Sunday, April 22, 2018

Update on Radiation


My dear family, friends and prayer warriors,

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel... only 2 more trips to Turlock for radiation therapy! My skin is so much very much not happy. Itchy, blistering, peeling--owie and yucky. My rad techs and doctor are completely awesome, and I will miss their daily encouragement and involvement in my treatment--though not the daily commute or damage to my skin. There is a bit of an 'after-burn' effect so my skin should start healing after next week. While wincing in pain, I am so very thankful that the technology and people exist that can fight this cancer beast. Every time I lay on that table I envision the game Galaga--and pray those rays are blasting those little bugger cancer cells out of my skin and body, and not letting one get by so we can move up to the next level!!!



There is definitely more to come. I have to get a cervical spine CT scan with contrast sometime this week because my hands are constantly going numb (including waking me up throughout the night) and we need to rule out badness going on. After an initial freak out when that order came in and some God-given insight by a friend, Brian and I truly believe that it is carpal tunnel symptoms coming back in full force. I was experiencing the same type of numbness throughout our move last year but it had dissipated with me not using my hands as much throughout all this treatment. However, I have been driving for about 3 hours and using my computer daily at work... plus the added side effects of the Taxol chemotherapy I had that causes neuropathy (numbness)... we are breathing a little easier going into the CT scan. Not that carpal tunnel is anything to snuff off, but we can handle that better than if something is wrong with my spine! So, prayers would be appreciated for that to get approved by insurance and the appointment made so we can get that taken care of asap, as well as a clear scan result.

My next check down at Stanford is on May 21, with a CT scan of my chest and abdomen to see if all the treatment we have been doing has prevented cancer from metastasizing anywhere else. This will be the appointment that either gives me the clear for the next 3 months or a new game plan. A second reconstructive surgery and removal of my ovaries are on the 6 month radar, but a clear scan to allow the healing process from treatment to begin. I, again, covet your prayers! 

Still, I am awed by the incredible love and support we are surrounded by. EVERY time I fill my gas tank, I'm using a gas card from one of our amazing co-workers. I was just the recipient of donated sick-leave at my work, allowing me 30 more paid sick days--and it was maxed out in under 48 hours once the solicitation email went out. SO incredible!!! Meals, rides to Turlock, calls, messages, care... what a gift to me and my family... we are so well loved. I look forward to the time when I can be that for someone else... now knowing how much each of these little (and big) things mean to someone going through the ringer. I'm walking through this fire with a couple of my friends in their own cancer battles, and while I do not wish this road on anyone, I am glad to be there with them, for them, and lifting them up in prayer constantly.

I also have to say that it has been good to feel more a part of things lately... We are talking about summer plans and funs ways to celebrate being done with treatment once I feel better. Emmy finished her volleyball season this past week and started track. Zeke is getting ready to graduate 8th grade and move up to high school. Going on school field trips with Ethan and thinking about end of the year gifts for teachers has been fun. Being able to attend church and going in to work most afternoons after radiation has been great. My hair is starting to grow out and I've even stopped wearing my hats everywhere. (In my radiation waiting room, there are always those rumor mill magazines, and apparently, this short hairstyle is gaining some runway popularity--who knew?) One of my eyebrows is choosing to take it's time coming back, but my eyelashes are almost all the way back, and I've had to start shaving my legs again (I do have to say that was nice to not do the last 8 months!). I've also been working to get my patio decked out with pretty plants and furniture so we are ready for tons of summer fun. Normal (almost) feels good

Now, just gotta get this skin healed up, get some sleep, and get a couple of clear scans... 💪

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Update


A whole month since my last post... no wonder I have so many asking what is going on!

Radiation started this past week on Thursday. I was able to get the referral and feel confident with the Stanford Oncology Radiology clinic at Turlock's Emanuel Cancer Center, and that is where I am doing the treatment. I really like Dr. Zaky, nurse Sandy, Chris and David (who do the radiation), and Linda--the person who measured for my treatment and lives in Sonora :). I have 33 sessions total, which I will be doing daily Mon-Fri, so about 6 weeks or so of treatment. Each session will be about 12 minutes, and a little longer on Mondays when I have to check in with the doctor and Thursdays when they take x-rays. 

That is a lot of driving right there--it's about 1 hr and 15 mins each way (much preferred than the 3+ traffic hours to get to Stanford in Palo Alto, though!) Brian and I were debating if we should get a little commuter car or rent a car or invest in a hybrid instead of hauling my SUV up and down the hill... but decided it just wouldn't outweigh the fuel savings. We calculated the fuel cost to be right around $1000 for the entire length of treatment, including the couple trips I need to make to Stanford within the next 3 months for oncologist and plastic surgeon follow-ups. And then this happened... 

Brian texted me and said that he got an awesome gift from our Sonora High Family. And I also received yet another gift from our Columbia College Family. The love and support these two communities have shown for us has just been incredible, over and over. What gives me the goosebumps in particular this time around is that the gas cards and cash that were included in these gifts total just over $1000... um... isn't that what we had calculated we would need for all these trips (and hadn't shared with anyone)? There is even extra for lunches and a Starbucks here and there. And it's not just the financial part, either. It's the adorable handmade message board, the cards, the words of hope, faith, love and encouragement that are supplying what we need to keep up this fight, to know we are not alone and that there is something much bigger going on here than just a cancer battle. My kids are seeing the generosity and love. My husband is feeling supported and cared for. I am so amazed and humbled at how our needs are continually provided and it brings me such peace in knowing God has got me, us, in the midst of such challenge. As I treasure these gifts in my heart and wonder how I am so blessed... the Bible tells me so... 

And this time, he did it through our amazing co-workers and friends. Thank you just doesn't seem like enough!

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.