Saturday, November 18, 2017

Just Be Held

I heard a new (to me) song today while driving alone (yeah... fewer pain meds these days means I can drive!) and I didn't even catch the beginning... but I loved it. It's by Casting Crowns and it's called Just Be Held. The lyrics hit me so close, and so powerfully, I just had to share so I can remember God's words to me today...

Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on
And when you're tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There's freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go
So when you're on your knees and answers seem so far away
You're not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world's not falling apart, it's falling into place
I'm on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held
If your eyes are on the storm
You'll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
You'll know I always have and I always will
And not a tear is wasted
In time, you'll understand
I'm painting beauty with the ashes
Your life is in My hands
So when you're on your knees and answers seem so far away
You're not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world's not falling apart, it's falling into place
I'm on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held
Lift your hands, lift your eyes
In the storm is where you'll find Me
And where you are, I'll hold your heart
I'll hold your heart
Come to Me, find your rest
In the arms of the God who won't let go
So when you're on your knees and answers seem so far away
You're not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world's not falling apart, it's falling into place
I'm on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
(Stop holding on and just be held)
Just be held, just be held
Just be held, just be held
Written by John Mark Hall, Matthew West, Bernie Herms • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, Capitol Christian Music Group

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Nitty Gritty

It's all good to focus on the positive and just report the wonderful things, but there is also a reality that is not so fortunate... it is cancer after all. I feel like I have finally come to grips with what the Tumor Board's decision for my treatment will be and understand it enough to report out.

Surgery recovery is going well... doctors are all positive about how things are healing up. I did develop a seroma (pocket of fluid, apparently common when lymph nodes get removed) in my left armpit area that was super uncomfortable (it felt like an egg under my arm). I was able to stay local to get that drained yesterday (40cc's of fluid!) and it was almost instant relief. Hopefully it will not refill... once created, the body can just see that as a place to collect fluid. I covet your prayers for that and for continued healing and comfort in regards to the surgical healing overall. I would love to be off of pain meds before I start back on anti-nausea meds...

While we were originally encouraged that only 1% of the cells in the tumor from the removed breast tissue were cancerous, it is now known that the remaining 1% is the 'worst' kind of breast cancer cells--called 'triple negative.' Originally, my cancer was hormone positive and HER2 negative, which means is was aggressive (the HER2- piece), but that it would respond well to hormone therapies and such. From, the triple negative breast cancer (1) is often more aggressive than other types and (2) isn’t a good candidate for treatments such as hormonal therapy and Herceptin. But it can be treated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, so that is what is on the schedule for me next. Still very thankful that pre-surgery chemo was very effective, but DARN THAT 1%!!!

I start chemo again on Nov 14, with a weekly schedule of Taxol cocktail-ed with 4 doses of Carboplatin each 21 days, for 12 weeks. I will have a port put in early on the 14th so I don't have to be poked with the IV each week and ruin all my veins with that nasty stuff and all the blood draws each week, and that port will stay in me until I'm done with chemo treatments. After chemo, I will be getting radiation, which my oncologist will refer me to the radiation dr to set up, but said it's usually 30 treatments within a 6 week period (read: each weekday for 6 weeks, yikes!). The good news is that my doctor is still talking 'cure' and not just subdue. 

So... we will continue. I never really felt right calling this a 'fight' before (all the 'warrior' and 'fight like a girl' things), but now I get it. I'm in a war against cancer for my life, and this daily battle to trust God with this, to willingly go in and get stuck with needles and inject (what seems like) poison into my veins, and to face the illness and pain that come with all of the procedures and medicine--these are battles I must face. Isaiah 12:2 was an encouragement today from a friend that puts to words what my heart is feeling:

Image result for isaiah 12:2

Where HOPE reigns,

Sunday, November 5, 2017

God Moments

  • Soccer mom prior to surgery--Our daughter's had been on the same team all season, but in a God moment, she reached out to me and asked, "you're in treatment for breast cancer, too?" I had been struggling to wrap my head around surgery, what my doctors were saying to expect in recovery and the reality of what was coming. This angel mom had the same surgeon, same hospital, same procedure, and was willing to share the good, bad and ugly, let me ask all my questions and shared from her heart what she wished she would have known going in. She was a literal answer to prayer I couldn't have even known I needed.
  • Vincent, the awesome pre-op nurse who made sure I was comfortable and taken care of while my surgery was delayed, and also advised us on how to ask for certain areas for recovery overnight while in the hospital so that I could be most comfortable and well cared for.
  • Seeing Candice and Justin at Stanford as we were all in between appointments, getting to share stories, get updates and encourage each other that God's got both of us in His hands. Her smile and positivity was so refreshing and it was great to hug each other between these tough appointments.
  • The Habitat for Humanity Restore having a french door and a brand new Pella window that will work perfectly for our playroom plans at a fraction of the price of new materials. Also scored some patio lounge chairs for a great deal!
I don't think the valets at Stanford were too excited to see our truck pull up for parking service!
  • While at the Restore, in the restroom, a woman who is a breast cancer survivor struck up a conversation with me. She was diagnosed when she was 42, like me, and now 10 years later she is loving life and her newly reconstructed boobs (which she showed to me without hesitation--or really even me asking). This was oddly encouraging to me, because what I have going on now looks really, really horrible--and hers were great! I have heard people are really open about this kind of thing, but this was a first for me to experience it, and I thank the Lord that it was encouraging rather than just weird!
  • Dr. Lee's (my plastic surgeon) nurse practitioner suggesting that we connect with Dr. Reid in Sonora, who actually studied with Dr. Lee at some point, to do the quick check ups and post-surgery stuff locally instead of driving down to the bay area for a 10 minute appointment. I had my first appointment with Dr. Reid last week and she is amazing! I am so glad to have someone local that will be a good resource for me and save us some time and gas for quick check-ups.
  • The Sonora Police Department asking Brian and his class last spring to design pink inserts to raise money during October for breast cancer awareness month. Of course we had no idea of my own diagnosis at that time, and the officers were very sympathetic when Brian told them what was going on when he dropped the inserts off at the beginning of October. They stopped by Brian's classroom today (10/30/17) with a beautiful orchid plant and a card saying that they had donated all the money raised this year from those badge inserts to Susan B. Komen research on my behalf. Just awesome, and humbling, and awesome. 

  • Puzzles, movies and down time with the kids and my mom. 

  • Thankful that I felt well enough to walk around trick-or-treating with my kids and our huge crew this year!
  • Another gift basket from my amazingly generous Columbia College family, delicious dinners from so many friends, visits and lunches with dear ones. My mom and Dad2 giving their lives to us right now in our time of need. Prayers, texts, facebook messages and posts, calls, cards in the mail (yes, real, written cards!!!), flowers, food, and sooo sooo much encouragement. 
So many things to be thankful for, to live for, and to love 💗💗💗

Monday, October 30, 2017

Journal Entry - 10/30/17

So, I watched a chick flick, Safe Haven, yesterday while the family was enjoying Fall Family Fun Night at church. I thought it would be a good time to enjoy a sappy Nicholas Sparks movie, right? The main premise was a girl getting away from an abusive husband, but the unexpected angle of the movie that rocked me was that the guy she fell in love with lost his wife to cancer years before. The wife had written lots of letters before she died--for her kids mostly on those big things in life... their 18th birthday, wedding day, etc. The emotion of all that didn't hit me until the very end of the movie when the man gives a letter to the new girl he loves addressed 'To Her,' which was a letter his wife had left for the girl her husband would go on to love. I bawled. It was so well written and said would I would love to have the courage to say myself, but...

I DON'T WANT TO WRITE LETTERS LIKE THOSE. I want to be with my kids on those big events and milestones. I want my love to grow old with Brian. And that is why I am going through all of this.

Not everyone gets a chance to fight. Like the mom in this movie. Like those shot in Las Vegas or who are fatally injured in a car accident, or in so many ways that we lose our loved ones. Lots of pain and nausea and sickness for me to wade through, but I get a HOPE to be here with my family and watch my kids grow up, to help Brian pick paint colors for our new house, and write a graduate school reference letter for one of my amazing students.

Thank you, Lord, for HOPE. Thank you for the purpose you have given me and that I have a reason for the HOPE that is within. It gives me the will to endure, to suck it up, to keep going, and to keep moving forward (a line from Meet the Robinson's--one of my favs--and much more uplifting than Safe Haven!!!). 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Post Surgery Update

It's taken me much longer than I thought it would to put words together enough to update here. I don't know why, other than the pain med fog I've been in or that I just haven't wanted to do much of anything, but I have appreciated the individual texts, visits and questions in the meantime checking in on me and making me (and my family) feel very loved and supported.

I had my post op appts this week, so we know now beyond 'surgery went well'... the short version is that pathology came back 99% clear of cancer cells (a good result for them is 95%--so we beat that!). Also, out of the 8 lymph nodes they took out and tested, 6 were completely clear and 2 were cleared by 'evidence of treatment' (again, the chemo worked!). My doctors are taking the pathology (all the slides and evidence from surgery) to the 'Tumor Board,' which happens today, and all the smart people together in the same room come up with the best treatment plan moving forward. My oncologist has already anticipated another round of chemo (darn that 1%) called Taxol, which is a weekly IV dose but apparently isn't as harsh as the first kind I received, and that is scheduled to start Nov 14th. The tumor board is going to be looking at whether or not radiation will be recommended after that... so specific prayer request is that it will not be!

My ovaries and tubes are still intact--short version is that the 3rd surgeon responsible for that part had the flu. The silver lining is menopause is delayed for now... but we'll just schedule that procedure with the 2nd phase of breast reconstruction after everything else is done.

Which brings me to recovery... not going to lie... this hurts. It's been a week and a few days and I finally am starting to feel like a truck is not constantly resting on my chest. The pain meds have been working well and I have been sleeping a lot. These last few days, I've been able to back off of them, intermixing tylenol instead of just the big guns, which is good because it helps me not be so out of it, as well as means that I'm not in such pain that we can adjust things down. These drains they put in are a total pain--literally they hurt but they are so annoying! I was able to get 2 of the 4 out while I was down there on Wed... hoping these others can come out soon. A praise is that my surgeon provided a referral to one up here in Sonora that can help take these drains out and do a couple of the minor check ups in between now and when I go back down to start chemo. Prayer requests for that would be that all the orders come through and I can get scheduled easily for next week.

Other than that, I am definitely appreciating my husband and all the time he is taking from work to be with me in hospitals and doctor offices, my mom and Dad2's help around here in keeping the house and the kids functioning, as well as Bill doing a ton of work in the garages for Brian! The meals and the friends and gifts have been so encouraging and supportive... we are so thankful. I'm pretty sure I mention this almost every time I post something, but I can literally feel the prayers and support you all are providing in terms of the peace from God that calms my heart and mind. There have been so many 'God moments' and answers to prayers in this process that I look forward to sharing in a future post... but now, it's time for a nap. :)

Love to you all, 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Surgery is scheduled

Surgery is scheduled for Tuesday, October 17. Brian and I will go down the night before, check in is at 8:30am with the procedure to follow. They say it'll be about a 3-4 hour surgery, with a 24-hour watch afterward, so overnight in the hospital and home the next day, if all goes as planned 🙏.

So thankful that my mom and Dad2 are going to come and stay with us during this time... to be with the kids while we are gone and at the post-op appointments to follow, to help me in recovery, and help us keep our house functioning so Brian can work and kids can feel as normal as possible while I am down. So, so thankful.

Also thankful for all the help being offered from our wonderful friends, co-workers, and church family. The support on this journey has been incredible... the delicious home-cooked organic meals and freezer meals, the rides for our kids, the eggs and fresh produce from farms/gardens, the help around the house, the cards and gifts that are show up regularly... just an amazing blessing to both Brian and I. We are so encouraged by everyone around us, it helps us to think on our blessings instead of the burdens in this tough time. Thank you!

My Bible study book brought me to Chapter 4 in Philippians this morning, and it was impeccable timing for me and what my heart needed as I brace myself for this surgery (this is what I think it means about the Bible being a 'living word'--speaks truth where needed and when needed if you are open to it!). Here's what Wiersbe (author of the study, Be Joyful) had to say, "Chapter 4 (of Philippians) describes the spiritual resources the believer has in Christ: God's peace (vs 1-9), God's power (vs 10-13), and God's provision (vs 14-23). With resources like these, why should we worry? We have the peace of God to guard us (vs 7), guide us (vs 9), come to us when we practice right praying (vs 6-7), right thinking (vs 8), and right living (vs 9)-- God's secret victory over all worry!"

Gonna hold on to this one with everything I've got for the next few weeks!!!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Post Treatment #4

I figure an update is due… I received my last dose of AC chemo a week ago today (Tuesday). I also was able to have a consult with both my oncology surgeon and the reconstruction surgeon while I was down there. Wow. A ton of information in a short amount of time… topped by the last of the nasty stuff.

The good news first… they stop short of saying I’ve had a complete response to the chemo, because what they ‘feel’ only tells them 30% of the story of what is actually going on inside the body. However, all of the doctors were beyond pleased—there was no mass to measure (where there used to be 9x8 cm one mass!) and they did not feel any swollen lymph nodes (there were at least 3 before) There was nothing to measure!!! Such great news and makes all this yuck at least worth it.

The harder stuff… My veins are getting hardened from the chemo, so the nurse had a hard time getting my IV in this time. Also, I got a kind of anxiety attack (realized what it was after the fact) when she started pushing the chemo… thankfully the med that was already prescribed to me to help with the nausea and to sleep has an anti-anxiety effect as well… so she just had me put it under my tongue to dissolve it quicker into my body and I was a-okay.
Just looks nasty, doesn't it? It's pretty tough to watch this stuff get pushed into your veins... yuck!
Surgery is coming… probably in three weeks from now (which, honestly makes my stomach turn almost as much as the chemo), but the schedulers apparently are having a time with getting the doctors coordinated. We’ve decided to do a double mastectomy--the BRCA 2 gene I tested positive for raises my chances of another breast cancer (not just a re-occurrence of this one) up to 60-80% if any breast tissue remains. That was enough for us to call it done. On surgeon’s advice, I’ll also start phase 1 reconstruction with this surgery, then follow whatever treatment is determined by what is discovered in surgery (maybe more chemo and/or radiation), then more reconstructive surgery after all treatment is done. All the appointments and all the information was a bit overwhelming, but overall, the doctors are very positive about the outcomes and that is good news to me. They also set up a consult for me next week to talk with the gynology oncologist about getting my ovaries and tubes removed due to the increased risk of ovarian cancer with the BRCA 2 gene—which could be coordinated with this first surgery or the next one.

My Bible study group is starting a new book on Philippians, Be Joyful by Warren Wiersbe… reading the introduction this morning was encouraging to me and a good way to think about all that is and is coming. A couple quotes that I’d like to hold on to… 

The secret of Christian joy is found in the way the believer thinks – his attitudes. After all, outlook determines outcome.” (pg 18)

 “He (Paul) did not look at Christ through his circumstances; rather, he looked at his circumstances through Christ—and this changed everything.” (pg 22) 

And… this is why I can have JOY (even through the tears here and there--been emotional this week!)! This is why I can find thankfulness. This is why there is HOPE!!!

Love to you my friends…