Thursday, September 25, 2008

Spotlight - Laura Vanderbeek

Since Krysta is just getting back into the swing of things after hurricane Ike, they asked me to go next. So here we go!

I've lived in Tacoma, Washington; Enterprise, New Brockton, and Ft. Rucker, Alabama; Fairbanks and Anchorage, Alaska; El Paso, Texas; Albrook AFB and Ft. Amador, Panama; Rexburg, Idaho; Lexington Park, Bowie, New Carrolton, Silver Spring, and Kensington, Maryland; Dugway Proving Grounds, Hyrum, Logan, and Providence, Utah. Yep, I was an Army brat.

I served in the Washington D.C. North Mission from '97-'99 and fell in love with the East Coast. I had 16 companions -several three-ships (my own term for 2 comps instead of 1). The photo of me below is with my last two comps was taken on my last day in the field, at transfers. I'm the short one!

I currently live in a house in the middle of a wheat field - the photo below was taken from my backyard.

I am a work at home mom. My husband is an amazing photographer and even after he stopped working at a studio in town to become a Certified Financial Planner with Keystone Wealth Management, he still got calls. So we started a little side business that has now become my business. We have a studio in our new house, under our garage. I love wedding photojournalism, photographing newborn babies, and pregnant bellies. My husband does all the rest of the portraiture. Needless to say, we keep things pretty calm around here. We never photograph on Sundays or Mondays and we try to only photograph the last hour before the sun goes down. We charge almost double for Saturdays so that helps keep our weekends free. We limit the number of weddings we photograph to 2 a month. I work on retouching photos during nap time and for a few minutes after my kids go to bed if I need to. I have a Photography BlogI love photography, but I love a lot of other things too!

Speaking of other things I love, I love my family. I love my husband. We met because of a photo. He saw my missionary plaque in the hall at church after he returned from the Germany, Dusseldorf mission. He was in the other ward but decided to attend my ward one Sunday to hear mission homecoming talk. He introduced himself to me on the stand right after Sacrament meeting was over. 6 months later we were married in the Bountiful Temple. That was 9 years ago.

I am a mother of two. My daughter is 6 and my son is 2. My daughter really changed the way I felt about children and about hugs. When I got married I thought I would have my first child to fulfill my duty and a second child because I didn't want an 'only' child. I just wasn't sure what to do after that. Well, I fell in love with my children and they have changed my life forever. Now, I will not say it's easy, but I feel it is worth it to dedicate myself to them. I'm learning a lot about children and I believe they will be my greatest investment, hands down. I've come a long way! And I still have a very long way to go. My daughter is in first grade and loves it! My son loves all the 'one on one time' he is getting now. We work on all kinds of little projects together. We love going Jeeping and 4-wheeling up in the Mountains. We especially love going camping as a family. In the winter we love to go tubing across the street in Grandma's backyard. One day I hope to go skiing again and teach my children too - it's been 7 years - and I used to have season passes!

Now, the reason I wanted Krysta to go first was because I know this is a Spotlight - heavy on the light. And well, what I want to talk about for a little bit is maybe a little too heavy. So I hope that you will forgive me but I feel it is worth talking about. When I was pregnant with my second child, I started having some serious problems. I was itching so severely that only ice water and scratching my skin off my legs would help. I spent a lot of time in ice baths. My Dr. induced me 4 weeks early hoping whatever was causing the severe itching would go away. I had a perfect baby boy but things only got worse. I knew something was seriously wrong and the Spirit whispered to me that it would be a difficult road but that I would be okay. 4 weeks later, just a few days after the actual due date I was diagnosed by my dermatologist with Hodgkins Lymphoma, cancer of the lymphnodes.

The problem with being young is that they think cancer is an old person's disease and usually diagnosis comes late in the game. It took 4 doctors and 2 specialists before I was diagnosed. I was stage 2b, meaning that it was in several lymphnodes. But my tumors were 3 inches wide and went from the bottom center of my chest cavity, up around my heart and between my lungs all the way to my collar bone. My heart was being crushed. Needless to say, we are very lucky that my son is here and we are both alive.

We then went on quite the journey - a biopsy between my heart and lungs, a bone marrow biopsy in my hip, 6 months of chemo, and 5 weeks of radiation. I started a personal blog to share my progress with anyone who wanted to know how I was doing. It's been 19 months since I completed treatment and I am still in remission. I can honestly say that more good came from having cancer than bad. It helped me see things in a better perspective. I learned that Heavenly Father loves me personally and that I truly and a daughter of God. It taught me about service. It taught me more about Heavenly Father's Plan. It taught me to give other's the benefit of the doubt (especially while driving)- you just never know what is really going on in someone else's life. It taught me the true value of my family. I could go on and on, but I can do that later. Losing my hair was really hard - here is a funny take on how things have changed.

I have many goals in life, but the two that are the most important to me are to raise my children the best I can with my Heavenly Father's help and to work as hard as I can along side my dear husband so that we can get become full time missionaries again as soon as possible. It's really nice to think long-term again. And after meeting all those missionaries in Nauvoo this summer, I really have the bug! Anyway, thanks for letting me share a little of my life with you. I am really looking forward to getting to know the rest of the girls here and all of those who comment.


Angela said...

Thanks for sharing your story. You have a beautiful family! And your hair is so great!

Andrea said...

I am so glad you shared. That is an amazing story. You look beautiful with and with out hair. I can feel your strength.

Ashlee Dunlap said...

Thank you for sharing your story. You are an inspiration. I enjoyed seeing your pictures too. Makes me homesick for thej mission and for the east coast! I served in the DC South mission from Sept '03 - Feb '05. My husband and I want to serve another mission as well, when the time is right. You have a beautiful family!

Lindsay & Mike said... are one tough babe! I don't even know you that well yet, but I want to BE you when I grow up! You are amazing!!! Thanks for sharing your story!

Emily said...

Wow. What an inspiring story! And to think, my biggest ailment when I was pregnant was headaches! :) (well I did get a few unwanted stretch marks with pregnancy #2. I know you feel bad now . . .)

I'll have to check out your other blogs to read more about your story.

Michelle said...

Beautiful post, Laura! I love your honesty, and your willingness to share the real shaping events of your life.
Wasn't that "hair" scrapbook page in a magazine? I think I've seen it before. . . .
I'm doing the Susan G. Komen race for the cure in a few weeks. It will be neat to have you in mind as well as the others I am running/walking for. :)
Isn't it amazing how earthly things become so unimportant when we're faced with severe trials? We are not meant to stay here, only learn, and then move on! Trials seem to help us feel pulled to eternal things. . .

Krysta said...

Thanks for picking up the slack for me right now! I should be all caught up soon. I love hearing your story. I remember those awful days and I am always amazed at how far you've come. It's amazing what prayers and faith can do!

Alicia States said...

Thank you for sharing. I don't know you and you don't know me, but somehow I feel like your story is a tender mercy in my life. I want to be a better person for having learned so little about you. Your story is inspiring. Great things will come of it. (and already have.)

Vanderbeeks Images said...

Michelle, you are probably thinking about My 2 Minute Mohawk - when my friend shaved my head after 10 years of trimming and highlighting my long hair. It was on a brown background.

The last three photos in the layout you see here were taking just a few weeks ago. I've been wanting to scrapbook it coming back in, not just when I lost it.

daisy said...

Your story has touched my heart. Thank you for letting us into your life. I randomly came across this blog a few months back and have been reading older posts. You are an amazing woman - thank you for inspiring all of us.