Friday, December 28, 2012

Get Your Rear in Gear November 2012

After participating in the Get Your Rear in Gear 5K in Tulsa in March, I decided that I would actually train and RUN the Houston GYRIG 5K in November.  My sweet friend Kristy was my constant encouragement.  Several friends joined in the fun and came out to support my efforts as we raised money and awareness for colorectal cancer research, including Aimee who is pregnant with twins!  I have such amazing friends! 

It was a beautiful clear morning.  With each step I was reminded that I am healthy and strong, that God is faithful and that my future is full of His goodness. 

The following weekend, my California family participated in the Get Your Rear in Gear in Orange County in my honor.  I wish I could have been there with them. 

I love these people!

Me and Kristy

Praying before the race


I did it!

California GYRIG Team

I love you all! Thank you for your constant love, encouragement, and support!  And thank you for your help in finding a cure for colorectal cancer.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Love is in the Air!

Sunday, August 12, 2012, Mark and I had the joy of celebrating Ashley's engagement to Mr. Adam Love!  Yes, his name really is Love!  And we are thrilled for both of them!  

The Happy Couple

The proposal journal

Celebrating with family

Sweet friends praying for Ashley and Adam


The Loves

Let the wedding planning begin!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Dear Body

This letter is written in response to the invitation by She Loves Magazine, Stories of Sisterhood to write a letter to my body. To read more letters, written by women around the world, click here:  or visit shelovesmagazine on Facebook.

Dear Body,

We’ve spent forty-nine good years together.  We’ve traveled the world and had the joy of laughing with friends across the globe.   We’ve always had a good relationship.  I have always been grateful that you seemed to maintain your health and your form without any effort on my part.  I have depended you and found you to be faithful.

That is until May 27, 2009.  Imagine my shock when I was told that you had stage 3 rectal cancer.  The doctors told me that I had a 50/50 chance of maintaining my relationship with you for five more years.  I had always known that my days with you were numbered, but it was stunning to hear that number may be much smaller than I had imagined. 

I immediately felt betrayed!  How could you let this happen? You had no history of this disease!  You are never sick!  And so began my personal battle to prolong your life.  We partnered together, garnered all our strength, and stepped into the war. 

And you were phenomenal!  You took everything that came your way with amazing strength and dignity.  You stood up to repeated radiation, the burning of your cells,; and diligently discarded the refuse. You miraculously rebuilt damaged tissues even as you cried out for rest and relief from the onslaught.  You even gave birth to brand new cells in spite of the biological warfare of chemotherapy.  You endured multiple surgeries, each time producing beautiful scar tissue to remind me of your victories.  You fought through diarrhea, dehydration, exhaustion, electrolyte imbalance, secondary infections, constant nausea, emotional upheaval, pain, grief, fear, and despair.  You endured countless medical procedures, and torturous medical exams. You persevered through it all.

After endless months in the fray, you rang the bell, signaling your personal victory. You are amazing! You are strong! You are “beautifully and wonderfully made.”  I have never been more proud to call you mine!  Thank you for fighting for me!  I can’t live without you!


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Open My Eyes

Have you ever had one of those moments when your own sinfulness reared its ugly head, and for a brief instant you saw things clearly - the way God does - the total depravity of the human condition; and of MY condition without the grace of God?

Maybe a moment when the ugliness of pride showed its true colors in you...
Or a moment when a lack of compassion was all that was reflected...
Maybe the heat of judgement poured out on someone you love...
Or angry words spewed before you had the wisdom to silence your mouth...

That happened to me this week.

Sneak Peak:  I was walking into the office the other day at the same time that a woman got out of her car and headed into the building. I didn't recognize her. She looked a little haggard. I assumed that maybe she was a part of the cleaning crew that works at the church.  I didn't say hello to her. I barely even looked at her. I walked inside without even smiling. Wow. Who was that person?  Not her, but ME!!??  Why so impersonal and cold?  Was I really so busy that I couldn't be kind, or even polite?

Her Story:  Kristy and Mark had conversations with this woman and discovered that she was in need of help.  She came to Houston from Michigan to bury her ex-husband, the father of her 10 year old son, who had been found in Buffalo Bayou.  She didn't have enough money to get to the bus station to catch her bus home. She just needed a little help; she was willing to work for the day. I know we are all cynical about these types of stories and requests, but her need seemed genuine.  Mark bought a tank of gas so her friend could drive her to the bus station.

Full Disclosure:  Then Mark called me and said, "Let's go to Wallmart and buy them a gift card so they can have food to eat on the bus. It's a two day trip."  And I replied, "You go ahead. I don't want to ride in the car with them, they don't smell good."

Immediately I am convicted and ashamed. Appalled at my lack of love. Did I just say that?  Did I really have that thought?  Seriously? That's going to be the determining factor in whether I demonstrate Christ's love to someone or not?  I am sickened by my sin.

Redemption:  As it turned out, God gave me the opportunity to go with Mark to Wallmart to purchase the gift card anyway. Thank you, God, that in this moment when all I had to offer you was the stench of selfishness that you didn't respond in kind.  I am humbled by your mercy and grateful for your patience. Thank you for opening my eyes today.  Please continue your work of transformation in my life!  I obviously desperately need you...

Friday, June 29, 2012

"I like your scar"

One of the souvenirs I have from cancer is scars. I have six scars that are related to my cancer surgeries and treatment. Five on my abdomen and one on my chest. When my surgeon first discussed my treatment with me, he was concerned about how I would feel about having scars. Honestly, at that point, scars were the least of my worries! I hadn't worn a bikini since I was in college and all I wanted was to be healthy, no matter what it took to get there. As I walked through cancer treatment, I found that I really liked my scars. Like I've said here before, they are signs of life for me. My scars remind me of where I've been and what I learned, and they say to the world that I am a survivor. They are very personal to me and I am proud to have them. 

Recently, I was even more proud to wear them!  When I was shopping for a dress for Sarah's wedding, I was looking for something that would cover the scar on my chest. It just seemed like the right thing to do. And I was  looking for something to cover my upper arms, which also seemed like the right thing to do! No one wants to see jiggly mother arms at a wedding!  However, if you've seen the pictures of the wedding, you know that is not the kind of dress I ended up buying.  Sarah and I found a beautiful caribbean blue strapless gown that we both agreed was the perfect dress.  Several days before Sarah's wedding I tried on my "Mother-of-the-Bride" dress after having it altered, and Sarah said to me, 'I like your scar, mom."  For her, it signified that her mom fought hard to be here with her. My scars became even more special to me after seeing them through her eyes.

The day of Sarah's wedding, Sarah, the bridesmaids, Tyler's mother, Julie, and I were all together getting ready for the big event. Our sweet friend, Patricia, was on hand to expertly fix everyone's hair. Lily, a professional make-up artist, was also in the room, making sure every girl's beauty was perfectly on display. When it came my turn, I hopped up in the make-up chair and Lily worked her magic. She then asked if I would like make-up on my chest.  I knew immediately, that her real question was, "Do you want me to cover your scar?"  I proudly let her know that the scar was an important part of who I am and did not need to be covered.  

As the sun set, and the music began to fill the chapel, I happily walked down the aisle on the arm of my son, David, and watched my sweet daughter marry the man of her dreams. The scars were there, representing God's goodness and faithfulness toward me and Sarah.

Thank you, Sarah, for seeing the beauty in scars! 

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Perfect Day!

Tyler & Sarah May
June 1, 2012

Friday, May 18, 2012

Worth It?

Dear Cancer Researchers,

I've said it before, and I'll say it again... I am so thankful for all you do. However, I also want to say that there HAS to be a better way - a better way to fight cancer than flooding our brains and bodies with life-destroying poison!  

I have always been the detail person. I never forget things. At least I never did until I went through cancer treatment... 

Recently, Mark and I, and our friends, Donald and Gretchen, flew into the Houston airport. After passing through immigration and customs, I left the three of them at Starbucks and went to get the car to drive around and pick them up. I knew exactly where I left the car - Terminal E, Level 5, Row M1. 

Twenty minutes later, I am standing in the parking lot, fighting back tears, sweating, and ANGRY! My car is nowhere to be found. I have walked every row of every level of the parking garage. I am horrified. I absolutely can't remember where I parked my car. I feel like I have been betrayed by my own body; like I've lost a part of myself. This has never happened to me before, not once in all my life, until now. I routinely lose my car. I frequently forget conversations, I regularly lose things around the house. I can't come up with words or names. 

And at this moment, alone in the parking garage, for the very first time, I ask, "Why me?" Why did MY brain cells have to be killed? Why do I have to live like this? Is it worth it?  The jury is still out for me... 

Through the grace of God, I finally find the car, pick up my passengers, and begin the drive home.  I am quiet, processing what happened, when God gently begins to open my eyes. 

  • I think of the whole reason we were just out of town - celebrating the 10th anniversary of Comunidad de Fe, the church we started in Cancun. Person after person came up to us that weekend and thanked us for starting the church. They told us amazing stories of how God had transformed their lives and families through the church. It was such an incredible experience!
  • I think of the school in the village of Bubanza, Burundi, Africa, that is now under construction. It will open in the fall to classrooms full of adults and children who, for the first time in their life, will have the opportunity to receive an education.
  • I think of the young girls in Honduras who have been rescued from sexual abuse and are now receiving food, shelter, love, and hope for a bright future.
  • I think of the email I received just this week from a woman whose life has been dramatically changed through Community of Faith.
  • I think of the student at COF who included Mark and I in his senior legacy project at school. His mother wrote to tell us of the positive impact we have had on his life. 
  • I think of my own children and all that is going on in their lives. I think of Sarah's approaching wedding, secure in the knowledge that I will be there!
I am humbled, and I am grateful. Life is precious. 

Yeah... it's worth it. Brain cells or not, I am glad to be here! 

God, please help me to depend on you when my less-than-dependable brain fails me. And please... show those cancer researchers a better way to treat and cure cancer! 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Get Your Rear in Gear!

Last weekend my friend, Teri, and I traveled to Tulsa, Oklahoma to participate in the Get Your Rear In Gear 5K with my daughter, Sarah, her soon-to-be brother-in-law, Drew, and three of her friends, Kourtni, Greg, and Molly.

In their own words, Get Your Rear In Gear "are sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers and friends who have been affected by colon cancer and want to do something."
Their mission is to "Empower local communities to promote prevention and early detection of colon cancer and to provide support to those affected." 

Teri and I arrived in Tulsa and immediately went to Runners World to pick up our race packets.  We felt like athletes as we browsed through the store's running gear. In the back of my mind I wondered what I had gotten myself into. Yes, I ran track in 6th grade, but that was a long time ago!

Teri handing out at Runners World

We enjoyed a high-carb dinner at Olive Garden with Sarah and her friends under the guise that our training required such extravagance! Then we spent the evening making t-shirts for our team (by that I mean Sarah spent the evening making t-shirts for our team!).

Sarah's handiwork

The day was predicted to be cold and wet, but Saturday morning arrived beautiful, cool, and clear. We put on our running gear, loaded up the car and headed down to Veterans Park

 Teri and me at Veterans Park

Sporting my "survivor" t-shirt, I stepped up to one of the tables to fill out a form in honor and memory of several of my sweet friends. As I was doing so, the lady at the table said, "Laura Shook! Is that you? I've read your story! I'm so glad you are here!" It was another special moment to remember all those who prayed for me and championed me in the battle. It was the perfect inspiration to start the run! 

I walked in honor and memory of my friends!

Sarah ran in my honor!

The race route was beautiful, taking us over and along the river, winding through a peaceful tree-lined neighborhood and then back to Veteran's Park. Over 500 people participated in the event, from age 7 to 99!  

And we're off!

It was a surreal experience to be run/walking in a 5K almost three years after staring death in the face and being told that I had a 50/50 chance of survival!  I took such pleasure in the sun reflecting off the river, the daffodils pushing up through the dirt, and the wind on my face.  My heart was bursting with gratitude for life, for my family, for my friends, for my doctors, and for my faithful God.

One of the things that touched me the most was all the people I saw who were running in memory of their mothers and fathers - a sweet tribute to their loved ones, and the sad reality of the ugliness of cancer. 

As Teri and I rounded the bend heading into the finish line, Sarah, Drew, Greg, and Kourtni were there cheering. Sarah ran out and joined us to cross the finish line together. Her smiling face beside me was my reward! 

The Finish Line!

I am happy to report that we finished the 5K and we didn't come in last! Although "bringing up the rear" would have been totally appropriate given the nature of the race! 

We celebrated with brunch at Dilly Deli in downtown Tulsa. What an amazing fun day!

To all my Houston friends, Houston will be hosting its first ever Get Your Rear in Gear 5K on November 3, 2012. I hope you will all join me as we continue to fight against colorectal cancer! For more information check out their website: 

Monday, March 5, 2012

In Every Way

Recently Mark and I had dinner with some good friends. As we were sitting around talking after dinner, my friend asked, "Laura, would you say that cancer changed your life?" Mark and I both laughed out loud, looked at each other,  and immediately answered, "Absolutely!" And then she asked, "In what way would you say your life has been changed?" 

The thought of it left me almost speechless. The change has been all encompassing. The only words I could speak were, "In every way" And those words seem so inadequate to describe what has happened. EVERYTHING about me is different. I may look the same on the outside, it may seem that my life has returned to the way things were, but the truth is that everything has changed.  

The way I think, the things I think, the way I feel, the dreams I have, my relationships with family and friends, my relationship with God... there is nothing that has not been profoundly affected in some way. I am a completely different person on the inside.

And I wouldn't change it for the world! 

I am stronger than I have ever been.  I am more confident than I have ever been.  It has caused me to speak my mind even more than I used to. I'm not sure that Mark thinks this is a good thing, but I am very happy to do so!

I am not afraid of anything. I have an unshakeable peace. I know without a doubt that my life and my future are held in the hand of God. There is nothing that can come against me that God and I together can't handle. I know that He will always stand on my behalf. There is tremendous peace in the knowing. 

My priorities have become more focused. I don't waste time or energy on things that don't fit into those priorities. Family matters. My friends matter. God's Kingdom matters. And that's about it!

I am constantly aware that life is fragile and death is certain. That may sound morbid, but honestly, it makes each moment sweeter because I recognize the gift and value of each day I am given. 

So, yes, cancer changed my life. Completely. Thankfully.