Another Monday, another chance to show my true self, the MckMama way.
I DID NOT hear M4 fervently pray thanking God that Mommy let him play on the computer all day long. And Don and I certainly DID NOT laugh at him (albeit under our breath) while he was praying. We know better than that. And have reprimanded our other children for laughing at fervent prayers. We would NOT be such a bad example. Besides, he didn't REALLY get to play on the computer ALL DAY.
I DID NOT actually consider getting a motorized cart to do Christmas shopping in Target because I had worn myself out shopping in the Christian Book Store. And if I had actually considered it, I would have talked myself out of it for fear of running over M4 whilst trying to drive the thing.
And becuase I was so tired I definitely DID NOT set a Guiness World Record for checking out at Target SIX DIFFERENT TIMES without leaving the store. You know, there's electronics and Starbuck's and Starbuck's again and electronics again and the snack bar and the regular check out line.
I HAVE NOT had to explain multiple times to M3 what it means in the Christmas carol by line that says, "Mom and Dad can't wait for school to start again" and reassure her that I am not one of 'those' parents . How did she even hear that line to begin with?!? I never knew they said that in that "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas"!!
Being that Christmas and New Year's are cutting short the next two weeks, I decided that I would gather as much of my records as I could and take them down to the Proton Center so that they would have them when they were ready. (We are looking in to Proton Therapy as an alternative to standard radiation.) So I spent Friday morning driving around picking up medical records.
As I was driving, I was conversing with God. "I don't feel the joy of Christmas, God. There is this thing of death inside of me. It has gotten me down. I want to celebrate life . . ."
And God reminded me, "Christmas is all about LIFE. It is about the my Son, coming to life on earth. But even more than that, it is about the eternal life that you have through Him. So there is no death that can separate you from ME. Can you celebrate that?"
"Yes, I definitely can."
But, it gets even better.
After everything was together, I drove down to the Houston Medical Center to deliver them to the Proton Center. Now, I will preface this by saying, I was not TOLD to bring my records. The only contact I had had yet was to leave a message. But I felt a sense of urgency to deliver these things so that they would have my record WHEN THEY NEEDED THEM. Rather than waiting to be asked, mailing them, waiting for them to be delivered, etc.
We had initially looked into MD Anderson for treatment, so I knew basically what they would need anyway. Why not save some time?
So I get there, speak to the receptionist and tell her I have some things for the nurse with whom I had left the message. The receptionist called the nurse, who didn't know who I was, but knew I didn't have an appointment and was not pleased.
She asked to speak to me on the phone and she told me, "This is just not the way we do things. We don't accept walk-ins. I am with a patient. Give me five minutes and I will be out to see you."
Again, I will interject that I didn't want an "appointment" I only wanted to drop off documents.
So I go sit down and wait. And I'm praying, "God, I don't want to make her mad. She is going to be responsible for getting me in to this place. Please help me here."
As soon as she walked out, I recognized her. I knew her from somewhere. She started explaining to me again how this was not how they handled things.
I interrupted her, "Did you go to (nursing school)?"
She looked at me in shock. "Are you MOLLY?!?"
As it turns out, we were in nursing school together.
Everything turned at that point. She took me into a room and took down all my information. She looked over all the documents I had with me. We worked on getting the things I did not have with me. And she made an appointment for me to come and be seen by the doctor ON MONDAY. She even had the sweetest registration person come and get me registered so that I don't have to come an hour early on Monday.
Again, all I wanted to do was drop off documents.
God led me there yesterday. He had a plan. My classmate is on vacation next week, so I never would have seen her then.
At one point, while I was waiting, she encouraged me to go out to the foyer and see the kids getting their gifts. The children who are being treated at the Proton Center were receiving Christmas gifts and they were having a party. I stood there and watched children from infants to aged ten or so happily opening presents. And I was SO THANKFUL that it is me fighting this battle and not one of my children.
Yes, I can celebrate life this Christmas. For what it is, it is mine and God is still with me in it.
This has been a week of lethargy and withdrawal. I am tired in the physical and mental sense. I am tired of having cancer and don't want to think about it. In order to escape, I watch a lot of movies. It is mindless entertainment and keeps the kids busy, too.
But in spite of my desire to withdraw and escape, I have still had to face a lot this week.
Monday was my "planning" session with the radiation oncologist. They use a CT scan machine to locate the remaining tumor and map where they will zap me with radiation. This involved becoming tattooed. Nothing fancy. Just three little dots as reference marks.
Have you ever done something or been somewhere and thought to yourself, "This is just not right . . ."? That was how I felt at my planning session. It wasn't the people helping me or the place, it was just the whole idea of that type of radiation in general. After hearing about all the side effects and risks of damage to my body, everything in me is fighting against it (when I allow myself to think about it at all).
But at the same time, I can't really skip radiation altogether. The lymphoma might come back and we would have to start all over again. And I definitely don't want to start over with chemo!
Wednesday I had another PET scan to take a look at my tumor again post-chemo. This was just the usual injecting of radioactive glucose into my body to be absorbed by the tumor cells. And taking a picture to see just how "active" the cells are.
It was actually a good mental break for me, sitting in quiet for two hours, because my brain has literally become "hypersensitive" as a side effect of the chemo. It has become difficult to even single-task (as opposed to multi-task). If I have to think too hard it actually makes me nauseated.
Thursday we got the report on the PET scan and it was an "improvement" over the last scan. It is difficult to say if what remains is actually tumor cells or just residual inflammation. But if any cancer cells are remaining, radiation should take care of it. According to my doctor, I definitely don't need any more chemo!
Also Thursday I started looking into another type of radiation called proton therapy. We have had three doctors tell us that it was not an option. But our friend, Bernie, a cancer researcher, had mentioned it WAAAY back at the beginning of all this and so I still held out hope that I might be eligible. There just has to be a better way to radiate me without permanently damaging my insides . . .
I called the MD Anderson center in Houston (the only one in this part of the country) and they said the ONLY TYPE of lymphoma they treat at the proton center is one involving a MASS IN THE CHEST. Hallelujah!!
On a particularly tired day last week, when I had the house to myself, I did NOT feel compelled to go and meet M2, M3 and M4 who were in the good hands of my parents, for dinner instead of staying home and enjoying the peace and quiet and rest.
After getting all the boys' hair cuts just before Thanksgiving, I did NOT ignore M2 because I did not recognize him coming out of church.
I did NOT almost have a panic attack after getting to our seats at the Reliant Stadium because my muscles were literally trembling and I feared that I would not have the energy to make it back to our car.
That could NOT possibly be all I have to say for myself for the last few weeks, because, well, I am NOT still fighting side effects and fatigue from chemo or anything.
It was a magical day today. Not quite in the sense of a trip to Disney, but in this cancer adventure, it falls pretty close!
I started the morning at the oncologists office having my overnight pump disconnected. This completed my LAST ROUND of chemotherapy!! And in honor of the occasion, I got to RING THE BELL.
They have a bell in the office that patients get to ring when they finish chemo. I have sat and looked at the bell and the little poem that accompanies it every time I went in for treatment, looking forward to when it would be my turn.
I only had the priviledge to hear one other person ring the bell before, but it was a very exciting thing to me.
And when it was my turn, I couldn't believe how many people came running and those that didn't were quick to congratulate me as I left the office. It was a very big deal. And a great beginning to the day.
This afternoon, more magic began. SNOW in southern Texas!! It came down all afternoon. Beautiful, fluffy, soft, white snow. The temperature was such that it had no where to stick, but it was glorious watching it fall. The kids were beside themselves with excitement. M3 has been saying for months now that it would snow for Christmas. It definitely felt a lot more like Christmas today!
M3 and M4 playing in the snow. M4 is looking at the flakes on his arm.
And tonight, I got to go to our Ladies' Christmas Party/Gift Exchange. It is one of those exchanges where you take a number, take your turn and either draw a present from the pile under the tree or take (redistribute is the politically correct term, I am told) a gift that has already been opened, if you want to. It was a great evening of fellowship and lots of laughter. I know I laughed a lot (the best laugh coming from envisioning Angela unknowingly "drinking" a birthday candle up a straw with her tomato soup). And I left thinking, as the snow continued to fall, that if all the chemo hadn't healed me yet, the laughter of the evening certainly must have.
My cousin, Jan, came to town Wednesday night so that she could go with my mom and me to our Women's Bible Study. We were very blessed to have Jeanette Clift George come and speak to our little group. If you have been following along, she is one of the amazing things I was speaking of in this post back in October. God had redirected our plan for Bible Study for the fall (I was supposed to be leading) and many people stepped in to take my place with a six week study of Ephesians. God "filled in" the two empty weeks for us with Jeanette and my friend Darla who is coming next week.
Well, before Bible Study, I rolled my ankle in the parking lot of the church. UGH! I really thought I had broken it.
After Bible Study my mom took me to the urgent care center. The doctor looked at me and said he thought it was just sprained but got xrays anyway. Yep, no break. They sent me home with an air cast and crutches. I am supposed to use them until Monday, but I think it will probably be longer. Mostly because I am being a really bad patient and not using the crutches around the house. I am trying to stay off my feet. Really, I am.
As if that weren't enough for one day, I had an appointment in the afternoon with a radiation oncologist. I was looking forward to finding out details about a plan for radiation. And here is the plan: I will get a four week break after chemo (last treatment this Tuesday). Radiation will start on January 5th and go for 4 1/2 weeks. Everyday Monday through Friday. 15 to 20 minutes a day.
The main side effects I will most likely have will be coughing (my lungs will be burned by the radiation), heartburn (my esophagus will be effected by the radiation), skin sensitivity (more burning - like a bad sunburn?) and fatigue. They will be gradual, so most likely I will not have any of these until around the third week or so.
At first, I was disappointed not to be starting radiation sooner. The sooner we start, the sooner it will be over. But the more I think about it, I realize it will be good to recover from chemo and have a few weeks side effect free.
So, I am looking forward to a "Christmas Break" from treatment.
I have been fantasizing about this post for several weeks now. But it seems that fantasy and reality do not always match up.
First of all, I want to thank you for your prayers on my behalf and that of my family for this specific scan. It is the first thing I have faced on my journey that has caused me anxiety that it seemed I could not shake.
While I would have to say my anxiety gradually subsided yesterday and today, I am still in a funk. I was not my normal self in dealing with the people who cared for me before and during the scan. I didn't like that.
As I faced alterations in "my plan" for the two days, I could see God's hand in them: I could not get a copy of the PET scan IMMEDIATELY after it was complete. The "plan" was to bring it home in order to have a "heads up" on what the report would say - tumor gone or not. Now that I have the PET scan in my hot little hands, I realize, it would have been extremely frustrating for me to try to read because it looks different that a CT scan. I wouldn't have known what I was looking at.
We thought we would see the doctor first thing this morning and get the results then. She didn't end up seeing me until 2 p.m. so I had to wait through my entire round of chemo before I could find out. I was worried that if I did know I needed to extend my treatment regimen to four more, that I was going to have some kind of nervous breakdown right there in the chemo room. At least I didn't have the information to fuel a breakdown!
When we finally saw the doctor she was very encouraged by the scan. She even commented on the radiologists comment, which said, "there has been dramatic response". The tumor now measures 3.0 x 1.9 cm. Previously it was 11.8 x 7.4 x 8.0.
The tumor is not gone. But its size and behavior (it is not "active")are very positive signs. Dr. M even considered that what remains may simply be scar tissue that will gradually resolve.
I will have to admit that I was a little disappointed not to hear the word GONE, but the good news, for sure, is that I will only have one more chemo treatment on December 9. With radiation to follow two to three weeks later.
The woman had a blood disease for twelve years and no one could heal her. She came up to Jesus in a crowd and touched the hem of His garment. Immediately, she was healed. Jesus felt the power go out of Him and He asked, "Who touched me?"
Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace."
I believe I felt immediate healing that day in my driveway as the dust bunny "retreated". My faith and your prayers of faith have healed me.
May I tremble at the feet of the One with the power to heal, and not tremble in anticipation of test results and doctors reports. There is no power in them. (So true, Leah)
And as I proceed beyond my cancer, I pray I do it with peace.
Seeing my cousin lose her battle to cancer has shaken me. I realize that it was a different type of cancer, the battle itself was much different as was the prognosis. But, all of the sudden, I feel out of control in facing my disease.
This brings up two things: First, when I was going through the entire diagnosis process, I was completely out of control. But God was in control and that was what kept me steady. Second, if I was OK with being out of control back then, something has changed. I have begun to get "comfortable" with the way things are going and with my "plan" for my treatment.
While there is a huge degree of routine to my cancer treatment (there is a flow chart that oncologists use) the reality is that everyone is different. And even as I hope that I will follow the flow chart, the "what if?"s have been raised that I have never raised before.
What if the tumor is still there on Monday (my next PET/CT scan)? What if I am still doing chemo at Christmas? What if chemo and radiation aren't enough?
Some of it has to do with being in the battle. When I was going through the tests before I started treatment, I didn't know what I was in for. It was all a process leading to a plan. Now I am in the middle of the battle and I know exactly what my scan results are going to mean this time. What it means for me. What it means for my body. What it means for my family.
I am getting tired. To some degree I just don't have the fortitude that I once had to "let go". But in my weakness, He will be strong.
Please pray that the tumor is GONE on Monday. Pray that my faith will stay strong. I have believed all along that it will be gone. I am praising Him for healing me.
My cousin, Tana, was healed completely in her valiant battle with bone cancer Thursday night. She is with Jesus.
While I rejoice that she has been delivered through the fire and into the arms of her Saviour, my heart breaks for those who have been left behind: her husband of 23 years, John, their two young sons, Cody and Ryan and many other family members and friends. Please pray for them as they mourn.
What I will always remember about Tana was that she was beautiful, both inside and out. If you will take some time to read her blog "In the Shadow" on the sidebar, you will get the opportunity to experience the beauty that she had in Christ.
I wanted to share a few excerpts from her blog that captured my attention last night.
The first was written by Tana in early March of this year as she was recovering from her first hip surgery:
It snowed today and the boys got out of school at 1:00 pm. It was fun to watch them play in the front yard snow through the window and throw snowballs - just wish I could be out there with them because the snow forts and the snowmen need my creative touch!
Which brings me to what's on my mind for all you wives and moms today: take time to play with your kids and enjoy being with them - enjoy the little things like those crazy carpools and those sport games they play that you'd never watch except that they are your kids and volunteering at those chaotic school events:) Enjoy your husbands - take every opportunity to show that you love them and respect them. John and I have been married for almost 23 years and I can see so many things now that I have taken for granted for a long time.
I guess there's nothing that makes you appreciate life more than not being able to live it. So love and be loved today. Thank God for what you have - though your life may not be perfect, it is good and perfect in His time.
The second was written yesterday morning by her husband John, after she had gone to be with Jesus:
Men, give you wives a hug today and everyday, pray for them daily. We have all heard it said so many times that we do not know how many days we have here on this earth. It's true.
My prayer is that what Tana has written over the last 10 months would speak to you in some way no matter where you are in you walk with Jesus and that you would draw closer to Him as a result.
How we take each day, each person in our lives for granted. Things can change in an instant.
So take time for those you love today. Spend some time with God. This is the day we have all been given.
Because there is still humor to be found in life in spite of cancer, I have decided to participate in MckMama's "Not Me!" Monday. (If you haven't checked out her blog yet from my sidebar, take a look here.)
Since this is my first time, it includes several weeks of "Not Me's".
We do NOT own a golden retriever, who, when NOT taken to the vet to be dipped was NOT harboring over 300 ticks from unknown origin (and we do NOT know that the exact number THEY picked off was 332 because every tech and receptionist and vet in the office did NOT reiterate the number to me and my husband.)
I did NOT have to tell my sweet angel friends Kimberly, Kimberly and Lisa that it was OK to throw away yogurt with an expiration date of 04/08 when they cleaned out my refrigerator last week. And I MOST EMPHATICALLY DID NOT ask if bagged carrots had an expiration date.
My four children and I could NOT possibly have accumulated an entire 30 gal kitchen trash bag full of trash in my van in the last three weeks. (I did clean it out only three weeks ago, after all!) We've hardly BEEN in the van and where could all that have come from anyway?! _____________________________________________________
M4 definitely did NOT watch Veggietale's "Pirates Who Don't Do Anything" 15 times over a three day period. _____________________________________________________
I certainly did NOT almost blow a gasket in the Sonic Drive-Thru when M4 insisted on having a small Sprite after ordering him a large. And I MOST CERTAINLY did NOT sheepishly ask for a small cup to go with my large Sprite when I got to the window to pick up said drink.
My week last week didn't go as I had planned. I should have known that as soon as I posted a "routine" my life would be anything but.
Like I said in my previous post, my bad "half-day" came early, on Monday. The plan was for my SIL Erin to be here on Wednesday night for the bad days Thursday and Friday. Luckily, my parents were available and got me through the bad night. And Erin got to stay home for my niece, Anna's, birthday. God had it all worked out.
So, since my bad days came on what were supposed to be my productive days, I thought I would get productive days on what were supposed to be my bad days. But what I got were very tired days. No productivity there. And not much energy for anything else. Luckily, there wasn't much to do. God is in control.
On a bigger scale, things didn't exactly go my way in the presidential election this week either. As we watched the votes come in, disappointment poured over our house, just like it did in 46% of the households in America. But then, John McCain gave his speech to the nation. And he said, "He (Obama) is my President". May we all have the patriotism to say the same. And be obedient to our call to pray for him as our leader. Because I am sure that if God can take care of the little details in my life this week, by golly, He's got a handle on the White House.
. . . for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations. Proverbs 8:15
Warning: The following entry includes lots of big medical terminology so proceed at your own risk (just kidding!)
I feel good. My bad days have turned into "half a bad day" and came early this week (on Monday). So I have been enjoying semi-good days since.
I had an interesting experience in the tumor department yesterday. Let me see if I can put it into words.
Visualize a B level horror movie: Attack of the Blob. A big blob attacking a city and moving around things as it comes across them.
OK. Now visualize the inside of my chest. My tumor (aka: dust bunny) is the blob and it has grown from a little golf ball to a big grapefruit and in the process it has crammed itself across my chest, between my sternum (breast bone) and esophagus and on top of my heart, pushing it down. (See the picture below from one of my CT scans (9/10/08). The greyish blob (top center) is the tumor, the white blob underneath it is my heart and the black is my lungs.)
Now visualize the tumor shrinking, but being stuck in this crammed in position. Sort of being pulled like a rubber band or silly putty, but being stuck at the same time.
My chest (tumor) was hurting today and I started coughing. I was a little concerned because I haven't done that in a while and I was starting to think the tumor might be growing again. I was very irritable. I was trying to explain to Don how I felt, but there weren't really words to describe it. I felt "stressed in my chest".
But other than the tumor pain, I was feeling good today. So I was . . . organizing my kitchen cabinets. I was carrying 15 telephone books out to the car to recycle along with other stuff that needed to go to the garage.
I was standing behind my van and I felt "the retreat of the blob". Visualize the blob crammed into my chest pulling back across to the right from whence it came, back under the sternum and to the other side. In my mind, it was like the B movie in reverse. The blob "rewinding", literally, in a matter of seconds.
A little while later, I had a snack, and it felt different to eat it. The food went down much easier. I didn't even know it could be so easy to swallow, it has been so long.
I think I had been coughing because the tumor (shrinking, but stuck) was pulling my right lung (where the tumor originates) to the left, until it shrunk back to the right, then I stopped coughing.
My heart has been beating really hard this afternoon. At first, this worried me a little, too, thinking the tumor was pressing on it again. But I think it is the opposite. It has been "freed" in my chest and it doesn't know quite what to do with all the room. It is "readjusting".
Now, this is all just my theory, but I think this is what happened. I can't believe that the tumor could have still been so big that it was all the way across my chest, but I guess it was.
The tumor pain (on the right side) is much less now.
Please pray that it will continue to shrink and that in two weeks (when I have my next scan) that it will be COMPLETELY GONE. That would mean only two more rounds of chemo.
I thought I would give you a run-down of the typical two-week routine (not including kids' stuff . . .) Sorry it's sort of a repeat of the last post, but more complete:
Thursday (Oct 30 was the start of this two week period): Chemo. This takes most of the day. I go in at 9 a.m., get my blood checked, see the doctor and then get my drugs. Usually, I am finished by 3 p.m. They hook me up to a portable pump that comes home with me to give me my last chemo drug overnight (the skin eating one :) ) After chemo, I am usually wiped out, because they give me Benadryl IV to prevent an allergic reaction to one of my drugs (Rituxin). I can never "sleep it off" at chemo, so I do that once I get home for about an hour and a half. Usually the evening I am fine, but go to bed early to the sound of my little pump doing its job by my head.
Friday: In the morning, I go back to the doctor to have my pump discontinued and I get a shot of Neulasta (for boosting my white blood cell count). This drug has worked so well, my levels have never dropped. So I don't go to the doctor for anything else between now and my next chemo (typically).
Saturday & Sunday: I usually have a little bone pain from the Neulasta doing its job. When we are busy on the weekend, I can tend to get a little tired. It seems the nausea from the chemo is getting a little worse each time around, but not too bad. (That's where we are today)
Monday: By now, I am usually doing well. Taking my steroids gives me an energy boost today and I try to be "superproductive" in anticipation of the down days that are coming.
Tuesday: My last day of steroids. Try to make it another productive day. Maids come.
Wednesday: Coming off the steroids, but usually not too tired. By late afternoon or early evening, the muscles in my shoulders start to ache. The toxins are building up in there on their way out of my body. Because it signifies tumor death, it is an extremely positive thing, but it is uncomfortable. We are learning to rub, rub, rub. That seems to make a big difference in getting them (the toxins) out of my system.
Thursday: Boy am I tired by now. The toxins are worse. It is a vicious cycle. My muscles ache, so I get tense. My tension makes my muscles ache worse. I get more tense. Etc, etc. Getting a real, professional massage at this point has helped tremendously. And it is not for pampering. It is, to me, a medical necessity. I do a lot of sitting, laying down, resting and sleeping. And someone else (an angel in disguise) comes and does anything I should be doing. My family greatly appreciates this, too.
Friday: I usually wake up with the tail end of the achyness. My kidneys hurt last, so that is usually an indicator we are near the end. The toxins are leaving the body. After lunchtime, I am usually up for an errand (if someone else drives). But we usually keep the day pretty low key.
Saturday & Sunday: Same as before, I usually have more energy, but get tired fast if we are busy. It doesn't hurt to have a back-up driver with me just in case.
Monday: My energy starts to return and I feel decent (if I haven't overdone it over the weekend). I do think that gradually I am losing overall energy each round. So I am probably at 75% now when "full" energy returns.
Tuesday: I keep trying to do as much as I can to feel "normal". Drive carpool. Go to practices and games. Get homework done. Go outside.
Wednesday: Time to gear up for another round to begin. Boy they are going by fast!
I guess you guys might like to know how I am doing these days. As you can see from recent posts, it has been a busy weekend of birthdays.
My "steroid days" which were Friday through Tuesday after chemo #2 were very constructive. I have learned (very quickly) to use those days to the fullest because my body and mind go 90 to nothing and I know the days of "nothing" are coming.
So by Thursday, my bad day, I literally have nothing to do but just make it through.
And this time, it was much better. The pain was considerably less, thanks to much muscle rubbing by family and friends. And a great massage at the spa (thanks, Marie!) Whereas I needed narcotics the first time around, all I took this time was Advil. BIG improvement!
While the pain was much less, it allowed the fatigue to be much more evident. But, as my dad said, there's a solution to that: rest. So that is what I did.
I had a "substitute" SIL to come help me last week, my sister-in-Christ, Marie W. She worked while I rested. And she did it with great joy. Thank you, my friend!
Now I am gearing up for round #3 this Thursday. If I only end up with six rounds (instead of eight), that means I am half-way through! (We won't know exactly how many rounds for a few more weeks.)
As always, thanks for praying, and for checking up on me,
The past year has brought some disappointments that your dad and I have been unable to shield you from. You have had to face them and come out on the other side.
I think, for all of us, it has been a learning experience. Sometimes things don't go your way. When you get through it, though, some things turn out even better than you could have expected. And we realize, God knew what He was doing all along.
You are learning that God protects, even when we don't know that we need it.
Never forget the trip to the beach we planned that had to be cancelled because your little sister was sick. The three of you couldn't understand why, when you had prayed that we would all be well, that she wasn't. I think I needed to hear what I told you as much as you children did:
"Sometimes God says 'NO'."
When He does, it is for our benefit. For our protection.
We will never know why we couldn't go to the beach that time, but we trust that God did it for our good.
God has said 'NO' to much bigger prayers since then. We wonder why. But we trust that He knows and it is because He loves us.
You are the "man of the house" when Dad is away. This is a role you have taken very seriously for years. Remember that you can protect but God is the ultimate protector.
Sometimes, He allows things we would call "bad" to happen to us. There is nothing you or I or your dad could do to keep it from happening. But God takes everything, everything and makes it good. You will see.
I am proud of who you are and the man you are becoming.
You never know how God is going to use something you do or say for someone's benefit in the future.
Eight years ago this summer, my friend Robbie had no way of knowing how important her introduction to a love of hats would be for me today. She gave me my first hat for my 31st birthday. In the years since, I have collected and worn many hats.
And on those hat-wearing occasions, the many people who have said, "You look great in a hat" couldn't have known how that would help me today.
On one of my "hat days" years ago, my husband told me, "You would be beautiful, even if you didn't have any hair." And, I think, that helps me most of all.
Can you see how I can smile, even with a bald head?
I am an adventurer at heart. If I could, I would be exploring the Grand Canyon, sailing the ocean, skydiving. But I have my husband and four kids that God has graciously given me and they would like for me to be alive and at home.
So I get to have adventures in different ways. Exploring a tree trunk infested with termites with M2. Helping M4 climb a tree (that seems as big as a mountain to him). Playing laser tag all night long (and getting to be a vampire in one of the games - you never die!) with M1. Having a "sleep over" with my M3 at a local hotel. A photography trip with my husband.
This cancer journey in my life is sort of an adventure to me, too. The day I had my first CT scan and saw "the golf ball" I can remember the excited anticipation of an adventure ahead. I don't know why I wasn't afraid. I guess I knew from the beginning God was going to take care of me. I knew He was going to get me through "to the other side". That I would live.
So today, I had an excuse to shave my head. I've never had a good reason to do it before. Most people don't have a good reason to do it. Just like climbing a mountain. It is placed before you, and you go for it. It's an adventure.
Linda came to the house again. The kids watched what was left of my hair come off.
From what I understand, I should grow about 1/2 to 1 inch of hair over the course of two months once I stop chemo. That will be December or January. So, by the spring, I should be sporting a snazzy crew cut.
Just wanted to update you all and let you know that it really has been uneventful.
There was nothing besides the usual soccer, baseball, birthday parties, etc. (Oh, and my husband's 30th High School Reunion!!) That means: no bone pain from the Neulasta, very little nausea, moderate fatigue (I didn't go to the reunion . . .). But that's it!
My second chemo was last Thursday. So my "bad days" are coming Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. But if what has been so far this round is any indicator of what is to come, it should be much easier.
I have to say, I try to take naps. I get tired, get everyone distracted and lay down. And I do rest. That must be all I really need.
Because when I rest, God speaks to me. Not in an audible voice, but in my heart. He will redirect my thoughts and impress something on me that moments before I was not even thinking about.
Remember, I said I knew He would be WITH me in this post. And so, when I am still and quiet, He speaks.
Sometimes He reveals things to me to share on the blog. A few weeks ago He told me it was "time to stop" leading Bible Study. The next day He inspired me with ideas of what could be done in my place, when I had already given it up completely.
He is continuing to amaze me with what He is doing on that front. And I hope to share more of that in the future.
But the other day, He told me it was time to buy a table. Now I wasn't even going to share this, but M1 said I should because God told me to do it.
The short story behind the table is that I have been shopping for a new kitchen table for two years. I had found the exact one I wanted on ebay two years ago, but the timing wasn't right. I failed to get the sellers info and the table info and when it came bonus time in the spring, it was completely gone.
Since then, I have looked on and off in vain for anything closely resembling the table I liked. I have searched the internet for hours. Driven all over town to furniture stores. And even left my phone number at those stores to be called when something like what I wanted came in. But all to no avail.
It had to be round and with eight seats. (Our table seats six, so when we have any company we have to squeeze in on the ends). I wasn't in a hurry and knew some day I would find it.
So, God tells me it's time.
And I think it must have been on the day it was listed. Because I actually forgot for a few days. But when I went to ebay, entered my parameters and got the items that fit, there was MY table. Not the exact one I had seen before, but it was round and had eight seats and was just perfect. And not only that, it was "pick up only" in my city!!
I did get permission from my husband first. And then I BOUGHT it!!
Today it is in our kitchen. We all had dinner around the table together.
And I am grateful that God can even speak to me about something so small as a kitchen table. And that I HEARD Him.
For many months I have been planning on growing my hair out to donate to Locks of Love, and organization that makes wigs for children with hair loss. M3 and I did this two years ago and I was looking forward to doing it again.
The cut has come a few inches prematurely, but, the situation being what it is, it looked like it was either now or at least not for a very, very long time.
I am fortunate to have established a relationship with my hairstylist, Linda, over the last 21 years. She was the only one I would let cut my hair, especially on this auspicious occasion. And so, she came to the house, so that it could be a family affair.
Originally, the plan was to shave my head so that I could get the maximum length to donate. But M3 is praying that I won't lose my hair (completely) so I had to at least give God something to work with. She (M3) even got in on the action, cutting one of my braids.
So, for now, I can still go out in public with my head uncovered. And it feels good to have lightened the load. (But M4 thinks I'm scary.)
We were updated on many of my tests of late and my labs all looked good. My heart on the echo looked good and the bone marrow biopsy was negative. No cancer is in my bone. So pretty good news, all around.
Even better news to me, and an answer to the prayers I requested, she predicted that my next "bad days" wouldn't be as bad as the first go 'round. She said my experience was "not normal" but probably due to the excessive toxins given off by the tumor. The bigger the tumor the greater the toxins. The smaller the tumor gets, the less toxins it will give off as it dies.
She explained the stuff given off is similar to what happens to your uterus when you are in labor, only this stuff invades all of your muscles, all over your body, constantly. And that was pretty much how I had described the pain, like being in labor, but all over my body.
So, I've enjoyed a few more good days, bought hats, shopped for wigs and prepared for round #2 on Thursday.
Feeling better Saturday was a huge answer to prayer for me because it was my Dad's birthday and I really wanted to feel good that day. My Mom and Dad have been helping out so much and it is great to have them around. But it was my Dad's day and I definitely didn't want the focus to be on me.
Dad and I had a hysterical trip with M4 to M1's baseball game on Saturday. That stuff that goes in the Darth Vader mask - it's a stimulant (and he's feeling much better). M4 talked non-stop for over three hours. It made us tired just to listen to him. He was especially concerned with navigating us to the fields using the mapquest map. Even M1 could hear him from the stands in the dugout once we made it to the game.
It was a beautiful day to be at the ballpark and see M1 make some great plays at first base and right field and hit a solid single which led to his being the tying run. (They ended up winning the game.)
It was great to have my brother, Allen, and his family in town to celebrate Dad's birthday all together, too.
And Sunday was better than Saturday.
I actually think in some ways I feel better than I did before I started chemo. (I remember the woman sitting next to me during chemo saying she didn't know how sick she had really been until after she started chemo and felt better.)
It is encouraging to think that the tumor must be shrinking, because I have not coughed since my first treatment. My heart is definitely beating easier. Besides being generally fatigued, I honestly think I feel better than I have in months.
At least for a few days.
Please pray for me as I get ready to start the cycle over on Thursday. It is impossible to wrap my brain around the idea that I am willingly choosing to poison myself again. Especially now that I know what I'm in for. I have to say I am a little apprehensive.
Thank you everyone for the continuous flow of encouraging words via email and cards. It lifts my spirit each and every day.
Sometimes, life can just be a lot to bear at once.
Luckily, it's a group effort here.
M4 had some respiratory issues this morning. Normally, I have my wits about me and can think through everything and get the job done as nurse/momma.
But today, I had to call in the reserves. And even the doctor.
Imagine my surprise when I got an email from Don entitled "Yoda".
Here's what I got:
Star Wars is pretty big at our house. So that is how we make nebulizer treatments enjoyable. I think M4 likened himself to Dar Gater (aka Darth Vader)because of the lovely respiration sounds the machine makes. What fun!
It was our understanding that "a bad day" would come about a week after my chemo treatment.
God gave me the grace to get through a wonderful morning sharing with our Ladies' Bible Study group.
And then it came.
We are on the learning curve, here, figuring out how my body reacts to the drugs, etc. And we are hoping that there is some sort of two week pattern, at least for consistency's sake.
Thankfully, it is not unbearable. Unfortunately, it is about all I can bear. So, please pray for everyone in my household that has to learn to function without me. For the time being, we have live-in back up in the form of my soul sister/sister-in-law, Erin. And that is a TREMENDOUS help.
And I did get a reprieve in the evening (thanks to pain medication) to catch part of M2's baseball game. I must say he is looking like a major league catcher out there!
Besides prayer, one of the biggest, TANGIBLE blessings of this journey has been the meals so many loving hands have provided.
I was thinking about all of them today and God showed me something interesting.
About FOUR WEEKS ago, Don's co-worker, Julie brought us a great pot roast dinner. It had all the trimmings, salad, brownies, and even some treats for our dog! Well, everything disappeared pretty quickly because my family is all about meat and potatoes. But not the salad. It has been sitting, slowly eaten along with the other salads that have come along with other dinners and it has yet to go brown. (Now DON'T stop bringing salads, that is not the point of my story!)
And last week, my dear friend Kim brought us another fabulous roast beef dinner that we kept eating and eating and couldn't make go away! She did the greatest thing and came over Saturday and made the leftovers into this yummy beef, vegetable, noodle soup (those of you who know Kim know that it's got to be GOOD!) You would not believe the containers that we filled with this soup. It was all over my island counter.
That was just a day after I finished my chemo. And I really haven't had much of an appetite, especially when it means getting something out of the fridge to prepare.
But every time I need to eat something (for lunch or a snack), that FOUR WEEK old salad and NEVERENDING beef stew is just what I am after and it nourishes me to the core.
And today, God helped me see how if he can do it with loaves and fishes, He can do it with lettuce and noodles, too.