Gratitude as the Pathway to Joy

Tomorrow is my last radiation treatment.*  I am so excited to ring the bell tomorrow to mark this huge milestone in my journey.

and WOW what a journey this has been!

To be real-The last three weeks have been very difficult for me.  The fatigue has been crippling and has affected every area of my life.  Let’s just say I’ve been in survival mode.

I must admit I’ve struggled in these last few weeks to find joy.  Yesterday, I sat down in the kitchen, tired and frustrated at my weakened state, as I put my head in my hands and literally asked the Lord to HELP me have joy.  And right away He reminded me that JOY is a byproduct of GRATITUDE.  So I asked God to help me to have a heart of gratitude.


1 Thessalonians 5:18 says: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 

God’s will for my life is gratitude.  In every season. In every circumstance.

I’m reminded of a book I read several years ago which was life-changing for me.  I think I need to read it again.

Ann Voskamp says in “1000 Gifts”:

“A life contemplating the blessings of Christ becomes a life acting the love of Christ.”

I want to really live like this.  Not just talk about living like this.  I realize that I was allowing my fatigue to rob me of my grateful heart.

Yesterday on the kitchen floor reminded me that there is always, ALWAYS something to be thankful for.

And right then and there, I looked up and the first thing I saw was a basket of overflowing laundry.  Laundry that should have been folded and put away days ago.  I thanked God for the basket of overflowing laundry.   Instead of complaining in my heart about not having the energy to fold the clothes, my perspective to shifted to one of gratitude.  “Thank you, Lord, that we have baskets full of clothes to wear.  Thank you Lord for the family members that you’ve blessed me with that wear these clothes.  Thank You Lord for a washer and dryer.  Thank you, Lord, for the overflowing baskets of clothes.”

In 1000 Gifts, Ann Voskamp describes writing down 1000 blessings in a gratitude journal.  A couple of years ago when I had busy days of three littles at home, I realized I wanted to grow in the discipline of gratitude.

So I took a basic journal, opened it up and left it on the kitchen counter throughout the day.  I numbered God’s gifts- a funny comment from a child, a song that ministered to my heart, or simply the way the sunlight fell across the hardwood floor.

It takes practice to see things through different eyes.


gratitude list circa 2014


As I look through this old journal from two years ago, I’m reminded of the importance of chronicling gratitude.

When I need the Lord to restore my joy, I will chronicle some things I am grateful for here. (I’m starting at # 89 because I left off at # 88 in my journal two years ago.)

Maybe soon I’ll have my own list of 1000 gifts.

Brooke’s 1000 Gifts (in no particular order)

88.  Grateful to have hair, and getting used to wearing the short new style out in public.


89.  Beautiful flowers from friends today

90. My parents that help in so many big and little ways

91. The world’s best next-door neighbors; lazy afternoons talking with Lauren talking in my den while the kids are playing upstairs or taking the kids to the park. I cherish these days


92.  My supportive and understanding husband who knew how much I needed to rest Saturday, so he took the children to the gym in the morning so I could rest and have quiet time with the Lord.

93.  thankful that we found the cancer before it had spread to other organs.  Even one month later could have a made a big difference

94. new mercies every day, like the beautiful sunrise I saw today as I took the children to school.  The sun looked like a huge bright orange ball in the sky.

95. encouragement from a woman at church who has walked through difficult physical suffering~ she listens and allows me to be real and conversations with her always uplift me

96. the girls singing “And Can it Be” tonight after bath time.  One of my favorite old hymns.

97. a phone call with my sister today


I could keep going……and I will in another post, or in my journal privately.

My joy has been restored, by opening my eyes to God’s gifts.

If you need your joy resurrected, why don’t you try it?  All it takes is a pen, journal, and eyes to see God’s gifts.


*I was initially scheduled to finish tomorrow, Maundy Thursday.  Then my final treatment got shifted to Monday.   I was bummed because I was looking forward to being finished by Easter.  Today at my appointment, my doctor said I could have two treatments in one day if they were 6 hours apart.  So tomorrow I’ll have a treatment at 9:30am, and my FINAL TREATMENT at 4:30pm tomorrow! I’m so excited!!  Thank you Lord for bringing me THIS FAR!!




Radiation~ The Daily Routine

Radiation is going great so far.  11 treatments down, 23 more to go!

I frequently get asked questions about radiation.  It seems a bit more mysterious than chemotherapy, and not as many people understand it.  I had no idea what to expect!

This post is to uncover some of the mystery behind radiation treatments.  Of course, I can only speak on my experience of chest/breast radiation for breast cancer.   I figured I would share a little about what it’s like on this post – both to educate you, the reader, and also to help someone who is going through cancer who may stumble upon this blog (or you may forward this to friends you know who have radiation in their future!)

First – what is radiation and why radiation?

Mayo clinic says: Radiation therapy for breast cancer uses high-powered X-rays to kill cancer cells. Rapidly growing cells, such as cancer cells, are more susceptible to the effects of radiation therapy than are normal cells. Radiation therapy may be used to treat breast cancer at almost every stage. It’s an effective way to reduce your risk of breast cancer recurring after surgery. It can also help control the spread of breast cancer .

I will have 34 total treatments.  I go every weekday, Monday through Friday.  My radiation treatments take place in the North Tower of Lexington Medical Center and my appointment time is 9:30 which works well with my schedule.  After getting the three children off to school (Samuel and Selah in Kindergarten and Hannah in preschool), I make the 30-40 min drive to LMC.


Daily, I enter the radiation oncology area at LMC, and check in by entering my last 4 digits of my SSN into a computer.


I go straight back to the female locker room and exchange my shirt for my beautiful (haha) pink gown.  Then I go sit in the female waiting area.  This is my favorite part, because I get to connect with other women who are going through radiation.  It’s a special sisterhood – as we all sit there in our pink gowns.


I get to see mostly the same women each day, and we always catch up on how we’re doing, how many treatments we have left.    I usually only have to wait here 5-10 minutes at the most.

Then, it’s my turn.  One of the technicians comes to get me, and I follow her into the room with the radiation machine.  I take my right arm out of my gown, lay on a table with my arms above me, head turned to the left, and the technicians make adjustments.  The machine is a big cream/grey machine that rotates all around me. I must lie perfectly still.  I cannot feel anything, other than sometimes my right arm gets very sore in that position (they say it is due to the lymph node surgery on that side).

I’m usually only on the table 15-20 minutes.  I have come to really love the technicians also, as I usually see the same ones daily.  One in particualar I have connected with over our mutual love for New York City!

After my treatment is over, I go change back into my clothes, and apply a prescribed steroid cream over the treated area, that is supposed to help prevent burning.

As I make my way back to my car, I thank God for another one down and jump back into “life as usual”.  Ministry/work, pick up children from school, homework, family time, dinner, bedtime!

The side effects of radiation are most commonly fatigue and skin burns.  I have been struggling with fatigue since before radiation but thankfully I have not noticed that it is any worse since starting these treatments.  My skin is holding up well so far.  The side effects are cumulative, so I continue to pray that they will be minimal.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask! As you probably know by now, I’m pretty open to talking about any of my experiences.

I am so grateful for your prayers.   Please pray that the side effects would be minimal as I continue in these treatments.  Please continue to pray for “divine appointments” at my treatments.  And finally I could use prayers for balance in my life as I’m feeling very stretched thin in many areas these days, as radiation takes up about 2 hours each day (considering drive time).

I’m thankful that God continues to mold me, shape me, and refine me through this journey.  He has truly carried me.
Yesterday in church, our pastor referenced James 1:2-3 “ Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,  for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

He said “you don’t count it joy because of the trial, but because of what the trial is doing”.  I think I even said “Amen” aloud because that is what this is all about!
His grace abounds through cancer…

through chemotherapy, hair loss, loss of strenth, surgery, another surgery, radiation, and everything in between…His grace abounds because this trial, this testing is DOING SOMETHING. The pain has a purpose.   That, my friends, gets me excited. (What the trial is doing, not the trial itself).


So whatever you’re going through today, remember that there’s a God who cares, and He can give you hope in the hard.

If you know someone with a recent cancer diagnosis who is facing radiation treatments, maybe this post could help shed some light on what it’s like.

5 down, 29 to go

A quick radiation update:

My first full week of radiation is complete!

Compared to chemo, radiation has been very easy to tolerate.   The treatments themselves are not painful.  It’s basically laying perfectly still on a big grey machine that rotates all around me.  I can’t feel anything while it’s happening.  I’m usually in and out in 20 minutes.

I have been more tired this week, and my skin is getting pink.  There is a lotion that I apply after each treatment.

My last day of radiation is Thursday, March 24.


5 down, 29 to go!

Thank you so much for your continued prayers.

Radiation Update

This week the radiation oncologist will finalize my radiation plan, and on Friday, February 5th I’ll go for my “trial run”.  This is where they get the machine lined up and I’ll get my permanent markings which is how they make sure the machine is in the right place each time.

I will have 34 treatments (not 35 as I thought). It will be just at 7 weeks, Monday through Friday.


I’m told that my first radiation treatment will be on Monday, February 8.  I don’t have the time yet.  My daily radiation treatment will be at the same time each day, and I’ll choose my time based one what is available when I go in this Friday.

Starting on February 8th, puts me finishing on Maundy Thursday…the day before Good Friday! What a good Friday that will be for me! It’s such a sweet “kiss from Heaven” that the Lord scheduled it that way.

The most common side effects are fatigue and burning of the skin.  I already struggle with fatigue, especially in the late afternoons/evenings, so I will probably have to go to bed even earlier.  Even though I’m five months out from chemo, I find I still need much more sleep these days.  My body is still recovering from chemo and two surgeries.

I appreciate your prayers as I enter this final phase of treatment!

Here are my prayers:

~Many “divine appointments” at my radiation appointments….that I would get to know some of the other ladies in the waiting room who I will see every day

~That the side effects are minimal

~That the Lord helps me keep my eyes focused on Him

To close, a bit of encouragement, for whatever circumstances you are going through today.  “God’s plans for your life far exceed the circumstances of your day!” (Louie Giglio)



January 2016 Update

Hi friends!


Thank you for continuing to pray for me.  Although there is so much on my heart to share about faith and life and hope and JESUS- tonight I feel led to simply share an update.

I have not started radiation yet.

This Tuesday, January 19th at 8am I meet with my radiation oncologist for a consultation.  This will “get the ball rolling” for my radiation treatments.  I hope to get a start date at this appointment on Tuesday, but I know that there are some things to do before I can start (get markings done for where the radiation will be, etc).  Last I heard, I will have 7 weeks of radiation, which is 35 treatments (everyday M-F). From what I hear, the radiation side effects are minimal (“a walk in the park compared to chemo” is what a nurse told me). Fatigue which is cumulative, and possible burning of the skin which can be mostly prevented with some skin cream.   Each treatment will be 15-20 minutes.

I am ready to get started so I can start checking off the treatments!  I am also praying for the people that I will encounter each day at my treatments.  Since I will likely go the same time each day for seven weeks straight, I’ll likely see the same people many times.  I pray God uses me to be an encouragement, maybe even hear some of the other patients stories and share hope, or even just a smile.

Please pray that God schedules “divine appointments” at my radiation appointments.  That is a huge prayer request because in my flesh I feel like so much of my day will be WASTED during these weeks going back and forth from Lexington Medical (in my already full life)- when I lift up my eyes to Jesus, He reminds me that NOTHING is wasted, and my fullest ministry during these weeks may not be from the church or in my home, but rather in the waiting room.  Who knows what God has planned.  I just pray I’m sensitive to His still small voice.

My hair is growing back.  I’m not quite ready for the world to see it yet! It’s SHORT but I’m thankful to have hair again.  Hopefully by summer I’ll feel ready for the world to see my new ‘do!

I continue to have herceptin treatments, and will continue until April.  These are every three weeks, and target the Her2 protein.  There are minimal side effects- usually I’m just very tired on the days surrounding my herceptin infusion.

Most days seem pretty normal these days, for which I’m so thankful.  I’m ready to put this chapter behind me,although I want to squeeze every bit of what God wants to teach me through this season.  Although I’m tempted to rush to the end of this chapter, I realize that God still has me right here for a reason.  I’m thankful for a new year and new mercies!

As I’ve turned the page into a new year, I’ve done quite a bit of reflecting.

Both 2014 and 2015 were major years in my life, in very different ways.  If I could summarize these two years of my life, it would be this:  “His grace abounds in the scary steps of faith, and His grace abounds in the painful pauses of suffering”.

I look ahead to 2016 and wonder – in what ways will I see His grace abound this year?

I look forward to watching His grace abound in 2016 and beyond.

Thank you for your prayers, and thank you for walking this journey with me!