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. :)



Laughter is NOT the best medicine...


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. 
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?