Friday, January 27, 2012

...PART TWO...

So, after seeing the surgeon yesterday, we headed on over to our next stop of the day: Vanderbilt. Yep, it was chemo day. So, I took my pre-medicine, put on my numbing cream (so I don't feel the needle stab me in the chest when they access my portacath), and was ready to go.
After I checked in, we sat down and David says to me, "look, there's Mayor McMillan." OK, that's cool. Whatever. Didn't think much else of it and the next thing I know the nurse is calling my name and on the way back to my room, David stops and introduces himself to our mayor and tells her that he owns the Chick-fil-A on Madison Street etc etc... She gets all excited about that and recognizes him. Blah blah. We exchanged pleasantries, wished each other luck at our treatments and I went with the nurse. ****please hear this: our Mayor does NOT have cancer...she was there for something else. I certainly don't want rumors started****
After the standard vital signs, weight check, and room placement, my chemo nurse comes in and we start talking about the treatment. She has never been my nurse before so she was just verifying that the drug had to be run over 90 minutes. I told her that 90 minutes was correct and that Dr. Mayer had ordered it to be given over 90 minutes. She proceeds to tell me that she will do that and starts my pre-meds (Benadryl, Tylenol and Emend) and saline. So far so good. She comes back in about 45 minutes later and hangs the chemo. Puts in the rate and leaves. Twenty minutes pass and I get SO nauseated. Like really really sick feeling. This is odd because I took my Marinol before treatment and that usually works. Then the feeling like I need to race to the bathroom starts. UGH!!! So noticing that it has been 2 hours since I took the marinol, I take another one and sit quietly praying the nausea will go away. It doesn't and David goes on a hunt for the nurse. She comes in, I tell her I am sick and I am having chills. What does she do? She SLOWS the rate on the chemo...SHE WAS RUNNING IT TOO FAST!!!! I had no idea she had set the rate wrong. But to make it worse, she admitted to trying to run it a bit faster than the doctor had ordered. GRRR! So then I need a shot of Phenergan which she shoves into my IV line which immediately send my heart into PVC mode and tachycardia. I tell her she needs to listen to my heart...what does she do? She feels my radial pulse...and says that she can't tell anything is odd about my heartbeat. GRRRR!!!! I am furious at this point, but the Phenergan, Benadryl, and Marinol working together about knock me unconscious and the last thing I remember telling her is not to worry about it because it was getting better but that Phenergan being pushed too fast will do that. I don't think she knew I was a nurse until that point.
Now I have to decide what to do. Do I tell my doctor about this incident? Do I just let it go and from here on out double check all rates? For sure I will tell all of my nurses from now that I have had 2 infusion reactions when the med is given too fast.
So today, I am left feeling groggy, still having restless leg a little bit from the IV Phenergan, depressed and angry. Angry at the nurse, angry that I have to be doing treatment again, and angry that I will be on cancer drugs until August of 2014. But on the other hand, I am grateful. Grateful that my nurse didn't KILL me (haha), grateful that there are treatments available to me, and grateful that I am still cancer free. I feel bi-polar when I list those reasons out. Whew!
Mostly though, I am feeling ELATED that I don't have to go back for FOUR weeks instead of 3. that's right, I moved my next treatment back a whole week so that I can enjoy our trip to Florida. Woo-Hoo!!

my view from the chemo chair (taken before my episode occured)

Biopsy Update and Plan...Kind Of (PART ONE)

So yesterday started out fantabulous (that's a combo of fantastic and fabulous). Dropped my kids off at the neighbor's house with their school lunches and bags, gave them kisses and peaced on out to Nashville. First stop: Dr Thomas' office at St Thomas Hospital. He is the endocrine surgeon who ordered the biopsy of my thyroid. Results were in : BENIGN!!! Woo-hoo! So then came the question of what do we do? The mass on the left thyroid lobe is the same size as the thyroid...BIG! And over the past 3-4 months it has begun causing difficulty swallowing at times and a sharp pain in my left ear. Also, since finding it at the end of 2009, it has grown quite a bit. And growing masses are not good. We have 2 options. First...leave it alone and re-evaluate every 6 months via ultrasound. The second option... take out the left thyroid mass and thyroid lobe and be done. Totally done with it and never worry about it again. Yes, that would mean being on a thyroid medication, but, I am already on one anyways...we would just have to adjust the dose.
So, the doc went over the risks which are the same as with any surgery...bleeding, infection, death (they always have to throw that one in there), and vocal cord paralysis on the left side which would leave my voice as a whisper. David thinks that is AWESOME and considers it more of a benefit than a risk. Whatever!  The benefits: getting the mass out, no chance of it becoming cancerous, and again, I would be done with it! No more ultrasounds or biopsies. No more ear pain or trouble swallowing.
So, I left it with the surgeon by telling him that we are going to pray through the decision and I will let him know as soon as I know what I want to do.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Cancer-versary To Me

Haha! Yes, it's probably weird that I am telling myself Happy Cancer-versary, but when you have walked my path for three years and are able to still smile and praise God for His blessings it becomes a very happy day.
Three years ago today I was driving to Target with my mother-in-law in the front seat and my 4 month old and 2 year old in the back seat when my cell phone rang. Thirty seconds later, my world was changed. It literally took 30 seconds... "Mrs. Blevins, your biopsy report is back and you have cancer. I need you and your husband to come into the office now so we can talk about what the plan of care will be." And that was the catalyst that began my journey.
From that point on, my focus became not just surviving, but LIVING! Living each day as if it were my last. I enjoyed things that I never had noticed before or had been to busy to notice. I let the house go a bit, I let the kids' schedules go a little, and took the time to cuddle and snuggle with them more. I saw my husband in a different light. He has always been kind and loving...very supportive and hard working. But seeing him vulnerable in this situation brought a new perspective of him to me, and I appreciated it and him even more.
I won't lie and say it was all roses and candy because there were many many tears shed, fears faced, pain felt, and heartache experienced. But what I will say is that through each and every single emotion God was my ever present help. He was, and continues to be, my rock and my fortress. I have grown immensely in my relationship with Him and I would not be who I am today if I hadn't had cancer. I was asked recently if I had had a choice, would I choose this path for my life. Hmmm.... I honestly would have to say yes, as long as it would bring honor and glory to God.
So, where are we now in the process? And I say "we" because cancer not only affects the patient, but also my family. I am 1/3 of the way through with my Herceptin treatment. I take it every 3 weeks for a total of a year. The last treatment will be in September. At that point, I will have my portacath (permanent IV in my chest) removed...again. Next month, February 23rd to be exact, I will be considered a 3 year survivor. Your "date" is the date that the surgery was that got all of the cancer and for me, that was 2/23.  And then, I am going to go ahead and look forward to February 23, 2014 when I will be considered CURED. At that point, I am going to New Jersey because the Cake Boss told me he was going to make me a pink ribbon cake for that special "cancer-versary." I met him 2 years ago on my 1 year survivor date and was able to talk to him for a bit. He has a heart for cancer patients as his dad passed away from cancer years ago.
In the meantime though, I will live each day doing my best to honor God and thank Him for His healing and His perfect plan for my life.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Finally...A Video of David's Trip to Ethiopia

Here is a video of David's trip to Ethiopia with Ordinary Hero. It's 10 minutes long and worth every single minute. WOW! I have to get there. It's no longer an option...it's a MUST.

Now, go grab something to drink, put your feet up, grab a tissue, turn up the volume, and be prepared for your heart to be touched in ways unimagined.






Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Biopsy Schmi-opsy

Again. Here we go again. I have a thyroid mass. I have had it since finishing radiation to my left chest wall and it was found during a routine MRI in December of 2009. After lots of labs and nuclear medicine testing, it was deemed necessary to have a biopsy done...so that is what we did. Everything came back normal - the mass was/is partially solid and partially fluid and it was found to be benign. I have followed up with an Endocrinologist every 6 months since that biopsy to check for growth etc...
So, it finally happened. My little mass (actually it's pretty big) has began growing meaning I needed another biopsy as normal things don't grow generally speaking. So, a month ago I went to a new female surgeon here in Clarksville to have it biopsied. I liked her well enough. She spent tons of time with me and explained everything very well. That's about where it ended though. When she performed the biopsy, she did not get me numb meaning I felt the needle go deep into my neck and into the thyroid multiple times. That was pretty traumatic, but I overlooked it and moved on. Then, a few days later the phone call came. "Kelly, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that there are no cancer cells. The bad news is that there are no cells at all. I missed the mass. Come back in for a re-biopsy." I agreed but then cancelled later as I just didn't think I wanted to go back to her. How in the heck could she miss this ginormous knot on my neck? Really, the mass is the same size as the actual thyroid lobe rendering it near impossible to miss.
So, after talking about it with my husband and deciding that I really should have it biopsied, I found an AMAZING surgeon in Nashville who ordered another biopsy. Had it done today and it went extremely smooth. No pain other than the lidocaine going in and just some soreness since then. My neck has swollen on that side like it did back in 2009 after the biopsy, but they told me as long as I could still swallow and breathe without difficulty that it was okay and to just put ice on it. So, that's what I am doing.
I go back next Thursday morning to meet with the surgeon to get the results and discuss options. Briefly, if it is cancer (which I highly doubt), I will have the whole thyroid removed and start treatments. If it is not cancer, then we will discuss the risks vs benefits to having the mass removed. And then after that appointment, I go to have the chemo treatment at Vanderbilt. What an awesome, fun-filled day, huh? Actually, I don't mind it because I get to spend the whole day with my husband and get Panda Express on the way home. HA!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Question About Faith Last Night

As I was flipping through the TV channels last night I came across the Miss America 2012 pageant and that is where I landed. I LOVE watching these pageants! Not sure if it is the beautiful (mostly) evening gowns that the girls have on, or the interviews, or the actual crowning of the new queen that excites me the most. Maybe it's the talent portion that I love. Regardless, this is one of my favorite things to watch every year. 
Last night, I came in about halfway through the competition which means I got to see most of the talent showcases and all of the interviews. Most of the girls did good on their interview question, but Miss Arizona left me slightly irritated. Well, since I am blogging about it I guess I am more than slightly irritated. Here is what happened : the question asked was, is it  okay for athletes and celebrities to use their fame, to promote their faith and the judge referenced Tim Tebow.  An article I read said that this question tested the diplomacy of the contestant. I think it was a test of faith...where she really stood. Miss Arizona answered that it is good for famous people to have faith, but that when representing organizations such as Miss America, "they have to remember that they are representing a wide variety of people." Now I know that the statement may not seem all that horrible, and may at first come across as an okay answer, but there was more to her answer (I tried to find the whole quote) and it all leaned to her really pushing the point that if she won she would not make her faith a public "thing" because it may offend someone. 
So, I laid in the bed thinking about that for a while and wondered how I would answer the question if it were asked of me and this is how I THINK I would have responded. "Yes, I feel it is okay for athletes and celebrities to share their faith just as it is okay for anyone to do so. A huge part of being a Christ follower is sharing your faith, and discipling others. If that comes across as promoting my faith, then that's up to whomever sees/hears it. It's not promoting it though...it's living it out. Walking the walk not just talking the talk."
Now, I know that I would not have won with that answer, and may have even been criticized in the public's eye. However, what is more important...wearing the crown given to me by Miss America or wearing the crown given to me by Jesus? Ummm, I'll take the latter of the two. Thank you!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Because Lots of People Read Facebook

So, because lots of people have read my husband's Facebook updates about me going to the hospital Saturday night, I guess I have to just tell the story so no rumors will be circulating (i.e. I'm dead).
The short version goes something like this:
I was perfectly fine all day Saturday and then around dinner time I got a sharp, stabbing, burning pain in my left rib cage. It started swelling, and then it became painful to breathe at times. I went to urgent care since it was a weekend night thinking I would just be in for an xray and a quick evaluation. I ended up getting those things along with an order for a STAT CT scan of the chest. Doc was thinking pulmonary embolism...I was thinking he was over-reacting. Anyways, doc called the hospital and told them I was on my way and that I was to have the scan done and wait there until he called me. David and I got to the hospital with orders in hand, gave them to the receptionist who informed us that we HAD to go through the ER (I should have made her verify this, but I was hurting). Anyways, I get back to the ER and they decide to work me up as a heart patient...calling my rib pain, chest pain. I kept trying to tell them the difference in the two, but it wasn't working. Next thing I know I'm hooked up to monitors out the wazoo, they are drawing all sorts of labs to see if I had a heart attack (come on now...really?!?), and are asking me about illicit drug use. I told them I had never done drugs in my life, totally forgetting about my prescription Marinol for the cancer treatments I get (medical marijuana in a pill form). I'm quite sure they were thinking I was totally lying when my drug screen came back positive for cannabis. How embarrassing!!!! Here I am, 34 years old, never done drugs until I get permission, the recommendation, and a prescription from my oncologist to do so, and I get called out on it. Grrr.... Anyways, get lots of other tests done including the CT which came back showing the same thing the last 2 have. A nodule on my lung. They freaked out about it even after I told them that it had always been there and paged the on-call Fellow at Vanderbilt...not sure what they could have done about it at 2:00 AM, but whatever. Anyways, at this point, my oxygen level dropped so they put me on oxygen, my heart rate started going from 80 up to 120 then back down to 70 then back up to 160 etc... That earned me an overnight stay on the cardiac unit.
Fast forward a bit. When the nurse came to take me to my overnight room, she forgot my oxygen so during the ride through the hospital, my oxygen level started dropping again in the high 80s and the girl realized she didn't have her oxygen tank to hook me up to. So, for the next few minutes while she is wheeling me through the halls she is saying, "Mrs Blevins, take deep breaths, take deep breaths, stay awake we are almost there..." Good grief! Anyways, I get to my room still breathing and I see that I have a dang roommate!!!! An elderly lady who was out of her mind!!! She was getting out of bed and setting the bed alarm off (she needed the nurses to help her), cussing, yelling she couldn't breathe, etc... It was a debacle. Anyways, later that afternoon, I was released from the hospital, but not before my nurse and another nurse got into a fight in my room over answering each other's call lights and which one was lazier etc... I'm telling you that it was CRAZY!!! Oh,and just to nail home the point of how horrible it was there, I didn't have anything to eat OR drink from the time I went in on Saturday evening until I got home Sunday evening...NOTHING!
I can't wait until the patient survey comes. It should be awesome!
And finally, I left without a diagnosis...yep, that's right. No rhyme or reason was given for anything! Oh well, I'm great now so that is what matters.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Let The Testing Begin...

Since choosing my word, I have been given many opportunities to practice being intentional. Here are a few situations. The first was that I had a horrible nightmare about my brother's upcoming deployment (leaves in the next week). This happened before and during his last deployment too so I should have expected it. Anyways, for the first hour that I was awake, I sobbed, wept, etc... And then, I could just feel the Spirit giving me the Scriptures that tell me to take every thought captive and to think about those things which are only good, true, honest, noble, faithful, etc... At that point, I had a decision to make. I had to be intentional in my decision to focus on the lies and deceit that satan had placed in my thoughts, or focus on the good things that Christ has given us. I wisely chose the second and the Lord blessed that intentional decision and the rest of my day was AMAZING!
The second thing that has happened did so today during my chemo treatment. For about 4-6 weeks now I have been noticing a soreness in my left ribs in my back and occasionally in my collarbones. I assumed it was from being at the YMCA, and tried to place it out of my mind. Well it has gradually become more noticeable and even more painful. Now it hurts to touch the certain places on the ribs. I mentioned this today to my chemo nurse and she immediately went into her "busy mode." She got my oncology nurse practitioner over to evaluate me. We found another extremely tender spot right on the vertebrae in the middle of my spine. I had no idea that it hurt until the pressed on it. She asked me if I could go get a bone scan do evaluate...to see if there are any broken ribs, weakened bones, spread of cancer, etc.... I told her I could if she thought it was really needed which she really did so I got my appointment set and will going back to the hospital in 12 hours to have a 4 hour test done. Thank God that David gave me a Kindle Fire for Christmas. I will have time to catch up and finish Season One Glee! Anyways, I have really been at peace about it for the most part. I am taking those thoughts of fear and metastasis captive and focusing on the fact that I get to catch up on GLEE while I wait for my "photo shoot." I'm focusing on the fact that 2 years ago God told me that I had been healed and I am very easily able to recall that and lean into it.
Well, my drugs are still hanging in my system so I better sign out for tonight. All in all, I give myself an A minus on my intentionality test. I'm trying hard but learning quite often that being intentional is a day by day, sometimes hour by hour decision.

Monday, January 2, 2012

One Word

So if you have read my blog for any period of time now, you may remember that I don't do resolutions. I think they are ridiculous, dumb, and pointless...no really, they are. HOWEVER, I was introduced to the concept of One Word 4 years ago and have since adopted the concept for myself.
One Word is where you literally choose the one word that you want to focus on for the upcoming year and you shape your life and choices around that one word. You begin to look for ways to incorporate the word into your daily living. In 2009, my word was EMBRACE. I was diagnosed that year with stage 3 aggressive breast cancer and had to learn to embrace the physical, emotional and spiritual changes that I was going through. It was a hard year, but a very rewarding one when I see the growth that has happened in me. In 2010 and 2011, my word was RESTORATION. In 2010, I chose that word because I was going to be having more physical changes in my body as reconstruction was going to be happening. Emotionally, I needed restoration as treatments were going to finally stop which in a cancer patient's world is a scary thought. Nothing is being done anymore to fight the disease and you just hope and trust that you are healed. I chose RESTORATION again in 2011 because I wasn't restored in 2010. Reconstruction didn't work and it was the hardest 6 months of my life...the pain was unbearable and emotionally I was a wreck. So, putting the attempts at reconstruction behind me and deciding, through lots of prayer and petitioning to the Lord, I felt that it was time to get my spiritual life along with my physical and emotional life restored in the way God wanted it to be; it was a year of being restored to Him.
So, for the big reveal for this year. My One Word for 2012 is INTENTIONAL and here is what dictionary.com has to say about it (I always like to look up the definition of my word to make sure I truly understand it in it's rightful way).


in·ten·tion·al


1.
done with intention or on purpose; intended: an intentional insult.
2.
of or pertaining to intention or purpose.

1.  designed, planned.

I actually like the synonyms better, but for all intents and purposes (haha), I'm keeping "intentional" as that is the word the Lord laid on my heart.
Now for the opposite of intentional and what I hope to avoid because after all, who wants to go through life living like this:
Antonyms 
1.  accidental

And, just to confirm that this is supposed to be my One Word for this year, the Lord proved faithful and gave me Scripture to confirm it. And get this, it's not like it was from the New Testament, one of Paul's letters, a familiar story etc... It was from the book of Haggai! I mean really...Haggai?!? Who reads that (just kidding, sort of)? Haggai 1:7 says :" This is what the Lord Almighty says: Give careful thought to your ways."  As I set out in this new year, I plan to give careful thought to ALL of my ways...every single decision I make. I may be being intentional 5 times/day or 25 times/day, but either way, it's one intentional decision at a time.

So, hop on the new bandwagon and forget your resolutions...if you haven't forgotten them already (ha!). Choose a word and start living it out! And if you do, leave me a comment, and if you are dead set on resolutions, well then leave me a comment and tell me what they are. I'd love to know either way.