Saturday, December 22, 2012

Blessings

It's after midnight and I am still awake. Not because of some intriguing TV show or some awesome crafting I've got going on. Nope tonight it's because of some deep thoughts that keep swirling in my head and the weight of feeling like I need to journal them before they get lost in "just another day's events."
For several days now I have been ever so content. Peace has surrounded my heart and soul and I have just been able to see the blessings in so many things - including tragedy and hurts. I'm not sure why I'm seeing this now - whether it's because I have been so focused on the true meaning of Christmas lately and how much we have been teaching our children about advent, the birth of Christ and what it all means for us. Or maybe it's just because I have a fresh perspective on things now that the chemo is finally almost out of my body and I am feeling better and better every day.
So here is what I have been internally celebrating and praising God for over the past few days:

1. My little brother is finally drawing near to the end of a LONG and difficult deployment to Afghanistan. He should be home in around 30 days (give or take a few of course). I'm so thankful for the times that the Holy Spirit impressed on my heart to pray for him extra. I mean, I prayed for him and his soldiers every day, but there were some days when he would enter my mind and I couldn't stop thinking about him. I knew then that it was my cue to pray fervently for him right then. During those times I felt so incredibly close to God and so desperate for His protection over Jordan, yet a perfect peace overwhelmed my heart while I was calling out to Him.
2. My husband's grandmother is 92 years old and fell and broke her hip a few days ago. They were very worried about her having surgery because of her age and fragile state, but she came through it just fine and will be in rehab by Monday if she continues to do well. Praising God for her healing, her doctors, and the sweet nurses that care for her daily. Also grateful to have a husband who loves his Granny so much that he drove 4 hours to be with her during the surgery. His heart is so big!
3. Jesus - I've been so incredibly grateful to have a Savior who I know I can depend on in this broken and fallen world. There are no real words to express how desperate I feel for Him in times like these - the school shooting in CT, soldier's dying in war or being wounded so severely that their lives are forever changed, broken marriages all around us, kids who are starving for not just food but attention and love also, friends who have lost spouses this year, a close friend who is dealing with her own mortality because of how cancer has invaded her entire body, and I could go on and on. Nothing in this world will make any of those things better or easier to handle than Jesus. Without Him we are destined for defeat. But the good news and the part that I am so excited about is that the victory is ours if we have Jesus as our savior. The battle is won! Thank you God for sending your Son to this earth many many years ago. As we celebrate Advent now, I look forward to the second Advent...the second coming of Jesus.
4. Health - I feel so hopeful and excited to be entering into a new year with no chemo treatments scheduled at all. I have not started a new year since 2009 when I didn't have chemo on the books so this is quite simply a GREAT feeling. I feel like I can start this new year off "free" and ready to take on what other things that God has for me.
5. Orphans - My heart has really been burdened lately for orphans. I don't know why exactly but I am already beginning to pray for the orphans we will meet and have the opportunity to love on when we go to Ethiopia in 6 months. I know that God has great plans for every single one of those kiddos and I am so grateful that I get the chance to go be with them.

And I could go on and on, but those 5 things are the ones that have been on my heart so heavily lately. While there are many many sad and tragic things going on in the world all around us, if we continue to look to Jesus and have eternal perspective then there are reasons to still praise His holy name despite the circumstances surrounding us.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Leaving A Legacy

A week ago today, I received a phone call from my mom telling me that my grandmother had been put in the hospital for pneumonia, but upon further testing the doctors had found stage 4 cancer. Unsure of where it started (although it is now assumed to have been either breast or ovarian) it had spread to her lung, liver, bones, and pelvis. She was not in good shape and I decided right then that I was going to make the trip back to NC so I could see her and be with her for a few days. David booked my flight for me while I started making arrangements for my trip home by figuring out the game plan for here.
The next morning, I received another phone call. My grandmother...Nannie, had passed away  in the middle of the night. Emotions ran the whole gamut. Devastated was my first reaction. Devastated that I wasn't going to get to see her again and tell her what I wanted to. Sad for my mom and her siblings that they had lost their mother. Then my feelings turned to relief. Relief that Nannie hadn't had to suffer a horrible bout with chemo, radiation, worry, anxiety and all the other sickness that comes with cancer treatments. Relief that God, in His infinite mercy spared her from all of that extra suffering. Happiness that she is now sitting at the feet of Jesus and reunited with my grandfather and her baby who had died at birth almost 60 years ago. Jealousy...jealous that she is in heaven rejoicing with the angels and our Lord God while we are still living in this sinful and fallen world. Pride was another emotion I felt. I am so so so proud to have a grandmother who loved Jesus, lived her life in such a way that glorified Him and showed her faithfulness to Him.
So, what I would have told my Nannie had I been able to talk to her one last time before she died is this:
I would have thanked her for living her life as a Christ follower and raising her three children in such a way that they too chose Christ. Without her influence on my own mom, I know without  a doubt that I would not have the level of trust in Jesus that I do today. I would not have the relationship with Him that I do. Because of my Nannie my mom became a believer and because of my mom I did. Hopefully because of me, Chloe will... and the legacy my grandmother left will continue.
I would have told her how much I LOVED coming to her house to spend the night every single Friday for years. I would have thanked her for investing time in me. I never doubted her love or affection for me. I spent some wonderful Fridays with her and her girlfriends...we were "The Golden Girls" yet I was by far the youngest one. Ha!! Usually on the weekends we would go out to eat and then go to the mall. Then we would go back to her house and play board games. However, I remember so vividly these pair of beautiful red shoes she bought me one weekend and how much she wanted to get them for me. I remember telling her I really liked them but didn't think I should get them but she INSISTED. She really wanted me to have them. I wore those shoes out!
And finally I would have told her that I love her one last time.

Several scriptures are ingrained in my memory that will forever make me think of her...
2 Corinthians 5:8 - Yes we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.
Philippians 1:21 - For to me, living is living for Christ, but dying is far better.
2 Timothy 4:7 - I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Pathology Surprises

Sorry I am just now updating with the results from my thyroid removal. Life has become full speed ahead since the healing has kicked in and I have been busy busy busy. So, with that being said, here is what I found out at my post-op appointment with my thyroid surgeon.
NO CANCER!!!! Woo-Hoo. I never really thought there would be given how much chemotherapy I have had coursing through my veins for the past 3 years, however, there was always that little "what if" in the very very back of my mind. I also found out something very interesting...I have Hashimoto's Thyroiditis (HT for the rest of this post), and apparently have had it for quite some time as my thyroid had actually begun to disintegrate.

Let me back up for a minute though. For years, and I mean years, I have been telling my primary doctors that something is not right with my thyroid. I have 9 out of 10 hypothyroid symptoms that are listed on every medical website you can imagine, yet because my labs were always borderline normal they always chose not to treat me. Now don't get me wrong, I understand in this day and age that most doctors go strictly by what the paperwork tell them and for decent reason...our society has become sue-happy. However, I did ask my primary doctor one time why she was choosing to treat the paperwork and not the patient. She then referred me out to endocrinology who blamed all of my symptoms on my cancer. But my oncologist blamed it all on my thyroid. UGH!!! So frustrating for YEARS!!! Thankfully though, God placed me in the path of an amazing thyroid surgeon in Nashville who knew something was wrong immediately. He was amazing, thoughtful, brilliant, compassionate, and most importantly let me be in charge of the decisions made...until he was not comfortable with me keeping my thyroid in anymore (yeah, I put it off for a year because I didn't want to jump the gun on anything).

Anyways, so here I am present day and have researched a lot about this autoimmune disease and have made the following discoveries:
1. even though the thyroid is gone, I will always have this autoimmune problem
2. dietary change is NECESSARY
3. without the change in the diet, I will continue to have symptoms of hypothyroid or even hyperthyroid because my medication acts exactly like the thyroid does and that will result in dosage changes frequently without ever really fixing the issue
4. this autoimmune disease is related to estrogen dominance...so was my breast cancer - I have some questions for my oncologist when I see her on the 20th of this month.

Now, for the dietary changes, it's pretty drastic...but I'm willing and able to do this. Basically, it's no flour, no refined sugars, no cauliflower, kale or spinach (bummer because I make my smoothies with kale and spinach).
So what am I eating? Well, lots of broccoli, salads, chicken, little bit of red meat, egg beaters and cheese sticks. I can have fruit but for the first 30 days I am restricting it because of all of the sugars that are in fruit. I just want to kind of reset my body before I start adding any back.
How am I feeling? BETTER THAN I HAVE IN YEARS!!!! No kidding. I have spunk. I feel feisty. I'm happy. I'm joking around again. I am wanting to go and do and be with my friends. I'm feeling like the Kelly I was 5 years ago. No joke! It's amazing how much this surgery has changed my life. I've even started making lists again and checking off every task accomplished. Heck, last week I did 8 loads of laundry, deep cleaned the kitchen and bathrooms, switched out summer to winter clothes in both kids' closets, rearranged Chloe's room, washed baseboards throughout the upstairs, and managed to cook dinner 3 nights. Oh, I also took Chloe to cheerleading practice, tumbling, and went to her soccer game. I got some Christmas shopping done, helped in Chloe's class at school twice, went to a PTO planning meeting, took Brody to an appointment, took both kids to Nashville for the day and then to a movie, etc...  There are some things on this list that I do every week, but believe me when I say they would drain me of every ounce of energy that I had and I wouldn't be able to do the other things on this list.

So that's the update...sorry it was a bit wordy. I just am so thrilled with the difference that this has made in my life. To God be the glory great things He has done!!!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day Thoughts...

Here it is. Finally. Election Day 2012. President Obama vs. Gov. Romney. All day long I have had this nervous excitement in my soul. I have teared up at various times throughout the day (my husband said I was a dork because of it) thinking about what a blessing it is that I live in America.

I actually voted last week during early voting because I knew today I would have the children with me since schools are out and I had a doctor's appointment scheduled. As I walked into the polling place last week I actually did shed a few tears. I know, it sounds dumb, but I couldn't help but think about how blessed and privileged I am to live in a country where I can go cast my vote for President and not worry about getting killed on the way in or out. There are so many countries where that happens. Where people can vote, but have to fear for their lives for doing so. And there are many more countries where the citizens have no say at all. My brother happens to be in one of those now. And maybe that is why I'm a little more emotional over this election. Because my little brother puts his life on the line every single day and night to protect and defend our freedoms. He doesn't do it for a "thank you" or for any other reason than the fact that God placed a great desire in his heart to serve this wonderful country that we live in and to serve the citizens. He placed a desire in his heart to fight for what is good, and pure, and just, and honest. He placed courage above and beyond anything I could ever imagine in his innermost being which allows him to be able to go to where the bombs are and take them apart so that another soldier or civilian doesn't get injured. My brother chose to be the bravest of the brave so that he could keep our country as safe as possible and to keep our rights and privileges just that...ours.

For those of you who voted, thank you! Thank you for taking the time to let your voice be heard. Thank you for casting that ballot and not taking our rights as American citizens lightly. And for those of you who consciously chose not to...well, there are no words. None.
Based on the map at the bottom of my blog, I have many readers from around the world and I just want to say that if you are in a country where you are not given the freedoms that Americans are, or you live in fear of death or punishment if you voice your opinion, know that there are people here in the United States who pray for you and care about you deeply. I know that I actually pray for each and every person who reads my two blogs and there are many of my friends that do as well. Hugs to every single one of you and many many prayers of blessings, safety, and happiness to you all.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Survivor Guilt...It's A Real Thing

Before I write about anything else, let me first say thank you to every single one of you who prayed for me and my family during my thyroid surgery. We received the news a few days ago that the mass was BENIGN!!! Now we move forward, wait for healing to complete and get the thyroid medication, Synthroid at the correct dose. This is done through lab draws and watching for symptoms of hypo/hyperthyroidism.
I will continue to update on these things but for today, I have a heaviness on my heart that I can't shake.  It happens every year like clock work...in October and again in March. It has a name and I thought for sure that it wouldn't happen this year. But alas, it has struck again...or maybe it was never gone to begin with but suppressed instead. SURVIVOR GUILT.
I suffer from this especially in October which has been deemed Breast Cancer Awareness month and in March because it is the month that my chemo buddy Kate passed away. This past weekend, my family went to Nashville for the Susan G Komen Race for The Cure as we have every year since diagnosis. The first year was fun and exciting because I had just finished up chemo and radiation and was celebrating the news that Kate was also "cancer free." She had chemo first and then her surgery so her results had just come back and she was recovering from surgery and couldn't make the walk. We promised we would do it together the next year...but it never happened. She died 5 months later. She literally was only "cancer free" for 3 months.
So the second year at the race, I was determined to do it for Kate. I prayed and asked God to give me a visible sign of Kate being there with me and He did...in a huge way. At the 1 mile marker, a bird flew literally right in front of me...like a foot in front of my face at eye level. Kate LOVED birds! This was such a blessing to me. By the end of the race though, I was in a funk and just not feeling much like celebrating. I felt guilty. Guilty for living. Guilty that Kate died and I was here, healthy, and able to walk in a 5K. And each year since that the guilt and depression has heightened to a point of high anxiety as soon as we enter the Race Village and it doesn't fade for a few days.
Many people don't understand this and have said things like:
"Kate wouldn't want you to feel guilty."
"Celebrate you."
"Don't feel guilty...it just wasn't your time to go."
And many many other things that I know are super well intentioned and meant to be encouraging, but what I want to scream (and I do on the inside) is "HOW CAN I CELEBRATE MY LIFE WHEN MY BEST FRIEND AND CHEMO PARTNER DIED?" It just doesn't seem right nor fair. I know this is my problem and maybe most people can celebrate and move on easily, but I would venture to guess that there are just as many who are having a hard time like I am. The "medical" term for this is Survivor Guilt Syndrome and is suffered just as deeply by our military men and women when they lose a friend in war and they wonder why it was the friend and not them. It's a real problem that I wish there was a great solution to.
I have started reading articles on this topic and have considered going back to counseling to just have someone to talk to because I feel like no one else really understands. I don't know anyone else who has lost a close friend to the very same disease so close to after you have both been deemed cancer free. I just feel alone at times and not a week goes by when I don't think of Kate, her husband Tim, and something that we used to do together. I have managed to avoid the restaurant PF Changs for 3 years with the exception of going once with my family in Seattle. You see, PF Changs was the last dinner that Kate and I shared together and the waiter gave us free dessert to contribute to our cancer free states. I can hardly think about it without getting teary eyed right now. I need to deal with this, I know. But I don't know how. I'm stuck. Part of me wants to get over it and move on and the other part of me says to take this time and grieve because it's a part of healing, but is it really? This many years later (almost 3)? I'm not grieving daily...just mostly in March and October like I said earlier, but is that even okay?

Thankfully today our pastor and great friend, Michael Bayne, spoke about loneliness and it went straight to my heart. I'm going back to listen to the podcast and really take it in again because I NEED this. I'm lonely. I'm all alone in this...or at least I feel that way. I know lots of people who are breast cancer survivors, but the bond just isn't the same as mine and Kate's since we did EVERY SINGLE treatment together, were the same age, and at the same stage in life. And honestly I have only befriended one other lady with breast cancer in my city and I find myself sometimes praying to the point of tears for her miracle healing. She is so incredibly special to me, I know that God ordained my friendship with her, and I am terrified of losing her at times.

So wrapping this up, let me share some advice: Please don't look at people like they are crazy when they say they feel bad for not being the one who died. Chances are, they just wonder why they were spared and not their friend. Don't judge those who hate every product that turns pink in October because they could just be sad that breast cancer has been wrapped up in a pretty little pink ribbon while the real issue of a cure and prevention has been pushed aside. The statistics lie. 98% of women do NOT survive breast cancer. As a matter of fact, for my stage my survival rate at 5 years is only 67% and at 10 years only 47%.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Thyroid Is Gone

A few days ago, David and I took off once again for St Thomas Hospital in Nashville for my 7th surgery in the past 3 years. This time it was nothing to do with breast cancer, but was my thyroid instead. I've written about the problem with my thyroid in an earlier post (back in August I believe), but to make a long story short, I had a nodule that was as large as the actual thyroid and it needed to be taken out and tested for cancer. The biopsy that had been done had been shown to be negative, but with the thyroid, it's best to take the whole thing out when it keeps growing and when you have a history of cancer anyways.
So, that was what I did Friday. I was so nervous this time around for no real reason. I tried to figure out why I was so scared about anesthesia this time but there was nothing to explain it. I have been down this road a million times before (or at least 7) but this time I was just plain scared. As I sat in the pre-op holding area alone and waiting for the surgeon to come in I began praying and just asking God to help calm the storm in my soul. And then I kid you not when I tell you that the next person in my room was my anesthesia doctor and get this...I KNEW HIM!!!! I worked with him when I was a recovery room nurse at Columbus Children's Hospital in Ohio. What the what?!? I was immediately relaxed and gave thanks to God for this very visible sign of comfort. My friend, Wes, was assigned to my case and was with me through the entire surgery.
As for the surgery, everything went great. Of course Friday night was rough but I was in the hospital with some of the best nurses ever and they took great care of me. I could not have asked for better care. My doctor came around and told me that the mass ended up being huge - the size of a golf ball and that he got the entire thing out (mass and thyroid) while sparing the parathyroid glands and not damaging my vocal cords (yay!). We will get pathology results on Wednesday to determine if any part of the thyroid was cancerous. If it is, we will go on to the plan to treat it, and if not, I will keep right on trucking on my new medicine, Synthroid. Synthroid is a medicine that mimics the thyroid and regulates lots of body functions - think cardiac, temperature, etc.... It's imperative that I take it and is dangerous if I ever don't. I believe that for the first 6 months or so I will have thyroid levels drawn frequently to make sure the medicine is at the correct dose and then I will be managed yearly.

As of now, day 3 post-op, I feel pretty good. My pain meds are helping and I am beginning to rest a little better. The incision is what hurts if I don't stay on top of the pain along with some neck and shoulder pain from just how they had to position me on the OR table. I think I will be 100% by the weekend but will have to remember that I am not supposed to do full activity until 11/3.

I will update with pathology results on Wednesday or Thursday but I wanted to go ahead and fill you all in with how things are going so far. Sorry if this was randomly written or cut short, but the pain medicine I took a little while ago is hitting me hard so I need to hit the sack. Goodnight friends!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ethiopia Bound

David went to Ethiopia last summer with Ordinary Hero, a group based out of Nashville. Since returning, he has talked about it with excitement on many many occasions and has talked lots about going back some day.
I have always wanted to go to Africa to do mission work since I was a nurse. I always assumed it would be on a medical missions trip and I actually had an opportunity to go to Kenya this coming November, but something kept holding me back. The more I talked with David about it, the more we decided that we wanted to go together. But Kenya was just not the trip for us because David had fallen in love with Ethiopia and the people there.
So, about 3 weeks ago, we filled out our applications and were accepted to go with Ordinary Hero at the end of June 2013...that's just 9 months away!!! Our group leaders will be the founders of OH and we couldn't be more thrilled about that. I don't have specific details about our trip yet as those will come in the near future. But what I do have is this...



A CHANCE TO WIN A $1000 GRANT FROM ORDINARY HERO.

The contest is running just this week and the top seller of merchandise from the OH store gets this grant. This would be such a blessing to us as not only does 40% of your purchase go directly to our trip fund, but the grant would be HUGE since we are paying for the both of us to go.

Please visit this website SOON (www.ordinaryherostore.org) since the contest ends on September 30th, and pass it along to everyone you know. It's really simple. Get something cute from the store and when you go to check out, you will select "Kelly Blevins" in the affiliate drop down box. This will alert them to put the 40% in my account and to credit me the entire purchase cost for the grant. I am really hoping and praying that I will be the top seller.

Friday, September 21, 2012

DONE...AT LAST!

What a year...12 months...365 days...

Last year, on September 13th, I got the awful news that the clinical trial I had taken part of for aggressive breast cancer had been stopped because the primary data had come back showing that the people who took the clinical trial drug were getting recurrences a lot more frequently and were dying sooner. Within 5 days I was back taking the standard drug for the aggressive part of my cancer that I would have gotten anyways had I not been a part of the trial. Within 8 days I was having another surgery to put another portacath in my chest for the next year of chemo I would be having infused every 3 weeks.
It's been a very trying year. What was supposed to be a drug that caused very few side effects left my body worse than the heavy duty chemo I had 3 years ago. No, I didn't lose my hair this time around, but I would much have rather been bald again than to go through all that I did. I was nauseated more than I wasn't. My bones from my hips to my feet were in severe pain to the point I thought I had stress fractures or bone metastasis. I developed the horrible cough with treatments which was later determined to be that I had actually developed asthma. My heart function was monitored every three months as this chemo was cardiotoxic. Over the course of the year, my heart function went from the high end of normal to the very low end of normal. Thankfully though, it IS still normal. My white cell counts have been all over the place as has my hemoglobin leaving me severely fatigued.
HOWEVER, I document all of these things to tell you, and remind myself, that no matter what, GOD IS GOOD. Even when it doesn't seem like it, even when the world and circumstances tell us otherwise, GOD IS ALWAYS GOOD! Has it been a horrific year? Yep. Has it been the most trying year in regards to my faith? Yep. Has it been hard to take care of and love on my family the way I want to? Yep. Has it left me feeling defeated? At times. Do I still wonder from time to time WHY this had to happen? Yep, sure do.

BUT NO MATTER WHAT, GOD IS GOOD! 

We must always remember this because without this simple yet profound and true statement, we lose hope, and without hope, we have nothing.
What is weighing you down right now? What trials or sufferings are you experiencing? What stresses or worries are keeping you up at night and robbing you of your joy? I challenge you to grab an index card and write the above statement on it. Tape it on your mirror, put it in your car, purse, pocket, Bible, kitchen cabinets, etc... and read it every chance you get. Let it sink in and once it does, you will begin to see things differently... with an eternal perspective. I promise. And things sure do look a lot different from that perspective.

Monday, September 10, 2012

My Responsibility

Yesterday's sermon has been weighing heavily on my heart. I've come to know through the years that when something is impressing upon me that much, that it is the Holy Spirit and I need to be obedient. So, I'm taking my responsibility seriously and sharing it with every single one of you, my precious readers. I am constantly in awe and humbled when I look at the map at the bottom of my blog and see the various states and countries that you all live in. I often wonder why you would want to read about little old me, but then I remember that God has a bigger plan and he has given me this blog as a way to not only air out my feelings and thoughts about cancer, but a way to share His love, His sovereignty, His grace, etc...
So, back to my responsibility...before I tell you what it is though, I want to tell you that when I first heard the sermon yesterday, I sat in my seat thinking that my circle of friends already KNOW all of this stuff that I am about to share and began wondering WHO I was supposed to go to and HOW I was supposed to do it. Aren't those two questions that we quite often ask God? Especially the "HOW?" And isn't it quite remarkable that He always provides the answer! For me, His response was "Who- your readers and How- your blog."

So, what is this huge responsibility that I have? It comes from the Old Testament book of Ezekial.
After seven days the Lord gave me a message. He said, “Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for Israel. Whenever you receive a message from me, warn people immediately. If I warn the wicked, saying, ‘You are under the penalty of death,’ but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible for their deaths. If you warn them and they refuse to repent and keep on sinning, they will die in their sins. But you will have saved yourself because you obeyed me.

So, here we have Ezekial being told by God that he is basically to watch over Israel and warn the people. He was supposed to deliver the message that God told him. What a HUGE job that was! Can you even imagine Ezekial knowing he was going to have to tell people that they were under the penalty of death?? These were wicked people...not people who were ready to hear this at all. But Ezekial was also told by God that if he did not follow through with it, that he (Ezekial) would be responsible for their deaths. But if he did tell them and they still did not ask forgiveness then at least he tried and that he would basically "be off the hook."

So, how does this apply to modern times? I mean, a guy named Ezekial in the Old Testament has pretty much nothing in common with a girl named Kelly on her Apple computer, right? WRONG! Applying this to me, Ezekial's responsibility becomes mine too.  As a follower of Christ, it  is my responsibility to tell each of you too that if you are not a follower of Christ, then the penalty is eternal death. Eternity in hell...forever separated from God and His Son Jesus. Forever separated from everything.  I don't want that for anyone!!!! I would love nothing more to meet every single one of you in Heaven one day which is why I am taking the responsibility and telling you these things so that you can have eternal life. And I would venture to say that you would rather be in Heaven for an eternity instead of Hell. So, if you are reading this and you have no idea what I am talking about or HOW to become a Christ follower, it's like this.
1. You believe with your whole being that Jesus is God's Son and lived a perfect life on Earth.
2. You believe that he took the penalty for your sin by dying on the cross so that you would not have to live an eternity in hell. You believe He then rose from the grave 3 days later and ascended to heaven where He lives and reigns with God.
3. You ask Jesus to forgive you/ repent (turn away from) of your sins, and to become the center of your life.
4. And then you walk in victory knowing that Jesus is your Savior and He is your life...your old life of sin has passed away and a new life in Christ has been created.

There are many questions that I am sure that some of you have...maybe about faith, maybe about what happens after you surrender your life to Christ and become a follower, maybe about facts, maybe about this whole salvation thing, maybe about my personal story of coming to Christ...whatever it is, I am happy and more than willing to share with you and answer to the best of my ability. If you have a question that I am not equipped to answer, rest assured that I will most definitely get the answer for you and that everything I tell you will be backed by Biblical Truths.


2 Corinthians 5:14-20: Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.
So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” (I italicized the words that spoke greatest to me and pointed out the responsibility I was speaking of earlier)

Friday, August 31, 2012

Out With The Old...Or Just The Thyroid

Yesterday I went in to see my endocrine surgeon at St. Thomas in Nashville for a routine re-check of my thyroid mass. I've been having this checked for almost 3 years now and have had it biopsied twice. Both times the biopsy has come back benign which is awesome, but the darn mass keeps growing. At this point, the mass is the same size, if not a tad larger, than my actual thyroid lobe.
So, after the ultrasound was done and the doctor had time to review it, he came into the room I was in and after exchanging pleasantries, told me that he was not comfortable leaving the thyroid in any longer because of how much it has grown...especially how much it has grown in just the past 6 months. He said that even though the biopsies were benign, that the thyroid could still have cancer cells in it and that if they don't hit the exact spot when the biopsy is done, that there will be false-negatives. He said it doesn't happen often, but it could. And with mine still growing, pressing on my trachea when I sleep on my stomach or left side, and being a solid mass (not a cyst) that it just needs to come out. He also said that he would take out the entire thyroid and not just the left lobe because of two reasons. First, if the left side comes back showing cancer, they would have to go right back in 2 days later and operate again to remove the right side. Second, the right side also has a small solid mass on it. He said if we leave it there, then that mass will likely grow because it will be doing double the work and then in a few years we will be right back to where we are now.
Dr. Thomas has been an EXCELLENT doctor as far as respecting my wishes to take the "wait and see" approach and has never pressured me. He's always been willing to just let me steer the ship per say. So when he was as "highly suggestive" as he was yesterday, I just felt comfortable to move forward and get it over with. I've put off the inevitable now for a year or more knowing that eventually it would need to be removed. Also, one of the nuclear medicine scans that I had showed that there is a higher chance mine could be cancer because of the way the gland took up the radioactive substance.
So, I say "let's do this thing." I have a date already set to have the surgery, but am highly considering moving it up because of some things that Team Blevins has planned and some other things going on. I didn't want to do it too soon because I want my body to heal from the chemo I have been taking before I go under the knife, but I don't want to wait and let it interfere with my family plans either. I have a call to his nurse already put in so that I can ask her a few questions and then see if I can move the date up. I know he won't have an issue with it because it was me who wanted to wait until November to begin with. Oh, and he is also going to remove my portacath (the permanent IV in my chest for chemo) while I am on the OR table so we'll be killing two birds with one stone!
Am I scared? Nah, not really.
Am I worried it's cancer? Nope. Not at all.
Could it be a spread of breast cancer? HIGHLY unlikely. It could happen, but it would be RARE
Does it hurt? Nope. Just can't sleep how I want to because it does press of my "windpipe"  making breathing and swallowing a bit harder.
When will this happen? As of now, early November, but hoping to move it to mid October. We will see.
Am I bummed out? Yeah, a little because I thought I would be done with all health related stuff for a while come middle September. But like I said earlier, I'm really okay with this because we have taken the wait and see approach and what we have seen is just not okay anymore.
Hospital Stay? One night and if I am comfortable going home, then that will be it. If not, then I will stay another night.
Incision: about 5 inches in the neck fold so it will be barely visible. No drains or anything like that so that is a plus! And then the portacath incision will probably be the same one that they used to put in it. About 2 inches on the chest wall below the collar bone.
Recovery Time: 5 days to recover from the surgery and then 2-4 weeks to get back to normal daily activities...lifting, sudden movements, etc...

And there we have it folks. That's the rest of the story... ;)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Looking Back

So, before I blog what is really on my heart, I wanted to just say this because it is a HUGE praise! This past treatment was a really really good one. Everything went off just perfectly. Just a little bit of coughing, a little nausea, and extreme fatigue...but only for a few days. Nothing that I couldn't handle and nothing that made me want to run for the hills and never come back. Just a "normal" treatment. What a change and what a relief! JUST ONE MORE TO GO NOW!!! I know this may come across as cliche or whatever, but truly if you know me and my heart you will understand that every time I say this, I mean it: God is so faithful! I cannot believe that next month will mark the one year date of getting this horrific treatment and I really can't hardly fathom how God has provided for me and my family in the worst and best of times over the past 12 months. This time last year, I was on an all time high in my life. I had been able to put cancer and the horror of my reconstruction attempts behind me, come to terms with all of it, and really begin enjoying my life again. And then the hammer dropped and things went from really awesome to pretty much a year of off and on despair. Don't get me wrong, some amazing things have happened this year, but some pretty crappy ones have to. Such is life though, right?!? 
And now, as I sit here alone with my thoughts and just this darn keyboard, I think back to the beginning. How 3.5 years ago I was just finishing up the first bouts of IV chemo. The 16 rounds that took every cancer cell captive and killed it. And now 3.5 years later I am finishing up another 18 rounds bringing my grand total to 34 rounds of cancer killing drugs. Whew. It's a wonder I have any normal cell left in my body at all. Not to mention the 3 years of Tamoxifen I have taken and the 1 year of clinical trial chemo I took. And who could forget the daily radiation treatments that left my skin forever darkened and temporarily burned? Not I. And then there are the scars from 7 different chest surgeries and the weakness that has ensued. When I look back at all of these things, it's pretty easy to sit here and get all teary eyed and think "woe is me." But it doesn't last too long...at least most of the time it doesn't because there is worse. You heard me; it's so true. There are worse things! PROMISE! If you don't think so, or find it hard to imagine, try this:
1. I just went to an amazing community CrossFit event where we honored the life of a 40 year old Special Forces Soldier who died from lung cancer - having never been a smoker in his life. He left behind a wife and 2 year old daughter
2. I lost my "kindred spirit" and chemo buddy to breast cancer - about 2 months after she heard the words..."no evidence of disease"
3. I have another friend who is living with breast cancer that has metastasized throughout her body and will find out in a few days if it has invaded her brain.
See, I told you there are worse things in life than your own lot...

I'm not really sure why I have had to endure such a long and drawn out treatment plan for this cancer. Normally, for stage 3A, estrogen positive, aggressive cancer the treatment totals 1 year maximum. But what I can say for sure is that I know that none of it has been in vain. That every single trip to Vanderbilt, every single drop of chemo that has entered these veins of mine, and every single pill I have had to take has all been for His great glory. And the fellow cancer "victims" that I mentioned above, their stories have all been for a greater plan and purpose too, as is yours. Even though we may never see how the story unfolds, unfold it does and it is up to us to live a life that points to Christ so that when it does unfold, others can see that NOTHING in this life is about us, but is all about the Son of God.

John 11:4 -No, this sickness will not end in death. It happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Update # 1,745,349 (or something like that)

I am writing from the comfort of my home as I sit and watch my 5 year old daughter build a tent and my almost 4 year old son play the iPad. Yep, that's right, today they are getting a free day to do pretty much nothing. And I'm giving myself that kind of day too which is why I am blogging in the middle of the day and not at 10 PM at night after everyone is in bed.

Last week marked a big hurdle for me. Treatment number 16 out of 18. The one that I was nervous to get because of the way #15 left me severely short of breath for days on end. I was fearful that it would happen again and possibly be even worse this time around. However, the morning of the treatment, I woke up feeling strangely at peace and I say "strangely" but we all know that it was GOD...nothing strange about it. Anyways, my mentor Debbie came to pick me up since David couldn't go with me and we set off to Nashville. I just need to break here and tell you all how much I simply adore Debbie. I have known her for about a year and I can tell you that she has been the voice of reason for me, the sound of laughter, and the reason for joy for me in so many ways. Every single piece of advice or encouragement she offers is grounded in Truth which is priceless in this world where so many people will just offer what you want to hear regardless of whether it is honest or true. Plus, she is just super fun to be around and a wealth of information. No really, she is and get this...she home-schooled SIX kids and knows how to do just about everything. 
OK, sorry, but I needed to tell you about Debbie. Back to subject though... when we got there and got put into my treatment room, my nurse walked in and I was so thrilled to have one of my nurses that took care of me 3 years ago too! Ms. Linda!!! I have not had her this entire year that I have been back and she was a welcome sight in my room. She loves God, is a great nurse, and loves to talk which are 3 amazing qualities in my book. I knew it was going to be a good day when she walked in and started spouting off the plan:
"OK, Ms Kelly, this is what we are going to do: I am giving you a full liter of fluids, I am going to hang a bag of Phenergan instead of pushing it in. I will then hang your Decadron, then your Emend. Then we are going to wait 30 minutes before we start the chemo and I am going to give it over 2 hours. Ok? OK." I love her confidence, her plan, and her determination. We then talked about all of the breathing problems that happened last time and she made it clear that it was quite obvious that I was having allergic reactions to the Herceptin each and every time and that is why she wanted to do things her way this time with the times and amounts etc.... She also then asked "Why is Dr. M continuing to make you take this? You cannot do this 11 more times!" I looked at her and told her that I only had 3 treatments left including that one and definitely not 11. Apparently somewhere on the orders, someone had written that I was to have 11 more treatments. Haha....NOPE!!! Not happening. We got that all straightened out and carried on. 
I pretty much slept through the whole infusion except for having to pee 18000 times, or so it seemed. All I know is that I was getting quite aggravated at having to get up and stumble to the restroom with my IV pole and fight to keep my eyes open while trying to pee just to get back to my chair, get comfy and have to go again. Poor Debbie readjusted my blankets a million times from all of my moving. And speaking of moving, the restless leg was HORRIFIC this time. My nurse gave me heating pads though and told me I could have pain meds if I wanted them but I really didn't want anymore meds in my system. Anyways, at the end of the infusion, the cough started and was hard to stop but I had brought my inhaler with me and used it like the pulmonologist told me to at the onset of the cough. It helped! I did get short of breath and remained that way all of Friday and Saturday but it was not nearly as horrific as the last time around. I was able to manage it with the inhaler and steroids at home and was really okay. I think starting the steroids the day BEFORE my treatment really made a big difference with the respiratory issues. By Sunday I was okay. Just really tired and a little short of breath but over all I felt okay. On Monday, I was up and doing my normal stuff around the house and just stopping as my body indicated.
So, that whole novel was written to just really say that this treatment went really well!!! I only have TWO more. Just 2. I really would love to skip these last two and be done, but I felt this way the last time also with wanting to skip the last two Taxols and call it a day. Something about the last ones are just so hard and I think it is because mentally you are done, and over it and physically your body is just exhausted because the meds just build up in your body with each treatment. At this point, I actually will have Herceptin hanging out in my system until January although I stop it in September. It just gets tiring and I find myself losing motivation in all aspects of my life. However, it's nice that I can remember that I felt this way before and forged on and then really did begin feeling better after it was done.
Plan from here:
August 21 - chemo, and start Tamoxifen back until August 2014
September 13 - heart scan and LAST TREATMENT!!!!!
and after that, who knows...I may just go on a vacation or two :)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Answers...FINALLY Got Some Answers

Today was a big day for me. I met with the Pulmonology doctor at Vanderbilt. His name is Dr. Rickman and upon meeting him, I knew I was with the right doctor. One provided, once again, by God.
It all started though with his nurse, Charla. She came in first to introduce herself and get a little health history from me. She was so sweet, and funny. We could totally be friends if I lived in Nashville! We just seemed to hit it off instantly. Although at the end, I said something really "nurse-y" sounding and she asked if I was a nurse and then what kind of nursing I did. When I told her, she couldn't believe I held out on her. I really don't like telling other nurses though that I myself am a nurse because I feel like it makes them feel weird or something. I know that when I had a pediatric patient in the ICU who's parent was a nurse or doctor, I thought to myself, "great, I drew the short straw today" because they (we) watch everything like a hawk. Ha! So I never like to "out" myself because I want them to treat me and talk to me like I know nothing at all about my illness.
Anyways (that was really off topic), here is what I learned today:
1. What happened with the last treatment is NOT the start of pulmonary toxicity. If it was, there would have been fluid in the lining of my lungs or actually in my lungs on the CT scan and xrays. WHEW!!!
2. Dr. Rickman asked about the cough (because I happened to hack like crazy when I had to take deep breaths for him) and then told me that it really sounded like bronchial asthma...the upper airways I have are swelling and constricting causing me to not be able to get air through properly. He then asked if I had a history of asthma to which I replied no. He said that it is possible that I could have developed asthma from the Herceptin but that he didn't know of any real research that showed patients getting asthma as a result of getting Herceptin.
3. When he listened to my lungs with his stethoscope, he could tell I was still tight sounding and not getting air all the way out (another effect of asthma).
4. He did say that he thinks the severe symptoms of shortness of breath and wheezing, etc....that happened last time was either a flare up of asthma or an allergic reaction to the Herceptin. UGH!!!
5. He thinks it is well worth having another treatment (which is tomorrow - Friday) and seeing if it happens again. In order to prevent it from happening though he started me on another Steroid Dose Pack (I will start it the day before chemo from here on out) that I will take for 6 days. Here's to praying that it works!!!
6. He suggested staying in Nashville tomorrow in case anything happens so I would be close to Vanderbilt ER. He doesn't blame me for not wanting to go back to Gateway and was FLOORED that the hospital diagnosed me with bronchospasm and bronchitis but never gave me a breathing treatment or sent me home with a script for one.
7. He ordered some pulmonary function tests that I did right after I saw him. It was hard and left me seeing silver spots from trying to exhale so hard and for so long and left my chest tight and hurting. They gave me Albuterol before I left and within 20 minutes I felt relief. I should have results of those tests from the doctor tomorrow.
8. When I left it was Nashville's rush hour so I was sitting in traffic. I decided to google "asthma caused by Herceptin" and what came back was a study that was done that showed 1% of patients developed bronchial asthma during treatment with Herceptin and most of them developed it in the 6-12 month mark of Herceptin. Well, my horrific cough started earlier than that but has progressively worsened so I fit right in that category.
9. I should have asked him if after stopping the Herceptin next month if the asthma would clear after the medicine was totally out of my body (generally 4-6 months after treatment stops) or if it was a "forever deal." I will ask him when I hear back about my pulmonary function tests.
10. Oh, and he did say that if it does happen again tomorrow, that he will call Dr. Mayer (my oncologist) and have a discussion with her as to whether I should really take the last two treatments due to how my lungs are responding now.

So, again, God went above and beyond in providing clarity and answers through Dr. Rickman. I feel very comfortable and at peace with this plan of care and am grateful to finally know what we are dealing with. I am a little nervous about treatment tomorrow and how things will go afterwards, but I feel confident that God will continue to take care of me regardless of what happens. I doubt I will stay in Nashville tomorrow because my mentor is taking me and honestly, I always just want to get home as soon as the infusion is finished. David suggested going back to Nashville when he got home from work tomorrow and staying in a hotel, but I think we will just play it by ear. If I start to get a little wheezy and short of breath, we will pack a bag and go right away. I have a babysitter lined up on stand by if we do have to go to Nashville. Plans are in place and I feel peace.

YAY!!!!! 15 down, 3 to go!!!!! Just praying I get some sleep tonight because I am all hyped up already from the steroids. I had to take all 6 of the "day 1" pills all at the same time since it is so late in the day. EEEEEK! I may be so wired that I clean my whole house tonight while everyone else goes into dreamland. Hey, at least it will stay clean for a few hours...before they all wake up.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Give Me A Revelation

Who knows who Third Day is? If you know them, then you will know their song and album titled Revelation and then you will totally get the title of this post. I HEART that song!

Today has been a day of revelation for me. It has been such a FREE-ING day! Here's what's gone down in this brain of mine that has left me feeling (and wishing I really were) 10 pounds lighter and breathing (literally now) 10 times easier :)

I have been reminded of several things:
1. God is NOT a God of confusion. He does not want this decision to be hard for me or confusing to process. All of this thinking and worrying and wondering is creating anxiety that is just not necessary.
2. I have decided that I am going to base my decision to continue treatments on what the pulmonologist recommends. He is an expert in the matter. He is highly knowledgeable about this type of thing. His knowledge is not his...it is God's. As a matter of fact, everything we all have is God's. Anyways, given that 2 different doctors that do NOT know each other wanted me to see a pulmonologist and then I was set up with this one in particular leads me to just trust that I am making the right decision to see him and I will trust what his knowledge and experience tell him.
3. If he says that the drug probably is the source of the problem, I will not take any further treatments. And I will NOT look back on the decision.
4. If he says that this was most likely a random event (and it could have been since I had a high WBC count meaning infection) and will most likely not happen again, I will forge on and NOT look back at my decision.
5. If I take another treatment and the same adverse reaction occurs, I will NOT blame myself or wonder if I didn't hear God correctly. I know my heart. I know my God. And I know that I am resting in this revelation that He has given me today so if another reaction occurs, I will not question Him or myself or the doctors.
6. If another reaction occurs, I will be done - for sure.
7. If another reaction does not occur, I will forge on and complete the "mission" taking them one treatment at a time.

So there you have it. My REVELATIONS of the day. Seriously, I feel so light and burden-free now. God's grace is just blanketing me right now and I am coveting it greatly!

I do want to touch on one thing though because I think I need to clarify something. Three years ago when I was just starting the first round of chemotherapy, I know without a shadow of a doubt that the Lord gave me John 11:4 as my scripture to hold onto throughout this season of life. It reads (and I am paraphrasing) that this disease will not end it death but that it was given to bring glory to the Son of God.
Now, I did not take that to mean that I didn't have to do chemotherapy then, and I don't necessarily think it "excuses" me from the rest of chemo this time either. I have questioned God about this - as to whether it meant that I didn't need to start or finish this, but I never got the overwhelming yes - or any yes for that matter. What I do feel like it does though is reminds me that NONE of this is being done in vain and that I am to be encouraged that the fight is worth fighting because it is SO MUCH BIGGER THAN ME!

OK, I'm out now to go play SpiderMan with my almost FOUR year old son! What a miracle this is. He was only 4 months old when I was diagnosed so to see the child turn 4 is a BLESSING. Aaah!

Monday, July 23, 2012

10 Days Out

Here I sit...10 days since the last treatment, and about 10 from the next one. I am feeling almost 100% better with just a little bit of a lingering cough and only a little bit of shortness of breath.  But NOTHING compared to the past 10 days. Heck, we were even able to take a very unplanned and spontaneous trip to East Tennessee, the Knoxville area, this past weekend. We packed up and left Friday evening and got back yesterday afternoon. It was a wonderful trip! We had such a stress-free and happy weekend. We explored a new city and realized that we LOVE that area. Plus, an added bonus was being in UT VOL territory. I am not kidding when I say that the first night that we were there that even the sky was orange.

Anyways, as I am sure that you can imagine, I have been in thought and prayer and deliberation about what to do next in regards to treatment. I think I have my answer and then 10 minutes later I think the opposite. I just don't have an answer that I am 100% confident in, but I do have confidence in the fact that God will provide it in His perfect timing. It may not be until the day before, or the morning of, but I know that I will have my answer. I guess my prayer too is that once I do have it, that I will rest in it and not look back - whichever way it goes.

Because lists are my go to - I'm listing out the pros and cons of receiving the next one.
REASONS TO GET IT:
I have come this far and there are only 3 left
I am not a quitter
I am willing to fight for my life
I want to see this through to completion
I don't want my doctor to think I am making a dumb decision if I don't go forward
This may have been a fluke reaction
I don't want others to think that I'm making a dumb decision
This drug has been shown to cut recurrence by 50%

REASONS NOT TO GET IT:
I have taken 15 out of 18...that's ALMOST all of them
The issue of quitting could just be out of pride - never a good thing
I am not willing to risk my life for just 3 more treatments
I am afraid that the next one will get worse. Looking back in my journal I see I have been talking about this cough for MONTHS!!! And the past month I saw a progression in how bad it was getting.
People will think I am crazy for getting another one.
I don't rest in the promise of what drugs can do, but what God can do...
Will I regret not finishing treatment if it does come back? I have a husband and 2 small kiddos to consider in this decision also.

I do feel like I will receive a lot of clarity after I see the pulmonologist next week, or at least I am hoping that I will have a clearer idea of whether the reaction was in fact due to the treatment or not.
One thing is sure, just by reading my lists, I need to pray that the Lord will help rid me of trying to please other people. He is the standard...not man. His opinion matters, not man's. I also need to get rid of the thought that if I don't finish then I am a quitter and that that is a negative thing. Sometimes quitting is exactly what we are supposed to do. Sometimes quitting is the successful thing and doing otherwise is prideful.




Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Treatment From Hell

Last Thursday was my 15th treatment...out of 18. I am almost finished. As in, I may be finished after this last one because it rendered me with severe respiratory problems. Here's how things went down (as best as I can remember because it all became blurry after a while).
Thursday morning - got my treatment, all went great, no problems
Thursday night - started coughing incessantly and became short of breath (I have had a cough after every treatment for 6 months, but never with breathing problems)
Friday morning - went to my PCP who looked at me and wanted to transport me to the hospital via ambulance. Before that though, they did an EKG which showed some atrial enlargement and obviously a rapid heartbeat). However, yours truly refused and called my mom to come get me and take me to the ER while my doc called ahead. I then called my husband who was on his way to Lexington, KY to a bachelor party to come back.
At the hospital (my community hospital), I was breathing 50 times/minute, working excessively hard to breathe, and could not complete sentences without pausing for air. They did a CT Scan looking for blood clots or metastasis and a chest x-ray. Both were fine except for the lung spots on my CT that have been there and are not growing at all. Blood work showed a high white blood cell count meaning an infection was in my blood. The ER doctor diagnosed me with bronchitis and bronchospasms and sent me home with only a cough syrup, No antibiotic, no steroid, no inhaler. NOTHING. I was sent home breathing 40 times/minute and still working very hard to oxygenate. Luckily my daughter has a history of asthma (that's not the lucky part), and has tons of Albuterol nebulizers (there's the lucky part). So I got to work using her nebs so that I could breathe better for a few hours at a time.
Over the next 2 days, I struggled. As in, I was SUPER SICK. I went back to my PCP in the weekend clinic on Sunday and he prescribed an Albuterol inhaler and a different cough medicine. I was wheezing and tight in my chest - again, not moving air well at all. Before I left though, he told me to let my oncologist know about everything.
On Monday, I celebrated my 35th birthday the same way I had the previous few days...not breathing well and with a low grade fever, cough, blah blah blah. I notified my oncologist who wanted me in her office.
On Tuesday, I went in to see my oncologist who promptly saw my difficulty in breathing, my blood counts, and then heard how difficult it was for air to move through my lungs when she listened to my chest. She prescribed an antibiotic, a steroid pack, told me to keep taking the Albuterol and cough pills and to come back in 2 days if I was not remarkably better.
Today, Wednesday, after just 2 doses of antibiotic and a day and a half of the steroid taper pack, I can breathe easier. I am still short of breath at times. I am still fatigued easily. BUT I AM MUCH BETTER. It's amazing what quality doctors and common sense can do.

SO here's my beef with the local hospital.
A) I am a cancer patient in treatment
B) You treat us a little different because we are not the "norm."
C) With a high WBC count, you treat with an antibiotic - especially in a cancer patient because it's rare for our counts to be high after a treatment
D) Anyone who comes in breathing hard and fast - you DON'T SEND HOME until they are breathing normally again - especially when the treatment they are on can cause pulmonary toxicity (ie - problems with breathing that can become permanent). Even if a scan or xray doesn't show anything, sometimes it can take several days for an infection to show up on a scan or xray. And I know this because I was a nurse for 8 years (never at this hospital!) and an ICU nurse for many of those. Get it together GATEWAY MEDICAL CENTER.
E) My oxygen level was 95% working that hard and breathing that fast, but as I tried to slow down my breathing, it dropped in to the 90-92% range meaning when I fell asleep at night, it went down even lower (I know this because I have a home oxygen monitor because again, I have an asthmatic daughter).
F) It's a little scary when the ER doctor tells you he has had to google the chemo drug you are on because he doesn't know a thing about it. How about you consult the oncologist... or at least don't tell us that you googled it.
G) You need to STOP coming into the ER rooms and asking for payment - while I am clearly SICK!!!

And I could go on, but I will spare you more reading of my ranting. The point is, my oncologist gets HUGE PROPS for figuring this out and treating me appropriately with the correct medicines. As for more chemo, I am not sure. I am set to see a pulmonologist at Vanderbilt who specializes in cancer patients. Hopefully he will shed light on the cough that I have had for 6 months that reared its ugly head this time. If he says it is NOT related to my treatments, I may forge on for the remaining 3. If he says that it could be dangerous for me to continue then I will STOP. I will not risk my life to try to save it with 3 more treatments. I worry about what will happen with the next treatment which is in 2 weeks. I worry that it will be worse next time. I have lots of praying and listening for God about what I should do. But as always, I know he will provide my answer and it will be my job to just obey and go with it.

Monday, July 2, 2012

EXCITED!!!!

Blogger Friends!!! I have some very exciting news and can hardly contain myself as I write this post. It has absolutely nothing to do with me other than the fact that I really really want you to support my dear friends, Daniel and Emily Doss, as they get ready to expand their family through adoption once again. Let me show you what they are selling as their first fundraiser and then I will share a little of their background story with you. Brace yourselves because these are SO CUTE!!! As in, I ordered 3 for me...one in blue, pink and black and cannot wait to get them. So without further ado, I give you:

Blessed Bracelets

These adorable bracelets are ONLY $10 each and that includes shipping! I mean honestly, how reasonable is that?!? Cute and cheap - right up my alley. 

Now, for a just a little info about Daniel and Emily (because truly you can get to know them better at Emily's Blog). We met the Doss's at our home church in January 2006. At first we just knew them because Daniel was our worship pastor, but as we became more involved in serving at our church and began getting to know people, Emily and Daniel were two people who we knew were the "real deal!" A breath of fresh air. Daniel isn't just an amazing worship pastor and lead singer of the Daniel Doss Band, he is a man who passionately pursues God and truly invests in the lives of others. And Emily, super sweet Emily! I cannot even tell you how radiant and contagious her smile is and how she lights up a room when she walks in it. She loves Jesus like nobody's business and just makes me want to be a more devoted follower of Christ.  I was blessed to get to know Emily though the years and even share in some fun scrap-booking nights with her. Boy can that gal whip out some serious page layouts. I really wanted to just give her my photos and ask her to just make my books for me. Ha! 
Anyways, the Doss's moved a few years ago to Indiana as part of a church plant. While there, and after many many heartbreaks, they were blessed through adoption with their first child, Manny. Oh goodness gracious is that little boy PRECIOUS! He seriously has the most kissable baby cheeks!!! And without sharing their entire story with you, because I WANT you to go to their blog to get to know them, I will just leave you with this. They are expanding their family again and the Blessed Bracelets are their first fundraiser. All of the details about payment are on her blog, so again, CHECK IT OUT. For the short of it though, you can pay through a paypal link in her sidebar, or mail her a check (I think).

Now, I'm going to be bossy and say - GO BUY A BRACELET (or two or three). Even if you aren't the bracelet type, someone you know is and these make wonderful gifts also. Your purchase, even though you will be physically getting something, is more than just about you...it is about helping my friends bring their baby to his or her's forever home. What an incredibly lucky little baby he or she will be!!!
Love you all and am so grateful to have you in my family - real or blog family :)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Hit A Brick Wall

I am tired. Not just tired as in "I've had a long day," but tired as in I can't get off the couch for more than 10 minutes at a time of activity or my legs start to get weak and I feel like I am going to collapse. It's been a very long time since I have felt this weak but I know its due to treatment and a low hemoglobin and hematocrit before treatment on Tuesday. I also still have this horrific deep cough that I can't shake and therefore prevents a lot of peaceful sleep.
I'm trying though. I always feel like if I can just make myself get up and be active that I will feel better. You know what I mean. It's like when you exercise even though you really don't want to because you know you will feel better afterwards. Well, that was my thought process too. So, yesterday, I went to CrossFit and did okay given how I felt, then I took my kids to a play date for 2 hours, went to an appointment, and then took Chloe to gymnastics. Needless to say I was in the bed before 7 last night trying to rest but my body was revolting. The steroid is just now starting to leave my body so maybe I will get better rest tonight. I don't know. Today, I had grand plans of getting out and forcing it again today, but landed back on the couch at 9:30 this morning and slept off and on until 2:30.
So for now and this weekend, I plan to rest and try not to feel guilty about it. I plan to do the bare  minimum so that my body can recover.

Monday, June 18, 2012

ONE...Such A Small Number, Such A Huge Difference

So tonight I am lying on the couch, cuddled up under a queen size comfy blanket with my computer and my thoughts. Dangerous, I know. Ha! Earlier today I was thinking about tomorrow and how many treatments I have left. I could have sworn on my own life that I only had 4 left. However, I was wrong. There are 5. FIVE! And while a difference of 1 probably doesn't mean a lot to anyone else, it means the world to me in this moment. It means, in my mind, an extra treatment even though it was there all along and I had just miscounted. It means more time spent in severe pain after the chemo, it means more days of laying around and getting tired by just thinking of all that I should be doing but just don't have the energy for. It means another anniversary where I am sick (I have treatment on my anniversary this year), another birthday where I am sick (treatment a few days before my big 3-5), and just more time where I have to say "no" to my kids and the things that I love because I can't physically do those things.
But when I stop to really think about all of those things that the extra treatment means to me, in the back of my head it also makes me think that I am very very lucky to be having another anniversary with my amazing husband, that I am lucky to be having my 35th birthday because just 3 years ago I didn't know if I would even make it to one more birthday. It means that I am lucky to have been able to watch my kids grow up and that I likely will have a lifetime with them because of these treatments...and more importantly God's grace first and foremost.

So tomorrow is a super long day for me and David. We will start out at 9:45 with my first appointment and will probably not be home until 5:00ish. I will have oodles of labs drawn, meet with my wonderful oncologist, get results of my latest ECHO (which concerns me a little because I know my heart function has gone from the high end of normal to the low end), and then go get the good stuff (phenergan, marinol, decadron and emend to prevent nausea) and then the chemo.

The things I need to remember to talk with my oncologist about tomorrow are:

  1.  I am still wearing my heart monitor to check for abnormalities because of some symptoms I am having, but so far the only things it has come back showing are a sinus tachycardia which means that my heart does speed up at random times (110-130 beats/minute) for no reason but it's not a "dangerous" rhythm, and some PAC's which is where the top part of my heart beats prematurely at times. These things are both okay, just really uncomfortable when they happen. I'm going to see if I can ditch the monitor after treatment tomorrow since what they have found so far has been "normal abnormalities." 
  2. I am quite sure we are going to revisit the fact that I am off of my Tamoxifen (the cancer pill I take for 5 years). I am nervous that she is going to have me start it back since she wasn't super keen on me being off of it for this long. I will do what she suggests, although I would love to be off of it for another few months. While I still have some bone pain after  chemo, it does go away a few days afterwards unlike when I was on the Tamoxifen and had pain EVERY SINGLE DAY in my bones. Not to mention I have been hot flash free for the most part since coming off of it. That is glorious given that I live in Tennessee and it's 95 degrees here right now.
  3. Just need to mention some forgetfulness that I have been having lately. As in I have been driving and have totally forgotten where I am. Like I have no idea what road I am on or anything. It's kind of scary, but has only happened twice so it is probably nothing. But I also am forgetting where I put things,  and I often leave things at home that I need while I am out. My mom thinks it's probably just chemo brain which is a totally true phenomenon and I bet she is right but she suggested I mention anyways.
  4. And for about the past week I have been hacking up thick, gross stuff, have been especially hoarse at night, get into coughing fits and can't stop or sleep, and have also seen streaks of blood in my mucous. Again, probably nothing but worth mentioning anyways. Maybe I need an antibiotic?!? Sinus washes aren't working and allergy meds aren't either.

So tomorrow, if it crosses your mind, say a little prayer for Team Blevins. We appreciate every single prayer that is offered on our behalf and we are eternally grateful and humbled that you take us to the feet of Jesus for His healing and comfort.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Why Oh Why Did We Do That?!? Oh, and Chemo #13

Before you get into the post I am going to shamelessly ask you to go to my family blog when you have a second and check out pictures from our beach vacation. There are some super cute ones of my sweet Chloe and Brody and I just couldn't resist this opportunity to share them with each of you. Plus then, you will be able to see my family and the reason why I fight so hard to live when I could have probably very easily given up a long time ago. So, you can either click the Team Blevins button on the side of my blog, or  this link here: Team Blevins.

Moving right along though... Confused by the title of this post? It's the best I could come up with as I sit here in an absolutely silent house at 2:29 AM blogging while everyone else is snoring and dreaming of lollipops and cotton candy. At least that is what I hope they are dreaming of because those are two pretty good things in my book. I digress. Anyways, back to the title. Why, oh why did we give all of our glasses to Goodwill? I mean I know why we did - because we are a polycarbonate or plastic drinking glass kind of family and NEVER ever used the glasses to drink from. They were taking up too much room in our cabinets so we got rid of them. Now however, in this very moment, I WANT a glass. I NEED a glass. See, I am sitting here on the verge of puking, not because of the chemo I got yesterday, but because the heartburn is RIDICULOUS!!! I never get heartburn - ever. I just don't. I'm lucky in that respect because if I had to deal with heartburn often, it just may push me over the edge. The only times in my life when I have had it have been when I was preggo with my sweet Chloe and Brody. Now I know what some of you are thinking and the answer is a big fat NO!!!! I am not preggers again, and I can sit here and type that with 100 percent confidence. Don't get me wrong, I would be over-the-top thrilled with another baby if God were to bless Team Blevins again in that manner...in a few years after all treatments have STOPPED and I have had time to recover. And now I am just sitting here thinking about God laughing at me and my calendar demands since His calendar is ALWAYS better than mine. And again, I am off topic...just a side effect of the chemo I am sure that is giving me jumbled up thoughts this morning. Now, back to the glass drinking cup problem. The only thing in the past that has helped heartburn has been drinking milk. Well, I don't drink milk - ever - except for when I have heartburn. And I can't drink milk out of plastic or polycarbonate because it makes me gag. I HAVE to have it in a glass and I have to chug it. None of this letting it sit around and get even the slightest bit warm. Ewww! But we don't have glasses, except for a few wine glasses. It seems utterly wrong to put milk in a wine glass in the middle of the night, but hey, I had to do what I had to do which meant...putting milk in a wine glass, chugging it. I'm sure if my neighbors were awake at this ungodly hour and were seeing me chug from a wine glass they would think something was severely wrong. And they would only be partially right. Let's just pray that this works though because if not, there may be a repeat very soon.

And now that I have gone back and just read that crazy long paragraph, I have decided that I probably shouldn't be blogging right now. Just bear with me though cause I have only a little more to go. Yesterday, known as treatment 13, went pretty well. My doctor changed everything up on me in order to TRY her best to prevent a repeat of last time. This is how we rolled yesterday:
I was pre-medicated with 1 Liter of Saline, Emend (a powerful anti-nausea), Decadron (another powerful anti-nausea which is actually a steroid - and most likely the reason why my thought are ALL OVER THE PLACE - it makes me feel crazy), and Phenergan (again an anti-nausea).
Then after those things were infused, the chemo was started and I was in serious sleep mode!!! You see usually I get the Phenergan and Decadron only if I get nauseated during treatment (which hello, ALWAYS happens). By that time though, the dry heaving has started and it's hard to stop it. So this time they decided to hit me up before my body even had the chance to get sick.  I ended up sleeping through almost the whole treatment, the whole 1 hour car ride home, most of the evening once I got home, and half of the night (remember, it is now 2:48 AM).
The only negatives that I have experienced so far are the restless leg syndrome from the Phenergan, and severe leg and hip pain. Oh, and I did have a  pretty big episode of heart flip-flopping at the beginning of treatment that lasted for several minutes, but I am wearing a handy-dandy heart monitor for a month so it was all recorded for my cardiologist to see. I also had a scary episode last night when I was just laying down watching tv and my heartrate all of a sudden just jumped up to 125 and stayed that way for several minutes. It too was recorded though, and I did get a call from the recording company checking on me, but they didn't advise me to go to the hospital so it was probably just some harmless tachycardia. As for the pain though, David was so kind last night to rub my legs to try to get them to feel better but nothing really helps the pain. I did take an 800 mg Motrin and 2 Lortab which took some of the pain away, but they never really stopped hurting. It's hard to describe it in technical terms, but here is what I told David last night: "I wish someone would just take a sledge hammer to my knee caps, my feet and my hip flexors because that would honestly feel better than this does right now." I guess that in nurse world that would equate to a "10" on the pain scale of 1-10. Although, they might extend the scale a bit if I told them how bad it actually was. As I sit here and type though, I can say that for now, the pain is about a 6 on the scale. I still hurt pretty bad, have heating pads on, and am just waiting until 6:00 to get here so I can take another mega dose of Motrin and maybe just maybe get a little more sleep. If I didn't think it would wake the whole family from dreamland, I would go right now and run a hot epsom salt bath with some lavender in it to soak in and see if that would help.
And now I am tired of rambling and I am sure if you have stuck through reading this totally random post for this long that you are either tired of reading it too or you now have a headache from trying to keep up with it...or both. So, I'm off to drink more milk from a wine glass since the heartburn is still with me. I will update, more concisely, in a few days. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Treatment # 12

This was it. The treatment that took me by surprise and knocked my socks right off. Treatment #12. It was so bad, that I can't even find words to describe how bad it was. There are none. It started off like every single other one does. I was pre-medicated with Tylenol, Benadryl and Emend. I had taken my Marinol like I always do before hand. But about 20 minutes into the infusion, things started to spin in my head, the nausea set in, and my friend who was with me said I all of a sudden got very clammy looking and just didn't look right. The shivers started and nothing could get me warmed up. I think I was under 4 warm blankets but my hands were still like ice. I couldn't stop shaking. I wanted to puke so badly, but I couldn't. It was just nausea that would not stop and nothing made it better until the nurse gave me Phenergan. Of course that comes with it's own side effects - restless leg syndrome. Oh goodness is that painful and annoying?!? Just when you think you are comfortable, your legs jump and begin to cramp up and the only thing that helps is getting up to walk around. And it's weird because mine do it in the hips. OUCH!  And then, something new happened, and it was the first time since getting this treatment that I have had this occur. My heart started beating super fast - over 100 times/minute and it felt like someone had spread IcyHot all over my chest and heart. It was HORRIFIC and scary all at the same time. It felt like someone was sitting on my chest. The pressure was so uncomfortable.
Angela, my friend who went with me, called out for the nurse who came and turned off the medicine for a little while. And while things are sketchy for me because I don't remember a lot from each treatment, I do remember the pressure easing up after a little while, but I kept having my heart skip beats and beat really fast. It was scary and uncomfortable which I am quite sure added to some panic feelings that I began having. It was just horrible. I felt so out of control and I don't like it.
And then after getting home, I vomited for several days off and on (actually still am almost every time I eat), was out of my mind dizzy, and the tears would not stop. My heart did continue to race over 100 beats/minute for about 24 hours also.  I think the best way to describe me since this treatment is "defeated." I have never felt more beaten down and trampled on in my life. I want to be done. I have SIX more treatments to go though, and this is the hard part because each and every treatment builds up in my body to where by the time I am actually done with them, they will remain in my body for 4 more months even though I won't be getting any more infusions. I did the math and technically, right now, I should have 252 days worth of medicine in my system since I have had 12 treatments all 21 days apart.  But because of how it hangs around, works and builds up, I actually have 384 days worth because each treatment stays in the body for 32 days on average. So, it's building up there by making the side effects more and more difficult to deal with and more prevalent.
So, where do I go from here? Well, lots of prayers for healing and rest before my next treatment in 18 days (yes, I am at the point where I am already counting down til the next one). I will be getting an ECHO - scan of my heart - which they do periodically anyways because this infusion can cause heart failure and other heart problems. Its probably good that they are going to go ahead and do this one a little earlier than usual though just given what happened with this last infusion. And then I think next time we will run the medicine in over 2 hours instead of 90 minutes and see if that will prevent any unwanted or unexpected side effects.
Before my next treatment though, we have lots of fun things planned that I can look forward to. Namely, my family and I have a trip to the beach planned and I will be getting ready for that. My daughter has her pre-K graduation ceremony, and we have a community yard sale that we will be participating in with some of the proceeds going to a local charity that helps orphans in Africa. It's to the point where I HAVE to focus on good things between treatments or I will become consumed with the bad and live each day dreading the next. And this brings me to this TRUTH and command:
Philippians 4:8 - Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

One Week In...and Other Things

Well, it's officially been a week since starting the "I Will Rock This Weight Loss Challenge" and overall it's been a great week. I've had some hard CrossFit workouts that have left me sore and happy with an elevated mood and I've also made some amazing meals that my family has enjoyed a lot. I admit that I did have a little treat or two this past week, but that's it. Just one or two. Not one that turned into twelve that turned into "I've already screwed up so I might as well start again tomorrow..." Nope. It really has been a great week and I am proud of the progress that I made this week...scale wise and otherwise. I am going to try very hard though to NOT focus on the scale number because I am working out like crazy so I know that I am building muscle which weighs more than fat. I realize that I may be losing fat but the number on the scale may not move at all. For the first time in my life I am okay with that...I think. So, I am not sure yet where I am in the rankings (remember this has a HUGE prize lot) but it's not even really about that for me. I just want to get back to the old Kelly. The pre-cancer Kelly...maybe even the pre-baby Kelly - that would be AWESOME!!! We shall see.

On to "other things" now. Since the weekend, my family has had some hard news to swallow and some great concern about my younger brother who is stationed in Afghanistan. Without going into detail, I would like to ask for anyone reading this to just pray for our soldiers' safety and each of their families.

And finally, I have chemo again on Thursday. ICK!!! I hope with all that I have that I do NOT have any of the horrible stomach pain that I had last time and that the nausea will stay at bay. I am also hoping and praying that I have either Emily or Melissa as my nurse! They are my faves - or my new best friends...either way those gals are great! And then...after Thursday I will have only 6 treatments left and that makes this gal happy. Yep, after Thursday I will be 66% of the way done!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Updating on Tamoxifen

It's been a while since I last blogged and just realized that I never did update you on how my appointment went with my oncologist and how my infusion went this time around. So, here's to updating.
To say that I was nervous is the understatement of the year. The closer my appointment time got, the higher my heart rate went. I don't know why I was so scared to ask my doctor to let me have time off of Tamoxifen unless it was because if she said "no" I would have to tell her that I was going to do it anyways (and truthfully I had already been off of it for 4 days). So, we went through the usual question/answer session about how I am, how the pain is, how the infusions are going, and then came how is the tamoxifen. I glanced at David, and then told her that it was HORRIBLE. That my legs were hurting terribly and that they were cramping at night too. She did affirm that it was most likely a neuropathy caused by the chemotherapy and Tamoxifen. She offered to call in a new drug called Neurontin that helps with neuropathic pain (and incidentally, hot flashes too). I told her that I would much rather take a break from Tamoxifen and let the pain heal itself by getting rid of the source. She asked how long I wanted off of it and I told her until September, when I finished the IV treatments. She did say that that was entirely too long and that she was not comfortable having me off of it that long. We finally compromised on staying off of it for 3 months (mid-july) and then we would re-evaluate. She thinks the risk is too high to be off any longer, so I agreed with this little "medication holiday" and am happy about it. I appreciate her willingness to allow this and the concern that she also showed me. I told her to go ahead and call in the Neurontin in case I needed it but that I probably wouldn't fill it unless the pain just didn't subside.
After that, I went over to infusion and had, yet again, another wonderful nurse, Melissa. She was awesome!!! Treatment went great until the VERY LAST minutes and then I was struck with horrific abdominal pain and severe nausea...dry heaving and all in the chemo chair. I didn't have any nausea meds ordered, so David gave me another Marinol pill and then a few minutes later the nurse came in with an order for Phenergan and a syringe filled with it. By the time the nurse practitioner came over to evaluate me, I could barely state my name from being so heavily medicated. The Marinol had kicked in and the Phenergan (because it goes into my port) gets into my system instantly. I don't really remember much after the NP came in but I woke up the next morning in my bed so I know I got home safely and slept it all off.

Next treatment is May 10th. Until then, I am hanging in there, still dealing with pain despite being off the Tamoxifen for 2 weeks now. I am going to give it another week and then get the Neurontin filled if the pain doesn't improve significantly. Dr. Mayer did say that the symptoms that are also being caused by the Tamoxifen probably would subside while I am off of it, but that when I start it back that they will come back. I'm okay with that. Right now, I just need a glimmer of hope. Hope that once I hit the 5 year mark and am allowed to be off of it forever that the symptoms will forever be gone. Sometimes, a little hope is all that a person needs to keep moving forward in this journey called life.

Romans 4:18 - Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping and believing...