Friday, November 20, 2015

All the Drafts that Never Were Posts

I'm doing some fall cleaning.  I can't cook in a dirty kitchen.  I can't create in a cluttered room.  I can't write in a cluttered blog.  So I cleaned out all the posts that have sat here as drafts.  It's been a year since I've even logged in here. My, how times flies! I was not at all surprised to see how I ended the latest post: I feel...

It's taken me a year to even begin to think about how to finish that sentence.  Now, maybe with a clean draft box, I'll be able to finish that sentence and to give you the answer to the question that I get asked often, "How are you doing?"


 October 17, 2014

Hi strangers! I've just returned from what had become a tradition: post surgery breakfast.  We went to the Buttered Tin and it was ah-mazing!  Before that we were at St. Joes for a minor surgical procedure to get my port removed!! OH. HAPPY. DAY.  I knew that this day would be the sign of the end of the journey.  And it's here.  And I feel like I am five years old and I am feeling so many emotions and cannot figure out how to identify them, let alone process them.  I feel

JULY 19th, 2014

So, It's been awhile.  A really, really long while.  How have ya'll been?  (I can say ya'll because I just got back from Tennessee.) I got see family that I haven’t seen in years. It’s amazing how the bond of Christ can keep you close even when you’re far in distance.  I felt their prayers and encouragement and tangible answers to prayer so strongly throughout the whole journey so it was so exciting to be able to hug them!!  I go to do the same thing with my aunt and uncle who just moved home after years of serving as missionaries in the Philippines.  I have a new found view of the body of Christ and a deep, deep appreciation for how God designed us to carry one another's burdens and to love like Him.  It was a powerful and emotional month. 

While in Tennessee we celebrated my grandma “GG”s 85th birthday and collectively wrote out 85 memories, character traits and messages that speak to the amazing woman she is.  I am so grateful for the strong Christian women in my family.  It is such a gift.  I pray that I am just another link in that legacy passed down.

Another Page in Our Adventure Book and TOMORROW!
May 29th, 2014 

Rick and I just returned from a long weekend in Chicago.  I surprised him!! I have a lot to make up for…remember the surprise he got when I woke him from a dead sleep in February of 2013?  He is the best travel and adventure buddy there is.  The trip was just another way of God showing how he loves us and works those details out!  We drove a friend’s car down and dropped it off in a northern suburb, took a train into Chicago and checked into our hotel.  I did  that “name your own price” thing for a four star hotel near Millennium Park and got a GREAT deal.  Rick told me not too long ago that I didn’t use my “cancer card” as much as I could have.  So when the concierge asked if we were celebrating anything, I was honest and said we were celebrating 11 years of happily ever after and the end of chemo.  Of course that got our room upgraded to a suite with windows for walls that overlooked Navy Pier on one side and the Chicago River on the other.  We could see the Ferris wheel on Navy Pier from the bathtub!  We did the tourist thing, ate good food, looked back on the last year and made plans and goals for the next.  Right before we left, we squeezed in one more adventure and took a Segway tour of Chicago.  I can’t believe how much fun that was.  Then we hopped on the Amtrak train for a relaxing ride back to St Paul.  
The following weekend there was a wedding at church.  I serve as the wedding coordinator for our church, just another hat I wear!  I love weddings and this was one of my favorites.  The woman that did the music centered everything on Christ being the rock on which you build a healthy marriage, the couple did a rock ceremony that Tim narrated and all the songs followed the theme, my favorite being Cornerstone by Hillsong.  It filled me with such joy to see how God has taken Rick and I, two broken and flawed lives and intertwined them with Him and has made something so strong and beautiful.  He has seen us through the difficulty of infertility and miscarriage, he has seen us through unemployment and now cancer.  And we are still standing.  And I am so very thankful to be married to Rick.  He’s staying true to his vows to love me and laugh with me through the good times and bad, in sickness and in health and richer or poorer.  And God has kept us clinging to Himself all along.  I remember being in middle school and wondering what my future husband would be like. It’s safe to say that God went beyond what I could have asked for or imagined.  Thanks for being you, Rick and for loving me so well.

Now. Guess what tomorrow is.  Yes, it’s  hump day.  But.  It is also MY VERY LAST CHEMO TREATMENT.  So I should be over the moon with excitement, right?  Then why am I not?  It could take me a while to work through all the emotions I’m feeling and I won’t bore you with my thinking/typing out loud processing of it all.  Let’s just say that chemo treatments have been a part of my life for the last fourteen months.  I spent some very great quality time with friends and family.  I’ve had some great conversations with nurses and other cancer patients.  I’ve had some great quiet time with the Lord.  I’m not really ready for it to be all over.  Even though each appointment I went to, I knew they were pumping me full of poison, it was poison that was keeping the cancer away.  It was kind of like a safety net that after tomorrow will be gone.  It’s starting a whole new way to trust that God’s still got this. He has my days numbered and it’s my responsibility to choose to live them well.  What I have experienced the last seventeen months has changed me and will stay with me forever.

Out With the Old, In the New (and so much more comfortable, I hope)
May 14th, 2014

Here’s a little update on where things are in my treatment.  Yesterday was one of my favorite days of this recovery process.  Rick and I drove to Plymouth to have Dr. Kadkhodayan take out the incredibly uncomfortable and super painful expanders that  I've lived with for the last fourteen months.  Rick made a comment about the poor quality of our date.  I told him that if it truly was a date, there should be food and not instructions to be NPO after midnight.  The day surgery center was a fine-tuned machine.  I’m sure if Disney had day surgery centers, it would resemble this one.  The pre-op and surgery itself went really went and feeling great, pumped full of some really good meds, we headed home.  But first we made a stop for breakfast.  Had to make it a legitimate date.  I can strongly recommend the Good Day Café.  Delicious.  I made it home and am hoping that once the pain meds wear off and the surgical pain subsides that I will be free from the pain of those hard plastic deflated expanders.

He said, “Come Rest”
MAY 8th, 2014

Hi friends. Remember me?!  How are you? 

I'm doing well. Thanks for asking.   I've been celebrating up a storm as I near the end of this crazy journey.  I celebrated with my parents in Florida.  They pretty much put their lives on hold to help us through this.  They canceled vacations, postponed trips to Africa, cleaned my toilets, drove me to Plymouth for weekly appointments, organized my Prayer Warriors and so much more.  I will never be able to thank them enough for the cleaning, driving, shopping, Ella-watching, communicating, organizing, praying, loving and everything else that they've done for me and my family over the last 18 months.  If that is not laying your life down for others, I don’t know what is.  We relaxed on the beach for five days and ate some really good food.  It was wonderful!  Did I mention that I relaxed?! I think that as I have been fighting this cancer, there came a point where I thought I could do anything and everything. So I did.  I don’t know if it was the extra energy boost from the steroids or if it was more of a mind thing.  Whatever it was, at some point I resumed life as normal, which for a normal person isn’t even normal.  So when I was actually able to relax…I got myself a “holy talking-to” from the Holy Spirit.  For the last couple of years I’ve been very intentional about Sabbath rest. But those other 6 days were fair game for as much as I could pack into them.  Needless to say, things will be changing for me.  I’m okay that it took the beaches of Florida to help me realize that!

He Said, “Share My Story”
April 11th, 2014

I am a little bit of a social person and never like doing things on my own.  Never.  I’ve never gone to a movie alone, I’ve never eaten alone, I just don’t do much alone.  It’s much more fun to do things with others.  So when I decided, rather last minute, to go alone to a Beth Moore conference, I was feeling a worried for myself.  The conference was sold out, but I signed up to set up a booth for Compassion International and after my shift was over I was free to go the conference.  So I did.  I was already in the building so when they opened the doors I was able to get great seats for me and a “friend.”  I couldn’t have people thinking that I was there alone.  I’m sure I was concocting a plan about a friend not showing up or something to account for the empty seat next to me.  Once the auditorium was beginning to fill up, a woman asked if the empty seat was available.  Do you know what I did? I said no.  I lied!  Oh no, Melissa.  Not the way you want to start off a Christian conference.  A little while later another woman asked if the seat was open, this time I said yes it was.  This stranger and I began talking.  She had come to the cities with her husband while he was on a business trip and she saw this conference would be happening and signed up.  We discussed how unlike each of us it was to come to something like this alone.  Then someone I had met the day before recognized me, said she had read most of my blog and asked if I would be interested in getting together sometime to fill her in on my “story.”  This piqued the interest of the woman I was sitting next to.  She asked what my “story” was.  So I gave her a very abbreviated version.  Capitalizing on God’s faithfulness throughout everything.  She was very teary as I shared.  She told me that what I shared with her was exactly what she needed to hear.  It was why she registered for the conference…to see God active and moving.  She wasn’t feeling him in her life and needed proof that he was working somewhere.  That’s when I realized that while it was happening to me, like everything else this was his story.  At the end of the conference he asked me to be willing to share His story and my part in it whenever asked.  So I will.  It may be done with fear and trembling, but I will do it.


Messages in Music
March 20th, 2014

Even before the diagnosis, God has used the lyrics in songs to comfort me.  It started with “Desert Song” by Hillsong.  I had only heard it once, but when I needed to keep my mind focused on God, a few phrases from that song and some Bible verses were all the promises I needed to stay calm.  That’s become somewhat of a cancer theme song for me.  It is a great reminder that God provides for all our needs according to His glorious riches.  It’s a great reminder that God is using this situation to refine me…to transform me.  Like the story of how a silversmith knows when his piece is done.  He watches it so closely and when he can see his reflection in it, it’s done.  God has a long, long way to go with me, but some perfect day I will reflect God’s image.  I will bring praise.  Regardless of the season I am in, I will worship and I will bring praise.

Following oh so close by another song from Hillsong, “Oceans”.  I discovered this song before it hit the radio and before anyone else around me knew about it.  It was through this song that I came to a deeper understanding of what God was doing in my life.  It also reminded me of what happens when you let your God take you deeper than you could ever wander and then take your eyes off Him.  Just like what I did for those brief minutes in the tea room when I thought about the cancer metastasizing to my lungs and almost had a panic attack, like Peter taking his eyes off Jesus. His grace abounds in deepest waters.  My faith has been made stronger in the presence of my Savior. 

There are so, so many others.  They sit in a special file on my phone called Chemo Playlist.  Everyone should have a Chemo playlist!  Not long ago I was given a free ticket to A Worship Night with All Sons and Daughters.  I loved everything about this night, especially because I didn’t know all the songs.  I had to focus on the words and it was an amazing experience and one of those times you know God is being glorified.  Pure worship.  There was a point when one of the singers was reading a passage from Psalms that carried a very specific promise for me.  And when she read it at the same I read the words on the screen, the Spirit did everything but smack me upside the head and said this was God’s promise to me.  How merciful of God to be so loving and so caring about all of me, he knows that cancer is taking center stage in my life, but he knows those hopes and dreams that I have tucked away in the deepest parts of my heart and he chose that moment to speak to those dreams.  Oh how he loves me! And you!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Happy Cancer Day... least that's what Ella has been calling it as she has been singing "Happy Cancer Day to you..." to the tune of Happy Birthday all day.

We're not sure what to do with this day to be honest.  One year ago today I got the phone call.  One year ago today I felt my world fall apart.  One year ago today I felt as though I would fall apart.  One year ago today God said, "I've got this." One year ago today God caught me in the scariest trust fall I've ever made.  One year ago today started me on a journey that I didn't ask for, but if given the chance to do it over, without hesitation I would.  In a heartbeat.  And I wouldn't change a thing.  Well, except for those 4 drains I had to live with after surgery. Those were gross.  But other than that, as I look back on this year, I am filled with joy.  It's been a physically painful, exhausting, overwhelming and at times, lonely year.  I feel as though I have learned so much and gained so much that it's all been worth it. 

At this one year mark, I'm still not done.  I never would have guessed that one year later and I'd still be in treatment.  I have five Herceptin (chemo) treatments left.  Four after Monday.  I'll do the math for you.  I'll be done in June!  We have a tentative surgery date set for reconstruction in May.  After that it will be waiting for the okay to take the port out.  Oh, what a happy day that will be!

Life is as back to normal as I think it will ever be. Herceptin has very minimal side effects compared to the other chemo drugs.  My energy is s l o w l y returning.  I'm very out of shape, but it will take some time to get my stamina built back up. 

I stopped wearing my wig just after Christmas.  My hair is growing back in darker than it has ever been, but just as straight.  I'm amused by the people that wonder why I got such a drastic haircut in the middle of a frigid winter. 

I'll do my best to get another post up sooner rather than later.  I have so many cool updates to share, but after a long day with Ella, I'm tired.  I didn't want the day to pass without acknowledging it.  As always, thank you for your continued prayers. You have been beyond what I could have asked for or imagined.  I am so grateful that I have not had to do this on my own.  The end is in sight and I am determined to finish strong. God's still got this!

Friday, November 1, 2013

My Blog Has Been Hijacked!

Blessing the Honeybee 

Hello faithful friends, family and followers of our favorite honeybee.  My name is Sarah, and I have the privilege of hijacking Melissa’s blog today for a very special reason.


If you are reading this blog then you are well aware of the journey our dear friend has been on over the past year. She was given the news of breast cancer in February 2013 and has brought us along for each and every step right here on her blog.  She has shared the triumphs along with the heartache.  She has shared pictures which explode with joy in the midst of the unknown. She has opened her heart to us in the messy as well as in the beautiful.  She has fought this battle with courage, dignity and glowing with the grace of God.


I have known Melissa for a few years now, and the memory which shines brightest occurred towards the beginning of our friendship.  A few of us women joined our then fearless leader in women’s ministry for a weekend away up north.  We celebrated each other.  We laughed, cried and one of us may have injured ourselves running from the creatures in the woods. We left that weekend ready to tackle whatever it was that God has in front of us; individually and as a team.  Little did we know that in just a short time our dear Melissa would receive that life-changing piece of news. I look back at that time in the woods together and there is one moment which has been etched on my heart forever.  We were gathered around the kitchen table and given the lead to write words of encouragement on post-it notes and stick them to those women God had placed around the table.  The five of us were covered in squares of multiple colors.  Words such as “gracious”, “loving”, “kind” were flying left and right.  There were post-it notes on our heads, arms and backs and soon they were falling to the ground in piles.  The love of God was flowing strong.  We read the notes out-loud, with tears streaming and hands held tight.  The truth mixing with the soul-deep love exploded in pure friendship. I remember reading one very special note, which as I type this brings back that overflow of emotion I felt when my eyes first read the word written across this blue piece of paper:


….for you have a special place in my heart…. Phillipipans 1:7b


Those words brought a over pour of emotion which fell down my face in a stream of tears. Words which were beyond soothing to my battered heart, and words which ignited a friendship that has been one of life’s greatest blessings.


I tell you this story for one reason – for I am sure if we were standing in a room together at this moment the stories would go on for days on how this beautiful woman of God has created a special place in the hearts of everyone she touches.


Even if you have never met this amazing woman in person, through the words of this blog I am sure she has found a place in your heart. 

It is on this blog where she writes about the hardships and trials of a woman battling breast cancer….but that isn’t all.  She write about God showing up in the big and in the mundane.  She has proven that God can reach down into something messy like cancer and create something beautiful and eternally impacting.  She exudes trust with each word typed across the screen.  She displays faith with each step taken toward victory.  She does all of this and continues to love others like Jesus.

Now it is our turn to return that very love.

She has come so far.  Carried by the very hands of the God she shines with every aspect of her being.  He showed up through surprise donations. He has shown up through hand-cooked meals. He has shown up through hugs, smiles and emails.  She has come so far, but she isn’t done yet. And neither are we.

This next year she will face continued chemo, reconstructive surgery, doctor visits and the mounting ‘every day’ expenses that come with battling cancer.  The Borners also face the new year which for many bring new deductibles with her insurance.  The expenses are mounting while the physical burdens are still ever-present.  While we cannot take away the burden of cancer, we can help shoulder the burden of expenses.

That is where Blessing the Borners comes in.

What is Blessing the Borners?  It is a holiday boutique.  It is an online auction. It is a fundraiser.  However, more than those things it is a prayer.  A prayer that God would continue to show up in the hearts and hands of those he surrounds Melissa with.  A prayer that we can take the teachings of Bible and put them into action; becoming the hands and heart of Jesus himself.  A prayer that God would take our 5 loves and 2 fish and feed thousands.

I encourage you to hop over to and read about the many ways in which you can help ease the financial burden being carried by this family.  Read about the holiday boutique being held on November 10, with a portion of all proceeds going to the Borner Family….then spread the word. Read about, and shop, the Online Auction (which is growing as we speak) where all proceeds are going to this dear family.  Click around and continue to read about the growing number of other ways in which you can financially and practically Bless this family.

But please, whatever steps you take after reading this blog post I urge you to keep this Honeybee and her beautiful family in your prayers.  For the One who hears those prayers has  the power to do more than ease these burdens…he has the power to heal.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Divine Miscalculation

Last week I celebrated another victory!  Radiation is done!  Woohoo!  That morning as I drove Ella to school, we prayed for the day and I thanked God that this was my last day of radiation.  Ella gave me a half-hearted cheer and then asked: "Does this mean we have to go out to eat at a restaurant tonight?" She knew we would be celebrating, but I let her decide how we were going to celebrate this milestone.  That explains how I found myself eating Chinese food and watching a Barbie movie.  I got a certificate and a Rocky Mountain Chocolate bar from the Radiation Therapy staff for completing radiation!  The staff there was great, but I will not miss the thirty minute drive there every day!


Radiation is actually finishing a little earlier than planned due to a slight miscalculation.  The first 31 treatments were a little hotter than they wanted.  So they started the boost (a superficial treatment around the scar) early and I finished sooner than anticipated.  This was another perfect example of the roller coaster of emotions that a cancer diagnosis and treatment brings.  When the radiation oncologist told me what had happened, I didn't feel a whole lot of anything. It didn't seem like a big deal.  I thanked him for telling me, but also said that he could have not said anything and I wouldn't have known the difference.  He said that was never an option and as much as he hated to have to tell someone a mistake had been made, honesty was important to him.  He went on to say that he could remember the last night this happened.  Six years ago. They do not like it when things do not go perfectly as planned. Then I started to get a little anxious.  This doesn't happen all the time.  So I asked all the questions that I could think of.  No, I wouldn't get radiation poison.  No, I wasn't given an unsafe dose.  No, there shouldn't be any long-term complications.  No, that's not why I've been scratching my skin off. No, I don't get a discount on radiation.  He compared it to making change for a $20 bill.  You can get the change in many different ways, but it will still be $20.  I got the radiation that I needed, just a little quicker!  

I called Rick to fill him in and did not expect the reaction I got!  He RARELY gets upset.  I can think of three times in the almost fourteen years I've known him.  This was number four.  That got me thinking maybe I should be more upset.  So I tried that emotion out. Why did this happen to me out of how many thousands of patients they see each year? Then I got over it and convinced Rick that my life was not in jeopardy. It took a day or two to calm him down and convince him we were not suing the hospital.  It's a week later and I can't be sure, but can't help but wonder what if it was a divine miscalculation so I would get exactly what I needed beyond what the computers or doctors thought I needed?  I'll never know, but choose to live knowing that nothing that happens to me is beyond what is in my best interest.  God does know a thing or two about healing!

I met with my plastic surgeon today.  After looking at the radiation site, she said my skin looked amazing, to keep doing whatever I was doing.  She called another doctor in to look at it.  Then a nurse.   They didn't believe me that I had been through six weeks of radiation.  Since my skin fared so well, we can stick pretty close to the six month mark to do the reconstructive surgery.  Or when she gets backs from her maternity leave. Whichever happens first.  We talked for a while and I couldn't help but burst with thanksgiving for the amazing physicians that God led me to. 

 I called Dr. Burroughs to make an appointment for a yearly physical and he answered the phone (since he sent his office staff out for a spa day to celebrate the one year anniversary of his new practice) and scheduled my appointment as well as some extra time to catch up.  He has called throughout the process to find out how I've been doing and to let me know he and his staff were praying for me.  As far as I'm concerned, compassionate care and customer service doesn't get any better than that!

The end of radiation also marks the end of meals.  They have been coming steadily since surgery.  I lost track, but I do know that at least 140 meals were so lovingly and generously prepared and delivered.  That. Is. CRAZY!  I can't even begin to put words together to express our deep appreciation and gratitude for all of you who loved us with food!  I also got some great recipes to use as I try to remember how to cook again! 

Pam Hawley is hard at work again coordinating people and things to help make sure that our financial needs are met.  Thanks, Pam!  She's started another fund drive, or whatever it is called, at  I burst into tears as I read what she wrote and quickly relived everything we've been through since February.  It's been hard.  But it's also been full of joy.  I've never been alone through any of it.  We're trusting God to see us through to the end.  He is so good to us!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Tattoos, Sunburn and Hot Flashes

So…it’s been a while.  Life marches on regardless of my treatment schedule so I’m just doing my best to keep up and pretend my life is normal!
My sisters, Jamie and Ali, came up at the beginning of September to celebrate our birthdays.  We went to Buca Di Beppo for dinner.  A tiny part of me died when the chicken marsala didn't taste like it used to and I found out they're playing around with new recipes. Don't do that.  The next morning we got up early to head to the Great Minnesota Get-Together.  Ella's treat.  She won 8 tickets from the library for their summer reading program. It was a beautiful day in the middle of a heat wave but by late afternoon the crowds were so thick. We ate our milk and Sweet Martha's cookies and left.  I love when our family is all together.  That’s my happy place.
Ella started first grade this year.  It was a huge adjustment to have her in school five days a week.  She did fine with it.  I missed her like crazy the first couple weeks and even thought about keeping her home from school so I could play with her.  But then I looked at my to do list and was thankful to have days to myself to get everything done!  She absolutely loves school and is doing great.  Her slightly over protective mother even lets her ride the bus home in the afternoon.
I started radiation the week after school started.  Radiation is weird.  After the mapping simulator CT scan, my radiation oncologist, Dr. McBride, and a team of physicists worked up the radiation treatment plan and we got started. The radiation machine is called a linear accelerator and is HUGE. I have to be in the exact same position on the table for every treatment.  So they made a pillow that they molded to my arms and head and I have to lay very still.  There are laser lines and rulers that help the techs get me in perfect position.  They use my new tattoos to help get things lined up.  The tattoos look like little black freckles, but they are tattoos and I will always them!  Once that’s done, they leave the room and close the door behind them.  The door is also HUGE.  I keep meaning to measure it, but I bet it’s close to a foot thick.  There are a series of lead plates in the gantry that shift to allow the radiation beam to get exactly where it needs to go.  It’s very precise. The gantry starts slightly to my right side and moves toward the left.  It stops eight times and each blast of radiation is about 90 seconds.  And that’s that. I don't see anything and don't feel anything. The whole process takes about 10 minutes.  It takes me longer to drive to St Johns!  I do this five days a week.  Monday through Friday.  The weekends off give my healthy cells a chance to recharge.  In the beginning the treatment wasn’t bad, just very inconvenient.  Now as I finish my fourth week of treatment I’ve got a mild sunburn and rash and feel the need to walk around with mittens on so I don’t scratch my skin off.  It itches so bad.   Fourteen treatments left!!
I also started taking Tamoxifen.  My cancer is positive for estrogen receptors (ER+), which means estrogen promotes growth of cancer cells and the Tamoxifen blocks the effects of estrogen on these cells.  I almost wish I could do weekly chemo instead of this. Just a few of the side effects: hot flashes, constant hotness, facial flushing, moodiness and irritably, weight gain, blood clots, anxiety, dizziness, fatigue, and possible cancer and on and on.  Yuck. 
I still have Herceptin therapy (a type of chemo) once  month, too.  After the last treatment of Herceptin only, I did get a little nauseous and everything I ate tasted funny.  That was all for side effects though.  I’m okay with that.  Herceptin targets the protein on the cells that makes my cancer HER2+, and more aggressive than a non HER2+ cancer.  I will continue once a month Herceptin treatments until June of next year. 
Mondays are usually my chemo days, but Dr. Shanks was completely booked, so treatment had to pushed to Tuesday.  Which also happened to be my birthday.  I decided that it was the chemo that was helping to keep me alive to celebrate many more birthdays, so spending my birthday in chemo wasn’t all that bad.  After a delicious crepe breakfast with a sweet friend I headed to chemo.  My mom and grandma, who now goes by GG (short for Great Grandma) joined me for treatment.  After sharing some of the racing that my heart has been doing, I got a birthday EKG! It wasn't normal, but wasn't abnormal enough to need to take any action. Just had a few lazy waves.  When chemo was finished and I got unhooked, the nurses and staff all came to my chair and sang Happy Birthday to me and gave me a cupcake! It was so sweet and made my day!  They sure do go above and beyond for their patients.  I will miss them when June rolls around and I don’t need to go visit them anymore.  I left chemo for radiation and was celebrated there as well!  The day ended with dinner at Pier 500 in Hudson.  With all the phone calls, e-mails, texts and Facebook messages that came through that day, I felt so loved!  So thank you all for making me feel so special! I got to cash in my birthday present from my mom and the two of us went to see Wicked at the Orpheum on Wednesday. Oh.  My.  I loved it. 
Back in the spring I took on the volunteer role of Director of Women’s Ministry at Five Oaks.  I fought this for several months.  The timing was horrible and really didn’t make sense to take something like this on when I already had so much going on.  But I finally surrendered and waved my white flag of obedience.  Summer was pretty easy.  We built our team and had a few planning meetings here and there.  Our team is incredible.  Working with these women is a huge blessing.  And we have fun together.  We had a worship night to kick off the year and then started studies in the middle of September.  I am still in awe of this team and how much they did in those two weeks!!  I’ve got front row seats for a great year!
I’m tired of treatment.  Just being honest here.  I’m ready to be done.  Eight months of dealing with all the emotions and appointments and treatments and insurance and bills and side effects and fatigue gets to be a bit much!  I’m feeling a little weary. Planning for Ella’s birthday party and a little birthday surprise/Radiation-is-over present planning is occupying my time and helping to keep my distracted. And then there's always someone waiting just around the corner to encourage me.  A dear friend gave me a mug that said: "You are a fighter, a survivor, a woman of faith and strength.  You are a tough opponent for any challenge.  Even the big "C" is no match for you because you belong to an even bigger "C"."  That was just what I needed.  Right when I needed it.  The next day I got this:
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month in case you haven’t figured that out yet.  So if you are of mammogramming age, make sure you’re getting your annual mammogram.  If you’re not there yet, don’t forget your monthly self-check.  A friend/co-worker was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and I can’t tell you how sick that made me feel. As much as I love helping others, I don't want to have to share my wig lady or books that help break the news to little ones.  Trust me on this one, a couple moments of squishing and squeezing is far easier to deal with than cancer! I don’t want anyone to have to go through what I’ve been through! (stepping off my soapbox.)

Monday, August 26, 2013

What Comes Next

First things first.

1.  About the MRI results....
Well, after I had filled out all my paper work and waited about forty-five minutes, the MRI tech read my paper work and noticed where I checked the box for expanders and said, "Just Kidding.  You can't go near the MRI machine as long as you have those in." Duh.  I should have known that.  So they contacted my oncologist and got him to write an order for a head CT.  So another forty-five minutes later I was able to get my head checked.  My OB/GYN called me a day or two later with the results.  All clear.  Negative.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  Sigh of relief.  Thanks God.

2.  About the genetic testing results....
They tested for the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes, for Lynch Syndrome and for some other things that have letter and number conversations that I didn't take time to remember.  But those test came back and they were all negative.  That leaves us back where we started, with absolutely no idea where this cancer came from.  But I don't really care.  I don't need to know.  God's still got this.  He is still good.  Praise the Lord.  My sisters and Ella will still need to be screened earlier/more often than they would if I didn't have breast cancer.  But I don't need to be hyper-vigilant about getting a colonoscopy and worry about needing a hysterectomy in three years. 

This morning I met my Radiation Oncologist, Dr McBride.  He went over the whole Radiation process and what to expect, what to do, what not to do and then filled us in on the potential risk factors.  There aren't that many, and the likelihood that I get them is low, but I was already trying to retain my composure after the nurse had told me about the side effects.  I had heard that it can feel like a sun burn that won't go away and that's about it for side effects.  That is a side effect, but she also said that compounding fatigue is also one.  NO!!  I thought I was done with fatigue!  As the week wears on from Monday to Friday the fatigue will increase.  It will also get worse the longer I am receiving radiation.  This makes sense as the body is working overtime to rebuild healthy cells.  But I really thought I was done with being tired! The other risk factors include decreased lung function in the left lobe, potential cardiac issues since the heart is on the left side of the body, increased chance of rib fracture and more. I was scheduled for a mapping simulator CT scan for later this week.  This will give Dr. McBride and the team of physicists the information they need to prepare the treatment plan for me.  This whole process is nothing like I imagined.  There's so much involved! I left there feeling a little depressed.

After that appointment at St. Johns we drove to Woodwinds for the first of my every three week Herceptin treatment.  I met with Mark and we talked about where things were and what would be coming in the future.  He answered a lot of questions I had and some questions that some of you have asked that I didn't have answers to.  A phrase kept popping up that I couldn't help but smile at: "curable breast cancer."  My stage 3b breast cancer, even though it was quite large, even though there were many lymph nodes involved is considered curable.  The tumor was removed.  The chemo has done it's thing and now the radiation will make sure that no cancer cells survive.  He gave me a prescription for Tamoxifen.  I'll be taking this hormone therapy for 5-10 years.  My cancer is estrogen responsive and the Tamoxifen will block cancer cell growth that is typically enhanced by estrogen.  This medication has it's own side effects and risk factors!  But Mark was able to dispel some of the anxiety I had about the side effects of Radiation, so it was turning into a better day.  It turned into a really good day when we saw that my hemoglobin had gone almost a gram.  That would be the equivalent of getting 1 unit of blood.  Still a ways to go until that is normal, but I'll take it!  I also go in for another MUGA scan this week to make sure my heart is still strong.  This is a huge answer to prayer.  I've had two MUGA scans.  One before chemo started and one when I finished Adriamycin.  My ejection fraction was at 65% for both of them.  That's really unusual.  From the beginning of treatment to the end of the Adriamycin, it is common for people to lose 10%.  Keep praying!  Herceptin is hard on the heart too.

I headed to the infusion center and got to see my nurse friends again.  Several of them commented again on how moved they were by my window friends the week before.  Those that weren't there definitely heard about it!  They said it was one of the coolest things they'd seen happen there.  It went really quick and I was done. 

We still have a lot of logistical things to work out with Radiation, but I'm hoping these next six weeks fly by!!

Happy Last Day of Side-Effect Chemo to Me!

If you were in on the Last Day of Side-Effect Chemo festivities...thank you!  It was a day that I will not soon forget.  For those of you that weren't in on the celebration, let me fill you in. 

It all started with my mom.  I'm not sure of those details, but I'm sure she sent an e-mail and it all snowballed from there. 
Last Monday, August 19th, was week 12 of 12 for Taxol and Herceptin  weekly chemotherapy.  I love parties, I love celebrating big and small events.  So Lindsay, my high school friend/chemo buddy for the day, and I gathered some treats to take in to the staff as a thank you for taking such good care of me for the last two phases of chemo.  Lindsay spoiled me with treats too! 

So we are sitting in "the office" chemo cubicle talking away, reminiscing about the Spring Break trip we took to Hawaii in high school (she even brought pictures!!!), dreaming of our next trips there and solving the world's problems when we notice three super heroes and their mom outside the window!  It was so out of the blue that it took me a little bit to register the fact that I knew the mom of these masked kids!  I did what I usually do in situations like that...take pictures!  They held up their signs for me, played some music (I couldn't hear the words, but I'm sure it was a fabulous song!) and then vanished. All the laughing drew nurses and volunteers to come and see what was going on.  The cuteness level could not be matched!!  Thank you, Thornton Family!!

Shortly after that my dad stopped in with a balloon to say hi and let me know that he was celebrating the Last Day of Side-Effect Chemo with me and then headed out.  He also handed me a stack of notes from many of you. Short and sweet. But Lindsay and I were deep in our conversation about my newest adventure so I didn't think much about it.  Not long after that Lindsay was looking out the window and starting laughing.  More people (dressed in pink this time) came bearing signs and balloons.  More laughing and waving.  They released the balloons and we watched them float away.  I learned later that there were 16 balloons.  One for each side-effect chemo treatment I'd had.  Not long after this Kent and Cindy O'Grady stopped by to wave through the window.  They were too quick and I didn't get a picture. 

The staff at the Cancer Care Center were so surprised and really moved by all the window visitors.  It was probably my favorite chemo treatment.  If people are allowed to have favorite chemo treatments.  The celebration ended with dinner out.  I was blown away by the people that came out to wave and those that sent e-mails and texts and Facebook messages to celebrate this little milestone with me!  I am so grateful that I don't have to do this alone!  Thanks again for your loving support!