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

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Say What?

I've got my yearly breast MRI scheduled. I'm not totally fond of tight spaces, so the MRI is pretty scary in and of itself. Not to mention that the original MRI results last year were the turning point in my diagnosis. It's really a good thing that I'm not superstitious at all because this looming appointment will happen on...

Dun, DUN, Dun...

Friday the 13th.

The significance of the date escaped my attention until I relayed the info to my mom and she said, "OOH, Friday the 13th?"

While pointing that out was probably not the smartest thing to tell a person who's anxiety is already a bit high about a medical test, it is, sadly, far from the worst things people have said to me.

And surprisingly enough, it's those in the medical profession that, unknowingly, make the biggest snafus.

-Many times those taking notes for doctor's files will say, "So you had chemotherapy?" I'll say, "Yes. And then radiation." Their eyes get big and with a surprised voice they say, "Really?! Chemo AND radiation?!"
What's Wrong With That?: All I hear is "Whew, you nust have been pretty bad off! Do you have a good life insurance policy?"

-Which brings me to another point. I did have people inquire about my life insurance policy merely days after my diagnosis.
What's Wrong With That?: Duh.

-One time I was talking to a nurse about my risk for lymphedema. She shrugged off my risk and said it was unlikely unless I had positive nodes. I say, "I did have positive nodes." To which she somberly replied, "Oh... Well it really only matters if it was a lot. How many did they remove?" I say, "Ten. Out of which, three were positive." She says, "Whoa, that is a lot!!"
What's Wrong With That?: I hear: 'Yep, you're totally screwed. Better read up on lymphedema now...'

-Then there was the man at HEB who, after discovering my diagnosis, (this was back during treatment) said he'd just had a family member pass away from breast cancer so he'd be happy to pray for me.
What's Wrong With That?: While most patients are not ignorant of the fact that they have fatal diseases, it's probably not too smart to remind us of it.

-And one of the most frustrating things of all is when a person-- doctor, nurse, layperson, whatever-- says, "And you're how old?!" after hearing of my cancer history.
What's Wrong With That?: While it is perfectly ok to be surprised by a young, seemingly healthy person's history of disease, it really doesn't help anyone to let your surprise show. It makes us feel like a freak of nature.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Everything You Never Wanted to Know About My Food!

All of my many dietary restrictions have made me an awful chef! I can't make anything decent without covering it in cheese or cream! But, I'm trying!

It's funny because if you didn't know me, but just read about me on paper, you'd think I was a hippie! I eat mostly organic foods. I get all of my meat, chicken, pork straight from a farm. And I (am going to) homeschool my kids. All that's missing is the tie-dye! (And, as pointed out by Emily in my comments, I forgot to mention that I used cloth diapers!)

No, really, we've been struggling to figure out just what this new way of eating and grocery shopping (we have huge grocery bills lately!) is going to look like. Right now I get about 20% of my groceries from Amazon's subscribe and save site. Another 10% from Yonder Way Farms (leave a comment or email me if you want info on them). All my produce comes from Whole Foods. And mostly everything else comes from Kroger.

I'm trying to lean more on herbs and spices to flavor my food, rather than the aforementioned dairy products. Eating "lean" is definitely a good thing, but the priority in our house isn't thinness. We want health and want to avoid toxins. We want the vitamins and antioxidants found in fruits and veggies. (I know that most people will tell you that they eat enough of these, but I was shocked just how few servings I was getting when my nutritionist had me write down what I ate for a week.)

While I am not even close to eating no processed foods (that dependency is too deep-rooted!), we do limit these foods now. I still have ketchup, mustard, salad dressing, cheese and lunch meat in the fridge. And I eat a lot of Annie Chuns, which are all-natural, and minimally processed- but still processed!

Refined white sugar is one of the biggest no-nos in our house. The other day, Justin asked me what I had against sugar! After being raised around and the Imperial Sugar factory (my dad and grandpa were employees there) I'd feel guilty if I said I had a problem with sugar! Afterall, all my childhood memories were paid for with sugar!

But, my history of PCOS, a disease nicknamed Pre-diabetes, along with my knowledge of the many studies that suggest that cancer feeds on sugar, leaves me avoiding the white stuff at Kroger and reaching for, er, different white stuff at Whole Foods.

Stevia and Xylitol are both approved for me by my nutritionist. Xylitol is slightly better for me and significantly more expensive. But it's an expense I've learned to accept and for now, we're an 80% sugar free home. (The kids still get snacks that have organic cane juice, and Terry still drinks sodas (althogh he's cut back a lot!)

A few weeks ago I spent $250 and 5 hours baking wheat-free, sugar-free pancakes, blueberry muffins, strawberry-vanilla muffins, cornbread and brownies! I made huge batches and froze them. After going so long without any baked goods it was nice to fill that "need" with something healthier. I used things like almond flour and brown rice flour. The brownies were the best! We've also been making our own popsicles and icecream! Delicious!

After five hours in a hot kitchen, my legs were tired and I was all hot and sweaty. But seeing Caleb lick the bowl made it all better!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Yes, Jesus Loves Me

I watched a family gather in a hospital waiting room on tv tonight. And for one fleeting second, I almost envied them. They had complete and total need for God in that moment while they waited to hear if their daughter lived or died. Their predicament is not enviable but their proximity to God is.

I can identify with the author of the famous "Footprints" poem. When we can't walk on our own, I believe God carries us.

One year ago I began a journey.

I still walk that path. But I'm a different traveler today than I was back then. God carried me through the worst of the trail. Through the twists and turns and thickets. And then he laid me on my feet, below the sunshine. And now my biggest duty is to embrace all those things he whispered in my ear when he carried me. To look to eternal things and remember the pain and brokenness that drove me to so intensely seek my Savior.

If I look different to you today than I did 365 days ago, it's only because the Holy Spirit shines more brightly now that I've given him a bigger home in my heart.

It's been one year, and for the time being-- today and maybe tomorrow, too-- the sun is shining. And I can say again-- and truly mean it-- Here am I. Send me. Even if it's painful. Because when I am weak, then He is strong. Because, yes, Jesus loves me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Blessings Upon Blessings!

We moved about a month ago. It was a decision made following much prayer. Once we were sure it was where God was leading us, we got excited about it! We had an idea of what this new phase of our lives would look like.

And then God went and fulfilled his Word. He did immeasurably more than we could have asked for! Not only, are we enjoying living in this new place, but God has made it better than we ever could have expected!We're holding on to this period of blessings as tightly as we can! We're in a richly exciting phase of life and we're so humbled and grateful for God's never-ending fulfillment of promises!

One of the greatest blessings we've received came most unexpectedly. Terry and I were treated to a weekend at the Houstonian Hotel and Spa! Two very special people treated us to a bed and breakfast package (beautiful breakfasts in bed Saturday and Sunday!) and they also covered the cost for me to get a facial and a massage!

I waited for my massage in the "Tranquility Room" in the dark, on my own private chaise, cup of strawberry water in my hand, sparkling fire in the the fire place. I was overwhelmed by the generosity of these two

It was a wonderful weekend that Terry and I really benefitted from. As plain ol' tired individuals, and as a married couple who just hadn't had too much time to be married this past year.

This was the view from our room.

It felt like we were in the wilderness, but we were right in the Galleria area!

We read by this beautiful fireplace one night for a few hours. It was very peaceful.

You can take the girl to a classy hotel, but that doesn't make her classy! This is a photo of stairs that led directly from the hallway near our hotel room, to the parking garage. You were supposed to take the stairs all the way to the ground floor and then take a separate staircase up to the different levels to get your car. Instead, Terry and I jumped that wall right there every single time. We kept thinking people were going to see us and think we were breaking in to the hotel or something!

A view of the grounds. I got to walk around the beautiful property a a bit before my spa treatments. 

More of the property.

My cute hubs.

Thanks again for the so special weekend away! And thanks, also, to the people who helped take care of our kiddoes while we were gone. It was a rejeuvenating weekend that we benefited from so much! Thank you for being givers!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Look Back

Well, I've been busy doing a lot of fun things since my last post. I will catch you up on the blessings we've been experiencing. Not a day goes by -- really, not A DAY!-- when either Terry or I say to one another, "It's just a blessing, straight from God!"

I will share all of those wonderful things with you soon. Today, I just wanted to make note of an experience I had yesterday. It was significant for many reasons.

I'm approaching my one year anniversary. I was inducted into the 'cancer world' at the end of April 2010. It was a wild ride, a crazy year, and quite the experience. Most days I look back on it and I'm very grateful. I believe I've gone through a 'sifting' period and I've come out the other side better!

I was reading Beth Moore last night and she wrote about how the enemy likes to attack when we're really improving our faith. God was definitely doing some cool things in my life a year ago. Opening my eyes about a lot and drawing me closer. I don't know if my illness was an attack or just an unfortunate part of life in a sinful world. But, I'm blessed that God held me close in 2010 and never allowed me to feel alone. And now, not even a year later, most of it feels like a lifetime ago. A blurry memory that will always give me chills. And hopefully, always remind me to get on my knees.

I opened a spiral yesterday. I needed to write something down and I grabbed the closest paper to me. I opened it and read in my sweet hubby's handwriting:

4/18 last cycle
4/19 lumpectomy
4/21 1st oncologist meeting
4/28 MRI
4/30 Portacath, Mastectomy, Node Dissection
5/6 drains removed, 3 of 10 nodes positive
5/7 PET scan
5/11 Dr. Heyne follow-up
5/20 1st chemo
5/25 ER- 101.7 fever, shortness of breath, chest xray, blood work. Negative.
5/27 discharged, white blood down

That's where the dates stop. Because, really, that was all the hardest part. Nothing was ever scarier than my MRI news. Nothing was ever harder than my first chemo and subsequent 3 days in the hospital.

I know many of you think I'm naive to hope that this is the biggest trial I'll ever face. Maybe you're right. After all, time wounds all heels. And I've got lots more time left.

Thank God for 2010. The year God changed my life by saving it.