Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Merry Christmas Chemo Cocktail, Baby

So that's yours truly, hooked up to my chemo cocktail on Monday. My oncologist said I won the most festive patient of the day. Though I didn't get a prize or anthing, so I'm not sure what's up with that. ;) If you're wondering, that is a fabulous candy cane dipped in dark chocolate that I thought would be appropriate cocktail apps, 'tissing the season and all. That's Port Rapha under the steri strip, doing his thing, bringing on the chemo cocktail to whip this cancer's you-know-what.

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.



debbie p said...

Congratulations on your award. You deserve it. Dave looks so happy... like he's about to jump in the air or something. Your family is so proud of you and so are all your friends. You are an inspiration. I hope we can be there next year to see you give the award.

Josh said...

Oh may goodness. Might I mention, Mrs. Evans, that you are pretty much amazing. And you're getting to be like a second mom to me.

Like Mrs. P said, you are an inspiration and you've got a heart of gold. I like your honesty and your strength.

Cheers! Keep up the good work! :]

Anonymous said...

...and we all can't wait for you to say more! Cheers to you Julie - to your heart, honesty, brilliant writing, and attitude!
So I have something to send to you but first I have to know if you liked "The Shack?"
Love ya,
Sis Chris

Carol said...

Congrats on the award. Couldn't have picked a more perfect recipient.

So you made the 3 digit number. I wish I could give you some of my 3 digits!

And yes, you are an amazing person and I'm so proud of you. Ditto to the other comments.

Love you

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Way to go , Julie! Congratulations on your award and bless the family who lost their dear daughter to cancer. What a great way to give back! It makes me want to think of a way to honor my mom who lost here on this rock, but really won the race!

Thanks for sharing, it brings healing to those whose family members have had to deal with chemo,feeling cruddy, etc. You are a true inspiration!

Lisa McAfee

Mommy and her munchkins said...

Congratulations, again! You are a beautiful writer. Thanks for including me on your post. I'm going to link your blog to mine. Please let me know if you'd rather I not and I will remove it.

Keep fighting!

With Hope,

Terri said...

Congratulations. How awesome is that. Some people will go a long way to play tennis. Seriously, loved the festivus spirit in your chemo pic. Wish I could be there to share in some chocolate and conversation. I never considered meds before teaching English, might have helped. Though there was that time I went back to the classroom to soon after back surgery and still on Vicadin. I apologized for weeks for conversations I did not know I had with during lunch with a group of the faculty. Love you and still praying.

Anonymous said...

Dear Julie,
This is a wonderful entry. So thrilling that the length was no problem. Thank you for sharng, for I am sure it took strength you did not have to write all that!
Love to you! and prayers!
Chuck and Becky
PS Chuck wants to see that movie and wonders how he missed it!

Anonymous said...

Is that your chemo camo that you are wearing? If you have any questions about other exercises before you get back to tennis let me know.

Maybe when everyone is out for Christmas break Amanda and the boys can come over for a visit and down time with the Evans in Indy.

Anonymous said...

Glad you get some reprieve to fully appreciate the holidays this coming week. Just two more bouts of the rough stuff and then you'll be cruising! And then we can get you back on the tennis court! (Is January 20th too early?)

Let me know if you need help coping with Dave's surgery. Today is my last day at work til the new year. Woo hoo!!! And I'll have plenty of time because I'm furloughed with my gimpy arm til January 19th, which coincidentally is the last day of your "t" round.

With my arm healed and you in double digits already, the tennis buds had better watch out. Who wants to take us on?? Huh?

Yer pal,

Lisa R