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

Sunday, July 25, 2010


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about volunteerism and having a servant’s heart. Obviously, I need a lot of helpers in my world right now. So I'm trying to see things from your perspective.

I’ve had worries of being too needy. Of not being gracious enough (there’s still Tupperware to be returned and thank you notes to be written!). Of being too vocal with my needs; too selfish. And of course, at the top of my list of “volunteer worries” is that I have never been good at this myself.

I’ve gained tremendous perspective from being “28Cancer” girl. I’ve got a house that has to be maintained, a husband who still needs to be encouraged and loved, chores that have to be done, bills that have to be paid, doctor’s appointments that have to be tended to, babysitters to be arranged, endless prescriptions to fill, and two precious, buzzing boys who don’t understand where mommy has been lately.

Before I was “28Cancer” I would have never been able to imagine all that it took to live through a medical crisis and come out on the other side without declining into utter chaos.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my friend Brandy. Brandy has restrictive cardiomyopathy. That means her heart chambers are unable to properly fill with blood. She’s just about my age. Her two children are elementary school age. I’ve only known her for a few months but I believe our friendship was divinely ordained. We don’t share similar diseases, but we share many of the same emotions from our illnesses.

She recently had some trouble with her heart and her Implantable Cardiac Defibrilator shocked her three times. Since then Brandy bravely underwent two procedures and was sent home from the hospital and told to rest. Indefinitely. Basically, Brandy has orders to abstain from things like laundry, dishes, driving, etc. The longer she can relax and hold off on these things, the longer she’s got before her doctor’s put her on the heart transplant list.

Brandy writes a blog called, I Will Give You a New Heart, and we both believe God will do that for her! But in the meantime, she and her family are completely at the mercy of their friends and church family (her family is in East Texas) to keep their lives running.

And here’s where God makes it interesting- Brandy and I are in the same Small Group at church. Meaning a group of about 6 other families has been placed directly in the line of fire! I can only imagine their struggle as they look around and wonder what they can or should do.

I listened to an author speak on Focus on The Family earlier today. He said he used to pray for God to care about the things he cared about. He’d pray for his neighbors' broken marriage, for healing for his uncle, etc. But he’s recently come to understand that since God is the embodiment of love, He doesn’t need any reminders to care for hurting people. So Yancey has started to pray differently. He’s asking God what he can do to show God’s love to those around Him. In essence, I guess he’s asking what each of us should be asking every day: How can I look more like Jesus? How can my life bear fruit? What can I do to show your love to my family and friends that are hurting? How would you like me to sacrifice?

So many of you are so very, very good at this! I want to take a moment to list out the ways you’ve shown your love for my family in these last few months:

Bringing food
Sending cards
Sending gifts
Sending quilts
Emailing/texting encouraging messages or verses
Hand-crafting gifts for us
Cleaning the house
Paying for housekeepers
Grocery shopping
Connecting me with survivors/doctors to talk to
Driving me to doctor appointments
Doing laundry
Bringing the kids gifts
Donating your very hard-earned money
Arranging help with car problems
Wearing a pink bracelet
And weekly lawn work!

Earlier on I was having such a hard time taking all of these things. I felt a little undeserving, a little apprehensive at letting people into my lives on such an intimate level to help me take care of basic needs. But, sweet Lisa Beadle told me a few weeks ago that anytime I don’t let someone help, I am robbing them of the blessing they might get from God for being obedient in serving.

Since then I have been quick to say, “Yes, I need help!” Just ask Paul and his angels how many times they’ve recently brought us dinner during a non-chemo time!

I’m grateful for those moments when people don’t ask, but instead just call up and say, “I’m helping and here’s how…” I’d give anything to be able to be that person for Brandy and her family right now.

She and I have both been struggling with what good can come from our situations. Is there anything good that our immediate families can gain from being in this painful position?

I just finished reading a novel based on the Biblical account of Esther. Her story reminded me of how God can take something detrimental and do so much good. Esther was taken from her family and given to a king she’d never met. She had to give up her own dreams of marriage and family amongst the other Jews and go to a man to whom she couldn’t even reveal her true identity. Then God called her to risk her life to appear before this King and reveal the truth to him. A task that might very possibly have ended in her death. Instead, God was faithful and He used Esther to miraculously save all of the Jewish people of her land!

I think Brandy would agree with me that we both humbly hope God can use us and our situations to bring God’s love into the world. And I know we’d both say that seeing your outpouring of love and care for us while we’re incapable of living our lives on our own is breathtaking.

I’m happy to say that I’ve seen Jesus’ love through so many of you. And you might not ever, ever, ever understand it, but believe me when I say it… Every little thing you have done or will do means so very, very much. Nothing is too trivial; all of your efforts are coming together to keep us afloat right now. God bless you for your generosity and sacrifices. We know the extreme effort that its taken to help us. I don't doubt that there are many of you who have put your heads on your pillows at night feeling exhausted by all you've done to help the Dominos. While you're resting in your beds, please know that we're over here praying for blessings upon blessings to come your way.

Quick UPDATE on Chemo 4:
So, here I am. Blogging away on what is normally my worst chemo day. Thanks to my very own personal pharmacy that is now covering one whole counter in my kitchen, my nausea and headaches are much more manageable. My biggest prayer request during this round of chemo is for my hemoglobin numbers. They are low and if they drop more then we might soon be facing a blood transfusion. Please pray for these numbers to rise! I don’t want a transfusion, of course, but my hemoglobin being low is also contributing to my exhaustion and weakness. And I'd rather not keep going through non-chemo weeks with so much fatigue!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

End of Cycle Three

Tomorrow is Chemo #4 and I don't think I've ever really posted about Chemo #3.
Mel went with me and Paul came to get us started with prayer like always.
If you look close in the picture above you can see where the i.v. is going into my port.

I took a salad to eat for lunch (I'm out of the house from 9 until about 4, so packing a lunch is a must) and unfortunately I can't eat salad anymore now. I know it's a mental thing, but after every round of chemo there is a certain food that I eat either on day one or day two that I can never eat again. It's kind of like when you get sick on something and then after that you feel gross just looking at it. I've had three chemo rounds and now there are three foods I can't stomach- mashed potatoes and gravy, gourmet white cheese, and now salad. Salad hurts the most because it's the easiest thing to eat, especially on my diet. The thought of salad dressing makes me ill! I tried it the other night just to see if I could get passed it and it was gross! So the challenge during chemo rounds is to not eat anything I really like so it doesn't get ruined!

Back to Chemo 3:
I had a less-than-sympathetic nurse so that was a frustration. I asked her something about the vein on my right arm bruising after every weekly blood test and she said, "I don't feel sorry for you." Really, she did!

Ok- the two things I mentioned that had me worried...
After complaining about my nausea the onc prescribed me several new medications to try until I find something that works. One of them is Maridol. Which is marijuana pills. This is what started my tears in his office because I just kept thinking that I must be really sick if I'm getting medicinal marijuana now. This is no longer a big deal though. I haven't tried it yet but I probably will during this next round.

The second thing is that they were worried about my heart rate being elevated. No big deal except that when he told me, my heart rate was nothing compared to what it had been the night before. When I tried to explain to him how bad it had gotten he said that I am no longer to just wait out a rapid heart rate at home. Whenever I am aware of my heart racing I'm supposed to go straight to the ER for an ekg. And we all know how I feel about emergency rooms! (The rapid heart beat can be a normal side effect of chemo but I'm told it can also lead to congestive heart failure, so add that to your loooong list of prayer requests from me!) There has been at least one night after each chemo round when my heart races really badly. So this new order from the onc feels like an automatic ER trip three more times! Ugh!

Mostly, this chemo was middle of the line. Not as bad as #1 not as good as #2.

Also-just so we're clear, the incidents with me feeling weak while pumping gas and trying to jump (that I mentioned last post) are rare occasions. I'm feeling overall more tired these days, but those extreme times are on days when it hits me hardest. It's not always that bad.

And just for fun- here are more pics of people wearing Lola (Oh, yes, I've named my wig.):


(I didn't pull this one down enough on Jill so she looks like she's got a long forehead!)





Monday, July 19, 2010

Catching Up

It's been a long time since I've written an informational blog and I've been getting a lot of questions.

1.What does chemo feel like?

It doesn't feel like anything going in. There's still a loud pop and a sting when the needle goes in my port, but it's not much more than getting a shot. By the time I'm done getting all the meds and chemo liquids through my i.v., I'm tired, but on a bit of a high from steroids at the same time. The first two signs that it's hitting me are a headache and a smell in my nose that stays with me until about day 9 of the cycle. The smell is accompanied by a feeling in my head that I can't explain. As the days go on, I get nauseous. This is the worst. Everything tastes bad (even water!) and I constantly have a bad taste in my mouth. This usually goes away around day 10. But I've noticed that as the treatments progress, my taste is getting worse and worse and there are fewer and fewer things I can eat, even between cycles.
I get a lot of side effects that remind me of the last trimester of pregnancy: heartburn, tiredness, achiness, constipation, etc. My eyebrows and eyelashes are just now starting to thin. I haven't had to pluck my eyebrows in about 6 weeks. I shave my legs maybe every two weeks. My head is covered in mostly bald patches, but there are still some hairs that are hanging on!

I've noticed that these last few weeks since chemo #3 I've seen a big drop in strength. I was playing around with friends the other day and was shocked to realize that it takes all my strength to jump about 2 inches off the ground. And two days ago I was getting gas and was too weak to pump a full tank. Holding the nozzle into the hole drained me and I could only do half a tank! A bit disheartening to keep getting weaker and weaker...

2. What's this diet you're on?

Thanks to Paul's advice, I've been going to a nutritionist. He ran every possible test on me during my first visit. And because of the effects of the chemotherapy and my unrelated Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, just about everything in my body is messed up: my cholesterol, iron, hemoglobin, red and white blood cell count, liver, gall bladder, creatinine, vitamin D, vitamin B1, B6, B12, glucose-insulin reactions, cortisol, progesterone, and because of PCOS my estrogens 2, 4, and 16 are completely off. So, I'm taking 29 pills a day. (Here's the list for you medical nerds out there: glutamine, metabolic synergy, B12 Folate, Vitamin D Supreme, C3 Curcumin, OmegAvail Ultra TG, CoQnol.)

All of that sounds really bad, but I'm assured it's not. I'm hopeful that the vitamins will knock my numbers back in order in 6 months or so and I'll get to slowly decrease what I'm taking.

He's also got me on a "lifetime" diet that is very low in sugar/carbohydrates (due mostly to PCOS, although many people believe cancer builds on sugar) and high in fruits and veggies. I'm eating more organic and trying to avoid preservatives. I rarely eat red meat and consume a lot more fish. All on doctors orders. (My onc. says that this diet will make me healthier "for sure" but doesn't propose that any of it will necessarily keep me cancer-free. From what I've read otherwise, I do believe diet and nutrition plays a big part.)
This nutritionist is "out of network" with our insurance, so anyone who has been SO wonderful to send us money, please know that this is probably where your gift is going. You're helping to keep me healthy!

3. Are you going to do radiation?

Yes. My onc recommended it. I visited a radiation onc last month and his opinion is that 4 out of 5 cancer docs would recommend radiation. I will be doing it in Cypress for 6.5 weeks every weekday. It's been weighing heavily on my heart what we'll do for childcare during this month and a half when I'll need to be out of the home for 1.5 hours every day. So please pray for that.

4. Then what?

After radiation we will make a final decision about reconstructive surgery. Since my BRACA tests were negative we won't remove my ovaries. Jury's still out on prophylactic mastectomy on the right side. I won't make a final decision on that until after another consult with a plastic surgeon. As far as reconstruction goes, I will likely have a TRAM flap operation. (as opposed to regular implants.) We don't know if we'll opt to do this surgery at the end of the year or not. While it is verrry appealing to get it over with in 2010, I don't want to be recovering during the holiday season. But, if we wait and do it in January then our medical deductible starts over. So timing here is unclear.
Then I will do treatment that I think my onc has referred to as "bone glue" before and we haven't really gotten into. It's a period of either shots or pills. And lastly comes five years of a pill called tamoxifen. At this point, if memory serves correct, I will have about a 70% chance of being in remission for good.

Whew! I think that covers your bigger questions.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Parachutes and Psalm 23

The first thing God said to me after the diagnosis was, "I can use this." I believed Him then and I believe Him now. I've seen many small changes in myself and my family, and I know there are bigger things to come. But for now, the only resource I can clearly see Him using is this blog.

Many of you have emailed or said to me that you've enjoyed a specific post on a specific topic. I'm grateful for those comments because it gives me a chance to say what you already know anyway: that it's all God and none of me.

And, in fact, there's even more to the story than that.

For every peaceful or exuberant post that I write, there were many moments of misery that came before it. I have not been able to reach a point where I can calmly accept my situation AS IT COMES on me. It takes me hours, sometimes days, to recuperate from a knockdown enough to find God and gain the peace He promises.

In truth, if I were able to obey scripture, I would never again have to say that I had to "gain" peace. Isaiah 26:3 says, "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You." The key words there are "keep" and "stayed." But the truth is, and I think you'd agree, it's very hard to command your mind to stay on God.

For me, I feel like a sky-diver who gets knocked out of a plane hundreds of miles up. And no matter how many times I've fallen before, and how many times I've successfully used my parachute, in those first few falling moments I always panic. Always. I'll look at the ground quickly approaching and scream. Flail my arms. Search for something to grab on to.

That's what I do each time I'm confronted with fear or a problem. I look elsewhere first. I don't even remember I've got a parachute until halfway down. But when my God reminds me of His presence and I focus on Him, I am able to fall in safety. To float, even.

1 Timothy 6:6 says, "Godliness with contentment is great gain." Contentment means so much more than happiness. It implies a constancy rather than a fleeting moment. And I'd like to grab a hold of that contentment that will follow me around wherever I go and whatever the circumstances.

I keep getting knocked out of the plane and flailing my arms looking for peace or an answer, when all the time, everything I needed to be safe is right there strapped to my back.

I'll leave you with a few words from Max Lucado's, Safe in The Shepherd's Arms. (Thank you for the book Stephanie.)

"For sheep to sleep, everything must be just right. No predators. No tension in the flock. No bugs in the air. No hunger in the belly. Everything has to be just so.

Unfortunately, sheep cannot find safe pasture, nor can they spray insecticide, deal with frictions, or find food. They need help. They need a shepherd to 'lead them' and help them 'lie down in green pastures.' Without a shepherd, they can't rest.

Without the Shepherd, neither can we."

(p.s.- Debbie Johnston, send me your email please. I'm famously bad with phones! sdomino05@yahoo.com Thanks!)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Blah, Blah, Something About Chemo 3...

Thanks to all of you who prayed for me during the last few days. I think word spread pretty fast, but for anyone who doesn't know, I came down with another infection and had a fever of 102.1 that Tylenol wouldn't bring down. I was thisclose to being back in the dun, dun, DUNNN.... E.R. again so I was miserable! Thankfully my temp never reached 103 and my onc. let me stay home and recuperate away from hospitals!

I did have a follow-up appointment yesterday and learned two things that scared/annoyed me. Will write about that later. Keep sending prayers because all of this has been going on at the worst possible moment with Terry- he's got clients in town and a scheduled full of meetings so he hasn't been able to escape the office to be with me.

I got emotional at the oncs office (probably more from feeling so badly and less from Terry's absence) and cried almost through the whole thing (I know- big weenie). Had some trouble convincing onc. that I don't need an anti-anxiety drug. Although maybe I do cause I meant to ask Terry for my Zofran the other day and accidentally said Zoloft. Freudian slip? :)

No actually, my mood is ok. (It's the body that's not!) Things get me down momentarily but God is so faithful and merciful to keep holding my hand so I'm doing ok. And who couldn't cheer up around my blonde boys?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Quick hello

I'm on day four of chemo #3. So far it's not been so bad. Same as last time I guess.
I took nine pills this morning. Nine.
The onc. didn't worry too much about my knee pain. Didn't even want an x-ray. Apparantly bone mets don't usually show up in joints. He said my aches are standard for chemo. Weird to feel like your body is 80 when you're in your twenties, though. Praise God for allowing me to dodge another bullet!
Missed church this morning. Shucks.
Pray for my 'wallowing mood.' Sometimes chemo gets me down more emotionally than physically.

A real update will happen when I emerge from my chemo cloud. Happy 4th.