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Climbing the Mountain called Cancer

Cancer, ClickforhopeJasmine LopezComment

Please share your story: : It started early in the summer of 2016. I was breastfeeding my daughter, Savanna and I started to have some redness and hardness in my breast. She completely refused to go anywhere near that breast, so I knew something was off. Following my husbands request, I went to the doctor. I was diagnosed with mastitis. I was given antibiotics and was sent on my way. This went on for a couple of months. Nothing was making it better, if anything, it was getting worse. My doctor then sent me to a surgeon-thinking there was a blockage or something that might need to be taken care of. After a couple weeks under his care, and a negative ultrasound, he said, "it should be better by now, we need to do a biopsy." In this middle of all of this craziness, I did a bit of research. I came across something called Inflammatory Breast Cancer. I fell to the floor as I told my husband about it, everything that was written on it, just fit how I was feeling and my symptoms. It was Monday, September 19 when I was at work, anxiously waiting for the call from the doctor about the biopsy results. I looked at my TimeHop for the day, and realized that 2 years ago on that date, we found out I was pregnant-after a year of trying. When I realized this, I knew the news wasn't going to be good. I felt like this was a sign from God that He sent me this baby girl to help me through what was about to happen in my life. I wanted the news to be good, but deep down, I just knew it wasn't. Then I got the call that confirmed it, "I'm sorry, it's not good news, it's cancer." I immediately called my husband hysterical, called my mom and left work to go be with my daughter and husband. The next couple of weeks were filled with appointments and scans, and they all seem to be a blur. It was the most absolute terrifying weeks of my life. My instincts were right, I was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer. Anyone that searches this online knows that there is nothing good about it. The stats aren't good, the prognosis isn't good, it's just not good. Every time I talked to a doctor, the first thing I would say is, I just wanna watch my baby grow up. That's all I thought about and still is. I started chemo a couple weeks after the day of diagnosis. Chemo sucks. I have really great friends and family that helped with so much during this time. I didn't feel good enough or have the energy to do some everyday tasks and they all were there for me helping. The one constant is that fiery little red head of mine. No matter how I felt, no matter how much I wanted to stay in bed all day, I had to get up and take care of her. People couldn't be with me everyday and I didn't want them to be. Savanna kept me going, I call her my little life saver. I will never be able to explain to her what she did for me. I also dramatically changed my lifestyle. From the food I ate to the products I was putting on my body. I tried to have as little stress in my life that I could. I finished chemo on January 18 and was so relieved for that chapter to be over. After the 2 chemo sessions, I really saw changes in my breast, by the end, my doctor couldn't tell that anything was ever there. It was back to 'normal', but it still had to go. I had surgery on March 1, a double mastectomy with lymph node removal and I chose not to get reconstruction. I'm so grateful to say that the cancer treatment worked. I had a PET scan before surgery that came back clear, and the pathology report from surgery came back with a complete pathological response. Hallelujah! I still have to do radiation as part of the IBC treatment protocol. I am prepping to start that next month. I have learned so much through this and I feel like I'm a different person than I was 6 months ago. I have a new outlook on life. I hate cancer, but I love what it did for me and my life. I will continue to live as healthy of a lifestyle that I can so I can do what I can to prevent this from ever coming back. Take that cancer!

How has your story shaped who you are today?: I'm a different person. I physically don't recognize the woman in the mirror, bald and boobless, but I really don't recognize WHO I am. I don't want to be the same person I was before cancer, I want to be better. When faced with your own mortality, you think very deeply about life. I appreciate everyone in my life so much more now. I'm so grateful to be alive and I never want to take advantage of being so ever again. I want to live life to the fullest. And I will.

What compelled you to share your story with us?: I was at the Beautiful event last weekend and was so inspired with all the women there to support one another. It's incredible what we can do if we all just work together and be there for one another.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?: You got this! Don't doubt yourself, ever. You can do this and you will do this. It's ok to be scared, cancer is a large mountain to climb but you can do it! And you ARE beautiful, even when you don't feel so.

Hope 25's Beautiful Event

Cancer, Clickforhope, Pop-up ShopJasmine LopezComment
clickforhope | chicago breast cancer survivor_1031.jpg

It was such an honor getting to be a part of Hope 25's Beautiful Event. Not only was it CLICK FOR HOPE's first pop-up shop where we raised money for Breast Cancer Awareness, but we are able to photograph 12 survivors! Aren't they beautiful?!?  I'll be sharing some of their stories over the next few days. It was such a blast getting to do a mini shoot of each of them!!!

And here's a little sneak peek at our new Spring Collection! I can't wait to share more with you!!!

CanPlan is Changing the World

Inspiring Business, Cancer, Clickforhope, Inspiring FriendsJasmine Lopez3 Comments

Please share your story: : Aloha! My name is Sharon Kim and I’m just one 25 year old determined to change the way people fight cancer. Why am I spending all my days working to create awareness when the rest of society is pressuring me with bills and expectations? Because I know how much of a pain in the ass cancer can be. I know what it feels like to be lost and confused about all the medical jargons and regimes. And I don’t want anyone to have to go through what my family and I went through.

When my mom was first diagnosed with uterine sarcoma cancer back in 2014, I had no idea what the word cancer even really meant. I’ve heard it thrown around in conversations, but it’s just one of those things you don’t think you’ll ever have to come face to face with (millennial thinking I guess). I figured cancer was just a glitch in the road for my mom and she’d make it through to inspire others with her story, which is why I filmed the entire journey (You can watch the tear-jerking video at the end of this post). Well little did I know how naive my mentality was when I was thrown head first into the world of cancer, unarmed and unprepared. Right after her diagnosis, she went straight to surgery and then straight into an intensive round of chemotherapy. Everything was happening so fast that it felt like we had no other choice but to go with it. What made the whole experience even more nerve-wrecking was that we felt so distant from her oncologist. We were constantly waiting on him to give us answers or to tell us what direction we needed to go in, but it always felt like we’d walk out of her appointments empty-handed. Long story short, she successfully got through chemotherapy and we all thought this whole ordeal was over and done with... but boy were we wrong. The cancer came back three months later and it was so aggressive this time around, my mom was sent straight to hospice to pass peacefully. We got to spend another two blissful months with her, before she passed away a few days before my 23rd birthday.

Since then, I quit my full-time corporate job and decided that life is too short to work super hard for someone else's dream. I spent the next year of my life creating a revolutionary tool designed to guide patients and caregivers through the different stages of cancer. After I had my very first prototype of CanPlan, a planner made to help patients and caregivers fight cancer day by day, I set up a Kickstarter project to obtain enough funds to print the planners in bulk. Seven days before my campaign was set to end, I was 100% funded and ready to get CanPlan into the hands of those who need it the most. Since July 2016, I have been distributing CanPlan to families and hospitals all over the world. I've also overcome my fear of public speaking and have been actively sharing my story at various Relay for Life and Susan G Komen events across California. I also recently became a guest blogger for the Huffington Post.

If you'd like to watch my story in detail, here is the viral video I made that helped my Kickstarter campaign become a success: https://youtu.be/xezvOLcPe48

How has your story shaped who you are today?: As you can see, the loss of my mom took a huge toll on me. So much so that I wasn’t satisfied with just telling people I lost my mom to cancer. I wanted there to be meaning. I wanted justification for her passing. The only way this wouldn’t feel like a loss is if I turned tragedy into inspiration and used my experience to help others facing the same ordeal. I wanted to give other fighters a chance to have a different end to their story. While I was going through all of this, I felt so alone. I had no idea where to turn to for resources or inspiration and I felt like I had no one to talk to about it all. Caregiving also took up 99% of my time, so I really had no energy or time to go looking for these resources. I wish I had an all in one tool that’d provide me with a roadmap for this journey. I wish I had a planner that’d show me what types of things I should be taking notes on, what I should be keeping track of and how to best utilize all this information. CanPlan does not only that, but it also provides daily reminders for positive thinking. It tunes you into the power of the mind and helps you to take action in the here and now and not dwell on the past or worry about the future. It is everything that I could’ve ever asked for while starting my journey with cancer, and I’m so excited to see the potential impact it’s going to make on the cancer community.

A little bit more about me?

Well, let’s just say that I’m a millennial looking to actually take action in making a positive social impact. I was born and raised on the beautiful island of Oahu and graduated with a BA in Psychology, Business Management & Communications from Santa Clara University. I’m your typical Asian nerd who cares more about my GPA than my relationship status. And yes, I do take pictures of my food. I was class clown in high school so you know I’ll throw in some jokes here and there. I’m very accepting of pity laughs. I’ve worked for various start-up companies in the Silicon Valley and I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset, but I’ve always struggled to find passion in what I was doing. Getting up each morning felt like a chore and I found myself constantly waiting for the next Friday or for the next paycheck. Unfortunately, I had to come to the lowest point in my life in order to figure out what it is I truly longed to do in this world. My mom had to die, so that I could finally start living… and that is the painful truth I use as fuel to motivate me to do what I do today. I want my story to teach people that they don’t have to wait until tragedy hits to start living a life of meaning and purpose. Don’t live just to live. Find what you love and let it kill you. Stay hungry and stay curious for it. Even if you have to try and fail a million times before you finally get it right…keep going because that’s far better than living with the guilt of all the “should haves” and “could haves”. Live the best life you possibly can and take action when it comes to your passions. It’s something you will never regret, I promise you.

What compelled you to want to share your story?: I hope my story is a beacon of light to anyone going through a difficult time. After my mom passed away, my dad got remarried one month later, my sister had a mental breakdown where she had to be hospitalized, my boyfriend was abusive both physically and emotionally, I was working in a very toxic environment, and I can't even remember how many times I've contemplated suicide. I had to challenge myself every single day to focus on the smallest pockets of positivity and I had to fight to become to person I am today. Every rejection in my life was a form of redirection and I had to have faith that God's plan for my life was way bigger than the plans I had for myself. I hope to encourage and inspire people with my story and my message.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?: I know, you’re scared. You’re probably absolutely terrified because you’re about to do something you never thought you’d do. You’re about to leave comfortability and embark on a journey to the unknown, relying on your own inner confidence and the support system around you to get you to finish line. You’re sacrificing not only your time and resources, but also your pride, which may be a big pill for you to swallow. All for what? The unnerving, unfulfilling answer of “maybe things will work out”. 

It’s this very idea of investing in the uncertain that stops you from chasing after your dreams. It’s the fear of judgement, the fear of leaving your safety net and the fear of the risks being greater than the rewards that makes you unpack your bags time and time again. Why are you holding on so tight to the things you’re comfortable with? Because you FEAR something so great won’t happen twice. You FEAR the disappointment that might result from the gamble. You FEAR the thought of failure.

I was right there at the starting line with you about a year ago, and let me tell you..the journey has been far from smooth. I’m averaging about 20 hours of sleep a week, I always need to make sacrifices when it comes to finances, my social life is pretty much nonexistent and the amount of times I’ve heard “no” is comparable to the amount of times Donald Trump has denied accusations against him. Every time I walk into a cafe, I’m overwhelmed with pity stares as if I’ve just survived a zombie apocalypse. It’s not flattering. It’s not pretty. And there have been so many times I’ve wanted to give up and race back to comfortability.

So what is it that gives fuel to a dream chaser? What is it that allows them to sustain the early stages of deprivation? Aside from cold hard passion, the answer is: Fear (Oh and lots of SPF, which I’ll get to later). Now I know you may be thinking, “But didn’t you just say fear was the thing that STOPS people from dream chasing?” And the answer is yes. I live to confuse. But how you perceive and harness fear will be the determining factor that separates you from the ones who can’t seem to get their feet off the platform. Ever heard of the quote by Abraham Lincoln, “The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend?” Well, make fear your friend by using it as motivation rather than a deterrent.

Let me give you an example. After my mom passed away from cancer in 2014, I found myself spending lots of time at her graveyard. The souls of the deceased seemed to cling onto me as I wandered through the valley, painting images in my head of what their lives on earth were like. It was the words engraved on a rather dull looking tombstone that filled my heart with sadness. Words I knew I’d carry with me for the rest of my life. It read: “Regretting all the ships that never sailed”. 

Ever since that day, I was convinced that my biggest fear is living a life defined by the things I didn’t do. To go through the motions each day with no change and no improvements. To have a voice that won’t be heard. To have talents that don’t get utilized. Sure failure is scary...but it’s something I can pick myself up from. I mean, in the end maybe things won’t work out. But maybe figuring out if it does will be the best adventure ever? So from then, I told myself to just start. I made myself develop temporary tunnel vision so I could block out every single fear except for one: The fear of not living a life I was proud of.

I can’t really explain what happened next since everything happened so fast after that. I was smacked with blessing after blessing all because I was able to use that fear as the driving force for all my decisions. I guess you can also say red bull literally gave me wings since I drank it religiously to get me through the long nights. But the biggest lesson I learned from this was that starting is always the hardest part. An airplane takes off against the wind, not with it. And you can’t always wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. So start where you are because once you take flight, you never know where that wind might carry you.

So as I leave you to travel to your dream destination, I just want you to remember the three things that’ll guarantee your safe arrival: Sacrifice, perseverance and faith (SPF). You’re sacrificing who you once were to become who you want to be. You’re persevering despite your failures and doubts. And you’re learning to trust that every rejection is a form of redirection.

How can we follow stalk you on Social Media:

Website: https://mycanplan.com

Instagramhttps://www.instagram.com/canplan/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CancerPlanner/

When Cancer hits home (Part 2)

Cancer, Clickforhope, FamilyJasmine Lopez2 Comments
clickforhope_breastcancershoot-38.jpg

My journey with cancer begins in January of 2015 with a small red spot in the center of my chest.  I remember first seeing it after taking a shower.  Although odd I didn’t think much of it; I was young at only 35, a very active father of two children and considered myself to be in good health.  I thought little of it and went on with my busy life.  Over the next 4 months’ new spots started appearing and as the spots got larger I could feel lumps under the spots.  I was also losing weight and not sleeping well, although at the time I didn’t connect any of these issues together.  In April of 2015 I finally decided to make an appointment with my doctor.  
My primary physician referred me to a dermatologist who suggested a biopsy.  It was a simple procedure done right in the doctor’s office.  It was another couple of weeks before the results came back.  The doctor called on a Thursday afternoon while I was in the office; the results indicated I had a form of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  I was shocked, I had convinced myself that it was just a reaction to something or maybe calcium deposits which I’ve had in the past.  But no, I had Cancer.  
I needed to tell my wife, I wanted to tell her right away so she could tell me it would be okay and we’d get through this.  But the timing was horrible.  My Birthday and Mother’s Day fell back to back on the approaching weekend.  My wife had worked to make plans for my birthday and I the same for her on Mother’s Day.  This news would surely take all of the joy from our celebrations.  I decided to wait to tell her, or anybody else.  My wife tells me I should have told her, and she’s probably right, but I just couldn’t bring myself to say anything, the kids and Michelle were enjoying themselves so much.  It was a great weekend; my birthday went off without a hitch and Michelle had a wonderful relaxing Mother’s Day.  I even convinced my wife to get a hamster for our daughter from a local pet expo.  
On the following Monday I told my wife the results of the biopsy.  She was loving and supportive telling me what I already knew.  Together we can get through anything.  We decided not to say anything to the kids until we had to.  And managed to go through my entire treatment without ever saying the word Cancer to or in front of our children.

      
The next couple months were filled with more biopsies, tests and scans.  In the meantime, we began discussing treatment options with my doctors.  The two Oncologists I was seeing had a difference of opinion over the exact subtype of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma that I have.  It was suggested by one of the doctors that I try a “watch and wait” approach.  This approach made no sense to me.  I had been “watching” this cancer spread from my chest to my arms and back for 6 months now and it had been stressful.  I didn’t want to “wait” any longer, every morning I looked in the mirror and was reminded of the worries and uncertainty the future may hold.  I wanted to start fighting back now.  
The doctors told me there was no cure for my cancer and that my battle would be a lifelong one.  I was ready for the fight, I had my family’s support and a positive attitude.  Eventually more testing determined the exact subtype of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma that I had & I started Immunotherapy treatments in August of 2015.
I handled the treatments well and the side effects were tolerable.  I was extremely tired the day of treatment and for maybe a day or two following.  I continued to lose weight, at my lightest I weighed less than 130 lbs, and developed joint pain that got progressively worse as the treatments went on.  My legs get very restless as well.

 
The first couple of treatments were the most difficult.  Due to the potential for adverse reactions, the first infusions are done very slowly.  Unfortunately, I still developed a reaction to the treatment.  Shortly after the infusion began, I began to feel itchy and asked my wife if she could scratch my back.  She lifted my shirt and gasped, almost my entire upper body was covered in huge, red hives.   They stopped the infusion immediately and switched over to IV antihistamine to treat the reaction.  Once everything seemed under control they began the immunotherapy infusion again at a slower rate, taking more than eight hours to complete the first treatment.  Treatment days continued to be an all-day affair but they were able to control the reactions during the remainder of the treatments.  
At the end of my treatments I was feeling great.  I even felt a bit lucky, the side effects weren’t horrible, the small tumors had faded away and the large ones were getting smaller every day.  I hadn’t lost my hair or had to undergo any surgeries.  At my appointment a couple weeks following treatment I even heard the words every cancer patient hopes for.  Remission.  Well Partial Remission for me, but I’ll take it.  The tumors had mostly gone away and I was happy, life was good.  My Wife and I with our two wonderful children were ready for move on with our lives.  But we were in for another shock…
In February of 2016 my wife was diagnosed with Stage 2B Breast Cancer.  My wife’s cancer was more aggressive than mine and treatment started very quickly.  In March my wife had bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction.  After healing from surgery she began chemotherapy, and following chemotherapy, she underwent radiation which she just finished this past month.  My wife is the most amazing person I have ever known.  All throughout my treatments she took care of me and our family.  And all though her own cancer treatments, she still took care of our family.  My wife is an an amazing mom, wonderful wife and my best friend.  


As if that weren’t all enough, in June my cancer unfortunately relapsed.  After new tests and scans my doctors believe the same cancer has returned.  This wasn’t completely unexpected; my wife and I were prepared for this possibility.  
My treatment will be similar this time, but much longer.  I am currently undergoing treatment every week in an effort to stop and shrink the current tumor growth.  After which I will continue to receive treatments every other month for the next 3 years and we’ll reassess at that point.
In spite of it all, we’re still as strong and positive as ever.  Cancer has been hard on our family but it has made us stronger and for that we are grateful.

Life before and after Breast Cancer

Clickforhope, Breast CancerJasmine LopezComment

Please share your story: : It was a Saturday in May of 2014. I was laying on my couch watching tv when my little pup climbed up on my chest. Where he stepped on me hurt, like someone pressing deep on a bruise. I touched the area and instinctively pushed around. Then I placed my hand on my other breast. All I can say is they felt different. Because I was only 33 years old, I talked myself out of it meaning anything. Until I noticed it was uncomfortable to sleep on my belly. I looked up how to properly do a self breast exam, and did one. And felt the same lump on my right side. Standing there in the bathroom, wrapped in a towel, I called my gynecologist. I had to wait 4 days to get in. I researched like crazy and found so many encouraging things. Things like 80% of lumps aren't cancerous. Cancer doesn't cause pain. Risk factors of obesity, drinking and smoking...none of those applied to me. Check, check, check. It must be a cyst. I saw the PA at my gynecologists office, and she said she wanted me to get an ultrasound, and then a mammogram if they felt it was necessary. 2 more days of waiting. As I laid there on the ultrasound table, I knew that I had cancer. She was taking way too long. And were those tears in her eyes? She knows. I know. I have CANCER. I had the mammogram, and got called in to the radiologist. He told me I needed a biopsy. That is all I remember. I called the surgeon who operated on my mother, and the fastest appointment they would give me was the following week. More waiting. Until my gynecologist called the next morning and asked when I got scheduled for a biopsy, I told her, and she then said words I will never forget. She said "the radiologist called and he's very concerned, and I am very concerned. I want you to have the biopsy today". I knew it...I knew it in my head but now I knew it in my heart. I had cancer. How could I possibly have cancer? My surgeon excused my mother and boyfriend from the room when doing the biopsy. It was just him and me. I asked him point blank if he thought it was cancer. I was ready for the crappy response of "let's wait and see". But he didn't say that. He touched my arm gently and said "yes, I do. But I am going to take care of you". When my cancer was confirmed days later, I was ready for the news. Ready to fight like hell. But I cared most about 1 thing. I hadn't had the chance to have kids yet. In 1 month, I had a mastectomy, genetic testing, underwent fertility preservation and started chemo. I was officially diagnosed with stage 2B ER+ Sentinel node positive axillary node negative breast cancer. I was very open about my battle, creating a private Facebook group for people to follow my story and encourage me along the way. It was my own personal army. I blogged weekly, pouring my heart out for anyone who cared to read it. And I kept moving forward. I went back to work when I was cleared to (I'm a pediatric physical therapist). It was then I shocked my team of doctors by asking if I could run in the Chicago Marathon, which would take place in between my 6th and 7th rounds of chemo. I had already signed up to run in honor of a patient of mine who lost his battle with a brain tumor. I knew I may only be able to get across the start line, but I didn't care. I just wanted permission to try. My oncologist said I could do as much as I wanted to do. And that gave me another purpose to fight on for during my treatment. I'm proud to say I finished 14 miles of the marathon that year, making Charity a Row my finish line. Every step out on the street that day made me forget that I was a cancer patient. I may not have crossed the finish line, but I will always think of that race as my best race of all time. I proved to everyone around me, and myself, that cancer may have chosen me but I chose to fight back and refuse to let it own who I am.
I went back and ran the marathon again in 2015, celebrating 1 year cancer free, and crossed that finish line.
I sit here now, just over 2 years cancer free, reflecting on how much life has changed for me since that May weekend back in 2014. Life will never be the same after you've been told you have cancer...but it reminds you that the time you have left is a gift.

How has your story shaped who you are today?: I found a strength, a passion and courage in myself that I never would have known I had, had I not been faced with cancer. Cancer has helped me relate to the children and families whom I work with on a different level now. I am open about my story, my journey, and I think it helps to know that they are working with someone who has "been there too".

What compelled you to share your story?: If I could get one message out, it's that I wish for all women who are faced with this terrible diagnosis to know that they are brave. They are strong. They will continue on, they will fight the beast and they can be the one in control. I took control when I somehow managed to run 14 miles of a marathon in the middle of my chemo treatments. I missed only 1 day of work because of pink eye. Otherwise I got up everyday, and lived my life exactly as I wanted to live it. I decided how I was going to feel that day and what I was going to do. And I wish the same for anyone who is in the same shoes.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?: There are good days, and there are bad days but every day you get up and keep going, you win.

Tshirts: Hope 25

Blush Skirts: Marsymo

When Cancer hits home (Part 1)

Cancer, Family, Marriage, Clickforhope, Breast CancerJasmine Lopez1 Comment
clickforhope give back cancer story

Please share your story:

Early last year my husband was diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma.  As a family we were devastated.  We have two small children & a lot going on in our busy lives already, taking on cancer treatment was going to be a hefty task & we clearly worried about the impact it may have on our children.  Thankfully he handled treatment well with minimal side effects & we were able to get through without ever saying the dreaded “C” word to our kids who were two & four at the time.  He was in remission as of August of 2015 & we grew stronger from the process.  I believe now, that it was God’s way of preparing us for my cancer.

I noticed a lump in my left breast in November of 2015.  But after all that my family had just been through, I wanted them to get through the holidays stress free so I opted not to call my physician until January.  A decision I later worried may cost me my life.  In February I was diagnosed with Stage 2B Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.  My surgeon estimated the tumor had been growing for approximately two years & treatment needed to start ASAP.  

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I had bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction (tram flap) in March.  I did 8 rounds of chemotherapy, starting in April & completed that in August.  Following chemo, I completed 33 rounds of radiation.  I’ll be on hormone therapy for ten years going forward & have one surgery remaining to complete reconstruction which I am safely waiting until next year to tackle.

Meanwhile, while I was going through chemo my husband became concerned that his lymphoma may be returning. Seriously, right??  Following some tests, his doctors confirmed that he had relapsed or possibly the cancer was never fully gone in the first place as we had thought.  He began treatment again this month (Oct) & will continue treatment for the next three years. 

It’s been a crazy long road & certainly a lot more than we had ever anticipated when it all began last year.  Cancer has given us a plethora of challenges, but it’s made us stronger & we appreciate life & one another now more than ever.  Most would consider us unlucky to both have gotten cancer, we would say that we’re blessed to have one another for support as we face these battles together.

 How has your story shaped who you are today?:

It's changed my life completely! I don't spend time now worrying about the future or things I can't change, it's wasted energy. Instead I focus on today & making it the best it can be. My focus is on positivity & the things that I can work to change for the better. 

 What compelled you to share your story on our blog?: 

Through it all my focus has been to remain positive.  I was encouraged by my friends, family & even my physicians to share my story, so I started a website, positivelysurvivingcancer.com. It's been amazing so far & I've had so many people reach out to me personally through the blog & Instagram. It's just so wonderful to take something so terrible & make something positive out of it. Stress is an ugly thing that can really slow down our body’s healing process, so it important to train ourselves to focus on positivity. I also really believe that if we look our best, we feel our best. Feeling our best is so important through cancer treatment because it allows our bodies to fight that much harder!  I would love to help continue to spread the word about my site & help more fellow cancer warriors out there as they make their way through this journey.

 What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?:

Take it all one day at a time, one question at a time. Be strong & positive, don't let worries or negative thoughts take your strength!

Make Today Great T-Shirt: Hope 25

Blush Maxi Skirt: Marsymo

When Cancer Comes Back

Cancer, Clickforhope, Depression, LossJasmine LopezComment
“I thought that the fight with cancer had ended, but now I have it again. This time it is in my stomach.”
— Ruth

I thought my life was going to be simple: get married, have kids, and live a happy life. Little did I know, life would be scary and complicated. In 2014, I would receive an unexpected cancer diagnosis.       

In 2010 when I first began having abdominal pain, I visited the doctor's office. I found out that I was pregnant with my daughter, Leilanie and that I had stones in my gallbladder. Doctors couldn't operate on me until my daughter was delivered. Due to complications with my gallbladder and the baby, my daughter had to be delivered prematurely.

In March 11, 2011, my daughter was delivered via C-section. Soon after Leilanie was born, I had a pregnancy complication known as “Preeclampsia.” I almost died, but (thank God) survived and was blessed with my beautiful and healthy little baby weighing three pounds and three ounces.

After having my daughter, my abdominal pain worsened. One month following this pain, doctors were finally able to operate on me for the gallbladder. After the surgery, my life was back to normal.  I would feel the pain here and there, but it was tolerable.  

In December of that year, the pain worsened, and by the time New Years came, I made my appointment to see the doctor again.  They weren't able to figure out the root of the problem even after numerous examinations and tests.  This time seeing the doctor was less stressful though because my boyfriend, Joe (now husband) was there by my side.

In February of 2014, I found out that I was pregnant again. I was so excited knowing that my daughter might have a baby brother or sister, but I was also scared since I was still dealing with the abdominal pain. I prayed for God to help me, to heal my pain, and for things to be okay with the baby. At the end of March, I started spotting.  There was nothing scarier in this world than knowing I could lose my baby. I prayed to God to let everything be okay. April came and sadness came right behind it, I lost the baby due to a miscarriage.

If that wasn't enough, I still felt abdominal pain. In May, I decided to go to Rush Hospital to see if they might be able to understand the problem. It started with going to the emergency room.  After several examinations and tests, doctors came to give the worst news of my life: the pain was due to cancer.

I couldn't believe it. I didn't know how to process it. I was in denial. I could remember desperately crying and asking God if this could be true. I don't remember how many times I asked Joe and my mother why all these things were happening to me. This became the beginning of a long process, where I needed to gather all the strength in the world.

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I decided to go to Northwestern Hospital to get a second opinion on my diagnosis. The doctor at Northwestern confirmed that it was cancer, but they couldn't figure out what type it was. From May to November, my life was exams and needles. Finally, a doctor called and asked me to come in. It was three days before Thanksgiving and I found out I had stage three colon cancer. My heart dropped.

I was given chemo pills for about six weeks. Then they changed my chemo pill to a stronger one named Capecitabinr (Xeloda,) my mind was out of it. The doctor kept talking and I didn't even hear one word. Tears began streaming down my face. I could not believe I had cancer. The doctor called my name to get my attention. I replied back with,  “Am I going to be okay? I have a daughter and family.”

He replied, “You know we will do everything that we can. Colon cancer is the second highest form of cancer that kills people.” My heart was numb. 

I felt numb.

Treatment began soon after with IV infusion chemotherapy. I got really sick from time to time.  I had multiple X-rays, cat scans and numerous colonoscopies throughout the treatment as well.  As time passed, I had family, friends and many churches pray for me.  I have to say this was the hardest time of my life. I felt lost and lonely at times, even if family was near me.

In 2015, I fought like never before. One year later, I became a colon cancer survivor. I was extremely excited, blessed and honored to know God healed me. I held a party to celebrate. After all, I didn't know that this road was going to be so long.

One month after my survival party, I had to return for a doctor's appointment. I will never forget this day. I walked into the office and my nurse gave me a hug.  She asked how I was feeling. I said, “Great! I'm extremely happy that I'm done and don't have to return back.”   She just smiled and said, “We love you Ruth. You are a true fighter.”

I was placed in my room to wait for my doctor after that. I heard a knock and told the doctor to come in. My doctor entered followed by another doctor behind him and my nurse. I had a smile on my face that didn't last long.  “Well, Ruth we have an issue.  We found cancer in your stomach and must start you on chemotherapy once again. The X-rays we took show that it's next to your liver.” my doctor told me.

I felt stuck. I was pale as a ghost and started to sweat from all the nerves and anger building inside me.  I couldn't understand why this was happening to me.

I thought that the fight with cancer had ended, but now I have it again. This time it is in my stomach.

I couldn't understand. I stumbled on words as my brain just sort of shut down on me. All I could think of was my daughter and family. I didn't know what to say or think, so I lifted my head up and said, “Lord you got me right?!? Please don't abandon me; please heal me.”

I have to say that winning one cancer battle was such a joy; finding out I have it again has been a struggle.  Yet, I know that God healed me the first time and He will do it again. I have faith and I believe.

 "Never, never, never give up." This quote has been my encouragement. Waking up everyday and fighting cancer to become a survivor. I repeat these words and gather strength. with the help of God...I will succeed!    

I want to encourage others who are struggling with a sickness to keep fighting even if seems too hard. Know God is in control. You got this! Always have faith and pray at all times.  Always keep a positive attitude and know to never, never, never give up. 

Cancer | Part 2 | Tim's Story

Testicular Cancer, Cancer, ClickforhopeJasmine LopezComment
"The constant reality of my frail humanity forces a celebration of each day on this earth, and reminds me of the countless invisible threads that form everyone around me; I must be compassionate." -Tim

Please share your story:

I can still remember the very specific point in time when the course I charted for myself and that of my body diverged. I became quite sick midway through high school, and the best and brightest I visited were befuddled by what it might be. Tests were inconclusive; traditional evaluations pointed everywhere and nowhere. It seemed like the flu, came on like the flu, passed like the flu, and yet it wasn’t the flu.

My parents and I moved on; I didn’t ‘feel’ sick any more. I was busy in high school and was never the type to sit still for very long. But something was different: my heart skipped a beat sporadically; my ears rung; my joints hurt; my stomach was never settled; my head ached; my memory was not so sharp. But I never thought of these things as related. They were part of my day-to-day, and for the most part they were a low din not worth dealing with. Plus, I was growing and active: it could have been any number of things, I thought.

Life flew by. I met and fell hard for an amazing woman, a high school crush. I went to a great college. My crush became my girlfriend, who went to college a few towns away. My girlfriend became my fiancé and I graduated; with my fiancé now wife, I moved to Chicago. We studied, we worked, we struggled, we traveled. Each day we fell more in love, each day life got a little better, and yet each day I felt a little bit worse. Imperceptible changes added up to noticeable realities over the years. We lived abroad, we challenged ourselves, we challenged each other, we brought life into the world. I almost didn’t notice the skipping heartbeat becoming more sporadic; my ears roared and my joints ached. My stomach swirled; my head pounded. I never slept. My memory failed.

We saw specialists, tons of them, who checked everything, finding almost nothing, except small masses in my lungs and brain that were inconclusive, distinct memory loss and verbal retention issues, voids where my spinal cord had been eaten away, bones fusing together. They all seemed to be leftovers; every test suggested I was as healthy as could be, as if we could see the wreckage from a tornado but no proof that one had ever passed through. I took pills, lots of pills and gave myself shots. Doctors and nurses successfully destroyed my immune system, sending me to the hospital with meningitis and encephalitis, probably from a cold floating around our house. We had no answers, and worse, we had no proof— only wreckage.

This ghost of an illness started creating gaps in our family fabric. Beth was afraid to be intimate for fear of getting me sick. Our son knew I was fragile. I knew I was. We changed our life plans; we denied our desire to bring more life into an uncertain future. We grieved. I questioned myself: was it all in my head? I wanted some real, active, living proof that what I was feeling could somehow be measured. I hated feeling foolish for seeking answers; I desperately wanted resolution. I wanted something that we could treat, something that could restore our family hopes, something that removed my guilt for what this had done to my family.

I learned to cope, to ignore, to push through, to accept my fate. We grew our family, adding two more beautiful people into our world. We lived and we loved. I ignored the deep, hidden longing for proof, a silent prayer that we would one day find something.

And we did: in February of this year, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. I must admit I had been jealous of some of the cancer patients I’d seen at the hospital— they had something real; they had something that had a game plan. I guess now I did too. We had SOMETHING to treat, finally. We were aggressive: I went under the knife to remove two tumors and a testicle, and a week later my appendix. We jumped at the chance to do a heavy round of chemo to remove what the surgery could not.

And now we wait: to see if the treatment worked, to see if the treatment resolved any of my other issues, preparing ourselves for the possibility that it didn’t. And we live. And we love.

How has your story shaped who you are today?

I don’t remember my childhood. I have Polaroids floating in my head of a few moments but I’m not certain if they are real or recollections from photo albums. I don’t know what it feels like to wake rested. I don’t know how music sounds without the ringing in my ears adding to the composition. I am constantly aware of my body, because its painful reminders mark my every step.

I know the fragility, the temporality of my body. And to be honest, I wouldn’t change it.

The constant reality of my frail humanity forces a celebration of each day on this earth, and reminds me of the countless invisible threads that form everyone around me; I must be compassionate. I reinforce what little my brain understands by reading faces and lips; I must be present. And those lost markers of masculinity—strength, virility, appendage, confidence— remind me of what really defines me. I am vulnerable and human.

What compelled you to share your story?

Hope is not about seeking the answer I want, but accepting the lesson in my journey. My hope is no longer for physical healing, but for spiritual growth, for being rather then becoming.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?

I’ve always wondered if the next bit of bad news would wreck my faith, if whatever was around the corner would be my faith’s downfall. If the physical, emotional, relational strain would ever be too much for my bride, my family, or my faith. If every future trial had been revealed to me so many years ago in high school, I’d have long given up. If every moment of strength, of hope, of love, of opportunity were revealed, I’d want all of it.

I don’t know what the future holds— I don’t know how we will be tested, or if my body will ever know comfort. What I do know is that from every trial we’ve found opportunity; from every challenge, hope; from every weakness, strength.

Cancer | Part 1 | Beth's Story

Testicular Cancer, ClickforhopeJasmine Lopez2 Comments
 "And then Tim found a tumor. We cried. He scheduled an appointment. We screamed. Consulted with a doctor. We shook with fear. He had an ultrasound. We scrambled. He had an MRI. We laid in the fetal position. We scheduled surgery. We doubted it all. ." -Beth

Please share your story:

Not many people meet the love of their life at seventeen. But I did. I fell madly in love with a boy and consequently spent my days and nights praying nothing would happen to him that would take him away. I’m blown away that seventeen years, three continents, and three kids later, I still get gushy when he looks at me and smiles.

I remember first hearing about Tim’s pain as we walked hand in hand in New York as gooey-eyed teenagers. He’d constantly pop his wrists to relieve a creak, or ask me to walk on his back to knead a knot. It wasn’t until living abroad years later that he was able to recognize that the pain was steadily increasing— little by little every day, every week, every year. Upon our return stateside, we vowed to investigate just what was going on in his body.

Doctor after doctor scratched their head and threw their hands up, but not first without experimenting with a dangerous array of drugs or flinging diagnoses left and right. We jumped to catch each one, eager to have a name, then hopefully a cure. Nothing panned out. Even the Mayo Clinic sent us packing us with the recommendation to drink more water. “Try Gatorade, too,” a doctor said.

We gave up.

Meanwhile we were in family planning purgatory. With a four-year-old, a mystery medical condition, and the question of “should we have another?” it feltlike a no-brainer to just call it done and quit while we were ahead. To challenge the societal status quo by having 'just one kid'. Besides, I wasn’t entirely convinced I even wanted to do that whole song and dance again. It was so much work. We ended up agreeing to let God decide, saying, “God, we will give you two months.”

Five minutes later, I was pregnant. With twins. Suffice it to say, this was the darkest season of my life. Until they arrived. From the minute they were born, their existence was God-breathed. They’re simply the greatest tiny humans ever created. It was a sweet, smile-drenched year.

And then Tim found a tumor. We cried. He scheduled an appointment. We screamed. Consulted with a doctor. We shook with fear. He had an ultrasound. We scrambled. He had an MRI. We laid in the fetal position. We scheduled surgery. We doubted it all. He started to recover. We started to unfurl our grip. He got appendicitis. We clung tighter to each other. The hits just kept coming. We scheduled chemo. We moved so we would have extra space for when my mom came to help during chemo treatments. He completed chemo. Back to the fetal position.

I began to understand that my irrational fear of one day losing Tim was actually just a preparation for my heart for when I do lose Tim. It felt inevitable, and yet my clenched jaw, clutched fists, and tender heart were unwilling to accept it. So we hope.

This thing, cancer, is the exact reason I did not want to have another child. The “what if—.” I’m not capable of raising a child on my own, let alone two, now three?! I spent many nights crying in the bathtub, staring at my growing mountain of a belly, screaming “WHY?!.” Yet beneath the fear, there was a glimmer of understanding; still though, I was unwilling to accept that THE plan is better than MY plan.

Looking back at these past few months—this treacherous, scary season—I can’t imagine these babies not being here. The joy they have brought us in this horribly sad, unrelenting season has been remarkable. They have saved me from myself— my fear, my worry, my thoughts—because no amount of worrying is going to change anything or save anyone.

We’re now two weeks post-chemo, one and done. One big round and we’re starting to see normal again, or finding a new normal. His prognosis is near perfect, his side effects slowly subsiding. So we hug tighter, hope louder. I cling to my vision of us 65 years from now, and squeeze his hand harder for when the next hill on the roller coaster comes.

How has your story shaped you into who you are today?

I'm still very much 'in it', but as we claw our way out I've found freedom despite living in my worst nightmare. I've been fortunate to experience a number of dark seasons; almost all of them have taken place in the last four years. Not so coincidentally, the past four years have been marked with the most fulfilling and life-giving relationships I’ve ever had. Being at the end of myself has beautifully allowed the people around me to step in, show up, stand in the gap, and fight for me. My marriage is stronger. My friendships, more genuine.  Conversations with new people, richer. My heart is open, my eyes are centered, my hands are receptive. I could not have said that about myself until now.

What compelled you to share your story?

To encourage someone to cherish the trial that they are in.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of manykinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." —James:1, 2-4

Let it be known I hated these verses. It's only after your trials that you can see the beauty, the growth, the strength. But in the middle of them, they're ugly, they're raw and they're unwelcome. But it's really only then that you can see your true self. It's really only then that you can see the depths of your faith. It's really easy to praise God when all is peachy, isn't it? It's really easy to have great relationships when everyone is happy and healthy.

Yet what is the sunshine if not for the shade by which we compare it? What is a hill without a valley? They are HARD but necessary.