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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Reflections


As I sit here and reflect back over the past year I can certainly say there is a fork in my road.  However I know I must not let it be a roadblock but I must instead look at it as the scenic view.  The path less taken.  I truly believe God has a plan for the trials and tribulations we encounter.  As Pastor Keith spoke about it brings us back to God and makes us rely on faith whereby strengthening us.

Yesterday was an exciting day.  I turned 33.  It was the start to a new year, new adventures, and to seeing the world as one huge miracle. Things look different then they did a year ago for me, however I never cease to see the possibility that lies ahead.  What will I do to make the world a better place as a result of my experiences; I’m still uncertain but I do know that I’ve been given this journey and with that knowledge I must make a difference in the world.

With this thought in mind, as I was watching the news coverage of the royal wedding I wondered: was Kate like so many other little girls that wanted to be a princess.  Did she dress in princess garb like Arrington does or was she less fascinated with the royals?  Did her mommy think someday her little Kate would be a real princess?  It’s often funny what kids dream up and what parents imagine their children to become.  Arrington was shocked that there were actually princesses.  She could not believe that Prince William existed and Kate was now a princess.  She said she’s like Belle or Tiana.  You know me; this conversation gave me a good chance to talk about political structures too; although I’m pretty certain she had no idea what I was saying. Arrington thought princesses were only pretend; something in a fairytale that one sees on TV. For now, I think I will let her continue to believe that as isn’t childhood a miraculous thing?

I can honestly say however that I’ve never thought of my girls as actually becoming royal princesses in real life.  Possibly a doctor or a lawyer; but a Princess?? Maybe it’s because in the US we don’t have a monarchy, but you know what, that actual position in life really isn’t one I’d truly want for my girls. 

What do I want for my children? I wish them happiness of course, but also freedom.  Freedom to make mistakes; and not to have the entire country watching and commenting on them.  Freedom to be who they want to be; and dress in what they choose to wear. Do you think Kate will have that kind of freedom again?  To me this Freedom is a miracle. A blessing that we so often take for granted.  Of course being a princess would have its perks but at what price?

I guess such is life.  To every choice we make there is a price.  Maybe small or maybe large but a result occurs and often many others linking back to that one choice.  In our house we talk about choices.  We talk about making good choices and when we make bad choices there are consequences.   We want to teach our kids how to make logical sound choices and that choices matter.  Even the ones you make when no one else is watching.  Aren’t these choices the ones that often reflect our true character?  Those choices that we choose just because we know it’s the right thing to do!

This year, my life has changed and I too want to change the way I look at life.  I’m going to take time to smell the roses, enjoy the simple pleasures, and treasure family and friends.  Sometimes I know I get too wrapped up in the daily struggles of life but this year is going to be the start of a fresh outlook and the goal of keeping a positive view.  Since my diagnosis I’ve certainly started counting my blessings as much as I do my tribulations.  I often think, I’m so lucky and life could be so much worse. 

Brenda and I went to training on Thursday and we had lunch with a few girls that attended the seminar too.  As we were talking, one shared with us that her husband was being deployed for at least a year to Kuwait.  I thought to myself, I’m so glad Stephen isn’t in the military anymore or that could be me.  This brought me back to the realization that everyone has trials and tribulations. That’s why we must remember to be kind to everyone we meet as they are all fighting their own battles.  It’s how we decide to react to those battles and if we choose to have faith that makes all the difference in the world. 

I encourage you all to Go out and count your blessings, keep an open eye for all the miracles that are bestowed upon us, and most importantly have faith that God will see you through.  Thank you God for my healing and for another Miraculous Birthday.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

It's a Joyful Day


I wanted to share some great news.  I went to the oncologist today and he thinks the tumor went down by 1/8th.  It was 4x4 cm and now it’s 3.5x3.5cm.  This is great news.  Also, since it’s not hurting like it was previously that is a wonderfully positive sign too.  I am so blessed by this and not to have had many side effects.  I haven’t been sleeping well for the past few weeks, so he also gave me a sleeping aid.  I plan on trying that and seeing how it goes.  However I am so grateful for the success of the treatments and the very mild side effects that I’ve experienced thus far.

I am looking forward to this weekend.  Although it will be very busy, it’s going to be a blast.  Sunday will be a special day with nearly 60 family and friends at grandma and grandpa’s house then egg hunting for the kiddos.  Life is good, God is Good, and Thank you God for my healing.  Prayers are being answered every day. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pain in the Neck


Short Version: Second Chemo treatment went well.  They sped it up from 4 hours to 2.5.  Yesterday my neck began to hurt so bad I could not hold up my head.  It was on my left side where the port is located, so I think they must be connected in some way.  Same thing started happening around noon today.  Called surgeon that put in my port and she thinks it might be a kinked nerve.  Asked if I could see chiropractor and they surprisingly said yes.  Have chiropractor appointment tomorrow; hope it helps with this neck issue.

Chemo was interesting this week.  To start off with they were running late.  Like an hour and a half late. Wow, that wasn’t fun waiting an hour and a half to get infused with chemical agents.  Yuck.  So once they got me started I realized that the other two patients that were there that day taking treatments were terminally ill.  They were basically extending their lives by doing chemo but still had very short life span estimates.  Although they were both obviously Christians, and said that they were at peace with the fact they’d be with the maker sooner then they planned, it was still very hard to hear. 

I completely understand this, as I am not afraid to die, because I know I am going to be in heaven; however what makes me sad are those I leave and the thought of my kids not growing up with a mom.  I very rarely even allow this thought into my mind but spending several ours with the other patients made me think about it for a short time.  This was very sad to me, as both were also recurrent cancer patients.  I pray and pray that I will go into remission and stay that way, but on days when I’m faced with the harsh reality of re-occurrence, I do somewhat get panicked. 

When I finally got done with this week’s treatment I was more than ready to get out of there and focus on the positives.  The here and now and the fact that I believe in miracles and know God is going to take care of me, get me through this, and make me into a better person because of it. Thank you God for my healing.  Thank you God for my healing.

It appears each treatment might make me feel differently, at least at first, though.  This treatment has made it difficult for me to sleep.  Last treatment I was exhausted, this treatment my mind won’t stop and let me sleep.  I’m told it’s due to the steroids, which I can believe as my feet and hands are also swollen. My body is so tired yet my mind keeps going.  The weird part is that I’m not worried or thinking about anything in particular but instead weird, off the wall random thoughts that keep racing through my mind.

Unfortunately yesterday I had a very weird thing happen: my head felt too heavy for my neck to hold up.  My left side of my neck was in extreme pain.  I think it has something to do with the fact that they sped up my chemo and during the infusion I could feel a cold numbness in my chest around port catheter connected to my vein. It felt weird when infusing; but since they were speeding up the treatment, to the ‘standard time’ as opposed to the four hours they have me scheduled for, I figured that was normal. So I went home last night and had to lie down.  I also had to take some pain and anti-nauseous meds but after they had time to set in, the pain lessened.  However I still did not sleep well, I woke up every 30 minutes to an hour, but I’m assuming this is due to the steroids. 

Then around noon today my neck started doing the same thing.  Before it got to the point it did yesterday, I went home to rest and take some pain meds.  I also called my surgeon, Dr. Nicholas to see if any other patients had this issue. She called me back and this is an unusual occurrence.  I told her I do see a chiropractor and asked if she thought I could see him?  She did think it would be Ok and said it could be a kinked nerve especially if I regularly saw a chiropractor; he might be just what I needed to solve this odd occurrence.  I have an appointment tomorrow with Dr. Coulter in Alva.  Since Dr. Keeney stopped coming to Alva, I’ve been seeing Dr. Coulter.  I will be interested to see if he’s comfortable manipulating me with a port-a-cath but I’m hopeful he can and get this pain out of my neck.

Overall all, this week has been more stressful then last, but could certainly be worse so I’m grateful these are the only issues I’m experiencing. We started my daily injections again today and will do this W-F. From the lab results last week, these shots are working very well.  My white blood cell count was higher than it has ever been so this is very positive.  I’m very happy Dr. Truong had the foresight to start me on these before my count dropped too low.  He’s been very cautious with me and I’m so appreciative that Patty referred me to him five years ago.  I’m so lucky to have him managing my care.  While waiting for chemo there was a couple from Meade KS that had to come to Pratt for treatments.  I think they said it was a 2 hour trip one way?! I started thinking about that and how lucky I am to have Pratt within 45 minutes as opposed to having to drive to Wichita. 

 I also started thinking about how fortunate I have been to have Patty taking care of me for so many years.  She got me to Dr. Truong when she realized my white blood cell count was low five years ago and I was diagnosed with cyclic neutropenia.  At that time I did not need an oncologist, but instead a hematologist, and Dr. Truong is both.  He’s been working with me since then so I have built a trusting relationship with him that has been extremely beneficial for this diagnosis.   Patty also took me seriously when I came in with a lump in my breast.  She referred me to get the diagnosis and then also referred me when I asked her to so I could go to MD Anderson.  She, and the other team members at the Kiowa Clinic, have been fantastic. We are truly lucky to have such a caring and personally connected medical team within our community.  I know for a fact if I were still in Colorado Springs, my primary care doctor would not have taken near the interest or given me the care that Patty and the girls in Kiowa have.  Thank you all so much.  It’s good to know there is a team that cares in your corner.  So far, I’ve been extremely lucky to have such a great team working to help me.  All except for my first experience with the initial mammo and ultrasound in Wichita, I’ve been extremely happy with my care. 

I also know that I’m extremely blessed to live in such a wonderful community.  Over the past few days friends have brought us dinner on M and W nights.  I cannot express how grateful we are for these angels nor did I realize what a stress it would take off of us by having someone do this.  It really has lifted a burden that we didn’t realize we could use help with.  

I appreciate everyone for helping me and my family as we go through this time in our life; words cannot express my gratitude.  I know your prayers are working and can feel the love and positive thoughts that you are all sending my way.  Thank you God for my healing.   

Sunday, April 10, 2011

One Week Down


Well, I made it through the first full week of Chemo and tomorrow will be the second treatment.  Yesterday was full of soccer, soccer, and more soccer.  It was a great day but very windy and warm.  We were all tired when we got home, as the kids had games at 9, 10, and 12.  Gavin and Arrington are both doing well and most importantly seem to enjoy playing soccer.  The outing really wore me out though, as the wind and sun combined drained me.  I was told that chemo might make me more sun sensitive. Since I already don’t tolerate sun well, this is a huge disadvantage for me.  I think even without chemo though I would have been tired but by pairing the two made me all the more tired.

We finished the three injections a week to increase my white blood cell count on Friday.  They went really well and don’t hurt too much at all.  The kids are very interested in seeing Stephen giving me shots, they just can’t believe it that Mommy is getting a shot and not crying.  Arrington keeps asking me “mommy did you cry? Or Mommy, are you going to cry?”  It’s really cute.  She also decided she wants to be a shot giver when she grows up.  Not a nurse or phlebotomist but only a shot giver.  I’m not sure if that is really a career option but maybe, by the times she’s old enough, medicine will be so specialized it could be.   

Krista Pollock also set up a really neat webpage which I want to share.  We’ve been blessed to have so many people offering help, but at this point I’m just not really sure what we’re going to need.  The site Krista set up it hosted on Lotsa Helping Hands.  This site was created to answer the question ‘what can I do to help’?
It basically coordinates activities that we might need.    Everyone knows what to do and when to do it. And they say in their marketing material Energy is spent helping, not scheduling.  It’s a free site so that makes it even more appealing.
Since Krista hasn’t used this before and neither have I, we are learning as we go. From what we understand, people register to be on the site and then Krista or I can post any needs we might have.  Members are then notified by email when new needs are posted. The system also sends reminders, which I really like, as I can’t seem to remember anything without my phone reminding me to do it. 
If you are interested in becoming part of the community you just go to this webpage https://www.lotsahelpinghands.com/c/639924/, put in your email, and request to be added.  Then Krista can add you and you can see any request that we make.  It sounds very simple, and extremely helpful, so it will be interesting to see if it turns out that way.

I think this site will be useful, not only for our situation, but if it works as they say it does, for other volunteer activities that our community might have.  Right now the only things I could think of are meals since I’m so worn out the first few days after chemo.  I told Krista I certainly did not want to be a burden, as people are already so busy, I hate to make them any busier.  So she thought this would be a simple way to give those of you that want to help the opportunity to help. 

As I’ve said many times, I can feel your prayers.  God is working and I feel him with me always.  Since I’ve made it through the first week, I’ve started my check off and we have only got 11 more rounds of this first chemo regiment before we go back to MD Anderson on June 27.  I appreciate all the well wishes, cards of support, and most importantly prayer.  Thank you God for my healing.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

He's not heavy he's my brother


Today was a very good day.  We found out that Berton is NOT BRCA positive which means that Fiona cannot have this gene either.  She will be spared the highly increased probability of having breast or ovarian cancer now.  This is fantastic news for our family.   Luckily God had me adopt so I don’t have to worry about passing the gene on to our kids. 

I’m doing very well after chemo.  I did not take an anti-nauseous medication today and had much more energy and was able to think better and have clarity of thought.  Tuesday and Wednesday are somewhat of a blur, almost as if I was in a haze.  I’m told this is called chemobrain, but I suspect it had more do to with the medication to ensure I didn’t have side effects from chemo then the chemo itself. But hey, I'd much rather be fatigued then sick.

I also got an email from mom today for the relay of life.  A local group of wonderful women known as the Pistol Packin’ Mamas have a mission of ‘shooting down cancer’.  They want to help rid the world of cancer and help people have more birthdays.  Every year they do numerous things such as concession stands, serve at plays, and of course the relay for life to raise money for this cause.

In case there are any of you following my blog and would like to learn more about the relay for life or the American cancer society please visit mom’s page at:    http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR/RelayForLife/RFLFY11National?px=10283759&pg=personal&fr_id=31990

It’s really hitting home this year as mom has been involved with this group for a few years.  Now however she’s also my chemo buddy and is helping me personally battle this cancer and win the fight for my life. As you can see, God is always at work in our life.  He is good all the time and all the time God is good.  Thank you God for my healing.