Monday, June 24, 2013

Checking in...

Where did June go?  The month seems to have disappeared before my eyes!  I guess I've been busy trying to balance cancer and chemo with what used to be my normal life and realizing that it doesn't work like that.  I had high expectations for everything I'd be able to do once I was done with AC, but the truth is, I'm still getting chemo treatments.  I'm not able to jump right back in to where I left off before this this thing called cancer entered my life.  This has not been an easy realization for me.  Its hard to not overdo it, but my body very quickly reminds me when I'm nearig my limit.  The nausea is mostly gone, it pops up sometimes right after treatments, but is nothing like I had been dealing with.  The fatigue is better,still there, but different.  It feels good to be tired from housework, getting projects done and going to work rather than moving from my bed to the couch.  

I realized I hadn't posted an updated when I started getting emails and some comments asking how things were since I hadn't posted in a while!  I've had four treatments since my last post! My younger sister, Ali was in Minnesota for a couple weeks and was able to join me for a treatment.  Ella wanted to be my chemo buddy,so she and my mom were able to come sit with me after Zoo Camp one week.  The next week I was so tired and decided to fly solo.  I slept through most of the treatment.  And again when I got home.  My hemoglobin is still low, it actually dropped a little from last week.  They ran some additional blood tests this week to check my iron levels and other things.  Nothing earth-shattering there.  It's teetering in a place, where if its drops a little lower, they could do a blood transfusion and that would bring my hemoglobin up.  I'm hoping to get it up without needing to go to that extreme, but I am really tired of being tired.  My cold is finally starting to clear up.  I had a chest X-ray done a week or two ago to make sure my lungs were clear.  When I saw that X-ray, I laughed out loud!  Between my port, the expanders and the marker they placed where they removed the cancer, there is a lot on that X-ray! Additional labs were drawn to check my iron.  That fell in the lowest range of normal.  My new sister-in-law, Meghan, was my chemo buddy today!  She and Todd are in Minnesota for their reception and will be heading back to Phoenix after the 4th.  


Being back at work is going well.  Thanks to all of you for asking! Four hour shifts was a good place to start.  I'm still exhausted when I come home, and can't quite imagine working 8 hours yet.  I had lat week off and it's was good to rest and get some things done around the house.  It takes me double the time to do things now, allowing myself to rest in between tasks.  I'm trying to be patient with myself.  

Specific prayer requests would be for my hemoglobin levels to continue to go up and for more energy. Pray for a strong immune system.  I feel another cold coming on. As well as for patience as I try not to overdo things!  Please also pray for issues with my insurance company.  Among them, the hold up of processing claims from surgery back in March due to the extra night spent in the hospital due to intractable emesis.  Pray for speedy processing and full payment from the insurance company!

This week I've spent a lot of time thinking back over all the events leading up to where I am now.  The shock and newness has worn off and I look ahead to all the chemo treatments and radiation treatments still to come and find it all very daunting.  It's very routine by now.  But I can't seem to figure out how to emotionally return to my normal routine while adding the cancer treatment routine to it.  It's two worlds that I'm having trouble mixing.  Especially when I don't have the energy for normal.  Except for tonight. Thank you steroids!

This summer has been fun so far though!  My goal is to focus on Ella and make it enjoyable for her.  Her knowledge, understanding and resilience has been amazing to watch, but this summer is all about being a kid!  I'm loving being able to check things off our summer list (and adding some we did, just to check them off). Here are some pictures of my pride and joy to look at.  Or not.  It's up to you!



Wednesday, June 5, 2013

This week. In a nutshell.

Monday marked the beginning of the end.  I started new chemo drugs, Taxol and Herceptin (TH).  Taxol will be over and done with in 12 short weeks.  Herceptin will be by buddy for the next 52 weeks. One year from now, I will be finished with chemo!   After the 12 weeks, I will only go in every three weeks for the Herceptin.  I can see the next year shaping up with radiation and reconstruction and starting what will be my new normal. My older sister Jamie is home for a week from Missouri and was able to join me for treatment this time.  Like I have been since I started chemo, she was impressed with the friendliness and compassion of all the staff and volunteers in the Cancer Care clinic. I'm in good hands!

I'm still really tired.  My labs were at an all time low on Monday, which is to be expected following four rounds of AC.  Dr. Shanks wasn't alarmed, but until they sart climbing a little bit, I'll still be dealing with fatigue.  My weakened immune system is trying to fight a cold, but isn't doing too great!  Last Friday I had another MUGA scan to see if there had been any changes to my heart function following the Adriamycin, which is not a heart friendly drug.  There were no changes, which is an answer to prayer!  I'll still have MUGA scans every 3-4 months while on Herceptin as this also is not a heart friendly drug.  

On Tuesday I went back to work.  I've only been cleared to work 4 hour shifts at this point and will fill in the rest with PTO to have enough hours to keep my insurance.  I am so grateful for Catherine, my job share partner, who is willing to be so flexible and work with me and my limitations and doctors appointments and radiation schedule so I can still focus on my treatment and getting better.  Thank you, Catherine!  You are a blessing!

My friends from small group had a lovely bouquet of flowers sent to me while I was at work, knowing I wasn't quite ready to return to work.  That was a wonderful surprise and definitely a day brightener. Thanks you guys, you're the best!  I love that you have decided to reach out and to commit to help me succeed.  And as I strategically unpack all the things that I appreciate about you all, it's a win-win.  

Wednesday was Ella's kindergarten graduation.  We are definitely proud parents!  We are in awe of the person God is shaping her into.  Her compassionate servant heart humbles me daily.  Her desire to do the right thing even when no one is looking is evidence of the Holy Spirit active in her life.  She's a smart little cookie, which I'm sure can be explained by having a teacher for a mother (or Aunt Jamie's genes, or having been born into a family of teachers). She's still sticking to the same career goal going on three years now.  When she grows up, she doesn't want to be a teacher (even though she has an entire classroom set up under her loft bed and plays school for hours at a time), or a singer or a dancer or anything else little girls want to be at that age.  She wants to be a spy.


We celebrated the end of the school year with lunch at her favorite restaurant (we are so grateful it is no longer McDonalds) with my whole family, a Mint Oreo ice cream cake (from DQ of course), a Jamie Grace concert, and we let her stay up as long as she wanted.  Which was a whole hour pat her usual bed time.  Next year is first grade...eek!  All day, everyday.  That will be a very tough transition!

The garage sale was this weekend and was a great success.  Thanks to all of you for your donations!  I was finally able to part with Ella's clothes and baby things.  Rick has been so understanding as the 12+ totes of "doll clothes" piled up in the garage since I was not able to part with them.  I must not have gotten my fill of playing with dolls when I was younger, so from birth to age 3 (when Ella developed a strong fashion sense of her own), she was my doll to dress up!  Maybe now we will be able to put things in the garage that actually belong there, like another car!  A huge thank you to my mother in law, Linda,  and my neighbor, Sophia, for making the garage sale happen.  Sophia will pricing things in her sleep for the next month!  And thank you to Nancy, Nancy and Lori for all your help, we couldn't have done it without you!

It's hard to tell if I had any side effects from the new chemo drugs on Monday since this cough and cold had me down for the count.  I go back again on Monday for the next round...51 weeks left, not that I'm counting or anything!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Remember that Time I Slept for Two Weeks...

This last round was the worst.  By far.  Even with the steroids, the nausea and fatigue came on strong and hung on long.  I've never been so thankful for crackers and ginger ale.  I didn't even get a good week this time around.  But I am so thankful that the worst is over.  Today I start two new drugs.  So I will be going in every Monday for 12 weeks.  That should be fun!

I go back to work on Tuesday. I'll start out with short days.  Yeah.......

 May 24th was me and Rick's ten year anniversary.  Woot woot!  We obviously didn't get to celebrate in Hawaii as we'd planned all these years, but spending the day together, living our lives such as they are at this point was still wonderful.  We dropped Ella off at school, went to breakfast, I slept while he puttered and tinkered, I slept in his truck while he drove up north to get a part and then stopped for dinner on the way home.  Marriage isn't always beaches, sweet smelling plumeria and luaus.  For us, these last couple years have been really trying.  Infertility. Unemployment. Cancer.  However, our cord of three stands is still holding strong.  And somehow, these last few years have been a blast! In the midst of hardships, we've found joy.  We find complete joy in raising the child we do have and absolutely love our little family.  Rick losing his job turned out to be a huge blessing.  Leaving a job he didn't like for one with better hours, better environment, better management, more flexibility and free ice cream, it makes sense!  In the midst of it it didn't seem so great!  That's when I learned that you have to thank God for what seems bad along with what seems great, because in the end you really can't tell the two apart!  When it's all said and done, the blessings and joys that came our way because of cancer will far outweigh the chemo side effects.  Oh, and just so you know, Rick will have been at his new job for a year in the middle of June, and he has not gained a pound.  He hasn't gained weight since I met him, but I thought for sure this would do it!  Still praising God Ella seems to have gotten his metabolism! So, Rick. We've seen richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, good times and bad-thanks for taking our vows seriously!  Thank you for loving me and serving me for the last ten years.  Thank you for your extreme patience and for making me laugh daily. Thank you for being with me through every step of breast cancer, there could not be a better companion for this journey!  Thank you for being an amazing Dad to Ella.  You really blew me away with that one the second she entered our lives and continue to every moment you spend with her. I have never questioned your love for me or your love for the One who brought us together.  I love you beyond what words can describe.  You are the best Hawaiian souvenir ever! Can't wait to go back to Hawaii when all this cancer stuff is behind us!  For the rest of you-a wedding picture!  Because everyone likes looking at ten year old wedding pictures!


I think I've told half the world already, but have to share it here too.  I was gone over the weekend for some R&R and came back to some gifts from Ella. The last one she had even wrapped.  Before giving it to me she says, "Mom, you are going to get a kick out of this."  I unwrap the little package and hold in my hand this gift my 6 year old bundle of energy could not wait to give me.  She explains it a little further (although no explanation is needed). "I made it for you.  She looks just like you."


When she says made it, she means she ripped the hair off!  Happy Monday!