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


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.