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.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Thankful and Blessed

Now on Day #13 after infusion #1 and I am happy to report that I am feeling almost normal... which feels so good!!! 

I say almost because there is still an underlying tired in there--and with a no sugar and light caffeine policy for myself--it's hard to work out of, so a nap a day is helping! Also, acid re-flux is happening easily with random foods, so trying to keep track of what is triggering that. And, trying to be cautious about exposure to make sure my immune system can rebuild itself for the next round... thus, my family is at church and I am writing this blog post. I'm learning that I can't see all these people that I love and not want to receive their hugs! So far, I haven't started losing my hair, which they said would start sometime after days 10-14. My head is pretty itchy, and I have been given some really cute hats, and I still don't like the short hair cut... but I imagine that I will still wish I had it when it's gone.

Kids came home from Hume yesterday, with dirty and tired bodies, but great stories and hearts bursting with joy! So thankful for the counselors that took on the week with these kids, the Hume staff serving these kids with their lives this summer, and for the God-led ministry of Hume Lake Christian Camps. This is where I heard the message of a God who loved me and for the first time, accepted the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross to die for my sins--the reason for the HOPE within me! Then, I got to work there two amazing summers while I was in college. Now, my kids get to experience it, too! So fun!!!

The love and the gifts and the encouragement that continues to pour into our family is just... incredible. Jesus with skin on for me... even if you aren't believers yourselves. Every single card, call, text, message, visit, gift, meal, offer of help and prayer is felt deep in my soul and is very uplifting and significant to me. I feel like if I were to list it all, this post would go on and on and I would probably forget something, so I will just show you one of the blessings that came to me this week...
These baskets were put together for us by my Columbia College family--we were blown away! My favorite gift in the basket was a framed picture of many of my co-workers (whoever was around on that particular summer day) with a thumbs up for me, but also included were cards, hundreds of dollars in gifts cards for anything from Starbucks to gas, books to read, fresh fruit and eggs from gardens, home canned items, bible verse coloring book and pencils, and more. I said to Brian, "now do you understand why I love working where I work?" He always has, but this even blew him away! Many of you have asked if I will continue working this year with all that is going on, and the short answer is "when I can." I have an amazing boss that cares about her people and does whatever she can to make things work on our behalf (within the district HR limits, of course!). I have an amazing job that while it takes a lot of brain power, is not physical in nature, so it won't tax my body too much (and I will have a Germ-x bottle in my office for everyone I meet with!). I also have a lot of flexibility doing online counseling and teaching, so that will be part of the mix. I also really feel like it will be beneficial for me (mind, heart and body) to be involved with 'normal' life, when I can, especially when Brian and the kids go back to school. The job I do is so meaningful that it makes it worth it, and then of course the people there are so great to be around, it will be good for me (and being alone too long or too often is not!). So, when I feel like I can be there, I can be there. When I feel like I can't, there is no expectation, just support and encouragement... which is another gift in itself.

So, in the progression of the chemo effects, this week before my next infusion (scheduled for Aug 8) should be a good one, as they say after day 12, the immune system is back on the rise. As I'm already feeling good, it's quite likely that it will continue. I am living today so thankful and blessed!

"... I have hope because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness... The Lord is good to those whose HOPE is in him, to the one who seeks him" - Lamentations 3:21-23, 25

Sunday, July 23, 2017

This Week

Sharing with you a few special things that have taken place this week... 
First off, we sent our big kids off to Hume Lake this morning! So incredibly thankful for them to have this week away to play, to have fun with their friends, to learn more about the amazing God that loves them so much, and to give them time away in such a beautiful place. I'm praying that they listen with their hearts and minds to the truth of God and that it would resonate so profoundly within them that they understand HOPE to it's depths.

Secondly, the kindness and care that continues to be poured out for us is truly overwhelming. Friends at work found about my diagnosis this week and they are rallying together to take on my part of Welcome Week (kind of my baby... and a big deal for the college) to keep it going smoothly. Friends grabbed kids to help get them ready for Hume, take them to swim meets and basketball camps, and sent their kids here to help weed-eat our property to help keep fire hazard down. We were brought delicious meals, given thoughtful gifts, and have received prayer filled cards in the mail or messages every single day. You have no idea (well, maybe you do) how much this all means to me and brightens my spirits. I am finally feeling better (day 5) today, and if feels good to feel better (with a couple of cat naps in there). They say that days 7-12 are when my immunity is at it's lowest and I might feel crummy again, and I'll be super susceptible to illness because I will have no white blood cells to fight off any bad stuff... so please forgive me if I don't hug you (though it goes against my very nature!!!) or ask you to wash your hands when you come to my house. 💗

Lastly, we were told that it would take about 2 weeks for the chemo to start working on my hair. In calculating that out, it would be right near when the kids came back from Hume, and I didn't want them to leave with everything 'normal' and come back to a drastic change. Plus, I didn't want to deal with long hair mess when it started falling out... too traumatic and messy. In trying to find ways to make this easier on me and our family, I decided to let Emmy play hair dresser and help me with the transition cut. She couldn't believe it and set up a whole pamper event for me, including a foot rub, nail polish and of course, a new do. We pony-tailed off what we could to send to Children with Hair Loss, a company that provides free wigs to kids who have hair loss of any kind up until age 21. I think Emmy did a really good job with my mass of hair, but she quickly realized it is NOT as easy as it looks! After a few days, the boys and I all went for haircuts, as they needed them and I felt like I still had too much hair to lose. While I was sitting in the seat, I found out that Great Clips has a 'Clips of Kindness' program and my haircut was free--which was very touching as I was thinking how dumb I was being to waste money on a haircut. Everyone says that this is one of the hardest parts of chemo. I am choosing to make it part of the journey that will bring a couple bright memories. 
That said, I might be smiling in the pictures, but I really don't like the short hair on me... As my scalp is already sort of tender and itching (what they say proceeds the hair loss), I will choose to think on truth that if the hair is falling out, it's because the chemo is working!!!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Post Infusion #1

Currently, it's day 2 post infusion #1. I'm doing okay... a bit nauseous, tired and not quite myself, but the anti-nausea medicine helps a bunch. Hoping that after day 3 we can work out the meds and get a bit more active. 

Infusion day started off early with an MRI, (and a yummy breakfast date with my hubby!) of which results came back yesterday. I am praising God that they found nothing in my right breast, and what is in my left is exactly what the drs have been anticipating. There are actually a few masses, with a total of 9cm and a few abnormal lymph nodes. There are a few other findings noted that I'm sure mean something to the drs but I don't know how to interpret (they post test results on myhealth account through Stanford website). Regardless of the findings, the treatment would be the same as I am getting. I do have to say that even though it's crummy... it feels good to finally be doing something to kick this thing rather than just sit around and think about it.

Had a good meeting with Dr. Massarweh, and yet another resident (who kept looking at himself in the mirror--which I found pretty entertaining), where I found out that ALL of my scans last week came back clear... PRAISE GOD!!! No metastasis anywhere else!!! He again walked me through the medications, side effects and how to stay as healthy as possible in this process. Washing hands, staying away from big and/or close crowds (no movie theatres, etc), eating clean and healthy as much as I can, using the anti-nausea medications to help me manage, and funny stories to lighten the mood. 

Super great nurses and support in the infusion center. Dani explained things for about an hour... going over all the medicine, side effects, making sure to answer any questions and making sure I was comfortable. The first round of chemo she actually has to inject slowly, so she sat with me for about 20 minutes while doing that. The second kind of chemo comes in drip form, so Brian and I pulled up a show and kept ourselves busy and entertained for the hour or so it was going.

Got home to the most awesome sign made by the kids and Aubrey (our sweet friend who was staying with the kiddos). 

These last couple days have been not as terrible as I had anticipated. Like I said before, I definitely don't feel normal, but it's not as bad as I had imagined--my guess is because the meds are helping keep the nausea at bay and the prayers that are covering me from every angle! Every once in a while it waves over me, but then it passes and we keep going. My amazing husband is just that... amazing. So thankful for him, and for all the love and support from so many friends.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Family Saturday Adventures!

Chemo treatment starts Tuesday, so we decided a family get-away was in store for today since we don't know what the next few months will be like for us. We road-tripped it over the gorgeous Sonora Pass and made our first trip to Bodie, the historic gold-rush ghost town. We had a wonderful day with great views and fun adventures. Here's to more of that!!!