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!!!


Friday, July 14, 2017

Now what...?

Ok, the shock of cancer news is out there. That was the hardest part for me to conjure up (how do you say this right?). So many wonderfully supportive comments and love in response (over 100 on FB and even more texts and messages!)... thank you so much.

I read in The Breast Book (recommended to me by my Cousin Tracy--thank you!) that drs like some time to pass between giving you the news of your cancer diagnosis and talking about treatment. I totally get this philosophy as I've really only known this for 3 weeks, but it feels like so much longer. .. I am over the shock (though am I really ever going to be?) and ready to take it on.

Based on many, many recommendations and our own research (as well as our gut feelings), we had my local family dr refer me to Stanford Women's Cancer Center. The soonest we could get our appointments with both the oncologist and the surgeon was 2 weeks from the time we called, which was this past Monday, July 10. It felt so crippling waiting for these appointments, knowing and feeling this cancer growing inside of me (yes, I can feel it) and just waiting. But, finally, now we have a plan...

Dr. Massarhew and Dr. Wheeler will be directing my care at Stanford. The biospy 'markers' are that the tumor is around 5 cm (but growing), it is hormone receptor positive for both estrogen and progesterone, HER2 negative, and the proliferation (cell division) rate is 35% (0-5 is slow, above 20 considered fast, but surgeon says she sees 80-90% growth rates regularly, so she said 35% is fairly moderate). Upon physical exam on Monday, both drs found that lymph nodes are involved, which gave a Stage 3 diagnosis. But more concerning is that it is inflammatory... makes it aggressive and in the skin of my breast, which will most likely require a mastectomy (rather than the preferred lumpectomy) as soon as we stop the growth and spread with what they call neo-adjuvant therapy (chemo before surgery). Had a bunch of scans (CAT, bone and echo, with a MRI scheduled for Tues) to be sure of no metastasis, and those seemed to have come back clear (praise the Lord!). So, I start chemo on Tuesday, July 18. Initially, they will give me 4-5 rounds of a treatment they call AC, each 21 days apart. After we see how I do on the chemo, we'll explore surgery to remove the mass or what else might work best.

I've also been talking with a number of folks (who I appreciate their time and care!) about ways to fight this at home as well--with clean eating food, other natural remedies and a lot of positive thoughts!!! We are going to do everything we can to fight this!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

It's Cancer

There are many words that can change your life. Cancer is definitely one of them.

Two weeks ago (June 25 to be exact), I received a phone call at 9:30 on a Sunday night from my doctor that confirmed that the lump I felt in my left breast at the end of May was, in fact, invasive ductal carcinoma. I asked, "what does that mean?" "It's cancer."

Life changed. I will put all the details of my diagnosis of breast cancer and what I have found out since in the next post, but this news itself warrants a post of it's own. It's shocking. It's real. It's news that will change my life and the life of those I love most.


Hope is also a word that has changed my life.

My mentor in college had me memorize Psalm 62:5... "Find rest, o my soul, in God alone. My hope comes from him." This is where my mind went after receiving the phone call from my doctor with the biopsy findings, and continues to be what I keep coming back to. My hope has never been in my circumstances, but in God alone... and now in this especially. It's so huge, so unknown, so out of my control, I praise God that my hope can be found in Him, in my salvation rather than my physical health. It doesn't mean it's not scary. It doesn't mean that I'm not going to do everything medically and physically possible to rid my body of this invader. It means that I have hope and joy that lives outside of this body. It means that I believe in a God that is bigger than cancer. It means that I can rest in knowing that I am not alone in life and especially in this--not only does God himself live in me but he sends me hope through others--Jesus with skin on.

I was encouraged by friends to blog this journey--for me as well as keeping family and friends updated in a central location. I had kinda forgotten about the blog I started years ago (my last post was in 2013!) and figured why create a new one... no need to remember a new password! Also, the pictures on here from so many years ago are fun for me to look back on, and I think will be a source of encouragement for me. So, here I am and I plan to post as frequently as I feel the need. It's going to be a place for me to put it out there... mostly for me, but also for you, too. For me to post on what is happening so I can keep track of the God moments in my story, so I can vent and put words to the feelings and process of this journey ahead of me, so you can track with me and know how to pray for me and my family, so I don't have to spend so much time on my phone responding to each text or facebook message (though I love being reached out to!) with the same updates to all of you wonderful people who care so deeply for me.

If you feel the need to comment, I would appreciate a prayer or a scripture that you focus on in times of trouble. Please no comments on how your relative died of cancer or how terrible chemo is, no advice or soliciting your products, no cliches or those well intentioned words we say when we don't know what to say. This is hard. It just is. Prayers and God's truth, those are what will encourage and sustain me through this. I got the saying below from my former MOPS mentor, Linda Berry, who had been given this quote throughout her own battle with breast cancer and it has been repeated in my house and in my heart several times in the last couple weeks...

Cancer sucks, but HOPE wins.