Friday, September 24, 2010

Mission Completion!

I finished my eighth and final round of chemo this week. Boy am I glad to have THAT behind me. I still have the yuckies, but it's nice to know that I won't be going through that again in a couple more weeks. My sister's family, Amanda, came to visit last weekend and took Jack home with them to Alabama to stay with my mom for a few days. It was nice for her that she didn't have to drive all the way to my house to take care of him. It was nice for me that Jack didn't have to worry about me, because he does. Kevin was able to take me to chemo Monday and Tuesday and work better with peace and quiet around the house. Kevin's mom, Joyce, drove me to chemo on Wednesday. So she was there for my "graduation." All the ladies at the West Clinic were excited to present me with a graduation diploma. Then, I went out back to "ring the bell." It was all pretty exciting. I guess it had been a while since anyone had rung the bell, because a bee came out and stung me. YIKES! They doctored me up; I was fine by nightfall.

Right now, I still feel pretty shaky. As long as I rest, I do ok. Last night, I missed Jack's second soccer practice. I was pretty sad about that. I'll be good for the rest of them, though. My brain misfires and says words that have nothing to do with what I am trying to say. It takes much longer for me to type right now, as my fingers don't quite cooperate. The Taxol really does a number on your nerves. It's temporary, though. None of that matters, though, because right now I am cancer-free.

I had a conversation with my oncologist last Friday. (I didn't realize how much he was discussed around the house until Jack mentioned "Dr. Reed" this morning.) He is a straight talker. I like that about him. We get along well. He wanted to be sure I understood that this cancer could come back. I am well aware of that. This isn't the first round for us. My response to him was, "Dr. Reed, I do not intend to live the rest of my life waiting for cancer to return. I did not give up and live like a cancer patient when I was one, and I do not intend to live like one now. " He was good with that. Of course, I came home and started thinking about it all. Then, I was angry and sad, not at Dr. Reed, at cancer,  and all those terrible emotions just came pouring out of me. With the help of Kevin and Amanda, I was able to pick myself up and remember that everything is going to be ok. My cancer is gone. I am so grateful for the many doctors, nurses, pharmacists, friends, family and strangers who have made a difference in my recovery. We could not have done it without each and everyone of you.

So, this is the end of the road for chemo, but you may wonder what happens next. Well, we watch and wait. My cancer is caused by estrogen production, which also causes other related cancers like breast cancer and colon cancer. I will begin taking hormone therapy, not to be confused with hormone replacement therapy. Hopefully, the hormones (Megace and something else I can't remember) will counteract the estrogen production and interfere with future cancer outbreaks. The bad news is that these medications also cause weight-gain, which doesn't make me happy. Weight-gain also stimulates estrogen production. So, I've got to work extra hard to lose all this weight I've gained in chemo, and hopefully more, to be healthy. This isn't about pants size anymore. This is about my life, Jack's life, Kevin's life. I have to be healthy for them.

So, this is the weekend I begin Weight Watchers. Special thanks goes out to Donna Egan for sharing her Weight Watchers cookbook with me. You rock! I also plan to get moving. Since Jack is riding his bike with training wheels now, I want a new one too. The weather is cooling off so, it should be a nice time of year to begin my outdoor "get moving" regimen." Jack wants my bike to be a surprise. So, he's been asking me what color of bike I "would" like to have if I had one. :)

Mrs. Susan and Pri came by Tuesday afternoon with deviled eggs, that I had especially requested, and chicken from Abners for dinner. Jack was excited to see brownies when he got back from Granny and Papa's house. We had a nice visit. I was glad to finally meet Pri. What a sweet girl! How scary it must be to travel so far from everything that is familiar to you! Thanks, Mrs. Susan.

Kevin's mom made sure to check in on me while Kevin was out of town. She invited me out to lunch and dinner. It was nice to get out of the house. She also helped me pick up some thank you gifts for Jerri and Jill at the cancer clinic. Thanks, Grandma!

I received a most beautiful floral arrangement from my cancer card buddy, former student, and cheerleader~Laura Huish. Thanks Laura. They are huge! You really shouldn't have done so much. None-the-less, I could feel your hug all the way from New Mexico. I'm so glad God introduced us to one another. You are one tough cookie.

I'm sure I'll have more thoughts to add in a new blog later, but that is all for now...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Autumn

The Glorious Tree
Is it September already? I can't believe it! I am beyond excited about the arrival of football season (Roll Tide!) and the anticipation of fall weather. This is my favorite time of year. I love when the grass is cooler than the air, the two bright orange October Glory Maple Trees standing beside Hwy. 145 between Saltillo and Tupelo, the smell of bonfires, pumpkins, pine-straw and mums, the seasonal aisles at Hobby Lobby, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and SEC football. Fall makes me miss being a 4th grade teacher. There is a specail excitement nine-year-olds returning to their back-to-school routines. This time of year reminds me of when my mom used to take me shopping for back to school clothes, and we'd beg her to wear them before school started. It drove my dad crazy! I'm still not sure why. The cooler weather reminds me of cheerleader practice after school and waiting for my brother to finish his football practice. Then, we'd stop by the Boys Store, Wilson's Grocery, or Doziers on the the way home for something to drink. I liked blue Nehi cream sodas. Bro. L.O kept 25 cent snack cakes in the back in front of the meat counter.


I'm especially grateful to know that I'll be able to ENJOY the cool weather this year. It was this time two years ago that I was first diagnosed with cancer. I worried about what would happen to me and how it would affect my family throughout the month of September. I finally had surgery to remove it in October. I know it sounds really morbid, but I remember planting fall flowers around our mailbox before my surgery, for Kevin and Jack. I wanted them to remember me when they saw them. Well, thankfully, the flowers died before I did. Surgery went well.  I healed, and life moved on.


It was my first round with cancer where I learned that I am not in control of every aspect of my life. As much as I'd like to think that everything is up to me, it's not. So, I don't worry about it anymore, or at least I try not to. I'd rather spend that energy savoring every single moment I have on this Earth. I delight in every laugh that forces its way out of Jack Riley's beautiful smile. I love to sit in my swing on the back porch and listen to the crickets and birds and wind. I stand in my front yard with my hands on my hips to watch the sun set behind our neighborhood lake. I love that Jack calls for me to "come see the beautiful sky, mommy." I don't always feel up to it, but I am grateful to be a part of God's plan for all these things. It reminds me of a book by Byrd Baylor, I'm in Charge of Celebrations, like I am privileged to be the one person who gets to see special events in God's creation. It's my responsibility to celebrate each and every one of them.


We are still very excited about the news from Dr. Reed that my cancer is gone. We waited so long to hear this, yet, it seems hard to believe. I'm looking forward the day when chemo will be behind me. Last week was difficult for me. The days I'm going to feel yucky aren't as predictable as they were at first. I suppose it's because I never have enough time to completely reset before the next round. I feel old and tired and yucky and ugly and thirsty. I don't even look in the mirror anymore. I don't recognize that person. It's ok. Don't feel sad for me. I'll get back to being myself again. I have chemo for the last time September 20-22. It will take me the rest of that week and the following week to really feel alive again. After that, I plan to return to being as healthy as I can possibly be. I want to lose weight, exercise, play, do some volunteering, and kick-start my Willow House (formerly Southern Living at Home) business. I'm looking forward to watching Jack play soccer for the first time, too. I'm really looking forward to getting a pedicure since I haven't been able to do that while undergoing chemo.


So many people have continued to support our family as we endure the effects of chemo and cancer. My mom comes as often as she can to help with Jack and me so Kevin can work. Kevin's mom is always ready and willing to do whatever she can to help, picking Jack up from school, bringing "happies" by to cheer me up, and keeping the prayer warriors informed. Dr. Nikki has sent flowers and a beautiful angel of joy and checked in on us. Mrs. Barbara Roy sent a celebration card to me and a special one to Jack so he could take mommy out to lunch to celebrate our good news. Sonya and Rhonda brought a sandwich tray by from the Saltillo Women's League. Thanks, ladies! I continue to receive endless cards, letters, emails, and texts of encouragement from family and friends. Neighbors watch Jack play so that I don't have to spend time outside when I'm too tired. I'm sure there are others I'm leaving out, but I don't mean to. Complete strangers have prayed for us from one side of the continent, world even, to the other. I'm thankful for each and every one of you. God knows who you are.
Actual locations where my blog has been read

Falling leaves of autumn usually remind us of death. I'm excited to celebrate the death of my cancer this fall.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Good News!

I had my routine "before chemo office visit" with my oncologist on Friday. It's always nice to be the first patient of the day. Today was my turn. :) Dr. Reed explained that the echo-cardiogram of my heart looked good. Good news, because the Adriamycin is really hard on my body. At times my heart beats rapidly, and I get worn out so easily from it. My blood pressure is usually low, but the Adriamycin has raised it some. The other good news we received was actually the best. You know what they say, save the best for last. So, here it is...The CT scan showed NO TRACES of CANCER. Praise God!!! What wonderful news! I still have two rounds of chemo left to be doubly sure we have missed nothing. So, I will finish my chemo at the end of September. YAAAYYYY!

When I left the West Clinic and went back to my car, I sent text messages to everyone in my phone that has supported our family, if I had a cell number for them. I was about to explode with happiness and gratitude. Then, I called Kevin. Just hearing his voice made me cry. It felt so good to share this moment with him. We both cried, as did our families. When I told Jack, the first thing he did was look at Mrs. Jane, his pre-school teacher and say, "I'm getting a little sister!" Funny. Jack wants a little sister pretty badly right now. He notices babies everywhere. After having two foster sisters and one exchange student sister, Luz Andrea, this past year; Jack pretty much thinks you can go to the store and pick up a sister. So, when he asked for one again recently, I told him that we can't get a baby sister until mommy's cancer is gone. I guess I should have provided more details. I worry that it may be more difficult to pass a home study as a former cancer patient. I told Jack we have to pray to God to help us find the right little girl for our family, just like we prayed for the perfect little boy while waiting for him. The one thing we can't give Jack, that he would have had in his birth families are siblings. Please pray that God will provide one for him to grow up with and for our family to love.


On my way to my parent's house Friday, I saw a rainbow in the sky. It was beautiful. It reminded me of God's promise to never flood the Earth again. This rainbow, however, carried an additional meaning for me as I thought about all the news I had received from Dr. Reed that morning. Please allow me to explain my train of thought...

Thinking of God's promise and the rainbow reminded me of God's instruction to Noah to build the Ark. Noah had faith in God, and he did. He didn't wait for the floods. He had blind faith. Noah told others about what he was doing, which means to me that he would have welcomed them on his life raft. They chose not to believe him. This led me to think about the rainbow even more. What this rainbow inspired me to consider was that the rainbow is also a reminder that God Provides. God provides what we need. He provided the forewarning, the materials, and the know-how for Noah to build the Ark. God provided the strength and support my family needed to get through our cancer tribulations. He has provided every single thing we've needed on this journey. So, the next time you see a rainbow, remember that God Provides. 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Card of the Week

Ok, laughter isn't the best medicine, but it is the 2nd best medicine! I got the following card from one of my WGU buddies Thursday. I didn't see it until bedtime, and I was SO tired. I laughed out loud! Don't worry, Heather. I cropped out your message. :)

Front

Inside

Laughter is NOT the best medicine...

PRAYER is.

After every third treatment cycle, my oncologist sends me for a CT scan and echo-cardiogram to get an idea of how my body is responding to the chemotherapy. I've completed six treatment cycles so it's time for another CT and echo-cardiogram. I go again Monday this week. My previous one in June revealed that ten of the eleven initial spots on my lungs were gone. We are optimistic that we will see improvement in this one as well.

Kevin's mom wanted to gather a group of her friends and fellow prayer warriors to pray for me this past week in preparation of Monday's CT scan. She asked permission and if I felt comfortable with it. I told her that would be fine. I must admit that while I was okay with it, I was secretly very anxious and wasn't looking forward to it. While I am very friendly and outgoing, what I don't do very well with is being the center of attention or being "fussed over." Kevin and I talked about it. I prayed about it...that I would be open and accepting to the love, concern, and blessings that would be sent heavenward on my behalf. I already believed in the power of prayer. It just would have been more comfortable for me if everyone had prayed for me in their own homes. Then, I wouldn't have to deal with the attention. Note to self: Never let pride stand between you and the many blessings God wants to bestow on you.

As I've said before, cancer is humbling. If you don't believe me, just shave your head, pluck your eye lashes and brows, and take a good, long look at yourself in the mirror. Better yet, be too tired or lazy to clean your house and have a visitor drop by. Wait, have a visitor drop by to bring you a meal so that you won't have to cook while you are bald, lashless, browless, tanless, wearing your pajamas, and cooking cupcakes with your 4 year old after his bedtime because you finally found the energy to spend time with him. I know that no one who has taken time out of their busy schedule to do something nice for me or my family would judge me that way, but when you are fully aware of just how little control you have over your own life, events like this ensure that you stay humble. I digress...

Wednesday morning, Joyce's friends, a room full (Mary Jo White, Barbara Roy, Anne Campbell, Judy Bates, Susan Johnson, Addie Pasley, Julie Battaile, Jane Sullivan, Fr. Henry) and many others who were elsewhere, came together to pray for me and my family. God answered my prayer, lifted all my concerns, and opened my heart to acceptance of the many blessings being sent to him on my behalf. I felt His presence. What a beautiful thing... to see a room full of those who have truly suffered great losses on earth and who are of different religions, but believing in the same God, come together, their faith unshaken, to submit their pleas to God on your behalf.

It was all beautifully organized by Kevin's mother. Each person brought a verse of special meaning to them, one that has comforted them during troubling times, to our prayer meeting. They were each so relevant to what we've been going through. I wasn't able to write them down. So if any of you are reading this and wouldn't mind, please send them to me via email or postal mail. I would like to keep them. We prayed the "Our Father" and sang a short prayer.  Each lady laid hands on us and said her own personal prayer. Fr. Henry anointed me and led us all in prayer together. We shared breakfast pastries and coffee/tea afterward. Thank you, Joyce and everyone. I'm truly grateful. The feeling I had when I left was very similar to the way I felt when I held the Bible during our mission and witnessed Fr. Gus show his adoration for God's holy word by kissing it. The prayers were said for me, but they weren't just about me. I was specially picked to be a part of this part of God's plan.

I'm reminded of what Keith Merritt wrote just after his wife, Gayle, died from pancreatic cancer. "The love and mercy of God is so unparalleled, it's hard to fathom. I can't tell you in an email how powerful, how totally consuming suffering is in finding Christ at the crossroad of self and selflessness. Suffering is joy."  
Merritt, K. B. (2007). E-Mails from Heaven: A Journey to the Cross. p. 35.




Monday, August 16, 2010

Things I'm Thankful For...

  1. Kevin is watching "A Bug's Life" with Jack right now so he will calm down for bed on time tonight.
  2. The trace amount of rain we had over the weekend.
  3. Talking with my Poppy today
  4. Mylanta
  5. Tylenol
  6. Water to help quench this never-ending thirst caused by chemo
  7. The West Clinic
  8. The four hour nap I took on Sunday
  9. Jack's awesome day at school
  10. All the kind words and hugs I received at church yesterday
  11. I didn't have to chase Bogey very far when he got out today and wouldn't come back to Kevin.
  12. Jack's smile
  13. My new position in the Assessment department
  14. Summer isn't year-round. 
  15. Humidity in the South can't rise above 100%.
  16. Friends who check in on me
  17. Tim and Bonnie's visit to Tupelo over the weekend. I enjoyed hanging out at Grandma's. 
  18. My family loves me whether I'm big or small, bald or frizzy, happy or grumpy, silly or serious,  healthy or sick.
  19. Kevin
  20. God's grace

Friday, August 13, 2010

Health Update

As of Wednesday this week, I have completed 6 cycles of the 8 planned for my regimen. Yippee! I go for a second CT scan in a couple weeks, August 23rd, to check on progress again. The first three treatment cycles I had got rid of 10 of the 11 cancer spots I had throughout my lungs. So, we are prayerfully optimistic that the treatments I've had since then have continued to work in the same way. If that is the case, we will continue the last two cycles I have scheduled just to be sure. If that is not the case, we will have to change my regimen, because one body can only take up to 8 infusions of Adriamycin, my strongest toxin. If we can get rid of the existing cancer, then we can focus on controlling the hormone that causes it, estrogen. So, we will always be looking out for that.

I've been very tired and slow this week. I feel the burning sensation in my stomach again and headaches. I felt really nauseous this week, more than usual, after chemo, but that is better now. I've made sure to rest and take naps. My fingernails have started to develop ridges and change to a darker color. My weight continues to climb from the steroids and lack of energy. I've watched more episodes of "Phineas and Ferb" with Jack than I care to admit.

A few epiphanies I've had this week are:
  • Tuna is good for red blood cells. My blood counts have dropped with each treatment cycle. After my 5th treatment, my Mom made some tuna salad for me, at my special request. I ate tuna for almost two weeks. When I went back, my counts were all improved. I was worried that they would be too low for chemo after the difficult time I had with the last treatment. The tuna is really the only thing I've done differently. 
  • Amanda really gets credit for this one: Tarter control toothpaste is horrible for cancer patients. It makes mouth sores worse. Thanks, sis!
  • Somehow the American Cancer Association gets your name on a list once you start taking chemo. They've never called my house before, but called twice already this week. 

I am especially thankful for the following:
  • Prayer, Visits, and Continued cards of support from friends like Laura, the Boyds, the Cockrells, and family like my nieces Erin and Katelyn.
  • Facebook and Blogger encouragement
  • WGU friends and co-workers covering for me when I am out for chemo
  • The double-knockout rose Grandma (Kevin's mom) brought over to brighten my world. 
  • Dinner from the church and Mrs. Barbara, who brought it, in addition to Chick-fil-a.
  • A play invite from the Millers down the street. Jack swam and was fed and worn out in time for bed
  • Phone calls from friends, family, and co-workers checking in. Yes, I'm talking to you, Big Cat. Here's a big shout out to the Kevin Egan family of P'ville, AL!
  • Sunflowers from Mike and Kristy. They were beautiful!
  • Grandma playing carpool for Jack and planning "dates" with him. 
  • All the calls from my family, but especially the patience my mom has when I tell her I can't talk because "Big Brother" is on. :)
  • God has blessed Jack with a special patience for me right now. He knows I love him and doesn't push me too hard. He is content to spend time with me doing whatever I need to do. I worried about him so much in the beginning, but he has received so much love from the everyday people in his life, especially his preschool teachers. 

This weekend, we are looking forward to a visit from Kevin's oldest brother and his wife, Tim and Bonnie. We can't wait to see you!

Family Fun!

I love my sis!
Since I've started chemo, I usually see my family during the really difficult times. They come to help when I'm really sick during the first week. It's nice to have them around to help. Last weekend, though, I was treated to a visit by my lil sis, Amanda, and her two daughters Mallory and Savannah. How wonderful that it worked out to be the best week of my chemo cycle. I admit that my best week these days is not very similar to my best week before chemo, but I'm still able to fit some fun and humor into those days. I plan excursions carefully so that I can rest and recharge. I am six years older than Amanda, so we didn't really have a "friendship" kind of relationship growing up. Only as adults did that blossom. Some of my favorite times with her are laughing until we cry. She and Kevin are the only two people who really make me do that. Good times.

Our house is full of activity when Aunt Manda comes. My Jack and her Mallory are both 4, only 5 weeks apart; and her Savannah will be three at the end of the month. Whew! We have to play offense and wear them out before they can all wear us out! My wonderful husband took care of all three Friday night (voluntarily) so that Amanda and I could go see SALT. We enjoyed the movie, but we had to cover our eyes during the previews. There are some REALLY scary movies coming out! I guess Halloween IS just around the corner. Then, once again, Daddy of the Year saves the day by taking three pre-schoolers to the park for breakfast. :)

Jack, Savannah, Mallory...7am!
Amanda and I gave Kevin a break by taking the trio to Chucky Cheese for pizza and games for lunch. Jack loves that place, not me, and Savannah was beside herself when she saw the "real Chucky Cheese."


Satisfied that they were tired, full, and happy; we brought them home for a nap. They spent the rest of the afternoon playing in the water and the backyard.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Hot enough for ya?

When I have chemo, I feel really awful. When I start to feel better, I work so hard to catch up on life and enjoy every minute that my blog often goes neglected. Sorry.

After recovering from the last round of chemo yucks I had, or somewhat recovering, I was really excited to go to church. Usually, I don't go the Sunday after chemo, because it's just too much. However, I was sick earlier than usual this last time, meaning I felt a little better by Sunday morning. Jack picked our seats...on the front row of course. This really is better for me since it places me closer to the front during communion. Kevin worries about me taking communion in church. I personally feel that God will shield me from the germs Kevin worries about especially in church. I also like the front because Jack pays better attention there. I think it's because he can see. Father Tom is always happy to see that I'm well enough to make it to mass. This particular Sunday he noticed me right up front. I'm not sure why, maybe it was just knowing everything I went though that week and the comfort of being there, but I cried...then, of course my nose ran, and you can imagine what a mess I was. I was just so grateful to be there. Afterward, Kevin, Jack, and I went to IHOP for breakfast. It was 10:30am by the time we made it home. I went straight to bed, under the covers and all. I was so exhausted that I slept until 1:30pm. Even then, I could barely move the rest of the day. I was just SO tired. My legs felt like lead. Kevin took care of Jack and gave me my space. I didn't need anything special, just peace and quiet.

Last week, I felt better. I've said it many times before...I like being in my routine. Kevin traveled to Texas. So, it was just Jack and me for the early part of the week. Mrs. Barbara brought some food from the church by for Jack and me. Grandma took us to dinner one night. Otherwise, it was pretty low key.

By mid-week I was feeling well enough that Kevin and I decided to spend some family time in Memphis. We wanted to take Jack to do some fun stuff together...kind of a staycation. We were able to use some travel points to pay for a couple nights hotel stay on Beale Street and took Jack to do some kid stuff. We visited the Fire Museum of Memphis, the Children's Museum, Pepsi Pavilion for free street music and concerts, we enjoyed Memphis BBQ at Silky O'Sullivans and the Rendezvous, fireworks from the Redbirds game from our hotel balcony, the ducks march at the Peabody Hotel, ice cream at Peabody Place, trolley rides, burgers at the Hard Rock, and Jack's favorite...swimming at the hotel. We did a lot of walking, but I was careful to pace myself and rest plenty in between. The weather was so hot...Memphis's hottest two days of the year so far! It was a great time. I wish Luz had been with us. She would have enjoyed it, too. One of my favorite memories of the weekend was when the lights dimmed at Silky's. Jack leaned over and whispered, "Mommy, I think we're supposed to be quiet now." Sweet boy, he's learning the quiet when the lights are out rule at pre-school already. 
video
One of my favorite parts of the weekend was when Kevin and Jack talked about throwing money into a wishing well. I told Jack about when my brother, Darrell, used to be sick and in the hospital a lot when we were growing up. My parents would stop at the fountain outside Baptist Hospital in Montgomery, AL, and let me toss a penny in for him. Well, Jack tossed a penny in the Peabody fountain and wished for Mommy to get well from cancer.


Wishing @ the Well
On our balcony...excellent location!



Fireman Jack
Fun on Beale St.



 

Now that we are back home, the weather is even hotter than it was in Memphis. The heat index was 118 yesterday. I'm telling you, global warming is no joke! Our air conditioners (and there are 3) can't keep up with the heat. The power went out two days in a row from brown outs. My bald head sweats profusely, and it makes me grumpy. It's too hot for a wig, a hat, or even a scarf in my own house. I'm telling you, pretty soon I'm gonna look like one of those NBA guys wearing a terry cloth sweat band around my head to keep sweat beads out of my eyes. Don't laugh...I'm serious!

My little sister is coming to visit this weekend. She's bringing her two girls and possibly my bother's two kids. I'm really looking forward to her visit. This will be the first time she's visited during a time when I feel well since chemo started. Usually, she comes to visit the weekend after chemo to help and has to leave the girls at home. It should be a fun time for all. I'm trying to think of fun things you can do indoors with pre-schoolers, besides the mall playground.

Did I mention that I'm ready for some SEC football weather? 

Friday, July 23, 2010

Catching up...

I remember back when I taught 4th grade at Daniel Pratt with my partner in crime, Angie. She was always a mover and a shaker...there was always something going on in her life...camping, horseback riding, traveling, concerts, tour d'beach, parties, family events, professional opportunities. You name it, Angie was involved, still is, in fact. I remember thinking how cool it would be to be that busy and have that much fun. Well, be careful what you wish for!

My life has become just as happy and wonderful and hectic as my dear friend Angie's life. I'm sure it's a combination of factors...marrying Kevin, adopting Jack, new pets, travels, work, you get the idea. I think what it is most of all, though, is the ability to appreciate the small things in life. You have to appreciate the gift in every day that God sends. Part of the enjoyment in receiving a gift is appreciating the packaging. It says something about the giver. You can see the extra time and care taken to wrap it in love. Sometimes the packaging is an indication of what is inside, but other times it is not. You just have to be patient. I have learned to appreciate the packaging that reveals each and every gift God sends my way. They are chosen especially for me.

Perhaps one of the most important gifts God has given me is patience. It's been wrapped in many different layers...The week before I met Kevin, I was brokenhearted over something I had planned for my life, but God hadn't. I remember praying to God that I would be patient if he could just help me find peace in the wait. He did that. God wrapped patience in the adoption of our precious little Jack.  God wrapped patience in the corn salad that fell out of the fridge in my favorite Southern Living at Home bowl five minutes after I made it for dinner a couple weeks ago. Most recently, God has wrapped patience in cancer. Cancer has taught me to be patient with schedules, physical limitations of my mind and body, strangers who ask silly questions, loved ones who just want to help, but most especially...God's plan.

It's taken me so long to post this blog update, because I traveled to Salt Lake City for Academic Meetings and Graduation last week. I missed three connections on my way out there, and it took me 16 hours to end my travels. God provided the patience and strength I needed, though. I just wanted to get there that day, and I almost did...12:30am. Heather's tip about avoiding airplane germs was right on. The medicine I received from my doctor for my yucky cold/cough kept me well for the most part. I enjoyed "seeing" awesome work buddies that I get to work with daily, but have little time to catch up with, and I met my new Assessment team that I'll be working with.



I was especially excited to meet my blogging buddy, Kim. Kim is a breast cancer survivor I met through my friend Melanie.  We had an instant connection after being "virtually" introduced. We enjoyed a great night out at the Gateway including dinner at Typhoon and scarf shopping for me. Fun! Fun! I can't wait to see them and hang out again. Maybe we'll all have hair by then. :) All in all it was a great trip!

The next excuse I have for not blogging sooner is that I had chemo this week. It gets harder and harder each time. Kevin was out of town on work. My friend, Jane, was going to drive me; but Mom's schedule worked out just in time. I'm glad she was here. I really needed her this week. Mom took care of me (including cleaning my refrigerator from top to bottom and making tuna salad and potato salad), and Grandma took care of Jack (picking him up from school, feeding him dinner, playing at her house). Monday was ok. I was able to read a little, but I also took a nap in the chemo recliner. That's new...guess it's my depleting energy. Tuesday was terrible. Tuesdays have become the worst day of my chemo week. They are just so hard on me. I can't get comfortable. I feel sick. I just feel like a blob of yuck! Thinking about it makes me sick. Wednesday was quick. After having a little lunch with Mom on Wednesday, she went home to Alabama; and I took a long, much needed nap until Kevin made it in from Texas. I hadn't seen him in over a week. So happy to have him home!

I am constantly gaining weight from the steroids and chemo regimen I am on. I am reminded that I'm fighting for my life, not my waistline. My bottom eyelashes are completely gone. I don't have enough on top to wear mascara. I have bags under my eyes and new wrinkles around my mouth, but I will survive this. I know it.

Our lives have been touched by so many kind souls recently..phone calls from the Egans, Roys, Postens, Father Tom and many other friends and coworkers...cards from my nieces Katelyn and Erin and friends like Carol and Laura and Mrs. Jane. Jack's pre-school teachers who have extra patience with him on hard days...friends and neighbors who bring food they've especially prepared for us or invited Jack over to play so we can rest...CeeCee kept Jack overnight while both of us were out of town last week, and spoiled him rotten! Each time I go to the West Clinic I am reminded of the special gift Jerri and Jill have in taking care of their very sick patients.

I especially miss my little sister Amanda right now. She really wanted to come visit this weekend, but her little Mallory is sick. We decided it's best that she not come. Mallory needs her more than I do, and I can't afford to be exposed to anything Amanda may be carrying. I know she is really upset about this. I'll be ok. No worries. I'd love for you to come again when you can. Maybe I'll be able to enjoy your visit better. :)


~Love and Patience

Friday, July 09, 2010

MRI results

I've been coughing and dealing with allergy pressure and headache since Wednesday. I think I finally took the right combination of meds today. I was able to get a prescription cough suppressant that really made the difference. That, combined with some much needed rest has made all the difference. I'm still coughing, but not with every breath.

We finally heard from Dr. Reed's nurse this morning regarding my MRI. The news is good I think. There are no tumors or indication that cancer has spread to my brain, which is what we were hoping for. The MRI was to rule that out. What the MRI did show is in indication that I have Empty Sella Syndrome. In other words, my pituitary gland is flat, likely from spinal fluid leaking into the membrane around it. The pressure is what I feel when I have awful headaches. They are so bad at times I feel like I can't function. ESS isn't life threatening, but it is recognized as a rare congenital disease, very rare. It can also be cause by injury. Dr. Reed is sending me to an endocrinologist. I suppose we'll find out if my pituitary gland is working properly. It controls adrenal glands, thyroid, and several other things. That's all I really know for now.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Rest for the Weary

I apologize for it taking so long to write this post. Last week was my fourth round of chemo. You already knew that. What you may not have known is that it was the most difficult chemo week I've had to date. Usually, the really difficult part of chemo is in the days that actually follow. I suppose my body is worn down a little more with each chemo cycle. I never have quite enough time to get back to "normal." The Independence Day holiday added to my "business" when I was feeling better.

Chemo round four really knocked the wind out of me.  After lunch on Wednesday afternoon I was in bed pretty much until Saturday. I was tired, sad, and sick. I never actually threw up, but even the thought of chemo made me nauseous...still does. There were fleeting moments where I mustered the energy to sit outside in the swing or on the couch. For the most part, though, I felt like garbage.

My brother, Darrell, and his wife, BJ, came to help out over the long holiday weekend. Darrell usually works in GA all week and comes home on the weekend. So, when he sacrificed his holiday weekend to make the four hour drive to Mississippi, I was touched to say the least. This is really the first time I've been able to spend any time with him since my re-diagnosis. What I love about my brother is that he works hard and plays hard. He did not disappoint. He worked hard all weekend, helping Kevin complete several "man jobs" that he either had not had the time or strength to complete alone. It doesn't help that Kevin usually has a three foot shadow with his every step. Aunt BJ worked just as hard. As usual, she jumped right in there...cleaning, cooking, entertaining Jack. When I see BJ and Jack together, I am reminded of Christian (Darrell's 13 year old son) and me. When Christian was Jack's age, I had no children. He was like my own little boy. We did everything together. We spoke a special language. BJ is like that with Jack. He is never timid or afraid with her. He trusts her completely. It's fun to watch. She took him shoe shopping, birthday present shopping, grocery shopping, and to Wal-mart for fun stuff. When they returned home, they played in his pool, played basketball with the new net Aunt BJ had bought, and jumped on the trampoline. Of course, all this happened after Aunt BJ had completely cleaned my house. She moved furniture and other items so she could clean my floors...sweeping, mopping, dusting, and the list goes on. BJ took care of me by taking care of my family. I didn't have to give any direction or thought. She just did what she would want done if she were in my shoes. For that I am grateful.

Those who know me well, know how stubborn I can be. It's difficult for me to ask for assistance or even accept it when freely offered. By Saturday morning, I was so touched by Darrell and BJ's generosity, I was in tears. I think all the exhaustion crept up on me. I was on the couch "cuddling" with Jack while BJ cleaned. I just couldn't hold it in any longer. I think I was sad that the 4th of July wasn't waiting for me. Everyone was buzzing around, and I couldn't even get dressed. While I was sad for me, having a pity party really, I was so touched by the kindness of my brother and his wife. Even then, BJ was there to reassure me that I need to worry about me this time. Take care of me. Rest for me. No need to feel embarrassed to have cancer. I didn't want Jack to see me upset. So, I went to my bedroom and called my little sister. I just needed to hear her voice. She was busy rushing her own family out the door for 4th of July activities, but took the time to talk with me. I just needed to hear her voice. I enjoyed hearing Amanda and Tony whiz around with their girls. Tony was very patient with the orders he was receiving from the three females of his house.

There was a break in the southern humidity over the weekend and a nice breeze from the storms in the gulf. I was able to sit outside and watch the guys work on laying pavers under my swing long enough to get a little sun on my knees. I wasn't up to going to the park for firework festivities. So, we put on our own firework demonstration for Jack at home after a delicious summer dinner of BBQ ribs, BJ's mexicorn casserole, beans and bread. I was sad to see them go Sunday morning, but Darrell had to travel to Athens after his four hour drive home to Greenville. Jack has asked a million times since then when he can go spend the night with Aunt BJ and Uncle D.

I was feeling better by Sunday evening when Jack's friend, Wren; his mom, Julie; and their CeeCee, Ms. Susan; came to visit. We cooked out hamburgers and hotdogs and enjoyed watching the boys play outside. Ms. Susan makes the very best deviled eggs I have ever had. I may have to call and ask her to make some just for me when I have chemo again! I was so excited to feel like "me" again, I overdid it a little and was pretty wiped out by the time dinner was over. We had a great time, and enjoyed the company. Julie and I are a lot alike, crazy about our boys. We love the opportunity to hang out with girls. Wren slept until 11 am the next day. Jack did not. :)

Monday was a much needed rest for our little family. In fact, we are still tired. We all went to Wren's 4th birthday party Tuesday evening, a swimming party at the country club. Jack had a blast and swam pretty well. The clouds rolled in and brought summer storms, but we continued to have fun when we moved the party inside. Jack, Wren, Jasmine, and Calvin are the fab four, all the same age. It's fun to see them play and interact. I don't know who our priest will be at their confirmation in about 13 years, but I hope he's drinking plenty of vitamin C. He's going to need it.

Tuesday was also the day of my MRI. Dr. Reed scheduled it to rule out the possibility of any cancer causing my ongoing headaches. Endometrial cancer can spread to the brain. We don't think it is cancer, but we want to be sure rather than assume. This is the first MRI I've had. I can now understand why some people freak out when lying in that tube for so long. I was fine, but thought of the folks I know who can't go through that alone. I hope to hear the results from Dr. Reed today or tomorrow. I'm optimistic, but the wait is killing me. We want this behind us.

I woke up with a cough and awful headache Wednesday morning. It feels allergy related. Still, it's exhausting. I'm not running any fever, but hope to find something I can take for the yuck.  The mouth sores I've had since Sunday are beginning to subside. They were right on time, but like the chemo yuckies, a little worse than usual. I really need to feel better. I am traveling to Salt Lake City next week for Academic Meetings and graduation at Western Governors University. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone, but a little nervous about flying for the first time since chemo started. I don't want to catch anything. So, anyone willing to post advice to stay germ-free, feel free to post. I can't wait to see my work buddies and friends who have been especially supportive, even across the distance. Also exciting is the opportunity to meet blog buddy, Kim M., (See Tender Mercies blog in the links to the right) who is now cancer-free. I was connected to her by our common friend Melanie Olson, when I found out I was sick again. She has helped me so much in my journey through her own blogs.

The highlight of my week has been the sweet card I received from my former student, friend, and fellow cancer survivor, Laura Huish. She is an amazing woman! I really needed the lift this week, Laura. You were right on time! Then today, I received another card filled with prayer from Mrs. Jane Sullivan. People are so kind to continue praying for us, even this far into treatment.

Please pray for my sister's high school friend, and mine, Amanda Schwartz Ward. She had complications delivering her precious angel, Journey, in May and continues to fight her way to better health. Each time I think of my own struggles with cancer, I remember how much more difficult Amanda's battle is.