About this blog

I was diagnosed with breast cancer on June 11, 2010. As a result of my treatment, I have lymphedema in my left arm. I draw my strength from the Lord, as well as my family's Scots-Irish heritage. Our Graham's were a tough and scrappy bunch of fighters on the Scottish/English border. They came to America and continued to fight when necessary: in the American Revolution; the Civil War; and my brother is a Captain in the U.S. Army. My ancestors settled this country against all odds. My great-grandmothers on both sides of the family were pioneer women who settled the West. Along with that heritage, and the full armor of God, I am walking the walk and fighting the good fight.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Creepy nails

My fingernails are getting progressively worse.  I noticed this morning doing the breakfast dishes that my pinky and ring finger on my left hand were starting to turn reddish-brown.  It almost looks like the fingers were smashed in a door.  You can't tell from the picture, but all fingernails have horizontal lines on them.

This is a known side effect of Taxotere.  Thank God that I only have one round left.

The sensitivity in my fingertips continues as well.  I'm finding it difficult to do small motor skill tasks.  Zippers, of all things, are giving me trouble.  I feel like such a dunce to be having trouble zipping up my toddler's jackets!  Even my own give me trouble.

I did feel more energetic this morning at the gym than I did a few days ago.  I did 35 minutes on an elliptical and then opted for the stationary bike for the last 30 minutes.  The last bit wasn't as strenuous as usual, but I did do intervals which is good for the metabolism. I got to my calorie burn goal, so that was good.  (I like to burn at least 400 calories and today I got to about 465).

No news on my eyes, sadly.  They still burn and water.  I'm wearing my glasses and am looking forward to seeing the optometrist in a few weeks, no pun intended.

Overall, I'm feeling good all things considered.  I'm looking forward to this Friday and my spirits are good. Thank you all for your continued prayers and support.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Back in the routine, and its a good thing

I'm feeling better today.  My eyes still are irritating me, but at least this morning they weren't crusted shut.  I'm wearing my glasses and leaving the contacts in the drawer.  I didn't attempt an intense workout today.  I just did 30 minutes of yoga and then did a power walk with friends. I'm going to the gym tomorrow so we'll see how my energy levels are then.

Mentally, I'm better too.  Perhaps its because the kids went back to school today and we are all back in a routine.  I'm such a creature of habit.  There is comfort in routine, knowing what is coming up and what you need to do next.

Speaking of next, I also got ready for the next round of chemo on Friday.  I got my lab appointment for Thursday and put the order in for the refill (my last one) for Cipro.  I also called to get an appointment for an eye exam.  The closest one they could get me in for was December 21.  That is okay.  I'll be recovered from chemo more or less.  So anything going on with my eyes won't be subjected to more chemo.  The good thing is that I won't have a copay since I've met the deductible this year.  And then some.

So I'm all ready for the last round of chemo.  I just need to eat healthy to get my body full of good nutrients to fight this cancer from the inside out.  I need to exercise to keep myself strong, and keep my wits about me.  I am addicted to endorphins, I think.

A friend confided in me today that she is going in for a biopsy on Wednesday to check for ovarian cancer. The uncertainty is scary and I know where she is coming from.  I'm so sick and tired of CANCER.  I long for the day when there is no more sickness and no more tears.

Prayer requests:

  • For my friend going in for tests on Wednesday.  Pray that the biopsy comes back negative. In the meantime, that she is able to have some peace and not be filled with anxiety. 
  • More prayers for my eyes.  They constantly water and the dried salt on my face is irritating to my skin. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Catching up to me?

I think this chemo thing is starting to catch up to me.  The good news is that with only one treatment left, I think I can outrun it in the long haul.  Thank God that I didn't feel this way a couple months ago.

I'm more tired physically.  In past rounds, at this point in time I feel normal.  I'm kicking butt at the gym.  However, yesterday at the gym, I noticed that it was much harder to do lower levels on the Stair master and elliptical than I usually do.  I use a heart rate monitor, so I know if I'm at a range where I am exerting a good bit or not.  I got up to 85% of my heart rate 2 levels lower than before, even during chemo.   This morning, I did a 30 minute cardio workout, (Cindy Whitmarsh's "Less is More" cardio),  off of Exercise TV and it was a challenge.  I did it and then some, but it was a challenge.

There are other physical reminders too.  My nails have these lines on them that don't go away. Most annoying are my eyes.  They are constantly watering.  I may have caught an infection in my eyes.  I'm not sure.  They were really red yesterday and they burn.  I also feel spasms in my eyes and eyelids. The tears then dry and leave salty deposits around my eyes.  In the morning, my eyes are crusted shut.  Gross, isn't it?  I don't know if all of these are side effects of chemo or something else going on.   I was hoping to put off an eye exam until after all of my treatment, but I may see if I can get into an exam in December.  I've gained a couple pounds too, which doesn't make me very happy.  Of course with Thanksgiving, many people do.  But in reality, it has been creeping up on me a little by little for the past couple months.

Mentally, I just don't "feel" like myself completely.  I'm in a kind of constant "zoning" state.  Things just feel weird all the time.  I'm a bit tired all the time.  I spent some time this afternoon just vegging out in front of the television watching a great chick flick-"Letters to Juliet."  That felt great, and I think I'll be doing more of that in the coming few weeks.

When I feel off like this, I try to at least look normal on the outside. I'm an "undercover" cancer patient.  With my eyes, makeup is not my friend. Nevertheless, I gave it a shot this morning for church.  I'm missing a lot of my eyebrows, but I can fill those in with makeup.  I noticed my eyelashes are much thinner as well.  I was happy to come home and take the eye makeup off.  I also wore the wig.  That helps, especially when I catch a glimpse of my own reflection. Especially since I have to wear my glasses.  The downside is that the wig can give me a headache and itches.  At home, it suffers the same fate as the eye makeup...it's OFF!

I'm not complaining here, I'm really not.  I like to think of this post as more of one documenting what I'm feeling like physically and mentally.  I know I am blessed to have made it this far as well as I have.  Only one more round to go.  I plan on getting exercise as best I can this week.  It's one of my mental "things" that I want to keep on doing to show cancer that its not going to get me.  Like I said, it may be gaining on me, trying to catch up.  But I'm going to beat it.

I'm told that these physical issues go away after chemotherapy.  I sure hope so.  It's hard to imagine ever feeling normal again.  I follow another blog about fitness for cancer survivors, written by a cancer survivor and physical trainer.  She mentioned in one of her posts about being so fatigued during chemo that she could barely drag herself to the mail box on some days. Now she runs half marathons and climbs mountains.   My hair will grow back.  (Unless the tamoxifen causes it to be too thin, but that is something for another post.)  My nails will go back to normal.  My eyes will get better.  I will be done with chemotherapy.

It won't be a minute too soon.

Prayer Requests:

  • That my eyes heal.  I don't mind the watering so much.  But the spasms and burning are a pain.  I'm going to call Kaiser tomorrow to see if I can get into see an eye doctor. Pray that I can get in at a good time.  I don't know if it would be best to wait until after chemo or get in as soon as I can.  Pray that God will give me the appointment that works best with my other medical issues. 
  • That my energy levels stay up.  The kids go back to school tomorrow, so I'm back to the grind as well. 
  • That this last round of chemo be effective and kill off any remaining cancer cells in my body. 
  • That my spirits stay positive.  It is so easy to get depressed when you have physical pain and medical issues. It is toxic and I don't want to be depressed and negative.  For me, its a downward spiral and I'd soon be dwelling on cancer, recurrence and nasty stuff.  I just don't want to "go there."   Pray that I don't forget to "look up" to my Savior and remember that HE is bigger than all of this.  That I be reminded to seek shelter under His wings, and not lean on my own understanding. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Bring on the holiday!

The bigger boys playing XBox

The smaller boys playing Legos
Thanksgiving was great yesterday.  Both of my brothers were there, as well as my brother Nathan's kids.  My kids had a great time playing with cousins. The food was great and we had a good time together.  We are all a bit tired today.  The kids didn't get to bed until after 10 p.m.  Needless to say, Jean-Marc is taking a very good nap today!

Now I'm ready for Christmas!!

My last round of chemo is one week from today-December 3rd.  I am so ready to be done with this stage of treatment.  I'm tired of watery eyes.  I'm tired of waiting for the next round of chemo.  I'm tired of all the drugs.  I'm tired of not having hair.  I'm tired of having a cold neck. I'm tired of having to put things off until "after."  I'm just ready to be done.

To focus on the positive I took down my fall decorations and brought out the Christmas decorations.  Isabelle and I had fun decking the halls this afternoon.  This is only our second Christmas in this house.  Last year we had just moved the month before.  I decorated, but it was in a hurry because we still were unpacking our lives. We didn't even attempt to put lights up outside.

Nathan entertains with Chuck Norris jokes
This year, I want to do Christmas up big.  There is so much to celebrate, especially the end of chemotherapy.  I hope I never have to do it again. (There I go, worrying about "what if" it comes back.)  I wanted to get a good jump on the decorating to have a lot of it done before chemo next week. As it is, the only time we will be able to get our tree will be next Saturday, which will be Day 2 in that final cycle.  Eric leaves for a business trip to France on the 10th, so next weekend is our only weekend to do it before the holiday. I'm usually energetic enough on Day 2, so it should be okay.  It's Day 3 that I start to fade, an Day 4 that I crash.  We'll have the tree, it just may not be decorated for awhile!

Dad and Eric
It was fun taking out the decorations that we have accumulated over the past 14 years as a family.  Everything had "its" spot at our old house and decorating was a no brainer.  This year, it took some thinking and creativity about where to put things.  I also want to buy some new decorations too.  It helped to get all the "old" stuff out and see where my decorative "holes" are.  Then I'll hit Michael's with a vengeance!

The kids and I also want to put lights up outside.  I'm not sure when we'll be able to do that.  Eric is game, its just a matter of if we can get him to do it before he leaves on the 10th.  It WILL work out, and we will enjoy being able to contribute to the neighborhood's festive look.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


I don't know how to sleep in.  With kids, we have evolved a schedule where we are usually up around 6 a.m., even on weekends. Since the time change a few weeks ago, I've been waking up some time around 5:30 a.m. I was so tired last night that I figured maybe I'd "sleep in" until 6:30 today.  Nope.  I was awake at my usual time.

As I lay there, I started to think about Thanksgiving and the things that I am thankful for.  I listed many of them in a post last week.

Of course, I am thankful to the things in my life that everyone else is: family; friends; the abundance of food; the creature comforts (a house, clothes, etc).  But there is more to it than that.  I am thankful for those things...but even more than those things, I am thankful for The One who has given them to me....God.  I am thankful FOR God, and I am thankful TO God.

Words are inadequate as I consider all of the aspects of God and how they directly impact me and the feelings that it gives me. I'm going to give it a try.

First of all, He created me. He knew me before I was born.  He had a plan for my life, even this cancer is part of that plan.  He holds me in the palm of His hand and guides me through this life.  When things get too scary, and they have at times during the past 5 months, I can turn to Him for comfort.  He is my shelter, my strong tower, my ever present help in times of trouble.  It is palpable.  I felt it on the biopsy table.  I felt it on the operating table.

He created the world and the things in it.  Every beautiful place and thing that brings me joy.  The beach, the mighty ocean. The majestic mountains with the smell of pine.  The stars in the sky, the sun and the moon.  The animals with all of their interdependent systems with other animals and the environment, God designed.  It is awesome when you think about it. He gave us music. Who doesn't enjoy music?

I am thankful for His Word.  The Bible is so much more than a book. It is kind of like an onion in that you can read it over and over and see new things in it each time as you dig a little deeper. It never gets old. It feeds my soul.  It answers all of my questions, even when the answer is "My ways are higher than your ways, My thoughts are higher than your thoughts."  It is a hand book for life.  Got questions about parenting? Marriage? Friendship? The nature of God? It's all in the bible.  I'm thankful that I can depend on the promises in the Word, especially in the midst of the cancer storm.  It brings me comfort to know that He promises to work out all things for the good.  Even me having cancer.

I am thankful for the Holy Spirit.  He helps me to understand and relate to God in a deeper way.  This may sound strange if you are not born again or if you do not have a relationship with the Lord.  When you are saved you can ask the Lord for His Holy Spirit and He gives it to you.  Literally. The Spirit indwells in you.  For me, it has helped me to understand Scripture in a deeper way.  Those times when I have "felt" God, it has been the Spirit.  When I was lying there with a needle plunged deep into my armpit, it was the Holy Spirit that whispered to me, "I know the thoughts I have toward you.  Thoughts of good and not for evil.  Thoughts to give you a future and a hope."   The Holy Spirit also intercedes for me when I don't know what to pray-and there have been plenty of those times in the past 5 months as well.

I am thankful for Jesus. Without Him, I wouldn't be able to have this relationship with God.  Because I'm a sinner.  Even on my best day, its not good enough for a Holy God.  So He sent His son, Jesus, to take the punishment for my sin.  That was what the cruxifiction was all about. When He died and rose again, it gave all of us the opportunity to have a relationship with God if we choose to.  He is the bridge that brings the sinner (me) to God.  I can stand before God now and God sees me pure and holy.  Two things I am not, but I am because Jesus gives that to me. That is the ultimate thing to be thankful for!  He paid my eternal debt.

What amazes me is that all of these things that I have talked about here, all of these various aspects are all part of the same God.  He is so much bigger than we can even comprehend.  I think sometimes people who refuse to believe certain things, (like God creating the world in 6 days), put God in a "human box."  It just sounds so outrageous to them.  If we were talking about man, even the smartest Nobel prize winning scientist, it is.  But we are talking about God.  It's mind blowing. He is mind blowing.

As I enjoy this Thanksgiving holiday, I am counting my blessings.   I am thinking of all the good things that I am thankful for.  But I am also thinking of the One who has given them to me and thanking HIM for those things.  Every good and perfect gift comes from God.

Happy Thanksgiving!

If you want to consider this further, I highly recommend checking out this link to a special sermon from my pastor on giving thanks.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Radiation consultation. Meet Dr. S!

I had my consultation with a radiation oncologist today. My medical team has just added a new member, Dr. S.

Since it was my first time, I went a little early in case they needed time to process me as a new patient. They had sent me a packet of questionnaires about my medical history which I had filled out last night. I ended up having to wait for about 15 minutes, but it was okay. I was able to read a recent "People" magazine. I must be getting old, because I didn't recognize many of the "famous" people inside.

I was called back by a nurse who led me into an exam room. She was busy on the computer and told me to get into an exam robe. It wasn't a big deal, but at Kaiser, they leave the room while you do that. Her back was turned to me, and I'm not really shy anymore about things. Heck, I've even considered posting pictures of my scars on the blog!

She told me I got "Dr. S" and that I was lucky. I guess she likes him. She mentioned that he does a lot of the "nasty" cancers of the head and neck. I had mixed feelings about this praise. First off, does he know what he's doing when it comes to breast cancer? In a morbid kind of way, it helped to hear that I didn't have a "nasty" cancer. I mean, it sucks, thats for sure. But at least it could be worse.

Dr. S came in and I was a bit surprised to see a young guy. He's a small and thin guy of Indian descent, which I expected when I heard his name. Not that it matters. As long as he knows what he's doing. I was impressed when he started talking because it was clear that he had reviewed my case. Unlike Dr. P, he looked me right in the eyes as he talked. He even knew things about the pathology of my lymph nodes that I was unaware of. All of it made me a good candidate for radiation in his opinion. He wants to design a treatment plan that will radiate my chest, left armpit area, and left clavicle (where there are additional lymph nodes).

The bottom line is that doing radiation now will decrease the risk of the cancer recurring. When it recurs a second time, it usually is harder to treat. The theory is to go in now with all the guns blazing and do all we can so it does not come back. My treatment should take 6 1/2 weeks and begin in January 2011.

In my case, the biggest risk factor for recurrence is my age. I have 40-50 years on average to live, and the longer you live, the more chances for cancer coming as genes divide and mutate.

He spent a long time talking about short term and long term risks of radiation treatment. I should expect my skin to get red and burned. In fact, he wants it to happen so we know we are frying any cancer cells. ("Frying" was not his word, but that was what he meant). He suggested a calendula cream to treat that. Radiation treatment also has a tendency to make people tired. Because of the beams that will be coming at me from two different directions, a portion of my left lung is going to get zapped as well. This could cause some permanent scarring. That could impact my working out a little bit. He has had patients who were athletes and cannot run the times they used to. I'm not an athlete, but I do like to run. "Jog" may be a better word for what I do. They will be able to shield my heart and prevent it from damage from the beams. It also could weaken the ribs on my left side. If I were ever in an accident, those ribs would be more likely to break than those on the right side.

As I knew, my risk for lymphedema will increase. He said before radiation, I had about a 20-25% chance of it. Radiation will increase those risks by 10%. Both he and the nurse saw I was wearing my compression sleeve and were glad I was already being proactive about it. Hopefully wearing the sleeve constantly during the course of radiation will keep the lymphedma from happening. I'm also going to visit my physical therapist a couple weeks into it.

Overall, he was very confident that radiation would benefit me and it made me feel good about the treatment as well.

He did a brief physical exam and asked me if I was going to have reconstructive surgery. I did consult with a plastic surgeon back in July before my mastectomy. He said that if I had to have radiation, expanders and implants wouldn't be an option. At this point, I'm not interested in it. (I've been mulling over a blog post on the subject). I may change my mind in the future once I've got treatment behind me. Dr. S said I didn't have enough body fat to do a TRAM or LAT flap procedure. That is where they "borrow" tissue from your belly or back to re-form a breast. I was happy to hear that I didn't have enough fat to do that. It has nothing to do with reconstruction, but having lived overweight all of my adult life until about a year ago. I couldn't help but smile to hear that my plastic surgery options were limited because I was too skinny! He mentioned a procedure called a "DIEP flap" that they do at Kaiser up in Los Angeles. I may look into that later to see what that is all about. But for now, I'm focused on having that small little light at the end of the tunnel grow brighter.

The next step is a "mapping" appointment that will take about an hour. Its a lot like having an MRI in that you lay down in a tube in the "treatment position." For me, that is with my arms above my head. I'll be doing that 2 weeks after my LAST chemo on December 3rd. Daily radiation will start at the beginning of January.

Prayer requests:

  • That the timing for my radiation appointments works out. I need to go every day, Monday through Friday. I'm not sure what time of day will be best for me considering my other obligations to shuttle kids around and take care of Jean-Marc. Luckily, the radiation office is near my mom's house. I have a feeling that I will be needing her to hang out with my little sidekick for a few minutes each day. 
  • Healing.  That these last days of chemo be effective. I got a little freaked out today to hear about how the cancer was in my lymph nodes.  Not that it was just there, but the way it was there and in at least one node had kind of broken out of the node itself. I tried to read my pathology report when I got home, but it took me back to June when I was freaked out about the cancer moving to other parts of my body. I just pray that this chemo disrupt any cancer that snuck out of the area.


The cleaning ladies were here today and I am SO happy! Three women spent 5 hours here and it looks amazing. I spent yesterday afternoon cleaning out the pantry. We have had these moths for months and just lived with it. But the problem got progressively worse to the point where it was getting out of hand. Almost like a Hitchcock movie. I pulled everything out, threw out a lot of infested stuff, vacuumed it out and washed every square inch with hot and soapy water. Between that and the cleaning ladies, my house sparkles!!

I finished up my Cipro regimen for this round today. I'm so glad to be done with that. Only one more time. I'm relatively drug free for a week. Just the chemo drugs working their way through my system.

I noticed another side effect this round that I forgot to mention as well. Watery eyes. My eyes are constantly watering. It was especially bad in the day or two right after chemo. It almost looks like I'm crying. Between that and the constant nose drip (no hair in the nose to catch it), I need to have a kleenex handy at all times!

The kids and I joined my mom this morning to pick my brother Jared up from the airport. My other brother and his family to greet him as well. Afterwards we all went to In and Out Burger-Jared's favorite place. Its nice to have Jared home. I was waiting the results of my biopsy when he left for Iraq. Funny how I measure or remember everything in regards to how it relates to my cancer.

I wonder if and when that will ever change.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Nails and foobs

I think I am experiencing a new side effect from the chemotherapy this week.

A couple days ago as I was working in the kitchen, my fingertips kind of hurt.  Almost like I had been using my fingernails as tools to pry something open.  Tender to the touch, and a little sore.  As I look at my fingernails, I see some horizontal stripes on them.  For those who have been following my blog for awhile, you may remember that I was concerned about one of my toenails.  It still is black and blue and starting to lift.  

I did a quick google search and found this out about one of my chemo drugs, taxotere/docetaxel:

"Nail changes (Color changes to your fingernails or toenails may occur while taking docetaxel. In extreme, but rare, cases nails may fall off. After you have finished docetaxel treatments, your nails will generally grow back) (see skin problems)."

Nice, huh?  I covered up my toenails with some bright red polish today.  It's not worth it to do my fingernails.  I have them in and out of water so much that I can't keep polish on for more than a day or two.

Hopefully all 20 will hang on (literally) for a little bit longer!

On another note, there has been a lot of publicity this week about the new airport screening measures adopted by the TSA.  I wondered about what could happen if I went through these new measures wearing my prosthetic breasts.  Would it look weird on the full body scan and trigger a more invasive inspection?  I then heard this story today:

(CBS)  A flight attendant and cancer survivor said she was forced to remove and show her prosthetic breast to a TSA agent during a security pat-down.

Cathy Bossi of Charlotte, who has been a flight attendant for the past 32 years, told CBS Affiliate WBTV that in August she was asked to go through the new full-body scanners at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

As a 3-year breast cancer survivor Bossi said she didn't want the added radiation through her body, but reluctantly agreed.

"The TSA agent told me to put my ID on my back," Boss told WBTV correspondent Molly Grantham. "When I got out of there, she said because my ID was on my back, I had to go to a personal screening area."

Bossi was taken to a private room where two female Charlotte TSA agents began what she calls an "aggressive" pat-down.

Bossi said the exam halted when they got around to feeling her right breast - the one where she'd had surgery.

"She put her full hand on my breast and said, 'What is this?' Bossi recalled. "And I said, 'It's my prosthesis because I've had breast cancer.' And she said, 'Well, you'll need to show me that.'"

Bossi was asked to remove her prosthetic breast from her bra and show it to the agent.

She said she did not take down the name of the agent because of the "horrific" nature of the experience.

"It just blew my mind. I couldn't believe that somebody had done that to me,'" she told WBTV.

Bossi has since contacted the flight attendants union's Legislative Affairs Team.

She says there are better alternatives to such intrusive examinations.

"There are blowers and there are dogs that could sniff out bombs," she said. "There's no reason to have somebody's hands touching your body parts."

A TSA representative told WBTV that agents are allowed to ask to see and touch any passenger's prosthetic, but aren’t supposed to remove them. Later, the TSA contacted the station and said they would review the Bossi matter. 

Like I've said before, breast cancer is the gift that keeps on giving.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Almost vacation

"Vacation" may not be the right word.  But the kids have next week off from school, and I am looking forward to it.  I spend a lot of my day on the road, shuttling from the middle school, elementary school, home, karate classes, and so on. It will be nice not to have to get kids out the door by 7:30 a.m., make lunches the night before, etc.

Not a lot is going on this week.  I'm just doing the mom-thing.  I've been getting a workout in each day.  Tomorrow morning Isabelle is going to get honored at the school flag assembly for her all 4 report card.  I haven't been able to make it to all the assemblies this year...they are on Fridays and I've had chemo on a few of them.

I am excited that we seem to have found someone to help us with the housework.  We did try a cleaning lady over the summer as I was recuperating from surgery, but she apparently didn't want to work for us.  She was supposed to come on Mondays, but didn't show up the second day she was scheduled.  I called her and she came a few days later.  As she was leaving, I asked if that was going to be her new day and she said she would call.  She never did.  I left a couple messages, but she never got back to me.  She does our neighbor's house, and when Eric saw her in the neighborhood a couple weeks ago, he asked her if she was coming back.  Guess what she told him?  Yep, that's right.  She'd call.  Needless to say, that never happened.  It was really strange to be kind of "fired" by your cleaning lady.  Not that I have a lot of experience with cleaning ladies.  I usually can keep up with it on my own.  But this is a perk of my cancer, I guess.  Eric and I just feel a bit overwhelmed trying to keep it up, and he's willing to get the help.  I'm not going to let that opportunity (spousal consent) pass me up!  Anyway, a friend referred me to her cleaning lady and she came over today and we really like her.  She starts next week!  There's nothing like a clean house to lift the spirits even higher.

There is not much more to report today.  But I didn't want people to get worried with me not posting 2 days in a row and thing something was wrong.  I'm feeling okay, just busy being a mom.

My prayer requests:

  • Against illness.  I'm immune suppressed right now, and Jean-Marc has a cold.  He isn't suffering too bad, but his nose started running today after a couple days of being a little hoarse. Pray he gets well ad that no one else gets it.
  • I feel like a broken record, but do pray that the chemo be effective against this disease.  I get paranoid that maybe its not working because I'm not wiped out by the chemo.  Did I get enough of the poison/medicine?  

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Thank the Lord that this round of chemo seems to be going like the last four.  That is, after a yucky Monday (day 4), today is better. I got a good night of sleep last night and woke to a crisp and bright fall day.  I decided to be joyful in the day and remembered the Psalm that declares "This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it."  (Psalm 118:24)

I think it helps to set your mind on something sometimes.  I may not immediately feel a particular way, but if I set my mind on something, like being joyful in the day, my body and spirit will follow.

It truly has been a godsend to have Jean-Marc with my mom for the past two days.  I am looking forward to having him come back now, and can be "present" with him and not irritated.  Thank you, Mom! It has made a world of difference.

I enjoyed a power walk with some friends this morning.  What a difference to not have to push a stroller!  Not that I mind doing that, it actually helps the workout.  It was nice to walk and chat, and enjoy the beautiful morning and sunshine.

Another praise report is that my forearm didn't bruise from the IV last week.  That also has helped me feel better.  I hated to look down and see a battered and bruised up arm for a week and a half.  It made me feel like a victim, a sick person.

I realized that it has only been a little over 5 months since I was diagnosed.  Doesn't it seem like so much longer??  I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving next week.  I have so much to be thankful for.  This year has not been easy, but still.  It could be so much worse. I thank God for all of the blessings in my life.  Off the top of my head, they include the following:

  • I'm thankful that I found the lump in my left armpit when I did back in May. I was given a "clean" mammogram in April. Clearly, it wasn't.  It was providential that I found the lump myself, and I wasn't even doing a self-exam at the time. If I hadn't, I would have gone at least another year (or more) without a mammogram.  The stage 3 could have easily been stage 4 by then.
  • I'm thankful for my family. Not just my husband, kids and parents.  Of course, they have been amazing during this time.  I could not have made it this far as well without them.  I'm also thankful that my brother made it home safely from his third tour of duty in Iraq.  He will be flying into San Diego on Monday. It will be nice to have him home for the holiday.  My other brother will have custody of his kids and they will all be up for Thanksgiving.  I've been blessed with a new niece and nephew this year too.  We will miss my sister and her family, but are definitely looking forward to her visit in February.  And just think, Tara...I should be DONE with cancer treatment by then. (Other than the years of hormonal treatment, that is.) I may even have a little bit of hair!
  • I'm thankful for my family in Christ. I was just telling a friend at school today how wonderful the fellowship at Calvary Chapel Escondido is.  I didn't even really understand the depths until 5 months ago. Not just those at CC Escondido, but overall.  I've run into brothers and sisters in the hospital, at school, in the chemo ward, and elsewhere.  I'm being prayed for by folks I've never met and I'm so thankful for that fellowship that we share. 
  • I'm thankful for all of my friends, wherever they are. I've had so much support from everyone both "in real life" and online. I know I haven't always responded to the wonderful messages that people have sent me, or the cards I have received.  But I cherish them all and am thankful to have these people in my life. 
  • This may be selfish, but I'm thankful that the holiday is timed right for my treatment.  I'll be off the Cipro, my taste buds should be coming back and I should be feeling pretty well by Thanksgiving.  Christmas is also timed well...I'll be 3 weeks out of chemo altogether!  I feel like totally decking our house out for Christmas this year.  We haven't put outside lights up for several years, but I feel like changing that.  Celebrate!
  • I'm thankful for the advances that have been made in breast cancer treatment over the past decades. I'm thankful that I have access to these treatments. 
  • I'm thankful that it is me who has cancer and not one of my kids. I can deal with it, but the thought of having to watch one of my babies go through it is unimaginable. 
  • I'm thankful for the strength that God continues to give me.  People tell me how well I am doing with the chemo, being able to exercise and all. I am not coping with this on my own, far from it.  I pray all the time that God would renew my strength, that He would lift me up on wings like eagles, that He would help me run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.  He answers that prayer daily.  (By the way, I love praying the Word of God. You know you are definitely praying His will and His promises and it will not return void!) 
There are many more things that I am thankful for.  This is just a list to open the season with.  It helps me cope to meditate on the blessings rather than the hardships in my present situation.  I need to remind myself: its only temporary; its only temporary; its only temporary.  On the other hand, the blessings of God are eternal!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Chemo swamp


Today is my "down" day from my last round of chemo.  At least, that is what this Monday has been for the last rounds. I sure hope it ends tomorrow as it did for the first four rounds.

Circumstances are easier this time around, though.  I'm exceedingly blessed to have my mom and dad nearby.  Mom came by this morning and took Jean-Marc and Isabelle.  Isabelle has a day off of school today for parent-teacher conferences.  Dad will bring Isabelle home tonight after dinner, and mom will keep Jean-Marc for another day.

It has made a huge difference to me today not to have to take care of a toddler. Of course, that is going along with a heaping dose of "mommy guilt."  What kind of person doesn't want to be around her own kid?  Especially such a cute and special one as Jean-Marc?  It's not that I don't want to be around him.  It's just that when I'm around, he is not satisfied with anyone else helping him.  It has to be me. And I just don't have it in me today.  It has been so helpful to not have to give him all of my attention.

Another blessing was the weather today.  On this day for the past two rounds it was cloudy and drizzly.  Today had clear skies and was even warm if you stood out in the sun.  I started the day with a 30 minute cardio session, just to get the blood and endorphins flowing.  After mom picked up the kids, I spent the morning reading, playing my silly "Angry Birds" game on the iPhone, and snoozing upstairs.

Eric and I did have to go out around 1 p.m. for Isabelle's conference. It was a good outing--she had a perfect report card! That is a pretty good achievement considering the drama that my illness has been for everyone.  She doesn't show it to me usually.  But others have told me things she has said to them. (At girl scout campouts, for example, she was upset about my medical situation).  The fact that she has been able to focus on her school work while all of this is going on in her life shows me that she is a warrior herself.  Olivier is doing well academically too-he's another tough cookie.

When we got home, I spent the afternoon on the couch watching movies on Netflix. It is so strange to think the next thing that I "have" to do is fix dinner, and that'll be easy without having to balance dinner preparation with toddler care.  Even at that, dinner tonight is a defrosted Dream Dinner!

Even with the leisurely "vacation" day, I will be glad when it is over. I have a touch of heartburn, my taste buds are off, and I'm a bit of an emotional wreck.  One of the shows I watched on Netflix was about Americans going over to China to adopt little baby girls who had been abandoned because of China's "One Child" policy.  I was weeping when the babies were handed over.  I'm tired too, even with all the rest.  If this round is like the others, each day after today will get better and better.

I'm also starting to think about radiation.  I made an appointment with the radiation oncologist for next week.  Dr. P said I could probably start radiation the last week of December, and I'm ready to get that ball rolling.  Bring in on, and get it over with.  But then, a little part of me is a bit scared at the prospect of being done with all my treatment.  How do you go on with life after all of this?  How do you go on without always looking over your shoulder wondering if the cancer is going to come back?

I need to keep in mind God's word that I am not to be anxious for anything. (Phillipians 4:6).  Everything is in God's hands.  I just need to live each day to glorify Him and I should be able to live "after treatment."

My prayer requests:

  • That I do in fact feel better tomorrow. That my energy comes back and I am able to cope and function with the world. 
  • That the chemo drugs do their job and kill cancer cells.
  • That I not be afraid of recurrence. I'm not even through treatment and I'm stressing over recurrence. Its ridiculous.
  • That Jean-Marc enjoy his qualify time with grandma and grandmpa and not feel like I abandoned him. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I'm letting myself crash today, and am going to do the same tomorrow.

I did manage to make it to church, which I'm really thankful for.  The worship was amazing, and I stood there with tears running down my face most of the time.  I couldn't sing without them flowing. When my lips weren't moving, my heart was singing, though. I am confident that regardless of the hardships of this life, there is such greater glory to come that we cannot even imagine.  I just basked in the thought of it all for several minutes, thankful for Jesus.  I was also thankful that Eric came and was standing there beside me.

But in this life, today, I am in a chemo crash. I'm not puking or anything. I'm tired, edgy, and not in the mood to communicate. I don't feel like taking care of other people right now.

Here are some guidelines on how to handle me during these few days. I reserve the right to add to this list in the future:

  1. Silence is okay.  I'm not mad.  I'm not trying to send some secret message between the lines.  I just don't feel like talking.  It's hard for me to put thoughts and words together for these few days.  So just let me sit here like a silent lump, okay?
  2. Don't engage me in debate. True, I usually am up to a good back and forth. Especially when it comes to topics I'm interested in.  But go back to rule #1.  Silence is golden right now.  Besides, I don't have the patience at the moment.  Even if the topic is "what is for dinner?" 
  3. Don't contradict me, even if I don't make sense.  Just let it be.  Cut me some slack, knowing that I'll come back to my senses in a few days.  
  4. Don't expect me to make sense.  
  5. Understand this--I love my husband and my kids a lot.  So if I seem like a bitchy, crabby beast around them, its not me, its the chemo.  I'm doing my best not to be that way. I don't want to use chemo as an excuse. But my patience is nil, and it is hard for me to follow even happy chirpy conversation.  Much less when I'm supposed to be participating.  I love them to death, I just can't deal with them very well at the moment.  Especially the whims of a 2 year old, God bless him. 
  6. Don't expect me to keep up around the house.  If I do manage to get a load of laundry done, or keep the kitchen clean, its a bonus. 
  7. Let me disappear into my room and hibernate for several hours if I choose to. 
  8. Don't get cranky at me if you can't sleep while I can.  Even if I am snoring.  I'm on chemo, for goodness sakes!  Go sleep on the couch if you must.  There have been plenty of situations when the roles have been reversed, and you didn't have chemo in the picture. 
  9. Remember that I love you, even if I'm crabby.
  10. This too, shall pass.

Friday, November 12, 2010

One more to go...

I'm back from my 5th round of chemotherapy.  It went well, no surprises.

I slept really well last night.  My 90+ minute heart pumping cardio workout yesterday may have had something to do with that.  Well, that an the Ativan I popped before going to bed.  On the 3 days I'm on the steriod, I take th Ativan to help me sleep.  It's not that I can't get to sleep, but when I wake up at night, I can't get back to sleep. The Ativan takes care of that.

The kids were off of school today and I didn't need to be at Kaiser until 9 a.m.  I had time to do a load of laundry and a 30 minute yoga practice.  It felt good to really stretch and relax before going in.

The chemotherapy nurses at Kaiser in San Marcos are the best.  They all greet you, know you, talk to you and are generally amazing.  I passed along a greeting from my former pastor to one of them that was his wife's nurse when she was battling breast cancer. She, in turn told me how Pat and Joyce had taken the time out of their lives (during their battle) to call her while she was touring Israel. Sweet!

My blood counts were perfect!  I realized later that was an answer to prayer from earlier in the week.  Thank you Lord!  (And all my prayer warriors out there). I went ahead and had the IV put in my forearm. I told her about the brusing, so I kept my arm wrapped in a heating pad while I was there.  I also drank 40 ounces of water while at Kaiser.  I had about 30 ounces at home before going in.  These first few days of chemo rounds make me really thirsty.  I drink and drink and feel dry still.  In a few days, water will taste bad--like metal.  So I drink it while I can without the aftertaste.

There was a lady next to me who was really scared.  It was her first time, and she was getting the same drugs as me.  She only spoke a little English.   Her nurse introduced me to her and told her that I was on my 5th time.  I smiled and told her it would be okay.  When I left, she seemed to be doing fine.  You can't let you mind go off in scary places.  The fear of the unknown can be debilitating.

As I was finishing up at Kaiser, I got a call from Eric.  He had taken the kids to the San Diego Wild Animal Park and they were pulling into Sammy's for lunch.  What timing!  I told him what to order for me and made my way over.  It was a nice lunch.  Jean-Marc was sitting at the other end of the table next to Eric, so daddy got to take care of him in the restaurant.  He's high maintenance, always moving, and wanting whatever it is NOW.  He'll drop a crayon, want a drink, etc. It was nice to be able to go and just talk and eat!  After lunch, the kids and I went to a new frozen yogurt place nearby called Menchie's.  It was great, and I daresay the original tart yogurt was better than Froyos.  Creamier.  It's a new place, the employees were friendly, giving the kids stickers, balloons, and temporary tattoos.  It was a great way to celebrate the ending of my morning.

My plan for the weekend is to relax as much as possible.  I'm dropping Olivier off for a boy scout backpack campout in about 30 minutes.  He'll be gone until Sunday.  It's his first backpacking trip, so he's really excited to break in his new backpack.  I hope he won't get too cold!  They are going to camp tonight at some place called Fish creek, and then hike up to some caves in the Anza Borrego desert tomorrow and sleep there tomorrow night.  Eric is going to build shelves in our new garden shed.  Isabelle is going to ride her horses tomorrow.  Jean-Marc will be in the mix throughout.  He has been invited to a birthday party tomorrow morning, we'll go if I'm up to it.  My idea of perfect days are to just go up in my room and watch the 6-8 hours of Jane Eyre on DVD that I got from Netflix!  We'll see how much of it I'll get through.

My prayer requests:

  • That Olivier have a fun, warm and safe experience this weekend.  He's the only new scout going on this trip, so he won't be with the patrol leaders he's used to.  He'll be getting to know other boys better and learning a lot!
  • That I deal with this round of chemo well.  That I don't turn into a chemo-mush brain, with little to no patience.  That my family have the grace to cope with my mood swings and fuzzy head if the need arises. 
  • That my arm doesn't bruise like it did last time.  That made me feel "sick" to see a banged up arm. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Taking what is helpful and leaving worry behind

You would think after 4 rounds of chemo, everything would go smoothly as the medical establishment and I get ready for round 5.  Yet again today, there was a slight mixup at the lab.  Or with Dr. P.  Or maybe it was somewhere in between.  I showed up at my appointed time at the lab to have the lady checking me in say that there were no orders in the system.  I asked her to call Dr. P's office and they told her that I had to see Dr. P first.  I explained that I saw him 3 weeks ago, and the point of my appointment with him later that morning was to go over the lab results that needed to be done NOW.  Without the order, she couldn't do anything.  So I told her that I would be back, and went over to Dr. P's office.  I waited until Dr. P's nurse came out, looking for me.  She had called the order over and the lab was ready for me. Great!  I went over and found a huge line had formed at the lab. Oh man! Luckily, the original lady saw me and motioned me to come up so she could process me.  No one in the lined dared to complain....I was in a turban.  Are you really going to give the cancer patient grief in this instance?   The phlebotomist who drew my blood was really nice.  When she poked me, I flinched a little bit and she apologized.  I told her it was okay, it is what it is.  She gently said, "Yes, but it still sucks."  I appreciated her tone. She was right.  It does still suck.

I had about 45 minutes to kill before my appointment with Dr. P while they tested my blood.  I went over to the pharmacy and got my Cipro, got a 20 ounce bottle of Dasani water and guzzled it.  (The vending machine took a credit card-how cool is that?)  Then I found a corner with a big chair and dug into my latest Vince Flynn novel, "The Third Option."  It was so good that I almost missed my appointment time!

My appointment with Dr. P was uneventful.  My counts were good, so chemo is on for tomorrow.  He sent a referral over to the Radiation Medial Group in Escondido. Kaiser doesn't do the radiation (rads) themselves, they contract with this other group.  My last chemo is December 3rd, Dr. P said I could probably start rads the week after Christmas. Nice! I'd like to get in as much in this calendar year as possible so I don't have to pay out of pocket.  Our family deductible of $3,000 will be at zero on January 1st.

I did my pre-chemo workout today at the gym, and made it a good one.  I did 60 minutes on the treadmill running intervals.  Then I did 30 minutes on the bike.  I didn't push it much on the bike, I just wanted to burn some extra calories to make up for a few pieces of dreaded Halloween candy I had after lunch.  My legs feel tired and it felt good.

I watched a very interesting documentary today called "Foodmatters." In a nutshell, it's about how nutrition can help people avoid illness and chronic disease, and even treat ailments.  They also talk about how the medical establishment ignores evidence of nutrition to the detriment of the population.  I guess some would call it an alternative approach, and I suppose it is. They take aim at traditional cancer treatments and claim that chemo and radiation actually do more harm than good.  Their point is that these treatments don't address the root cause of the cancer, but rather treats the symptoms. It's definitely worth checking out, and I plan on watching it again, hopefully with Eric.  It may ruffle his feathers a bit, because they do take aim at pharmaceutical companies and drug discovery.  Eric's company depends on companies and institutions doing research.  But maybe some of the information about nutrition will help him accept any further changes I make in our kitchen.

It is a little unsettling to watch something that basically says the treatment I'm getting is making me sicker and not doing any good.  I'm not going to second guess the treatment course that I am on at this point.  But I do want to take the lessons about nutrition as I go forward.  I want to learn more about juicing, superfoods, and vitamin/mineral supplements and use it in a complimentary way.  I do believe that food is medicine, and can help me avoid a recurrence of cancer. If I can get my family to go with it, it can help them avoid cancer and other diseases as well.  If the folks in this documentary are to be believed,  they can cure cancer through these approaches.  You've got to eat, so you might as well eat food that will make you as healthy as possible.

So tomorrow is round 5 of chemo. I'll be glad when its over, so I can look forward to only having one round left.  Pray for me that my body take it well, that the chemo proves to be an effective treatment for me. I also would like peace of mind that the course I'm on is a good one. I don't want to be freaked out thinking that its doing no good.  I'd like to take the information from that documentary that is helpful, and not dwell on their claims that are negative.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Preparing to slay the enemy

2 days before my 5th round of chemo.

I started the week out with a new mix of anticipation and anxiety.  It is getting old, but its what I have to do.  I was kind of looking forward to other rounds in a bizarre kind of way.  With the bruising on my arm last time, it kind of made me feel like my veins were starting to protest the repeated incursions and I was not looking forward to having them punctured yet again.

With two days to go, I'm anxious to just get it over with.  At least then, I can look forward to my LAST round of chemo.  Maybe its time to start reading up on radiation therapy...

And what about the vein issue? We'll see what the nurse things about using the forearm.  It is more comfortable while I'm in the chemo suite to have the IV placed there.  I had it in the back of my hand on my second round and every time I flexed my wrist, it kind of hurt. But maybe I need to have it there to give the vein in my forearm a break.  Either way, I plan on drinking water like a camel tomorrow so my veins pop, regardless of where they are.

The kids are going to be home for the next several days. Tomorrow is Veteran's Day and Friday the schools aren't in session...a "furlough" day because the state of California is broke and is going to save money by not providing school for kids.  Eric is going to take the next couple of days off so between him and the older two kids, we should be able to get through my medical stuff that is coming up.  Olivier has his first boy scout backpacking trip this weekend, and I've been spending the past week getting him outfitted for that. We bought a backpack for him and today I got him a mummy bag that is smaller so it can fit inside his new pack. Thank God for boy scouts!  It has been so good for him, and provided him with a set of slightly older boys that he can learn from and look up to.  It's been one of those constants for him during this cancer thing and I'm glad that he has it.

I've been reading like a maniac on my new Amazon Kindle.  I'm on my third Vince Flynn novel and also read Joel Rosenberg's latest on it.  It's a great little device.  I'm looking forward to bringing it to chemo on Friday and spending the time reading.

As you would expect, I've been working out a lot this week, "training" for combat on Friday.  I'll go to the gym tomorrow for my last workout before Round 5 and run.  It occurred to me after last round, the reason that my heart rate is slightly elevated the day before chemo may not be anxiety after all.  I do start taking the steroid the day before chemo, and that may explain it.  (Duh!) It may sound a little twisted, but I kind of like what it did to me last time.  I was able to run and run and run like there was no stopping me.  It made me think of the verses that describe God making one's feet swift like the deer.  I'm looking forward to testing the theory out tomorrow.

I also go into see Dr. P tomorrow and see where my blood counts are.  I'm sure they are okay, at least good enough for chemo.  Even though I got the flu last week, I feel fully recovered from it.  My nose has been a little drippy, but I think that isn't a virus or illness, but just a byproduct of not having the little cilia hairs in my nose.  It's kind of a pain.  But the upside is, I don't have hair on my legs anymore, either.  They are silky smooth!  Hey--you've got to look on the bright side of things and look for those silver linings.

My prayer requests:

  • That my blood counts be in a place that allows chemo to go forward on Friday.  
  • That Round 5 go smoothly and that the side effects are minimal.  That the cytoxan and taxotere do their work and SLAY CANCER CELLS!!
  • That with the kids off of school for so many days that we have harmony in the house.  One thing that this treatment has done to me is make me kind of irritated.  I think its a hormonal thing. I just would like peace in the house and not bickering kids. Love, love, love!! May we all have the patience of our Lord and His holy spirit flowing in and through us toward each other. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Another way to put it

When I was a kid, I remember the story of Joni  Earekson.  She was paralyzed after a diving accident and ended up learning to paint by holding a brush in her mouth.  Since then, she has started an organization called "Joni and Friends" and ministers to people struggling with disabilities.

Shortly after I was diagnosed last June, a friend mentioned to me that Joni had also been recently diagnosed with breast cancer.  She had just had her surgery when I was diagnosed last summer.  After my musings about suffering, I went to her blog for the first time and found this post from October 26th.  It puts it in a way I really like:

"In a way, all the struggles, pain and discomfort connected with this battle against cancer has opened my eyes to a tiny glimpse of what my Savior endured to purchase my redemption. When I see Him in heaven, I’ll be able to appreciate so much more the scars in His hands – and He will know that my gratitude is sincere and from the heart, for He will recognize me from the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings. What an honor! And what about those who say that redemption also purchased divine healing? Well, Jesus hung on the cross so that we wouldn't have to suffer hell, but not so that we wouldn't have to suffer here on earth – and those sufferings mean something. So hang in there, friend. If you're feeling the weight of affliction, your suffering is giving you something eternally precious in common with Christ!"

Amen, Joni!

Monday, November 8, 2010

The good and the bad?

I watched a really good documentary last week, "The Case for Faith" by Lee Strobel. In it, he explored two questions that people commonly stumble on when accepting Christianity.  The first was "Why must Jesus be the only way to God?"  The second one, and the one that I have been thinking about was "Why does a loving God allow suffering in the world?" 

Considering what I am going through right now, it was pretty interesting to watch.  I don't question "why me?" as some others in my situation may.  It is what it is.  I believe that trials are things that God allows into your life to make you stronger and to purify you and make you more like Jesus.  For some, it may be a test of faith that causes them to abandon the Lord.  For me, it is more of a strengthener of my faith. 

Why would God allow pain into my life if He loves me? The documentary pointed out that as a parent, you don't rescue your kids from every pain and trauma in life.  Nothing teaches more than a little bit of pain.  Of course, it is painful as a parent to see your child suffer. But it is worth it in the end if it teaches them something and/or makes them stronger for the rest of their lives. It is the same with God.  I believe He has allowed this into my life for His reasons. I don't claim to know what they are, and I don't claim to know how He is going to work the situation out for the good.  But the Bible says that He does (Romans 8:28), and I take God at His Word. 

It is so easy to call yourself a Christian and praise God when life is going well.  But what about when its not going so well?  That is when the rubber of your faith meets the road.  What is it going to be?  Do I give up on God? Or press in closer?

Since it was the first Sunday of the month yesterday, we celebrated communion at church.  While the pastors and elders passed out the elements, we sang a song with the following lyrics, "...I want all that you have for me, Jesus."  In my mind, I couldn't help but question.  Do I really want all that He has for me?  The "good" and the "bad?"  He allows both into my life. Do I want both? 

Breast cancer is something that the Lord allowed into my life. I'm sure it is hard for Him to watch me go through.  It is scary.  In the early days, not knowing how extensive it was probably was the worst mentally. Surgery hurt. Chemo is nasty, and it has sterilized me.  I'm at a lifelong risk of having my left arm swell up like a balloon.  Right now, I feel like I will always be looking over my shoulder wondering if the cancer has come back.  Every ache and pain makes me wonder in the back of my mind....oh no....has "it" spread? 

Can I thank the Lord for that?  Can I really with all honesty sing to the Lord that I want ALL that He has for me?  That's a pretty bold thing to say to God, and you'd better be sure you mean it before you say it.  Because it could mean a lot more than you think.  

I trust God with my life.  He died for me so I would not be eternally separated from Him, tormented and in anguish. He's all powerful and mighty.  I was telling someone close to me recently that we tend to put God in a box.  A human box.  We can't begin to wrap our minds around what He is capable of doing (like creating the world in 6 days) because we put him in a box. If we can't do something, or the smartest / strongest / fastest / bravest human that we can think of can't do something, then we don't really trust God to do what the Bible says that He can do.  

Even though I don't understand why the circumstances as they are, I know a few things for sure:
  • God is good. (Psalm 119:68)  
  • God loves me (John 3:16)
  • God works all things out for the good for those who love him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28)
Knowing this, I can say I sing with honesty when I life up my voice to say, "I want all that you have for me, Jesus."  

Prayer requests:

  • That my body be strong and ready for the next round of chemo on Friday.  That my blood cell counts be good so there is no delay. 
  • That this chemotherapy be effective in killing any cancer cells in my body.
  • Complete healing.  God can do it!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Falling asleep...

First of all, thank you all for your prayers for my family's struggle with the flu bug.  They paid off.  Everyone had a solid night of sleep last night.  No one has vomited since yesterday morning (when Jean-Marc did on our walk). The older kids are both back to school today and everything looks good.  I was able to go to the gym today and do a pretty good cardio workout as well.   We are glad to have Eric back home too, and we are praying that he does not fall prey to the nasty bug like we did.

I've noticed something really strange over the past 24 hours when I sleep.  I've been paranoid about sleeping on my left side since my surgery.  At first, it was because I was just too sore to sleep on that side.  When I did sleep on my left side in the past, I would sleep on my left arm, which would be under my pillow. Now I am paranoid about lymph fluid getting trapped and not being able to drain.  Whether or not that is a valid concern, I don't know. But this strange phenomenon has nothing to do with me sleeping on the left side, because I just don't do it anymore.

Instead, I sleep a lot on my back now.  (Pregnancy got me out of the habit of stomach sleeping.) Yesterday during a nap and again last night, my left arm fell asleep while I was sleeping on my back. What is going on with that?  I'm not cutting of the circulation in any way, yet it feels like that.  I'm going to e-mail my physical therapist to see if that is normal or not.  It goes away when I turn to my right side for awhile.   Has anyone else out there had that happen to them?

I've been working a lot on avoiding lymphedema in my left arm.  I've been wearing my compression sleeve during the days, especially when I'm working out.  I've also been doing the manual drainage technique after each shower.  At the therapists office this week, she had me put my arms up to compare them in the mirror.  Think of a "muscleman" pose. Sure enough, my left upper arm had some extra "sag" to it.  I've been doing that each day as well to see if there is any buildup.  I *think* I am keeping it at bay.  But the nighttime tingles are a little worrisome.  Maybe I'll try wearing the compression sleeve at night tonight and see if that makes a difference.

The compression sleeve, as I understand it, will help the area not swell.  It won't make swelling go down. There are exercises you can do for that, as well as the bandaging (which I would like to avoid), and the manual drainage that can help with that.  Vigilance is key.  I need to keep it from getting out of control in the first place.  This is going to have to become a part of my "new normal."

Other than that, life is going on as usual. I'll have my next round of chemo a week from today.  After that, it will be just one more round!  Between now and next Friday, I'm working on healthy eating (lots of greens, cabbage and beans) and exercising. It's my "in training" week.

Round 5, bring it on.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bug in the house

Well, we all have a stomach flu. The 3 kids and I have spent the last day in gross-ville while Eric has been out of town on business.

Isabelle was the only one who was able to eat dinner last night.  Just making dinner made me feel even worse. The smells while cleaning it up (broiled salmon) put me over the edge and I did vomit.  Olivier had done it just before me.  That was it--we were in bed by 8 p.m.  At about 9:30 p.m., Isabelle comes into my room crying saying that she had just thrown up in her bed-on the top bunk. Great.  It's bad enough to feel sick yourself.  But to clean up someone else's while you are feeling sick is beyond gross.  I managed to climb up on top of her bed, throw down dozens of stuffed animals and random pieces of clothing that she had crammed in little nooks and crannies, bundle up the sheets and take them off.  I just put them into the washing machine and shut the door on them. As Scarlett would say, "I'll think about that tomorrow."

Throughout the night, I heard the two older kids throwing up. Olivier came into my room several times saying he couldn't sleep.  Sorry buddy, I don't know what to tell you.  Wish I could help.  Not to sound selfish, but how does waking me up help you get to sleep?  (No, I didn't really say that.)

This morning, only Jean-Marc wanted breakfast. Olivier had spent several hours downstairs on the couch. It was cooler than his room.  Although he wanted breakfast, he still was funny about the food, not really showing much of an apetite, but insisting on "eat, eat, eat!"  It was probably more out of habit than anything. He did down 2 cups of milk and a cup of watered down apple juice.

After that, I put Jean-Marc in the stroller to take the dog for a quick walk. Things still need to be done, whether I'm sick or not.  We were halfway back up our street when he starts puking all over himself and the stroller.  Oh man.  Here I am, baby crying, dog on the leash, feeling yucky myself....can I just push a button and get home?  We got up the street, I took him out of the stroller, stripped him and left the stroller in the backyard.  I took a hose to it later.

None of us really have an appetite. We did have some "magic mineral broth" at noon along with some saltine crackers. Everyone kept that down. We're a little hungry, but nothing sounds good.

I checked my temperature, and at its highest it was 99.8 when I first woke up this morning.  I'm supposed to check in with the oncologist if its 100.5.  I haven't checked in, I don't know if it is something they would want to know.  I only threw up once, but I definitely feel tired.  I managed to nap this afternoon for about 90 minutes, which felt great.  We'll see how I feel tomorrow.  I still have to re-make Isabelle's bed and take the trash out.  I'll be glad when Eric gets home tonight so he can attend to some of these household tasks.

My prayer requests:

  • That we all get over this virus quickly.  It is very hard to be a nursemaid to 3 kids when you feel like you need one for yourself!  I'm not sure how my altered blood counts will play into this. I do know that at this point of the last round of chemo, my white count was pretty low. 
  • That this illness does not delay the next round of chemo, which is currently set for November 12th. 
  • That Eric does not catch this illness when he gets home tonight. 
  • That my mom stays healthy. She is flying out to see my sister and her family tomorrow morning. I pray that she was not around us too much this week that she would have caught this bug. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Feeling queasy

This won't be a very long post, but I wanted to get this out there so my prayer warriors can get to work.

For the past couple of days, Jean-Marc hasn't been eating well.  He usually wolfs down his food, but he's been acting strange at the table and playing with his food more than he's been eating.  Then today, he had some diarrhea.  At about 5 p.m., I started feeling a bit queasy myself.

Maybe its just the gross out factor at having to clean the little potty of a few runny poos.  But maybe I'm coming down with the bug that Jean-Marc seems to have had.  I have no appetite, and could easily see myself throwing up.  As I am cooking dinner for the kids, my stomach is starting to knot up at the smells.

I still have to be a mom, though.  Eric is out of town until tomorrow night.  Kids need fed, they need to get to school, and Jean-Marc needs to be taken care of.

My urgent prayer request is that I do not get sick.  I know my white counts are probably pretty low and that I'm susceptible to illness. Last round, at 2 weeks post chemo, they were low.  I'm nearly at that point.

Thank you for your prayers!

Monday, November 1, 2010


And not in the good way, either.

I saw my physical therapist again today.  There was some slight swelling on my upper arm - about .7 cm. bigger than last time.  Great.  It wasn't a huge amount, but it is more than we would like.  Basically, lymph fluid is getting trapped and not flowing out of my lower arm area.  Just what we gals need--more "flab" on the underam.

I need to make sure to really work the area when I'm doing my lymph massage.  I also need to start monitoring the circumference of my arm and hand as well.  I won't be going back to physical therapy until after radiation starts, unless I start swelling more.

If I do swell more (usually more than 2 cm), then we have to use a bandage to wrap around the upper arm multiple times.  The compression sleeve I have now will not make the area smaller, but will keep it from swelling.  A bandage will make the area smaller.  Hopefully I won't have to go there. But I do need to wear the sleeve, especially when I'm exercising and during radiation.

We talked a lot about exercise and upper body strength work.  She made some good points, and I'm going to follow her advice and back off of the upper body work on circuits.  The main point was that my focus needs to be on getting through chemo and radiation.  Both of those "treatments" are rough on the body, destroying healthy  cells and tissue as well as the cancer.  While exercise is good, too much upper body work when my body is still recovering from surgery and adjuvant therapy can actually make me weaker in some ways.  That isn't to say I never will be able to do upper body again.  Just not while I'm in treatment for cancer.  Duh.  Slap me upside the head, okay?  I can still do cardio and circuits on the lower body.  But not much upper body, and certainly not with weights.

Got it.

On another note, I was in the mall today and saw the stores all decked out in Christmas decorations.  Any other year, it would have bugged me to see it all out this early.  Not this year--I actually liked it.  I can't help but identify the Christmas season as being "done" with chemotherapy.  Bring on the holly and deck the halls!  Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!

Seriously, though.  Chemo is getting old.  I'm ready for it to be over.  I have 2 rounds left, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel. At first, I was excited to finally be doing it and getting on with treatment.  But I've done it. I've lost the hair, the whole nine yards. I'm ready for it to be over.  And Christmas for me, is a sign that it is getting close.