Tuesday, September 30, 2008

1 Down, 3 to Go in Round 1 of the Chemo

So I made it through my first chemo treatment. So far so good. Well, not actually good, but not exactly horrible. No bucket list hurling up to this point, for which I am so, so grateful. But lots of nausea we are trying to cope with and get meds adjusted to. The main thing to deal with, that has made everything else a bit of a challenge to deal with, is a headache I can't seem to shake. We don't know if the headache is because of all the stress I carried with me into my the port surgery and first chemo treatment and the consequent let down after finally getting past it, or if it is related to the many meds, or possibly dehydration, which I am working on even as I type, sitting here with a cup of lemon zinger hot tea. After 650 mg. of tylenol, and then 2 advil and a gaterade. Not to mention the ice pack. Nor having my boys lay hands on me today and pray for me.

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.

Dave here. Julie did the title and asked me to do the rest.

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

A Postcard (of sorts) From The Pin Cushion

So we have oodles of updates, with the emphasis on the up part of the word updates. (And not so much the date part. In fact, now that I think about it, the date part is only pertinent in the context of this postcard, in its compound state, with the word up. But I digress. Even if it was an interesting digression.)

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.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Team Evanshire at the Race for the Cure 2008

By the grace of God I made it the whole 5k! Not to mention, the support of my Team Evanshire. What a humbling thing to do a walk from this side of things.

This summer my fam and I did a 5K Hunger Walk with our church, The Cincinnati Vineyard, and other compassionate organizations, for our city, to "cure" hunger here. (Although cure seems a curious word in re: hunger, and compassion, maybe is a better word, and the way to the "cure". I have never truly experienced hunger, and I walked that walk from a different perspective.

Yesterday, I was walking, a month after being diagnosed with breast cancer, and two weeks after a double mastectomy (though, thankfully without stitches!), for my life, and in honor of my friend Sue Thompson who I have missed dearly since 2004, and also in honor of my neighbor, Ron's wife, also named Sue, who he loved to the last, last year.

I had a great group of friends who walked with and for me. Talk about "get[ting] by with a little help from my friends". Little is a very poor word choice, but one doesn't go around messing with Beatles lyrics. Although lotta would fit and not upset the syllabic but maybe the aesthetic, sense. I just don't even know what to say. Just look at the slideshow; it's undoing as I look at the pics and try to process through yesterday.

And my pictures are just one tiny drop in the bucket of teams of survivors, and in memory of those who are missed, that were represented. It's overwhelming when you think about it. I will never walk a Walk the same again.

I'm so grateful I got to be a part of it. And I'm so happy that I made it the whole way. Take a look at the photos and see what I did to the finish line. It actually had fallen before I got to it-Ike blew it over- so I couldn't technically cross the finish line and go under it...so not unlike the rest of this cancer battle, not to mention my coloring outside of the lines me-ness, we went around it and then stood right on top of it.

What a day. What a day.

Tomorrow is another one. I have bone and CT scans all morning. Not looking forward to yet another IV. Please pray that all is clear, as in free of any and all signs of cancer; healthy would be a bonus, especially going into chemo. We should find out the results on Wednesday and will post the good news a.s.a.p. thereafter.

Amanda has a court date in the afternoon, for a ticket she recieved when she was driving home from making breast cancer awareness ribbons and cookies at a friend's house, for our prayer meeting at which began this battle. Her lead foot notwithstanding, it was a very bad series of days for my poor little girl. Please pray for mercy for her. It is quite possible she could lose her license until she turns 18 in January. We really need her to be able to continue to drive herself to college, beauty school, her job, and church. Not to mention, be able to help me out when I need her to.

Dave, obviously, has a really full plate tomorrow, going from one stressful situation to another. My mum is here, to stay with me if my scans and stuff overlap to where he has to go on with Amanda. It is driving me crazy that I might not be able to be with her when my little girl oughta have her mum.

Off to bed to see if I can catch a few z's. The valium I took an hour and a half ago might as well be an espresso. Which I'll be wishing I had in the morning, since I can't eat or drink anything except the scary cheetah barium sulfate suspension cocktail, which is a poor substitute for my morning cup of coffee, if you ask me, which nobody did. Well, poor doesn't really cut it. And even though it says "pleasantly flavored" on the bottle, well, we'll see about that, but I admit I'm a bit suspicious.

Cheers, and thanks for praying.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Oncolo Gist

Ok...I just want to make it clear that the title was Dave's, and after careful consideration, I decided to leave it, as is, so everyone would know what I have to deal with on a daily basis.

But the "gist" of our visit with my oncologist, Dr. Elyse Lower, who is fab, btw, was a mantra she told us to memorize and repeat often: "Early stage breast cancer, excellent prognosis!"

The gist of the much anticipated staging of those damn spots, was one, which didn't seem like the loneliest number that I had ever heard. In fact we really were quite delighted with the number one. Like she said, "Early stage breast cancer, excellent prognosis!" And that is our story that we're sticking with.

If you are med savvy, she said something like T1N0Mx, which meant something like stage 1 Cancer, with no lymph node involvement (Yay!), and Metastasis an unknown variable until bone/catscans to follow Tuesday next. Obviously this is our next hurdle and therefore our earnest prayer request, that the M would be followed by an 0, therefore meaning that we are not dealing with any other cancers, and can proceed to other less scary hurdles, like chemo.

The breast cancer is gone and we are done with that for good. I did ask my breast surgeon "how much weight I lost" with the mastectomy, for lack of a more delicate way of putting it, and I was actually quite delighted that it was almost Shakespearian in scope, as in just a wee bit shylock of a pound of flesh. Dr. Lower did assure us that said pound of flesh did begin in the breast, was clearly breast cancer, no question. So the lungs, liver and bones testing are just part of the drill, but there is no reason to think we will find any signs of cancer there. We are penciling in a zero after the M and would really dig tracing over it with a sharpie on Wednesday, when we hope to hear the good news.

Dr. Lower said, and I do quote, that I "get all the gold stars" for coming in right away and having done with everything in the speed and manner with which this rollercoaster has run. She did say that many women write off lumps as hormonal and decide to wait and see if things change after their period or longer. With the aggressiveness and fast growing nature of the damn spots that I found, this could have been a "You snooze, you lose" prognosis for me. So this is my desperate plea: that anyone reading this not take any damn spots lightly. The damn spot began in a duct and had already multiplied to three damn spots and spread outside the duct to the breast and...but Dr. Donna Stahl stopped it in its tracks, even removed the tracks for good measure. Thank God. Not to mention that He moved me to mention it to Dave, who made me go to the doctor, the day we found the damn spot. Not to mention His orchestration of the speed and manner in which we got past the first herculean hurdle of breast cancer. So all the gold stars really belong to Him, which is appropriate, since He made them anyway. But I do like looking at them. And wishing on them.

So here's the scoop on the next few steps we take over the next few days:

Thursday I get a Muga Scan at 8:30 a.m. (which is a test to make sure my heart is healthy enough to take the chemo, since chemo can mess with the way the heart pumps). The good news, is that it is not "one of those kinds of tests" that interfere with one's morning cup of coffee. The bad news is that Dave tells me there is some kind of radioactive chaser that they will inject me with. Which means I may end up with some cool super power or something. I already hulk out on the tennis court, minus the turning green, so I'm not sure what I should wish for. Will have to sleep on it and get back to you, maybe after I've gotten past that awkward phase where one has to fumble around trying to get adjusted to and to properly control said superpower. If you've seen Heroes, you know what I mean.

Friday I get the stiches from the Mastectomy out. It's not my favorite thing to do on a Friday night, but I will be glad to not have the Frankensteinish zipper look across my chest. It is not my favorite either.

Sunday I am doing the Race for the Cure with Team Evanshire, which my tennis bud, Celina set up for me. It is a 5K and I am hoping to be the tortoise that wins the race. Yes, I am walking, not running. My friend Celina, however, will most likely run it, lap us, and then do her warm down by walking to the finish with us. I have been "in training" this week. Walked 2 miles with Dave on Sunday, very leisurely and obviously untimed. We walked it again tonight before dinner and timed it this time, and came in at 50 minutes. A bit discouraging, when I used to be able to run a 5:50 mile in college. Yes I am painfully aware that I just had major surgery a week and a half ago. (And yes, Lisa Dupps, my decade younger tennis partner, I realize college was ancient history and you were probably potty training while I was running 5 freakin' 50 miles in college. But still. I've had a few people ask about joining our team and racing with, or just joining the team for support, and the link is here or my tennis bud, Celina Woods, the team captain, who I will be happy to put you in touch with. She is also the one who has been organizing all the lovely meals we have been receiving (Thank you, everyone, so very much, and of course, you too, Celina).

Tuesday I get the Bone/Cat Scans, beginning at 8:30 in the a.m., and the bad thing about these tests are that they are the de-caf ones, as in, no food or drink six hours prior. I am not above setting my alarm at 2 a.m. to get in my fix. Otherwise, I may have a hefty headache around noon, when I think the testing/coffee deprivation will cease.

I think we get the results on Wednesday.

We also need to schedule genetic testing, and probably a surgery to put in a port for the chemo treatments. We are praying about whether to go port or IV on this, and in a way I wish it was black and white, written on the wall, like everything else so far has been so far. This choice is not my favorite.

Here's the scoop on the Chemo Cocktail:
AC (Adriamycin and Cytoxan) every 2 weeks for 2 months
TH (Taxol with Herceptin) every 3 weeks for 3 months
H (Herceptin continues) every 3 weeks for 9 months

The Chemo Cocktails will take about 3-4 hours and we are thinking Monday afternoons after I teach my Brit Lit class are going to be the best day to schedule in order to keep that, and our life, as much as normal, up, which I intend to do. Which, btw, I had my first class on Monday and it was very scary but I have a fantastic group of students, so it wasn't the end of the world standing up in front of 16 students and filling an hour with my shaky self, like I had previously imagined. As to how it went, you'd have to ask my class because I was way too nervous to gauge that. Plus, there is another mum who is a writer who is also my helper, and so she has my back, not to mention is a delightful soul to get to rub elbows with.

On Tuesdays after my chemo cocktail I will have to go back to get a white blood cell booster shot, since the chemo can mess with that too.

That's 21ish treatments over 14 months, starting the end of this month. We are considering scheduling the first treatment to begin on September 29th. That way I will be able to enjoy the taste of the lovely coffee cake my kids always make for me on my birthday. Should be done by Christmas 2009, just in time for our 22nd anniversary and hopefully the rain check on that vacation we were going to be on even as I type this.

Yes, my hair is going to fall out. For 5 months. Even my eyebrows, which I just had waxed for the very first (and never again because why would I ever willingly let someone do that to me again?) time. And my eyelashes, which I hadn't even thought of, and was weird to think about once I did. The sweetness of the deal is that I will not have to shave my legs or armpits for 5 months. Actually I have not shaved my armpits since my mastectomy since my left armpit hurts too bad from the lymph node ectomy part of it. Therefore my right armpit would have nothing to do with the razor for symmetrical principles. And my legs joined the cause in solidarity, for which I truly appreciate, since I am so slow these days that I doubt there's enough hot water in West Chester to last through a shower like that. Not to mention, who likes shaving anyway? But I won't have to, until sometime next spring when my hair begins to grow back. I'm thinking of spray painting it green when it sprouts, just to be all festive and stuff.

Dave said in the meantime, he is going to buy me a bunch of Tootsie Roll Pops so I can walk around like Kojak. I like the brown ones best.

Cheers, and thanks for praying. Please don't stop. It's the big guns we're counting on in this battle we're in. And it's working.

Joules (this is what my tennis buds call me, and my way of spelling it so that they have to say it with a French accent, which I really like a lot, so I just thought I'd throw it out there, since that's what I go by around here.)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

There Will No More Swinging of IV Bags Around

So this post is a bit overdue, for which I am sorry, but after pulling the yards and yards of garden hose of tubes out of my chest (if you are thinking of that scene from Alien--if you've seen the movie, you know which scene I'm talking about; if you haven't, then I won't go into the gory details because the gurgling beneath the skin before the bursting forth of the alien creature is really to close for my own personal comfort) I didn't quite get to it until now, smack dab in the middle of watching the women's finals of The U.S. Open (I won't say who I'm rooting for because I love Serena and she is American and this is the U.S. Open, but I don't want to seem unpatriotic if I secretly wouldn't mind if Jankovic won her first slam) and finalizing my lessons plans for the first day of my British Literature class that I begin teaching at my boys' home school co-op tomorrow.

All that to say...THE TUBES ARE OUT!! (I know, I know, Amanda, and I am a tiny bit ashamed at my own apparent hypocrisy with the use of double exclamation marks, but I really couldn't help myself, anymore than you could for almost every single paper you ever handed in to me during our enjoyable but full of exclamation marked home school career. Besides, if ever a double exclamation was called for, this has to classify. And aren't you glad I'm not waving the IV bags around at you anymore, especially if you got on my case about my double exclamation points?)

After the two minutes of torture of having them extracted Friday afternoon, and a glass of Pinot Grigio on my back deck the second we got home, I noticed that my pain and nerves were becoming more manageable. I think that much of my pain after the double mastectomy (not to be confused with double exclamation points, but equally deserving) was the pressure of the maze of tubes, and my left underarm where the lymph nodes were removed. The actual sites of incision have not been much of a bother, except for the fact that they look like something out of Frankenstein. I also have more mobility, obviously, without toting around the trio of tubes and their accessories, not to mention, comfort, sleeping without that ever present fear of waking up in a pickle of a pretzel. I am presently off all the major meds, and now am just taking something aleve-ish when the pain kicks up to a 5 on my pain scale.

Friday night, we went to the Vineyard Student Union's Open Mic Night, because my kids were performing, and like I'm going to miss that. They were fab and I'm not just saying that because I'm their mum. We did get some video which I hope to learn to upload and then you can just see for yourself. Afterward, we came home and watched the uncannily timely Stand Up To Cancer special, which we had Tivoed. An inspiring way to end the day. And then I got to go to bed sans tubes, to boot.

Saturday, Matt had an unveiling of my tennis path party. He and Mikey had been spending all their nervous energies on building me a path leading down the tree-lined (as in, George of the Jungle obstacles) slide, I mean, hill, to the tennis courts behind our house. I did walk down the path, gaze longingly at the courts, and then made the trek back up the 28 steps, which sort of sounds like a rip-off of a John Buchan novel, but we are working on beefing it up to a full thirty-nine and flat out stealing the idea. And then I may even install a lampost at the bottom of the hill, to head off in another literary direction, as you head up to our home.

Tomorrow is the first day of our co-op, and therefore, our home school year. This year, without my Amanda, who I will sorely, sorely miss. But am so proud of I can barely stand it.

Tuesday I meet with my oncologist, Dr. Alyse Lower, and get my chemo game plan. Friday I get my stitches out, for which I will shout a big fat "Yay", after maybe a few expletives during the procedure since I am a bit wimpy when it comes to the clipping of surgical sutures and such, I admit it. Sunday we are doing the Walk For The Cure, on Team Evanshire, which my tennis bud, Celina Woods, created, on my behalf. I do plan on attempting the full 3.2 mile walk and began my training today, with a very leisurely walk around the neighborhood, with only a few stops to chat with friends along the way.

Well, that's probably more than you bargained for, but Serena just had a fab victory over Jankovic, and so I need to get up and turn off the tv, so I guess I'll stop here.

Cheers, and thanks for praying. Please, please keep it up. It's working!!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

In A Truly Amazing Place...

In A Truly Amazing Place
by Matt Evans

just wow...ive had some of the hardest weeks in my whole life recently and it just makes me so grateful to be in the place i am...with the friends that i have.

so about 3 weeks ago my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer and just so much other stuff has been going wrong for me and other people and i just felt so sad like nothing was ever going to start going right again......and it was through all this trouble and pain and sadness that i found out what REAL friends are like...and even people i dont know at all. before i came to the vineyard, all a friend was, was just someone i hung out with and basically did stuff with. here its different...and so much more. friendships are deep here. they have meaning and they touch the heart. i know what im cared for so much, that people love me, not just to hang out with, but to actually know and be with and pray with.

i feel like if i had been in any other place..without the friends i have...i feel like i couldve had to go through all this alone. in other places, people, even me, couldve said they would pray and all that but most people would walk away and just forget about it 10 minutes later...
people here...its so different...so strong. its like i can feel God's love coming out of everything they say to me...every encouraging word...every 'ill be praying' i hear...even some small random conversations sometimes just bring me back to just trusting that everything is in God's hands...and theres no safer place than that. i can really know that i dont have to worry.

this place is wonderful...you all are wonderful. ive never had so much support, so much prayer. even the little things have meant worlds. just checking up on me, checking up on my family...i dont even know what i planned for this or where i was going with this...but you guys remind me about God's love when i forget and just think that everything sucks. you guys remind me that with God...everything actually will be okay in the end. i know that i can trust in Him...i can just give it all to Him, and He will lead the way...and the final destination will be better than i ever could have imagined...things still may not be where i would like...but i know i can trust Him and just follow where He leads...and even if i cant see any way for things to work out of be ok...somehow it will be.

church didnt always feel like much of a family until now...now i feel these relationships growing, trust growing...and its such an amazing feeling. im in a new place. i have new friends, new family. you guys pray for me and are even there for me...even when im too scared to ask. i have people who i know deeply care for me, will pray for me, will be there for me, will talk to me, or even just be with me.

i have amazing pastors and leaders. i have amazing friends and amazing friendships. friendships that go further and deeper than just hanging out.

i love my family. i love you guys. i am so thankful that God put me in a place that i would meet you

PS. update on mum: we got the last biopsy results back today...there was NO cancer in her lymph nodes...we caught the infection before it had a chance to spread...so technically she is cancer free =]
so praise God!!!
thank you guys so much for your prayers and encouragement...you have no idea how much it meant and im not just saying that

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Dave here. The doctor just called and the lymph nodes are clear! WooooooooHoo! The biopsy showed the left breast still had cancer cells as the doctor feared, but the mastectomy left plenty of margin. There were some benign lumps on the right side, but nothing malignant. So as far as they can tell, Julie is cancer-free! Praise the Lord!

Yes, we still face lots of treatment ahead, likely to include chemo to eradicate any lingering members of the vanquished vandal horde. But tonight we celebrate! Please celebrate with us and give thanks to God for his mercy and grace.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

OK, not really, but it isn't easy.

Dave here again. We have to wait one more day for the much anticipated pathology report. The doctor's office called this afternoon to let us know the pathologist has a backlog due to the holiday weekend. It will be some time tomorrow (Wed) afternoon.

In other news, Julie is doing amazingly well and I'm so proud of her and how she is handling all this. She continues to praise God and trust him with everything. She's always had a high tolerance for pain and this is no different. She went for two short walks yesterday and as I type this she is out on another walk with her sister, her nephew and some friends.

Some of you have asked about how to leave comments on here. The easiest way is to click on "comments" at the end of the post, enter your comment in the box, and then choose "Name/URL" or "Anonymous" as your identity. If choose "Anonymous" you can still put your name in the comment so we know who you are. Julie really appreciates the comments and encouragement she receives.

Thanks for all your love, support and prayers. We will update again tomorrow when we learn the results.

"But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." - Isaiah 40:31

Monday, September 1, 2008

Home Sweet Home

So it's not exactly Grand Cayman, but then again, Gustav was not being all that inviting anyhow, so we're actually glad we are in recovery rather than some hurricane shelter. Not to mention, on this side of the cancer. Which is the kicking ass side, btw. Grand Cayman will have to wait, and I don't care if I ever see Gustav, or any of his relatives or copycats.

So we are home, thank God, and I am doing just peachy except for these drains that I do not like AT ALL and am counting down the days until Friday at 5:30p.m. when I get to have them removed. Really, most of the pain I am experiencing is due to them, and half of that is the pain in the rear kind. So it varies from 5-7, and the pain meds the kind Drs. gave me are helping me keep on top of that. Although I do feel the wear off about 1/2 an hour before it's actually time, which isn't the most fun I've had. My arms are very weak and sore, and my ribs feel like I got in a bar room brawl.

It is so good to be recovering at home. Dave and I have a pretty good groove at handling all the high maintenance of me, and he has been putting up with me pretty well, except for a few grumpy moments that I am trying to overlook since he has pretty much run himself into the ground worrying about me and taking care of me 24/7. I just wouldn't hire him as a personal trainer if I were you, because he is a bit snippy when you don't lift your arms as high as the doctor said to lift them and stuff like that. I've been teaching him about bedside manner and he has been a bit persistent in his high principles, and therefore resistant to my advice (read pleas for mercy) and so I really don't see that he has much of a future in the personal training business.

One of the best things about recovering at home, besides the RECOVERING part, is my sunroom, which we have been practically been living in (and just outside, I can hear my boys working on a path they are making for me, which leads to my tennis courts!). Not to mention my own bed. Not to mention the Tennis Channel and the ESPN during the U.S. Open. Not to mention my mum, sister, and nephew are here helping take care of me. Not to mention all the AMAZING food people are bringing us. (THANK YOU GOBS, btw!) My friend Lisa Dupps has already decided to move in so she can pull up a chair for our lovely meals in the sunroom.

The surgery was a smashing success. We are still awaiting the official results, but the doc said as far as she could see, the cancer had NOT spread to the lymph nodes and that we had therefore gotten ahead of it spreading, and are on top of it! THANK GOD!! From what I hear there was an awful lot of happy ruckus in the waiting room when she came to tell my peeps the news! I think they gave her a standing "O" which she totally deserved!

From what I understand, I was a wee bit more under during this procedure, so I guess I didn't have the op peeps in "stitches" like I did last time. I must have accidentally left my wit in my pre-op room. Sorry to disappoint on that front. But for all who were there, the kids' youth pastor, Alton, seemed to have picked it up and pocketed it, and left us all rotflol. And you can imagine how well this went over at Jewish Hospital.

Speaking of Jewish Hospital, which was a great hospital btw, but the main thing I noticed that was different from Good Samaritan, which is where I had the lumpectomy last week, was that the crucifixes at Good Sam were a comfort and a highlight, whereas they were obviously non-existent at Jewish. I'm not going to lie, that was a bit of a downer, but in the scheme of things, I thought they were just as Good Samaritans to take care of the Christ lover.

The only other downer in the whole experience, was the initial recovery room. It was packed, and my nurse also had the care of two other patients, one who was hurling in the bed right next to me (and I am a sympathetic vomiter), and the other was having some colo-rectal issues a few beds down, and so my need for ice chips or a kind face was understandably pretty low on the totem pole. Still this was the first time in this whole whirlwind that I cried. Over an ice chip. It took them an hour and a half from when they told me my room was ready, for them to be able to take me to it. I watched every movement of the hand of the clock, while praying the Lord's Prayer for an hour and a half solid, so I wouldn't hear the hurling sounds next to me. I tried to rotate in the Nicene Creed but I kept messing it up and got mad at myself about that and I didn't think that was very productive, so I just kept with the Lord's Prayer.

I think I was out of it most of the rest of the day, until my tennis buds brought me the most delightful cup of coffee in the whole wide world on the morning after (and a blueberry scone to boot). And then began my true road to recovery.

Dave was reading from a book called Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me by Andree Seu, the other night, and there was a line in it that we felt is a perfect sum up to this whirlwind we've been in: "Because of us the fear of the Lord has fallen on many." This has been our perspective and prayer.

Thanks for praying, and please don't stop.