it doesn't drop I have to go to the hospital. I also have to take the anti-anxiety pill that I didn't want to. We needed my muscles to relax, my breathing needed to slowdown, and I needed to calm down.

But I couldn't calm down, my head was killing me. I couldn't think straight. I was convulsing, and now burning up. I was panicking at the mere thought of going to the hospital. And embarrassed that my husband was having to talk to me like a child. I cried and begged him not to take me to the hospital, because I was afraid that they were going to commit me to the pysch ward. Seriously, in my head this is what I thought was going on.

9:30pm Fever back down to 104. I'm burning up and sweating, but I have to stay warm and let this fever break. My headache is more like a thumping. And my muscles are beginning to relax as the fever's heat fills me inside out. I'm beginning to finally calm down. Unfortunately I get sick, probably from all the shakes and convulsions. But I know that I'll probably not have to go to the hospital now and that comforts me. I plead sappy/weepy "I'm sorry"s to my husband (He was awesome) And my mind slowly starts coming back to me. I felt like I just got beat up inside and out.

I'm not going to lie. That was hard and I'm scared about what tomorrow and the next day holds for me and this treatment. I wanted to quit tonight. I was mad at my body for being so weak. Frustrated with myself. Worried for my kids and what they saw tonight. BUT...... God was there the whole time. He never once let me go. He was my strength tonight when I had none. He was faithful.

And even though I'm anxious at what tomorrow holds, He'll be faithful then again.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hair be gone

I'm so sorry that I haven't been around for awhile, but chemo was kicking my butt. And not just kicking my butt, but taking my mind. The medications I was on were/are really harsh and messed with my head. Let's just say that I don't remember weeks. And it was a very good idea that I did NOT blog in that state: TRUST ME.

But in true Jen-like fashion even though I was very sick and very brain-dead I had a party to throw......a head shaving party!

Cancer is a mean SOB and I hate it. It robs you of a lot of things in life you love. For many it takes their life on this earth. When fighting cancer you lose your strength, your energy, your daily routine, your appetite, your food (literally), your health, your mind, your sleep, your...geez it feels like cancer takes everything some days.

It even takes your hair. And for us ladies that's bigger then I can write about right now. Let's just say that for most of my life I have BATTLED my hair and yet moments here and there before my head shaving party I found myself crying over losing it.

BUT I wasn't going to let cancer take this from me. Not this time! I was going to hold my head high and chop my hair off MYSELF. I wasn't going to let chunk after chunk fall out. I wasn't going to cover my sick hair with a scarf. NOPE! I wasn't letting cancer win this one. Cancer picked a fight with the WRONG GIRL. Cancer might wins some of the little fights, but not this one......
Our roommate Daniel Davis took photos for me. He is such a blessing to my family.

And Morgan my friend and AWESOME hair stylist did the cutting.
Since I have never had my hair "short" we decided to try some styles out while we "went up".

The men in my life (all of them) decided to surprise me. They had been talking it over and chose to shave their heads too. No worries it made me cry too. So my hubby, my 6 year old Connor, and 4 year old Bryce got hair cuts. Later that night Connor whispered to me that I still looked beautiful. Wow these boys are breaking my heart. I do hope that they remember this experience, because I know I will.
Now we McManus folk aren't your typical family and we HAD to take some fun pictures before we all shaved-shaved our heads. So awesome Morgan gave us all Mohawks. (And NO Alexis did not cut her hair and YES she did not have a choice. Sorry!)

It took a lot of work to get a picture of me NOT smiling. I had such a fun time that night with family and friends. I even chose to NOT take my usual medications so I wouldn't look high in the pictures and had a chance to actually remember that night. It is a miracle that the pain I was in that night didn't bother me one bit. God is so good.
Fuzz heads!

Daniel did a beautiful job telling a story of that night in pictures and I would love you to see those too. HERE!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Done with infusions

I'm sorry that I haven't blogged lately. But I have been EXHAUSTED! And the drugs that I have been taking have made me absolutely LOOPY. So loopy that there are a couple days last week that I don't even remember. Apparently I even fell and I don't remember!

The last week of infusion chemo was HARD on my body. My white blood cells went too low and I couldn't even do chemo a couple of days. I was sick, very sick. And like I said before the drugs they had me on made me pretty crazy.

BUT I am done with infusion chemo and have a couple weeks off. My white blood cells are still too low to continue chemo. Once they get back up we will begin doing chemo at home: Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays.

My favorite nurse; Cheryl (can you tell that I'm high)
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