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

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Radiation Explanation

Most women who have mastectomys (from what I've read) don't get radiation treatment. But because my surgeon did a skin-sparing mastectomy (which could possibly leave behind some breast tissue), and because my cancer had spread to the lymph nodes, radiation is a plart of my treatment. It's designed to target any free-floating cancer cells.

Monday was my first day. The radiation tech I mentioned before, Chris, is my main contact during the treatment. He's been great and I've gotten to be very comfortable around him. In fact, today there was another man there in addition to Chris and although he was very nice, he was a bit condescending, talking to me like I speak to my children. And it made me appreciate Chris' laid back attitude even more. The new guy kept drawing out the last syllable of every word. "Liiiiiie realllll stilllll, okaaaaaay?" I wanted to tell him that I have cancer, not brain damage!

I have a 10 a.m. appointment every weekday for 33 visits. The first 25 will all be a high amount of radiation, the last eight will be a lower amount. Here's how each visit goes...

After dropping my kids off, I get to the cancer center (above) about 9:45. It's a really friendly office with a puzzle to work on, magazines and Bibles to read, and there are snacks and cookies in every corner of every room (don't worry Dr. Hill- I avoid them all!). Everyone who works there is really pleasant.

From the main waiting room, I'm called into the smaller radiation waiting room. There's a woman's changing room there and that's where I get into my gown. Everything from the waist up is taken off, including my wig. My gown is kept in a bag with my name on it, so I can access it easily every day. I put my clothes into the bag. Then take it with me to the radiation room.
(The shelf of bags for the gowns inside the changing room.)

Here's where I spend the majority of my time.

Can you see the gorgeous floral scene on the ceiling?
It's really very pretty. But since I have to have my head turned to the side during radiation, I don't really get to see it. I'm sure the patients who face up during radiation enjoy it.

When I get to the room, they've already pulled my mold (the light blue thing on the table) from a locker with my name on it and put it on the table. There's also a purple towel on top of the mold. (I'll get to it's purpose in a minute.)

I lie on the table, put the little triangle pillow under my knees, pull the blanket up (it's cold!) and fit myself into the mold. I wait until the last second to put my arms back because my surgery arm gets really sore from the position it's stretched into.

Once my arms are back, they push a button and the table slides underneath the big machine you can see in the picture (the bed ends up above the big white circle on the floor). I forget what the machine is called but it has the ability to do x-rays and give the radiation. There's a monitor on the wall that tells them the "coordinates" of the bed. Each visit my bed has to be in the same place. They can shift the table up, down, left, and right to get me in the perfect place. Next they pull my gown aside and expose the "x" marks they made on me. There are four lasers coming out of each side of the room (and I think some from the machine itself). In the picture below, you'll see a tan panel on the left, on the wall. That's where one laser comes from.

The cross sections of these lasers have to match up with the marks on my body so they know I'm in the perfect place. It's important for my position to be correct so that only the affected areas of my body get radiation. They spend a good amount of time lining me up-- which I'm grateful for since the spot to be radiated is so near my heart!

Here's where the towel comes in. If my body isn't perfectly aligned with some of the marks, they tell me to "lie heavy" and Chris will pull the towel slightly so that my body shifts and lines up in the right place.

I am getting radiation in three areas. My mastectomy area (I'm tired of typing this out, so from now on my mastectomy area will be known to you by the name I gave it back in May: Doobie.) under my arm, and at the base, left-hand side of my neck (the last two spots are to get any cells in the lymph-nodes).

Once I'm in position, Chris leaves the room. The three-armed machine you see above rotates around me and we start first with x-rays. I hold my breath during each x-ray and when they're satisfied with those results, the round arm (the one at the top of the picture) moves into line with whichever area is being radiated. There's a square screen in the circle part and through that screen I watch skinny, long, metal teeth, kind of like screw drivers, shift into place to form my specific radiation field. The metal teeth will block the radiation and allow it to come out only where there are openings. This is what the doctors were working so hard on during the week after simulation-- getting all these patterns perfect.

Chris comes over the loud speaker and tells me to hold my breath. I hear a slight humming for 15 seconds before I can take a breath. Then we repeat the process and I hear a humming for 30 seconds. When I get radiation to Doobie they use something called Bolus. Otherwise known as Superflab. It simulates a thick layer of skin (I think the stuff is quite fascinating) and by draping it over me it allows the area of skin to get the maximum dose of radiation. You can see superflab in the pic below. It's squishy and soft just like you'd expect a layer of... well, flab to be. And mine even lies in a position quite close to this fella's.

We repeat the x-ray and radiation for the other two areas (without superflab) and then they let me up and I'm on my way.

While my simulation last Monday proved to be a bit traumatic, these subsequent visits have been easy-breezy. Chris is very young and new to his job, so he enjoys answering my many (many, many) questions every day. This whole process is really interesting to me. It's all so scientific, specific, and dangerous. If I had any kind of tolerance for science classes, I might consider a career in radiation. Misty, you'll have to keep us all informed of your progress as you go to school for this. (Do you ever get to just sit and play with superflab? That seems dreamy to me. Can you tell I'm quite taken with it's squishiness? It's the same kind of feeling you get from popping those little packing bubbles that come inside packages.)

The first day I was lying on the table I tried to spend some time praying. But more than likely, while I'm lying there, my brain is just wandering. "My arm hurts. When will the surgery heal? ...Hmm, I haven't seen my surgeon in a while. She wears blue eye shadow. I wish I could wear blue eyeshadow... Oh, maybe at that 80's party I'm going to! What's the point of leg warmers anyway? Why not just wear pants? I like these pants. They're comfy. Micah would say "comfty." Man, he's crazy lately. He needs a hair cut. I wish I could get a hair cut. Why does shampoo always smell better at the hair salon that at home? I miss shampoo. "

And around and around goes my brain.

Last night at home we were all busily rushing around and for a second I thought, "Man I wish I was in radiation right now!" Guess my fondness for it comes from getting to lie still with no responsibilities for 15 minutes. (And then there's my love affair with superflab.)

Side effects: It's made me slightly sore so far and I'm a bit more tired. But that could be just because of the crazy pace I've kept up this week. So far I've got no complaints, but I don't want to be overly optimistic because Dr. Morgan keeps reminding me that the pain towards the end will be pretty bad. Oh- and one more note- I've been cleared to wear deodorant! the doc said that they outrule it because it will cause me more skin irritation, not because it will interfere with the radiation. So I can (and will) use it sparingly ("at my own risk," says Dr. Morgan!).

Monday, September 27, 2010

Plumber's Perspective

I mentioned that our garbage disposal was out. So, we called a plumber and when he came by the house last Friday I opened the door sans wig. I don't wear the wig at home and so I've surprised a lot of solicitors and FedEx delivery men. They've all been polite, none of them stare, but I usually see a hint of surprise in their eyes before they manage to recover and ignore my shiny head.

When I opened the door Friday the plumber was all business. From what I could tell, he might not have even noticed my baldness. He heads straight for the sink, fixes the disposal in a flash, answers his phone and chats with one of his employees, hangs up, looks at me and says, "So, you got some cancer goin' on?"

It took me by such surprise that I laughed out loud. And after a weekend of thinking about it, I like his perspective. No big deal, it's just cancer. Just something I've "got going on" and soon it will pass.

Still makes me laugh though!

Stay tuned soon for pics from my radiation treatment which started today...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

For Pete's Sake, It's Thursday!

The day started off normal. Then we had one catastrophic trip to the grocery store where the long week finally hit my boys and they had major meltdowns in Kroger. (Don't tell my nutritionist that I tried to calm myself with a Starbucks!) I got lunch on the table as soon as possible and we got halfway through the meal before Micah threw another fit about eating his potatoes. He cried for 10 minutes at the table before I finally got him calmed down. I remember thinking at that point, "Wow, I had a lot of patience just then. Go me! Cancer's given me more patience with my kids. That's awesome. Thank you Jesus!"

And here's what I think-- I think the devil's listening. I really do. I think my family and I are under attack. Since chemo's been over we've been hit with several other small problems that are starting to mount up. Our car broke down on our way to our celebratory "no mo chemo" dinner. Then the car was broken into, Terry's truck has been out of a/c all summer, our garbage disposal broke, etc, etc. If you believe that "when it rains, it pours," you should definitely bring your umbrella to my house!

It's been hard to take the trauma and drama of the last two weeks, but I think Terry and I have handled it ok. It's hard for anything to phase you in the wake of cancer. But it wouldn't be the truth if I said we've let it all roll off our backs. We've had to constantly remember to look to God through it all.

Pam recently said in a marriage class at church that we shouldn't be surprised if we come across marital tiffs while we're attending the class because Satan will try to attack what we're building up. And 1 Peter 5:6-8 says,

"Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.  Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith." 

So there I was today patting my own back for navigating a temper tantrum with Micah when the day went from hard to horrific. Other moms can identify when I say that there are some days when nothing goes right. I'd be in the middle of cleaning up one thing when I'd get pulled away to change a dirty diaper, then I'd rush off to clean a spill, stop to argue with my three-year-old, take out the trash, clean another spill, etc. Which would be like any ol' regular day at home, except it's also the day I'd designated as my "major cleaning" day. Which means each task I ran off to do left a half-mopped floor or half washed window behind. Soon the house was littered with cleaning supplies and toys and I was frazzled. So this time when Micah had a breakdown that resulted in two long hours of him crying in his room, I lost it! So much for patience!

As I was angrily throwing a soiled rug into the washing machine, I had one rational thought amidst all the fist-clenching, teeth-grinding frustration: go read the Bible.

So I ignored the mess and the messy kids, eased into my comfy chair and I did. Well, I tried. I read about two scriptures before mommy-duty called. As I was hoisting myself out of the chair (Yes, hoisting. Months of chemo-induced inactivity has left me weak!) I realized, "For Pete's Sake, it's Thursday!"

It's Thursday. I should be getting chemotherapy today. But...I'm...not.

And now here I sit. Housework nowhere near close to done, but for now all the supplies are put away. The boys aren't crying; they're playing. And I've gotten perspective. In the time it took to read two short scriptures God reminded me how far I've come in my cancer journey. And I remembered how far I've got to go before I'm anywhere near the knowledgeable, strong, morally upright Christian God wants me to be.

I let troubles and stresses seep in when I wasn't looking. I made improvements in my life (regarding patience with the boys) and then left myself wide open for Satan's attack.

So next time I thank God for something, I'll remember to give it back to Him to protect from my enemy. I'll remember to put my armor on!

"Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes" (Ephesians 6:11).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Preparing for Radiation

 Since last chemo I've tried to think of cancer as little as possible. Which, of course, is hard to do. Terry and I went to a movie a few nights ago and when I was walking up the stairs to my seat I thought, "My legs aren't shaking!" Since the first chemo I've been weak enough that walking up stairs made me shaky. But then there are other times when I notice how slow my reaction time is or how foggy my thought process still is and I'm reminded that I've still got a lot of chemicals floating around my body. Although it seems like ages since my last chemo, it really hasn't been even three weeks yet.

I met with my radiation onc yesterday to get ready for radiation which begins on the 27th. I pulled into the parking lot and saw an elderly woman with a cane slowly making her way to the door. I noticed her slow pace, her frailness, her age and I soberly remembered, "Oh, yeah, I have cancer."

I really don't though. My scans have been clean for months. But like Laura Shook said and I copied into my last post, I'll always think of cancer. I'll never be able to turn my back on it.

Once inside the waiting room, I grabbed a magazine and buried my nose in celebrity gossip (a treat I allow myself only at doctor's offices and hospital stays!) and sucked down my coffee smoothie. Soon the cold smoothie plus the low temp of the waiting room had me freezing and I was dreading changing into my little gown for my exam.

The people at this office are great though, and when I was in the exam room the nurse noticed how cold I was and adjusted the temp in my room and gave me plenty of time to warm up before I had to change into the gown. Dr. Morgan was pleasant (he always is) as we discussed my radiation plan and the possible side effects:
burned skin
tight/sore esophagus due to its exposure to radiation
slight damage to left lung where it's exposed to radiation
possible heart sac damage or hypertension
about a 3% increase in my chance of lymphedema in the left arm.

After talking with Dr. Morgan the nurse walked me down to the radiation department where I met two people who are to be my technicians throughout my nearly 2 months of radiation. The first was a friendly older woman. The second was a young guy. Very young. Younger than me probably. When I met him all I could think was how uncomfortable I was going to be around him when it came time for me to take off the medical gown and be measured for radiation.

Both technicians were friendly though, and soon I was lying on what felt like a beanbag chair, on top of a long table in front of a scanning machine. It looked like a PET scan machine, but I'm not sure of the correct terminology.

My back, head and shoulders were on the beanbag, while my arms were lifted above my head and all the way back where I had to hold on to what felt like two bicycle handles. I had to turn my head to the right to keep my brain furthest from the area to be radiated. Once I was in a position they liked, they pushed a button and my beanbag chair hardened beneath me and around me, making a perfect mold of my position. Each time I return for radiation I will get back into that same exact position with help from my personal mold.

Once they had my position they could start marking spots on my body so they could hand over specifics to a physicist and team of doctors to get specifics for my radiation. The rad. onc. came in and put little stickers all over me, circling my mastectomy area, marking my scars from the surgery and the drainage tubes. Then the technicians removed the stickers and marked where they'd been with markers.

Before I left they told me that I can't wash off the marker. If it gets light I need to go over it with a sharpie or go back to their office to get it redrawn. When I got back on Monday they'll give me new marks. I have no idea if I'll have to have these marks the whole time I'm getting radiation or just during this preparatory stage.

This picture shows one mark they made on the top right of the picture. It's just above my surgery area. You can see how the area just below that mark is dark. That's not bruising or discoloration, it's a shadow because all the tissue that was removed left a hole right there. On the left of the screen you can see the scar from my port. I'll have to live with the port until my reconstruction surgery which will be sometime in Summer of 2011.

This picture shows the hole a bit better. You can also see the top of my scar site. And you can see how my arm still hasn't healed from the lymph node removal. See how my arm is swollen beneath the strap of my tank?

The mark on the left is on my side, while the one on the right is just under the mastectomy area. So when I take my clothes off now I don't just see my scars and the mess left behind from my skin-sparing mastectomy, I also see these marks. Kind of hard to not think about cancer when you're looking at that, huh?

Back to my radiation story...
Once I was all marked up they took pictures and then needed to scan me. I'd gone through the whole process unemotionally until they moved me into the scanning tube (again, I don't know the right word for the machine). It reminded me of the PET Scan I had when we still didn't know if the cancer had spread beyond the nodes. I immediately got emotional. It's so easy for tears to spring up these days because there's all those scary emotions just below the surface. So I started blinking to keep the tears back. I couldn't move from my position during the scan and so I was frustrated when one sad little tear rolled down my cheek and I couldn't move from the mold to wipe it away. 

As soon as I heard the machine turn off and they began pulling me out of the tunnel, I reached up and wiped it away before anyone could see. But to do that I had to get out of position and so the young guy scolded me. His presence during all of this was pretty annoying. I was lying there exposed for so long, getting all marked up as they talked about me like I wasn't there. 

I'd expected this whole radiation process to be a breeze, so you can imagine how I felt when this whole experience proved more difficult than I'd expected.  

Just before I left the office, the technicians reminded me that I can't use deodorant the entire time I'm undergoing radiation. They said it leaves a residue that interferes with their work. And I also can't shave under my arms. Which isn't a big deal right now while I'm still mostly hair-less from chemo. But I imagine the hair growth will return long before my weeks of radiation are up.

So, that was my first experience with my radiation team. I begin the treatments Monday. Although yesterday was not a fun day, I do have some good news. I'd been so worried about finding someone to watch the boys while I went once a day, every weekday, to the doctor. Thankfully our friends Justin and Lizzie are letting us drop the kids at their house during the day for their nanny to watch. And lucky for us, their nanny just happened to be our favorite night-time babysitter, Michelle! We're so grateful to the Benders and Michelle for helping make the radiation weeks easier! And Jennie and her kids are going to watch the boys once a week, too! Thank God for caring friends!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Me too

I've been keeping up with Laura Shook's blog. She's recently finished her treatment and had her first PET scan since being declared NED (no evidence of disease). Her words are EXACTLY how I feel right now (even thogh I still have radiation and surgery ahead of me). Read her words...

"Since finishing treatment and surgery, it has been interesting to me how many people have made the following statements to me:

"I'm so glad you are finished with all of that!"
"I'm glad it's all over!'
"So glad you are done and you don't have to deal with that anymore."
And many other similar remarks.

I just smile and acknowledge their kind hearts, but the truth is, I'm not finished yet. Not even close. Yes, I am finished with immediate treatment. Yes, I am finished with surgery. But I'm not finished with cancer. In fact, it seems like just recently the stress of the past 15 months is beginning to surface in me, Mark, and our girls. My husband and my children have all been so strong, pushing their own feelings aside in order to carry me through treatment. Now that it looks like I am well, the defenses are dropping and the feelings are surfacing. We are all feeling a little fragile at this point.

I think about cancer every day. I have physical changes and new routines that remind me of where I've been on a daily basis. Although they are less frequent now, I still have regular doctor visits and medical tests. I still take multiple dietary supplements prescribed by my doctor to treat side-effects of chemotherapy. Cancer is still part of my daily life.

I had a PET scan today. I didn't feel nervous about the test or the results of the test at all. Mark took me to the radiology center and patiently waited two hours while I was injected with radioactive glucose, waited for it to make its way through my body, and then spent 30 minutes in the scanning machine. Afterward we stopped to pick up lunch on the way to our staff meeting. Returning to the car I suddenly felt extremely fatigued. I realized that although I hadn't felt it, I must have been stressed all along. Mark got in the car and told me that he was having a mini meltdown too. Even though we fully believe that I am cancer-free, the waiting, hoping, and wondering are heavy loads to carry. Hopefully, the doctor will call soon with the report.

In the meantime, we'll carry on, as survivors. Never forgetting where we've been, and ever look forward to God's continued grace and strength."

Follow her blog at http://laurashooksblog.blogspot.com/

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Change in Taste

At my last meeting with my nutritionist we discussed the likelihood that my PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) is the highest contributing factor to me getting cancer. Namely because women with pcos have a large amount of estrogen compared to their progesterone. And breast cancer is a hormonally-driven cancer where estrogen matters a lot.

If you want to know more about how PCOS-related insulin resistance also likely contributed to me getting cancer, read the next paragraph, if not skip down...

Scientists believe that the components of Insulin Resistance and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome actually favor the growth of breast cancer cells, creating an environment ripe for the development of this disease. While studies are still on-going, preliminary data suggests that increased levels of insulin in the blood increase the formation of breast cancer cells.

My nutritionist will be closely monitoring my hormone levels from here on out to make sure I stay out of that danger zone regarding my estrogen.

But the insulin issues- well, they're mostly taken care of with diet. Which is why everything I'm eating lately has almost no sugar or wheat. I'm eating very little carbohydrates and very little red meat. And fruits and vegetables are, of course, most important.

So far it's been easier than expected. (Of course, I've had the best motivation possible- staying healthy during chemotherapy!)

Some of my best discoveries:

-Smoothie King. My Starbucks addiction has taken a major hit and Smoothie King has luckily been there as a replacement. All last week I enjoyed a Starbucks mocha nearly everyday to celebrate chemo ending, but now I'm back on a no-sugar diet so I settle for the Mocha Coffee Smoothie (with no turbinado) at Smoothie King instead.

-Quinoa pasta has been my favorite health food find. Pasta is a big no-no. Even whole wheat pasta. Thankfully my love for Top Chef came in handy and I remembered a gluten-free episode that featured pasta made of Quinoa. Quinoa is a protein (something I'm supposed to consume a lot of) and the pasta tastes (to me anyway) just like regular pasta, maybe even better! It looks like this...

and you can get it at Kroger. And it's also organic!

-Sweets are completely restricted but I found that sometimes I just need something chocolate! Lucky for me I found Endangered Species chocolate bars that are organic. If I buy the ones that are 88% pure cocoa, then I can eat half a bar for only 5 grams of sugar. I usually can't even eat half a bar though, so this is a pretty healthy alternative to sweets.

I found a tip online today that I can't wait to put into practice. The suggestion is to grate vegetables into all of your recipes while you cook so everything has double the vegetables, but the thin slices don't change the flavor much.

If you know us personally, you'll understand just how many groans have risen from my husband's side of the table lately. He's doing a good job at least trying most of the food I've been serving up. But we've got a long way to go before I get him to give up all of his sugar-packed, preservative-stuffed snacks like Dr. Pepper, Frosted Flakes, and honey buns!

Our game plan-
We're trying to make eating differently more fun so we've made it into a competition. We're going to start combing the health food websites for interesting recipes. Terry and I will each take turns cooking some of the more challenging dinners and we'll keep track of who makes the most delicious meals. We haven't decided yet what the winner gets though. Probably just some guilt-free cash to spend on whatever we want!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

My Very Own Love Letter

Monday night after my shopping trip, I was wiped. I grabbed by Nook so I could read for a few minutes before falling asleep. The cool thing about the Nook (a wi-fi reader that allows me to download and store books and read them anywhere I can carry the small device) is that when you turn it on, it automatically pulls up where you stopped reading last. And even though I'd planned on reading a novel, Monday night my book opened to the middle of Ephesians 3 so I started reading the Bible instead.

And God spoke to me through the next several verses in a powerful way! I'm always so....so... honored when God reaches out and steadies my shoulders and says, "This, Sarah Lanier Domino, is what I have to say to you today." There's nothing more powerful.

Monday night, in the middle of "achy brain" syndrome from chemo, God wrote me a love letter and stuck it in the pages of Ephesians. Read with me and I'll share what He told me...

It starts with a headline: "Prayer for Spiritual Strength."
I remember thinking, "Yes, please," as I dove into chapter 3, verse 14...

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. (God knew I needed to hear that my family was derived in Him and taken care of by Him. I'd just moments earlier gotten a phone call from a crying Micah who was unhappy at his sleepover arrangements and I was feeling sad. It was important that God calmed me with the use of the word 'family' in this verse so I could put that worry aside and hear God.)

 "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. (This passage was all about feeling strengthened. After going through the emotional and physical vigors of chemo, I felt so empty and I've been craving words from God like those highlighted above.)

"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (I love that here we see the need to have power to understand God's love. It's not something we can see easily! It requires power to even grasp the concept! That's a lot of love!)

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! (This is one of my all-time favorite verses. God is able and willing to do immeasurably more than what we have hoped for in our wildest imaginations! Believe me, these are powerful words to me right now! I've been so broken and weighed down, but with these words God reminded me that He's anxious to give to me! That while I'm asking for health and to be around when my children get married, maybe God's rubbing his hands together saying, 'Ahhh, Sarah, I've got so much more in store for you than that!'

Stay with me because chapter four gets even better!

"As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. (In case you haven't read the title of my blog, I've attacked my cancer diagnosis with the enthusiasm of one called to be better and do more for Christ! In my previous post on the new normal I expressed a desire to become worthy of my calling.)

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (I was searching for direction as my chemo treatments ended and the next part of life began. I was happy to read these admonishments and accept them as a goal. To be humble, gentle, patient, loving.)

Let's skip to verse 11:

"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (I've been feeling the call of God so strongly. I've been feeling Him calling me to do more and be more for Him-- to serve in a different capacity like those mentioned above. He continued to use his scriptures here to nudge me in that direction. I am anxious to know what God has in store for me!)
We're nearing a big finish! Let's end with verses 14-16:

"Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (These scriptures are about maturing spiritually, but you better believe that I read them to mean I could be freed from the tossing of waves caused by cancer too! And how wonderful of God to weave the words of our physical bodies into this verse! He knew I needed to hear that my body is being held together by Him, that I can move on and allow Him to rebuild my physical and spiritual strength to an even healthier state than before!)

It may not sound like much to you... But those five minutes of reading these above scriptures were wonderfully warming to me! I couldn't read them fast enough as God whispered his voice above those words on the pages written so long ago. I love the living word that can move that like!

I was changed when I was diagnosed. I've been changed during other pivotal moments throughout my journey so far. And Monday night, God let me know He'd be there holding me up while He shows me how to embrace the changes and use them for Him. Here am I, God. Here am I, Lord. You've sent me and I'll go. Thank you for your healing. Thank you for the love letter.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Adios Chemo!

I've been reading Ephesians lately. The scriptures on being saved by grace have been comforting to me. Since getting sick I've had moments of "bartering" with God in my weakness. Moments where I've asked to be cured of cancer in exchange for lofty promises regarding my current and future behaviour. Of course I know none of that matters. Nothing I can ever do would even be worthy of sparing my life. I get eternity in heaven because of sheer mercy, right? From what I've heard from others who've been through an illness like mine, this idea of making promises to God in exchange for your health is a common one.

And speaking of promises, my little sister has gotten engaged and will soon promise to love her beau forever. And it just so happened that she, my mom, and my older sister all had one day off work to go shopping for wedding gowns-- day 5 of chemo for me. This is usually my second worst day in any given chemo cycle. But, I wasn't missing wedding dress shopping for anything! I did a little research and discovered that the Galleria offered wheel chairs, so we took advantage of that and I got pushed around the mall for hours. I was a little uncomfortable at first-- I mean, I don't really look sick so I wondered how many people might be judgementally wondering why I was wheeling around. And actually, as glamorous as it sounds to get such great treatment, I didn't like my lowered vantage point and was very unhappy with my inability to flit around the stores and pull gowns for Laura!

However, we successfully made it through the day and even managed to agree on a beautiful dress perfect for Laura's intimate, family wedding. And so I proclaim this the most successful chemotherapy session ever!

Unfortunately today I mis-read my stamina and I headed out to a store (the boys are playing with Aunt Emily today!) to shop for my own gown for the wedding. Fast forward about thirty minutes and I was sitting on the floor with my head in between my knees so I didn't pass out. Ok, so bad call on getting out today. But since I am now familiar with the sensations I get before I pass out I noticed them right away and took a time-out before things got worse.

It was a huge blessing to be able to feel less sick this time around. Like Paul said to me when he heard I was shopping Monday, "Why are we surprised by what God can do?" It was also a blessing that Terry continued to take care of me when I came home last night. I know it would be easy for someone to see me expend such energy on a shopping trip and then assume that I'm 100% better and decline to help. But, just like Terry's done since the beginning, he didn't ask any questions (or even raise his eyebrows when I originally suggested the idea of me going out) and he was graciously my care-taker. He made me dinner, helped me wash my face, got me into bed and rubbed my hands and feet until I fell asleep. How's that for loving?

But I was talking about blessings, not husbands (although in my case they seem to be one in the same)...
Getting through chemotherapy is a HUGE, huge, huge blessing and worthy of many "Praise the Lords!" I was spared many side-effects and although I endured too many hospital stays for my liking, I'm so very overwhelmed with joy to be on this side of this whole ordeal and still be in one piece. (And now I'm watching my naked scalp for any signs of life!)

When I came home from the doctor's office Thursday (the last time I have to see my oncologist for three months now that I'm transferring to the radiologists care!) Mel had delivered a beautiful end-of-chemo celebration basket! We got champagne, the new Jennifer Weiner book, organic snacks, DVDs, and a beautiful wall hanging about growing up 'Southern.'

And speaking of southern things, it just wouldn't be right of me to end this post without mentioning another blessing. The love and downright, southern hospitality of all of you who have traveled this journey with me so far. When I was embarrassingly sitting in Ross with my head between my knees today, I started running through a list of the people I could call on to come get me if I weren't able to drive myself back home. I'm happy, and even surprised, by the sheer volume of that list.

I am, after all, just a flighty girl who's too opinionated, too ornery, and too stubborn for her own good. Yet when I was faced with a disease that was too much for me, you all showed up and represented God's children, my brothers and sisters, very well. You were and are a huge blessing to me, my husband, and my baby boys.

Thank you.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Help Me Celebrate

In 17.5 hours I will sit down for my last chemo treatment. I have mixed feelings. I am so glad it will be over, but at the same time, I know I can't start celebrating until all the drugs are out of my system and I'm feeling better.

I told Micah that I needed to cut his hair today and he said, "When your hair grows back, can we get a haircut together?" When he said it I realized that my hair will start growing back in about a month (that might sound long to y'all, but not to me!). I know that being bald is uber easy, but I miss ponytails! I miss feeling feminine cause right now I've got absolutely no feelings of femininity. I mean c'mon- I've got no hair, I can't put on my bra without sticking a huge plastic mound into it first, and the Lupron injections have not only put me into temporary menopause, (We hope it's temporary anyway. Won't know what chemo did to me for sure for a few months) but are also causing increasingly worse hot-flashes as time goes on. Ain't that a pretty picture?

It's a good thing Terry and I are starting a marriage class at church tonight. Otherwise he might forget I'm his wife and start calling me "roomie," slapping me on the back, and belching more.

Ok, so I've got about a week and a half before chemotherapy and all of it's side effects are behind me. And then Terry and I are going to celebrate!!!

Thanks to my dad and Donna, we're partying Florida-style after radiation is over with a fantastic trip to Disney World!!! But the end of chemo deserves a celebration of its own! So here's where you all come in- Terry and I are very routine-oriented people. We do the same things at the same places all the time. And while that's great, we'd really like some suggestions from you fellow H-towners on where, when, and how to rejoice in this lovely, lovely ending!

Computer-savvy folks: leave your tips in the "comments" section. Those of you who never touched a computer until you sucked-it up and learned how to double-click just so you could read my blog- call me with your suggestions.

I look forward to getting your responses while I'm sick from MY VERY LAST CHEMO TREATMENT EVER!!!!