Tuesday, December 30, 2008
This Chemonday mom had a big send-off into her sick week. For the first time, oddly enough, the whole family came. For once, I (Amanda) was off of school and work and so were the brothers. My dad decided he wouldn't be sick, and so we all piled into the Turd Machine (AKA, our smelly brown van) and headed off. It felt like a roadtrip. We packed I-pods, pink monopoly and coke.
Okay, Mikey here now. It did indeed feel like a roadtrip, as we embarked on this deadly adventure through Chemotherapy, starring Julie Evans as herself, and Dr. Lower, as The Oncologist. Guest starring Herceptin and the villain, a mean dose of Taxol. Supporting actors being David, Amanda, Matt, and Mikey Evans, also helped by the wonderful input of the nurses.
As if the long drive wasn't tough enough, we then had to wait in the waiting room for about thirty minutes. Not the most exciting time, I must assure you. We did however learn of an excellent sandwich, mixing garlic bread and lasagna, from Paula Dean on the Food Network. Mmm :). Finally, we were called back to go to Dr. Lower's office. Hopes, mostly from us kids, of getting this rocking and rolling were dashed, when we were forced to wait in her office for over forty minutes! Finally she came, much to all our relief. She's an interesting one, Dr. Lower. Very cool and nice; she has a teachery type personality to her. And she rocks because she's saving our mum's life. Anyway, finally, we were off to the upstairs to start this chemo cocktail! We all secretly hoped to get a cocktail of our own, though obviously we're not talking the chemo kind.
I guess it's my (Matt's) turn now. I gotta say, i agree with that whole road trip feeling it had. We had the cooler and games and books and iPods and everything. The car ride just wasn't long enough to quite cut it, but I'm fine with that.
The worst part for me was probably the needles...I like needles just about as much as my mum does. Which is not at all. And the lady kept leaving that biohazard trash box open, which with all my OCDness and stuff wasn't all that great haha =p I had to move to the other side of the room. The waiting was alright. Long, but alright. And other than that we just kind of chilled, played some monopoly, ate some chipotle and watched psych and that 70's show. Doctors were pretty nice too. Doctor office type places always make me extremely exhausted for some reason or other, so by the time we left (around 6:30 I think...) I was about ready to go to bed. Even though I didn't. But yeah.
Mikey now, again! Basically, the day was very exhausting for all of us. The chemo place was a little eerie at six... All those dark rooms, we were the only people left. The day could've been alot scarier, especially if we were in the big room with everybody else. Luckily, we had a room to ourselves, so it was nice and peaceful. I must confess though. Mum's a snorer on chemo! ;). She's going to kill me now. Anyway, yeah. It was a rather tiring day, especially for mum, who first got pierced by needles, then pumped full of anti nausea meds, Herceptin, and Taxol all day. Quite tiring. We escaped all alive however, and will live to fight chemo, another day. Julie stands the conquerer, after six heavy hours battling with her shiny sword, Herceptin, and her trusty steed, Taxol. Equipped with other side weapons, she battles on to destroy the cancer. ETD(Estimated Time of Destruction), December '09. We'll see you there.
Monday, December 29, 2008
We had a happy Christmas, and then a bug hit our home, like we needed any segue into chemo. My sweet nephew Brody caught some violent bug in Indy at one of our family Christmases, and spent most of our time with him hurling, then happy, then hurling, then happy, then the other end got involved, making it a trio. It's amazing how resilient little guys are. And thank God for that.
The day after Christmas, our 21st Anniversary, my mum and bro-in-law both woke up with it. Unfortunately, once you grow up, not so much resilience. They both had very violent bouts. Eric, Jen and Brody, just got up, packed up, and headed out of dodge to be sick in his own home. We put my mum up in a nearby hotel, to give her privacy and rest, and to try and contain things around here before my chemo treatment today. Thankfully, they are all home safe and sound, and on the mend.
We spent our anniversary cleaning and sanitizing our home, which had to happen anyway before the tsunami of chemo hits as it is wont to do on chemo weeks. The nasty bug actually helped us get ahead of schedule, since it was so urgent to contain things on Friday. We normally struggle through Saturday and Sunday, trying to get everything done. And rarely do we really feel ready.
We took a couple of sanity breaks throughout the day. Massive Cleaning Spree. Dave, Mikey and I went to P.F. Changs for lunch. Matt and Amanda were both on dates. Came back and cleaned some more. Took Mikey, Amanda and her boyfriend, Daniel, to see Yes Man.
Then Dave and I did the anniversary part of our day: we went to a gas station to fill up his drought of a tank, and we bought 21 lottery tickets, which we quickly turned into 30 lottery tickets. Then it was slowly downhill from there. The 30 we turned into 7; the 7 turned 4; the 4 replicated itself; and then there were none.A little Agatha Christie of an ending, but it was fun. And we had a rooting section. The workers in the gas station, and the guy in line behind us, who said he saw someone buy 20 and turn it into 500. One of the girls in the station said good luck as we walked to our car to scratch off our first batch. I looked at Dave, took off my hat, and said, "Do I look like I'm having good luck?" We laughed and then went off and won the 30. God is funny.
And then, because we are anything but boring, Dave got the bug, and even Mikey a tiny bit. And we're not sure about me, since I've been messed up since I started chemo so it's honestly just hard to tell. But here we all are, apparently still standing. And now we are off to take me to my chemo cocktail. Only one more bad boy after this one! That sounds really good to say.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Anyway, so instead of slamming down a chemo cocktail, and getting slammed by said chemo cocktail, as per my usual, I went and had a massage (my body was not expecting that! Pleasure and not poison? whose body is this, anyway? what alternatvie universe have I happily found myself in? it seemed to keep wondering) from a therapeutic masseuse my breast surgeon hooked me up with. She is a breast cancer survivor, further on down the road from me, whose experience and compassion were as therapeutic to me as her skill. I don't think I had realized that I probably haven't relaxed a single muscle nor have taken a deep breathe since August 12th when I found the damn spots, until she told me I was in guard mode, and kept reminding me to breathe. Honestly, I was holding my breath to keep my eyes from leaking. It wasn't exactly crying, like in the movie At First Sight (not that there's anything wrong with crying) and I don't even really know what it was, except my eyes kept leaking everytime she told me to breathe. Today I am wound back up, because my sister is on her way here and I can't wait to see her, not to mention, she comes with my nephew Brody, who hasn't seen me bald yet, which makes me a bit nervous because I hope he won't be afraid of me. I totally chased my cup of coffee this morning with a chill pill that I am waiting to take effect.
In other medical news, Dave just had another sonogram today, and the gall stone(s?) is/are still there and still blocking the tube, with no way of escape, except extraction. The gall bladder has collapsed and is also packing up its belongings to hit the road, Jack, and sort of be a groupie to said non-rolling stones. The surgery is scheduled for January 28th, but we are trying to move it up in between my chemo treatments and not at the end of the tunnel of Taxol, so we can party, and not prep for more surgery/stress/recovery. And then move on, both of us, God willing, to rebuild our health and fitness. And maybe even playing a little tennis, dare I say?
In the health and beauty section, Amanda finishes up her last day of beauty school today, and therefore is no beauty school dropout like Rizzo, but a bonafide graduate, only lacking her state boards licensure. Way to go, dahling! Mum is way proud, not to mention, impressed. Now, I hope you will have time to practice on your dear ol' mum.
Speaking of licenses...police scanners all across Ohio are getting the dreaded news that Amanda is now officially back on the road without restrictions. Other than the normal STAY WITHIN THE SPEED LIMIT, SILLY GIRL ones.
Lastly, from the mail bag, The Dave and Julie Letter is in the mail. Some of you have probably already received them, and I hope you understand that they intentionally came cardless out of respect for my bald head. I thought it was a touching gesture. If you didn't get one, we blame it on the chemo, so just send us your address and we will remedy the silly oops.
I think that's a wrap, and now I must wrap up, because my sister is in my driveway, and I must wrap up my little Brody in my arms!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
The current chemo cocktail consists of: 1)Valium I take in the morning to get me to chemo. Yes, I teach my Brit Lit class on Valium. My scholars are pure delight, not to mention a great distraction from the chemo to come. Then a group of my co-op friends usually pray over me before I head off. This might be even more effective than the Valium, or it could just be the cherry on top. Whatever...this is my drill and it works for me. 2)Benedryl and Tylenol taken orally before they hook me up. 3)Ativan, which is my fave part because it takes the edge off which is a very sanctifying thing for both me and, I think, the chemo to come. 4) There are some (3?) other anti-nausea premeds lost somewhere in my chemo fog, but really, once the Ativan kicks in, it's all good. 5)Herceptin! I got my first dose of Herceptin today. I will be on it for a year, every three weeks. There are not supposed to be side effects with it. Yay. And it is more of a biological, building up weapon against cancer, rather than the traditional chemo which tears down good with the bad. From what I understand it targets the specific breast cancer cells that I tested positive for (Her 2, protein responsive) and more or less turns them off. So even if you had this cancer in your body, which I technically do not, it turns it off like you don't have it. It has been a miracle breakthrough in breast cancer. There is a fab movie out on Lifetime called Living Proof if you want to catch it. Harry Handsome Connick, Jr. stars in it as Dennis Slamon, the doctor who discoverd Herceptin. God bless, Dr. Slamon and the ladies who went through all the testing phases to get Herceptin approved so I can be on it. And of course, Harry Connick, who lost his own mum to breast cancer, and wanted to play Dr. Slamon in the movie to further breast cancer awareness. And 6)The dreaded Taxol, which I am now halfway through with, thank God. My next one is Dec. 29; and the final one will be Jan. 19. Then we will have another prayer meeting/party!
Today I had my white blood cell shot. I'm still on anti-nausea meds so just low-grade nausea and headache that I can totally deal with. Much better than the A/C chemo ones. I finish those meds tomorrow at noon and then am not looking forward to the achiness from the Taxol/white blood cell shot to creep in. I did get a bit chastised by my oncologist for trying to wait it out last time and had to promise that I would take pain RXs this time. I'm not sure if this is why I didn't get my prize for most festive patient or not?
One thing I've been thinking a lot about these days is how chemo and Jesus both bring me to my knees. I'll take the chemo. All I have to do is look at my three kids and there is no question in my mind about that. But give me Jesus. Fernando Ortega has a song by that title that I have on my chemo cocktail mix on my I-Pod that I like to listen to to help me keep perspective and give me fighting music.
In other news, I finally hit the triple digits, weight-wise, which has been the Doc's and Dave's mission, not to mention my mum's, (and a few tennis nazi friends of mine)...so there. The Taxol doesn't make me as nauseated, nor does it seem to tear up my mouth, nor take away my taste, so far so good, like the previous chemo cocktail. So it appears I'm going to have to take it easy not to beef up too much! ;) Kidding people. No nasty comments necessary.
As for Dave and his gall bladder issues, he met with two surgeons today, who both said the gall bladder needs to go. We are hoping to schedule it the week after my chemo on Dec. 29, to give me time to recoup a bit from cocktail 3, and give him two weeks to recoup before my cocktail 4. It's a tightrope, but doable, if he can keep his gall bladder in check and I can stay healthy and on chemo schedule.
Amanda finishes her first semester of college tomorrow! Yay Amanda; I am so, so proud of you. You have had a lot on your plate and a lot of plates to boot, but you have balanced them with grace and beauty. Good luck on your final final tomorrow! Looking forward to celebrating with you! Also looking forward to your promise that you will find the room under that mess and the car under that mess, not to mention EVERY SINGLE ONE OF OUR TRAVEL MUGS lurking out there! That was all said in love my sweet little tornado, whom I adore! She also gets her license back on Dec. 22, thank God, but no reason to stop praying for my sweet little speedster. And she winds down beauty school on the 23rd, state boards to come. Well done, baby girl!
Matt is dealing with a double ear infection, and Mikey an ear/throat infection. Both are on anitbiotics and doing fine. They are both finishing up their semester quite well, and continue to be the best caretakers/companions I could hope for. I am so glad Matt has his license, because that lets them get mini breaks here and there, which they need. They have such a great group of friends who they fill those breaks and every spare minute with and that makes this mum very happy to know they are thriving despite the burdens they bear so manly and graciously.
So, although we seem like a fine mess, really we are hanging in there. Not that it is easy, but we have probably been enabled to coast a bit, mainly from all the prayers being lifted up in mine and our behalf. It is almost as if they have carried us. And God seems to be delighted in answering them all, including healing me, to Whom I give all the credit, and myself, and my gratitude. I also want to extend my gratitude to all of you who carry me to Him, one way or another. Prayer, company, meals, phone calls, cards, emails, reading my blog and especially the comments, messaging me on Facebook, joining Blogintheshire on Facebook, rides to watch my friends play tennis and to the oncologist, Dr. Lower, my oncologist, and all the angels that work in her office, not only taking care of me, but with great kindness, Dr. Stahl, my breast surgeon who saved my life, her nurse Rita, Dr. Runke who put Port Rapha in and saved the veins in my arm, Dr. Allen, my holistic/medical doctor, who found the cancer and put me on this path toward healing and health, not to mention all the lovely gifts, nor the thoughts, which do totally count in my book. Thank you seems lame, but there it is. It's all I've got, but it goes deep and is quite mushy if you want to know the truth. And I do plan to pay it forward with the rest of my life.
And there is one more I have to mention, most recently, The Tiffany Foundation Breast Cancer Fundraiser that my tennis club, 5 Seasons and my tennis buds threw this past Saturday. Tiffany's family established the Foundation in her honor after she lost her battle with inflammatory breast cancer a few years ago. When I walked in the door, I did not know what I was walking into. I thought I was going to a breast cancer fundraiser, and the last thing I told Dave as we walked out our door, was that I hoped there were other "bald" people there so I wouldn't be the center of attention, and especially not draw attention away from the fundraising purpose of the evening. But I walked right into Tiffany's dad, who told me I reminded me of his Tiffany. I was amazed that I got to meet him right off the bat, also shocked that he already knew me. From there I was surrounded by tennis buds. And then I met a lovely warrior named Kristi, who has been traveling down an almost identical road as I am. She was diagnosed with a similar diagnosis as me, except she was 28, newly married, and pregnant. And it was in her lymph nodes, so she was stage 2, and had to have all the lymph nodes on the affected breast removed with it. She has had a similar regimen of treatment. She started out on A/C, while pregnant. Had a healthy baby last Thanksgiving, thank God! Then Taxol/Herceptin. And radiation, which I don't have to have. Her beautiful baby girl turned one this Thanksgiving! Kristi finishes up her Herceptin on December 23. Go Kristi! You have run the race and have won! God speed! Not to mention a very Merry, no more chemo, Christmas!
What I didn't know about the evening, was that I was to be the recipient of a lovely gift from the Tiffany Foundation, whose mission is to give breast cancer fighters, a "vacation" away from the cancer. Their lovely, courageous daughter did not have a vacation from her inflammatory breast cancer. She was on chemo for the last 4-5 years of her life. But she fought with honor, on her own terms, and lived and loved hard and to the last. This is how they honor her, love her and keep her life and love paying forward. Kristi was last year's recipient. How shocked was I when she stood up, to give me the award for this year?! Stunned and speechless. Very grateful and very blessed. My vacation away, is another year's membership at 5 Seasons and tennis lessons to help me pick up my racket and get back out on the court! How perfect is that! I have some physical therapy to get after to reverse my noodly arms back into weapons, not to mention the rest of my atrophied muscles, but I'm on it!
This is Kristi giving me the award; and this is me, stunned and speechless; and this is Dave, a bit too giddy over my speechless state if you ask me. Trust me, it didn't last. Look at this blog for instance. Then imagine having to live with the voice behind it? And now his gall stones seem to make a bit more sense, don't they?
And with that, I shall affect a mock offense and sign off. The fact that you're probably saying, "Whew" just adds insult to injury. That's all I'm saying. Really. For now.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Dave is doing ok, keeping his gall stones in check nutritionally, until he has his gall bladder removed. He has an appointment with a gastroenterologist on Tuesday to set up the surgery.
My chemo schedule had a little kink in it last Monday. There was only time enough for the Taxol, and not the Herceptin, so they bumped up my next cocktail date to 2 weeks instead of 3 this time, which is Monday. That was one of the hardest pills I've had to swallow, since I was so looking forward to a little break. But Monday I will be halfway through the Taxol, and begin my year of Herceptin every three weeks, so that's the positive spin on it. The other Taxol dates are December 29th and January 19th. Then we'll see what kind of a du my hair decides to do.
So while I am getting my white blood cell shot in my belly on Tuesday, Dave will be setting up an appointment to fix his. He is such a copy cat.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Here's how much I don't like Taxol: If I were to say to you, "Taxol is kicking my ass." Which I would hate to do, because I don't really feel like offending people on my blog, who might feel that the last word in that sentence is the dirty one, when, in fact, the first one is the one that I have been thinking of calling the T-word.
I wouldn't even lay down the T-word with the X falling on a triple letter square in Scrabble if you paid me. That's how much I don't like Taxol.
I had heard about the side effect of numbness/tingling in the digits. But mostly I was concentrating on the statistics I had heard, that 80% of patients find it to be an easier ride than the Adrymiacin/Cytoxin of my first flight of chemo cocktail. My fingertips are not shocked, just a little numb, to find out that I'm outside the box on the statistics.
What I hadn't heard about Taxol, until my oncologist mentioned it to me that day, was that it might make me achy, like the white blood cell shot makes some achy. I could've done the math and figured that meant achy on top of achy, if I didn't have chemo brain; but really it ended up feeling like achy squared.
We did have a quiet but lovely Thanksgiving. Amanda and I were able to make the best turkey ever for the third year in a row. Some of my tennis buds flanked it with side dishes. My mum was there.
Shortly after, I just started to feel myself go downhill and went up for a nap to try and sleep it off. But the achy was just setting in. By Friday I was having a hard time coping with it. Friday was the hardest day I've ever lived through. It is the first time I've wondered if I am strong enough to do this.
Saturday morning I awoke to find out that my friend, Linda, who I had asked y'all to pray for when you pray for me, had gone to be with God, finishing her fight with cancer by kicking it in its you-know-what once and for eternity. But I will miss you.
To compound things, Dave had been having stomach issues that had him doubled over in pain much of the weekend. He thought it was just indigestion or something that would just "pass", although I did see that he had been Googling appendicitis in the wee hours one night. I thought maybe he had developed a stomach ulcer; the guy has a bit of stress on his plate. By Sunday night, the kids and I decided that enough was enough and Matt took him to a doc in the box, which ended up sending him to the ER to run diagnostic tests on him all night long.
Gallstones. He came home at 6 a.m. with 3 RX's, an upcoming surgery that we need to schedule somewhere in the chemo mix, and a new diet in the meantime.
Yes, we've now reverted to nursery rhyme status and humor. Dave is Jack Sprat who can eat no fat. And I'm the one with the weight, the heart rate, and the temperature all the same number, who used to be a vegetarian, but now spends her days trying to beef up for the next chemo cocktail.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Ok, fit thrown, now it's onto Round 2. In an hour or so, some of my tennis buds are picking me up to take me to my next chemo cocktail, of Taxol and Herceptin. I'm pretty sure I spelled Herceptin right. I'll let you know if I feel like doing a spell check on Taxol, depending on how I cope with it. Truth is, if I don't like them, I'd prefer spelling them wrong because I'm pretty sure it makes me feel better.
The good thing about Round 2, is that I get three weeks in between each treatment now! That is an extra good week, and that is really something to look forward to, and to be thankful for!
Speaking of being thankful, I am thankful for my tennis buds, who are just now beginning to show up to take me to watch me down my chemo cocktail. I do so hate drinking alone; but this is one drink I wouldn't share. Anyway, we will have our own little turkey day together, as one of them is bringing turkey sandwiches for lunch. Yum-o.
My ride beckons...
Cheers and bottoms up,
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Monday was the fourth and final AC mistreatment (Adriamycin+Cytoxan, one of them is a derivative of mustard gas like was used in World War I). In two weeks she will have her first of 4 TH mistreatments (Taxol+Herceptin). Thankfully, those will be only once every 3 weeks.
Julie's doing ok but I'm definitely noticing the cumulative affect of the chemo on her. She has very little energy, isn't very steady on her feet, has a hard time concentrating, and her pulse has been running about 97. And it doesn't help that everything she owns is breaking down, too. Her Mini Cooper has been in and out of the shop 3 of the last 4 weeks. Her Bose iPod stereo stopped working. And her computer has died. We may have lost several of her writings on the crashed hard drive.
Sometimes it's easy for us to get a bit discouraged, but we press on, believing and praying help for our unbelief. And we get by with a little (a lot) of help from our friends. Your blog comments, emails, cards, notes, flowers, support, help, and of course meals, all mean so much! Thank you, and bless you.
Dave & Julie
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Friday, November 7, 2008
Amanda Evans Evans 1
Philosophy 107: Philosophy through Film
Courage in Illness
Peter French points out in Cowboy Metaphysics, that Aristotle says someone battling a terminal disease is not displaying courage because they show no act of prowess and do not die particularly nobly. But he does not address the issue of non-terminal, but possibly terminal illnesses. I would like to argue that Julie, facing breast cancer, is someone who shows true courage.
Breast cancer is one of those diseases that is terrifying but not necessarily terminal. Some people die, some people don't. Hearing the word cancer is like a hope-killer. But sometimes hope can still bud. Cancer can be fought. And I challenge anyone who says otherwise. Julie is a woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was the fastest growing variety, but she caught it very early. The cancer struck with three lumps in one breast. Julie struck back with first a lumpectomy and then a double mastectomy. Not only did Julie attack the cancerous lumps but she attacked the possible hiding places that the cancer could go to. She wasn't letting this thing beat her. Cancer: 1 Julie: 2. Then Julie went straight into chemotherapy. Not just a short, oh, here's some chemo real quick just in case. No, it was a full 14-month blast. One she is still struggling through. Cancer: 1 Julie: 3. She continues to attack hiding places that this cancer might go. Is it necessary? No, but it's safe, it's aggressive. She could've just done a single mastectomy and a short round of chemo. That's all that was necessary. But it wouldn't ensure that the cancer wouldn't spread.
So Julie decided to go full-force, lose both breasts, and suffer through 14-months of chemo. Yes, she would feel sick almost that whole time. Yes, for the majority of it she would have no hair. Yes, she would have the pain of bi-weekly appointments. Yes, she would have to suffer through a surgery to implant a port (an IV straight to the heart, basically, that the needle is stuck through). Yes, she would be weak and barely be able to lift anything slightly heavy. Yes, she would have to end up giving up her stick-shift, adored mini cooper because she wouldn't be strong enough to shift gears. These are only some of the sacrifices she makes. It is a battle. One that she chooses to fight.
Why does she fight so aggressively? Why not sit back and take the easy road, even if it is riskier? There are three reasons for this: her three kids. She hates their heartbreak so much that she would face needless pain and suffering simply to ensure that she would live a long life for them. She battles cancer until it is completely, without a doubt demolished simply because she wants to help her kids. And the whole time she suffers through this battle, she fights for other people. She fights to show other cancer patients that they can survive and be strong. She sends them messages of hope. She still pretends like nothings wrong with her in order to help her friends. She fights for the people around her.
Aristotle can say that someone fighting terminal illness is not courageous because they cannot show prowess. But Julie shows prowess in her daily battles. She attacks hard and faces pain and suffering. She goes up the stairs multiple times a day even though it makes her out of breath and tired. How is that not showing prowess? Her illness is not terminal, and therefore she can hope. Julie is the most courageous person I know. I dare Aristotle to raise from the dead and just try to tell me that my mom is not courageous.
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
"Prepared for all things."
Can anyone, in all honesty, say that phrase, and really mean it? In this life, can you really be prepared for anything anyone or anything can throw at you?
Honestly, the notion makes me laugh. No-one can prepare for anything. Say, you're having a nice day with your friends, when you get a call saying your mother has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Prepared for that? How can one prepare for that? Total devastation and ripping apart of everything in your life you knew before. Nothing can be the same when you hear those words. How can you prepare for a total change of life?
Really, there's no way to prepare for everything. No way any human on Earth could do anything to prepare themselves for anything life throws at them. It's simply impossible. There is only one way to even get close to this preparation for all things, and that is trusting in Jesus Christ.
Now, you may all have suddenly left after reading that last sentence. Who knows? But I will continue, nonetheless. God is really the only One that was prepared for everything. He was prepared to create the world, and man. He was prepared for what to do when man rebelled against Him. He was prepared with what to do when all man was sinful, but one family, which he spared. He was prepared when His people were attacked by a giant, sending a small boy to vanquish it. He was prepared when, some years later, the world had erupted in so much sin again, by sending His only Son down to our Earth, to die, and take away our sins! He was prepared when, just before you found this, you may have been looking at who knows what, or doing who knows what! HE is prepared for anything and everything. Why would we not follow Him?
Aside from the phrase being utterly impossible apart from God, it is still one of my most favorite phrases, just for the simple fact that it HAS to include God. It's like saying "God has prepared me for all things" almost.
The phrase In Omnia Paratus was taken from an episode of Gilmore Girls. The phrase is the featured phrase used by the Life and Death Brigade.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Sunday, November 2, 2008
There were aspects of this chemo cocktail round that were more positive than the previous ones. A good fog is still a good fog. The anti-nausea meds are thankfully keeping all hurling, thus far, at bay. I have aleady downed three chemo cocktails (only one more to go in this first round, thank God!) so some of the anxiety from the unknown and the unexpected has begun to dissipate. And, though it hasn't been smooth sailing, we have found somewhat of a chemo groove somewhere on the b-side, which seems to be so far so good.
I just tried to sleep off Wednesday and Thursday. I know that I am fortunate that our life allows me to do so. Friday I was hoping for a window of feeling good enough to do some things that I really needed to do with my kids. Life does go on during chemo, and, naps having their place and then being placed aside, I really don't feel like sleeping through it. Especially not the mum part. Thankfully, the window happened. I was able to go with my kids to the funeral for one of their friend's mums. It was a beautiful funeral, celebrating a beautiful life. We did not have the pleasure of knowing her, but we had been praying for her ever since our kids became friends. I also was able to go to a David Crowder Band concert with my kids (and a caravan of our friends) on Halloween night. When we booked the tickets we had miscalculated and thought it didn't fall in a chemo week. It was such a fun night. Mikey lost his voice singing with. Matt got his ticket signed by David Crowder; Mikey and Amanda got their Converse signed. Even I got a David Crowder tee shirt and Amanda had him sign it for me. He wrote "Mom's shirt" on it really big. I snapped tons of photos with my kids, their friends, and David Crowder. Even got one with me and David Crowder. My face hurt from smiling.
And Saturday morning, the window shut again. The fatigue hit hard. My heart would race every time I got up to refill my water bottle or go to the bathroom. Which is a lot of what I do. I spent the entire day trying to catch up on all the Brit Lit reading I hadn't been able to focus and read all week. Read a chapter, bathroom break, refill water bottle, and repeat. With a few naps, a short walk down the cul-de-sac to try and fight fatigue and focus brain, plus lots of losing track what I'm doing, in between. I did finish. But it was distracting hearing my heartbeat all day. I could hear and time it with the wall clock. It made me feel like I was racing the clock. I don't know if that made me all tense and tight, but my chest has been feeling like things don't fit. Not to mention, that since some more of the swelling has gone down around Port Rapha, I have been able to feel and see some of the stitches holding the tube in place. Which I would rather not see or feel. So there has been some anxiety there. Dave has talked to the doctor on call, and it all seems to be usual chemo fare, so we're just trying to see if it wears off as we go into this not chemo week. Hopefully it will, because it takes a lot to gear up for chemo weeks. I used to carb up for tennis matches; now Dave tries to fatten me up for chemo. I liked the old way better. Not to mention I could taste the food. Right now everything tastes like refried beans or mashed potatoes, but muted of all its flavor. Very strange sensation. You see the food. It looks yummy. You taste the food. Nothing. So you swallow and try again to see if there was something you missed. Nope. Then you try to finish your food and everyone will clap if you do. Totally different Pavlovian technique. But who, really, is being trained here? The finisher of food or the clappers? Something to think about next time you clap for me when I finish my food.
So I hope this doesn't come off like I'm a whiner. I really don't feel whiney. But this is what is going on; it is what it is; and Dave thought I should update the previous post, since I sort of fell back like the time did this morning. So hopefully now you have more ammo to pray, and thank you so much for praying. I am humbled, grateful, and feel a very large debt of love that feels a bit like a blanket crossed with a hope that I can someday pay it forward, since there is no way any one person could possibly pay it back in a lifetime.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
So it's Tuesday and I'm writing my own blog because Dave is out practicing driving with Matt, who may have very large feet, but we checked, and so far, no lead, but is hoping to secure his license in the near future. He has recently bought his first car, and he just turned sweet 16 a couple of weeks ago, so the license is the last obstacle to his freedom. Not to mention our freedom from errands he can't wait to run for us just to drive his car.Speaking of cars, my mini broke down again. In Clifton, at 11p.m. Dave and I were going to watch a movie at this artsy theatre we love. (They use real butter on their popcorn, which I think warrants mentioning.) A few posts ago, I wrote that the clutch had gone out on Dave, who likes to blame it on the mini, but in all honesty turns into a completely different person when behind the wheel of such a fun car to drive, and so, since I wasn't there, I really can't be sure. But my money is on the driver. As Dave always says, it's usually an operating error, and usually he's pretty wise. So we took the mini to the mini doctor, who put in a new clutch, but methinks he didn't tighten something, because on the way to the movie (and I must preface this story with the fact that DAVE was driving, again) we lost 5th gear, then 3rd, then 1st, but somehow Dave managed to get us there, toggling from 2nd to 4th. Malpractice and operating errors aside, here's what I think really happened. On the way, Dave was talking about how it was probably time to sell the mini because I had already been struggling with shifting gears, due to tennis elbow and rotater cuff issues for awhile, and then you throw in recovering from the surgeries and especially getting used to the port sitting on top of my chest muscle, let's just say it wasn't a pretty picture. Although I'm sure it looked pretty funny if you were watching me be stubborn and try and drive my car. Which, if you don't know, I call Rocinante, after Don Quixote's horse. So what I think really happened, is that Rocinante got his feelings hurt, and just lost his will to go, as in his clutch just went caput from a broken heart. In Dave's defense, I don't think this was his intention because he's not really that mean, even though he thinks he looks mean with his new haircut. Still, I think an apology might be in order, to Rocinante. And maybe a car wash and a Starbucks card. Unfortunately the story doesn't stop there, even though we did. We quickly lost reverse, then 2nd, then we can only assume, 4th, because there we were in the middle lane of a 5 lane busy street in Clifton, going uphill, just past Good Samaritan Hospital, which is worthwhile information just because of the lovely irony that nobody came out and helped us. Although, there was a nice guy or angel, driving the other way, who did pull up next to us and ask us if we needed any help, but we just weren't sure what to ask for, sitting in the middle of a busy street heading uphill. In the end we called a tow truck, and my tennis partner, Lisa Dupps, who missed the end of a movie she had had overdue for like four months, but who came in her pjs nonetheless to save us. Plus, it was past her bedtime, so she was slap happy and entertained us quite a lot, which is always appreciated in such circumstances.
I have not really cried yet, throughout this whole cancer thing, which I'm not sure is weird or what. I almost did when my kids broke down when we got the initial news. But there's something about your kids breaking down when they hear their mum has cancer, and something kicks in that all you want to do is hold them and try to find some hope to wrap them up in. My eyes did water after the mastectomy when I woke up couldn't get an ice chip (or a friendly face) when my throat was so dry and I was just wanting to get into my room where my people could come be with me. And I did shed a couple of tears while watching Living Proof last weekend, which is a movie about the amazing breast cancer drug, Herceptin, which I will be going on during round 2 and 3 of my chemo, for a year total, and the doctor who invented it. Harry Connick, Jr. (I have to be careful here because David gets a little bit jealous) starred as the doctor, but that's not really why I shed a couple of tears. The women who paved this hopeful road before me, did touch me though. But for some silly reason, I broke down, most likely an empathetic response to my mini's break down. Or something like that. But the comic relief on the ride home was relieving; the mini is back at the mini doctor; and I will most likely be driving a not as cool car very shortly. It's not that I think I'm so cool that I have to drive a cool car. But...one of my students did say I looked hard core with my bald head, newsboy hat and Amanda's bomber jacket the other day. Which I know Dave is dying for somebody to say to him.
All that to say, chemo cocktail #3 has been significantly better than #1 was, and even slightly better than #2. So hopefully we are on an upward trend here. And there is only one more treatment in this round. Which leads me to another point I'd like to address. Since I can't play tennis right now, I'd like to redefine this round and treatment number business, using tennis lingo. Let's call this first round, which we're up 3 games, and at 40-love, GAME. The next one, will be SET. And the final one will be MATCH. I really think this will be more fun. And it will be way less confusing for some of my tennis buds. ;) Boy, am I cracking myself up tonight. Must be the chemo.
So while I was having my chemo cocktail on Monday, followed by a flu shot, which thankfully has not made me sick like the last time I got one, I took the list of port name entries, which were all very fun and brilliant, and Dave, my friend Wendy, and my cocktail nurse (all of whom did not have entries in said port naming contest) and I all shook them up, then stirred, and I decided to name my port Rapha, chiefly because Jehovah Rapha is the God who heals, and that is where all my hope is. And I don't think He minds, that Rapha Nadal is one of my favorite tennis players, not to mention number one in the world. Vamos Rapha! May I fight like you. Not to mention, win. Although I don't have to be number one in the world. I just want to be my kids's mum. And play a little tennis. Ok, a lot of tennis. Until I'm in 100 or so. And on a clay court in Spain would be fine with me. And better on my knees. Pictures of port naming prize winner and their fabulous prize will appear in a post post, if you will, as soon as I go buy the prize and then take a picture of said lucky winner.
And a very close runner up, was Hey Jude, because if you read the lyrics, it's spot on clever. Therefore, I have decided that it will be the official theme song, and will consequently also get a fabulous prize. Which hopefully gets me out of the doghouse for the first paragraph.
And, Lady MacBeth gets to star as me, in the movie, which will, of course take place somewhere around the Port of Good Hope. Honorable mentions.
P.S. On Friday night, Dave duct taped my head, since I previously mentioned my stubble head, and he was only trying to help, at least that's what he said in between cracking himself up, and most likely feeling a little hard core with his duct tape. But I was wondering, if anybody else has had quite an interesting date before? And no, it didn't really work. But he did shave my head again Monday night and now methinks my head is ready to rub and make wishes on. Plus, my hats go on a lot smoother now, and my head doesn't get stuck in one position on my pillow, which Dave at first remarked that he thought it might help me grip so as not to slip off the bed, but all I can say is that it didn't go over well. No, I didn't laugh; you have to be careful about encouraging some of Dave's humor (ask the kids); but I didn't hit him on the head with my pillow either.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
I have never really thought of myself as a vain person. There are some days when I don't even look at myself in a mirror. And, if by chance I do catch myself in said mirror while brushing my teeth, it's usually before I've had my coffee, so I carefully avoid eye contact with that person in my periphery, so as not to have to have pre-caffeinated conversation. It's not that I'm not a morning person, exactly. It's just that I am quiet before I've had my coffee. Now give me a glass of wine and I'll be chatty. But I digress. Mostly because I've been second-guessing myself on the vanity issue since I've actually had a hard time going out without my hair. And it's not even like I was crazy about my hair. I had a really bad double cow-lick (I'm not even looking that up to see how it's spelled because it is what it is) which is half the reason gave up looking in the mirror and trying to do anything with my hair. Because it was pointless to try and make it lay any way but the erratic way it wanted to in the back. Plus, I'm lazy. Not to mention, I've never been a primpy sort of girl. I really don't even know what primping is, if you want to know the truth. I mean, I know the definition of primping and such, but the sordid details...not so much.
Anyway, I've had to come to terms with myself and going out wth a hat and knowing I'm not fooling anybody. Not that I was trying to fool anybody. But I just am not in the mood to be a billboard. It's interesting...before when I was sick I didn't look sick; and now, technically I'm not sick, but I look sick. It's hard enough to keep straight with chemo brain, let alone look in the mirror at that strange person looking back, or know what you look like to others. Vanity, I know, and it drives me crazy, because before, the clouds were in my coffee, but now I'm so vain that I do think the song is about me. Or something like that.
So the three biggest things I had to do, my three biggest firsts, were going to the club to work out, teaching my Brit Lit class, and going out tonight with my tennis buds.
We belong to this really nice tennis club that has a hot tub that my achy, though admittedly, warmer than my head, legs have been begging for. This presented two initial problems. One, finding a swim suit, which I will just leave at that. And two, figuring out which hat to wear since I don't think I'm a swimming cap kind of girl. So I've gone twice now. Got in the hot tub. Almost cried because it felt so good to my very happy, hairy legs. Then got in the pool and took one of those noodle floaties and kicked, backwards, 4 lengths. Yesterday I did the 4 lengths again, then took one of those kick boards and made it 2 more lengths, forwards, although I'm not sure how I didn't drown since I sort of propped my neck up on the kick board and was barely hanging on - let's just say I am having issues with my port, and getting my full range of motion back, not to mention my strength. (I can't seem to keep myself afloat with the kick board way out in front of me, let alone the dreaded breast stroke. I know, a very bad joke but I really couldn't help myself because it was just there. In fact, recently I've been wondering if I will ever be able to serve a tennis ball again. But honestly, I have enough issues trying to shift gears in my mini, which doesn't instill the utmost confidence, and so I won't go there. Right now.) But I've been to the club twice and even worked out. Also, have been walking, trying to fight the fatigue, and am up to 2 miles. If you think about it, throw in a bike, and I'm practically in training for a triathlon.
The second "first" was standing up front and teaching my Brit Lit class. On the first day of class, I had told my students that I didn't really like standing up front, let alone stand up there bald. So I walk in yesterday and they are all wearing bandanas. How cool is that?!
The third "first" was going out tonight with my tennis buds, to one of my most frequented restaurants, P. F. Changs. As much as I want everything to just be like always and feel all normal, it just doesn't feel normal going out without your hair. Here's the email I sent out in reply to the invite, just to break the ice for myself:
Joules is in. Looking forward to seeing everyone. Sorry my hair can't make it. Except for the hair on my legs, which I will probably NOT braid for the occasion, but which I totally could if I wanted to. So, if you're on the fence whether or not to come, I'll just let you know that it may be the last time you can see my hairy legs until I'm done with these first 2 rounds of chemo and my hair grows back in the spring. Which seems an appropriate time for it to sprout.Anyway, it was a blast of course. And it was so good to go out with the girls and do something so normal. I almost forgot I didn't have hair under my hat. But then I could see it in all of their eyes, that they were dying to rub my head and make a wish. Luckily, we were at a Chinese restaurant and they give out fortune cookies because I think this saved me, not to mention, their delicate tennis hands. I really liked my fortune, btw. It said, "You will become a great philanthropist in your later years." (Once, on Mother's Day of all days, I got a bad fortune that fortunately I can't remember, but the next time I came in I told our server and he brought me the whole box of fortune cookies to choose from because he didn't want to have a bad fortune on his tab.) No, I liked this fortune a lot. The later years part, obviously, but doesn't the philanthropist part imply that I'm going to have lots of money to give away?
So I'm not really sure if I conquered vanity or anything. Basically all I did was what Nike has been saying all along: Just Do It. And it got me thinking, maybe that's how I'm going to make all my money that I'm going to get to give away in my later years. Maybe Nike is going to pick me up just like Sharapova and Serena. At least, that was what I was thinking.
Well, this is a long post, but I have one more thing to cover - The famous Name the Port Contest. Here are the entries to date:
- Spencer Tracy
- Stryver (from Tale of Two Cities)
- Philip Methuselah Vonstreubenheimer
- Port Warriorshire
- Port Iefanshire
- Port of Good Hope
- Lady MacBeth
- Jude (as in, Hey Jude)
- LBB (little bitty b*&%!)
- Dr. Livingstone
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Monday morning I was getting ready to go teach my British Literature class at the co-op where my boys get their math (Adv. Math-Matt; Alg 2-Mikey), physics (both), worship band (Matt), and art studio (Mikey), and Mikey noticed that there was hair all over my shirt. Went upstairs to check the pillow, same story. But no patches, or was it even really noticeable, so off we went to co-op. Then chemo, which I was nervous enough about to make my hair fall out, just because I wasn't sure if every chemo would be as hard as the first one was, which, again, thankfully, it wasn't. Later that night, Amanda was running her fingers through my hair and, I thought, enjoying herself a bit much, watching it fall through her fingers. Tuesday morning I took a shower and looked down and there were a few handfulls. Then I dried my hair and it was just flying everywhere. Not in clumps or anything, more like a cat shedding. And not noticeable beyond thinning. But it kept flying every time we touched it, so I decided to get the upper hand and asked Dave to go ahead and shave me. So it's done. Not the end of the world or anything, but a wardrobe adjustment that I'm trying to figure out so I feel comfortable and not a walking billboard. As you can tell from the photo, Dave shaved his head for me, with me, because we're cheesy like that.
This 2nd treatment has been like day and night from the first. The anti-nausea meds seemed to work really well to keep things at bay. And I'm on day 3 since, and done with them for this treatment, with no incidents of hurling, or even near hurling. Which is good, because I hate to hurl. I still am dealing with a minor headache I just can't seem to shake. But it is not anything like the caffeine withdrawal headache I was plagued with last time, on top of the chemo. Which may have been the hardest part of it. The other side effect I got last time that we're hoping doesn't happen again this time, is that I got thrush in my mouth. Yes, thrush is something babies get. But I can understand why they don't eat now. Thankfully, my friend Heidi, who is a pediatric nurse and sees these kinds of things, helped Dave figure it out on the phone that night, and the oncologist concurred. I had meds to deal with it the next morning, and was on the mend to the point of being able to eat, and taste, the day after that. Please feel free to pray about the headaches and the mouth issues. I understand that mouth sores and such are common with chemo, and I already have sensitive gums, so this is something that makes me nervous.
My mum went with us to the chemo treatment, and then took me for my white blood cell shot Tuesday, and then stayed around even today, helping out and just making sure things were ok, like mum's do. I think we were all pleasantly surprised that I was fairing so much better this time. I even got out a bit today. Went to see my tennis team play. Went to the chiropractor to get "straightened out", if that is possible, with me. Even took a short walk to a friend's house, who is also battling the nasty c-word. Her name is Linda if you wouldn't mind praying for her when you think of me.
I am really so very grateful to God that I am feeling so well, and it's only Wednesday! I still have a whole weekend and another week to boot, before my next chemo treatment. I'm also very grateful for all the prayers, which I know are carrying me, and so smoothly, as God is being so merciful to me, to delight in answering them. Thank you, and please don't stop.
And now, it's time, for silly songs with Larry. For those of you who don't know Veggie Tales, you're in for a treat. This is, to me, the most appropriate way to end, the "Oh Where Is My Hairbrush" post.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
I took Julie to her second chemo mis-treatment today. This time her mom came, too. I think we know the drill now. About an hour before the appointment we put some numbing cream on the skin over the port and cover it with cling wrap. When we get to the office, first they take her vitals and stick her finger to draw some blood for a blood test. They have to make sure her blood counts, etc., are up to snuff for the chemo. Today the blood flowed slowly and she told the tech she blames them for taking wine away, which could act as a blood thinner.
Next we meet with the oncologist, Dr. Lower, who is excellent. She gives Julie an exam, reviews the blood counts, finds out how Julie has been and answers questions. This time she told Julie she could have a little wine later in the week, consistent with the Apostle Paul's teaching. Then we go upstairs and Julie sits in a plastic recliner and gets hooked up. Today we sat in a big room with a dozen other people getting mis-treated. Julie was nervous going in today and looking forward to getting the ativan to calm her nerves. Unfortunately they were out of ativan today (Julie said, "Figures."), which only added to her stress. But we had a wonderful nurse name Jennifer who did an excellent job sticking the needle into the port and pushing the meds in. So it actually went pretty well, and Julie did great. She even managed to read a chapter of Emma, which is the next book she is covering in her British Lit class that she teaches at our co-op. Julie's mom read the paper and I got a little work done.
The whole thing from start to finish took about 4 hours. We got home just in time for a delicious dinner with some good friends who had prepared it. This month the co-op is providing dinners for us during chemo weeks. This has been a real blessing - in fact, we don't know how we would manage otherwise. Julie has always cooked the meals for us and it puts a real kink in the system when she is out of commission. So "Thank You!" to all who have been sending meals, from the co-op and others. Bless you.
After dinner Julie went up to sleep off the chemo as much as possible; all the anti-nausea meds make her really tired. I'm not sure what I was sleeping off, but I joined her. I set the alarm for midnight to wake us up so she could take her next round of anti-nausea meds, which seem to be keeping things at bay today, and God-willing we won't fall behind and things will continue to go smoothly. She has a white blood cell shot tomorrow at noon. And we'll all be getting flu shots in the next couple weeks.
In other news, Julie's hair seems to be falling like rain, not in clumps, but one by one. Mikey noticed it first on her shirt this morning and I noticed it on the pillow. And then Amanda had a little too much fun running her fingers through her hair collecting loose strands. You still can't really tell by looking at her, but the thinning has begun. We'll see what tomorrow brings. We may be running out to get a razor.
We haven't named the port yet (these things take time), but we will post all the entries so far and make a decision soon. So stayed tuned. And if there are any other entries, you better get them in.
Thank you all for your love and support. Please continue to lift up Julie in prayer.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
It's always been a curious thing to me
That the trees bare themselves before the big chill;
Seems a tree needs its leaves for a midwinter dream.
Truth is, I'm not ready for winter. Still
It's coming, like seasons are wont to do.
Last year there were no words, just wonder...and
Tennis balls were green; now they are pink, too.
It's a lot for me to comprehend.
There is no complaint, though, in my bones;
I hope I can still say that when it's cold
And I'm bare. All I know, is the One who runs
The weather is the One whose hand I hold.
So comes the winter. So I'll bundle up
With hats and friends. So "Cheers" as I drink this cup.
And for the curious, here are the rest of the birthday sonnets:
(There is no Sonnet Number 42. Pretty sure I was playing tennis instead that day. Plus, the following sonnet, which was, to be chronologically accurate, the previous one, could, technically, be remixed to work for forty-two as well. But I really hate getting all technical like that.)
Sonnet No. 40-Love
My tennis shoes have become nutcrackers
These days, acorns dripping like drops of dew
On the courts where I play. Little snackers
In overhanging trees, tossing a few
Back, and then comes the rain of empty hulls.
Littering, if you ask me. But they do not.
I doubt they'd even notice me at all
Except for my crunching shoes. Drunken lot
Of them, cracking themselves up as I skid
About on acorns. I can take a joke
And I'll take a laugh anywhere it's hid-
But they better watch out for my backhand stroke.
Though it's autumn now, my score: forty-one,
I'm calling it 40-Love, just for fun.
Sonnet No. 39's Sequel
I blew out an awful lot of candles
today, and the pressure to make a wish,
Prior, was almost too much to handle.
I begged my brain; it just drew blankish.
All those eyes upon me waxed levity
Like playing piggy-back on the burden
Of my future bliss, and mocking brevity
Of my shy breath, bare, behind the curtain.
If only I had a fortune cookie
Up my sleeve, that would have been, fortunate.
I'd simply show and tell: "Here, lookie."
Then I'd eat the crumbs and pocket my fate.
Instead, the candles sweat with me as the flame grew;
They they waned, with the chorus, and I just blew.
Sonnet Number Thirty-Nine
Fourteen thousand, two hundred and forty-five
Days. It was morning; it was evening. Methinks
It seems a blur, but good. Very, to be alive
And the apple of the eye of the One that blinks
Tender mercies that are new every day
Like dew. (And, the sleep I rub from my eyes
On Waking, smelling coffee.) Ah, I pray
To stand still in the middle of the roses
Along the way, and not to fear the thorns.
Nor tears fallen, still to fall upon my bed,
Kept in a jar, with the rest since I was born-
The sum of 39, broken and bled
As I have chased joy like no tomorrow,
Which comes sweetly after sipping on sorrow.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
It was a very rough week. But it's over. Monday I had my first chemo treatment. It was mostly a blur like everything else has been so far, since everything has happened as fast and as furious as the hurricane that blew through Cincinnati a few weeks ago. Up until Monday this has really been rather surreal from my view. It's almost as if I've been watching from a very strange seat. Things have happened so quickly that I really haven't had time to think through everything that has happened. This is probably a good thing. I feel like I've just barely been keeping up with the flow of things, and hanging on by the proverbial thread that has been, in my case, doubling as a bungie cord, just to get to the other side of it where I could maybe sneak a peek from my rear view mirror. I think this is the same principle as to why I get carsick. Sometimes in a car I will ride backwards and that sorta helps. In this case, anit-nausea meds helped keep me from tossing my cookies. Not that I was able to eat any cookies. It's just a saying. But, so far so good in the anti-vomiting campaign I am waging. I don't think we have the mix exactly right, but at least I'm past the first round and hopefully we'll get it right next time and hopefully it will go better or at least not as bad.
They give me 30 hours of anti-nausea meds after the treatment, which sort of left me in a stupor, for which I think I am grateful although it's really pretty fuzzy. Not to mention carsick. With a headache from hell, which we think is due to coffee withdrawal, since I'm only allowed one freaking cup a day. And I won't even go into my whining about no red wine for dinner. We'll just leave it at, I'm just having an early lent this year. That pretty much describes Tuesday, except, somewhere in there, somehow a friend drove me back downtown to the oncologist's office to get a white blood cell shot. And I think I tried to watch the Heroes premiere we had TiVoed with the fam, but am not sure if that was real or not, or if I recommend it while on anit-nausea meds.
Wednesday I was less loopy and getting antsy to feel better, and in a desperate move, I talked Matt into taking me to spend $40 on a haircut that might not see me through this week but that I felt was very necessary since my bangs were in my eyes and it seemed to be something I had some control over. With Matt's help. My boys have been amazing this week. They have been taking such good care of me. I am so grateful that we homeschool because it is a gift that they are here with me. I know this has been a blessing and relief to Dave as well, as they have been shouldering things I wish they didn't have to.
The boys come by it honestly. Dave has somehow, so far kept all the plates, and there are many, spinning. I don't think a guy could try harder to take care of his wife and family. In such overwhelming circumstances that I can't even let myself think about. But he does. Probably too much. But that's how he plays Scrabble, too, which can get on my nerves since it takes so long for him to take his turn, but that's really not the point. The point, is closer to the story of Lucie Manette's love for her hub, Charles Darnay, in A Tale of Two Cities, where it is said of her that "She was truest to them in the season of trial." He was imprisoned in a tower in Paris, and she would go and stand in a certain spot for two hours every day, where she could not see him, but that he might be able to catch a glimpse of her, just so he would know she is still there. This is pretty much my life right now.
Amanda is doing her own plate spinning act. She has UC on M/W/F; beauty school on T/R/S; and has been working too many hours for her own good at Noodles and Co, which we are going to have cut down. It has been the most brilliant thing to watch her grasping her goals and then gracefully grabbing them, one by one. Mostly she is the sweet part of my whirlwind and I just love it when she breezes by.
By Thursday and Friday I was trying very hard to be able to tell everyone who kept asking that I was turning the chemo corner and feeling better. I was able to eat a bit more, and take a very short walk down the cul-de-sac, so I was trying very hard to turn said corner. But the headache wore me down till Friday, when it lifted a bit after day 5 of only one freaking cup of coffee. And then Friday night my mini broke down on Dave on his way home from work. I didn't have a mini break down, but I thought about it.
Saturday was a better day, but I think I finally turned the corner today. Today was a pretty good day. We went to church. I had a very light massage by a therapist who works with mastectomy patients. I went with Dave to pick out his new bifocals. I took a nap. We took a walk. I feel good enough to spend the evening blogging and getting ready for my Brit Lit class tomorrow.
I made it. And I'm grateful. Especially that it's not a chemo week. Woo Hoo! A whole week of not chemo!
Cheers, and thanks for praying,
Friday, October 3, 2008
Dave here. Have you seen those commercials where the guy is going through a difficult and uncertain time in his life, and then he meets an older version of himself? The “future him” lets the “present him” know that everything turns out OK. Well, I think something like that happened to me.
A couple weeks ago hurricane Ike blew through Cincinnati and left many of us without power for days. In the aftermath I ventured out to UDF to get some gas and pick up some snacks. They were already out of gas, but as I was paying for the snacks I overheard the guy in the next line asking for directions to the next closest station. He was a 50-something biker guy wearing black leather. He had already walked a couple miles from where his bike ran out of gas and wasn’t looking forward to having to walk a few more. I chimed in and offered to give him a ride to the next station, which he was happy to accept.
As we drove up the road we began to talk. He had ridden up from Tennessee the night before and didn't know anyone in the area. It turns out his name is David, same as mine. I told him I didn't have a motorcycle but that I had just called on one for sale a few days ago. Then I noticed his jacket said, “Christian Motorcyclists Association” and we found out we are brothers in Christ. As we stood at the pump filling a gas can and my tank, he insisted on paying for my gas. I was touched by his kindness in return, and began to open up more and tell him about what we are going through. I told him how Julie had just been diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer, that she was recovering from a bilateral mastectomy, and that she was about to start chemotherapy.
Suddenly he stopped and looked at me, and he said, “This may be the reason God brought me here.” And he proceeded to tell me how 13 years ago (when he was my age!) he and his wife went through exactly the same thing! She has been cancer-free ever since and he went on to encourage me and build me up. It was as if God wanted to let me know that Julie is going to be OK.
Here I thought I was the one doing an act of kindness for a stranger, but God had orchestrated it all to bless me when I most needed it. I know some have met with angels without knowing it, but I wonder if more often some actually are angels and don’t know it. Anyway, don’t be surprised if 13 years from now Julie and I are riding around on a Harley!
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
So I went into my first chemo treatment on edge to say the least. First I didn't feel quite up to par from the port surgery, nor the mastectomy for that matter. I kept thinking that everything had been happening so quickly (for which I'm grateful for my life) but that I was just wishing we could take a time out and let me catch my breath and heal a bit more. But this cancer was a very aggressive and fast growing cancer and Dave and the kids and I had gone in this with the gameplan of being more aggressive. And both my breast surgeon and oncologist had recommended we should stay that course, as in being life-saving and not so much an option anyway. Whatever happens, we do not want to have any regrets that we didn't do everything possible.
Which started with a prayer meeting on August 23rd, giving this whole battle into God's hands, letting Him fight the battle for us, letting Him lead the way and following Him as best we can. His hands are big, and have orchestrated everything exactly as it has had to happen to heal me to this point.
We had a follow up praise meeting on September 27th, to thank Him for that, and to send me off proper into this next phase, the chemo. It was lovely, and I think He likes it when we remember to say thanks for all the things we ask for and receive.
So the actual chemo treatment was not that bad. My nerves going in, they were bad, even on the valium I took in preparation. The main thing I was worried about was them pressing around on the port, which is still smarting from the recent surgery, and of course the first poke into it.
They did not press and the poke was a piece of cake, and made me immediately grateful that I chose to get a port over 21ish IVs.
I think I had about 2 hours of meds drip in, including some for nausea, nerves, the adriamycin (which they call the "red devil" because of it's color, which goes in that way and comes out that way) and the cytoxan. I do have toxic pee right now, which has bought me my own bathroom at home. And the boys are going to make a fun sign to put on the door.
The day pretty much knocked me out and I just tried to sleep it off. I soaked two pillows and two sets of pjs waking up in sweats, followed by chills, followed by sweats...ad nauseum, but again, thankfully not followed by ad hurlium.
Today I still woke up in a similar state, and not excited about going back to the oncologist to get the white blood cell shot, which has its own achy side effects. The shot was fine; my nerves were worked up again for not much. And we will see how I fair tomorrow and Thursday, which are that drugs big days. By Friday I hope to begin to turn the corner from round 1 and look forward to the week free of treatment and side effects before Round 2 on October 13th. Which happens the day before Matt's sweet 16. So the real question, is, will I still have hair, and if not, what could we paint on my head to do my Matt's sweet 16 up proper?
Cheers, and thanks for praying. Please don't stop. I think Bon Jovi said it best, "Whoa, I'm living on a prayer."
Friday, September 26, 2008
When they said "port" I thought they were going to bring me a glass of wine and maybe a piece of cheese. Boy, was I wrong.
The last two days have been the hardest so far. We had the impression that the port surgery would be no big deal. Maybe that's usually the case. Or maybe Julie's small stature, or the cutting of her strong tennis pecs, or just the accumulation of five weeks of surgeries and procedures, took its toll.
The surgery to install the port to her vena cava was Thursday morning. At home Thursday afternoon she was in the worst pain I've ever seen her in (yes, I was there for all three childbirths, the double mastectomy recovery and the drainage tube removal).
The day started off badly, and way too early, as we had to be at the hospital at 5:45a.m. for the 8:15 surgery. Julie was still tender and mending from the double mastectomy and lymph node removal four weeks ago, not to mention all the other pokes, prods and procedures in between, and not feeling at the top of her game for another surgery. To be honest, she wasn't even feeling up for an IV. We spoke all weekend about how we wish things could slow down a little bit, just so she could catch her breath and go into this port/chemo phase feeling a little bit stronger, and more like herself. But we know that is a luxury we cannot afford; and we know we want to have no regrets that we didn't do everything we could to fight this all the way. And then there was me, being physically and emotionally drained from trying to keep all my plates spinning (and feeling like I'm not doing a very good job at it). We let Matt drive us to the hospital and actually got in a fight over whether he should be hugging the center line (Julie's way) or the right line (my way). Julie's theory is the oncoming cars will move, but the mailboxes won't. It's hard to argue with that, especially since I recently took out a mailbox (it had it coming). I tried to tell Matt the arguing was our strategy for training him to drive under pressure, but I think he saw right through me on that one.
Things went from bad to worse when the nurse had trouble with the IV, specifically when she was trying to draw some blood for the CVC Scan. You know something's not going right when the nurse talks about your blood flowing "as slow as molasses" and you can feel the needle up to your elbow. But it did confirm the decision to get a port. And how.
After one quick joke for the operating crew (something like the title of this blog), the kind anesthesiologist cast a happier spell over the IV, and the next thing Julie knew she was waking up in the recovery room. The surgery was a fairly quick one, was way less traumatic than the IV debacle, and the mission was accomplished. The port was in and we are at the ready for chemo. Not excited for it, but ready. And no more IVs for a good long time.
We came home and crashed hard, so hard that we slept through Julie's next scheduled pain med dose, and she woke up shocked by the pain with tears streaming down her face. The rest of the day was pretty much just trying to get back in front of the pain, which is a very hard thing to do, once you get behind. I have since set my cell phone alarm to go off every four hours so that will not happen again.
Today she spent most of the day having a hard time dealing with the side effects (extreme nausea/dizziness) of the pain meds, and we finally figured out, late in the day, that maybe the side effects were more of a problem than the actual pain, so we called the doctor and asked to switch back to the meds she had after the other two surgeries, which she took fine. Ever since it seems like things are looking a bit brighter.
And hopefully they'll be even brighter tomorrow, which is her 43rd birthday. Happy Birthday, darling!
The Praise Meeting is still a go at this point. Our house at 7pm, Saturday, Sept 27. Hope you can make it, but if not please keep praying for us and giving thanks with us.
PS - an oncologist nurse friend of ours mentioned to Julie that she should name the port since it is going to be part of her for quite a while. We thought it would be fun to have a port naming contest (yes there will be a prize!). All entries must be posted as comments to this blog. Winner to be announced.
Friday, September 19, 2008
It appears all this poking and prodding has not been for naught.
The Muga Scan, and my day of radioactivity from that, came back normal, in re: my heart-it's good to go for the chemo cocktail. It was cool watching my heart beat, but it did make me wonder who in the world thought up the accepted, but possibly slanderous, heart shape?
The CT Scans (chest, abdomen, pelvis) came back with no signs of cancer! This was the beginning of the non-literal weights being lifted from off my chest (as we have already previously covered the literal ones that were literally lifted) and Dave's, as he has been wound pretty tight through all this. I really think this has been tougher on him than me, since part of the time I've been under anesthesia or on an assortment of pain meds, or just spinning with the speed at which things have been happening, and just trying to hang on.. Dave has had no pain meds, which doesn't quite seem fair, but it's not like I'm going to share.
We got the good news about the CT Scans while we were at Children's Hospital getting blood drawn, by a very kind nurse named Lana (who gave me a Bugs Bunny band-aid!) for genetic testing and the pre-op blood test for my upcoming port surgery. We stopped by one of our fave restaurants (The Spinning Fork, which is our Cheers place, because Leila always has a huge hug for me when I walk in the door, and George makes my kind of comfort food when I need it) and somewhere in the midst of my fettuccine, we realized that we were both beginning to breathe easier. I think we were both worried about the lungs, since they are not exactly connected to the breast bone, but pretty darn close. Then we stopped off at our wine store (Little Sonoma) to pick up a bottle of Big Red Tattoo (a very drinkable Chilean red made by a couple of brothers who lost their mother to breast cancer, who donate some of their proceeds to breast cancer research) for our neighbor, Ron, who lost his wife to breast cancer last year. He has been our Good Samaritan through this whole thing. The embodiment of empathy right next door. Not to mention, cutting our grass this whole summer to boot. There were also hugs on tap at our wine store, which is yet another reason it's our wine store. And I haven't even gotten to the part where I went to the dentist the next day, who we've seen for years, and who Dave and Amanda had already been in to see this week prior, so they all already knew. My hygienist, Dalin, who I like to call dah-lin, was like the proverbial straw (of kindness) and it was all I could do when she dealt with me so gently and kindly (which is just Dalin, anyway) not to cry like a big, fat baby when we hugged "see ya later".
The Bone Scan, and my additional three days of radioactivity from that (I so wanted to go walk through an airport detector just to set it off and show them my radioactive excuse card, but I think I went home and took a nap instead) also came back with no signs of cancer! (Still no signs of superhero powers have surfaced as of yet, but stay tuned because these things can take time.) Dem bones are cancer-free!.
So, to sum up, from head to toe, it appears I am cancer-free, and healed, thank God!
Which is exactly what we asked Him for at the prayer meeting we began this battle with a month ago. He has heard and it seemed good to Him to answer our prayers by raining down mercy on me. And here I am, swimming in mercy and feeling like splashing! I don't know if you've seen the movie, Stranger Than Fiction, or not, but I've felt a lot like the Will Ferrell character, who was keeping a tally to see if his story was going to come out as a comedy or a tragedy (in the classic sense), and I know that my ultimate story will have a happy ending, cancer or not, because this life is not really the end at all...but even this story within my story has the comedy side way tipping the scales.
Therefore, we thought it only appropriate to have another prayer meeting, this time with the happy theme of praise to God for healing me! So if you are within reach of a road leading to our home, we'd like to invite you to come over on Saturday, September 27th at 7p.m. to thank God with us. We will also be continuing the prayer thing, as I will begin my chemo cocktails Monday, September 29th through the port I am having put in on Thursday, September 25th. I don't mean to imply that I'm taking all this too lightly, but I'd much rather be dealing with chemo than cancer. God has been very merciful to me, and I am grateful beyond words.
As an added bonus, for coming, you will get to have one last look at my hair, because pretty soon, even my goosebumps will be bald. Which is a very funny thought to me. Being bald in winter, not so fun a thought, so I'm trying to find consolation in the fact of not having to shave for five months. The irony is that I had just bought a new razor and a big, fat package of refill blades. I love irony, and can appreciate it, even enjoy it, almost anywhere. Even here. Speaking of, I can't remember if I had mentioned it in these blog updates, but I had just broken down after five or so years, and spent five or so hours, buying five new bras a month or so before this all happened. No joke. But very funny.
And, irony snowballing, the last prayer meeting happened to fall on Dave's 43nd birthday, and this next one will fall smack dab on mine. I know, it sounds like an awful lot to go through to have someone to eat cake with. But you have to admit, it's poetry (that God timed things that way), which I also enjoy, maybe even more than irony.
So I went back and forth on the whether or not to put in the part about my birthday, because I didn't want it to come off sounding like I'm asking for presents. Because I'm not. Your prayers, your PRESENCE in my life, the support you've shown in so many ways (from a little rock keychain that says that God's love takes away all fear, that I have been carrying with me throughout this whole scary ride...to a picture from a tennis bud (and blazer of battling cancer trails before me) of Rafa Nadal whose grit and grind on the tennis court is to inspire us both...to all the prayers, emails, cards, phone calls, flowers, gifts, meals, rides here and there and to watch tennis, visits, hours in hospital waiting rooms, miles driven and flown...to Team Evanshire...to the handmade scripture quilt...to all the sacrificial bras that burned unnecessarily with mine because tennis is a game of love and our bond is tight...to my tennis bud, Celina's matching haircut...to my former youth group student turned oncologist nurse, Toots, and her soon to be freezing head)...have I not already been showered with PRESENTS? Am I not already undone with all your kindnesses to me?
And that is the big happy scoop.
P.S. Amanda's ticket situation also turned out in our favor, thank God. She did get her license suspended for 90 days, but with the exceptions of being able to drive to college (which starts Wednesday next), beauty school and work. We go back to court on Tuesday to finalize things, and are going to ask that they add church and driving me when I need her, because I have a feeling I'm going to need her. A funny side-note: she went to the eye doctor today, and it turns out she needs glasses for reading and DRIVING. My tennis bud, Aimee, said maybe she'll see the speedometer better now. Even Amanda could appreciate that one. “That's what I like about you,” Amanda, one of the many things, that I couldn't count, even if I tried.
Cheers, and thanks for praying. I am living proof that they work. And so very grateful.