Alright, it is time to get vulnerable about our family’s journey over the last few years.
I’ll start today by officially introducing myself. My name is Steph. I am a wife to Darren and mom of three kiddos (6, 4, & 1 years old). We live in Iowa where we enjoy beautiful summers and cold winters (we are actually having a blizzard right now!).
I aspire to be a mom who serves her family well, takes her own healing seriously, and always points people to the gospel. Things I love: Jesus, my family, books, learning, health & wellness, cooking, the beach anywhere I can find it, hiking in Arizona, skiing in Colorado and going on walks with my family.
How it Started:
I began my career as a Doctor of Physical Therapy mostly treating orthopedic issues but quickly developed a love for my patients and their caregivers living with the effects of Parkinson’s Disease. Truly, they have been my greatest teachers. Their determination to get out of a chair, walk normally, or get back to work did more than inspire me, it made me ask the deeper and harder questions.
I became fascinated with brain health, neurotransmitters, exercise, nutrition, the gut microbiome, inflammation, detoxification, disease, and genetics. My start in rehabilitation turned into a love for wellness across the lifespan.
What happened next:
Flash forward a few years and our family began navigating our own serious health situation as our one-year-old baby boy was diagnosed with Leukemia. My husband and I were thrust into a world we knew nothing about and did not want to be a part of: Pediatric Cancer.
Of course, I was the cancer mom asking the forbidden question: Why?
Cancer parents are already exhausted, often burnt out dealing with job loss, relationship stress, family separation, and financial destruction. The last thing any pediatric oncologist wants is for the parents to be bearing the burden of “why” and absorbing the blame. I wanted to know: Were there better ways to care for the children God had entrusted to me?
Looking for answers:
One night, a report popped up in Jordan’s online medical chart. I did a quick pub med search for the genetics of Jordan’s cancer. My heart sank as the article concluded that children diagnosed with his type of cancer had a “Poor Prognosis”. I sobbed on the hard sleeper sofa next to my baby boy at the children’s hospital. The IV pump beeped and clicked as chemo and fluids poured into Jordan’s body. It was obvious I had no control over my son’s outcome. It was in the Lord’s hands. What did he want me to do?
My dedication to researching supportive treatments and alternative methods intensified when Jordan hit remission 100 days into treatment. If Jordan was going to live, I wanted him to live well beyond the three-and-a-half year chemotherapy treatment plan. Many cancer parents do not have the luxury of considering life beyond chemotherapy. Truly heartbreaking.
I prayed for God to reveal information he wanted me to know and steer my mind and actions in the direction he desired. I dove into research, asking questions, talking with genetic counselors, integrative physicians, integrative oncologists, our pediatric oncologist, and experts in different fields. The result of the intense research was a heart and mind overloaded and fearful of all the potential causes of cancer.
The load was heavy. Our world shrank to only a few things: our immediate family, protocols, fevers, chemotherapy, trying to sleep and eat, our relationship with the Lord, and my husband’s job. We had no capacity for anything else. My career, vacations, church activities, extra-curriculars of any kind were cut off from our lives.
Being dependent on Jesus for our very next breath taught us to live IN STEP with Jesus as he walked with us through the most difficult season of our lives.
I do not remember the specific day but there came a time when I stopped going down every rabbit hole of research. I implemented what I had discovered and took a deep breath. My attention shifted to being present and loving my children and husband with the moments I had right in front of me.
As time goes along, I re-engage with research, ask additional questions, tweak supplement protocols, and search for evidence-based solutions. Rather than live with the initial obsession I had carrying the weight of pediatric cancer on my back, God has been calling me to ask questions and seek natural solutions while firmly placing my hope in him.
My point is this: There is a time to research and there is a time to implement strategies and take targeted action. There is a time to push and there is a time to rest. I have not had the capacity, time, or resources to implement everything I have learned so far on the pediatric cancer journey. And that is OK. The most important thing I can do is live IN STEP with what God is asking of me and calling me to do today.
I hope as you follow along this blog, you see more than information from a crazed cancer mom. Our family has benefited from great medical care. We have also benefited from asking questions, thinking a little outside the box, and implementing alternative strategies. My goal is to inspire you to ask your own questions, advocate for yourself and your loved ones, and place your firm hope in Jesus.
It feels a little scary, vulnerable, and yet obedient to get started. Thank you for joining me here and I pray you find inspiration to WAIT, HOPE, and TRUST in Jesus and live IN STEP with HIM as we care for our homes, minds, and bodies.