About

Hello! My name is Allison, and this is where I (sporadically!) write about my life! I am a Catholic stay-at-home mom to two beautiful kids, and am blessed with a loving husband and wonderful family and friends. I began this blog to update family and friends on my health after being diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when I was 32 weeks pregnant with my first child, but it’s since become a place for me to express my thoughts and share stories about my faith. I pray that my words as I stumble through life might help you on your journey. Please feel free to contact me at benotafraidprints@gmail.com, follow me on Instagram at @allisonbenotafraid, or check out my Etsy shop, Be Not Afraid Prints, where I sell my photography paired with inspiring quotes.  You can follow my Etsy shop on Instagram @benotafraidprints or on Facebook here.

This is the story of my diagnosis as I wrote it in March 2011 (after my son was born and I had begun chemotherapy).

“For the past few months I’ve been having back/chest pain and a cough, and though I told a few different doctors, being pregnant alone can cause back/chest pain and congestion, so no one was too worried. But, in early February I started becoming increasingly short of breath. One doctor thought my asthma was acting up, but the inhaler he prescribed didn’t help very much. Mike and I finally decided to go to the ER on Feb. 13th 2011 (and the ER is where we spent Valentine’s Day……..very romantic, let me tell you!). After a lot of tests and drama I was told that there was a large mass in my chest and that it was probably cancer. The doctors did two operations to take part of the tumor out so that it could be tested, and a few days later I was given a final diagnosis of Primary Mediastinal Diffuse Large B-Cell Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. If you want to know more about it, here is a link with a simple explanation: http://www.lymphomation.org/type-PMBL.htm Although my pregnancy may have caused the doctors and me to ignore certain symptoms, my doctor has told me that she believes my symptoms would never have become so painful and pronounced if I had not been pregnant. As John Paul grew and took up more space in my body, the mass in my chest pushed more against my organs, causing more pain. In this way, I believe that John Paul was a special gift from God-not only my sweet baby that I love more than anything, but a person of grace who helped me get medical attention sooner than I would have otherwise.

I was in shock the first few days after the diagnosis, but slowly reached a point where I began to fluctuate between feeling terrified and feeling ready to battle this cancer. Every day continues to have so many ups and downs. Mike and I love our doctors, however, which is a great comfort, and our oncology doctor in particular seems confident that a few cycles of advanced chemo (planned to be given over 6 months as of now) and possible radiation if needed will be effective. It’s so hard to choose to be positive all the time, but I am trying, and I have been overwhelmed by the love of my amazing husband, my parents and siblings, and the many people who have sent cards/emails/prayers or visited. THANK YOU for being here for me. Every time I get a text or email or card it reminds me of how loved I am, calms my anxiety, and brings me hope—and I am so grateful.

In the midst of all this, what Mike and I have been most worried about is our sweet baby boy, John Paul. But praise God, he is doing so well! Before I even met him I was overwhelmed with love for him and amazed by how strong he is. So that I could start chemotherapy, I delivered him by c-section Monday, February 28th at 10:07 a.m. I had wonderful doctors who I know saved his life and mine, and I am so grateful for their competence and compassion. Because of where the mass is in my chest (and my compromised breathing), the doctors had to make the tough choice between giving me an epidural or putting me under general anesthesia. They finally decided to put me under general anesthesia, and although there were risks, I did just fine, as did John Paul, who was born a healthy 5 lbs. 10 ounces. Although John Paul had respiratory distress for a few days after his birth, and has had to remain in the NICU for over a month, he is doing wonderfully. He has grown so much since his birth, and is now breathing on his own, and learning to feed from a bottle on his own. He is a wonderful, sweet boy, with a curious, loving personality. Meeting him for the first time (8 hours after I gave birth) was the most amazing moment of my life. I never knew I could love someone as much as I love him. I love to cuddle with him and sing to him, and amazingly, he seems to recognizes my voice, and calms down as soon as he hears me sing songs that I used to sing when he was in the womb. Two of his favorites are “Someone to Watch Over Me,” and “Restless.” He is also partial to his daddy singing “The Notre Dame Fight Song.” And he loves his daddy so much-he loves to stare at his face and cuddle up to him, and they are already so bonded. It is beautiful to see.

After John Paul was born I had a few days to recover and then began my first cycle of chemo. I am now on my second cycle (as of March 28th-John Paul’s 1 month birthday!). Though every day is not easy, I am motivated to fight this battle. I love Mike and John Paul so much, and I know that my life with them will carry me through the months ahead.

When Mike and I were brainstorming names for our baby boy we each had ones we liked and we couldn’t agree. But finally, one night, we thought of naming him after Pope John Paul II and it just felt right. During the past month and a half Pope John Paul II’s message has brought us so much comfort: Be Not Afraid. I am so weak, and I am continuously humbled by my fears and failings. But even in my darkest moments I believe that God can take weak things and make them strong. I know that He is with me-in the love of my incredible husband, son, family and friends. And I know that He is with me in the love you give me. Thank you.

Love, Allison”

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37 comments

  1. Sherry Willems (AKA Nana)

    I am so happy to be here with you, Mike, and John Paul. Holding John Paul for the first time last night was incredible——what a beautiful little boy!!!! Love you all so much. Hugs and Kisses, Mom AKA Nana Minor, AKA Sherry

  2. Jeanne Ehlers

    Ali,
    Your blog is so beautiful and I really enjoyed your singing…always have though…. You are an incredibly strong young woman and I know your love of God and the support of your family will get you through all this. You, Mike and John Paul are in our thoughts and prayers every day. Easier days are ahead. love, Jeanne and Lyle

  3. Pam Keating

    Ali,
    Thank you for taking the time to write your beautiful blog, and for all the pictures you have posted online. You, Mike, John Paul and all your family are in our prayers and we are sending you positive energy with our thoughts and love. John Paul is a darling little fellow and you have the voice of an angel. Hang in there sweetie. Pam and Don

  4. Dana (Ehlers) Crow

    Ali, While I haven’t seen you since just before you and Mike got married, I enjoy our moms keeping me informed on the ups and downs of life. I think of you often these days and you are in my prayers. Congrats Momma!

  5. Kathy Barker

    Ali,

    You are an amazing and inspiring person! We will continue to hold you and your family in our thoughts & prayers.

    Roger & Catherine
    Kathy Barker

  6. Fran Hazel

    Hi Allison, The day you and Michael were married you could see the intense Love the two of you had for each other—- I truly believe that intense love will get you through all the “BUMPS” in this road called life—-YOUR Mothering, being a wife, daughter , daughter-in- law , and relative to all of our HUGH family will certainly be something VERY special to watch!!!! I cried very happy tears listening to your singing in church—It is Beautiful!!! Thank You for sharing your thoughts, pictures and song with all of your lucky friends and family. You will be in our thoughts and prayers!!! Love You and Michael and John Paul!!!!! Aunt Fran

  7. Rachelle Jeffery

    Hi Ali,

    Kristin forwarded your blog to me. I’m so sorry to hear of your illness. I will be thinking about you and your family and praying that God gives you strength during your treatments and returns you to compete health very soon

  8. Sue and Terry Frantal

    Ali! What a beautiful Blog! Your singing was amazing. Our prayer are with you and Mike and John Paul. God is there for you all.

  9. Diana Dean Ewell

    Allison,
    I am in a choir with your friend Emily in Vermont. We are praying for you.
    Remember you are never alone. You are surrounded by love. Always.

  10. Michelle Paradise

    Ali ~ Your blog is beautiful and so is your voice. In this time of particular challenge in your life you show amazing spirit and are an inspiration. Thanks for sharing and keep posting the beautiful pictures. You and your family are in our prayers. ~ Michelle and Don

  11. Kim Stofanik Alvarez

    Ali~ all though we have never met, I feel as if I do know you, Our Grandparents were very good friends and Our Grandmothers kept in touch up until 2007, when my Grandmother passed away.

    I spent many summers in Mahanoy City with my Grandparents, and we would go to your Nana’s house to play cards, or she would taking me swimming at the state park. The best visit was when our Grandmothers were reunited at your Parents place in Bonita Springs. It was a amazing to see the love and friendship that they shared.

    Your Nana always told me stories about you and how much she loves you. Congratulations on your baby boy, and I will be praying for you all during this time. Your blog is amazing, and your strength is very inspiring.
    Hugs to all,
    Kim Stofanik Alavarez

    • Kim it is so wonderful to hear from you. What a cool way to be linked to somebody!! I’m sorry to hear about your Grandmother, but I’m so glad you have so many wonderful memories. I am very blessed to have Nana…she is so loving. Thank you so much for writing, and thank you especially for your prayers. It means so very much to me. God bless you.

  12. Claire Berezowitz

    Ali,

    You, John Paul, and Mike are in my prayers for sure. I had no idea what was going on in your life until I stumbled upon our blog, yet I know that whatever obstacles you encounter in life, you encounter with faith and love. Prayers and (virtual) hugs are being sent your way! I miss our time in Cambridge 🙂

    Love,
    Claire

  13. Jackie

    Hi, Allison! I was one of the nurses that spent many nights with John Paul. I just want you to know that we miss your entire family so much! We wish you the best with everything. You are such an inspiration to all.

    • Jackie! I’m so glad you posted on here so I can thank you for being an absoluetly amazing, compassionate, sweet nurse! I was always so happy when you were caring for John Paul. I could tell how much you loved to care for him, and that made leaving him in the NICU when all I wanted was to take him home a little bit easier. Thank you so much for what you do. John Paul is doing wonderfully, and I know it’s because of the loving care you and all of the other NICU nurses gave him during those 5 weeks. He was a very loved little boy from the very beginning, and we are so grateful.

  14. Susan Crawford

    Hello Ali ~
    I had lunch with your amazing mother a couple of days ago, and she was kind enough to share some of your story and to direct me to your blog. Thank you for helping all of us to understand a little bit about what you, Mike, John Paul & your entire family are experiencing. The songs you have written are beautiful! I am awed by your intelligence, faith and the grace in which you are dealing with your cancer.
    Please know the Crawford family is praying for you!
    Love & hugs,
    Susan Crawford

  15. Allison,
    I remember you when you were a little girl when we lived in Kenosha and Alesha and Becky were good friends. I am so touched by your story and to hear of your faith. The verse that has gotten me through the toughest times in my life… “All things are possible through Jesus Christ who strengthens me.” May God continue to wrap his loving, healing arms around you. Sending hugs to you and your family. God Bless.

    • How wonderful to hear from you, Amy! I always adored Alesha and thought she was just absolutely beautiful.

      Thank you so much for sharing the beautiful words of scripture and thank you for the hugs! That means so very much to me!!

  16. Diane Thompson

    Ali- I had no idea of the battle you were fighting. Your mom and I have been emailing and I asked how you were doing. She then shared your brief story and your blog with me. After reading it – I just cried. What an inspiration you are and so full of strength! I know these kinds of battles are a roller-coaster of emotions, but I admire you so much. You fought as an infant and the strength is carried forward to now and your love of god and others is so amazing! Your son is a lucky boy to have such a special mom. I will keep reading your blog and I hope the news will remain positive.

    Thoughts and prayers to you and her family.
    Diane Thompson

    • Diane, thank you so much. You words are so kind and compassionate! I am so lucky to have John Paul and the support of so many loving people. Thank you also for your prayers…that means so much to me!! I pray that you are doing wonderfully!

  17. I found your blog after you left your lovely comment on mine, and I have been captivated by your story. What an amazing testimony you and your son are to God’s grace. I can’t imagine being in your situation, but you write with such beauty and clarity. I am looking forward to knowing you better. May the love of Christ abound in you more and more!

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