When Cancer Isn’t Just a Bad April Fool’s Joke

My cancer experience- Making Nice in the Midwest

We’ve all done it. Made bad jokes in poor taste. Laughed really hard only to find out what we were laughing at wasn’t a joke. Well, it was April first 2013, and I was sitting in a cold, sterile room at the Cleveland Clinic with my mom and my eight-month-old baby, Lucy. It had been a little over a week since my intense six-hour surgery to remove an extremely rare and aggressive paraganglioma from my carotid artery.  We were waiting to see what else the surgeons had found while they were in there. Hopefully nothing. My neck was the size of a football, I was swollen, sore, and I had trouble taking off my coat, so I just left it on. I was perched awkwardly on the edge of the tall, vinyl patient’s chair, staring across at my mom who was bouncing Lucy on her lap, because I couldn’t.

“Are you nervous?” she asked.

I said I wasn’t. Well, not really, I said. I wondered if I was telling the truth. We waited. The resident surgeon came in and checked my stitches, checked my nerve function, and told me Dr. Scharpf would be in to see me soon. I wanted to yell after him, “Just tell me! Please, just tell me! Am I going to die?” A few minutes later, my surgeon walked through the door, made the obligatory cute baby remarks, and shook my hand as he looked into my eyes, his own reflecting compassion and concern. I think that’s when I knew what he was going to tell me.

I really don’t remember anything he said before it. I only remember straining my neck a bit to look into his eyes when he softly said, “Unfortunately, your tumor was malignant.” He paused. Probably not for dramatic affect, but boy did I feel the drama of that moment. The weight of it.

I couldn’t look at him any more, as he waited for me to respond. So I relaxed my neck and looked ahead at my little baby Lucy. Malignant, eh? I looked into her big brown eyes, and what did she do? She started giggling histerically. Her little baby mouth opened wide and she just laughed! Her cute little face broke out into the biggest, slobbery smile, completely oblivious that her mama had just heard the scariest news of her life. Lucy just laughed. And it was the best comedic timing for the worst April Fool’s joke I’d ever experienced.

So I turned back to the doctor, smiled at the irony of the moment, and asked, “So, now what?”

Her cute little face broke out into the biggest, slobbery smile, completely oblivious that her mama had just heard the scariest news of her life.

I never expected to have cancer in my twenties. Even when they first found my tumor, they had told me it was benign. I used to pray to God to never let me get cancer at a young age, because I wouldn’t be able to handle it. I knew it would make me angry at God, and I wasn’t the kind of person who could fight cancer. I just knew it. Or at least, I thought I knew it.

I had been spared from the knowledge of my own cancer during my pregnancy, though I was still aware and quite afraid of this rare, mysterious tumor in my neck. I had joined a paraganglioma and pheochromocytoma Facebook support group after finally discovering the group during one of my scary, late night “paraganglioma tumor” Google search sessions. I was mostly just really afraid of either not making it through my surgery, or living the rest of my life with a feeding tube or the inability to talk, because of damage that could easily be done to the nerves that were bundled around the tumor. My doctor described the tumor resection as cutting out a meatball that’s tangled up in bowl of spaghetti (symbolizing the nerves from my brain). The red visuals of pasta sauce and tumors didn’t help me feel any better. Because of the support group, though, I was able to connect with other people who had lived through the same surgery, and they all offered me such support and encouragement, and only some of the people I initially talked to were living on feeding tubes or dealing with other frustrating side effects or recurring tumors.

But still. The idea of surgery on my carotid artery was super intimidating. I would lay awake at night, staring at Lucy, wondering if she would have to grow up without ever knowing me, with only pictures and stories to communicate her mother’s love for her. I then began thinking about death a lot, and how near it constantly is. People at my church would tell me, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.” But quoting scripture at me didn’t ease my concerns. I believe that we live in a physical world where physical things go wrong regardless of what we do, what plans we make, or what God wants for our lives. Bad things happen as a result of choices other people make for us, poor timing, or weird genes. I thought, what if I’m dead in a year? That might be what my future holds, even if it isn’t God’s plan for me. Telling me “you’ll be okay, God is faithful” certainly didn’t ease my worries, when my mind was going a mile a minute.

My cancer experience- Making Nice in the Midwest

my cancer story

A friend of mine agreed with my thoughts about how silly it is when people tell you “everything will be fine.” She said, “We don’t know if it will be fine. But there are things we do know.” And then she reminded me of all of these little miracles that I had completely forgotten.

She said, "We don't know if it will be fine. But there are things we do know." And then she reminded me of all of these little miracles that I had completely forgotten.

  1. When I was in the hospital for a mysterious illness with symptoms that mirrored those caused by active paragangliomas, the doctors kept searching for the cause, and ended up discovering this inactive tumor that otherwise would have gone undetected. They never did find out what had caused the initial symptoms that had sent me to the hospital, but the illness went away shortly after they discovered the tumor. (You can read a bit about it here.)
  2. Initially they told me the tumor was benign after an investigative biopsy. Doing a blind biopsy on such a tumor is actually extremely unsafe (they didn’t know what it was yet since scanning wasn’t recommended during pregnancy), but I was spared from any side effects of the biopsy, and the benign results, as false as they were, caused me to go through my entire pregnancy without stress or worry about having to choose cancer treatment or a healthy pregnancy.
  3. I had been told by surgeons that I could keep an eye on the carotid body tumor for years, because they are typically slow growing and mine was benign (they didn’t find out it was actually cancerous until after surgery). But Phil was told that he would no longer have a teaching job, and while we asked God why all of these bad things were happening (job insecurity plus lots of hospital bills), we felt like I was being led to have the surgery immediately since we might not ever have such good health insurance again. I would have waited to do the surgery if Phil had that job security, and the aggressive cancer would have spread throughout my body and would have been untreatable by the time it would have been detected in my other organs.

I began to think about these little miracles, and my perspective slowly started to shift. I had been stressed and endured sleepless nights because everything in my life seemed like it was spinning so out of control. But then I realized I never really had control to begin with. Control is just an illusion, isn’t it? Before that month, we thought Phil had job security, but who really has job security? Nobody. We never know what tomorrow holds. I had been bitter about my debilitating sickness back in May- the one that led to my tumor discovery. But it made me realize, the things that we perceive as bad may actually be the perfectly formed pieces of a grander scheme.

my cancer story

What makes us decide something in our life is bad? Because it makes us feel bad? Because it makes us hurt? We think cancer is bad because it makes us sick, and because it makes us sad. So, cancer=bad. But I began to learn that just because something makes me feel bad, doesn’t mean that it is bad for me. My person. My soul. Just like physical training is difficult and painful, but necessary for building an athlete. People say, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” But now I ask myself, why do we see certain situations as bad? Because our personal perspectives limit us. And preparing for this major, uncertain surgery totally destroyed my personal perspective. Little did I know, a cancer diagnosis would push my limits even further and take me to places I had never wanted to go, but would never undo if I was given the chance. 

My perspective also began to change through prayer and reading scriptures. Every day, Phil prayed with me that God would take away my fear and give me peace. That same friend who had reminded me of the ways God was working good through the bad in my life confessed to me the grip that worry and fear had on her life. She gave me a set of notecards with Bible verses that speak peace into her own life. I read verses like Psalm 46 in my friend’s own handwriting, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah.” We continued praying for peace, my friends asked God to give me peace, and my heart was transformed from fearful to steady and sure. Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.”

My cancer experience- Making Nice in the Midwest

my cancer storyFinally the day of surgery came, and they wheeled me down the long, cold hallway, away from my waving family, while I managed to smile and hold back my tears, lest my emotions become contagious and plague them in the waiting room. This was it. There was no more waiting. “See you soon!” I said, though I thought, I may never see them again. And I thought how sad Phil would be if the doctor’s had to tell him, “We did the best that we could, but…”

 This was it. There was no more waiting. "See you soon!" I said, though I thought, I may never see them again.

The doors closed behind me, and I finally let the tears slide down my face. The man who was transporting me to surgery put his soft hand on my shoulder and assured me in a low, friendly voice, “You’ll be okay, sweetie. It will be over before you know it.”

I sighed a shaky sigh, but the touch of his human hand had broken down the dam I had built up against my emotions, and I just felt even more scared and alone. He told me all of these nice, reassuring things as he wheeled me around turns, over bumps, and through doors. And he even told me God would protect me. I’m not sure if transport people are allowed to tell you that, but I sure was glad he did. I started breathing easier again. He parked me in an alcove next to my surgery room, and I waited there, alone with my thoughts for about a half hour until they finally wheeled me into the OR. I thought, I’m either going to wake up feeling like crap in the ICU, or I’ll wake up and see Jesus face-to-face. And I suddenly felt calm. And I was okay with either scenario. I really was.

There were two surgeons and a room full of nurses, residents, and one anesthesiologist during my surgery. Someone asked another person in the room if my pregnancy test came back, and I interjected with a laugh saying, “It had better come back negative! I don’t think I’m ready for any more surprises!” And then I saw my surgeon, the kind, blue-eyed Dr. Scharpf who proudly wore a Cleveland Browns scrub cap. He was my ENT who would be resecting the tumor from beside my carotid artery while the head of vascular surgery, Dr. Clair, stood by “just in case.” Because I guess you just never know what’s going to happen when cutting out a rare tumor with unknown properties alongside of a carotid artery.

I had an incredibly difficult time coming out of anesthesia after what was only supposed to have been a three-hour procedure, but had turned into an intense six-hour surgery. I was groggy and miserable, and I couldn’t speak, but I had enough of my wits about me to detect the look of concern when Dr. Clair came into my room and told me that he was glad I was awake and that I win the prize for being the most difficult surgery he has ever done. Wow! I thought, should I be honored? Scared? Relieved? Thankful? Then he said they were concerned because of how aggressive the tumor ended up being, but I was a bit too groggy to put two and two together at that point. He said they had sent in the resected tumor to pathology and they would get the results back in a week or so.

My cancer experience- Making Nice in the Midwest

my cancer storyWell, after a pretty long week of waiting for the pathology report, there I sat in the doctor’s office, facing an adorable laughing baby and the ugly reality of cancer. He said malignant. Malignant? Yes, malignant. I had cancer. I didn’t know what stage it was, what treatment I would be receiving, or what my future held, but I had this incredible feeling of peace. I scheduled an appointment with my oncologist (I had my own oncologist? Crazy town!) and went to the cafe to get coffee and treats with my mom and little Lucy.

“Is it weird that I feel relieved?” I asked Mom as I munched on a a chocolate filled, artery clogging, who-gives-a-crap pastry.

“Is it weird that I feel relieved?” she replied, absolutely surprising me.

They had found cancer in my body. But they had found it. It had been found. I would never have to wonder if maybe they had missed it, and it was growing in hidden places inside my body. I don’t know why, but I had this weird peace, and that same peace that God had given me, he had given to my mom and to Phil. I looked around the hospital cafe and wondered if anyone else there had just learned they had cancer. Was anyone there facing death too? There were people from all over the world, all seeking healing and treatment for physical ailments. And I wanted to reach out and touch each of them, somehow transferring some of God’s peace from my heart through my limbs, out from my fingertips and into their own hearts.

But instead I just washed my chocolate pastry down with some hot coffee and wondered how I was going to tell my family. The timing was incredibly awkward, because after we drove home to Canton from Cleveland, our family had to prepare for my grandma’s calling hours that night. She had just passed away over the weekend. Everyone’s emotions were vulnerable. I didn’t want to burden them with my news. But everyone was in the same room. And they were all asking the same questions. 

“Did you get your pathology report?” “How did your hospital visit go?” “Did you get good news?” I shifted my eyes to Phil. He shifted his eyes to me. I shifted my eyes to my mom. And then the hard part began.

My cancer experience- Making Nice in the Midwest

Telling people I had cancer was the hardest part of my experience. But oddly, it at times was also the most gratifying. I’m not typically one to open up easily about how I really feel inside, or what God is doing in my heart. But I felt vulnerable, and wondered if I was going through this for a reason. And there was also the freakish peace that never left me through the course of my treatment and recovery. So, as my family and friends’ eyes welled up with tears, I was able to embrace them and comfort them saying,  “I’m okay! I’m really okay. I promise. Don’t be sad. I don’t know what will happen, but it will be okay.”

I think people thought I was putting on a brave face. But I am telling you, I have never seen a sick person healed, I’ve never seen the Red Sea parted, and I’ve never seen a person raised from the dead, but I did witness a miracle in my own heart when I had prayed all of those sleepless nights for peace from God, and then he gave it to me. And it didn’t stop there. As many cancer patients know, a lot of good can come from that dreaded diagnosis. Your priorities, which may have been lop-sided and careening out of control, begin to rearrange themselves as you realize what is important in life, and what isn’t. You’ve got cancer, sure. But in the meantime- there’s life! Life is meant to be enjoyed, not to be simply endured or grasped tightly with fear. Every day is a gift, and cancer was the reminder of the brevity of life and the urgency to seek higher things and enjoy simple pleasures.

my cancer story

Not every day was joyful, though, and not every moment was filled with that divine peace. Lucy was learning to make funny noises and communicate her affection to me, and I dreaded the thought of maybe having to leave that behind. We didn’t know how progressive my cancer was, and while I was waiting for the results of my full body scan, one of the members of my paraganglioma support group passed away. And then, a day later, another woman’s life was taken by the same tumors that had spread throughout her body. She was young like me. She had a little child, like me. And my heart ached so powerfully and deeply. And I battled fear. And I prayed to God. Oh, how we prayed to God. I read those Bible verses over and over again. “For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) “For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13)

My cancer experience- Making Nice in the Midwest

We were all so, so relieved when the full body scans couldn’t detect any more cancer in my body, and I went into my radiation treatment feeling hopeful, though a little anxious about the side effects. People in my church family told me they were praying for me, and I knew they were, because I could feel it! But more than that, those friends and family selflessly helped us get through the exhausting days where I couldn’t take a shower, much less cook, so they would bring us food to eat, clean my toilets, and wash poopy diapers. And when the bills came in, we even had people ask us how much more we needed before they were paid off! Cards came in the mail, and my beautiful friend organized an online fund where my blog friends contributed to help pay for some of my cancer treatment meds that helped make me less miserable during the days when my mouth was full of big, bleeding sores and my neck was on fire with literal burns from radiation. Yes, I felt sore, I felt tired, and I felt bad for myself sometimes. But most of all, I felt loved. I felt peace, and I felt like I had this amazing new perspective on life and couldn’t wait to get out there and just delight in life.

My cancer experience- Making Nice in the Midwest

So here I am, you guys. It’s been exactly one year since Lucy’s outburst of laughter in light of my cancer diagnosis, and I can look back on that day fondly. What a blessing to have that little babe laughing her way through my cancer treatment, reminding me of all the things I have to be thankful for and enjoy, even in the face of death, doom, and despair. Sometimes I feel like it’s cheap for me to say how amazing my cancer experience was, because I survived, and I am healed. But you guys, it was hard. It was really, really difficult. Through it all, God revealed himself to me because I sought him in the darkness that I felt. He took something I thought was a curse and turned it into a blessing. I’ll never be the same.

75 Responses

  1. skyler says:

    your bravery in sharing this is so encouraging. i love your faith in seeking God in the darkness. thank you for your transparency.

  2. Stacy B says:

    I love that you give Him all the praise and glory for your mercy that came as pain and suffering. You’ve written your story so beautifully. Thank you!

  3. Hannah says:

    You are a boss lady! Thank you for sharing this.

  4. This made me tear up a little, but it also made me feel proud. That might sound weird, because I don’t know you, but I’m proud of how brave you were during that time and how brave and strong you are by sharing this! Have a great day!

  5. Leslie says:

    I don’t know how to express how much I was touched by this post. Thank you for sharing your experience of faith. God bless you and your sweet family.

  6. Faye says:

    This is such a beautiful post and really touched me. Thank you so much for sharing so honestly.

  7. Peela says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this and I feel particularly thankful for these words today, when my love and I are in limbo waiting to find out what the future holds for us.

  8. thank you mandi for the reminder. i can’t believe how much you’ve been through. God is faithful, even if it’s not the way we want. these words bring tears to my eyes each time i read them.

    God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.


  9. Tiffany B. says:

    Thank you, thank you. Your words are powerful and we all need the reminder that life is not perfect but life can be good no matter what is going on. Thank you.

  10. Molly says:

    Thank you so very much for sharing this. It’s beautiful.

  11. Emily says:

    This was a beautiful post, thank you for sharing!

  12. chanel says:

    i couldn’t help but cry as i read this. thank you for sharing your story. and for sharing how real and present God was in your life during that time. it gave me the goosebumps! He is so good. philippians 4:7: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” :)

  13. Emily Baker says:

    i’m a newer reader of yours…. incredible story. thanks so much for sharing. you’re INCREDIBLE!!

  14. Kerrie says:

    Wow. Mandi…I had no idea you went through all this. I’ve only been reading your blog for a little while, but, girl, you’ve blown my mind. Your strength and attitude are truly inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing!

  15. Taylor says:

    It is so inspiring to hear such a story of courage and pain and happiness. It makes all the little worries in life seem so silly and it reminds me that yes, life is short, and yes, I can get cancer at my age, but I can also do a lot of things in my life that will make me happy and make this journey through life so much more worth it. I can only imagine what you went through and could possibly still be going through, but it’s amazing to hear the story of a fighter and believer.


  16. Jenni says:

    It’s not often I read through an entire post if it’s filled with writing (I’m more of a visual person) but I am inspired and encouraged by your each and every word. I don’t have cancer, but I am so often gripped and burdened by the fear that I do…I can be a hypochondriac at times. I can convince myself I have horrible diseases just by carefully observing various “going’s on” in my body and thinking it’s abnormal But I have also been learning more about how powerful the mind can be and how trust and reliance on God is SO important. It’s not a cancer struggle, but it’s a small battle for me, and a daily one. Your faith, in light of a much larger battle encourages me to do the same…to once again throw off my fears and trust in Someone so much greater.

  17. Cheryl says:

    The past year or so I had been in a pretty rough place. Lots of medical issues, anxiety, and general depression over some of the events in my life. There was one day in particular when I was moved to a new cube at work for a position that I was less than thrilled to be starting and taped to the shelf in that empty cube was this verse – “Now what I am commanding of you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.” Deuteronomy 30:11. It stopped me. I have always believed that He puts the hardest times in our lives for a reason, but sometimes we are blinded by our emotions and thoughts. Your story reminded me of this. I can’t tell you how inspiring your words are to me.

  18. Rosey says:

    Wow I am crying over here. You poured your heart out in this post, and it is wonderful, pure, raw, beauty! I am in awe! Praise God! You are amazing and I am blessed to call you cousin.
    I love you!

  19. Tilly says:

    Wow. This is such a powerful post, so inspiring – thank you for sharing your story, Mandi. You are such an inspiration. We always need the reminder, like Lucy’s laugh, to get as much out of life as we can. x

  20. I had to take a moment to collect myself after reading this. It’s so easy to get bogged down with daily minutiae, isn’t it? You’re right; we need to all get our priorities straight and trust that things are bigger than us.

    The only control we have is how happy to be while we’re here, for however long we have.

    Thanks for the beautifully written reminder.


  21. What an amazing story. Thank you for sharing it! Prayers for your continued health and wellness (:

  22. Courteney says:

    Beautifully written, Mandi. I’ve struggled a lot in the last 6 months with the idea that if God loves you, he will miraculously heal/fix/solve all your problems. My daughter (her name is Lucy too!) was born in September with numerous birth defects that we were completely unaware of prior to her being born. She spent months in the hospital, had two major surgeries (she just had open heart surgery last month) and is now finally deemed “normal”, although they still say she may have some undiagnosed “syndrome” that we won’t be able to tell until she is older. I am a pastors wife so this was all a very public struggle. We heard daily things like “I *know* God will heal your baby.” or “We are praying that all these issues will miraculously be solved.” But she wasn’t healed in the way that they were praying for….not in the sense that she woke up one day and everything was fine. She was healed because there are amazing doctors in our world that know how to operate on a tiny babies heart successfully. She was healed because there are such things as a heart and lung machine that keep her alive while they are operating on that heart. Because God gave us brains and we miraculously figured these things out.
    I spent many dark days wondering why God didn’t love my baby enough to heal her without the aid of all the hospitals and doctors. It’s still difficult, because there’s still a lot of unknowns. But it’s important to remember that being a Christian doesn’t make us exempt from all the brokenness in the world. Us experiencing pain and difficulties doesn’t mean that God loves us any less, but we can grow from it and show God’s love to others by helping them through hard times.

  23. Becca says:

    Thank you for this wonderful post. I can empathize with how hard it was to write. I am 7 years and 4 days away from my own life altering and difficult surgery and your post resonated very deeply with me. You captured those feelings perfectly and how God does what is good for our soul and not always what we think is best for our bodies. My body will not be wonderful again until, Lord willing, I reach heaven, but that doesn’t mean I would chose something different if I got the chance. I have learned and experienced so much of the Lord’s failthfullness. Thanks again for your post!

  24. Alaina M. says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for awhile now, so I remember your initial post, and I remember thinking about you a lot in the subsequent months. I am so, so glad you are doing well.

  25. patty says:

    Such a beautiful post.

  26. karen says:

    Beautifully written. I used a lot of tissues to before I finished

    My son is about the same age as your daughter and I cannot imagine doing all you did in the last year.

    Lucy has wonderful people to look up to.

  27. Such an beautiful and touching post that I feel so honored to have read.

  28. Cristiana says:


  29. DIiana says:

    Wow, I’m in tears. This is one best damn things on the internet I’ve ever read. You have so much hope and so much light. Thank you for sharing that with us.

  30. Martha says:

    What a beautiful, encouraging story. Thank you for the Scripture verses. You are very courageous. “He is able to do exceeding, abundantly above all that we can ask or think, according to His mighty power that works in us”. God bless you!

  31. Kirstin says:

    I am sobbing. I don’t know you personally but I’m glad that you’re alive!

  32. Abigail says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this–it means so much to hear your story and all of the ways you got through such a terrible time.

  33. Alana says:

    Thank you for writing this. On May 1 last year I was diagnosed with heart disease and ended up in a very dark place. You wonder why is this happening to me, what did I do to deserve this. But there are things to appreciate, such as the fact that they found the problem with my heart in the first place. Things would have been much, much worse if they hadn’t found it on a fluke like they did. I could write a long list of all the good things that have happened to me as a result of the diagnosis, honestly. But the best is that I appreciate every single day. Lately with the Spring sunshine I’ve felt myself really coming out of the fog and feeling thankful, and this post really hits home with me. Thank you again.

  34. Kate says:

    It’s such a blessing to hear of one’s journey with the Lord. Your words brought to mind in James 4 when it says, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” God does not hide himself from us! What a wonderful truth to remember :)

  35. Angela says:

    So many give into negativity, and I firmly believe that plays a part [not solely repsonsible] in spreading the disease like wildfire. This was a moving read. Thank you.

  36. So, so good. This was beautiful. I wish nothing but the best life to you and your family.

  37. kristin s. says:

    Really, really inspiring. You go girl! Thank God for all he has done!

  38. Julie says:

    I’ve been a reader for a bit & love your blog. But this post was filled with such beauty, honesty, and hope that I wanted to say THANK YOU. I can not even imagine how many people will read this and be changed for the better – you rock!

  39. You are an inspiration. I wish you much good health and happiness.

  40. Ewelina says:

    Far far away (in Poland ;) there lives a girl who loves reading Your words.
    I ‘m going through some serious health issues myself and You give me hope.
    Thank You so much!
    P.S.Your writing is SO good no matter what You write about: movies, fashion, everyday life or… big things.
    All the best!

  41. Tara says:

    You are an inspiration to everyone who reads this (not only to people who may be dealing with serious health issues). Although Lucy is too young now, when she grows older your story will be an inspiration to her & a wonderful example of love, strength, faith, & courage (and so much more). She will be so proud of you. What is even more special is how Lucy will someday know & understand just how much she uplifted you throughout your ordeal. Thank you for sharing your story.

  42. Melissa says:

    I just stumbled across your blog and this post is beautiful. I’ve been needing a reminder of how great our God can be and this is it. This is what I needed. You’re story is amazing and thank you for sharing it .

  43. Shelley says:

    your strength and outlook totally made me cry. beautiful post. thank you for sharing.

  44. What a powerful post Mandy. You are truly inspiring!

  45. Melissa amy says:

    Congrats and peace from one survivor to another <3

  46. Ashlie says:

    Beautiful writing. Thank you for inspiring.

  47. Allie says:

    Mandi! I loved reading your story. You we’re shown so much of God’s hand in your trial, and then shared it with all of us. I am very glad you live to tell of His blessing on your life. Been reading your blog for 5 years. Much love to you and your family. :-) xoxo.

  48. Whitney says:

    Oh my, this is beautiful, Mandi. I was about to type comments on all the sentences and paragraphs that touched me, but I realized it was the whole thing. Cancer and the treatments are horrible, but your testimony is beautiful. I’m bookmarking this post to remember whenever I feel like something in my life is “bad.” Much love!

  49. Margaret says:

    Such a beautiful post, thank-you for sharing and reminding us that life is a gift that we must cherish.

  50. I don’t know you, but i just adore you. I adore your courage, your zest and your spirit. Thank you for sharing your life with us strangers and I am sending you the biggest cyber hug ever!

  51. Lisa W. says:

    I lost my best friend …my sister~in~law to cancer. I don’t know your pain, as none of us do that are not the patient. But I held her hand through it all. It IS hard, it’s extremely hard. We lost her, I miss her so deeply it hurts. She had a 20 year old daughter and 17 yr. old son.

    I have followed your journey and I will NEVER EVER forget your fatih and courage throughout all of this! You are a miracle, and thank you for sharing your journey! God Bless you and your family.

  52. Sarah says:

    I read this post with tears in my eyes. God bless you. I feel so honoured that you’ve shared your journey with us. You continue to inspire me in every aspect of your life; your creativity, your love for your family and your COURAGE know no bounds. Thank you for the reminder I sometimes need to make sure I’m thankful everyday. You’re an inspiration to us all.

  53. Rachel says:

    God bless you. And thank you for sharing your story!

  54. Allison says:

    Wow. I’m not sure how someone can get through the tough times like this without the comforting of God’s peace. 2 years ago, I had surgery to remove a 12 pound tumor & my ovary. It turned out to be benign, but I know those scary “what if” thoughts. God puts little miracles in our lives, often in the form of perceived tragedy. But I’m so glad you’re on this side of it. And I’m glad that we’re able to see where God is in the middle of it all.

  55. Emily says:

    Bless you, Mandi. Thank you for sharing your story, and all the prayers to you and your amazing family.

  56. Emma says:

    What a great testimony of God’s grace, peace and faithfulness xx

  57. Gabbie says:

    I just wanted to say how much I admire your calm and cheerfulness. You have a very lucky family!

    Wishing you all the best x x

  58. Heather says:

    I am so encouraged by your experience and the amazing attitude that you kept during it. I work at hospital in my local area and stories like these keep all of us going.
    See someone heal and get stronger is absolutely amazing. Thanks for sharing this. I hope that the transporter at Cleveland Clinic somehow finds this and is encouraged by your kind words.

    I can’t say thank you enough for being brave enough to share your heart about this. I’ve always loved reading this blog for that reason.
    You are an amazing woman.

  59. Kim says:

    I usually don’t comment on blogs. I just lurk about, but today I just had to say something.

    Girl, you have an AMAZING testimony!! I’ve always liked your style and your projects, but now more than ever, I love that you shared such a deeply personal and moving story about your illness and your faith. You are so brave and I wish you the very best.

    May God continue to bless and smile upon you!

  60. Lynet says:

    Mandi, Praise be to Him! He is so good to us and thank Him for your supporting family and friends! Life is so hard and so challenging, but looking & seeking Him is what gives us strength! I loved reading your words; you write so beautifully. I am a new blog reader and I absolutely love your blog–1 stalked you all weekend. (=

  61. katie says:

    SO moved and encouraged by your brave story… thanks for renewing our faith through your testimony!! bless you

  62. Jessie says:

    You are wonderful! Thank you for sharing your sweet story. Please know that even though we’ve never met (and probably never will) I have been mindful of you and your sweet family. I will pray for your continued good health. Much love from Utah!

  63. Sasha says:

    Your story is so moving. Your words and story are inspiring, truly. So much hope, trust, and light. Thank you for sharing. So much love and blessings to you and your family.

  64. Aryanne says:

    Be sure i’ll be praying for your healthy, little warrior ?

  65. You are an inspiration. Somehow I stumbled onto your blog and this post was exactly the kind of thing I needed to read today. You are so brave and you give me hope. I don’t have cancer, but I have some other health issues. Sometimes health problems can cloud your view of the world. Thank you for making my day a little brighter and I certainly hope you stay well.

  66. kindsey says:

    i loved your honesty in this. a long time ago I starting writing a song from psalm 46 – and you’ve reminded me of that scriptures strength in times of needs. I may pick it back up and finish it. God doesn’t waste anything – its a beautiful, crazy thing. you’ve probably heard the sarah groves rendition of great is thy faithfulness but this line gets me every time- “I can’t remember a trial or pain He did not recycle to bring me gain…” i’m always so inspired by your eye, creativity + cohesiveness in your work!

  67. Casey says:

    I’m SOOOOO glad you’re feeling better. Whenever I see you on A Beautiful Mess I’m always like, I wonder how Mandi is doing? You’re such a wonderful writer by the way. :)

  68. aileen says:

    I have never left a comment on a blog before but i wanted to let you know how moved i felt after reading you’re story. You are so inspiring and brave. I really admire you’re faith and so wish i could have that level of faith to help me through my lifes ups and downs. You’re daughter is such a beautiful blessing for you, she really is one of the cutest kids. Take care and i wish you all the best x

  69. Allison says:

    Mandi, your words are so beautiful and true. As someone facing cancer with a family member, this was so encouraging. Thank you for telling how God changed you and your prospective. I’ve loved your blog for years! I’m glad you’re back and I’m glad you’re better.

  70. Erica says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s not an easy thing to be so open and vulnerable! I pray for continued healing and strength and comfort for you and your family! <3

  71. Kindra says:

    I found your blog after learning in Feb 2015 that I had been diagnosed with bilateral CBT’s. I had surgery in May for removal of right tumor and plan is to watch left via regular scans. Unfortunately, my right tumor was found to be malignant as it had spread to my lymph node. I am currently undergoing radiation. Three weeks down three weeks to go. In reading your post I noticed you experienced SE’s quite different from my own currently. I have lost ALL taste. Eating is a true struggle given that I am starving yet everything tastes like cardboard. Neck is raw, but not terribly sore and mouth is in pretty good shape. Since this condition is so rare I was hoping you could respond with more detail on how radiation was for you. I understand if you don’t want to relive it, but I like knowing what’s ahead or possibly ahead of me. I am pretty worn out- feel like I have been in a tornado since my diagnosis. Any support you can provide would be great. I unfortunately don’t feel the love and support you so graciously had around you during that difficult time. You can email me at : westercampkindra@hotmail.com.

    • Mandi says:

      I sent this to you via e-mail, but in case anyone else is here looking for similar info, I copied the e-mail below.

      Hi there! I’m glad you found my blog, as I remember how hard it was to find any information online. There is actually a support group on Facebook too that is SUPER helpful. If you’re on Facebook I could send you a link to the private group.

      I lost all sensor taste during my treatment as well. It happened in my second week of treatment and lasted a couple of months. I couldn’t produce saliva either so it was difficult to swallow. I couldn’t get chicken to go down at all, not to mention not even wanting to eat because of everything tasting like cardboard, as you said. Because of this, I felt no energy and depressed. But then I started making lots of calorie dense and nutritious smoothies and noticed a huge change in my emotional health and energy levels to the point where I could even exercise while I was getting treatment.

      I was advised to use a special cream on the burns on my neck, and it was supposed to help with the burns, but my skin is sensitive where I had treatment even to this day. Part of that might be nerve damage though.

      I also experienced internal burning. I put pineapple in my smoothie and was in so much pain from the acid on my throat as I swallowed it. It was very surprising. I also had blood blisters pop up inside my mouth whenever I ate, probably because my saliva glands were messed up. They hurt bad and bled when I popped them for relief. That made me not want to eat either.

      I also had hair loss on the base of my neck where the beams of radiation entered. It was about the size of three silver quarters. The hair grew back after a couple of months, but it was super curly compared to my normally straight hair. After a couple more months, the hair went back to normal. Now it’s my noticeable except that it’s shorter than the rest of my hair.

      I can’t emphasize enough how much better I felt after having smoothies with greens, nuts, flax, etc in them. I recommend you try an app like my fitness pal to see if you are getting the right nutrients and enough calories. That helped me.

      Best of luck to you and feel free to keep up correspondence!


  72. Joaquin says:

    Celebrate this extra time you have been granted.Thank whomever you think made it possible for you to survive the first round.I am 7 1/2 years out from treatment of a very aggressive, malignant tumor on my tongue, which eventually methastasised to my neck, a year after my first surgery.Had a second surgery and then a little quemo and heavy radio.Yes, this is a life changing experience.I was 46 when this hit.After that, I had a few scares when imaging from ultrasounds or MRI’s showed small growths here and there.But they all turned up to be scar tissue from radiotherapy or surgeries.
    Life came back to normal, almost.The constant thought of recurrence is another thing to fight.
    Yes,cancers do recurre.We have to be happy with the days we manage to snatched from death.
    I wish you the best of luck and a complete recovery.

  73. Margaret says:

    Found your blog because an old mini album of yours was featured on the Scrap Gals podcast this week. Your daughter will one day marvel at the strong, brave mom she has. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sure it has given much to others in similar circumstances. My prayers and admiration are with and your family.

  74. Dee Rincon says:

    Dear Mandi,

    Your story deeply touched me. You have given me courage to face whatever may come my way as I had a paraganglioma removed by my heart via open heart surgery and a pheo on adrenal gland to be removed soon. Your faith in God, scriptures, and will to survive show me what an amazing woman you are. May God watch over you and give you good health in your remaining years. Dee Rincon, Randolph, NJ