Friday, February 9, 2018

Should have watched the Olympic Opening Ceremonies...

but no... apparently, I have a knack for watching the most heart-wrenching movies when I'm on my own (I really need start reading reviews). I love Drew Barrymore movies, and this one, I Miss You Already, was about best friends in the ups and downs of life, said the oh so very vague description on Amazon Prime. I thought it would be a sweet friendship movie. And yes, while it was that... SPOILER ALERT.... I should have turned it off right near the beginning when the best friend of Drew's character found out she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had to have chemo. And lost her hair and got a wig. And because she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer and genetics testing indicated so, she had a double mastectomy. And her kids had to see her go through all this. And her husband had the weight of the world on his shoulders, plus a sick wife. And her friends came around her but felt bad for their own struggles and joys in the midst of her battle. And I am ugly crying through all of it, but can't turn it off, because I relate (up until she cheated on her husband... want no part of that!). And then it gets worse, and long movie short... she hopes there is a heaven.

I praise God that I know there is a heaven. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Chemo is DONE!


Yesterday, going into my last infusion, I opened my Bible for my 'HOPE' verse of the day. I was brought to the story in Mark 9 about the father who brought his demon possessed son to Jesus and the dialogue went something like this: 

And in the next verses, Jesus delivers the boy by driving out the evil spirit.

The commentary in my study Bible expanded on these verses: "The question was not whether Jesus had the power to heal the boy but whether the father had faith to believe it. A person who truly believes will set no limits on what God can do (vs.23)," and "Since faith is never perfect, belief and unbelief are often mixed (vs.24).

These verses really resonate with me in this season of my life.

I have felt during this whole cancer journey--that the Lord CAN heal me completely--I truly believe that he can... and yet I still get all the doctors and treatments. People have questioned me on both sides of this coin. I kinda feel like it's that story of the drowning man...

I feel like God provides me help through the amazing doctors, technology and science behind cancer research... chemo the rowboat, surgery the motorboat, and radiation the helicopter... to be 'saved' from this terrible diagnosis and I'm taking every opportunity he's providing me. I struggle with the unbelief/belief, and I am so thankful that Jesus is one who meets me where I am (and where this father was). Jesus allows for the raw honesty, and had mercy for the "if" statement. IF God is real, then... EVERYTHING is possible for Him who believes... the reason for my HOPE! Lord, please help me to know it is by your power alone that I am saved--for eternity and for your purposes and glory here on this earth!

The "IF" statement makes me nostalgic for the IF conference we hosted at our church last year, and since I wasn't able to lead it again this year, it got dropped from the radar :(. It's happening in many, many places throughout the world all throughout the spring (livecast on Feb 9-10). Heck, I might just register and watch it from home... yes, I think I might! Anyone want to join me? Here's a little promo they put out last week...  and the link to find out if one is happening in your neck of the woods... https://register.ifgathering.com/if-local. My house isn't listed on there... but seriously, let me know if you want to come over! 




Sunday, January 21, 2018

Almost...

Almost done with chemo
Almost time to find out about next phase of treatment
Almost time for mom and Bill to go home
Almost time for my hair to start growing back
Almost a month break from treatment
Almost time to get back into the swing of things... work, church, 'normal' 
Almost cancer free...


It's hard to be in this place of almost, especially as I'm not feeling good from this last infusion of the carboplatin/taxol chemo cocktail I received on Tuesday. It's the last of the cocktail though, and now I just have 2 more taxol infusions, which don't take me down as hard typically. I was reminded this week that this last carbo cycle is the lowest I will go (in terms of feeling crummy and immune suppression), and even though the taxol will kind of keep my system 'down,' I will start building up from here. As soon as this carbo is out of my system, my hair will start growing back. As soon as I receive my last infusion (scheduled for Jan 29th), I don't see the oncologist again for another month. Almost done with this phase of treatment!

In the meantime, I see the radiologist at Stanford tomorrow to determine my needs for radiology. So, if you are praying with me through this, please pray that my case is not complicated and the dr will feel confident about referring me to a more local dr to receive treatment. I'm not sure yet what my procedure/schedule would be, but was told typical radiation is 5 days a week for 6 weeks... that is a LOT of time right there, thus the desire to have a good local option. There is a Stanford affliate radiologist in Turlock (about an hour and 15 mins away from home), and my oncologist was ready to send me straight there, but I insisted on meeting with the dr who sat on the Tumor Board and determined that radiation would be required for me before getting referred out. So, I get to meet with her tomorrow. My prayer is that the Dr. knows someone brilliant in Sonora who she is confident about referring me to, or that the Turlock dr is a really great option (it's easier in the system to stick with Stanford dr for the medical records and such). Almost time to learn about the next phase of treatment.

We are also preparing around here to send Mom and Bill back home... they have been here since Oct 15th--3 months!!! I can't even begin to describe the gratefulness I have for them. They have been such a support in so many ways, to try to list it all out would come up short. The plan is for them to roll out on Wednesday to start their trek back to Ohio... I am thankful that I am doing well enough that we all feel it is time for them to go, but man, we going to miss them. We have loved having them here--getting to attend all the kids programs, basketball games, awards assemblies, having them here for dinner every night and building puzzles and working on projects. It's going to be so quiet, and honestly probably a bit overwhelming for us how to figure out how to do this on our own again. Almost time to say goodbye still gives us a few days...

I am looking forward to the 'almost' of feeling like I can be 'normal' again--whatever normal means. What it means to me now is no nose bleeds every day, food tasting good again (especially bread!), no more numbing in my hands or feet (neuropathy--a typical side effect of this kind of chemo), being able to attend a friend's birthday party and Bible study, not having to drive down to the Bay Area weekly, being able to hug people, being able to go to church, not worrying about germs so much, being able to participate in our home remodel stuff, and being out of the chemo brain fog to see students at work again. The feeling of being productive is one I have missed. I know my 'productivity' now has to be internal--building my white blood cell counts, platelets, taking care to eat foods that have lots of protein and help my liver detox from all the meds, resting/sleeping... this is what keeps me moving forward in my treatment and allows my body to heal. Thankfully, with mom and Bill here, and Brian working as hard as he does, there has been a lot of activity around the house in terms of upkeep and forward progress, but I'm looking forward to getting my mind and hands back into it. Almost...

The last almost... cancer free... when I asked the doctor when I would get to hear those words and the response was "we will keep monitoring you," I had a bit of a melt down. Apparently my oncologist will not tell me I'm in remission or cancer free. I will get 'monitored' every 3 months after the active treatment phase is over. At each check-up, if they don't find cancer, then I'm free of cancer... for now. I can imagine this will be a bit of a nerve-racking experience each time I go for a check-up. This will be another way my faith and trust in God will have to have victory over my heart and mind. 

The song playing in my heart over and over with this is "Only King Forever"... especially the lyrics: We bring our expectations, Our hope is anchored in Your Name, The Name of Jesus, Oh, we trust the Name of Jesus... and the chorus: You are the only King forever, Almighty God we lift You higher, You are the only King forever, Forevermore, You are victorious!


So... living in the almost phase right now... lots to be thankful for and lots to look forward to, with some tears, miles and struggle in between. So blessed to have your prayers, love and support along this journey with me.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Hello 2018

Favorite family photo of 2017!
It was amazing to have Christmas with my family and time off together over break. We've had some good family time, great visits with wonderful friends, productive time around the house, a fun New Year's celebration... and now reality hits today with Brian back to school, getting the kids ready to go back tomorrow, and me going down for another treatment tomorrow as well (only 5 more!!!!)

Sunset on 2017
Sunrise to start our new year!



As we say goodbye to 2017 (yea!) and HELLO to 2018, the message in my Bible reading and also my Facebook feed over and over is one of pairing TRUST and HOPE together.



This makes total sense to me... the only reason that I have the HOPE that I have is that I can rest in the TRUTH that God loves me, that God is good, and that God has this all worked out on my behalf--eternally and I believe even here on this earth. He's got a purpose for all things. Good, bad and hard. The hardest part of HOPE is to rest in that TRUTH and find peace with the process.



Psalm 31:19 & 24 tell me, "How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of meno on those who take refuge in you... Be strong and take heart, all you who HOPE in the Lord." That is me! I will be strong and take heart (be comforted) because I hope... because I have someone trustworth to hope in. I can see joy, and wonder, and healing because of hope.

Psalm 71:14 will be my theme verse for 2018... 
But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.



Friday, December 22, 2017

Happenings

Looking at my bald head and the scars across my chest yesterday, I just wondered... how did this happen? Life is so weird. It is so good, so hard and so mixed all the time. As we prepare our home and hearts for Christmas this year, I have felt like I'm taking a back seat to the 'normal.' Still getting the gifts, planning the meals, and even getting to participate in many of the holiday festivities, but in a weird way I feel removed from it. Emmy said a couple days ago that she didn't "feel happy" like she usually does this time of year... and I feel the same. As we talked through it a bit, we realized that the weekly trips to Stanford, the loss of 'normal' and excitement as I am tired and they can't predict how I'll be feeling from day to day, and I think just the 'fog' of cancer in general that penetrates our daily life... is dampening the 'happy' feelings. But on the flipside, it generates a joy that is so deep and profound, it's hard not to be thankful. Thankful that I am here to celebrate Christmas, that we caught it, that it's treatable, that we have hope for my healthy future. Thankful that there is more to this life than just surviving. Thankful for all the blessings, and friendships, and support, and help, and love. Thankful that we are celebrating a Savior that is more than just a Christmas story, but one that loves and gives and comforts and gives meaning and purpose to this weird life.

I was given a tip from a dear friend at the beginning of this cancer journey to take lots of pictures. For those of you who know me well, this was not a tall task. But it has proven hard to remember! I just wanted to use this opportunity to share some of the happenings around here as of late... not only to share all the wonderful things that are going on, but that I can also look back and be reminded that I am here, I am able to enjoy my children, my home and our blessings in this life... thank you, Lord!

Zeke received the honor of being named Sonora El's Student of the Month for November! It was wonderful to be able to attend the board meeting and hear the amazing comments from his teachers throughout the years...



All three of these amazing kiddos were recognized for their hard work and academic accomplishments this month. Both Em & Zeke made the Superintendent's List with 4.0's and Ethan exceeded his Accelerated Reading Goal and made Super Reader! Proud of them and their efforts!

Bill and my hubby are hard at work with LOTS of house projects... garages being worked on inside and out, electrical panels changed out, a new HVAC system (we have air conditioning now!!!), and the beginnings of our solar panels!!! 

Fun with Emmy's holiday band recital and both Ethan and Emmy in our church's kids Christmas play, "Jingle Bell Beach"



 


Annual Gingerbread House decorating with friends!


Taking care to capture the moments in my heart even more so than in my camera. It's the most wonderful time of the year and I pray I never lose sight of that and all these amazing realities... weird life and all.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

December update

Many of you have asked me to update the blog... and I see now that it has been a few weeks. I guess I just have felt like not much has changed in terms of news, so there hasn't been much to say... but I definitely need the prayer covering and feel like this is the best way to keep up on those targeted prayer requests, so an update it is :).

I just finished my 4th infusion of this 2nd round of chemo... 8 more to go. I go each week (usually Mondays) for the chemo called Taxol (12 total of this kind). Then every third week, they cocktail it with the chemo called Carboplatin (4 total of this kind). The simple terms that my dr used to explain things to me were that the Taxol is the clean up crew from the original pathology of my tumor (the hormone positive stuff) and the Carboplatin is the attack guns for the new pathology that came from my tumor out of surgery (the triple negative stuff). After chemo, I will be referred to a radiation doctor to determine my schedule and needs for that, but they said standard procedure is 6 weeks--but on hold there till I get closer to the end of January and finish chemo (last infusion is scheduled for January 29). 

So far, this cocktail of chemo hasn't been as bad as the AC chemo was for me. The side effects are a bit different, and they have started--bone and joint pain, restless leg, nose bleeds, dry mouth and mouth sores, insomnia, 'chemo brain', and the carbo brings nausea on, too. I've also started losing my hair again (being off chemo for 8 weeks around surgery brought back quite the head of fuzz!). They say it will get harder as it builds up more, but I am so thankful in the meantime that it's not as bad. So far my blood counts haven't been too low, I have been able to start Physical Therapy to help with arm and shoulder mobility from surgery, I have gone to work a few days, I was able to enjoy Thanksgiving, was able to decorate the house for Christmas and even am mostly done with Christmas shopping (thank you, Amazon!). 

I think one of my specific prayer requests would be to heap portions of blessing on my mom and Bill, who are giving their lives to us right now. They are living here (in their trailer), and have been since Oct 15th just before surgery, and taking care of all our needs--cooking, driving, kid stuff, taking me to appointments, working on our house, honey-do-lists, everything--so that I can focus on healing and what I can do and Brian can take care of work and do what he needs to do. What a gift. It's also been awesome to have them around for the kids--just getting to spend time with these wonderful grandparents that we usually don't get to see very much--has been so wonderful.

Another specific prayer request would be for me in this chemo process, not only that it is effective and I can handle it well, but I have noticed I've developed a 'Sunday anxiety' issue. Having chemo each Monday, I feel like Sundays are this day of dread heading into it and I get nauseous, foggy headed, and super emotional. I haven't been able to go to church because of the immunity factors, and as much as I miss my friends and community there- I don't really want to see anyone on Sundays because of the way I'm feeling. When I'm in that state, all I want to do is take a long hot shower and lay in my bed and do nothing... which is not helpful in beating any kind of anxiety... just exacerbates it! So... I would love prayer to overcome this and choose to take that time (while my family is at church) to listen to the previous weeks sermon online, read my bible and take in God's words and truth that keep me connected to him and my amazing church community. That seems like the thing to do to help beat that funky feeling, while still having that time on my own to process and gear up for that infusion. So, the prayer there is that I will choose the thing I know is good for my heart and soul, even when I don't feel like it. It's like waking up early for exercise (which is another thing I need to do--exercise!)--hard to do, but know it's what you need and feel so much better when you do. Yep... that is what needs to happen...

Otherwise, prayers for my kids, my husband, my doctors, the traffic to and from Stanford, our cars to stay good, continued healing from surgery, the house remodel process (lots of work happening out in the garage area, HVAC and electrical in the next couple of weeks), and as of today... my family in Ventura and the raging fire down there. Thank you all so much for your continued support, prayers, gifts, food and love... just love pouring down on us.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Complicated Emotions--my 4am thoughts



Inside Out by Disney Pixar has got to be one of my absolute favorite movies (and my kids watched it with me last week on our rainy day!) primarily because of the brilliance of the emotional intelligence it teaches behind the entertainment. They explain such complex emotions, what makes you you, and how your brain makes sense of life in such a simple way. Ethan was able to use this movie to explain what's been going on at school with a classmate--"He's got no Honesty Island, mom, he lies all the time." It has also helped me as I try to wrap my head around the complicated and layered emotions that this cancer diagnosis has been for me and my family (and all those I love)--the trials that bring the blessings, and creating lasting impressions of mixed emotions on my heart and soul.


Trial: more chemo, 2 infusions down, 10 more to go (weekly)
Blessing: time and connection with my cousins who live close to my appointments, this type doesn't seem as harsh as the last kind I had so far and don't have as much nausea--thank you, Lord!

Trial: needing help to maintain life for our children and home
Blessing: so many family and friends providing... getting to spend time with my family, and everyone finding out where our new house is when bringing meals or coming for a visit!

Trial: missing work (which I actually love and really miss!)
Blessing: being around home (and getting to watch those movies with my kids on a school day!), being able to work from home when I can, and not being so busy with life (and wondering how I actually used to do all of this?!?!?)

Trial: insomnia by chemo
Blessing: quiet time alone, today it was getting all these thoughts out and then reading for a couple hours (trying to get sleepy, to no avail) to finish an awesome book, Wonder, so now I can go see the movie that just came out! And then a couple good cups of coffee!!!
Trial: going through this terrible disease and treatment
Blessing: reconnecting with friends and making new ones (including lots of random people), being able to walk through this same journey with a couple friends going through it now, too, being aware of how much I am loved and cared for by so many, especially my Lord. 

There are so many more, but this encompasses the gist... I am (choosing) to be thankful for the blessings in this journey. It gives me so much hope and peace. If I focus on the trials, I drown. And there are so many things to be grateful for and so many ways it could be worse. Thank you, Lord, in this season of Thanksgiving, for the bounty your love provides... and how it spills out through others onto me. 💗