Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chemo Treatment #1 Down and Only 5 to Go

Monday started for me with about 3 hours of sleep from the night before due to the Decadron (steroid).  I can honestly tell you that I had absolutely no anxiety about my first chemo treatment so it truly was the Decadron that was keeping me awake.  My friend, Alverna, came to pick me up at 9:30am because I was supposed to be at The Center for blood work at 10:30, meet with my oncologist nurse practitioner and then on to my infusion at 11:00am.  The Center had been closed last Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving and that caused a pretty good back-up.  This place is so incredible because no matter how late they are running, you will be seen and you will be given all the time you need to talk and get your questions answered.  As my day progressed, it was indeed 1:00pm before I found my recliner seat in the infusion room and waited for the process to begin.

As I mentioned in previous post, Monday is when the prisoners get their chemo treatments at The Center so the corner chairs will never be available so I chose the next section.  There was a chair available on the end of the second section right by the nurses station.  When we got to the infusion room most all the chairs were taken so I was happy about getting the spot I got.  I could see almost everything going on in the facility which is right up my alley.

I was the last person in my six chair area to begin my treatment.  When they did my blood work earlier in the day, I had the option of going up and letting them take the blood from my port but I opted for the vein draw because I thought they would sticking the port twice but later found out that the line they put in for the blood draw would stay and I would only be stuck once.  Lesson learned.  So my young chemo nurse, Jennifer, came over and was so sweet and talked me through what she was about to do and gave me the order of which I would receive my cocktail.  The blood draw nurse, Lisa, was walking by and squatted down by my chair and offered me her hand when Jennifer got ready to stick the three prong line in my port.  After Jennifer cleansed the area with alcohol she ask me if I wanted her to topically freeze the port before the stick?  YEPPERS sure do.  She froze it, I was told to take a deep breath all the while holding on to Lisa's hand and stick and it was in.  Waaa hooo no pain.

Jennifer begain my regime with a little saline flush in which she mixed Phenagrin (antihistimine) and Aloxi (an anti-nausea drug).  The Phenagrin being injected into the mainline that way gives me a little warm fuzzy, head silly feeling but quickly went away.

Below picture was the beginning of my infusion

After that part of the infusion, next came the Adriamycin aka Red Devil.  The good thing about the Red Devil is that it takes only 10 minutes to drip in.  The Red Devil also turns your urine red immediately but as much water as I drink, that didn't take long to get back to normal.  (If you're thinking this is too much information, it's all part of the journey.)
See the bag of Red Devil ... 

Once the Red Devil was finished, next came the Taxotere.  This drug takes an hour to drip in and all the while I'm not feeling anything.  I don't look so happy in these pictures but I was really glad to get the show on the road.  The sooner I get these treatments started, the sooner they are finished.  After the Taxotere came the Cytoxcin which also took an hour to drip. Once that was complete they do a 10 minute clear the line saline drip and then you are done.

You can see the port on the left side of the picture where the drugs are administered. 

All in all the experience was not difficult.  It was really cold in the infusion room which I'm sure helps people who might be experiencing nausea.  I took my own blanket throw but ended up having to get one of their blankets as well.  I had on jeans, socks with ankle high boots, tank top (easy access to port) and a sweater and I was freezing.

The feelings I had on my way home are somewhat hard to explain but my body core felt tender on the inside. Sounds strange I know but that was the feeling I got.  I still have that feeling this morning some but no nausea. There's nausea meds coming here shortly to ensure that I remain ok.

In my meeting with Helena, Oncologist Nurse Practitioner, I mentioned to her about the Decadron sleep deprivation and she said she could get me a prescription for sleep so I ended up with Ambien.  They tell you to have everything done before taking the Ambien so at 7:30pm last night, I had had a shower and was finished with my day, took 1/2 of an Ambien, went right to sleep until about 12:45am.  After waking at 12:45am, I dozed off and on the remainder of the night.  Thankful for such a great group of medical personnel at The Center.  Other information that I found out about the dosages of chemo drugs, they are all measured and go by your weight.

Here are a few more facility pictures I took trying to capture the beautiful bright facility where I will be taking the mere five remaining treatments.

There are three chairs on each side in each section of the infusion room.

My wonderful sweet friend, Alverna, taking a well deserved nap.

The nurses desk stretches all the way across the room.
These ladies never stop.  There are 22 chairs in the facility
and as the bags empty and the machine beeps, these ladies
are up and taking care of your next drip or getting you ready
to go home.

The front desk by where I was sitting.

This morning I am extremely fatigued and my face is flushed but Praising the Lord that (1) I have no nausea and (2) I have no headache.  I'll begin my daily anti-nausea meds here shortly and then take another Decadron at 8:00am and the last one for this round at about 2:00pm.  The anti-nausea drugs go through Thursday or however long I might need them.  God is carrying me today as I feel I have not near enough strength to carry myself.  I know God is right here with me and holding me up this morning.

Today I am claiming the following scripture.  Lord I seek you in the days ahead as every day before.  Thank you for bringing me this far down my journey.  

Psalm 105:4

4 Look to the LORD and his strength;
   seek his face always.



Monday, November 28, 2011

The Bitter Taste of Insomnia

It appears that no matter how much energy I used yesterday, the steroids are going to win.  After all I got accomplished yesterday morning and then a 3 1/2 hour shopping escapade with my sister as well as  decorating for Christmas during the evening hours and a 10:30pm bedtime didn't faze the steroids.  I woke at 11:45, waiting for the alarm to go off so I could take more steroids at 1:00am.  I decided the anticipation of the alarm was the issue so I took the steroids at 12:40am and laid there patiently waiting for my sleep that didn't come so I got up at 1:45am and am now on the computer.  It's almost 3:00am.  I know these steroids serve a big purpose in my treatment so I will not be angry about these wakeful times.

I guess I will try to get back in the bed, I'm freezing sitting here at the computer because due to the many hot flashes that I'm having, I have to close the air vents in my bed and bathroom that are currently running heat.  I sleep with two fans blowing right on me which produces cold flashes too.  Oh well, the tired is temporary until the next treatment.  Today I'm claiming the following scripture...

2 Corinthians 9:11

11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

I hope you had a wonderful Sunday.  I would love to hear from you.  

Blessed and sending blessings!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Preparation, Praise and Prayer

Let's see ... preparation has been underway now for the beginning of my chemo treatments.  I have accomplished a lot of the things that I wanted to get done.  I forgot to get Gatorade yesterday at Sam's and I probably should really get back over there and get a case.  In my chemo class they told me to drink at least 68 ounces of fluid in my waking hours.  It doesn't have to be all water but if you know me well, you know I'm a big big water drinker but it can be Gatorade and such.  They shy you away from coffee and tea.  Now I do plan to have my 2 -- ok, maybe 3 cups of coffee in the mornings but after that it is water and Gatorade.  I'm not a great big tea drinker unless my sister and I are out during happy hour for Sonic (2-4pm) and we go to our local Sonic which makes the very best tea, then I will drink a large tea.  I will prepare and take me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with probably real Lays potato chips because my chemo starts at 11:00 and will run 3-4 hours.  I can't imagine poison being dripped in to my body and me not eating. <smile>  If I go see Jesus during these chemo treatments, I plan to be full. <smile>  And don't worry, I will be on Benadryl, and so much anti-nausea medicine that I don't plan to get sick and if I do ... well I just do.  This chemo has to be done and by cracky I'll get it done.

I praise the Lord for such a wonderful family and the family time we have gotten to share the past four days.  Both my awesome nephews were here and we cooked together, shared meals, and watched football, napped and had such a good time.  On Saturday we celebrated my grandson, Braxton's first birthday with a huge party for friends and family.  Below are a few pictures.  I didn't pictures of Braxton's other grandparents but I can get copies from Bonnie, I will post those also.  Stay tuned!

Grammy and Braxton

Daddy and Mommy watching Braxton eat his smash cake.

Pawpaw, Bonnie and Braxton

    Grammy G with Braxton

Cousins and Uncle Colton (in the back) playing in the ball
house that Uncle Scott and Aunt Steph got Braxton.

Braxton lost his passenger.  He pushed Madelyn back and forth across the den a bunch of times on the choo choo train.

This morning we had a big breakfast before sending my nephews off.  Justin works at Florida State University in Tallahassee and Travis works at Texas A&M.  Both of them work in labs ... go figure, they both have a degree in molecular biology.  These are two of the finest young men on the face of the earth.  I love them both so much.  Below are a couple pictures we took after we stuffed our face with sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, blueberry muffins and biscuits and jelly.  Orange juice and coffee too.  They will both be back in about three weeks for Christmas and of course none of us here can wait.  Safe travels guys.

                                           Justin and I.

                                           Travis and I.

At 1:00am this morning, I began my Decadron (steroid), oh you know the one that you wake up and take to prepare your body for chemo that can cause insomnia?  <smile>  Believe it or not after I took it and laid there and thought about wanting an iPad, I went right back to sleep and woke up at almost 6:00am.  I got up with jittery hands, went to the kitchen and made the coffee and in the meantime grabbed a banana and ate it.  That seemed to help the jitters.  LOL  AND then let the energy begin.  I had to run to Walmart and pick up a few things for breakfast, you know orange juice, eggs, biscuits, blueberry muffin mix, bacon and sausage <laughing> and it was a good thing there was no one in the store that early because I was doing wheelies with my cart, taking those corners like no other, walking down the aisles just grabbing stuff off without stopping (ok so that's a little fabrication), anyway, got checked out and back home in record time without speeding.  After we ate and everyone left ... let the cleaning begin.  Floors are dry and wet swiffered, little vacumming, windows cleaned, two loads of laundry, dishes unloaded from dishwasher ...  Unbelievable how much energy two steroid pills can give you ... can't wait to see what the two that I just took (1:00pm) are going to do for me.  I have to take two Decadron every 12 hours for three days so who knows what's on the agenda for the afternoon... roof the house, fix the fence <laughing>.

Praise ...
My left arm is getting so much better and stretching really good.  I can almost touch the wall with my left side when I raise it like I can my right arm.  Praise the Lord.  I think I mentioned that the day after my surgery I was certain I would never be able to even move it again because it hurt so bad.  And the Lord said ... "Be still and know that I am God.  Patience Gena, I've got this under control".   I continue to praise my awesome Lord and know that He has everything under control.  I have no worries because what ever comes my way, He already has a plan for me.

My friend, Alverna, who is always here for me and will be taking me tomorrow for my chemo and staying there with me.  While we aren't sure she can stay in the infusion room with me, she can come in and visit with me.

Prayers please!
*  Safe travels for my nephews.  Justin's drive takes about 12 hours and Travis about 3 hours.
*  That my body will handle the chemo.  To know me is to know that I do not like to take medicine and now will be taking, as far as I'm concerned, the strongest of the strong.
** A dear friend of Alverna's fell and broke her hip this morning.  Please pray for speedy and full recovery for Nancy.

I hope you and your family had a great and blessed Thanksgiving.  Thank you for reading my blog and please share it with anyone.  Cancer is a journey that no one has to go alone.  I will be here for anyone traveling this journey.  Let me hear from you if you get a minute.  My email is below.

Blessings and much love.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Cancer Crusade Survivor Movie

This movie is incredible.  Please take the time to watch.



Friday, November 25, 2011

Apple Pie

Today I can tell you that breast cancer has been a blessing for me.  When I was first diagnosed I cannot tell you how many survivor sisters that I talked to that told me this.  As I have continued my journey through breast cancer, I get it!  I know now why they said that.  My diagnosis made me realize that I was living life in the fast lane.  Oh you know ... I gotta do this and gotta do that NOW.  My house had to be spotless and my yard immaculate.  Poooeeeyyyy !  My diagnosis made me realize that none of that stuff really matters.  What matters is loving and living for right now.  I don't put off things that I would otherwise put off.  Read on about the apple pie adventure yesterday ....

Yesterday we began cooking for our Thanksgiving feast for today.  You know all the things that can be prepared in advance.   First things first ... homemade apple pie.  My nephew, Justin, and I were in the kitchen and I began cutting up my Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples.  These apples provide tart and sweet for a pie.  Justin mentioned that he just loves Honey Crisp apples and I said there were Honey Crisp in the fridge so he grabbed one and I cut it up and put it in the pie.  Along with the apples, I added brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon, fresh lemon rind and juice.  Justin looked at me and ask me if I measure anything ... Nope, just throw it in the pie.  We tasted the apple goodness and knew we were on to a great pie.  After the taste test, then came the butter (Parkay).  I do not make my own pie crusts but Pillsbury does.  I rolled the bottom crust out and we put our apple goodness in the pie and then layed the top crust on and sealed it.  We stabbed the top of the pie crust for ventilation and in the oven it went.  I watched that pie bake for nigh on to 45-50 minutes and the smell was just beyond. 

Justin had gone home (across the street) and went and cleaned his FJ Cruiser up and I stepped out on the front porch to sweep the leaves away from the door.  (NOTE, when leaves are tracked in to the house, there are two little babies who just love to put them in their mouth and crunch).  I yelled at Justin across the street and told him I had taken the pie out of the oven and while cleaning up the little leak with a papertowel, I couldn't resist tasting the juice ... oh my goodness ... Mrs. Smith's hasn't got anything on me as far as apple pies.  I told Justin when he got finished cleaning his car to come over because I planned to cut that pie and have a piece ... after all I've had cancer and I don't put things off anymore.  He got finished and washed up and came on over for our taste test.  But first we had to take a picture of our pie ...
Isn't it pretty?  We cut the pie and shared a piece and oooohhhhed and aaaaahhhhhed the entire time.  Then my sister came over to check on the progress of the things that I was doing and we told her what we had done with the pie so she indulged in a piece also.  So today for our Thanksgiving feast, there is still a wonderful apple pie but when we get desserts out, this is what everyone else will find ....
... a beautiful pie with a couple of pieces missing.   And you know what .... I'm ok with it.

Today I am beyond thankful.  Thankful for the life that God has allowed me to have and thankful for the family and friends who surround me.  I am thankful for the many survivor sisters that have been put in my path. 

So today ... don't wait to have that piece of apple pie ... just go ahead and have it. 

2 Corinthians 9:15  

15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Blessings on this fabulous Friday ...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful Thursday

Today I think back once again about how far I have come since September 15 when I received my breast cancer diagnosis.  That day my world turned black.  I cried.  I hugged my family tighter.  I was holding on to life.  That's what we do when we find out something so devastating, isn't it?   I want to remind you as you read this, DO NOT wait until devastation sets in ... Tell those you love that you love them and never ever miss an opportunity to get a hug.  I have always done this and I continue to hug and express my love every minute of every day.  Today I am in a much much better place than I was back then.  I have always been thankful for good health and today is no different.  God has done just as He promised in Psalm 23 ...

Psalm 23  
1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
   I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Yesterday I looked  and figured my chemo schedule through the upcoming six treatments and if I have figured this every three week treatment schedule correclty it appears my last chemo treatment will be March 12.  That is one week after my birthday.  At that time, I will be finished with that leg of my journey.  We will wait one month before I begin the 6 1/2 week daily (Monday - Friday) radiation regime which I believe will begin around April 23.  Looking at all of these dates, I will be very close to being finished with my treatments by the time my new grandbaby is due May 28.   Glory Hallelujah!  God is so good. 

Another praise ... I have been very diligent about my arm exercises and I praise God that my right arm is doing great.  I can now stand sideways next to the wall and stretch my right arm all the way up straight.  AND my left arm is getting there.  My left arm is about 80% + straight up when I do the wall exercises.  These wall exercises entail standing about a foot away from the wall and then beginning walking my hand straight up the wall and the farther I get up the wall, I step closer to the wall.  It is very painful but I will get this accomplished.   

We will have our Thankgiving tomorrow to accomodate everyone's schedule.  My girls schedules are crazy busy around the holidays and I want to be accomodating to them and my nephew who wants to stay in College Station to go to the Aggie football game today.  My oldest nephew drove in from Florida yesterday and got here sometime way after I went to bed.  Can't wait to see him and give him a hug. 

This past Monday, my girls and I went to Survivor Gal, the shop in Baylor-All Saints so they could see me try on some of the wigs they have there.  As it turns out the wig that I originally had picked out is a NO go.  Instead we found another one that is way cuter and even darker in color.  Kathy, the lady helping me, ordered it for me and next Wednesday when I am over that way for my appointment with my surgeon, I will go have the wig stylist trim the wig up for me.  I am blessed in this respect as my insurance will pay a large percentage of my wig. 

I am so thankful that I was able to get all, I mean ALL, of my Christmas shopping done this week.  I plan to get everything wrapped this weekend and then I am ready to face my chemo on Monday and not have to think about being out amongst the many shoppers in the coming month.  How's your shopping going? 

I know you feel as blessed and thankful as I do.  I wish for you all a beautiful Thanksgiving with family and friends.  Today when you say grace and thank God for your bounties, ask God to be with those who are less fortunate than you.  Make it a good day. 

God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say "thank you?" ~William A. Ward


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Five Weeks Ago Today ....

Five weeks ago today, I underwent a five hour surgery that changed my body forever.  The change only altered my body, it did not and never will alter my heart.  The cancer tried to take control my life but it couldn't then and it never will. 

I do not remember much after my surgery on October 18 except right after the surgery when I was taken to my room where I was reunited with my family and friends.  It seemed that everyone was standing around crying and staring at me.  I could not figure out why they were crying, I actually thought maybe I was dying.   I remember going from face to face and talking but no one would say anything and then my sister stepped up to the bed and told me they were just so glad I was out of surgery and everything went ok.  She explained that I had been in surgery for five hours - the original predicted time was three hours - and they were just glad to see me.  You know when you are the one laying on that table sound asleep being cut on, time means nothing to you and you really have no worries because you don't know anything that has gone on or is going on.  So all of their reaction was joy.  Thank you Lord for such all my loving family and friends.

The next day I was a little more with it ... you know able to feel all the pain, realizing I had a catheter and still had my IV.  Once my breakfast came and I ate, all the extra gear was removed and life with four drains and a cut open chest began.  I was released after lunch ... had to have lunch to take the pain med so I could endure the drive home.  Once I got home and really felt all the pain, I remember thinking to myself that I would never be able to hold my grandbabies again ... ever.  I could not have dreamed up that much pain.  I definitely had the thoughts that I would just not ever get any better and my active life as I knew it was over. 

Today I'm happy to write that the pain has dimmed and my arms were able to hold both my grandbabies today.  Do you know hard it is to have grandbabies and not be able to hold them and cuddle them up to you ... you know like a Grammy does?  It was very hard.  I could get on the floor and play with them but holding them was out of the question.  I'm so thankful for God's arms that hold me every day and thankful for my arms that are now holding my grandbabies. 

Cancer changes your life forever but it doesn't have to defeat you.  I refused to give in to this mean disease and let it whip me without a fight.  Today ... five weeks post-op ... God has shown me more love than I could ever deserve.  He has never left me for one second.  I am so thankful for such a loving Father who has given me the strength to keep going; the love of a family that is so incredible; and the caring friends who have supported me through all of this. 

Thanksgiving has always been my favoritie holiday and this year it is even more special. 

Blessings as we continue to move through this week of Thanksgiving. 


Monday, November 21, 2011

Accomplishments ... and Challenges

When I started this blog, I wanted to share and educate others through my journey of breast cancer.  Things happen while walking this journey that I had no idea about.  You know in my pre-breast cancer days when I heard of someone having breast cancer, I would always pray for that person and think about them having surgery, then chemo and probably radiation and OH yea, the 'oh no they will lose their hair thoughts' and that was it.  Well little did I know that there were many more challenges during the journey of breast cancer ... yes, those surgery, chemo and radiation happen but there are many other things as I have learned that happens when you have breast cancer and I want to share it all.  FIRST let me say that losing your hair is such a small part of the process that it doesn't even matter.  I mean I'm like ... who cares, it's just hair.  There has just been so much more to get through that losing my hair is not even much of a thought for me.  Losing your hair is like losing your boobs ... I still have my heart so who cares. 

I continue to do the arm exercises that I was given so that I can regain full range of motion of my arms after the surgery.  My right arm which is where there was no cancer and only a small section of the sentinel lymph node was removed, I have accomplished being able to stand side-ways up against the wall and rest that arm straight up and touch the wall with my entire arm.  My left arm however is a challenge.  Since there was that minut amount of cancer (0.6cm) found in the sentinel lymph node, Dr. Chow removed 16 lymph nodes so of course this arm had much more healing to do plus I didn't get to start exercising it until last week when the last drain was removed.  I have been doing the exercises and using my left arm more and more every day.  However, the more my arm heals, the tighter it gets.  So this arm is my challenge.  In order to get full range of motion back, I have to be able to stand sideways against the wall and reach up and lay my arm flat on the wall.  Now I am realizing that I've only been doing these exercises just a week and once again God is teaching me patience with myself.  So I will continue perservering with my left arm and I know that one day in the future I will be posting that I did it.

Romans 5:3-4   3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance;4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Praising God that all is well from the dental procedures on Friday.  I'm still taking the antibiotics to get completely rid of any infection that might be left from that little baby tooth.  Taking great care not to crack the temporary crown since I won't be able to get the permanent one until mid-December.

Yesterday I wore the shirt that my friend, Alverna, bought me at Survivor Gal. It's a pretty pink shirt that has glitter letters on the front of it that says SURVIVOR GAL.  My sister and I stopped in at Panera Bread to have a bite of lunch and the young girl who waited on me ask me some questions about my cancer and journey.  She said she would pray for me and she understood what I was going through because she lost her Daddy a couple years ago to melanoma and he was 39 years old.  She was the sweetest young girl and so uplifting.  I am so glad that I had that shirt on and that I went to that young lady to take my order and that God blessed me with being able to listen to her story and share a little bit of my own. 
My plan this week is to get my Christmas shopping completed before I begin chemo next Monday.  When chemo begins, my resistance drops drastically and since we are in the flu and cold season and people insist on being out to spread the germs, I plan to stay as close to home as possible.  I have completed the shopping for my grandbabies so that's a plus. 
I leave you this morning with many praises and knowing that I am blessed.  God did not give me this cancer but He is sure walking through it with me.  His magnificent presence is with me all day every day and so much during the night when I wake for no apparent reason and can't sleep. 
I hope when your alarm clock went off this morning you didn't say ... Yuck, it's Monday but instead I hope your said, "Thank you Lord for this Monday and that I have a job and a home and a wonderful family and so many friends".  I see people posting on Facebook about how they hate Monday and blah blah blah and I think about how sad it is that they don't realize all that they have.  1 Chronicles 3:30  
30 to stand every morning to thank and praise the LORD, and likewise at evening;  

Blessings for this magnificent Monday. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Goings on ...

Since my last update, I've been to the office (my work) for about three hours on Thursday for our Thanksgiving luncheon.  It was good to see everyone and get a few things reviewed in my office.  By the time I got home, I was exhausted.  I didn't have one bit of energy left and had to rest  ... so I had to take a nap.  I am listening to my body more and more during this journey.  Always before after I had been sick or hurt, I would rush right back to get back in the mix of things ... well it ain't supposed to work that way.  God gave us healthy bodies but He also gave us a brain to tell us things ... like rest now, everything will be here when your body has been refreshed.  Thank you Lord for opening my ears to let me hear Your voice as you speak soothing words of comfort.  You are looking out for me and for that I'm grateful.

Friday was my trip to the dentist in Mexia, TX.  My long-time friend, Robin, is also my dentist.  I would not trade him for anything in the world.  Not only do I have a great friend and dentist, I get a two hour wonderful scenic drive where I can escape the city and see the little towns between I-35 and Mexia.  This trip was to get the baby tooth pulled and the process of the three tooth crown started.  Unlike the first baby tooth pull last year where I could hear it ripping out of the gum, this little baby tooth was so decayed underneath, Robin was almost able to pull it with his fingers.  Little did I know that had I begun wiggling it, I could have pulled it ... to say that is to also say ... I don't do loose teeth.  There's something about seeing a loose tooth that gives me the hebby jebbies.  He scraped the jaw bone underneath to clean out the infection and fitted me with a temporary crown that feels like it's been there all along.  I will go back in mid-December to get my permanent crown and that should do the dentistry for the year.  Next year after I finish chemo and radiation, I will probably begin the process on the third and final baby tooth.

There were two young adult women who attended Robin during the procedure.  One of the girls and unfortunately if she told me her name, I don't remember (nothing new these days but that's another post), was so sweet and very young.  She was in training for dental assistant and I must say she did very well.  The other young lady was training her and was just so sweet.  I try to educate women every where I go on breast cancer.  Robin left the room and we began to chat.  They were very interested in learning all that I shared.  I praise God that I am able to share this information and also His wonderful love.  After I got home from that appointment, again I was exhausted.  I had a bite of lunch and went sound asleep for over an hour.  Now you may be thinking this is laziness but a five hour surgery and then another surgery three weeks later has taken it's toll of my body ... so I rest.  I want to come back 100% from all this and the only way I can do that is to take care of myself as I heal.

A Story ....
One of the first people I called after my diagnosis is my long long time friend, Greta.  A day or two later,  I received a beautiful letter from Greta.  In this letter, Greta shared with me some scripture that she found in her son's Bible and specific scripture he had marked while walking his melanoma journey.  The day I received the letter, I marked all those scripture verses with ... Jarrod's Verses.  This morning in my daily devotional, some of the reference scripture was from those verses that Greta shared.  When I turned to Psalm 27:13-14, there were my markings ... Jarrod's verses.  I cried but not from sadness but because God spoke through Jarrod to me this morning.  Please read on ...

November 19
LEAVE OUTCOMES UP TO ME.  Follow Me where I lead, without worrying about how it will all turn out.  Think of your life as an adventure, with Me as your Guide and Companion.  Live in the now, concentraing on staying in step with Me.  When your path leads to a cliff, be willing to climb it with My help.  When we come to a resting place, take time to be refreshed in My Presence.  Enjoy the rythm of life lived close to Me.

You already know the ultimate destination of your journey; your entrance into heaven.  So keep your focus on the path just before you, leaving outcomes up to Me.

Psalm 27: 13-14 -- Jarrod's verses
I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living. 
Wait for the Lord;
Be strong, and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.

Today I rejoice and thank God for my friends, Greta and Bruce and the love and friendship that we have shared for 30+ years.  Jarrod lives in Heaven now with our awesome Father but he still speaks to us. Thank you Father for your love and the love that Jarrod continues to show us. 
Jarrod - My Angel

Today I close knowing that I am going to be just fine.  My journey will continue and I will continue to cling to my Father's hand and let Him guide me.  Live in the moment, this moment right now as you are reading this blog.  Hold on to this moment, we are not promised five minutes from now and there is absolutely nothing we can do about the moments that have passed. 

Thank you Father for you love and compassion.  You hold my heart, my soul, my all.

Blessings for a spectacular Saturday. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Terrific Thursday

While reading through my devotional this morning, I felt the peace of God surround me once more. Let me explain ...  I have to admit that chemo is scarey for me... let's just review what's going on with me right now.  I am not a medicine taker.  I only take it when absolutely necessary and praise the Lord I have been extremely healthy so when I allow my mind to wander down the path of my journey, it lands on chemo.  The experience for my own sweet Mother back in the early '80's is ingrained in my memory and let me just say, chemo for her was not a pretty or pleasant experience.  She was diagnosed with lung cancer (if you're a smoker ... STOP) which had mestasized to her brain before she was diagnosed.  She immediately began chemo and it racked her body with sickness.  She was admitted to the hospital every time she was taking a round of chemo, the doctors and nurses learned after the first round that Mother needed to be knocked out to endure the treatments.  So for each treatment, I took her to All Saints Hospital in Fort Worth, checked her in, she got in bed and chemo ritual began.  After the first round and the severe sickness, they began giving her doses of phenegrin which would basically knock her out through the chemo injections and she would sleep all that day, through the night and the next day we would get up and come home.  At that time, they did not put in portacaths for chemo so eventually Mother's veins gave out as she was taking her chemo through an IV.  The day she went to get her blood drawn for the next round of chemo and they had to take the blood from the veins in the top of her feet was the day she looked at me and said, "I'm done".  Now with that said, there are memories of her chemo treatments that stick with me and try as I might, I still have a few apprehensions of what is to come.

This is my sweet Mother one day on our way to another Oncologist appointment.  She lost all her hair pretty early on and so she had this wig.  She hated it.  She liked the little cloth turbins that she could just put on and go.  She certainly was not embarrassed or intimidated my her baldness but was always concerned about not making other uncomfortable.  

I have chemo and radiation ahead of me and I'm so thankful for that.  These two treatments will give me extra insurance that all the cancer is gone...you know those little booger cancer cells that might have escaped.  I now have a portacath (port) surgically inserted in my chest which has a line that has been inserted into a major vien in my chest that goes right in to my heart.  Now in this port they will administer three major cancer killing drugs.  These drugs are harsh and out to kill any cancer that may be in there and all the drugs will go directly into my heart.  Then I've thought about the affects of what 'could' happen.  When I was watching the throw-up sickness it caused my Mother, it just makes me shudder.  Then there's the fatigue and few other side affects it can have ... ok, so being who I am ... you know the person who doesn't like to take medicine, this could become a little overwhelming for me BUT then God once again rescued me from myself and spoke to me greatly this morning through my daily devotional. 

DO NOT LET any set of circumstances intimidate you.  The more challenging your day, the more of My Powr I place at your disposal.  You seem to think that I empower you equally each day, but this is not so.  Your tendency upon awakenings is to assess the difficulties ahead of you, measuring them against your average strength.  This is an exercise in unreality.

I know what each of your days will contain, and I empower you accordingly.  The degree to which I stengthen you on a given day is based mainly on two variables: the difficulty of your circumstances, and your willingness to depend on Me for help.  Try to view challenging days as opportunities to receive more of My Power than usual.  Look to Me for all that you need, and watch to see what I will do,  As your day, so shall your strength be 

Yes, God has given me strength through His powerful words.  How could I ever doubt him when He is the one who is watching over me?  I find comfort in my daily devotionals and every day it seems the words speak directly at me for a circumstance that I am facing.  Thank you Father for continuing to watch over me and forgive me when the world wants to creep in and steal my peace.  Psalm 23 is also extremely calming (thank you Carla for your FB post). 

On another note, I did my arm exercises today as I've been told.  I do believe these are going to help me ... one set at a time.  For that I'm thankful. 

While there are days that I get a little caught up in my own fears, God brings me back down to His peace and comfort.  I've said it before and I'll say it again ... I do not know how anyone could possibly go through something of this magnitude and not have faith in our awesome God. 

This afternoon my friend from WW, Elizabeth, is coming over and bringing a celebratory drink ... Starbucks.  Elizabeth has recently walked the path I'm on.  She's been through the chemo and she took all three of the drugs I'm going to take, she is completing her last radiation treatment today so we are celebrating.  God has put wonderful people in my path ... many survivor sisters that have encouraged me just by telling me their story.  Today and everyday I give thanks for these sisters.

Today I wish for you a God filled day and when things get a little tough within your own mind, think about the daily devotional for today ... God has it all under control.  There is nothing that God can't handle. 

This little guy made me smile.  He is not going to let a great big log get the best of him.  He grabbed the handle off to the side and he kept going.  

Blessings abound for us all.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Glorious Morning with Morning Glories

Back in the spring, I added a trellis to one side of my patio.  I planted morning glory seeds and moon flower seeds and I nurtured and watered and worked so hard to keep these plants alive during the dreadful hot summer that we had.  I had given up on the vines actually producing any flowers but I just hate to see plants or trees die so I continued nurturing.  When the weather started cooling off, all of a sudden the vines perked up and started putting on a beautiful show of blue and white flowers.  This morning when I took my little Tootie outside, the flowers continued to be all abloom and I grabbed my camera and snapped a picture to share.  These made me so happy.

Aren't they just beautiful?  I think so.

I spent the first night in four weeks without a drain attached to me.  It was wonderful, however, my side was too sore for me to be able to sleep on and my right side where they put the port is still sore enough that I can't sleep on my right side so it was another night sleeping on my back.  I was able to use one of my heart pillows and prop myself just a little so I was a little leaning on my left side.  So thankful the drain is out and the freedom it gives me.  Thank you all for your prayers for me during this 'drain time'. 

I began the arm exercises that I was given yesterday.  They are challenging but I will get full use of my arms back.  My right arm is pretty good but my left arm needs some tender loving care and exercise.  So if you know me, you know that I will continue to get my arm stretched out ... not all at once but as my body allows with my exercises.  Simple arm exercises are really a challenge when you have extreme tightness in your underarm. 

I have decided to take my friend, Bernard's advice .... he said, "Have fun with the wigs".  So in the coming weeks if you see me with dark hair one day and blonde hair the next ... I'm having fun.  If you see me with a scarf or embellished head cover ... I'm having fun.  I have colored my hair for so long, I have no idea if there is gray in it or what so I have decided that I want to just keep the color natural when it grows back.  Stay tuned ... <laughing>

Today look around and give someone a helping hand ... you'll be glad you did.

1 John 3:17-18   17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Matthew 5:16   6 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Once again, I thank you for ALL your continued prayers.  Cancer is a process, many steps to take and your prayers are being answered every day.  For you I am so very thankful.  Sending blessings and love on this glorious day.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Last Drain Is Out

Today the last drain ... drain #4 was removed.  I gotta tell you that it hurt like no other when the nurse pulled it out.  It felt like the line inside me was 1000 degrees Farenheit.  My friend, Alverna, was trying to distract me with a really stupid question (thanks Al) but when Marilyn, the nurse, started pulling on the drain line that was in my side, I always broke Al's hand with my grip.  I cried.... yep I cried and it's ok that I cried.  God gave us tear ducts and tears so our head wouldn't explode and yep, I used those today.  I'm so thankful that the drain did the job it was put in to do and I'm so thankful it is now history. 

That's about all the news I have for today but isn't it good news?  I think so. 

It's rest time and then going to do some work this afternoon.  My wonderful field trips seem to wear me out now but I do keep remembering that today is my 4th week post-op and I feel like I'm doing really well. 

Remember what I said yesterday ... live for the moment.  Stop and smell the flowers ...
... you will be glad you did.

Blessings and much love,

Monday, November 14, 2011

Praising the Lord

My praise report starts out this morning with the appreciation for The Center and the class I attended on Friday.  It was the Look Good Feel Better class and it was so informative.  Makeup tips I had forgotten.  I've been in Mary Kay for 13 years and all the things I learned early on eventually just slip right out of your mind over time.  Alice, the cosmetologist offered great reminders for me and tips for all of us ladies who were either going through chemo or getting ready to go through chemo.  We had a wonderful homemade soup and salad lunch prepared by Caroline, a survivor and volunteer at The Center.  We also got a lesson on how to take a T-shirt and cut the bottom off and make a really cute head cover that can be embellished with a scarf or pins.  Here's a few pictures that I took with my iPhone of the T-shirt head cover process.

First you cut the bottom off of a large T-shirt.

                                                     Then you drape the T-shirt over your head.

                                            Then you  start twisting outwards the remainder of the T-shirt. 

Above is what it looks like twisted.  You criss-cross those those strains of twisted T-shirt.

You then take the twisted part and make a halo over your head.

And this is what it looks like when finished.  You can barely see the halo part but you can weave a scarf in there or embellish with cute bling. 

This class was absolutely priceless for all of us.  I'm so thankful for the opportunities that have come forth in the last several years for cancer patients and the need for support. 

My port is healing and it is taking some getting adjusted to as far as being where it is and of course the soreness hasn't helped. The bruising is turning yellow so that's a good sign of healing.  There is no redness or anything that looks like infection.  I did however have a bad reaction to the antibiotics they put me on.  It was Keflex and it tore my stomach up to the point that after two days ... Friday and Saturday ... and the incredible stomach pain it caused, I didn't take it yesterday but am calling Dr. Bayouth's office this morning to see if they can change it to something I know I can take.  Please pray they can give me something else.

Other things going on.  Oh the drain ... the beloved remaining drain.  I refuse to say anything bad about these drains because they have served a very important purpose in being here for me and my body.  The drainage is down to about 30cc or less per day now for 4 days now.  Praise the Lord and thank you for your prayers.  The drain will come out tomorrow.  I do have mixed emotions about this and ask that you continue to pray that the drainage doesn't build up but rather ask God that my body can handle the fluid and absorb back in to my system.  Below are some pictures I took ... they are not graphic. 

When I came home from the hospital with the four Jackson Pratt drains (referred to as JP drains), all the drains were numbered ... 1 through 4.  There are collection cups for each drain also numbered as 1 through 4.  There are large cups and small cups that would be used to measure the drainage.  Boy was I happy when I got start measuring with the smalls cups as the drainage decreased. 

These are the collection cups. 

This is the collection bulb where the fluid comes down from my body and collects.  This is the bulb without the suction on it. 

With the suction on it, it pulls the fluid out of my body down the drain tube.  I didn't take a picture of my side where the tube is inserted.  It's just a round disk around the tube where it is inserted in my body, a piece of gauze underneath that because I've had leakage issues and a Tegaderm, clear adhesive patch that covers all that.   

I safety pin the suction bulb to my shorts, jeans or pjs to function daily.  I have a lanyard that I hook it to around my neck when I shower.  It's all a process and takes me a little longer to do things like shower and ready myself for bed or to get dressed in the mornings. 

When these drains are removed, the nurse cuts the sutures that are holding it in my side and she tells me to take some deep breaths and she starts pulling.  Here's a good description of what it feels like when the drain is pulled out.  (More info below as to where I got this description). 

I had been under anestheisa when the drains were put in, but unfortunately I was not when Gerry began pulling.  He grabbed the end of the first tube with both hands, grinned, then ran toward the back door.  The scene reminded me of pulling a tooth with a string tied to a doorknob -- once the door is pushed, there's no going back.

When Gerry yanked out the first drain, it felt like a rottweiler had grabbed the end of a garden hose that happened to be an anchored under my skin with barbed fishing hooks, then had taken off after a squirrel.  I felt "a little pressure," as we doctors love to say. 

Yep, this pretty much describes how it feels to have drains removed but I would like to add, the barbed fishing hook is blazing red hot.  When the drain is being pulled out, it burns like there is a fire in my body ... the very tender part of my body.  I know that it has to be done, I'm asking you to pray that the part of the drain that has been in my body for four weeks hasn't decided to take up residence and started growing in my underarm where my lymph nodes used to be. 

Now for the quote I used above in italics.  A well known gynocologist in Fort Worth, Dr. Alan Johns, found himself with breast cancer in 1998.  His book, The Lump, is Dr. Johns journey through breast cancer as a a male.  His journey is amazingly similar to my journey and probably most everyone who has walked this breast cancer journey.  I believe the proceeds from this book benefits the Joan Katz Breast Center at Baylor-All Saints Hospital.  The book made me cry at times but for the most part it was very humorous.  Breast cancer sucks were his words and I have to agree with him. 

I believe I have caught up on everything since Friday.  I continue to feel better and I continue to Praise the Lord.  I continue to live moment by moment and enjoy the moment I'm in.  I don't think about the next moment because I may not be there.   I challenge you today and every day yet to come to live in the moment and do not worry about the future. 

A quick little story about yesterday ... my dryer went out.  Yep, just went kaput!  I think back as to how old this dryer is and if my memory recalls, we (my ex-hubby and I) bought this dryer after we had Alicia, my oldest daughter who is 29.  It came from Sears and it has been a great dryer.  Now when the dryer went kaput yesterday, I could have fretted and worried and blah blah blah ... oh woo is me ... sort of thing but I didn't.  I threw the wet towels back in the washer, shut the door and said to myself, "I'll call my beautiful friend, Greta, and ask her if I can borrow her hubby, Bruce, today to come take me to Home Depot and buy a dryer".  Now in the old days ... you know those days before breast cancer, I would have fretted my head off.  Not any more.  My belief is that stress caused my cancer and I will no longer allow stress in my life. 

So today I leave you with the following scripture to aid you with not stressing ....

Matthew 6:26  (NIV)

26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

YES, we are so much more valuable to God than the birds in the air.  He will get us through any and everything that comes along in our lives.  He rejoices when we rejoice and He weeps when we weep.  He picks us up everytime we fall down, He walks beside us in the dark valleys and He protects us.  He loves us more than any of us can imagine.  Thank you Father for walking with me today and every day protecting me and loving me even when I am so unlovable. 

Blessings to all on this magnificent Monday.