Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Good News

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.

My mom pointed out a passage of scripture that reminded her of "The Retreat of the Dust Bunny"

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.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday Update

I went for my PET scan today. No word on what they saw yet. Hopefully I will get the report when I go for chemo tomorrow. I will let you know what I find out.

Thanks for your prayers!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


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.

Lord, please help my unbelief.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Not Me! Monday

We are NOT running late decorating our pumpkins this fall . . .

And this is NOT the back of my head.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

For Tana

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.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Glimpses of Chemo

I start the morning with a blood draw. Then find a seat in the chemo room.

Because I am there all day, I take lots to do. (But usually I don't get anything done.) It always looks like I'm moving in! They hook up my port to the IV and off we go.

I get a total of 3 bags of IV medication. Two chemo drugs and 1 cocktail of antinausea drugs with Benadryl. My last drug comes home with me on the pump for the night.

Round four is down!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Not Me! Monday

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".

I hope you guys enjoy seeing the real me . . .


I did NOT have the following conversation with one of my precious M's (who will remain anonymous to protect the guilty)while being driven around town by a friend:

M?: Mom, can I roll down my window? (In the car, travelling 50 MPH)

Me: No

M?: Well, then, what am I supposed to do with my booger?


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.

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Things don't always go as planned

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

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Retreat of the Dust Bunny

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.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Kitchen Table

Some of you have asked to see a picture of my kitchen table, so here it is:

Isn't God great?!?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The End of Daylight Savings Time is Rough

Three out of four of them were actually asleep . . .

Our Routine

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!