Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Christmas Gift of Knowing You

The Christmas season fills our hearts with joy; bright, happy days bring special kinds of pleasure.

We're wrapped in the excitement of it all, the sights, the sounds, the smells, the tastes we treasure.

Yet when we have some quiet time to think, about our finest blessings all year through. We focus on our family and our friends, and appreciate the gift of knowing you!

Merry Christmas to all of you!



Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Yes, Virginia There is a Santa

"I stopped believing in Santa Claus when my mother took me to see him in a department store, and he asked for my autograph." - Shirley Temple

I wish it had been this simple for my girls to find out the truth about Santa. Unfortunately, it was not. Up until a week ago, my girls firmly believed in Santa and the Elf on the Shelf that visited our house throughout the month of December until Christmas Eve. For it was on Christmas Eve that the Elf, lovingly named Buttons, flew back to the North Pole to help Santa get ready for delivering presents. I knew my girls were getting to an age that it was time to tell them the truth. Questions were asked liked "Why does Santa look different every time we see him at the mall?" The girls were getting teased by their peers about their belief in Santa and received many puzzled looks when they told their friends about the elf that was living at our house. However, it wasn't until last week when Kendall said, "Mom, please tell me the truth. Is Santa and Buttons for real? I don't want to be made a fool of." My heart sank and I soon realized the day had come. After much discussion, Jason and I knew it was time to tell the girls the truth. It broke our hearts to know the magic that Santa and Buttons created in our girls lives would soon be taken away.

The morning after Thanksgiving, we were sitting at the breakfast table and it was time to spill the beans. Mackenzie handled the news very well. She said, "Oh" and that was that. Kendall on the other hand was very angry with us and was broken hearted. Tears streamed down her face as we also broke the news to them that the Tooth Fairy and Eater Bunny were not real as well. Thus the conversation began about what Christmas is really all about.

In an unsigned editorial of the New York's Sun issue on September 21, 1897, an anonymous writer responded to a letter written by Virginia O'Hanlon to the newspaper. As many of you recall this letter said, "Dear Editor: I am 8 years old. "Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in THE SUN it's so. Please tell the truth; is there a Santa Clause?" The anonymous writer's response is as follows:

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished. Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain view and picture the supernatural beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

It is for this very reason, I do not regret encouraging the belief in Santa and Buttons. It did teach the girls about the love, generosity and devotion that the anonymous writer mentioned in his response. It taught them to have faith in things not seen. It provided the foundation for their faith and belief in God. Yes, I was afraid by telling them there was no Santa it would then cause them to question the existence of God. Thankfully, there was never a doubt. Thus, I believe encouraging your kids to believe in Santa is not a bad thing to do.

"If you can't believe, if you can't accept anything on faith, then you are doomed for a life dominated by doubt." - Miracle on 34th Street

This Christmas I will be focusing more on the magic that the Birth of Jesus brings to our family, friends and to the world. I hope to teach the girls more about the love God showed to mankind by sending his Son to earth to eventually die for our sins. I changed our advent calendar this year to include activities that will give the girls opportunities to share this love with others. Even though Santa is no longer real in their minds, I am hoping this Christmas will be better than ever and that the girls will experience a magic more powerful than Santa. Yes, there is a God. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no God.

This week I received one of the greatest Christmas gifts. I am happy to report my MRI has shown that I am still cancer free!!!! I have officially been in remission for two years. I have overcome the odds that were given to me when I was diagnosed. I was given a 50/50 chance to live. After my surgeon saw how extensive the tumor had invaded my face, he was unsure that this cancer would not return. He was happy to see the results of my MRI…in his experience he rarely sees this cancer return after two years. I am so thankful and happy. Tears of joy have streamed down my face several times these past couple of days. I now feel like I can truly experience the joy of Christmas.

Thanks to all of your wonderful messages and support on this blog and Facebook. I am so thankful to reconnect with all of you. I am blessed by each and every one of you. This year, I hope all you experience the magic of Christmas!



Monday, November 14, 2011

Believing and Persistent Prayer

My sister recently wrote an article on prayer and it was purchased and published in the The Lutheran Magazine. The article was about the transformation that takes place when one prays. The article included a brief story on my battle with cancer and how prayer was important to me during that time. Prayer was my way of taking what little control I had in my life at the time and using it in the only way I knew would be the most effective - by praying and casting my cares upon God. Prayer gave me power to move on and face whatever was ahead of me whether it was good or bad.

I am now finding myself relying on prayer once again as the long awaited surgeries to fix my face will be started within the next few months. However, I am learning something different this time. I am learning the importance of praying persistently until the answer itself has come or until I have received the assurance that it will come. I am also learning to pray with belief that my prayer will be answered. This is what faith is all about.

"Have faith that whatever you ask for in prayer is already granted you, and you will find that it will be" (Mark 11:24)

More and more, as we live the prayer life, shall we come to experience and recognize this God-given assurance, and know when to rest quietly in it, or when to continue our petitioning until we receive it. --The Practice of Prayer

The plan to fix my face started back in March. It has been another long road for me to travel and I have had to be patient and wait on God for the right time to come. After much time spent meeting with several different doctors I finally have a team of specialists that have experience with facial and oral reconstruction in someone who has radiated bone and skin. The surgery I will undergo will be risky...I soon discovered this as I was turned down by several doctors who avoided working on patients like me. It has been a long process, but I now see an end in sight and feel like there is a solution that does have its risks, but can be done. I met with an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon this week who will be doing the surgery along with my Surgical Oncologist. Over the next few months, he will be deliberating with specialists around the world, performing a simulated surgery and mapping out the best way to fix my face with as little risk as possible.

As of now, the plan is to reposition the transplanted bone in my face so that it is not so prominent and lower to accommodate future teeth implants to replace the teeth that were and will be extracted. In addition, a plate will be placed underneath my eye to raise it up and fill in the space that was once occupied by the bone I lost during my maxillectomy and later by the infection. After healing for 3-4 months, additional surgeries will be required to tweak anything that does not look right and implants will be placed 6-12 months down the road. The risks involve infection, rejection of the plate and skin breakdown. The surgeon feels the risks are low, and all precautions will be taken to avoid what happened to me in the past. When I asked the surgeon if this was his face, what would he do...he said he would do it with no hesitation.

Up until now, it has been a wonderful year filled with NOTHING but school homework, driving my kids to and from sports or activities, boating and swimming up at the cabin and spending time with family and friends. There is happiness in our house again. Plans, activities and vacations are made with no hesitations. I am able to RSVP to invitations with a confident YES I WILL BE THERE! Life has been normal and this normalcy was much needed to gear up for another year that may be challenging for me and my family. It has been wonderful to experience normalcy again, but I still don't feel quite like myself. I am trying to figure this out…could it be that although I have recovered physically, I haven't recovered mentally or emotionally from battling cancer? Or could it be because I am living with a face that makes me feel uncomfortable in my own skin and insecure when I am around others? Whatever it is, it isn't allowing me to feel complete peace. Ultimately, I sense my journey hasn't quite ended yet.

My next MRI will be in early December. Should this next MRI be clean, it will be two years that I have been cancer free. My surgeon said this will be a huge milestone in my remission. He rarely, if ever, sees this type of cancer return after two years. I am clinging to this hope.

Today, I am praying not for my life as I did when diagnosed with cancer, but I am praying for the ability to have my face fixed in a way that I will no longer be embarrassed to go out in public or be ashamed of the way I look. I am doing my best to have persistent and believing prayers for the following:

-Wisdom for the doctors to make the best decisions on how to go about fixing my face
-Wisdom for myself to decided what is in my own best interest and the interest of my family
-Peace when the right decisions are made
-A positive outcome after surgery with no complications
-Quick healing
-Insurance coverage as much as possible

I was taking a break from blogging so that I may be able to move on in my life. But I did miss it, and feel the need to get my feelings and experiences written down again. It is somehow healing for me and it brings me courage to read the many messages left from my friends, family and people I have never met before. And if my blogging brings hope and healing to anyone out there reading, it gives purpose to my journey.

Much Love,


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Change of seasons

Last Saturday, I hosted a Farmers Market Breakfast for the ladies in my neighborhood. I held this breakfast a few years ago with the anticipation of making it an annual event. Unfortunately, I was a diagnosed with cancer and unable to host the event for a few years. This year's breakfast was more meaningful to me as it gave me the opportunity to honor all the wonderful friends in the neighborhood that supported me with prayers, gifts and meals throughout my battle with cancer. It was very emotional for me to let them all know how much each one of them touched my life. I was so thankful for the opportunity.

After breakfast, we braved the cold, rainy and windy weather and headed downtown to the Minneapolis Farmers Market for flowers, herbs and other goodies the market has to offer. We didn't stay as long as we would have if the weather was a little nicer, however it was enough time to purchase some flowers for one of my planters that sits outside of my front door. It is so wonderful to see flowers again along with the green grass and leaves on trees. I am enjoying watching the birds make nests under our deck again and the new goslings following their mother around on the pond. I have watched closely to see if the Blue Birds will come back but so far they are no where to be found. I think they have chosen to make their nests elsewhere. I am so ready for Summer to begin. This will be the first Summer in a long time that I will be able to enjoy without worry, surgeries or health issues.

Lately, I have been going to a lot of appointments with the doctors that will fix my teeth and hopefully fix my face. The appointments will continue until the doctors come to a safe solution for fixing my face. However, I have decided to avoid any surgeries until Fall so that I can enjoy my Summer.

At the end of April, I turned 40 years old. I had high hopes of celebrating this new chapter in my life. Unfortunately, due to a strain of strep that hit my family hard, I was hospitalized for one week battling cellulitis in my face. It was caused by the strep infection and it attacked the entire area of my face that was radiated. My face was extremely swollen, red and painful. I was placed on IV antibiotics and thankfully by the time I went home, my face was back to normal. I was released from the hospital the day of my birthday and because I was so exhausted from the lack of sleep during my stay I went straight to bed. Not exactly how I wanted to spend my 40th birthday. I can't remember the last time I celebrated a birthday not in the hospital.

Jason and I decided to celebrate all of the missed birthdays and anniversaries over the past few years, by going on a vacation just the two of us. I am so excited to spend some quality one on one time with Jason. We will be spending it at a beautiful resort where we can just relax and recuperate from all that we have been through over the past couple of years.

I am still enjoying a quiet and uneventful life. I have been spending a lot of time thinking about what I want to do with the rest of my life. Surviving cancer and turning 40 has caused me to think hard about my future and what God's plan is for my life. I have yet to come to a conclusion on what this plan is, but I am excited about what God has in store for me. My next MRI is in June. I am hoping and praying for more good news.

I will update you when I find out the results of my MRI. Enjoy the beautiful weather and the change of seasons!


Friday, March 25, 2011

A New Beginning

We have just entered the first week of Spring. However in Minnesota there are no signs of a season change as there is still snow on the ground and temperatures are in the 30's. Yesterday, I posted on my Facebook page a fact stating that there were a lot of crabby people in Minnesota. Many of my Facebook friends confessed that they were one of them. The recent snow storm was the last straw for the many residents of Minnesota aching for warmer weather. We had a brief taste of Spring before yet another snow storm hit this week. Temperatures were in the 50's and the snow was just about gone. People had emerged out of their homes and were outside enjoying the weather. Unfortunately this gift was quickly taken away from us. Strangely, I haven't been bothered by the weather. Simple reasons as high doses of Vitamin D or a recent vacation to Florida may explain my indifference to the snow on the ground. However, I am guessing it is because the weather has become low on my priority list of things to get hot and bothered about. It is amazing how this list has changed over the past couple of years.

The best medicine for the Minnesota winter blues is a warm and sunny vacation. I took this medicine in February and Jason, the girls and I headed down south. The prescription: a Disney Cruise to the Bahamas and then a visit with my parents in Orlando. It was a much needed vacation for my family after all we have been through. The week before we left I was convinced that something was going to prevent us from going. I carried around hand sanitizer and sterilized my family's hands until they were raw. I avoided any activity that would cause another hole in my face. No one or nothing was going to stop us from going on our trip. Needless to say the cruise was amazing, but what vacation by Disney isn't? We set sail on the new Disney ship called the Dream. From the second we set sail, our time was filled with fun and laughter. My low stamina and anxiety went out the porthole in our stateroom and we embraced every opportunity that was given to us on the ship by Disney. I felt as if my family had reconnected and we were back to normal once again. It was such a fabulous trip that we booked another cruise for February 2012 even before we got off the ship. A monumental step for us as a certain member of our family obsesses with spending hours researching every price point or option before booking a vacation. A step that signified how much fun we had on the cruise.

Life in the Karrmann household is back to normal. We are in a routine again…a routine I longed for while going through treatment. Jason and the girls have moved forward and are focusing again on work and school. However, it is taking me a little longer to feel content, confident and fearless. I spend a lot of time thinking about what has happened and what is to come in the future. Being consumed by a disease for two years has caused me to feel lost and in the midst of searching for my purpose in life. Feelings that have been easily identified by my Oncology nurses and acknowledged as standard protocol for many cancer survivors. Now what do I do with my life? I am ready for God to reveal his next plan for me…whatever it may be. Despite all of the pain and suffering, I never felt closer to God throughout my battle with cancer. It took very little effort to feel his presence and his love during a time I needed it most. Now I feel as if God is quiet and sitting back watching how I approach my life and my faith. I think he wants me to need him now as much as I needed him back them….to seek his will and to wholeheartedly trust him no matter what the circumstances.

I spend most of my days undoing what has been done since I was out of commission. I have cleared out almost every corner in this household items that have been stock piling over the past couple of years in closets, kitchen cabinets and drawers. Our house has become a weekly stop for charity pickup. Our family has never been more organized…notice the calendar on our refrigerator listing all doctor appointments, activities or engagements that each of us has for months to come. I am volunteering at the girls' school, spending time with friends, and reading lots of books. But most of all, I am enjoying having the ability to choose how I want to spend my time. A choice that I did not have for quite sometime. I have to confess I have been a bit selfish with my time and may have been known by my family to throw a little tantrum here and there if I don't get to do what I want to do and when I want to do it. But I am getting better.

In addition to searching for the meaning of life after cancer, I will now begin to search for the meaning of life after turning 40. Almost every day, I see an old high school friend on Facebook share their feelings about turning the big 4-0. It will be my turn in April. A lot of women my age would wish for a facelift for their 40th birthday. My birthday wish this year will be for a "facedown". I am waiting for the date, most likely in April, when my surgeon will be shaving down the transplanted bone in my face and the broken bone in the orbit of my eye. It took me awhile to be emotionally ready for another surgery. But I think it is safe to say I am more than ready to be able to blend in with the crowds and to not be stared at by those I pass by. Friends and family that look at the photos taken during the holidays and on our Dream vacation will notice I am the picture taker and not the picturee. When I see pictures of myself I just want to break down and cry. It has been hard for me to accept the way I look and to be comfortable around people that don't know me or know what I have been through. In addition to my "facedown" I will also get implants to replace the teeth that were removed during my maxillectomy. I know my face will never be the same, but I have hopes that these next surgeries will help me to feel more comfortable in my own skin.

Overall, life is good. No, life is great! Yes, I could do without 3rd grade homework and sister rivalry…and probably winter. But I am enjoying my life being cancer free. I will continue to keep you updated as my surgeries quickly approach. My next MRI will be in June, and I hope I will be able to continue writing this blog from a cancer survivor's point of view. Thank you all for your continued prayers. Much love, Sue.

By Laura Story

We pray for blessings

We pray for peace

Comfort for family, protection while we sleep

We pray for healing, for prosperity

We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

All the while, You hear each spoken need

Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops

What if Your healing comes through tears

What if a thousand sleepless nights

Are what it takes to know You’re near

What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom

Your voice to hear

And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love

As if every promise from Your Word is not enough

All the while, You hear each desperate plea

And long that we'd have faith to believe

‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops

What if Your healing comes through tears

What if a thousand sleepless nights 

Are what it takes to know You’re near

And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us

When darkness seems to win

We know the pain reminds this heart

That this is not, this is not our home,

It's not our home

‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops

What if Your healing comes through tears

And what if a thousand sleepless nights

Are what it takes to know You’re near

What if my greatest disappointments

Or the aching of this life

Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy

And what if trials of this life

The rain, the storms, the hardest nights

Are your mercies in disguise