Thursday, October 27, 2011

Oh Goodness, I Need Guidance

So, Chloe, my nearly 5 year old, is getting more and more inquisitive everyday about EVERYTHING from gymnastics to "big school" to Jesus. I literally never know what is going to come out of her mouth but I can promise you that most of her questions are waaaay above her age level. This can be cute and fun when it comes to everyday run of the mill type questions, but when it comes to questions about Jesus, God, Heaven etc..., well that's when I get a little fumbled at how to answer on her level so that she understands.

Here's the latest thing that surprised me. We were reading the story of Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night and asking Him questions. Of all of the things that she picked up on in the story, this was it...
CHLOE: "Mommy, how do you get born again?"
ME: "well, being born again doesn't mean you have to be a baby again. It means that you believe in Jesus, you know He died on the cross and that He forgives our sins, and that He lives in heaven with God. And after you know all of that in your heart you just talk to Jesus and tell Him that you love Him, that you know and believe all of it, and that you want to follow Him."
CHLOE: "well, I already know all that mommy."
ME: "Do you believe it Chloe? Do you know He is real and all of that really happened a long time ago? And that when it's our turn, if we have believed in Jesus and followed Him that we will get to go to heaven and live forever and ever and ever?"
CHLOE: "I know that mommy. And mommy, did you know that in heaven God will let me have sleep-overs in your castle and maybe I can just live with you?"
ME: "I know! That will be so much fun Chloe! Heaven is going to be one big party with all of our friends and family..."
CHLOE: and Jesus and Cabot (our dog).

And then she ran off and was ready to do something else. WHOA! I certainly wasn't expecting that question from her. It's so hard to figure out how to speak TRUTH to a child on a level that they understand and not feel like you are totally blowing it or minimizing it. This is where I am praying that grace covers it all though as I would never want to lead my children the wrong way.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Is It November Yet?

This will be a random post of random thoughts going through my mind. Just a warning that it may jump all over the place so buckle up and come along for the ride :)

I am so ready for October to be over! I cannot wait until next week - oh, what am I saying? Am I really wishing my days away? My oldest will be 5 years old in November (or as she likes to say, "mommy, I will be a whole hand on my birthday")!!! Am I really wishing that time to hurry on? YEP, I sure am and it's all because I am sooooo incredibly over PINK this year (month).
I'm not really sure why it has been like this for me this year? I always look forward to our annual Race for the Cure ,and this year....well, not so much. It's coming up on Saturday and we have plans to go down the night before, stay in a hotel and then take it all in on Saturday. We have always enjoyed the walk and doing this together as a family but this year it's just different. Part of me wants to stay home and go to Chloe's soccer game and keep the weekend "normal" for us, but the other part of me wants my children to see a little piece of what God delivered me from and how incredibly blessed we are as a family. I also feel like I need to go and walk to remember Kate. I will feel incredibly guilty if I don't because i put that pressure on myself. If she could see me typing this I know what she would say, "forget the walk crazy girl. I never liked to exercise anyways!" But I still feel like I owe it to her and her family because I still carry some survivor guilt. And I feel like I should do it because I am beyond grateful for the Komen foundation and all of the money they have donated to research and awareness etc... If not for this non-profit, I would possibly not be here.
There was an article written this month in our city magazine, Clarksville Family, about me and how my past year has looked. It was a follow-up from last year which was a follow-up from the year before. Anyways, I liked the phrase the author used when describing me and my journey. She said, "cancer does not define Kelly. It influences her, but does not define her." That is so true and it took me 2 full years to understand that. It took me pulling back from all things breast cancer related to really get myself back on track emotionally. I had to step back because I was allowing cancer to consume me which held me back from being able to move forward.
Maybe this is what I am doing again. Trying to pull back even more. Trying to avoid the hurts that come with going to the walk (seeing people walking "in memory of..."). Is that wrong? Someone once told me that I had a responsibility to tell others my story as it may save their life. Here is what I think about that. My responsibility, as a follower of Christ, is to tell others about Him...not me. In the process, He has given me an amazing story of His power and glory to share. That is more important to me than telling women to do self exams. Now I know that sounds harsh and I really do want women to be pro-active in their health, but more so, I want them to be pro-active in their faith!
OK, I think that's where I should end. My sweet babies are sleeping soundly in my bed beside me as David is still not home yet. I'm going to snuggle with them and try to reconcile some of these feelings about pink and October.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Yes, I am Blogging at 4 AM

So technically its 4:33 AM on Sunday morning and yes, I am sitting here awake and alone in the living room instead of in the bed soundly sleeping with my husband. Unfortunately I have some sort of nasty respiratory infection that keeps me coughing and is making it hard to breathe while laying down. Not to mention the night sweats that are oh so disturbing. Praying the antibiotic will kick in soon and start healing these lungs right up. And as for the cough syrup the doctor prescribed, lets just say it works. And...Other than this infection, the bone pain, muscle aches, and nausea from chemo the other day is GONE!!!!! Praise Jesus!!!!! I can certainly handle 3 days of yuck feeling after chemo each time knowing that after those 3 days I will have 18 to feel fabulous with my family!
Anyways, the real reason for the post...Stephanie...the gal I mentioned in the last journal entry very briefly. Here's the story. When we were leaving Seattle last Wednesday, David went over to grab us lunch while I took the kids to potty and then on to the gate to wait. When we got to our gate, the area was ridiculously full so we just stood by the agent desk and figured we wouldn't have seats. No big deal at all. Then for some reason, Chloe and Brody started walking into the crowded waiting area and spotted a table for kids in the middle that had 4 seats and only 2 little girls were at it. We headed over there and immediately I was drawn to the mom. She was young, had a bandana around her head, was obviously bald, and I assumed it was due to chemo from breast cancer (it helped that the bandana has pink ribbons all over it). Usually, I do NOT strike up conversation with a total stranger about breast cancer but this mom looked so sad and tired and I thought that if I could just offer her a few words of encouragement that maybe it would help.
I started the conversation by just asking if she was currently in treatment for breast cancer. She sweetly said that she was and then I proceeded to tell her that I too had had breast cancer. Her eyes grew wide and a smile crossed her face, and inside I could feel the Lord saying keep talking to her. We asked each other the normal survivor questions, and found that our cancers were quite different. She originally was a stage 2, I was a stage 3. Her cancer was triple negative (meaning non-hormonal, non aggressive), mine was triple positive (hormone related and aggressive), yet despite these differences, there were so many commonalities. We both had the same chemo treatments, same radiation, and same surgeries, both were 31 at diagnosis, both have pre-school age children...her twin girls were 2 at her diagnosis and are 4 now (and ADORABLE!!!) Her husband is in the ARMY and was able to take on the role of a recruiter so that he could be home and non-deployable while Stephanie was sick. And she said that her family also lived out of state like ours do.
I then asked a question that made me want to puke...like really puke. I asked her why she was still in treatment since it had been 2 years. I knew the answer already, but she seemed to want to keep talking. Her story is heartbreaking. Stephanie was diagnosed in December 2009. She had her surgeries in February 2010 and started chemo the next month. She did the same grueling chemo that I did for 5 months followed by 6 weeks of radiation. She finished all treatments in October that year and her oncologist told her he would see her back in 6 months. A few weeks passed and she got pneumonia...well, they thought it was pneumonia. No one ever did an x-ray to really see, but instead just put her on 5 different rounds of antibiotics because it wasn't clearing up. In the mean-time, she told me that she had a followup visit with her neurologist for migraine headaches...she had been having them since she was 12 so this was a routine check-up. She mentioned the un-resolved pneumonia to him and he immediately ordered a chest xray to be done that day.
You know how this story is going to go, right? Chest x-ray showed several spots on her lungs. Next step was a PET scan to check the rest of her body for metastasis...the cancer had already spread to not only her lungs, but to her spine, brain, and abdomen. At this point of her story, I felt the Lord telling me to tell Stephanie that I would pray for her, but I felt like at this point it would sound so cliche...especially since we are perfect strangers. I waited and let her keep talking. She told me about the radiation she was taking for the spots on her spine, the new chemo she was taking and how it was just attacking her blood counts ferociously. She spoke with such strength and resolve yet there was something lacking...
Eventually, they called her flight to begin boarding so she and her husband started gathering their bags and getting their girls ready. They were off to New Hampshire, where they live, so that she could get treatment the next day. I don't know what possessed me except to say it was the Holy Spirit's urging, but I asked her name and told her that I was going to put her in my prayer journal and pray for her. I'm not kidding when I say that her eyes grew wide, a smile crossed her face, and she got a little teary eyed. All she could manage was "I'm Stephanie and thank you so much!" I hate that we didn't have time to exchange emails or phone numbers, yet I also feel like God may have been protecting my heart... the heart that hasn't fully healed from Kate's death. I think that our encounter in the airport was all that she and I were meant to have yet I will keep praying for her daily. I love how the Lord just puts people in your life for seasons that can last only 45 minutes or can last for 10 years. This short season with Stephanie will not be forgotten for a long time to come.

I guess I just want to end with this. It's simple. Get this dear friends. It's simple. You think you have to evangelize and tell the whole story of God, Jesus, and salvation in order to feel like you have witnessed to someone. However, many many times, it's as simple as listening, sharing your story, and offering words of encouragement. It can be just telling someone you are going to pray for them (and then doing it) or it can be as easy as showing someone an act of kindness.
This sweet girl reminded me of a few things:
1. life is short so embrace each day with as much energy as you can...even on treatment days if the only energy I have is to hug my kids and husband while I am laying in bed, then so be it, but do it with as much love as possible.
2. be grateful and praise God in every situation. The trials in life that we go through are not just pointless, they are to build us up to do even greater things for the Kingdom.
3. and finally, never be afraid to follow the Holy Spirit's leading or urgings. You can't go wrong if you do.

I'm sad that I won't be able to update on Stephanie, but I really do feel like this is just how God is choosing to protect my heart at this point. I know she was trying to get into some clinical trials in Boston to try some new chemo there. Even though we won't be able to follow her story, please join me in praying for her, her little girls Izzy and Addie, and her husband.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Another Day, Another Treatment

Short, sweet and to the point...that's what I plan for this entry to be.
Yesterday was round 2 out of 18 treatments. I'm now 1/9th of the way done. Woo-Hoo! Everything started out really good. I was in a great mood having just came back from a wonderful visit with my brother Jordan, his wife, Kim, and their precious baby Adalynn. They live in Washington - very close to Seattle - so we toured around Seattle, Olympia, and a little side trip to Tacoma. I was physically strong and ready for round 2.
My nurse yesterday was super sweet. Her name was Suzanne and she and I had a lot in common. She accessed my port just fine and started my saline drip first. Later she brought in the Herceptin and started it as well. About 20 minutes into that infusion, I got nauseated, had some other stomach problems, and started getting really cold - like I was shivering. She was able to get an order from my doctor for a wonder drug called EMEND that is for nausea and lasts 3 days. I took this 2 years ago with my other chemo and it truly was a wonder drug. I never got sick and all was well then. Suzanne also slowed the infusion down quite a bit so it wouldn't drip in as fast and even after she did that I started to feel a little better.
Last night was a little hard...around bedtime I really started feeling the body aches and pain and I'm still having that as I type. Naproxen helps a little as do Epsom Salt baths. The nausea is still there, but NOTHING like it was after my last treatment. I have not vomited at all this time around. I do have a new gel that I rub on the inside of my wrists that consists of Ativan, Benadryl, and Decadron (all used for nausea in the world of cancer) all compounded together. I have had to put it on twice since the infusion, but again, it's working well and I can't say enough about how great it is to NOT puke. Other than those things, I'm just really really exhausted. Feel like my legs weigh 1000 pounds each and I just want to sleep. Luckily, my children are playing well together today and understand that mommy is okay but just feeling a little yucky. Chloe asked me if I needed to go see Dr Seawell (that's her pediatrician) and get a shot. HA....that's my little nurturer though. Always wanting to make sure everyone is taken care of and okay.
I do hope to feel better soon because I met another mom who has 4 year old twins and is going through breast cancer treatments now too and I want to tell you all about her and how we met. Kind of a cool story. Until I have the energy for it though, here are a few details. Her name is Stephanie and she has stage 4. She had chemo yesterday too and is not doing well with it at all. More detail later, but until then, pray for her and her family.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Weird, Just Plain Weird

October is here, cooler weather is upon us (which makes this hot flashin' gal happy), and PINK IS EVERYWHERE...which leaves this gal feeling a bit weird. Here are a few reasons why...

1. I feel bad. As in I feel really bad that not every single month is dedicated to some sort of cancer awareness. Maybe it's guilt that I feel because my mom has cancer that I don't even know the color ribbon for (maybe there is not one), and I think her cancer deserves a whole month dedicated to fundraising and national awareness.
2. I feel irritated. There was a pin on pinterest.com that just did not resonate well with me last night. But it's odd because it kind of goes against what listed as #1 in my list. The pin said, "I hate breast cancer awareness month because more children die of childhood cancers that women die of breast cancer." WOW! Internal struggle here! Four of my most memorable patients when I was working as a nurse were all oncology patients. This hits home to me. At the same time though I wanted to comment on this person's pin and say "cancer sucks for all cancer patients so be a bit more sensitive when you pin things like this." But then I wonder if this person lost a child to cancer. I recently read a statement that said (and I'm paraphrasing) your pain is the worst pain you will ever have because it is YOUR pain. No one else "gets it." So maybe a little grace should be extended for this "pinner."
3. I feel desperate? Susan G Komen is the nonprofit that I believe put breast cancer on the national radar. Before Susan passed away, her sister promised her that she would work hard to find a cure for breast cancer and bring awareness. The reason October is dedicated to all things pink and breast cancer is because this sister kept her promise and has worked very very hard to bring national attention to this illness. I feel desperate for every other cancer to have that one person who works to bring awareness to the world about it. Lance Armstrong is one who did that for testicular cancer.
4. I feel like I want to vomit. Ok, maybe I shouldn't have used that term given how I responded to the last chemo treatment, but it's true. I took Chloe with me to run errands the other day and of course, my ever observant and extremely smart 4 year old said, "mommy, look! there is cancer stuff everywhere. Why did they put chemo things in the store?" After being taken aback for about 2 seconds, I just replied to her that October was a month when lots of people give money to cancer doctors so that they can work really hard to make a medicine that makes cancer go away forever. Dumb answer? Maybe. However, she was satisfied and didn't ask anything else...but she did continue to point out all things pink ribbon related for the remainder of that shopping trip. It became slightly nauseating when she even got excited about pink "chemo" bubble wrap. A four year old should not have to worry about cancer, chemo, mommy's hair coming out again, mommy's scars and boo-boos, and mommy having a sick tummy for days on end. That is what makes me want to vomit...that part of Chloe's innocence has forever been taken. She even commented that the cartoon character, Caillou, must have cancer because he has no hair. I want her to notice pink ribbons that would look adorable in her hair, and pink princess things...not pink cancer ribbons...at least not at her age. But who knows...maybe the Lord is already softening her heart to this and He will use her in a mighty way for other people with breast cancer.
5. I feel grateful for all of the research, awareness and attention given to breast cancer because I know it saved my life. Had I not known anything about self-exams I would not be here today - my oncologist has said that had we not caught it when we did that I would have been gone within a year. I know that awareness of the disease put self-exams, mammograms, and ultrasounds on the map and gave women more weapons in the fight against breast cancer.
6. And finally I feel a little melancholy. This month always makes me miss Kate. I miss her smile, her laugh, her voice. I miss the friendship that we so quickly formed in the chemo waiting room. I miss seeing her every week and getting together for lunch in between treatments. I miss having a sounding board and being a sounding board for her (although she is perfectly healed in heaven now and doesn't need a sounding board). I miss her especially when we do our annual Race for the Cure...it's coming up. She is supposed to be walking with us. It doesn't seem right to not have her physically here. But I would never wish her back. I would never ever wish her away from the feet of Jesus back to this sinful, fallen world that we live in. She is the lucky one if I am being honest. Her family and friends certainly aren't as her husband still misses and grieves her fiercely, but you know what I mean....

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Needed This In Writing

This journal entry is nothing super enlightening or special for most of my readers, but to me, this is what I consider to be a huge "accomplishment" so I needed it in writing in order to look back at it when my next treatment rolls around and I feel like I might die again (not literally, but you know what I mean).

For the first 11 days after my new chemo drug I was sick with nausea, vomiting, body aches, and bone pain. It was literally the worst 11 days that I have had not only because of the physical symptoms, but also because I wasn't mentally prepared that my body would react the way it did. I sailed through every other chemo (or at least that's the way I remember it) so I certainly expected the same thing of myself this time around. I never once imagined that I would go back two times in 1 week for IV fluids to combat dehydration. I never once imagined that the smell of my favorite foods would cause me to dry heave. I would even get sick some days just thinking about food, or seeing a commercial.

However, yesterday and today have been the total opposite for me! I have had the 2 most wonderful days. No sickness at all! No pain, no nothing except 100% happiness and excitement to be back to normal. So, here's how yesterday went down... I got up with both kids at the crack of dawn, got them ready for Chloe's soccer game and headed to the fields. David had to work or he would have been with us at the game too! I watched my little soccer star play her heart out and every single time she scored or blocked the other team from scoring she would look over at me, grin super huge, and give me a thumbs up signal. After that, the kids and I went to Kohl's, Target, Dick's Sporting Goods, and the Halloween Express Store. It was so much fun to hang with my kids and feel really good! After that, we came home to eat lunch and rest for a while. Several hours later, after David had gotten home and rested too, we all 4 went outside. David started some yardwork while I took the kids on a walk through the neighborhood. I pushed Brody in his stroller and Chloe pushed her baby doll, Amy, in her doll stroller. After that, the kids and I played cornhole, ladder ball, kickball, and had races around the yard. Then I helped Chloe learn to ride her bike without training wheels. She is a fast learner and  by the end of our time doing that, she was riding on the grass without any help at all. She was so proud! During the bike practice, Brody decided to help David with the yard-work so they were buddies. After it finally got dark, we came in, gave the kids baths, ate dinner and everyone pretty much passed out early. It was a great day!
Today, pretty much the same scenario except we had church this morning, then went out to eat afterwards. The afternoon consisted of another walk through the neighborhood, bike riding practice for Chloe, kickball with Brody, and David finished up the yardwork.

I go back for treatment again in 10 days. I plan on using these next 10 days WISELY as I don't know what this next treatment will be like for my body. If it happens to be just as rough, well then this journal entry will serve to remind me that there is an end in sight and the time after will be filled with sweet sweet memories.
I go back in 2 days though for an ECHO to check the function of my heart. Unfortunately this chemo can cause heart function problems so they will monitor it every 3 months with ECHOs. I have been having these done for almost 3 years now because the other chemo had the possibility to cause heart failure also and so far my heart is super super healthy. I don't expect that to change at all. That's at least one advantage to having cancer at a young age...generally all other organs are healthy. I will also have labwork drawn to check my blood counts to see if my white cell count has dropped a lot and to see if I am becoming anemic. And then I will see my oncologist to discuss how the first treatment went and decide on a plan for next time to combat the sickness before it even starts.

For now though, I am about to hit the sack and think about how wonderful the last 2 days have been with my family until I fall asleep. I am blessed beyond measure and count myself lucky to really be able to put things into proper perspective (eternal perspective)...that's what cancer and chemo will do for you...it's not ALL bad :)