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.