I love my life. I grew up on a quiet lake in the middle of the woods. As a young girl our family was poor, even by rural Missouri standards. We chopped wood to heat our dilapidated little house, sometimes didn’t have hot water or a phone, wore hand-me-down clothes, and drove some pretty hilarious clunker cars. My childhood wouldn’t sound so strange if I grew up in the 40s, but I grew up in the 80s!
My two older sisters and younger brother were my playmates all day long during the summers. We were so secluded that there weren’t many other options for friends. We swam in our lake and ran in the evenings. During the school year my dad woke us up while it was still dark to run before school from the time I was five.
“My dad woke us up while it was still dark to run before school from the time I was five.”
Our family joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints when I was a little girl. My faith has given me purpose, encouragement, and happiness throughout my life.
When I was a teenager we moved to Utah. I was a high school track star, and competed in college track and cross-country at Weber State University. After my freshman year my father went out for a run and had a fatal heart attack at age 47. This was a difficult and soul-searching time for me.
After three years of college I decided to postpone school and track and go on a mission for my church. I was assigned to serve in Adelaide, Australia for 18 months. It was such an amazing experience. My beliefs were challenged and strengthened, and I grew from the experience of meeting different people and living in another country. Upon returning to the United States, I transferred to the University of Utah to complete my final year of track eligibility and my English degree.
Shortly before graduating I began dating a good-looking, fun, ambitious Brigham Young University student named Branden Neish. We fell in love and married in the Salt Lake City LDS temple on October 9, 1997. We moved to Provo where I worked as an employment counselor and Branden finished a degree in Industrial Design. Life with Branden is never dull, and marrying him has proven to be the best decision I have ever made!
After his graduation we moved to Detroit where Branden followed his dream of becoming a car designer at General Motors. We had a son, Alec, and bought our first house. I was beginning to think we were going to settle down in Michigan, but after five years we shook things up and moved to Boston where Branden had been accepted to Harvard Business School.
“Life with Branden is never dull, and marrying him has proven to be the best decision I have ever made!”
While he immersed himself in school, I took care of Alec and was an assistant coach for the Harvard Cross-Country and Track teams. I loved this experience and ran with the team most days. We made some close friends there, and had an unforgettable two years in Boston. When Branden was a Harvard Business School graduate, we moved to San Diego for his first job, post-MBA.
We had twins, Max and Lily, six weeks before moving to San Diego. Branden was involved in a start-up company that required way too much of his time, and I was a bit overwhelmed with new twin babies and a son in Kindergarten. As I tried to keep my head above water, we were completely blind-sided with another baby. We had our beautiful Macy 20 months after the twins.
“It seemed that all we had worked for to build a happy family completely collapsed as we tried to accept my hopeless prognosis.”
Two days before the move, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer which had spread to 24 lymph nodes and my spine and pelvis. It seemed that all we had worked for to build a happy family completely collapsed as we tried to accept my hopeless prognosis. I began chemotherapy two weeks after we moved to our new neighborhood nestled near the mountains. Read my journal for more about my battle with cancer.
After a crazy year of intense treatment I was healthy again, with no evidence of cancer. I was in full remission for two years before discovering a small recurrence in my lower back in July 2014. I have returned to a happy and active life with my family, running and doing all the things that I love, while continuing to treat the cancer. We are currently raising our four children and enjoying life in Utah.