"It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn your statutes." Psalm 119:71

Monday, May 31, 2010

Men are Visual – posted by Terry

Disclaimer: I have not done any scientific research nor have sources to site for my statements!

For the most part, Men are visual and Women are emotional when it comes to defining the attractiveness of the opposite sex.

What if a woman and man were shown an “average” person of the opposite sex and their assessment was that they were average based solely on appearance. Now what if we told them that the “average” person had the qualities they wanted in a partner prior to seeing them.

I would think that most men would probably have the same assessment that they were an “average” person, while women would be more likely to assess their person as “above average”.

So if we assume that a man found his wife visually attractive when they dated and then married, is it na├»ve to say he thinks his wife is the most attractive person in the world? Why not? Maybe she doesn’t win the world vote, but that doesn’t matter, it’s what he thinks.

By our sinful nature, lust is a big problem, especially with a man. Since we are so visual and in today’s culture of Movies, Tv, Internet, and Magazines we are shown women wearing less and less and possibly nothing. Even in movies we weren’t expecting to see it like in “Up in the Air” that I saw last night. The actress was shown completely nude from behind and by profile. It wasn’t necessary for the plot of the movie.

So how does a sinful man see these images and 1. resist lust and 2. resist finding his wife less attractive as she ages and her body changes from when they first met.

Just like any sin, there is only one solution. Give it to God. 4 simple words. I only wish the action of those 4 words was as simple. This is not a 1 time action. If it was, giving up sin would be easy. But we usually have to struggle with our sins because it’s going against our desire. It’s easy to give up something you don’t care about. I can say that I will give up drinking coffee, because I hate coffee and never drink it anyway. Now ask me to give up Dr. Pepper. Now we have a fight on our hands. It’s the same for sin. If the sin isn’t a problem for you it’s easy to not give in to that sin. But take a sin that may be almost second nature or that you maybe even enjoy doing. Now just don’t do it. A little bit harder. Only God can help you through this process.

I recently read somewhere, right before Sarah's diagnosis, from a man who said he prayed daily that God would make his wife the most beautiful woman in his eyes. Such a simple prayer, but how life changing. From that day on, I began praying that prayer

It’s amazing how quickly I began to see the effects that this prayer had on my life. I began to feel convicted for seeing images of women I saw just like last night.

Sarah’s changed since we first met. She’s 10 years older and has had 2 children. Now her body is taking on even more changes due to this cancer (surgeries and chemotherapy). I am sure on a personal level for Sarah, that all of these changes make her feel less attractive, but I can say with 100% certainty that through everything, she IS the most beautiful women in the world to me.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Private Hospital Politics

(This is a lot of info that I'm about to spew. It won't be pretty or articulate. Or possible even interesting. Just another necessary entry in my cancer diary...)

I thought our time at North Cypress was going pretty well. Nice rooms. Mostly nice staff.

Any sign of fever was gone by Wednesday afternoon. So when a doctor saw us Thursday morning and said we could probably go home that day, we weren't surprised. The doc said we had to wait to hear from another doctor first, but he was almost 100% positive we'd be getting discharged soon.

Fast forward hours later...

It's been about 25 hours since I've slept (which is saying something since I've been lying in a bed for all of those hours) and Terry's just gone home to take the kids back after they visited. So I'm all alone for the first time in days. In comes the doctor we've been waiting for.

The first thing I remember thinking was, "This guy is very proud of himself." He sits. Half-way listens to me talk. I say, "When can I go?" He says, "It's possible that we'll release you...tomorrow." I was surprised right off the bat. He sounded like going home even tomorrow was questionable. I ask why we are staying and he tells me my white cell count has gone down (We knew that. We also knew that, to the best of our knowledge, that was expected after chemo.) and that tomorrow (day 7 of chemo) is "an important day" because it's when the numbers should go back up. He explains (and I believe what he says-- afterall, he's the doctor) that if the numbers go up in the morning, I'll get released right away. But if they go down then I'm in danger and being at the hospital would be necessary.

He leaves. I call my onco right away and leave a voicemail for the nurse: "My numbers went from 4.6 to 2.7 and they want to keep me another night. Just wanted to run that passed y'all. Please call me back and let me know what Dr. Heyne suggests."

I have just enough time to text and call everyone to let them know I'm staying another night when the nurse from my onco office calls. The first thing she says is, "Sarah, you're not still in the hospital are you?" And then I feel like she's chiding me. She seems to be patronizing me as she tells me that my numbers aren't that bad. That you don't worry till they get below 1. That the only reason I should have been at the hospital was my fever and now it's time to go home. At first I'm thinking, "Yeah, right. I'm not gonna argue with Dr. Rico Suave that he's wrong. I'll just tough it out and stay the night." I was exhausted and dealing with this all alone. At this point, I was only mildly frustrated by my doctors' disagreement...

Then she says, "Your numbers won't get better tomorrow. Statistically speaking, day 8 of chemo is when your numbers drop the most." Now, I was really annoyed. My drs weren't just disagreeing over a small thing- they'd flat out stated opposing opinions. And I believed my onco.

I hung up with the nurse and called Terry. While I was ranting (the first rant of my sleep-deprived night, but oh, sooo far from the last) my nurse (a very sweet lady) came in to change my saline bag. I hung up with Terry and she immediately told me that she was my advocate and here to do my dirty work. She said she'd talk with my doctor about the discrepancies. I begged her to ask the doctor at the hospital to call my onco (something she said she'd put in my file yesterday, but the hospital doc still hadn't done). Before she leaves the room she tells me I'm going to be given a medication to drink. "It's just a one-time thing," she says, "because your potassium levels are really low." (Or maybe she said high. I can't remember now.)

For some reason this sounded suspicious to me. I'd been put on several antibiotics since I'd been there and Dr. Rico Suave had moments earlier announced another antibiotic and a yeast pill. I couldn't keep up with all the meds, so I said to her, "But, now I'm questioning his judgment. Maybe my levels are low as a side effect of the chemo and they'll come back on their own like everything else will." She says that my numbers are at the top of the worst category so she suspects its pretty important for me to get the meds. But she offers to go ask Dr. Suave.

And my biggest flip out comes when she walks back in almost immediately and says, "Ok, he said to cancel the meds." AAAGGGHHH!!!! That was it for me! I thought, "This guys a quack! I've been trusting my health to these people and they don't seem to have a clue!"

If I'd had the energy I would have pulled my iv out right then, just like they do on tv. If I had any guts I would have checked out "AMA" and been sitting outside waiting for Terry when he got back. But I didn't have energy or guts. So I did the only thing I could think of- texted a dozen people for advice and then started to cry.

When Terry got back he decided that we would listen to my onco and check out. The rule-follower in me immediately got scared to argue with Dr. Suave. Luckily though, my nurse handled that for me (she said the doc was pretty mad). She also magically worked the discharge process and we were released in only about 15 minutes- by far the fastest that's ever happened! As we signed out, I got the good news (finally) that my genetic testing was back and that I don't have a gene mutation (meaning no mandatory ovary and right breast removal and no worries for my sisters). My nurse overheard and shared that she has a very strong line of bc in her family. She got a little teary when she said her mom had it, and I assumed this was why she'd been so helpful and proactive.

In the end it was such an awful day! I was so overwhelmed. I had been putting all of my energy into fighting cancer. I didn't know I was supposed to be playing doctor too. Or, playing doctor politics, I guess. So many people who've already heard this story have shrugged it off to "private hospitals" so I guess I was a little naive. But rightly so, I suppose. Maybe it's just me but I assume that hospitals and doctors know what they're doing and have my best interest at heart. More of "the perfect world" I lived in is just shattering at my feet!

The hospital doctor actually said to me that if I weren't being treated for bc he'd let me go. And my onco said that because I am being treated for bc is the exact reason I should go home. Except the earlier fever, everything else that had happened was to be expected. It seemed like my onco was concerned with my health while my hospital doc was only concerned with taking advantage of a young couple and keeping us around (and pumping me with pricey drugs). Like Mark Brewer says, 50% of all doctors graduated in the bottom half of their class!

So after over 30 hours of being awake, I finally slept. For twelve hours! And now that I can think straight I feel the need to apologize to anyone who was the victim of my crazy texts during that very stressful period yesterday! Sorry! :) And as always... thanks for listening!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Two Posts in One Very Long Day

2:49 a.m.
Still awake.
Really- who can sleep in a hospital?

So, I'm thinking...maybe I should make a new label for my posts. Classify them as "depressing" or "non-depressing!" I feel like most of them must come off like such a bummer. At least if I labeled them you all could be forewarned. Then again, I'm guessing most people don't come to read a blog about cancer expecting flowers and sunbeams. But you'd be surprised how much joy I've found though! Don't worry- I'll be sharing plenty about that in upcoming posts.

Last night in the ER I just kept thinking what a sad world we live in. But, tonight, 24 hours later, and feeling muuuch better, I'm lying in bed watching Comedy Central on my IPod and cracking up. I'm laughing outloud in the middle of the night over the silliest jokes. Terry is sound asleep on his couch/bed. I miss my boys like crazy. And I can't sleep. But, oh, this Brian Regan is funny! Nothing seems too serious tonight. Terry doesn't know it but I think I'm gonna ask him to go get the kids and bring them to the hospital first thing in the morning. I've been lying here daydreaming of their cute faces. I'm feeling so much stronger. Tomorrow I will play with my boys!

Doctor, doctor, can I go home??

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Quick Catch-Up

Just wanted to fill y'all in on where I'm at...

The short-and-sweet of it is that chemo treatment both was and was not what I expected. I didn't plan on feeling so weak, so fast. For days I had only three complaints- weakness, soreness, and mild nausea. By far, the worst of it was feeling weak.

I would be lying in bed thinking that my arm was hurting and just willing myself to gather the energy to move it. I'd lie there and think, "Move it. Do it quick. Just move it and then you can go back to sleep."
Then I'd realize how pathetic I was to be so tired! (I really was blessed to have none of the regular gastrointestinal difficulties that come with chemo. And I had no reason to whine about fatigue!) So I'd get mad at myself and think of all the people who had it worse and had handled it better. I'd have great moments where I'd feel like I could sit up and chat for hours, but just as quickly I'd get knocked back down.

I already knew this was going to be a physical battle, but I couldn't have imagined how mentally challenging/draining it would be. I've had one thought echo through my head so far. Over and over, I hear: Not self-reliance. Lean on God. Not self-reliance. Lean on God.

Cancer and the subsequent draining of the first chemo treatment has truly been the only issue I've ever faced where I haven't been able to plan and plot my way out of it. I've been trying to own that, trying to give this up to God. And I guess he's showing me that I'm still too egotistical-- he doesn't just want me to give my cancer struggles up to him. He wants me to lean on him in every decision. I've been bad about that...

Anyway, here we are--- day 6 of chemotherapy #1. And I'm in the hospital. I got a fever late Monday night. Took Tylenol PM before bed and still woke up feeling badly. But, drugs worked their magic and by late morning I was better. Unfortunately, when the drugs started to fade, the fever came back. We called the onco and they said not to take anymore pain relievers. They wanted to know how high my fever was without the supressing supplements of the medications. Without the meds I realized right off the bat that this was not going to be good. By about 5 p.m. I was pretty miserable and when my breathing started hurting and I got short of breath, the onco said to head to the E.R.

The 3.5 hours it took them to get me pain relief that night were the most physically taxing I've ever spent. Having cancer makes you think some pretty morbid thoughts sometimes, but lying in agony on a cot, listening to the cries of people around you, and feeling like you'd give anything for relief from pain can lead a person to have some down-right scary thoughts. Again- this battle is at least half mental.

I got a room in the hospital by 1:30 a.m. The admitting process wasn't complete until 3. I fell asleep around 4 and the first nurse came by at 4:15 for my vitals. We all know how sleeping in a hospital goes!

Today I felt better. I've been given antibiotics, nausea meds and pain relievers. But around noon I started feeling badly again and within an hour things were back to the way they'd been last night. I had the chills and couldn't stop shaking for nearly thirty minutes. Pain relief wouldn't come and so they've added another drug which has kept me in less pain throughout the rest of the day.

They've done numerous tests and so far everything is checking out ok. We'll be here another night while they try to find the source of the infection they think is causing the fever.

I know this is a long blog- and since I'm so drugged up, it might even be a bit incoherent (although my college professors would tell me nothing can be a "bit" incoherent. Either it is, or it isn't.) but I wanted to give an update and I wanted to ask for your prayers:

The boys have had a myriad of babysitters in the last week and I know they must be starting to feel uneasy. Terry's missed too much work. And of course, we ask for prayers regarding my health. This is only the first of 6 treatments of chemotherapy. Right now I can't even imagine voluntarily sitting down to get the next treatment. It's going to take a lot of will power-- a lot of God-- to get me through. Thanks for seeking him for me.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Chemo Treatment

              I've got my running shoes...

Got my sport IPod wrist holder...

Got my comfy sweat suit...

Am I going to work out?
Nope, I'm going to sit in a chair for three hours!

Here's how the day went...

Terry got up with the boys and let me sleep in. I woke up about two minutes before our doorbell rang and Wendy and Brandy brought me this beautiful scripture quilt to take to chemo with me.

Thank you to everyone who worked on the quilt and everyone who contributed a scripture. I read all the verses as the first i.v. bag went into my port and it kept my mind off of it.

We got to the doctor's office 30 minutes before the scheduled time and Paul met us there to pray. I annoyed the other people in the waiting room by taking the above photos. (I imagined them thinking, "Inconsiderate little chippy, disrupting the quiet atmophere for us cancer patients." Oh, well, next time I'll be in a wig or a scarf and they'll know I belong with them!) I also took these pics...

Terry in the waiting room.

The view from the waiting room.
They took us back to a big room sectioned off into little rooms. We stayed here for three hours:

First they drew blood to send to the lab and check that I was healthy enough to get the treatment. This is standard and they'll do it every time.
Terry was thrilled to find out they had wi-fi. He was able to work most of the time we were there.

Then they gave me a full bag of saline. But first they had to stick a fat needle into my port. I wish I hadn't looked at it. I mean, it wasn't Lupron needle big, but it was big. I swear I heard my skin pop when she poked it through! But it only hurt going in and then I was fine. The location of the port is actually the main reason I needed a "chemo outfit." I had to wear a v-neck low enough to get the i.v. in without it being constantly aggitated by my clothes.

Next I got steroids and anti-nausea medicines, all intravenously. About two minutes into these treatments I was suddenly famished and even though I'd eaten breakfast, I insisted that Terry go find me food. My nurse just laughed and said, "Yep, that's the steroids. They make you hungry." Not being at all medically-aware, I thought it was interesting to see how fast the meds could work like that. (Next time I'll bring a lunch, I guess.)

Terry and I talked a little, played mad-gab, and then he discovered that Real Housewives of New York was on and so I snuggled up and pulled the t.v. close.
I got really sleepy just lying around and watching t.v. Here's a pic of me in a near-coma.

I never did fall asleep. Here or at home either. The nurse said the steroids would make me feel wired. My brain was wired, but my body was sleepy. I tried to rest for a few hours but never napped. I was supposed to pick Brandy up to go to Bunco, but I called Lindsey last minute so she could drive because I was starting to feel weak. Good thing, too, cause I never could have driven us home later that night.

Playing bunco and laughing was so much fun and I was so grateful that I was able to go. Even if I did freak half the group out by showing them my foob. (The other half was very interested, trust me.)

By the end of the night I had some serious muscle ache. Brandy lent me her heating pad which I slept on all night. My back and my legs were really sore and Tylenol didn't provide much relief. It took 1.5 hours to kick in and ease the pain, but the pain came back two hours later. So I slept in two hour shifts. Today I've been a bit achy, really tired, a little weak- my legs shake if I walk around too much. I'm treating my nausea the same way I treated morning sickness- at the first sign of a queasy tummy I eat something.

I haven't been any help around the house today or yesterday. And we weren't prepared for that. We thought I'd be up and running until tomorrow. I really can't complain yet. I just feel a bit run down. But we're all worried that if I feel like this now, when most people are still ok and going strong, how will I handle the next few days? I'm hoping that I'm an exception to the rule and I have my hardest days up front and then get over it quickly. We'll see...

Thanks for the prayers!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Medical Updates Before Chemotherapy

This is going to be one discombobulated post. I know you're sick of hearing from me every day- believe me, I'm more sick of myself than you are! In fact, here's a few lines I wrote in my prayer journal yesterday...

"I'm so sick of myself. I can't stand the seriousness it takes to maintain this passion...How can I be joyful and aware? It's tiring to want to give and want to show support and want to tell everyone about You without feeling down about how depraved and diseased the world is. How diseased I am...I'm just plain sick of myself."

Ok- new topic...

I need to clarify some of the medical stuff. First of all, thanks to everyone who has asked about the medical side of things. I may not have answered your questions yet, but I love the interest you've taken in my particular sickness and your desire to help.

-I posted a while back that they found 2 positive nodes during surgery. Since then we've been corrected. It's 3. The doctors said it was two, assuming that I understood that the original sentinel node wasn't included in that count. 3 nodes were positive for the "c word".

-I've been 'hoorah'ing that my mastectomy isn't hurting. Yesterday my surgeon let me know that it's because the nerve endings have been deadened and that when they grow back/heal I'm likely to feel more pain and not even want to wear my prosthetic. The healing process for the mastectomy and lymphectomy could take up to a year. Hopefully I'll have gone through reconstruction by then though...

-We do not yet have an answer about radiation therapy. I'm right on the line of whether it's beneficial or not. My oncologist seems to think it would be good for me. However, we have to get opinions from radiation oncologists. But we've got time because this won't start 'till after chemotherapy.

Speaking of chemo- I will have 6 treatments. One treatment every three weeks. My drugs are Taxotere, Adriamycin, Cyclophosphamide (TAC). Nearly every survivor of breast cancer I've spoken to with stage 2 or 3 has had 6 treatments of TAC, so I'm in good company.

A lot of you have asked what the side effects will be and how you can help during chemo...
My answers are "I don't know" and "I don't know." The doctors have given me a list of side effects (I'll include them below for anyone really interested) but they, along with my fellow cancer fighters have assured me that everyone is different and we won't know what chemo means for me until I actually go through round one. Which begins tomorrow...

I think we confused a lot of people by saying that my onc says I'm in remission. Most people keep asking why I'm still getting treatment. Here's my very non-medical explanation based on what I've been told: the visible tumors and cancerous tissues are gone. But my body is very likely filled with cancer "seeds." Without treatment to kill what we can't see, I would have a 85-90% chance of recurral. Meaning the seeds would keep growing and once again turn into the ugly tumors my drs love to call aggressive. PPPBbbbllllpppttt!! (That's me sticking out my tongue.)

How chemo will work- I'll go to my oncologist's office. Sit in a big chair, and let them stick a needle in this new lump in my upper right chest- my dreaded portacath- and then try to relax for a few hours while I get drugs to combat TAC and then the actual TAC, all intraveneoualy. My nurse said I am likely to get cold because it's a lot of fluid being pumped into me and it's all room temperature- well below my body's 98.6. But I've got a great blanket from the Teen Angels and I'll be wearing my new comfy and warm chemo outfit!

Paul, the coolest guy in Cypress, Texas (after my three Domino men, of course. Sorry Paul!) has also let me know that I might get a funky taste in my mouth. From what I've gathered so far, I am unlikely to have any other side effects on the actual day of the chemo treatment. (Which is good since I'm planning on being with my monthly bunco group later that night!)

The reason the care calendar hasn't been updated to ask for food is because we really have no idea when I'll be the sickest, and if it will land on a weekend when Terry has more time and can easily prepare meals or not. After this time around, (and since most people tell me the bad effects of chemo treatments build as you go) we will gladly accept help from all you generous people (and superb chefs!) again.

Prayer Requests:

That I'm a lucky blessed one and I fly through chemotherapy treatments with minimal effects. (I know, I know, asking for a lot!)

That I am open to those around me who are also receiving chemo treatments so I can show them a source of hope and Christian love. (Like I wrote above, it's becoming harder and harder to care about others when I feel so broken and just want to curl up in my bed with... oh, I don't know... a steak and baked potato (is that good food to eat in bed?) and watch marathons of The Real Housewives, Parenthood, or Friday Night Lights.)

Chemo Drugs and Their Possible Side Effects (this info comes straight from papers I got from my onc.) I haven't paid much attention to these side effects-- just like I ignore the labels on Tylenol. Some of it is likely to happen, some not. We'll see...

Taxotere belongs to a group of medicines known as antimicrotublar (say that three times fast) agents.

-hypersensitivity reaction: shortness of breath, flushing, low blood pressure, cough, and chest pain. You will be given premedications to minimize this reaction.

-skin rash, red scaly, swollen or peeling areas of skin, changes in skin color or nails.

-fevers, chills, joint pain, back pain.

-decrease in blood cell counts (white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets) leading to infection and bleeding

-sores in mouth and/or throat

-numbness and/or tingling of hands and feet, weakness, tiredness

-fluid retention, usually begins in legs but may be generalized.

-nausea and/or vomiting--usually mild.

-hair loss.

Adriamycin (aka the Red Devil) (really, that's written on my sheet)
Adriamycin belongs to the group of medicines known as antitumor antibiotics. It is used to treat some kinds of cancer.

-Urine color may turn reddish-orange during the first 48 hours. (A little weird that I'm sharing that with y'all!)

-decrease in blood cell counts (white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets) leading to infection and bleeding

-pain, redness, or swelling at the intravenous site caused from a leakage of the drug.

-rapid and/or irregular heartbeat, chest pain, or shortness of breath-sores in the mouth or on the lips

-increased sensitivity to sun, use sun screens when outdoors during the day.

-hair loss- complete

-darkening of soles, palms, and nails.

Cyclophosamide (Cytoxan)
Cytoxan is in a class of drugs known as alkylating agents. It is used to treat cancerous and noncancerous conditions.

-bladder irriataion and bleeding needs to be reported immediately. This side effect is rare. Force fluids (2 liters in 24 hours) before and after treatment. Empty your bladder every 2 hours after Cytoxan.

-mild nausea begins 2-4 days after infusion and may persist up to 24 hours; also may experience loss of appetite

-sinus congestion

-metallic taste

-decrease in blood cell counts (white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets) leading to infection and bleeding

-low sodium levels, may lead to seizures or confusion, uncommon

-hair loss (may begin two to three weeks after treatment)

-darkening of skin and nails

-missed or irregular menstrual periods

-potential fertility problems

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What's So Funny?

Emotions are running high 'round here lately. One moment I want to scream and pull my hair out because people are discussing 'trivial' or silly things. Next minute I'm yelling, "Enough with the cancer talk! Lighten things up, would ya'? Why do we have to be so serious??"

So in an effort to lighten things up...

I have found retail therapy to be immensely soothing lately! Shopping is medicinal. If Target is my hospital then superfulous purchases are my medicine! (I should have Aetna reimburse me for some of this stuff!)

My favorite part of shopping is showing Terry what I bought. But yesterday I'd already unpacked my purchases long before he got home from work. So I verbally ran through my list of goodies, starting first by telling him that I'd tried really hard not to buy anything we didn't need.

"I got you some undershirts, a pair of shorts and a tee-shirt. The boys both needed new shoes. Oh, and I got me an outfit for chemo."

He didn't hear anything I said after that. He was too busy laughing at my need to purchase a chemo outfit. I didn't think it was that weird. I want to be comfortable and having some new comfy clothes would cheer me up, right? Admit it ladies- you'd buy a new outfit for your first chemotherapy treament too, right? It's not so odd, right? Right. :)

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Fig Tree

Last post I wrote about the verse that says we are to boast of our weaknesses so that Christ's power is evident. (2 Corinthians 12:9) So it's my goal to be as open and weak here, in written word, as I am in my private thoughts. (Could be scary! ...for both of us!)

Boy, it makes for a depressing blog, but I've got to start off again by saying that I, like most people I'm sure, heard 'cancer' and thought 'death.' It took me more nearly three weeks to find out what my "official" numbers are at survival, and during those weeks I had a lot of time to think. About death and life.

Sunday's sermon was about thriving, not just surviving. And some of the scriptures we read really hit home.

"Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?' 'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.'" Luke 13:6-9

The parable is about Christians who are just surviving when God is calling them to thrive. It's this parable that spells out what I've been feeling for three weeks- I've got to produce! I will produce, Jesus! Please don't cut me down!

I've been reading Radical by David Platt. (What do you mean you don't have this book yet! Get to the book store now!) It's all about un-learning the American Dream. I'm very guilty of what he talks about. I have been a Christian for years, but I've only served when it fit into my life or my schedule. And since I've wanted nothing more than to be a mommy since I was young, you can only imagine how often I put my kid's comfort and pleasures first, only to "run out of time" to serve. I followed the American dream- me first, everything else next.

But what God is telling me is that I'd already been given much. I had the American Dream. Not by my own work or the sweat of my own brow- by His grace. I'd been given my family, my wonderful husband, my HEALTH. "...From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded..." Luke 12:48b God had to take something away for me to realize how much I had and how much He was requiring of me.

Our pastor reminded us that the fig tree in the verse hadn't produced for three years, yet it was still given one more chance. I wrote in my bulletin: "I'm out of chances." I've been lazy, selfish. Not producing. God's warned me- this is my last chance.

"The ax is already at the root of the trees; and every tree that does not produce fruit will be cut down into the fire." Luke 3:9

I circled that in my notes. The ax is already at the root.

Listen, I can see my ax. I can see that I'm on my last chance. In a way my cancer is a blessing that allows me to have that glimpse into the works of God. To gain that perspective. But, like Terry wrote before, do you have a cancer that you can't see? Are you producing, serving, making disciples? Or are you living the American dream while the ax is already at the root?

When we came back from the hospital on the day we got the great news that my cancer hadn't spread beyond the nodes, Terry picked up the laptop and begin to write. I remember thinking he must have been writing a thank you. Writing of his joy or excitement. But he wasn't. He, like me, sees the ax and wants to change things and press forward. No more rest for us-- we've been given much. Given MUCH! I'm still here! Everyday I'm still here is a blessing! I've been given M U C H!

Much is required.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Breaking My Pride

Before I was diagnosed I used to wake up in the middle of the night with prayers on my lips. And for some reason, I always started my prayers with, "Jesus, I just want to be with you." It was like I had an ache to feel His prescence.

I've also been asking to be broken. To be stripped of pretense and strength and have no excuse to depend on myself. I knew when I prayed it that it was a scary thing to ask. But I genuinely wanted what He thought was best for me. I must admit though... I never, for one second, considered that He'd use my health to break me.

Since the diagnosis, my every breath feels frail and I've worried how many breaths I had left. And in my human nature, I keep saying to God, "Yeah, I know I said I wanted to be with you. But I didn't mean be with you. I just meant, you know, feel your presence. Or, maybe you could come down to earth, sit here on my bed with me and we'll have ourselves a little chat. Then you go back to Heaven and I'll stay here. Here where I know how things work. Where my family is. But no worries-- I'll catch you in 50, maybe 60 years."

I joke about it now. But these feelings I had were very, very strong. Very, very scary. God, don't take me yet! I've got so much more to give! 

Now that we're passed diagnostics and my cancer appears curable, I've been able to relax a bit, open my ears, and hear from God on some things. One thing He is telling me is that I was very wrong. The truth is I have nothing to give. But, He's apparantly got more to do through me. This morning in church we read 2 Corinthians 12:9:
But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."

I leaned over and said to Terry, "That's the fourth time that scripture's been put in front of my face this weekend!" Thenm Wendy, who was sitting on the other side of me said, "That's my verse for you!" So, make that five times!

God's making sure I know that I don't have anything to give. In fact, He's taken me and my abilities out of the equation all together. I've been saying that maybe this cancer would open a door for me and I could serve. But I pictured serving in my way-- writing, maybe speaking or teaching. And right now, God's not telling me to do those things. He's telling me to do something which I will not be good at. Something I won't like...

But something that will allow His glory to shine through my weakness. Something that will allow people to look at me and know I'm not capable of what I do and assume it must be God who works in me!


God is very present in my life right now. He's always been there. But He's making himself known to me much more. Which is an answer to my prayers because I've felt so weak that I've begged Him to appear to me. He's used people, books, songs to answer my questions. And because I'm naturally a doubter, He's answered those questions time after time and in many different ways. My prayer for you is that you may never need God for the reason I do, but that you will have cause to seek Him fervently to learn these lessons I've learned. To gain this wisdom I've gotten. To see the strength and grace of our God.

Song Suggestions

We're on a chemo-countodown, here folks...

I'm trying to load my IPod with inspirational and fun/uplifting songs to listen to during chemo treatments. I need suggestions.

I want:
-songs with lyrics about God's love, healing, miracles
-songs with a good beat
-classic songs (songs you'd hear at a wedding that are all-around crowd pleasers. Brown-Eyed Girl, Sweet Caroline, etc.)

Leave your suggestions in my comments section or you can email me. Best song suggestion wins a prize!!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What My Cancer Looks Like

My window of cards. I've got more cards than there are days since my diagnosis. Cool, huh? And I added two more to the window since taking this picture this afternoon!

Hospital bracelets from two surgeries. The pink one is to remind hospital staff, "STOP, don't use this arm for blood pressure or I.V.s!" (Due to lympectomy I can never have these procedures done on my left arm.)

Pain meds and bandages. Fun.

The mammogram film of my actual tumor. I know, I know, 'ewww, yuck!'
My "cancer library" full of books and pamphlets from all of you. Thanks!

This is the blanket the "Teen Angels" from Angels in Action at Copperfield Church made me. Pretty, huh? And this pillow is the one I use to prop my arm up to minimize discomfort.

We've been inundated with SWEETS! I've got a pie and cake in the fridge, too!

My phone has to be charging constantly. If it's not, the battery dies quickly from all of the phone calls I have to make (and because of those encouraging calls/texts y'all send. Keep 'em comin'!

Several people have brought us disposable plates and silverware. So helpful!

(I had to include a photo of Caleb walking!! Isn't he cute?)

5 head scarves. 2 I bought myself, 3 given to me as gifts.

I know it's hard to tell what this picture is. The top line is where my portocath is (ugh), the line near the bottom is a rash from the bandage over the portacath. And of course, you can see some of my lovely bandage sticking out from the mastectomy site.

My notecards with specific scriptures Terry and I chose that were of the most comfort.

The pink bracelet is from the Brewers (although Liv and Mel had the same idea!) and the purple one is from Paul. Paul is an amazing man who is currently dedicating his life to support others after their cancer diagnosis. (You'll hear more on him later!) He came with me and Terry to our last appointment when I was nearly crippled with fear over the PET scan results. After we spoke to the oncologist, Paul told me he hadn't taken this bracelet off for four years (since, he, himself became a cancer survivor) but that he wanted to give it to me! Nothing I can type could even come close to how I felt to receive such a gift! The bracelet says, "Be strong in the Lord."
I had to include this photo of my cluttered house beyond my feet. After all, I've still got two toddlers at home. We live amongst toys!

*One quick prayer request: The PET scan that is typical of breast cancer patients, does not go down the full length of the legs. So at my appointment, I showed my oncologist a lump that's recently appeared on my left ankle. He felt it, said not to worry, but to watch it to see if it grows. I'm worried, of course, that it might be another tumor. I can't "just watch it" so I'm calling tomorrow to ask how we can test it. I need it removed in order to exhale and move on. Please continue to pray for my health, specifically asking that the lump be nothing cancer-related. Thank you!

Up and Down

The doctor says that it's pretty predictable that my hair will fall out almost exactly three weeks from my first chemo treatment. So it's time to buy a wig. And guess what? They do make stick-on eyebrows!

Last night I got so angry that my arm is, and will still be, swollen for a long time from the lympectomy. It feels a bit like prison- I want to be able to move it, stretch it. It's not painful, just uncomfortable, but it keeps me awake at night.

But nothing keeps Terry up at night. Last night he laid his head on the pillow and I told him I was gonna countdown from 30. That's all it takes him to fall asleep-- 30 seconds. Just 'cause he's so tired. He's been taking care of all of us, doing most of the housework, and still doing his job. I told him I wanted to read Psalm 107 last night. So we turned the tv off so we could concentrate on the verses. Halfway through it, Terry was asleep!

When we were first diagnosed, I told Terry that I needed him to be my rock. That if I saw him get worried, that it would scare me. So I told him to go have his break downs around someone else, so he could appear strong at home. Then last week I told him that I was over it. I needed him to voice his worries and concerns out loud because I was tired of feeling like I was alone in my thoughts. Poor Terry. Such a roller coaster from his demanding wife! But wouldn't all of our marriages be better if we learned to speak up as soon as our needs changed?

We've got one week of 'down-time' before chemo. But we don't know how to act. Everything got shaken up. And with chemo, our lives will be disrupted again. So who can get rest in the meantime?

Concentrating on the message of Psalm 107 is getting me through for now.

"8 Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love

and his wonderful deeds for men,

9 for he satisfies the thirsty

and fills the hungry with good things."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Do you have cancer?

We're still celebrating yesterday's good news! Even though the cancer has not spread passed the nodes and the doctor says "technically" I'm in remission, we will still be doing treatment because I am a "high risk" for recurrence. If we stopped my treatment now, having cut out the tumor and affected nodes, there is an 85 to 90% chance that it would pop up again at some point. So, each treatment we do will lower those odds. I officially start chemo a week from tomorrow (I guess in the medical profession "the latest next Tuesday" really means Thursday!). It's a TAC regimen which I'll explain more about later.

On the way home from the doctor Terry and I talked about our new perspective on what's really important and how we hope to never lose that. Below, Terry's written a bit about how he feels. (This cancer is ground-breaking stuff! It's gotten my mom to finally learn how to text and now Terry's writing! Can't begin to imagine what will happen next!) -Sarah

There are not enough words to describe the emotional roller coaster ride I (Terry) have been on the last 3 weeks. I am ready to get off this ride, but I sit here and realize that we are just at another steep incline clicking upwards anticipating another round of turns, twists, ups, and downs.

But with all these ups and downs, I have been growing in Christ. I have a new perspective that I wish I could give to everyone I know. But how do I do that? I am searching for God to open my heart to where I am needed to serve.

So while I wait for that one, here's a thought for you. Without a life-threatening disease, how do you get a new perspective? Maybe you don't have a cancer that is eating away at your earthly body, but do you have a cancer that's eating away at your spiritual body? Do you know someone who doesn't see their cancer? How can you help them see? Listen to Lord. He will guide you.

I can't stop thinking about a statement from the "Truth Project" that said: What if you REALLY believed that what you believe is REALLY real?

So often this country and culture preaches that what feels good can't be wrong. We accept lies and we let them fester and start believing them. When we start to believe the lies, we then begin to defend those lies. Are you defending lies of this culture because it feels good?

I pray that you aren't reading this as, "poor Terry, his wife has cancer, we will let him say these things but not take them to heart." We should not be living for this world, but living for the next and it has taken cancer to show me what I have known all along but chose to ignore for those good, earthly feelings. I hope it doesn't take something as extreme as true cancer for you to fight for what is real truth.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

God is So Good

Got PET scan results back. No sign of cancer spreading beyond lymph nodes. Hallelujia!
Will begin chemo as early as Friday, as late as next Tuesday.
Will write more tomorrow and give you more updates than you can stand! For now I'm going to snuggle with Super Star Awesome Dashing Husband and watch some really lame t.v.

Thanks for watching the kids, Aunt Kelly.
Thank you, Paul for being a rock.
Thank you, Jeremy for the celebratory pizza!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Body Image and a New Identity

I just started reading Laura Shook's blog and I was very impressed by how candid she is about her rectal cancer. And I can't really write a blog about breast cancer without disclosing how it feels as a woman to lose the most defining aspect of a woman's body. So here goes...

Men, proceed with caution. :)

First, you can't really understand my own battle with mastectomy until you understand that I've hated this part of my body since fifth grade. By the time we watched "the video" about adolescent girls, it was way too late for me. I matured early in this area, and I matured...um, in a big way. By the time I was in junior high I felt I'd completely lost any sort of identity that was separate from my chest. We all know how boys this age are, so I was very aware of what they thought about me.

In fifth grade, I and another well-endowed girl had to deal with a boy who consistently lifted up our shirts or stuck his hands down them. This was a big deal to us. A big violation. But when we finally got the courage to request to speak to the school counselor together, she told us that this was a "behavioral situation that we should take to the principal." It wasn't behavioral to us. It wasn't just some kid breaking the rules. To us, it felt like molestation. But nothing ever came of it. It was the beginning of my hate for my chest.

In junior high, ironically a rather happy period of my life, I was told, "If you put a bag over your head, you'd be the perfect girl," and "The only reason you always have boyfriends is because of your breasts." It's amazing I didn't have huge self-esteem problems! As I grew and went to high school, I was aware enough to realize the dirty looks I got from grown women (including boyfriends' moms) whom, I can only guess, had a bad impression of me based solely on my body. People aren't always so discreet when it comes to staring. Maybe it was because I had a slimmer figure back then, but my chest was often (if not always) the first thing people looked at when I met them. The second look was usually a leer or a snarl (depending on the person's gender). I felt like no one saw passed my shirt size.

I may be over-exaggerating  or over-analyzing, but I have often wondered if I didn't have to try harder to stay away from temptation as a teen simply because boys identified me as "walking sex." (Have I terrified all the parents of girls, yet? Sorry, Emily! Go get James Dobson's "Bringing Up Girls" quick!)

Luckily as an adult, my post-baby body has widened in other areas making me seem more proportional all around. But I've never gotten over my disdain regarding my large chest, and one month ago I decided to finally make an appointment to get a reduction. (Oh, the irony.)

I have looked at dozens of pictures of mastectomies online. But all of the pictures I can find are either of women who've had complete mastectomies (not the right medical term) where even the skin is removed and they're left with less than they had as little girls, or pictures of mastectomies after reconstruction. Medical science is quite efficient these days and by the time most people go under the knife, they have their plastic surgeon along for the ride to leave them with at least some shape after the first surgery. But I had only twelve hours notice before my mastectomy and so we weren't able to do any reconstruction. I have yet to find a picture of a skin-sparing mastectomy without immediate reconstruction. Which is what I have.

I don't mean to be vulgar, but to know what I'm facing you have to understand that what I've been left with isn't exactly a hole or an absence. It's a deformity which took me 6 days to even be able to look at.

But here's the cool part- God has helped me to accept the "new me" in a matter of days when after more than 15 years I hadn't been able to accept myself the way He originally made me.

I don't miss the part of me that's been taken at all. (In fact, we've decided to remove the right side regardless of whether my genetic tests come back positive or not.) I love what it symbolizes- the start of a big, big fight! And, I'm thankful that my tumor was in a place where they could just go in and remove it surgically. Others aren't so lucky.

So even though I look like something from a horror show right now- stitches and healing wounds and all- I'm adjusting quite well. And today one of my cousins who is a hair stylist came over and cut my thick hair above the shoulder (I have limited mobility in my left arm and I'm hoping shorter will be easier to style) and thinned it A LOT (so that if/when it falls out from chemotherapy it won't have to fall out in big, thick chunks). I don't like to think of losing my eye brows or eyelashes. Hmm, wonder if they sell stick-on brows?

I am hoping that my hair loss and body damage will both just provide me with tangible reminders of how hard I'm fighting. Because my surgery is healing well and I'm hardly in any pain at all, sometimes I'm having a normal moment in the house with the kids and I think, "Wait a minute. I'm not sick. I feel fine!" But I can't say those things when I look in the mirror. I guess that reminder is good.

I didn't want to be identified by my chest size before and I surely don't want to be identified by my diagnosis now. But they're both a part of me and I do believe God knew what he was doing when he designed me. Sarah Ruth Lanier Domino. That's me.

As I began writing this post I got an email from my sister in law. She sent me an excerpt from a Billy Graham devotional book. I laughed when I read it! Haven't I been telling you that God is using all of you to get His point across to me? :) Read what God had to say to me today...

God is especially close to us when we are laying on a sickbed. God will make the bed soft and will freshen it with His presence and with His tender care. He makes the bed comfortable and wipes away our tears. He ministers to us with special tenderness at such a time and reveals His great love for us. Tell me why the gardener trims and prunes his rosebushes, sometimes cutting away productive branches, and I will tell you why God's people are afflicted. God's hand never slips. He never makes a mistake. His every move is for our own good and for our ultimate good. Oftentimes He must deform us and mutilate our own image. Deformity sometimes precedes conformity.

Prayer for the Day: When times of tribulation come, help me, dear Lord, to glory in them for Your sake.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Jesus, Heal Us

I wake up all night long and send up quick prayers. It's not unusual for me, really. God's always gotten my attention best in the dead of the night.

I pray, "Jesus, heal me. Let the scans be clear."

Jesus, heal me. Let the scans be clear.

Jesus, heal me. Let the scans be clear.

Another looong 48 hours before we're sitting in the oncologist's office and getting more news. We've been waiting to hear if I'm HER-2 positive or negative, if I carry the "cancer gene," and, of course, if the cancer has spread past my breast and lymph nodes.

Waiting is hard. Hard, hard.

Writing here to all of you, to myself, to God, makes it easier. Writing has always been an outlet for me. I'm a verbal person. Sometimes I don't realize I feel a certain way until after I've written it down. Which is why I started the blog so quickly after my diagnosis.

But the more I hear about the popularity of the blog, the more I have to fight to be transparent when I write. Seems, with such a large following (friends of friends, grandparents of friends, teachers, preachers, young and old) it makes more sense to me to just say, "Cancer bad. Sarah weak. God good. See ya!"

I worry that when I write that I'm feeling weak, I hurt those closest to me. Those who have the most to lose by hearing of my suffering.
I worry that medically-aware readers will cringe at my medical spellings and definitions.
Maybe fellow cancer patients will be more scared after I explain the pain and difficulty I've experienced from surgeries or procedures.
Maybe those traveling their own cancer journey will begrudge me my good news. Maybe they, like me, stick their tongue out when they hear of anyone having an easier time/better diagnosis than themselves. (Yes, I stick out my tongue. Charming? No. Therapeutic? Yes.)

But I'm going to keep fighting to be transparent as I beg to be used of God. For years, every time God would teach me something, I'd yearn to share it with others. In my excitment over undserstanding God in new ways, I've preached sermons, led Bible studies, and written devotionals- all in my head! Like I said before, I'm a verbal person. What I learn, I soon feel urgency to share! In fact, for the last year or two I've been praying that God would give me a platform, an audience, a message. Is this all part of your plan God? Is now the time? Do you have things you'd like to share through me??

Before my diagnosis, I'd also been praying for several months that God would help me reach some very specific people. There are people whom I love who've drifted. People who've decided to follow their own ways and I've hurt for them and worried for them. Mere weeks before being diagnosed I read Romans 1:18-32 and was heart-broken by the passage's dark message of God allowing people's hearts to be hardened. I've been praying for God to use me in whatever way He could to reach my loved ones.

It's for this reason that nearly as often as I pray, "Jesus, heal me," I pray, "Jesus, use me."

Our pastor spoke to the congregation today of repairing their relationships with God. Or beginning new relationships. I was moved to write this as he spoke:
"Even facing cancer, I'm protected, safer, happier than those who are unbelievers. They are the ones truly hurting..."

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mother's Day

Tomorrow is Mother's Day. I haven't gotten to be the kind of mother I want to be for almost three weeks though. I've been absent. At first emotionally as the news sank in, then physically from two surgeries. Not to mention a lot of doctor appointments.

I was in the pet scan machine yesterday and thinking about how I'll never take a "doctor-free" day for granted again. It's sappy and cliche, but everyday you aren't at a doctor's office is a blessing. Really!

The truth is, so much has been stolen from us already. Time with my boys is at the top of my list. Terry would probably say these last few weeks have been nothing but a blur for him. Caleb has been the sickest he's ever been and so he's up every two hours at night. Terry's been sleeping on the couch (to give me room in the bed while my left side was so sore, and to be closer to Caleb) and so Terry and I have not gotten any time alone in a while.

Two nights ago I talked to Terry and told him that I was healing so quickly that I thought I should be able to help with the boys 'night time routine' again. I decided that I was going to make an attempt at keeping things as normal for all of us as I could. And normal means mommy is around to do what needs to be done. So yesterday I woke up excited to just be with my family. But I was home from the pet scan for less than thirty minutes when I got sick with a stomach bug. It completely knocked me down and I was only able to emerge from the bedroom after both boys were already in bed for the night.

I could have been angry over another lost day but God stays close by and I was able to shake it off. I'm so aware of keeping anger at bay. And God's answering those prayers. He's keeping me going. And He's using most of you to do His work.

I can't tell you how evident God has been through the emails, texts, phone calls, and gifts you've provided. God's timing is impeccable and He's shown us that He's taking care of us. It's like we're walking down this long pathway and we can barely stand, much less walk to the end of it. But God's used all of you to help us along the way. To allow us rest when we need it, encouragement when we can't go on without it.

I've heard from cancer survivors at just the moment I needed realistic answers, I've gotten breath-taking stories at exactly the moment I've needed to be reminded of miracles. And more than once, I've gotten the same scripture emailed or texted to me in one day.

So, yeah, we've given up a lot. We've missed Caleb's birthday, our fifth anniversary, and now Mother's Day. Next month is Father's Day and Terry's birthday. But we know we're being protected through it all.

And we're still learning, too. In our highest moments, moments of peace and thanksgiving, I can say to God, "keep teaching me all that you would have for me to learn." And with every weak moment, I ask for there to be no more lessons. I've had to watch others take care of my kids, do my household chores, and help me with the basics of taking care of myself. It's been hard and embarrassing. Terry has had to realize that we can't do it all right now and he's had to let others do things he'd rather do himself too.

But because of all of your hard work we at least have the chance to rest and attempt to normalize things. So, thank you again.

If I make it to church tomorrow, (and I hope I do) I'll be one of the most grateful moms there. Normal is a good goal, but anything is better than nothing.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Visit with Dr. Zimmerman

I saw the surgeon today to get my drainage tubes removed and the rest of the bandages taken off.

I don't know why, but it hadn't even occured to me that getting the tubes removed would hurt. Probably because I was so tired of feeling them alongside half my upper body and I was just looking forward to having them removed.

I lied back on the table and Dr. Zimmerman warned me that removing them would "burn a little." (I thought, "Ok, not so bad.") Then, as Terry took my hand, she looked at him and said, "Are you going to be ok watching this? Because lots of men go down." ("Um, that sounds worse!") She continues, "We've had to call 911 several times. And I hate calling because they send so many firetrucks everytime." ("AAAGGGHHH!")

Well, turns out Terry did fine. But I am a big 'ole weenie and, for me, this was bad. The worst part of any of the whole surgery process. I should have prepared and doubled up on hydrocodone.

Thankfully, she had some good news to distract me with. Despite what they'd originally thought, only TWO of the ten nodes they sampled were positive! Before and after the surgery we'd been led to believe there were a lot, so we're very excited to hear how God's already healing me!

On the way to the doctor's office, Terry and I prayed that we would continue having open minds and eyes to learn as much as we can through this process. And at the end of our appointment, my surgeon shared that one of her good friends, a fellow surgeon who'd helped with my mastectomy, was diagnosed just two days later with breast cancer, herself. It reminded Terry and I that even on a good day for us, there are people all over the world having the worst day of their life. The pain is everywhere and we're simply not in a place to be able to ignore it anymore.

This scripture has been on my mind a lot since our diagnosis:
"When Jesus entered Peter's house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever; he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him." Matthew 8:14-15

I want to be like that. I want to get up and serve as soon as I'm healed.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Surgery #2

I was scheduled to be at the hospital at 7 a.m. Surgery would be at 9 a.m. and lymph node analysis would happen sometime before that. We were admitted and then told that it would be a while before they were ready for us in pre-op. Nearly 2 hours later I got a call on my cell. It was someone from the hospital asking why I hadn't shown for my appointment.
"Huh? I'm here!"

Turns out everyone had their wires crossed and I'd gotten "lost" in the system. Everything got backed up and even the node dissection took longer than anticipated.

But that was ok because I got to see a lot of people who were coming to visit me "after" the surgery. And I was very encouraged by Pastor Larry arriving to pray with us.

Once I was back in pre-op, I spoke quickly with my surgeon who is always encouraging (and I love how she pulls off blue eye shadow). I cringed when an impatient anesthesiologist offered to put my i.v. in for the nurse. I will never do that again-- I'm a hard stick for most people, not to mention someone who probably doesn't do IVs very often (or ever anymore).  I should have asked for the nurse (who had to do it in the end anyway) who sticks dozens of people a day. My bruise from all the "needle sawing" is still huge! Once that was over I asked for a sedative. :)

Terry prayed for me and then the surgeon's assistant (surgical nurse? surgical intern?) that I had last time came by to get me ready and she remembered me. Right before they wheeled me off I said, "Wait! I want to pray!" and she said, "Ok, go ahead." And I don't know why (because of my drugs? :) I said, "No, you do it," and I pointed at her. By the time she finished praying she was crying. Thank you Jesus for whatever it was you said to her.

When I'd had surgery on the 19th I had been anxious to get it over with so I didn't fight the anesthesia at all. This time around, though, I dreaded the actual mastectomy so I was trying to stay awake and make chit-chat with everyone in the operating room. I remember talking to the anesthesiologist about his kids. And I said several other things to people in the room before I was out. Must have been pretty funny to the staff-- me blacking out mid-sentence. And normally I dread small talk! ;)

I woke up in recovery in a fair amount of pain. I asked for Terry and meds right away (but maybe not in that order!). Unfortunately they gave me a reason as to why I had to wait for both. I went in and out of sleep until at one point I woke up shaking (normal from the anesthesia, I hear). All of this is really foggy so I couldn't even tell you what hurt, but I did give my pain an 8 out of 10 at this point (it didn't get passed 5 on later days). Terry finally came in, I got more meds, and they gave me back my oxygen mask. All of which helped me calm down and start feeling better. I stayed in post-op for 5.5 hours because I'd asked for a private room and they didn't have any. I ended up being the only one in the whole, big room so I got great care from the nurses (I also got to hear all of their Friday night excitment/gossip about the upcoming weekend!) and they let me have as many visitors at a time as I wanted. Monica and Crystal were very good company!

I got nauseous during the four elevator rides necessary to get me to my private room and so I wasn't able to eat until breakfast the next day. (Broth never tasted so good!)

The first night in the hospital was bad, but not because of the pain from surgery. It was mostly a headache and a catheter problem that kept me from sleeping. Every night since then has been progressively better (the first night home was hard but we've covered the bed with pillows and so last night was ok). Terry slept on a chair the first night in the hospital (instead of the pull-out couch) because he's such a deep sleeper and he wanted to be uncomfortable so he'd wake up and hear me when I called. The next night I encouraged him to sleep on the couch. Around 5 a.m. he was so out that I was yelling his name to no avail. I only got his attention by throwing a spoon at him.

I could have gone home after one day but I thought staying for 2 nights would be best for both me and my boys. Not getting to see me because I'm at the hospital is one thing, but not getting to see me when I'm in the next room would be confusing for them. I wanted to be in as good as shape as possible by the time they saw me.

My best friends came by the hospital Sunday and entertained me with funny stories and reminiscing. I got to see one of them show off her brand-new, teeny, 'baby belly.' And what better news is there than pregnancys? Their company made the day go fast and soon I was checking out and heading home!

I was so anxious to see the boys, but unfortunately they were, and are, both still sick. Caleb is so sick that I haven't been able to even hug him. My immune system should still be normal since we haven't started chemo, but I'd hate to get sick and postpone things so I'm careful to avoid germs. Caleb is a sad, weepy mess and he looks at me from across the room and I can tell he's thinking, "What's going on? Why aren't you holding me??" It's painful to not be able to be there for him right now. But he's being well taken care of. And getting better faster means more chances to be there for him in the future.

Today has been an exceptionally good day. I've taken off some of the bandages, am moving around pretty easily, and I've even done a bit of one-armed picking up and organizing. The organizing is necessary because cancer comes with a lot of stuff!! I've gotten books, cds, blankets, pjs, clothes, bracelets, head scarfs, and even a breast cancer key chain, mug, hat, and buttons! We may not be having any daughters in the future, but nonetheless my life is suddenly filled with pink!

Today's Score:
Sarah: 50
Cancer- zip

Monday, May 3, 2010

Through the Fire

I'm three days out of surgery. My recovery is going slower than I hoped (just spoke with the surgeon who thinks it's best to remove the drains Thursday rather than Tues) but isn't too bad overall.

I will update later on the surgery and recovery, but first I wanted to explore some thoughts I had the night before surgery. It was scary hearing that my team of doctors thought it was necessary to do a mastectomy. Not because of what the mastectomy itself is (I knew most women with bc are confronted with this surgery at one point or another and I was on my way to accepting it, too), but because of the urgency behind the surgery. I miss the "good ole days" when both doctors led me to believe that lumpectomy was a totally acceptable thing for me. I'm tired of hearing words like aggressive, invasive, and large.

So when we got the news, only 12 hours prior to when my surgery was to happen, I worried about what it meant. Suddenly, the less invasive option was no longer an option. We were, once again, going the agreesive route. Terry and I spent much of that night praying and we each wrote some encouraging scriptures on notecards to carry with us the next day.

Around 1 a.m. Terry fell asleep and it was just me, alone in the dark. I could have woken Terry up, but I was so encouraged by his sound-sleep. I was impressed by his confidence and faith. Because I would be awake nearly all night, having the worst night of my life, feeling my faith be tested over and over again.

Jacob wrestled with an angel (some say it was God) in Genesis. They wrestled all night long and in the morning Jacob says, "I saw God face to face and yet my life was spared." (Gen 32:30) My circumstances and reasons were different, but I can only describe what happened to me last Thursday as "wrestling with God."

I felt tormented by the possible future and I'd read my verses and seek for the peace they promised. I'd read, "When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer" Psalm 94:19. But it wouldn't erase my doubts. I'd read, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness," 2 Cor. 12:9, but not feel God's grace. I felt alone and lost. It felt like I was far from God. I knew He was there with me but I couldn't feel him. I knew the scriptures were written just for me, but I didn't believe them. I knew I was taken care of but I felt abandoned. I'd lost faith.

I know spiritual warfare isn't a fun thing to talk about in church. Especially not in our culture of "feel good" sermons. But, I know this war to be a real one. I know how hard the battle over our relationship with God is. I'm thankful that I was ready for battle last Thursday- that I had my spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:10-18).

I can't tell you how I pulled through to Friday morning. It was a long fight- I'd be presented with a lie as my thoughts wondered. Oh, how it would have been so easy to succumb to the lie and wallow, become depressed, or cry out. But I'd search for God and truth every time, eager to negate the lie and wipe away the negativity it left behind. It was hard. I was emotionally-drained and numb by the next morning.

Ever since that night, I've been thinking about times when our faith is tested. Maybe the most obvious story is when Peter walks on the water. He had tremendous faith to even take that first step. But he lost his courage a few steps in.

Matthew 14:29-32: "...Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."

One of the verses I wrote down on a notecard is, "You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you. For I am the Lord, Your God, the Holy One of Israel and Your Savior." (Isaiah 43:1-3) Reading this verse made me think of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 1-3).

Their story is a miracle. They live despite being thrown into a blazing furnace. And while they were in the fire, a fourth person, God, was seen to be standing with them. The end of the story tells us that when they came out of the fire, neither their robes nor hair were burned and they didn't smell of fire. This is the end result we see. We know of the miracle-- three people beating death.

But what of their struggle during their time in the fire? Like me, did they struggle with their faith? Did they see God standing beside them but still question? Did the flames get hot and scare them? Did the smoke obscure their vision and cause panic? I wonder- just because we know the end of the story and we give glory to God for the miracle, do we forget to acknowledge what these three men still had to endure? After all, if I were them, I might have said, "God, can't we prove the point without us actually having to be in the fire?" I'm sure I would have asked that. Even with God beside me, I would have preferred to not have to be in the fire.

God is all-powerful; if He chose to do so, He could protect us from any pain during trials. He could have told Shadrach that He wouldn't feel any heat in the fire. He could have told Mary and Martha not to worry- that even though Lazarus had died, He would be back to raise him from the dead. God could have even made it possible for Jesus to not feel any pain while he suffered on the cross. After all, Jesus asked to be spared of crucifixion.

But God doesn't tell us how our story ends or completely protect us from pain- physical or emotional- while we're going through life. He gives us a resting place to go to during struggles, though. He tells us not to worry. And in my favorite verse these days, he says, "But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you." 1 Peter 5:10

Wish I had a nice way to end this post. A way to tie it all up nicely. But I don't. Just wanted to share my experience and what I've been thinking about. I'll write soon about the surgery and recovery. Thanks for contiuing to support us. We still look forward to the calls, emails, letters.

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