Beating Cancer: Seven Tips for Keeping your Head in the Game

18 May

Some stories need to be told.

My friend Jen Hartney is a champion in so many arenas. 

She graduated from West Point, served active duty alongside her husband in the Army for 6 years, deployed to combat zones, commanded an Engineer company in Korea while pregnant, mothers five beautiful children, developed and runs her own nutritional wellness business, and created a beautiful and welcoming home to boot!

That’s a small list of what she has done.  Let me tell you a little more about who she is.

Her thoughtfulness, compassion, generosity, loyalty, and charisma all come together to make her one of the most magnetic people you will ever have the privilege of knowing. 

She freely passes out compliments and encouragement.
She is a fantastic listener.
She gives the most thoughtful gifts and always remembers to bring you a card on your birthday.
She is a people-person in the truest sense of the word.


There is a big part of her story that she did not want to be true.  It rocked her world.  It rocked the worlds of everyone who knows her.  When she was pregnant with her fifth child, she received the unimaginable diagnosis of breast cancer.

this photo simply breaks me. a beautiful handmade quilt to cover her “grenades”


each ‘grenade’ was attached to tubes coming out of the sides of her chest to drain fluids…. she had them for about 6 weeks

When professionals presented her with the various treatment options, Jen chose to take the least common, most unconventional route.  She did go through various medical procedures and “ectomies” to eliminate the cancer. 

But then, brimming with staggering, prodigious, audacious courage–the precise amount David was given when he faced Goliath–she declined the chemotherapy/radiation regime that doctors *highly* recommended.

Armed with the stones of

a razor-sharp faith
a radically strict diet
laser-focused positive thinking
+ a God ready to show the world His power

Jen achieved a cancer-free status!  

I asked her if I could share her story here at The Prime Pursuit because I wanted to make sure each of you know Jen Hartney, hear about her cancer-defeat story, and be aware of her wellness consulting business, The Prodigal Table

Most of all, I wanted to spotlight a good-news cancer recovery story.  My hope is that we all draw strength and hope from this story…for ourselves and for loved ones who face a devastating cancer journey.  It is responsible to spread this sort of fascinating news in order to encourage others who are suffering this same disease.  You must read the entirety of her story over at The Cancer Tutor


Over and above the clean eating regimen she adopted, a different part of her holistic treatment gripped me.

How, exactly, did she fight cancer by “keeping her mind right?”

I asked her to unpack that a little more.
I had to know the practical tips for keeping your head in the game when it comes to beating cancer.

She wrote it up, and graciously gave me permission to share this wisdom with you, my beloved readers.  This wisdom was COSTLY to for her to glean. 

It’s “free chicken” for the rest of us.  

1.  Surround yourself with Truth.

Human hearts can be fickle.  So, surround yourself with truths that are true no matter how you may be feeling in the moment.  Personally, that means reading the Truth, aka the Bible, every day.  Even if just for a few minutes.  Breathe in Truth, exhale doubt and fear.



2.  Read the ‘ring theory’ and understand your limitations if you are the person ‘in crisis’.

Being very honest here:  I would get resentful when I told people about my diagnosis and then they would react in a way that would leave ME comforting THEM.  And then I was ashamed about feeling resentful.  But understanding the ‘ring theory’ helped me get past feeling guilty.  Read it.  And pass it on to others.  My friend, Kerry (who is current on all things FUN and important) articulated this theory when she was visiting me/taking care of me and it relieved so much guilt from my shoulders.  Check it out here.  The main gist is in the diagram below.




3.  Laugh

Laughter is a gift from above.  Yes.  Your situation may truly stink.  It may be tragic.  It could be downright awful.  The absolute worst thing that has ever happened to you and you don’t know that you’ll ever recover…and you may not even want to.  You may feel like the world around you has crumbled and you’re happy to go right down with it because your heart just aches too much.

But here is some truth for you:  laughter is medicine for your heart.  It’s the best pill against depression because it gives you a break from your current tragedy and makes you breathe DEEP.  And you have to keep breathing to keep going.

About a month after my diagnosis I realized that I couldn’t even remember the last time I had laughed and I longed for it.  So, one night, my husband and I looked up some comedians on Netflix and we chuckled and gut laughed for the evening.  My situation hadn’t changed:  I still had cancer.  But for one night, we were able to forget about it and laugh and my heart felt a million times lighter.

Now, hear me on this:  I’m not saying you need to laugh within 30 minutes of being given the worst news of your life (remember, I curled up in the fetal position on my bed and cried tears that I wasn’t sure would ever stop…being pregnant sure didn’t help the flood of tears!).  But I’m telling to tuck this away in the back of your mind and when you finally get a chance to come up for air, even if just a tiny bit, remember this.  Laughter is medicine for your soul.


4. Tell People

Yes.  It’s awkward.  And hard to do.  Especially if you are an introvert like me (and if your friends also live all over the world, you can do what I did: write a post, hit enter and walk away:)).  No matter how much of an introvert you are, no one was meant to walk this life alone; we were designed to be in community with others.

I try to stress that over and and over again (hence, the name Prodigal TABLE…a place to gather with other people).  Tell SOMEONE.  All the energy you use hiding the ‘secret’ could be used to heal instead.

Trust me.  I get it.  Telling people about my diagnosis was so unexpectedly hard and I even debated just keeping the news to a very, very small, tight circle of people I trusted because I just didn’t want to burden anyone.  But you know what?  That’s a lie straight from the enemy.  Your heartbreak is NOT a burden to someone else.

In fact, you’ll find the part of humanity that just encourages you to keep going….the beautiful, selfless, grace giving aspects of humanity as people pour out their love on you.  And it will remind you of one of the many things you are fighting for.

You will see people come out of NOWHERE to love on you and your family.  And guess what happens afterwards?  You’ve gained some space and perspective and risen from the ashes in a way you never imagined possible.  Someone will reach out to you when (not if) tragedy enters their life.

You will every bit of your experience to serve another human being and that is redemption, my friend.  Redemption for those years, moments that were lost.  Redemption for the heartbreak and tears that you thought would engulf you.  Redemption.  And it can’t happen unless you tell someone.


5.  Accept Help

This follows closely after #4 for a reason.  When you share your heart with someone, people will pour out their love on you in ways you never imagined and then you have to make a choice:  To accept or not accept their help.

Guys.  I’m an 8 – I like challenges and my independence.  “I can do it myself” is something that was forced on me and then became a personal motto of mine.  God, literally, had to bring me to my knees to make me realize “my goodness.  I can’t do this on my own.”  My goodness:  it took being pregnant with baby #5 and being diagnosed with cancer to realize I had been doing it the hard way all along.

I remember the incredibly sobering moment when I realized that I couldn’t even go to the bathroom on my own, much less even hold my 6 week old baby.  So, guys.  Learn this from me.  There is a time and place for everything.  A time to be a big girl and ‘get ‘er done’, but a time and place to ask and accept help.

Be smarter than me.  Don’t hit the bottom of the barrel before you admit that you can’t do it all on your own.  And you know what?  Something magical happens when you accept help without the pretense of ‘trading favors’.  You see a community come together.  Again, like I mentioned in #4 above, you see humanity at its best and it makes your heart smile…and you thank God for these amazing people.

…and it makes you want to fight harder to stay with these amazing people for as long as you can.


6.  White Space

I’ve heard interior designers refer to white space as the ‘blank/empty space’ in your home that gives your eyes a break.  The concept here applies to your heart/brain/emotions, etc.

After a diagnosis or crisis of any kind, you get BOMBARDED with information, protocols, long list of doctor names, medications, notes from other people who care about you, people approaching you in the hallways of your school, etc., not to mention your OWN thoughts.  It feels like from the moment you wake up til you go to sleep, you’re surrounded by stimuli and it can drain the energy from you.  Even if you are an extrovert.

So, find some white space.  For me, that goes back to my early mornings where I read in peace and quiet (to me it’s worth getting up early).  Or limiting social media.  Heck, unfollowing someone that is just a negative Nancy.  (you can pick it back up later, if you want!).  Remember, even Jesus got up early to pray and often retreated to be by himself.

If Jesus needed that, then heck, we need it, too.  

Find your white space.



7. Your identity

Last, but not least.  When you are going through a crisis, it can feel like your identity is being shredded to pieces.  Personally, I saw my body being literally cut apart, stitched back together, with foreign objects and sadly, it shook my confidence.  What I saw happening on the outside, affected who I thought I was on the inside.

When I didn’t recognize my outer skin,  I questioned who I was inside.  I questioned my strength.  I questioned whether my husband would desire me.  I questioned whether anyone would want to be my friend if they knew what I looked like underneath my layers of clothes.  The broken lines on my body exaggerated what was broken inside of me (see the need to fill your head with TRUTH each day?  All day? Refer to #1).

I was embarrassed by the scars on my chest and felt ashamed on the inside…I felt less than.  I could no longer depend on WHO I thought I was.  I had to go back to the beginning and remember WHOSE I was.

When your identity is up to you and your accomplishments/feats/pants size/physical beauty, etc., one small adjustment can bring the house of cards crumbling down.  But when your identity is rooted in WHOSE you are – the never changing, always faithful, God of the Universe who also knows the number of hairs on your head, you breathe in peace and breathe out a sigh of relief.

You remember that your identity as a child of God has been BESTOWED upon you. Your identity has not been earned. Despite what our world says.  What He has bestowed upon you, no one can take away.



This is not an all-inclusive or exhaustive list by any means…. I’m sure I’m forgetting some things, but for now, I hope you can lean on these truths that I learned about ‘getting your head in the game’.

I also get many questions about how to help someone else they know in need.  I’ll get to that list in a post coming up.

But for now, let me leave you with this:  If you know someone who has just been diagnosed with cancer, FOR THE LOVE, do NOT tell them about another person that just died from cancer.  That may seem obvious, but apparently it isn’t.  Just keep that information to yourself.  I wrote that in caps so you would remember it, but there is a LOT of GRACE, if you have been guilty of doing it.  I stick my foot in my mouth all.the.dang.time.  Truth and Grace, friends.





I TOLD YOU Jen was amazing.  I read her advice over and over again, just…dumbfounded.  How could she have had enough wherewithal to see that forest for those trees?  I can only come up with one answer.  When life is shattered by uncontrollable circumstances, the grace and strength of the Lord comes rushing, flooding in to fill in all the gaps, make up for lost time, give you the breath you need, and make your story into a memoir the entire world can learn from.  It’s a prayer-breath away: “Lord help!”  

If you want Jen to be a part of your life, if you want her to come alongside you and help you walk through your healing journey, if you want solid confidential, grace-filled consulting toward physical and spiritual nourishment, take the opportunity now.  Or, point her out to a friend in need.  


P.S.  Would you be bold and share this message on your favorite social media platform?  I am convinced more than ever that we need to share every good-news story we come across, it’s one of the ways to be light in the midst of the dark world.  

please pin! 🙂

Consuming or Creating? Choose Daily.

10 May

I think I broke about three molars when I was pregnant with my fourth and fifth children.  My need to crunch ice is a more reliable indicator of pregnancy than a positive test.  I go from zero to get-me-an-ice-rink at the moment of conception, and it does not stop until I pull up the mesh undies.  Maybe it was an iron deficiency, so I turned to liver meatballs, (actually quite good!).  Upside = calorie-free snacking option.  Down side = broken teeth. 

Why why why someone did not buy me an Opal nugget maker, I will never know.   (FYI the ice machine is about the best maternity gift you can give an expectant mother.)  Instead I had to chew on the huge, superfrozen hunks that my big machine dumped out every hour, and yes.  The ice drawer ran out every day.

This is a really dumb anecdote to say that I am not used to

having to go without what I want (ice),
when I want it (every minute),
even if it is bad for me (I can no longer eat popcorn without pain on teeth numbers 2, 15, & 16 respectively). 


It’s not a groundbreaking statement to say that we’re in an era of unprecedented consumption–often with no concern for personal hazard.  I’m talking everything: food and drink, social media, streaming TV and movies, grocery delivery, Audible, Amazon, me-time, all of it.  We don’t even have to go a day without the right kind of ice anymore! 

Right in the comfort of our own homes, we have access to everything.  We just sop it all up, right now.  Sometimes I end a day of hours of mindless consumption and wonder, “Am I dumber today?!” 

The very process of consuming is inherently addictive.  We keep coming back for more.  It puts us into a mindset and a cycle of fear that we will miss something if we don’t continue looking under every rock to see what we can get.  We look and search and then strive to consume.  Consume.  Consume.   Is it fear of missing out on the next morsel?  It definitely points out our hardwired, innate “me-first.” 

All this time spent consuming squanders time we could be creating.



My sister got me really thinking about all this when she wrote about it a few weeks ago:

 How many moms (or dads, for that matter) are baking bread? How many of us sit at a piano and sing? And lord knows, I have no business holding a needle and thread. But the more I pondered the suggestions, the more I realized how few opportunities I get in my day to simply create.

Instead, I spend a lot of my time consuming. I go to coffee shops and order food to eat that someone else prepared. I watch television. I listen to podcasts. I scroll through the news. And social media. I scroll and scroll. And scroll. Most of the time, I am a consumer.

For much of human history, culture encouraged and life necessitated creativity. Elite classes were tutored in  painting, music, singing and sewing. Even the poorest Americans cooked their own food, built their own furniture, hung their own laundry out to dry. Kids built forts and created little universes in their imaginations while playing House or Store or School. 

Creativity is a practice in leadership. 

Now, we look for others to follow, simultaneously envying and imitating their success.



Does over-consumption rob us of some of our humanity?  When we consume more than we create, are we missing out on an essential piece of our purpose here on this beautiful planet?  I believe that we were made to create.  It is one of the privileges of being God’s image-bearers.  Creativity may even be requisite for feeling valid, significant, effective, feeling alive.  


As an army spouse, a multimom, and especially while living abroad in a remote duty location, I’ve had the opportunity to take a very sober look at my day-to-day existence.  I don’t have a career to fill my time.  Watching after the small children is really mundane.  Living outside of my normal society has isolated me.  All 3 of these things meshed into a perfect storm of emptiness and sometimes despondency (shameful admission) as I try to make each day feel like it mattered. 

In an effort to escape, or in the name of convenience, I consume.  But it doesn’t scratch the itch–I want more to show for all this.  

Meaning is found in creativity; i.e. creating.  Creativity does not have to mean innovation.  It just means putting your hand to something, and having something to show for it.  I am brainstorming and here is a very short list of ideas.

  • Scratch your child’s back
  • Painting fingernails
  • Piece together and consolidating 5 outfits–hang them in the closet so that they are ready to go
  • Make love, in the truest meaning of the phrase.  
  • Handwrite a note or a journal entry
  • Make an old recipe/Try a new recipe
  • Exercise (this creates the 10 physical skills)
  • Take a walk on a new route
  • Host a small gathering around your table.
  • Read aloud to someone
  • Plant seeds

here is Claire’s list: 

  • Bake something to give to the neighbors
  • Pull out an instrument you used to play, or learn to play one
  • Write something that you don’t share
  • Take photographs on a real camera, instead of on your phone. Print them out.
  • Read a book (preferably a paper one).* (I call this creativity, because it requires imagination, rather than simple consumption. And since reading is a creative endeavor, I imagine that’s why reading rates have gone down. Consuming is easier)
  • Rearrange the furniture in your house
  • Create a new game to play with your spouse
  • Tell a story that you invent, rather than reading from a children’s book

Some are small, some are more substantial/time consuming.  Some are simply everyday activities–therefore, we don’t really count them as doing anything special.  That’s inaccurate.  A lot of the boring stuff in your day is actually creativity, and you’ll see its value if you purposefully take notice…

It is for human touch.
It’s for authentic experience.
It’s for spiritual connection.
It’s for progress.  



There is a pressing need to model this kind creativity for our children to compel them forward into their own creativity.  

There is no program for this, no scheme to buy into.  Just go.  Creating is moving forward.  Don’t consume, put forth.   

How are you putting your hands back into creative pursuits? 

Thanks for pointing this out to me, Claire.  



spontaneous tea party

teach your kids to make dinner rolls…recipe to follow 🙂

Interact with Creation…spend time in 3D world

4 Books that Made Me Better in 2018

29 Apr

As much as I would like to think that spending my free time lying down and bingewatching Southern Charm makes me a better wife, mother, and citizen, I am pretty sure all the hours I have logged gorging on everything Bravo has not actually progressed me as a person.  That much.  It has made me keenly aware, however, that there is a big difference between a botoxed 37-year-old and an everyday, organic 37 year old.  😦

Don’t hang up!  Don’t click away just because you just found out that I’m 37.  Slash basic.  Don’t be shallow like me!

So, anyway. 🙂 I took some time to read this spring.  Not because I wanted to become a better person. But because our VPN setup was detected and disabled by UK’s media police…hence I got permanently cut off from Bravo.  (You can’t stream that amazingness outside of the USA no matter how hard you try.  And no matter how hard your husband tries for you.)

So books it was. 

In all honesty, I have poured over all four of these titles in the past few months.  They’ve sharpened me, made me feel more professional, and brought me up to speed in areas that actually matter–I hope they can help you as well.  


Rethinking School: How to Take Charge of Your Child’s Education, Susan Wise Bauer

Susan Wise Bauer’s Rethinking School is a must-read (or audible download) for American parents of school-aged children. 

Empower yourself to help shape and personalize your child’s education—read this now!

The five-section book covers:

  • how our current K-12 system came to be
  • how to best make the system fit your child
  • ideas for creating solutions for when it’s not a good fit
  • advice for parents whose children may be dealing with disabilities, bullying, maturity differences, and giftedness
  • how standardized testing may legally be declined (though the system doesn’t advertise it)
  • how to choose reasonable alternatives for one or more subjects that are not working

SWB has been my education guru for the past 8 years.  (She also wrote The Well-Trained Mind, The Story of the World, and The Story of Western Science.)  This is her latest work, it is pure brilliance.  

We have no idea how much power and freedoms we enjoy in the United States 🇺🇸 to make the system work for us.  Our schools exist to serve the students, not the other way around.  

If Susan Wise Bauer is reading this, the invitation to tea in the Cotswolds still stands.  🙂



The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in its Proper PlaceAndy Crouch.

Keeping technology in its proper place is a necessary discipline for every person, not just the kids.  This is the playbook for how to navigate the buffet of technological temptations that inundate our children.    

Andy Crouch has done the research for you, he laid out all the statistics on technology use in our society.  He reminds us how technology can bring us together and be used for the greater good, but that instant gratification and entertainment can not replace the harder work of developing our minds, hearts and souls.  

He points out how to put various boundaries on technology in order to keep our children engaged in “3-D world” as much as possible. 

This work is full of ideas and concepts to help create a family culture that we love.  It’s written from a Christian perspective, so not all his points will apply to everyone.  However, the wisdom Andy lays out will resonate with people of all faiths and cultural backgrounds. 

This leads me to the next great book–the antidote to our technology-driven society:



The Read-Aloud Family, Sarah MacKenzie

Straight up, Sarah MacKenzie‘s writings/podcasts/blog posts have made me a better mother.  That’s a pretty big statement.  All of her work, everything she publishes, re-energizes me to lead my children toward truth, beauty and goodness. 

The Read-Aloud Family reveals how reading aloud prepares your children for academic success and develops compassion and empathy in your kiddos through stories.  It also addresses how to find time to read aloud, and how to choose titles that work best for your family.  It is full of fabulous book lists as well.  

One thing I have seen from personal experience which she underscores in the book: reading aloud doesn’t have to mean hours per day.  It can be peppered all around school, sports, and social schedules.  She actually encourages reading mere minutes per day–a five-minute portion is plenty to get the ritual established.

Growing young minds, being more present as a parent, and connecting closer as a family in five to ten minutes per day?  There’s not a better bang for your buck.  This is a life-changing (potentially world-changing) habit that needs to be revived in our culture.



The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery, Ian Morgan Cron

Thank you to my friend Jen Hartney for pointing me to this one.

Turns out, reading a personality assessment in narrative form resonated with me far more than answering a questionnaire followed by a printout of my results. 

This book is worth a year’s fees of therapy and counseling.  

Look, I have been on the brink for a long time.  I have.  But when I read The Road Back to You, I realized something so amazing: I am not *completely* insane!  I am just a 4, which explains everything!  Oh, and that unnamed loved one is a 5, so I am not frustrated at them anymore!  And my husband the 9 godlovehim, he’s great too, and everything all makes sense now.  Most personality “flaws” are just behavioral manifestations of their particular type…not that the flaws are always acceptable, but it helps me to give out more mercy.


Self-awareness is crucial for mental and spiritual health.  “What you don’t know about yourself can hurt you– and your relationships.”  Do yourself, your family, and your friends a favor and find out who you are.  This book is such a wonderful tool for amassing this kind of wisdom.  Note: we had a hard time narrowing down a number for my mother.  She was on the line for a few different numbers.  After ruminating over it a few days, she landed on the one that best describes her. 

If you are not instantly sure which of the 9 types you are, it might take you some reflection to land on it.  I, however, am textbook–took me eight seconds to decipher myself.  



Alright, that’s it.  Have you read any of these?  Please share with us your most favorite bits of wisdom from them.
Thanks for stopping by!  



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