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 calls from the Egans, Roys, Postens, Father Tom and many other friends and 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, 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.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Halfway there!

Kevin took me to chemo Monday. It was a really busy work day for him. I don't know how he does it all, but he does...and with a smile.  Jerri and Jill were there with a smile as well. I was so excited to tell them my good news about ten of the eleven spots on my lungs being gone. It was so busy in the chemo room that there was an additional oncology nurse from one of the other West Clinics there to help.

When I entered the chemo room, I selected what I thought would be a nice quiet place away from distractions, and it was until...An older couple came in to visit with one of their chemo buddies. They talked and talked and talked, even pulled chairs up to visit. I don't know why this bothered me so much. When Kevin came in from one of his work phone calls, he didn't even have room to sit with me. By this time there was another chair open across the room. So, we moved. After our relocation, it was rather amusing to see my old "chair buddy's" face. I think he was just as annoyed by the couple. He kept looking past them as they rambled on. Poor guy!

Monday was a relatively easy day for me, Cisplatin and Adrimycin Day. Mom came from Alabama to help with Jack, and I was able to eat her home-cooked dinner with the family. She brought fresh peas from the garden. YUM! After dinner I went to bed. Mom went with me to talk. Luz Andrea called on the telephone! That made my day! I was SO excited to hear from her. I miss her. She wanted to know exactly what was going on in the house, as if she were here to feel it. I can't wait til the day we get to see her again.

Tuesday was still crowded at the clinic, but not as bad as Monday. I never have to wait very long. Mom went with me while Kevin stayed home to get some work done. Tuesday is Taxol Day. It's a little more difficult. I think it's because I already have the the other two toxins in my body doing their thing before we add yet a third. We have to start the Taxol slowly to avoid reactions. I had a reaction for the first time Tuesday. It was really weird. All the muscles in my torso started to contract at one time, I guess it's like birth contractions only in my stomach and mid-section...really weird. In the South, when you have a sudden shiver, we say, "A rabbit ran over your grave." That's what it was, only more intense. Not painful, just aggravating. I told Jill and she stopped the Taxol for about five minutes before resuming. I didn't have trouble after that. Taxol does cause some neuropathy.

I wore my short wig to the clinic on Tuesday. I knew I would feel cold, Taxol days are always cold for me. One gentleman recognized me with it and commented how much he liked my hair...about three different times. He was a nice man, very pleasant. We talked quietly with a couple ladies across the room from Tupelo. In the meantime, Jerri was taking care of this very stubborn, old man across the room. His son was with him. He actually had the nerve to tell Jerri that the son wasn't worth a d$#@. Jerri told him at least her was here with him. It made us sad to hear the old man talk about his son the way he did. The son never said a word. Usually the wife is with the old guy. Jerri says they argue. Well, the whole room stopped when the man was talking with Jerri. He made a comment about seeing her again next time. Jerri put her hands on her hips and said, "Well, honey I just can't wait!" Picture Alice from the diner saying this in a sarcastic way. I've never seen Jerri get her feathers ruffled so. Pretty funny.

I was so tired by Tuesday evening I came home and went straight to bed. I had a great nap. When I woke, mom was in my room doing laundry. I asked her what time it was and she said it was a "quarter to eight." I was thinking that I had woken just in time to get to the clinic. I assumed I had slept all night. I wondered why she was wearing the same pink shirt. Then I could see Kevin and Jack playing in the backyard and realized it was still Tuesday. They had already eaten dinner. So, I ate mine in the living room while watching television. I was pretty washed out afterward, so I just went back to bed.

Wednesday is Neulasta day.  That's where I get a $9000.00 shot to raise my white cell count to fight infection. This time Mom and Jack went with me. It's just a short visit since I only get a shot, and all the ladies at the clinic have been dying to meet Jack. He was well behaved, shook hands, said the Pledge of Allegiance, the whole thing. Then, he and mom went back to the waiting room. Kids aren't allowed in the chemo room.

We were home in time for lunch. By the afternoon I was feeling pretty crummy. I wasn't nauseous, I couldn't stay out of the bathroom. Exhausting! Kevin had to reschedule my MRI. Mom went home. Grandma Joyce came to take Jack out to the mall to burn some energy. They had a great time, except for one little "rice" meltdown when Grandma got his rice from the wrong store in the mall. While they were gone, Binky brought some information by the house about a cancer diet/ regimen. Then my sweet neighbor and bunco buddy, Rhonda, brought dinner for the family; poppy seed chicken, carrots, garlic bread, and peanut butter cookies. So yummy! Jack even liked it! It sure made things a lot easier for Kevin. Thanks ladies!

The sweetest part of the week was Tuesday afternoon when Jack was helping Kevin water the plants outside. There is an Eastern Redbud in our front flowerbed that shades the dining room. Jack noticed that it has heart-shaped leaves on it. He said, "Daddy, that tree has heart leaves on it for mommy. It's to help mommy's cancer go away so she'll feel better." What a sweet thing to say! He's really thinking about this cancer thing as much as he can from his 4 year old The sweetest part of the week was Tuesday afternoon when Jack was helping Kevin water the plants outside. There is an Eastern Redbud in our front flowerbed that shades the dining room. Jack noticed that it has heart-shaped leaves on it. He said, "Daddy, that tree has heart leaves on it for mommy. It's to help mommy's cancer go away so she'll feel better." What a sweet thing to say! He's really thinking about this cancer thing as much as he can from his 4 year old perspective. I love my little man...and my big one, too!