It’s been over a year since I’ve blogged and so much has happened. I hate that this is the next post after my “She Lives” post… Two month ago my mom, Marmee, got her second diagnosis of Pancreatic cancer. She was cancer free for 15 months before it came back, but it came back with a vengeance. This is what I wrote for her Fun-eral today. My husband beautifully and tearfully read it as her eulogy today. I wanted to share it here to…

My Marmee was a remarkable woman.

First, to get something out of the way – Sylvia was always “Marmee” to her daughters and grand daughters. Yes, we stole it from Louisa May Alcott’s book “Little Women”. But like Margaret March, she raised a group of fierce and powerful women all on her own, and there is no more appropriate word to describe her. No matter how tough things were, Marmee was always there for people who needed her. She was present with her fierce love, unending compassion and a whole lot of grace.

Growing up in our early years my mom worked really hard to change the trajectory of our lives. As a single mom with four children (including a set of twins!), and still coping with the aftermath of domestic abuse and a culture that didn’t look favourably on divorced women, she managed to put herself through school. She worked various jobs before she found her career and managed to volunteer time with her church, single mom’s groups and our schools. Despite all her responsibilities none of us kids ever felt like she wasn’t present. No matter how busy she was, she managed to check in with each of us every day and was genuinely interested in our lives. She listened and cared about the mundane parts too. This is one of the things I’m going to miss most. Just knowing that she is there, not to do anything, or to fix anything, just listening and being present.

Because she didn’t want us to make some of the same mistakes she did, Marmee wanted us to be strong and fierce, traits she didn’t see in herself. I think she got more than she bargained for in the powerful women that she raised but it just goes to show what a good job she did. She always taught us to think for ourselves and question everything. Not out of fear, but to make sure our thoughts and opinions were being heard. She wanted us to be the challengers of the norm… and may have been a little too successful at that as well. She went through a lot of grief from us kids because of it. I don’t think she would have changed it for anything though. She wanted to raise some beautifully tough kids.

But it wasn’t enough for Marmee just to raise a family on her own. Our house had an open door policy growing up. She often had five or six kids in the house, sometimes more. On occasion all four of us kids would be gone to various places and she would have one or two of our friends at home with her just visiting. It didn’t matter if it was a big issue, or just a little thing – if someone showed up and needed to talk, Marmee made sure to listen and love on them.

Marmee made a career out of loving people. From a young age she knew she wanted to work with vulnerable people, particularly people with different physical and intellectual abilities. She thrived in her career of working in various day programs and group homes and loved every minute of it. Then, 18 years ago she made the huge and probably scary decision to bring Maggy in to our home and lives. She made a lot of good decisions but this was one of her best. Maggy helped keep us all together through our crazy teen years and was probably the most impactful on Vanessa and I with guiding us to our own careers working with vulnerable people and my own choice to adopt Sofie, my daughter with Down syndrome as well.

My mom and I never had a typical mother-daughter relationship, which we know baffled many of our friends and family, but it worked for us. She was my person and I was hers. We were a little co-dependent, yes, but it was a co-dependency that comes from a place of survival. We survived together and, quite literally, because of each other sometimes. That bond transcends logic. We grounded each other. We built each other up, challenged each other and took care of things when the other needed to fall a little.

When we started talking about moving in with each other again, with my husband and my growing family, we knew many people thought we were crazy. As my husband put it on Facebook recently he “wasn’t necessarily in favor of reducing barriers to (his) wife’s already co-dependent relationship with her mother”. I think we all worried about that a bit, but my mom and I knew it could be great and she never shied away from a challenge, especially if someone told her she shouldn’t do it!

These past 8 years have been some of the best times in all of our lives. She modelled being an incredible mother to me as a child but got to walk along side and with me as I actually became a mother myself. It was also a redemptive experience for her to watch Jon being a loving husband and a caring father, something she had hoped and prayed for for her children and grandchildren.

Sharing a house with her meant she got to love on her grand babies every single day. She secretly enjoyed seeing the look of envy on her friends faces when she would tell them how wonderful it was to have the girls bounce in to her space most mornings to say hi and have a second, or sometimes third, breakfast with her. She loved being their safe place to go when they needed quiet from their sisters or just time away from Mommy and Daddy. I loved it too.

When she got diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer the first time in November 2015 I remember thinking she couldn’t leave because I couldn’t do this without her. I needed my Marmee. We all still needed her too much. Then she beat it! Of course she did… probably mostly out of sheer Schmidt stubbornness. When the second diagnosis came 2 months ago we knew her body was too weak to fight it. We knew this was the end, but we really didn’t think it would be this fast. We also knew that we would be ok because she raised some strong women. It was time for her to stop fighting.

Death is never pretty. It’s not part of any plan. It’s a thief, just like cancer, that separates us from each other. I don’t know what happens after we die. I choose to believe in heaven and a God who restores those relationships through His being, but for now she is gone and it hurts like hell. My mom had fought through a lot in her life. Against many odds and through a lot of hardship. She was a warrior and I’m so proud to call her my mom. I’m also so thankful she doesn’t have to fight anymore, for herself or any of us.

Because of her we will not fall. We will be ok and we will strive to keep her legacy of love, compassion and grace flowing through us. I’m going to quote Ed Sheeran now, much to my husband’s dismay. In a song dedicated to his grandmother, Ed wrote “You were an angel in the shape of my mum. You got to see the person I have become. Spread your wings and I know that when God took you back He said, ‘Hallelujah, you’re home’”


She Lives

The doctors never told us mom had only a year to live or anything like that, but they never told us that she could beat this either. At the beginning of November 2015 my mom was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. There is some discrepancy in the stages because the tumour was 3.5cm big and the nature of stage 2. It was complicated by a blood clot too and the tumour was not operable.

It has the highest mortality rate of all the major cancers – 92% of patients die within 5 years of their diagnosis and 75% of patients die within the first year.

It is the only leading cancer killer with a 5 year survival rate still in the single digits at 8% and the survival rate has not improved in the last 40 years.

It is referred to as a silent killer – it’s difficult to detect and spreads so quickly. Vague symptoms including back/abdominal pain, jaundice and nausea usually appear after the cancer is at an advanced stage making it difficult to treat.


Surgery offers the best chance for long term survival. Only 15% of patients are diagnosed early enough to be eligible for surgery. The most common form of surgery for removal of a pancreatic tumor is the whipple procedure and may be followed with chemotherapy or a combination of chemotherapy/radiation.

For the patients who are not surgical candidates, chemotherapy or a combination of chemotherapy with radiation is typically offered. Chemotherapy after surgery can lower the chances of the cancer returning. Chemotherapy for metastatic pancreatic cancer can extend life and improve the quality of life for people with the disease.

Approximately 52% of all patients are diagnosed when the disease has spread to surrounding organs leaving little hope for survival (only 2% will survive five years).


Since the tumour was not operable she was only offered chemotherapy. I started doing more and more research in to the essential oils that we were already using for my family’s well being and found there was a lot of research that spoke to their anti-tumour properties. The other awesome thing I found about using the oils is that they are complimentary therapy. Using them alongside chemotherapy has no contradictions!

Mom had been put on a heavy dose of 5 different chemotherapy drugs. She was supposed to get a round of chemo every two weeks over 5-6 hours. Her body didn’t react well to chemo. Does anyone’s body, really? Chemotherapy is essentially filling your body with enough poison to kill the cancer but not the host. I totally understand people who choose not to do it at all. It is hell.

In the time she was supposed to get 13 rounds of chemo, her body only allowed her to get 8. They tried eliminating drugs and gradually took her down to only 3 drugs, but her numbers were still often low. Her numbers were too low numerous times, sometimes 2 and 3 weeks in a row. This left her tumour time to grow, untouched by chemo.

So what else did we do????       WE USED ESSENTIAL OILS!

I use and sell doTERRA, so naturally we stuck with the best essential oil company out there! I love this company and their product. I’m so thankful to them on so many levels. Here I am just documenting what we did for my mom, because so many people have asked. Oils, along with chemo therapy, worked for her and I’m so thankful. This is just our story and experience. I do believe oils can benefit everyones well-being but I am not claiming these oils will cure everyone’s cancer. I do hope with more stories like this, we will be putting more funding and research into using more natural products to prevent and treat cancer.

With using oils and minimal chemo as complimentary therapies, her blood clot and tumour shrunk enough in 6 months to have her qualify for surgery. She had a type of whipple surgery. It was hard and she was in the hospital for 3 weeks. As of May 30th, 2016 though…. SHE IS CANCER FREE! 3 months later she is still healing from such an invasive surgery but going strong!

Let me know if you have any questions or would like to experience these life giving oils yourself. I’d love to be a part of your journey with oils! You can email me at or find me at my Facebook group Becoming Katie with Oils. If you are ready to try these oils for yourself and family you can get them in your home by clicking HERE! They have had countless benefits for my family and helping us get through cancer is just one of them!

Awake my Soul

I was so ignorant about the power that cancer holds. I was so unready. Is anyone ever ready for it?

Confusion and fear of the unknown clouded so much of my experience. Confusions from what the doctors where telling us, from the effects of cancer and “cancer killing” chemotherapy on the body, from all the conflicting emotions, from the relationships broken and strengthened, from the energy depleted and given, from the guilt and from the joy.

The doctors where giving protocols based on educated guesses at best. Pancreatic cancer is not one that many survive. Researching how to fight the cancer came up with so much more information and ideas than my mind was able to handle. My heart yearned for answers but there are so many half truths, lies feeding off desperate people and taking their money, special circumstances, and anecdotal evidence. Sifting through it all is impossible.

I was thriving in all the chaos and uncertainty though, as I do… a gift or a scar from my childhood. I was fighting the unraveling with control, knowledge and attempts at preparedness for every possible outcome. It was an exhausting, hyper alert state. It’s not just going down one road. It’s going down 18 different roads all at once and having all the emotions that go with each one, but keeping them all in check so I didn’t fall apart. It was unsustainable.

Then Mom was going to live… so it was safe to fall and feel again.

I’m choosing weakness and vulnerability now, or at least I’m trying to, and I’m starting to see strength and bravery in myself. I want to show my brokenness more and shine the strength that sits there. It’s scary and empowering.

It’s strange how just allowing yourself to feel is so healing. I’m still struggling but feeling that struggle is life-giving and so uncomfortable… Some days I feel pathetic, lazy and judged for being depressed now that Mom is getting better… She is going to live now, I should be elated. Why did the grief have to come now?

Days where I have practiced self-compassion, a skill I am very new too, I feel brave. I want my girls to know that bravery is not fearlessness, but that it is feeling that fear or sadness and still doing those hard things. So today, I’m scared, sad and wanting to give in to avoidance and numbness but I’m choosing to go forward and feel… Letting fear and grief sit and my table and mold me. It is all part of becoming a better version of myself.

This is a post I’m still wrapping my mind around. It was supposed to be a about celebration and our trip to Disneyland and morphed in to something totally different. Mom has been cancer free, officially, for 3 months now! I’m still processing the relief, the gratefulness, the guilt, and the exhaustion still. This is me tonight.

The trip was celebratory. Disneyland is the happiest place on earth. My kids, my sisters, spouses and Mom had a blast! It was a blessing and seeing Disneyland and the characters through my girls’ eyes. It was so fun to spend time as a larger family, connecting, laughing, hot tubbing, drinking and getting along! I’ll try to tell you about it again with pictures instead of words.

As fabulous as our celebration trip was, it was not restful… I still need the rest I think. Through rest, oils, yoga and a whole lot of self-compassion and care my soul is waking up again. There is a song, by Mumford and Sons, called Awake My Soul. It was on my ‘soul music’ playlist this past year. It speaks to my journey towards thankfulness through my moms cancer, to rest and a now to new realization of my being, or more appropriately, my becoming.