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…

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Journal Entry from 9/12/17


"May the God of HOPE fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13

Notes from NIV Study Bible: Any hope the Christian has comes from God. Hope cannot be conjured up by man's efforts, it is God's gift by His Spirit.

My Bible reading this morning reiterates a theme that has been standing out to me... I am NOT in control of this (or much else, for that matter!). I have no say as to how the chemo is working, how my white blood cell counts are rebuilding (or not), how the cancer is behaving... which is really weird because it is in my own body, but yet I have nothing to do but respond, rest, and HOPE. I actually love that this verse tells me that even HOPE is outside of my realm of control--because it can be easily lost or squashed if it is just in my hands. Lord, YOUR HOPE in ME. I trust you. I trust you to give me hope to overflowing. I trust that you can use this. I hope that you can use me. Joy and peace in the midst of this hard time. Fill me with your HOPE.

The Toby Mac song, Way Beyond Me, has been an encouraging word to me in this same theme. I'm including the song and lyrics here as a reminder for me that my HOPE is in the Lord that I trust--and it's not a whimsical hope, but a HOPE in a God who loves me and will bring peace and joy to me, even in the midst... even when the waters are a little too deep, when I feel like the underdog in the fight of my life... I've never been so aware of my need... Lord, I know I need you!
Call it a reason to retreat
I got some dreams that are bigger than me
I might be outmatched outsized the underdog in the fight of my life
Is it so crazy to believe
That you gave me the stars put them out of my reach
Call me to waters a little to deep
Oh I've never been so aware of my need
You keep on making me see
It's way beyond me
It's way beyond me
Yeah it's out of my league
It's way beyond me
It's way beyond me
It's way beyond
Anything that I got the strength to do
In over my head keeps me countin' on you
I'm leaving the sweet spot sure shot tradin' it all for the plans you got
Is it so crazy to believe
That you gave me the stars put them out of my reach
Call me to waters a little to deep
Oh I've never been so aware of my need
You keep on making me see
It's way beyond me
It's way beyond me
Yeah it's out of my league
It's way beyond me
It's way beyond me
You take me to the place where I know I need You
Straight to the depths that I can't handle on my own
And Lord I know, I know I need You
So take me to Your great
Take me to Your great unknown
It's way beyond me, way way beyond me
It's it's way beyond me, way way way beyond me
Yeah, You gave me the stars, put them out of my reach
Called me to waters just a little too deep
Oh, I've never been so aware of my need
Yeah, you keep on making me see
It's way beyond me (it's way beyond me)
It's way beyond me (it's way beyond me)
Yeah, it's out of my league (it's way beyond me)
It's way beyond me (it's way beyond me)
It's way beyond me (it's way beyond me)
It's way beyond me
You take me to the place where I know I need You
Straight to the depths that I can't handle on my own (it's way beyond me)
You take me to the place where I know I need You
Oh take me to Your place
Take me to Your great unknown
Songwriters: David Arthur Garcia / Toby Mc Keehan
Beyond Me lyrics © Capitol Christian Music Group

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Just got round 3 and it's going well!

On Day 3 post 3 chemo infusion... so thought a blog update would serve as a great update to what is going on since I'm in-house for the next few days.

First of all, last week was full of blessings... kids first week of school, Columbia College back to life and Brian back to school with a good group of students!

Also, my dad came for a visit last weekend and helped the kids get their back to school shopping done (yea! I didn't have to deal with Walmart!!!), attend 1st soccer games, and we had a good visit, the first since my diagnosis. AND... my mom is here now with us to help us through these last two rounds of chemo. Helping with school, soccer, treatments and sickness... she has come to help us keep things regular for the kids and keep up on life in general, as well as either attend appointments with me or stay with the kids while Brian and I go. Such blessings from my wonderful parents (and their supportive spouses that let them come!).

Mom driving us back from Stanford through the bay area traffic
On to the medical stuff... had an appointment on Tuesday with my oncologist who was totally pleased with the progress the chemo is making. This is the first time that he hasn't taken a physical measurement of the mass because he said it's too mushy to measure... which is a great sign of it breaking down! He also verified again that no lymph nodes are swollen, so that is a great sign that the cancer is being contained. I received my 3rd round of chemo, along with a dose of Neulasta, which is a white blood cell count booster (that apparently costs as much as a new Tesla--hope insurance picks that up!!!), because again, my numbers were lower than they wanted them to be. Hopefully this will help build me up back higher so that I can recover stronger from dose #4 of chemo and be ready for surgery. I have a surgery consult on Sept 18, the day before my last chemo dose (of this round), with anticipation of surgery 4 weeks after that--so surgery will likely be sometime mid-October.

As we approach surgery, a few weeks ago I was given the news that I tested positive for the BRCA 2 gene mutation, which is likely the cause of my breast cancer. This changes treatment options for me, as well as increases the likelihood of me getting another related cancer--either breast or ovarian--(like up to 80%). So, I will still consult with my surgeon for specifics, but knowing that I have to get a mastectomy anyway, I will likely do a bilateral mastectomy, as well as remove my ovaries/tubes. Not sure how it's all going to go down, but again, I have the surgery consult on Sept 18 and will hopefully know more then. In terms of the BRCA genetics, there is a family history on my dad's side of the family with my grandmother and her mother (they didn't know about BRCA genes back then), and on my mom's side I have a cousin who had breast cancer (but tested negative for BRCA). So, I still have to meet with the genetics counselor on what that all means, but will communicate more as I know more, especially to my amazing family members.

Now what... get through this next few days of chemo icky. Enjoy my mom being here and trying to stay cool in this terrible heat wave. Pray for Texas and the mass devastation there and know there are so many who need HOPE in this crazy messed up world. Maybe work a bit over the next few weeks when I feel good.

So many of you have been asking how to help and we thank you so much! With my mom here, we have put a halt on the meal train stuff and the big needs, since she is here and is such a big help. In her words, "what else am I going to do at your house if it's not cooking, shopping, cleaning, etc.?" So... you'll notice the dates are pretty far out for the meal train... and that is for after she leaves and we're dealing with the 4th round of chemo and prep for surgery. Surgery will be another whole beast in itself. Then there will be more treatment after that... so this is a loooonnnnnggggg haul of help that will be needed. So, we definitely appreciate your continued prayers and offers!

The scripture that I read this morning...
So because our hope is set on what is yet to be seen, we patiently keep on waiting for its fulfilment. Rom 8:25   Richard Rohr writes, “IF YOU ARE NOT trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait—you will run—or more likely you will “explain.” Not necessarily a true explanation, but any explanation is better than scary liminal space. Anything to flee from this terrible “cloud of unknowing.”  CLICK THE IMAGE TO KEEP READING

Sunday, August 20, 2017

From Brian

As Brian started back at school this last week with all the teacher meeting days (school starts for him and the kids on Tues), he had lots of conversations about our summer and felt the need to send an email to his fellow staff members about my health situation. It got relayed to me and it was actually really good for me to read, through his words, what's been going on around here. I'm obviously living it, but it's good to see it from his perspective and hear how he communicates his heart. I got his permission to share it here as well, as a way of an update in the middle of round 2--so... guest post by Brian Miller 💓

Hi all,

Sorry to anyone who asked me how my summer was ... and then was surprised hear that Kirsten was diagnosed with breast cancer. So I thought that I would let everyone know what is going on.  My wife has breast cancer. It is a pretty aggressive form. We were not able to catch it super early. It is in the lymph-nodes but has not metastasized anywhere else. She has had two treatments of chemo at Stanford and is responding well to the treatment.  The mass shrunk after the first treatment and our oncologist was pleased by that. She has two more treatments scheduled (one every three weeks) before a re-evaluation and probably surgery and then maybe more chemo at that point.

Any of you who know her know that she is positive, strong and is a rock star... she loves her job and was actually at work today! She is upbeat and we are both confident that she will be OK. 

I am doing well (thank you to those who asked).

The kids are well too. They all seem to be themselves and doing their normal things. We are trying to keep life as normal as possible around the house.

People have asked if they can help.  I like hugs. Kirsten does too. We will take all they prayer and positive thoughts we can get.  If you want to take a more active roll there is a meal train that has been set up for us... I will get that info to you later... cant remember the website. The only problem with joining the meal train is that we are trying to go hippie dippy organic which we have discovered is tricky at first. Signing up for that is not for the faint of heart.

So now when you ask me how I am doing I won't feel like I have to explain all of this before I just let you know if its a good day or a bad one.

Thank you all,
Brian Miller

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Good news from Dr--the chemo is working!

Let's start with the good news. I am so thankful. We got to go to Avila on our annual family vacation with family... and to feel good for this time was so great! Beach time, play time, even a dinner at Jocko's with our great friends, Steve and Lisa. Day in Morro Bay. Then drove up to San Jose on Mon night and got to stay with my cousins Staci and Matt, and their sweet babies, before my appointments on Tues morning.

Blood work, then appt with Dr. Massarweh, who was very pleased with my response to this powerful AC chemo cocktail. On his physical exam, the mass measured 6x7cm, which is down from 9x8!!! Also, he said that the lymph nodes that were felt clearly in our last appt are now no longer defined! He said that typically he would see some softening or something, but this was better than expected results for the first round--the chemo is WORKING! Praise the Lord... and keep those prayers coming!

My white blood cell counts were lower than expected, so my chemo infusion was delayed a bit until my nurse received dr. approval to continue. During that time, I got to meet with a nutritionist who was very helpful in looking at my blood work, eating habits, and knowing chemo side effects and immune building techniques. She wants me on a regime of 80-90 grams of protein a day (an egg is 7 grams) to help build those white blood cells (and other things I tested low in this time)--that is a lot of protein!!!

Anyway, chemo #2 is done and my handsome husband got us back to the beach safely. Much thanks to my awesome sis-in-law, Jennifer, for keeping our kiddos overnight and giving them a super fun beach day while we were away. 💗 Today has been not terrible, the nausea meds are working well and despite a few hot flashes (normal side effect of the chemo blocking hormones), I've felt okay and enjoyed the ocean view room and air conditioning!

However... I had finally had it with my hair. Chunks were coming out and hair was just falling out all over the place. The little hair I still had on my head looked so ratty and thin, it was just sad. So, today, after the fam went down to the beach, I took the shaver to my head and now it's gone. I won't razor it down right away because I read that can cause ingrown hairs. I was surprised to see how much blank space was there from all those chunks coming out, or maybe I wasn't. It is just surprising to see myself bald. But honestly, my head feels so much better (it had been feeling bruised and itchy for 2 weeks) and to not deal with the hair falling all day long was so much better. So... now to embrace this new season (and my new hats!).

Saturday, August 5, 2017

My girls... and my hair.

I have the most amazing friends... I really, really do.

My sweet bible study girls have come around our family since my diagnosis in so many different ways. They have hosted a prayer night complete with floating candles symbolizing hope and faith and sticky notes with every prayer and praise I mentioned while updating everyone, and everyone took the multitudes of notes to keep praying for the specific things we need.

They used one of our Bible study Weds nights together to do a group effort on freezer meals for my family (we got 5 in one night!). They have organized a meal train for our family to help us, especially around my infusion dates when I will be down, to help our family eat well and stress less (the link is here on my blog under the 'about me' picture). And two nights ago, they hosted a 'Hat & Scarf Party' (with some other special friends in attendance, too), where I was honored and gifted with beautiful hats, scarves, cards, and some other fun and meaningful gifts from their

And just in time, too... as my hair has officially started to fall out. Today, it's really bad... chunks of hair when I run my hands through. I've been dreading this part. Not ready to shave it down yet, but I have a feeling that, if it lasts that long, when I go for my next infusion on Tues, that will be the kicker. I'm so thankful to have these beautiful head coverings that I'm excited to use to buffer the blow. It's really sad.

I don't have any pictures of my hat party because I was truly in the moment and pretty overwhelmed... but I will remember it forever. The love and the hope these girls have for me is beautiful, and I am so blessed.