Why I Shaved My Head

We all cry in the shower. If you don’t, well, you have another safe place I’m sure of it. Or, you’re lying. And, I couldn’t imagine spending more than one shower crying because another clump of hair was falling out on cancer’s terms - and not mine. Add on weeks of picking up hair all over the house, and I’m not on board for those kind of shenanigans. That’s a hard unsubscribe for me.

Cancer showed up uninvited, so I’m not giving it any wiggle room to run the show. That seems rude, honestly.

So, I took charge. Waiting for it to fall piece by piece was too much. Why would I do that to myself?

The day before my first day of chemo, I shaved my head.

My best friend who has been my colorist, stylist, and general stylist since we were 15 years old, took charge and found a few options online to send my hair for either a full wig or a halo wig based on how much hair we’d collect, sat me down, and shaved my head.

It’s just hair. it’s fine.

And, I did it my way.

The best part? Looking like GI Jane for a few weeks.

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Girl

We’re living the life music row writes about.

The pull yourself up by your bootstraps, sit on your Ws, tighten your phantom topknot kinda life.

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The life that makes your great grand babies name a blue-steel-eyed heir after you.

The life that chooses fm to streaming, black to frap, and currier to bird chirps.

The life that says k bye to easy because living the right side of an f5 is the only way the west is ever won.

Hold tight, girl, we have 15 go rounds left. And, I’d say it’s about to get a little western.


Photo, always and forever, by Stacy Pearce Creative.

Way back in 2011
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It was the year Iowa State gave us a late season L, putting 'Bama in the BCS Championship, and giving us Stanford, whose band forever haunts my nightmares.

While we were tailgating for Bedlam, Katy, my friend since freshman year (shoutout to Zink Hall!), and Korey told me they were having a baby.

I bought this outfit the very next week because I just knew they were having a girl.

They had a boy.

And I guess because I’m a super creep of a human, I decided to keep it because eventually I’d have a kid and whatever I’m hilariously creepy.

But can you even? No. You cannot.

Now we have our own little legacy, and she’s Homecoming Queen material, if I don’t say so myself.

Here's to hoping she's outgrown her premie clothes and fits into this by October.

🧡

20 days 'till game day.

Brooke Clay Taylor: 2008 Homecoming Queen, Oklahoma State University

Brooke Clay Taylor: 2008 Homecoming Queen, Oklahoma State University

I'm not Sampson

My powers are not held safe within my long, luscious locks. I am not a better human because I rack up Ulta points on expensive shampoos or deep condition on a religious schedule. I didn’t wear pink on Wednesdays, or earn a promotion, or land a new client, or make new friends because of my naturally-colored, level 4 beach waves. They’re not responsible for reeling in my biggest catch, nor the reason he dropped the L word barely an hour after saying k bye to the friend zone. They’re not what drove me to hike a Colorado trail while fighting a brutal fever (that was a dumb choice - no regrets) or to launch a business. They’re not the reason I get to be a mom, or a wife, or a business owner, or rival Dorthy Zbornak’s clap backs.

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They’re not the reason for any of it, but some days my locks feel like my superhero cape.

So today we do what’s scary. Like jumping out of a plane knowing I’m terrified of heights.

Today, I take back a bit of control and do this on my own terms.

Today, we see if my head is as round and perfect at Sweet baby Elsie James’.

Goodbye, locks. See you on the cancer-free side.

BrookeTaylor
DamonTaylor
ElsieTaylor
#KByeCancer: The Good News

38 week baby checkup.
Ultrasound.
Biopsy.
Genetic testing.
C-section.
NEW BABY!
PET scan.
Medical oncology meeting.
Port pre-op.
Chemo class.
MRI.
Mammogram.
Ultrasound.
Dentist.
Port surgery.
Lymph node biopsy.
Ovary shot.
MUGA heart scan.
1:1 Chemo consult.
2-week postpartum appt.

A perfect storm of pregnancy and breast cancer cumulated in a single moment that replays in my head a million times a day. As a first time mom, how do you know what’s normal and what’s not as you gear up to breastfeed? You don’t. You have no idea.

Starting tomorrow, I'm sharing my journey from discovery to diagnosis in a multi-part series.

But, we're starting with the end of this very real and rough few weeks first. I shared this video with family and close friends yesterday, and you, prayer warriors, deserve to see it, too. It's unedited. Not pretty. But, real.

Your prayers are working. Here's the proof.

Oh, you're sisters?

There’s a healthy gap between ‘86 and ‘95, which is probably the leading factor behind the comment we’ve received more times than we can count. She’s the blonde, blue eyes, and fair skin to my brunette locks, chocolate eyes, and olive skin, but our sister status has never been more evident than in these two photos.

Tori and Truman Chafin.  Photo by Stacy Pearce Creative.

Tori and Truman Chafin. Photo by Stacy Pearce Creative.

Hanna Runner shared the gallery from Elsie’s day 1 and I laughed out loud because Stacy Pearce Creative captured a nearly similar one of Tori on Truman’s day 1.

It would appear, to more than just us, that we have a lot more in common than things we don’t.

Brooke Clay Taylor and Elsie Taylor.  Photo by Hanna Runne r.

Brooke Clay Taylor and Elsie Taylor. Photo by Hanna Runner.

I’m your only sister.
— Tori, since she was old enough to talk

My favorite little sister could teach a clinic on how to bring humor into sucky situations.

She’s the sister who sends inappropriate memes in the 2 o’clocks. The sister who sends snap after snap of your baby nephew to distract you. The sister whose comedic timing cannot be matched.

We all needed that person.

Cancer or not.

Family Photo Day

Maybe it’s because I’m not given the choice, maybe it’s because beauty products are my vice, but I’m more disappointed about losing my locks ... than the girls.

I mean, the latter are trying to kill me. Take ‘em. I don’t want ‘em.

So today we capture our sweet family. And I’ll use all the beauty products. And, today, we research wigs. And, today, I pray my head is as smooth and round as Sweet Baby Elsie’s.

And it’s okay.

It’s okay for me to be any of the Care Bears. And not just because I’m less than 2 weeks postpartum.

It’s okay because it’s okay to feel any of the ways we need to feel.

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Help me curate the #KByeCancer playlist. Add directly to the collaborative Spotify playlist, or comment below with a song you believe needs to be on the list.

Think Maren’s Girl, or Kesha’s Woman, or Lauren Daigle’s Rescue. 🎶🎵


[Pro tip: make sure your best friend is a wedding photographer. ahem, Stacy Pearce Creative]

I called her Sasquatch

As my wombmate, she never stopped moving. Her feet lived in my lungs. I knew she was there, but that didn’t make it - her - feel real.

It just seemed too good to be true, you know? How could I be so lucky to finally be in this season? To grow a tiny human? To wonder if he – or she – would have my nose, or his eyes, or my attitude, or his patience? For whatever reason, I couldn’t allow myself to be all in. It seemed like there was a catch.

Now that she’s here she seems even more like a baby Sasquatch.

Mythical, even.

She’s the quiet, illusive miracle in the middle of a chaotic world.

I don’t care about any catch. Or the what ifs. Because anyway you slice ‘em, you remind me I was close to losing this.

But I haven’t lost anything — I’ve gained everything.

And I’m all in.

ElsieJamesTaylor
Add to your Phoenix Itinerary: Fossil Creek

Two hours north of Phoenix, and a bit of a jaunt down a slow-paced gravel road, you’ll find the Fossil Springs Wilderness in Arizona’s Coconino National Forest. Fossil Creek is one of only two National Wild & Scenic rivers in Arizona and is fed by springs coming from the cliffs of the Mogollon Rim.

Let’s all take a moment to swoon together. This is what day trips are made of, friends.

From April - October, you’re required to snag a $10 permit to enter/park, which is one of the many reasons this is a must-add to your itinerary. With a cap on visitors, you’re guaranteed minimal crowding. There’s nothing worse than gearing up for an adventure only to realize everyone and their second cousin’s new girlfriend’s uncle has the asme idea.

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Two years ago, this was the location of a birthday hike for my bestie, Hannah, and it turned into one of the best parts of our Phoenix weekend.

We arrived early, which gave us ample time to stop for dips in the quite cold, azure waters before making it to the final destination: the waterfall.

And, honestly, thank goodness we did. We were not prepared for how long the drive in would be. The road was rough, and reminiscent of Jurassic Park, to be honest. Arrive early, drive slow, enjoy the moment.

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What you should know:

  • I recommend high-clearance vehicle to enter. At the time, I drove a Chevy Trailblazer and couldn’t imagine driving a smaller vehicle.

  • From April 1 - Oct. 1 you must secure a $10 parking permit to enter. While it secures you a spot, it does not secure a specific spot.

  • Arrive early. This is a destination. If you arrive early, you’ll get a good spot and the hiking trail will be empty. And, thee stops on the trail are just as good as the final destination.

  • Fossil Creek has its name for a reason. Don’t go barefoot! I wear Chacos and they did the trick!

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Would I go again? Yes. Should you go? Yes.


Happy birthday, Hannah.

Next year we adventure. We’ll celebrate your birthday. And, we’ll celebrate #kbyecancer being in the past.

xo,

B.

Hannah Miller and Brooke Clay under the Fossil Creek Waterfall.

Hannah Miller and Brooke Clay under the Fossil Creek Waterfall.

Dear Dad
RuralGoneUrban-ColonCancer

Today would have been your 52nd birthday. Instead, 26 years ago you tapped out on your battle with colon cancer.

And, today, on Elsie’s due date - your birthday - I hold my newborn baby knowing I have cancer in my body.

Damn.

I get it now.

I get your heartbreak.

Your anger.

The “please don’t get this from me” prayers.

I get it.

NewBornBabyTaylor

I get the good days mixed in with the bad ones.

I get the staying in the moments for just a little bit longer.

I get it.

And I’m sorry you had to go through this.

I’m sorry you have to watch me go through this.

I’m sorry anyone has to go through this.

I'm just … I just … I get it.

Cancer Week One: All the Tests

FINALS WEEK — It’s like Oprah is handing out tests for everyone. You get a PET scan! You get a biopsy!
And today: You get a MRI! You get a mammogram!

At least I don’t have to walk across campus. 🤷🏻‍♀️ Damon and Elsie dropped me off at the front door and now they’re off on wolf pack adventures for the next few hours. I’d like to bet they’re at Bass Pro, or maybe Dicks Sporting Goods. But, let’s get real, there’s a high probability they’re in the parking lot and Elsie is taking a nap on his chest.


#KByeCancer
#MyHusbandIsASuperhero

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The Brave Team
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HERD, TRIBE, SQUAD — it doesn’t matter what you call your people as long as you have them.

Kiah Twisselman [aka Burley and Barley 🌱] found inspiration in my post about bravery and turned it into this incredible watercolor.

It’s swoon-worthy, really. This is how I feel. I’ve got the guy I first made out with in a pasture the night before senior skip day at my side (true story), my babe in my arms, and all the women who have walked this journey, those who pray for us, those who cheer for us, and those who love us standing behind me.

I admire creativity simply because it’s a small glimpse into someone’s ability to see a situation or obstacle from a unique perspective.

It’s not exclusive to artists or musicians, and it’s up for grabs for anyone who wants it.

Thank you for this, Kiah. It’s everything. 🧡

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An Open Letter to my Sweet New Baby

SWEET BABY ELSIE JAMES — Today you came along to doctors appointments because your mama has cancer, and to be frank: that sucks. You’re already a baby warrior and that not only makes me tremendously heart broken, but also stupendously proud.

Life is equal-opportunity when it comes to heartbreak or illness. It doesn’t discriminate when it comes to things like cancer, which means bad things happen to good people just the same as good things happen to bad people.

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So we live life knowing we’re not entitled to easy. It affords us the opportunity to appreciate the all the good moments - regardless of grandeur - because we know life is lived in the leading.

It’s between the lines the good stuff happens. Like a first family outing between oncology appointments. Or high-fiving because your new pediatrician’s office was able to work your appointment around my port surgery so I can go, too.

It would be easy to be grateful the only thing you’ll know about this season will be from pictures and stories, but I almost wish you would remember. Remember that we’ll grow our hair out together. Remember that your mama fought to change your diapers and was selfish about midnight feedings.
Because cancer or not, we’re already living a life worth fighting for.

And it’s buried deep in the leading.

Logistics
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I’m good at ‘em. I’ve built a career on ‘em. This week demands ‘em.

Looks like we’ll have a grand total of 8 appointments this week. 💪🏼 We clocked a week of maternity leave, and now it’s time to charge head first into #momlife, that work #hustle, and #kbyecancer.

I hear you friends. I hear all of your concerns. I hear your worries. I hear your advice.

And I need you to hear me. Two Thursdays ago I took my shirt off in a doctors appointment and said I’m not leaving until you feel this. My voice did not shake. I was not scared. I was my own advocate.

I know my limits. I can do this. My team says I can. So y’all are going to have to let me. And cheer for me.

In return, I cross my heart and kiss my elbow I will tap out on the hard days. I will make time to rest. I will be intentional. And measured. And, most of all, strategic.

Because my intern made me promise.

p.s. @taysha_r giving me all the feels with Elsie’s new bows.

That makes me brave.

TODAY WAS A GOOD DAY — I bought the finishing touches for our surprise-gender babe’s nursery. I spent way too many minutes in the Target office supplies aisle. I ate Hideaway Pizza with my mom and aunt, who flew in from Indiana. I squeezed in a phone call with one of my besties. I laughed until I cried because of a baby sign language video a friend list slid in my DMs.

And Damon Cody Taylor kept my inbox full of treasures like this photo. Just look at them. Those are my people! That girl is going to be wild, and funny, and - Lord help me - be as quick witted as Dorthy Zbornak. And that man is going to keep me rollin’ my eyes until I’m 97.

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Oh, and I had a PET scan and met my medical oncologist. I learned my schedule for chemo. And learned I have at least six more appointments this week.

Here’s the deal. I’m not brave because I’m a superhero. I’m brave because so many tremendous women have walked this path before me. I’m brave because I am part of a tribe of the most amazing humans. I’m brave because with every message, text, email, smoke signal, snail mail, et al you guys are filling me up with courage.

I’m brave because in a not so great season a few years ago I prayed a big prayer, “if you want me to stay, I’ll stay. I will do everything in my power to continue fighting for this relationship. But, if you say this isn’t my story anymore, that I don’t have to do *this* every day knowing I’ll never be a mom or be part of a healthy relationship, I will not pause. I will not waver. I will trust You completely. And I will leave.” And He answered. And I left. Because He has me.

Boy howdy, hasn’t this week shown that He has me?

That makes me brave.

Wildlife Baby

So many things had to align perfectly so that in this season, we’ve got this guy.

The guy who can make me laugh so hard my c-section stitches might pop. Who said, “just cry,” when I hadn’t even been able to say the words “dr frame called. it’s cancer.” Who says “move over” and climbs in the hospital shower to remove my c-section bandages. True story. I’ll for sure blog about that.

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How insane is it that after he made his tour through Nevada, Minnesota, Montana, and Nebraska building his career and living the wildlife dream ... and I made my tour through North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, with stints in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and Arizona ... we unknowingly moved back to Oklahoma only weeks apart. Wild. Just wild.

Day one of #kbyecancer means I’m spending 24 hours away from Elsie James, who sacrificed her cushy womb space and joined the world early so I could spend this week getting a PET scan, meeting my medical oncologist, a mammogram, et al.

Today, day one - and her day seven, he’s got her. And me.

And she, friends, is already on the job as the cutest little refuge intern.

Cow Dog Molly Accepts New Baby
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There’s something special about the moment your ride-or-die ranch dog finally admits the new baby isn’t leaving.

She’s been my main girl since 2007.

Through undergrad, a ride in the OSU homecoming parade, graduate school, love, heartbreak, calling home to five states, six jobs, adventuring in 19 states, launching a business, saying yes to Damon Cody Taylor... she’s been there.

Through Whitney ballads, old and new Jo Bro pop, Conway heartbreaks, Maren anthems, and Jason Isbell love songs, she’s been riding shotgun.

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Through learning through failing, she taught me think of anything other than myself in my twenties.

She’s been there for every tear, every laugh, every milestone for 12 years.

And, now we’re adding two more.

She’s my favorite golden girl. And I can’t imagine doing this week without her.

Thank Goodness for Community

It’s no shocker we’re the new kids on the block in our new corner of the world. As newlyweds we’ve really stuck to home projects (the new deck is tremendous, btw), trips home to our hometown of Perkins (2.5 hours away), and I travel quite a bit for work. That hasn’t left a lot of opportunity to meet anyone, let alone find a community.

And now we have a brand new baby. and ... #kbyecancer, which is going to come with so many obstacles it’s overwhelming.

And would you believe all the creative, inspiring, talented locals who I’ve stumbled across on Instagram, but been too nervous to send an awkward IG DM to, were also sort of, kind of doing the same to me?

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As I’ve lived in various big cities - OKC, Charlotte, Austin, Nashville - I’ve learned we can’t thrive without community. I know that, yet, I’ve been too nervous to reach out because this is our forever place, and I guess I just didn’t want to mess it up. Hi, Brooke here. Perpetually an awkward middle schooler.

Thank goodness they’re braver than I am. They pressed send while I was busy overthinking and leaving my messages in draft.

In the midst of chaos this week they found me. Us. And they reeled us in.

And just like that, four-day-old Elsie James had her first dinner invite. I mean, she slept through the entire thing, but she looked real cute in that new bow.

Would you believe there is a whole community ready and willing to not only pray for us and bring us meals, but they’ve also offered to help with things like letting our dogs out when we’re at doctors appointments and treatments? I don’t even know them — YET — but I know they’re our people.

P.S. If you’re one of those people, hi! I’m glad we’re new friends. Can’t wait to meet you. Also, @cowdogmolly is a bit extra. Prepare yourself for puppy snuggles. (Spoiler: she’s a 12 yo puppy)

Dear future tiny human
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A very good friend (to be honest, I could use pages and pages alone to share how incredible of a human she is) reminded me that I wrote the following words a while back, and it’s wild they’ve never been more true.
Pray without ceasing, friends. He hears them - every single one.

Dear future tiny human,

Today I’m thinking about you. I’m walking through the hardest day of my life - to date - because I want to be your mom. I want to watch your first steps and hear your big, boisterous giggle. I want to wipe your tears and kiss your scrapes. I love you - the idea of you - so much that sometimes it literally feels like the oxygen has left the room.

I want the chance to love you. To love your dad. To grow old with him and laugh at his stupid jokes. Because he’ll make us laugh every single day. And he’d rather grow children than a perfectly manicured lawn. And he’ll show up to the important things. Like pizza Fridays and school plays.

He’ll probably be stubborn, which is who you’re going to get it from. But, he’ll be kind. And fiercely loyal.

He’s going to be good to us, kid. And we’re going to be good to him. He’s going to be easy to love because he’s right for us. We’re his people. And he’s ours.

I had no way of knowing that note would be for my sweet Elsie, or that man would be Damon. But He knew. He always knew.